Tension flooded the world. They were calling it the Terrorist Wars, no large battle front like the wars of the past, just continual skirmishes. These battles were much more random and much closer to home. No longer were they as close as the weeknight news, these wars came right through the living room in shards of broken glass.
Everyone seemed to be on edge, never really sure when the next bomb would go off or the next atrocity hit. Past battles, failing attempts at peace, more fighting, it was all starting to blur as the world heaved from one wave of violence and fear to the next. Many times in the past, humanity had fought each other in ways too horrible to believe, but now it seemed they fought, not only each other, but the very world they lived upon. Things were changing and the world was a more unfriendly place because of it.
Lisa strode rapidly through the streets, head down, lost in her thoughts, her coat drawn tightly around her. In that, she was no different from the dozens of others eager to find the safety of their homes after a long day. Hidden in a tightly clenched hand in her pocket as something that would have marked her as very different indeed had any of the others on the street ever known she carried it. But they didn't look twice, too caught up in their everyday lives. Besides, this was not the sort of town where you met other people's eyes. You never knew what you would see.
There were times Lisa wandered through the humans and wondered just how much she could get away with now. In the far distant past, her people had walked on earth without worrying about hiding. Their actions had filled history with legends of werewolves, vampires, mermaids, and all sorts of others. Although she could change into those forms, and she had to admit, anyone can get carried away at times, she had found the stories a little amusing and sometimes scary. Now her people hid from humans because, to be frank, they thought of far worse things to do then her people ever could. They had turned them into horrors and that was perhaps the most frightening part of being near the humans. Their monsters were worse. She was alien, two hearts, different colour blood, the ability to read minds and shapeshift but she wasn't an undead horror that spent the centuries manipulating minds to do her bidding. She smirked, to be fair though, she did know one or two of the ruling Council that fitted that description. Not undead, but definitely cold. They must have been reading too many of the human's fables.
Cutting through an alley near her destination, she smelt the danger just a little too late. Lifting her head, she saw a shadow flit past. And another. She steeled herself for an attack. One good thing about this crueller world, it was less friendly for the bad guys too. There was no one watching this alley. No one would care if there was a scream or two. She gave a slow, wicked grin.
"Look, a rich bitch. You wearing all that makeup for us sweetheart?"
Lisa cursed under her breath. In her haste to get home with her precious bundle she must have been less careful than normal. Her skin was too pale to really pass for human, she normally wore a fine layer of makeup. It must not be applied properly for them to spot it in this dim light. Or perhaps it was the perfume. It was unusual for humans to trust their sense of smell that much.
"You're right, she must be rich to go to that fag's shop all the time."
Good, she gave a satisfied nod, it was not the makeup, just the perceived money that went with the makeup. They saw the mask not the disguise. They had been watching her, or more to the point, Themah's shop. They must have followed her from there. It was not haste that had caught her but a planned attack. Alarms sounded in her head. It was strange that they would attack now of all nights. They must be after her prize. To the right people, it was worth more than diamonds or gold. But who would use mere humans? There must be more to this.
Every sense alert, she flicked her coat back, "Shall we get on with it? I have places to be with company much more desirable than you."
There were hoots as two more young men stepped from the shadows. The first voice spoke again, "Told you, watch a rich man's shop, and you get rich pickings. Get her!"
Claws sliding into place, she crouched to meet the attack. There were six of them now, all armed with various weapons. They never stood a chance. Taking the fight to them, she went for those with pistols first. Mere knives and chains would have no effect against mental shields honed to protect from the hail storms of Shayton. Slitting one throat, she hurled the body into the path of a bullet. As it danced from the muffled impact of a silenced shot, she leapt for the arm behind the pistol. One smooth cut cleaved it free. A scream sounded, silenced as her claw found its throat.
Another scream, a thud. A muffled thump and a wet sound. Someone sliding to the ground. A soft sigh of escaping breath, followed by a curse, a gunshot, shattering of bone and another scream, swiftly silenced.
Lisa strode out of the alleyway dragging one barely conscious form and licking the red blood splatter from the back of her hand. Hanging the grey faced man from a fire escape with one of the chains used to attack her, Lisa leaned close. "Tell me, why me and why tonight?" Reaching into his mind, she forced through the fear of dying, the frantic attempts to gasp for breath and stole through his mind. There, right at the back, the answer she was looking for. She found a fear of filthy gays, old terror at past attacks becoming new revenge. Too scared to attack directly, he decided on the indirect. Take out their customers and the dreaded fags would leave the area. Tonight had been his first attempt to get rid of them. He had struck because she was a woman. She could not be one of those filthy gays.
A sound caused Lisa to turn snarling towards the newcomer. Spotting the pale face, she relaxed. Themah stepped from the shadows hands open. She nodded acceptance that he could come closer and turned back to the slowly throttling man. She spoke over her shoulder to the intruder, "Following me uncle?"
"Truthfully, I smelt the blood and heard the screams. I was going to play Good Samaritan. If the area is not safe, people will not flock to buy my beautiful suits."
Lisa nodded, "Apparently, that is exactly what he had in mind."
"Not after the package?"
Lisa shook her head, "Not that I can find, though someone may have planted the idea."
Themah strode closer. Lisa felt his mind brush past hers into the mind of the throttling man. "If they did, it is hidden well."
Lisa nodded. That would mean a being of great power if they could hide their interference from both of them. Still, she had many enemies of great power. Or maybe both Themah and her were just paranoid.
Themah grinned, "Is it paranoia if they really are out to get you?" Lisa laughed and Themah took the chance to scan her quickly. Lisa let him with no more comment than a raised eyebrow. She wondered how many centuries she would have to live before her uncle would stop worrying as if she was an unnamed child.
He shrugged unrepentant. "You best be going. It took a great deal of effort to bring you that little bauble. You need to get it home. Say hello from me."
"I will." Turning on her heel, she returned to her previous fast walk towards home. Behind her, she felt Themah leave. The dangling man still hung from the fire escape as a sign to all. As the man slowly became a body, he swung like an old fashioned wooden sign. The purpling face gave a clear, carrying warning - attacking patrons of the local tailors was a real bad idea. She smiled, licking her lips as she walked, she loved clear messages.
At last Lisa was at the right building and paused briefly at the door to fit her card into the lock and key off the alarm. She fought the urge to flick her head out of the way as a red beam strobed out at eye level. Instead she looked directly into the beam. The body corporate had fitted the new recognition security device after the latest spate of attacks had forced any building still secure to make the extra effort to stay that way.
Finally past the security, she let herself into the building and headed up the stairs. Reaching apartment 3A, she fitted her card to that lock too. Opening the door, she was brought to a sudden halt by the chain. Well, at least that meant someone was home. Closing the door again, she summoned a mental picture of the lock inside and exerted the slight telekinetic pressure it took to lift the chain free of its holder. Then she was free to open the door and stride in, locking the door behind her and sliding the chain back home. Not that it would really stop anyone, but precious seconds always helped in an attack.
Removing the small box from her pocket, she placed it carefully on a side table. With a sinuous movement that seemed to lift free the weight that had been pulling down her shoulders, she stretched.
Divesting herself of her voluminous coat, she hung it in the nearby closet. She must remember to get it dry cleaned. Tony always berated her when she came home with blood on her clothes. He never could understand that claws and fangs were to be used. Perhaps it was because he was human. They really did not have any claws or fangs to mention. Maybe this is why they did not use the ones they had as instinctively as her own people. Still, if he was a shaytonian, he would not taste near as nice.
She returned for her box. Cupping it almost reverentially, she headed for the dining table. His head in a book, a man walked into the room. He looked up with a smile, "Oh, hello love, I thought I heard you come in." Nodding at his words, Lisa smiled fondly at him, though still exasperated by the fact that he had neither a hint of self-preservation nor the proper respect for books. Still she would forgive him almost anything. Hair greying, he was still handsome, with the olive skin, trim body and the deep brown eyes that had first drawn her to him. His accent still held traces of his schooling in England, even as his colouring told of his Italian heritage. But it was the title of the book in his hands that tugged at her heart. Who read Crowley while dressed in comfy tracksuit pants and a "Hug a bat" t-shirt bought from a carnie stall? He was that rare lover of both passion and quiet which explained more than anything else why they were still together after so many years. And why she had braved the home going crowds to bring him her present. She carefully removed the book from his hands, taking care to mark his place with a bookmark before turning back to kiss him thoroughly.
Eventually he pulled back to grin down at her, "So I take it that means you got it?"
Lisa nodded and led him towards the couch. Once he was seated to her satisfaction, she retrieved the box and curled in beside him. Easing the lid open, she allowed him to reach inside and lift the crystal free from its velvet bed.
Spinning on its purple ribbon, the crystal caught the sun and threw it back in dozens of perfect rainbows. "Beautiful" he breathed his awe.
Lisa silently agreed while she eased something else from the box. "Well Tony Quintos, shall we make it work?"
Tony laughed, "By all means, let's. After all, it's been uppermost in your mind for over a month now."
Ducking her head in acknowledgment of the gentle jibe, she lifted a delicate needle of silver. Pricking her finger, she allowed a single drop of blood to form before turning her finger slightly. As the blood hit the crystal, it absorbed into the stone, turning the clear facets a smoky purple. "Your turn." She handed Tony the needle.
His nose wrinkled in distaste, "Why is it that everything with your people involves blood?"
"Because we are not people. How is it that after eighty years sleeping with a vampire, you are still squeamish about a little blood?"
Tony shrugged, "How come you are allowed to say the 'v' word. I always get hit." He parroted the often heard phrase, "Vampiric not vampires."
"Because I am allowed, now stop stalling and get with the bleeding."
Tony laughed, "You know I hear that a lot from you. Maybe we should try for a more enjoyable form of bloodletting." Reaching for her, Tony tried to steal a kiss.
Refusing to rise to the bait, Lisa merely pointed at the needle. Sighing, Tony pricked his finger and allowed a drop of red to mix into the crystal. After a moment, it cleared and Lisa leant forward, delight in her eyes, "Kalib?"
A young man's face showed in the crystal. His features were not as clear as the crystal normally showed. Nor were his emotions available the way they normally would be. That told how far away he was if nothing else. Still, you could see his long, dark, russet hair framing the sharp, handsome features and pale skin with the slight purplish tinge that looked like a cold human but told those that knew that he was shaytonian. "Hi guys. How's life in the fast lane?"
Tony laughed, "All the better for hearing the only other member of this family that can actually use a contraction."
Kalib grinned dropping his voice to a deep boom, "Coming to you from across the dimensional divide, it is the great and powerful Kalib Mara, English speaker extraordinaire."
Lisa snorted, "You sound like your father when you say things like that."
Kalib looked shocked, "Imagine that."
Tony's laugh sounded over the top of whatever Lisa was going to reply, "It's good to hear your voice grandson mine. We've missed you."
"And I you, but I have learned heaps, so it was worth it." Kalib's face fell a little when he realised the grey in Tony's hair was not due to the failings in the crystal, "But perhaps I should come home..." he trailed off.
Tony shook his head, "No, you are doing good work, you should stay out there."
Lisa hit Tony's arm, "Do not dare Kalib. You can always go out again. Come home and be with your family for a while."
Kalib gave a knowing smile, "As you wish grandmother dear. I will see you soon."
The crystal faded and Tony turned to Lisa. "Why bring him all the way back here?"
Lisa plucked the crystal from his hands, returned it to its box, nestled the needle beside it and very deliberately closed the lid. Rising gracefully from the lounge, her eyes hunted around the room for a suitable place to store the box. Reaching up beside a series of framed pictures on a shelf, she placed it in front of a picture of a beaming Kalib, aged nine and a half and holding a fish almost as large as himself.
Turning, she floated back towards Tony. Draping herself over him, she kissed her way along his jaw line until she could draw his lip into her teeth. Letting him roll his lip free of her bite, she looked into his eyes. "I am going to lose you my love, as are they. We will need each other to say goodbye in the way you deserve."
Tony hugged her closer, burying his face in her hair, "I'm not good with this sort of thing."
"No one is my own, but this will be the first person Kalib has loved and lost since his mother. As she died on the very day he was born, I would count you as his first. I would not have him alone while he grieves."
Tony shrugged off his discomfort with a kiss. "Well, I'm not dead yet as they say. What say we go out for dinner?"
Lisa's nose wrinkled, "I hate going out now. Everyone is so gloomy."
"As opposed to you talking about funerals."
"I was not talking about funerals, I was talking about death."
"Oh, I sit corrected," his teasing voice was accompanied by the tickle of fingers up her back. She squirmed as he found the spot where she was most sensitive.
Drawing her shirt off in one smooth movement, she ran a finger around the collar of his t-shirt, "Perhaps I could tempt you to eat in. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say on."
Tony's eyes widened, "Any idea what is on the menu?"
Lisa gave a slow, wicked grin, "I was thinking Lisa and cream."
"Hmm, my favourite dish."