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#2: The Rising - About - Go to Chapter 1

Friday 30 January 2009

The Rising - Chapter 92: Open Doors

Skinner had told Emily to wait a while, at least an hour after she heard everyone leave the lair. He said there would still be vampires there but there would only be a handful of them and she should be able to avoid them as they would most likely be hanging around the entrance hall.

She walked over to the door to her cell and listened for any kind of noise from outside.


She tried the door handle to make sure what Skinner had told her was true. He said he had left it unlocked when he had finished pretending to calm her down, which would get him in a lot of trouble if anyone else found out. The door opened slightly and she closed it again, listening for a reaction from anyone who might be waiting on the other side of the wall.

There was no noise again so Emily pulled the door open slightly, just enough to peer through the opening. The corridor seemed to go on forever, the light from the flickering torches hanging on the walls fading into darkness. She opened the door a little more, just enough to edge her upper body out. She turned to look down the corridor in the opposite direction. It looked exactly the same. No one to be seen. Not a sound to be heard.

Skinner had told her to turn right out of her door and head for the spiral staircase that would take her to the summit. He said the door at the summit was rarely locked so that would be her best chance of getting out. All she had to do then was find her way onto the main road and try to flag someone down who would take her back to the city.

That was the plan anyway. One step at a time, she told herself. Even though the stone walls were cold, the air was warm with the heat from the torches that lit the path ahead. The corridor curved to the left slightly so she couldn’t gauge the distance she had to travel. She didn’t think it was too far but she had been almost catatonic when they had brought her down to her cell. Judging distances hadn’t been on her mind at the time.

Wooden doors just like the one she closed behind her lined the corridor. Emily hoped the rooms behind them were all empty as she took her first steps. The silence of her footsteps made her thankful she had decided to put on her flats rather than heels the day before.

Step by step, she inched her way down the corridor, all the time looking out for the turning Skinner had told her to make and any hint of someone approaching her.

Then she saw something ahead. Not the turning she was looking for, but a shadow being projected onto the wall. Then she heard the heavy footsteps, getting louder and louder.

Shit! What am I going to do?

Emily was certain it was too late to turn round and run back to her cell. She’d already walked to far. She frantically looked around. There was a wooden door to her left and a heavy metal door on the opposite side of the corridor. Praying the wooden door wasn’t locked, she took a quick light step towards it and tried the handle. It opened and she stepped inside, closing it behind her as quietly as she could.

She took a second to regain some calm, then turned round to survey the room where she had thankfully taken refuge. It looked like a lab but the details didn’t sink in. Her full attention was taken by the familiar figure standing before her, who she hadn’t seen in a long time.

‘Emily?’ said Doctor Forrest.

‘Oh my God, what are you doing here?’

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Wednesday 28 January 2009

The Rising - Chapter 91: Making New Friends

‘Don’t bother the nice man,’ her father said.

‘No, it’s okay,’ I said and did my best to smile naturally at the little girl, ‘My name is Tom. Are you going on holiday?’

‘I’m going to live with my mummy.’

I looked at her father, who was hiding the sadness in his mind beneath the obvious love for his child. Poppy opened the tiny pink bag she had carried onto the plane, took out a puzzle book and pen and turned her attention to a half-completed crossword.

‘It didn’t work out between her mother and me,’ her father said, seemingly desperate for someone to talk to. Given the situation and my history with Sarah, I was hardly the best person to dish out family advice but thought I’d better try my best.

‘I’m sorry to hear that,’ I said, ‘I know what it’s like. I went through a similar thing a few years ago.’

‘You have children?’

‘No, but I split with my wife. We got back together for a while, but… I guess some things aren’t meant to be.’

He nodded and shrugged, then held out his hand. ‘My name’s Jonathan. Friends call me Jonnie,’ he said as we shook hands.

‘Pleased to meet you,’ I said, then struggled to think of anything else to say. The uncomfortable silence was interrupted by Poppy, who was struggling with one of her crossword clues.

‘Eight across. Ship of the desert. Five letters.’

‘Camel,’ I said. She checked that it would fit, then turned and gave me a big smile. ‘Thank you, Mister Tom.’

The sight of such a cute, innocent little girl cut me deeply. For the first time in hours I thought of another little girl. The one whose blood I drank that morning. The one who I couldn’t resist feeding on, no matter how hard I had tried.

Is she still dead? Did she turn into a vampire? Have I turned someone into a vampire? Am I about to do the same to these good people?

The cloud that had been masking my thoughts of the girl and my feelings of guilt was blown away. The image of the dead girl’s body, her blood soaking into her clothes, popped into my mind. I knew I had to do something, anything to salvage some semblance of humanity. Once more I thought of the syringes tucked in my sock and gave myself a call to action.

I did my best to look round the cabin and couldn’t see any of my brothers and sisters. Not knowing whether I was within earshot of them, I decided to play it safe. ‘Do you mind if I have a go at one of those puzzles?’ I asked Poppy.

‘Okay,’ she said, and flicked to a new page for me. I took the book from her and started to write in an empty space on the page. When I was done, I handed the book to her father. ‘Maybe your daddy can help you.’

He took the book from me and looked at me quizzically. I nodded towards the page and he looked down. My message read:

Please stay calm. There are people watching.
There are terrorists on board. After take-off you will all be gassed and infected with a virus. I have no choice. I am being forced to do this, which is why I want to help you.
I have the antidote.
If you want to help your daughter, you must give her the antidote now. There will be no time later.
I wish there was more I could do.

He looked at me again, wide-eyed with disbelief. ‘You’re serious aren’t you?’

I nodded.

He thought to himself for a minute. The pilot announced that the plane would be ready for take-off in a few minutes, which prompted him to turn to me and hold out his hand.

‘We haven’t got much time. Give it to me.’

I took the syringes out of my pocket and handed them to him, trying to keep them out of Poppy’s sight. He put them in the pocket of his jumper and stood up, taking Poppy in his hands.

‘Come on, sweetheart. One last trip to the bathroom before we go up in the sky.’

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Monday 26 January 2009

The Rising - Chapter 90: Boarding The Plane

I tried my best to cast my insane dreams from my mind and focus on the job in hand. The dream had been vivid, so realistic, but I knew it was just my exhausted mind playing tricks on me.

Everyone stood up but Peter had one more thing to say to us before we left the coach.

‘We’re going to go into the airport one at a time. We’ve got people on the inside but that doesn’t mean we won’t arouse suspicion if we all go in together. We won’t need to go through luggage check-in so head directly for departures and follow the signs for flight BA159. See you on the plane.’

Peter stood at the end of the coach and waved us all off. One by one my brothers and sisters left the coach and made their way towards the main terminal building. The syringe packs had straps on them that we used to secure them round our waists. As I reached the front of the coach I asked Peter a question.

‘What do we say if anyone asks to look inside these cases?’

‘Just tell them you’ve got a medical condition and you might need to treat yourself on the plane. Trust me though, no one will ask to look inside them.’

As the last of my brothers and sisters made their way into the main terminal building, I left the coach and did my best to walk naturally across the road. My heart was pounding, which made me wonder whether this was just due to nerves and if my body actually still had a biological need for my heart to beat.

If my heart’s still beating, do the rest of my internal organs still work? Is it still possible to save my body?

I reached the main entrance to the terminal and was faced with a sight I hadn’t seen for a long time. It had been many years since I had flown and even longer since I took a holiday. Feelings of nostalgia and sadness gripped me as I took in the sight of countless families waiting in line to pack their luggage onto the planes that would take them to far away lands for a well-deserved break.

Some of you aren’t going to get there. We’re going to turn you all into vampires.

Massive flat screens hanging from the ceiling showed which gates everyone had to go to. I looked up BA flight 159 and headed for gate four. Without a second thought, I walked past all the retail outlets where I would normally have spent a small fortune on music and aftershave if I had been heading away with Sarah without a care in the world.

Instead I headed directly for the departure lounge, where a long queue for security checks was waiting. Standing at the back, I looked down the line. I couldn’t see anyone from the coach.

Did they make it through already? Have they all been found out?

The line seemed to take an eternity to shuffle towards the security team. With each step forward I was getting more and more nervous. A member of the security team kept walking up and down the line looking at everyone. On one of his journeys past, he stopped right next to me and looked me in the eye.

‘Sir, will you come with me?’

I didn’t know what to do. ‘Me? Why me?’

‘Come with me please, sir.’

With no other alternative, I followed him past the line of passengers waiting to walk through the metal detectors and put their hand luggage through the X-ray machines. He unhooked a rope barrier and we walked round the security section towards a door in the corner of the room.

‘Where are we going?’ I asked, my voice breaking slightly with fear. I received no response.

He opened the door and asked me to walk through. Very reluctantly I did so, expecting to see a tiny room where I would be held and probably beaten, but instead I was faced with the departure lounge. People who had made it through the security checks were milling around the retail outlets and enjoying their last coffee or something stronger before they boarded their flights.

I turned round and quizzically stared at him.

‘Good luck my brother,’ was all he said and shut the door behind him.

Peter was right. They’re everywhere in here.

I heard the call of the public address system announcing that my flight was now boarding and made my way towards gate four. As I arrived at the gate I recognised the faces of my fellow vampires. Some were drinking coffee, some were reading the early editions, but all of them were blending in with the crowds. No one knew what was about to happen.

The cabin crew were checking tickets and ushering people onto the plane. I showed my ticket and made my way down the tunnel and was greeted by more members of the cabin crew as I boarded the plane. I was shown to my seat by the window and removed my case of syringes, placing it in the pocket attached to the seat in front.

Peter was right again. No one asked me about the case.

The one thing I hoped above all was that no one would sit down in the two seats next to me. I needed some semblance of privacy to get my head round what I had no choice in doing.

My hope was not realised. Two people sat down next to me: a tall man who looked to be about thirty-five years old sat on the end and his daughter sat down between us. He was wearing jeans and a jumper and was well built. His daughter was wearing jeans and a pink jumper, with her long brown hair tied in a ponytail. She couldn’t have been any older than eight and was quite possibly the cutest kid I’d ever seen.

‘Hello mister,’ she said, ‘My name’s Poppy. What’s your name?’

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Friday 23 January 2009

The Rising - Chapter 89: Dreams

Our coach was in the lead, charging round the tight bends in the road after we left the place I hoped I wouldn’t have to call home ever again.

As we sped through Blackchapel, I looked out of the window and spotted Dave’s car in the car park outside the hotel. I didn’t know how or when I was going to see him again but it was comforting to know where an ally could be found.

I turned my attention to the pile of clothes I’d sat down next to. Upon boarding the coach, Peter had told everyone to find a change of clothes that looked good for them. Mine was a dark grey suit and blue shirt. Taking the hint from everyone else on board that privacy isn’t a God-given right of vampires, I stripped down and slipped into my new attire.

As I removed my trousers I managed to transfer the syringes in my sock to the inside pocket of the suit jacket without being seen. The suit wasn’t a perfect fit but was a little too big instead of a little too small, which is always the preferable option if you’re not picking your own clothes.

At the front of the coach, Peter got to his feet and picked a handful of medical zip-up cases from the seat next to him.

Listen up everyone!’ he announced and started to walk down the coach, handing out a case to every one of the troops, ‘I’m going to give each one of you one of these cases. Each case contains twenty-five syringes. There will be no more than two hundred targets on the plane, including the crew. You will each be responsible for treating twenty targets. Your reserved seats are arranged so that your targets will be seated in the rows across from you and behind you. Remember: work fast. You will only have five minutes from the moment the gas is released.’

Peter returned to the front of the coach and sat down. I inspected the case he’d dropped onto the empty seat next to me. I unzipped the case to reveal my ammunition and a plane ticket. The movement of the coach made the vampire blood shake around inside the syringes.

Certain death for twenty-five people. I hope you can live with yourself, Tom.

It had been a long day and I was sure I was going to have a long night so I decided to close my eyes for a few seconds. I wondered where Jane and Doctor Owen were and hoped they were safe.

Have they already met up with Doctor Forrest? Are they hard at work on the cure for me right now?

I doubted the answer to either of those questions was yes but I allowed myself a little hope. For the first time in twenty-four hours my thoughts turned to Sarah, my wife who had been killed five years ago. I pictured us sitting in the park, eating dinner in our favourite restaurant and doing all the things we loved to do together.

She was beautiful. I told myself then as I do now that I didn’t deserve her. She was punching way below her weight when she settled for me and I wished she was still around today for me to tell her how much I loved her.

My thoughts then turned to someone else from my past. Michael Hudson. The man who had brutally beaten my beautiful Sarah to death with a baseball bat. I could see him standing in our kitchen, splattered with blood as Sarah lay on the floor, seconds from death. Michael knelt down beside her. He leaned over her and whispered something in her ear, then opened his mouth and sunk his teeth into her neck.

I lurched awake and heard Peter shout, ‘We’re here, people. Let’s go.’

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Wednesday 21 January 2009

The Rising - Chapter 88: Losing The Edge

Another beer?’ Ali asked.

No thanks,’ Dave said, finally managing to put a stop to the long line of beers that had been bought for him all night long by his new friend and his silent partner.

Come on, man. Just one more.’

No, I’ve really got to hit the sack now. Thanks anyway.’

Dave got to his feet, realising the night had passed him by. Even though he had been keeping one eye on the road outside, he had lost track of time. One too many drinks had made him lose his edge. In an effort to maintain his watch on the window next to him, he had avoided visiting the men’s room and his bladder now felt like it was bursting at the seams.

Okay man, have a good night’s sleep,’ Ali said and shook hands with Dave.

Well you guys better hit the sack as well if you’re back at work tomorrow.’

Don’t worry about us, man. We’ll be okay. Got a big day ahead of us tomorrow.’

Oh yeah, what’s that?’

Big sale at the department store. Got a real early start. Doors open at five, but we’re in at seven with the second group.’

Dave looked at his watch. It had just gone midnight. ‘Clock’s ticking, guys.’

Nah, we don’t need much sleep, man. Ain’t that right, Bill?’


Dave left the bar and nearly fell as he slipped on the wet floor outside the door. It had stopped raining and the air was humid. He would have thought the rumbling noise that filled the air was thunder were it not for the two coaches that thundered past the hotel.

Do I get in the car and follow them? What if Tom isn’t on one of those coaches?

Dave wasn’t exactly light on his feet at the best of times, and after more than a couple of beers he decided to return to his room and continue his vigil by the window.

What the hell am I doing here? Dave thought to himself, Stuck in the ass-end of nowhere waiting on a car going past that may or may not contain my friend. And what am I supposed to do when it does go past?

After protecting his wife and children, who he hoped were tucked up in a motel somewhere up the coast where no one could find them, finding his friend and partner was his highest priority but Dave had a pressing concern growing in his stomach. More specifically just below his stomach.

Breaking into a jog, he made his way across the car park, up the front steps to the hotel and through the main entrance. None of the elevators were available so he ran up the stairs, praying his key card would work first time when he reached the door to his room. Thankfully it did and Dave made it to his bathroom just in time.

Back in the bar, Ali returned to his table and sat down next to Bill, handing his buddy one of the two beers he had in his hands.

Feeling hungry, Bill?’

Naw man, not yet.’

Okay. We’ll wait a while but I tell you, I gotta eat tonight, man.’

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Monday 19 January 2009

The Rising - Chapter 87: Leaving The Lair

I spent the next hour doing what I had been learning to do for most of the day: soaring like an eagle from one side of the training hall to the other.

Well, probably more like a baby eagle. I was alone again but it gave me the chance to teach myself to change direction and move up and down in mid-air. Even though I was growing in confidence with my new skills, I hoped to God that I didn’t have to use them as the night moved on.

The feelings of my brothers and sisters were becoming stronger and stronger. I didn’t know if that was because I was venturing further down the path to the point of no return or if it was because everyone’s feelings were so strong. I could tell they were all growing in confidence. The idea of leading the Rising against the humans was giving everyone an increased sense of optimism and self-importance.

Over here everyone!’ Peter shouted from far below, ‘We’re moving out!’

For the last hour I had been hoping Skinner would walk back through the door and tell Peter I was being excused from the night’s operation. As the minutes ticked by, this pipe dream failed to become a reality and I realised that I would have to come to terms with the fact that I was going to be on that flight. I had no choice but to go through with their plan.

I weighed up the options in my head. If I made a break for freedom when we got outside, either I’d be caught or they’d turn on Skinner. Ditto if I made a run for it at the airport, which would be even more dangerous for me if there were indeed men on the inside looking out for us. If I tried to stop the operation while we were on the plane, I would almost certainly be overpowered and killed by everyone else on the team. If I tried to cause a scene on the plane, I would put the passengers in even more danger.

It didn’t matter which way I looked at it, there was no way I could stop them infecting a large number of innocent people.

I resigned myself to the fact that I had no choice and dedicated my thoughts to keeping in mind the possibility of following the operation as far as I could. Roxy hadn’t told us where the bodies were being taken following the crash. There was a plan for the bodies when we had finished with them and I had to find out what it was and where they were being taken.

I let go of the wall and glided down to the ground, touching down with a thump but still managing to stay on my feet. I joined my brothers and sisters and Peter led us out of the training hall.

I followed the single-file line as we marched up the corridor and turned down another corridor to the right before we reached the entrance hall. After another twenty or so paces we reached a tight spiral staircase carved into the rock. One by one we stomped up the stairs that seemed to go on forever and ever. Flaming torches were built into recesses in the walls but they were few and far between and light was low all the way to the top. Unable to see clearly, I stubbed my toe on the next step a few times.

I tapped my brother in front of me on the shoulder.

Hey, why do we have to walk up these stairs? Why can’t we just fly up to the top like normal?’

They do this to get us used to walking around like humans,’ he said, ‘It’s supposed to get us out of the habit of flying and start acting like normal people.’

With each step I remembered how far I had fallen into the chasm. My legs started to ache but before they started to burn with the build-up of lactic acid, I felt the warmth of my blood flow from my upper body down to my thighs and calves. I felt a little light-headed but from that moment on the pain in my legs disappeared. Suddenly I felt like I could have run up and down those steps all day long.

My blood spread out around the rest of my body when we reached the top. Another small corridor lay ahead with a wooden door at the end. Peter marched us through the door, round a patch of trees and bushes that concealed the entrance, and out onto a familiar clearing.

Even though I knew we had spent a long time in the vampires’ lair, I was still surprised to see that darkness had fallen outside. Clouds above obscured our view of the stars and the only light came from the headlights of the vehicles in front of us, which cast long shadows of my new brothers and sisters across the grass. I spotted the car Jackson had picked us up in, along with two large coaches.

Roxy was waiting for us and walked up to Peter. ‘Pick two of our brothers to join the recovery team.’

Peter turned round and pointed at me and the vampire I had followed up the stairs. ‘Him and him.’

Not him,’ Roxy said, looking right at me. Peter picked out another member of our squad and the two chosen ones walked over to her.

Now I was really worried. It was clear that she wanted to keep me and Skinner apart.

Is it me or Skinner she doesn’t trust? Or does she know exactly what’s going on?

Good luck to all of you,’ she said to us and turned to the other two vampires, ‘You two, come with me.’

Right then,’ said Peter, ‘Let’s do it.’

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Friday 16 January 2009

The Rising - Chapter 86: A Long Long Time Ago

Doctor Edward Forrest had lost count of the number of times he had checked on the syringes he had prepared for the mission. With ten of his brothers and sisters preparing to board British Airways flight 159, he had packed ten cases each containing twenty-five syringes. The Boeing 737 would seat one hundred and eighty-nine passengers so he was confident there would be enough to go round.

With all ten cases stacked neatly on his workbench, his attention turned to another set of syringes. He was eternally grateful to Jackson for collecting his supply of Virex for him. He had expected the operation at Hartley House to be successful, they all had, so he was unable to stock up on the treatment he desperately needed. It was necessary for them to maintain a low profile, at least for another day or so.

He rolled up his left sleeve, reached for the small plastic box on his workbench and picked out a packaged syringe. He tore off the plastic wrapper and cast it aside, having lost track of the many thousands of times he had done that before. Without having to tap his arm with his right hand, the vein rose as he looked at it and stayed there as he took the cap off the syringe and tapped the bubbles out of the yellow liquid inside.

What a beautiful creation. What would I have become were it not for this concoction?

Edward Forrest cast his mind back to a special day in his life. His wife, who had come down with a terrible fever, turned to her husband, a pharmaceutical expert. He used her as a guinea pig to develop a makeshift treatment that kept her alive for three months. But on the day when he was preparing the largest batch of the treatment, with a view to seeing her through the coming winter, she was overcome with emotion and became someone that the doctor didn’t recognise.

As he approached her with a dose of his creation, she sunk her teeth into his arm. He couldn’t believe his eyes as she feasted on the blood that flowed from his veins. From that day forward, he had devoted every waking hour to developing his treatment.

Such a long long time ago, he thought.

His journey to the past was cut short as Roxy entered the room. She saw that he was about to take the treatment and started to excuse herself. The doctor didn’t bat an eyelid.

Don’t worry,’ he said to her, ‘This won’t take a second. It’s been many years since this knocked me out.’

He pushed the needle into his vein and injected the yellow liquid into his bloodstream. The familiar pain spread around his body, the kind of pain that becomes more and more easy to handle with experience. He felt his mind drift away for a second then snapped back to reality.

Now then, Roxy,’ he said, ‘I take it you’ve come for the syringes?’

Roxy nodded.

They’re all here. Ten packs of twenty-five. Has there been any indication of intervention?’

None at all.’

Excellent. It should be a walk in the park.’

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Wednesday 14 January 2009

The Rising - Chapter 85: Snooping

Doctor Owen had spent the past few hours running more tests on the substance that was contained in the syringes Agent Clarkson had given him. The more he tested it, the more confident he became that his treatment and this mysterious yellow liquid were one and the same.

How is this possible?

Jane had used the hour or so of down time as an opportunity to do a bit of snooping. She wanted to find out what kind of woman Becky Clarkson was but there weren’t too many clues dotted around the bare apartment. Jane wasn’t surprised. If Becky had to move around a lot, or had to be able to bail at any time, it was hardly surprising there were no photos of friends and family to be found.

Doctor Owen barely acknowledged her presence as she returned to the kitchen table and began to examine the contents of the weapons case Becky had flashed before their eyes. There were a few blank spaces where Becky had tooled up before leaving them earlier, but there was still a veritable arsenal in front of them. Pistols, daggers, silver-plated throwing stars, grenades and all manner of weapons that Jane didn’t recognise. All had their own slot carved into the foam inlay.

Looking inside the case, then outside and back inside again, Jane realised the base of the inlay didn’t go all the way down to the bottom of the case. She found two small handles cut into the foam and wedged her fingers in to lift out the top layer. Underneath, she discovered pieces of a dismantled long-range rifle with a powerful telescope. In the bottom right corner of the second layer of the case was a tray full of the longest silver bullets Jane had ever seen.

Vampire sniper.

She returned the top layer to the case and drew her gun as she heard a noise at the front door.

It’s me,’ Becky said as she entered the kitchen. She emptied the contents of her backpack onto the kitchen table. Jane moved the weapons case onto the floor to make room for the tumbling documents and flasks, which Jane immediately picked up and placed in the freezer.

Is that everything?’ Becky asked, and for the first time in a long time Doctor Owen looked up from his microscope.

Yes, that looks like everything. Thank you,’ he said, and returned his full attention to the samples of blood he was treating.

Did you have any trouble?’ Jane asked.

None at all,’ Becky said, ‘The sites were abandoned. The doors were wide open and everything I was looking for was left out, as if they were expecting me.’

Well, there’s nothing we can do now until the morning. We’ve got everything Doctor Forrest needed and now we have to turn it over to the vampires.’

Not if I can help it,’ Becky said, ‘I’m sure the vampires don’t know about me. They’ll only be expecting the doctor, maybe you as well. We’ve got that on our side. Anything on the news?’

Nothing new. I’m worried that we haven’t heard anything from Tom or Skinner either.’

I’m sure your friends would let us know if they were in any trouble.’ Becky patted Doctor Owen on the shoulder. ‘Come on, guys,’ she said, ‘We’ve undoubtedly got another hard day tomorrow. The sun rises in a few hours. I think it would be a good idea if we all got some rest.’

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Monday 12 January 2009

The Rising - Chapter 84: Shouting And Screaming

Skinner chose to ignore Tom’s reply to his suggestion that he might not make it back to dry land. They said their goodbyes and Skinner left the training hall.

He had been hoping to hang back from Roxy and Jackson so he could have another quiet moment to talk to Emily. Looking up and down the corridor once more, he knocked on the door to her cell when he was confident no one was looking.

Emily, are you there?’

Who is it?’ she asked.

I’ve got an idea of how to help you try and get out of here, but I need your help.’

Thank you so much. What can I do?’

I need you to scream as loud as you can and bang on the door. Shout and scream like you’re going to kill yourself. If you’re dead then they’ll have no leverage over your husband. That’ll give me a chance to get in to your cell and help you.’

She paused for a moment. ‘Do you think you can do that?’ Skinner asked.

Yes,’ she said with a renewed confidence in her voice, ‘I’ll do it.’

Skinner looked up and down the corridor again. The coast was clear. ‘Okay,’ he said, ‘Ready when you are, Emily.’

With that, she started to scream at the top of her lungs. Even from behind the wooden door, her screams echoed off the stone walls and down the corridor. Her threats to kill herself could be heard up and down the lair.

Excellent, Skinner thought, Here’s my chance.

He ran as fast as he could down the corridor, even breaking into partial flight as he took longer and longer strides. Roxy and Jackson were waiting at the end of the corridor with inquisitive looks on their faces.

What the hell is going on down there?’ Roxy asked Skinner as he met them.

It’s Emily. She’s threatening to kill herself!’

Roxy turned to Jackson. ‘Get the key and shut her up.’

No, wait,’ Skinner protested, ‘Let me go.’

Jackson, get the key. What are you talking about?’

We need to keep her alive, don’t we? You’re not going to keep her calm by tying her down. I’ve met her husband. I can set her mind at rest and calm her down. Let me prove it to you.’

Roxy thought about it until Jackson returned with the key.

Give him the key,’ she said, ‘Let’s see if he’s a social worker as well as a soldier.’

Jackson held out the key and Skinner snatched it out of his hand, immediately running back down the corridor. He knew Jackson and Roxy would follow but he needed every second away from prying eyes as possible. Reaching the door, he turned the key in the lock and stepped inside, shutting the door behind him.

Keep screaming,’ he said under his breath for only Emily to hear.

Emily looked tired, really tired, like she hadn’t slept for days. Skinner suspected her shoulder length hair was usually immaculately maintained but now it was matted and hanging over her face. Her eyes were red raw, the result of non-stop crying. Skinner knew Roxy and Jackson would be behind the door by now, so he’d better start proving his worth.

Calm down, Emily,’ he said softly, lowering his hands, palms down in a calming motion, ‘What’s wrong?’

I can’t take it!’ she screamed, ‘I can’t take it any more!’ Skinner was very impressed by her performance.

Calm down. Please, calm down. There’s no need for this. We’ll have you back with your husband before you know it. It’s just going to take time.’

My husband? What do you know about my husband?’

I’ve seen him. I saw him yesterday and I’m certain he’s still out there, doing all he can to see you again. You just have to give it time.’

It’s so difficult. I feel like I can’t go on.’

You can make it through this, Emily. You have to.’

Emily sat down and cast Skinner a questioning look. He gave her the thumbs up.

Can I get you anything? Maybe some water?’ Skinner asked, nodding his head.

Yes. I’d like some water. Thank you.’

Skinner turned and left the room, finding himself faced with Roxy and Jackson. He locked the door behind him and led them back up the corridor away from Emily’s cell.

Well done,’ Roxy said.

Thank you,’ Skinner said, ‘Sometimes you just get a feeling about someone, don’t you?’

Roxy nodded her head but had a look on her face like she had something else on her mind. Skinner left Roxy and Jackson, his mind on getting a glass of water to Emily and setting up her chance of escape.

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Friday 9 January 2009

The Rising - Chapter 83: Plans

Roxy cast her eyes across everyone standing before her and took a deep breath.

Tonight will be a glorious night for our kind. Our numbers will grow at a rate that has been unprecedented in more than fifty years. You will all play your part. At midnight you will leave here. We have two buses waiting at ground level. One will take most of you, led by Peter, to the airport; the others will head for the coast, led by Skinner.

The team heading to the airport will board flight BA159. You will have no problems getting through the check-in process. We have allies at every point along the path through to the plane, including the pilot. You will board the plane and take your seats at previously reserved strategic positions. Five minutes after take-off, gas will be released into the ventilation system that will put all the humans on board to sleep. You will then…’

How will we stay awake?’ a voice from the group piped up.

At take-off you will mark the time on your watches. After five minutes you will put on the gas masks that will be stowed under your seats. Peter will have everything he needs to review the finer details of the mission with you on the way to the airport. Please do not interrupt me again.

With the gas masks you will each find a supply of hypodermic needles. Between you, you will use them to inject everyone on board the plane with the blood of one of our brothers. You will have exactly five minutes to complete this section of the mission and return to your seats. Exactly ten minutes after take-off, the pilot will crash the plane into the sea. Skinner and the rest of you will be waiting on board a boat, ready to take the bodies back to land, where they will be stored until they complete their rebirth.’

Roxy looked at her watch and turned to Peter. ‘Finish your preparations. I expect everyone at ground level in one hour.’

Understood,’ he said.

I was in shock as Roxy left the hall. Skinner stayed behind and approached me.

Holy shit, Skinner,’ I exclaimed under my breath when I was sure we weren’t in ear shot of anyone else in the hall, ‘This is mass murder. What the fuck are we going to do?’

I don’t know, Tom. They’re keeping you and me apart. I’m not sure if that’s because they don’t trust me. I’m supposed to take two of these guys in here and pilot a fake coastguard boat to the crash site. I don’t have any choice. I can’t see a way out of it.’

Can we contact the airport first?’

I haven’t got access to a phone. But if we call the airport and they stop the flight, they’re bound to work out it was us that made the call. Even then, they probably won’t do anything. You heard what she said: they’ve got people on the inside.’

We turned futile thoughts over in our heads.

Look,’ Skinner said, ‘I’ve found the doctor’s wife. She’s being held here. I’m going to try and give her the chance to get out when we leave. I’ll see what I can do to let you get away as well, once we pick you up.’

You mean after the crash?’

If you survive it, of course.’

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Wednesday 7 January 2009

The Rising - Chapter 82: First Mission

The big guy I’d socked in the nose wasn’t the only one of my new brothers and sisters who was giving me a wide berth. Over the past few hours his nose had healed itself but the feeling of animosity remained.

For a brief period, maybe five minutes, a strange sensation hit me, like a dark cloud had formed over my mind. I noticed that everyone around me stopped talking and continued to work as if someone was watching them. Then, just as quickly as the feeling had arrived, it was gone and everyone started talking again.

However, there was another new feeling that I enjoyed very much. The feeling of free flight was addictive. I couldn’t get enough. For hours I had been swooping from one side of the training hall to the other. With practice I was learning to control my speed mid-flight.

On my first flight I had almost slammed into the stone ceiling. At first I thought of flying like swimming in the air but I quickly realised there was a significant difference. Whereas the water causes drag that slows a swimmer down, there is only gravity to slow me down in flight and the blood flowing around my body was working with forces stronger than gravity. So when I found myself hurtling towards a stone wall, I had to tell myself that I wanted to slow down. After that, my body seemed to do the rest itself.

I was confident I could pull off the loop-the-loop Peter had told me was possible but I resisted the urge. Everyone else was putting a large distance between themselves and me and I didn’t want another reason for them to give me the cold shoulder. After all, if Peter was to be believed I’d have to work with all of them before the end of the night. The thought of joining the vampires on a trip to attack and kill humankind didn’t fill me with warm fuzzy feelings though.

One by one, the figures around me dropped to the ground and I found myself the last one to notice that Roxy had entered the hall. I followed suit, practicing my landing which had become more graceful as the night had progressed. I was aware the syringes were still in my sock and breathed a sigh of relief every time I landed and didn’t hear them break.

We all stood in a semi-circle in front of Roxy, who was joined by Skinner. My brothers and sisters around me all stood to attention and I uncomfortably attempted to do the same.

This won’t take long,’ Roxy said, ‘I appreciate you’ve been training all day and you will be allowed a short time to rest before the operation begins.’

She had the whole room gripped, eagerly awaiting the news of their first mission together. No one knew what to expect, but they couldn’t have dreamed what she had planned for us.

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Monday 5 January 2009

The Rising - Chapter 81: Picking Thoughts

Silence washed over the lair as the Lord Chancellor stepped inside the entrance hall. He turned to one of his protectors, the bodyguard who had let his thoughts betray him on board the plane, and muttered just two words to him in a voice that was almost too low to hear.

Ten minutes.’

The bodyguard stepped back onto the wooden platform outside the main doors and jumped far into the air, disappearing into the sky above.

Ten minutes was longer than the Lord Chancellor usually spent with any clan. He hardly ever ventured outside his secure compound and when he did, everyone worked hard to get him back there as soon as they could. No one was sure exactly how old he was but he was widely regarded as the oldest vampire in the world and he didn’t reach whatever age he was by inviting assassination attempts by staying out in the open.

High above the lair, the bodyguard rose out of the chasm and unclipped a radio from his belt. ‘Ten minutes, but be ready in five,’ he said into the radio.

Understood,’ was the crackly reply.

He returned the radio to his belt and flipped his body over, free falling headfirst back into the chasm. His feet hit the wooden platform with a thump, crouching to take the impact of his dramatic landing. He got to his feet and stepped inside the entrance hall. Resident vampires closed the large wooden doors behind him.

The Lord Chancellor stood in silence opposite Marcus and Roxy, who were doing their best to hide the fear that gripped them from head to toe. He raised a white, shrivelled hand. The resident vampires followed the lead of bodyguards and filed out of the hall into an adjoining chamber.

Marcus and Roxy were alone with the Lord Chancellor. The torches on the wall and the roaring fireplace did nothing to combat the deep cold they felt on their skin. The hairs on the back of their necks stood to attention as the Lord Chancellor took a step forward. Never in the centuries of their existence had they felt fear as pure as the feeling that was making them quiver involuntarily.

Marcus opened his mouth to speak but the figure approaching him stuck a finger out from beneath his robes, pointing directly at Marcus’ face.

The black robes flowed all the way to the ground, obscuring the Lord Chancellor’s feet, so that he appeared to slide across the floor. He stopped almost toe-to-toe with Marcus. Face to face at long last with his leader, the one man he respected almost as much as he feared, Marcus was frozen to the spot. Even though they were just inches apart, Marcus saw nothing but shadows beneath the robes.

But he felt something.

He’s in my mind.

The Lord Chancellor was motionless, but Marcus could tell he was using every ounce of strength to delve into the depths of his mind. He wanted to know about what happened to Luca, his deputy who Marcus had murdered, and he was going to dig as deeply into Marcus’ mind as he could to get what he wanted.

Is this it?

Is this the end?

Is he going to kill me?

But Marcus had murdered Luca with good reason. Luca was nothing more than a brown-nose who threatened to screw up the plans Marcus and Roxy had intricately planned. The plans that would bring the vampires towards their rightful place as rulers over the humans.

The Rising.

With that final thought, the Lord Chancellor took a step back. He turned to Roxy and stared deep into her eyes, picking memories from her mind with the ease of picking low-hanging apples from a tree. Within seconds, he was finished with Roxy. As he turned away from his subjects, his bodyguards left the chamber and followed him towards the main doors.

Roxy and Marcus looked at each other with confusion painted all over their faces. The trailing bodyguard stopped and turned to face them.

The Lord Chancellor wishes to thank you for your hospitality. It is with regret that he must leave your home as quickly as he arrived. He knows that you did what you did for good reason. You are both true believers in the cause and he wants you to know that he is very happy for you to take the lead in these early stages of the Rising. He wishes you all the best for your operation tonight. You can expect to hear from him again following its success.’

Two bodyguards opened the wooden doors. One by one, the group of visitors leapt into the air and disappeared from view. Marcus and Roxy looked at each other and didn’t need to read each other’s minds to know what they were thinking.

Luca deserved to die. If we hadn’t killed him, this never would have been possible.

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