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Authors: Ken White

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BOOK: Night and Day (Book 2): Bleeding Sky
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“General
Bain focuses exclusively on his own priorities,” she said. “It is a trait
that all of us must struggle with at times.”

I
glanced at her. “Even you?”

She
continued to stare straight ahead. “Yes, Mr. Welles, especially
me.”

We
reached the end of the hallway and she opened the door. Beyond the door was
a large underground parking lot, filled with black SUVs and Humvees, some of
the Humvees armored with machine guns mounted on the roof. Toward the back,
I could make out the hulking shapes of half a dozen eight-wheeled Stryker
armored fighting vehicles, a model favored by the Security Force. I’d seen
them in action the last time I worked with Takeda.

She
led me to a black Hummer H1, the commercial version of the Humvee. It looked
like it was right off the assembly line, though I knew the model and brand
had been discontinued long before the war. Maybe they’d put them back into
production.

As
we got into the car, I saw I’d been wrong about her leaving the sword at
home. It was mounted, in it’s sheath, in a bracket on the console between
the two front seats. I closed the door and quickly buckled my shoulder belt.
I’d ridden with Takeda before.

True
to form, she started the engine, threw it into gear, and floored it. I
leaned back in the seat.

They
must have heard us coming up the tunnel, because the gatehouse where I’d
left Sgt. Newell had the barrier up. I caught a quick look at Trooper
Martinez leaning against the rear wall of the building, arms folded across
her chest and eyes on the ground, as we roared past.

We
were through the three checkpoints in about a minute and onto the winding
mountain road that would eventually get us down to the interstate. If we
made it.

“Are
we in a hurry?” I asked.

“I
have a meeting scheduled with my platoon commanders at zero one hundred
hours at the staging area,” she said. “That will take most of the rest of
the night. To be there on time, I need to have you at your office no later
than midnight, plus or minus fifteen minutes.”

“You
know, if you run into a tree or something out here, you’ll be late for your
meeting.”

“If
this vehicle is disabled, I can order up a helo.”

“I
guess that same helo can drop me off at the hospital or morgue after they
cut me out of the wreckage.”

Takeda
smiled. “I am an excellent driver, Mr. Welles.” She tapped the console
between us. “Perhaps you can take your mind off your concerns by glancing
through the security plan. Your material is in the white
envelope.”

I
opened the console and pulled out a white manila envelope. There was a black
envelope in there as well, probably her plan.

I
removed the folder that was inside the envelope, opened it and started
flipping through the pages. Cover letter, table of contents, organization
chart. I looked at her.

“A
company? You’re putting me in charge of a company of Security Force
troopers? What is that, almost 200 people?”

“One
hundred and eighty-seven,” she said. “Three operational platoons and a
command platoon.” She paused. “I will command an equivalent force after
dark.”

“Yeah,
that’s great, but it’s also what you do for a living,” I said. “I’m a
private detective. Never got higher than staff sergeant when I was in the
army, and that was almost twenty years ago. I’ve never commanded more than a
squad.”

“I’m
sure you will be up to the task. You will have a Security Force company
commander as part of your command platoon. He will assist you.”

“Why
the heavy security? Heymann is just an ambassador.”

“A
very important ambassador.”

“I
get that. But what’s the threat?”

“The
full threat analysis is in your packet,” she said.

“And
I’ll read it, promise. Till I do, why don’t you give me the short
version.”

Takeda
didn’t say anything for about thirty seconds and I thought she was going to
ignore my request. Then she spoke. “Other than a random, deranged
individual, we have identified two credible threat vectors. The first is the
human resistance movement.”

I
was surprised she referred to them as the Resistance. Most Vees called them
bandits, because calling them the Resistance would acknowledge that there
was something to resist against. And most Vees I’d run into liked to imagine
that we were one big, happy family. Diners and dinner.

“I
don’t think the Resistance is much of a threat,” I said. “I’ve only met a
couple of them who seemed like they knew which end of the stick had the
point.” I didn’t mention that Dick Nedelmann, who’d died helping me find
Joshua’s killers, was part of the Resistance. That was my secret. Takeda had
known and respected Dick. It was a can of worms best left
unopened.

“The
Resistance continues to grow, in numbers and competence,” she said. “They
are not normally a threat to any significant degree, but with a determined
effort and the right target, they could cause issues with the ambassador’s
security while he is here.”

“Okay,
I’ll take your word on that, though I’d be surprised if they could get more
than fifteen or twenty people working together. But why go after Heymann?
Normalizing relations between the U.S. and the international community isn’t
going to make life here worse. If anything, it might make it better, more
like it was before the war.”

“That
is exactly the point, Mr. Welles,” she said. “The Resistance does not want
life to get better. They want exactly the opposite. Happy citizens do not
resist.”

“Agreed.
But how many people are going to want to join the Resistance if it’s the
Resistance that keeps their lives from improving?”

“You
may not have a high opinion of them, but the Resistance has some very smart
people,” she said. “People who are fully capable of making a Resistance
attack look like something else. Something connected to vampires or the area
government.”

I
nodded. “Okay, I’ll read up on it in the file. You mentioned a second threat
vector?”

“Yes,”
Takeda said after a long silence. “There is a second threat vector. The
other is...” She was silent again, then said, “Certain elements within the
vampire command structure.”

I
frowned. “Your people?”

“Not
my people here in Area Three,” she replied. “But yes, vampires.”

“Would
you like to elaborate?”

“The
information is in your packet,” she said.

Her
reaction was interesting. I’d worked pretty closely with her while we
investigated Joshua’s murder and I’d seen her do some horrific things
without a hint of emotion. I would have said she’d managed to almost
completely suppress her emotions through her Code of Bushido or whatever the
hell it was she followed. But this was clearly making her
uncomfortable.

I
thought I knew why.

“Miss
Takeda,” I said. “I know that you are live in a very orderly society, that
vampires are bound to obey the vampire that turned them. General Bain
explained it to me last year.” I paused. “I also know about the Unbound,
vampires who don’t have that built-in compulsion to obey. And I know that
they’re normally killed as soon as they’re revealed.”

Joshua
had been an Unbound, a fact known only to his bloodfather, Phillip Bain.
Bain had kept it to himself, and let Joshua live. “Is the threat from
Unbound vampires?”

After
a few moments, she shook her head. “No, it is not.”

“Then
how is it possible for a vampire that is part of your command structure to
go against orders, do something on his own?”

“Our
connection is through the blood,” she said. “I was bound to my bloodfather’s
will when he was alive, as he was bound to the will of his bloodfather.” She
paused. “I am not directly bound to the will of any vampire other than the
one that changed me. No vampire is.”

“I’m
sorry for your loss,” I said. I didn’t know if it was the right thing to
say. I wasn’t even sure Vees felt loss when their bloodparent
died.

“We
are both sorry for the loss,” she said.

It
took me a moment to understand what she was saying.

“Joshua?”

She
nodded. “Colonel Thomas was my bloodfather. As I told you when we met, I
served with him in the Air Force. When General Bain changed him and gave him
his orders, he changed me and others under his command to carry out those
orders.” She paused. “As you already know, I can give you no further
details.”

It
was a lot to take in. Takeda had told me last fall that she’d served with
Joshua, and I knew he’d been in the Air Force before the war, and apparently
during it, before becoming the last commander of Camp Delta-5. But I’d never
thought that there might be an additional connection between him and Takeda,
that he’d been the Vee that turned her, that in Vee terms she was his
daughter.

Finding
his killers had been personal for me. Takeda was under orders from Bain to
assist me, but she’d never given any indication that it was more than just
another assignment to her. Of course, it was often hard to tell what,
exactly, was going on behind her smooth, expressionless face.

“But
you serve General Bain.”

“As
an officer in the Security Force,” she said. “I follow his orders as my
commanding officer, like any other soldier. I could do otherwise, if that
was my choice.”

“So
you feel no sense of connection? No desire to obey?”

Takeda
shook her head. “I served in Colonel Thomas’s command, which was part of
General Bain’s overall command, before the war. I took Colonel Thomas’s
orders as a soldier. Had a received a direct order from General Bain at that
time, I would have followed it.” She paused. “My relationship with General
Bain has not changed. I still obey his orders. Only my position, with the
general as my direct superior, has changed.”

“So
the further down the chain...”

“The
greater the possibility that policy will not be followed. After the change,
when Colonel Thomas gave me an order, I obeyed him as my bloodfather first
and as my commanding officer second. If I had no guidance from him, I did
what I thought was correct.”

“So
there are vampires who are free to disagree with overall policy if they
haven’t been told to agree by their bloodparent.”

“Correct,”
she said. “We consider them the more serious threat vector on this
assignment. It’s possible that the Resistance might send a lone assassin,
but it is more likely that they would mount a full assault on the
ambassador, to maximize their chance for success. The internal
threat...”

She
shook her head. “It will not be a full assault. It will be a lone operative,
perhaps more than one. Possibly vampire, possibly human. Someone who knows
our operating procedures and normal tactical disposition. Very difficult to
identify, very difficult to stop.”

I
leaned back in the seat. “What do you know about Brenner?”

“Brenner,”
she repeated. “I am aware of his transfer to Area Three from Area One, and
his assignment to your office as a trainee.” She paused. “Why do you
ask?”

“He’s
had training, and if I’m not mistaken, operational experience too. Not as a
private detective, of course, but as something similar. He said something to
me about his work. He called it Special Collections.”

“Did
he describe Special Collections to you?”

I
shook my head. “No, he’s too smart to talk about things he’s not supposed to
talk about.”

“I’m
relieved to hear that,” she said. “General Bain would not be happy if we had
to have Brenner destroyed.”

That
sounded pretty harsh to me. But Vees were very serious about people who
broke the rules.

“And
I suppose you can’t talk about Special Collections either.”

She
smiled faintly. “General Bain would be even more unhappy if he had to have
me destroyed.”

“Point
made. What about Brenner? Any chance he’s part of this rogue element you
mentioned?”

“In
my opinion, absolutely not,” she said.

“Can
you tell me why you’re so certain.”

“The
circumstances of his transfer to this area.”

“Which
are?”

“Which
are something I cannot discuss with you,” she said.

The
great vampire wall again. I knew further questions were pointless. But that
didn’t mean I had none.

“Okay,
forget Brenner. What’s their motive for taking out Heymann? Won’t normal
international relations improve things for vampires as well as
humans?”

“I
believe so, yes,” she said. “But not everyone sees it that way. If
Ambassador Heymann develops a positive impression of our presence here and
Germany reestablishes diplomatic relations with the United States, other
countries will follow in time. As you said, things will improve for all,
vampire and human.” She paused. “But things will, of necessity, also change.
In many ways. And some do not welcome change.”

BOOK: Night and Day (Book 2): Bleeding Sky
6.88Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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