Darkness sat upon the land as a mother hen, incubating secrets. Under feathered shadow, unseen things crawled through sandy fields and shuffled through the dust of a farmhouse, all in ruin. Silence reigned here, for life did not.
Unblinking eyes watched this place. Eyes that hated the light and pierced the black. Moved by an animal intelligence that knew only the desire to feed. And the desire to find something upon which to feed.
A faint sound came out of the distance, and the hungry eyes moved towards the source. But they waited, for the sound grew in volume and proximity. A beacon of light shone from a far hill, sparkled, then dropped to illuminate the ruin of a roadway, potholed and cracked. The light sped along and the noise followed it, a faint crackling roaring.
As it approached, the eyes saw the motorcycle weave effortlessly between hazards. They saw the rider, a lith figure, armored in black leather. They saw the red lifeblood which pumped constantly through her veins. Their wait was over. A thing upon which to feed had finally arrived.
Braking slowly, Niijima Makoto brought her motorcycle to a soft stop. The engine rumbled quietly, but in this quiet place, it seemed to echo. Her crimson eyes roved the darkness, but the shadows here were deep, and she could discern nothing amidst this derelict farmstead.
A slight sound, barely audible. Her head whipped to its source, her short black hair whipping around under the armor of her visored helmet. Her revolver was out in an instant. But only the night could be seen down its barrel. Not wavering in her aim, Makoto’s left hand moved to the console of her motorcycle and flipped a switch. Searing blue light emitted from the sides of the vehicle, chasing away the darkness from a large radius of the surrounding land. Objecting screeches of pain roared up all around her.
She now saw her gun was aiming at a hunched, deformed figure, wincing before the light, trying to hide its eyes. It was a gross approximation of a human being. It was what Makoto was here for. She pulled the trigger.
Red fire burst from the barrel of her revolver. The chosen creature exploded into several pieces. Then Makoto’s smoking weapon sought more targets, more flinching figures shuffling desperately away from her motorcycle’s harsh illumination.
KOOM KOOM KOOM KOOM KOOM
Blood and flesh rained softly onto dust and sand. Dead things thrashed in the dirt, dying a final death. But her gun was now empty, and the land was not. The blue light flickered, went out- the motorcycle’s headlamp again the single candle in the night.
Red eyes glowed around her in the darkness. The screeching turned to heavy, slobbery breathing. Feet stamped heavily upon the earth, approaching fast.
Makoto moved her left foot from the brake to her custom foot throttle. Her motorcycle shot forward into the night. Her hips steered the vehicle skillfully. Her right hand spun her revolver, popped the cylinder, dropped the empty shells- raised the gun to her armor’s shoulder pads. The leather was lined with hexagonal patterns of vaguely sharp cylinders. She pressed the now empty revolver cylinder to one of these and it detached from her armor, bullets feeding seamlessly into the chambers. A flick of her wrist and the cylinder snapped back into the weapon. Her shoulder pads now displayed one less hexagonal pattern. Meanwhile, her left hand snatched a flare from a saddlebag, ignited it, dropped it behind her.
She twisted her body. Raised the reloaded gun. The red flame bounced into the darkness behind her. Dark shapes were following, running, clawed hands desperately reaching, fanged mouths slavering.
KOOM KOOM KOOM KOOM KOOM KOOM
She sped away from the flare’s pool of light, now filled with corpses. She spun her revolver again, flicked open the cylinder, dropped the shells-
A dark shape leaped from the darkness and struck her in the side. Something leathery and sharp flailed against her, pushing her over, biting at her neck, but tangling in her chainmail scarf. Makoto’s hips locked instinctively on her motorcycle so it tipped over with her- its long pegs protecting Makoto’s legs from being crushed between it and the ground and she skidded to a stop in the dirt.
The snarling crawling thing was still on her, her empty gun still in her right hand. She brought up her left hand, twisted her wrist in a practiced motion, long blades extended from her gauntlet. She stabbed them into the attacking thing. It screeched. Black blood flowed. It weakened. She flung it from her, back into the darkness.
She stood beside her fallen cycle. Calmly, she lifted her gun, filled it with another hexagon of shells from her shoulder pad. Flicked it closed. Feet were approaching. Many feet.
Makoto walked to stand in the middle of the headlamp light. She waited. Gun extended in her right arm. Her left gauntlet blade out, ready, idle at her side.
A creature leaped out of the dark on the right. Her revolver snapped to it.
It twisted in the air was dead before it fell.
Now a creature from the left. Makoto let it scurry close, then she jabbed forward with her left fist, impaling the creature’s neck. It gurgled. She jerked her left arm and pulled the blades in a spray of black ichor.
Another from the left. The revolver moved over.
That one was propelled back into the dark by the bullet.
The night was silent and still. Smoke drifted from the barrel of Makoto’s revolver. She heard no more footsteps. No more growls. Was that the last? No. Soft feet approached. Just one left. Makoto raised her revolver and waited for it.
A small child wandered into the light. A girl. Maybe five or six. Eyes wide. Mouth open. Her black hair in disarray around her head. Makoto froze, then removed her finger from the trigger. The child stepped forward on soft feet, wide-eyes staring. Makoto looked to the child’s neck. The two dots were there, She was marked. She was one of them. Makoto’s finger returned to the trigger. The thing that looked like a child bared her fangs, couched, leaped.
The child disintegrated in a hail of tracer rounds, transforming into a mass of meat and dark, dark red blood. The ruin of a body fell to the dirt. Motionless.
Makoto lowered her revolver, unfired. She turned to the source of the bullets.
Niijima Sae lowered her chaingun, the barrel still spinning to a stop, multi-muzzles smoking. She lifted the visor of her armored helmet, eyes as crimson as Makoto’s glowed angrily in the dark.
“What the hell are you doing, Makoto? Why did you hesitate?’
“I’m sorry, sis. It- it looked like a child. I thought-”
“You thought?” snapped Sae. Her eyes narrowed. Disgust plainly visible there.
Makoto’s mouth shut with a click of teeth.
Niijima Sae leaned forward on her motorcycle, her white hair spilling out of her helmet and over her shoulders. “What is there to think about? It was clearly one of them. You should have just killed it!” She sighed in frustration. Looked away. Looked back. “I can’t even trust you to handle one pod of vamp slaves!”
Bending over to the side, Sae reattached her chaingun to her cycle. Then she straightened up and glared again, eyes burning into Makoto’s.
“Right now, you’re useless to me.”
Makoto felt her heart skip. Her eyes burned. Watered. She looked down, not wanting to see Sae’s look of contempt.
She heard Sae sigh. “Sorry. That was uncalled for.”
An awkward silence. Makoto swallowed down the tightness in her throat.
“I’m just really tired...Let’s head back to town.”
Sae started up her motorcycle. Turned it around. She looked over her shoulder at Makoto. “I won’t take you hunting anymore. You need to concentrate on your studies.”
She accelerated away, leaving Makoto standing alone in the dark.