Chapter Three of Endgame
The ground trembled as five tanks crossed Tower Bridge. A squad of British troops marched beside them, weapons ready to fire. Inside the fifth armoured vehicle, Captain Paulson held the radio mic to his mouth. ‘Tower Bridge. Secure. Over.’ ‘Great job, Captain,’ came Lieutenant Saunders’ voice over the comms. ‘Intel says the enemy is headed in your direction. The Van Helsing device will be there in ten minutes. Hold that bridge. Over.’ ‘Understood, Sir. Paulson out.’ He switched the radio to the loudspeaker system. ‘Okay, men. The enemy is on its way. But so are reinforcements. Do not yield this bridge until backup arrives.’ Paulson looked at the screen in the tank. It showed views from each of the other vehicles. He switched it to the helmet cam of some of his men. ‘Sergeant Reynolds,’ he said into his radio. The soldier on the screen turned to look into the camera. ‘Sir!’ ‘Lead your company up the north tower. Shoot any vamps you see.’ ‘Understood!’ The sergeant began to bark orders at the four soldiers around him as he opened a compartment in the nearest tank to pull out a grappling hook. Paulson gave orders to another company to take the south tower as he watched Reynolds scale the building. As they reached the top and got into position, he heard them firing. Moving the camera to see up the road, he saw twenty or thirty black clad figures. ‘Hold your positions,’ Paulson shouted down the comms. They were still too far out of range. The vampires marched on as if they didn’t see the tanks. When they reached the bridge Paulson called out, ‘Ustinov, fire main weapon.’ The foremost tank lowered its gun at the approaching army. A second later flames streamed from the barrel. It turned left and right to douse the vampires. ‘Cease fire,’ Paulson said. And when the flames receded he looked out on the battlefield. The vampire army still marched towards them. ‘Shit! They’re protected.’ He raised the comm to his mouth again. ‘Reynolds search for the witch, she must be nearby. All troops, fire at will.’ Paulson immediately heard gunfire outside. The image on the screen showed bullets bouncing off the shield around the vampires, but as the army approached the north tower, the shield collapsed and the army ran, firing their own weapons. ‘Captain,’ came Reynolds’ voice. ‘Go ahead, Sergeant.’ ‘They’ve got an armoured vehicle headed our way.’ ‘Understood, Sergeant.’ Paulson switched the comm to speak with the second tank. ‘Sergeant Phillips, prepare main weapon for incoming vehicles.’ A minute later Paulson saw it. A massive hunk of jagged steel and weapons. Three barrels attached to the front emitted a stream of blue smoke towards the first tank. It crept around the vehicle until it had been completely engulfed by smoke. The main weapon of the first tank turned, pointing down towards the soldiers to the left of it, and fired. Flame roared from the barrel and set Paulson’s troops alight, pushing some of them into the Thames. ‘Fuck!’ Paulson shouted. ‘Lieutenant,’ Paulson screamed down the comm to Saunders. ‘We’re under attack. Ustinov has been compromised and the enemy are using our weapons against us. Where is the Van Helsing device?’ ‘Van Helsing is in the air,’ Saunders said, ‘ETA thirty seconds.’ The first tank then began to turn its weapon to the right. ‘Ustinov, can you regain control of your vehicle?’ ‘I’m trying, sir. The controls won’t respond.’ ‘Then empty all ammunition.’ ‘Understood, sir.’ As the tank’s weapon reached the east side of the bridge, it fired again and Paulson lost ten or more soldiers. Hurry up, damn you. The weapon moved to point behind the tank, but this time, it remained silent. ‘Fantastic work, Sergeant,’ Paulson said as he heard the chopping noise of a helicopter overhead. ‘Van Helsing is in position,’ came an unknown voice over the comms. ‘Fire at will, we need the foot soldiers gone.’ ‘Understood, sir.’ A second later, though he could see no shots, nor hear any missiles, the vampire army began to ignite. ‘Van Helsing device works,’ Paulson said to Saunders. ‘Repeat, Van Helsing device is successful.’ Paulson looked on the screen for any survivors. He still had about fifty soldiers. ‘All troops march on that vehicle now. Open it up like a tin can.’ The troops fell on the enemy vehicle as a swarm of ants. Within minutes they had opened it and the Van Helsing device fired inside. ‘Good job,’ Paulson said into his mic. ‘Happy new year, people.’
Allison watched the battle on the news. Just one of many that had broken out over the last few weeks since some high ranking general had decided to mobilise his troops. Allison prayed the Emissary didn’t take this as reason to harm Kate. They had contacted her for help, but she refused for that reason alone. The military had spent days trying to enter Exeter, but none succeeded. Aside from his armies, no one heard from the Emissary himself over the months following his initial attacks. The news didn’t state it, but everyone knew Allison was the only one who could face him. She met encouragement when she walked the streets, cheers, and even some T-shirts depicting her triumph over the Emissary. She wanted revenge, justice, and above all, Kate, but this expectation worried her. The prophecy of her death made no mention of the Emissary’s. And she hated failing her fans. Soon, the day of the date arrived and she received a phone call. ‘Hello, Sweetie,’ Linda said. ‘The boss wants you at Hell’s Hotel today. It’s a new place, but you can’t miss it, it’s the one with the lightning on the roof. Be there at five. See you then … Oh, and bring that gorgeous sword of yours.’ Linda hung up before Allison could say anything. She threw the phone down and rushed to the mantelpiece to grab Cylnaunteb. As loath as she was to take orders from Linda, she buckled her sword belt on and attached Cylnaunteb to it. She went upstairs to Dawn’s room and knocked. ‘Dawn honey?’ Dawn muttered a sound, and Allison opened the door. Her daughter sat on her bed reading a magazine. She didn’t look up when Allison entered. ‘I have to go.’ Dawn glanced at Allison and her eyes moved to Cylnaunteb. She dropped the magazine and ran over to her mother. Allison stumbled back at the force of Dawn’s hug, and she threw her arms around her daughter. Dawn’s muffled voice came from Allison’s neck. ‘Get Mummy K back.’ ‘I will, honey,’ Allison said into Dawn’s hair. She held her daughter for a while longer, reluctant to let go. When she did, she floated her tear away so Dawn wouldn’t see her cry. She looked Dawn in the eye. ‘You be good for Mummy, ok? I’ll be back soon.’ Dawn nodded and Allison gave her hand a squeeze before letting go and leaving the house. When she closed her car door she lay her head on the wheel and sobbed, her tears flowing down her cheeks. She was prepared not to come back, but the thought of Dawn futilely waiting for the return of both her parents killed her more than the Emissary ever could. But if she told the truth, she’d have to see the terror in Dawn’s eyes, and she wanted the last memory of her to be of a strong daughter. Allison hit the steering wheel in frustration and started the car, furiously wiping away her tears. Exeter had changed since her last visit. Even though the sun shone, it was like night; and she saw a thousand bolts of lightning strike a place near the centre. She assumed that was where she had to go and travelled in that direction. The streets were almost empty; occasionally she did see one or two people, though she would hesitate to call them that. Through the centre, she saw roads and pavements covered in demonic symbols and writing. It all seemed random and meaningless. Arriving at the hotel, she heard the storm above, though felt none of it. There was no wind, no rain, not even any burning smell. It was probably just for show. She walked into the hotel, and was greeted by the Maître D’. He was human, and Allison saw fear in him. ‘G-good evening, Mrs. Sands,’ he stumbled. ‘He t-told me to … give this to you.’ He held out a box and Allison took it. ‘He would like you to go to room 217 and open it there.’ He handed her the key and she took it, walking past him. Before she reached the stairs, he turned and dropped all pretence of formality. ‘Allison. My wife worked at the palace. She was slaughtered along with everyone else in there. He now holds my twins. I need them back.’ ‘Yeah,’ Allison said, ‘I know the feeling.’ ‘You kill that bastard.’ Allison turned back to him. ‘I will die tonight. It has been foretold. I came here for one thing only, to get my wife back.’ She paused. ‘But he will pay. Nowhere does it say anything about his death. So trust me when I tell you I’m gonna drag him to the grave with me.’ Up in room 217, Allison put the box down on the bed and picked up the letter attached to the top. It had her name written in an over elaborate cursive fashion. She opened the envelope and read:— To Dearest Allison, The date of our confrontation is approaching. I trust you are as eager as I am. I wish to invite you to dinner with me at six so we can be civilised human beings and meet face to face. Delivered with this note is a dress which I hope you will wear, Yours deadly, The Emissary Allison put the note down and opened the box. She pulled out a long white dress. Without really noticing she was doing it, she put the dress on and made herself up. She began to strap her sword belt to her hip, but decided against it. She wasn’t going to sheath Cylnaunteb again until it had tasted the Emissary’s blood. At six o’clock, she held her naked sword and stepped out the room. Cylnaunteb glided point down through the halls as Allison made her way to the restaurant. Reaching her destination, she saw empty chairs and tables filling the room. The Maitre D’hotel waited behind the bar, a sheen of sweat on his face. His eyes flickered toward a door on her right and she walked through it. Sitting at a table in front of her was the man who organised the chaos that now gripped the country. The man responsible for the deaths of thousands of people. The monster who held a man’s children hostage so he could get a little ‘civilisation’ in his corner of Hell. The man who took her wife from under her nose. Finally, she saw him. A man with neatly trimmed brown hair topping a long, clean shaven face. He wore a dark blue suit that covered a white shirt, and a black tie depicting a Chinese dragon hung from his neck. She saw him, and a scream of rage fled her lips as she raised her sword, running at him. He did not move as Allison reached him, and her sword flew from her hands and lodged itself in the doors behind her. ‘I said we would have dinner,’ the man said. ‘So sit down and hold your temper.’ Allison glanced at Cylnaunteb and pulled out her chair, sitting opposite her executioner. She tried looking at him, but now she was closer, she found it to be unsettling. She avoided his eyes and looked at his mouth or forehead instead. Why was that so familiar? ‘Waiter!’ the man called, and the Maitre D’ came in. With a brief glance at Cylnaunteb stuck in the door, he gave them menus. He stood against the wall and left them to choose. ‘So, what have you been up to since last we spoke?’ the Emissary said. Allison’s eyes automatically darted to his to give him a disgusted look, but the fear she got from them drove her away. ‘I want Kate back,’ she said. ‘Before I do anything. Before I cooperate with you, I want her safe. I want to know she is safe. I also want to know this man’s children are okay.’ The Emissary continued looking at the menu. ‘No.’ Allison’s eyes widened and she leaned forward. ‘No? Do you want to fight me or not?’ He smiled and chuckled to himself, ‘Kate’s condition is irrelevant. You will fight me whether she’s safe or not. Whether she’s dead or alive.’ The man put the menu down and said, ‘I hear the rack of lamb is quite good. What do you think if I order two?’ With her menu left unopened, Allison said, ‘Whatever.’ ‘Are you sure you want to be that uncaring about it? It could be your last meal.’ ‘Whether my meal is a King’s feast or a pile of shit, I’d not be able to tell the difference. Not with you in front of me.’ The man looked hurt. ‘Why would you say such a thing?’ Allison raised her eyebrows. ‘Why?! Because you have taken my wife and killed this poor man’s own. You have killed every single last Royal, every Member of Parliament, everyone who could run this country. Even ones who only had a passing relationship with the state. That’s thousands of people. You are a monster. I could never eat with you.’ ‘Waiter. Two racks please.’ He turned back to Allison. ‘Come on, Alli. That was nothing. My projects stretch over Earth, across the twelve worlds,’ he leaned in, ‘and even as far as Eden itself. What is the dominance of one island, compared to that? Anyway, from what I’ve heard you’ve become quite the swordsman. You’ve come a long way in the years since we last talked.’ ‘What?’ Allison said quietly. She forced herself to look at him properly, mastering the irrational fear exuding from his eyes. She finally understood the familiarity and covered her mouth with her hand. ’N-no!’ she stammered. ‘Yes,’ he said, with a smile. Immediately she was transported back when he didn’t need his eyes to terrify her, merely his presence, or just the mention of his name. ‘Mathew.’ He smirked, in the same way he had at school. The smile she dreaded to see. ‘Yeah, baby. I’m back.’ Allison dropped her head and allowed her hair to fall over her face while the waiter came and placed her plate down. He almost threw Mathew’s dinner at him, a small drop of gravy escaped the dish and landed in the middle of the table. Mathew looked at the waiter, who backed away from the glance. ‘Well, you’re not getting a tip,’ Mathew said. He turned back to Allison. ‘We are destined to fight, you and I. And from what I understand, I’ll be the victor. Which means you will die. Though, of course, there’s nothing stopping you from taking me with you. I’ve put safeguards in place to prevent such an outcome however. But the main thing we know is that you will die.’ Allison glanced at Mathew through the strands of her hair. ‘I know all this,’ she muttered. ‘What do you want?’ Mathew cut a slice off his lamb and ate it. ‘I want you to work for me.’ Allison forgot her fear of him and raised her head. ‘What!’ ‘Work for me. We fight. I kill you. You go to Heaven. Gather intel.’ ‘Are you insane?’ Mathew shrugged. ‘That’s what they tell me.’ He scooped some peas into his mouth and leaned in. ‘Heaven is the only place I do not have intelligence on. It’s quite difficult to do so considering anyone who works for me is automatically refused entry. But you? You’re guaranteed a spot. I understand why you wouldn’t want to help me. After what happened at school and all. But I think you evened that out a bit. Did you know I was in a coma for almost two years? Do you want to say sorry?’ Allison lowered her head again. The memory of Mathew bandaged up and bruised on that hospital bed made her want to throw up. It was terrible what she did. And she should apologise. But the way he asked her to, in the same patronising manner he always used, was infuriating. It had always worked when she was younger. But now she wanted to refuse out of spite. Mathew looked into Allison’s eyes. ‘No? Don’t worry. I’m not one to hold grudges. Anyway, you’ve probably got it into your head that you’re righteous and good and that demons are evil. But let me ask you one thing. Who denies you access to paradise? You live here for sixty, seventy years if you’re unlucky, suffering through so much misery with the occasional moment of joy before you are then allowed into Heaven. And even then, you might not make it because of some arbitrary rule He makes up and changes every now and then. I mean, at one point you wouldn’t even be considered on account of your predilection for pussy, but now you’re a dead cert. What I’m trying to say is, why can we not skip straight to Heaven and bypass all this bull down here? This is a place of needless suffering, and I want to put a stop to that. So I need an agent in Heaven.’ Allison slowly shook her head. ‘I’ll never work for you.’ Mathew placed his knife and fork onto his plate and sat back. He sighed. ‘Such a shame.’ He grabbed the underside of the table and tipped it over. Allison jumped up. The plates crashed to the floor, and the contents stained the neutral colours of the carpet. Mathew placed his hand on the waiter’s head; the innocent man’s muscles contracted, and he fell to the floor. ‘I don’t feel like eating anymore,’ Mathew said as he drew back his jacket to reveal a sheath strapped to his waist. It contained a knife with a blade around six or seven inches long. Allison recognised the hilt as one of the knives she saw in the vision with Linda. A red hilt, inlaid with gold and a round pommel. He pulled it out and exposed a full length sword. He walked up to Allison and hit her on her head with the flat of the blade. ‘Oh, come on. You’re not even trying.’ Allison was stronger than this, but couldn’t summon the will to do it. It was like she was back at school. He called the shots and she took it, hoping he’d go away soon. ‘A few seconds ago, you were willing to fight me. Now, you’re just going to await your death like a man on the chopping block? I like a challenge.’ He hit her again. Allison just stepped back and allowed it. He hit her again, and again. ‘Though, of course, after all the years of planning the Fall, it’s nice to come back to something … a little easier.’ He turned his blade and swung for Allison’s neck. Instinctively, Allison telekinetically reached for her sword in time to stop his blade from decapitating her. ‘Now you’re getting it.’ He smiled. She lunged for him and he parried, but before she could get another move in, he flew upwards and crashed through the ceiling. Allison ran out the building to see him land in the middle of the road. Before he touched the ground, he swung at Allison. She deflected his attack, but he pushed her across the street outside the train station. She fought back, but as he deflected a lunge, he pushed her and she flew over the entrance to the station, falling through a glass skylight onto one of the abandoned platforms. She groaned with the pain and rolled on her side, shattered glass cut through her dress and into her skin. She took a couple of breaths, then stood up and looked to the other platform where Mathew stood. Forgetting her pain, she jumped the two tracks, tattered dress flowing behind her and continued to fight before touching the floor. After a few attacks, she had the opportunity and pushed him through the ceiling. She followed him and he fell to the street in front of the hotel. Before she could fight him, he ran in the direction of the college. She pursued her enemy into the abandoned campus, and no barrier stopped her. She watched as he entered the main building. The doors closed behind him and she blew them inwards, shattering glass throughout the lobby where she saw the residue of black smoke disappear. Entering, she looked around, and through the tiny amount of light allowed in through the blacked out windows, she saw nobody. When she psychically tried to scan the room, all she sensed was static. Listening carefully, she heard a faint hum. It came from all around her, but got louder as she walked closer to the walls. She touched a wall and felt an electric current running through it. Mathew seemed to have laced the room, and probably the entire complex with high voltage electricity. She found a pencil lying on a table and failed to even lift that. All she had to rely on now were her muscles and wits. Being powerless did not terrify her as much as she thought it might. She wanted a physical fight anyway. Also, if she couldn’t use her powers, neither could he. She searched the bottom floor, opening doors and peering into empty rooms. Many had been stripped of their contents, replaced by beds and wardrobes. The windows here had been bricked up, rather than blacked out, so she assumed them to be the sleeping quarters of the vampires. She found nothing of interest and made her way upstairs, Cylnaunteb leading the way. More emptiness. She remembered the news report on the day of the takeover which showed vampires in every corner. Her uneasiness with this empty building increased as she climbed. Halfway up the stairs, she heard a faint whispering. She couldn’t hear every word, but it seemed to be in Calnissian. Turning her head, she tried to find the direction of it, but it jumped. One moment it came from her left, the next, from her right, then above her, or below. She reached the top and moved down the corridor, the whispers fading away. Searching more rooms, she still found nothing. Another empty floor, and another. Coming to the fourth floor she heard footsteps. She looked down the corridor and saw a small figure. She raised her sword and crept forwards. The figure moved as well, the un-raised sword it carried reflected back a glint of light from an unknown source. As the figure came closer, Allison made out some details despite the darkness. It wore a dress and had light hair, obviously female, and she guessed she was the same one who helped Mathew kill the Royals. With no sign, or warning, the girl jabbed with her sword. It came within a hair’s breadth of her dress, before Allison’s reacted and parried the move. The girl had already started her next strike before their swords broke contact. Again, Allison barely had time to counter it. On the constant defensive, she stepped back and tried to strike, but all her effort went into staying alive. Another slash, and Allison, too slow to stop it, felt the blade cut through her right wrist; warm blood poured out. She grabbed the sword with both hands now, her sword arm weakened by the successful attack. Without the agility of one arm, she became slower. The girl forced her back to the staircase, but the bannister prevented her from moving any farther. She needed to leave the fight, so Allison jumped the rail and fell to the next floor. She ran as soon as she recovered herself and found an empty room. She moved the bed against the door to block it and sat in the corner, facing the entrance. She looked around at the darkness and her head span. She ripped a piece of cloth from her dress and felt for her wound; she wrapped the length around her wrist and found it difficult to tie tightly, but after a few attempts, she had it in a half decent position. She waited for a few more minutes, resting and catching her breath. Then she stood up and moved the bed to get out, fully prepared for any attack. She continued her ascending path through the building, expecting a sword at every turn, from every door she passed, on every floor. With no more surprises, she came to the top floor. After searching the inside, she stepped onto the balcony that wrapped around almost the entire building. From here, she saw much of the dead city, illuminated by a partial moon. Not even street lamps lit anything. She looked to the sky and saw a sight not often seen at this time of night in a city. Stars. The beauty of these natural lights made her forget her hunt for a second. She thought of the people who used to live and work there. Many knew of her and what she could do. Some of them, like the Maitre D’, knew she could save the world, but most would remember her for her music. If she killed Mathew, that deed would be quickly forgotten, or faded into myth, but her songs would stay. She liked that. As she looked across the darkened cityscape, she felt a sharp pain in her back. It quickly moved through her body and Allison looked down; the point of a blade protruded from her chest. Her legs refused to support her and she fell to her knees, the blade cutting through her more. A second later and the weapon withdrew, allowing her to fall to the floor. She looked up with her closing eyes and saw the silhouette of a girl in the light of the moon. The girl jumped off the balcony and Allison closed her eyes.
Allison woke and looked down at her bloodstained dress, and at the wound which had almost finished healing. She felt around for her sword, but it wasn’t there. Her breathing sped up and she stood. Running frantic around the balcony, she searched for Cylnaunteb. Again, she failed. She sensed the building, though, and found she had her powers back. She jumped from the balcony and floated gently to the floor. ‘Cat,’ she called. But the angel didn’t appear. She called again, and again. By this time, she had reached the edge of the grounds and crashed into a solid barrier. She screamed Cat’s name this time, then sensed a sword being thrust from behind her. She dodged out the way as the girl continued to strike, but now she had her powers back, she had some indication of what her adversary planned. She dodged one strike, then another. And another. More and more. Allison ducked and swung her legs around, catching the girl’s feet. She fell to the floor and Allison stood over her. The girl swung her sword at Allison’s ankles, but she jumped out the way. She read the girl’s mind to find her next move and found an intense hatred surface. Allison, curious to know why the girl loathed her so much, probed deeper while still evading and trying to grab her weapon. She found many things she didn’t want to. Like the massacre at Buckingham Palace. She saw the blood splattered walls and bodies lining the floor. And she felt joy. This girl liked it. She went further. The girl climbed a mountain. She trained with Mathew. She held her first sword. Further she went, beyond even the girl’s own memories. And saw her own face, looking at the girl with love and affection. ‘Anna.’
Cover image: by JRCSalter