Chapter fourteen – Yellow, orange and red
You guys – I’ll be at home from now on until pretty much the end of summer vacation, so I had to move my game from the dorm to way over here. Some things have gone MIA during that move, though, including Hao’s hairstyle, Yurick’s normal eyes and a number of other small things. I’ve temporarily given them new looks while looking for the original ones. Please don’t pay it any attention. xD
The following morning, the five of us thought together our plan of action.
We didn’t have much to go on yet, but that also made the planning easier. Tybalt and Yurick would stay here and safeguard the house. They’d watch Nikola and Selene, while Derek, Hao and me were headed for the military base. If their mother had truly been human and her home had been attacked by vampires, there had to be a record of it somewhere. Any vampiric activity got recorded and saved in the military archives, for future references. And if the information was there, then I would be able to get to it.
We even had a code-red-plan. If anything went wrong at the base, Hao would send a distress signal to Tybalt’s cell phone. They’d then take the children and flee immediately, staying mobile until the three of us had found a new place to stay. It wasn’t a perfect plan, but we would have to make do.
Even though I’d already made the trip back to Zephyr Hills once, this time I was incredibly more nervous. Nikola and Selene were perfectly safe in the boys’ care, and yet I couldn’t help but picture the possibilities of something going wrong.
‘Let’s go over the plan one more time,’ I said, making Derek and Hao turn around to face me. We’d driven straight through the day and parked just outside of the military base’s line of sight, ready to begin.
‘Sure, boss,’ Derek said, nodding confidently to me, with Hao adding:
‘The military archives are reachable, but guarded. We have to take care of the guards in front of the entrance as well as the security cameras hanging in the archive itself, if we want to be able to search at our leisure.’
‘Good,’ I nodded. ‘To get rid of those, we’ll have to create a distraction in the control room. Hao, you and Tybalt walk in there often to take care of technical issues. You’re the least suspicious- so I want to you go in and remove the men there. Come up with something to lure them out for a long time, but don’t allow them to become suspicious.’
‘Yes, m’am,’ he said, frowning, and then continued with the explanation of the plan.
‘After I lure them out and we take the control room, we have around twenty minutes before someone comes back. Any excuse to get rid of them for a longer time will either make the men suspect us or send in someone else to cover for them. I’ll stay in the control room and temporarily turn off the cameras for the archives.’
‘Don’t forget to erase the entrance data from the door,’ I reminded him. ‘We can’t keep them from finding out we’re up to something, but the longer it takes for them to realize that, the better.’
‘And while Johnny Depp is doing that, we make our way down to the archives,’ Derek said, picking up where we’d left off. ‘You let yourself in with your captain entrance card, and I keep watch for anyone coming too close.’
‘Remember, Derek, you’re my only backup,’ I said, gazing deep into Derek’s green eyes. ‘If I go in there and Hao turns off the cameras, we’ll both be blind. You need to warn us the very second that things go sideways, or we won’t be able to get out of there in time. Can I count on you, Derek?’
He flashed me a confident smile, puffing up his chest. I could see that it pleased him to have such an important role in the operation.
‘Of course, boss. We’ve got your back.’
‘Good. Then let’s get started.’
We nodded to each other and simultaneously turned around to the entrance of the base. All three of us had put our uniforms back on, so that we wouldn’t arouse any suspicion. But this was still going to be a very risky operation. The weight of what could happen to all of us if this went wrong pressed heavily on my shoulders. By asking for their help, I was now responsible for my underlings, as well. Not two, but six lives suddenly lay in my hands. I couldn’t let them down.
Without weapons, but with Derek at the front and Hao safeguarding my back, we quickly made our way underground. The sound of our footsteps reflected eerily between the tiled walls and floors, and made the hairs in my neck stand on edge. Surprisingly, there was no-one guarding the elevator going below. That was suspicious, but I chose to ignore it and led Hao and Derek inside, swiftly pushing the button.
‘You’re up, Hao,’ Derek mumbled, as soon as the elevator doors opened a floor below. The hallway was abandoned, but I could hear multiple voices coming from the other rooms. The General’s room was very close to the control room, as well; if we weren’t careful, the operation would get blown within seconds.
Hao nodded and exited the elevator, with us closely following behind him. Derek and me watched from the glass in the door as he made his way through the hallway, disappearing through another door at the very end of the room. The control room was there, I knew by now. The whole underground area of the base had been etched into my memory, like a blueprint. We’d have to go past the holding cells and into a different elevator, one that had a coded lock on it, in order to get to the archives.
‘Why is he taking so long?’ Derek whispered nervously, when there was no movement from the other side of the hallway. ‘We’re on a time limit here!’
‘Easy, Derek. Give him a moment.’
I frowned, intensely staring at the door to the control room. Something seemed wrong. What if Hao couldn’t lure them out? Or had something else happened?
‘We’ll wait for two more minutes, Derek, and if nothing happens by then-‘
At that very moment, the door opened again. Two soldiers in blue uniforms came running out, in the opposite direction as where we were. Their panicked, slightly frowning faces showed that Hao had done his job well. Quickly, Derek and I emerged from the other room and ran towards the grey door.
‘That took you long enough,’ Derek hissed to Hao, who had already placed himself in front of one of the many computer screens. ‘We already thought it was time to start running out of here, man!’
‘You’re too impatient,’ Hao smiled over his shoulder. ‘I can’t just waltz in and tell them to go run a few laps around the block, now can I?’
‘Of course you can,’ Derek responded. ‘Just stare at them long enough and they’ll get creeped out so much that they’ll do it.’
‘Or you can just disguise yourself as a mummy again-‘
‘Boys, can we focus, please?’ I said sharply, breaking them up. ‘We’re on a time limit, remember?’
Hao turned his attention to the computer in front of him, quickly pressing buttons and clicking away with his mouse. The screens on the wall suddenly went black, a sign that the security-cameras had been turned off.
‘Well done,’ I said, smiling down at Hao. ‘How long do we have?’
‘Little over twenty minutes. I might be able to buy more time, but that’s our deadline for now.’
‘All right. Let’s go, Derek.’
With a swift nod to Hao, I marched out of the control room again and checked the hallway for soldiers. It was still practically abandoned, which worked to our advantage. We silently sprinted across the corridor, slowing down at offices to peek inside and check if nobody could see us. After a few turns, the elevator we needed came back into sight.
‘You’re sure you can just walk all the way down, boss?’ Derek asked, looking at the elevator doors. His face was focused and serious, the opposite of his normal expression.
‘Yes. I’m still a captain, so I should be able to get into the archives at least.’
‘And if you can’t?’
I turned around to him, smiling.
‘Then I’ll need you to kick the door in, Derek.’
‘A thick, steel army door? Piece o’ cake,’ he laughed back at me.
I shook my head and fetched my pass from the pocket in my uniform, swiping it in the device next to the elevator while typing in the code with my other hand. The device stayed silent for a few moments, and then its light bulb changed to a bright, green colour. With a small ping, the elevator doors slid open. A smile appeared on my face. So far, this was going very well.
‘I’ll contact you at the slightest sign of trouble,’ Derek assured me, as I cast one last glance into the hallway. ‘You can count on us, boss.’
‘I know. Thank you, Derek. Really, thank you.’
I was going to turn around and enter the elevator space, leaving Derek alone on watch duty, when something moved in the corner of my eye. My eyes squinted into a frown as I pulled back from the window, peeking out from the tiniest corner I could manage.
Yurick and Nikola both threw their right hand forward, as if they were charging ahead with swords.
‘HA! I beat you!’
‘Don’t get cocky yet, kid,’ Yurick grunted, displeased with his defeat. ‘That was a lucky shot. I’ll have you know that I’m unbeatable at this game in the long run.’
‘One lucky shot? I’ve beat you four times in a row, oldtimer,’ Nikola grinned back, flashing his sharp fangs. Yurick frowned at the sight of them, but chose to ignore it and yelled:
‘Who are you calling oldtimer, you snot-faced brat?! Let me teach you a lesson! PAPER!’
Selene, still shut away safely behind the plastic door that led to the ex-children’s bedroom, laughed at the scene in front of her. It was one of the conditions that Nikola had set for Raven to leave; she had to come back soon, and no one else was allowed to touch or get near Selene. So Tybalt now scouted the backyard and the area around the house, while Yurick stayed inside and tried his hardest to stay on the right foot with the boy. It was proving to be easier than imagined for both of them. Ever since Nikola had warmed up to Raven, his trust and self-confidence had increased tenfold, and Yurick’s born love for games helped him connect with the child even easier.
‘Why aren’t you scared of me, like the other guys?’ Nikola asked, pulling his hand into a fist for another round.
‘They’re not scared of you,’ Yurick answered. His eyebrows rose a few inches as he looked down on the boy.
‘Yes, they are. None of them wants to get close to me like Raven or you do. Why is that?’
‘Well, I can’t blame them for that,’ Yurick said softly. ‘We’re all used to things like you trying to kill us. You’re the first one to act normal, even though you’re a vampire, too.’
‘I’m not a vampire,’ Nikola said, shaking his head.
‘You’ve got the fangs, don’t you?’ Yurick responded. ‘What else do you need those things for? Your eyes even glow. If that doesn’t look like a vampire, then I don’t know what does.’
‘What do I look like?’ Nikola asked, curiously. Yurick blinked his eyelids.
‘What do you mean, “what do I look like”? Don’t you look in the mirror?’
‘They didn’t have mirrors in the basement.’
The ease in which he spoke those words confused Yurick. What kind of life did you have where you hadn’t looked at yourself in the mirror even once? Where had this boy grown up? His initial fear of his vampiric side had largely disappeared, and a high level of curiosity had shown up in Yurick’s mind instead.
‘It’s no fun if I keep letting you win like this,’ Yurick said, scratching his head after another clear defeat. ‘Don’t you know any other games?’
‘Raven said that there’s more games in there,’ Nikola spoke, pointing to the dusty storage room. ‘Can I go look in there?’
‘Sure, kid,’ Yurick nodded. ‘Mind if I tag along? I’ll teach you how to play soccer if there’s a decent ball in there.’
The boy tilted his head at the word “soccer”, but otherwise didn’t respond. Together they moved their way over to the storage room. There lied a lot of things out of their boxes in there, most of which had changed so much over time that it had become impossible to tell what they were for. Only the large, wooden closet still stood in place. Nikola kept as much distance from Yurick as he could while passing through the door, still not completely trusting him.
‘Hey, Nick?’ Yurick said, while trying to sound casually interested.
‘Whatever you want, kid. But did you just say you’ve never looked into a mirror before?’
‘That’s right,’ Nikola said, turning around to face the man. ‘There have never been mirrors.’
‘But what about your parents? Did they just leave you in a basement all the time?’
His eyes darkened.
‘I don’t remember. We were taken from my mother when Selene was still a baby. The things you keep calling vampires took us with them and hid us from the humans.’
‘Why would they do that?’ Yurick asked.
‘They said that we were special. That the humans would hurt us if they could, because we were a threat.’
‘Wait, you could talk to them?’ Yurick interrupted him, his eyes a fraction bigger than normal. ‘To all of them?’
‘Of course. They could talk from the beginning,’ Nikola said. He looked at his feet, carefully avoiding eye contact with the man next to him. Yurick frowned, a bad feeling creeping up on him.
‘You’re keeping something from us, aren’t you?’ he said. Nikola shook his head and tried to walk past him, back into the living room, but Yurick quickly put out his arm, blocking the boy’s way.
‘Don’t lie to me, boy. What do you know that we don’t?’
Hao was coming out of the control room. That wasn’t according to plan. Had something gone wrong, and was he going to come get us?
‘Derek-‘ I said, already starting to form a sentence when Hao’s next move shunned me completely. Instead of walking towards us, as I’d expected, or even towards the elevator leading back up and outside, Hao set course for a different corridor entirely. My blood froze in my veins as I followed his route in the blueprint in my head. There was absolutely nothing of importance in that corridor, other than…
Other than the General’s office.
‘Derek. Take my key,’ I gasped, throwing the key card at him without looking. ‘Go downstairs and look for any house wreckings that had something to do with vampires. If they involve a single mother, it’s bingo.’
The sharpness of my voice surprised even me. Derek quickly fetched the key card from the ground and stepped into the elevator, looking at me with confusion written all over his face. My heartbeat had sped up tenfold, and after I was sure that the elevator doors had closed down, I left the room and dashed after Hao.
The door was already closed, but I could hear muffled voices coming from inside. Slowly, I pressed myself against the wall and slid as close to the glass as I could, pressing my ear against the door.
I could recognize the voices in there. One belonged to Hao. The other one was the General.
‘Do they suspect?’
‘And you’re absolutely certain?’
‘I’ve seen them with my own eyes. They’ve brainwashed our captain into helping them, sir. As I’ve already said last night.’
I could feel my entire body starting to tremble as those words reached my ears. There was only one thing that Hao could be talking about. Hao, the person I’d thought to be the most trustworthy of them all. That I’d written letters for and entrusted my back to during missions. The gentle soul that would cuddle a snake and release it into the wild.
He was betraying us.
‘Tell me, vampire,’ Yurick hissed, grabbing hold of the boy’s arm. ‘What do you know that I don’t?’
Nikola’s face darkened. ‘Let go of me.’
‘Not before you tell me what you’re keeping from Raven. She’s putting her life in danger for you, and we’re all putting our necks on the line for her. I won’t have you lying to me, kid!’
He tightened his grip on Nikola’s arm, who shot him a look that was so venomous it almost made him look demonic. Then his resistance faded. Nikola broke eye contact with the man and looked at the ground, hiding his eyes behind bangs of black hair.
‘Do you know of the Gate, Yurick?’
‘No. What’s that supposed to be? Is this some kind of riddle, or something?’
‘…never mind. You wouldn’t understand, human.’
‘Try me,’ Yurick said, still not letting go of the boy’s arm. ‘And while you’re at it, let me tell you something, as well. I don’t believe that you’re just a helpless little boy. None of us do, except for Raven. You see, while she was off taking care of the two of you, we’ve heard some disturbing reports back at headquarters. The vampires are starting to group together. They’re systematically raiding houses, almost as if they’re looking for something that they’ve lost.’
‘I think that that something might be you,’ Yurick continued, finally letting go of Nikola’s arm to point his finger at him. ‘This can’t be a coincidence. Our Task Force has been looking for the monsters’ secret weapon for months. But they have never grouped together like this in order to attack humans… Not since Raven has found you and your sister.’
‘Do you know what I think? I think their secret weapon is you.’
I couldn’t believe my ears. Hao was betraying us. There was no other explanation for the words that were coming out of his mouth. He was talking to the General about them, about the children, about Nikola and Selene. He was talking about them as if they were just another target to be taken out. My mouth opened a few inches from shock, and I couldn’t decide on what was worse; that he’d betrayed us so easily, or that the two of them were planning an attack on innocent children.
‘Very well. The troops are in position. I’m raising the order to attack.’
My eyes widened with disbelief and suddenly I couldn’t stop myself anymore.
I had to get back. Fast. I ripped myself from the door I was eavesdropping from and ran past, heading straight for the elevator. The noise of my footsteps echoed across the wall and behind me, a door opened, after which more running footsteps came out.
Suddenly, Hao was inches behind me, reaching for my body. I didn’t know if it was in order to take me out or just tell me that he was there, and I didn’t care. I turned around as my hands grabbed his shoulder, punching him in the face hard before finding their way to his throat. I slowly squeezed the air out of his lungs, pushing him against the wall.
‘You… you traitor!’ I hissed in his face, as he looked upon me with big, frightened brown eyes.
‘No, wait, listen-‘
‘I trusted you, you son of a berry!’
‘Captain, let go of that man immediately!’ the General shouted, running out of his office. ‘That’s an order!’
‘So that’s how easy you disregard your promises? Does trust mean nothing to you?! Answer me!’
I continued to shout my rage at the man in front of my, ignoring the General up to the point where I could feel him closing the distance between us.
‘Captain Adams, I’m placing you under arrest on suspection of treason. Backup is already on its way here. Now let the man go. And if you resist, I wíll hurt you, Raven!’
A movement to my right made my grip on Hao’s shirt loosen. Derek came out of the elevator area, looking at the three of us with a blank expression on his face. The absence of emotion on my partner made my blood slowly turn to ice for the second time in one day. Was he in on this, too? Was that why they’d agreed to help me so eagerly? To lure me back here? All of it- my confessions, as well as their promise of fealty- had it all been fake?
Derek stood there for two full seconds, before finally walking towards us. With one hand, he pushed me out of the way, as the other one balled into a fist and struck Hao full on the cheek. The force from the blow made him lose balance and fall to the ground, hitting his shoulder painfully on the tiles.
‘You fudging berryhole!’
Gasping for air, Hao crawled back up.
‘You don’t understand… can’t you see? Those monsters are manipulating you… into doing what they want! They’re playing you, Raven!’
‘They’re children!’ I yelled back, furious. ‘They’re innocent children! And you don’t have the right to call me by my name anymore!’
‘You have to go,’ Derek said, briefly touching my arm. ‘If they haven’t given to order to attack yet, you might beat their vehicles to the house in a race. I’ll stall things here for as long as I can.’
‘Don’t bother,’ Hao coughed, still trying to get up. He lifted his head, casting me the coldest look I had ever seen him make, cold enough to make my heart skip a beat.
‘You’re too late. They’re already there.’
A loud bang coming from the living room shook Yurick out of his rude interrogation. He tilted his head towards the hall and saw Selene’s small figure, crawling across the room and towards the front door.
‘Wasn’t she supposed to stay inside the bedroom?’ Yurick said, and then fell silent when he saw something move through the glass.
And it wasn’t Tybalt.
Yurick’s eyes widened from shock as he saw the men exit the black van and gather just behind the front door. Two men came forward, until they were inches away from the door, and stared down at the toddler sitting on the floor. They were wearing the same uniforms that Yurick’s squad wore on special missions, and he instantly knew what that meant.
They’d been betrayed.
‘SELENE!’ Nikola yelled, who had finally looked at the same spot as Yurick. ‘GET AWAY FROM THE DOOR!’
He turned around and tried to run past Yurick, back into the living room. Yurick quickly reached behind him, grabbing hold of the boy’s arm a second time, and violently pulling him back from the door.
‘LET ME GO!’
The boy screamed and resisted when Yurick lifted him from the ground like a rag doll. He squirmed in his arms, yelling Selene’s name and reaching for the door with his arms. It wasn’t until Yurick delivered a fierce blow to the back of his head that he stopped. Nikola collapsed, falling unconscious at the same moment that the front door was kicked open.
The little girl’s scream of agony pierced Yurick’s ears. He bit his lip, backing away from the living room door, and flung Nikola’s body over his shoulder. A single strike of his fist and the glass in the back window shattered, letting in a cloud of cold winter air. Swiftly, Yurick grabbed the side of the window and pulled himself out.
‘In the back! Get them!’
The special forces had already surrounded most of the house. Yurick’s eyes quickly scanned the back yard for an escape route, before pulling the boy back into his arms. He dashed over to the nearest fence and jumped, his feet kicking the wood for an extra jump in mid-air. Behind him, the screams from the soldiers chased after him, paired with the piercing light from flashlights and nightweapons. Yurick didn’t look back. He pressed the boy against his chest as he sprinted away as fast as he could, disappearing into the cold winter night.