Book: Love Lost



Love Lost

CONTENTS

Dedication

Legal

Social Links

Series List

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Chapter Twenty-Two

Chapter Twenty-Three

Authors Note


To Family, Friends and

Those Who Love

To Read.

May We All Enjoy Grace

To Live The Life We Are

Called.

DO YOU HAVE A PREVIOUS VERSION?

I will have the edit history (editing and story additions / corrections) on the books Amazon page (so you can always tell).  Unfortunately, Amazon doesn’t automatically download the latest version, you have to delete and re-download yourself.

EDIT HISTORY:

Release 1.0 : 11/25/2015

Version 1.1 : 12/18/2015 (Edited by James Coyle)

This book is a work of fiction, All of the characters, organizations, and events portrayed in this novel are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Sometimes both.

Copyright (c) 2015 Michael T. Anderle

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the author.

Cover art by Michael T. Anderle


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I hope you enjoy the book!

Michael Anderle - Nov 23, 2015.


Series Titles Include: 

Death Becomes Her

The Kurtherian Gambit 01

Queen Bitch

The Kurtherian Gambit 02

Love Lost

The Kurtherian Gambit 03

Bite This

The Kurtherian Gambit 04

Never Forsaken

The Kurtherian Gambit 05

(Early Jan 2016)

Under My Heel

The Kurtherian Gambit 06

(Late Jan / Early Feb 2016)

Kneel Or Die

The Kurtherian Gambit 07

(Late Feb 2016)


CHAPTER ONE

Washington DC - USA

Martin Brennan finally closed down his laptop for the day. Working for an agency which stayed off the political and reporting radar could be nerve wracking. His group wasn’t totally black, but they often came close to the boundaries. He stretched his arms up above his head and heard his back pop. It was past 10:00 pm on a Friday night and he had been working since 6:00 AM. The last four of his agents working late stuck their heads in his office to say goodnight before they went out for drinks together. That was well over two hours ago.

He glanced up and looked at the single Christian Louboutin shoe that he had placed on his ‘awards’ shelf. It had arrived out of the blue. All of the guys gave him shit about it. Two ladies had guessed what it meant but he never confirmed their guesses one way or the other.

He had received the shoe a little over two weeks ago from a shop in New York City. He had made a bullshit excuse to pull the video recordings from all of the shops on that street. He had received the edited clips just yesterday.

He found the woman he thought had purchased the shoe and sent it to him. He was expecting to find the face of a ghost, a lady who should be dead. He wasn’t quite sure he didn’t see the dead, living.

The lady who was the closest match for the date and time of the purchase was taller than Bethany Anne Reynolds. He wasn’t sure if the lady on the video was Bethany Anne, but she looked remarkably like her. Well, if she had surgery that increased her height, had breast augmentation, and been working out for the whole time she was absent.

It wasn’t that Bethany Anne wasn’t in shape when she worked for him, but rather the lady in the video was beyond athletic looking.

He had one of his hackers go into the company’s database and check the time of the purchases for credit card info, but the shoes were paid for in cash.

He rubbed his face. Whether the lady in the video was a changed Bethany Anne or not, he was sure that the box with the single shoe was Bethany Anne letting him know she was alive. He had no other agents he had spent even ten minutes discussing fashion with. However; he had spent one whole evening discussing Bethany Anne’s fashion choices including Coach Purses and Christian Louboutin shoes and therefore was very acquainted with the red-soled shoes.

After that dinner, he had recognized the shoe brand every time she wore them. The shoe he had on his shelf was very similar to a style she often wore. It was a very unique way to pass a message to him that she was alive. No one else would know to send him that specific shoe.

Bethany Anne was like a daughter to him. If he could have had her working for him for a few more years, there would be no telling what amazing results she would have accomplished. She had come to him for advice when given a doctor’s opinion that she had an incurable disease and had less than a year to live. He quietly helped her find two more doctors who were literally on the cutting edge of blood diseases. Unfortunately, the only help they accomplished was to confirm the original prognosis and refine how fast she was dying.

His wife, Mary, found him late that night with tears just streaming down his face. She wasn’t allowed to ask too much about his work. She knew it was better to not know in case he ever was called in front of congress. She couldn’t be used as a pawn if she didn’t know anything. But she hurt for her husband, she felt his pain. Whatever he was releasing through the tears had to be ripping him up inside.

Martin got his briefcase and slipped his laptop into it. Grabbing his coat and keys, he locked his office door behind him and went to the elevator.

The agency offices were in a pretty plain multi-story building in Washington D.C., or at least the outskirts. The elevator took him directly down into the parking garage. He never made it to his car.

His wife Mary called Martin’s second in command, Brandin Couter, at 2:00 AM when she couldn’t raise her husband on his cell phone. She had used the phone’s Find a Friend and it confirmed Martin was supposed to be at work.

Brandin called her thirty minutes later with the news that Martin was dead.

What Brandin didn’t tell Mary was that Martin had been tortured and his throat had been ripped out.


Washington D.C. - USA

Frank Kurns wasn’t planning on staying long in the office this morning. It had been at least eight months since he had a weekend where things were kind of quiet and he was looking forward to a book and hot soup. Each time he went into the basement of his building, he felt as if he was going into a crypt.

He wanted to pull some notes together and get with Bethany Anne later that day. He was getting up in age, again and he needed to find a viable replacement. Almost a hundred years old, Frank had been rejuvenated somehow by Michael in the past, dropping him at least twenty to thirty years younger. However; he was almost a sprightly centenarian now and good genes or not he could feel his age every day.

Bethany Anne had been his personal previous pick to succeed him. He hadn’t had the time to really continue his research when everything just blew up after Bill was killed.

He made it to his office door and punched in both his security code and provided a hand print. His room here would practically melt if the security was breached. He took no chances with the information inside. It wasn’t so much that the paranormals would be upset, although they would, it was more that he didn’t believe the world would be ready to know this much.

It was truly Pandora’s box.

He got inside the office and hit the lock button. He preferred to know that there was no way someone was going to sneak up behind him while he focused on his tasks.

Hitting his mouse, the computer screens immediately came on. He could have requested a semi-sentient AI from the military think-tanks. However, he just wasn’t that comfortable with them so far. He had kept up the research and it looked very promising. However; when you dealt with problems that required favors owed and favors due as much as he did he then felt a computer brain wouldn’t understand how to help.

He had two computer screens side by side. The left monitor he used for activity, the right was where his Spook Dashboard was. Since he created it, he got to name it whatever he wanted.

Right now, he was surprised that one of the tabs was red. He sat down in his squeaky chair and clicked on the tab.

The tab in question was a notification script which looked through all of the major databases for police, fire, and emergency services looking for names of interest. He had accumulated a large set of names over the years. Sometimes, he got a hit when someone passed away that he hadn’t been actively tracking for more than a decade.

He frowned when he saw Martin Brennan’s name highlighted in red. Clicking on the report, he read the transcript from the emergency 911 call. Frank got to the part of the transcript where Brandin Couter described Martin as having a chunk of his neck missing, Frank now understood why it had been quiet for the last couple of weeks.

The Forsaken must be searching for Bethany Anne. He picked up his phone and dialed a Miami phone number.

He wasn’t sure how she would take this call. He knew from his research that she loved Martin Brennan as a surrogate father for her time here in Washington D.C. He wasn’t sure what would happen when she found out that he was killed, most likely by the Forsaken. However; he knew that there would be hell to pay. He hoped his old bones would be up to the task.


CHAPTER TWO

Miami, FL - USA

John Grimes was bench pressing 380 lbs while his team worked out around him in the new gym. Their operations commander, Dan Bosse, had requested that Bethany Anne turn the three car garage from her latest house purchase into a weight room for the tac-team. Eric was spotting John.

“Alright hulk, it looks like your finally maxing out. You haven’t gone past that one 390 lb rep from the other day. But if you freaking drop this all I can say is goodbye!” Eric smiled. John just had to push through the humor and dropped the weight on the bar, finally getting a chance to laugh out loud.

The whole team was paying attention to the changes John had gone through in the past couple of weeks. Bethany Anne had given John her blood to heal him on an operation out in the Everglades. He had been mortally wounded. It healed him of the knife wound and broken arm he suffered while fighting Nosferatu . It also healed his old scars and it seemed to help him become more physically fit as well.

John was a huge man at 6’ 4” and arms the size of trees, as Darryl liked to say. They couldn’t use the term ‘illegal in three states’ because that was actually Scott. Scott was much shorter than John but Darryl just thought Scott’s arms were freaks of nature.

They all were happy to be working out again and together. Before Bethany Anne had changed everything, they were seconded as a temporary team to take on the Forsaken. Now, they called themselves TQB and they had finally received special patches that Darryl and Scott had designed. The patches had a skulls head, woman's hair and vampire teeth with the term “Queen Bitch” over the top and “Aeternitatem” under the skull. These guys had signed up to be the Queen’s guard and they felt they needed to be the baddest humans they could be.

Half of Bethany Anne’s problems out on the street never materialized when she was surrounding by these four. The only wolf whistles she heard were from half a block away and usually so low a human couldn’t hear them.

As an incredibly wealthy woman who had her own eccentricities, like flying around in a Black Hawk helicopter, she was becoming a source of news in the local Miami community.

Bethany Anne just called the team her bitches. They didn’t care. She could call them worse, and she had, whenever they sparred against each other. Even when she didn’t vamp out, they couldn’t get her in a lock. She admitted she had been proficient in martial arts before she was transformed. Now, with the changes to her body she would explode into action and often whoever she was training against found themselves on the floor.

She didn’t give in to their complaining to ‘go easy on the humans, super girl.’ She replied that she would go easy on them as soon as the next Nosferatu  agreed to let them just slit its neck.

One time, when Darryl goaded her into ’showing him some muscles’ she casually went over and picked up the bar bell John had been bench pressing and calmly did one armed curls while looking at him. All he could say was “fuck me.” She had placed the barbell back down while rolling her eyes. She didn’t hate cussing, she hated uninspired cussing.

She made Darryl drop and give her 15 pushups while she stood on his back. Each rep required a new and creative use of cussing. He doubled up one he had already said on the twelfth rep and she made him start all over. So, fifteen reps became twenty-seven.  Darryl had been careful with uninspired cussing since that day.

John finished his reps and he pulled 15 lbs off of each side as Scott got on the bench. John’s phone started playing ‘Barracuda’.   He picked it up and hit the button to take the call. Looks like the boss was calling.

“Yes BA?” Lately, John was trying little ways to annoy his boss. She had completely got his goat when he had been listening patiently to the former owner of this house.

That morning had started by receiving an ass chewing from the former owner, Ms. Joshwood. She had been complaining about delivery trucks which had blocked her driveway and neither of them noticed Bethany Anne slip up behind John. She had slipped an arm around John’s waist and then got into a ‘spitting catfight’ with Ms. Joshwood. Those two went at it with him caught in the middle.

Then Bethany Anne blew his freaking mind. She got pissy with the older woman and decided to act like a hussy.

Bethany Anne told Ms. Joshwood that all of the noise was because she needed time to make sure which of her 9 rooms were good for sex. John’s face was already red. Then she continued and acted as if John was the guy she used for testing the rooms. At that point in the completely fabricated story, the blood had completely drained from his face.

It wasn’t that he didn’t think she was attractive, he certainly did. However; there were two important considerations. The first was that she was his primary and boss. He had always felt there should be a line between boss and high level employees like himself. The second was that he absolutely had seen her when she was her fucking scariest. He didn’t trust himself in any relationship where instead of sleeping on the couch, he might have to get his arm attached at the hospital if he pissed her off.

That kind of concern can get in the way of a man’s libido.

She was quick on the request this morning, “Hey, are you guys ready to go for a run?”

He held his phone with one hand, “Can you give us five minutes?” He circled his fingers to get everyone ready to put away their weights and prep to leave. He pantomimed running with two fingers.

“Sure, I’ll be there in five.”

The guys prepped fast. When Bethany Anne said five minutes, you didn’t want to be ready even one second past five. She could just ‘pop’ over and start walking for the door. They all got their running outfits on. She had decided to see what kind of stamina she had while pushing her team’s training as well. They needed to be in shape as she planned to get Wechselbalg teams and she didn’t want any comments about ‘out of shape humans’ protecting her.

She would often walk into the workout room and play the AC/DC song ‘Big Balls’.  She told them it was to remind them just who they represented. In fact, the team rather enjoyed a lot of AC/DC songs and they had an impromptu awards ceremony to officially make AC/DC the team band.

Five minutes became six. Six minutes became seven. John told the guys they were going over to her house as something had to be wrong.

They closed up the front door and jogged next door. Here in Key Biscayne, they made houses big. That is, when you paid almost $10 million for them.

John hit the front door and knocked. While he could have just gone in, he also had responsibility to work with Pete.

Pete was the son of a Were Alpha in Colorado. Pete had screwed up and his father Jonathan had asked her if there was anything Bethany Anne would be willing to do to help fix the situation. She did and in payment Pete had to work with her team for three months.

John had worked with Pete for an hour and a half this morning starting at 5:00 AM. When John found out that Pete was a late night partier who never found a morning he couldn’t hate, it was the first bit of poison John made Pete swallow.

Now, John was making sure that he was both handling security as well as proper decorum when answering the front door. Pete whined that answering the door was ‘menial and beneath him.’ Eric had to hide his smile. Pete was making this too easy for John.

Pete did open the door after confirming who was there. John had placed a special camera to watch the front door from inside the house. He used this camera to check on Pete’s effectiveness at all times of the day and night. In the beginning, Pete would just open the door. Each time Pete was lazy, John would show up within one to two minutes and make him do fifty, then a hundred pushups. Pete knew that the next time he screwed up he was going to be pushing one-fifty.

When Pete opened the door, his eyes were wide open and he had a very scared look on his face. Pete looked at the guys for a second, not realizing who was in front of him. He obviously had a situation that he didn’t know what to do with.

John snapped him out of it, “What’s going on, Pete?”

Pete stepped outside which made John take a quick step back and he closed the door. “John, you can’t go in there!”

“What’s going on?”

“Hell if I know!” Pete looked back at the closed door. “She got a phone call and then she suddenly screamed and dropped to her knees. Ecaterina tried to get close but she was completely in vamp mode. Her eyes are damn near glowing John! Even Ecaterina is worried and all Bethany Anne can do is cry right now.”

John was concerned. He had known Bethany Anne for a few weeks, but in all of that time she had never had an emotional response like she was showing right now. Oh crap, what if she got violently angry? “Who was on the phone, Pete?”

“John, I have no idea. Fred somebody. She seemed happy to get the call at first.”

John was trying to think through this quickly. Eric piped up, “Frank?”

Pete looked at him, “Yeah! That’s it, Frank.”

“Shit.” John opened the door and walked in. His boss needed him. He walked into the entryway that had three openings. One in each direction and some stairs going up. He heard the cries of a heart bleeding out.  The crying came from the back kitchen.

As he came around the corner, Ecaterina looked up at him. She displayed  worry, anguish and a touch of fear.  She had no idea what to do for her friend right now.

Bethany Anne was on the floor, the remains of her phone still in her hand. She had crushed it in her anguish as she just rocked on her knees, her head touching the floor and coming back up.

Well, his job description never said he would die an old man in his bed. He went up to Bethany Anne, knelt by her and put his arm across her. At his size, he was just about a huge human blanket for her.




CHAPTER THREE

Miami, FL - USA

Bethany Anne felt the presence of someone coming towards her. She was struggling to reign in her emotions. She was stretching everything she had to not start releasing her anger, her frustration and her loss. If that happened she didn’t know the extent of the damage she would cause. When she had been angry back with TOM on the spaceship, she had literally punched holes through metal. That was before the upgrades to her bones and other abilities.

God no! The person was kneeling beside her and she stiffened in alarm as John put his arm across her back. Her pain suddenly lessoned and she could feel the tension melt from her shoulders to John’s arm in the embrace.

The pain at finding out that Martin was killed was overwhelming her. Inside TOM had gone catatonic as he had never experienced these emotions through his connections to her. He was dealing with his own struggles to not be overwhelmed with the crushing feelings.

She slowly released her hands. She had drawn blood from her fingernails stabbing her palms. Slowly, ever so slowly, she broke down into steady, heavy sobs while tears flowed down her face.

John held her for at least ten minutes on the floor. She was able to sense that Ecaterina, Eric, Pete, Darryl and Scott were in the next room. Dan was with Bobcat checking out a plane.

“I’ve got you, Bethany Anne.” She could hear John say the same thing over and over in so low a voice, no one else could hear him, not even Pete. He had been saying it for so long his throat had to be getting dry.

She took heavy, calming breaths. Sat up a little and actually leaned into John’s embrace. It was the sort of human comfort a person needed. Whether they were human or not.

“Thank you, John.” Her voice was full of anguish and loss. For the first time in John’s experience, Bethany Anne sounded fragile.

Someone was going to get fucked up. Then, he decided, they were going to die. His team didn’t really have any rules of engagement except battle through to the other side and whoever was left alive, won.

“Just give me a target, BA, I promise you their death.”

Bethany Anne had to smile a little at that. Wasn’t she known for being the blood-thirsty one, both literally and figuratively? Her influence was apparently bleeding over to John.

“They might not be Forsaken.”

“And your point?”

Her eyes almost back to human again, she pulled back and John dropped his arm. She looked into his eyes; there was no second doubts there, just determination and finality.

“Aeternitatem, John?” She looked deep into his eyes, into his soul.

John looked down into Bethany Anne’s eyes. Tracks of tears, some laced with small amounts of blood going down her face. John’s lips pressed together, “Aeternitatem.”

No longer ‘Agent’, Dan Bosse was working with Bobcat to close on a modified Gulfstream G550. It had the best engines that you could get in the civilian market and it was the only one in their area of the States they could look at.

Their chief Engineer, Billy “William” Stevenson was going through the bird while Bobcat kept the owner and pilot talking about their experiences with the plane. The owner was a businessman whose tech companies had suffered with the growth of SAAS competition and he needed to unload it in the worst way. However; he was trying to get top dollar and Bobcat and Dan were arguing for a 15% reduction knowing he needed out from under it.

His phone rang. He looked down at it, John Grimes. He picked up the phone and hit receive. “What’s up John? Bethany Anne making you guys run another five miles?” Dan’s face lost his smile as he listened to John on the other side. His anger started to boil, his plans coming together in his mind. “Got it. I’ll finish here and be back within two hours on the outside. Make plans to leave within five if necessary. Yeah, full battle rattle and MIB to start. Let me close this deal and I’ll get back there to confirm. Is Ecaterina there? Yeah, let me speak with her.”

“Hey Kat. I’m sorry to hear of Bethany Anne’s loss. Yes, I know who he was; I’ll explain when I get there. I need a favor, can you call Nathan and let him know I need his skills? No, not his business skills, his computer skills. Please text me if he can talk in about half an hour? Thanks, bye.” He hung up.

Gathering his paperwork he walked over to William and asked him in a tight, soft voice. “William, can this bird lift this afternoon? Bethany Anne needs to be in Washington D.C., I would prefer we use our own plane.”

William looked over at Dan, and the serious expression on his face. He thought about it a minute. The plane was really in great shape. While he might have wanted a few more hours for a more thorough inspection, he felt ok with recommending it to go out right then. “If the boss needs it to fly, I’ll be on the wings flapping myself.”

Dan looked at him, “I’ll hold you to that, even if I duct tape you with a wrench and a screwdriver to the engine as we take off.” Dan turned around and started walking to the three men.

William took that as permission and pulled out a power tool from his belt, no time like the present to fix one or two items. He reached up to a cover and started pulling the screws out.

Dan came up to the three men talking. Timothy Peters took a look behind Dan, “What the hell is he doing with my plane?”

Dan looked at him, “My plane if you sell it to me right now for your asking price. No questions and we have to close within an hour.”

Timothy looked at Dan’s face and decided that trying to dicker with him wasn’t a good choice. He held out his hand, “Deal.”

Dan left Bobcat to close everything and provided the account numbers to move the money. It wasn’t like he kept millions on him. Getting in the company SUV, he broke a few speed limits getting back over the bridge to Key Biscayne.

He got on the phone and hit the code to call Nathan Lowell.

Savannah, GA - USA

Nathan Lowell was having a late breakfast when his phone started playing “I’ve only got eyes for you, babe.” He smiled. If anyone could interrupt his meal, it was Ecaterina. Setting his fork aside, he put the phone to his left ear and grabbed his pad and a pen.

He wasn’t sure if this was Ecaterina calling her boyfriend or Ecaterina calling for her boss.

“Hi baby, what’s up?

“Nathan, we have a problem.”

Blood drained from Nathan’s face, what had he done? “What is it baby?”

“Someone has killed a friend of Bethany Anne, she is, how you say, all broken?” Despite himself, he relaxed a little. Ecaterina wasn’t upset with something he had done. His connection with Ecaterina was the connection that the rest of his reality worked around. If that line was solid, then he could focus on the rest of the world.

He didn’t correct her, “Who was killed?”

“A guy called Martin, a boss from her last place of employment. He was someone special. Dan has asked if you could take a call in a little less than half and hour?”

“Certainly baby. Whatever is needed, I’ll do.”

“Thank you Nathan. This is personal. She came for me, she came for you. Now, now I feel I will help. These men, whether they are Forsaken, human or Wechselbalg, they must be found Nathan. Dan is on his way back soon and the team is getting suited up. Everyone here is pissed, I am pissed.”

Nathan could understand. Bethany Anne had a way of making things happen in people’s lives. Both good and bad things. Usually good for her friends and bad for those not so friendly. She had grown from a boss to their leader. He could only imagine what her team back at the houses was getting ready to do. He knew what Dan was probably going to call him about, but Ecaterina just confirmed it for him.

“Dan says he needs you for your skills, your computer skills.” She sounded a little confused. He had worked with her back in Romania to do some simple Google work. She didn’t realize that he was a world class hacker as well. Dan did. Whether it was because Bethany Anne told him, Frank told him or his name was somewhere on a list that he hoped didn’t exist didn’t matter. What mattered was his friend was hurting and she needed him.

While he would have helped Bethany Anne just because Ecaterina asked him, this was personal. Someone had hurt his sister from another mother. “I got your message. Any idea where they are headed?”

“John says that he will go fuck someone up in a white house if has to. Does that make any sense?”

“Yeah, yeah it does. Hopefully that was just a comment about his sense of devotion and not a strategic target. Either way, they are heading to Washington D.C. I’ll meet you guys there after I stop in New Jersey real fast.”

Ecaterina was a little annoyed. What could Nathan need so bad in New Jersey? He just about could feel the irritation over the phone.

“Ecaterina, I’ve got to stop and pick up stuff from a storage room. Like when Ivan got me items?”

That caught Ecaterina off guard. The first time that Ivan had picked up camping gear for Nathan was back in Romania when he hired her to take him up that fateful mountain.

She wasn’t sure where Bethany Anne had sent the weapons and traps that couldn’t go commercial when Nathan brought her to America. She had honestly felt a little adrift without a mountain and her weapons. She had mentioned it to Nathan a couple of nights ago on the phone. Ecaterina was a nature loving girl herself, and while it was nice to be on the water, she much preferred land.

Nathan had asked Bethany Anne about it and she slapped her forehead. She had forgotten the boxes and wasn’t sure how to get them down to Miami.

Bethany Anne didn’t want a normal shipping company to get involved. He had told her he would fly through and crate them up special to get them shipped. It could be a surprise for Ecaterina. He was supposed to do this when he got done in Savannah.

He had one more meeting the next day, but he was already busy texting his partner that it was ok to move ahead on the project. While it was a $50k project, the money seemed unimportant to him right then.

He had responsibility for two hackers which had been captured on the last operation. As far as he could tell, they were actually really good. They did check out, so he put them on one of his teams and shipped them to Dallas, Tx. His Technology Security Company operations guy would look over their shoulder until he felt they could really be trusted. He also gave them new identification as he didn’t want the Forsaken to find them. They were almost too effusive in their thanks. Seems there was more than just some blackmail going on.

His breakfast bill came to just over twenty dollars so he dropped two twenties and walked out of the restaurant, caught a cab and went to the airport. He got Dan’s call while in the taxi and told him he would get started on his end right away. Dan told him that he’d catch up in D.C. and then hung up.

The best Nathan could do right away was a one-stop flight through Chicago, so he paid top dollar and jumped on. The hotel could ship his stuff to Bethany Anne’s house. He figured he could catch up to it there. Besides, he needed another change of clothes where Ecaterina was staying anyway. If the clothes didn’t make it to the house, then he didn’t need the clothes that badly.

Washington D.C. - USA

Frank had been working on any information he could figure out regarding Martin when he got a phone call coming in from Dan Bosse.

“Frank here.”

“Hey, it’s Dan. I got the news about Martin.”

“Yes, how is Bethany Anne taking it?”

“You don’t know? I thought you told her.”

Frank sighed. “I did, but the call just suddenly dropped. I wasn’t sure why and believe it or not, I was hoping someone over there would be able to handle any fallout. Do you know what is going on?”

“Yes, just a bit. I can tell you that my team is getting suited up. Whoever did this just became our focus, Frank. Whether they thought they could strike at Bethany Anne on purpose or this was random, the end result is going to be pretty one sided, if you know what I mean.”

“I’ve only got a little more info, but the preliminary coroner’s report shows a smaller amount of blood than what they believe should have been in the body and that takes into account his ripped out throat.”

“Almost like they took a sip or two and then tried to destroy the proof?”

“That’s my working hypothesis, yes.”

Dan was quiet for a moment, thinking. “So, we probably have enemy action who aren’t ready to have their involvement confirmed. I’m going to need support for our team while in D.C., Frank. I don’t want anyone to get their dick in a twist, but I can guarantee that my men aren’t going to take any shit from anyone. I would usually suggest caution and tact, but I doubt that is going to work too well this time.” Dan could hear the heavy sigh of those expected to accomplish the impossible come from Frank.

“Yeah, I know that. It has been a quiet few weeks, hasn’t it Dan?”

Dan could almost hear a smile in his voice. “Frank, you live for this shit and you know it.”

Frank thought about that for a moment. “You know what Dan? I keep on living for this shit. Someone attacked a U.S. Government official in his own parking lot. I can’t let that happen, can I? I’ve got some calls to make. Let me know your arrival details as soon as you can and I’ll try to square away a few things on this side.”

“I expect to be there tonight at the latest. I hope to be wheels up in less than seven hours. I’ll get you our flight number in a few.”

They said their goodbyes and then Dan hung-up.

While Dan would have been a little bothered if the attack had been non-Forsaken, he had made an agreement on a tarmac to Bethany Anne to fuck-up the Forsaken and anyone who needed an ass kicking. Attacking Bethany Anne through a cut-out was attacking Bethany Anne to him.

As far as Dan was concerned, someone was going to become seriously hurt. If they died in the process, he wasn’t too concerned.

New Jersey, USA

Nathan Lowell arrived at a small, climate controlled storage facility outside an airport in New Jersey. He drove his rented van to block the video camera pointed his way. He plugged in the security codes Bethany Anne gave him when they talked a couple of days before into the alarm on the door. The door opened and he turned on the light.

There were three boxes in the room. Each one had all kinds of packing tape around the outside. You wouldn’t be amiss if you thought the person wrapping the box guilty of having too much tape and too little sense. He figured that Bethany Anne wanted it obvious if the boxes had been tampered with.

He had talked with Dan one more time and got the news that the company now had their own plane. Nathan picked up each of the boxes, each had to weigh at least 300 lbs, not that Bethany Anne would notice. He moved the boxes into the van. With each one, the vehicle settling a little heavier on the back wheels. Definitely not heavy duty springs on this van.

Closing the doors he set the door lock and started driving to D.C. He would get to the airport a couple of hours after their plane landed, provided they left Miami when Dan was expecting.

He turned on the local rock radio and he could hear the starting short riffs of “Back in Black.” Yeah, he thought, whoever planned this attack on Bethany Anne had just fucked up. They had better hope that her team got hold of them first. They might get a quick death. God knows what was going to happen if Bethany Anne got to them first.


CHAPTER FOUR

Miami, FL - USA

Bethany Anne was in her suite’s bathroom, taking a shower trying to get the feelings sloughed off from the outside. Unfortunately, her emotions didn’t go down the drain with the soap.

TOM, are you there?

I’m here, Bethany Anne.

Are you OK? I felt you withdraw, I didn’t realize that your presence was so much a part of me that to be without it I would somehow feel, I don’t know, less.

Your emotions are not something the Kurtherian are familiar with anymore. I’ve become accustomed to what you call anger and humor. A few other emotions, but the raw anguish and hurt that happened overwhelmed me. I had no experience and had to block as much of our link as I could. This emotion is so painful, why do you humans allow yourselves to feel it?

Not all of us do. Some drown this hurt in different ways to try to overcome it. Whether they do it with drugs like alcohol or pills, sometimes medicine or activities to keep them so busy they don’t have time to deal with their feelings.

And this works?

No, not really. The human psyche always requires a payment. If you don’t pay up front, then it will leak out and affect your life in ways you can’t know. Either way, you will pay.

But why not just get rid of it altogether?

Because it is the price we pay to have love in our lives.

What good is love? You have not had any emotion that seems worth what you just went through.

Bethany Anne thought about that statement for a minute. Ever since TOM had ‘joined’ her back in Romania during the transformation in his craft, she had never been through a loving period.

Unfortunately, you have never been a part of my life when I felt love. Even if I think about the moments right now and try to capture some of their essence, it would be a weak shadow of the real thing.

Does love feel as good as the pain felt bad?

Bethany Anne thought back to the few times in her life when she truly felt love. Including when she knew that Martin accepted her and was as proud of her as his own daughter.

Better.

TOM didn’t reply. Bethany Anne could feel him pull back in contemplation and go into his own shell. She left him alone to think and got out of the shower.

The short time trying to explain the emotions helped Bethany Anne cope with her own feelings. Nothing she could do would bring Martin back.

She walked into her large closet. It had areas for all of her clothes. Drawers for underwear and bras (not necessary anymore), racks for shirts one on top of another. A large mirror for standing in front when she was looking at her outfit and even a sit down area with lights around a mirror for makeup. On the right wall she had a setup that could hold hundreds of pair of shoes. After the comment Nathan made about Imelda Marcos, she didn’t think Nathan should ever be allowed to see her closet.

She considered her clothes. She could dress as if it didn’t affect her. While she didn’t know it was the Forsaken behind the attack, it would be better to assume it was and be wrong than the opposite. Bethany Anne was known for dressing nicely. If someone was trying to learn more about her, then they would suspect she would continue the trend and make assumptions based on that information.

While certainly not impossible, Martin most likely didn’t provide any information to his attackers. He would never have stood a chance against a vampire. That one was here in America was a declaration of war. Not that all of the attacks with the Forsaken in the last year hadn’t been. However; she hadn’t considered who could be controlling the Nosferatu .

She wanted to slap her own head in frustration. She wasn’t thinking this through. Of course there was a decently high level vampire here. There wouldn’t be a way to create the Nosferatu  in the first place, much less control them. She had talked with Dan and all of the Nosferatu  which he had encountered had previously been Americans from whatever local area they had found them.  How she hadn’t put two and two together before now shamed her.  Dan must have assumed she knew.

So, she had most likely busted up a major operation. Was she working against the main ring leader here in America or a lower level, but highly powerful vampire such as Bill?

If she had to guess, she would think the later choice. With as many video cameras available here in the States, someone would have a picture of the vampire. Even Michael would kill one of his children for daring to implement this many attacks on his soil.

She felt sure that all of the children knew that Carl would have found them out eventually. However; if they could suggest that one of their children had done this of their own will, Michael’s blind spot to his own children would keep them safe.

No, she was battling a cut-out. She was fighting a lackey. Sure, a powerful lackey but still a lackey.

She went to the pants section of her closet and quickly found the pair she was looking for. The problem with looking into her past was that the person who came out the other side of the transformation in Romania wasn’t Bethany Anne Reynolds. That woman would have grabbed her Coach purse, Christian Louboutins and a sharp, tailored power suit and jewelry and used her keen intellect to bury you in facts, figures, research and the law.

She still had her keen intellect and all of her knowledge from the past and now from the future as well. She pulled on her leather pants, the same pair she used to take down the team in the Southeast Financial center in downtown Miami.

No, that old Bethany Anne was gone. She might not give up her love of fashion, but it wasn’t the sort of weapons and armor it had been before. Now, it was a tactic she might use.

She pulled on her Under Armour long sleeve ColdGear in black and then the incredibly thin protective vest made with the latest ceramic disk technology. She had learned her lesson in Romania when Petre’ had shot a hole right though her chest. She survived, but it was bitter lesson and she didn’t want to grab the nearest person and drink them like a milkshake to regenerate her flesh so fast.

Over this, she pulled on a black button up with long sleeves which were made to not be tucked in. She grabbed a black leather jacket for Washington D.C. It was too hot right now in Miami for a coat, but it would be forty degrees cooler up in the nation’s capital. While she didn’t need coats most of the time, it was a lot easier to blend in. She did grab, however; a light jacket to help hide the shoulder holsters of a pair of .45’s she strapped on. Her new favorite addition, a knife on a sheath hung down her back where she could reach behind her and grab the handle.

She decided a nice pair of black Puma’s would work with this outfit. Nathan happened to be a Puma fan as well and had been shopping for Ecaterina when Bethany Anne had picked up three pairs.

She grabbed her Fossil overnight bag and added a couple of extra outfits. Her go-bag was always ready with the basics in case she had to leave quickly. Looking around one last time, she clicked off the light.

While she couldn’t bring Martin back to the living, she could and would fuck up whoever did this to him.

There was a knock at her suite door.


CHAPTER FIVE

Miami, FL - USA

Dan had parked the SUV and then went to talk with John. His team had their Go bags ready and were getting dressed in ‘city fatigues’. This was their description for their black suits and white shirts. John’s team had started wearing dark blood-red ties. Actually, Scott had started the practice and then everyone joined in.

Dan walked over next door and then upstairs to Bethany Anne’s suite. It was quiet, so at least she wasn’t a violent person when she suffered unexpected loss. He needed to find out if she could be ready to leave within three hours. Bobcat had called and the plane was theirs. He had filed a flight plan and was just waiting for the time of departure to D.C. William had already finished his review and green lighted the plane. He said he would go over it further when they got back and Dan confirmed he had at least three days to take the plane engines apart and put them back together for what he termed, ‘a look up the ‘ol girl’s skirt’. Dan didn’t bother asking what a complete teardown was called.

He knocked on her door.

A few seconds later, she opened the door with a Go bag in her hand. Dressed in the same leather pants she wore when her team helped in downtown Miami, her hard eyes had turned to granite. While John had told Dan of her reaction on the kitchen floor, the woman in front of him didn’t show a hint of sadness. Dan just tipped his head and turned around.

She followed him and he heard the door to her suite close behind him.

As Dan came around the stairs going down to the first level, he noticed that Ecaterina was by the front door, a Go bag on the floor beside her. She had a determined look on her face. Pete was beside her with a backpack on the floor. He didn’t look like the sullen spoiled young man they had brought back from New York a few weeks ago. Pete looked at Dan coming down the stairs and then over Dan’s shoulder a second later.

Pete’s face took on a mask of determination. He didn’t wear it like it fit very well yet. But he was obviously trying it on for size and probably was copying one of John’s.

Dan just tipped his head to the two of them and Pete look startled and jumped to the front door and opened it. Dan walked out into the front courtyard where two of the Black SUV’s were parked. Both had all doors open with Eric and John on both sides of the SUV on the right, and Darryl and Scott on the left. The backs of both SUV’s had already been packed full of the team essentials that couldn’t be taken on commercial flights.

Ecaterina grabbed her bag as Bethany Anne went by and started to follow her. Pete threw his backpack around his shoulders and pulled the door shut, locking it and following Ecaterina.

Bethany Anne got in the SUV with John and Eric. Dan slid in beside her. Ecaterina and Pete got in the SUV with Darryl and Scott.

Seconds later, both SUV’s left and the gate to the driveway closed behind them.

Dan texted Bobcat that they would be at the airport directly.

Washington D.C. - USA

Officer Francisco ‘Franz’ Ferdinand was a decade long city servant in the D.C. Police. He had seen a lot of shit in those ten years. He had been part of multiple trips with very important dignitaries both commercial and political. Probably the two toughest groups of protections details on the political side were the Russians and the Israeli’s.  The Russian presidents team was obviously military and probably chewed nails and shit bullets. The other was the Israeli delegation. The Israeli delegation security was so smooth it was downright scary. You would see those guys on the other side of the room one minute, and right behind you suggesting you look at an area of interest the next. They both gave him the heebie-jeebies for different reasons.

He had been about to clock out for the day when the request for a single police escort had come in for a VIP from Florida. He wanted the overtime, so he called dispatch and he was able to get the gig.

He hadn’t been given much in the way of details, but when he got to the private landing strip there were two SUV’s already lined up waiting. Both looked armored to him. He waited on his Kawasaki Police Interceptor. It was a little cold out without any buildings to protect him from the wind but he would take the cold over being stuck in traffic in a car.

About fifteen minutes later, a Gulfstream G550 touched down so smoothly he could hardly see any smoke off of the tires. It taxied right over to them and slowed to a stop. Franz could see the pilot hitting a few switches in the cockpit, but didn’t look like he was going to shut down the plane. Probably going to take it to a hanger, he figured.

The door cracked open and the stairs came down.

The first person down the ramp was huge. He had to be at almost half a foot over six feet and just as round at the chest. He was obviously military at some level but he moved like a trained martial artist. That was surprising considering his size. The man behind him was also big and while the first guy was looking to the right, the second was carefully watching the left.

Shit, these guys are expecting trouble right here. Franz quickly looked around him, half expecting to see some assholes in military fatigues jump up and start waving AK’s around spraying bullets at everyone.

When he turned back to look at the plane, two more of these guys were descending the ladder. One was a big, badass black man that couldn’t have been back from overseas too long ago. He still had that look Franz had seen on those who were still active. The last guy, white and significantly shorter from the first one had damned arms bigger than Franz’s legs. Who the hell were these people?

The men checked out both SUV’s and two had pulled out those little mirrors on telescopic sticks and checked under the cars as well. Finally they nodded to the lead and he just talked to the air. Franz couldn’t see any mic on him at all. He certainly hadn’t touched anything that he could see to hit send.

Some motion caught his attention and a beautiful woman with an overnight bag started coming down the stairs. She looked a little exotic, maybe Russian? Geez, he would have jumped to be on her protection detail in a second. He wondered if she was maybe a family member to someone foreign to get this welcoming party?

Another person started coming down the ramp and Franz completely forgot to close his mouth. This second woman made even the first one seem a little plain. She was obviously not happy about something, but Franz was ready to fix whatever it was to see her smile, if only once.

He thought the first one was smooth but this lady walked on air. She didn’t look to the left or to the right but just came down the stairs and went to the first SUV where the big guy had the door open for her. He closed it when she got in and he got in the front passenger seat himself. There were two more guys who got off after the two women but Franz couldn’t even focus on them. They all got in the SUV’s and the first driver hit his horn just a tap to let Franz know they were ready.



None of these people looked like you would want to meet them in a dark alley. He was pretty sure these guys could take the Russians and the Israeli’s. Probably at the same time. That lady in the black leathers looked like she could eat them all and still be hungry. Who the fuck were these people? It was above his pay grade, that was certain.

He shook himself out of his thinking and hit his lights and alarm. Technically, he was supposed to only do the lights, but if anyone was going to give him any shit about this he would claim he was trying to speed things up so he could get home earlier.

They left the airport heading for a building on the outer edges of the city.

The cop left them as they pulled into the building Bethany Anne had felt was home not too long ago. She had mixed feelings coming back here.

It was night time, and Frank was going to meet them with the necessary keys and all of the legal paperwork if anyone showed up and asked questions. Frank had greased their arrival in D.C., and provided an excellent location to land and the police escort.

She was able to get here in less than 24 hours. The tape was still up from the police investigators on both the location of the body down in the parking garage and his office door.

The drove down into the parking garage and parked within forty feet of the taped area.

Her team, plus Pete, got out and checked the area. Pete needed the practice and it was a good time to get him in with the crew on what should be a safe enough exercise.

Bethany Anne rolled down the window to wait for John’s approval. It came a minute later.

She, Ecaterina and Dan all got out of the vehicles and Bethany Anne walked over to the taped area. The blood smell was overwhelming to her. She could, however; smell the distinct odor of a vampire still here. She stepped closer and took a bigger inhalation through her nose to see if there was anything else she could smell.

Bethany Anne, that isn’t a vampire we have encountered before.

TOM, you’re not telling me something I don’t already know. I’ve only met two. I killed one and saved the other. Stephen wouldn’t have done this to me and frankly he was probably asleep anyway.

I’m sorry, I wasn’t very clear. What I mean is that this is from a different line of vampires.

You can smell a vampire’s family relationships?

Well, not exactly. I could tell that Petre’ and Stephen were related, but until I could use your senses I couldn’t be sure I could tell a completely different line. Now I am. If you smell any other vampire I can probably tell if they are related in some fashion.

Out-fucking-standing. Good to know.

Bethany Anne stood up and walked over to where the elevators would be around the corner. It wasn’t as if she hadn’t used it hundreds of times before.

“Hold Up, Bethany Anne!” John was jogging over to her.

She turned to look at him, impatience in her eyes.

He looked down at her, “I get it, you feel safe coming here. You’ve done it a million times. I’m sure Martin felt safe going to his car that night. Don’t let familiarity breed complacency.”

Shit, he was right. She dipped her head in acknowledgement and John waved Eric to go to the elevators first. It dinged and opened. Eric and Scott jumped on and then John waved Pete to join them.

Pete looked surprised but hustled to get in just as the doors closed. She figured those guys had to be tight in there.

A couple of minutes later, Bethany Anne’s toes were tapping on the ground. Stupid Puma’s didn’t make as much noise as her high heels would have, she thought.

The elevator was coming back down and the door opened. There were two people on the elevator and she only recognized one, Pete.

The other was an old man. He came out of the elevator and held out his hand, a sad smile on his face. “Bethany Anne, I’m sorry that I had to be the one to inform you that Martin was killed. I wish these weren’t the circumstances to cause us to meet.”

Bethany Anne held her hand out to Frank Kurns. The elusive man she had started thinking of as ‘Charlie’ in Charlie's Angels. She guessed she couldn’t think that anymore since she had now seen his face.

“Thank you, Frank. I’m glad you did get hold of me. It allowed me and my team to get here as soon as possible.”

Frank took a moment to look around at the team. He had met Eric and Scott upstairs. He recognized all of their faces from his files, but pictures could only tell you so much. The presence that Darryl gave off, that could be one scary guy. Scott upstairs was a walking rock. John, a mountain you couldn’t move and Dan, who he had met on multiple occasions but now in the employ of one of the most captivating women this world had.

Ah, and Ecaterina was on the other side of the SUV. She was standing alert as if she was responsible for outer security, interesting.

Frank sighed and turned back to Bethany Anne. “Yes, well it was a surprise to me. The Forsaken to attack here in Washington is a new and concerning turn of events. I’ve checked the records and it has never been done before. That is, if it was one of them who did this.”

“It was, Frank. I can confirm that for you.”

Frank was a little surprised. She had only been here maybe ten minutes and she already had that nailed down? It didn’t look like she had any equipment, so she must have smelled them or maybe she had a talent he didn’t know about, yet.

“Do you need to spend any more time down here?”

Bethany Anne gave him a small smile, “No, I was waiting for the bitches upstairs to give the all clear. You coming down was that sign, I would say.” Over to the side, John had to turn his head aside for a second. He couldn’t stop the small smile that graced his face. Bethany Anne wasn’t healed, but she was obviously coming back to them.

He got his face back in control and started for the elevator. She was obviously ready to go up.

Bethany Anne, John and Frank all got on the elevator. Dan, Darryl, Pete and Ecaterina had duty to stay with the vehicles.

The elevator upstairs dinged and Eric continued watching out as Scott covered the elevator. It should be the team, but these guys knew that strange things actually did go ‘bump in the night’.

John was first off of the elevator and nodded to Scott who switched back to looking out again.

Frank was talking, “…So we figure they had been watching Martin for at least three weeks. This was the first time that he was the last one working in the building in that many weeks. Mary says that Martin mentioned some strangers in the parking lot about that long ago. He noticed them when he came out with two other agents who had worked through the previous night. We think they were watching who went in and who came out and missed that the two agents never left, but had slept in their offices.”

Bethany Anne was listening, but she was also taking a trip through her memories. Her old office was down this hallway and then to the right. There were a bunch of cubicles. It used to annoy her to walk through here and notice the guy’s heads come up like prairie dogs trying to catch a look at her ass. If she ever caught them, there was always hell to pay in martial arts practice. The male agents starting wearing cups to practice in the off chance they got caught and didn’t know it.

She had decided in the elevator to not go through any other part of the floor. The woman that worked here died in Europe. Bethany Anne took her place. She was beginning to understand Michael’s rules and perhaps why he put them in place. Maybe a thousand years of living provided a unique perspective for those that came after you.

She walked unerringly to Martins office. She thought she was prepared to see it again, and she almost was. She opened the door, the glass slightly loose. She remembered the last conversation they had when she got shipped out to meet Michael. She had thought he was behind her orders somehow, divulging her health secret. She took in his desk and chairs that he had been sitting in just 24 hours before. She looked around the room and then noticed the single shoe up on his ‘trophy shelf’.

She walked over to the shelf and reached up, pulling it off. The matching shoe was with her father. Shit! “Frank, I’ve got to warn my dad!”

“I’ve already left a message for him to stay on base for the next couple of nights. I told him it was related to you, and that if he would do that much for me, I would give him information about you. I’m sorry if I broke some rules, but I felt you would want this to happen. I wasn’t sure it was Forsaken at that time and I didn’t know what else to bribe him with. The General can be a real ass-munch.”

Bethany Anne had a tear in her eye and a smile on her lips. “Frank, are you listening to the team radios too much? I’m pretty sure ‘ass-munch’ isn’t a word from your century.” She turned to look him in the face.

He was smiling, “You know how long I’ve been saving that word? I laughed out loud the first time you cussed your team out. ‘Ass-munch’ is one of my favorites. I plan on living another hundred years and writing the exhaustive story of ‘Bethany Anne’ as my memoirs. I’ll be famous after I’m dead.”

Bethany Anne looked harder at Frank. His body was certainly old, but he seemed to be spry mentally. Every time she talked with him, he delved more and more into not only her plans, but what was going on around her. She could believe he was taking notes to write just that kind of book.

“You know, you might have to market it as fiction.”

“By that time, you will probably be famous or infamous depending on who you talk to. The people, or the politicians.”

She just nodded her head. Considering what she had to do, he was probably right.

“Frank, what’s the chance my father will come to D.C.? I’m not wild about going back on that base. I’m different, but not so different that people won’t question their eyes. Also, my team goes everywhere with me and that will just cause friction on my Dad’s base. I’m sure you will have to pull rank somehow and he also hates that.”

Frank thought about it. There was a significant meeting of some military minds going on starting Monday. Many of the high ranking officers were arriving tomorrow. General Lance Reynolds had been invited, but his attendance wasn’t mandatory. Ever since Bethany Anne had left he had done his job at the base, but he hadn’t made any effort towards his career. Most now believed that he was biding his time before his next jump in rank and then he would retire.

“He doesn’t like to leave the base. I can cut some very official orders to attend a meeting that is here in town starting Monday, but I can’t get anything but a commercial flight for him before Tuesday probably. Everything else is already tasked to the existing officers for the last couple of weeks.”

“That’s not a problem. If you can get permission for my team and I, we will pick him up tomorrow by lunch time. We will finish out the night with you and then I can have that reunion with the General in the plane. We have to pick up Nathan before we lift off.”

“I can do that. He will probably arrive pretty grumpy I suspect.”

“Nothing I don’t know how to handle, and if he doesn’t, I’ll just put him over my knee and spank him.”

Frank had no response to that.

She put the shoe back on the shelf. She could double guess herself about sending it to Martin and her father, but that wouldn’t get her anywhere. She would find out when she asked the vampire that killed him.

“Let’s go. The vampire wasn’t in here, so he either got what he wanted from Martin, or he didn’t. His laptop is missing, so we can presume they have that and are trying to break the encryption. If they didn’t think about that, it will be a bitch for them to crack. Let’s hope they were in a hurry.”

Frank had seen the coroner’s reports. It didn’t look like they were in too much of a hurry. He had nothing to confirm so he just stayed quiet on the subject.

“Frank, let’s go to your office. You Dan and I need to talk some more and finalize a few plans.” She ushered John and Frank out before closing the door. Not only to Martin’s office, but to that part of her life forever.

The team exited the building, pulling everyone into the SUV’s. At the street, Bethany Anne, Frank, Dan, with John driving headed towards Franks office. Eric drove the others back to the airport. Ecaterina had a text from Nathan and she was anxious to see him. The police tape had given her a jolt of reality that life could be so much shorter than you planned or expected.

Darryl and Scott were in the front seats, with Ecaterina in between Pete and Eric. They pulled through a fast food joint real quick to get some food. While the others had been a little hungry, keeping Pete full was becoming a logistics challenge all of its own


CHAPTER SIX

Washington D.C. - USA

Frank took them into the sub-basement. There was one area in the parking garage he kept unmonitored for the rare occasions that Michael might have need to see him.

Parking in that location, John got out and opened Bethany Anne’s door after looking around first. Frank got out and went to a door that had seen better days twenty years before. However; when he unlocked it, it swung open on oiled hinges and didn’t make a sound. John went through first with Dan and Bethany Anne following him. Frank locked it up behind them.

It didn’t take long to get to Franks office. He went through the biometric security and opened the door to let Dan and Bethany Anne in. John took one look at the smaller room and just turned around and stood guard at the door.

Frank let it close behind them. “Sorry there isn’t more furniture in here. I can count the times anyone has been in here on one hand. For the last four decades.” He laughed at his own joke.

Bethany Anne let Dan start the discussion. “Frank, you know that we are starting our own strike group. You also know that our plans are to bring in the Wechselbalg and grow the group bigger. Bethany Anne is going to take the fight to the Forsaken and anyone else who is against her. However; there is one other piece of information that you don’t have.”

While Frank had originally wanted action when he signed up in the military back in World War II, he had become an information junkie and it consumed him when there was unique and precious information that he could acquire. If you could place a value on any of Bethany Anne’s plans, it would rank up there with the super-powers. If not today, probably within five years.

“I’m listening.”

Dan continued, “Look, you might be listening, but if you aren’t going to be a part of the team then there isn’t a reason to share.” As Frank’s unruly eyebrows started to cross, Dan continued quickly. “I’m not talking about working with us; I’m talking about being here long enough that it matters.” Dan stopped to see how Frank would take this.

“Well, that’s the kicker, isn’t it?” Frank turned his chair around and sat in it. “Michael changed me once and I woke up younger. I’ve still not figured out how that happened. When it was Bill, Carl and myself that was a good run but it was a little rote, you know? I’ve spent time thinking about our work, and it was almost like we were calling in our actions. We were the best, we had never been beaten for decades and we had our tactics down.”

He continued on, lost in his own absolution. “We all made some mistakes that night. Bill walked right up to them, right into the blast radius. I don’t know what he was thinking but he got sloppy. Carl put up all of his spy cameras and technical tools, but he didn’t know that he was looking for something that hadn’t been seen in seventy years. Finally, I hadn’t done a good job with background research. I could have found something to let me know those guys were different and maybe forewarned Bill. So, long story short, I’m not sure I deserve more time. I am just as much to blame as the other two.”

Bethany Anne spoke for the first time, “Do you have a replacement? How would you pass this off if you could? What would happen if you were to die tomorrow?”

Frank looked, staring into the distance. There was no need to bring up Bethany Anne had been his replacement choice. Nothing that wouldn’t sound like him just kissing her ass. “No. It was on my things to do, but the last year has been a bitch, oh no offense intended.” Frank just looked up at Bethany Anne, a little smile on his face.

“I think that would be ‘Queen Bitch’ if you are using it for me, so no offense taken. Frank, who knows about you, down on this level anymore? If you did die, what would happen?”

Frank was a little taken aback with the question. He really hadn’t been afraid around Bethany Anne, but he was suddenly acutely aware that he was in his sanctum with two killers. He thought he had led a full life and he had, but he certainly wanted to live a little while longer. At least long enough to die in his sleep.

Trying to sound as calm as he could, he answered her question. “Well, most of my job has to do with the backdoors I have into any of the government’s databases and information streams. With my knowledge of almost all of the skeletons, it usually doesn’t take too much to get priority tasking.” He looked at Dan with a smile, “As a favor, of course.” Dan smiled back. The favor was that Frank wouldn’t air some dirty laundry if Frank’s request was greased through the queue.

“So, the short answer is probably not a damn thing. My requests wouldn’t show up and in a few months maybe a couple of guys are having a beer, wondering why I haven’t called them in a while.”

“Do you like working here?”

“In this building?”

“Yes, down here, in the ground.”

Frank looked around. “No. Not really. It was left over from the war. My boss was actually up a few levels. Back then, the government worked more closely with Michael due to his connections in Europe. It helped our boys over there quite a bit. When the war was over, a lot of agencies got cut. My boss retired and this is what I’ve been left with. It has a couple of ways to meet with those who are, let’s say, sun-phobic so I never really considered moving.”

“Doesn’t it get cold down here?”

Frank barked a laugh, “Hell yes! I complain horribly about both the cold and the damp. The last 15 years has been rough on these old bones!”   He slapped his leg and smiled.

Dan took over the questioning, “Why don’t you go public with everything you know about the paranormal?”

Frank just shook his head, “Do you realize what kind of catastrophe that would be? We have enough issues with people stocking food, water and guns without proving the existence of vampires and werewolves!”

Dan wasn’t convinced, “What if you got called in front of congress and ordered to tell all?”

Frank smiled at that one. “Dan, I’ve been alive for almost a hundred years. Don’t you think I’ve had this same discussion with myself? Congress is a wishy-washy, whiney bunch of people who can’t see past the next election. They have no concept of the long game. Most of them would sell their mothers to get some publicity. I’d drink the red kool-aid before giving those…” at this he looked at Bethany Anne, “ass-munches, anything.”

Bethany Anne looked him in the eye, “If you weren’t so feeble, I would make you drop and give me 20 for re-using the same curse word.”

“If I wasn’t so old, I might give a fuck, too.” He smiled broadly at her. She was beginning to like this curmudgeon.

“Now, I’ve been answering your questions for the last ten minutes, how about you answer mine?”

Dan stopped him, “Hold on, one more. I want to make sure I understand. You use this job to help the human race, particularly those here in America. Not the government you work for?”

“Dan, when I was born the government was of the people working for the people. Not their own personal interests. So as far as I’m concerned, I never stopped working how I started working. It’s the management that has changed the tune.”

Bethany Anne broke in, “How about a change in management?”

Frank just look at her and raised his right eyebrow. He’d been waiting twenty years to do that in front of a vampire.

Nathan hated this van. It wasn’t the cheapest model but it certainly had the cheapest damn springs used for the driver’s seat. The damn seat cushion was non-existent as well. If he didn’t have a spring imprint in his butt, he would be shocked.

He pulled left into the short drive down to the private aviation facility. He needed to go to hanger 18. He turned the wrong way once and had to turn around. He finally found the right hanger, and there were lights on in the facility.

No sooner than he had stopped and turned off the van when the door to the office slammed open and he could see Ecaterina running to him. What was going on?

He jumped out of the van and quickly closed the door to brace himself as she slammed into him. He got the hug of a lifetime while she was kissing his neck, face firmly planted on his shoulder. “Don’t you die on me, Nathan Lowell.”

What the hell? What happened to the team?

“Baby, what’s going on?” He wasn’t sure of the problem, so he couldn’t try to fix it, yet. She pulled away from him, resting her head on his chest, listening to his heat beating fast in his chest. He started to ask her again but she put a finger on his lips.

“You just called me baby, this is sweet word. Don’t say anything and ruin.” Nathan just smiled and enveloped Ecaterina in a full, warm hug. When she got emotional, her command of the English language slipped a little. After a couple of minutes, she finally started talking into his shirt. It was a good thing his hearing was so good.

“We went by place where Bethany Anne’s friend was killed. The yellow tape was still around and you could see blood stains on concrete. I thought about what if it was you that had been killed. My heart wouldn’t stop racing until I could feel you in my hands, hear your heartbeat with my own ears. Then my heart trusted that you are ok.”

“I’m ok, baby. If you like that word so much, I’ll call you my baby until the end of time.”

“Do not make promise you cannot keep, Mr. Lowell.”   Nathan smiled, she was picking up Bethany Anne mannerisms. Calling him by his last name when he was skating on thin ice.

“Ecaterina, look at me. No, stop and look at me.” She pulled away reluctantly from his chest and looked into his eyes. “I can’t imagine my life without you. Without your smile, without your accent, without your touch. The only way to get rid of me, is to kick me away three times. If you do that, I’ll know that you mean it. This will start the moment you say, ‘I agree.’”

She looked into his eyes, those gorgeous green eyes. He had just pushed the decision back into her lap. She now had the power. Never had a man caused her so such confusion as this one. Well, he was Wechselbalg, they could be a handful. Then again, look at her brother. Completely human and still a handful.

Did she really want this? Did she just say it because she had wanted a connection? Well, now he had called her bluff. What was it going to be?

His eyes were earnest. No pressure to say anything either way. They were accepting eyes. He accepted her in all of her ways including the desire to go and be on the mountains, to be in the forest and to play in nature. She smiled. Every day that she had this man next to her, she would have nature walking beside her.

Her smile lit up, “Yes, Nathan Lowell. You are mine and I am yours, I agree!” She said the last in a squeal and kissed Nathan Lowell hard enough to make his toes curl and uncurl ten times over. He heard cheering from inside the hanger. He forgot Pete was with them and could hear them talking. That little were-bag was probably giving a play-by-play like a soccer sports announcer.

They finally came up for air and Ecaterina hugged him fiercely.

“Baby.”

“Hmmm?” She seemed in a dreamy state, holding him with her face implanted in his chest.

“I have something for you.”

“What?” She could be a really short conversationalist at times. He really loved this woman.

“Come see, it’s in the back of the van.”

She walked with him to the van, but wouldn’t let go of his waist. He had to reach into his left front pants pocket with his right hand for the key to the van because she wouldn’t let go of his arm. He got the van door unlocked and pulled it open.

“Boxes? You have big taped-up boxes for me?” Nathan smiled and handed her a knife. She reluctantly let go of him, but she was a very curious woman. She reminded him of a squirrel looking at a new nut in a tree.

Cutting the top of the first box, she lifted the lid and in the light provided by the van she saw her carefully packed equipment from Romania.

“My baby!”

Nathan had to realize that part of the reason he loved this woman was her love of nature. He had just reunited her with the friends that she had way before she knew him. She had carried these items all over the mountains by her house.

Half way through the second box, she started crying. Not loud, but Nathan noticed her wiping tears away. “Katia?” She looked at him and smiled. She turned around and getting on her knees she leaned out of the van bed wanting a hug. Nathan stepped up. It was his job now, after all.

“You understand me, Nathan Lowell.” She pointed to the boxes behind her. “There has never been another man who understands me like you. Why didn’t you come sooner to Romania? Why did you take so long?”

“Believe it or not, I was hiding from vampires.” She busted out laughing at that statement, reached up and kissed him gently on each eye. For these eyes could see into her soul and he accepted what they could see in her.

She got out of the van and gently closed the doors. “We will get them later, I have them close by now and that is good. I have you closer and that is better.” She led them into and through the office and into the hanger.

Bobcat, Darryl, Scott, Eric and Pete were all standing around a tall table. Eric was pulling in a pile of small bills and winked at Nathan as they came into the hanger. He said to no one in particular, “Told you she wouldn’t finish the boxes.”


CHAPTER SEVEN

Washington, D.C. - USA

Power. The thought of it, the possession or the wielding of power is a drug to many people, often to their detriment. They say that knowledge is power. What they usually mean is that knowledge provides the power to accomplish activities and goals by use of the knowledge to help create the plans, practices or tactics to accomplish the goal. However; the common use of the phrase is that knowledge is power of itself. With knowledge you can make things happen by saying it is so.

For example, if a person asks to have their street which suffers from a dozen potholes paved, they can use knowledge to ask the right people to put it on a list. That information will be shared with city planners who will ascertain if the street needs it more or less than other streets needing repair.

However; the person who saw the mayor spend last night in an orgy and has the proof of that knowledge can get the street paved much quicker for far less effort. Two different types of knowledge and power.

Frank Kurns was a knowledge and power junky. Over the last 70+ years, he had spent a considerable sum of time manipulating the use of knowledge to attain the power to get good deeds done without a lot of arm twisting and outright blackmail. Now, when he called up many of the military and political public servants they didn’t ask what he had on them. Most of them didn’t care anymore. They heard the rumors that something big went down and they received credit for the help in an uncertain time. If Frank called, they listened and then they did.

The problem was what Bethany Anne and Dan had just shared. He had been fighting to keep the UnknownWorld a secret for two generations. Now, Bethany Anne had proof that humanity wasn’t alone in the Universe.

There was more power in Bethany Anne’s little pinky of knowledge and proof than all of his computers and databases. The problem was he wouldn’t be able to keep his position in Washington if he wanted to help the world.

Her argument was convincing. Once the major super powers knew that a private company had access to and controlled the technology of an alien spacecraft, they would have to get it at any cost.

Frank didn’t have any proof that the government did or didn’t have their own spacecraft. For the sake of the argument, if they did but were unable to keep the pace with Bethany Anne’s technology progress, it could get ugly quick.

If they didn’t, then life was going to start at ugly and get much worse.

Either way, they would be looking for any kind of leverage against Bethany Anne they could achieve and Frank would eventually be uncovered. Like a blind mole under a log. They would try to figure out how he had been living so long and he would be both a government secret and a science experiment. He wasn’t looking forward to being either option.

Or, he could just give the word and Bethany Anne would kill him so fast he wouldn’t feel any pain. If someone had asked him to make a choice three months ago, he might have opted for death. However; since Bethany Anne had come on the scene, life hadn’t been as interesting to him since the 1950’s.

She wouldn’t let him out of this room alive without making a decision. Further, she had informed him that he would be answering truthfully. That she couldn’t provide any chance but that he was fully committed. Dan had shared how he went through this same situation a week before. Bethany Anne had provided the first hint when he shook her hand and joined the team. Another couple of hints and he got the message that the Forsaken were a big threat, but the bigger one was on the event horizon.

Dan had a few misgivings. He had been a part of the DOD, if unrecognized, for decades. But with what Bethany Anne had shared he had to agree that to save the USA, the world was going to need to be saved as well. She had the finances and ability to see this through with the right people and the right strategy. It wasn’t going to be a short fight, but for those that signed on, it would be a just fight.

Frank wasn’t stupid. They weren’t sharing this with him so that he could die in a few years. Bethany Anne must know how to help him stay younger. She confirmed it when their discussion finally slowed to a halt, everyone thinking their own thoughts.

“So, Frank. Still care to write your memoirs of me in another hundred years?”

“You can really do that? You can make me younger?”

She seemed to be having an internal discussion, “Yes, although you will have to have the process done a few times to gently bring you back. It will probably take at least eighteen months so that we don’t lose too much of your time sleeping.”

“Do I get your permission to publish it, in say 2137?” Frank had a big smile on his face.

Bethany laughed. “I’ll tell you what. Once we have accomplished faster than light travel for at least twenty five years, you can publish the book.”

“That could be a truly long time from now. We are still using chemical rockets.”

“We are, but not the Kurtherians.”

“Well, ok true. But just because you’re talking with one somehow, doesn’t mean it can explain how to build their technology.” Bethany Anne hadn’t explained that TOM was a part of her; she left it vague on exactly how she communicated with the alien.

Time to come clean with both Frank and Dan. She looked them both in the eyes, “Guys, I never said that I didn’t have a mostly working spaceship, you just assumed I didn’t.”

For once, neither Frank or Dan had anything to ask for at least ten seconds. Then she couldn’t shut them up.

There was a knock on the door. Damn! She had forgotten about poor John outside.

Frank got up and undid the locks. He opened the door, in his best Lurch voice, “Yeessss?”

John stuck his head in, “Food anyone? I’m starving.”

They all looked at each other and then the time. It was past midnight. Yup, dinner time.

The went back to the SUV and after John made sure that no additional bombs or explosives had been attached, they went to a 24 hour diner that Bethany Anne had found on the way to the airport. Finishing the food, they went on to the hanger. Eric met them at the door; apparently, they had decided to keep a watch.

Bethany Anne had to agree, she wasn’t thinking all of this through and her team was back-stopping her very well. With Frank on board, she just needed two more on her team and she could get started. Well, after she got rid of the pesky vamp and his team that was playing in her backyard.

Bethany Anne thought about that for a second. Truly, America might be her back yard but she felt the world was her responsibility. First she would kick the Forsaken out of her back yard, then the whole planet. Can’t protect the front if your flank is open to attack.

There was a van she wasn’t familiar with at the hanger. They parked next to it. It was on her side and it just took a second for her to smell it. John looked at the van and then looked at her, “Nathan.”

John just nodded and went over to talk with Eric then went inside ahead of them. Eric greeted everyone. Bethany Anne and Frank went on into the hanger through the office. She found four air mattresses on the ground by the wall away from the plane. Ecaterina and Nathan were on one and seemed really comfortable together. Something must have happened there.

Pete was half-on half-off another mattress. He apparently moved around a lot while he slept. Darryl had a mattress and Scott had a mattress. She could tell that Nathan, Ecaterina, Darryl and Scott were all pretending to be asleep. Their breathing and heartbeats gave them away. She hadn’t expected to be able to bring Frank and Dan in here without waking them up. She appreciated them letting her move on towards the plane without providing an update right then. They knew the plane was leaving in the morning, anything else could wait.

She followed Frank up into the plane and found Bobcat sleeping in the second row. Although she had sensed him already, she would have guessed the pilot wouldn’t want to be away from his bird. He might do it in the future, but right now the plane was very much his responsibility and she respected how he handled his responsibility.

She grabbed a small cup and a sharp knife from the bar area. It was still stocked from the previous owner. As soon as they got back, she believed all of this would get thrown out. Well, at least thrown out of the plane and into someone’s office, most likely. Completely new everything would be purchased for the plane.

She moved to the back where Frank had sat down. In the back, the seats faced each other. One deep to each side of the aisle. They were very nice seats.

Frank looked excited to be moving forward. Once he had grasped the political dynamics of the future, he had a pretty cut and dried decision matrix. Stay with the government and his future became increasingly unclear and most roads led to a bad end. He could go ahead and choose to disappear and die, or he could take door number three and join the team.

Bethany Anne and Dan’s whole talk was geared to get him to see where his allegiance really was. They both felt that it wasn’t the government. They weren’t sure what the answer would be, but they were pleased to learn he served the best interests of the people of the United States against enemies that it would forever be best they never learn about.

While Bethany Anne highly doubted humanity would never learn of the UnknownWorld, she was fine with it staying in the background for the foreseeable future. At some point, one had to uncover the enemy, so the existence of extraterrestrials would have to come out. Otherwise, what’s the purpose of creating a strong defense facing the stars?

These kinds of discussions could wait; the big one was that she needed to make sure that Frank was going to stick around awhile. Decades at least. That needed to start tonight.

TOM, how much should I give him?

He is a pretty old subject, Bethany Anne. I wouldn’t want the nanocytes to inundate his body at this time. It could make too much of a change in some areas leaving a weak link that fails him during the process. Not to mention, too many nanocytes and he will probably sleep for weeks. Let’s start with about an ounce and go from there.

She had a couple of doubts.

Should I be doing this? I’m making life decisions for humans that are playing with the future. God, what am I doing?

You’re truly asking an alien who was sent to completely change your whole planet’s DNA makeup whether or not you should affect the extension of one humans life? Seriously?

TOM, you’re getting snarky.

It’s late, I’m tired.

You don’t sleep.

I’m tired of this discussion. Just give him the blood already, what a pussy.

TOM! 

Geez, stop yelling.

What the hell has gotten into you?

Well, the other night when you were talking with John and the team, Pete had on Housewives of Orange County, It was very educational.

That is not quality TV. Holy crap, I’ve got to start paying attention to what is on the TV when I am awake?

Well, actually asleep too. It isn’t like I can’t listen in.

I don’t even know why Pete had on the Housewives. I’ll deal with that later. However; you will not sass me in my own mind or I will figure out how to beat you.

Fine.

She turned her attention back to Frank who looked like he had been paying very close attention to her. That wasn’t creepy or anything.

“Yes?”

“Fascinating, it’s like you went somewhere. Were you communicating through the Etheric with the Alien?”

“I’ll explain another time. So, I’ve told you about the nanocytes that are rich in my blood. For me to start the rejuvenation effort, I can’t give you very much at once. Your age precludes me taking the high risk and you would probably sleep for days if not weeks. Unfortunately, I need you tomorrow. So, I’m going to give you about an ounce. This should start the process. We will do this  three times a week and see how you are doing in one week. I suspect you will feel more changes than see them for the short term.”

“How long is it effective?”

“Well, based on John’s experience and his dosage, I would think the smaller amounts I’m giving you will probably each last two to four days. So, they will certainly overlap. By the time you get the third dosage, the first one should have taken care of any critical issues. Then we will pause a couple of days and get a measure of the benefits.”

They finished their discussion and Bethany Anne took the knife and sliced her wrist. Previous to this, she had TOM shut down her pain receptors in that arm. Frank didn’t act bothered at all. She handed him the cup and he downed it and handed it back. She gave him water from the fridge and he drank half the bottle before putting it in the cup holder. Getting up, he headed to the plane’s bathroom. “Sorry, small bladder at this age. I won’t miss this problem at all.”

She just smiled and laid her chair back to catch a couple of hours of sleep.

They pulled the plane out and left the vehicles in the hanger. Bobcat had them in the air at half past seven.

They landed at the base at 8:30 AM, a little early. They couldn’t tell the General what was going on, so as far as he was concerned they could very well wait for him.

Bethany Anne sighed, Sergeant Mccoullagh was walking with her father, no doubt receiving additional commands he wanted passed to the others who ran the base. She might have to deal with Kevin. She felt Franks hand on her shoulder. He had woken up in a really good mood this morning and seemed a little livelier already. “I’ll take care of this.”

Frank went to the door and stepped out. He stopped for a minute and spoke quietly with John who was guarding the end of the stairs in his city fatigues looking very MIB this morning. John snapped a proper salute and stood at parade ground rest while the General and Kevin walked up to them.

This is going to be interesting, she thought.


CHAPTER EIGHT

Military Base, Colorado - USA

General Lance Armstrong was not a happy man. He hated these meetings in D.C., feeling them a waste of time. Usually, the up and comers were happy to be nominated to attend and when you get to his age, you recognized it for what it was. An ass kissing contest for those who wanted to feel important.

Lance knew that relationships helped build a proper military; it didn’t all run on rules and regulations. Men supported, fought and died for more than the flag. They did this for their friends, their family and their brothers and sisters in arms. In a bad situation, you might decide to give up if you were the only one you were going to let down.

However; if due to your giving up you knew your brother and sisters would fall, then you gave everything you had and pulled more from wherever it needed to come from. Whether that brother or sister was beside you, behind you, or depending on you.

Right now, Lance wasn’t on the front lines or frankly even the support lines. He ran this base as he had for years to give some the chance to acquaint themselves to the military and to allow others the chance for a breather away from the front line.

He had a few no-go zones on the base that had military guards around, but not too many. The biggest excitement his base had seen was when the vault had opened on level five and his dying daughter disappeared. It was hard to keep that quiet, but without any proof, even the scientists finally stopped trying to figure it out. They couldn’t get back into the vault and Lance wouldn’t allow them to drill out the locking mechanism. Everyone saw the insides were empty before he hit the button to close it.

He and Kevin finished last minute items before he took off. Somehow, there was a private jet on his airstrip for him to fly to D.C. This last minute change of plans was going to cost a minor fortune. He hoped they had some liquor on this flight.

Lance noticed an older man coming out of the plane and the guard at the bottom salute him and stand at ease next to the ladder. He certainly seemed spry for his age.

As Lance walked up, the older man stuck out his hand, “General Reynolds, it is my pleasure to meet you finally.”

Lance had heard this voice before. It was in the back of his mind. The old man turned to Kevin, “Sergeant Kevin Mccoullagh, a pleasure to meet you as well.”

Lance thought the man was certainly well informed. Oh Crap! Now he remembered where. When he had called yesterday, he sounded a little older on the phone. “Frank, right?”

The old man just smiled and nodded.

Well, he wanted to find out about Bethany Anne, so maybe he was going to get to go up, fly around a bit and then land back again. “Fine, let’s get this bird in the air, shall we?” He returned Kevin’s salute who then turned and walked back towards the entrance to the main tunnel.

Climbing aboard, he could hear Frank come up behind him and that mountain of a guard closing the door as the engines started ramping up.

They weren’t wasting any time, he thought.

He looked around. This was an interesting bunch. There was another three men dressed like the guy closing up, two more men, one definitely military or recently military and the other guy was just trouble. He wasn’t dressed to kill but if Lance was any judge of character, he could.

Across from him was an incredibly striking woman who had turned around in her chair to see who had arrived and smiled like she knew him.

Finally, there was a woman in the back with her head facing the other way. This plane wasn’t setup to seat more than 12 at the most giving everyone a lot of comfort. Lance didn’t see Bobcat and Pete up in the captain’s cabin.

He turned to give Frank a piece of his mind, what the hell had he pulled and who the hell were these people?

Before he could get a word in, the old man was pushing him towards the back. “All your questions in the back please, these old bones don’t need to be standing up when this young whippersnapper takes off. He likes to fly this like it’s a fighter jet.”

Lance decided maybe sitting down was a good priority. He had just sat down in the back across from a woman in black who he hadn’t had a chance to look at when the plane started turning hard and the engines went full blast. It was all Lance could do to sit down, shut up and hold on. He really wasn’t fond of flying.

It was why he chose to be with the ground pounders. The plane took off at an incredibly steep ascent. He found himself looking at the woman in front of him. It took a moment to register with his mind gibbering in torture at the take off.

“Bethany Anne?”

“Hello father.” She smiled at her dad. Completely at a loss for words between Bobcat’s flying and seeing his daughter.

He thought he would never get the chance to see his daughter again.

It would take a lazy three and a half hours to get back to Washington. Bethany Anne had asked Bobcat to fly a little slower to give them more time in the air. The General had to show up at the event, but he wouldn’t have to stay all five days. If he didn’t show up at all, some would question his mode of transportation a little too well. They agreed that a minimum of two days should be sufficient to throw any curiosity off of them.

She told him almost the whole story. She withheld TOM being a part of her, the space ship and alien issue and Frank’s rejuvenation. She had the guys come and tell him what they now called ‘the party in the everglades’ and the terrorist attack. Lance had heard and followed the stories about the tower. He was sure it was a black spec-ops group who had taken them out, not FBI or CIA. He was astonished it had been his daughter and what was now her team of guys.

Son-of-a-bitch. He realized she had done it. She was on the sharp end of the spear where he was always afraid she would go, and she was ripping new assholes like they were tissue paper. He couldn’t be more proud.

Bethany Anne had vacated her seat to John and Frank had let Eric take his. Scott stood while Darryl took the third seat as they all talked with the General.

Bethany Anne recognized that there was only so much of his changed daughter he could take at once. She didn’t want to overwhelm him. If her father had been a normal dad, she probably couldn’t have even approached him.

That fucking Michael and his structures. He knew all of these things were going to happen and he probably knew that she would ignore his structures if he wasn’t around. She was learning the hard and painful way.  The same as learning not to play with fire.

That sanctimonious bastard better still be alive so she could slap his face so hard he could see his ass. She and Frank talked for a little while about things that he could do while they waited in Washington D.C. He didn’t want to shut down his office, but he couldn’t move it, either.

If he were to place a tap to try and reach his hidden computer from Miami it would leave an opening for someone else to try and attack as well. His whole office security was based on physical entry being required.

Frank had turned his office into a Faraday cage. Radio waves couldn’t penetrate his walls. They wouldn’t even consider building anything that would use Wi-Fi.

Bethany Anne, have you considered reaching through the Etheric?

Hold on TOM. Frank will notice we are talking.

“Frank, I’m going to rest for a minute or two. Would you let me know if my Dad becomes available?” Frank leaned out of his seat just a smidge into the aisle and tried to listen to the story TQB was telling.

“Well, they are at the part where everyone is prepping to go to New York City for the Werewolf concave. You have a few minutes.” Bethany Anne leaned her seat back and closed her eyes.

You know I could have done that for you, as well. I can hear a flea fart at 100 meters.

What? Where are you learning this language? Don’t tell me that was on the Housewives as well. 

No, I was listening to the guys talking to your Dad, they are very colorful with their descriptions. It makes this language of yours much more interesting than it was before. Not as beautiful as numbers, but it works for me.

This time, Bethany Anne had no response to that. How can her conversations with TOM get so derailed?

What were you talking about earlier with reaching through the Etheric? 

You are concerned with still using Frank’

s computer assets while based in Miami. However; if you leave a back-door into the system someone else can find it and use it against you or others as well, correct?

Yes. They won’t have to find the entry point at first. They can just find the data communication between anywhere in the world and the end point. All origination IP addresses will always end up, eventually, at his computer. We could create random locations to connect, but in the end any method we use is too dangerous to us and the USA if found out.

So, we create a connection between a computer Frank has and the one in his office using nanocytes as the interface connections and the Etheric as your wire, so to speak. That is safe even when your world discovers the Etheric’s dimension.

Really? How do we do that? What do you want me to do, bleed all over his keyboard?

Wow, you got it in one. My little girl is growing up.

TOM, you can be an ass.

I know, I know. Back to the dog house for me.

No, you misunderstand. If you are delivering results to problems like this you can be an ass all you want. This is fantastic.

“Bethany Anne?” Franks voice was quiet, like he was testing how soft he could make his voice but still be heard. Information junky my ass, this man is a scientist at heart.

She opened her eyes and looked at him. He was startled to see she heard him and woke up, at least as far as he knew, so easily.

“Your dad is unbuckling.” She nodded her head to him and slowly raised her seat back in a sitting position.

Time to see what daddy thought about his little vampire girl.


CHAPTER NINE

Frank nodded to someone behind her and started unbuckling his seatbelt. He stood up and stepped around her dad who slid into the seat. Frank chose to sit in the 4 pod with Nathan and Ecaterina. He was probably going to try and listen in to her conversation. He was such a nosy old man.

Her father started the conversation as he buckled into the seat. “I talked with your team; you guys did a hell of a job. I wish I had been there in the Everglades. That is how you live. It’s good to see you, even changed as you are. You seem so poised now, but John says that you have your op face as well?”

“Op face?” Bethany Anne was perplexed for just a second. “Ah, they must mean when I vamp out. That tends to scare the shit out of any humans around me. So yeah, I can imagine they might call it that.”

“Can you let me see it?”

What the fuck? Why would her dad want to see her vampire visage? This was not how she wanted to spend the last few minutes of the flight dealing with her dad who had seen how his little girl was truly a vampire now.

She looked into his eyes and they both evidenced strength and compassion. The strength she knew from the past, the compassion was something a little new to her. She willed her eyes to go red, her teeth to grow long and as she thought of the asshole who was going to strike down the little boy, the attitude on her face was of murder and mayhem.

Her dad reached out, slowly and put his hand on her face, looking like it did. She almost pulled her head back, but stopped. She needed to hear what he had to say. Her father had a tear in his eye. “I’ll always love you, Bethany Anne. Whether you’re looking like a model, or this destroyer. It doesn’t matter to me what you look like on the outside, you’re my daughter on the inside. I didn’t want to land and something happen that never allowed me to tell you.

I’ve missed you every day since you disappeared. I swore I would make everything back up to you for the mistakes I’ve made if I ever got a chance. I have no idea exactly what it all means yet, but I trust you. If you have room on your team for one old crusty army general, well it was time I retired and let the next generation take over anyway.”

Bethany Anne’s eyes had turned back and her teeth had receded while her father had touched her through the whole transformation. She reached up and gently felt that rough hand.

Maybe not Michael, maybe you missed one good thing with your strictures and rules.

“Dad, you have no idea how much I need a crusty army general. I have business assets all around the world that your experience with operations would help me immensely. I haven’t had time to vet anyone for the position and it would be dangerous to have anyone in it I can’t trust completely. As for the old part, I think you will be feeling better within a few months.” She didn’t want to gross her dad out right then with drinking the blood of his daughter.

“Ah, the nanocytes and your blood?” He laughed at her shock of surprise.

He waved a hand at her as he leaned back in his chair. “John told me about you healing him with the knife wound and what has gone on since then. It doesn’t take too much intelligence to figure it out.” She sure hoped he was wrong about that.

“I’d be happy to help. I’ve got about 18,000 people and forty-two different areas of responsibility at the base to deal with. Obviously, I have subordinates but I can see why you feel it will transfer and I appreciate it isn’t a token job. What do you have to deal with?”

She smiled at him. “Try over 1,000 companies spread across 85% of the nations in the world. Assets in so many banks I can’t find them all, although there are only about twelve accounts they roll back up into. Cash assets in the hundreds of billions and hard assets in the multiple trillions.”

It was time for her father’s eyes to blanch and his mouth to truly stay open. He closed his mouth. “Guess I better get started thinking; the challenge is a bit bigger than expected.”

She nodded, “You think maybe I didn’t come just to say hi, but also to recruit someone?” She winked at him.

He laughed out loud, catching half the planes attention; the stress began to lessen in many of the shoulders and necks of Bethany Anne’s friends and team members. Her Dad was on board, and he was part of the team.

Frank smiled to himself as he looked out the window. That scene was going to be a tear jerker when his book was released. In however many decades in the future she would allow it.

While Bobcat had scared the crap out of Frank on the takeoffs, he landed them so smoothly you didn’t realize you were even on the ground.

Washington D.C. - USA

The next day, Bethany Anne and Frank took care of setting up Franks office computer with her blood according to how TOM directed. Frank commented it looked like a voodoo ritual and she had to smile. It really did. She didn’t just slit her wrists but had stopped at a pharmacy and purchased the instruments to take her blood like a normal person. Ecaterina ended up being the best person for that job. Most of the men just lost their color and turned away. She laughed and pointed at Darryl, Scott and Eric.

“You are pussy 1, you are pussy 2 and you are pussy 3. This is your team code names for next op.” They laughed until they noticed that John wasn’t laughing with them, but rather smiling at them. He spoke up.

“I think we will just shorten that to P1, P2 and P3.” His grin told them that was their new moniker and they all decided this wasn’t funny anymore.

Scott and Darryl had responsibility for keeping the General under surveillance. Her dad was ready and willing to be the bait. He hadn’t known Martin too well, but he had liked the guy when they talked on the phone and appreciated how he had taken care of his daughter. If he could help find the killers, he was game to try.

It was actually Nathan and Pete that found the pair who were casing her father. Nathan was running Pete with him to teach him how to use his sense of smell and other skills when they found two guys who had a slightly vampiric stench about them drinking coffee across the street from the meeting location.

Nathan had gone in for coffee while Pete was outside. He came out, acted like he hated his coffee and directed Pete to go back in while he handed him some cash. Pete’s annoyance at having to get his associates coffee was so acute you would believe he really felt that way when watching the performance.

For once, you could chalk it up to excellent acting. Even Pete knew not to fuck with Nathan Lowell on anything. When Nathan told Pete to jump, he was already stuck to the ceiling and hoping like hell Nathan hadn’t wanted him to go higher than that. John had Pete’s respect. He just plain feared Nathan Lowell.

Pete nodded his head as he exited the coffee shop. He had the dead person scent in his nose, now. He would be able to find these guys again. Pete didn’t realize how slowly the sense of self-worth was creeping up on him. He was becoming an asset to the team based on his own abilities, not the wealth and power of his dad. The old Pete was slowly peeling off and John was becoming a proud mentor. Not that he would tell Pete this, of course.

Eric, Scott and Darryl had to go by the team names P1, P2 and P3 for the whole day. Everyone who had any reason to get on the team net loved to use them.

Dan was having a blast. He hadn’t been involved too much with the plane flight back, but he was a very satisfied man. They now had two more team members to help run the group and he was feeling less pressure on how he would have to deal with helping out. Frank was a natural fit. Dan had worked with him so long the difference now was that he actually got to see him. The general was going to take a little getting used to, but even he seemed a little more relaxed than the stories he had heard.

Dan was surprised when Bethany Anne had told him on the plane trip to Colorado she had hoped her father would be open to joining the team. That she wanted him to work on the business side was obvious in retrospect, but when you see a military man, you think military holes he would plug into.

They had taken six suites at the Mandarin Oriental in D.C. Nathan used his cutout shell company credit cards to hide the team from any searches for financial transactions which might be underway. He had a shared bank account with Bethany Anne which she kept a couple of million in for him to use. She told him the trust was complete, however; the exit interview for misappropriation of funds was fatal. Like any good leader, she worked with candor and an iron fist.

She cornered him in the suite he shared with Ecaterina. Those two were working and very professional despite the obvious attraction. They were fighting the overwhelming desire of endorphins that practically screamed at them to just hole up and stay in their room together. She could appreciate the restraint the two must have. However; the smell of the pheromones those two were trailing behind them wanted to make her gag. She had asked TOM if he could do something about it.

She knocked on their door. Ecaterina answered the door for Bethany Anne and then stepped back in the room for just a second, grabbed her wallet, winked at Bethany Anne and stepped out when Bethany Anne stepped in. Nathan was working on a laptop making sure his companies were doing well. So far, so good.

He clicked off the VPN window he was using to tunnel into the server where he kept the software. Should he ever lose a laptop, there was nothing on it but basic Ubuntu Linux distro, a couple of TOR programs and software to encrypt the hard drive. The encryption was there to give him time to make changes when he realized that the laptop was taken, if it happened.

He looked up at Bethany Anne who had sat down and finally realized his girlfriend wasn’t there protecting him from the vampire. He had been focused on the work and had lost a sense of his surroundings.

He still flinched when around Bethany Anne. He worked to overcome the natural defense mechanism to be respectful and cautious around her at all times. That his human girlfriend was more comfortable hit him right in his male ego.

“I take it this isn’t a social call?” He tried to smile and lighten the seemingly somber mood.

“No, I just want to know what kind of intentions you have about my assistant.”

Nathan’s face seemed to get an air of panic around it. Shit, shit shit! Was Bethany Anne acting like Ecaterina’s dad? Had he jumped the gun somehow and now he was being watched by Bethany Anne like maybe Ivan would be doing?

Suddenly, Bethany Anne’s started laughing and she was rocking back and forth in her chair. “Ecaterina said you were too easy!” Her mirth flowed from her eyes.

Nathan stopped the mad panic that was in his brain as he realized he was the butt of a joke between the two women. It helped that he knew Ecaterina was aware of whatever was about to happen between the two of them. He took a second to close down the operating system and then the laptop lid as he got his thoughts together.

He smiled, at least he was probably the first werewolf to make a vampire almost fall off of her chair in laughter. “Ok, you got me. Other than being the target for you two I’m guessing there is a reason you asked her to step out?”

Bethany Anne got her smile under control. “Yes, I want to see if it is possible for you to come and work for me?”

Nathan had been aware of Bethany Anne’s ‘human capital acquisition’ binge. However, he never thought that she would approach him. He was kinda part of her group since he was with Ecaterina and he was the American Pack Council’s second in charge of Vampire Relationships. His business side was taking over as he considered why she would want him particularly.

Why was he different than Frank? Frank was crazy good with computer information acquisition and certainly as strong as he was, except on the dark web? He had a strong computer defense company and the business setup for company cut-outs that he used to help hide his efforts left over from his foray into clandestine operations he did before he went legit…

“You want your own intelligence agency, and you want me to lead it?” What he had over Frank was experience with the craft out on the streets and relationships others lacked.

She smiled, “I told Ecaterina that you would get it in one!”

“Did you really tell her that?” He had a small smile of satisfaction.

“No.” His smile faded, but her smile was back.

“I wouldn’t tell her anything because it has to be your decision. I don’t want any of her influence or your concern for her influence to be on you. I need someone who knows the score and is willing to come over to the dark side; we have steak, lamb and vegetables!”

He smiled. They had shared a dinner on a train back in Europe where he had eaten just those dishes and had told her not to give him grief over a wolf eating vegetables.

He would have done it just to be with Ecaterina more, but she was being very pointed in making him consider that factor and to try to not allow it to interfere with his decision.

She needn’t have bothered. While she probably thought this relationship could break apart based on her experiences, Wechselbalg usually connected with one soul and stayed with that soul until they passed. Ecaterina was that soul for him. The bigger question was - did he believe in what she was going to do? He would have to break from the Pack permanently. She was being very open that only one allegiance was allowed.

Gerry would have a small snit, that was for sure. However; the bigger issue was that Bethany Anne didn’t have any Wechselbalg on her staff and yet she was gearing up to bring the most difficult into her group. Wechselbalg understood power and respect. She could bitch slap them into next week and get fear, but respect had to come from a place other than martial prowess for a vampire. He had to admire her machinations. He would be the lead for the Wechselbalg and his respect for Bethany Anne and open relationship based on friendship and shared hard times would start the process for the new recruits to see her as something other than just a vampire.

He owed this woman everything right now. He would have been dead on that mountain with Ecaterina. She allowed Ecaterina to come here to the states and she could have just killed those idiots back in New York instead of trying hard to give them one more chance. She wasn’t even the one who killed the leader, Paul Gleason. That nut-bag had been disrespectful to Bethany Anne one too many times and her team announced their irritation by blowing his head off.

She had killed a guy shooting into the tunnel, however; since he was on the other side of the tunnel and those shots had come close to his momma’s favorite boy he was ok with that choice.

She was a good person. Period. Fucking. Dot. That she was a vampire was now the bonus instead of the problem.

He looked her in the eyes, “My companies?”

“We roll them into a corporation with shares we pass out to everyone employed. You are given a large ‘thank you for your time’ separation package where everyone understands you got bought off to stay away. Now, they get a bonus for the purchase and golden handcuffs to stick around and make it work. If they do, great! If they don’t, well my dad will take care of it.”

He released a little of his concerns. He cared for the guys that helped make everything work. For most of the rest he had finally understood on the Romanian trip that they could operate just fine without him. A small hit to his ego, but he had other things on his plate at the time and since his thoughts were just as focused on a woman who was in Miami, he hadn’t plugged himself back into the company so tightly again.

It really was a well thought out plan. He would get bought off to ’stay away’ and since everyone in the companies would get a boost if it happened, she would get a large group of his employees to support the coming acquisition and be happy for him as well.

He trusted her father to run it as well as anything could be run and it wasn’t like Lance couldn’t ask him if he had a question or two. It was a really good plan. But she needed him badly to make her plans work with the intelligence group.

His value alone was worth a lot and with his companies he should make a large payday himself. She could afford it. Maybe this once he would finally get one up on the vampire.

He smiled, “What is it worth to you?” She smiled back. There was a knock on his door. Bethany Anne got up before he could register the knock completely and was walking to open the door.

“I’m glad you asked. I’m going to let my negotiation team deal with that question. Let me open the door and let them in.” Bethany Anne opened the door and Ecaterina walked in wearing the nicest business suit, cut in all of the best ways to flaunt her figure. She had apparently gone and gotten dressed when she left the room. She had makeup on and had done her hair. She put down an expensive purse and pulled out a couple of folders that had his company names listed on them.

He tried to catch her eyes, but she was completely in business mode and she truly worked for Bethany Anne. His face lost a lot of its color. He looked over at Bethany Anne who was standing with the door still open. She waved at him with her fingers, a smile on her face, “Toodles!” She closed the door behind her.

He was so screwed.


CHAPTER TEN

Washington D.C. - USA

It was time to catch the motherfucker. Bethany Anne was back in her ‘working outfit’ for operations. She had traded the bowie knife for the smaller Japanese sword, the Wakizashi. She told the group that she just didn’t think the Bowie went with her smaller frame. They guys all seemed to puff out their chests and slam their silver laced Bowies into their knife holders at this pronouncement. She rolled her eyes, men!

Her father was at a bar this evening with an old friend, letting him know that he was going to retire and setting up the back door negotiations to let it happen more quickly. Frank was cutting orders from the ‘Frank Lair’ as John had started calling it. It was cold, damp and dark so the name fit. Frank looked pole-axed for a moment when he thought about it. Then smiled and shrugged.

Frank had his second dose of Bethany Anne’s blood and was writing down the changes in a coded diary he kept with him. He was seriously getting into this memoirs book, she felt.

Lance was going to leave the get together and choose a very unwise short cut to his hotel at a late time of night. Bad time to make that choice if you’re being hunted by a vampire. Usually leads to short life expectancy.

Scott was watching from two blocks away in a dark SUV with thermal binoculars. “Hey, P2, those two lackeys are talking on a phone. Looks to me like this op is a go.”

Eric grimaced on the other side of line. They had a secure network in this whole area. They had seeded multiple boxes to spread the network out to six blocks in each direction from the expected route. If they needed to go beyond that far, things had really gone in the shitter. Eric hated these call signs, but John was adamant that they take their medicine.

It wasn’t like he and the guys fainted at the sight of blood, they just didn’t like watching Bethany Anne get stuck by Ecaterina. It just bugged them. At least that was the story he was trying to sell. Unfortunately, John wasn’t buying so here they were.

Ecaterina and Darryl walked arm in arm down the street and into the bar. Ecaterina brushed by Lance’s back. Lance’s friend noticed he had turned to give the person bumping him a piece of his mind, but smiled when Lance noticed it was an attractive woman. He even winked at Lance as he turned back around and told him he was a ‘lucky bastard’. They clicked their beers and Lance finished his and threw down a fifty to cover the tab for the both of them. Lance smiled, “You got my back this time, you prick?”

His friend tipped his bottle in Lance’s direction. “It’s the last time you geezer, but you better bring the lube or I don’t promise anything.” Lance just smiled and allowed his friend to score the point. Paul was a good guy, and Paul had friends high enough that they would all know Lance just wanted a simple and quiet goodbye. Everyone had heard the rumors about his daughter and considered it a hell of a way to go down. They wouldn’t have thought anything could make the man die on the vine, but it’s said that a parent having a child die is the hardest tragedy a parent can face.

Bethany Anne was hidden on the fourth floor fire escape in the alley. The guys couldn’t hide in the alley itself. Dan had brought in a sniper by the name of Killian who had been part of the Everglades operation. He was planted a couple of blocks away and eight stories up.

Bethany Anne thought he was a funny guy. He was joking around with everyone back at the Mandarin when he arrived in town. She was walking into the room when he had asked the team if they got to check out that ‘fine assed vampire’ again after the last op. He stopped laughing when all of them suddenly looked uneasy and behind him. “She’s behind me, isn’t she?”

Dan, John, Eric, Darryl and Scott all just shook their heads up and down. It’s a good thing Killian didn’t look too hard at Dan’s expression. He was having a hard time not laughing at the man.

Good to know Dan wouldn’t be able to play poker worth a damn.

Killian slowly turned around to face the music. He knew that his mouth was going to get him in trouble and he had been slapped by ladies twice this year alone. The problem was his head would leave his shoulders if this lady slapped him. He completed his turn. “Um, Hello.”

“Did you have something to tell me, Mr. Killian?”

He looked just above her head, as if she were his commanding officer. “I just want to admit in my defense it is a very guy thing to be boisterous when you’re trying to compensate for a small dick.”

Bethany Anne was having the hardest time not cracking a smile. “You’re telling me your running the ‘small dick defense’, Mr. Killian?”

“Ma’am. There would have to be enough length to pull anything. It’s so small and shriveled up right now that I would need a pair of tweezers to masturbate.”

That cut it. The guys behind him started sniggering while Killian was sweating in the cool room. Finally Bethany Anne started to crack a small smile at the corner of her lips and Killian caught it, thinking he got off he started to relax. She completely vamped out and jumped for Killian. He fainted.

When he woke up, he was lying on the bed and the team and ops leader Dan Bosse were lounging in the room, talking with everyone about the op later than night.

“What’s going on, guys?” Killian raised his head up.

Dan turned to Killian. “I told you your mouth would be the death of you one day, Killian.”

“So, did she bleed me?”

John snorted, “She said she didn’t like the taste of men with small dicks. No, that’s not true, she didn’t say that. But I will tell you if you ever make light of her again I will beat the ever loving shit out of you, do you understand me?”

Killian looked into John’s eyes and saw the truth. When he went to get support from the rest for his antics, their faces all told him the same thing. His ass was grass if he ever popped off the mouth about the beautiful vampire again.

Dan stood up and dropped a chain with a small pair of tweezers as ornamentation on his chest. “Bethany Anne had Ecaterina drop this off. She did say that if you didn’t wear this around your neck for the next year even your ‘small dick defense’ wouldn’t stop her from exacting painful retribution for your comments. Just for the record, you better not fuck-up one more time around me either.” Dan started for the door, “Be ready in fifteen, John. Killian, get over to your room and be ready within thirty.” He shut the door behind him.

He noticed that all of the guys picked up a packet with fake fangs and a holder for contact lenses in it. He wondered why he didn’t get a set. He decided that maybe doing his job without being glib was the way to go right now.

Hours later, Killian had sighted in on the alley. He had reviewed his life as he got accustomed to the new necklace he was wearing. At first he thought it funny and considered himself special. The more he thought about the experience and how it must have looked to the other ladies, he came to the conclusion he really was a douchebag. Now, the necklace felt the same as having the letter ‘L’ on his forehead.

He spent more time with his sighting. If there was going to be any way to make it up, it was going to be from his skills as a sniper, not shooting off his mouth. Before, he had always supported his teammates because that is what you did. But a sniper was never the same as being on the tip. Everyone needed him, but he never felt he was part of the team in the same way as the other guys.

He had watched through the scope when Bethany Anne came down the far side of the Alley and he lost her for a second when she just moved. She was so fast he couldn’t find her in the scope again. He looked around and found her on the fourth floor fire escape. She was making her own hide with a large blanket and hood. She stopped what she was doing and turned her head to look right at him. Shit! She could obviously see him and wasn’t just faking it. He could easily see her raise an eyebrow. He pulled the gun off to the side and used his right hand to pull the necklace out. When he reacquired her she nodded in his direction and then hid herself.

He didn’t doubt she might have decided to get rid of Killian right then if he didn’t have the necklace on. Killian got his game face on. He had embarrassed himself once already with the team and had been a disrespectful ass. He wouldn’t screw up his part of the plan. This, he decided, had just become the shot that would change his life.

Adrian was pretty pleased with himself. After two hundred years in South America, he had finally been given permission to attack in the United States. He had successfully taken out that annoying Bill, but had used all of his special Nosferatu to accomplish the act. Better to use them all and assure destruction than miss the opportunity and forewarn Bill. He had hidden for a couple of months to let things blow over.

He got information that Michael had woken up and that was one individual he didn’t want to meet. He had heard enough stories to know that cocky or not, even he was going to die if Michael got a hold of him. When things seemed clear enough, he was as far away from the East coast as he could get, so he started on the West Coast and started towards the East.

Adrian hated the cold, so he started going towards the South so he wouldn’t get caught in an early snowstorm. He didn’t know the weather of the United States, but he completely hated the idea of even getting caught in a snap freeze.

His parent had given him specific commands to head towards Florida. Apparently, he was supposed to help create a diversion for the security forces in Miami while his parent had another group handled a separate task. That was fine with Adrian; he enjoyed creating the fear and lived to kill. He was a personal believer that humans were food. If his meal cried it only made dinner all the more memorable.

His operation in Florida ended as a complete failure. Another vampire was involved and somehow took out his Nosferatu that had taken him almost two months to prepare. It was an affront. He was nursing his professional pride the next night when he woke up. He had missed two calls just minutes before. The voice mail informed him that the attacks during the day had also been unsuccessful and that they had intelligence it might have been done by the same team. They tracked a name to an agent in Washington D.C. as a potential lead. Apparently, this woman’s name was a sore point with their political contacts in this country. She had been part of two sting operations which had hurt their organization. When they heard the rumors that she was going to die, the operations to assassinate her were shelved.

They must have planted that information so she could remain underground. If they had, it certainly worked. He stopped any research on her a year ago himself.

Unexpectedly, Adrian was told he needed to gather information from her previous manager in Washington D.C. Adrian had two men who had been with him for three years on this operation. They lived for the same reasons he did. However; these two humans inflicted atrocities on their own kind. Adrian never considered himself human. That person had died in 1737 and good riddance to him.

They had cornered Martin Brennan. His guys enjoyed it as he tortured Martin Brennan. After only one false call, they had been able to catch him alone.

During the interrogation, the man had tried to tell an ‘almost’ truth. Unfortunately for Martin, Adrian was very adept at telling the difference between truth and lies. He had started with Bethany Anne being dead to him. Maybe he was using the undercover work as a cloak to the truth. He had been telling the truth that he hadn’t spoken to her for a year.

It was just a pity that failing to speak with her was insufficient to stop his pending death.

Adrian wanted to take more time to enjoy the delicious pain Martin felt. He could sense his men’s enjoyment as he toyed with his prey. Adrian learned that the woman’s father was a General in the Army based in a state called Colorado.

Adrian told Martin to call this Bethany Anne back from her operation or he would be killed. Martin had told Adrian to go fuck himself. That was when his anger got the best of him and he tore the man’s throat out.

He had dropped the body in disgust. Both with himself for not controlling his anger and the human for being able to goad him so easily. The night wasn’t a complete bust; they had another name to use to get more information on this woman. It took almost 36 hours for their government contacts to find out that the General was scheduled to come to Washington D.C. for a military meeting.

Adrian loved it when dinner came to him.

Now, he was waiting a few blocks from the Generals hotel in a windowless van. It was well after sundown, he was at no risk from the sun. However; he didn’t want any video cameras to potentially capture what he looked like as they drove around at night. These cameras were a problem.

He received a message on his cell phone that the General looked drunk and was heading for the alley shortcut back to his hotel.

Excellent! Things couldn’t be going more right for him unless this Bethany Anne dropped into his lap. He stepped out of the van and started moving quickly to the alley, arriving before the General walked even a quarter of the way from the other side.

Dinner was served.

He got within twenty feet of the General before the man stopped and looked up, seeming a little surprised to find another in the alley with him. Bethany Anne’s father asked him, “How’s it going?”

Adrian smiled, a polite meal - how delightful. “Oh, very good my friend, very good. Out for a stroll this evening?”

“Well, actually I needed to pee. Seems the beer went through me a little too fast. You just surprised me. Forgive an old man for his impractical ways.”

Adrian sniffed. What horrible manners this American had. Oh well, he would have to reprimand him for that before he killed him. Another reason to break more bones only increased his happiness.

Adrian walked up to the General, “Oh, my good sir. I’m afraid your time to be forgiven is long past.”

Killian got the click in his ear. He had sighted in on the Vampire as soon as he registered in his scope. He was a good looking guy and well dressed. Not in your typical vampire style, more New European from France. It didn’t matter, when he got the click in his ear he waited for the time between his heartbeat and stroked the trigger like he was petting a tiny animal.

The Beretta slammed against his arm.


CHAPTER ELEVEN

Adrian smiled at the alarm on the Generals face. He did seem to be burning off his alcohol haze quickly. Good, he hated when his food was drugged.

The next second, his right arm was blown completely off and he was laying on the ground, blood pooling as it left him. His eyes turned red, his teeth slid out. He needed blood and he knew the closest source. He would grab the general, drink and then grab his arm and hold it there so his body could slowly re-attach it.

When he turned around and stood up, there was a woman in front of the General. Where did she come from? He sniffed; it was a similar smell as the man. Ah! This was Bethany Anne. A feral smile showed on his face. She had figured out the trouble and had used her old man as bait. Very cagey for a human. Tough luck she wasn’t playing against a human.

He looked at her straight in the eyes. She locked her eyes to his. “You will step aside while I feed from your father, I’ll deal with you next.” She didn’t move away.

Bethany Anne looked at Adrian like he was a bug to step on. “Motherfucking cock-sucking ass-kissing bitch, I’ll do no such thing.” She let her robe drop. She was dressed like a military spec-operative. She had twin pistols and a sword on her back.

Adrian stood for a second. No human had ever resisted his mental command. He ground out again, “You will…”

That’s when she planted the sword from her back into his left pectoral and he felt himself get slammed into the concrete. It happened so fast that even his supernatural vampiric senses were having trouble keeping up. This blood loss must really be messing him up. He looked up and hissed through his teeth.

She hissed back and her eyes were glowing red. Her teeth were longer than his. She had the sword stuck in the ground enough he couldn’t move without cutting a huge chunk of his arm off.

Adrian knew fear for the first time in decades. Now he realized he had been played the whole time. Michael wasn’t dead, he had created another vampire himself and she was massively stronger than he was.

She pulled a pistol out of a holster, the general spoke from behind her.

“You know that will bring the police a little sooner, right?

The pistol dropped back into the holster, Adrian felt a little relief. She yanked the sword out of his arm and stabbed him in both legs and cut his abdomen open. The sword slammed back into this shoulder again. He screamed in pain but her hand was over his mouth.

“Don’t be a whiny bitch, you retarded cock stain. What is your name?”

He gasped out, “Adrian.”

Adrian would have tried to get away, but she had broken both of his legs when she stabbed him. He was weak from blood loss and there wasn’t a chance he could overpower this vampire. It looks like he had outplayed his hand. He really hated to be told he was whining. It kept him quiet for a minute. He heard multiple people coming down the alley. He could smell his guys, so she had even more help. She continued to look at him as she talked to the others, “Report.”

A voice came from behind her, “Dan says Killian is clear. The Generals room is clean and we have the keys and the description of their van, it should be a couple of blocks away. We can use that for the bodies.” One of the other guys whimpered at that comment. Three humans came into view. A woman, a huge white man and a werewolf? What was the werewolf doing with them?

The woman asked Bethany Anne, “This is the one that killed your friend?” Bethany Anne nodded her head yes. Of course, she could smell him back at the place he killed Martin. The human female kneeled down next to his chest. “This must hurt like a bitch, yes?” She had an Eastern European accent. He was getting angry. He could handle his treatment from Bethany Anne, but this cattle was beneath him.

“You fucking cunt, if this sword wasn’t in me I would drain you dry.” He watched as she put a hand up and the large white man pulled a huge knife off of his chest and handed it to her. She quickly stabbed one of his eyes and he screamed in pain, trying to move his head away from this crazy fucking European.

“Bah! This is no challenge, even Petre’ didn’t scream like this one when I took care of him. You will be respectful, little whiny bitch, my mistress does not appreciate foul language.”

Adrian was shocked. Not only was his eye still in excruciating pain, but she admitted to capturing the vampire over in Romania. She stood up and looked down at him, “What? You thought my mistress kept me around because I look nice. No, I earned my way into this group by outsmarting vampires,” she looked at the other guy, “and werewolves. Who do you think came up with the plan to shoot off your arm?” She wiped the liquid on his clothes and handed the knife back to the big man with a ‘thank you.’

John looked over at Bethany Anne, “I could do this all night, but we should probably clear out. What do you want to do with these two?” He pointed a thumb back at the two henchmen.

She smiled, “I don’t need them for anything, and poor Adrian needs a little energy. Do you know of any volunteers?” The two men started whimpering. John spoke into a mic, “Wrap it up, back to the plane.” He grabbed the missing arm on the way out of the alley.

Adrian’s two henchmen were found dead later that morning. No marks on their bodies. Two days later, the coroner report said that both smelled of alcohol, but no alcohol was found in their bloodstream. Both, however; suffered from not having enough blood in their systems to live.

Flying to Miami, FL - USA

The team, including Frank and Killian but without Darryl and Scott, flew back to Miami, Fl. Her Father now had a few extra days in Washington D.C to say goodbye to some friends that he might want to contact in the future, and finish out the political game for his retirement. Bethany Anne felt confident that Adrian was the main Forsaken here in the United States.

Darryl and Scott were tasked with keeping tabs on the new CEO to be. Bobcat had scheduled William to go through the plane for one day and then button her back up for a trip back to Washington. If it still looked like the General wanted to stay a little while longer, Bobcat would grant William authorization to work on the plane in twelve hour increments.

Adrian did not provide his maker’s name, yet. However; she felt that a trip to the Everglades early next morning would be a very educational opportunity. The team had learned from her discussions with Petre’. A vampire had to have a belief that it could live. She would call Stephen when they landed to find out more.

Ecaterina had talked with Ivan for a few minutes on the way to the airport. Ivan was apparently having a blast and it looked like he and Stephen had a bromance. Bethany Anne had to agree that he was a fun guy and she hoped Ivan didn’t ruin Stephen for her.

She snorted, here she was worrying whether a human in his twenties was going to ruin a vampire in his centuries. How messed up was that?

She wished she had Stephen with her at the moment. Without a vicious reputation, she kept having to do things the hard way.

Mind you, Adrian was going to die. He had killed Martin Brennan and that was a death sentence. That he had enjoyed it only added substantially to the torture during his expiration. She considered her options as she stared out of the window at the rising sun. Adrian had gone to sleep after he drank from his cronies. She felt it a fitting resolution to their end. Work with vampire, die by vampire.

Good thing she wasn’t one. She snorted at that again. She prayed that wasn’t an omen for her team.

Not one of them, even her father, had lifted so much as an eyebrow when she gave the command that allowed Adrian to kill those men so that he could live. They packed up and decided to just leave the van where it was. No use putting their DNA in it.

She decided to see if TOM had any ideas.

TOM, is there a way to bring about assured death with significant pain to Adrian? There are bonus points for anything that helps provide me a reputation in the Vampire community.

I thought you already were getting a reputation in the vampire community? No community to speak of here in the United States, but you are known in various circles in Europe.

So, I should get a T-Shirt that says ‘I’m big in Romania’?

She got a feeling of sneezing in her spinal cord. She guessed that meant TOM was laughing. That was a new and odd sensation.

If you want, I suppose you can.

Yeah, but Adrian is from South America. I’m not ready to dive into that ‘pit of scum and villainy’ just yet.

Why not send him?

Who, Adrian? I want him dead. I can’t let him go back South even to spread stories about me.

What if we re-program his nanocytes to slowly stop working. He will age rapidly and then die a horrible death.

Really? A vampire version of the wasting disease? What happens if he drinks more blood? 

Well, with reprogrammed nanocytes, each time he receives more energy, they would work that much faster to… What is your favorite saying here? ‘Fuck him up’? Yup, that would do it.

How deliciously ironic that would be. If he doesn’t drink, he dies. If he drinks, he dies faster. The whole time he is talking about me. TOM, you just got moved from the couch to your own room.

TOM was pleased at that comment. He and Bethany Anne had a very rocky start to their relationship since he had jumped aboard her body without permission. She hadn’t taken the intrusion very well at all. While he certainly couldn’t go anywhere, he could tell how she felt about him by where she ‘allowed him to sleep’. So far, there was the dog-house and the couch. Now she was offering him his own room.

Do I get a furniture allowance?

You get a sleeping bag, don’t push it.

Damn.

What do we need to do to prepare this nanocyte reprogramming effort?

Well, like most of my nanocyte concoctions, we are going to start with a bag of blood and a syringe of your blood after I modify their core stage programming.

How are you changing the programming when the blood is in the syringe? 

I’m not, I’m changing the nanocytes in your body. Before you stick me back on the couch, I’ll put in place a set of instructions to automatically reject any change in programming that is detrimental to you. They will be coded to your DNA and attack any nanocytes which are in your system which your nanocytes don’t recognize.

Kind of like white-blood cells. Ok. You can have a cot in your bedroom too.

Great, TOM thought, at this rate he would have his own house within five years. He got busy making the programming changes using the Kurtherian computer in Bethany Anne’s head. It would take at least twelve hours for enough of her nanocytes to have their programming changed before he would suggest they pull her blood. That would provide enough mutated nanocytes in the syringe to infect Adrian.

For a Kurtherian, he mused, he was becoming pretty blood thirsty hanging around Bethany Anne.

Miami, FL - USA

The team had three SUV’s waiting for them back in Miami. One was for the crew’s equipment including Killian's new toys. Bethany Anne had said hello to the sniper when getting on the plane. Killian had respectfully nodded and said hello back. He had been wearing his necklace on the outside of his shirt until he knew she had seen it. Then he had placed it inside his shirt.

He had done well. That shot had been the linch-pin in Ecaterina’s plan. The General was the bait, she always started with the bait, and then there was a moment he was totally focused on his pain to allow Bethany Anne to get in place. Ecaterina had figured that once the vampire got off the ground again he wouldn’t place too much consideration on how a human got in front of the General so fast.

It had worked wonderfully.

The team already knew Killian, so that wasn’t a problem and Killian already knew about the Forsaken. On the plane Dan had gone over the core information related to the new structure of the group. Killian had decided to join under a six month probationary period. Every member of Dan’s group, which included TQB, had an option to force a vote to kick him off. While that wasn’t a big deal to Killian, when Dan took him aside and let him know that if he was kicked off, he would be mind-wiped back to before he knew about anything related to the Forsaken he was shaken a bit. The reputation of his mouth had certainly caught up to him.

He had to think about that for a little while before agreeing. He had a couple of years on the team before this latest op and while he had some good times, there wasn’t anything there that he would miss too much if he was forced to forget it. Realizing that he was just living a life, not making a life, he decided to join something bigger than himself. If he couldn’t command his own tongue, he deserved the punishment.

He had decided during the operation that he was going to change. Well, this decision put paid to the reality that he would change or else he wouldn’t remember any of these people. That one agreement to Dan’s condition helped smooth the rough feathers of the team towards him. All of them knew the old Killian would have just been glib about the whole situation. This Killian had seemed to have considered the ramifications and acted like an adult.

John had stuck out his hand and looked at him square in the eye, “Welcome to Team Queen Bitch, Aeternitatem.”

Killian had grasped hand in a shake that would cement his future and it was special. “What is ‘Aeternitatem’?”

John looked at him and smiled, “For Eternity.”

Killian looked into Eric and Dan’s eyes and saw the agreement and determination in both of them. Should anyone have been able to watch Killian’s face at that moment, they would have been able to see the same change in his own demeanor. He wasn’t personally a religious man, however; you wouldn’t have been able to tell that by looking at his face at that moment. Whether it was belief, acceptance or determination of a man who understood that he had done wrong, who is to say?

The Killian that had walked onto the plane in Washington was not the same Killian who got off in Miami.

Over in the corner, Frank was furiously writing in a dialect that time had forgotten.


CHAPTER TWELVE

Miami, FL - USA & Central America

Adrian had been easy to inject. The syringe with Bethany Anne’s blood was ready at 5:30 PM, but after she had talked with Stephen and explained Adrian's physical damages, Stephen had said he should sleep for at least one to two days. They waited an extra six hours to make sure the nanocytes were fully activated and injected Adrian. He didn’t even flinch.

They had rented a crappy hotel room near the Miami International airport. John, Dan and Bethany Anne had stayed with the vampire who was laid out on the bed. Bethany Anne was sitting at the foot of the bed in a chair. John and Dan were standing beside her, one on each side. Adrian might be fast, but both men had their protective vests on. While Bethany Anne was confident that Adrian was a significantly weaker vampire than she, he could still overpower the humans. Plus, they had earplugs in case he tried that same trick to control the men that he had tried with Bethany Anne.

She hadn’t felt any compulsion when he commanded her earlier, so it didn’t register on her radar. However; he had certainly expected something to happen, so they wouldn’t take any risks.

She pantomimed putting earplugs in their ears. When they had finished, she calmly spoke towards Adrian's inanimate body. “If you choose to remain among both the living and pain free, you will cease faking your asleep. However, If I’m wrong that you aren’t faking, I’ll apologize for your broken legs later.”

Adrian opened his eyes. He trusted that she would break his legs again. He felt both arms working. These people had allowed him to heal. He was shirtless which was practical since his last shirt and jacket had its arm blown off. These people didn’t fuck around. He chose to move very slowly. At the foot of the bed were three people. He recognized the vampire and the large man to her right. The older man to her left was new. Neither looked as if they were particularly concerned with being in the room with him. He looked around. He was in a pretty crappy hotel room. The scents from the bed disgusted him. The two cattle didn’t concern him. Although he wouldn’t put it past the big guy to put up a fight. However; the female vampire was a different matter altogether.

That she hadn’t just killed him was a good indication she wanted something. Whether he lived beyond that was completely open.

“I’m awake. Do I have to stay lying on this bed, or can I get up like a civilized being?”

“If you were truly civilized, I wouldn’t be having a conversation with you at this time. Civilized beings don’t go around creating Nosferatu and killing people.”

Adrian’s glib response popped out of his mouth, “They were only cattle, it doesn’t matter.”

Her voice got icy cold, “One of those ‘cattle’ was very important to me. So that certainly made Martin matter. That you are alive for the time being can quickly change if you mouth off your Forsaken bullshit around me.”

Adrian decided that being quiet would allow him to live longer.

“You may sit up. Dan, would you throw him a t-shirt?”

Adrian felt a t-shirt hit him as he leaned forward to sit up on the bed. He eyed the three watching him as he pulled the t-shirt on. They all looked at him as if he were a bug they wanted to clean off of their shoes. He was getting upset but dared not say anything more for fear of Bethany Anne’s anger. She certainly could back up anything she cared to do and there wasn’t a damn thing Adrian could do about it. That she was so young and yet so powerful was pretty damn disturbing.  She started the questioning.

“What is the name of your parent?”

“What is in it for me to tell you this?”

“A trip to Mexico City leaving at 8:30 PM.” Bethany Anne reached down on the floor and pulled up an envelope and tossed it to him.

He opened the envelope and inside was his license, passport and a one-way ticket to Mexico City. He could hear the jets taking off, so the airport was close by. It could be a ruse, it certainly would have been a ruse if she were Forsaken, but with humans around her it was obvious she wasn’t one.

“Forgive me for not making the ticket a round-trip. But if I ever see you again, I will assume you are doing something I disagree with and will kill you on sight. That includes when I come to South America.”

Adrian looked up at this. Michael and his group didn’t go into Central or South America very often. Only on major outbreaks when the Forsaken screwed up and couldn’t handle their own internal troubles. Most of the time they held an uneasy truce, working together to contain the problem.

Forsaken didn’t appreciate uncontrolled explosions of Nosferatu . When it did happen, underlings with delusions of rising above their station by assassination often came out of the dank holes they were hiding in. While Michael’s team would take care of the Nosferatu trouble, the Forsaken would be pruning the tree, so to speak.

“Why would you be coming to Central or South America?”

“Why, to discuss with your parent my unhappiness with his latest effort here in the United States, of course. I’m sure that he had assumed you would just die in the process and left you as a cut-out. With you dead, no one would be alive to let me trace back the trouble and assign the blame.”

“She.”

“Come again?”

Adrian considered everything Bethany Anne had just said. It now seemed obvious that he must have been used by Clarita, his maker. She had been very insistent on the power he would wield when this project was done. That was very unlike any vampire and he had bought it. She had always claimed that he was her favorite child. His anger at his own stupidity was rising. Clarita must be concerned Adrian would rise up against her, so had attacked him first. The conniving bitch.

“My maker is a female, not a male. Her name is Clarita, or at least that is what she has answered to these last couple of centuries.”

“Does she have a home?”

He smiled, “Yes, of course. She has dozens of homes From Guatemala to the border of Panama. She is the lead of Central America. I cannot give you more information than that.”

“Well, had I known I might have sent you back a little more South. However; Mexico City seemed a good point for your departure.”

“Why let me go at all?”

Bethany Anne leaned forward, her eyes starting to glow red and even Adrian’s mouth was getting dry. He could feel her anger, her power, from the bed. “You will tell those you meet that I will not allow any to come to these lands. Clarita has now signed her death warrant by sending you. I will take my anger out on her and her whole family. Those that stay in all of Central America have been warned. If I find any from Guatemala to Panama, they have forfeited their life. I would suggest you find another place to stay after you deliver my message.”

“Why would I do that? Clarita could well kill me when I speak to her.”

“Not my problem. If I can’t persuade you your life depends on doing this after you leave me, then how powerful could I be?” She leaned back in her chair.

Adrian felt as if he was in a throne room, with her advisors on either side of her instead of a crappy cheap hotel. She had regally pointed with her head to the door. He was expected to leave. He considered for a moment to try and take control of the two humans but dropped it. She could kill them too easily and then his life was forfeit. He doubted she would be so lenient a second time. She had a name, now. He might as well take his exit cue. He turned and put his legs down. He stood up to the side of the bed closest to the door.

“Take the bag with you.”

He noticed a small carryon bag by the door. He walked over and picked it up looking inside. It had a hundred dollars American, a bottle of Evian water and a Snickers. He picked up the snickers and then looked back at the strange vampire.

“It is a suggestion to try and eat something that might agree with you more than blood now. Do try and change your asshole ways, Adrian. It is a very strong suggestion.”

He smirked at her and dropped the Snickers back in the bag. He would have the Snickers as a dessert to the first human meal he would procure once he got back to Central America. He wouldn’t hunt in Mexico. The vampire that held that territory wasn’t very forgiving of those who took supper without permission. He had enough will power to make it to Guatemala City.

He closed the door behind him. It was just after sunset. As he had thought, the airport wasn’t that far away. He walked towards the street that led to the airport. He was considering how to consolidate his power in Central America after Bethany Anne and Clarita had their discussion. He knew one would die and the other might be very weak. If it was Bethany Anne who was weak, then he might get America as a consolation prize.

Although he would have to find a vampire willing to accept the cold. He hated his time in Washington D.C.

It took him a week to end up in front of Clarita. His ear had already fallen off and half of his hair was gone. Originally, he had not intended to tell her anything. He had felt a little ill, which never happened to him, when he got to Mexico City. It was everything he could do to not grab the first meal right then. He took a room in a basement and got on another flight to Guatemala City the next morning.

By then, he remembered Bethany Anne’s statement about making sure he would pass along the message. After his feeding which he believed would help him, he only got worse. In a panic, he called and found out where Clarita was staying. He lost his ear on the way there.

They wouldn’t let him enter the house. She had a balcony and she came out on it, looking down at her child who was wasting away in front of her eyes.

“What is happening to you, Adrian?” She was concerned. Adrian was sent to America and she had plans once he took over the country to make it her home and leave Central America for him to run. He looked like he was being eaten by bugs. All of her security stayed ten feet away from him.

“You! You happened to me! This Bethany Anne has done this to me for killing her human friend. She told me she would make sure I would deliver a message and I am happy to do it!” Clarita was shocked to see the anger and hatred coming from her favorite child.

“What could one human do to you, child?”

“Not a human, mother.” He practically spat the name at her. “She is a vampire and commanded me to tell you that you have signed your death warrant. All that stay in Central America will die, their lives forfeit. If any touch foot in America again, she will kill them as well.”

Clarita was getting angry, there is only so much insolence she would take, even from a child she had loved and who was obviously dying. “Watch your tongue, Adrian! Whatever is taking you can be made worse!” Her eyes were aflame in red.

Adrian scoffed, “What? You think your anger worries me now? I have seen true death walking and you are not in her league. I’ve been stabbed, mutilated, my arm shot completely off. Your tortures mean nothing to me. I thought you cared and I have been ashamed to find out that there is no love among the Forsaken!” With that said, Adrian reached under his coat and pulled a pin on a grenade. Three of the security vampires jumped him and two died in the blast with Adrian. Clarita had just flinched at the explosion, watching her child die in anger and violence, hating her.

Clarita turned around and walked back into her office, closing the balcony doors behind her. Whoever this Bethany Anne was, she had made an impression on Adrian and had killed him thousands of miles away right in front of her. Bethany Anne had turned her child against her and Clarita mourned Adrian’s loss, her heart aching with the pain of his words and the betrayal she felt in his eyes.

Clarita had killed Bethany Anne’s friend through Adrian. If there were two things Clarita understood as a vampire, it was revenge and the art of making statements. Bethany Anne had killed her son for both of those reasons. She mourned love lost when Adrian had died. Further, she couldn’t stop the rumors this night would create. She had made a mistake trusting her maker and his fight against Michael. She was going to pay the price with her own life, most likely.

She sighed. She had things to take care of and three other children to see to safety. Adrian had been the most adamant supporter of the Forsaken creed. Clarita followed because her maker pushed the creed. Her other three children were truly ambivalent. Maybe she could get them to see other options and decide on a course of action that would not destroy her line forever.

She sat down at her desk and pulled open her laptop and started writing emails.

Thousands of miles away, in a house in Key Biscayne, Florida an old man smiled as his GPS signal suddenly stopped sending its signal.

‘Gotcha!’


CHAPTER THIRTEEN

Key Biscayne, FL - USA

Bethany Anne was sitting on her outside balcony, enjoying the evening. She was watching a boat travel down the water course between her house and the one across the way. There was a bridge it could go under, or around behind her other house and then through the larger waterway out to the keys.

Nathan had finally capitulated on the price of his businesses. Bethany Anne had told Ecaterina to get everything she could, then back up one to two million. Men needed to feel some sense of success and if Ecaterina raked Nathan over the coals like Ivan had, she was concerned that it might affect his attitude long term. She knew that for the two of them the negotiations were business and wouldn’t affect their personal relationship.

Not that she could act that way. If her partner was breaking her over the negotiations table, she would harbor a huge resentment in the future. That it didn’t work that way for them was fortuitous for her and she used it, but she didn’t understand how it worked.

Now, she could get Nathan focused on the future. She would get her father and Nathan working together on the businesses Michael had given her. She didn’t doubt that there were some problems in the companies she now owned. So their first task was to get a handle on what was obvious and in need of attention, her dad, and what wasn’t obvious and in need of attention, Nathan.

Pete was doing well. He had been doing extra work and seeking out suggestions from John from time to time. Bethany Anne had made a call to Jonathan and had asked if he wanted to see his son, that she felt he could handle a ‘parental visit’ without backsliding. They talked for a while and agreed that the changes were just short of amazing, but the risk was still too much.

As much Jonathan’s problem as Pete’s. Jonathan had just about broken down in the car back at the airport when he left Pete in New York. He was afraid he would act like a too-caring father again when his son needed the structure and challenge of living on his own in a potentially hostile environment.

The respect Pete would have for himself would be better than the easy life his father would provide him.

John had agreed that everything was going well and frankly liked the kid. Pete had helped on the operations and John figured he had a shot at joining a team they would make up. Dan agreed during a meeting and said he would start having Pete shadow him as he continued to setup the organization structure Bethany Anne had considered.

Bethany Anne had surprised Pete one evening. She tracked him down over at the team’s house and asked him how strong he was in Spanish. He just looked at her and said, “Tacos? Burrito? Muy loco laca en cabeza?”

She told him he would signup for Spanish speaking classes. Since the team all had some knowledge, they hired a tutor to come over three times a week. The first hour was directly working with Pete and then the whole team would come in and jointly they would work for the next hour.

Bethany Anne had some capability, but with her adjusted memory abilities, she only needed to really go through a lesson one time to pick most of it up. She still dropped in on the team a couple of times during the week to get the flow of the language and any nuances the teacher provided. Their teacher, Adriana Garcia, was very good, very pretty and very single.

Adriana obviously enjoyed the attention of six males who were competitive in everything, including trying to see who could flirt with her the most. However; she became rather meek when Bethany Anne would come join the teaching sessions. Almost like she recognized an alpha woman in beauty and shrunk in on herself.

Adriana should have noticed that none of the guys gave Bethany Anne any second glances. If that didn’t tip her off that something was strange when a woman of this beauty came around and the guys didn’t flirt? Nothing else could.

None of the guys were disrespectful of the teacher. Killian was the mildest with his compliments in either language and the guys could tell. He was a changed man and it showed in his speech.

Dan had both homes completely wired for security and wired the neighbors houses as well. He talked with Bethany Anne about it and she told him to talk with Nathan.

Nathan told Dan to form a Home Security company and offer to setup the neighbors for free. They used the Teams home as the example and they all agreed to a complimentary one year trial, which included hardwiring.

Dan was very surprised at how easy it was to get his cameras and security equipment into the homes legally. His brain almost rebooted from trying to understand he wasn’t going to have to sneak onto the properties. Nathan just smiled and told him there was always a way to accomplish something if you considered how it might benefit the other person.

Bobcat and William flew in with Shelly two days back.

Bethany Anne, John and Pete had been waiting for them to touch down across the waterway. They had used one of the SUV’s and just driven around to the park entrance and used one of the roads to get to where Bobcat had originally landed before Bethany Anne bought the first home. Once the guys had checked out the landing location, she got out and stretched her legs. She still thought the whole process of letting them go first was silly, but Dan and her father had finally convinced her it was completely necessary.

John was talking with Pete by the SUV and from their faces, it looked like a serious discussion. Pete was listening intently. When Pete looked John in his eyes and nodded his head once, John walked around the back of the SUV and hit the button to pull the back doors open. He reached in the back and pulled out a ceramic protection vest in Pete’s size which had the team emblem on it. He gave Pete a small bag which Bethany Anne knew to be the false teeth and red contact lenses her team carried on ops.

If anything went bad and Bethany Anne was going to be seen or had been seen, the guys would pop the teeth in and wear the contacts. He handed Pete a shoulder holster and the 9mm Glock the team used as one of their core choices. Pete took each with a little reverence and suited up. Finally, John pulled a black team t-shirt that went over the vest and a linen suit jacket to help hide the pistol. Not that the suit jacket hid it super well, but it was better than nothing. All of them had carrying licenses.

John looked over at Bethany Anne and nodded once. Bethany Anne winked with the eye that Pete couldn’t see and watched John get in the car and drive off. She knew he would probably drive around the corner and watch through the brush. What Pete understood was that Bethany Anne’s security was now his responsibility.

It wouldn’t be much of a trip. She wanted to talk with her air and ground team and she wanted to fly in Shelly. The fact that it would be hard for anyone to hear them was a huge plus. She called and told Bobcat to grab William, Shelly and to plan on flying out over the water for up to a couple of hours. She had barely had the request out of her mouth before Bobcat was issuing orders and telling her that they would be there ‘very shortly if not faster’.

He really loved flying that chopper.

Sure enough, she could hear the black hawk coming in before she saw anything. Pete caught it a few seconds later. His Were hearing was pretty damn good. They waiting until the Black Hawk was down before William stepped out to give her a hand in and then he got back on board and Pete was the last on board.

Pete, she reasoned, was coming along alright.

Bobcat didn’t wait around, he took off and headed over the park before heading out over the water. No need to get Bethany Anne’s neighbors upset enough to fabricate more stories about her eccentricity.

She wasn’t bothered with rumors. Whatever they made up couldn’t possibly be a better story than the truth.

She loved flying. If she had been granted one super power, it would have been flight.

The four of them wore the flight headphones which allowed talk and reduced the craft’s noise. Shelly was purring even better than the last time. She had taken the second seat up front and looked over her shoulder at William, “She sounds great! How did the engine fit go?”

William smiled behind her, “Shelly’s good with these new engines. Just likes her engines like she likes her men…” William shut his mouth so quick Bethany Anne heard his teeth click. He got a little white in the face. He was used to being a crass mechanic, not the aeronautical engineer to a Vampire Business Mogul. If she decided to ‘fire him’, he would probably just be pushed out the helicopter and his body lost to the waves below.

“I’m sorry William, did I miss the rest of that comment? Hard, beefy, lean and mean?” She smiled at William’s obvious discomfort. Not this again! She couldn’t get the best out of her team when they weren’t comfortable around her. She spoke up.

“Stop me if you’ve heard this one.  A vampire bat flies back into his cave after a big night...he has blood all over his face. Perches himself on the roof to try and get some rest. But before too long the other bats smell the blood, and start to gather around him. They ask feverishly where he got the blood from. Knowing that they will not let up till he tells them ‘OK, follow me!’. He flies out of the cave, across a valley, over a river into a dark forest. Deep in the forest he stops, all the other bats gather round in an excited frenzy. ‘OK’, says the bat, ‘see that big oak tree over there?’. ’Yeah, yeah’ reply the other bats, drooling in anticipation.  ’Well I fucking didn’t!’”.

Bobcat busted out laughing and she heard Pete snickering behind her. William smiled and his face was a little less red now. Bobcat could see Bethany Anne’s concerned face looking behind him and guessed what was going on so he started the next joke. By the time Pete finished the next one the whole chopper was laughing and smiling.

“Ok, as much as I like jokes, we need to have a small meeting on the state of our equipment. How are the SUV’s doing William?”

By now, he had forgotten his earlier slip and could almost deal with Bethany Anne as just another person so long as he didn’t look her in the face. Beauty did have a way of making his mouth want to stop working properly. He took out a notebook he kept with him to write down notes and decided to review them as he spoke. “We now have five purchased and all of them have been checked out. Two are out for upgrades to the glass, engines and suspension. These will become your rides.”

“Wait a minute, what are you guys doing for the other three?”

Bobcat spoke up, “I’ll take that one. At the moment, the other three are getting the engines but only partial on the glass. If the team needs to roll down the windows for firing while driving, we can’t full up armor them. Well, that’s not true. The guys over at Texas Armoring can do it, but they are so booked it’s at least three to six months in the queue right now.”

Bethany Anne considered that. She had no problem throwing money after a problem to get it expedited, but she wasn’t aware of any reasons that they needed to have anything done beyond what Bobcat had planned right now. The whole point of the meeting was to start the process on how these decisions were going to get made. “Ok, I’m good with that. However; check with Texas Armoring. I really liked the ride we had up in New York. We might as well put three on order for the future. See if they can give us a couple of windows that allow the team to shoot out of. Well, don’t be so crass as that when you explain it. I don’t want to give them the idea we drive around in running gun battles all of the time.”

“But your expecting it?”

She nodded from the front seat, “Yeah, I’m expecting it. I’m not going to be able to not piss off some powerful people, so they are going to attack. We need to have protection when we run into an ambush and superior firepower is our response. Which is the reason for this flight.” She turned back around to William.

“William, what’s it going to take to upgrade Shelly to be able to slap some sense into a target before the team gets there?”

He thought about that for a second, “Well, there are some conversion kits Sikorsky puts out for these Black Hawks. They tend to call them Battlehawks. Colombia has a version they call the S70 - ‘Arpia III’ that have rockets and forward firing gun pods. That’s the level 1 kits, they don’t require as much modification to the bird. There is a level II and Level III kit. I’ve printed the level II specifications from a website online. Hold on.”

William grabbed a sheet that had been folded into quarters from his back pocket and opened it up. He had found the specs on the defense industry daily website.

“Here we go: The Level II kit would add guided weapons, including optical and laser guided anti-armor missiles like TOW, Spike, and Hellfire, and emerging laser-guided rockets. The baseline under consideration would mount 12.7mm/.50 caliber gatling guns on the inboard pylon pair, and either missiles or a 19-rocket launcher on the outboard pylons. This will include laser-guided missiles and rockets, and combat optics are upgraded accordingly; the baseline configuration’s AN/AAQ-22E BRITE Star II turret or L-3 WESCAM MX-15Di include laser targeting, as well as surveillance. The armed kit will be integrated with the helicopter’s flight and weapons management systems, which will link to a day/night capable helmet-mounted display. A helicopter with this kit retains its full cabin capacity for 11 soldiers, but its ability to carry that many on a specific mission will depend on the weight of the weapons it’s fitted with. Owners may also choose to devote some of its space and weight limits to mounted and/or in-cabin ammunition and weapons, extra fuel on board, 2 door gunners with 7.62mm gatling miniguns, etc. As equipment is added, troop carrying capacity will decline.”

He folded up the paper. “They go on to talk about a level III that was tested with the Israeli’s, but I’m not comfortable with that yet. I figure Level II is good enough and if we want better we need to look at an attack chopper, not a conversion at that time.”

Bethany Anne could see his point. However; while she could get away with flying a Black Hawk around Miami, she sure as hell couldn’t get away with an attack helicopter. “Thank you, William. Bobcat you have authorization to pursue the Level II package for Shelly. Get back with me before any purchase for a final decision and rope Dan into the conversation to see if he has any operational needs. We might need this done for an Op in Central America.”

“That’s going to be a hell of a trip for a helicopter. Not a good choice with us stopping for fuel everywhere. It will be obvious we are up to something.”

“No worries, I’m going to go look at an Amels SEA AXE. It is a 220 ft support yacht. There’s one available, possibly, in Miami in two weeks. It’s coming over here from Europe right now. It will hold Shelly, all of our small equipment and a 40 foot speedboat, even a submarine. I have Nathan checking out the owner now, he is a sheikh or something. Probably doesn’t need money, but we will see if he has anything we can use as leverage to pry that boat from him legally.”

The “illegally” part was understood. They weren’t the guys in the white hats. They would do what they needed to do and Bethany Anne would compensate as best she could. The story of how she purchased the house next to them got around the team. The fact that she paid half a million over the going rate made the action more palatable to some on her team. They weren’t the government who could and would just take it under imminent domain. See how well the government paid if you had any complaints when that happened.

“Ok, next.”

Bobcat took it from there, “The Gulfstream is in good shape. Ecaterina brought a representative for retrofitting it to your liking two days ago. I understand that the insides are getting redone?”

Bethany Anne nodded, “Yeah, we need to consider branding here. All of the businesses are going to be officially pulled together. What we are doing is going to get noticed, so we might as well play it up. The general and Nathan are going to go through our businesses and see what we need to fix and what we need to support. The G550 is going to be the corporate jet until you get us something better. I want you to keep looking. I know the G650 is horribly backordered. See if there is something we can do with a retrofit. We need something with a corporate feel but military capabilities.”

“Not giving me a challenge there, are you?” Bobcat smiled. He knew William was listening in rapt attention. This was the shit he lived for.

“Well, if it isn’t doable, I didn’t buy out the right guy and hire the right engineer. What do you two say?”

William piped in, “It’s going to be as sweet as sugar and as hot as spice. We’ll come up with a plan that will do you proud. That’s for damn sure.” Williams mind was already racing on ideas. If they took a 737 and found some …

“Pipe down a second back there, Billy.” Bobcat reined in his engineers racing thoughts. Bethany Anne was curious.

“Hey, that reminds me. I saw your info from Ecaterina. Is your name William or Billy? Isn’t Billy a nickname for William?”

Bobcat laughted. “Actually, it’s all Williams fault. Back in the army, he was always telling the other mechanics that ‘they were getting their shit backwards.’ So, someone finally had enough of Williams lip and and told him his parents couldn’t even name him correctly. That Billy was a nickname for ‘William’, you weren’t supposed to name your kid the nickname up front. I don’t remember what happened to the guy, but his comment struck a cord from all of the people William had made fun of and the name stuck.

She smiled. How ironic that your nickname was a name for your first name that was a nick name? She gave Bobcat some coordinates. “Take us over to this area, there are a few key’s I want to check out.”

He located the coordinates and locked them in. He pulled the zoom factor up a bit to see both Europe and the eastern coast of America. Seemed to him that if you were coming from Europe, you might just go right through that area on your way to Miami. Curious, that.

He dialed the magnification back closer and just kept his thoughts to himself. Whatever would be, would be.



CHAPTER FOURTEEN

Constanta, Romania

Stephen was acclimating to the new technology quickly. Although he had been asleep for most of the computer and Internet revolution, he had the centuries of knowledge to make the connections quickly. It felt as if he was born in the wrong time.

At one time, he loved his books. He spent four decades collecting the fine works of the time, rare copies of books that would be worth millions today. Unfortunately, he hadn’t been very careful with a female. For once, it had nothing to do with his vampire situation and everything to do with chasing two women at one time. The first woman saw him with the second woman and by the time he got back home, all of his beloved books were ashes in his fireplace.

He learned from that lesson never to have a lover in the same city as another. Now, with this Internet his rule would have to change again. How these men could cheat and get away with it he had no idea. He, however; was thinking that dates were good enough. Plus, there was this Tinder app he found fascinating. Ivan had caught him just going through the descriptions one after another. He almost blushed when Ivan winked and smiled knowingly at him.

Ivan had been changing his sleeping patterns to become closer to Stephen’s. Stephen would go to sleep at about 3:00 AM and wake up at 9:00 AM. Ivan couldn’t quite match him yet, but he as going to sleep about 1:00 AM and getting up at 10:00 AM.

The bell rang for the front door and Ivan called that he would get it. He hadn’t said hello to the person before Stephen could smell a vampire at the door.

This was a surprise. His daughter, Gabrielle, had come to visit.


Constanta, Romania

Gabrielle had heard the rumors that Petre’ had been killed. Not that she was terribly upset about that. She felt Petre’ was a bad choice to have been turned and nothing the waste of space had done had changed her opinion of him.

However; that another vampire had killed him, on purpose for his actions spoke of Michael. Gabrielle had never met the ultimate Patriarch. However; if there was any vampire-on-vampire killing for Petre’s sins, then it could travel back up to the maker which was her father, Stephen. She had traveled through and found Petre’s house a mess. It had suffered through a fire, some vandals and the weather. She had talked to the local pack who spoke of another female vampire and a Wechselbalg who had killed Petre’. She feared for her father’s safety.

She took another train and then a taxi to get to his door. She noticed that there was recent human traffic around the outside of the house. She could smell a man and she thought some scent of her father, but it was a different scent than what she remembered.

She heard the steps coming to the door and a voice saying that he had it.

The door opened and a most handsome man stood there, staring at Gabrielle before shaking his head and smiling at her. A very fetching smile was on his face.

Gabrielle returned the smile, her dimples complimenting the mischievous smile on her face.

The man opened the door a bit more, “My goodness! To what do I owe the pleasure of a beautiful woman showing up at Stephen’s door this time of the night?” She could hear his heartbeat beating a little faster. The song of his blood and the smile on his face was so captivating. She had to smile at the flattery. It wasn’t often it came without any political machinations behind it.

It took Gabrielle a few seconds to register that there was another man behind this one who opened the door. She reluctantly pulled her attention away from the greeter and found herself staring at a very young and dashing man.

Her mouth just dropped open and she barely spoke out the word, “Papa?”

The door opened wider to let Stephen step closer to Gabrielle, “My loving daughter, it has been too long!” He wrapped her up in a tight hug. Gabrielle could do nothing in her shock, she barely put her arms around this strong man who was holding her up in the air.

He set her down and brushed the hair out of her eyes. “Why don’t you come inside and let’s talk, you, Ivan and me!

Ivan barely registered that they had come inside before he closed and locked up the door. In a stupor he followed the two. My God, he thought, what dimples!

“You are fed, Gabrielle? We would not want to use my technology instructor.” Stephen turned towards Ivan who had followed the two into the living room in the back. “Gabrielle, please meet Ivan Romanov. He was sent by Bethany Anne to come and get me up to speed with technology these last few weeks.”

Ivan stepped over to Gabrielle. She was a little short for a woman at 5’2” and had dark hair and an Olive Spanish skin color. Her dark brown eyes lit up as she took his hand. He seemed back in control now. “Pleased to meet you, Gabrielle. Would you care for anything? There is food of course and we do have some blood if you need some? I have learned that Stephen prefers it warmed a little, it would be nothing for me to do some for you.”

Gabrielle was trying to parse all of the information in the short introduction. Ivan knew about vampires, there was blood in the house and her father was so young! This man in front of her was certainly not a new vampire. “No, thank you very much.”

“Then I will leave you two to catch up.” Ivan turned to Stephen. “I’m going to retire a little early tonight. I’ll see you maybe before you sleep?”

Stephen didn’t miss the covert glances his daughter was giving Ivan. It looked like these two were smitten with each other. Ah! Life was so very, very good. “Thank you, Stephen. We will catch up with the application training tomorrow?”

Ivan smiled, “Yes. I’ll catch you up on Facebook and Twitter. You will enjoy it tremendously.” He nodded to Gabrielle with a smile and walked out of the living room towards his area of the house. Gabrielle could hear when he closed his own door. She turned around to her father.

“Training?” Her eyes wide in shock.

Stephen smiled. He was younger looking than Gabrielle at this time, but she didn’t look too old for Ivan. Stephen, however; was having a fun time with all of the new slang and idioms he was learning. “Come Gabrielle, are you going to be a cougar with young Ivan here?” He actually got his daughter to blush. Life was tremendous!

“Papa!” She didn’t know where to start with her questions, then remembered what had brought her here. Her tone changed from one of shock to one of alarm, “Papa! I came here because Petre’ has been killed. By a female vampire for actions against the strictures and now you have a human here who knows about Vampires. Have you gone crazy?”

Stephen smiled at his daughter. Leave it to her to find out about Petre’ and travel to see if he was ok. “I already know about Petre’. The vampire that killed him was Bethany Anne, the same one who helped me become this dashing young man in only one month. Gabrielle, she is now my Queen and I owe my whole existence to what she has done for me.”

Gabrielle leaned forward, looking closely at her father on the couch in front of her. He didn’t look age crazed to her. There had been vampires which had seemed to go crazy over decades and centuries and started acting in weird ways. “Why did she come here to you?”

He smiled, “She came here to have a discussion about my irresponsible parenting of Petre’.”

“What happened?”

“She came right up to the door and rang the bell until I woke up. I had been sleeping for many years and had decided that maybe I was too tired for this life any more. She told me she had information related to Petre’ and I allowed her entry. She told me that Petre’ had shot her and I didn’t believe her. I could not smell any of the vampire scent on her.”

“No?”

“Truly, we sat up in the front receiving room. She offered to let me smell her from a closer distance and walked to me. When she offered her wrist I became hungry and lost my sense and grabbed her wrist to drink of it.”

“You bit her, father!” Gabrielle was very traditional in her relationships with humans. She had never forced any human to give her blood. Then again, she was a very attractive female and males through all of the centuries have yet to find an effective defense against an attractive female.

“No, I tried to bite her. She boxed my ears and knocked me five meters across the floor. She walked over to me and when I complained she hit an old man, she told me she would break my ‘old man legs if I didn’t stop acting like a fucking moron.’”

Gabrielle tried to stifle a laugh and failed. It was obvious her dad didn’t harbor any ill feelings towards the event.

He smiled, “You would have been cheering her. She told me to ‘get a fucking backbone’ and she expected more from one of Michael’s children.”

Gabrielle sat straighter, “She is one of Michaels? So he is back in Europe?” She feared for when Michael would truly come back to Europe and enforce the strictures harder than she had. If she were a little more honest, she knew that she hadn’t been the most stringent on occasion with the strictures and was concerned this Bethany Anne would talk with Michael about her.

“No, Bethany Anne doesn’t know where he is. He has disappeared and is possibly dead. She has taken over the responsibility for Michael’s family. I have Europe to clean up, as it is. In fact, that you are here is a blessing. I was to start looking to find you the week after next.”

“Why is that?”

“Why, because you are my new spy master, Gabrielle. We are going to get Europe ready for a cleansing of these Forsaken and their political efforts. I have been studying with Ivan to get up on technology. I have spoken to Bethany Anne, who is back in America, and she has taken care of a major Forsaken problem they were having. These are interesting times, Gabrielle!”

“I’m going to be your spy master, truly?”

“Well, maybe that is what we would call it in the past. However; you will be in charge of intelligence here in Europe reporting to me. I’m not sure if all of this will be in person or through the Internet and the connections which Bethany Anne will provide for us. That is, if you care to join me?”

Gabrielle was shocked. Her father rarely ever told her to do anything. However; when he did it was presumed that she would do it to the best of her abilities. Whether she knew anything about the subject or not was inconsequential. That he was asking her to be a part of this task that Bethany Anne was doing was another reality change that was difficult to believe.

“I can choose?”

Stephen smiled. This was another aspect that Stephen loved about working with Bethany Anne. She had a few discussions with him about how she needed to change the future, but it would be with believers not conscripts.

He wanted Gabrielle to be with him on this wonderful journey and he was tempted to just tell her to do this, however; his queen would be sorely disappointed in him once she found out. Stephen never doubted that she would find out this information. He felt bad he had even considered doing this. He made a decision that this action was beneath Bethany Anne, and therefore beneath him as a follower of his queen. He would not, could not, bring shame to her destiny.

“Gabrielle, I will answer most any question that I feel I can without being untrue to my queen. I will let you know if you ask such a question. However; you can choose your own destiny.”

This time, Stephen was on the edge of his couch, earnestly speaking to Gabrielle. “Bethany Anne will not allow me to force you to join in this endeavor. If I should do this she would probably pull my arm off to beat me with it. It would be most painful I’m sure. She is of the opinion that most vampires respect only strength of arms and trust me, she can bring that to the discussion. However; she also sat in that very place and listened with care and talked with me all night long. Finally, she gave me some of her blood to help me start coming back from the death I had done to myself . I have given her my oath.”

He looked up and caught her eyes, his face one of somberness while he remembered that time.

“I gave her my oath in the old way, Gabrielle. Then, when I stopped taking her blood, I fell asleep right here on this couch. She stood guard over me the whole time while I slept and I woke up with her standing over me, concern on her face.” It was obvious to Gabrielle that her father was truly taken with this Vampire. It wasn’t the respect he would show his own maker, Michael. No, this was of a man who was following his liege.

Gabrielle couldn’t help herself but be captivated and curious about this woman. Her father had been dying slowly for centuries. He wasn’t made to be a vampire in his heart. He hated the act of changing a human to the existence of a vampire in exchange for helping him grow young again.

Yet, here he was in the best health she had ever seen. Healed both physically, emotionally and mentally. She had finally believed he was not crazy in age, but truly happy and excited in ways she could not remember before.

“And her blood changed you to this?” She looked at him, truly noticing how young he looked. Like he was in his mid twenties.

“No.” Stephen smiled at that.

“Then you have created another child?” The look of concern was back on her face. She knew her father from way back. His choice in who he rejuvenated had caused her to slap her head more than once. Petre’ was just a recent screwup. Well, centuries recent.

He just shook his head, “No.”

Now she was confused. “How?”

“That would be one of those things that I cannot share unless you join me. I’m sorry, but I gave a promise to Bethany Anne.”

She just stared back at her father. Her mind was just too confused now with all of the new information he had thrown her way. She had decided maybe a rest would be good. Wait! “Did Ivan mention blood is in the house?”

“Yes, if I remember correctly he mentioned he would warm it up for you.”

“So, you do not drink of people now? She has you drinking from bags, not people?”

“No, I choose not to drink from people. I have spent a while away, I might or might not have a bite or two when out on a date. I shall find out soon enough.”

“What? You are going to go out on dates? Who are you going out with?”

“I don’t have any dates setup, but get with the times Gabrielle. There is this app I found. It is called Tinder and the women in there are available and who can resist such as I?” He just about lost his composure when he saw how Gabrielle reacted to that statement.

If Gabrielle had thought she was shocked before, she damn near fell off of the chair.


CHAPTER FIFTEEN

Atlantic Ocean, 7 hours out of American Waters

Sheikh Robban Rahid was in his cabin on his super yacht, the Polarus. Oil profits in his country had been getting smaller and smaller as the price of a barrel of oil kept going down. He had been unhappy with the tactics that the Saudi Royal family had undertaken to drive out the American competition and their shale drilling success. At a low price per barrel of oil, the American shale companies could not be profitable and would shut down.

Those in charge had dropped the price too low and the pricing got away from them. Now, his monthly allowance was less than ten million US dollars a month and he was taking his frustration out on a woman who joined him at his last port.

She had found him so gallant and exotic with his traditional kaffiyeh and Armani suit. It was a very good disguise for the sadistic man he was when out of the country.

It wasn’t a well kept secret that he was not loved. His predilection to hurt woman had shown up early. At first, the guards would pay off the girls he had been rough with. Once they had to take a girl to the hospital in a session where he had been too aggressive.

When he went too far on a cruise out at sea, it was a simple expedient to throw the body overboard. Now on his boat and for his crew, it was known that your life depended on your ability see nothing wrong and never speak of what you hear. What happened in International Waters would stay out there unless you wanted to be left there as well.

The woman was on his bed, but barely aware of her surroundings. He had received notice that his monthly stipend would be reduced each month just minutes before. He had checked email while she was changing into something ‘a little more comfortable’. He was addicted to his email and messages, even checking them in bed before he was going to have sex.

She had barely got into bed with him when he turned her over and forced a gag in her mouth. It had gone downhill from there. She was starting to get frantic before he had slapped her head so hard it rebounded off of his poorly cushioned headboard. She lost most of her awareness after that abrupt hit. It was sadistic rape, pure and simple.


Atlantic Ocean, 6.5 hours out of American Waters

Bobcat flew Shelly with a focus. Nathan had uncovered the dirt on the owner of the SEA AXE which Bethany Anne wanted to purchase. Unfortunately for the Sheikh, the negotiations were going to be very one sided.

There wasn’t one person on his yacht that wasn’t complicit in his activities. Nathan had tracked no less than 9 deaths that he was positive happened on the Sheikh’s larger Super Yacht. The SEA AXE was a support yacht only and was actually an hour ahead of the Super Yacht on it’s way into Miami where the Sheikh was looking to port.

The team had flown Shelly to a small island a half hour from where the yacht would pass. There, they had filled Shelly back up with the spare gas canisters they had brought along.

Nathan had reached out to the Royal Family and asked if they would consider selling the Super Yacht and the SEA AXE through a drop account that was untraceable if anything ‘were to happen’ to the asshat.

The reply was very circumspect. Reading in between the lines you could reason that if it didn’t make them look bad, they would be happy to sell the craft and show a financial responsibility Sheikh Robban had been completely unable to accomplish in his lifetime.

It took a little more time to finalize the deal as each side checked out the bonafides. Bethany Anne’s $2 million down payment towards the purchase, pursuant to the original owner not being able to make the payment within 45 days or give up the $2 million was a significantly strong verification tool. Twenty years back, the Saudi’s would scoff at that amount of money. The truth was that Sheikh Robban was a disgrace to the family and at $120 million a year in stipend a waste of money as well. If that tree limb was trimmed everyone in the family would throw a large party. While mourning his death, of course.

Now, Bethany Anne was dressed in her ‘go to meeting’ clothes and had added black face paint to the mix to keep the shine down. She wanted to get to the Sheik’s bedroom without interruption. She planned on dropping from the helicopter and parachuting within site of the boat. At that time, she would slip through the Etheric to get on the boat herself. Her job was to quickly incapacitate the crew with gas for those under the deck and physically for those up top. After that, Bobcat would bring the rest of the team in to help get the boat under control.

Bobcat lit the light in the back cabin, it was time. John opened the door and nodded to Bethany Anne who gave a thumbs up and jumped out. She found the running lights of the boat to the south and angled her flight in that direction. She pulled the chute and then her guiding lines to place her descent on track to close with the boat. She was coming in from the aft section. There was a handy area outside of the main captains bridge to land on the boat.

She considered the location and decided to slip and come in about ten feet above. She wasn’t sure how to compensate for the rolling of the deck not having ever been on a super yacht before. She unclipped her chute and disappeared.

Atlantic Ocean, 6.25 hours out of American Waters

John was a little anxious until he heard the clicks over the team comm. Everything seemed like a good idea with using Bethany Anne as the primary attack. She would start the op by slipping through the etheric to land and incapacitate the crew. She had a bottle of the sleeping gas, a modified set of chemicals based on Nathan’s research into the October 2002 Russian hostage crises. It would take a little while for the ventilation to get the gas throughout the ship and for her to hopefully hit the commands that would cause the ship to come into the wind for Bobcat to land Shelly.

It took a little bit of time, but the General found that plenty of Bethany Anne’s companies did scientific research and one had a Russian office with persons of interest. This office employed two scientists which had tried to ascertain what the military had used back in 2002. Both had been interviewed and told to drop the efforts by government officials. The scientists had decided they didn’t need to be told twice, and had resumed their previous research.

Now, most people don’t even remember the hostage crises and the efficacy of the Russian Military effort. Of those that do, they don’t think about losing 100% of the hostages from the total destruction of the theatre, but rather the 16% of the hostages which passed away from using such a lethal concoction. As a comparison, in World War I the gas attacks had a 7% lethality rate.

The gas would not bother Bethany Anne at all. Since TOM had already reviewed the chemical composition, he had prepared the nanocytes in Bethany Anne to compensate when she inhaled the chemicals.

She needed to get to the main ventilation intake and disconnect the air scent injection and replace it with her gas tubes.

Bethany Anne appeared ten feet in the air above the top most helipad, which was fortuitously empty. That was what the SEA AXE was for, she guessed. She landed lightly with hardly any sound. In the dark night with her black outfit and face paint, she would be hard to spot. When she switched to moving at her Vampire speed, anyone looking out of the corner of her eye would find nothing.

The boat wasn’t moving at her fastest speed. She was doing a sedate 10 knots or about 11.5 mph. She was roughly 260 miles out from Miami and was outside even the furthest 200 mile Economic Zone of the United States. This zone was created in 1982 by the United Nations. While Bethany Anne could have attacked closer to land, she didn’t want to be within any jurisdiction of the United States on this operation. Shelly had a confirmed combat radius of 360 miles, however; they had flown as low as practical trying to stay off of as many radar screens as possible. She knew that if a tasked satellite was looking down on them, there wasn’t much she could do. Hopefully, they would be able to land Shelly on the Polarus and that would help them so the helicopter had no return track back to the United States.

A mile away, her parachute finally slipped under the water.

Bethany Anne glided up right outside the bridge. She could hear two men speaking arabic inside the compartment. The room was dark with only monitors lighting the space. She quickly glanced inside and decided that even at a faster speed, she really didn’t want to open the door to get in. She weighed whether or not to kill the men or incapacitate them. She decided that incapacitate would work for now. She looked through the night to all of the other areas on the deck she could see. She spotted one lookout at the front of the yacht, just staring out into the night. It was a pretty night, she conceded. To die.

Standing up, she slipped through the etheric and walked right into the bridge. The second man must have noticed something out of the corner of his eye as he started to turn and look in her direction. He never made it past a quarter turn of his head when Bethany Anne shot him and the captain with her tranquilizer gun.

Now, there is no known tranquilizer that is reliably safe without fear of side effects and overdose to knock a human out quickly. Most humans would have to be able to reliably gauge the weight of the target and how many darts to use to shoot them effectively.

However; when you have a Kurtherian and a Kurtherian computer the ability to modify the dosage goes up exponentially. TOM had the team build two clips of darts for Bethany Anne and then she used a syringe to place one drop of her blood with the Etorphine. By the time Bethany Anne had dropped out of the helicopter, the darts would be 100% effective on humans within 2 seconds.

TOM didn’t promise they wouldn’t be lethal, just that they shouldn’t be lethal. When Bethany Anne asked him to clarify, he said she might kill when she frightened someone with her red eyes and fangs, so what did she want from him? He had a point. He could only do so much unless she wanted him to add Stage 1 commands as well. She agreed that wasn’t a good plan.

The second mate and the captain had been so surprised at the black clad woman that even after the darts hit them, they were still trying to figure out what was going on. Both fell down, the second mate bouncing his head off of a monitor before crumpling to the floor. Bethany Anne never looked back.

It took her two more minutes to confirm that the deck was clear. She found three guards. The one up front she had noticed earlier and two in the back of the ship. She didn’t know all of the correct terms for a boat. She needed to learn them quickly, she figured. She had shot all three of the guards with a dart each. Two ended up tied up. However; the last guard was watching a video when she shot him.

She had gone to zip-tie him and the video was still playing. It was a snuff film. She grabbed the drugged guard in her right hand and tossed him off the boat to drown below. His body slipping under the water.  “Sorry, you should have been watching where you were walking, you bum-banging spum biscuit.” She tossed the phone off into the waves as well, wiping her hand on her leg. If she had a paper towel, she would have used that to grab the phone.

She was sure there was a mom who might shed a tear that he was missing. Bethany Anne figured the mom should have done a better job raising that cock-stain.

Within five minutes, she had found the right air equipment and connected her hose to start the gas. With TOM’s help, it shouldn’t be as deadly as the Russian version, but if she had a little breakage on this op it wouldn’t bother her.

She waited five more minutes and checked three state rooms, everyone was sleeping. She notified John she was ready for them to join her and went back up to the bridge.

It was a very advanced bridge. Fortunately, there were software programs that allowed you to virtually captain your own super yacht around the world.   She had used the programs enough with three different bridge layouts to confirm she could put the yacht on a heading into the wind at two knots. Bobcat mentioned you never wanted to land a helicopter with a tail wind and with a minimum of speed it would help keep the rolling down on the ship.

She made sure her two previous captives were tied up and set the captain in a compromised position with his second mate. The more she thought about the late guards snuff film, the more angry she felt.

She left the bridge to go find Sheikh Robban.

Atlantic Ocean, 6.00 hours out of American Waters

Bobcat gently put Shelly down on the massive yacht. With the calm winds and beautiful night, it was almost a pleasure to do this operation. His Black Hawk wasn’t your normal Bell Helicopter and the weight was substantial.

First, he landed enough to not jump around the landing pad, but kept some of the weight on the engines as John and the team jumped off. Pete was to stay with him and the helicopter. This time, Pete had a bull-pup FN P90 that John had been providing lessons on how to use properly. Unlike the punky kid of a couple of months ago, Pete was reserved and making sure that his area was given the attention that it deserved and didn’t allow Bobcat to get him involved in a conversation, just in case John was testing him.

Which was a very good decision for Pete. John had talked with Bobcat before they left the mainland and asked him to try and trip Pete up from his duties. The conversation was a good test and Pete had passed it.

John and Eric went up, pulling down their breathing masks before entering the bridge, Eric covering John. John had to smile as he took in the scene in front of him. Apparently, Bethany Anne was making a comment about the crew.

John stepped past the two men and checked out the rest of the bridge and looked inside any doors. While Bethany Anne probably would have found anyone, John and his team had plenty of practice with unexpected problems that were manageable when found early. Nothing like a nosferatu you weren’t expecting to pop up when you had finally let your guard down. That situation had resulted in a good friend loosing his right arm about ten months back on an op in the Western United States.

“Clear.” John turned back around to see Eric pulling at his mask, staring at the captain and the other crewman.

“John, why does the captain look like he is sucking off the crewman?” Eric’s face had a look of disbelief.

“Focus, Eric. I imagine it is Bethany Anne venting a little. You have the bridge.”

Eric put his mission mask back on, “I’ve got the bridge, aye”

John just shook his head and went to the stairs going down. He wondered what he was going to find below. Darryl and Scott called in that they had two security guards tied up on the deck. One fore and one aft. They thought one was missing, a zip-tie was found where they surmised they would have found the third guard.

Scott called it in, “I think one fell overboard.”

John just replied, “Probably thrown overboard. Darryl you have port, Scott you have starboard. Stay alert for bad guys and pissed-off vampires.”

Making sure his mask had a good fit, John continued down through the ship. He found multiple rooms of sleeping crew. Some in their beds, others at stations or watching tv. None were awake. He found one older man in his shower, the water running the blood from a head wound down the drain. He turned off the water. No need to waste it right now.

Continuing the search he made his way to the owners suite. He knocked on the door and opened it. He was being polite for the vampire he expected to find in here. He was confident there were no humans awake anywhere in the ship.

He pulled up, he had found Bethany Anne and he was surprised at the scene in front of him. The suite was impressive, of course. Multiple rooms and it’s own small kitchen and dining. He had no time to spare as he could see the owners bedroom through the open doors. He was ready for anything from her draining the Sheikh dry to blood and parts all over the room.

He wasn’t ready to find Bethany Anne with tears rolling down her face. She was holding a naked woman, her dead eyes looking vacantly at nothing. The Sheikh was pushed off the bed and laying on the side. He let his rifle hang on the quick sling and walked into the room.

The woman was dead, that was obvious. She had bruises all over her body and it looked like a bump on her head. She also had some blood around her mouth. He looked down at Bethany Annes right wrist and noticed some blood staining it as well.

Bethany Anne was crying, talking to the woman. She kept repeating herself, “I’m so sorry… so, so sorry…” John walked up to the two of them and used his hand to close her eyes. He grabbed a sheet and placed it over her naked body. When he reached to grab Bethany Anne’s hand that was holding the body, she flared up at him. Eyes red and fangs suddenly appearing. She hissed at him as if he was pulling away something she owned.

John didn’t react. It wouldn’t be a good thing to act frightened right then. He was pretty sure Bethany Anne wouldn’t do anything to him, but he didn’t want to cause a reaction the both of them would regret later.

“I’ve got her, Bethany Anne. I’ll make sure she is wrapped and has some dignity.” It took everything he had to look into her face and not change his face of sympathy. Slowly, her eyes changed her color and her fangs disappeared back into her mouth. Her face showed recognition, then anguish.

She looked down at the body, “I was too late, John. I couldn’t save her, I tried. I promise I tried.” She seemed to be drawing back into herself.

He barked out, “Hey! Snap out of it.” The sudden noise stopped her withdrawing. Being yelled at brought her attention back to him. “We have an op to finish and without your direction. We can’t do that. We will bury her at sea and notify her family. That is more than this jack-off would have done. We can’t win all of the fights, but we did make a difference.” He softened his voice, “Let me cover her up.”

Bethany Anne just shook her head and easily lifted the corpse up and between the two of them, they solemnly took the time to properly wrap the ladies lifeless body.

John looked down at the sleeping sheikh. “It’s not just the forsaken we fight, but wherever the evil is. Down here or up there, we’ll fuck them all up.”

Bethany Anne stood up off of the bed and walked around to look down at the Sheikh. “And let God sort them out.” Her voice had gone cold, distant and even John shivered a little.

She reached down and threw the man over her shoulder in a fireman carry. Once he was out of the gassed areas, he would wake up pretty quickly.

John spent a few minutes looking for any identification for the lady. He found her purse in the bathroom and grabbed her ID. He took the carefully wrapped woman upstairs as well. He heard the screaming Sheikh before he reached the top deck. He had already given the whole team the short version of what was going on. When he made the top of the stairs, Scott was there to gently take the body from John. Scott was a solemn man vibrating in anger at what was found. They would store the body and have a funeral in a short while. Depending on what Bethany Anne decided, the lady might have a funeral guard shortly.

The men ignored the pleading cries from the Sheikh. Whatever Bethany Anne was doing, was horrifying the Sheikh and his cries were interspersed with screams of pain. It lasted for almost an hour before Bethany Anne silenced the sheikh for the last time and unceremoniously took a picture and then tossed the body into the water. She had cut his head off and laid it six inches from the rest of his body to make sure whoever saw the pictures knew that there was no surgery possible the sheikh could receive to survive this encounter.

John came up behind her as she watched the waves behind the boat. She didn’t turn around, “How many crew?”

“Looks like about 26, plus the security team which is ten, not including the three you already took out.” She didn’t correct him on the count, so they were right about one of the security guys already going overboard.

“The woman?”

“She was Natalia Berona. I have her ID and other information. Nathan will be able to find whatever we need.”

“Bring her body up here. She will bear witness to the justice.”

John just shook his head and comm’ed Pete to bring the body to them. Bobcat had finally trusted Shelly’s full weight on the boat and had shut down the engines. Together, Bobcat and Pete had found ties to tie-down Shelly. It wouldn’t help much in a storm, but it made him feel better doing it.

Pete had brought the body up to the aft area that Bethany Anne was in. She had found a table and pointed to it. Pete laid the body there. She looked up to John, “Please bring the security men, two at a time. We will zip tie them hands and legs. They will be tried together. Don’t forget the two with darts. Hit them with the antidote. They need to be awake for this trial.”

Twelve men were on the deck with four of her team. Bobcat was still with Shelly and Eric still on the bridge.   Three of the twelve men spoke both Arabic and English and could translate. Personally, Bethany Anne didn’t care what they told the others. She pulled up the picture of the Sheikh’s death, his head separated from his body. The men looked from her to the picture and back. Some of them got belligerent, she let her eyes go red and her fangs descend. All of their eyes shot open in fright. Two on the end started muttering something that sounded like religious prayers to her. None chose to continue their belligerence. They had just been introduced to something that was worse than death.

She explained what she had found in the cabin below. None of them showed the least bit of surprise. That sealed their fate.   She turned to John. “Before I sentence them, do you have anything to say on their behalf, or any request as a fellow security professional?”

John was momentarily shocked. He had expected just to bring them up here to be tossed overboard. That she would try to mitigate her actions by including any comments in their possible defense caused him pause. Then he thought about it. As a professional protection detail he had responsibility for his primary. However; he knew that if Bethany Anne actively start attacking randomly, he would be honor bound to step between her and the innocent. While he couldn’t conceive of Bethany Anne becoming evil, he and his team would protect the true innocent as these men should have done for Natalia and any other women.

He nodded to Bethany Anne who stepped back. John grabbed the first man from the line and without much strain lifted him to his feet. John pulled him to the back of the yacht, looking towards the east where the false dawn was starting to show. He held him with his left hand, his massive muscles wanting to just snap this guys neck. Instead, he started to speak. Allowing the interpreters time to catch up should they want to do it.

“You twelve were the guard. You were sacredly charged with protecting not only the Sheikh, but also those who could not protect themselves. Given the responsibility of fighting those that would do evil, you failed to protect Natalia Berona from the evil in front of you. You are charged with her death, and others who came before her. You are found guilty by the Queen Bitch’s guard. You are unworthy of this life. Aeternitatem.” With that, he pulled his Glock out and shot the man in the back of the head. Pushing his body over the edge and into the water behind the boat.

Scott had already grabbed the next in line and gave John the look that told him not to interfere. John stepped over to the right as Scott brought the next in line and held him there. Scott looked at the rest of the men on the desk as the one he held cried quietly. His eyes were dark with anger. He started the same speech. “With the responsibility of fighting against those that would do evil, you failed to protect Natalia Berona. You knew this would happen and yet allowed her to go to her death. We charge you with her death, and the others who came before her. You are found guilty by the Queen Bitch’s guard. Your failure disgusts me, Aeternitatem.” Scott never stopped looking into the eyes of the men on the ground as he pulled his Glock and shot his captive, then pushed the body overboard.

Surprising John, Pete grabbed the next in line. Gone was the vapid youth and before him stood a man. A man who understood that which was right and the results of doing wrong in this world. If it hadn’t been for Bethany Anne’s grace, he might have eventually ended up killed for his folly. He never wavered when he took Scott’s place. Holding the man with his left hand he spoke the ritual which would happen twelve times. Every team member sought to participate.

Each one would say the nearly the same thing. Something that was later written down by Frank and became the final words many heard over the next century. Pete started his evocation, “With the responsibility of fighting against those that would do evil, you failed to protect Natalia Berona from evil. You assholes knew this would happen and allowed her to go to her death. We here, the peers who live, eat and breath protection charge you with her death, and for the others who came before her. You are found guilty by the Queen Bitch’s guard. You are unworthy of this life. Aeternitatem.” His shot rang out.

Natalia Berona was followed in death by the security team of Sheikh Robban Rahid. All but one had been killed by Bethany Anne’s security team. It was a solemn occasion that cemented the role of the Queen Bitch’s Guard. They had a sacred trust that encompassed the protection of Bethany Anne, and the protection of the innocent.

At the end, All stood as Bethany Anne said a prayer over Natalia’s body and they watched it slide beneath the waves.

They still had a lot of the crew to review and most of them were found to be guilty of knowledge, but could not leave the boat. Bethany Anne used her ability to require the truth. Seven more were executed for their crimes, this time by Bethany Anne.

The rest were mind wiped and had implanted suggestions that Bethany Anne was the new owner and the Sheikh had sold the boat to her before disappearing. She would get rid of the crew as soon as possible. There was no way she would be able to man this craft without help so she was stuck with this solution until another one presented itself.

They needed to deal with the boat and the SEA AXE before taking it into American waters. They turned the huge sea craft towards the Bahamas and sent an order to the SEA AXE to join them. It was helpful that the captain had left the communications console unlocked, Bethany Anne didn’t have to interact with the captain.

She had kept the captain alive for expediencies sake. She needed a new one, and fast. She called Frank and gave him instructions to go ahead and make the calls to the potential crew he had already profiled.

Dan had considered what needed to happen on op success and had worked with Frank to pull together a good group of potential crew. They would have to hire a pilot to fly the crew down to the Bahamas on the company jet. Bethany Anne wanted ex Navy, seeking those older with more experience.

They would hire a few crew for boat upkeep, but this one and the ‘sea taxi’ were going to be renamed and modified eventually. Right now, they needed to continue looking like a yacht for the super rich. Considering that is what it really was, it wasn’t too hard to fake it. However; she wanted crew that would know how to make something look pretty, but have bite.

She considered her options and realized she was completely out of her league. Hell, Dan was out of his league. None on her team had water experience to speak of. When your yacht is one of the top 100 largest in the world, people pay attention to it.

Well, she would talk to Ecaterina. She had handled the retrofit for the airplane with Bobcat. Maybe she would have enough experience to try and deal with this as well.



CHAPTER SIXTEEN

Atlantic Ocean, 3 hours from Nassau

Bobcat knocked on the door to the captains day cabin. A pretty nicely outfitted room with a table and four chairs. He stepped inside when Bethany Anne told him to come in.

She had tried to wash the black paint off of her face. He smiled a little, she missed some by her ears. She looked frustrated.

“You need something?”

She looked up at him and smiled, “Yeah, you know anything about the so-called ‘White List’ as maintained by the Paris Memorandum of Understanding on Port State Control?”

Aw, fuck. She was pulling him into conversations about the flagging of this vessel.

“Ha! I can see on your face you have a clue.” She grinned like she just got lucky and was about to give him the monkey sitting on her back. She kicked a chair in his direction. That was a plain enough command. He grabbed it and sat down.

“Looking to see about registration of the boat?”

“Yup, got it in one. Well, this one and the other, at least. I’ve read enough to know that we will be operating them as pleasure only, not commercial. Well, I can’t see offering charters on these things, can you? Considering I’m planning on putting weapons and military gear on it, I can’t imagine the insurance costs if a charter blew up.” She smiled at that. The insurance on a three hundred million dollar yacht was going to be pretty significant.

This shit was going to eat into her income like crazy.

Good thing the veiled threat to the Saudi family went well. The family decided that selling the boat to her was the better decision out of the options which became available upon Robbin’s death.

Bethany Anne’s group had plans in place in case the Saudi’s had decided to try and blackmail them or renege on the deal.

Bethany Anne needed to see if there was anything she could do to make some money with this and the other ship. This yacht already had two landing pads and one could handle Shelly, she considered just selling the other.

“Have you considered if you need to rent time or provide assistance to another one of your companies? Having it flagged as pleasure only would likely open you up for questions, if not the effort to impound the ship until the questions get answered. Better to just go commercial optional from the beginning.”

She screwed up her face in disgust, he was making sense and threw out the porthole the little she had figured out from research so far.

He continued. “So, best choice is probably one from the Red Ensign Group. In particular, the Cayman Islands, Gibraltar and the Isle of Man. Probably close to 80% of big yachts are flagged and those three are the most often selected. Factors influencing your choice can include in no particular order prestige, tradition, history, international recognition of high standards and adherence to the Large Yacht Commercial Code. They have ready availability of a large number of qualified surveyors, good consular services and navy. They are known for their commercial confidentiality which would be pretty important for us.”

She started shaking her head in agreement. Bobcat was starting to warm up to the conversation. He knew it would be a headache and it only touched on the areas he usually dealt with. “The Red Ensign registry with the largest number of yachts is the Cayman Islands Shipping Registry, the are generally considered the best in service.”

She looked like she had made a decision.   Great! He could be out of here in a few seconds. She looked over at him with that ‘cat just ate the canary look’.

“You know Bobcat, your just a wealth of information I didn’t know you had. I appreciate you taking over the review and research into this problem. Here, I’ll leave you the captains cabin to use while you track down all of the answers.” She got up quickly and patted him on the shoulder as she left the room and closed the door.

He looked around, she had left the monkey in the room with him. Fuck.

Jacksonville, FL - USA

Captain B. Thomas, always ‘B’ and not Bartholomew, was sitting on his sofa drinking a Bud Light. He didn’t even have the TV turned on. Hell, the sun was over the yardarm somewhere, right? He was frankly bored and ready to go crazy.

He was ‘released from Active Duty’ over two months ago and afterwards he had been given a recommendation to take early retirement.

He had made the mistake of voicing his feelings about the mentoring program that all four branches used to bring back high ranking officials for war games and other tasks. Some of those tasks included training at the military colleges.

All of that he could get behind. It was the fact that these guys (and one gal, to be fair) were also serving on the boards of large military defense contractor companies getting paid even bigger bucks. He had always felt it should be an either or situation. They should go for the consulting with the defense or the military.

He felt sure that most of the mentors probably policed themselves appropriately and honorably. However; the fact that NO ONE wanted a forced requirement to share just how much everyone was paid and fought hard to keep the knowledge from getting out was a serious problem. He felt, strongly, that either there was a problem, or others were wanting everything to stay the same for the future when they got there. That it was to ‘protect the existing opportunities’ seemed a crock of shit to him. What, these men (and woman) that put in so many years for their country were all going to fail to support the United States in the future? Not likely. They should all have the backbone to be up front with what was going on.

His telephone rang. He considered ignoring it. He didn’t need to talk with another salesman who wanted to sell him something useless. He listened to the second ring and looked at his beer. What the hell else did he have going on? He picked up his phone and hit the answer button.

“Thomas here.” His voice was commanding without being overbearing. It made you stand up straighter without realizing you were doing so.

“Mr. B. Thomas?” The voice on the other side of the phone was a older voice, but seemed to be strong yet. He also didn’t call him Bartholomew, that was a major plus already. He reached over and grabbed a pencil and marked a single line in the right column. At the top of the left column was his first name. The top of the right column just had the letter ‘B’. The left column had 27 marks, five groups of five and two extra. The right had the single, new mark.

“That’s right, what are you selling?” He took his second pad. It had five columns marked ‘land, stocks, medical, time share, and misc.’ He got ready to put a mark in the medical column. It was a fair guess with the seller sounding older.

“My name is Frank Kurns, I’m ‘selling’ a job with an elite agency as a captain for a significantly sized vessel and sea taxi. Crew to be pulled from Navy’s best. Interested?”

Thomas added an additional column and labeled it ‘Job’. He marked the column. Seeing how this was the first one in two months it seemed worthwhile to continue the conversation.

“With the Navy?”

Frank put as much emotion in his voice as he could, “I’m sorry, no. From my records the chance of you going back into the Navy is about the same as the Jacksonville Jaguars going to the Super Bowl.”

Thomas laughed, “Yeah, well, you have my attention now. That you know this means you are not who I thought you were.”

The voice on the other end of the line sounded amused, “Who did you think I was?”

“A telephone salesman selling medical insurance or something like that.”

It was Franks turn to laugh. “Ok, that’s fair. It wasn’t like I tried to get you through the normal means. However; I can assure you that we do have a good medical plan. Probably better than the Navy’s.”

“Oh, why is that?”

“Well, to be frank about it, our people probably need the best. This might be a non-governmental job, but I never said it wasn’t needed or safe. If you are interested, I have to get you to Miami for a private plane that is going to take you and five others to Nassau tonight.

Thomas looked at his watch. “What time? I can hit the road in 10 and be there by 5:00 PM at the earliest depending on traffic. The trip takes about five hours.” He might have given away a negotiation edge, but he was going crazy here and anything that needed good medical spoke of the possibility for life to be a lot more interesting.

“I’ll send your phone the address.”

“Not to be an ass, but what is the pay and incidentals for this job interview?”

“You will receive $5,000 in cash when you get on the plane. The ride to and from Nassau will be paid for. The flight there is corporate jet. The flight back if you choose to pass on the job will be commercial on American Airlines. So, if you have a frequent flier card feel free to use it then. The money should cover any expenses and your one night in Nassau. We will get your account info on the trip over and deposit an additional $10,000 before you interview.”

Holy crap! Almost $15k for maybe a day or two? He got off the couch and walked over to the sink pouring his beer out and dropping the can in recycling. He walked back to his room and grabbed his go bag. Old habits die hard.

“Mr. Thomas?”

“Sorry Frank. I was thinking about what I needed to do for a second. I’m interested and if you will send me that address, you can plan on me being there by 5:00. Leave me a return phone number and I’ll let you know if I run into trouble.”

“Very good, see you this evening, Captain Thomas.” The older man hung up. Frank using his title didn’t sound frivolous to Thomas. It rather sounded like a promise.

He locked the door to his apartment behind him and took the stairs going down two at a time. Damn! It felt good to be living again. He was out of Jacksonville in ten minutes. He could have tried to get a flight, but American Airlines didn’t have a lot of scheduled flights and he didn’t want to dick with them. By the time he handled everything, he would be halfway to Miami.

If nothing else, Nassau would be fun to visit. However; he really hoped they had a job that needed doing.



CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

Miami, FL - USA

Captain Thomas wasn’t the only Navy, or ex-Navy, on the Gulfstream G550. The plane was very nice and there was a fairly exotic European lady welcoming him to the plane. When he arrived, they told him he could park his car in the hanger. There were three other cars in a line. He parked his BMW 330i next to a ‘Vette. That car had to belong to a pilot.

He was provided a nicely appointed seat done up in black leather and classy wood throughout the plane. The leather smelled brand new. The carpet was a darker grey and the lighting in the plane was subdued with classical music playing. Everyone in the plane wore street clothes, but Navy knows Navy. His contact on the phone was right about this. He must have been headhunting for a while to get everyone here in time.

The gorgeous lady greeted him as he came up the stairs. “Good evening Captain Thomas,” her smile was dazzling, “my name is Ecaterina and if there is anything I can do to make this trip a little more enjoyable, please let me know. Would you care for a drink? The flight time is about an hour or less and there will be a dinner aboard the ship.” He asked the lady what soda she had available. He loved her accent and just wanted to listen to her for a minute. She told him they didn’t serve Pepsi products as the owner of the plane didn’t care for Pepsi, one little bit. However; if he was willing to not tell a soul, she had a six-pack of Pepsi stashed on the side for her boyfriend for when the boss wasn’t on the plane.

She professionally provided an option while letting him know she was already taken. He told her he would be happy to keep her secret if he happened to find Pepsi in his glass and took his seat.

There were four other on the plane he had tagged as Navy, including the pilot he could see up in the cabin. There were two gentleman in the back who were not Navy, but one he had pegged as military or ex-military and the other was an older man. He was possibly his contact on the phone this afternoon. A few seconds later a Marine, if he was any judge, got on and was greeted by Ecaterina and offered a beverage. This was a very interesting flight, indeed.

Ten minutes later, the plane took off for Nassau.

Once the plane leveled out, Thomas noticed the military guy at the back stand up. At the same time, small LCD monitors folded out from above each seat and turned on. There was a logo with “TQB Enterprises” in red on a black background.

“Hello everyone and welcome to the Inauguration flight of TQB Enterprises corporate jet.” Half the people had to turn in their seats to see him. “You are the first to fly who isn’t already part of the company. However; you are the absolute first who have flown in it since the new interior was put in. Please don’t mess it up before the boss see’s it, ok?” There were polite chuckles at that.

“My name is Dan Bosse, and until recently I worked with a very clandestine agency within the US Government whose budget was so small the DOD probably spent more to procure toilets each year. My position was as an Ops Team lead and I was an ‘Agent’ in that operation for decades and lead for fifteen years. I did not leave the agency because our mission was over, rather it is just as bad or worse than it had been in the last thirty years. I left because I met the owner of this jet on my last op in Florida. She showed me that instead of waiting for the bad guys to do something in the USA, she was taking the fight to them.  I’m tired of playing defense and I’m happy to be on offense, now.”

He pointed to the older looking man to his left. “This gentleman is Frank Kurns. Every one of you spoke with him on the phone today. He assures me that regardless of how you left the Navy, every one of you have personal ethics that set you apart. I know your security levels in the Navy, and the Marines.” With this he nodded to the last person to join the flight. “However; when you break op-sec in the Navy you get the brig and maybe a court martial. In my area of operations, you usually die.”

Thomas noticed everyone sitting up a little straighter. Those that had to turn in their seats adjusted themselves again to make sure they could see better.

A female two seats ahead of him spoke up, all Thomas could see was dark curly hair over the seat. “A question, sir?”

“Yes, Gunnery Officer Dukes?” The older man, Frank, was busy writing in a notebook beside Dan.

The woman hesitated, forgetting that every one of them was probably hand picked and the Ops Manager would know everyone. She got over it quickly. “What kind of action are you talking about?”

Dan nodded at her question, “Good question. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you the future because we are writing it right now. I can only tell you of one episode that has no bearing on what my team did before. Does everyone know about the Terrorist attack at the Southwest Financial Center in Miami a while back?”

Thomas certainly did. It was news to everyone and the biggest question he and his friends talked about over beer was what team took down the terrorists. The FBI was stumped and the CIA wasn’t speaking a word.

Thomas noticed the marine lean forward in his chair. Officer Dukes just said, “Sure.”

“This will never be admitted by me or any of my team outside of this company, but my team, lead by my boss, put paid to the terrorists.”  There was a general level of excitement with that announcement.

“Why was everyone killed?”  This lady didn’t have much of a filter between her curiosity and her mouth.

Dan smiled. “My team has only one rule of engagement. That rule is kill or be killed. It seemed that no one thought about that when asking for our help. Since no one is familiar with our group, they wouldn’t know to ask. Wasn’t that just a splendid result?” His open smile let everyone understand where Dan Bosse stood on how to treat terrorists.

A couple of the other people were grinning. The Navy had been hit a few times by terrorist assholes including the USS Cole and the Chattanooga incident. Not too much sympathy in the Navy for terrorists, either. Hell, he found himself grinning. He wanted to shake the hands of the team that worked that operation.

“But we digress, so I’ll have to continue. I’m going to introduce each of you. You will have to stand up and turn to face around. This is the worst designed plane for meetings, let me tell you. Let’s start with you, Gunnery Officer Dukes.”

Thomas saw a shorter woman of hispanic origin stand up. She had curly black hair cut about mid length and her skin was a lighter color. A little pudgy, she was a strong woman who could probably blister the paint off the bulwarks when she got cross with anyone.

“Everyone, may I present Gunnery Officer Jean Dukes. She is late off of a Ticonderoga class Cruiser out of Florida. Like every person here, she opened her mouth and the Navy felt it would be better if she should choose to stay quiet, or quietly leave the Navy. Do you care to explain your disagreement, Officer Dukes?”

Her eyes became alabaster, she wasn’t over this disagreement apparently. “No problem, sir. Our ship was on a long patrol when two of the officers went on the town during a three day stay. I was out stretching my own legs heading back to the ship. I cut back between two bars and I heard a woman pleading. I found two officers in a compromising position with an unwilling participant. I kicked their asses. This was made infinitely easier since their pants where down by their feet. I got called to the Captain’s Office the next morning when these two jackoffs made some shit up. I was able to find the lady who corroborated my story and the Captain had a real problem on his hands as these officers were high ranking and liked by the crew. My group liked me, but not too many Gunnery Officers are female. I don’t believe in bro’s before ho’s, sir.”

Dan smiled, “Neither do I, Jean. You will find that my boss will like your response. Although, to be fair she would have put them in the infirmary for sure, possibly the morgue. Thank you.”

Jean sat down. She had been holding this chip on her shoulder for over four months now. She knew that her time in the Navy was done when she got called up to the Captains cabin. That she was able to find the woman and she was willing to press charges was the only thing that saved her.

Jean had gone out on a couple of job interviews and people respected her military time. However; personally she needed more excitement than a desk job in a corporate environment. She had her doubts about this gig, but the ten thousand she was going to receive for this job interview plus the fun of flying on this sweet corporate jet was too much to pass on. Now, she was going to meet the crew that took out the Miami terrorists. With all of these people around her, she was letting herself feel a little optimistic that she might have another home. One that didn’t permit assholes like Nelson and Williams on the team.

Dan nodded to the man across from Jean. “Chief Engineer Rodriquez?” Thomas recognized Chief Rodriquez’s name. He was pretty famous among the Captains as one who could get the slowest boat to get up and haul ass. He had heard that Rodriquez had left the Navy, but not why.

John Rodriquez stood up. He was forty years old and his skin was pretty dark. He had hard eyes and he probably stood about 5’8” but was somewhat wide. He looked around at everyone. He looked at the sitting Jean Dukes. “Dukes, it is my pleasure to meet you. I am a Navy man, but in my Navy, we don’t hurt women. We protect them. I had heard two Captains talking about Officer Dukes situation and neither seemed upset about the situation. I took it up with my Captain who was sympathetic but not willing to rock the boat. It seemed to me that my Navy wasn’t taking care of it’s own the way my mom taught me to take care of my familia. I was due up and left the Navy. I dropped my duffle as I left the ship to make sure everyone knew I wouldn’t be back.” He looked back at Dan. “That your boss wants Jean Dukes to be a part of whatever we are doing is enough for me. I would be proud to be a part of a company that seeks her out.” He sat back down.

Damn, Thomas thought, he would really love to have these people on his team. Then he thought about it. Shit! This was his team. Bosse was giving him the chance to meet everyone before they even landed and enough background information to form a small team based on the shared experiences of the Navy and standing up for their personal ideals. That every one of the people on board had a personal code spoke to the person driving this effort. That the ‘boss’ had fronted the team that took out the terrorists only caused Thomas to really start looking forward to working again towards a goal, not just a paycheck.

The next person to stand was the marine. His name was Todd Jenkins. He was a career Marine who had spoken plainly to a congressional member who had asked his honest opinion. It seemed that the unvarnished truth, in front of a camera, wasn’t the response the good congressman had actually wanted. That the Brass at the top stood firm for him for two years was a testament to the Marines supporting their own. The congressman got himself elected to every appropriations committee that he could. He was then a horrible pain in the ass each and every time. When the congressman got another term, Todd decided it would be better for the marines if he stepped aside. They had done right by him and no one was happy with his decision. He had been on the beach for six months when he got called. He had obviously stayed in shape.

Dan introduced the pilot as Lt. Cmdr Paul Jameson who was with the Navy for twelve years before having his own disagreement on the rules of engagement. He felt those engagement rules were the cause of his best friends death and no one would even discuss the reasons for the rules with him. He couldn’t be a part of a team any more that didn’t have a defined target.

Up in the front, Paul was listening to Dan and the others talk. Personally, he believed this flight a short term gig. However; he realized that by not having been asked to interview, the bastards were making him want to be a part of the team.

Paul was still sore with any sort of upper management. It was why he free-lanced his piloting skills instead of joining up with any company. He had been recruited hard by both commercial and private groups. Everyone wanted someone with his type of skills. He could fly a large plane with just packages on it for three weeks out of the month and rest the fourth and pull in twice his previous salary. Without getting shot at.

However; he nursed an anger at the loss of his friend. He wanted to make a difference, not help someones package go from Oklahoma to Brazil overnight.

Jean’s story pissed him off. If he ever met these two ass wipes they would lose their teeth. He would also have to shake the hand of the Chief Engineer. It was obvious just from listening that he hadn’t realized that Jean Dukes was on the plane with him and she was the reason he had quit the Navy. The marine had given up his life to help his team. Not his physical life, but certainly his emotional life.

He realized he was proud to be the pilot for this group.

Dan hadn’t realized what was going through Paul’s head. He continued, “Lt. Commander Max Wagner, would you care to share?”

Thomas waited to see what this gentleman had to say. Here was his number two, if he didn’t miss his guess.

His voice had an interesting cross between a Texas and a German accent. How the hell did someone get that? “My name is Maximillian Wagner. I was the second on a Destroyer who had issues with the financials. I took it to my captain and was told to drop it. I didn’t. The further I looked the more I found the rot had gone over to the mainland and up the chain. I passed the information on and while a good portion of the group was charged and the theft ring was broken up, not enough of the highest brass could be formally charged. They had black marks all put in their jackets and I was targeted by some of their friends. The best that the Navy could do after the first year was monitor the activity. I decided that no good deed would go unpunished and took the offered package. I’ve got two years before most of the group will be out, so I find myself wondering what to do next. Frankly, I need to work for someone or something I believe in and the Navy doesn’t have my trust at the moment.” He sat down and received looks of agreement from everyone there.

He had summed up all of their feelings. They were all professionals wanting to work for something they could believe in. It was his turn.

Dan looked at him, “Captain Thomas?”

Thomas stood up and walked the aisle over to Jean. He offered her a salute which was totally inappropriate in the regs but every Navy man there stood up saluted her as well. She started tearing up as she stood and saluted Captain Thomas back. He walked up next to Dan who sat down with a smile on his face.

Thomas turned around. “This morning, I was sitting on my couch in Jacksonville drinking a beer at 10:00 AM. Why? Because I spoke out that I felt the mentoring program used for retired high level officers, both in the military and in the Navy specifically, wasn’t being run appropriately. I felt it needed more transparency when they represent a defensive company and yet come back to consult at the same time. Obviously, I was in the minority. The more I was told to keep quiet, the more it pissed me off. I kept mentioning the issues with mentoring until I was, very politely, shown the door. That was over two months ago.”

He looked at all of the people in front of him, these would be his crew if everything worked out. “Fortunately for me, Mr. Kurns here told me he would pay me to go on a job interview with a free flight to Nassau before I could let slip I would swim here for free.” Everyone smiled and laughed at that comment. They were all feeling the same, now.

“Now that I hear this group was part of the terrorist take down in Miami, I would walk on water to go to this meeting. I am personally proud to have been selected to even be on this plane with each and every one of you.” From over the loudspeaker the pilot added, “Hear, hear!” They all smiled at his intrusion.

“Hopefully, they don’t have a rowboat with holes in it for me to Captain, but if they do, I happen know enough about Chief Rodriquez over here to know that it will be the fastest damn row boat in this hemisphere!” Everyone laughed.

Most had heard of the chief, even if they didn’t immediately put the man in their plane with the crazy engineer getting crazy results down in the engine room. “Max, looking around this plane, I get the feeling it won’t be a rowboat we are dealing with. I believe your attention to the finances will be important and probably no little part of the decision to be on this plane. Should we work together, I will always have your back. Dukes?”

She looked at him. “Let me know next time someones ass needs kicking, I wouldn’t want your leg to get tired so I’m volunteering Jenkins legs. Not because I’m not willing, but rather so I can make sure the ass kicking is the best we can do.” This got a lot of laughs from the team. Todd actually blushed but added a quiet, “Hell yeah!” to the group.

“I’m sure our pilot has a good story, but I’m not really in the mood to jiggle his elbow right now.” When he said that, the plane did a little wing bounce to let him know the pilot was listening. “However; if he doesn’t set this plane down well, I happen to know where a ‘Vette that can be traded in for a Prius is parked.” Everyone had to laugh since it was pretty well know that fighter jockeys usually had testosterone powered cars and everyone had noticed the Corvette.

The speaker came back on, “This is your pilot speaking. Having heard all of the stories let me say that I will make this the smoothest landing you have ever had.” The mic clicked off, then after a couple of seconds clicked back on again, “And leave my fucking Vette alone!” You could hear the grin in his voice.

Everyone laughed.

Dan thought that he had a first class seat on how to pull a team together, this Captain was an artist and it was Dan’s pleasure to watch it happen. Frank just continued his writing.



CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

Nassau, Bahamas

The landing was one of the smoothest the team had ever felt. Everyone was shaking hands and getting to know each other as Paul taxi’d out to the hanger that Ecaterina had rented ahead of time. She had stayed out of the way, just listening to everyone. She was a quick study of people as well as wildlife and she was sure Bethany Anne was going to like this group. Frank and Dan, with no little help from Nathan, had done Bethany Anne proud.

Now, she was looking forward to seeing what kind of boat Bethany Anne had procured for the team to use.

Dan was on the phone in the back and Frank had pulled out his laptop to get online. It was the ‘special’ laptop with the link to Franks office back in Washington D.C. It had more biometric security on it than laptops had in the Pentagon. With Franks knowledge and Nathan’s added to it, this laptop was not going to be able to be used by anyone without Frank’s help. Looking satisfied, Frank closed his laptop as the plane came to a rest.

Ecaterina started the process to open the door. She was met by Airport help on the outside. Dan had come up to the front.

Todd Jenkins noticed that Dan was positioning himself to cover the door entry and had his hand ready for a draw inside his coat. Todd had noticed the shoulder holster within a minute of coming on the plane. He missed it in the beginning because a large part of his focus was on the lovely smile of the hostess.

Todd prepared to go into action if necessary and positioned his body.

The door opened and he noticed Dan look out and around in a professional manner. Ecaterina beside him stayed out of his way and she looked accustomed to the activity and wasn’t worried. That was an interesting tidbit of information. Todd filed that knowledge away.

Dan stepped off first and Ecaterina shook everyone’s hand as they stepped off. Frank was the last and he went by her to stick his head in the pilot’s cabin.

Paul was busy shutting down the plane. He had just finished his check list. He really was happy for having done this gig. He noticed the older man step by Ecaterina and he looked over his shoulder as Frank stuck his head in the cabin. “So Mr. Jameson, would you like to take the blue pill where you wake up believing that working for yourself is the only way to make things happen, or would you like the red pill and go with Captain Thomas and the team? If you take the red pill, I will get someone to finish shutting down the plane.”

Paul Jameson was having an existential moment. Paul thought about the amount of time that Frank and his team had put in finding these people and making this set of job interviews happen so fast. He doubted that his piloting of the craft was accidental. He wasn’t unhappy doing what he was doing, but there was only so much that one person can do when what needs to change is so vast. There was something going on here, and it felt like the beginning of something unique. Something special. He unclipped his belt and smiled up at Frank. “I think I’ll take you up on that interview option, Mr. Kurns.”

“My boy, I didn’t ask you to interview. I asked a good friend how to get you interested and you know what she told me?”

Paul stopped and turned back to Mr. Kurns, “What what that?”

“She told me to use the right bait, Mr. Kurns. Think on that and hurry your ass up so you don’t get left behind, I hear the helicopter now.”

Paul turned back around, what helicopter? He jumped down the steps and went behind the plane. He could see the group about fifty yards away looking at the sky towards the North and the water. There was a big bird coming in. Holy shit! It was a black hawk and did she ever look mean. The whole team was just as surprised at their ride as well.

Toto, they weren’t in Kansas, anymore.

Paul noticed how nicely the helicopter landed. As if it weighed as much as a feather. There was one helluva large black man holding a slung P90 inside the bird. He nodded to Dan and offered the first seat to Captain Thomas. Captain Thomas nodded to the person inside the bird and jumped on. The rest followed his lead. Paul was the last on and Rodrqeuz waived him over to sit by him. Dan closed the door. Paul heard the crew member call to the pilot that they were all aboard and the chopper took off and angled back over the water.

Thomas was enjoying the flight. While the armed crew member took him by surprise, it shouldn’t have. This was a damned Black Hawk tricked out. This was $30 million at least flying here. They wouldn’t be in a row boat, that was for sure.

He lost his composure when Wagner said, ‘Saints Preserve Us!’ next to him. He stopped looking out the side of the bird and looked through the pilots windows in front and at the massive yacht they were approaching. He got a good look for just a minute before the pilot had to change direction and the boat was under them, now. That boat had to be at least 325 to 350 feet in length. Saints preserve us, indeed!

Paul Jameson had seen the boat as well. He smiled as he thought red was the right pill for him to swallow.

The landing on the boat was just as smooth as the landing at the airfield. Paul thought that this pilot was every bit as good as he was in a plane. This group was more and more interesting all of the time. He couldn’t imagine what they could pull off that would surprise him anymore.

He had to admit later, that he was woefully unprepared to have answered that at the time.

The Queen Bitch’s Ship Polarus in Nassau

“Damn, it’s easy to get fucking lost on this ship.” Bethany Anne was walking towards the helipad, she hoped. She had lost track of time working through some other details and John had commed her to let her know, ‘the Navy has arrived.’

You realize I could tell you how to get there, right?

One of these days, she would learn to lean on all of her advantages. Even the transient alien inside of her.

Sorry, TOM. Just busy and got distracted. How the hell do I get back up to the landing area?

Turn around and go back to the last intersection. Take a right and then your first left. There is a set of steps that go up.

She stopped and turned around. Concerned she was going to miss the group she boosted her speed over to the stairs and slowed down to go through the door. If she didn’t have new recruits, she would just slip through the Etheric and drop in on them. She hadn’t created any safe zones yet on the boat and had been a little concerned what to do when the ship was underway. Would her slipping through the Etheric work the same, or would she end up in the ocean? TOM had said she would have the ability to position correctly with the ship, but she was still a little hesitant. He explained that the earth itself was traveling through space at approximately 67,000 miles an hour, so what was the big deal?

She made the top as she heard the people getting off of Shelly. It was agreed that they would all wear their team ops uniforms. She wanted everyone to understand that they were military first, not super rich looking to play out of the United States waters.

Well, they were that, too. They just wanted to play with guns and ammo and missiles and blow shit up. At least, that was how Scott described themselves.

Ecaterina had called. She was in Nassau interviewing companies now to change some of the ship. Bethany Anne wanted the whole owners suite ripped out. She didn’t want to see anything in there that reminded her of Natalia and the others. She had stayed out of the suite. Her team had taken care of ripping out most of the bedroom already.

 She pushed the final door open. Door, hatch? She couldn’t be bothered to learn it all right now regardless of a super-intelligent alien along for the ride.

She watched as the new recruits came off of the helipad. She knew that Bobcat would be back in the air to go and pick up Frank and Ecaterina. She saw Pete go up some stairs and enter the helipad area. It looked like he was going to be part of the protection for Shelly on this trip. Yup, Darryl handed him a P90 and he clipped it on and got on board.

Everyone had left the helipad but one rather large guy from the group had caught Pete jumping on and noticed the weapon. The man turned around and went with the group down below. They would be going to the larger meeting room on the second deck. It already had finger food and beverages setup and waiting for the group.

She waved to Bobcat who had noticed her. He put two fingers to his lips like stupid fangs and she laughed out loud at his antics and then he put his hand down and the Black Hawk started to lift off. She just smiled and shook her head.

So far, he was the most comfortable around her as a vampire. Even John was occasionally careful and respectful. She wasn’t sure if Bobcat had a respectful bone in his body. William was back in Miami working with the armored SUV’s and tooling up their engines so couldn’t make the trip out.

Bobcat mentioned that he preferred the bunnies on the beach, not the ones who went boat hopping and had a date he had been working on for two weeks that night.

She turned and went up to the bridge to check on the captain. He was ever polite and just a bit… dumb. That was most likely due to her heavy handed approach to wiping his memory and implanting her commands. If his brain shorted out after she replaced him she couldn’t be bothered to worry about it.

She left the bridge by going down the stairs and went to the conference room. She was wearing her twin .45’s but had left her sword in the cabin. There was no reason to go that far, it wasn’t like they were Forsaken that would shrug off bullets so easily.

She entered from the back. The group had already gotten their food and the lights were just dimming to show them the over five minute promo on the Forsaken that Dan and Frank had put together from operation footage. She hadn’t seen this yet, so she stopped and watched from the back. With the lights off it was hard to pick her out in the background. John had seen her enter, but hadn’t done anything to give her entry away.

Dan had started the overview before the video started and explained they were working to defeat a supernatural threat. The supernatural had been involved in America since before the countries founding for the positive, however; had been attacked by the ‘other side’ for the last few decades and a hard attack across the nation for the last year.

He started the presentation which went through the pictures of every agent he lost in the last 18 months. He gave every agents name, age and what city and state they died in. He even included Bill. It made an impression that went deep to everyone in the room. It brought home that as incredible as the whole supernatural seemed, people were fighting and dying to handle the threat.

He then started the video that had clips of different shots of operations over the last ten years. A couple included Bill and it was obvious that he was not only fighting the Nosferatu, but also that he was not human. Especially when a short clip showed his red eyes and fangs while holding a nosferatu as his team was shooting it before dropping it to the ground. The final clip was a close up on his face.

The scene went dark, but the audio was still going. The voices were familiar to Bethany Anne. This was the recording from the Ops van during the Everglades operation. It was pretty horrendous as the Forsaken were shaking the van and the men were yelling. Some yelling epitaphs and others trying to figure out how to get a defense setup. You could hear some pistol shots and something falling off the van, then it got quiet and the men quickly got to setting up the van again. The voices receded as the video faded back in and you could see the dead forsaken Bethany Anne had taken care of, including the one with the tree pinning it to the ground and half it’s head blown off.

A female in the audience spoke softly, “Oh my god…”

That video faded as the audio started coming back online and you could hear a Black Hawk helicopter in the background as the video very slowly came up. You could see a Marine hanging on to the side. The operations area was a mess. You could see the medic working on an agent to the left and a van with the door pulled off. The camera focused on the landing helicopter.

The scene took Bethany Anne back to that night when she first fought with her team. They had been inseparable since then. She was proud of her group.

“Fuck me…” She pegged that whisper as coming from the marine, she guessed.

John and Eric got off first, she was in the center and Darryl and Scott came up behind her. They all looked more dead than alive. Especially with the massive amount of blood and mud all over them. The video stopped with the five of them in frame.

Dan spoke again. “This is the team that took out all of what we call Nosferatu out in the Everglades. This was their first op together. This is the same team that took out the terrorists the next day. The op downtown was more of a scrimmage for them. The enemies they normally fight are so much faster and more deadly that a room full of humans doesn’t really register as a challenge.” The screen faded from the five of them to the corporate logo and held it there for two seconds before it faded again to the image of their team patch.

The lights came up and John, Eric and Scott were at the door. Everyone there recognized them as the team members from the picture and placed Darryl back in the chopper as the fourth team member.

Her team stood ready for action. It wasn’t anything that they thought about conscientiously, but having a vampire as a boss that would attack you at all times of the day or night to keep you in practice caused you to stay ready 24/7.

Todd Jenkins approved. He wasn’t willing to say that a team of his marines would go down quickly against these guys, but whatever happened it wouldn’t be easy. What about the female? He had assumed that their lead was the big guy Grimes there, but he could see that the female was the head of the outfit.

Not one of the Navy personnel thought they were the butt of a joke by this time. There wasn’t a practical reason to try and spend this much money. Everything was too professional to believe they had a bunch of actors trying to punk them. The final straw for Todd was the listing of the fallen. That was delivered by someone who knew those men and every death had hurt.

Dan looked at the group, “Questions?”

Dukes seemed to be the quickest to open her mouth, no shy butterfly her. “Was that a vampire there at the end with the closeup? Who’s side was it working on?”

Dan smiled, “Yes, his name was Bill. He died over a year ago on an operation in Virginia. They blew up an entire warehouse to kill him. I had worked with him for a long time before that event occurred.”

“The government works with vampires to kill what, other vampires?” Dukes was trying to figure out the boundaries of who she could aim guns at.

“Actually, we do go against vampires and yes, we work with vampires. There are two groups, or families, if you will. One would be called Michael’s family. The other are called Forsaken. The Forsaken want to eventually just take over the world and use humans as cattle. The problem is that Michael’s group has fought them in the shadows for almost eight hundred years and generally speaking it has been a stalemate. Partially because a lot of the big guns would sleep for years at a time and the Forsaken would use that time to attack until Michael would wake up and then the Forsaken would get a monumental beat down. He would go to sleep and the rest of us would keep the fight going.”

Captain Thomas spoke, “Is that why your team was so small like you mentioned back on the plane?”

Dan considered that, “Did I say my team was small?”

Thomas smiled, “You claimed a clandestine agency that had a smaller budget than what the military spends on toilets.”

“So I did. To be clear, I had three full-time members and the full team was mostly stolen and borrowed from other agencies when we had a flare up. After it was handled, most everyone went back to their regular jobs with severe consequences if they talked about the op.”

“What happened to change it?”

“Well, that is a longer discussion. The short version is that the lead vampire on the good side selected another vampire to fix things and the fixer has a lot more energy and was rather incensed with attacks on American soil. A Forsaken vampire recently killed a government agent in Washington DC to try and find out more about her.”

“What happened to that vampire?” Maximillian Wagner wasn’t surprised with the paranormal at all. Germany had lots of stories about the supernatural. That it was real wasn’t a stretch for his beliefs.

Dan looked at Max, “He blew himself up when he delivered a message to his maker. That maker lives in Central America. Each continent and some major countries are under the control of certain powerful vampires. Unless we want to be attacked every day…”

Wagner spoke up, “You don’t travel overland, right?”

Rodriquez jumped in, “That’s why you need water capabilities?” Dan had barely focused on the chief engineer before the pilot jumped in.

“And you need to strike from the water or risk pissing off too many at a time?”

Dan just pointed to his nose.

All of the navy people were fascinated learning why they were brought here. This wasn’t anything like what they thought they might be getting into. Awareness of another coming down the side aisle brought their attention to a female in a black ops outfit. Twin .45’s in her holsters. Her walking was a glide. Everyone’s hind brain was trying to warn them to watch the fuck out. Here be death walking. But the package was so very attractive.

“Welcome to my ship. My name is Bethany Anne, that’s it. I have no last name. You have seen the presentation, do you have any questions?”

Dukes went first again. She blurted the first thing on her mind that was a semi-coherent question. “No last name?” Her face went red in shame! Here was the leader, a woman no less and the first question she had was ‘no name’? Really?

“No Gunnery Officer Dukes, the Nicht have no last name.”

This time, it was the Captain and Jenkins that got out the question, “Nicht?”

She looked at both of them. “Yes gentleman. Nicht. I am what you might call a vampire. Not the kind that hides from the sun, I assure you I loves me some sun.” Her smile was lighting up the room and everyones sense of fight or flight was calming down. What evil vampire ever said that ‘she loves me some sun’?

She continued, “A short time back I was an agent in a semi-black agency in Washington. I tracked down cold cases and was as ignorant of the UnknownWorld as you were this morning. I’ve been changed and charged with destroying anything that threatens our world. Right now, the biggest threat are the Forsaken. When one killed my personal friend Martin Brennan, I’ve become very focused. The Forsaken head of Central America attacked my family. The Forsaken will understand when I retaliate with deadly force.”

The team was still in trying to guess where this would end up and how they would be involved. Rodriquez piped in, “Your not planning on stopping with them are you.”

It wasn’t really a question, but Bethany Anne answered it anyway. “John, I’m not able to take the fight to everyone everywhere right now. I don’t consider the United States the only country that I need to protect. The Forsaken have had centuries to dig in. While I’m learning what port and starboard are.” She smiled at that and she got smiles in return. It was hard to believe this woman was death incarnate at the moment.

“However; I’m about to share the rough stuff with you. This is the point that I let you know that the promised funds are in every one of your accounts. I’ll give you the same talk I told your helicopter pilot Bobcat. If you breath a word of what you know right now, you’ll be signing your own death warrants. Not because anyone on my team would hurt you, but because you will not be under my protection and the Forsaken would track you down in the off chance you know something that could help them. If you talk, word will get around.”

Jenkins spoke this time, “But, we don’t know anything!”

She turned to look at Todd. “Do you know what I look like? Do you know that I want Navy crew? You already know enough to give them reason to, literally, drain you dry.” She smiled, It is a pretty effective ‘no-talking’ policy.

“I’m not worried about it because I know that one day the truth must come out, so the hints won’t hurt those events at all. You would be hurting yourself. But, now is the time to decide if you believe you would want to stay and be a part of something that, quite literally, could be saving the world. Will your family and friends ever know? In a few years, probably not. In decades probably and within the next two hundred years for certain.”

She walked over and stood in front of the whole team. Just three feet from Captain Thomas who was having trouble only staring at her face. When she knew she had everyone’s attention she spoke, “Dan, John, Eric and Scott are here to answer any questions. I will leave for a while until John let’s me know that you have finished any questions of them you might want answered. I’ll be back.” With that, she disappeared.

All of them were staring at where Bethany Anne had just been. John got impatient after about ten seconds, “Anyone have any questions?” He had been through this with Bobcat before so was he wasn’t surprised with most of what they wanted to know. It was a good talk and after another hour they decided to continue through dinner. They retired to the boardroom and continued the discussion after the help stepped out. Dan let them watch the video two more times and they politely moved to other conversations when the dishes were cleared and the desserts and coffee were brought in.

It took them about half of the time to finish their questions about the UnknownWorld that could be answered and others regarding Bethany Anne. There were a couple of questions they would not answer, but otherwise everyone felt the group was very open. They asked some questions on the ships and Dan felt the answers would be best handled by Bethany Anne. He reached over and clicked a button on his phone. About a minute later the door opened and Bethany Anne came in. She still wore her guns. She took the chair at the head of the table, “Questions?”

Thomas was voted the single point of contact and so he worked through the questions they had.

“Yes, the first is we are Navy and while we can run this ship, there isn’t a way we can fight this ship.”

She agreed, “True. One of your first tasks will be to review this ship and suggest all appropriate changes we can do keeping the look but having bite. Your familiar with “Q” ships?” Everyone shook their heads yes. “Good. Same idea except submarines aren’t the only target and we aren’t a merchant ship. TQB Enterprises has a very eccentric owner who likes to boat all over the world into magical locations.”

Thomas continued, he liked that concept. “What about budget and crew?”

“The crew on this ship must change. I don’t want a single original crew person to be here past yesterday if I could do anything about it. You would work with Lt. Commander Wagner and Frank to crew this ship as fast as possible. Don’t hire any that you don’t believe can take on the challenge. I’ll not kid you, this is a battle and the chance of dying is legitimate. You will have to let me know what the right package for the danger is. So far, you have this ship and another to repurpose and make presentable.”

“Another ship? Certainly not another one as big as this?” Bethany Anne laughed at this remark and everyone was relieved. Working on this ship was already going to be a challenge.

“Goodness no! The other is what I’m told a sea taxi.” They all scrunched up their faces. “You know? For the helicopters, ships, sea-do’s, submarines and whatever your insanely rich and eccentric take with them around the world.”

“Just how big is this other ship?”

“Something like 70 meters or so?”

“Your telling me that you have another ship about 225 ft long to go along with this one?”

She grinned, “Yup! So, you know, hurry up and get Wagner here moving up the chain because I need a captain, Captain! How are we going to grow the TQB Navy if we don’t hire from within?”

“How do you fund all of this?” He was still working on the whole second ship at 225 feet in length.

“Because after a 1,000 years a vampire can get quite wealthy with their fingers in a LOT of businesses. Especially if they aren’t all that ashamed to listen in on private conversations on Wall Street. TQB Enterprises throws off a bunch of extra cash and I’m using some of that cash for these acquisitions. I’m worth more money than you can draw circles in a row it seems. My longer term plan is to at least make these neutral cost concerns, but that is for the General to deal with at the moment. I need you,” and then she looked at every face paying attention to her, “every one of you to focus on the long term goal.”

Thomas wanted to make sure he understood. “The long term being getting rid of the Forsaken?” He knew she had said that the Forsaken was a near-term goal. What did she want, World Peace?

She focused on the Captain. “No, the Forsaken are a blight on the World and need to be addressed. If they ‘give up’ their desire to make humans their cattle I’ll leave them alone. There is a bigger problem that is facing us and the Forsaken is a speed bump on the road to protecting the world.”

“What do we need to protect the world from? Knowledge of vampires?”

She smiled, “Well, in the short term yes. Can you imagine the issues with the religious groups if a vampire was proven? Probably increase church attendance, which might not be too bad if we don’t get the Inquisition again. No, there are bigger problems that I will share. The challenge is just how much I and my team have dumped on your this evening. I am not asking you to follow until the end, but long enough to take care of the Forsaken. By then, I will have shared the longer term goal and you can decide if you want to re-up for that fight. Is that fair?” With this, she looked down the table on both sides. Everyone was shaking their heads in agreement.

Jean Dukes spoke, “Excuse me, but I was talking with Scott and he mentioned that this boat was taken from a Shiekh. He wouldn’t say what happened, will you share?”

“Yes. I’ll share. The reason that Scott wouldn’t share with you is that the experience was personal for me. We had intelligence that the Sheikh was a dangerous man and was probably guilty of murdering woman in International waters. We talked with the Saudi family and they agreed if we took him out for his crimes, we could purchase the boats. I gassed this boat to knock everyone out below. When I made it to the owners suite, I found the Sheikh in his bed with his latest victim. She had been horribly abused and sexually molested. I took it pretty hard and my team lead had to help me get my shit together again.”

“What did you do?”

“I tortured the son-of-a-bitch for an hour and then cut off his head and shoved his ass off the boat.”

Jean Dukes quietly swallowed. This woman showed no more guilt at killing this man than if she had accidentally stepped on a bug.

John Grimes spoke up then. Everyone turned to face him. “We, her security team, tried the twelve remaining security men and found them guilty of failure to protect the innocent as well as their charge. We, the team, executed them and sent them to the deep before we had a funeral for Natalia. You need to know that every one of us will follow Bethany Anne to the darkest pit and climb back out until eternity comes. We will not falter, we will not hesitate and we will not accept evil in any of its forms. Whether it is a Forsaken vampire or evil human they will receive the same from us. We will kill them all and not even monsters in the night will stop us.”

Todd Jenkins took another look at the team lead. He had been hiding his strength under a bushel, apparently. Because there was no fucking way he wanted to meet this man in a dark alley. He was brave, not foolish.

Bethany Anne took back over, “We aren’t seeking to right everyone’s wrongs, but we won’t shy away if it is stuck in front of us, either. I read your jacket, Jean. If you see that happen again and it was two people from one of my ships? You had better save their souls and kill them yourself because I gauran-fucking-tee you their screams will wake up their mothers for years to come if I ever got ahold of them. Do you understand what I’m saying, all of you?”

The cynics in the group, if there were any, lost their shit when Bethany Anne’s eyes started glowing red and they could sense the barely restrained righteous anger she was feeling over a hypothetical situation. This woman didn’t think righteous anger, she was righteous anger personified. Jean J. Dukes had found the avatar for her indignation over the event that caused her to lose her Navy commission.

She knew she wouldn’t be pulling ropes to help John Grimes and his team out of the darkest pit because her ass would already be in it fucking shit up. John Rodriquez watched as Jean Dukes became committed. This was the woman he left the Navy over and by god this was the woman he would fight and sail with as well. He looked over at Captain Thomas and shook his head yes. That caused everyone to take a vote right then and it was unanimous.

Bethany Anne had the start of a Navy. She looked around the table. Every one was looking towards her for instructions. She purposefully turned her attention to Captain Thomas causing everyone to look at him as well. “Captain, you and your crew are hereby accepted into my Cadre. You personally will report to Dan Bosse for the time being. Run facts, projects and budget through him. Dan, this group’s starting budget is Fifty Million to get moving.”

She looked around the table, her casual mention of $50 million dollars had a couple stupefied. “Hey!” she slapped the table a couple of times, “You people are on the clock! We have some FCC’s to fuck up. Stop staring around as if your a newb in the big city people!”

Jean couldn’t help herself, “FCC’s?”

Bethany Anne stood up and raised an eyebrow and smiled, “Forsaken Cocks and Cunts. Now get busy.” She disappeared, again.

Captain Thomas just smiled, Hell Yes! “You heard the boss, let’s get busy! Rodriquez, Engines. Dukes and Jenkins get together on guns and defense. Wagner, let’s get our heads together with Bosse and Kurns on people. Jameson, see if you can get with whoever works with the Helicopter pilot and figure out what we can fly. I’m guessing you might not be on the boat, but you wouldn’t have been invited if there wasn’t something for you to do.”

Paul just shook his head in agreement. John caught his attention and gave him a signal to get with him. They broke up and started working.



CHAPTER NINETEEN

Constanta, Romania

Ivan had gone to bed. He didn't want to interrupt Stephen and Gabrielle. Well, that wasn't true. He did want to interrupt but it was obvious they had stuff to talk about. He had a crush, he was certain. She had dimples to die for, she was so cute.

Huh, he thought, she was a vampire so he supposed dying was a possibility. He spent another hour thinking about her before sleep finally took him.

He woke up at 9:00 AM, about the same time that Stephen usually did. He got up and dressed. This time in jeans and a button down long sleeve shirt. That he could slip on dress shoes and go out on the town was inconsequential. Yeah, right! He was dressing to impress. How he could impress a vampire who was probably hundreds of years old, he had no idea.

He had been texting with Ecaterina and she told him that she was happily involved with Nathan. If his sister could have a werewolf boyfriend, why couldn't he date a vampire? Stephen was cool, fun and living with excitement ever since Bethany Anne had met with him. What would Gabrielle be like?

Ivan had to admit that so far, his experiences with vampires was completely tainted with his experience of Bethany Anne. Stephen had told him a couple of stories that could curl your short ones for what Vampires have done 'back in the day'.

He left his room and went to the kitchen. Opening the refrigerator, he pulled the eggs out. The shelf below had Stephen's blood. Having the blood right there was a little weird at first, now Ivan didn't even think about it.

Alone, he made an omelette with tomatoes and cucumbers. He added some feta cheese to the side and brewed a pot of coffee with it. He was surprised that Stephen was a coffee snob of the highest order. Every morning, he would grind coffee beans to make a brew. Ivan enjoyed it, but normally Stephen was up first and had the coffee already made. Just as he finished laying everything out, Stephen came walking in.

He actually looked a little tired. He went to the cupboard and grabbed a mug, then walked to Ivan and put it out. Ivan raised his eyebrows but poured him a cup. Stephen would be able to smell that this wasn't fresh ground.

All he did was take his mug with him and sit at the table. "Good morning, Ivan. I'm sorry, but I need coffee in me before I make coffee." With that declaration, he started to sip the hot beverage. "Even this vile stuff. Maybe I'll only need half a cup."

Ivan smiled as he put back the carafe. Sitting down across from Stephen, he started on his own food and coffee. "Long night?"

"Yes, it was good to really catch up with Gabrielle again. She has been awake for a long time and went through most of this computer and internet revolution."

"So, she doesn't need any training?" Ivan was a little disappointed.

Stephen hid his smile behind his mug. "Oh, not so sure she couldn't get a few pointers here and there, however; what she will need is more information on the black web."

Black web? "Oh, you mean the dark web?"

Stephen wave a hand lazily in Ivan's direction. "Black, dark, morose, whatever web it is that the bad guys use. That one."

"Is she going to do some work with you?"

Stephen stood up and walked over to get his coffee beans. This morning, he was finishing a small package of Mocha Java from Yemen. He went through the process of making a proper coffee while he talked with Stephen. "Yes, she is going to work with me and Bethany Anne. You know that Michael hadn't been back in Europe since before the American Revolution?"

"No, not exactly. I'm not up on all of the politics and history of either the Americans or the Vampires. No offense."

Stephen smiled, "None taken my friend. Well, Michael is, or was, the first Vampire. It is from him that my brothers and I were made. He was up in England, I think, following two Forsaken who took a boat to hide from his wraith. So, he followed them to the colonies. By the time he finally found and killed them, he had fallen in love with the people and wrote my brother and I a letter to tell us to take care of Europe as the strictures required. He had decided he was staying in the new country."

Stephen cleaned the grinder as the coffee percolated. He continued his story. "So, David and I took over responsibility for Europe. David was mostly in Germany at that time. I'm not sure if he is still there or where he is, exactly. We charged our children as well regarding the Forsaken. However; there have been a couple of times when I have slept a little too long. Gabrielle has been the one to help me the most when it comes to tracking down the Forsaken. Unfortunately, she has a softer heart for both her family and humans. She claims she follows the 'spirit' of the strictures, not exactly the rules. She was worried last night that Bethany Anne had come here to kill me for Petre's actions."

"Really? Would Bethany Anne have killed you for Petre' because of some, what, rule book?"

Stephen took his first sip and his whole face relaxed. He sat down at the table across from Ivan again. "Well, if she were following the strictures, that is a possibility. However; my queen is a noble woman and even if she is doing something wrong, it is for the right reasons. She did come here to find out why I had allowed Petre' to be such an ass. I guess it was obvious even to her that when I answered the door, I was in no shape to be following the activities of my children. That Gabrielle still mostly follows the old ways is a testament to her strength, not my parenting." He took another sip. Coffee was to be enjoyed, not swallowed like it was medicine to take on your way out the door.

Ivan got up and started cleaning his dishes. "So, she was surprised by your age, I take it?"

"Yes, very much so! It is one of the reasons, I think, she has decided to work with me to get Europe back on track for Bethany Anne. I'm afraid that Carl, and therefore Michael, might have been a little unaware that Europe wasn't as protected as maybe they thought it was. I can tell you that I was never such a harsh dealer of death or so angry if someone besmirched my Honor. Considering my indelicate activities with the fairer sex at times, I hardly judged others who had occasional indiscretions."

"What would you judge them for?"

"Oh, if anyone make a remark about Michael in front of me, that would not be allowed. Even I understand that to allow disrespect of the Patriarch is a recipe for revolt and rebellion. However; if they were disrespectful in my presence in etiquette, that might be only slightly punished. In the old days, Michael could take even breaches of etiquette as an affront to his Honor."

Ivan pointed to the carafe with a little remaining Mocha Java and Stephen held out his mug, "Thank you." Ivan just nodded.

"What do you think are the other reasons?"

"I'm sorry, what other reasons?" Stephen knew exactly what Ivan was asking. He might be centuries old, but his mind was now razor sharp again.

"You mentioned that Gabrielle had multiple reasons to work with you on Europe for Bethany Anne?"

"Ah, yes. Well, part of that is she is a wonderful daughter who truly cares for her papa. That she still does after all of these years is a testament to me finally choosing a wonderful person to change. It is a good thing I got her right, at least. She was a handful to deal with after the change, let me tell you that."

"Do you have any other daughters?" Ivan looked curious, not like he was seeing if there were options.

"No!" Stephen had a wide grin. "Oh, no. Gabrielle is a fantastic child, but she was such a handful when she was first turned that it totally put me off changing women ever again. I had to listen to her for twenty five years tell me I should do this, I should do that. Don't date that woman, don't cheat with her. Why was I doing this and why can't I do that. It was emotionally draining.

When I finally realized that she had sucked the joy of female companionship completely out of my life for more than two years, I threw her out of my house!" Stephens eyes were shining in the morning light.

Ivan smiled, "Ok, most of that I believe. You throwing her out of the house? I find that hard to believe."

Stephen deflated on himself with a smile. He wasn't going to trick Ivan with this half-believed lie. Stephen leaned forward, "Can you keep a secret, Ivan?"

What secrets wasn't he keeping at the moment? There were vampires and werewolf's and even his uncle could change into a bear. "Yes, why?"

Stephen talked in a conspiratorial whisper, "I paid a Frenchmen to seduce Gabrielle and they went to Paris on honeymoon. It was the best gold I had spent that century. It took me almost a year to stop looking over my shoulder on every date to see if Gabrielle was watching!" Stephen leaned back against the chair, resting as if a large weight had finally lifted from his shoulders.

Ivan had to laugh at that part of the story. This he could believe. The Stephen he knew would certainly do that much.

Stephen continued, "When I saw her again it was twenty years later. She had stayed with the Frenchman until he passed away and Paris had helped my little dragonfly to open wings she didn't know she had. She was still tough, but she was never as much the curmudgeon she had been before. For that alone, I will always have a soft heart for French people and Paris." He waved his cup of coffee towards Ivan as if it was a salute, and finished the drink and put it down on the table.

"Stephen, other reasons?"

"Yes. She heard what Petre' was doing and realized that she had been lax in actively tracking down rumors of things amiss in the UnknownWorld. She said she ran across two other children in the past decade and all admitted their reports they shared with Carl were maybe a little fabricated and light on details. They had each had only two run-ins with Nosferatu within the past twenty years, so it felt very much that there were no problems in Europe. Now, based on what is going on in America, she wonders if that is because they were focused on the United States, or if it is was on purpose to get us here in Europe to become complacent."

"That's not concerning or anything."

"True. It is why she is going to move here with us. She will take my old room down stairs. We can make it up a little nicer, but it is protected from the sun."

"She truly cannot be touched by the sun?" Ivan's concern shaded his voice.

"All of my children have some defense against the sun. For Petre' it was very painful and in minutes could kill him. For Gabrielle, it would take more, but it does hurt her pretty quickly. However; it would take a while before her skin would do more than show a very nasty sunburn. After having to endure the pain a couple of times, she takes precautions to not accidentally be hit by direct sunlight."

"Can Bethany Anne do anything to help her? Maybe, I don't know, make it so she can be in the sun?"

Stephen considered his question. "You know, I don't have an answer to that. It would be beyond helpful to the group if she could do something like this. I will have to text and ask Bethany Anne to call and talk." Stephen seemed to go inside himself, thinking.

Plus, Ivan mused, he could get to see more of Gabrielle during the day.

Shortly after that, they broke up and agreed to start their training in an hour. Stephen went to text Bethany Anne and he wanted to review Facebook as well.


CHAPTER TWENTY

Nassau, Bahamas

Bethany Anne was looking through offensive and defensive ideas the group had put together for her ship. Captain Thomas and Lt. Commander Wagner had just taken Shelly with Pete and Scott to go see the SEA AXE. It was just fifteen minutes away, but her yacht was already getting a lot of attention and frankly it made her uneasy.

He phone dinged with a text. It was Stephen asking her to call when she had a moment. Considering this was Stephen’s first time reaching out to her, she certainly wanted to encourage his use of technology. She texted him back that she would call in five minutes. She could have called right then, but she didn’t want him to think he would get an immediate response every time.

She called Dan. He answered on the first ring.

“Yes BA?”

She rolled her eyes, “Has John got to you as well? I thought we were done with that ‘BA’ crap.”

She heard Dan’s laughing on the other side of the line. “Well, actually we all caught a portion of the ‘A’ team this morning and one of the new guys mentioned the similarity and John encouraged it. Since BA was bad ass, it kind of got attached with you.”

“‘B.A.’ wasn’t short for ‘bad ass’, it was ‘bad attitude’. Can’t those clowns get their bad 80’s television information correct?”

“Well, it isn’t like that couldn’t fit either.” Dan stayed quiet after dropping that comment.

“Your lucky your not here with me right now.”

“See? You make my point” Dan’s voice was almost gleeful. A far cry from the stoic agent she first met.

“They should watch what they ask for. They want ‘bad attitude’? I can release that, you know.”

It was Dan’s turn to pause. “You know, I think I’ll let them know that to ‘name it is to claim it.’”

“Sounds like something said in the hood, Dan.”

“Actually, it was a common phrase a religious Aunt and Uncle would often say after seeing the latest Cadillac.”

Religious aunt and uncle? “Dan, how did we get off the subject so horribly?”

“Sorry, I didn’t know that you stated a subject before we were talking.”

“Good point. Here is the subject - what happens if I spend about four or five days back in Romania? Stephen wants to talk and if he needs me over there, can you guys get us moving towards Central America?”

“You going to take the jet over?”

“Yeah, probably. I’ll need at least Paul and my team. However; I don’t want to wait too long. I’ve talked with Nathan. He and Frank have found seven homes for Clarita. When they zero’d on the GPS location from when Adrian died, it gave them the address of a small fortress. From there they have backtracked IP addresses and traffic. Finally they found the money trail as well.”

“You know that others can track you that way as well, right?”

“Like they can’t track a 350 foot long yacht? Really? Idiots deserve to die if they can’t do that much. I’m trusting you guys to figure out how to protect these behemoths. Unfortunately, I’ll probably do a better job of surviving if we really get attacked hard by missiles. I need you guys to be thinking about protecting your soft asses.”

Dan laughed. This was the woman he met in the swamp. “Duly noted. Considering one of those soft asses is mine, I’ll push for good ideas. Where are you thinking of meeting back up?”

“Probably land at Montego Bay in Jamaica. Personal jet there shouldn’t raise any eyebrows. Shelly picks me up and we set sail for the most likely location for Clarita. That should give you guys enough days to pull in some armament. Bring Nathan and Killian down to meet us in Jamaica or if you need to stick around long enough I guess fly them here. Sorry, you know this stuff, I’ll stop stepping on your foot. If Stephen doesn’t need me, that will still be the time frame.”

“Got it. I’ll get with Captain Thomas. What about your dad. If you bring Nathan and Killian he has no cover. Also, what are your thoughts on the SEA AXE?”

“Find out if he wants to join us on the op I suppose. I’m sure he could find a place that is safe enough otherwise. As for the SEA AXE, I’m hoping it has a way to store a helicopter in a hold, or a way to make that happen easily.”

“I don’t think you can hide Shelly down below.”

“I’m not thinking of Shelly. You know my other aircraft in Romania?”

“Yes….”

“Yeah, that one. I figure we fly it out of Romania to just off of Italy’s coast. Well go across as much water as possible. Land it on the SEA AXE, hide that bastard as fast as possible and go from there. I’m going to need a team I can completely trust on that boat, Dan. NO ONE can breath a damn word or we will be the single focus for all the world powers and their guns are way bigger than ours. Work on that concept while I’m gone and you aren’t sleeping. You know, among the whole organizing a new military organization, navy and nascent air power. Get with my dad on those issues. Hey, what am I paying you guys?”

“Nothing right now. Ecaterina dropped 50k into our accounts for anything we need and frankly we have all been so busy the money mostly sits there. Work is too much fun to think about other stuff.”

Bethany Anne snorted, “Right. I’m sure. Ok, since I’m paying you nothing you should double your salary. Actually, all joking aside find the military payment schedule and use that, but add a 50% increase since I am not promising a house for everybody. At eight to ten million a pop, those things are going to add up.”

“Well, you are about to overrun Central America, I’m sure there is a country or two that is a bit cheaper.”

“That isn’t even funny. Well, ok it is slightly funny. The problem is there is a kernel of truth to what your saying so I don’t want people thinking like that. Next thing I know, I’ll have pitchforks and fire coming after me.”

“When your on the water?”

“Hey, they have boats. Got to stay low for a while.”

“On a 350 foot yacht? Your concept of hiding needs some work.”

“What do you want? A dark, dank, cold castle in Transylvania? For all I know, Stephen might have one and I’ll send your ass there. Serve you right for bringing that shit up.”

Dan laughed. “Hey, don’t fight the stone, woman. That is still pretty good protection at times.”

“So is hiding in plain site. Wait until the tabloids get ahold of us, we will ALWAYS be in the news.”

“Yeah, I know. The next time we can rest easy will be up there.”

“Pretty much. It’s space or dust.”

“Ok. Let me know if your going and I’ll give Jameson the heads up to be prepared. Where do you want to land?”

“Mihail Kogălniceanu International Airport, I think it’s only about twenty to thirty miles from Stephen’s house.”

“Alright, I’ll get him looking into it. Are you taking Ecaterina?”

Bethany Anne thought about that. She really wanted the owners quarters changed, but Ecaterina had been away from family for a while. “Yeah, if she can be away from Nathan that long. I’ll call and ask her. But I need that owners cabin changed. It bugs me that it hasn’t been redone yet.”

“We will get it done, even poorly is better than nothing.”

“Alright, I’m going to call Stephen now. I’ll let you know what’s going on shortly, bye.”

Dan said his goodbye and hung up.

She hit Stephen’s name on the phone. It rang twice before he picked up, “Bethany Anne!” He was always enthusiastic when he spoke to her, it made her smile.

“How is my favorite v-guy?”

“V-guy? Oh, I get it! I am very well. Aren’t I the only v-guy you know?”

“Other than the still absent Michael, yes you are. Even if he were here, he is not a favorite of mine in any way. Well, unless you want me to include you on my favorite-person-I-want-to-slap-the-shit-out-of list. Then he beats you.”

“No, no, I’m good.” Stephen couldn’t even fathom the idea of trying to slap Michael. Either Bethany Anne didn’t have the same relationship with Michael he did, or she was a braver or just more reckless person. “So, to quickly bring you up to speed, my daughter Gabrielle came here last night. She is going to join my effort to take care of Europe. I’m afraid that the status of Europe might not be as solid as I had thought when we spoke last. Also, Ivan had an idea that perhaps you might be able to help her?”

“In what way? Is something wrong?”

“Well, you know of my lack of a skin affliction?”

“Yes…”

“Well, she has one. It isn’t as bad as Petre’s was, however; Ivan and now I am wondering if there is anything you could do to adjust the affliction?”

Bethany Anne could almost hear Stephen hold his breath. He was such a cute little vampire lothario. He cared for his daughter while shooting little blanks as often as he could. Bethany Anne had been getting updates from Ivan about Stephen’s infatuation with Tinder. “Hold on a second, Stephen.”

“Ok.”

TOM, is it possible to do what he is asking?

He wants to know if her Nanocytes are able to be corrected so she can walk in the sun as well?

Yes.

I’ll work out the procedure. If we just use your blood it will be mitigated. But to be absolutely sure of success we could use my ship.

Our ship.

Fine, our ship. 

If we use my blood, how can we be assured she doesn’t get some of the additional bonuses?

One sec.

Bethany Anne waited patiently for the few seconds TOM used the Kurtherian computer to figure out whatever it was he needed to figure out.

Ah, good point. We should only do a complete effort aboard the ship.

Ok, thanks.

“Ok, Stephen, the short answer is yes. The longer answer is it will take me time to setup. I have to get a ship about five thousand miles and move another craft. Then, I’ll have to take her on a trip for … one sec.”

TOM?

If we fill her with blood to capitalize on the Etheric power, maybe a week? It would help if I had a chance to find out more about her nanocytes before we did this.

So, your asking to get a blood sample? How would you check it out? Oh, you want me to inject myself with her blood?

Well, it isn’t as if I have any other equipment here with me.

This shit is just gross, let me tell you. The things I do for friends.

Not to mention saving the world.

Yeah, well at the moment I’m more interested in helping a friend than saving the world. I’m sure those bastards are going to piss me off enough that I have to take the little victories where I can.

I understand that.

As far as Stephen could tell, she was only gone for about half a second.

“Call it about two weeks.”

“You think you can truly do this?”

“Well, provided I can get the ships in place and no one is upset with us, I am positive we can make this happen. It will take time to adjust her body, but she will sleep through most of that.”

“That is positively wonderful! Can you do anything in the mean time? I don’t want to ask too much so…”

“No worries. I want to meet Gabrielle anyway and I need to get a better read on what is happening there in Europe. I have a plane here in the Bahamas with me. The pilot is finding out when we can take off. I expect to have my team of four plus a pilot there. Maybe Ecaterina as well. I’m sure Frank would love to meet you, but I need him focused on Clarita so he can’t come this time.”

“Clarita?”

“Yeah, you remember that prick Adrian I called you about? Well, it’s his dear old Mom who hangs out in Central America. I’m going to go and fire her from her job, very permanently.   There are problems on top of problems making the meeting happen. The least of which is we are on her home turf. I have no idea how dug in she is. Fortunately, we have been able to track a lot of her resources and residences down through money trails. Unfortunately, she has a lot of contacts in the governments in the nations. She isn’t going to be easy, that’s for sure.”

“You want some extra help?”

Bethany Anne was surprised. As far as she knew, Stephen really didn’t like traveling outside of Europe. “Let me think about that. We need to find out how bad Europe is from Gabrielle. I would hate to solve one problem only to have Europe blown up in our faces with you absent.   Expect me there by Midnight at the airport. Ask Ivan to setup proper transportation for three. I’ll leave three with the plane. Probably be there at most two maybe three days and then leaving again.”

“Ok, we will be ready.”

“Good. I’ll text you the final information when I get it from the pilot.” She said her good-byes and hung up. She contacted Dan and Ecaterina. Dan let her know that Shelly would be back in an hour and Paul would be ready in three hours. Ecaterina would like to go, but felt she had too much right now to make the trip. She would have a video call with Ivan often enough during the week she didn’t feel a need to go see him.

Bethany Anne was relieved that her stateroom would be done by the time she got back. An hour later Shelly was back. She got with Captain Thomas and Lt. Commander Wagner. She took them each aside and with her ability to ascertain the truth confirmed that they were on board with everything. She asked them both to join her with Dan in the Captains ready room while Bobcat saw to Shelly getting fueled back up.

The four of them sat around the table. “Thank you guys for jumping on everything so quickly. Now, I need to throw another challenge your way.” The two navy guys just looked at each other. They were both as happy as little kids with the pace and opportunities that they had right now. What could she possibly throw as a new challenge?

Captain Thomas spoke up, “Your adding this on top of the offense, defense and hiring binge we have going on? It isn’t a complaint, I just want to know the priorities.”

“Yes, and no. Those three items are still in place, I just need to bring the both of you in on some information that is only explained to those at the top of TQB Enterprises. That is both Business and Military. It is the reason I had to ask you guys under oath to know your true feelings on everything.”

Wagner spoke up, “It felt almost like a compulsion to tell the truth. Was there a gas in the room?”

Bethany Anne considered how he had asked the question. With so many stories in major media regarding powers of vampires, she never considered just fabricating a story to explain it away. “No, but I’m going to take that idea and run with it. One of the Etheric abilities I have is to tweak a humans brainwaves to require them to tell the truth. It can do more, and less.   However; I don’t like doing it to friends as it can leave behind emotional problems of trust. Every person that has been a part of this information I am about to divulge, including my father, has been tested under the oath.”

Both Thomas and Wagner relaxed a little. That she treated her own father the same way did make a difference to them. That her father had required her to put him through the oath was inconsequential to the conversation.

“The beginning of the vampire ‘race’, if you will, was started on an alien spaceship in the mountains of Romania.” Both of the men sat back at that announcement. She could tell Wagner was putting two and two together much quicker. The Germans had a lot of stories going back in time that his parents probably shared with him. For Thomas, he was focused on the alien comment.

Dan spoke up. “We have several simultaneous operations we need to have occur. I need to get this craft some offensive and defensive ability in just three days. At the same time, I need to have the SEA AXE on its way to Italy. Does the SEA AXE have a hanger?”

Captain Thomas spoke up, “Yes. Quit a nice one actually. We might be able to even get Shelly in there if we need to. Not sure we could stuff her into the hold if she is fully loaded but it might happen.”

“That is good to know, but we don’t want to put Shelly in there. We want to put a flying saucer in there.”

Wagner spoke up, first. “Really? The original saucer is still available? Can it fly over to the SEA AXE or are we going to have to do something to move it?”

Bethany Anne took this one. “I’m told that it can still fly, however; that hasn’t been tested. It might start and crash. It might fly all the way to the ship and crash right next to it.”

Would you stop talking about crashing? That ship is fine for another flight!

Who is going to be flying it?

Well, certainly I am… Oh. I’ll be doing it in your body. If you don’t suck at flying an alien spaceship we will be fine…

None of the men noticed her quick conversation with TOM. “So, long story short we should be able to lift off in the mountains, fly down to the Black Sea and fly near Istanbul over to the Sea of Marmara. From there stay close to the water all the way to the SEA AXE. Land it, put it in the hanger and get the hell out of dodge.”

Wagner was scratching his face in thought. “The SEA AXE has a Sikorsky S-76 on it right now. We can keep that one and fly it off, land the UFO and put the helicopter back on top. If we have no one watching then we just mosey back out. Any ideas where we are going to hang out after that?”

“Probably somewhere we can keep people and communications under strict control. I’m thinking we are going to need to buy our own island somewhere. Probably near the Equator that isn’t too far from a major commercial hub. Eventually, we need to build a way to take people up into space. What I haven’t shared so far is…” Then, Bethany Anne explained the Kurtherian and their effort to change humanity. How the first effort created the vampire race and how it had mistakes from the beginning. She had to admit she was the first correctly changed human. Her focus was getting the world ready to take on possible Alien invasion or attacks.

Captain Thomas considered her statements. He had wanted to be a part of something bigger, now he was realizing just how big the challenge was. His earlier comments about outfitting the Polarus and SEA AXE seemed a little trite.

Bethany Anne realized both men were starting to get overwhelmed thinking about all of the steps they needed to accomplish. “Hey, guys, slow it down a bit. We can’t eat this Elephant right now. We take small bites consistently. I have a shit load of resources that we are all fighting to get our arms around. My father, as you know, is a General who had to deal with a lot of bureaucracy, so he is working on the business side. You guys need to focus on the navy side of this and Dan is working to pull together all of the military side. With his experience, and Franks as well, we have a lot of knowledge that will help. We are trying to stay low on the radar as long as possible. However; if you have people you think can get on board with protecting the world from Forsaken right now, and then the world from aliens in the future we probably need to know about it now. It won’t be a quick fight. It will be long, arduous and it will take the tenacity of everyone on the teams.”

Thomas spoke up, “This is what you were saying about signing up for the next fight?”

“Yes, yes it is. The group that vampires belong to are known as the ‘UnknownWorld’. I’m not even fully clued in to that aspect yet. The UnknownWorld include Were’s and other things. They don’t suffer from lycanthropy, or at least I don’t know of any yet. They have also been affected by aliens from what I can tell. Just not the same group of aliens that changed me. We have so much to accomplish I haven’t spent as much time trying to figure them out yet. I need to go to Europe now and I need the SEA AXE moving there as quick as possible. With a crew that you absolutely trust to keep their mouth shut. I will test everyone under the Oath as soon as possible.”

“What happens if we get someone on board that fails that test?” While Captain Thomas asked the question, both showed interest in the answer.

“Provided they aren’t actively against us, I will adjust their memories and we will fly them back to their home with a small severance package. If they are actively against us we will have to take that on a case-by-case basis. We aren’t a government, so we don’t have the power at this time to keep people off of our backs until we are in outer space. At that time, we have the ability to speak softly, but carry a much larger stick.”

As military men, they understood the concept well enough. “Who is the ultimate authority?”

“It all comes down to me, gentleman. I hate to say it, but there really isn’t any country I trust to deal with this that I feel comfortable leaving all of the decisions to right now. In the future? Probably. We are going to be offering so much to the world in a short order that I hope we get left alone. Otherwise, we are going to need political capital to spend. On the plus side, if we are able to keep the major pieces under wraps we have a few years before the world at large learns anything. By that time, I hope to have enough accomplished that we have our protections in place and a big enough stick to keep the major powers off of our backs.”

They talked a little while longer and it was decided that Wagner would take the SEA AXE as soon as possible and start heading towards Italy. The two of them would sequester themselves with Frank and start sending out requests to those they knew that were either out of the military or were due up soon. First priority would be to those without families.

Bethany Anne left the discussion to the three men and went up to Shelly after stopping by her room. Her team was at the Black Hawk with Pete. She threw her go bag into the chopper and jumped on. The helicopter took off. There were two boats with tourists watching her ship and taking pictures. A couple had telephoto lenses on their camera’s. The stalking had started. She thought about getting some eye candy to hang out on the ship to focus the camera’s attention. She looked around her group, all pretty buff men. “Hey, who wants to walk around with their shirt off for me?” She smiled at all of their confused faces. Hell, she had no HR department to worry about. They made the Nassau airport without any issues and Bobcat sat the bird down like a feather, again.

The team was back in protection detail mode. John and Eric in front, then Bethany Anne and finally Scott and Darryl. Pete stayed with Bobcat.

The four of them went over to the plane. John and Eric split up. John went up the stairs while Eric went around the plane. Darryl and Scott stayed with an impatient Bethany Anne.

John popped his head back out and nodded. The three went up and Eric finished his check of the aircraft and closed the door behind them. Paul Jameson had the craft moving just a couple of minutes later.

It was a quiet flight to Romania. The team considered the tactics they would need to employ to take a queen out of her nest with decades or centuries of planning.  Normally fighting other Forsaken. None of them thought this was going to be easy. It became obvious why Michael’s group didn’t do this much themselves.

The only way to make this happen was to work with Bethany Anne’s ability to slip through the Etheric. The team would stage an attack and get everyone entrenched defending their team’s attacks while Bethany Anne went solo. While she would prefer to just blow everything up, it wasn’t considered the best solution.



CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE

Constant, Romania

The plane landed gracefully. Eric and Scott got the nod to stay with Paul on the plane. Stephen, Ivan and Gabrielle met Bethany Anne at the airport with two vehicles, both Mercedes Benz. Each had the VIP protection package added.

They smelled new. Gabrielle, Stephen, John and Bethany Anne took one. Darryl and Ivan took the other.

The ride over to Stephen’s house was a short catch up for Bethany Anne and the introduction of John and Gabrielle. Gabrielle had to rethink her opinion of humans after meeting Bethany Anne’s team. All of the big Americans knew what she was, but had marked her as a minor threat. It wasn’t that they relied on Bethany Anne, but rather they had been tested and felt they had a chance against her. They were certainly professional in their dealings and had constant vigilance.

Then there was Bethany Anne herself. She radiated power to Gabrielle. She walked as the wind and hid her power rather than using it to awe and overpower her and Stephen. She hugged Stephen as an old friend all the while quickly getting off of the tarmac and into the vehicles. Quickly, the team was moving towards Stephens house.

Stephen was the designated driver while Gabrielle rode beside him up front. Even this was directed quietly and quickly by John as they approached the car. Gabrielle briefly considered just jumping in the car with Ivan, but she needed to be in this car to be a part of the first conversations with Bethany Anne.

Bethany Anne spoke from the back, “Gabrielle, has Stephen spoke to you about making it so you can walk in the sun?”

She turned in the seat to see Gabrielle behind her father easier. “Yes, I can’t say I don’t have a hard time believing, but he has told me about it.”

“Good. We have more to talk about, but I have a vessel who will take a couple of weeks to get close to Italy. When that happens, I need to come back over to Romania and fetch another ship that we will fly down to the SEA AXE. When this happens, you will need to come with me. I’m told the changes will probably take about a week. You sleep through most of it. You will be with me and my team. Before that happens, you will need to have some tests done so we can prepare for your surgery. When you wake up, your nanocytes will be modified and fixed. Your inability to go out into the sun is due to malfunctioning nanocytes. Consider them a genetic problem if you are having difficulty following me.”

“No, not difficulty except that nanocytes are what, exactly? Aren’t they like little robots in the blood?”

“Yes. The scientific discussion goes something like this: Communication of living systems is done by molecular recognition. This central principle of the living world is performed at the contact sites of different objects such as single macromolecules or highly complex supramolecular assemblies as which living cells may be described. Molecular recognition capabilities are evoked by the nanocytes. Every vampire has nanocytes in their bodies coming from the original, Michael. Unfortunately, the nanocytes in Michael’s body had not been adjusted to deal with human DNA correctly so each generation takes the mutations from the previous generation and provides less ideal modifications to the generation they produce. The original effort on Michael was not adjusted and it was very painful. It seems that our Sun caused the first mutations to occur to the nanocytes so it is very rare that the ability to walk in the sun is carried forward. That Stephen has the ability to walk in the sun was due to something in his own DNA I’m sure. That human DNA trait is what was passed to you.”

“So, these little machines are what make me a Vampire? Why do we need blood, then?”

“Well, the machines need energy, they get their energy through sources within blood. It isn’t completely required, however; it is the fastest and most highly effective method.”

“Is this why my father now drinks only bagged blood?”

Bethany Anne looked at Stephens head as he drove, “This is true, Stephen? You don’t drink from humans anymore?”

He spoke from the front seat, “I don’t. I haven’t gone out too much since I last saw you. Ivan has been at the house and I’ve been learning so much technology that I haven’t felt a need for additional knowledge. So, Ivan is off limits and I never preferred to drink from guys anyway. It was easier and frankly I liked the fact that I wasn’t needing to hurt humans to keep myself alive. It is something that has bothered me deeply for hundreds of years.”

“I’ve noticed you look strikingly young from the last time we met. Your quite a dashing man, Stephen.”

Gabrielle laughed at the blush creeping up Stephen’s neck. “Ah, thank you.”

“Yeah, just so you know that Momma is watching young man. I won’t accept you running out and breaking hearts everywhere with your wicked good looks and vampire mind tricks.”

Stephen laughed this time, “Believe it or not, I never did that to get dates before. Now, I have the biggest attraction possible to get female attention for myself.”

“Really, whats that?”

“You. If I walk into any restaurant with you on my arm, every woman there would immediately want me.”

Gabrielle was just shaking her head in agreement. John was trying not to smirk and failing miserably.

“What?” Bethany Anne was stupefied for a second.

“Why, didn’t you know that, Bethany Anne?” His smile wasn’t hidden from his voice.

“No. What are you talking about?”

“If a man comes in with women, other women will absolutely notice him. It is something that has been true for hundreds of years. The prettier the woman the man has, the more other woman want him. You woman are very predictable.”

She considered his point. Yeah, if she saw a man with an attractive woman it did tend to bring out the competitive bitch in her. “So, not your debonair looks and scads of money?”

“Why, those just close the deal.” They all laughed. Human or vampire, it seemed women still acted the same.

They arrived at the house. “I meant to ask, this car smells new.”

He put the car in the back, Ivan and Darryl were pulling in behind him.

“Yes, I bought both when you said you wanted to have transportation. I am not going to be reduced to borrowing cars for my queen, that is not permitted. I paid to have these delivered from town. My cars will replace these in two months.”

“What’s wrong with these?”

“Why, They aren’t brand new, of course. Just mostly new.” He smiled at some joke she just didn’t understand. Maybe it was an age thing.

They all got out and went inside.

It was a good two days. As the team started asking for insights on how to work against Clarita from Stephen and Gabrielle, they pointed out that their opponents would be trying to find the female vampire in the group and you couldn’t just use another human.

Bethany Anne was shocked when Gabrielle offered to be the target for her. She answered, “I could say because of the way you took care of my father, and now myself.” Bethany Anne had helped Gabrielle use the bagged blood to reduce her age. “But, the truth is I don’t like to be given handouts when I can pull my own weight. You have already done this,” she waved up and down her now very youthful figure, “And I have your promise to help me enjoy the sun again. I have a very vested interest in you staying alive.”  She smiled at that.

“Well, you might die and not enjoy the sun again, you know?”

“It is ok. Nothing good comes without danger and I think it will give me time to get to know your team. I think I’ve been too lax for the last hundred years. I need to get my edge back. I’m not so bad with a weapon or a sword.”

Gabrielle smiled and Bethany Anne saw the dimples that were driving Ivan nuts. Bethany Anne had taken a selfie with Gabrielle and sent it to Ecaterina with nothing but the picture and ‘This is Gabrielle’. Ecaterina wrote back, ‘Oh no! Dimples are his kryptonite! ;-)”.

Ivan had a hangdog expression the rest of the their time there. Bethany Anne noticed when Gabrielle grabbed Ivan and snuck into a room as others were putting together their luggage for the airport. They came back out five minutes later and Ivan looked gobsmacked. He had a little lipstick on his cheek that she quickly rubbed off. She missed a small amount on his collar. She caught Bethany Anne smiling at her and Gabrielle blushed, shrugged her shoulders and smiled back. Ivan seemed lost in a daze as he wished them all good bye and personally closed Gabrielle’s door.

Bethany Anne told Ivan she wanted a picture with him. She later highlighted the lipstick and sent it to Ecaterina with a smily face.

It was a tight fit, but they only took one car back to the airport. Shortly thereafter, the team took off for Jamaica.


The Queen Bitch’s Ship - Jamaica

There were now five boats that were around the Polarus when Bethany Anne landed. Gabrielle had started dressing to match Bethany Anne and it was decided that the team would start ‘protecting’ Gabrielle. Bethany Anne waited in the chopper until she got word that her room was clear from John and she slipped through the Etheric to her room.

John knocked and she opened the door for him. He handed her the go-bag he had brought from the chopper. It bugged John not to have been protecting Bethany Anne, but there was little choice in the actions. By acting as if Gabrielle was Bethany Anne for now it was the best he could do. Regardless of how different they looked. There were so few female vampires that the only logical conclusion was that Bethany Anne now had a tan. Since so few vampires could go in the sun, who’s to say it would or wouldn’t happen?

Ecaterina came down the hallway, a huge smile on her face. Bethany Anne could hear her walking and so stuck her head out of the stateroom to peer around the corner at her.

Ecaterina smiled even broader when she saw Bethany Anne and pursed her face as if sad to see Bethany Anne in such a horrible room. “Why is it you sleep in this paltry room? Why don’t you come see the new suite!” Bethany Anne’s face was alight in smiles and just pushed the go-bag back into John’s chest.

“Come John, my room awaits!” He closed her door and shook his head. He quickly caught up to the women being very circumspect about just where he let his eyes roam. He didn’t doubt she might have mind reading abilities and he sure as hell didn’t want to upset Nathan either. This is why he preferred operating up in the front. Even the latest knockout was another vampire and it looked like Ivan was hooking up there. What was he going to have to do to find a single human female around here? He smiled at that and just kept on walking.

The suite was huge. They had taken in additional rooms around the original and made it into an operations room and meeting rooms. There were business rooms, and then the inner personal area for Bethany Anne and her protection detail. John had made sure that the teams rooms were nearby and facilities for the two active protection guards detailed to her when on ship. Bethany Anne just accepted the situation as fact without arguing this time.

Huh, John thought, vampires can learn.

Gabrielle joined them halfway through Bethany Anne’s review with Ecaterina. Her eyes were round and she was gawking. It wasn’t like Gabrielle didn’t have a substantial amount of money herself. However; she hadn’t been a vampire as long as Michael nor had she applied herself to building out businesses. This kind of wealth was even beyond her.

They were finishing the tour in Bethany Anne’s new rooms when she calmly informed John he wasn’t permitted to come into her personal bedroom and closet. He just shrugged and went to step outside the door into the sitting room.

Ecaterina gave Bethany Anne a puzzled expression. Bethany Anne walked in the closet and nodded her head as if seeing something she was expecting. When Ecaterina and Gabrielle joined her they both just oohed over the large walk in closet with space for clothes and racks upon racks for shoes. She pointed at the massive amount of shoe space and told Ecaterina, “If Nathan mentions one thing about how many shoes I can put in here, I will beat him senseless and you will have to nurse him back to health. Do you understand?” While Bethany Anne was smiling, Ecaterina knew she wasn’t joking. Ecaterina pantomimed zipping her lips. Bethany Anne turned her head to look at Gabrielle who was enjoying this ladies moment at Ecaterina’s expense. Her smile started dropping when she realized that she was also being held accountable for not mentioning the large closet and shoe space. She decided zipping her lips was a good response as well.

It didn’t stop them from laughing with their eyes when they left the closet.


The Queen Bitch’s Ship - Jamaica

Having spoken with her team while still in Romania, it had been decided to completely close up Miami except for William and have everyone else come to Jamaica. William was responsible for the cars, the leftover helicopter and the houses. Paul had dropped them off in Jamaica and then after a short nap, flown back to Miami to pick up the General, Killian and Nathan.

Bethany Anne slept for a while in her new bed. It was a very comfortable double height. She didn’t, quite, have to jump to get on the bed itself.

Ecaterina had gone shopping for her while she was gone, so there were plenty of her basic clothes. Ecaterina had even picked up a few suits while in Nassau and some of her favorite shoes. She had pretty decent tastes. Gabrielle, however; took it up a notch. She was able to take the basics and weave artistry for Bethany Anne. Just by adding a little something here, or there or even suggesting she pull her hair back was the little difference that made an outfit sing.

They had agreed earlier to talk at 8:00 pm that night in the large room. By the time she got there everyone was present. Eric and Darryl had been at the door to her room. They smiled at her while she rolled her eyes and smiled back, the three of them walked to the meeting.

Everyone had eaten earlier, so Bethany Anne had some finger foods and joined everyone at the table. She sat at the head of the table. Her Father was to her left, Dan was to her right. Frank, Nathan and Ecaterina went down her left side and Captain Thomas, Bobcat and Lt. Wagner went down her right. John’s team stayed standing up with two outside the door to the room and two inside. It seemed the first meeting was getting called into session. The rest of the teams had things to do and were working on them. She had asked and found out that Pete was topside with Killian who was on the highest level with a scope watching the area around them. Todd Jenkins had watch in the bridge at the moment along with Officer Dukes.

She put her plate down and drank some of the Coke that Ecaterina had set beside her. She was a keeper.

“Considering we are not presently in a battle, let’s start on the business side. General?”

Now, her father’s rank had become his title or nickname as much as anything else. Few called him Lance, except Frank. When your as old as Frank and have met so many high ranking military members their rank tended to blend together. Lance really didn’t mind either one. He had come to embrace the new challenges with the businesses. When people called him ‘General’, it grabbed the attention of major CEO’s in an instant. It was a very effective way to cut through the bullshit, he felt.

“We have approximately one thousand two hundred and two businesses we need to follow in the portfolios. Easily over eighty percent need nothing at the moment. However; that leaves us with over two hundred that require attention. Some of these are issues with poor management which will require an adjustment at the board level. Several have individuals which Nathan has found to be channeling funds out of the company in ways we don’t appreciate. Nathan will speak to those in a minute. I have three companies that are large enough and screwed up enough we will need to personally visit them. That will have to wait until after our present operation.”

“Did you check into militarily useful enterprises?”

“Yes. We have seventy four companies that Dan and I are presently reviewing deeper. He will speak to some of the help they have provided so far.” This was getting Bethany Anne’s attention. She had a large interest in things that went ‘boom’.

“As you might imagine, there are a lot of companies which are biological in nature. Some are almost completely research including many with military focused research. There are a few that completely focus on blood and with TOM’s assistance, we might be able to crack the code you are looking for.”

Captain Thomas interrupted, “Excuse me, but who is Tom?”

The General looked like he had committed a faux pas.   Bethany Anne spoke to the group, “My father is mentioning the alien that I speak with who was the pilot of the alien space ship. I have a connection to discuss things with him and it will be with his help we uncover the ‘secrets’ of his ship. His real name is a difficult to remember answer to a mathematical formulae. So, he chose to be know as Thales of Miletus who I have since found out was considered one of the Seven Sages of Greece. I shortened his name to TOM instead of calling him Thales or Thales of Miletus. So, it’s an acronym.”

Both the Captain and Lt. Wagner seemed surprised that she was in communication with a living alien. She wasn’t only ‘in communication’ with one, the guy had jumped aboard without permission.

Fortunately, TOM stayed quiet during this part of the conversation.

She turned back to her father. “Ok, let’s table anything that doesn’t need to happen within the next week. Do you have anything that needs addressing right now? I’ll get with TOM and find out if there is a way to communicate with him without me being the communication bottleneck.”

She went down the chairs on her left and got updates. Nathan mentioned that he was able to track the funds of some of the problem people and a couple were supporting terrorists. He had siphoned those funds and blocked the accounts making it look like the bank had found the problem and would be tracking the leak themselves. That should keep the troublemakers running for the next few weeks.

“You bring up an interesting problem. I’m going to need a way to get rid of these characters quickly.”

Frank took this one. He was significantly younger looker and more vibrant than when she first met him. Now he looked like a fresh faced Colonel Sanders.   White hair, white beard and a bit portly. Thank God he didn’t dress in a white suit. “I’ve connected with Nathan and Interpol. Some of these guys are connected to those who are on the international wanted list. Between Nathan and myself, we think we can get the three parties to meet together and Interpol will get the credit and the takedown leaving us out of it.”

“Do that, however; if that doesn’t work I’m going to want more definitive results. We can use multiple ways to make this happen. However; I don’t want them all to be deaths. I don’t personally care if they die, but eventually someone will look into TQB Enterprises and too many cut brake line deaths are so blasé, you know?” She smiled to take the reality out of her statement. “The more of these people we can snare by using local law enforcement, the better the results in the future will be.”

“Frank?”

“Besides what you have been told so far, we have tracked Clarita down to one of two residences. She is either west of San Jose, Costa Rica or Managua, Nicaragua. Most likely Costa Rica. That puts her about 50 miles from where we would drop anchor. However; it is at least 40 miles over land to get there.”

“I guess it would be too much to ask for her to live right on the beach for us.”

“Indeed.” Everyone smiled. “She is not a day-walker, so this op might be a little easier, but she does have plenty of daytime cover and we really don’t want to fly a Black Hawk over Costa Rica in the daytime if we can avoid it.”

“I can only imagine it would be frowned on. Any chance to get orders cut to allow the flight anyway?”

“Not likely. The US has a strong relationship with Costa Rica but the populace isn’t fond of the US showing military strength. One helicopter isn’t the same as the Navy getting involved in the drug war with the Costa Rican Coast Guard, but unless we have to it would be better for us not to do it. The US consulate is also in San Jose and would probably be getting questions why the military helicopter was around. If we go in at night the most they would know is the sound depending on how high we fly.”

Bobcat piped in, “The will hear us, we aren’t flying that high.”

“Does she live in town?”

“Close enough. She has a property to the west in the richest part of Costa Rica in a town named Escazu. The problem will be that the Ambassadors from many of the countries including the US, Great Britain and the Dutch live out there. We could see issues with the police pretty quickly.”

“Well, she has selected a place that reduces our options. I don’t want to get other countries involved in this op. What if we do the same thing that they did to us up in Florida?”

Dan spoke, “You mean when they got the SWAT team stuck in well before attacking downtown? That’s an idea…”

Everyone thought about that, then Ecaterina mentioned it. “What is the bait?” There were a couple of snorts from John’s team and a grin from the General. They were likely remembering that the General was the bait for Adrian. “Good question, Ecaterina. Let’s work on that right after we finish going around. I think that is what we will do. We need to pull her at least outside if we can. Is there anything that would cause her to come out of her hole? Ok. Ecaterina your up.”

They finished the update on the Polarus and the SEA AXE. Lt. Wagner was ready to go in the morning. A few days late but it had taken them a while to get a crew together. Now, all the old crew was off of both ships. Bethany Anne would have to spend the night interviewing the new crew to make sure they weren’t already bought and paid for by other interests. Whether that meant drugs, family, business or governmental. Everyone in the crew had already been vetted by Frank and Nathan, but there could be nothing left to chance with this crew. It would take them a while to get over there, more than enough time for this op to finish. They would be leaving in the morning as her team left to head to Costa Rica.

She was surprised to learn what ‘fill her up’ meant when you were talking a ship of this size. The fuel bill was almost a quarter of a million dollars for the two ships. Thank God they weren’t empty.

She spent the night with the new crew for the SEA AXE and was surprised to find everyone checked out. They used the ruse of a ‘truth gas’. They didn’t even use any gas at all. They did spray a minor amount of oil on a rag that the Chief Engineer had handy just to help the story become a little more believable.

The next morning the two boats parted ways. She spent the next two and a half days vetting the new crew on the Polarus and generally staying out of sight and let Gabrielle take her place.

Neither Nathan or Frank could get any confirmed information on any of her additional children. So it seemed that Adrian had passed along the warning and it had been taken to heart. Clarita wouldn’t and couldn’t leave. As the top Forsaken in the area she couldn’t allow anyone to see a weakness.

The guys had found four businesses that belonged to Clarita in San Jose. They would start striking them early in the night. Going from one to the next. She should be able to see the flames from her small villa up on the mountain in Escazu. According to Gabrielle, it would be a normal Forsaken effort to destroy the businesses of the leader. This was a slap in the face. If the leader couldn’t protect her own businesses she would lose faith with her followers. Eventually, she would have to take care of the attacker or flee. They hoped that others had learned of the potential attack and would be hanging around the city to see the fireworks. They guessed that some would be there to attack the winner, some to try to win Clarita’s favor by attacking her team. Either way, word would get back to Clarita that it was four humans and a female vampire.

Her team worked with Gabrielle and Bethany Anne became the enemy. Dan used this time to figure out new attack and defense plans. They couldn’t use real ammo and the swords got wrapped up with as much protection as possible. Bethany Anne still got inside Gabrielle’s guard and broke her arm one time. Gabrielle was surprised to see her throwing her personal team around as well. She wasn’t letting up on any of them.

By the time the second round was finished, the five of them were pretty united in their desire to win a point against Bethany Anne.

For her part, Bethany Anne was happy to see them working together. They needed to work as a team and if uniting them against her right now was going to save their lives, then she would make sure they hated her guts for now.

By the time night fell, the score was Bethany Anne 7, TQB and Gabrielle 0. Bethany Anne had to give Gabrielle a blood pack to heal properly and she had to help Eric as well. He had taken a swing to his arm from Gabrielle who hadn’t realized Eric had come up on her side. Gabrielle wasn’t used to playing with others. She had been so apologetic to Eric he was embarrassed. A little of Bethany Anne’s blood and he was doing better. It was Eric’s first time to swallow the blood and he didn’t flinch. Bethany Anne considered providing it in a cup like she did Frank. However; she thought about what it meant to the team and how Stephen had taken the blood. She started to understand that for her to give blood shouldn’t be meaningless. To have no respect for the effort and to make it less personal was to destroy the value. She had Eric drink from her wrist after a small cut was made. She decided that Frank was going to have to change his method of drinking as well.

It wasn’t that she wanted to become a religious figurehead, however; the further the blood was from her the less personal it was. She wasn’t a common blood bank, for fuck’s sake.

Eric manned up and didn’t flinch from the offer. For that she was grateful. Until Gabrielle’s nanocytes were fixed, she didn’t want to have her provide blood unless it was necessary. She hoped it wouldn’t be necessary for the guys during the op.



CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO

Caribbean Sea - Off Coast of Panama and Costa Rica Border

They decided that the best place to launch would be where the borders of Costa Rica and Panama joined. If Shelly was seen as coming in from Panama, they hoped it would help confuse the Black Hawk’s originations for when they needed to get back out to sea.

As soon as it got dark, Bobcat took off with Pete beside him. Her team and Gabrielle were in the back. It was a very low flight with a fortunately dark night. It took them a little over two hours to fly to the landing location near San Jose. It was significantly longer than a straight shot, but when you are trying to stay under the radar and following valleys it can take significantly longer. She could see that Bobcat loved the flying, but even he was sweating by the time they got to the landing location outside San Juan.

It would be a little over a mile jog for the team to hit Clarita’s first business. They hoped to find some wheels at that location and would try to drive from there.

For Bethany Anne, it would be a little easier. She had a bag with her leathers, vest and guns. She wore a nice pair of jeans and a long black sleeve shirt and tennis shoes. She had put in earrings and a necklace. She would call a cab a little way off. She had two extra bags of blood with her in case things went horribly wrong. The team had four for Gabrielle.

John came over to her. “If you don’t make it back, I’m coming for you.” His eyes were granite hard and unyielding. She felt the closeness that they shared when on ops before. Her being a bitch the last two days during the effort to get Gabrielle working with her team hadn’t turned them against her. She smiled up at him.

“If you let Gabrielle get hurt, I’m going to kick your ass all the way to Miami. You will need to open your mouth to… well, just take care of her, Mr. Grimes, you hear me?” He smiled at her use of his last name. It was a reminder for him of how they met.

“Yeah. I hear you BA, I hear you.” He openly grinned as she rolled her eyes.

“You can be a real irredeemable ass pirate, you know that?”

He put up his hands in defeat, “Not trying to one up you here, Bethany Anne. I don’t need push ups right now.”

“See that you don’t. Now, I’ll meet you guys back here, keep this location clear for me, ok?”

John looked at where she was standing and walked over to a large rock ten feet away, picked it up and brought it over. He dropped it a couple of feet away from Bethany Anne. “We will keep it clear for 10 feet around this rock.”

She just nodded his head and watched him walk back to the team. They took up positions around Gabrielle and started into the bush. They looked good. Alert and on track.

She had talked with Gabrielle before leaving the ship. Any loss of her guys had better be over her dead body were the first, second and third point in the instructions. Gabrielle wasn’t offended. She had connected with Bethany Anne’s team and was amazed at how good they were. She had no concerns going into a fight with this group. They were fast and they were not afraid. If anything, the last two days working against Bethany Anne had taken their skills up a notch. Todd Jenkins had started in on Bethany Anne’s team on the second day. Although he often got tagged out early in the sessions, he was starting to get his own edge back. None of the new crew was involved in the training sessions except Todd.

They had installed some pod-based missile offensive and defensive systems they had been able to procure through a couple of TQB Enterprise companies. Frank had to get special approvals moved through the state department to allow them to be flown out of the United States to Jamaica. Bobcat, Pete and Shelly had moved them over to the Polarus.

If a machine had a heart, Shelly’s was beating like the warrior she really was. Recently, she had been nothing more than a glorified air taxi. Bethany Anne thought Shelly felt alive on her trip to San Jose this evening.

Bethany Anne waved to Bobcat and Pete and started her jog to a small town that had a tourist bar. She had texted a request for a taxi to pick her up in twenty minutes. Time to go.


San Jose and Escazu, Costa Rica

Gabrielle, and the team made it to the first location. It was a set of warehouses out in the suburbs. According to Nathan, Clarita had both drug and gambling operations here.

She had a large club taking up two warehouses that used the large amount of partiers as a way to hide the transfer of drugs and the movement of the money. It didn’t hurt that she did have some of the best DJ’s in San Jose at her club.

No one could figure out how she was able to always get the best. Especially after an up and coming DJ would talk about how he wouldn’t ‘sell out’ and play at her club.

Usually they were there within three weeks after that comment. It all depended on how quickly Clarita was notified of the comment and who she had nearby to go and ‘persuade’ the DJ that he really wanted to play at her club.

A couple of DJ’s actually tried to do the same thing just to get invited. Those usually suffered a mishap and got their hands smashed by whatever was handy when her children visited the insufferable DJ.

Tonight, it was a large crowd watching a San Jose favorite. The team went to the warehouse next door, broke the lock and went inside. Gabrielle paid attention to the sounds of the night.

The clubhouse did have good protection and video surveillance. What they didn’t have at this one was a very creative head of security. The walls between the two buildings didn’t handle the demolition pack Darryl put against the wall.

Darryl yelled to the group, ‘Hole in the wall, coming up’. Everyone protected themselves. The breaching charge blew a significant hole in the wall directly into the back offices where the drugs and gambling operations were located.

There was one vampire on duty. Unfortunately for him, a large splinter from the wooden wall had captured his entire attention. By the time he was able to pull it out, Gabrielle replaced it with a sword through his chest and then two bullets through his brain.

Eric went around shooting anyone else with TOM’s special darts.

It took the team six more minutes to ransack the place. They grabbed the money, but what they really wanted was information.   The large walk in safe had been open when they started the operation. No one had thought to close it. Scott stood outside of the door as John walked in with a carrying bag. He grabbed anything that looked important and a few bags of cocaine. They had some archival disks so he grabbed those as well. He heard some shots outside so he grabbed one more bundle of cash and went out to see what was going on.

Darryl had just yelled ‘clear’ while looking out a door. They could hear the people outside starting to panic and leave the establishment.

Eric was presently going back around to pull the darts back out of the people. They didn’t want any darts left behind for forensics if possible.

Gabrielle came out of an office carrying a laptop and motioned for John to put it into the bag. He unzipped it and she slid it in. Zipping it back up he twirled his hands in the air. They pulled the unconscious people out of the room and into the warehouse and then to the far wall.

Going back into the office, Eric pulled out an incendiary and chucked it in. The offices would go up in flames shortly.

They went back and pulled the rest of Clarita’s team outside and zip-tied their hands. They didn’t want to risk the building going up too fast and the people not being able to walk away.

It took Scott three minutes to find a van he knew how to hot-wire. They tossed everything in the back and took off to their next destination.

Road to Escazu, Costa Rica

Bethany Anne could hear the sirens in the distance. The taxi had been at the bar already and was asking which of the patrons had called him when she walked in the bar. He looked frustrated with her but didn’t gripe too loudly as he took her to his car. It was a nice, white Toyota van that had a manual stick shift in the dash.

She got in the back and they took off towards a small restaurant overlooking the city and San Jose in the distance. It happened to also be about a quarter mile above the small enclave where Clarita had her house. It took them a half hour to make their way up the winding roads to the restaurant. Ecaterina had found the restaurant and made her a reservation under Bethany Anne Michaels. She thought it a nice touch. If anyone from the Forsaken side was able to trace her to this restaurant, they would recognize the names and realize that perhaps Bethany Anne had come from Michael himself. It would cause them to think about attacking her twice.

Knowing how afraid everyone was of Michael, it would probably make them think about it until the following year.

She had told Adrian to pass on that she would kill everyone in Central America, however; considering how much a pain in the ass it was to accomplish this simple operation, she would need to move down here to accomplish the threat. She would have to be smarter next time before she mouthed off.

It wasn’t that she couldn’t take everyone out, it was that she lacked the time and resources to do it. All of her previous thoughts about how lazy Michael must be for failing to already take care of the Forsaken was seriously biting her in the ass.

Then again, he had hundreds of years. She was less than two years old. The taxi dropped her off in front of a very nice one story light stone, dark wood and glass steak house. The lighting was very subdued as the young man opened her door and she stepped out. She kept her bag with her. She could easily see everything and everyone, even those in the darkest booths. She stepped through the door that was held open for her.

After giving her name for the reservation, they took her to a small private area that overlooked the city. It had a small table set for one and the walls had vines running all through them. You stepped through a doorway of plants and then turned left to step through another doorway. You could not see back into the restaurant and it did a good job of reducing any sounds coming from the diners inside. The wall was very short, but the view was spectacular as you looked at the lights from the homes and streets below down into the town proper. Just in the distance she though she could see the flames still being fought in the warehouse area.  She was easily able to find Clarit’s home.  It had blue lights in the courtyard.

She looked at her watch, still another hour to go. She ordered some food, she might as well enjoy the results of the teams labor with a snack or two. Whenever she felt like just throwing in the towel on her revenge, she remembered Martin and the anger was right there on the surface.

She needed this for closure. It would also send a necessary message to those in the UnknownWorld that to attack her would be retaliated.

She sighed.

She watched as another fire could be seen down in San Jose. That should be number three, she thought. She wondered if number two was too tough, or just had a good sprinkler system.

She had finished her food and ordered coffee. It helped her with the crappy blood aftertaste. She was going to need access to all of the energy she could hold at one time. TOM had said that she had at least three times what she had back in the Everglades stored up. She finished the coffee and paid attention to the house with the blue lights. It seemed maybe an affectation Clarita had. Who knew, it just made it easier for her to tell where she needed to go.

She told the waiter that she was done and would like the bill. When he came back, she paid the bill in dollars and left a significant tip. She asked to be left alone for twenty minutes. He dipped his head and left her with two after-dinner mints.

What the hell, she dropped the mints into her bag. Making sure he wasn’t coming back, she stripped and changed her clothes to her leathers. She put on her under shirt, then the vest with the ceramic protection. Every time she suited up, she would think about Petre’ shooting her in the back. She had gotten through it ok, but it was a mental problem for her, still.

She strapped on her shoulder holsters and put in the .45’s. The sword went over her shoulder. She tied her hair back.

Martin, it was time to deliver your vengeance. She grabbed her bag and stepped up to the wall. Other customers of the steak place thought the saw a lady jump off of the wall, but she disappeared and no one heard a body hit below. They all thought maybe it was a reflection. A quarter mile away, Bethany Anne appeared thirty feet above Clarita’s house. Taking the shortest time possible, she found a balcony and slipped through the Etheric to land inches above it. Easily taking the weight, she made no sound when she reappeared.

Well, she was here. Now what?

While she waited to get her bearings, she could barely hear yelling coming from inside the house. It seemed that her team was certainly making someone quite upset.

She tested the door that came out to the balcony, it was locked. Why wasn’t it ever easy?

TOM, what happens if I slip out of the Etheric into a solid object?

Well, if you actually accomplish that I imagine you would either fuse with the new material, or cause something akin to a small atomic blast when the atoms are pushed away from each other and a blast occurs.

Either way, I’m fucked, right?

Well, sure. A little crass but accurate.

This comes from the alien who watches Housewives of Orange County?

Well, actually I haven’t watched any of that since we left Miami. Pete isn’t watching it anymore.

Oh, so the brainwashing is done then?

Perhaps.

Great. Can’t wait to find out your next fixation. Do I have some options here?

Well, if you were to pause in the Etheric you could probably just try to ‘see’ into the next location and check it out.

You don’t sound so sure of this. 

That’s because it takes a fair amount of time for a Kurtherian to learn the trick. Seeing how we have never tried it, I’m not really sure what would happen. 

Ok, sounds like a bad idea in the middle of an op. Well, I hope your life insurance is paid up.

Why, what’s life insurance?

Bethany Anne stood up aimed at the door and walked through it. She planned to go one foot forward and she let out her breath slipped through the Etheric and walked into a bedroom that had no furniture. She guessed that they might not use the upper floor of the house that much. She was able to hear the yelling a bit better now.

Yup, the team was pissing Clarita off very well. She glided over to the door and cracked it open the smallest amount. It was dark in the hallway, however; the sound was well amplified and she guessed it was Clarita yelling.

“You tell that spineless crab I will take every colón out of his hide if he can’t find the people that destroyed my club! I don’t pay the police to sit on their asses when a business of mine is attacked.”

With that, Bethany Anne heard her slam a hand down in frustration. The phone rang again.

“Hi Maria, what? Do WHAT? How many attacked? Five? Wait, one was a woman? Why was she hard to see. Uh huh, moved too fast to see you say? That bitch Bethany Anne must be attacking my interests to get me to come out there. One minute…. Julian!” Bethany Anne could hear someone below moving quickly. “Julian, take a team and go over to the business office. That bitch must have figured out all of my interests here in San Jose. No, leave me Hugo and Jorge. I’ll be fine. Move it! Yes, take the guns! They aren’t fucking around down there. I’ve lost three places already. Hold on. Maria, when did they leave? Ok. Fine. Get the police and the fire support there as quick as possible. Goodbye.   Julian, it will take them a minimum of twenty more minutes to get to the business office. Get there and prepare to ambush them, you have ten minutes.”

Bethany Anne heard a team of at least six people leaving the house. She waited until she heard two cars take off. She slowly pulled the sword out of it’s sheath and one of her .45’s. She wanted so badly to be able to slip through the Etheric to the room below, but the chance she took just a minute ago should have her breaking out in a sweat if she thought about it too much.

The phone rang again below.

“Hello. Yes Claudia, she has started her attacks. No, you and your siblings stay out of Costa Rica. I don’t want you around. I will either take care of the bitch or not, I don’t want you involved. No, this is Anton’s fault and mine for doing what he wanted. No, I really didn’t have a choice. However; if I die you stay hidden from Anton. He might assume this Bethany Anne has killed you too.” There was a long pause. Bethany Anne took the chance to look down the hallway. It went about ten feet before going down some stairs. Clarita started talking below and Bethany Anne slowly made her way to the stairs trying no make sure she wouldn’t cause the floor to creak and give her away. “No, you and your siblings have the right of it. I am not for making humans our food either but I’ve been in this too long to change now. I don’t wish you to change, but don’t kid yourself and think I can change too much either. Tell your brothers I love you all. I have another call, bye.”

Bethany Anne was touched that Clarita had any feelings for her kids. She was like a Forsaken version of Stephen in a way. Except Stephen’s kid was going to the dark side and it sounded like Clarita’s might be heading towards the light. From the top of the stairs, Bethany Anne could see Clarita’s shadow moving back and forth on the floor at the bottom. She prepared her sword in her right hand.

“Hello? Yes, hello commissioner. Yes, I have been informed my businesses have been under attack. Yes, I believe I do know who is doing this. No, I don’t think your people will be able to stop them, however; you can backup my group at the business offices. Yes, the ones on the 177. Don’t go over there with your lights flashing, I want that bitch to get caught in an ambush my group is setting up for them right now. You will need to come when you hear the gunfire. Yes, that would be good, thank you.”

While she was talking, the shadow stopped right at the end of the stairs. Clarita hit the call end button on her phone as 12” of razor sharp Japanese steel suddenly protruded out of her chest. She coughed up blood which smeared her phone. Her sudden grunt caused Hugo and Jorge to come into the room only to receive two bullets to each of their heads. Both went down. The person with the sword swung her around like a marionette and frog marched her over to where Hugo and Jorge were writhing on the ground. She heard two shots and finally registered that both of her knees had been blown out.  The person holding the sword dipped it towards the floor and  she slid off the sword to the ground in a lump. Barely registering her freedom as the pain in her chest and now her knees consumed her attention. A black clad female took a bloody sword and casually sliced both men through the necks. Their eyes remained open, unstaring as their blood covered the floor.

She heard a voice above her, “Bobcat, Bethany Anne, call back the team. I’ll meet you at the pickup point.”

Clarita pushed herself over in agonizing slowness. The whole time she was focused on the team in San Jose, she was stalked by this woman. She looked at the vampire above her and knew that Anton had certainly killed her by going after Bethany Anne.

It was her poor choice to use Adrian in America. Her chest and knees were healing, but she couldn’t move quickly at all and it would be some time before she healed enough. She doubted that she would be given much time now.

The woman looked down at her. “Anton will pay for what he has done. I will not forgive him. Unfortunately for you, it was your hand that sent Adrian. If your children stay out of my path, I will not go after them. It is the most I can give you.”

“It is the most I can ask.” Clarita had been alive for centuries. She had made it through countless revolutions, political parties and efforts of other Forsaken to take her place as the Queen of Central America.

She had made one bad choice and sent a fool to get information without counting the cost. She watched as Bethany Anne aimed her gun at Clarita’s forehead. She saw the twitch of Bethany Anne’s finger on the trigger and then knew no more.

Bethany Anne used her sword to make sure Clarita would not be able to heal from the damage of the three .45 bullets at close range. She walked over to Clarita’s sink and cleaned her sword.

She walked around the house and found her laptop. She put it into her bag. They needed intel and if Nathan and Frank could pull information from what was in it, great.

TOM, can I get to the landing location with the amount of Etheric energy I have left?

Yes. You are becoming more adept at moving longer distances.

Yay me! So, no blood at the end? 

No, you should be fine.

Good to know.

She dialed Bobcat again, “Bobcat, one coming in.”

“I read you five by five, Bethany Anne. Good to hear you boss.” Bethany Anne smiled at that.

Bethany Anne took one step towards the front door and finished the step out at the landing site just two feet away from a large rock. Pete came over to her and handed her a packet of baby wipes. She smiled remembering the first time she had used baby wipes in Shelly. “Where are the others?”

Pete answered, “They got the message, probably take them about ten more minutes to get here. The town is a fustercluck with all the damage they did.”

“Everyone ok?”

“Yeah, Gabrielle took a round in the chest, but it was stopped by the vest. When she went down someone got one in her leg. We think we counted her cussing in three known languages and one none of us could figure out.”

“A woman after my own heart.”

“Yeah, team says she was taking one that was aimed at Eric. He had missed someone on his six and she was able to get the guys attention, but it was almost point blank by that time. Eric got him before he was able to do more than shoot her in the leg. They got some blood in her so she’s mostly healed.”

“Ok, let’s make sure we have this timed to leave immediately when they arrive. I don’t want to stick around San Jose right now.”

Pete reached up and clicked on his mic and relayed the request to Bobcat who started the process to get Shelly hot. They had just started the rotors turning when the team came through the bushes. Bethany Anne had informed Pete about the team coming in so he wouldn’t be surprised and shoot anyone by accident.

Bethany Anne saw that Eric was supporting Gabrielle as she walked. Bethany Anne looked at Gabrielle and raised an eyebrow, Gabrielle just shrugged her shoulders as if to say, ‘what can I do?’

Bethany Anne went over to the two of them. John, Darryl and Scott went around her to put their equipment on the bird.

She put up an arm and made Eric and Gabrielle stop. “Eric, what the hell are you doing?”

He looked blankly at her, “I’m helping my teammate who was shot because of my stupid ass get back to the bird!” Now he had a focus for his self-recrimination. Before he could get started Bethany Anne she put up a hand to stop his talking and looked over at Gabrielle.

“Gabrielle, take off those fucking pants.”

Gabrielle knew when to question orders and this wasn’t one of those times. She reached down and untied her shoes and then took them off. Then, she unbuckled and took off her pants which had blood all over them.

Bethany Anne put a hand out to Eric, “Eric, light.” She could have used Gabrielle’s light, but she was trying to make a point and Eric was slowly getting it. When she turned on Eric’s own flashlight and looked at the pair of very attractive and very female legs, there wasn’t a scratch or scar on them. She turned the light off and handed it back to Eric. “What she needs, ass wipe, is a pair of clean pants. Know your partner’s skills. She was letting you hold her because she didn’t know how to get through your mental pissing on yourself. Your The Queen Bitch’s guard and now so is Gabrielle. So suck it up and thank her by not forgetting she is a tough motherfucker, not a helpless little girl. She can bench press you, remember?”

Bethany Anne could tell that Eric had gotten the point. She turned on Gabrielle. “Stop treating them as something that breaks easily! That won’t help them, understand me? If you do, I’ll personally slap the ever loving shit out of you until it takes a week for you to heal. You won’t do me or them any good. Now let’s get out of here. Costa Rica can kiss my ass for now, I’ll enjoy it another time.”  She turned around.

The team was so tired they didn’t realize that it was Bethany Anne who was the last on and closed the door.

Two hours later, they were back on the Polarus which turned to the northeast and starting putting on the power.  Chief Engineer John Rodriquez already had the ship running faster than it was supposed to be capable of by ten percent.  However; he had plans and just needed the time and the budget.  This ship was going to sing through the waves.



CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE

Costa Rica & Panama

Back in San Jose, Julian’s team made it back to Clarita’s house where they found the three dead bodies. Julian called the police commissioner and informed him that there had been a hit at this house while they were out. Life was going to become very dangerous for the Forsaken in Central America as different powerful vampires struggled to see who would come out on top.

Three others, however; decided that they would calmly and quietly slip into the night. Two days later, each of them received an email from their mother’s email address. It informed them that Bethany Anne had killed their mother for the sins of Adrian and their mother when attacking her personal friend in Washington D.C. They were told that Bethany Anne promised their mother that if they stayed out of her path, she wouldn’t come after them.

Over in Panama, Claudia argued with both of her brothers to reach out to Bethany Anne, but got nowhere with them. She finally took it upon herself to email and request an audience with Bethany Anne on the phone.

She was surprised to have her phone ring not even five minutes later.

She picked it up, it was an unknown number. “Hello?”

The voice on the other end sounded European. “Hello, this is Ecaterina, I work for Bethany Anne. Is this Claudia?”

“Yes.”

“I understand from your email that you wish to speak with Bethany Anne. Unfortunately, she is up in the air at the moment on her way to Europe. How may I assist you?”

“You would help me?”

“No, I asked how I may assist you. If you ask the right question, they my assistance will go well for you. If you say the wrong thing, my assistance might be to help you to an early grave. So be careful what you ask for or tell me. So, Claudia, how may I assist you?”

That caused Claudia to get her thoughts together. “I am calling on behalf of myself and perhaps my two brothers. They don’t want to bother Bethany Anne but I don’t know where to go.”

“Explain better, please.”

“Ok. Anton, who is one of Michael’s children, commands all of Central and South America and Mexico. However; my mother was the head of Central America under him. If we try to stay in Central America, then whoever takes over here for Anton will find us and kill us. We cannot go to either Mexico or South America either. So, we either need to fight or flee. None of us wish to continue as Forsaken but we don’t know where to flee to.”

“I see, can you get out of Central America?”

“Yes, if we move soon enough it will not be a problem.”

“Then you have two choices. You can meet with Bethany Anne when she gets back to America. I can’t tell you when that will happen.” Ecaterina heard Claudio gasp at that. Ok, so that wasn’t a choice Claudia was comfortable with. “Or, you may meet up with Bethany Anne in Europe. You will need to contact Stephen in Romania and ask his permission to come into his area of influence. If you want, I will contact him on your behalf. However; I will warn you in advance that if you do anything that Stephen considers disrespectful in word or deed to Bethany Anne you won’t need to worry about her. Stephen will kill you himself.”

“Thank you, I would appreciate you providing this opportunity. When would Stephen have the time to talk with you?”

“Hold on the line, Claudia.”

Claudia heard the line click and then silence. How powerful was Bethany Anne that a helper of hers could call up another of Michael’s children and just ask permission for others to join him in Romania? The line clicked again.

“Stephen?”

“Yes.”

“Claudia.”

“Yes.” Oh my god, Stephen was on the phone.

“Stephen, thank you for taking my call.”

“It is no problem, Ecaterina. Your brother is a pleasure and you sound like you would be an even larger pleasure.”

“Stephen, I’m taken you romeo. I didn’t call to setup a date, so behave. I have Claudia on the line. She is a child of Clarita.”

“Didn’t Bethany Anne just end a point of difficulty with a Clarita?”

“Yes, the very same Clarita. However; Bethany Anne at the end had great respect for Clarita and if she could have, she would have spared her life. Unfortunately, the best she could do was promise to not put the sins of the parent on her children. Does this make sense?”

“Yes, very much so.”

“Good. Claudia reached out to me and explained to me that in order for them to try and break the sins of the parent, they need to leave the America’s. Would you be willing to host Claudia and her brothers until they can talk with Bethany Anne?”

“One minute, Ecaterina. Claudia?”

“Yes?”

“Clarita’s parent was Anton, right?”

“Yes. If we do not leave we will eventually be found by him.”

“Yes, he is what Bethany Anne would term a ‘world class dick’. I have never liked him. If you and your siblings wish the protection of my house with the opportunity to speak with Bethany Anne you may have it. However; we do not attack humans here. I will not allow anything of Anton to besmirch my Queen’s lands. Follow the rules of my house and you have nothing to fear. Let Ecaterina know the timing and Ivan will work with you when you land for transportation to my house. Is that all Ecaterina?”

“Yes, thank you on behalf of Bethany Anne, Stephen.”

“Ecaterina, you know I would do that just to see your smile, right?”

“Stephen, you know Nathan will try and give you a new asshole if you keep flirting?”

Claudia couldn’t believe the way these two were talking. Who was Nathan? How was this human talking so casually with a child of Michaels?

Stephen laughed, “Yes, yes. I know Bethany Anne would not be pleased if I upset Nathan. I promise I will stop until you come to your senses.”

“Stephen!”

“Ok, that was the last one. I promise. Now, Bethany Anne is on her way, correct?”

“Yes. The team and Gabrielle are headed your way again. They plan on staying with you and going from there when the SEA AXE is close to Italy.”

“Very good. I’ll make sure we are prepared for her visit. Have a good night, Ecaterina. I look forward to meeting you and your brothers, Claudia.”

“Thank you very much, Señor Stephen.”

“Ooh, I like that. Señor Stephen.”

Ecaterina’s voice was frustrated, “Stephen!”

“Oops, I hear Ivan calling. Bye both of you.” He clicked off.

“Claudia, are you still there?”

“Yes, but honestly I don’t know what to make of this phone call. Was that truly Michael’s son Stephen?”

“Yes, yes it was. Be careful when you get there. He has always been a ladies man and now he has been looking at Tinder way too much. You, I think, will be just the type of woman he wants to try his moves on.”

“What, a single female vampire?”

“No, breathing. I get the impression that single is not a concern for Stephen.”

“What did Bethany Anne do the first time she met him?”

“You will have to ask him. Text me back at this phone number when you guys have your plans finished. I’ve got to go.”

“Thank you, Ecaterina.”

“No worries, just don’t do something to upset Bethany Anne and I will be golden.”

“I won’t. If my brothers even consider it I will beat them silly.”

“That’s the spirit! Gotta go, bye.”

They hung up. Claudia wasn’t sure what to make of the call, but she quickly called her brothers to tell them the news. They agreed to make plans to go to Romania.

Las Vegas, Nevada

Jeffrey Diamantz closed up and locked his desk. He had been the CEO of Patriarch Research, a small military research firm in the Nevada area for the last fifteen years.

Working out of a seven story building in North Las Vegas, life was pretty good until two years before.

His team had been working on a machine learning software application for heuristic internet defense. Plugging in the beginning sets of rules, the application would then seek to learn all it could and then create causality hypothesis and test them as well. With the absolute crumbling of costs, companies such as his now had access to thousands of computers by using Amazon AWS and similar technologies.

They could create a testing application, spin up the hundreds or thousands of instances for computational efforts and shut them down within a day or two.

However; a year ago during one of their tests a couple of problems occurred. They were running data from large credit card and financial companies who were exploring what the vast amount of financial data might provide them.

Two things occurred simultaneously. The first was unexpected evidence of unknown financial superpowers that were previously unsuspected. That information went back to the financial companies who reached out to the government. This was a hot potato the financial companies didn’t want to handle. The second was their learning program crossed the technology singularity as near as they could tell. Fortunately, it was during the last ten seconds of the planned test and machines had started to ’spin down’ and go offline automatically.

To cross the singularity was a technological event of the millennium. His team decided to not tell a single soul.

What should they do with the power to create a machine that can then create a better version of itself? By connecting it to hardware such as Amazon AWS, it could theoretically procure enough computing power that Strong AI ver 1.0 became Strong AI ver 1.1 in less than a day. They could hypothetically create every mans dream or every mans disaster within just a few weeks.

The team has been losing sleep over this problem. Tom Billings, the lead programmer, had lost half of his hair.

Now, the team had been attacked at the network level for information from over seas. Someone was getting more and more data out of their system and they had to decide whether to bring the software back online to protect themselves or go about their defense in more prosaic methods. Jeffrey had ordered the team to cut all internet into the system for the last two days. The need to open the connections back up was becoming overwhelming. As soon as they did that, however; it would allow their attacker a crack back at them.

They ordered new IP addresses and were planning on connected through a different VPN for very small time slices. Hopefully, it would stall the attackers from finding their ip holes and give them a little breathing room.

The temptation for every research firm was to test their best against the enemy. But what happens when your best might decide to take over the world?

On top of that problem, he now had a meeting with the owners of the company. In fifteen years, he had never personally met a single investor of Patriarch Research. Hell, he didn’t even know why the company was named what it was.

Yesterday, he was notified that the COO of TBQ Enterprises wanted to have a meet and greet. He got a name, but the only information he was able to find was for a recently retired General. It was possible it was the same guy, and considering his company was tied into military research it made sense, but what the hell was he going to tell him?

He had the tiger by the tail and if he let go, everyone was going to get mauled.

Well, at the end of the day (and it was the end of the day) the buck for the company stopped at his desk. But the decision for this situation needed to get punted up the line.

Decision made, and a lot of stress off of his shoulders, Jeffrey went downstairs and got into his five year old Lexus. He drove home and had a smile for his wife for the first time since summer.

Let those who made more money than him decide what to do.

Michael’s Notes (Love Lost - The Kurtherian Gambit 03):

Thank you, I cannot express my appreciation enough that not only did you pick up the third book, but you read it all the way to the end and NOW, your reading this as well!

So, in the Queen Bitch’s Authors Note, I promised I would not get the third book finished in 9 days.  I stayed true to my promise.  It took about 13 days or so.

I’ve been listening to ‘Authoring Podcasts’ and one of them (Sell More Books Now) was discussing a blog post by a lady who says that no one can produce great literature striving to accomplish finishing four books a year.

I never suggested I wanted to create great literature, I just want to write fun stories.  There is a difference.  Star Wars is not great cinema, but it is hella’ fun cinema.  Well, ok, the first three were hella’ fun.  We can all argue the second set of three.

Han shot first, it’s all I’m saying.

So, NaNoWriMo was a success.  Over 150,000 words this November.  I think that makes me good for the next two years.  Once again, not GREAT LITERATURE, just fun stories :-)

I’m going to slow down a bit now that I have the first three accomplished.  My fourth book, BITE THIS (or BITE ME), will be out in December.  The fifth book, however; might be out late December or sometime in January.  For my ‘real’ job, I have a new(ish) client that I’m looking forward to working with and my time to write will probably be curtailed in the short term.

I mentioned on my blog post (http://kurtherianbooks.com) that an authors success usually entails LOTS of pre-work before you release your book. However; I just put Death Becomes Her and Queen Bitch out in the wild with no notice and no advertising. I really hope that if you enjoy reading these stories, you will share with your Kindle Unlimited friends the link and encourage them to read it as well.

I mentioned in Queen Bitch that my income from Kindle Unlimited was 5x more than purchases.  That isn’t true any more.  It actually is approximately even before Amazon takes their 30% cut.  Perhaps the reason is that those who have Kindle Unlimited were willing to take a leap of faith to read the book and until you wonderful readers put up awesome reviews, those who were spending their money were a lot more skeptical which is understandable.  Also, it took Amazon a little while to generate the 10% free read as well.  Both excellent reasons for the difference in the beginning.

Feel free to jump on the Facebook page to ask me any questions about being an Author on Amazon. I’m happy to share what experiences I can.

I’ve mentioned before, my writing is more escapist. I love a good action story, but more than that I want to engage with the characters. I want to feel what they are going through if possible. I want situations that make me get excited, worried, laugh and say ‘take that, sucka!’ out loud. The challenges faced by the protagonists don’t have to be life threatening, it could be a challenge to ask that special someone out for a date that keeps the story flowing. I’m not really into books that keep you constantly afraid for the characters. If I care about a character, I’ll turn the page, and buy the next book, just to see them reach a personal milestone that is challenging to that character. However; having said all of that action is what drives the story forward.

In this story, Bethany Anne has been hit hard with a loss of one of her closest friends.  However; by the end of the book, her anger has taken a little more of a back seat when she listens in to Clarita on the phone.  She is, however; a product of the UnknownWorld and at the end of the day, Martin’s blood cries to her.

Let me tell you, the size and cost of super yachts can blow a person’s mind.  That people have this kind of wealth is staggering.  Bethany Anne really could care less, to her it is a means to an end.  Like a nicely tailored suit, it is the armor she needs to use to move about in the future.

There are presently 13 titles sketched out and I expect more after that. Love Lost is the third in the series. The next title is tentatively titled ‘Bite This’ where we see Bethany Anne’s companies and activities get the attention of Military Intelligence. She needs to move TOM’s space ship and they start to get involved in research and development projects which have the potential of causing a stink with governments.

Rock, meet hard place.

Please, if you enjoyed this book give it a good rating on Amazon? Your kind words and encouragement help any author. I will continue to the next story whether you provide an OUTSTANDING review or not. However; it might get done a wee bit faster with the encouragement (smile).

As of today (11/23/2015), 21 days since I released the first book I have two 5-Star ratings and one 4-Star rating on Death Becomes Her and a 5-Star and one 4-Star Rating on Queen Bitch. Both 4-Star’s mention editorial mistakes.  I will go back through the two books and review again.  Sometimes, it just takes a ‘fresh eye’ to see the mistakes.  I appreciate anyone who takes the time to both praise the story and describe the issues.

You can find book links on my Amazon Author Page here:

http://www.amazon.com/Michael-Anderle/e/B017J2WANQ/

Want to comment on the best (scene, comment, event, shoes or gun for Bethany Anne, weapon Nathan would prefer…you name it) join me on Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/TheKurtherianGambitBooks/

Want to know when the next book or major update is ready? Join the email list -

http://kurtherianbooks.com/email-list/

Software used to write this book is Scrivener (Windows and Mac):

https://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener.php

Book Cover Images purchased at PhotoDune.net: http://photodune.net

Image software to make the cover (Mac): http://www.pixelmator.com/mac/ (1.6 ratio @ 300dpi)

Thank you,

Michael Anderle, 2015

*All credit for me having ANY shoe knowledge goes to my wife, who still works to provide me with even a finger’s amount of fashion sense. Why she asks me to comment on her outfits in the morning still confuses me to this day.



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