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Thursday, August 7, 2014

into the mess

            The order to move out came at two the next morning, and when Christie was shaken roughly awake from where she had dozed off on the backseat of a Humvee, she found herself staring into the familiar, yet unwelcome face of Chevalier. He looked much improved from when she had seen him the night before, but that was a bit like saying that a car wreck looked better with the mangled corpses removed.

            There was a strange gleam in his eyes, which were so green in the pre-dawn light as to almost look black and crow-like. Christie balked away from him instinctively, her instincts screaming at her that she was in danger, and yet there was no logical reason for her to be intimidated by the pale man. Her heart hammered in her ears, and Chevalier’s eyes seemed to drift to her throat where her elevated pulse made her skin dance, and for an instant everything about him seemed as predatory as a coiled snake.
            After a moment, the silence was broken as a smirk slid across Chevalier’s face and he let out a low laugh. “Pardonnez moi. Did you sleep well?”
            Christie opened her mouth and closed it again, deciding to opt for a sharp nod instead of speaking.
            “We are leaving now.” The Frenchman turned his eyes to where Dr. Hollis, Agent Thomas and Tisiphone were arguing and gesturing wildly, “If we ever get coordinated, that is.”
            Christie finally regained confidence in her voice and she carefully cleared her throat, “Don’t take this the wrong way or anything, but are you prepared for field work?” Chevalier slowly turned his eyes back to her in a gesture that conveyed deep offence. She added, “I thought that you were just a consultant.”
            “Of course I am prepared. I have been doing this sort of thing since before you were born.” Christie blinked, puzzled since he only seemed a year or two older than her. He went on, “And oui, I am a consultant. A consultant who is far more qualified to be here than most.”
            “You just seem more of a suit type of guy.”
            Chevalier took a step back and without another word he disappeared around the rear of the truck, allowing Christie to get a head-to-toe look at his all-black tactical fatigues. The agent sighed and admitted to herself that he did, indeed, look very good in them.
            The blockades that the police had set up along the highway into Liberty Cross were abandoned, but had apparently done their job of keeping outside traffic away. Agent Thomas scowled as they passed the last of them, her keen eyes picking out minute details that spoke volumes about what had transpired: there were bullet holes in the back end of one of the cop cars, and even though there were no bodies anywhere, a fragment of a torn uniform on the pavement and a cocked service rifle laying nearby told her that the incident was spreading.
            They reached the outskirts of the town and Thomas immediately found all of her suspicions confirmed: the remnants of the CDC camp left little hope in her mind of clearing up the situation quickly and easily.
            Christie stared open-mouthed out of the window, not quite knowing what she had been expecting but very sure that it wasn’t what she was seeing. Any hope that she had fostered of finding Stephen alive and in one piece evaporated, and she gritted her teeth, willing herself to remain calm.
            The Humvee rolled to a stop near the remains of the car that Stephen and Bernie had abandoned, and the second government car behind them carefully parked a few feet away. Chevalier climbed out of it fluidly, and glanced up at the sky apprehensively. The sun was beginning to rise over the horizon, and his limbs were already shaking from exhaustion. He truly, badly needed to feed, and being so close to so many beating hearts was maddening. He caught Agent Thomas’ eye and jerked a finger up to the lightening sky meaningfully.
            Thomas nodded, and started barking orders, “We are going to need to fix up this camp. Agent,” she glanced at Tisiphone for a second before remembering the vampire’s false last name, “Jones, Chevalier and I will go and do a preliminary check of the warehouses nearby. Expect us to return at dusk.” She shouldered her M4 carbine and hurried to rendezvous with the two revenants.
            Christie opened the door to the Humvee and leapt out so abruptly that she toppled face-first into the dirt. Before anyone had a chance to laugh, she scrambled to her feet and hurried after Thomas, “Wait! I want to come with you.”
            Tisiphone cocked a pierced eyebrow in a smirk and Thomas shook her head, “Impossible. Stay here and help the others make a base.”
            “With all due respect, I really think that I should come. This is an opportunity to calibrate the ARC system that I imply cannot pass up.”
            “There will be time for that later.”
            “Please,” Christie caught Thomas’ hand roughly, “I want to find Dr. Yeats. I know it is stupid, but I really need to go look for him.”
            Chevalier’s eyes shot to the horizon and he cleared his throat, “We are wasting time arguing. Take her with us. We can figure out what to do with her when he get to the warehouses.” Thomas shot him a dirty look but he had already turned his back and started down the short incline towards the city.
            Thomas gave Christie an expression that would have curdled milk and growled, “You stay close. You are not going to injure any one here by being foolhardy or by going off on your own, do you understand?” Christie nodded quickly, and the more experienced agent let out a long breath, “Don’t make me regret this.”
            Without another word, she turned and followed after Chevalier, and Christie barely managed to hide a wide smile of exhilaration. She began to march after them when she realized that Tisiphone was simply staring at her with a bizarre look on her face.
            They reached the first of the warehouses right as the first rays of the sun tore over the horizon, and Chevalier practically threw himself inside, his chest heaving like he was about to vomit. Tisiphone joined him just as rapidly and Christie found herself lifting an eyebrow at their haste to get inside. When she did her basic combat training required of an FBI agent, she was told to never charge headlong into any situation, especially not one as serious as this one.
            Agent Thomas stepped inside with a cat-like grace, and she quickly swept the room with her eyes coolly leveled along her M4’s sights. Christie did the same with her side arm drawn, feeling a strange sense of inadequacy at the fact that she was only wielding a standard-issue glock. She turned around and checked her corners, only to find the rotting remains of what looked to be a pile of desiccated prairie voles that had most likely been there for years.
            She was about to say something about it when Chevalier let out a scream. The sound was something between the feral roar of a predatory animal and the keening shriek of the damned, and when Christie spun around to face him, he was swatting at his face, which was smoking. The high windows of the building had long ago been shattered, and what little glass remained only directed the beams of the sun directly across the floor, illuminating the whole building like a baseball stadium.
            Agent Steele couldn’t move or react at all to what she saw: Chevalier’s handsome face was gone, replaced by a bloody, smoldering mess of a skull that gaped open and roared, his dried, contorted tongue flapping around strangely wolf-like teeth uncontrollably.
            Tisiphone also screamed and clawed at her skin, but Christie didn’t have time to see what had happened to her. Chevalier turned around, and the horrible offal that had once been his mouth roared, “Do it now!”
            Agent Thomas nodded sternly, and when Christie looked over at her in shock, the butt of the M4 slammed into her forehead, knocking her clean out.

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