“Right,” I thought back through what we’d been told. “So is everyone in Detroit’s Syndicate L a vampire now or just a few people at the top or something?”
“Don’t know,” Working Man said. “It’s definitely not everyone, but there are a lot. If I had to guess, it’s at least half of them—which is worse. The vampires can’t come in unless invited, but the regular humans just break down the door.”
Mateo’s indrawn breath was audible over the comm, “We’ve seen three completely different types of vampires so far. I wouldn’t assume they all follow the same rules, so it might be that some vampires don’t care about invitations either.”
“Dammit,” Working Man sighed. “It’s been that kind of day. Do what you can to hold the base. I still think you’ll be better off staying in there at night than somebody’s apartment. Stay safe and keep us updated. I can’t promise that we can help you, but we’ll try.”
With that, the call was over.
A few minutes later, Mateo walked into the lab, “You said you wanted a lot of holy water? I don’t know if it’s enough, but we’ve got a water tank in case something happens. I think it’s at least 200 gallons.”
I stared at him, “Wow. That’s huge. I mean, I’m not complaining. It’s good, but why do you have a tank that big?”
He shrugged and leaned against the doorway, “I don’t know. It could have been Working Man being paranoid about the city water system after what happened in Flint, but it also could have been V8 needing a lot of water to make something.”
“Is it full?” Filling a tank that big wouldn’t be quick.
Mateo grinned, “As of a minute ago, it’s not only full but full of holy water. I blessed it, looked it over with the mask and I can see it’s different somehow. Don’t ask me how.”
“Great, I’ve made some progress too. Give me a couple more hours and I think I can get the majority of what I want to do done.”
Then I paused, considering another issue, “How are we going to work sleeping? I’m figuring we’re both stuck here and we could rely on the base’s alarms and hope there aren’t any vampires that can sneak in, or we can post a watch. We won’t get as much sleep, but we might not get surprised in the night.”
Crossing his arms across his chest, Mateo said, “I think we should stay in the same room. In some stories, they can change form and go through the vents as a rat or something. So we wouldn’t even know they were attacking someone in another room.”
I raised an eyebrow, “Huh. There’s only barely enough space for one in our rooms. Do you want to sleep in the lab?”
Letting out a breath, he replied, “Not really, but the beds fold up and you’ve got the space.”
I nodded, “It wouldn’t be the first time I slept in the lab, but that was usually in a chair.”
He laughed. “I noticed. Do you want to take first watch? You tend to work on things until late in the night anyway…”
Mateo wasn’t wrong. “I’ll do it.”
Turning to look down the hall, Mateo said, “Then I’ll set the defenses on high and start rolling my bed.”
“I’ve got a few defenses of my own to set,” I said.
* * *
The first sound I heard when I woke was the whirr of the humidifiers. The second was Mateo’s voice, “Nick, wake up. They’re here.”
The third sound was a metallic crash that shook the room. I opened my eyes and pulled myself up in bed, reaching out to the cube I’d placed at the foot of my bed. It flowed around my body, dressing me, and reforming into V4’s costume, including the helmet.
By the time my feet touched the floor, I was already wearing boots.
Glancing away from the screen next to the metal door that shut us off from the hallway, Mateo stared at me, “Is that how you get dressed all the time?”
“Yes, but not in front of people here.”
Looking me up and down, he said, “No kidding,” and turned his head back to the screen. “Is that something I shouldn’t tell Working Man?”
I shrugged, “I don’t think it’s a problem. It’s not one of the Rocket’s known powers according to the Villains and Vigilantes database.”
Whatever had made the first metallic crashing noise hit the base again, creating a clanging noise that I felt in my bones and set the parts on the shelves wobbling.
“What was that?” I asked, but I didn’t wait for an answer. My implant connected to the security system and I checked the cameras—all of them simultaneously.
Despite how close and how solid the crashes felt, the creature wasn’t outside our door. It stood outside the tower itself, hitting against the big steel doors on the first floor of the tower.
And “creature” felt like the best way to describe it even though it was shaped like a human. With its gray skin, bloated flesh like that of someone who had been dead for some time, and black and blue bruises on its face, I didn’t even consider the possibility that it was alive. The pointed ears and nine or maybe ten foot tall muscled body opened up more questions about the thing’s origin than it answered.
Here’s one: did Andre the Giant go back in time and have sex with elves? The idea didn’t make much sense, but on the whole, the creature’s existence didn’t make much more sense than that.