Empire of Blood
By J.A. Nichole
Genre: M/M dark erotic romance, thriller, fantasy
Themes: Paranormal creatures, incubus, werewolf, futuristic agency, Stockholm Syndrome, brainwashing, medical testing, revenge, old/young
Warning: This book contains adult content that might be considered taboo. Strong language, violence, and graphic sex. Reader discretion is advised. Because this is a work in progress, this warning is subject to change.
It was the fifth shot that finally brought the beast down, the M16 configured for its “divine” purpose releasing a round into the swiftly fleeing target, where it lodged and exploded into the back of the runner, bringing them down with finality to the forest floor.
Jackson swung his leg over his rumbling cruiser and dismounted, rifle held up at the ready, and approached the fallen target: a male vampire of dubious age, lean, though unfit. The gnarled crunch of gravel beneath Jackson’s boots was the only sound in the wooded area, the wildlife surrounding them falling as silent as church mice, the disruption heavy in their habitat.
When the vampire began to crawl away from Jackson, using all limbs in an unsightly attempt to flee, he stopped just before the site. There was no use in drawing out the moment he took no pleasure from—the kill was just routine—so he swung his weapon, bringing his rifle back into position to finish the job.
It was then that the paranormal must have sensed the frailty of the passing moments while he was still in existence, and the vampire twisted to look over his shoulder, his eyes already wide and shaped with the panic that pleaded his case, begging Jackson to refrain from his next act. To a less desensitized mind, his pleas might have moved someone to hesitate.
“Please!” the vampire cried, stuttering in his last call for mercy, “D-Don’t do this! Why would you do this?! You’re one of us!”
Jackson aimed his weapon.
“You’re lupine! I can smell it! Whatever the PCA has promised you, it’s all lies, you can’t possibly trust them! YOU’VE SEEN WHAT THEY’VE DONE TO US!” The last was shouted in an incredulous demand, filled with cold years of hate and rage towards the organization Jackson served.
Jackson’s finger posed over the trigger.
“Why?” the vampire asked in a whisper this time, finally seeming to recognize that every utterance to breach through Jackson’s barrier was a lost cause. He accepted death with the frustrated question.
Jackson pulled the trigger, the shot slicing through the silent air like a crack of thunder on a prairie, and the vampire was no more.
“Ten points,” Jackson murmured, finally giving the now-deceased vampire the answer to his final query.
With his target terminated, Jackson raised his wrist to input some buttons on his task-watch, a device he wore that served as a number of tools during his field runs. Now, it scanned the area, confirming the vampire dead, and therefore holding the digital judgment of marking his task complete. He’d finished his current assignment. He watched with dull eyes as the soulless ‘congratulations’ flashed across the screen as he was applauded by lights on a screen for the job’s completion. Well done, the inanimate praise seemed to say. Good dog.
Gritting his teeth at the mockery, he waited for his task point number to display. Finally, the number appeared, added to it the PCA-issued points he had received for the completion of today’s mission. 115,320 was his new number. 84,680 more points to go. It would be about another twenty years until he could raise those points.
And then he would be free.
Jackson tapped a few more times on the screen to send a message to the clean-up crew that their services were necessary to collect the body of the fallen vampire.
Just as he was about to jump back on his cruiser and head back to PCA headquarters, Jackson’s wrist vibrated with a new notification. By the rhythm in which it vibrated, he knew that it was the task-watch was picking up the vis, demonic energy, of another paranormal close by.
Frowning, he raised his watch to investigate. What he saw had him on instant-alert. It flashed with a standard warning that another paranormal was, in fact, close. What stupefied him was the buzzing multitude of the incoming notifications. His task-watch was detecting not just one, but many, sending off different signals for each. Vampires. Witches. Werewolves.
Jackson whipped around, his rifle shifting swiftly at the ready. Was he surrounded? Had he walked into a trap? How could he have missed a swarm?
Yet there was nothing. The forest didn’t make a sound.
The hairs on the back of his neck stood at attention. Being a werewolf and therefore a being able to detect other vis within the air, he sniffed in search of the new presences that must be approaching him in multitude. Whatever he detected made his nose burn.
Somehow, despite the readings on his task-watch, he knew that whatever was there, there was just one.
Something ancient. Something awful.
With razor eyes he scanned the trees, sharply tracing over every falling leaf, the dull tones of the forest revealing nothing to him.
The task-watch buzzed a new rhythm, signaling an incoming call. Eyes still narrowed on his surroundings, he tapped to answer.
“This is Base Twelve,” said Vicky, his control-center operator that managed his missions, announced through the speakers. “Agent Jackson, you need to vacate the area immediately. We detected something on satellite. Something big. You need to get out of there.”
Jackson frowned at the device, his suspicions about the new turn of events growing in their intensity as his mind scrambled through theories of who or what could be lurking in the bowels of the forest. Never in his twenty-five years of service to the PCA, had they ever called him back from a mission. His role was plunging forward on the frontlines.
To call him back suggested a severity that perhaps the PCA was unsure of how to handle the mystery force, if they were willing to call back their disposable field agents and recuperate.
It suggested the PCA feared something, and never had they feared anything.
“What is it?” Jackson demanded, instead of confirming he was, in fact, heading back to base as had been advised.
“It’s…” There was a pause, as one would pause to sort out a tangled bit of delicate information that they themselves did not entirely believe. “It’s not something you can handle, Jackson.”
“Not good enough, V.”
“...We sent out drone vis tests with 99.9% accuracy readings, better than your task-watch, and from those readings we have reasons to believe that a succubus is in Cherryroot National Forest. Really damn close to you, Jackson.” Jackson didn’t miss the shrill, panicked edge to her voice that was so rare in her line of work.
Jackson started, staring wide-eyed at the device on his wrist.
That couldn’t be right. It would be a first, but the readings had to be wrong. The suggestion was far too improbable to come even close to the truth.
Incubi and succubi. The demons at the axle of all sins, mothers and fathers of the horrors that walked today's Earth. Before humanity came into consciousness, it was fabled that gods and monsters roamed the Earth and dubbed it home, demons claiming the land and making it their paradise. Each religion, folktale, and history book had a different account of how the divine and the infernal were no more. The Gods went away and the demons were banished to hell, to await the sinners, some said. They fell to the power of humanity, others said.
But the myths and stories were simply that: stories. Many said that there was not enough evidence that they truly ever existed, like any great tale that met its maker in the passage of time, fading truths that warped and skewed until the idea that something so other as a demon ever lived was a radical idea, only mused upon by the most imaginative of mind, or children.
No evidence, save for the existence of the paranormal of today.
It was theorized in whispers that any vampire, werewolf, witch, or other lesser being obtaining vis were simply weaker makings of the great, ancient demons, the succubi and incubi. All carried traits from the powerful ancestors, yet those traits were watered-down, diminished compared to what was mythed to be the power of a succubus or incubus.
Still not entirely sure he believed the claim, as Vicky herself sounded that she did not, Jackson finally responded. “How many?”
“What?” came the static confusion.
“How many points, V?”
Vicky paused, as though puzzling Jackson’s question. Finally, “No, no, no. Pft. Ha. You cannot be serious, Agent Jackson!”
“PCA is going to make the mistake of sending out a dozen human field agents in the next half hour. PCA wants to keep complaining about how they’re constantly losing resources, they’re about to throw their precious resources out the window when those field agents are signaled to be dead. I’m better than all of them. So tell me. How many points?”
Vicky made a groaning, exasperated growl that sounded entirely too lupine for her thin human vocal chords, and then Jackson heard typing.
“I just messaged the director. He said 10,000 task points may be issued upon completion of terminating the succubus,” she said reluctantly.
Jackson let out a low whistle.
“Guess I’m on my way, then. Mission received,” Jackson said.