"Do No Harm"
"We shouldn't have to bring the housewife," Auraleia Dunn grumbled, as much as she could without compromising the mission.
Tobias said nothing. He crept in the darkness beside her. The two of them led the squad; the "housewife," as Auraleia called Thor Marimon, was behind them.
Dennis Marietta and Vickers Brady manned the rear flank.
Auraleia started to say something: They were still sufficiently out-of-range to utter a few more words.
"She has a gift," Tobias said, cutting the complaint off.
"A gift - but no training. She doesn't belong here. She's not one of us."
"She took two years of Army ROTC Cougar Battalion. That should count for something."
"That doesn't count for dick. I'm surprised you even insult us by bringing that up. She never signed a contract, much less did any real training. Anyway, she's only been with the group six weeks. That's hardly enough time for her to figure out how to make a decent cup of coffee and figure out how the towel dispenser in the shitter works."
"At least we know she washes her hands." Tobias replied. "We're getting close to the target. We'll take care of the rest of this conversation later."
It was time to be quiet: Noise would give their position away.
The group moved quietly in the night, staying close the edge of the woods. They moved quickly through the open areas to avoid detection.
The housewife was alert. Tobias could tell by the way she moved, like silent water in a deep channel. She may not have the benefit of military or police training, but she was a natural. Maybe her gift made her that way.
When they had first started training her for night missions, Thor knew to focus her eyes 5 to 10 degrees off the target, utilizing left-of-center vision. The technique helped her see things in the dark. Auraleia, despite being Blue Team leader, sometimes still tried to look directly at things in the dark, her night blind spot obscuring her targets more than once.
Thor knew that instinctively, Tobias remembered. Something in his Cherokee heritage admired the woman for that. Thor had gut feeling. Gut feeling was almost lost in modern society, Tobias despaired, and it was probably gut feeling that had saved every lineage present on the planet. Sometime in the past your ancestors had to know when to duck, when to flee, when to strike, and when to make a stand. Now all the kids seemed trapped in a video screen, oblivious to a world that was changing around them.
But Thor was different from anybody else. The primary difference was her gift, an odd ability that had been dubbed "thread-seeing." Since the team, and its clandestine employers, had kept her off the radar of anyone who would study her, her ability had no fancy Latin name yet. They had asked a priest, Mother Verna, who spoke rusty Latin to translate "witness to connections," and she had replied with "testis ut iunctio."
"That just sounds rude," Thor had joked.
"Perhaps 'filo testimone,'" Dennis Marietta, another team member had suggested. "A thread witness. The thread that binds - usa un filo per unile le pezzo."
"That sounds more romantic than anything with 'testes in it," Thor had replied.
"Ironically," Dennis noted.
"Speaking Italian just makes me hungry for your mama's spaghetti, Dennis," Tobias had said..
"Mi mama didn't make much spaghetti," Dennis reminded him, "But she could make an enchilada that would fill you up for three days."
In the end it did not matter what the gift was called; Thor was a valuable resource to the team.
She could look at someone and discern their character on levels most people weren't even aware they had. She could see genetic lines weaving through history, and tell who your ancestors were. She could detect who you loved, whom you despised. She knew which historical figures you admired, knew which ones you didn't care much for. Thor could see your family, and knew who your friends were and whom you worked with. She knew what your hobbies were, what your talents were, what you had been trained to do. She could tell whose bed your boots were aching to rest under.
All from one look.
She can sense everybody around somebody, a briefer had told the team prior to introducing Thor. We can use that talent - take what she sees and find every monster in the world. It was a valuable asset to the team, because the team's mission relied as much on discerning networks as identifying individuals.
Will that find us Sucairyc? Auraleia had asked.
Him and every bloodsucker he's ever met, the bosses had promised.
That had been enough to give Thor strategic value in Auraleia's eyes, even if Auraleia doubted any of Thor's other abilities were up to task.
Blue Team's mission had always been simple to state: Find murderous bastards and kill them before they killed again. But there was a twist to the mission statement now. The team was beyond mobsters, gang-bangers, and terrorists as prey.
Like tonight, Tobias thought.
Tonight Blue Team was hunting vampires.
The team paused at the edge of a secluded clearing. Trees gave them generous cover before they commenced their maneuver.
Six vampires were visible, arranged around a small stone altar with a still body upon it.
The team was armed, but not over indulgent with technology. Technology could mislead, technology could fail, and technology could be used against you. Blue Team, for example, rarely used infrared devices, even though they had been issued them. Vampires flush with a blood meal could appear warm and normal in thermal images; a recently assaulted human, drained of so much blood, could be deceptively cold to the infrared eyes.
Auraleia also preferred her team to be trained to use their natural vision on vampire raids, as opposed to employing night observation devices, or NODs. Vampires were the most intelligent of their foes, not counting the occasional poltergeist associated with an exceptionally bright person. The undead were frequently equipped to distort mechanical means of observation. They knew to shine bright lights towards the advancing vampire hunters, disturbing any optical assistance, and potentially blinding the team just long enough for the vampires to attack.
It was always better to rely on the least sophisticated method of destroying them, Auraleia taught. That leaves fewer things to go horribly wrong.
Blue Team positioned themselves so the moonlight silhouetted the undead. The full moon gave off enough illumination to use hand signals in their close formation. Thor has spent six weeks immersed in learning the unique sign language.
Tobias gave a series of signed commands. Thor crept beside him, responding to his gestures. Her gray eyes carefully scanning each of the seven bodies.
"Confirmed. Six vampires. One unidentified." She signed.
Auraleia, Dennis, and Vickers took their positions.
"Who's who?" Tobias asked Thor, using the same silent sign language.
"The one in the cloak with the gold trim is the one in charge tonight."
"They all think they're Dracula," Thor signed back. "And he's not the leader. The woman beside him outranks him. The man with the goatee is a weapons man, acting as a guard. The body is difficult to read. Not really dead, not really alive." She turned to Auraleia. "By the way, the woman is Gorgon. Seems you two know each other." That link, dark and twisting like blackened barbed-wire was easy to follow. Auraleia and Gorgon had history.
That Thor effortlessly knew that Auraleia and Gorgon were old time enemies was unnerving to Auraleia. But then, that is why Thor was with them. To know things like that. The intelligence was good.
Tobias liked having Thor with him. She could provide critical information on who was who when the nighttime swallowed uniforms and rank badges. "Thor - the undead with the goatee and the sniper rifle. Is he a sniper?"
"Not that good. I pick up no history of him actually knowing how to use it. No connections to military or law enforcement, for instance. He saw it in a movie or two and thinks it looks cool. He's a poser."
If there was one thing Tobias hated more than vampires, it was posers of any description.
Dennis added to the reconnaissance: "They have no long-range weapons in their possession. They seem complete in their circle - they aren't looking for anyone else to join them."
Auraleia assumed command, silently assigning the targets. Tobias would shoot first, taking out the man with the goatee and the shotgun. Auraleia would take out the mission leader in his pretty cloak. Dennis and Vickers would start in on underlings, while Auraleia moved onto the second in command, and Tobias cleaned up the remaining undead. Thor was instructed to stay out of the way.
They had to shot with absolute accuracy.
Vampires moved too quickly to offer the luxury of a second shot. By design, Blue Team's weapons rarely held more than three rounds; it reminded them that by the time they had missed twice, they were probably dead. Each readied a scarcely modified pistol crossbow.
The team aimed their weapon on the hearts of their quarry. Wooden stakes fitted neatly into the arrow slots. It was the oldest, quickest, and surest way to kill a vampire.
Auraleia gave the signal.
They fired simultaneously.
Tobias's shot neatly and imperceptibly whizzed through the air. It sunk with an understated thick thud into the vampire's chest.
Auraleia hit the leader, and he let out a sickening, broken-glass gurgle of a scream as he crumpled into old flesh.
Dennis and Vickers caught their marks with equal speed and accuracy.
Tobias's stake hit its second target. The raid was going quickly and exactly according to plan. Which, as Dennis would later note, was probably the first sign that things were about to go horribly wrong.
Auraleia aimed her second shot, the projectile flying resolutely through the air. The stake made a harmless, thud-like noise against the woman - against Gorgon, the vampire queen. The wooden stake splintered as it hit its target.
"Shit!" Auraleia exclaimed, trying to reload her weapon. Now the raid was not going according to plan, and that was very bad.
Tobias moved in to take Gorgon out while Auraleia reloaded her weapon. Gorgon swatted him away as if he was a mosquito buzzing in the quiet night air.
Vickers moved up, in tandem with Dennis Marietta.
"She has body armor!" Auraleia yelled out, breaking silence in the urgency of the moment and importance of the information.
Gorgon moved incredibly fast, honing in on Auraleia's voice. She picked Auraleia up and hoisted her fully overhead.
"Auraleia," the woman smiled. She bared fangs, ready to rip the team leader's throat out with a single bite. "You first, your minions next."
A quick shadow flickered from the darkness, thrusting something into the vampire's open mouth. Gorgon choked violently, dropping Auraleia.
The vampire turned around, gasping, finding her attacker. "Thorismund," she spat.
Thor held up a second clove of garlic in her hand. "Round two?" She stepped between Gorgon and Auraleia.
Gorgon transformed into a shadow, dissolving into the night.
Vickers moved up to Auraleia.
"I'm okay," the leader said. "Ego is more bruised than any of the rest of me." She looked at Thor. "You were supposed to stay back."
"The woman had you. I had garlic."