As the group returned empty handed the Commander barked, “Report! Soldier.”
The Lieutenant stepped in front of the dogs and their handlers. “Sir there was nothing in the caves Sir. It looked like an old fox’s lair Sir.”
“And what about the paddocks and copse of trees?”
“Again Sir, nothing untoward. We did find an area in the top paddock recently dug over Sir…”
“Well, it seems to be where this guy buries any dead stock Sir… the area was limed and several larger bones were found, Sir.”
Spike reached over and pulled Jon forward for a sound kiss. It had been his idea to ‘disguise’ the burial place of their plastic wrapped precious things in such a way, even finding a couple of old femurs and a cow’s skull (plus some offal from a couple of chickens and a bag of blood and bone fertilizer, and bag of lime from Eddie’s garden).
“And the house?”
“Evidence of others staying Sir, but according to neighbors, and the previous history of the suspect Sir, he tends to host other mentally challenged… ahh confused… individuals on occasion Sir”
“Enough with the niceties son, F#$ing lunatic hosting fellow crazies… Humpff… cheap labor is what I call it…”
There was a very long pause.
"Alright, I want twenty four seven surveillance on both this and the next property anyone goes in or out I want them dead."
Eddie couldn’t hear the conversation as well as the vampires but heard Jon gasp and whisper, “Mike!” They knew that one of the teenagers from the town was coming up to tend the animals while the neighbors were 'on holidays'.
"Sir, there may be a problem with that Sir."
“Sir, the D’Azpuras… the neighbors have organized for a friend to visit both properties while they are absent, just to tend animals and the like, Sir.
“Yes Sir. There is no record of anything untoward Sir. He is the son of the local butcher.”
“We have any record of what he looks like?”
“Fine then he’s the only one.”
There was more crunching of boots then the tone dropped. The two leaders of the raid had obviously moved away from the main group and were speaking more privately. Spike moved to the entrance of the tunnel and listened intently.
“Sir, if I may speak frankly?”
“I recommend we simply put monitoring equipment on both properties Sir. We can install remote cameras at the beginning of the dead end road, and focused on the main yard and front of each property. With respect Sir, we need the men to continue the sweeps.”
The commander simply grunted, there was a pause, “Very well… have your men set it up quickly then we pull out. I want the *monitors* watched 24/7 is that clear?!”
“Yes Sir, thank you Sir”
Less than an hour later the cameras had obviously been installed, as the helicopters rotors whined into action and the troop vehicle pulled away.
The family had never been more grateful for a lot of disinfectant and some babies’ soiled nappies, all of which must have kept the tunnel entrance in the laundry from being discovered.
The adults relaxed for the first time that night. Spike smelt tears and suddenly realized that the D’Azpuras may not have been able to hear the conversations. He squeezed Xander’s hand hard and crawled over to their ‘room’. The quick debrief evoked more tears, but this time grateful ones.
Nic hugged his wife to his chest and put a gentle hand on Spike’s shoulder and squeezed. No words were needed. Spike left them to the sound of Patty’s sobs of relief.
They were never so pleased that they had ‘put in’ tunnels as in the next weeks. Spike did the first reconnoiter and came back with the news that there were only two tiny spy cameras on their property. One set up on the barn overseeing the main yard and front door, and the other on a power pole facing the rear entrance and Eddie’s shed. They could not be sure of the range nor angles the cameras could take in, but erred on the cautious side. And were able to enter and exit the barn from behind the camera’s eye, the chicken coop likewise at the rear and the house from the laundry.
On the fourth night the vampires headed down the hill. Jon moved swiftly to steal the few eggs laid since Mike had been, and collect blood, while Xander filled two water containers before diving down into the tunnels again and joining Jon to silently collect some milk (not much, but enough). Meanwhile Spike raided the house for a bizarre list of supplies: more disposable nappies; a few plastic bags; a pack of cards; some paper, pens and crayons; a tube of toothpaste; bottle of scotch; canister of tea… and the bottle of Worchester sauce (if he couldn’t have texture in his blood these days then he could ‘bloody well do flavor!’).
It took them three trips to push their booty through the narrow tunnels and carry it all up the hill, but worth every effort… not the least of the thrill being the foiling of the Initiative surveillance. Not once while they were all performing their tasks, had Spike heard the whine of the camera or seen the green light indicating movement had been detected or that they were actually being monitored. It seemed the nightly check was all rather cursory, consisting of two local soldiers driving half way up the drive at around eight in the evening, checking all the doors, the cameras, having a smoke, while they chatted for a while before wandering off to the next house.
The family had been eating relatively well, though all ached to go outside and the other adults particularly envied the vampires’ speed and superior skills. They still heard helicopters fly by on the odd occasion, so the risk was too much unless preternatural hearing, stealth and speed were at their beck and call. The time was passed playing cards, drawing, writing and reading, and all three families fell into a routine of sleeping when the young ones did.
On the sixth day the first of the storms arrived, enormous electrical storms the like of which had only been seen in the area when Mt St Helens blew more than twenty five years previously. It knocked out the power to the whole town and surrounds… but had little effect on the hidden families… other than to give them a true whiff of freshness as the first rain started and the dust gave the lovely 'newly wet' aroma.
When the earth began to rumble at the end of the second week, however, it was an entirely different matter. Staying in their cave was no longer an option. A drastic decision was needed, and after a quiet conversation they came to a reluctant conclusion. They would be safer nearer or even in one of the buildings. Pitching a tent was out of the question, but there was a small out building at the rear of the barn and a tunnel nearby if immediate escape was needed. Xander was sure he could rig up an extra canopy to protect were the tremors to violent. The prospect of more dramatic earth actions were not discussed.
The vampires took off that evening. Eddie could just make out the three figures sprinting down the hill at lightening speed with as much as they could carry. They would leave the survival essentials in the caves and take the rest back. The Initiative had not checked on the property for two nights, no doubt preoccupied with the power blackouts that now spanned almost the entire west coast. If all remained quiet, then perhaps there would be some hope of sanctuary in the barn of their own home. In the early hours of the morning, the two older girls, Nic and Patty, Robbie carrying Sam and the others carrying various charges, pushed the rocks across the cave entrance then sprinted down the hill. They slipped into the tunnel near the back corner, emerging rather more ‘soiled’ than they began but as each person, their charge and their supplies entered the old wood shed, there was relief.
Gaia shuddered again at around seven in the morning. It was a precursor. The vampires all felt it and were panicked. It was day time! Eddie and Robbie busied themselves retrieving several tarpaulins from the rear of the chicken shed and doing their best to stack hay bales around the edges of their tiny abode to brace the walls or cushion blows… or something. They flung the tarps over the top of every one and huddled underneath. At around twenty past nine, the earth trembled, a minute later it shook a little more, then finally gave a roar of its own that equated to terror for every sentient creature and began to express her rage fully.
Hay bales fell into the barn and the animals fled into the open in fear, as only they could, standing, then sitting terrified in the middle of their home paddocks. The poultry… all went eerily silent initially … but as the shaking began in earnest squawked panicked appeals to any who might release them.
The shaking went on for almost two minutes. The family was under shelter but not truly safe. The vampires braced themselves above their family huddled in the hay bale corner. Robbie stood with them. The structure buckled and groaned but held by and large. They heard coach bolts snap and wood groan and complain as it buckled with the undulations of the earth but it held.
The after shocks were almost as big as the initial wave. As the third one came, something heavy crashed over the protective bodies. When all went quiet, Xander hauled Spike from under the fallen beam, they were both thankful it had not landed anywhere else. Spike’s forearm was badly bruised, possibly broken, but there was no fuss Xander, simply opened his wrist and fed his Sire. Three more aftershocks followed but they were small in comparison. They were grateful for the tarp… and the remaining roof structure, as the rain began again.
Jon finally offered a suggestion from left field, “Local radio station.”
Spike had fallen unconscious after feeding, so it was up to the other five adults to do the “What the…?”
“We need the news… the *local* news… We can do ear phones! We just need some decent ...”
Eddie answered “Bottom drawer, the bottom drawer in the kitchen… it’s ancient and tinny but… it’s there. I’ll get it.”
Robbie jumped in, “No Ed… the kids need you … let me OK? Something happens… just… let me OK?”
Eddie nodded sadly and pulled the three little ones to him before he grabbed the big man’s hand and kissed it with reverence and in gratitude.
There was no power to the house, so no way to recharge anything. The little old radio and extra stash of double A batteries were all they had unless power was restored. Sadly the vampires could all still hear the high pitched whine of the cameras. The power outage had no effect on them. As Robbie eased his large form into the tunnels again, he worried. Thus far their escape routes had held, but if the Initiative returned, which was inevitable, they were now too close to the house and now lacked their early warning system.
A new round of tremors came and went intermittently throughout the night… the children were very quiet and huddled with the D’Azpura girls when not in their parents’ arms. They realized that Robbie was probably right regards a revisit from their persistent torturers. Though took heart as a radio report gave out that “Hundreds of government and public buildings had been destroyed across the state, and the nation”.
The electrical storms continued for five days straight, the torrential rain accompanying them, quite uncharacteristic for the season or the region. On the sixth day a report that Mount Ranier was stirring and evacuations from the Seattle region were starting, did not bode well. Mount St Helens was a way off, but now very active again, it seemed the Cascades were ‘on the move’. The implications for other mountains in the range were troubling but if Rainier blew it would at least act like a pressure valve for the North West.
The news reports from around the world were extraordinary and fragmented. Tsunami’s, devastating earthquakes, violent storms, volcanic eruptions, landslides and all manner of bizarre occurrences were manifesting globally. Religious groups of all varieties were calling it Armageddon.
The shakes and the rumble of thunder and the pelting rain became so constant, that they all became a little blasé. Sitting inside the shed with its semi collapsed roof, now with uprights so firmly wedged against each other that it was impossible to shift them, the family counted its blessings. They still had access to the tunnels, though for how much longer was difficult to say with the rain and the quakes making for a dangerous combination.
The following evening near disaster struck as Jon and Spike returned from their ‘food raid’ for milk, blood and eggs. Spike had found nine eggs and took the bucket of blood from Jon as he struggled through the tunnel with the milk as well. The storm was still raging above and the floor of the tunnel was now rather muddy. They had taken down gravel when first constructing it, but it was not enough to cover all the floors.
Spike was ahead and almost to the opening when another almighty shudder began. He yelled back to the other vampire who was moving as fast as he could. Spike was at the entrance and handed two buckets to the worried Xander, one of eggs and the other half filled with blood. He had just cleared the tunnel and reached back to collect the milk from Jon when the shaking worsened he lost his balance and fell onto his backside the milk sloshing down his front. He saw Jon’s hand at the entrance of the tunnel but watched in horror as the earth gave way and the entrance collapsed, swallowing Jon with it.
Despite the ongoing quake, Spike and Xander scrambled to his rescue, digging the mud with bare hands until they found a familiar arm. Spike pulled it as hard as he could but Jon was wedged fast. Xander sent a silent prayer to whoever was listening, thanking them it was one of their non breathing family that was caught as many minutes passed before they finally cleared his filthy face. They had dug down almost four feet now and concentrated on clearing enough space around their friend to tug him free.
Jon had every confidence in his rescuers, however began to worry after five or six attempts at freeing him came to naught. The mud seemed to have a suction hold on him. He finally began to rock back and forth to loosen the area around his legs and when the other two vampires pulled him with all their preternatural strength, he literally ‘popped’ out with as slurping sound. He was filthy so simply stripped naked and stood grinning his gratitude at his fellow vampires as they did the same then let the rain wash a great deal of the sludge from their arms and hair.
John’s shoes were buried somewhere in the tunnel – it was the least of their problems. The access to the rest of the network was now gone.
After The Fall: 32