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Authors: Jason Henderson

Voice of the Undead

BOOK: Voice of the Undead
7.75Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Alex Van Helsing


Janson Henderson


For Lorraine Bell, my grandmother

Chapter 1

Alex Van Helsing accelerated the gunmetal gray Kawasaki Ninja and watched the trees along the road around Lake Geneva melt into a twilight blur. Just a few miles to Glenarvon Academy, just a few more minutes, and no one would be the wiser.

Training had gone on longer than Alex had expected. What was supposed to be a late Saturday afternoon exercise with Sangster, his—what should he call Sangster?—
, had turned into a half-day ordeal. Sangster, who everyone else knew as Glenarvon's literature teacher, had let Alex join him and a team of active agents in a mock incursion into an enemy stronghold.

The “stronghold” was a small office building in Secheron, the lakeside village where Alex and his friends sometimes went for ice cream; the exercise was a hyped-up version of Capture the Flag. Three agents were posing as terrorists holding a trio of “hostage” mannequins, and Alex joined the team that had to sneak in and neutralize the enemy without allowing the hostages to be harmed.

This was serious business to the agents of the Polidorium, a multinational organization, which a month before Alex had not known even existed. There were countless Polidorium agents scattered around the planet, but hundreds of them were located right here at their current Lake Geneva headquarters, and Sangster had been slowly allowing Alex access to that world. The exercise this morning had been a test of sorts. After a month of training one-on-one with Sangster, this was Alex's first time mixing with other agents.

Sid, Alex's gangly, excitable Canadian roommate at school, had been thrilled when he heard about the exercise. “It's like you're going to do a LARPG,” Sid had said over Saturday morning breakfast in the Glenarvon dining hall. He had pronounced this acronym

“What is a LARPG?” Alex was already laughing. Sid's joy at a million things Alex had never heard of was infectious.

Sid put down his fork and gesticulated wildly with his hands. “That would be a live-action role-playing game.”

“Have you ever done that?” Alex asked.

“Absolutely,” Sid said. “In Montreal there's a yearly meeting of the NALAVRPG, that's the National Association of Live-Action Vampire-Role-Playing Games. I've been three times.” Like Alex, Sid was fourteen, so going three times meant Sid had been doing this since he was—eleven? “I have a clan that—”

“Wait, wait, wait.” Paul, Alex's other roommate, a beefy, British boy, nearly choked on his poached eggs. “
. That is the bloody saddest thing I have ever heard. How many people go to these things?”

“Thousands,” said Sid. “They divide up into vampire hunters and fifteen classes of vampire. You've got your Nosferatu, your Tuxedos, your—”

Paul waved his arms. “Thousands of barmy people running around in costumes and stabbing one another with foam stakes. I think things that you have exposed me to are going to damage me forever.”

“Anyway,” said Alex. “We're gonna rescue some mannequins.”

“You have the
coolest life
,” Sid said to Alex.

Paul looked around at the white plaster of the dining hall. Glenarvon was a converted castle, but the dining hall was the single drabbest feature of the place. “It must be nice, this having a life,” he said wistfully. “Just don't miss curfew, mate. I can lie for you but Sid always turns pale, and the poor bloke can't get much paler.”

Alex shrugged. “I won't miss curfew.”

He was going to miss curfew. Alex and the commandos of the Polidorium had spent an hour and a half on the first mannequin-rescuing scenario, and then had switched sides, and then switched again. The last time around, Alex had attempted to sneak up on an enemy “vampire” but had been tagged: An agent playing a vampire heard him coming and marked him on the neck with a blotch of red ink—and decapitated the mannequins to boot. After that Alex had to play dead and lie there with the plaster people.

And then it was nine thirty. Alex realized he was going to be in trouble if he didn't make it back. Sangster had let him out early from the hour-long after-action review, and Alex was cut loose, finally on his own.

The road curved and then stretched out again for several miles, and Alex whipped around a couple of delivery trucks, upping his speed once he'd passed them.

He'd been nabbed missing curfew twice before. One more time and the RA would pass the paperwork up to Headmaster Otranto, and there would be a talking-to and probably a call home to his parents. Alex couldn't have that.

You would think that Sangster would have been aware of this particular pressure. If he was, he was letting Alex manage it, as though learning to manage his schedule was part of his training. Fine.

He was hoping the ten
curfew would be a little loose tonight—Sid and Paul were planning to join a bunch of the other guys in Aubrey House to watch a DVD in the lounge. With luck he could get back, ditch the motorcycle in the woods across from the main gate, and make it up to his room while the RAs started their rounds on the ground floor. Alex had to change, though; he was covered in ceiling plaster and gunpowder and had an enormous but washable red ink stain on his neck.

Alex felt a burst of static shoot through his brain, a whisper, and he darted his eyes left to catch the fleeting image of a figure in white disappearing behind a tree as he passed.

That was strange. As the bike roared down the road, picking up speed, Alex tapped a button on the side of his helmet and shouted into the microphone in front of his lips. “Sangster, are you there?”

No answer. Sangster must be out of pocket. But Alex knew what he had seen.

The feeling rose again. That feeling, that static behind his eyes, was the chief reason Sangster had taken him under his wing, even though he was only fourteen. The static burst and chopped in a wave through his mind and Alex saw another figure in white, blurring through the trees along the side of the road.

Alex slapped the button again. “Farmhouse, this is Van Helsing.”

After a moment a voice came online. “Farmhouse.”

In his mind, Alex could picture the farmhouse, so called because it was a small, unimpressive white house with a dilapidated metal garage door that sat in a clearing in the middle of the woods. The house was a ruse: The garage door opened to a tunnel that went a half mile underground, where the real farmhouse lived and breathed. It was a vast bunker of men and women and equipment, just one of many homes of the Polidorium.

“I'm seeing hostiles on the road from Secheron Village to Glenarvon Academy. Who is on point today?”

After a moment a female voice came on. “Alex, this is Armstrong, what's going on?”

Alex felt a moment's relief as he heard one of the few agents of the Polidorium he knew, or at least had interacted with more than once. “Something's up. I just saw two vampires by the side of the road, wearing Scholomance colors,” Alex said, not turning back to look again. The Scholomance was a school, sort of; a school and a research facility and a massive organization all rolled into one. It lay below Lake Geneva behind mystical doors that were nearly impossible to find. And now two of its members were watching the road.

Alex headed toward the next big curve in the road, about a mile up. A pair of identical black Mercedes E-Class sedans came into view, rounding the curve, traveling his way in the opposing lane. His own lane clear, Alex sped up.

The second Mercedes drifted into the right lane, Alex's lane, to pass the first.

Alex eased off the throttle to give the vehicle time to get out of his lane. They were still half a mile away. He watched the passing Mercedes get up ahead of the other car, ready to move back into the opposing lane.

The Mercedes stayed in Alex's lane. Now they were side by side, two enormous black luxury sedans bearing down on him, blocking the road.

And then Alex felt it again, that hiss and static, rolling toward him like a cold wave.

In the dark of night Alex could not see even a hint of the drivers, but he knew they would be white as bone, and strong and fanged. They intended to kill him.

Four hundred yards. Alex ran down the possibilities.
What's going on? They're blocking my path. Go into the woods?

No. He needed to stick to the road. He needed to get back before the write-up and the call home.

The cars were about a yard and a half apart from each other. Alex sized up the space and throttled the Ninja again.

I've been made,
he realized as he hurtled toward the cars. They were watching for
. Alex felt them speeding up as much as observed them.

Now he saw a vampire in white, tall, with black hair, step onto the shoulder, holding a device that at first he thought was a gun. But it wasn't a gun; it was long and rectangular, like a radio, and as the vampire stood still and Alex zipped past, he saw the vampire flip a switch.

“They've made me,” Alex managed to say before he felt a burst of electricity shake through his helmet. He felt the pads of the helmet heat up and start to melt as the radio whined and sizzled inside.

Alex winced as the heat hit his ears and he had to reach up and yank the helmet off, letting it clatter on the road behind him.

The cars were still bearing down, and he was helmetless and alone.

At fifty yards he could see the clean black shine of the vehicles, and now he could finally glimpse the glistening white faces of the vampires within.

They were a race as old as his own, but made of sterner stuff; humans chosen and changed and tinged with the blood of ancient demons. They were fast and cunning. But Alex was no slouch. He aimed for the space between the vehicles.

Alex watched the cars' tires spinning, bearing down, and at ten yards he saw that the bone white faces inside could predict what he was going to do: try to cut between them. Which was why he wasn't going to do that. Alex waited until the left Mercedes's front wheel began to turn in, intending to mash him to jelly between the two cars. He broke and whipped left.

He heard the cars grind against each other with heavy brutality and steel as the Ninja sailed around the vehicles on the left. Alex dropped onto the gravel shoulder and then back on the road, throttling up.

Alex looked in the rearview mirror and saw them come around: With a fierce shriek of wheels against asphalt, the giant cars executed perfect opposite turns, swiveling back into separate lanes, traveling side by side once more. He heard the enormous German engines roar as they began to pursue him. By that time he was at least a mile ahead.

With his left hand Alex reached around into his Polidorium go package and drew out a long, slender weapon that was encased from end to end in black composite plastic. Called a Polibow, it fired bolts of silver and hawthorn wood, eight shots to a cartridge.

As he zoomed around the next curve, another car, small and French, came into view. He sailed past it, counting two people inside, civilians, and dismissed them. As he expected, the Mercedes wasted no time with them either, one of them tearing onto the shoulder to pass, the other passing on the left.

The road was clear. Alex watched the Mercedes in the mirror, gaining again. He needed to use his right hand for this. Alex passed the Polibow to his right hand and felt the bike immediately decelerate as he took his hand off the throttle and steered with the left. Alex turned his head, watching the cars instantly gain on him. He would get one shot and then they would be on him.

The road jolted and his arm swerved. He suppressed the urge to pull the trigger, breathed, and then fired. The bolt sailed out silently; only the small jolt in the Polibow let him know he had shot.

The passenger-side front wheel of the left Mercedes exploded with a burst of white smoke and rubber. The car instantly turned right, slamming into the other Mercedes. For a moment the vampire behind the wheel of the right car held on, but then he lost it, spinning farther right and off the road.

Alex replaced the Polibow and gunned the throttle again as he watched the right Mercedes smash into a tree, a tiny exploding image in the rearview mirror. The left Mercedes, now missing a front tire, began to disappear into the distance behind him as he rounded another curve.

Suddenly Alex heard a new sound over his own engine, higher pitched, off to the right in the woods. A motorcycle.

Leaves and grass exploded on the side of the road as a candy-apple red Ducati 848, monstrous and fast, burst through the trees. Alex sped past and looked in the rearview. The Italian bike seemed to be driving itself.

Alex slapped a button on the side of the rearview, and the mirror instantly flipped over, showing an infrared image of the dark road. The creature on the bike wore leggings and the white robes of the Scholomance. The Ducati hit a bump and the pursuer's hood fell back.

The rider looked to be about sixteen or seventeen, her spiky yellow hair nearly flattened against her head. She smiled, thin lips coiling into a recognizable smirk that showed just a hint of fangs.

Alex drew the Polibow with his left hand, keeping his right on the throttle as the Ducati roared up beside him.

Elle rode alongside for a moment, watching him as they rocketed down the road.

“Where are you going?” she mouthed.

Alex looked into her blazing, dilated eyes and stuck there for a second. Suddenly he became aware of a shape in front of him, and he tore his eyes away to see a truck in the lane and had to hit the brakes and barrel around it. Elle mirrored him, coming around on the right and up alongside again.

“I'm a little busy,” Alex shouted, raising the Polibow and aiming at Elle's chest. He breathed and fired, and the bolt sailed through the folds of her clothing.

Elle laughed silently. She twisted left and got up next to him, whipping out a long arm at his throat. Alex tried to move away and felt steely nails slash through his jacket.

BOOK: Voice of the Undead
7.75Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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