“Stay back”, I said. “I wanna take a crack at her first.”
Actually, I really didn’t want to. We were facing a damn monster here. It wasn’t like this bitch was Perses, but she was still more than a human. All the weapons we had on us would hopefully give us better odds than if we had come unarmed. Not that I was confident about our chances for survival under any circumstances at this point.
I was way in over my head, but despite the fact that I was frustrated that Shay had bet everyone’s lives on a false theory, I was still more worried about her than myself. My only relief was that I’d made the right call not bringing any of my sisters.
Staring down the transformed Salaran, I sighed. “Really wishing Olivia hadn’t taken off right now.”
Running serpentine in case she had any tricks I didn’t know about, I made my way toward Salaran. Here’s hoping I can at least hurt her a little, I thought.
I wasn’t coming at her with any weapons. My fist would gauge just what we were dealing with durability wise.
“Alright vamp, get set to get decked!” I screamed, moments before I uppercutted Salaran’s jaw. “Fuck!” I screamed in pain, feeling like I’d just punched a steel wall. No wonder she didn’t bother dodging.
That was definitely something I did need to do though, as she swung one of her arms at me. Only because I saw the attack coming was I able to jump out of the way in time, now getting the opportunity to shake out my hand.
Turning my head, I saw that Shay had taken a ready stance, holding her M16 rifle. She nodded, and I understood what she meant. At least, I think I did. She was going to let me take on Salaran, but she would cover me with her gun. Made sense. Shay was a better fighter than me, so it made sense to keep her a little more rested for Smog.
Or I could have just been reading way too much into the nod. Didn’t think so though.
Either way, with Salaran’s attention firmly on me and within a short distance, I made my next move.
At my disposal were a billy club, a katana, knuckles, and a few grenades. Wanting to save the grenades for Smog himself, I unsheathed my katana.
Here’s hoping force + sharpened anti-Demigod metal = a decapitated vampire, I thought. Raina had mentioned she’d wanted to go for a similar approach when she fought her, but was unable to pull it off.
I doubted I could do it successfully either, but I figured my chances were at least better than the 90-pound teenage girl.
Rather than go straight at her, there was no doubt she’d easily avoid my attack if I did, I instead started running around Salaran in a circle, always staying around about 15 feet away.
Glancing over at her, Shay looked a little confused as to what I was doing, but still had her gun at the ready.
Salaran’s face wasn’t expressing any emotion, but hopefully she was just as unsure of what I was planning.
“Don’t waste my time, mortal,” she growled. “Attack.”
“What’s the matter? Not a fan of spending time with people other than the psychotic cosplayer you call a boss?” I taunted, continuing to circle her.
“He is my master. Not my boss.”
“You keep saying that,” I said, speeding up the rate at which I was running. “But personally, I’d rather be an employee than a slave. Benefits and junk, you know?”
“What are you blithering on about?” she growled, getting more irritated.
I shot a smirk over to Shay, trying to let her know that my plan was working.
Yeah, I was making dumb quips in an attempt to piss her off. And I couldn’t think of anyone better to emulate when it came to being annoying than Carter from before shit hit the fan. Hopefully if everything somehow got resolved, he’d be back to being that way.
“Nothing really,” I replied. “But I can’t help but notice that you didn’t deny that the big bad monster that is Smog is indeed a cosplayer.”
“Silence!” she shouted, shaking her arms before rushing at me.
Not what I was expecting to trigger her, but okay.
Salaran was damn fast, but at least right now, she wasn’t showing to be on the level of a speedster. Before she reached me, and having started moving my arm after she shook her arms, I raised my katana and angled it so that when she charged at me, her neck would meet the edge of the blade, hopefully cleaving her head off.
I may have been able to put more force in a swing than a 90 pound teenage girl, but with the speed Salaran moved at and the momentum she built up, just having her kill herself by accident was a better…
There was a clank.
“Gach,” I choked.
My plan was partially successful, as her neck did align perfectly with the katana. The part that didn’t go so well was her actually dying, as instead, she just broke through the sword, proceeding to pick me up by the throat.
“Shay!” I screamed, quickly losing air. “Open fire!”
Without hesitation, despite the high possibility that I could have been shot as well, and potentially killed by even just one of the anti-Demigod bullets, Shay immediately started hitting Salaran in the back and the back of her head with a rapid fire barrage of bullets.
God I loved this woman.
Despite this assault being one that would kill nearly any human, Salaran was still standing after Shay’s clip seemingly ran dry.
However, she did still feel it at least, groaning in pain and tossing me aside into a street light pole, back first.
“Shay, tag in!” I moaned.
My pain tolerance was high, and I wasn’t completely down and out of the fight, but I was still a 60-something year old man, and it felt like my spine had just been smashed apart by a sledgehammer. I needed a minute.
Shay threw her M16 aside, and pulled her desert eagles out of her thigh holsters, aiming them at Salaran. I was pretty sure she’d brought extra clips for the rifle, but again, it was probably a matter of resource management.
“Mortal toys,” Salaran said.
Salaran charged at Shay, moving like a blur. I’d expected Shay to dodge, but instead, she just started shooting at the speeding vampire, taking a punch to the gut and quickly being sent flying back to close to the car as a result.
“Shit,” I muttered. Shay didn’t hit her head when she landed and I knew her body could take that kind of abuse, so I wasn’t too worried about what had just happened. Just hated seeing her get hurt.
Salaran inched closer to Shay as she got back up, having managed to keep her grip on her handguns.
“That the best you got?!” Shay shouted, making sure she was loud enough to cover the distance between them. She still wasn’t deterred by our situation, confident as ever, but the pain she was now in made its way into her tone.
“Are taunts the best weapons you mortals have at your disposal?” Salaran asked.
“They’re definitely up there!” Shay cheered. “But I think we’ve got something a bit better.” Salaran continued to pace toward Shay, the latter backing up slowly and reaching where we’d parked. “I said I think we’ve got something a bit better!” she shouted with force.
She wanted me to do something. She was keeping her distance for a reason…the grenades!
Got six of them, I thought. Guess we can spare one on her.
Remaining where I was sitting, I pulled one of the hand grenades off of my belt. Not wasting any time, I quickly focused my sight on Salaran, pulled the pin on the grenade with my teeth, which hurt like a motherfucker but it wasn’t like a had a second hand, and chucked it at Salaran’s feet.
Once it was in the air, Shay sprinted away from Salaran. She knew the blast radius was about 15 feet, but she still wanted to be as far away as possible.
Please don’t just blitz her, I thought.
“What is this to…” Salaran partially asked as she just stood in place staring down at the grenade until it went off.
A cloud of smoke encompassed the street, the immediate sounds I heard following the explosion being a loud groan from Salaran, and a large crash.
When the smoke cleared, I finally pushed through the back pain and stood up. The thing that sounded like a crash? An actual crash. The explosion had sent the car flying into the side of a brick building.
The next thing I looked to see, moving closer to get a better look, was that Shay was okay, and thankfully she was, having completely gotten out of the blast radius in time.
Unfortunately, Salaran had seemingly been just as unaffected by the explosion as we had been. She was dirty, blown up street pavement having gotten all over her, but she didn’t appear wounded in the slightest, and she was still standing tall.
“You have got to be kidding me!” I shouted, learning that apparently, vampires were more durable than killer androids.
Turning to me, she snarled. She was no longer “empty”. She was pissed.
“Huh. Guess it did hurt her a bit,” I muttered.
“Malcolm, run!” Shay cried.
Yeah, that’s probably a good idea, I thought.
Of course, before I could run more than a few feet, a now angry Salaran quickly reached me, standing right over me.
“I have no idea why my master, blessed be he, cares so much for your species.”
“Really, Smog cares about humans?” I chuckled, partially out of fear. “Somehow I find that hard to believe.”
Not going down without a fight, I grabbed my billy club and swung it at her neck, only for my arm to be easily caught by Salaran mid swing.
Salaran then picked me up by the arm, only to swing me over her head and slam me down on the pavement, the club being thrown out of my hand.
“AHHH!” I screamed, my back being fucked up even more, and my skull feeling like it had gotten cracked a bit…AGAIN!
“My master is brilliant, but I still don’t understand why he felt it necessary to waste his time with the likes of you.”
“Must be…” I paused. “…my winning attitude,” I mocked.
Growling, her fangs got even longer than they already had, and plunged them down toward my neck.
For a second, I really thought I was finished. Fortunately, I had a kickass girlfriend.
Having been running toward us since Salaran rushed over to me, Shay arrived to pull my ass out of the fire, kicking one of Salaran’s large fangs before she could drink from me.
Hissing, seemingly in genuine pain, Salaran jumped back, retracting her fangs, and seemingly as a result, transforming back to her original appearance.
“You know, I was just hoping that would hurt a little and distract you,” Shay said smugly. “I didn’t realize those huge fans were freaking video game style weak points.” I swear if we live through today, her ego, admittedly deservedly, is going to become larger than Raina’s. “You alright babe?” she asked, offering me a hand and helping me up.
“Might need to patch up my head when we’re done here, but I’m good.”
Salaran was hunched over slightly. Maybe it was just the kick, but given her respective reactions to the previous assaults, I’d say the gunfire and explosion had also done their part in hurting and weakening her.
“You mortals have wasted my master’s time…and now you’re wasting my time!”
Salaran, while still fast, was significantly slower than she was in her larger form. So, when she rushed us this time, Shay was more than able to react in time. Rather than shoot her though, since we were in close range, Shay rose her arm and blasted Salaran in the face with the pepper spray blaster mounted on her face.
Salaran once again appearing in real agony, she covered her eyes with her hands. While she was no doubt less durable in this form than her more hulkish one, I had the feeling the capsaicin in pepper spray would have affected her eyes the same way.
Wait, why did I know what the active ingredient in pepper spray was?
“You ready to stand aside?” I asked, just wanting to get to Smog already.
“I can’t lose to mortals,” she grunted, moving backward and moving her hands away from her red eyes, showing that some of her skin had been burned. “Can’t disappoint the master…can’t listen to Gordon talk about it…”
Shay, without hesitation, shot Salaran a few more times while she was standing still.
“Mortal bitch!” Salaran screamed, the bullets having actually gone into her, but to little effect.
“I got this!” Shay screamed, shoving me aside.
The Hell, Shay?
Salaran threw a punch at Shay, and the instant she did, she was now playing Shay’s game. The vampire had shown to be able to block a kick from Shay, but Shay just as easily could avoid Salaran. She’d trained herself to dodge bullets, and especially in her current form, Salaran wasn’t matching the speed of one. Throw in the fact that we’d hurt her and gotten her riled up, and Salaran was just gonna keep making moves which didn’t land until Shay found the right moment to strike.
As expected, a few moments of dodging later, Shay, who’d kept her desert eagles in her hands this entire time, took advantage of an overextended punch made by an exasperated Salaran by getting in close, right in her face, and shooting out both of her eyes with a single bullet from each gun, leaving only two holes in their place.
I really tried to hold onto the idea that Shay and I were the ultimate duo, but it really did feel sometimes like the gap between us was massive. Especially considering everything she’d been doing here, she’d been doing with injuries.
“Damn you!” Salaran shouted, leaping back about 10 feet.
“I’ve never been shot in my eyes,” I said. “But I have had my damn arm chopped off. Shouldn’t you be howling in pain right now?”
“Don’t compare an injury I sustain to one your weak mortal body has,” she said.
“For such weak mortals, we seem to be doing a pretty solid job kicking your ass,” Shay replied.
“You can’t kill me,” she whispered, lowering her head and clenching her fists. “You think I can’t fight blind?! What kind of servant would I be if I couldn’t?”
“An evil one who just aided in the murder of all the people in this vicinity,” Shay answered with great seriousness. “And we may not know how to kill you, but I’m sure we can figure it out.”
Seeing that she was about to attack again, I put my arm in front of Shay.
Shay looked confused, and Salaran was slowly backing up, a sneer on her face.
“What are you doing?” Shay asked.
Putting my arm down, I whispered into Shay’s ear.
“Look, you made the wrong call about Smog’s plans being about you. We take her out and head in there with no knowledge of what’s going on, and Smog is going to kill us easily. Let’s see what we can find out from her.”
Before Shay could respond, Salaran spoke.
“The fairy tales your people have concocted about my race are mostly false, and downright offensive…but we do have excellent hearing.” She paused. “And I can assure you, you will not be hearing anything from me that will assist in you defeating my master.”
Shay and I exchanged concerned looks, and turned our attention to Salaran.
“Then tell us about yourself,” I said in desperation. I was not about to go into CIty Hall with zero information I could use. Regardless of what we had to say or do, I was getting some info out of her.
“Why would I tell you mortals anything?”
I nodded to Shay, implying that I knew what I was doing.
It was time to put some theories together.
“Because your “master” is inside City Hall, I don’t see Gordon anywhere, and with the beating you’ve taken, I doubt you’re in any condition to just speed off.” Some people would find it freaky talking to someone with no eyes. Me? I’d been doing that for as long as I could remember. “Speaking of Gordon, I don’t have much experience with the guy, but from what I hear, he’s a pretty nice guy. And honestly? Aside from the whole trying to kill us thing, you don’t seem too bad yourself.”
“I do not need compliments from mortals,” she replied.
“Of course you don’t,” I said, moving away from Shay and closer to Salaran. “You said that Smog cares about humanity. Now I’m still having trouble seeing how that’s possible, but…well, I’ve seen what true evil looks like. The bastards I’ve killed for 14 years, those people your crowd saved us from at the docks last week, Adam, demons. I’m not an amazing judge of character, but as my sister would have said, you and Gordon don’t seem to have red auras. You don’t need compliments from me, because you only need them from your master. Because the only way I see you two working for that bastard, and no I don’t care what you think about me calling Smog a bastard, especially when you outright stated that you don’t understand his motives, is if he took actions to make your lives better in some way, maybe even completely change them. And because of that, you’re willing to do anything he asks, especially if it means getting praise.”
I was ranting. We’d all been tossing around ideas about Smog and his cronies for months. It was time to get some facts.
And from Salaran’s shaking body and the biting of her lip, they seemed to be coming.
“The ignorance of humans is truly disgusting,” Salaran responded in a way I didn’t expect. “Demons? Evil?! No entire race is the same. You mortals may all be worthless, but I can see your differences.” She snorted. “The “evil” demons you encountered were merely mindless. The fate of any mortal who becomes a low-level demon.”
Shay donning a concerned look as a I did so, I moved even closer to Salaran, not giving her any room to breathe.
“Your smell is putrid,” Salaran said.
“And you’re deflecting,” I replied. “You focused on the demon comment because you didn’t want to respond to the rest of what I said. My sisters do the same thing all the time. So,” I whispered in her ear. “How much of the rest was I right about?”
“Fuck!” I shouted as Salaran once again picked me up and slammed me on the ground.
Two gunshots courtesy of Shay later, and Salaran was, finally, down on the ground, as well.
“Bad move bitch,” Shay said, coming over to where we were and stomping on Salaran’s neck.“Now if you don’t want to go through an immense amount of pain in the process, I recommend you just tell us how to kill you.”
“Shay, stop,” I groaned. “Salaran! Answer me! Answer me and we’ll be done with you!”
Shay and I both turned our heads to her. And breathing heavily, she finally cracked.
“He made my life worth living,” she started, shivering. “Non-mortals may not make mindless assumptions, but there’s still a structure of class. And in Hell, vampires are near the very bottom. Don’t be complete fools; my master stands for everything that is heinous and wrong. But if not for him, I would either be a slave, or dead in a fire pit. He made something out of me. And for that, I will do whatever he desires.”
Pushing myself up with my arm this time, I stood up.
“Thanks, I said, slowly walking over to Shay.
“Do not thank me,” she replied. “Knowing why I serve my master will not save you.”
I smirked at her, even though she couldn’t see my face, and I began walking away. Shay followed, looking rather pissed.
“I’m surprised I have to ask you this, but why aren’t we killing her?”
“We still don’t know how,” I answered. “Bad enough we have to fight Smog, I don’t really want to fight Smog after he’s been kept waiting.” The way we were moving, Shay was directing us toward the M16 she’d thrown down. “Don’t worry, I’m not forgiving her for the deaths she’s at fault for. But…we’ll deal with her another time.”
“I guess,” Shay said, displeased.
Truth be told, I felt bad for her. She’d killed innocent people, but so had other people I’d once called friends. And in her case, it was her only option. Just like killing people who deserved it had been something I felt I didn’t have a choice about once upon a time.
We required all of our still functioning equipment, mostly in silence. Neither of us was talking much partially because we disagreed about leaving Salaran alive, partially because it was really starting to get to us that we really were about to take on Smog, although I did have slightly more confidence thanks to the information I’d gotten, and partially just because that fight had been exhausting.
And once we had everything, we finally made our way toward City Hall.
“It’s a pity,” Salaran said as we passed her.
“What?” Shay asked.
“Without my sight, the scent of your souls is even more clear to me. They’re strong. Under other circumstances, perhaps one of you could have been of interest to my master.” She paused. “Now go face your deaths.”
Taking a deep breath, I said, “Let’s go.”
Shay nodded, and together, we made our way up the staircase, and into the building where we’d likely meet our ends.