It didn’t take long to get to his laboratory. Though it wasn’t the equal of the laboratory in his castle, Vladislav had brought the essentials and collected substitutes for what couldn’t be moved.
People always stared at it the first time they opened the door. Between the computers, partially assembled sets of powered armor, boxes of spare parts manufactured at his factories, the refrigerators with bags of blood, magic circles on the floor surrounding his anvil and other devices, it looked like no other room in the building.
The shelves were full of books, jars containing powders, preserved creatures, and humanoid and animal body parts, some of which still moved.
The mixture of modern and ancient suited him. Aside from which, the mortals never seemed to understand that the magic swords in their stories were as much a mixture of magic and technology as when he enchanted a suit of powered armor.
The only annoying thing about it was that instead of giving him privacy, it met the building’s other labs at the far wall, and even worse, the wall was made of a transparent substance with the strength of metal.
Through the wall, he could see into the Atoner’s lab where he made and maintained his gadgets, and Mistress Madness’ lab where she experimented with gases and airborne poisons.
What annoyed him most was what it said. It said that the powers-that-be didn’t trust him and maybe didn’t trust any of them—not even the Atoner. Knowing that any of them could defeat any cameras the FBI installed, they were giving them the opportunity to tattle on each other. He wouldn’t and he hadn’t. The Atoner had a collection of the Nine’s technology. Mistress Madness was still experimenting with poisons that caused death or permanent derangement.
Vladislav had no intention of telling on either of them. He was sure they had their reasons, but no matter, the labs were empty.
He shook his head. Where to begin? The silver bullets. They’d probably hired a wizard to enchant them to one shot vampires. It wouldn’t take much to modify armor he’d already enchanted against that to fit under his clothes. The anti-voice buzzer and the cross were more of an issue. Neither one was automatically a problem, but both had the potential to be—if the cross contained a relic or if the buzzer contained more than a buzzer.
He’d have to come up with a way to deactivate them or remove them from the action either by removing them or destroying them. Replacing them with a harmless duplicate might be worth it, but that would be challenging. He did have a solution, though.
Starting with the armor because it was the more predictable problem, he disassembled cloth armor he’d made for a dinner where the group had to act as bodyguards, finding the cloth layer he’d designed the suit coat around. For the next hour, he worked the enchanted cloth into the shirt he wore, something made more challenging because he had to modify one of his circles and work on the cloth inside to keep its enchantment from disappearing or worse, changing.
Analysts on SuperTV had never guessed how much time he spent sewing.
By the time he’d finished, he’d come up with an approach to the problem with the anti-voice buzzer and the cross—a summoning.
Boss Scree was a rat, but a rat from Faerie. Vladislav knew him from the old days. Boss Scree and his clan were useful when you needed something stolen, wanted it done quietly, and didn’t mind if someone got eaten to make it happen.
When the cloth was finished, Vladislav walked over to one of the magic circles, adding markings with chalk, and placing a wheel of moldy cheese in the middle of the circle, partly because it amused him and partly because he knew Boss Scree would like it.
Lighting candles, he chanted the summoning spell, saying Boss Scree’s true name. If it were his own home, he’d have shouted it, but here he didn’t want to attract attention or worse, interruption. He’d let Boss Scree loose when he was younger and less experienced. The results were… messy.
Shaking his head at his past self’s naïveté, he said the last few words and gestured upward with his arms. As he did, a figure materialized in the middle of the circle, picking up the cheese, sniffing it, giving a sigh, and beginning to eat.
Standing nearly four feet tall, Boss Scree was a large rat. If his size didn’t already hint that he was no normal rat, the way he stood comfortably on his back two legs would have made it clear that something was not normal. If that weren’t enough, the top hat, green jacket and pants, ruffled shirt, and bright, green, silk sash across the creature’s belly would have been a more than subtle suggestion of the rat’s otherworldly nature.
Boss Scree looked up from the cheese, “Vladislav, this cheese is remarkable, and I do love to see you again, but your timing was inconvenient. I was presiding over a banquet and I hadn’t even had a bite to eat. This cheese is a more than adequate substitute, but it’s still quite annoying. I should find out your true name and summon you whenever I have a problem. Then you’d know what it feels like.”
The rat took another bite of cheese and then looked up at the vampire, “So what is it that you want this time?”
“I need you to steal a few objects from an FBI agent named Phillip Spitz.”
The rat’s smile widened, revealing sharp and uneven teeth, “I’ve heard the name. He has children.”