The determined though still somewhat confused Spike, led Xander in the direction he could smell fresh air. They crawled across the rubble, scraping knees and bruising already damaged limbs as the uneven, unforgiving surfaces produced spikes, and juts, and sharp pieces. They pulled one other inmate from a trapped position. The little demon was the same species as their dead friend Nat, though his blue skin was covered in concrete dust and one of his huge blue eyes was badly injured. By the time they had made it to the end of what had been the corridor of cells, they were joined by a rake thin vampire with an obviously broken leg, but they found no other signs of life in their section.
Spike had begun to get his hearing back and distinctly heard a gunshot ring out followed by a thump. Through the dust and rubble they could see torches approaching. Soldiers and rescuers had finally made it to the back of the facility and were still calling for the doctors, jailors, scientists, hated names, feared individuals. Spike distinctly heard the order to shoot any of the hostiles found still alive and responded immediately by pushing his companions through a hole in the rubble, covering them partially with a with a large piece of white wall and by hauling the mangled remains of a less fortunate fellow prisoner to cover the remaining gap. It was dark and dusty. Spike hoped it would be enough. The two vampires could survive a bullet and ‘play dead’ if mistaken for demon but not so Xander or their other friend.
There was the crunch of an army boot on glass so close that even Xander’s concussed eardrums picked it up.
“Sir, cell blocks on level 4 and 5 are secure. Only one hostile found alive. It was eliminated as instructed.”
“Well done Saunders. Doesn’t look like the ones in here will cause any trouble either.” The boot kicked the dead body pushing it harder against Spike. “Just take your men and do a quick sweep now and come back for cleanup in the morning. Reckon once we’ve recovered the human remains from the lab that’ll be it.”
“No need. Orders are for demolition, complete cleanup by Friday… they’ll go with the rest of this mess.”
The commanding officer moved off while the other men gave a cursory check around. There were two more gunshots but no corresponding thud, it seemed the agenda was simply to shoot a dead body or two for good measure.
After three hours of huddling together the two vampires agreed, they could no longer hear any signs of the soldiers. Xander had been in a state of semi slumber but roused as Spike shifted to nudge away the dead body. They cautiously pushed their way free of the debris and crawled from the hiding place.
They could all feel the chilly draft and smell fresh air coming from somewhere to their right. With only two of them possessing night vision and all the parties carrying injuries, the progress was quite literally, painfully slow. But sometime toward midnight they pushed past a buckled metal door to find themselves…. Outside.
All four strained to sense any soldiers. It seemed they had come out at the rear of the building near an incineration facility. Evidence of the size of the blast was strewn across a deserted moonlit space, the incinerator on its side, and its yet to be burned contents spilling onto the ground. More bodies. A helicopter with searchlight flew overhead they all instantly dropped amongst the carcasses, the second vampire whimpering a little as his broken leg struck a post on the way down. The chopper did not stay, its light sweeping the area then moving off.
Xander had begun to shiver as had the little blue demon. They all needed clothes. The deceased around them were all nude as well but Spike spied what looked like a small work shed near the incinerator and wondered. He stood and helped first Xander then his fellow vampire to their feet.
Pointing to the shed, he led them as quickly as they could manage and found a gaping hole giving them easy access to inside. Hanging on the wall were three sets of white toxic waste coveralls and gumboots. Xander worried until a metal locker revealed a sports bag with a rather putrid old Tshirt and huge pair of sweat pants and joggers that reeked of foot odor. None of them cared. They dressed as quickly as they could Spike located a rather soiled hand towel, quickly tearing it to create splints from some loose skirting board for both Xander’s arm and his injured compatriots leg. All he could do for the little demon’s eye was lick it clean. They all decided to forgo the boots in preference for speed of foot, should they need to run.
As Xander pulled the sweatpants on he noticed something else at the bottom of the locker. A lunchbox. A full lunchbox. Opening it, he almost cried. Fresh sandwiches, a chocolate muffin and an apple. A beautiful red apple. None of them had eaten since the previous day, but there was no time to do so now. The half bottle of drinking water on the desk was requisitioned and Spike emptied one drawer of its contents while Xander looked in the other. They took the little over seven dollars in coins, a torch, some tape and the gum, then retrieved a newspaper and two half eaten waffles from the bin. Packing the precious cargo into the sports bag, Xander watched while Spike and the other vampire, as quietly as they could, tipped over the locker to lean on a now upturned table, leaving the small space looking as though the blast had done the damage.
They had to get away from the site but none had any idea where they were though the paper should give them some indication of the country at least. The other problem was going to be daylight. They needed to find secure shelter.
Spike mouthed, “Let’s just get away from here first!” They all nodded and followed.
They followed alongside a well used, dirt road that led away from behind the shed, hoping desperately that the helicopter did not return, or at least not until they were able to reach the cover of a trees that could be seen only a mile or two away. They were in luck.
The thicket was more than a few trees. Apparently the Initiative’s ‘medical’ facility had a ‘buffer zone’ of nature giving the impression of a ‘green conscious’ government organization and keeping the public blissfully ignorant of the horrors being conducted within.
Despite injuries throbbing and stomachs aching with hunger and thirst, they kept moving, supporting each other when anyone faltered. Finally Xander saw the outline of a farmhouse and some outbuildings through the trees. If they were lucky there might be a secure spot to hole up for the day.
They approached the home with extreme caution. If caught in their current attire, any explanation of who they were would simply lead them back to captivity. Rounding the corner of the shed, Spike saw a large dog chained to its kennel for the night, still a problem if it roused and raised the alarm. Xander touched Spike’s arm and indicated to one of the half eaten waffles he now held. Spike shook his head but the dog was already awake and sniffing the air. Xander stepped out from the building and walked across the moonlit space. The hound began to growl loudly but before a bark emerged Xander had thrown the waffle to it. He then walked up, held out his hand and was ‘accepted’ as ‘friendly’ as the dog snuffled around in case he had missed a crumb. Despite his own hunger Xander felt around in the bag again and produced the second piece and spied his fellow escapees quietly entering the barn as he did so.
He patted the dog one more time then joined them.
Spike was thrilled to see the hayloft laden with fresh bales. They climbed as swiftly as they could and ensconced themselves inside the straw by creating a small bale igloo at the rear of the stack.
It was warm and quiet, Xander opened the lunchbox and shared the contents with his blue friend before offering his wrist to Spike.
Spike shook his head a little and nodded toward the other injured vampire, “He needs it more.” But the other shook his head and with a forlorn look, fell into his gameface and opened his mouth. Every tooth and fang had been removed, the gums were red raw, it had been done recently and by the tearful look it was not the first time.
Spike bit down on his own wrist and trickled a little of his own blood into the violated mouth. The other suckled for a moment and then began to cry silently as he laved the wound.
Xander pushed his wrist to Spike again. This time his friend drank.
Spike had been strong to that moment but now was overwhelmed. “Oh [sob] ghhhhahhh… [sob]….. Pet [whispered]… We’re free…”
After The Fall: 4