B1 — 4. Ethics

Rachel’s ears were stiff, scanning for danger.  She heard something rushing through the smoke and then it was gone; not a sound.  Swallowing nervously, she backed up a little, supporting Scarlet against her body without effort.  What is that?  He was there, and then he vanished.

Her ears twitched as she heard someone’s footsteps appear out of nowhere from within a house behind her; heavy breathing followed as the man fiddled with something metallic.  Rachel’s focused hearing heard Mateo calling for his men to defensive positions as soon as he saw the smoke. Is he teleporting?  He appeared in that house out of nowhere, but there was a definite delay.

She frowned as she heard a dull popping sound as more projectiles shot from the building toward her, the smoke at her back beginning to expand to fill the area.  He’s obstructing our vision.  The movement of the haze around her slowed to a creep as she moved, a concussive burst of air rushing past her at the near instant acceleration.  Holywhat is up with this speed?  Her vision shifted down as Scarlet pressed against her body.  She should be able to handle this speed, right?  She’s a Vampire, still, I should be careful with her head … or her heart?

Her focus returned to what was in front of her; her wide field of vision giving her ample information.  I should head back to our escort and tell them what’s going on.  Within a breath, she’d run around the smoke blocking the unit and stopped in front of Mateo, slowing a bit before coming to a stop.

Mateo jumped with a half-uttered curse as she appeared in a flurry of wind; shielding his face.  “What—when…”  He slowly lowered his arms as he returned to his senses.  “What’s happening?”

Rachel kept ahold of Scarlet as she looked back at the expanding cloud, shifting violently with her passing.  “Scarlet said there’s a wannabe superhero after her before fainting. She probably needs a blood pack.”

Her ears twitched as a person seemed to appear from thin air fifteen feet from them in a cloud of haze; his breathing, heartbeat, footsteps, and clothes shifting in the breeze gave away his position.  She watched him appear in slow motion as her focus sharpened. He was wearing black spandex with yellow designs, and a Noh mask that hid his face; on his back was a tactical backpack, a belt with two more smoke grenades on it with some form of miniature grenade launcher strapped to his side.  He seemed to have muscle and was at least two meters high. “Don’t give that devil a drop of blood!”

Rachel’s hands tightened around the unconscious Scarlet.  What’s his beef?

The soldiers around them reacted instantly; raising their guns.  “Get on the ground!”

“I will not,” the man stated, crossing his arms.  “I have been tracking that hellspawn all night!”

“I won’t repeat it,” Mateo growled, finger on the trigger of his rifle.

“Your weapons are useless against me,” the man darkly stated.  “I will not harm the Military for doing their duty, but I cannot allow that thing freedom.”

They were silent for a moment; the sound of Mateo grinding his teeth feeding into Rachel’s ears.  “The country is in a state of Martial Law; we are in a hostile zone with stretched resources. On the count of three, we will open fire; one, two, three, weapons hot.”

Rachel tensed, closing her eyes, ears lying back as the soldiers’ weapons sounded around them.  The firing ceased, prompting Rachel to look at the scene. The man was standing in the same position, wavering for a moment as if a mirage before solidifying, causing Mateo and a few of his men to curse.  “Ability user.” He spat.

“I cannot be hurt by your weapons,” he stated again.  “I will ask again; give me the Vampire, and I’ll be on my…”  He cut off as Mateo sniffed loudly.

“Alright,” he said, pointing at the man.  “You want the Vampire?”

Rachel was about to question him when she heard the sharp sound of a cartridge being loaded several buildings back.  The man that took the child inside the buildings.

“I didn’t think you’d…”  He cut off as a bullet passed through his head, the shockwave sounding to Rachel’s ears seconds later.  The bullet didn’t seem to catch him in a solid state, causing Mateo and several of his men to mutter a curse.  “Well—I should have seen that coming from Special Forces…” The man stated bitterly, his voice hoarse. “If I wasn’t about to walk over to grab her … I’d be dead … pure luck on my part; I’ll admit my mistake.  Now, will you?”

Rachel hummed darkly.  “Why do you hate Scarlet so much?  What’s your beef with her?”

The man’s voice hardened.  “I—she—it killed twenty people; my brother included.”  There has to be more to the story.  This all had to have happened in less than several hours.  What did Scarlet say? She was starving and scared before, but now she felt like a predator.

Frowning, Rachel pressed.  “How did it happen?”

“Does it matter?”  The man stated. “It killed twenty people; it’s a mass murderer.”

Mateo spoke up, clearly pissed.  “I was briefed on the incident; twenty cultists that forced her into a coffin and wanted to use her for some purpose.  She was kidnapped and lashed out in self-defense. Get off your high-horse and go to a shelter…” Oh, I get it … Scarlet’s blood reacted to save her … she was scared, just turned into a Vampire, starving, and kidnapped.  I can’t even imagine being forced into that circumstance after changing.

“Are you kidding me!”  The man yelled. “My brother was an undercover cop investigating that cult, and it murdered him right along with them.”

“Sounds like a sad incident.”  Rachel said with a heavy tone, “But Scarlet had just changed; she didn’t know how to control her powers, and her blood reacts to protect her.  Her blood must have lashed out at everyone in the area.”

“She’s still a murderer,” he seethed.

“She’s a traumatized teenage girl that was turned into a monster and forced into a terrible situation.  So, quit calling her it and recognize the poor girl’s humanity”  Mateo shouted back. “What would you do if the roles were reversed and it was your brother that did that?  Huh? Would you be hunting him for revenge right now?”

Rachel could hear the man grinding his teeth at Mateo’s response, and Rachel had a thought.  “Did Scarlet drink any of their blood?”

It took a moment before the man answered.  “No, but…”

She cut him off, feeling a little heated herself.  “If she were a monster like you say, then would a starving monster—literally dying of thirst, not drink the pools of life around her?”  She paused for a moment, but he didn’t respond. “No—a starving monster wouldn’t run away in a panic, terrified—likely of what she just did—what she’d become.  What kind of hero hunts down the victim? It’s sad that your brother was there, but you’re spitting on his grave by hunting down the girl he probably would have wanted to save—from a person like you.”

The silence stretched as he thought on her words.  He growled in frustration for a moment, before cursing.  “She will answer for her crime!” He unhooked a gas grenade from his belt, squeezed the release trigger and dropped it.  The haze began to fill the area, and he faded away. “My brother will get justice!”

“Eyes sharp; gas masks,” Mateo yelled.

Rachel relaxed as she heard him materialize a few hundred feet to their north a few minutes later; she pointed in his direction.  “He’s running that way; I don’t think this smoke is poisonous either.”

Mateo removed his mask, taking a deep breath before swearing.  “Left behind gas everywhere. World’s turned on its head. Hopefully, we can get everything ironed out soon and restore power to the local authorities.  We need a justice system back.”

Rachel nodded.  “Can we get another blood pack for Scarlet?  I think she goes into this state to conserve energy when she’s low … I don’t know how long, but she could die if she doesn’t get blood after a certain time.”

“You’re right,” Mateo muttered.  “Do you hear any other threats in the area?”

Rachel listened for a moment.  “Some gunfire two miles south and some fist fights and arguments over resources within a few miles, but I don’t hear anything about any hostile threats.  There is a Beastkin Dog-man that is being bullied by some teens, but I don’t think it’ll get violent; they’re verbally assaulting him, but keeping their distance.  A few more incidents, but nothing concerning us.”

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“That’s relieving.”  He motioned to one of his men.  “Roy, grab a blood pack from one of the vehicles.  Cameron and Roger take up a defensive position and keep watch.  Vincent, keep guard on the Ice-man and keep him sedated. The rest of you, get what blankets you can find and help the frozen civilians and National Guard in the area unthaw.”  The men rushed into action. Holding his hand to his ear, he said, “Great shot, Matthew. What happened to the child?”

“Parents were nearby; he was out looking for food.”

“Good work,” Mateo looked up and down the street.  “Keep overwatch, get to that four-story business across the street.”

“Roger.”

He took a deep breath as he saw Roy trying to get into a frozen Humvee.  “I don’t suppose you have the strength to open it?” He glanced at Rachel.

Rachel smiled.  “Yeah, shouldn’t be a problem.”  Carefully setting Scarlet down, she walked over to the door, gesturing for Roy to stand back.  Taking a deep breath, she grasped the door handle and pulled, frowning as it broke off in her hand.

“Well, the hard way then.”  She muttered, dropping the handle.  She placed her fingers against the steel and pressed in, fingers ripping into the metal, she tore the door off, causing the whole frame of the car to screech.  She took a look around at the smoke before gripping it tightly and sharply waving it a few times, blowing the gas away with sharp gusts of wind before tossing it to the side.

“For real?”  Roy whispered, shaking his head.

Mateo walked over to her, breathing through his teeth as Roy ducked inside.  “You’re something else—both of you,” he said, glancing back at Scarlet. “I can only imagine how scary you two would be if put through training.”

She chuckled.  “I can see your point, but,” she pointed up at the sky, “I think the moon has something to do with all my extra strength right now.  I can feel a lot of power leave my body when I’m obstructed from the moon’s light.”

He laughed.  “We all got our weaknesses, I suppose.  That speed though—you were a moving blur, racing around that cloud of smoke … the wind pressure alone cleared out a lot of it.”

“Again,” she shrugged, “probably the moon.”

Nodding, he looked thoughtful.  “That makes me wonder how your powers will be during a full moon; heck, what could they be on the different colors of the moon.”

“Like an eclipse?”

He examined his men for a moment.  “Yeah, the moon can stay other colors through the night for various reasons too—we need some way to deal with these people with abilities; we’re getting into the realm of science fiction and fantasy now.”  He whispered, scratching under the back of his helmet. “No offense, but it would be a nightmare trying to deal with Scarlet or you if you went on a rampage—Scarlet took a shotgun to the back like it was nothing when we found her.”

Rachel sighed as Roy hopped out of the Humvee with a blood bag; running over to hand it to Mateo.  He stared down at the red liquid before giving it to Rachel. “We’re going to clean-up here for a bit; keep alert and warn us of any danger—anyone could be hostile … feels like Iraq all over again.”  His sharp brown eyes surveyed the area before turning to Roy. “Find out how the vehicles are and contact HQ; let me know if you establish contact.”

Rachel moved to Scarlet as both Roy and Mateo moved off.  Kneeling down beside her, she realized Scarlet was about five foot two; a lot smaller than she’d thought.  She did look like a child next to that massive ice guy.  Tearing off the cap, Rachel supported Scarlet’s head and squeezed a tiny bit of blood into her mouth, causing her to stir.  Removing the bag as she opened her eyes.  

Scarlet looked around with a frown at the leftover smoke still lingering in the area, her tone alert.  “Oh—is he gone?”

She nodded.  “I’m keeping track of his footsteps; he’s north of us, running away.”

Breathing a relieved sigh, Scarlet looked down at the blood pack with a small smile.  “It doesn’t taste like the same blood as before.” Rachel handed it to her, and she pinched the cap; opening her mouth wide, she sank her fangs into the bag.  Rachel watched in fascination as her eyes glowed crimson and the packet emptied in seconds.

“So, you don’t have to suck on it, like a yogurt stick?”

Licking her lips as her eyes returned to normal, Scarlet shook her head, but her tone had mellowed out.  “Nope. My fangs seem to absorb the blood and pull it in once they make contact. It scared some scientists before—so, in front of the soldiers I was sucking it out.”

Rachel was silent for a moment.  “I heard a little bit of what happened to you when you changed—sounded pretty terrible.”

Scarlet’s vision narrowed as she glared at the ground.  “What did you hear?”

“Just that you were kidnapped and had to defend yourself to escape.”

She nodded slowly.  “Yeah … I was scared.”  She glanced around, Vampire eyes returning as she scanned the area.  “There are wounded people in the building; it looks like the soldiers noticed already and are treating them though.  The boy found his parents? I see him with a group of people.”

“Yeah, he had wandered away to find food.”

She nodded, straightening against the side of the upside-down car she rested against.  “Thanks for keeping me safe.” She whispered as red tears started gathering in her eyes.  “It’s the blood—it’s making me emotional.” She sniffed, pale face reddening as a bloody tear dropped down her cheek.

Smiling warmly, Rachel hugged her.  “Red tears, huh? You’re not so bad of a Vampire; by the way, how can your face flush or your skin stay perfectly fine if all your blood leaves?”

Scarlet shook with soft laughter in her arms.  “Magic—I guess, I have no clue.” They sat that way for a minute as Scarlet got control of herself; wiping at her cheeks with what remained of her left jacket sleeve, she said, “Don’t take this the wrong way, but you don’t smell that great … your blood sure, but I mean you.  My nose has become pretty sensitive.”

“Thanks,” Rachel laughed as she pulled away.  “I took a chemical shower before we left.”

She laughed with her for a moment, eyes returning to normal.  “Okay, so, what’s the next goal? Have you noticed some of the buttons on your sleeve are undone too?”

“We rest,” Rachel huffed, pushing the plastic buttons back in, and checking her medical gown’s security.  She pulled her hair over her shoulder before sitting next to her. “Mateo is trying to get in touch with headquarters, and the rest of the soldiers are helping people in the area clean-up after the Ice-man incident.”

“That’s good,” Scarlet yawned.  “I’m so tired.” She looked at the sky with worry.  “The sun rises so early in Miami; I feel like it’s going to come up soon … I’m a little scared.”

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Rachel hummed as she stared up.  “Yeah, it’ll probably be daylight in a few hours—you know, it actually started around night-time, but it did happen all over the world—guess every moment of the day.”

“Wait, really?”  Scarlet asked, rubbing her eyes.  “It happened everywhere?”

“You didn’t hear the Presidential statement on the matter?”  She shook her head. “I guess we didn’t learn much—the government is working with the States and around the world to help get everything back to normal—they speculate over a million U.S. citizens were affected.”

She yawned again.  “That sucks—it’s good too though—I want a bit more normal.”

Rachel’s ears twitched as she heard Mateo talking with his superiors about the incident.  “That’s the situation; what are our orders. Over.”

“We don’t have the resources to send an extraction.  Take any Humvee that is working and hotwire some cars in the area.  Get to the drop point. Over.”

“Sir.  Out.”

“Looks like we’re hotwiring some cars and continuing to the hospital,” Rachel muttered.

Scarlet nodded as she rose and stretched.  “Mhm, alright.” She walked over to Roy as he turned on a Humvee in the back, the ice starting to melt, Rachel following behind her.  “Hey, are we using this one?”

“Yeah,” Roy confirmed.

“Great,” Scarlet muttered.  Opening the back door, she sat by the opposite door, put on her seatbelt, and promptly fell asleep.

Roy looked through the gap leading to the cab with concern.  “She okay?”

Rachel nodded.  “I think so. She’s just really tired after using her abilities all night … probably while functioning on so little blood too.”  Wow, that’s a real thing.  She lives off blood … I’m sure it’s even more strange for her.

Mateo was talking to some of his men; giving them orders to find a working truck with a cover to transport the frozen people.  They quickly found a moving van and dumped everything that was within, keeping blankets and harnesses to cushion the people placed inside.  Glancing their way, he said, “Alright, everyone, prepare to roll out.”

They were soon back on the road, Rachel sitting across from Scarlet.  She seems so peaceful lying there.  Her mind returned to her vanishing.  She can teleport through shadows, paralyze people with her touch, see through buildings, and control her blood like knives … it’s pretty amazing.  What can I do though? Hear really far, run fast, I seem resistant to impacts and the cold, but so does Scarlet; I have super strength, and the moon gives me power—I feel a lot weaker inside the Humvee and not under the moon though.

Her abilities seem so much cooler—well, flashy.  She also has weaknesses though, and I haven’t really tested my abilities … but she’s only been running on minimal blood too, she could have other amazing powers.  My parents would be proud of me though, right? I have strong abilities; I also have my Muay Thai training … what are they doing in this chaos?

The ride to the hospital was without incident.  They pulled up to the ER; a lot of people were in a flurry of activity.  People flocked to the building for medical treatment as National Guard soldiers directed people to specific areas.  Rachel’s ears caught an interesting conversation.

“Did you hear about the Mythickin Unicorn that showed up with that gang?”

“Yeah, she can cure just about anything, but she’s demanding compensation from people.”

“She knows this is a state of crisis, right?”

“Yeah, she’s such a…”

Rachel hummed lowly.  A Unicorn Mythickin that’s demanding compensation and has a gang?  What’s up with that? She scanned the building until she found the conversation with the Unicorn present, but couldn’t understand a word; she recognized the language as Spanish.

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