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Wednesday 31 December 2008

The Rising - Chapter 79: The Visitor Arrives

High above the clouds that blocked the moonlight from the mountains, an Airbus A320 cut through the night sky, flanked by two Mirage 2000 fighter jets. As the pilots had expected, the journey had not been interrupted but with such precious cargo aboard the airliner, they knew they could never be too careful.

Inside, the Airbus was the height of luxury. Designed to seat over one hundred and fifty passengers, the interior had been ripped out and now comfortably housed a crew of twenty, a dark figure clad from head to toe in black robes and his team of six bodyguards. The windows running down the sides of the main compartment were blacked out and only a low emission from the strip lamps above cast a token amount of light over the passengers.

Seated in Italian leather chairs secured to the compartment floor in a semi-circle around their respected and feared leader, the six bodyguards all kept their silver-plated swords at their side. Their long hair almost obscured their faces as they sat in meditation, contemplating their important mission.

Protect the Lord Chancellor.

The intercom system made a low ping and crackled. ‘We will shortly be passing over our destination. ETA two minutes.’

The bodyguards jumped to their feet in unison. They moved the swords from their sides and threw the straps over their shoulders, securing them on their backs. The Lord Chancellor rose to his feet and led the way to the rear of the compartment, where they waited by a custom-made double door that had been fitted into the side of the Airbus.

In the cockpit, the pilot spoke into his radio. ‘Guardian Angels one and two, we have one minute till the drop.’

Roger that,’ was the reply from the pilots of both jets.

Outside, the two Mirage jets dropped away from the Airbus and spread out until they were almost half a mile away from the airliner. They continued to slow down and reduce their altitude until they were below the clouds. The Airbus also dropped and levelled off just above the cloud cover.

Twenty seconds,’ the pilot announced and hit the button to open the double doors in the main compartment. The Lord Chancellor and his bodyguards gripped the metal railings next to the door to steady themselves. Cold air rushed into the compartment and blew their hair and robes over their faces. As the doors opened fully, only a blanket of grey clouds were visible from inside the plane.

Even though they were his sworn protectors, the bodyguards rarely saw anything of the Lord Chancellor. He was so heavily decked in black that he could hide under his robes and barely be seen. Very few had ever seen his true face. Somehow the powerful wind didn’t reveal the face beneath his robes.

One of the bodyguards registered the sight of the Lord Chancellor’s hand on the metal railings. It was incredibly pale, almost white, and the fingers were unnaturally long and thin, with long, sharp fingernails. The bodyguard tried to fight the thoughts that were entering his mind.

The Lord Chancellor looks old.

He can’t have long left, can he?

The bodyguard knew he had failed to contain his thoughts when he felt the deadly stare of the Lord Chancellor’s eyes pierce his mind from beneath his black robes. Before he could do or say anything, the Lord Chancellor leapt through the open doors, into the darkness outside. The six bodyguards all followed.

The doors closed behind them, leaving all seven figures hurtling towards the mountains below. The bodyguards swooped round the Lord Chancellor to form a protective circle. The Mirage jets flew in sweeping arcs, forming a second circle around the falling team. One thousand feet from ground level, the jets pulled up and continued to circle around the target landing zone, a deep, dark chasm hidden from the casual view of anyone passing through the mountains.

Five hundred feet from ground level, the Lord Chancellor and his bodyguards stopped falling and started to fly. They adjusted their direction and swooped in a long line over the clearing where a small number of empty cars were parked. Falling deep into the chasm, they all stopped in mid-air just in front of the wooden platform at the front door to Marcus Verrico’s lair.

Two vampires dressed in black were standing guard on the platform. When they saw the figures floating before them, they knew exactly who they were. They nodded and disappeared inside the door, closing it behind them. After a short wait, the doors were flung open. Marcus and Roxy stepped out onto the platform. They knelt on one knee and bowed their heads.

The Lord Chancellor nodded and they got to their feet.

Welcome, Lord Chancellor,’ Marcus said, ‘It is an honour to have you here. Please, come inside.’

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Monday 29 December 2008

The Rising - Chapter 78: Contact

Time passed to the end of the day without incident. The rain had stopped but the clouds were gathering, looking almost too heavy to remain in the sky above the city.

Bad weather sapped the few attractive qualities away from the city. The green belt was quickly being gnawed away by retail developers and an over-active manufacturing industry sixty years earlier had resulted in massive factories dotted all over the landscape, which were now abandoned and falling apart. The smashed or boarded up windows were a deterrent to everyone, with the exception of the homeless community that had grown in size year on year for a long time.

It’s good to be back, Becky thought as she surveyed her surroundings before putting her helmet back on. The building behind her used to be a small office block but now it doubled as another inconspicuous storage facility that housed the kind of things The Brotherhood didn’t want anyone else to know they had.

The only difference between this building and the site she had visited earlier in the day was that this one was empty. There was no one there at all. Only one thing was worthy of note in the whole building: a thick metal safe that had been left open. The building had been abandoned in a hurry. The soldiers who had been guarding the safe obviously received orders to get out but Becky wanted to know why they would go to the trouble of leaving the safe open for her. Surely they knew she was coming?

It had been the same story at a lab just a few blocks away. Doors open, no one home. Becky had taken what she had been sent for and walked out the front door as easily as she walked in.

Too easy.

Easy or not, Becky had what she needed. She just managed to squeeze the folder she had just liberated into her backpack, which she threw over her shoulders. Now they had until sunrise to get their heads together and work out what the hell was going on.

What are we going to do when we meet up with Doctor Forrest?

How do we know we can trust him?

Can we do anything to stop the Rising or are we just wasting our time?

Becky was about to start her bike when the speaker in her helmet crackled.

Agent Clarkson, are you there?’ asked the familiar voice.

She didn’t say a word.

Agent Clarkson, it’s Will. There’s no one listening in. Can you hear me?’

Becky wanted to respond, if only to share a conversation with someone she had thought she would never speak to again in her life. Even if someone was monitoring the channel she was on, they couldn’t track her position and it was safe to assume they knew she had come out of hiding

What the hell.

Hello Will.’

Agent Clarkson,’ Will whispered, ‘It’s so good to hear your voice. I thought you were dead for sure.’

As good as, Will. It’s good to hear your voice. I hope you’re okay. What’s going on?’

I don’t know for sure. I’ve only been moved back upstairs for the day. They want me to bring you in but luckily they all got bored listening in and left me to try all the channels by myself. I’ve got to be quick.’

Okay, what have you got?’

The Brotherhood have been ordered to abandon their positions all over the city.’

They must be coordinating an operation. Can you find out what?’

My access is severely restricted but I’ll see what I can find out. I’ve got to go.’

Thanks Will.’

It’s good to have you back, Agent Clarkson.’

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Friday 26 December 2008

The Rising - Chapter 77: Interrogation

Confident that no one had heard his conversation with Emily, Skinner made his way back through the long corridors of the vampire lair to the door where he had left Roxy.

The whole place felt like a tomb. It had been a long time since he had been there but he had never seen it so empty. The long corridors and large halls were usually buzzing with squads of vampires training and sparring. Now the only sound was Skinner’s footsteps. The effect of the attack on Hartley House was plain to see. The vampires had increased their numbers considerably, but now they were back down to the levels that The Brotherhood had previously thought were normal.

How can they possibly be planning an attack now with such a small clan?

Skinner reached the door and noticed it was slightly ajar. He heard Roxy talking to Marcus inside. Skinner had met Marcus several times but didn’t really know him. He always seemed very hands-off unless something major required his immediate attention, delegating many of his responsibilities to Roxy. Skinner couldn’t hear what they were saying but the tone of their voices was very serious.

Skinner stood at the door for only a second before the talking stopped. He raised his hand to knock on the door but it swung open before he made contact. Roxy stood before him with an intense expression on her face that told him she was eager to get him inside and find out everything he knew. Marcus moved round his desk and sat in his chair.

Come in, please. Take a seat,’ she said and he complied with her orders.

This is the survivor?’ Marcus asked Roxy as soon as Skinner sat down in the creaky wooden chair.

That’s correct, sir.’

Roxy’s interrogation began immediately and Skinner quickly began to feel like he was being cross-examined in court.

Skinner, you survived the attack at The Brotherhood’s regional base.’

Yes, that’s right.’


I smuggled the bodies from Hartley House into the base as planned. They turned into vampires when we expected them to. The Brotherhood were preoccupied with fighting our brothers and sisters, so I had the opportunity to get the doctor out.’

Why didn’t you?’

There was an unforeseen complication. In addition to Doctor Owen, The Brotherhood also had an agent of the World Health Organisation in their custody. Between her and the doctor, they used the vampire attack as cover for their own escape.’

But they are all part of the same team. Why would they want to escape from The Brotherhood?’

They don’t believe in the work they were forced to do. They believe in curing us, not killing us.’

The secondary treatment?’ Marcus asked incredulously and looked at Roxy. They both cracked a smile.

If only they knew,’ Marcus laughed.

Yes sir,’ Roxy said.

Skinner looked round, hoping they would let him in on their secret, but they didn’t.

So they somehow gave you the slip, did they? Then they hot wired a helicopter and made their getaway?’

That’s correct.’

I’ll be honest, Private. I don’t like your story. Something about it doesn’t add up, but for now I have no choice but to believe you.’

Skinner tried not to look like he was breathing a sigh of relief. There were no more questions for him.

Skinner noticed something sitting on Marcus’ desk that hadn’t qualified for his attention when he was being bombarded with questions. On a marble base, a skull was suspended on a wooden stake. Marcus noticed that Skinner had spotted it.

You like it?’ Marcus asked and turned the skull round to face Skinner.

Impressive,’ was all that Skinner could think to say.

It’s yours,’ Marcus said, ‘Roxy had him cleaned up for me. Commander North will take pride of place beside me from now on.’

Skinner raised his eyebrows in surprise. He was lost for words. How do you respond to someone who just told you he’s had a human skull cleaned and mounted on his desk?

Do you have a job for him?’ Marcus asked Roxy.

In the absence of any brothers or sisters who have seen action recently, Private Skinner is automatically my second-in-command. He will be leading the extraction team.’

Extraction team?’ Skinner asked, ‘Is there going to be another attack? What can I do?’

Roxy looked at her watch. ‘I’ll need to tell everyone else soon anyway. I suppose I can give you the details now.’

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Wednesday 24 December 2008

The Rising - Chapter 76: Blast From The Past

The pain in Becky’s right leg was starting to grow. It usually didn’t bother her too much but riding her motorbike aggravated it.

Beneath her cool exterior, she desperately hoped she could make it through the rest of her life without having to perform surgery on herself ever again. She had plenty of scars to show for her confrontations with creatures of the night and the countless attempts on her life over the past two years, but no cut was deeper than the one she had to make herself to remove a bullet from her thigh.

Becky shook those thoughts out of her head. She had spent most of the day on her bike, so the pain in her leg was just another reason to complete this mission as quickly as possible. End of story.

Now that she had some time by herself, she could reflect on the things she’d have preferred not to think about. Like being back in the open. As soon as she decided to intervene in Jane and Doctor Owen’s mission, she knew it would mean that she would instantly come out of hiding, whether she liked it or not. She’d had run-ins with The Brotherhood and made connections in the real world since that night two years ago but had always maintained a low profile.

This is different.

The situation she now found herself in wasn’t just helping one family break away from the clutches of a town full of vampires. It wasn’t breaking into a warehouse protected by vampires to investigate the stockpiles of Virex that could be found all over the world.

The Rising is beginning. It must be stopped at any cost.

She was also thinking of the future. If they do recover the samples and meet with Doctor Forrest, they would need to find somewhere to hide out for a decent length of time if the doctors were to have any chance of completing their work. A number of people had sworn their lives to her and they had all said she could call on them at any time to help her out. Becky knew exactly who she would need to call on to help them out.

Her thoughts were interrupted by a break in the radio silence she had been monitoring on the radio in her helmet. It was a voice she hadn’t heard for a very long time.

Agent Clarkson, are you there? It’s Will.’

The shock almost made her lose control of her bike. She gunned the accelerator to retain her balance.

Agent Clarkson? Becky, are you there?’

Becky maintained her silence but Will continued.

Becky, if you can hear me, you don’t need to say anything. Just listen to what I have to say. We know what you did at the offsite storage facility. You won’t be in any trouble if you come in now. Everyone here needs to know what you know. They need to debrief you. A lot has happened over the last two years. We need you to come back in.’

That little speech sounded so rehearsed, Becky wondered if her old friend had a gun pointed at his head and a script in front of him.

I guess she’s not on this channel,’ Will mumbled, ‘Let’s try the next channel.’

As soon as Will had come back into Becky’s life, he was gone.

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Monday 22 December 2008

The Rising - Chapter 75: Hitting The Road

Are you sure you don’t want me to go with you?’ Jane asked.

Becky checked her pistols were loaded and secured them in the pockets in her suit. Like a pilot going through pre-flight checks, she methodically checked each pocket and space on her belt to ensure all her equipment was loaded and accounted for.

No,’ she said, ‘Without you I can take the bike. I’ll be a lot quicker on my own. You have to stay here and protect the doc and your samples.’

What if you run into trouble?’

I don’t think I will. The sun won’t set for a few hours so I doubt I’ll run into any bloodsuckers.’

What about The Brotherhood?’

Becky lifted a radio out of her huge box of weapons and turned it on. The only sound it emitted was the low crackle of radio silence.

Hear that? That channel is usually buzzing all day long. Even when there are no operations going on, there’s always chatter over the radio. But today, ever since I picked you up: nothing. Either they’ve got bigger fish to fry or the general has called for radio silence. With a bit of luck, either of those options will keep them out of my way for the next hour or two.’

You’ve got the addresses of the labs, haven’t you?’ Jane asked.

Yes. I know where both of these places are. Shouldn’t be too much trouble.’

And you’ve got my number to call me in case there’s any problems?’

Becky looked at Jane like she was answering to an over-protective mother. ‘Yes, I have. What time’s curfew? I want to make sure I don’t get grounded.’

Sorry,’ Jane said, ‘I just want to make sure we’re all organised before you leave us.’

Look, I’m not going to be long. One hour, maybe two. The doc’s got plenty to do until I get back. Just wait here, keep an eye on him and keep watching the news.’

Becky put her helmet on and said her goodbyes, then closed the visor and headed for the door. Jane followed her out and watched her get into the elevator. She looked over the edge of the balcony. The rain was still pouring down. Jane thought that she’d love to be able to have nothing to worry about other than the changeable weather but the last forty-eight hours had given her so much more to think about.

Jane had been moving non-stop ever since she got the call that woke her up from her pleasant slumber and called her back into action from her holiday. She had taken the time off while Doctor Owen was finishing off work on the primary treatment, expecting to return to her superiors and receive instructions to move his work to a secure location.

Everyone’s plans had disappeared into thin air when The Brotherhood decided to take the matter into their own hands and destroy the Mantek lab. Now they were on the run from The Brotherhood, the vampires and the police. And Tom… Poor Tom.

From eleven floors up, Jane heard the faint sound of an engine revving followed by the sight of Becky shooting away from the apartment block towards the city.

Grey clouds blanketed the skyline in the distance. Even though the sun wasn’t due to set for a few hours, the city streets were becoming darker. Looking down, Jane saw a few street lights flicker into life, a sure sign that night time was coming in quicker than expected.

Jane turned round and went back into the apartment, locking the door behind her. Doctor Owen was sitting at the kitchen table, never looking up from his microscope. It was small and most unsuitable for the work he needed to do but it was all they could manage to take when they had escaped from The Brotherhood.

They had retrieved the samples and documents from their car, only to find that some of their hoard had been destroyed during their battle with The Brotherhood. One of the cases had taken a direct hit and had leaked infected blood all over the boot of the car. Some of the backup cartridges had taken direct hits as well, reducing them to nothing more than a pile of mangled plastic and tape. They both knew they would have to dispose of the car soon and find a new mode of transport.

He placed a small drop of blood that had been taken from Tom about twenty-four hours earlier into a petri dish and placed it under the lens with the highest magnification. He then unwrapped one of the syringes Becky had given them and removed the cap. Very carefully, he pressed the plunger and allowed one drop of the yellow liquid to fall onto the blood sample. He examined the reactions in silence for what seemed like an eternity.

What’s happening?’ Jane asked.

Doctor Owen rubbed his eyes as he looked up. In addition to the tiredness that was written all over their faces, he also wore an expression of total disbelief.

As far as I can tell, the syringes that she said she found two years ago are filled with the same treatment I developed last week.’

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Friday 19 December 2008

The Rising - Chapter 74: Learning To Fly

Go on, Tom,’ Peter said, ‘Just try it.’

I was standing ten paces away from the jagged stone wall of the training hall. Pete had spent the last ten minutes trying to convince me I knew how to fly. He had told me it’s programmed into us from the moment we become vampires. Our blood knows what to do and all it needs is a helping hand from our minds.

Just run towards it as fast as you can, jump towards it, get a foothold and push yourself away with your feet.’

The look on my face told him that I wasn’t as confident in my abilities as he was. I knew he must have been right though. I thought back to when I saw Officer Myers behind the hospital. He had only been a vampire for a matter of minutes and had instinctively scaled the hospital walls without thinking about it.

That’s the key. Don’t think about it.

I realised that my moments of gravity defiance thus far had also been instinctive. I had jumped high into the air to kill the vampires that were feeding on Commander North and stopped falling outside the vampire lair because somehow my body knew it had to be done, not because I stopped to think about it first.

To hell with it, Tom. Just do it.

I took a deep breath and sprinted for the wall. Two paces from the wall, I jumped with both feet forward, planted them and pushed away from the wall. The warmth in my legs flowed up through my body into my arms. I threw my arms forward. For a moment I was flying. I was suspended in the air without support. Another moment later, my face hit the floor.

My private curses failed to drown out the cackles I could hear from the other vampires in the hall. Peter walked over to me and extended a hand, helping me to my feet. As I got up, I felt for the syringes I still had stashed in my sock. I breathed a sigh of relief when I knew they were intact.

Don’t worry,’ he said, ‘That happens to everyone.’

Great. Thanks for telling me first.’

If I’d told you to expect to hit the ground on your first attempt, would you have felt more or less prepared?’

My silence was enough of an answer for him.

Exactly. All you can do is keep trying.’

The other vampires were all drawing near, leaving their training positions to see who the new guy was.

Hey Peter,’ said one burly-looking man who must have stood a clear six inches taller than me, ‘I hope you’re not pairing him up with me tonight. I don’t want to baby-sit another noob.’

Don’t worry,’ Peter said, ‘We’re not doing this mission in pairs. Everyone has their own job but we’re part of one big team. Right?’

Everyone apart from the big guy nodded their heads. He walked over to me, stood toe-to-toe and had to look down to eyeball me. ‘You can just stay out of my way, okay?’

In any kind of normal situation this man mountain was the last guy I would be messing with but I had an idea. Without warning, I took a step back and punched him in the face. It was a good, fast jab that landed right on the end of his nose. I took a quick step to the side as blood sprayed from his nostrils.

What the fuck?’ he exclaimed, with tears in his eyes, ‘Come here! I’m gonna tear you apart!’

With the giant in hot pursuit, I made a run for the wall. Just like my last attempt, I leapt, planted my feet and stretched my body out when I felt the warmth of my blood start to flow through my body. But unlike my last attempt, I didn’t hit the ground after a couple of seconds. Instead, I kept rising. I kept my eyes focused on the stone wall directly ahead of me. Before I knew what had happened, I had reached the ceiling of the training hall.

I could hear whoops and cheers from the crowd far below me. I wanted to bask in the glory of my first flight but my inspiration was hot on my heels. I turned round to see him heading right for me. I instinctively moved to my right as quickly as I could, narrowly avoiding his charge. He hit the wall head-on and knocked himself out cold.

His huge, limp body fell from the wall towards the floor. The warmth of my blood quickly moved to my feet and I pushed myself away from the wall again. I fell towards him, faster than he was falling. As I neared him, I reached out an arm and just managed to catch hold of his boot.

We stopped dead.

We hung in mid-air just inches above the stone floor of the training hall. The warmth spread around my body and we slowly dropped to the ground. I lowered him onto his back and I landed on my feet.

There were no whoops and cheers this time. As I looked around, all I could see were stunned faces. ‘What’s up?’ I asked.

Peter walked up to me. ‘Tom, that was incredible. Are you positive you only turned today?’

Yes. Why?’

Because some of your brothers and sisters here can’t do what you just did and they were reborn many years ago.’

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Wednesday 17 December 2008

The Rising - Chapter 73: Crying

Skinner walked back up the long corridor from the training room towards the entrance hall. He was worried, but not just about whether Roxy believed him about Tom.

He was worried about what was happening to Tom. From the first day that Skinner had started to turn into a vampire, he had been able to resist his hunger. Even before he knew what changes were going on inside his body, he had trained himself to ignore the voices inside telling him that drinking human blood was the only way to stay alive, no matter how much pain he felt in his stomach.

But Tom seemed unable to resist, even for a few minutes. It was a well-known fact that great irresistible hunger brought with it great power. But at what price?

Skinner also thought of Jane and Doctor Owen. He had no way of contacting them and no way of knowing if they were being successful in their mission. Have they been killed? Have they been captured and are they on their way here right now?

His thoughts were interrupted by a sound from behind one of the wooden doors that lined the corridor. He stopped and put his ear to the door. Inside, a woman was crying. Not wailing, but sobbing like she had been crying for hours and had run out of tears.

Skinner looked up and down the corridor. Confident that no one was around, he knocked on the door.

Hey, are you okay in there?’ he asked in a hushed voice.

There was a brief silence inside, followed by the voice of a tired and emotional woman. ‘Yes, I’m okay. Who are you?’

I’d rather not say. What’s your name?’


Emily Owen?’

Yes. How did you know?’

I’ve seen your husband.’

With that, Skinner heard her get up from wherever she was sitting and run to the door.

Is he okay?’ she whispered through the door.

I believe so. I haven’t seen him for a few hours but he was fine when I left him. He’s in good hands.’

Can you help me?’

I’ll see what I can do. I think almost everyone here will be leaving just after midnight. I’ll do my best to get you out. Then we can go and find your husband.’

Thank you. Thank you so much. Can’t you tell me who you are?’

I’m a friend. It’s best if I don’t tell you any more. Just try and stay calm for now. I’ll be back.’

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Monday 15 December 2008

The Rising - Chapter 72: Return To Blackchapel

It was late afternoon when Dave made it back to the Cliffside Hotel. He was tired and confused, having spent the whole day chasing people around the city and the countryside, achieving what felt like absolutely nothing. Sneaking around the corridors with steps as light as he could manage, he got back to his room without running into the concierge and sat down in his chair by the window.

After seeing Tom and Skinner disappearing into the darkness of the mountains, he decided to check in with Agent Simpson. He took out his phone and saw that he still had no missed calls from his superiors who were supposedly looking for him.

Dave, how are you doing?’ she said as soon as she answered his call.

Okay I guess. Feels like I’ve been chasing my tail all day.’

Have you seen Tom and Skinner?’

Yes. I’ve just seen them. They were being driven into the mountains. I lost them as they took a turning onto what looked like private land. I’m back at Blackchapel now.’

Okay. Wait there for now.’

Have you picked up everything you were looking for?’

Not yet. We’ve got two more stops to make but we have met someone.’


I’d better not give you too many details over the phone. I’m confident we’ll be able to recover everything we need. Just stay there and keep an eye out for Tom and Skinner. I’ll give you a call when we’ve got everything.’

They said their goodbyes and Dave was alone again. To hell with this, he thought as he got to his feet, I’m not sitting here looking out of the window all day.

Dave suspected that wherever Tom and Skinner were being taken, they would be there for a long time. After all, it was bad news for them to spend too long outside during daylight hours. He felt sure he wouldn’t see them again until sunset. This gave him plenty of time to kill so he decided to explore his new surroundings.

More specifically the bar next to the hotel.

He managed to avoid the concierge on his way out of the hotel and found himself faced with a wall of rain that refused to stop. Careful not to slip on the wooden steps at the front of the hotel as he ran from the front door and across the car park to the bar, he flung the door open and stepped inside, shaking the rain from his clothes.

The bar was as dead as the rest of the tiny town. It was a sports bar with a large plasma TV hanging on the wall that would usually show football games but with no sports events worth watching, it was tuned to a twenty-four hour news channel. Thankfully, some B-list celebrity had been caught driving under the influence so the reporters had lost interest in Dave and his friends for now.

Dave cast his eyes around the dimly lit room. It was empty apart from the barman, who was leaning on the bar watching the news. Another man returned from the bathroom and perched on a stool, addressing Dave in his chirpy voice that was really beginning to become annoying.

Hello sir,’ the concierge said, ‘Fancy seeing you in here. Did you have a good rest? How was your lunch?’

Fine thanks,’ Dave replied and approached the bar.

I haven’t seen you here before,’ the barman said, ‘Do you work at the mall?’

No, but I’m starting to think everyone in this town does.’

The barman looked at the concierge. ‘You’re not too far from the truth. You want a beer?’

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Friday 12 December 2008

The Rising - Chapter 71: Training Begins

Skinner shut the door behind me. I knew he wouldn’t slam the door on me but the stone walls of the dome-shaped hall magnified the sound ten-fold. Everyone stopped what they were doing to turn round and look at me.

One man was standing on the ground, looking up at the rest of the men and women as they moved gracefully from one wall to the other and stopped where they landed. He approached me and shouted at the others. ‘Get back to work! We only have a few hours.’

We shook hands. He was just under six feet tall and clad in black combat gear, with a face as pale as any vampire’s. He was one of the friendlier creatures of the night I had met in my life as a vampire, a life I hoped would be mercifully short.

Welcome. My name is Peter. I take it you’re here to join this group of misfits?’

I guess so.’ As soon as I replied, I could tell he was reading into the tone of my voice.

You’re a rebirth, right?’

It’s that obvious, is it? Yes, just this morning.’

Well, you seem to be taking it well. Some rebirths can go a bit crazy on their first day. What’s your name?’


Okay, Tom. How do you feel about being a vampire?’

Beats being dead, right?’

Peter erupted with laughter.

Exactly. That’s the best attitude to have, Tom. I’ll start you off easy with these guys but be warned: they’re coiled tightly and ready to pounce. You see, there was an attack on the humans yesterday and they weren’t allowed to go. Neither was I. They didn’t want to send everyone out for the attack, so now we’re all looking forward to tonight’s operation.’

What’s happening tonight?’

Honestly? I don’t know. All I know is it’s big. Bigger than last night. And if Roxy sent you down here then she wants us to get you involved.’

I looked at Peter blankly like I didn’t know what he was talking about.

Of course, you don’t know what happened last night,’ he said. I was grateful he hadn’t mastered the art of reading my mind. ‘We launched an attack on the humans at one of their military outposts. There were hundreds of them and only a handful of vampires. We almost wiped them all out but only Roxy got back here alive.’

Propaganda obviously isn’t exclusively the domain of the human species, I thought.

You’re so lucky to be joining us now, at the beginning of the Rising.’

Sounds exciting.’

My heart felt like it jumped into my throat. Our small band thought we were doing something important, like we could make a difference. Jane and the doctor were trailing round the city picking up bits and pieces and they thought that meeting with Doctor Forrest would give them a chance of coming up with a permanent cure. But I realised the truth.

We haven’t got a chance.

How long would it take the doctor to finish his work on the cure? Weeks? Months? I had no idea what the hell this guy was talking about but something told me the Rising wouldn’t stop and wait for our set of amateurs to catch up. I hadn’t known any of them for a decent length of time. For all I knew, they had no hope of finding the first set of documents, never mind everything else we had to do.

So what do you need me to do?’ I asked.

We haven’t got long,’ Peter said, ‘We’ll need to get you through some of the basics. I haven’t been told much but what I do know is that the mission will be fairly simple. No weapons, no direct combat. If there is a problem, the only ability we will need is to fly away.’

Okay. Sounds pretty cryptic to me.’

I know, but missions this critical cannot be revealed until just moments before they begin. With a bit of luck we’ll be able to feed tonight.’

With that comment, the feeling of belonging that had been growing inside me during our conversation left me alone with this bloodsucker. He may have been charismatic, but he still stood for everything I didn’t want to become.

Have you flown yet?’ he asked.

Well, I fell half way to the floor when Roxy’s friend threw me down the big hole outside.’

He laughed again. ‘That’s a good start. Falling halfway is better than hitting the floor. When you’re done here you’ll be doing loop-the-loops.’

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Wednesday 10 December 2008

The Rising - Chapter 70: 'Before Sunrise Tomorrow'

Doctor Owen answered the call from the withheld number.

Doctor Owen, isn’t it?’ asked the female voice on the other end.

Who is this?’

My name is Roxanne Maria di Santo Ramirez. But you can call me Roxy for short.’

What do you want?’

If my intelligence is correct, you are currently running around the city picking up scraps that you’ve left behind and you’re planning to run away into the night with Doctor Forrest and complete your plans of saving the world.’

Doctor Owen said nothing.

From your silence, I take it my intelligence is correct. Unfortunately I must throw a spanner into the works. You see, Doctor Forrest had the mistaken notion that he would be able to escape from us. And if that wasn’t audacious enough, he thought he could run off with your wife as well.’

What have you done with them? If you’ve hurt her…’

Calm down, Doc, they’re both fine. However, I need you to do something for me to secure their safety.’

What’s that?’

When you have all of the samples and documents, you must bring them to me and I will exchange them for your wife and the doctor. Okay?’

Let me speak to my wife.’

I thought you might ask to speak to her so I’ve got her right here.’

Andrew, don’t believe her. I haven’t…’ Emily said, her voice filled with fear and panic.

That’s enough,’ said Roxy, ‘So what do you say, Doc? The samples for both of them. Seems like a fair swap to me.’

Okay,’ he sighed, ‘When and where?’

Before sunrise tomorrow. I will call you to tell you where to meet us.’

Roxy hung up. Doctor Owen rubbed his eyes with his hands and let out a roar of frustration. Taking deep breaths, he calmed himself down and explained the situation to Jane and Becky. They all looked at each other across the table with one thing on their minds.

There’s nothing we can do.

Are you sure you can trust Doctor Forrest?’ Becky asked.

Of course,’ Doctor Owen said, ‘We’ve worked together for a very long time.’

Doctor Owen had a spark of inspiration. Roxy hadn’t let him speak to the doctor. Was she bluffing? He took out his mobile phone and called Doctor Forrest’s number. After a few rings, there was an answer.

Don’t waste any time, Doc,’ Roxy said and hung up.

Shit!’ Doctor Owen exclaimed.

Look,’ Becky said, ‘All we can do is carry on what you were doing. We finish picking up the samples and work out a way to get your wife and the doctor back without doing the swap.’

How are we going to do that?’ Jane said, ‘There’s only three of us and we haven’t got any weapons.’

Well, that’s not strictly true,’ Becky said.

Becky got up and walked into the next room, coming back with a large black case in her arms. She threw it onto the table and opened it up. Before Jane and the doctor, an arsenal of pistols and silver blades made their jaws drop. It was clear that Becky was a one-woman army. She had an array of weapons that would make Rambo jealous and from what they had seen of her in action so far; she knew exactly how to use them.

Okay,’ said Becky, ‘I’ve got an idea.’

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