Night fell. It was quiet. Suspiciously quiet.
Everyone who could hold a weapon was camped out in the front foyer, waiting and watching. Zane and Ash had helped anyone with a basic knowledge of how to use a firearm on how best to use one, while Luisa helped some others improvise further weaponry. Jayna helped shore up the barricades, and Mari stood by with whatever medical supplies she could muster. Which, at this point, consisted of tape, bandages made from old souvenir t-shirts, and lots of high-proof alcohol.
Ash and Luisa were sitting up on the top floor, looking through the grimy windows and sighing. “It just doesn’t make sense,” he murmured. “I know they brought down our ships, but I don’t know how. I can think of a few ways to do it, but you guys don’t have the resources in this sort of situation to make one of those possible.”
“Couldn’t tell you,” said Luisa, shrugging. She was keeping watch, but it was all quiet so far. “But does it really matter?”
Ash nodded. “Yeah. If we don’t figure it out, what’s to stop them from crashing our ticket out of here?”
Luisa paused, her features shifting as she considered that.
“Mierda,” she said, shaking her head. “Got any theories, then, flyboy?”
He looked down at the rough map he’d sketched out. Between Luisa and some of the other scouts, Zane and him had been trying to figure out if there was a pattern to how they… swarmed. Zane had been onto something, they had been strategically penning them in for months. “Where are the utility buildings? Or at least, where did they used to be?”
“Tanya’ll probably know that,” said Luisa. She whistled the older woman over, and she took a look at the map.
“This plant here,” said Tanya, marking one out on the map, “that’s basically the core of Paraiso’s power grid. Everything else is connected to it. Whole grid runs on a fusion generator. We’re cut off from it, but as far as I know, it’s still operational. It would take more people and more hours than we have to get us back on the grid.”
Ash shook his head. “I don’t want to get you back on the grid. I need to get you off of it. This museum has its own backup generators. You don’t need it. But they’re still running… I think they may have used this to bring down our ships.”
“Using what?” said Luisa. “The generator?”
“Oh yeah, access to the fusion core would give them everything they needed,” said Ash. He took the marker and drew a circle around the plant. “If they had some technical know-how, they could rig up a pulse generator strong enough to kill the power on any ship within its radius. Only temporarily, but gravity finishes the job reasonably well.”
Ash sighed. “Paco’s ship was small, the crash irrevocably shattered the hull, damaging it. And they couldn’t get into Songbird because I was in it and I activated the encryption locks. But this ship isn’t going to have either of those problems. If their aim is to get offworld… then they could just get it up high enough, turn on the pulse generator, drop the ship, kill all of us, and then have snacks for the ride to the next planet.”
“Martens doesn’t mess around,” said Zane, appearing from behind the board. “If we told him to expect trouble, the vampires are going to have a heck of a time getting through his people, even if their ship gets grounded.”
“Even if we assume that,” said Ash, “there’s still the problem of us surviving long enough.” He looked over the map again. There were little ‘V’ marks on places where vampires had been known to congregate. There was at least one between the museum and every way that lead to something vital… and that was before there was the possibility that the vampires were onto them.
“We’ll get there,” Ash said. “But first. We have to get to the generator. We have to get that blown up. If we don’t… it doesn’t matter how many ships Martens sends for us. One of them will be getting off with vampires.”
Zane looked over the map again.
“I have an idea,” he said. “It’s a really, really bad idea. I’d say it was off-my-meds bad, but I’ve gotten advice from hallucinations that was probably a better idea that this.”
Ash shrugged. “At this point, a bad idea is better than no idea.”
Zane pulled them in closer. He drew some diagrams on the board. People looked at him funny.
“You’re absolutely right, loco,” said Luisa. “This is the worst idea.”
“Yeah,” he said. “But I can do it. I just need-“
There was a screech of feedback from outside. Followed by an amplified voice.
“MAY I HAVE Y’ALLS ATTENTION, RESIDENTS OF THE PARAISO MUSEUM!” came the voice. “WE WOULD LIKE A WORD!”
Zane and Ash looked at each-other.
“Please tell me that’s not who I think it is,” said Ash.
“You know I’m a terrible liar,” said Zane.
Ash sighed loudly. They really didn’t get paid enough for this kind of nonsense. “Zane. Tell Jayna to go with Tanya and see what the vampires want.”
Tanya looked somewhat stunned. Jayna dragged her over to the nearest window.
Outside, there were… vampires, their pale forms faintly standing out in standing out in the dim moonlight. A lot of them were doing the hunched-over-predator thing, but a few were standing upright. One of them – a woman, by the look of it, wearing what looked like the remains of a sharp pantsuit and a pair of sneakers – had a megaphone raised to her lips, and was standing on the husk of a car.
“Yeah, guess the cat’s out of the bag, huh?” she said. “Or should I say the bat? Eheheh.”
Tanya nearly fainted. Jayna held her upright, and opened her mouth. “What do you want?”
“Well, what most of my friends here want is to come in there and eat your blood,” she said, gesturing to the horde. “But they listen to us, and we’re thinking a bit more in the long term. We really don’t have anything against you lot, personally. Some other fellow’s blood is just as tasty as yours. So tell the spacers to let us into their ship, and we’ll leave the lot of you in peace.”
Tanya finally seemed to come to her senses. “Why the hell would we help you? You’ve been murdering us for months!”
“Um, so we stop murdering you? Duh?” said the vampire, throwing up one hand in a gesture of puzzlement. “Look, we had a good thing going for awhile. We played by the rules, and y’all got to keep your little stronghold and we only ate the stragglers. But then those spacers had to come in and mess it all up. So yeah, it comes down to this now.”
Jayna looked at the sea of monsters between her and them. “Why are you still cognizant? Did they all just lose themselves and the few of you are still holding on?”
Another gesture. “Heck if I know,” she said. “Some of ’em are just plain nutsy, but hey, they follow orders from the ones that aren’t, so that’s neat. But that’s not important. What is important is you’re delicious, and we’re impatient. This is a very limited-time offer.”
Jayna looked at Tanya. “This isn’t the way to do things. If they wanted to get in, they could have already. Which means they can’t,” Jayna whispered.
“Stall them,” said Zane, slinging a backpack over his shoulder. “Keep them distracted as long as you can. However you can.”
Jayna sighed. “No, you cow. I want answers. It’s my ship. I have a right to know who, or what is on board!”
“You’re staaaaling,” said the spokesvamp in a singsong tone. “Like I said, we’re giving y’all a chance. There’s a whole galaxy of people out there whose blood is just as tasty. We ain’t picky.”
“And what’s to stop us from just holing up as long as we can?” said Tanya. “You may be smart, but you can’t fake sizzling in the UVs!”
The vampire sighed. “You know, that’s a good question,” she said. “And you know what, one of the spacers gave us a great idea.”
She put two fingers in her mouth and blew out a shrill whistle. A couple of vampires came to the fore with plastic totes. There was a distinct smell of fertilizer wafting from them.
“Are you kidding me?” Jayna said, feeling a lump grow in the pit of her stomach. “Tanya, go inside. Get everyone away from the front doors,” she said, pushing the woman back.
“You’ve got half an hour!” came the call. “Then we crack this place open like a big ol’ clam and eat the lot of you!”
Zane was checking a set of supplies one last time and talking to Ash when Jayna looked back.
“Right,” said Zane. “Guys, with me. I need to get back on the roof. Everyone else, get ready. This is gonna get hairy.”
“Can you tell us what the hell is going on?” Jayna said. “I’ll back your play, but I can’t do it blind.”
“I know how I can get to the power plant,” said Zane, as they made their way back up to roof access. It had been barred shut again, but it was no trouble for Jayna and a crowbar. “The vampires have the streets pretty much shut down. So I’ll just go over the streets.”
“Do you know what to do once you get over there?” Luisa asked, moving to look over the edge.
“Wreck everything?” said Zane, shrugging. “I may not be like you or Ash. I’m not good at making things work. But making them stop working is way easier.”
“So how, exactly, are you going to-” said Jayna, before she noticed what Zane was looking at. “…no. No way. That’s never going to work.”
“They’ll climb up and pull you down from the rigging.” Ash said after a moment. “That’s a really bad idea.”
“That’s why I need them distracted,” said Zane. “Make so much of a fuss that they either won’t notice or won’t care when I knock the tower down.” He peered out over the horizon. “That’ll let me get over to the roof of that department store over there, and from then on out the roofs are a lot closer together.”
“I don’t condone any of this,” Ash said. “I feel sick just knowing that you’re going to do it. But if you want a distraction… I can give you one.”
Zane grinned, and pulled Ash into a hug. “Don’t worry,” he said. “I didn’t survive everything I went to just to be killed by vampires.” He looked the tower up and down again, then reached into his backpack and pulled a cutting torch out. “Luisa’s assured me that this’ll work,” he added. “She souped it up a bit.”
She gave a grim nod. “It won’t help if you’re dead. Good luck.”
Ash sighed and then nodded. “I saw a bus on the other side. I’m guessing it still runs?” he said, looking to Tanya.
She nodded. “It runs,” she said. “It’s been our emergency last resort. Not that there’s anyplace we can drive to.”
“Good. It won’t run for much longer,” he said with a sigh. “They hole up the most where?”
“Last time we checked, there was a bunch of them holed up in the minimall a few blocks to the north,” said Luisa. “Dunno how many of them are still there.”
Ash sighed. “This is going to be really dumb. But I have an idea. It’ll buy us a little bit of time. Hopefully enough to get the hell out of dodge.” Ash said. “I need the car, and I need any paintings that are still left in this museums.
“We’re fighting for our lives against vampires,” said Jayna. “This whole planet is dumb. No offense, Luisa.”
“So if anything’s going to get us through the day, it’s going to be dumb ideas. Let’s embrace it.”
Luisa nodded. “Felipe won’t be happy. But we’ll get it done. C’mon. Let’s get off the roof before they realize we’re up here. And let’s hope none of the smart ones are good with schematics.”