Morning came. Eventually. And the first priority was getting back to Songbird. It was decided that Luisa would lead them back the right way, while Tanya and Felipe would make their way back to the museum. The sun was bright overhead as the group stepped out.
“We’ve got maybe six hours of full sunlight,” said Luisa. “Maybe. The vamps won’t come out during the day, but don’t get too close to any dark nooks and crannies. They’re not above lunging out and dragging you off.”
She was carrying a backpack, loaded with a first aid kit, some bottled water, and a number of melee weapons.
“You’ve got guns, that’ll make things easier,” she continued. “But shoot carefully. If you don’t make a kill shot, they won’t stop. We don’t think they feel pain.”
Mari walked alongside Luisa, who was a little scrap of a thing. “How long has this been happening?”
“About a year,” she said. “It all fell apart about eight months ago though. The first four, people were stll trying to cure and capture them. Then we figured out they weren’t worth saving.”
“I’m so sorry,” said Zane, slumping a bit. Luisa just shrugged.
“We made peace a long time ago that nobody’s coming to get us,” said Luisa. “So now it’s us or them. There’s a lot more of them, but we’re scrappy. And they don’t turn other people, before you ask.”
“Your friend is right,” she said to Mari. “They’re vampires, not zombies. If they’re after you, it’s your blood they want.”
“They’re not getting our blood,” said Jayna, as she surveyed the ruined city. It looked like it had been a seriously tacky locale, once upon a time.
“That’s the spirit,” said Luisa. “We’re hoping that if we hold out long enough, they’ll just start eating each-other.”
“Has that ever happened?” Mari asked.
Luisa snorted. “Chica, you look smarter than that. C’mon,” she said, and started picking up the pace.
She led them back down the streets. As the place had one been a tourist destination, they were at least laid out in an orderly way. Occasionally, Luisa would stop them, and poke into a dilapidated restaurant or convienence store, scrounging for supplies.
Mari was the first to see the ship still in the middle of the courtyard they had crashed in. It looked about as intact as it was going to look. There was no sign of Ash, so hopefully he was still inside.
Jayna made for the ship immediately.
She banged on the door. The speaker next to it crackled.
“Go away!” called Ash “I probably taste like soot and lubricant!”
“Ash, it’s us!” said Jayna.
The door opened up. Ash was standing by it, with a gun in one hand and a length of pipe in the other. By the looks of things, he’d barely slept.
“Mari does not get to pick where we land anyone,” he said, slowly and deliberately.
Mari nodded. “Fair.”
Ash rubbed a hand over his forehead. “What the heck is happening out here. What the hell was… was all that last night?”
“Vampires,” said Zane.
Ash looked at Zane. Then he looked expectantly over to Jayna.
“Vampires,” confirmed Jayna.
Ash sighed. “Vampire cataclysm planet. That’s a new one.” He went back into the ship, and grabbed a couple things. “I need to see what’s wrong with the ship. How many hours do we have?”
Maybe another five hours,” said Luisa, pushing to the fore. “Nice boat you got here. Little dinged up, but aside from that.”
“You have six hours of daylight and twelve hours of night?” Jayna asked, looking back to her.
Luisa smiled grimly. “Wait a few days, we’ll have even less.”
“This place just keeps getting better,” said Ash, beckoning them in. “Are you going to tell me that it rains nails and snows flesh-eating bacteria, next?”
“Not since I’ve been here, but wouldn’t surprise me,” said Luisa, looking around. “So what’s she packing downstairs?”
He looked her over for a moment and she gave him a look back. “C’mon. Seeing is better than hearing.”
The group was led down into the engine room. Luisa looked around and let out a whistle. “Holy crap,” she said. “Look at that engine! Looks like a T-250 shell, but… did you rebuild the guts from scratch?”
Ash couldn’t help but beam. “Maybe,” he said, putting the flood lights on so there was enough light to work.
She darted away from Ash, marveling at all of the work he did. He turned back to the rest of the crew.
“I like this one,” he said. “Nice to meet someone who actually appreciates what I do down here. Who is she, anyway?”
“One of the survivors. She’s the one that went screaming off into the distance. Apparently she was bait and we should’ve stayed on the ship,” Mari replied.
Ash just grumbled at this. “The good news is, it’s not as bad as it looks,” he said. “There was a power surge or something that engaged the engine’s emergency shutdown. A lot of the damage will be easy enough to repair, but the power cells for the heat shields are completely fried, they’ll have to be replaced.”
“So you’re stuck here for another three days then,” Luisa said, looking up at him. “Takes that long for them to fully adjust to the system on a boat this old.”
“Songbird is not old,” Ash snapped.
“Sorry, would you prefer ‘vintage’?” said Luisa, rolling her eyes.
Jayna put a hand on Ash’s chest, holding him back. “Ash, dear, we need her,” he said.
“If I can get some replacement cells in half-decent condition,” he said evenly, “then I can have the heat-sheilds fully charged in sixteen hours. If that.”
Luisa looked around. “Sure, let me just drive you down the highway to the shipyards. I think they’re over there, hidden behind that pile of corpses,” Luisa said.
“Time out a sec,” said Zane, stepping between them. “We’re all feeling a little frazzled right now, okay?”
He turned to Luisa. “Can you think of anywhere we might be able to find some parts?”
Luisa sighed. “I can find what you need if you give me a spec list, but I don’t want you guys following–a lot of the places where I could maybe find that stuff will be overrun.”
“Nope,” said Ash. “Not happening. I wouldn’t even want Zane alone doing something like this, and he’s at least as scary as a vampire sometimes. No offense.”
“None taken,” said Zane cheerily.
“And time we spend arguing over this is wasting sunlight,” added Jayna.
Luisa looked at them for a moment, and shook her head. “There’s an old auto shop near the museum, but a hive took it over a month ago. There’s still lots of stuff in there, but who knows how many of them are in there right now. If we don’t die, we should have enough time to get you back here to start the process and get back to the museum before sunset.” Luisa said.
“Best get going then,” she said. “Jayna, do you still have the plasma rifle you took off the scrappers?”
She shook her head. “Sold it,” she said. “Didn’t think we’d need it.”
Ash chuckled. “I can’t say I can blame you for not anticipating this scenario.”
Luisa looked at the four of them for a minute. “Mechanic dude… do you have more of those coverals that can fit the others? You shouldn’t have any loose clothing on that they can grab onto.”
Ash nodded. “I go through them like you wouldn’t believe,” said Ash. “But I don’t have anything that’ll fit Jayna.”
“I’ll wear my workout clothes,” she said with a shrug.
Five minutes later, the crew was being hustled by Luisa. She always looked up at the sun and stayed into the sunny areas. Her eyes would flit about and occasionally she would beckon them to give a wide berth to certain buildings.
Mari was staying with the ship this time, the logic being that they wanted her to be intact enough to tape them back together if need be.
“Down this way,” said Luisa, gesturing. “The best way to tell what buildings to avoid is to look for the ones with covered windows. Ground’s too hard to dig basements, so that’s the only way they can avoid daylight.”
Ash looked around. “I can’t believe they just left you guys here.”
Luisa shrugged. “There’s not a lot of us,” she said. “The world’s not important. No resources, no industries.”
She didn’t seem especially emotional about it. She said it matter-of-factly.
Ash frowned, looking at the girl, and then back at the buildings. “You’re important.” he said after a few moments.
Luisa didn’t reply. “Here. The bottom and the top windows are taped over… not a good sign. We need to find another way in.
“Do these things sleep?” said Jayna, looking the building over.
“Dunno,” said Luisa. “But their senses are so sharp that sneaking around them is pointless anyway.”
“So how do you sneak around them?” Mari asked.
“Hope that they’re not there,” Luisa said. “If we get caught we’re totally sunk.”
“I’ll take point,” said Zane, unholstering his weapon. “I’m sneaky.”
He approached the nearest door and looked it over. “Doesn’t look like anybody’s been through this way in awhile,” he said, pushing it open.
As he pushed it open, he heard, nothing. What he saw? That was a bit worse.
Dormant may have been a good word. They were stacked up, wedged in tightand their eyes were shut tight. They seemed to breathe, silently as one unit, making the whole room seem to sway slightly.
Jayna paled considerably, taking a step back.
Zane looked them over, considering. “I have a plan,” he said. “It’s a really, really dumb plan.”
“I’m all ears,” Luisa said softly.
He turned to Ash. “What do you need to make something that goes boom in a hurry?”
“I’d need to find a garden store. I can get everything i need there.”
“There’s a hardware place about three blocks east of here,” said Luisa. “We took most of the tools but there should be something left.
“Show me,” said Ash. “I might be able to make something work.”
Luisa nodded. “You guys, stay here, try and keep out of sight… make sure they don’t wake up,” she said with a nod.
Half an hour later, the crew was pushing some old bags of fertilizer, mixed with some other components, up against the walls of the building.
“Hopefully once we let some light in, the vampires’ll be disoriented enough for us to get in, get the goods and get out,” said Zane.
“Hopefully?” said Luisa. Zane shrugged.
Ash moved carefully, setting a couple of bags down at each corner of the building and then in a few other key spaces. He poured what looked like some sort of bug repellant in between and then motioned for everyone to move back. “Zane. How much ammo do you have?” he asked, before pulling out a lighter.
“Twelve shots per magazine, one in the gun, three replacement magazines,” said Zane.
Ash did some math in his head, and then took away one of the bags and propped it somewhere else.
“I don’t think that’s going to be enough,” Luisa said worriedly. “What if you miss some?”
“I won’t,” said Zane, nodding. “Don’t worry.”
“You can’t just-” she started.
“Trust me,” said Ash. “He won’t.”
Ash shooed everyone else off, gave Zane a nod, and then knelt down with his lighter. The flame caught on the trail he made, and then he booked it up the hill.
Zane had placed them on the thinnet parts of the walls, in places where he was pretty sure there were no load-bearers. The walls blew inward, and the afternoon sun filled the building.
A chorus of shrieks rang out from within.
Luisa froze as three dozen of the wraiths poured out of the building, screaming and wailing at the top of their lungs.
Their skin started to turn red and blotchy almost soon as the sunlight hit it.
“Now’s our chance!” said Zane, lifting up his gun and putting down a vampire that hadn’t quite been completely disabled. “I’ll cover you, just move!”
Ash wasn’t as fast as he used to be, not yet at least, but he still leapt into action faster than Mari thought he could.
He ducked in after Luisa who beckoned him up to the second level. He scrabbled up behind her and they started pouring through the piles, looking for anything useful.
It was in reasonable condition, which gave them some measure of hope, but there was a lot of it and whoever organized it… well, Ash was sure that they had a system.
“Back here,” said Luisa. “There’s a closet. It’s locked.”
Ash reached up and used all of his strength to kick the door at doorknob height.
The door broke apart, and there were some shelves lined with the good stuff. Much more expensive and valuable items.
There was also a vampire.
Ash had no idea how it had gotten locked in the closet, but it didn’t look happy about it.
The vampire turned to look at them both and charged for Luisa, hissing. Ash got a clean shot off and it collapsed in front of the girl. She let out a breath and took a step back. “Find what you need, quick. We don’t need to wake up another nest.”
The consistant hisses and growls in the background were starting to get louder.
The power cells were, thankfully, easy enough to find. Ash took as many as he could carry, passing one over to Luisa.
Luisa tucked it into her bag, and started heading for the exit. She made it out of the door and stumbled over the twelve or fifteen corpses that had accumulated while they were out.
More of them were coming out of side doors, smelling the fresh meat. One of them took a swipe at Luisa. She swung her bag and clocked it in the head.
Ash pulled her away from the vampires just in time.
Zane was crouched down low, his eyes keen as he took out any vampire that got within a few meters of him. Clean shot, right between their eyes, each time.
“I got seventeen of them,” said Zane. He fired another shot off, right over Ash’s shoulder. “Eightteen. But they keep coming. They won’t come right into the sunlight but some of them are really pushing it.”
“We got what we need. Let’s move deeper into the sunlight.”
The lot of them retreated, going too far into the light for even the gutsiest of vampires. The ones that remained in the shade glared at them, hissing and baring their teeth.
Ash panted, kneeling down for a moment and watched the building. “How many people lived on Oxomo before this happened?”
“Maybe a couple thousand in Paraiso alone,” said Luisa, panting heavily. “Every day, we thank whoever’s listening that it was the off-season. If we had to contend with infected tourists too, we’d have been overrun in a week.”
“Swell,” said Ash. “Come on, let’s get back to the ship.”