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Birth of the Undead – Being Undead 9

Written by kshoo :: [Saturday, 12 March 2022 08:08] Last updated by :: [Saturday, 12 March 2022 21:24]

<Adelaide, late morning>

It was a clear, sunny weekend morning. Despite the slight chill due to winter time, many still took the opportunity to come out and roam the streets, wandering about the high streets and thronging the small alleyways in search of the latest hot cup of brew. It is a common scene to see families and couples in sweaters and jackets enjoying a meal or a cuppa, seated outdoors at their favourite cafe or restaurant, with the heating lamps laid out to chase away the cold.

Father Merrin had just stepped off the bus at the corner of Emerson and Rowe, and made his way eastward towards his destination. As he entered a cafe with a rustic-looking deco, he nodded to the barista who smilingly pointed towards the second floor. Taking off his jacket as he climbed the stairs, he found himself in a semi-full area, decked with various knicknacks and brass decorations adorning all about the walls. He saw the familiar faces sitting on one of the long tables towards the front of the building just inside the glass panels that opened up to the balcony, and made his way there.

Larissa Thompson stood up when she saw the approaching priest, and after quick hug and two pecks on each side of her cheeks, both of them sat down, observed by balding bespectacled man.

“We’re expecting a few eh?” Father Merrin laid his coat on the back of his chair, remarking as he observed the empty seats.

“Just the regulars. They just happened to run out of the smaller tables, hence we have more space.” Larissa smiled. “Looks like we’re early.”

“Well, we all know who normally turns up last” George DeMatteo quipped, as his left hand brushed his moustache. “I suggest we order while we wait?” Larissa pushed a button on the table to call for service, and after placing their orders in ten minutes all of them sat with their respective brew.

While they waited for their coffee to arrive, they heard the clicking of high-heels coming up the stairs, and in moments the petite Rita Campbell came into view. Red-haired, bronze-skinned and with high cheekbones, she seemed to be in the mood for a party soon; the tight red dress and the white high-heels that she wore suggested that she’s more than ready for a major bash somewhere in town.

All three of them stared at her in a mix of bewilderment and bemusement as the young woman walked over to their table and took the empty seat next to Father Merrin. As Rita placed her large black sunglasses on the table while crossing her legs, she also motioned to the waiter serving the next table to take an additional order.

“I didn’t know there’s a party in town.” George commented once everything is settled. “There isn’t. I had mine in Sydney last night, and came through the airport just a while ago. Didn’t want to miss the chance to see all of you again.” She winked at Father Merrin, who just grinned.

“So, is this a social catch-up or...” as Larissa started, George reached into his pocket and took out his smartphone. Opening the photos application, he scrolled to the relevant photos and then passed it around to Rita, whose eyebrows raised slightly upon seeing it. They were crime scene photos, and from the looks of it, the victims really had it on them, their bodies were badly mangled, multiple broken bones all over the place. It was as if they had fallen from somewhere up high, that they might have been hit by an object at high-speed.

And then, on their necks, were the tell-tale bite marks.  

The phone went around the table to the other two before George continued.

“There have been some unusual killings just this past week across the city, and I want to check in among us first to see if anyone knew about this.” George fixed his gaze at Rita, who returned it calmly. “While my men are chasing after the perpertrators, I was wondering if you guys have heard or seen anything out of the ordinary these few days. Better man up is there is, because we willl need to find that person quick and close this out fast.”

Larissa shook her head, Rita frowned while Father Merrin sat in deep thought with his head bowed with his arms crossed.

“This is bad. A rogue vampire in the city? Surely none would be foolish enough to ...”

“...not since three years ago, when I dropped by to settle the problem. Gallowglass’ orders. We like to keep our house clean, and provide any other positive assistance if need be.” Rita completed that sentence. Taking the phone again, she browsed through the few photos before continuing “Based on these, I would venture that this is a newly created vampire, the initial hunger and need to feed would be overwhelming.”

“Other than they were found in different parts of town, no. But...” George fumbled in his pocket for some notes, and then taking back his phone, he switched to another app.  Pointing to the generic map of Adelaide “Based on the locations, and assuming that people or creatures don’t really venture beyond a certain limit, my men did a rough estimate on the map to see if there are any overlaps.”

Looking at it, Father Merrin remarked “They seem to overlap around the city center area. Or more precisely, near the university.” Larissa looked concerned. “But this is like a needle in the haystack. There are thousands of students to comb through, despite having narrowed things down. I know that Rita can help, but even she needs a scent to track, and it will take effort and time, isn’t it?” Rita nodded in agreement.

“Well, I think I know who it is. That is, if I were to venture a guess.” Father Merrin was suddenly conscious of the stares that he was generating. He smiled. “But before we do anything, I think it’s important that we find out if the person really is in control, or otherwise. Experience in dealing with people tells me this must be approached with care. And to do that, we need information.”

Rita leaned back against her chair. “What do you propose, Father?”

“Oh, I’ve invited someone to join our crew just for today.” That drew another round of stares from everyone. “I saw the person who seem to be friendly with one of the one that I mentioned just now, so I invited him around for a cup of coffee. That he’s good with tech is a plus anyway.”

Not a moment too soon, Luke Livingston appeared at the top of the stairway, remarking “There you are Father. Sorry I’m late, had to pick up some breakfast for a houseguest first before coming by.”

Father Merrin stood up and smiled, and as Luke came closer he saw Larissa too. Surprised to see another of his friend, he took the empty seat next to Rita’s and quipped “I didn’t know that you knew Father Merrin, Larissa. Did I miss anything?”

To say that it was a whirlwind kind of a meeting was an understatement. For Luke, it felt like he had to relearn about the world that he had lived on for his entire life.

Not that it was a very big leap though, for the more he thought about it, the more it made sense, and not just because he has a scientific background. Given the number of supers now roaming all over Earth either playing hero or villain and anything else in between, it would also make sense that there would be vampires, witches and daemons walking all around. However, to hear it from a select few, about there being a Congregation of sorts among creatures for centuries that maintains a kind of balance and order between the regular humans and thoe who are not, brings the concept of “We are not alone” to a new level.

Father Merrin, Larissa and the group had seeked his help. In his own opinion however, it felt more than a big favour then anything else. They wanted to talk to Grace.Soon.

Though the group had taken the time to explain about the suspected vampire killings of those who were recently turned, he had held out and said that everyone should be deemed innocent until proven guilty, which led to his current dilemma. Even though the petite lady Rita had mentioned that “we just want to talk to her, and provide help and support if need be” Luke wasn’t born yesterday. There’s bound to be a catch.

Maybe it’s just nervousness, but throughout the conversation he felt as if Rita is one person whose gaze seem to indicate that she knows much more than what she’s letting on, and that she already knows Luke is not sharing as openly as they would like. Even so, she had not pressed him, and instead had just calmly sipped her coffee and observed their animated chatter throughout the morning.

Luke had been polite but presistent, and Larissa had proposed giving him a bit of time to think about it before letting the group know, so that they also plan accordingly. He did agree to contact Father Merrin when the time comes, given that the latter does stay on campus, and hence would be closer to anything and everything.

Grace isn’t the only thing on his mind though. There’s also Anita, and the elusive Mike. In fact...”Could Mike be the reason of all these killings?” While the two ladies had at least been seen by him, as far as he could remember Mike had seemed to disappear.

Then, also considering that if what the group has said is true, then whatever that his current houseguest mentioned must also be true. Kara Zor El. The Girl of Steel. Supergirl. A vampire? Which then confirms that whatever that the bodies he saw that day when he bumped into the leggy blonde young woman was truly real. Luke suspected that the only reason that the group didn’t consider any other potential candidates out there simply because the other large pile of bodies which had combusted upon sunlight hitting it.

Which begs the question – “why did some of those combust while others don’t?”

Luke just felt even more confused and conflicted, and he continued to staring out into space from his park bench.

______________________________

Kara felt a little better after the call with Kal. At least he wasn’t as pushy as he thought he would be. Despite being the OLDER cousin by birth, being stuck in stasis for so long really sucks. Still, that Kal agreed to give her a bit of leeway to sort things out is at least positive development from her point-of-view.

Looking again at the clock, she was a bit puzzled. What’s taking Luke so long?

She contemplated changing and flying out to look for him, but managed to suppress that intention by thinking that would be uncalled for. Luke is her host, and most definitely not a baby that requires watching all the time.

While waiting, she had used the phone that Luke left for her to retreive the latest happenings around the globe since her own transformation. Given that she had been out of sorts with society for some time, probably it’s best to catch-up on what has transpired for the past week or so.

As Kara poured through the older news across multiple websites, she read up on Lois’ reporting about a supposedly “Superwoman”appearing suddenly in downtown Metropolis, calling out to Superman in broad daylight. Despite the grainy photos taken from afar, based on the costume that she wore, Kara had no doubt it was that vampire woman who had taken her life. The unmistakable colour scheme and the <S> rune stretching even more over the more matured figure of that woman who had feasted on her. As she recalled the experience, she flinched involuntarily as her right hand moved unconsciously to her neck where she was bitten. But the marks have long disappeared beneath the tanned, smooth skin that is now befitting a Kryptonian.  

Contemplating the situation, the Girl of Steel became increasingly worried, for the report had also mentioned something about the superwoman’s strength and flight abilities, that she had easily crushed and pulled apart a steel mobile tower like paper. Abilities that would be similar to a solar-powered Kryptonian. Just like her and Kal.

Does that mean that this vampire now has super-powers that could rival either of them? Just by drinking Kara’s blood? If yes, then she had unwittingly created a new, dangerous opponent for Earth. Not that she had much say in the entire process nor outcome, having given her life away as the vampire had partaken her life-giving blood to ascend into what she is now.

However, a powerful villainess like her would undoubtedly create more headlines as the days unfolded. Curiously,  there was no other reporting following from that day. There was an explosion at LuthorCorp the next day where someone had seemingly fallen to his death, some write-ups about potential cover-ups in Lex’ company of potentially infighting among the crime-bosses due to this alleged involvements in the illigal human trafficking incident that blew-up a couple of weeks back. 

Nothign else about the supewoman. Zero. Nada. As if the superwoman had seemingly vanished into thin air.

Knowing Kal and Lois, both of them would be doggedly chasing after the superwoman, especially one that has seemingly Kryptonian like-powers and now dressed in her costume. But the ones that Clark and Lois have been writing about seemed to be still on the LuthorCorp item.

Unless there is some connection between the two?

Kara could only groan in frustration as she gave up the thinking. She then looked up, and her eyes changed frequency as she enabled her x-ray vision to look within the fridge. Minimal things in there again. Luke had not stocked up. She groaned again as she fell back onto the couch, rubbing her tummy, conscious of her hunger.

“Where the hell is Luke Livingston?” Not a moment too soon when she heard the familiar shuffle of the feet, and in moments, in stepped her host moments later.

“Hey, sorry I’m late. I bought lunch. It’s just pasta and some chips, but I hope you don’t mind.”  He chuckled when he heard the deep rumble coming from Kara’s stomach, which caused the colour to rise in his houseguest’s cheeks. “Come on, let’s dig in.”

As they cleared out their own plates, Kara could tell that Luke looked weary for some reason. As if he’s carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders. She did catch him casting glances at her that were not really related to the ongoing conversation for some reason, as if he was contemplating ... telling her something? More like trying to avoid telling her about something.

Finally she couldn’t take it anymore. Placing her fork down, she asked pointedly “Luke, is there something troubling you? Maybe I can help.” Luke was stunned slightly but remained elusive, just saying that there is a girl in his class who might be in trouble, and he was thinking what should be the best way for him to help her.

“I know that for all you capes out there, maybe the most straightforward way is best. But I know enough about people that things are not always that simple.” This time Kara unconsciouly flinched when Luke gazed back at her. “In any case, do you think if...someone talks to her, get her to do the right thing, would that help?” Luke smiled at that question. “Sometimes, but not always. If it always does, then I am sure Superman and yourself wouldn’t have to zip around everywhere to catch criminals, no?”

A little later after clearing out the dishes, Luke pulled out his phone and texted Father Merrin on his decision.

Later in the evening, he left the house and again cycled to the university. Even if he was not preoccupied with what is about to happen, he wouldn’t be able to notice the small blot in the sky which is seemingly observing and tracking him from the air.

______________________________

When Luke pushed the chapel’s heavy double-doors open, Father Merrin was just turning on the electronic candles at the front of the altar, near the pew. The sun had almost set for this winter day, and given that there was no service, so only limited number of the lights were turned on. While many others would have preferred to have actual candles, fire hazards prevention and building conservation dictated that everyone has to move on with times.

Father Merrin walked down the aisle towards Luke, who was standing near the door to the office. Just as he was about to get his coat, Luke spoke “So, how confident are you that you are right? I mean, I don’t want to frighten anyone, definitely not my students. And given that we are on university campus, anything that is misspoken will quickly run riot to become terrible rumours on social media...”

“Relax, Professor Livingston. As I mentioned to you, what I have is a hunch. A guess. Hence we are just going up to your lab to have a chat with Grace. Larissa and I have enough experience with this that we can find out what has happened...”

“And then, what happens?”

Father Merrin merely looked at Luke as he put on his coat, before replying “that depends. Normally there will be protection provided and some...diversion activities is provided to waylay the happenings. But” he waved his left hand while opening the chapel door “let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Let’s go see ...”  when he suddenly stopped. Luke couldn’t avoid bumping into Merrin, and when he stepped to the side he saw the reason. 

Grace Duncan was standing outside. With both hands in her pockets, she looked a bit windswept, her blonde hair slightly blown towards one side. Her eyes looked determined though.

“I think I’ll save you the trouble. May I come in then? It is a bit windy out here.”

With all three persons sitting inside Father Merrin’s office, the entire room felt a little constricted. Despite being meticulously kept and with many documents already digitised, there are still many old collections of various christian artifacts and books on large shelves on both sides of the room. Father Merrin sat in his chair facing Grace who sat opposite him, while Luke stood to her side nearer to the doorway.

As Father Merrin poured a cup of tea for Grace, he noticed that unlike Luke, the young lady seemed determined and calm, unlike Luke who is slightly restless. As he thought about the best way to broach the subject, the young lady opened her mouth instead.

“Are both of you trying to find out if I am a vampire?”

Luke stared at Grace as Father Merrin placed the teapot back on the tray before replying. “Well, that is one thing that we are trying to confirm. We were just planning to come by the lab, where I understood from the good professor that you happen to bunking there for a while.” Looking at Grace directly in the eye. “Well, are you?”

Grace just sighed, and then she showed them her fangs with a made-up ‘Boo’. Luke jumped involuntarily, startled by her antics, though Father Merrin merely chuckled. Taking his own teacup, he took a sip. “A simple ‘Yes’ would suffice, Grace. No need to cause Professor Livingston to jump unnecessarily.”

Hiding her fangs again, she paused for a while before replying “Are...are you not afraid of me?”

“Is there any reason for me to fear you?”

“Because I’m a VAMPIRE! I’m different! I am dangerous!” Grace replied loudly. Tears welled up in her eyes, almost falling.

“That is true, that your are different. And yes, many would fear those who are different from them. Merely a difference of faith, skin colour or even appearance is enough to cause that.” Father Merrin looked at her calmly. “As I told you the other day, being different doesn’t mean that you are bad. They are two entirely different things – one is you as a being, the other is your action and character. Whether or not one undertakes a good or bad action is dependant on one’s choice in life. That you are a vampire doesn’t mean that you are a bad person, or the deepest, darkest creature from hell. Hardly. It just means that life handed you a different hand. What, and how you make of it, is still up to you.”

Luke was quietly impressed with how calmly Father Merrin is taking in all these. While he didn’t believe for a moment that Grace would actually turn confrontational and attack either of them, but he had to admit that the chaplain does exude the kind of presence that projected trustworthiness and understanding. Maybe it has to do with his training and occupation.  

“Anyone and everyone is welcomed to the House of the Lord, but is there any particular reason that you came by here today?”

This time, Grace looked down slightly. “I...I thought coming here would at least calm my mind. And also remind me about the Lord and all things great. Just like the previous evening.”

“Ah. However I think for what it’s worth, I hope that this place will also provide a little something additional to you as well.” Grace looked up at the kindly Father, who smiled. “Courage and Hope. I think all of us need both in order to face any of the challenges in life, don’t you think?”

Grace turned away slightly as she rubbed a tear from her eyes. Returning to look at Father Merrin, she seemed to gather her nerve before asking “So...why are you looking for me?”

“Now that is the right question to ask.” Father Merrin smiled kindly, though a little sad. He then began to explain what his small group of like-minded partners and Luke had heard just earlier in the day.  

“So, you mean to say that you were not at any of those locations for the past week, am I right?”

“Yes. I mean, at least for the most recent days, I wasn’t there. We were mostly in the city areas.” Both Luke and Father Merrin nodded. It made sense, since a vampire would need to have a regular drink, and the cityscape and the evening happening in the city would be a far more likely place for them to hunt.

“Based on what we know” Luke continued “it would seem like the attacks are happening closer and closer to the city, for whatever reason. I say attacks “ he saw Grace flinched slightly “because it is true. These victims were... drank to death?” he looked at Father Merrin, who nodded. “Becoming a vampire means you have urges and needs. And in this case, without proper control and regular maintenance, it will be hard to manage, don’t even talk suppress, these powerful urges.”

Opening his satchel bag on the floor, he took out a plastic packet that is deep red in colour. Luke was astonished “Is that blood?”

“Yes. And no, i didn’t steal anything. This was provided by Larissa and Rita.” He gestured to Grace, who was undecided for a while before she took the pack and placed it on her side of the table. From the looks of it, Grace does look interested in going for it, but more like debating whether she should be drinking such an exotic drink in front of others. And then, both men noticed the soft sobs as the girl broke down.

Giving her a bit of time to calm down, Father Merrin continued a few minutes later. “Grace, you are young and new to this world of creatures. We might be few in numbers within the group, but we are here to help in any way possible. All of us pitch in to support in our own way. It does mean some changes to your so-called normal and mundane, but it doesn’t have to be a matter of life and death. You can still live and experience life, as we can all pull through this together.” Grace merely nodded.

Luke however ventured on a thought from a comment that he heard. “Grace. You mentioned ‘We’. Are there others?” Grace’s eyes widened upon that question, and Luke felt a weird feeling down his spine at that moment. “Can you tell us who they are?”

“It...It’s Anita. And Mike.”

Luke looked at Father Merrin, and then asked again. “Shall we go and meet them then?” The girl paused before replying “Anita should be around, but Mike has been missing for a few days. You think...” she then noticed Father Merrin taking out his phone to text.

“Let’s see. Where can we meet Anita?”

Anita McCall had at that very moment just re-entered the engineering building. Mumbling incoherently to herself, she looked flustered as she removed her jacket after coming in from the cold. But as she navigated the steps towards the basement, she stopped suddenly just at the turn of the corner prior to the final flight of stairs downwards, all her instincts told her that something, or someone is nearby. Bracing herself slightly, her rubber sneakers making minimal noise as she slowly took her steps, but as she arrived there wasn’t anyone in sight, even with her enhanced hearing and sight.

Feeling a bit puzzled she cautiously made her way towards the Prof Livingston’s labroom. Looking left and right, and still seeing nothing of note, she opened the door with her key and stepped into room.

As she closed the door she shrieked and jumped backwards a couple of feet, crashing unceremoniously into the workbench on the side. “Ow...what the fuck.” She cursed as she moaned on the ground, before slowly picking herself up, slapping away the hand that was offered to her. Pulling herself together to her full height, she dusted herself off her slacks as she regarded the grinning petite woman standing in front of her. “What the hell Rita. Why are you here?”

“So you do recognise me after all.” The petite redhead grinned. “I thought you might have forgotten about little ole me, Anita, after you left Melbourne in such a hurry.”

“That was years ago Rita. I was sent away, remember. I assume you are not here just to chat about old times, so what is it you want?” Anita asked as she kicked a chair towards Rita, who nonchalantly stopped it with her left foot. They both sat down and regarded each other for a while, before Rita replied “You know why I’m here. The only reason, that is.”

Seeing Anita’s frown and non-reply, Rita continued “Oh don’t be coy. You know that there have been a few...undesired...incidents this past week. I asssume that’s why you were so flustered that you didn’t eve realise I was standing behind the door.”

Anita snickered “You got me there, standing behind the door that is. However, not all of us are up for the task of the clean-up. Given that I have been a good, law-abiding citizen, you can’t blame me for being surprised by you.”

“So you do know about those murders then.” Both vampires stared at each other, before Anita sighed. “I was trying to handle it, but he continues to elude me. When I was with him, everything seemed under control...”

“Well, that’s why I am here. First we need to find him, then we will figure out the rest.” Rita asked, curioused. “How did he came to be though?”

“I... Mike and Grace are my friends. Here, at the university. We went to town last weekend, just after classes. We were just passing by the quadrangle as we made our way towards the west exit when suddenly there seemed to be an attack on humans. Even I couldn’t see the creatures clearly, but by the time I swatted them  off...”

“Creatures?? You mean there are multiples?”

“I...I couldn’t be sure. If there is only one, then that creature sure as hell moved MUCH faster than even I could see. But it was like a whirlwind; when all was said and done, both of them are in a bad way. The only way I could save them...”

“...was to give them your blood. You made them.” Rita finished that sentence.

“Not out of free choice, no. Unlike you, I do value friendship you know.”

“And is that they way you value friendship? By not telling them the truth?” A different voice chimed in, and Anita’s eyes was as wide as saucers as Grace stepped into the lab, with Luke & Father Merrin in tow. “To tell the truth, I could barely remember what happened that night, and I really thought that some fluke had resulted in us surviving the incident. Little did I know...” Grace sounded hurt. “Is your name even Anita McCall?”

Anita steeled herself, before replying “I did what I thought was right. You can blame me all you want, but yes, I made you. It was a matter of life and death, and unlike Rita here” she gestured to the redhead yet again “I am NOT prepared to lose my friends. ANY of my friends.” She cast a sideways glance again at Rita, who merely looked back at her coldly.

As Luke and Merrin both leaned against one of the long workbenches, the latter then asked “While I think it is important for us to...learn the appropriate context and circumstances, I believe time is of essence at the moment. Given that we more or less have a good understanding of what happened, perhaps we focus on finding Mike first?” Rita looked at Anita, who then reached towards her rucksack to pull out a sweater. Throwing it over to Rita, Anita remarked “I’ve tried to follow the trail, but I can’t seem to keep on the lead. Too many scents masking or overpowering his scent. I don’t think he’s doing it on purpose though.”

Taking a deep sniff, Rita closed her eyes seemingly trying to register and memorise the smell, before reopening her eyes. Pulling out her phone, she scrolled through a few things before remarking “Based on the information, thekillings were done in Ashburton, then Kidston, followed by Richmond...”

“He’s getting closer to the CBD.” Grace remarked. Rita looked up at the blonde before continuing. “The bodies were not exaclty hard to find as well, even though there isn’t that much left to look at. If we can find a connection, then it might help the search. ”

“I think I know the link.” Grace quipped again. “Those locations were where he went to school before.” Rita glanced at Grace, then back at Anita. “So, if the pattern holds true, then he should be around here soon then? Looks like he’s moving up the ladder rather quickly.” Grace extended her arm out, and Rita passed her phone over to the young woman.

“If that is true, it’s still like finding a needle in the haystack. The university in term, and tens of thousands of students are all about the place. We can’t be searching everywhere on campus, assuming that he will be here.”  Luke lamented. The more he thought about it, the more worried he became. Initially, Father Merrin had assured him that Rita would be of help, but too many people here, it feels like a lost cause trying to find Mike Kim quickly.

Suddenly, they heard a Grace gasp. She turned the phone around and pointed towards two of the victims “I have seen these two before, on Mike’s phone. I think they were Mike’s friends from middle school.”

Rita took the phone back, and relooked at the photos. “So...could our wanted man be looking for familiar faces? Quite disheartening you know, going after your own pals in order to take a drink. Even if it is for survival. If that is true, then who would classify as his friends in university?” She looked at Anita, then Grace. “Does that mean he’s coming for both of you then?”

Anita quipped “We would, but we are vampires too. So we are not exactly easy prey.” “That doesn’t mean that he can’t drink from both of you. Anyone else then?”

A lightbulb suddenly went up in Luke’s mind. “Ash! Mike tends to spend most of his time here at the lab, and he gets on very well with my lab assistant. They do go for science workshops and technology conferences a few times this year. Could he be next?”

Anita and Rita exchanged glances, before the latter replied. “Where does Ash live then? Maybe we can go there and have a look. Better safe than sorry.”

“He lives on campus, at Regent Hall. Ten minutes from here. Let me take you there?” Rita nodded, and Grace also stood up. “I’ll go too. Maybe I can try to talk him down.” That met with a disapproving look from the redhead. “My dear, when a vampire is hungry, the first thing he needs is sustenance. I doubt that he will listen to anything else other than his own bodily needs when pushed.” But Rita persisted, and eventually she backed down.

The group eventually split into two – Anita agreed to wait for news together with Father Merrin back at the chapel. As Luke guided Anita and Grace towards the Hall, he sent out two text messages, receiving only one in return. Feeling a bit more dread, he hoped he can get there in time.  

_____________________

Ash had just laid down his phone and was about to turn off his laptop when he heard a knock on his door. A man of habit, he was just about to make his way towards the common kitchen to make dinner when he was interrupted.

He was surprised to see Mike Kim standing outside the door as he looked through the peephole. Opening the dormitory door, he noticed his lab mate looking a little worse for wear – shirt and pants all crumpled and slightly dusty, tousled hair. “Where the hell did you come from? I thought you’ve gone and run-off with that beautiful fake blonde from AnimeCon the other day, given that you just simply dropped off the face of the earth.”

Mike face was seemingly a complex mix of emotions; despite being cool and calm, it didn’t escape Ash that his eyes looked slightly more crazed as if his friend was deperately holding back on his...desire? Needs? While he wasn’t sure, it was clear that Mike doesn’t look like the student who went on those tech conventions not too long ago.

“Mike, are you ok? You seem out of it...” He put his hand on Mike’s shoulder, who merely shrugged it away. “I’m...I’m just a bit hungry, you know. Just came from an unexpected excursion. A death in the family and all that, hence I needed to get away for a few days. I just arrived back at campus, and am thinking of catching up with you for a meal before I go check on Grace at the dorm.”

Noticing that Mike was eyeing his ingredients that he was carrying in his tote bag, Ash replied “Well, if you’re famish, why don’t you give me a bit of time to cook up a little something for both of us first? Then we can go and check in with your girlfriend. Oh, and don’t bother going to the dorm...” Ash remarked as he led the way towards the common kitchen. “...Grace and Anita are crashing in at the lab. They said something about having some issues with their room, and had to wait it out a few days, so they are temporarily crashing at the lab.”

Before he could take another step, suddenly Mike had reappeared in front of him. Before Ash could even contemplate how his friend had moved so quickly Mike had grabbed hold of his shoulders. “You know what, Ash. Why don’t you leave your stuff here, we’ll go pick-up Grace and Anita, and then let’s go to town instead?”

“Ouch. Hey man! You don’t have to grip me that hard! Yeesh, didn’t know that you are such a possesive boyfriend.” Ash eyed his friend suspiciously, as he knows that Mike doesn’t really “go out to town” all that much given that he is on financial aid. While he saw Mike loosen his grip somewhat the firmness still signified that his friend REALLY wants to go to the lab first for whatever reason. 

“Well, I have been away for a few days, and I really want to apologise for neglecting her, so I think dinner and drinks in town would go some way towards rectifying the situation. Come on, let’s go!” With that Mike shifted his position and placed his arm over Ash’s shoulder, and in a passive-aggressive manner guided both of them out the main door.

Minutes later, Luke, Rita and Grace came through the back door and was turning towards Ash’s room when Rita stopped in the middle of the hallway. “I can smell him.” The red-head remarked. Upon hearing that Grace picked up the pace and ran all the way to Ash’s room, and knocked repeatedly on the door. Just as Luke caught up, he felt his phone vibrating in his trousers pocket. Taking it up and reading it, she stopped Grace’s continuous pounding and shouting. Turning to Rita, he said “I think Ash and Mike have gone back towards the lab. We just missed them.”

“How the hell do you know that?” But before Rita could get a reply, Grace had raced ahead of the both of them. Rita only groaned in frustration and as she ran, she called out to Luke “Try to keep up, Prof!”

“Hey hey hey. I can walk by myself. Geez, what’s come into you Mike? I know you want to see her and all, but you don’t have to push me all the way.” Both men had just entered the building, feeling the familiar whoosh of the wind as they got indoors. While Ash was agitated with the man-handling he could however see that Mike was really focused on trying to find the two woman for whatever reason, and his facial expression indicated that he is not in the mood for “No” as an answer.

Just as they made their way downstairs into the basement, Mike suddenly grabbed hold of Ash, and he squinted around as if looking for ... someone? Something?

Mike didn’t say anything, instead he was...smelling around the place as if trying to pick up a scent? His head was swaying slightly, and he could hear quiet growls.

Then, the familiar sound of a door opening, and a pretty blonde stepped out into the hallway. She looked like a typical lab/teaching assistant; dressed in a simple blue sweater over a long-sleeve white blouse and a pair of knee-length black skirt, the young woman had just turned off the lights when she froze for a while, seemingly surprised to see both men there.

“Whoa, you guys gave me a fright. What brings both of you here?” She pushed her glasses up slightly on her nose bridge before calling out to them, a sign of nervousness.

Even though the woman is not familiar to Ash, he knows the situation that they are in, and tried to indirectly warn her off. “Oh, er, we’re just down here to collect a few friends for dinner, and we’re off. Sorry about surprising you, didn’t think anyone would be around now. Don’t mind us.”

Suddenly Mike’s eyes opened wide and stared straight at the student. Before Ash could do anything he felt himself carried across the hallway until they stood in front of the woman, and then he felt himself being pushed unceremoniously through Professor Livingston’s lab door, the force of him crashing against the door actually split the door open breaking the simple lock, his momentum was such that he continued into the room, crashing into multiple desks and workbenches before he finally lay on the floor, conked-out for the moment.

Despite his slightly vertically-challenged body, Mike still grabbed hold onto the young woman’s throat and pinned her against the wall. “Who the hell are you, and why are you here?” The woman merely squirmed, struggling against Mike’s strong hold on her windpipe as her legs are lifted off the floor. “You made a big mistake, lady, coming out from the lab which is currently unoccupied. I know this place in and out, and you should have known better to come here.”

The young woman merely whimpered, her slim hands on his meaty arms trying to pry his hold open.

 “Oh, trying to be coy eh? I can sense that you are different from all the others. You can’t hide your secrets from me forever you know. All it takes is a little bite and a drink, I will be able to extract what I want to know from you.” With that Mike brought her woman down, and moved his face closer, extending his fangs to try to scare the woman into submission. But in mere moments, his confident smile changed into a confused stare, for he realised that the woman had stopped struggling, and seemed to be looking more confident than she let out on. As he looked at her face, he saw her azure eyes now glowing red. His enhanced hearing had no issue hearing her gentle whisper.

And were those fangs that he saw in her mouth?

“Oh, you’re partially right. You see, I am merely the DEcoy.”

It was all the opening that the onrushing Rita needed to land a punch on Mike’s face, and the newborn felt true pain for the first time since he became a vampire. His anger rising, Mike raised his arm and tossed the blonde towards the other end of the hall, not bothering to even check on how her body seemingly crashing onto the floor and collapsing into a heap.

As he turned to face the red head, Grace appeared next to Rita. “Mike, stop. You need help. Please, you need to come with us so that we can sort things out.”  

“Sort things out? Sort what things out? What kind of help do you think I need?” Pointing towards Rita, he raised his voice “SHE was the one who just came out of nowhere to attack me. Why is that MY fault?”

Rita just remarked coldly “If I had somehow hurt your face or your ego, I apologise. But right now I don’t think you are in control. You need help to manage your anger and your actions.”

“Or you’ll do what?”

“I don’t think you want to find out. Especially not in front of your girlfriend.”

Mike merely sneered at the redhead. Coincidentally, both of them are about the same height.” Just like both of you, I am a vampire now, and I can do things that I could only DREAM of previously! If you are referring to those buffoons, they just happened to be meal tickets.”

“Mike! Are you daft? Those were your friends!” Grace shouted. Amidst all these, a clattering of footsteps could be heard, and the figure of Luke Livingston appeared from the stairs. Panting from his earlier run, he however the growing tempeterature in the room, and he approached the three cautiously.

“Friends? Friends should help each other, not drag one another down with them. And if they cannot be of use to me when living, I thought that they would be better off becoming my own meal ticket.” Mike laughed sadly. Rita merely stared at him coldly.

“No! I don’t believe anything that you’re saying! It’s just like what Anita told us, it’s the vampiric blood in our bloodstream. We need to learn to manage our feed. Help. Let us do it together.” Mike laughed loudly when she saw Grace’s plead and her outstretched hand. “Oh Grace. I know why you’re here, why all of you are here. I don’t think I’m going to get anything out of this today. So either you let me go, or I am going to go through you.”

Seizing the initiative, he raced towards Grace who flinched reactively. Just as seemed like he would body-check his former girlfriend Mike twisted himself to the side and towards her back, and instead caught hold of Luke Livingston instead. Despite their difference in height, Mike’s vampiric strength meant that he was still able to manhandle the taller man, though it did resulted in the the professor was bent backward slightly as he felt his student’s strong left arm over his throat. He tried to grab onto the arm to try and loosen it, but it felt as if he was trying to remove a large tree trunk over his throat.

“My my. Guess who has the initiative now?” Peeking from Luke’s body which he is using as a shield, Mike seemed pleased with himself, and positioning Luke in front of him, he slowly backed towards the stairs. Despite his own enhanced abilities, going up against two wouldn’t really help his case, and fleeing for now will give him a bit of respite.

Rita fumed, as she mentally cursed herself for not anticipating that move. Her fingers twitched involuntarily as she felt her fingers sharpening. She held Grace back when the latter wanted to move forward.  “Ah ah ah. Don’t you both move. I am SURE I will be able to sink my teeth into the good professor’s neck faster than both of you can come and disarm me.” Slowly, they both moved upwards half a flight.

Struggling over Mike’s hold on him, Luke could only gasped out “Mike....not...too late...Stop...can help...”. At the turn, Mike changed his hold, and before Luke realised what happened he felt himself being grabbed hold of at the waist, and he felt himself being carried upwards the flight of stairs in great speed. Just as he thought they were going to get out from the building, he suddenly realised he was then sitting on the floor no longer being held by Mike Kim. Feeling dizzy and a ringing sound in his ears, it was all he could do to kneel as he heaved in gulps of breath before collapsing onto the floor again, out like a light.

Landing about 10 feet away on his back, Mike was also trying to process what had just happened. One moment he saw the all clear from the main doors of the building leading outside, and then suddenly a barrier seemed to appear just in front of the exit faster than he could react, despite of his enhanced reactions. He had then crashed face-first into the barrier, and his speed and bulk created enough momentum resulting in him being thrown away to one side, letting go of his hostage in the process. In moments however, he then realised it wasn’t a “what” that he had crashed into, but a “who”.

The girl whom he had thrown about like a ragdoll just moments ago is now standing nonchalantly in front of the doors. She had discarded her blue sweater, and seemed none the worse for wear, despite having two men run into her. Looking directly at Mike, her eyes were a piercing blue as if she was trying to stare and read directly into his soul. Mike quickly picked himself up and took a fighting stance, feeling his fangs appear and his fingers sharpen as he faced his opponent.

“I don’t care who you are, but you just made a wrong mistake.”

Instead of running away or preparing to fight, the woman placed one hand on her hip and another in an upraised palm. “Look, I know that there might be misunderstanding here, but those friends of yours are really trying...” before she could complete that sentence, Mike had jumped forward and tried to slash on her chest and face. Just as he thought his blow was going to land, the woman confidently caught hold of his left arm, twisted it to the side, and sent him crashing face-first against the wall on his left.

Mike was stunned. Since his transformation he had never struck anything that he couldn’t break, nor gone up against anyone that he couldn’t handle. But this girl in front of him...Shaking his head to try and clear the cob-webs, he could see that his sharpened fingers had managed to rip part of her top apart to reveal her blue undergarment below, but the young lady still didn’t look distressed nor nervous. Instead as she walked towards him calmly, her hands grabbed the middle of her white blouse and tore them apart to reveal....”WHAT THE HELL?”

image048.jpg

Everyone on Earth knows there are two people who normally wear the familar red and yellow <S> insignia on a blue-top.

Just his luck that he would run into HER this evening.

As Mike stared at the approaching Supergirl, he also saw through a sideway glance the arrival of Rita and Grace at the top of the stairs, the former bemused while the latter with a hand over her mouth, gawking.

“I’m only here to talk, not to fight. So how about we HEY!!!” Kara had reached out with her right arm as a goodwill gesture towards the young man when she felt Mike attempting to slash her again. This time she was caught unaware when Mike flipped himself up and then delivered a powerful kick which landed on her stomach, sending the Girl of Steel flying into and through the glass panels walls to land on the ground outside.

This time Rita was prepared. The moment she saw Mike send Kara flying out onto the campus ground, she grabbed a portable fire extinguisher at the top of the stairs and ran towards Mike, and in a sliding move reminiscent of a speed skater she slid across the polished hallway before using the fire extinguisher to hit Mike’s left leg, sending Mike falling face forward as she went past. Before he could get back up, Rita quickly positioned herself behind him and placed him in a chokehold to try and contain the rogue vampire.

Mike however was not going down without a fight. Grunting and heaving as he tried to get out of the hold, he adjusted their bodies until he was partial standing and facing the wall, and then suddenly just like Jackie Chan he quickly “walked” along upwards along the wall flipped himself over and behind Rita, before delivering an elbow slam towards the petite red-head’s back, sending her crashing directly into the wall and stunning her.

Just as he was about to turn around Mike suddenly felt a familiar lavender scent of his ex-girlfriend. Instead of attacking him, she just grabbed and hold onto him from the back, tears streaking down her face as she attempted to calm him down. “Mike, please! Stop! You’re hurting people! Don’t do this.”

But he can’t stop. He couldn’t. It was as if some weird desire within him has now bubbled up and cause him to be much more aggressive. But seeing her in front of him does brought his mind a bit of breathing space, and at least he now started to consider his options. Under normal circumstances he might have wanted to take his chances against the two vampires, but now with Supergirl here as well, it looks as if he is cornered.

He needed to get away. Fast.

Despite Grace grabbing hold on to him, Mike’s significantly stronger strength meant that he was able to still carry the woman on his back, as he looked for a way out. His immediate thought of going out through the glass panels was dashed as he saw Kara waiting for him outside, her hands over her chest. As he considered other options, he was shocked when he felt Grace’s bite onto his neck.

It was an act of desperation from Grace, who was not just fighting not to let him escape, but it was also a calculated risk that if she could weaken him somehow, then maybe he can be apprehended more easily. She heard Mike grunting with each gulp of his blood, but after only five gulps she felt herself being torn away from him, and then hurtled outside like a bullet. Grace felt herself literally flying through the air until she felt a pair of hands catch her. Opening her eyes to look into a pair of the smiling face of one Kara Zor-El, who then gently dropped her back onto the ground.

As they turned their attention towards the lab once more, it would seem that Mike and Rita have already started Round Two. Despite being wounded, he is still managing to hold his own against the more experienced exponent. Parrying a few of Rita’s fast chops and hits across his torso and even his crotch, Mike was still able to dish a few back on his own, countering her nimbleness and agility with his tank-like body to absorb hits and throw back a few heavy ones. One of his sidekicks managed to catch Rita on her head, sending the redhead sprawling to the side and on the ground. As he moved towards her, suddenly a concentrated gust of wind blew againt him sending Mike flying backwards and crashing against the wall again, causing cracks all over the place, before sliding down to sit on the floor, dazed.

Kara followed-up on her superbreath by grabbing his shirt with her left hand and lifting the vampire back up to a standing position. She the slammed him backwards against the wall, causing even deeper cracks, and pinning him. “ENOUGH! STOP IT, NOW! OR I SWEAR TO RAO I WILL MAKE YOU PAY!”

Mike did freeze, but it wasn’t because of Kara’s threat. It was due to the shock of staring into a pair red-glowing irises on top of those baby blue eyes, and the full extension of her own fangs in front of him. He then felt his mind being assaulted by an unseen force, and it was all he could do but to cry out in pain before his head slumped forward, seemingly unconscious.

As Kara let him go, Rita approached them and caught the falling vampire. Laying him on the floor, she checked him out quickly, before turning around and face the one female Kryptonian standing up. “Well, that’s that. He is really out cold this time around. Hopefully it will be some time before he wakes up again.” Sensing that Rita had just glaced beyond Kara’s left own shoulder, the Girl of Steel’s superhearing had also picked up new chatter courtesy of the just-arrived Anita McCall and Father Merrin, who are just getting caught-up with things from Grace.

“What’s going to happen to our friend here?” Kara asked, curious.

Looking up again from the prone body, Rita’s face became even more serious. “Not good, I’m afraid. The Congregration frowns on such incidents, for it might mean unnecessary exposure and attention. This is out of my hands.” Sensing Supergirl’s rising righteous anger, Rita tried to pacify Kara. “Look. What’s done is done. Lives have been lost, and for whatever reason, and whether it is acceptable or not, there needs to be justice. Even though it is meted out by a group sitting in the shadows, rest assured it will be done as humanely possible.” Even Rita thought what she herself had said was bullshit – after all, what’s so humane about taking away one’s life, even if it is a creature?

“If I were you” Rita nodded towards another prone body nearer to the main doors “I would go and  see to your boyfriend first before worrying about Big Mike here.” Grinning as she sensed an unconscious rise in colour on Kara’s cheek, she continued “Don’t worry, we’re not going anywhere soon.”

The debate in her mind quickly won, Kara walked over briskly to Luke. Checking him out with her X-ray vision, she was relieved that he was only bruised, nothing broken. Trying to figure out how to wake the professor, she suddenly had a wicked thought, and bent down to kiss Luke Livingston on the mouth. No sooner than that’s been done, she detected a slight flutter of his eyelids, and moments after she sat up, she detected a moan from the professor who seemed to have just woken up from his long sleep.

Blinking his eyes multiple times, he finally saw the familiar face hovering over him wearing that famous blue top. As he came to his senses, Luke blurted out “So...what did I miss?”

Kara laughed. 

All the commotion had really taken a toll on Luke Livingston. Being manhandled by his student and then running smack onto a young woman whose body is stronger than steel meant that his entire body was ready to shutdown for the rest of the night, despite that it was only early evening. Sitting on cool grass with an extra coat over his body, Father Merrin had tended to him by using a plastic bag to take some water from a nearby water fountain, and then asked Kara to freeze it with her icebreath. Voila, a readily-available customized icepack, just good enough to nurse his bruises on his ribs and that one lump on his left forehead.

When George DeMatteo turned up with crew, his demeanour was that of a professional police officer who has seemingly met all of them for the first time in his life. Unfazed by all the damages about the lab building, he had taken down Grace, Rita and Kara’s statements while some of his members went about photographing the scene and also pull across the yellow-tape. He did eye Kara suspiciously a few times, Luke saw. Not that he blames George though, given that his houseguest wasn’t really incospicuous. Since she hadn’t fully presented herself in a full costume set - all she had on still was just one of Laney’s costume top – that she was floating throughout their conversation however was enough confirmation that she is the real deal, and not another hero-wannabe.   

Luke just didn’t want to think about the mountain of paperwork for the university that will definitely follow. “Probably will take me an eternity, plus endless board hearings to get through the rest of my academic life” he thought ruefully.

It took another three hours before George took his team with him plus Mike together. While it wasn’t obvious to Luke at the time, he found out later that when there wasn’t anyone looking Rita had give Mike a syringe full of sedative to ensure that he stays out of it much longer.

It was also then that Mike Kim would eventually be dealt with by the Congregation. Outside of any justice system nor any country’s jurisdiction. For there’s really no other way to bury the issue unless the perpertrator disappears. Rita’s words. From the likes of it, it seems she has done enough of it throughout her life in order to be numb of everything already. 

The price to pay for a creature who was out-of-control. The only way for creatures to deflect attention away from their kind, and continue hiding amongst the Terrans.

Anita pleaded. Grace cried. Kara fumed, and she looked as if she could launch her heat vision at Rita at any time. Father Merrin stayed silent, wisely, on the wayside. 

For Luke, he just didn’t know what to think. This is merely the first day that he was brought into the small group, to be part of the select few to know those you brush past each day might be more than meets the eye. Within a day itself, he has been involved in getting one of his students cornered and apprehended, and to send him towards his untimely death. It was just too much.

Amidst all the commotion, he stood up suddenly, and almost immediately he had to grasp the edge of the back of the chair to steady his wobbly legs. As he felt a slim arm surround his waist, he heard Kara asking “Home?” Luke looked towards his right at the blonde goddess, and nodded silently.

He could barely remember the short flight back to his place courtesy of Supergirl, nor could he recount how he managed to climb the flight of stairs before finally succumbing to sleep.

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