An impressive formation of clouds hung above us in the blood red sky as the helicopter touched down. It was just after seven AM and we found ourselves on a landing pad on the top of a hill.
I looked around and saw a massive arsenal of military hardware. There was another gunship like the one that had picked us up from Hartley House and a wide range of other vehicles. Whoever The Brotherhood were, they were obviously well-funded but from what I’d seen in the last few hours, they could do with more experience in the field. They were well-trained to act like a military outfit but they had failed to effectively deal with the attack.
I saw a squad of soldiers running towards the other gunship. They piled in and it lifted off, heading in the direction that we had just come from.
‘What’s going on there?’ I asked Captain Stein.
‘That’s the recovery team,’ he replied, ‘Now the sun’s up, they’re going back to Hartley House to clean up the mess before anyone finds out. They’ve got a lot of work to do today.’
A squad of soldiers marched up a long ramp leading down into the mountain. A burly man in uniform, Commander North, led the squad, shouting ‘Left! Left! Left, right, left!’ and the soldiers all marched in time, their thundering footsteps breaking the silence that was left behind once the helicopter had been shut down.
They reached the landing pad and surrounded the helicopter, their hands resting on their guns but not aiming at us. I could see they were ready to blow away anything that looked like a vampire: it was written in the concentration on their faces. I wondered how many of these soldiers had seen as much action as we had seen in the last twenty four hours.
Not many, I bet.
Captain Stein got out of the helicopter and saluted Commander North. ‘Welcome home,’ said the commander.
‘Thank you, sir. It’s unfortunate there aren’t more of us.’
‘You’ve got the doctor, that’s what matters. Good job, Captain.’
I had been hoping the regional headquarters would have been run by someone with a bit more sympathy but it appeared to me that Captain Stein and Commander North were crafted from the same mould.
Agent Simpson and I got out of the helicopter behind Doctor Owen. Commander North took one look at me and turned to Captain Stein. ‘Who the hell is this sorry looking son of a bitch? He looks like he’s on his last legs,’ he said as though I wasn’t there.
‘This is Detective Tom Ryder,’ he said.
‘A cop?’ he said, continuing to ignore me.
‘Yes. His work helped us to track down Doctor Owen.’
Commander North moved over to me. We shook hands and the bandage on my neck must have caught his eye. ‘Jesus Christ, he’s been bitten. I hope you know what you’re doing, Captain.’
‘Yes sir,’ said Captain Stein, ‘the Doctor is going to work with Detective Ryder. We hope this opportunity will present us with the data he needs to finish his work.’
‘I hope you mean the primary treatment, Captain.’
‘Of course, sir.’
‘He’s your responsibility, Captain,’ said Commander North, then looked me in the eye, ‘Son, if you start trying to eat my men, I’ll put you down in the blink of an eye. Got it?’
‘I’ll try my best not to.’ I said dourly.
The squad led us down the ramp towards the heart of the regional headquarters. As we descended, I saw more heavy military equipment including a huge array of firepower: cannons, racks of rifles and crates marked ‘explosive’. Most of the vehicles looked clean and new.
Has any of this equipment ever been used? Would any of these soldiers know what to do with it if there was an attack on the base?
‘How are The Brotherhood funded?’ I asked Agent Simpson.
‘How do you think?’
‘The government?’ I speculated
‘It’s bigger than that. The influence of the vampire community stretches all over the world.’
‘So there is a link with the World Health Organisation? Once this all kicked off, I assumed it was a lie to get us to work together.’ I said.
‘No, not at all. You’d be surprised at the other problems we have to deal with.’
‘One surprise is quite enough for now.’ As far as I was concerned, the other problems of the World Health Organisation could wait a little longer. I didn’t want to think about all the other monsters out there in the world that until now I thought existed only in the realms of fiction.
We were marched down long corridors, past many doors into the heart of the base. The place wasn’t decorated at all. The walls were bare grey concrete and there were no furnishings or signs anywhere. I wondered how long The Brotherhood had been based at this location: it felt like they could leave at any time and leave no trace at all. After seeing the attack on Hartley House, I could appreciate the need for immediate evacuation.
We were led through one of the blank doors into a cold, empty room. Commander North moved to the front of the crowd and everyone else in the room faced him, awaiting his address.
‘I would like to start off by welcoming the newcomers to our outpost. Some of you already know Agent Simpson and I’m sure you are all aware of Doctor Owen’s work.’
He turned to me. ‘Detective Ryder here was instrumental in rescuing the doctor from the hands of our enemies. I would like to thank him on behalf of The Brotherhood for all his hard work. Unfortunately for him, he was bitten in the course of his investigation.’
No sooner had the words left his lips than all the soldiers in the room turned to each other, murmuring in hushed voices and firing cautionary glances in my direction.
‘Quiet please,’ said Doctor Owen, ‘He’s okay now. I have given him a dose of the treatment I’ve been working on. As soon as we can have access to your medical facilities, we will continue the testing.’
Commander North looked troubled. ‘I take it you gave him the secondary treatment?’
‘Of course,’ he said.
Secondary treatment? I thought. What’s the primary treatment?
‘A soldier will be standing by wherever he goes,’ said Captain Stein, ‘The chances are that he will still turn into a bloodsucker. No offence, Detective.’
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