Mateo and I looked at each other. I said, “We’d better get down there,” while he said, “She’s not going to be able to take them alone.”
At least we tried to, starting, getting few words out, and then deciding by mutual, unstated agreement that we were on the same page. We ran for the elevator we’d only just exited.
As we reached the elevator, Mateo turned to shout at the room, “From what we see, the people that just came back are under the vampires’ control. Don’t let them up here. Don’t let anyone open the doors to the outside, and above all else, if you see a vampire or something that could be a vampire, don’t invite them in here, okay?”
All the men and women in their red and blue uniforms and “Detroit Unity” insignias stared at him. One man, his brown hair touched with gray, nodded.
It was something. Better Mateo than me to try something like that, they knew who he was.
Not for the first time, I wished for the Rocket suit and its undeserved instant credibility.
The elevator’s doors opened and we stepped inside, pressing button “B” for basement. The doors shut and the elevator sank downward.
As the elevator hummed, Mateo drew his rapier and faced the elevator door. I would have drawn a sword, but my weapons weren’t as impressive. My best ones were part of the bike.
Also, if we were fighting mind-controlled supers, holy water wasn’t going to do a bit of good. I couldn’t think of anything that ended a vampire’s charm, or whatever you called their mental influence, short of punching people unconscious and hoping they woke up normal.
The elevator stopped and the doors opened to the parking lot and a scene I’d half-expected.
Nanosecond stood between two rows of cars off to the left of the elevator. In front of her, a tall pale man wearing a green suit (including a vest), a black cape, and a a purple sash. It made me think of pre-World War 1 European nobility.
My bet was that he’d been the mist I’d seen come out of the car.
The three adolescent karate hamsters, Athletica, and Chromatic stood just past the vampire and Nanosecond—in front of the row of cars and facing us.
Something screeched. It was the flying head, ears flapping as it hovered. If it had been any normal creature doing the same thing, there would have been a physics paper in how it was staying in the air. Bearing in mind that it was a vampire, the answer to that question was almost certainly (and disappointingly) magic.
The vampire in front of Nanosecond turned to look at us. I felt an urge to stare into its eyes, but I’d prepared for that—my implant switched to my radar/sonar/infrared composite view and shut off my direct view of his face.
The pressure on my mind ended. I don’t know what Mateo did, but his sword glowed a little brighter.
He said, “Nice try, vampire. You need to let all of them go and then leave this place. And by place, I mean lands where humans live. We know how to fight you and if you stay here, you’ll be destroyed.”
The vampire smiled and spoke in an accent that sound like it was from Eastern Europe. I couldn’t place where. “A hero? I see that you wear one of the masks. I may know more about them than you. I’ve fought them before. Now to be honest, I know little or nothing about this V4 fellow, but I know the most important thing. He’s mortal and I know how to fight that. You fight mortals with other mortals.”
The vampire glanced over at me, frowning for a moment, but then smiling again, “Whatever he is, the two of you will have to face six of your own kind if you choose to fight me—Chromatic, your dragon mage, as well as Athletica, Nanosecond, and the three martial rodents. I don’t think that you’ll stand a chance.”
Then he grinned, showing his teeth. The canines were quite long.
“And even if you are, are you willing to risk killing them? These are your friends, are they not? They won’t be fighting you of their own free will. No, I think it’s you that should leave. If you don’t, I assure you that if they get badly hurt, we’ll have to transform them into our own, but if they stay unhurt enough to be useful, we may let them go while they’re still mortal.”
Mateo raised an eyebrow, “And they’ll be truly free? They won’t have any little hooks embedded in their minds in case you need them later?”
The vampire gave a dry, raspy laugh, “I see you do know us. I can’t say we won’t prepare for the future, but I don’t have a specific use for them right now. Think of it as a choice between having live friends whose minor enslavements can perhaps be removed and undead enemies who might resent how your choices affected them.”
Trying not to imagine Athletica or the others as vampires, I said, “Are you sure you want to be doing this? This is the kind of thing that brings in wizards and even official teams of wizards tasked with destroying you.”
Staring at me, the vampire said, “Who are you?”