"Fangs" for the Cab Ride

October 10, 2018:

Blade and Moon Knight take on a nest of vampires.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions:

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

In the dead of night, a faded yellow taxi roars down a stretch of highway just north of the city proper.

The cab shudders as it approaches a section of road blocked off by a combination of jersey barriers and weighted barrels.

"So, ah, you sure this is the right way to go?" the cabbie asks, sniffing as he glances out of the corner of his eye into the rearview mirror. "I'm /pretty/ sure this stuff's there to keep people out."

A sign is suddenly made visible by the cab's headlights: REST STOP 1/2 MILE AHEAD. But that's sloppily spray-painted over with another message.

CLOSED
CONDEMNED
GO AWAY

*

The car is in the shop.

Blade's Charger is as old as he is. It's a hell of a machine, with many years of love and attention and hard use. And it's that latter quality which has landed his favorite ride in the shop, beyond even Whistler's skill to fix.

So, a phone call. To a man who is and is not his friend, taking him to a part of town where even the cops don't go unless in force.

"Here," Blade says. It's the first word he's said in twenty minutes. "Pull over."

Nothing more needs saying. The vehicle stops, and Blade exits the yellow cab, tugging his duster close and looking at the abandoned hospital.

He pauses, then turns around and leans down, looking at the cabbie from behind dark sunglasses.

"Go home," he says. "This place isn't safe for a cabbie. There are things… in the shadows. Hungry for human flesh."

He thumps his fist on the hood of the cab, once, and turns back to the imposing ediface. Black sunglasses, black gloves, black trenchcoat. He clings to the night, and starts walking towards the side door of the hospital. A man prepared to take on an nest of vampires on his own, if he has to.

Because he'd never admit that deep down, he'd vastly prefer the backup of a knight of Khonshu.

*

The driver brings his cab to a stop. He pivots around, one arm hugging the head rest of the passenger seat as he looks at his passenger.

"Look, don't get me wrong, I'll hack for anybody, anytime," the cabbie says. "But I gotta tell you—it ain't safe for /any/ body, I hear. Truckers and all talk, cabbies talk. Even those prick Uber drivers talk from time to time."

He squints and smoothes out his mustache. "You know those scary stories about lengths o' road where the dead haunt travelers? Well, this is one. Guys that don't fear for /nothin'/ have turned down fares this way. People disappear. Why—"

The cabbie frowns as he realizes he's been talking to himself for an indeterminate amount of time. He looks around, taking in his surroundings as if it's a new sight. "Jake," he mutters quietly. "What the hell have you gotten me into…?"

Up ahead, the rest stop beckons. A few cars dot the parking lot, but any sense of maintenance has long since been abandoned. All signs point to a half-finished, if even started, renovation.

Almost all signs, at least. There are others—like the blacked-out windows, barricaded doorways, and the smell of sour staleness that doesn't at all resemble an atmosphere of unchecked wilderness in the area.

*

Blade disappears into the shadows of long-neglected foliage. Trees, bushes. Grass given way to weeds, shrubs overrun by twisting vines. This is not a place where people live. Humans, with a sense of order and neatness. Tidy grass, manicured lawns, plastic garden dividers. The things that humanity does to nature to force it into lockstep.

For all their faults, fangs are ruthlessly egalitarian. The strong survive. The weak perish. Blade purses his lips.

Time for the strong to edge out some competition. He moves to the corner of the main wing, examining an old water drainage pipe. Fingers clasp the rusty metal and he surges up the side of the building with a scrambling of black combat boots, one hand barely adhering to the pipe for leverage. He's on the roof in a trifling, crouching on the low retaining wall like a gargoyle and priming a silver stake in his hand, ready to fling consecrated metal into the heart of anything that challenges him.

*

Something stirs in the building below Blade. It's nearly silent, but such a creature cannot completely hide itself from its own kind.

A pair of smoldering red eyes appear in the darkness of the rest stop, punctuated by the hiss of a wary creature.

The silhouettes of other shapes can be discerned amid the shadows, but a much more noticeable shape appears outside the main entrance—to no small extent because it is an easily recognizable all-white form visible even through the blacked out windows.

The white figure crouches there, as if listening for something.

In that silence, the red eyes grow wide and then race toward the windows and the shape just beyond, the movement inhumanly fast.

*

Blade bares his teeth at the white shadow a few floors down from his position. They make an interesting dichotomy; the black-clad hunter with sable skin versus the ghost in white who stalks the undead.

An intersting dichotomy, and a very effective team.

Blade drops off the rooftop and lands near an open window on the uppermost of the four stories, casually slipping into the nest. Vampires are not filthy scavengers like ghouls, at least, but the stench of their sweat fills his nostrils.

The hunter prowls out of the room and into the hallway, clinging to the darkness and moving with absolutely silent bootsteps on the linoleum. In one hand, a stake. In the other, a suppressed machine pistol, silver bullets pressed to the throat of the barrel's chamber. Ready to ash the flesh of whatever hapless fang stumbles into his path.

*

There are threeno, four!creatures living here. Stirring, at least.

The vampires' nest is a mess, ruined and rotting remnants of the rest stop's former purpose abounding, but it also has some sense of order to it. The place is clearly arranged like a home with a space for two adults and two children.

And that's what's taking place here, with two smaller creatures momentarily obscured into one.

One of the adults suddenly appears, solidifying from an unsubstantial mist to the shape of a middle-aged man who might at one time have been slightly overweight but is now a gaunt echo. His eyes are red, his teeth sharp. He bares his teeth and lunges at Blade, but his eyes appear almost sad. "Feeeeeed!" he croaks out.

Meanwhile, there's a crash of glass as the rushing shape seen before bursts outside to attack the figure in white.

Moon Knight is bowled over backwards by the feral figure clawing at his mask and neck, its strong jaws chomping into the air just centimeters from his veins.

"Damn—it!" the white-clad vigilante spits out while grappling with his opponent, who appears to be just old enough for puberty to begin setting in. Her strength, speed, and sharp fangs suggest something else.

*

Blade drops down a half a floor, into an open window. He breaks the safety hinge and lets himself into the building, boots silent as a whisper on the ground. One hand comes up with his automatic pistol in hand; the other, holding a silver stake in an icepick grip.

Vampires. Top of the food chain, most of the time. But not tonight.

No, tonight, there are Hunters about.

Two of them.

Blade spots one of the fangs looking down at Moon Knight, back turned to him. Hissing. Hungry, enjoying the spectacle of its family circling Khonshu's advocate and hassling with speed and strength and fang.

Blade's silver stakes rips through the skull, causing it to violently and soundless combust into nothing but ashen bones.

Rather casually, Blade sticks his arm out the window and fires a burst of silver-tipped ammunition down near Mook Knight. Nothing hits the warrior, of course— Blade's aim is too good. But it perforates the chest cavity of one of the vampires in mid-leap for Moon Knight's back, six bullets traversing a gap the size of a man's fist.

"Are you done dancing down there?" Blade demands of Moon Knight, his tone hinting at insult.

*

In the middle of a right cross meant to knock his assailant unconscious, Moon Knight finds himself swinging through a disintegrating cloud of ash.

He tenses, maintaining a defensive stance, before looking up to Blade. "I was reading the situation," he responds tersely. "Not all of us want to just stab first and investigate later."

When nothing else springs out at him for a moment, Moon Knight steps toward the shattered window through which his child-sized assailant had leapt.

"There's got to be at least one more in there," he says, his voice going flat in tone. "You didn't find a gang of adolescents infesting this place, did you? No," Khonshu's agent adds, shaking his head. "This is more like a family vacation gone wrong."

He stares into the darkness of the building. "But I bet you don't care about any of that, anyway. Even if not … I do."

*

Blade slides down the side of the building. It's too smooth to be believed, hands and toes pausing just long enough to catch a ledge here, windowsill there. No human could have done it. Four stories in four seconds, just shy of freefalling entirely off the edge of the building.

"Care all you want," Blade tells Moon Knight. He stands in front of the white ghost, eyes unreadable, lower lip jutted out in the sole expression of rage he feels at the thought of vampires. "Fang's a fang. Teenagers," he hisses. "No control. No discipline. Horny. Imagine all that plus the Thirst."

"Ghosted one fang on the top floor. Figure at least four or five kids. Maybe the matriarch. Hope you brought enough silver," he says, drawing out the last word with a fierce, humorless grin for Moon Knight.

*

The knight nods slowly, his head tilting at a slight angle. "I'm your huckleberry, don't worry." He slips a hand behind himself and retrieves a silver crescent-shaped throwing dart.

"Still feels like there's something we'reI'mmissing," Moon Knight continues.

"Yeah," a voice says from a far corner of the shadows within the buildling. It's a male voice on the verge of breaking. "You pieces of crap have taken. Them. Away. From. ME!"

A teenage boy in ragged clothes snarls, the ends of his fingers twisted into massive claws.

"I /had/ them! I wasn't alone anymore." The boy's form grows, and he leans forward on extended arms with numerous joints, his face extending into a bat-like snout. "Matriarch!" he scoffs. "If only. But you've ruined it—all of it."

Moon Knight responds by whipping his dart at the 'boy', catching him in the shoulder. The scream that resounds throughout the rest stop is less a recognizably human one than a cacophony of bestial shrieks and howls.

The boy-beast flips onto the ceiling and sprints toward the duo.

*

"Yeah," Blade exhales, at Moon Knight's admission. He glances at MK sidelong, head tilting just enough for a glimmer of brown eyes behind the dark lenses. "They're suckheads. Don't overthinink it."

He dodges sideways, his SMG clattering with a *thubutthubba* of bullets that stick pockets across the ceiling just ahead of the boy-beast. Blade never stops moving, holstering the pistol under his jacket and flickering the katana on his back into his grip. And with good timing, too, as another high-school aged vampire lunges at him, her face twisted with fangs and rage. Seems the teenage boy is doing more than turning a few allies— he's incubating a full-fledged coven.

Which is fine with Blade. They'll sample the edge of his silver-coated katana.

*

The bounding creature on the ceiling deftly twists and dodges, scrambling toward a wall and out of the way of Blade's weaponry. Another pair of minions, a couple that appear college-aged, materialize from the shadows and lurch forward, clearly hungry but also moving in a more herky-jerky fashion than the smoother agility of the nest leader.

At the sight of more vampires, Moon Knight leaps into action just a step behind Blade. Three more throwing darts appear in his hand before being flung backhanded at the couple. One dart slashes the male vampire's eyes; another embeds itself in the female vampire's throat; and the third ricochets into a wall.

With his other hand, Moon Knight holds out a truncheon and points its end at the angry bat-thing. A grappling hook and line explode from the truncheon with a *PAFFF* sound. Unfazed, its target swats the hook away with deadly speed as it dives, claws and fangs extended, at Blade while he's preoccupied with the high-schooler.

*

Blade never stops moving. His katana whips through the air in an endless series of defensive slashings, forming a barricade of steel and silver. The silver blade goes snicker-snack and the target lunging at him loses a hand at the forearm and a leg at the knee, sending him to the ground in a squealing fit of rage. The lost limbs hit the ground and bounce wetly, already ashing themselves.

"You're slowing down, Moon Knight," Blade remarks. He bares his teeth in a slow, feral grin at Marc, even as he slahes a vampire to ribbons with a zatoichi grip on his katan's hilt. Silver stakes appear in his off-hand, driven so deep into a vampire's gut that it's pinned to the wall as it screeches with inhuman pain.

"Maybe we can find some zombies after this. Something slow. Stupid. Easier to put back in the ground," he suggests, slyly.

*

The white mask covering Moon Knight's face scrunches a bit, the eyes narrowing.

"Just because you enjoy killing them doesn't mean I /do/," he replies, stepping slowly toward - but not entirely close to - the pinned bloodsucker.

"I am charged with protecting travelers of the night. Vampires certainly fit that description … even if they also threaten others in need of protection." Moon Knight turns to retrieve his darts from where the now-disintegrated creatures had fallen.

"It would be nice, I think, for all circumstances to be as black-and-white as the two of us." He turns to look at the central space in the rest stop for a long moment and then nods. "Yes, of course. Exactly."

Moon Knight looks back to Blade. "Think it's safe to say this rest stop will now only be plagued by the eternal shortage of TP and air freshener that threaten all rest stops?"

*

"Black and white. That's funny," Blade says, in a deadpan tone that suggest that it falls into the vast category of things Blade Doesn't Find Funny. Which, in fairness, is much larger than the shortlist of things that he finds amusing.

"Fangs -make- it black and white," Blade says. His katana's flicked clean of ash and blood, wiped once in the crook of his duster's elbow, and flickers back into the scabbard on his back. "There's no redeeming them. Once they give in to the Thirst, they're gone. Over the edge," he hisses, in his sibiliant, low basso. He steps closer to Moon Knight, a fearless predator closing to witihn arm's reach. "Vampires don't travel the night. They prey on the weak and defenseless. They're animals," he says, drawing out the last consonant. "Does Khonshu expect you to resist putting down a rabid dog?"

*

In contrast to Blade, Moon Knight suddenly throws his head back and laughs sharply. "Ahh …" he says as he catches his breath. "Here I'd thought the general consensus was that I /was/ Khonshu's rabid dog."

Moon Knight looks to the disaster that is the room. "Maybe I'm just hopeful that I shouldn't live in fear the way the vampires need to." He shrugs slowly. "You're right, though - there's no redeeming them. They forfeited any security when they began to feed on the living. Khonshu does not need to perform Thoth's work for him."

"So," he continues, "what's next on the schedule for tonight's traveler-protection itinerary?"

*

Blade's sunglasse turn towards Moon Knight, permitting no expression past them. "Shouldn't be afraid of becoming one," Blade suggests. "Be afraid of what I will do if I discover you've crossed that line."

"Rabid dogs…. bite the hand that feeds them. Guard dogs bite the fools who cross onto the wrong property. Be a guard dog. Protect the mortals. Don't spare intruders your bite."

"I think we're done for the night. Fangs will need a bucket for the ash left behind. Now," he says, reaching into his duster—

— and producing a cell phone. "You know a good cabbie? Or do I need to Uber home?"

*

Moon Knight stares at Blade silently for several beats before he opens his mouth to respond.

"You know … I think I might have seen one a ways back, just off the highway shoulder. Must have been hoping for a solid tip that never came. Why don't you stay here a spell," the masked man continues, "and this rabid dog'll go hunt him down."

Not waiting for a reply, Moon Knight jogs off into the night.

It's not long after when the headlights of a familiar taxi approach, casting light across the span of the vampires' nest.

"Who loves ya, baby?" Jake the cabbie calls from his rolled-down window, sweat beading his brow. "Got a ride for you pre-paid by …" He coughs awkwardly, adding, "… a friend."

*

Blade's lips press into a thin line. Moon Knight is an unquestionable -effective- ally. A potent and powerful warrior and blessed by a lesser deity with immense power as an avatar of Khonshu.

But the crapshoot of trying to deal with Marc Spector's multiple personalities is equally exhausting, and Blade touches gloved fingertips to his lowered brow in a momentary expression of consternation.

When the cab pulls around, Blade has his back to it, fiddling with a butane lighter. The blue tongue of flame flicks to life, holding place as Blade presses it into service, and he half-turns to look over his shoulder with deliberate scorn at 'Jake's' casual greeting.

Blade tosses the butane lighter through a window. Flames lick the room inside almost immediately, and then acclerants start the fire racing through the halls. The corpses of victim and half-bloods alike will be as much as as the vampires themselves, come morning.

Blade moves to the cab, opens the back door, and drops into the seat. "The docks," he grunts at Marc— and goes still as a statue as the cab pulls away. Saying nothing, not blinking, barely breahting, hidden behind his sunglasses until the cab pulls up near the dock district and Blade exits the vehicle without so much as a 'catch you later'.

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