Then we walked up the stairs, finding the spot where the woman died not by the cars, but just past the door that led into the stairwell from the fourth floor. I didn’t see anything, but Mateo looked over the little room from floor to ceiling.
In the end he turned to me, “She saw the vampire, or whatever it was, and tried to run, but it stopped her before she got out the door. That’s where the feeding starts. It looks like she never stopped struggling. There are marks from blood magic all the way down the wall next to the door and around the corner. The last marks are at the top of the stairwell. Bits of power are scattered around the spot as if she was still fighting it even then. I can’t know for sure what kind of vampire it was, but what I’m seeing is that it was human-shaped and strong—or at least stronger than she was.”
He shook his head. “I almost wish I could tell her family that she resisted, but I think they might be happier not knowing the details. She had to have been terrified the entire time.”
I gave the spot a once-over with the sensors I’d embedded in my helmet. Since they weren’t visible, I didn’t feel bad about using the same tech as I’d used for the current version of the Rocket suit.
It didn’t matter. None of the sensors detected anything.
On the off-chance that it might do something, I tried to sense what I could with powers that I’d only recently learned I had and didn’t really understand. I concentrated and let power flow through me, trying to use it to sense anything around me that I could.
It didn’t do any good. That probably wasn’t a bad thing as the only things I’d ever successfully sensed with whatever those “powers” were were creatures capable of casually destroying the planet or much worse.
If one of them had decided to impersonate a vampire, all I’d be able to do was call for help.
As I stopped though, Mateo turned to stare at me. “What did you just do?”
Meeting his eyes, I said, “I’m not sure. I’ve got a power that I can’t use consistently. I thought I’d try it to see what I got.”
He cocked his head to look at me. “Weird. Everything around you kind of wobbled for a second and then went back to normal. I don’t know what’s going on, but, be careful of it. It registers to the mask, but I don’t think it’s magic. Plus, it makes the mask nervous.”
Taking a moment to consider that, I wondered if I should tell him more, but decided not to, “Ok.”
After that, we followed the stairs to the roof. When we walked down, Mateo looking for signs of vampiric power, and with me looking for physical threats, it turned out that Mateo’s guess that he wouldn’t see anything recent was correct.
“Which means,” he said as we got on our bikes, “that it stopped by our section of town for a snack, but it might not be planning to stay. It might be on its way somewhere else. In fact, it might already be gone. The best thing we can do is patrol and watch the news.”
We arrived back at the Tower half an hour later and parked our bikes inside only ten minutes away from the end of our shift, something we both noticed.
Leaving our bikes in the garage, we stepped into the main hallway under the base and walked toward the lab, only to find “Athletica” stepping out of the locker room.
Wearing a red and black costume that made her look as if she might have just stepped out of a yoga class, Holly stood a few inches shorter than I did. In her early thirties, she had dark hair, light skin, and a round face that her mask almost entirely hid. At any rate, it hid her face normally. It was half off. She held a Starbucks cup in her right hand and stopped drinking it to say, “Hey guys, how did your shift go?”
Mateo shook his head, “Got a few minutes, Holly? We should brief you. We’re this close to having a vampire infestation. The only thing saving us from it is that it might have already skipped town.”
Holly’s eyes widened and let the latte drift further from her mouth, “Where do you think—”
Then she stopped. Nodding toward the base’s only conference room, she said, “Brief me.”
We stepped inside. As rooms went, it felt like whoever designed the conference room only included it begrudgingly. It held four people comfortably around the room’s round table and six if you didn’t mind breathing on each other. Between the size and the filing cabinets down the far wall, it felt smaller than it looked.
Fortunately, there were only three of us. Mateo ran through everything we’d done and seen, ending with, “If it kept on going in the same direction, it would end up in Farmington or Farmington Hills—maybe Novi or Livonia.”
“Fuck. I live in Farmington.” She frowned. “This sounds like a night for the buddy system. Working Man’s got a thing going downtown so he bailed on tonight’s patrol. V8 is busy with her projects. I guess I’m going to call in a favor from Detroit Unity. Nanosecond said she owed me one. We’ll run through Farmington and see what else we can cover.”
Mateo nodded, “Great. Then we’re done for the day. I’ve got a few things at my church tonight and Nick’s either got free time or more lab work.”
“Most likely lab work, but I’m wondering if I shouldn’t be out there with Holly.” I looked over at her.
She shook her head. “Thanks, but no. Get some sleep. Relax. Don’t burn your candle from both ends. We’ve already got one guy doing that. Working Man’s not going to change, but I don’t think a lot of people can live like that—not and be happy anyhow.”
Mateo laughed, got up, and left the room, giving me a wave. “I’ll see you tomorrow morning.”
“So, newbie,” Holly said, “two weeks and you’re done. What do you think about that?”
I shrugged, “Things get back to normal? I’ve enjoyed being here, but I’ve felt out of my depth about half the time.”
She took a sip from her Starbucks cup, “And you go back to being the Rocket and being world-famous instead of being a nearly unknown sidekick.”
“I don’t mind being an unknown sidekick. I do miss the Rocket suit. I feel naked without it sometimes. On the other hand, I haven’t needed the Rocket suit for anything, so that’s okay.”
Standing up from the table, she said, “I hope it stays that way. When I started, I wanted to fight aliens, have my name up in lights, all of it. Now, I’m relieved the world won’t end if I screw up. Fame’s overrated.”
She wasn’t wrong. On the other hand, fame meant you had resources to fight vampires that you didn’t have as a nearly unknown sidekick.