A Shade of Vampire 30: A Game of Risk (8 page)

Lawrence

I
need
to get bitten myself.

That’s the only way I can witness the antidote firsthand
.

If they would administer the “freezing” and then the cure to that scientist, I was sure that they would administer it to me to save my life. If my father was around, would he object? Would he rather me turn than know of its existence? He had no reason to suspect that I was a threat to its secrecy, like my mother was. But maybe he would fear this apple hadn’t fallen far from the tree. Maybe he would still object. Or maybe he wouldn’t. But the trick was to not have him around. To create an emergency situation where the scientists in that lab had to make a judgment call. Treat me, or watch me turn.

A chill ran down my spine. The thought of voluntarily getting mauled by one of those things was utterly terrifying. Willingly subjecting myself to their razor-sharp fangs…

But at this point in the game, there was no way to move forward without taking risks. Big risks. I had to make sacrifices if I ever wanted to reach Grace in time.

I sped with the mutant back to the IBSI’s headquarters. After securing Jez back in the pen, I hurried back to my room. I suspected that my father was still in his office. Maybe he had not even received my voicemail yet. As planned, I had not been gone long.

Now, I needed to think. Think harder than I ever had before. In order for me to stand a chance of succeeding in this, I had to plan it through carefully. The setup had to be exactly right—a single mistake could send it all crashing down and in the worst case, I’d end up, ironically, exactly like Grace. Only my turning would be far more swift. I was not half fae.

I spent the next half hour pacing up and down my apartment, even grabbing a sheet of paper and a pen to organize my thoughts. Once I felt at least semi-confident that I had a working scheme, I tore up and flushed the paper before leaving my apartment again and knocking on my father’s door.

When he answered, he was not on the phone.

“Come eat with me,” he said. “You hungry? How did the shooting go?”

“Not hungry, thanks. Shooting went okay.”

I should’ve been hungry by now—and I would be on a normal day, had I not had so much weighing down my mind. Ever since I’d woken up from the coma, I had been eating like a pig.

We headed to his dining room. He pulled up his chair and continued to dig into his meal, while I sat next to him, pouring myself a glass of water.

“I’m getting tired of the same old shooting environments within the compound,” I told him. “I need new challenges. I would like to venture out to the other side of the wall—into Bloodless territory—to gain more experience in a real-life situation.”

He stopped chewing for a moment, his gaze passing over my face. Then, to my surprise, he merely shrugged. “All right,” he said. “If you want… How will you get over there?”

“I guess I’ll take a mutant,” I said casually.

He shrugged again, busying himself with his food.

Well, this part had been easier than I’d thought it might be. Apparently he thought challenging myself was a good idea.

The only reason that I was asking for “permission” in the first place was to keep his trust. Because of what I had planned once I returned to that part of the city, he would, sooner or later, find out that I’d been there.

I sat with him for a couple more minutes, just to make my leave less abrupt, before rising to my feet.

“You should be back before dark, though,” he said. “And don’t go venturing too far. Stay near the border.”

Oops. That was a request that I couldn’t exactly acquiesce to. I would have to tell him that I’d gotten carried away and lost track of how far I was going…

I left the apartment and returned to my own to pick up two sharp knives, which I strapped to my belt along with the guns, before heading out of the building. I returned to the mutants’ compound and located Jez.

“Hello again,” I murmured, as I climbed aboard him and we lifted into the sky.

My nerves built up within me as we soared over the IBSI’s walls and sped toward the lab. We had some time to kill. It would look too fishy if I headed right for the lab after my father had specifically advised I stay close to base. I had to make it look like I’d started out close but gotten carried away.

We wandered for about an hour, me letting off the occasional gunshot, until finally it was time to get down to business.

We flew to the lab compound and landed on the road outside. Wiping a sheen of sweat from my brow, I glanced up and down the road, scanning for any Bloodless that might be around. The best thing would be to wait for one to come roaming this way naturally. In spite of the danger the IBSI posed to them, one would have thought that, being animalistic creatures, it would be hard to avoid the temptation of hanging out near an area where there was a constant presence of warm human blood.

I led Jez beneath the entrance of an old warehouse. There we waited, half cast in shadow.

We weren’t waiting long. I soon caught sight of a group of three Bloodless heading our way. I supposed I’d been standing still for long enough to attract their supernatural senses to me.

My breathing came hard and fast.
Wow. I can’t believe I’m doing this.
I felt even crazier than Grace.

Their dark eyes flashed beneath the streetlights and settled eerily on me. I could see the sides of their shriveled mouths glistening—saliva.

Jez immediately made to launch at them, but I held him back. He needed to take out two of them, but one I needed to keep for myself. Jez’s penchant for the large Bloodless would work in my favor this time. Of the three Bloodless loping our way, one was noticeably shorter than the others; in fact, it might have even been a female. Once I gave the mutant the go-ahead, he would shoot straight for the larger ones.

A few seconds before they were upon us, I slapped Jez’s back. He rushed forward and dug his left talon into the tallest, leading Bloodless, while he gripped the second in his right. He was about to snap at the short female with his beak, but I drew her away in time. I began to dart down the street toward the gate of the compound, yelling at the top of my lungs:

“Help! Help!”

It was hardly difficult to infuse panic into my tone.

I could run fast, so fast it made me feel dizzy at times, which meant that I at least had some time to play around a bit and wait for exactly the right moment…

The door to the lab creaked open.

Now. This was it.

I stopped playing chase with the Bloodless and flung myself against the gates protecting the lab. A woman with a gun was rushing toward me, but before she reached me, cold hands gripped my shoulders hard. A clammy body pressed against the back of me, hauling itself upward, and then an icy wet mouth found its spot in the tender flesh of my neck. I felt two sharp punctures, painful like knives, which quickly dug deeper into my flesh and began to suck. The Bloodless’ mouth made a stomach-churning slurping sound close to my ear as she began to drink from me.

The hunter moving toward me stalled momentarily in shock before yelling at the top of her lungs, “Another attack! Enforcements here now!” She added in an undertone, “Jeez, two in the space of a few hours.”

I had never seen this hunter before. I wondered if she even knew who I was.

I guessed she must have immediately assumed I was not a convict, that I was not from around these parts, due to the way I was dressed. Otherwise she should have no reason to concern herself over the loss of an inmate’s life. At least from the brief summary Grace had given me of this place, unless you were an IBSI member, it was a dog-eat-dog world. Every man for his own.

She moved closer and began firing a gun at the Bloodless. She reached the gates, her bullets whizzing past my ear. More hunters arrived quickly, even as my pain intensified. My body felt like it might go into shock from the horrifyingly foreign sensation of the Bloodless’ teeth beneath my flesh.

They opened the gates, causing the Bloodless to pause sucking momentarily. Then it pulled its teeth out of me and leapt toward one of them, greedy for another neck before it had even finished with the first one.

The strange flying blade machine had been brought out again, and as I looked up in a daze, it whizzed over me, toward the Bloodless.

I was surprised when the Bloodless, on spotting the wheel, instantly backed away. Heck, she turned on her heel and fled in the opposite direction. I was sure that was the first time I’d ever witnessed a Bloodless flee—usually when it came to human blood, even in the face of danger, they couldn’t help but still walk right into it.

I didn’t have much time to ponder the matter, however, as faces appeared above me. The hunters gathered around me. They gripped different parts of my body, picked me up and hurried me across the yard and into the lab.

“Thank God it’s just Lawrence,” one of them said, with an audible sigh of relief.

I furrowed my brows.
Just Lawrence?
What was that supposed to mean?

We moved through the lab’s entrance. The doors clanged shut behind me.

“You’re going to be okay,” one of the women said in a soft tone. “You’re going to be okay.”

Fluorescent lighting blared overhead. A palm pressed down against my forehead, and less than a minute later, I was being planted down on some kind of cool, hard surface. A metal tabletop.

“You need to help me,” I breathed, exaggerating my pain. In truth, now that the fangs were pulled out of me, the agony wasn’t nearly as much. “I’m not going to turn, am I?”

To my further surprise, the other hunters who had carried me here wandered off, leaving me with just two of the women. “No, no.” The woman smiled—Dr Finnegan, according to her badge. “Don’t worry. You’re not going to turn.”

What is happening?

She reached into a drawer and withdrew some cotton wipes and antiseptic. She wet the cotton and, tilting my head to one side, pressed down against my bite marks. My breath hitched, my whole body tensing. They stung like hell.

She held the cotton over the puncture wounds for a few seconds longer to absorb the blood. Then, after drying the bites, she retrieved some Band-Aids and began to apply them.

“What are you doing?” I couldn’t help but gasp.

“Just treating your wounds,” she said calmly.

“But the thing bit me! It bit me in the neck!”

I motioned to sit up in my panic, but the women gripped my shoulders and simply pushed me back down.

“We can see that,” the second woman—Dr. Norton—said. “But as Dr. Finnegan said, you’re going to be fine. Just lie back and relax. The shock will wear off.”

I refused to sit back. I forced myself upright again and glared at the women. “I was just
bitten
,” I said, trying to steady my uneven voice. “How can you tell me that I’m going to be fine?”

The women exchanged uncertain glances.

As Dr. Finnegan looked back at me, she heaved a sigh. “I… I’m not sure that I have permission to explain.”

“Permission to
explain
?” I repeated, my temper rising. “Why do you need permission? I’m Atticus Conway’s son, dammit!”

She swallowed. Another second passed before she said, “Okay. Let me call your father.”

Great
. That was exactly what I had wanted to avoid. They had obviously been briefed by him that information given to me was to be censored.

She withdrew a phone from her pocket and dialed my father’s number. It was just my luck that he wasn’t on another call at this exact moment.

“Mr. Conway,” she said. “We have a, uh, situation down here in the lab. It’s your son. He just suffered an attack from a Bloodless. He was bitten in the neck. Oh, don’t worry. We’ve got him here. He’s sitting right in front of me as we speak.” Her eyes roamed me furtively. “Yes, he’s all right. But he’s confused about how we can be so sure that he won’t turn.”

There was a pause.

“You want to speak to him?” Dr. Finnegan went on. “Okay. I’ll pass him on to you.”

She handed me the phone. I cleared my throat before saying, “Dad?”

“Lawrence, what the hell?”

“Yeah,” I murmured, “I’m sorry. I meant to stay near the wall but I got carried away during the shooting. I was following a large group and with both them and me traveling at supernatural speed, I lost track of the distance.”

“How did you get yourself bitten?”

“I got off the mutant,” I said. “I wanted to practice shooting from the ground. One of them came at me from behind while I wasn’t paying enough attention and, well, neither I nor the mutant noticed in time. It was a stupid mistake.”

“A moronic mistake. First thing you learnt in Bloodless combat is never to leave your back uncovered. You should have been backed up against a wall or something else solid and high—”

“Yes, I know. But it’s done; what’s happening now?” I pressed. “Why is everyone saying I’m going to be all right? Shouldn’t I be turning?”

My brows were knotted in confusion.

My father heaved a sigh—the same type of resigned sigh that Dr. Finnegan had let out a couple of minutes earlier.

“Dammit,” he hissed. “I’ve got another call coming in. Look, Lawrence. Pass me on to Finnegan again quickly. I’ll give her permission to explain what’s happened.”

Why did she not have permission to begin with?

I handed the cellphone back to Finnegan. Placing it to her ear, she said, “Yes?” She nodded. “Okay. Okay. I’ll explain.”

With that, she hung up.

Dr. Norton wandered off while Dr. Finnegan pulled up a chair and sat down. Her demeanor was calm as ever, as though she were conducting a general health check rather than addressing someone who should have just contracted the most insidious disease known to man.

“Well,” she began, crossing her legs, “as you know, you have undergone a special procedure. You are different from everyone else, Lawrence.”

I stared at her.
How could I be so different as to be immune to the Bloodless disease?

“How, exactly, am I different?” I breathed.

“Because of the new drug you were a—successful—test subject for. As you have witnessed yourself, it has the ability to turn a human into a strengthened being almost bordering on the supernatural. You can run fast, almost as fast as a Bloodless. When you get hurt or cut, you heal fast…”

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