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Joined:
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"The World is insane, with tiny spots of sanity. Not the other way around!"- John Cleese

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AUTHOR'S NOTES:
____________________

Been a bit busy with going back to school to get a better-paying job, and with my Short Story Collection II. But I honestly haven't forgotten about this project. Enjoy the latest chapter.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"The softer side of Life."
--- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- ---

"You fucked up Turner. You fucked up royally."

"Ah, Fyndir. For a second there I wasn't sure if . . . "

"If my sister met you, you'd be dead by now. I told you. I warned you. But you waited too damn long to make contact. My sister was practically starving when your agent, secretary, or whoever she was decided to make contact. A starving vampire tends to be a paranoid vampire. She thought the girl was a threat, and responded in kind."

"I know. But other issues came up that required my attention." Replied Turner.

"I hope the girl wasn't important to you. Despite what it sounds like, I am sorry she's dead."

"Her family has been contacted . . . An accident . . . Body couldn't be recovered. They'll receive compensation that should make their loss easier to deal with."

"That's good to know, Turner. Did you get the item I requested?"

"Right here."

Turner placed the black Pelican case on top of the dusty table, and opened it.

"Just as you requested, .357 Magnum revolver, 6-inch barrel, stainless steel. I'm sure this Colt King Cobra variation will be acceptable."

"I would have preferred a Smith & Wesson 686."

"You wanted something last minute, unregistered, not reported stolen, and with those features. Not the exact model you wanted. But certainly not some cheap imitation either." Replied Turner with a bit of bitterness in his tone.

"The ammunition?"

"Delivered tomorrow. Tell your sister you ordered a thick paperback online."

"Good thing her drinking buddy has a computer."

"You'll have to do something about the living arrangements, Fyndir. Clearly you can see they are not ideal."

"That'll take some time. But what about that vampire hunter who came after my sister. Any word about that?"

"That will also take some time. It's not as though there were a ton of clues left behind." Replied Turner.

"One thing bothers me . . . The bastard had her. Had her, and chose to let her go. I figure the guy either had a reason, or just wanted to send a message. Maybe that message was, 'I can get to you anytime I want to.'"

"Perhaps there was another reason."

"Maybe. But here's one definite . . . If you don't do something about that hunter, you can forget about anymore cooperation from me. And that means no more blood samples from my sister."

"Understood."

And that was the end of the meeting.
* * * * * * * *

The old soldier thought of the meeting that took place what seemed like a lifetime ago. He looked out at the massive graveyard before him. So many of his fellow American soldiers were buried there. Still, he knew the massive grave yard with its sea of white crosses was only 1/3 as big as it should be. It would have been bigger, but the rest of the soldiers had families who requested the bodies be returned home to America. The cemetary in France was the largest of its kind honoring fallen American soldiers from the first world war.

He kept his distance. It wasn't the sea of crosses that bothered him most. He felt out of place. He has made it through the war, and was now truly happy in a long time. Making arrangements to come here wasn't easy. Try as he might, he couldn't reach France until after November the 11th. Still, two days late seemed very late indeed.

He thought back to the meeting with his Queen. He was surprised to have been led into a small side room next to the throne room. There wasn't much to the room. Just a large wooden table with a chair on either side. Carmilla sat behind the table. The Captain of the Royal Guard stood next to her. The old soldier who didn't look so old was instructed to sit in the empty chair. A lone candle provided the only illumination in the room.

"Do you know why I sent for you?"

"Yes."

"One of the reasons is indeed the young woman you sired."

"She's young. I know she has made mistakes. It's just going to take a little while longer for her to understand that . . . "

"That her old life is over? She has had plenty of time to understand that fact. Does she not understand that members of the Royal Guard are hand-picked and represent their King and Queen? Does she not understand that disrespecting a member of the Royal Guard who is simply correcting her behavior is the same as disrespecting myself and her King?"

"No. She honestly does not understand that." He replied.

"She's a bit of a hot blooded one then. The report I received was very disappointing. She was outside the walls when told to get inside due to a possible break-in by a hunter. Rather than immediately come in, she ignored the guard. When he attempted to pull her inside, she resisted and began to argue with him."

"Whatever her punishment is, I'll take it. I'm responsible for her."

"Yes, you are. But we all are. She is still new. She gets a certain amount of understanding. But with each day that passes, she is expected to learn our rules; and live by them. Because of her, one of the Royal Guards had to take time out of his duties in protecting the entire clan. He had to protect just her, and drag her back inside. That's one less Defender to deal with a possible threat to all of us."

"I've already made her aware of what she did. She found the member of the Royal Guard, and has already apologized for her actions."

"I know, it was in his report. As I've said, she needs to understand that a clan is not a democracy. One cannot do whatever they please just because they have a right to do so. Obnoxious individuals don't last very long. They become a threat to all of us. Any threat to the clan must be eliminated."

"You will not have to worry about that possibility with her. I assure you."

"I think she has potential. But she is still immature. Tell her to report to me on Monday. She will be one of my personal servants. The other ladies will quickly teach her what is expected of her. They will discipline her if needed. Some of the sucklings need assistance in coming to grips with their new life. No punishment in this case."

"Thank you my Queen! Thank you!"

"Now we shall discuss why I'm having certain members of our clan destroyed."

Those words hit him like a ton of bricks. He couldn't believe what she had just said. All the rumors were true! But he soon found out that there was more to the story. There was the why. And it all began with those who had survived The Cleansing. After a certain vampire hunter had unleashed the little critters with the smiles painted on them, few vampires who were there had survived. Carmilla was one of them. But some Top-ranking vampires had been killed due to the little mechanical creatures that Aviator Man had created. The silver mist that they expelled was more than just silver. It was mixed with a chemical that droves those exposed to it, insane!

"We have gathered some, in the hopes of finding a cure for them. But others seem too badly affected, and must be put out of their misery. I do not know why I have not fallen under the spell of the critters' mist. I was there. But the key is to find a cure. Some cannot be saved. They are a danger to themselves and others. While not their intent, they have indeed become a threat to the clan, to all of us. I have put together a team to track the ones who are loose. But one team is not enough. A second one is being put together. I need you on that team. Your Queen needs your special skills to protect the clan. What is your answer?"

He did not hesitate in accepting her offer. Carmilla was pleased by this. All members of the two teams were instantly promoted to Royal Guard status. Carmilla knew of his yearly visit to France. She also knew why he had to be there. She allowed him to go, since there were still spots to fill on the second team.

As he stood there, he couldn't believe that he'd have to use his skills again. This time, instead of Germans, he was hunting his own kind; from his own clan. He walked away from the cemetary, stopping at a bench in a small park nearby. He noticed what looked like a rather pathetic creature that seemed to be walking towards him. The old man seemed absolutely ancient. Skin stretched over a skeleton. His hands shook uncontrollably as he came near.

"Ah! Jerald Hazzelson! My friend! How are you?"

His eyes widened as he realized the ancient man had recognized him. Before he could speak, a young woman ran up.

"I'm terribly sorry, Sir. My Great grand-father meant no harm."

"Oh my dear Diane, this is my old friend Jerald; from the war."

"No, grand-father. This is a young man. He couldn't be your friend from back then. You're just confused again. Come along now, it's late. We must get you home and to bed."

"But I'm sure it's him. He looks just the same as when he did back then. Jerald, please tell her who you are. My family no longer believes anything I say."

"I'm sorry, Sir. But my name is Stevens."

"That's not true! Why won't you tell her who you are! I . . . I . . . I don't remember what today is. Is it Wednesday? Aaron's bakery always makes the best tarts on Wednesday. I think it's been awhile since I had one of those. Can we stop by Aaron's before heading home my dear Susan."

"I'm Diane. Susan was your daughter. And Aaron's burned down almost thirty years ago."

"It did? That's a pity. A real shame. They had the best tarts. Every Wednesday . . . "

"Come along, it's getting late."

"Huh? Oh, oh yes. You're right my dear. Promise I can still visit you once you find a suitable husband, my dear Susan."

"Of course. Now let's be on our way."

"Oh yes. I suppose it is getting late. Good seeing you again, Jerald. Take care."

She led him away before he could say anything else. Jerald wanted to get up, rip the bench out, and fling it as far as he could. But he knew he had to get control over his emotions. As the ancient man vanished over the horizon, Jerald was grateful that he didn't experience any of that over the years. The tightly pulled skin, the shakes, the senility. The only positive he saw was the Great grand-daughter taking care of the old veteran. She couldn't have been older than 16.

He kept sitting there, trying to search his mind, trying to recognize the ancient man who had recognized him. Who was he? And it hit him. He would sometimes drink at a bar in between missions. Always the same bar. There was a young soldier who had a habit of sitting next to him. Clearly a very young soldier who lied about his age. He couldn't have been older than 16. He had gotten a young girl pregnant, and didn't know what to do. Jerald had told him to step up, and take responsibility for his actions.

The young soldier told him once that a little girl had been born, and that he named her Susan. Jerald couldn't help smiling. Apparently his advice was taken. Eventually, Diane would be born; and the old veteran did indeed have someone to take care of him towards the end of his days. Jerald sat on that bench awhile longer. He wished he had a Diane.
* * * * * * * *

SevenSeize returned home. Wiltz went with her. As they sat together on the couch, he lifted up one of her legs, and removed the high-heeled shoe from her foot. He did the same with her other foot before he began massaging them.

"Why do I keep you around, Wiltz?"

"Who else are you going to get to massage your feet at the end of a mission."

"You do have a point there." She replied with a smile.

"I'm very cruel towards you."

"What makes you say that?" He asked.

"I tell you that there can never be anything between us . . . But I don't stop you when you reach for my legs."

"It's okay."

"No, it's not. You end up having hope that one day I'll change my mind or that you're very slowly chipping away at me. But I'm married to my work. It has to continue. There's no room for you or any other man in my life. Expect as a member of my team."

"You can't do this sort of work forever. No matter what, we'll both grow old. What are you going to do then? Dad stopped riding his Harley when it became obvious to him that he had gotten too old for his bike."

"I never met your father, Wiltz."

"You would have liked him. Speaking about you, what will you do when you get too old?"

"A woman doesn't like to think about that subject. Trust me . . . Instant turn off if you want to get in her pants. But I do know what I want to do later on. Perhaps much later on."

"What's that?"

"I want to go home. I want to see everyone I haven't seen all these long years. I want to see what they're . . . Bah, it's not important. Not at all."

"I'm sure they miss you."

"Like a dog misses his stick, as my father used to say. Not the one you throw so the dog fetches it. The one you beat him with when he's been misbehaving."

"I'm sure that's not true."

"It is."

"You're not very terrifying. Well, except to vampires."

She smiled at that one. Good old Wiltz. A young guy who always could put a smile on her face. Maybe that's why she kept him around.

"Dad used to beat my brothers constantly. He was toughening them up. He rarely put his hands on me. When he did, it was just a single slap. My bothers once complained why they got beat so often, and I got it so rarely. Dad told them it was because I knew my place. He was right too."

"Sounds like you were very mature, even as a little girl."

"I thought I'd get married, have lots of babies, live a hard life . . . Funny how things work out."

"If you think this is easy, I'd hate to see what you consider hard."

"Good point. It hasn't been easy. It's been very different from what I thought it would be."

"You have to retire sometime. No need to be alone when you do."

"Oh Wiltz. I am very cruel towards you. What if I find you a nice girl you can grow old with. Someone who can cook, and isn't too hard on the eyes."

"You're going to find me a girl?"

"Happens all the time in the Old country. Older women play match-maker. Sometimes they even get it right."

"You're not old."

"You think you'll just keep chipping away until you hit daylight, don't you?"

"Yup!"

She didn't say it out loud, but she was worried that he might be right. At first, he was just a pet to her. Just a playful puppy that would sometimes nuzzle her breast. Why did she put up with it? Maybe because she knew he loved her. He was a good hunter. Off-duty, he was sweet. The other guys on the team knew about the weird relationship that the two of them had. But since it never got in the way of work, it was never a serious issue. In a way, she still thought of him as a pet.

When he was done massaging her feet, he got up. There was the same funny walk to the bathroom. She knew why. He was trying to hide the raging boner he had everytime he touched her. She also knew what he was doing in the bathroom. He was fantasizing about making love to her. In a way, it would have been better if he fantasized about banging the crap out of her instead. But she knew him well enough to know that he thought of her as more than just a piece of meat with a slit. He wanted more. But she knew that was never going to happen. She knew why as well. She wondered if he would ever figure it out. Or even worse, perhaps he already did; but pretended he didn't. Oh yes, that was the worst of all.

She dismissed that idea. Wiltz wasn't smart enough to "get it." He was a member of her team, and a pet. Nothing more. She loved the way he massaged her feet. She enjoyed the fact that he loved her, even though she wished he didn't. The more she thought of the future, the more she knew he wasn't going to be a part of it. In this line of work, you have to make sacrifices. And it's not a real sacrifice if it isn't something you truly care about. She cared about Wiltz. So it would be a real sacrifice.

He walked out of the bathroom. By this time, SevenSeize had changed into a pair of white panties and a white T-shirt. No nightgown. That was what she preferred to sleep in. Other than his shoes, Wiltz was still in his clothes. He got into bed with her, and put his head down on her stomach. As she layed back in bed, gently moving her fingers through his hair and massaging his scalp, she couldn't believe how cruel she was towards him.

"Oh puppy. What am I going to do with you? Can't take you home with me." She whispered, after he had fallen asleep on his favorite pillow.
* * * * * * * *

After the mission, White picked up the phone; and called the General.

"Let's hear your report."

"Something isn't right, General. Can't put my finger on it, but something isn't right."

"Has Seven tracked down Jade yet?"

"Negative. She claims there's a huge threat in an old mining town in Arizona. Claims her investigators should have Jade tracked down soon. Next stop is the old mining town."

"What is it that's bothering you?"

"I spoke with her men. None of them knew who these investigators are. Couldn't provide any names. When I asked Wiltz about them, I got a strange reaction. He just smiled and told me not to worry about it."

"She mentioned that Wiltz has been on the team longer than the others. That could explain his reaction, major. Anything else?"

"Just that same weird feeling, General."

"You think she might be playing both sides down the middle?"

"I honestly can't say."

"Keep an eye on her. If something goes wrong in Arizona, kill her. If you don't report in during the next 72 hours, I'll assume she's pulled some funny business, and have her killed. You watch your back soldier."

"I sure will, General."
* * * * * * * *

The next day, Fyndir's package arrived at the front door.

"Seems rather heavy for a paperback novel." Said Jade as she walked into her room.

Fyndir was sitting on the bed.

"Could you put me in the living room, in front of the TV? Burn Notice will soon be on." Said Fyndir.

"Sure thing. Let me just brush my fangs real quick."

As Jade was finishing up, she heard the TV in the living room. She went out towards the living room, and found Fyndir seated on the couch, watching TV. The remote by his right paw.

Jade seemed a bit confused.

"Oh hey, Sweetie. I really couldn't wait. Hope you don't mind." Said Fyndir.

"Oh, okay. Just a . . . Hmm . . . Oh well."

Jade finished getting dressed, and went out clubbing that night.


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