[Short Story] Fantasy Fan Con Panic [Excerpt]

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Back inside, Jack and Crystal eyed the couple from the second story terrace overlooking the hotel lobby. They watched a crowd slowly form around their two targets while they swapped use of the Chem-Thermo goggles that had been provided for them.

Among the crowds of cosplayers interspersed with the banner advertisements and kiosks showcasing the newest trends in manga, anime, and fantasy there they stood among them all. Even dressed in costumes like the other con goers, it was frightening yet intriguing spectacle to see these kinds of predators blending in with the other humans down below.

The vampire looked no older than perhaps twenty as he spun his cape and flashed his fangs for the adoring fans that took photos of him and his poses. The young Dracula cosplay look that he was going for must have been some sort of meta-joke of his, or a blatant invitation for someone to stake him right then and there. Even so, he fit right into the costumed clientele of this particular convention. Crystal zoomed in on him, noticing his thin, smooth, innocent, and androgynous looking face with piercing, pale-blue eyes. Crystal raised an eyebrow as he pouted at one of the cameras that coaxed him for another photo. Under the therm-optic filter his body took on a greyish blue hue in a sea of deep red pedestrians that stood or passed him by.

The succubus — the vampire’s partner — was able to spoof her heat signature better among the crowd, but she also shared her undead boyfriend’s meta sense of humor. She was standing next to him with her bat wings and black horns on full display. They looked real, but could just as well be chalked up to being the product of well done prosthetic make up and accessories. Like the vampire, she had a conventional beauty and confidence in the way she carried herself. She wore armor, but nothing that could be considered practical. It reminded Crystal of Xenia the Warrior Princess, but with a shorter leather skirt. Not much left to the imagination. Jack and Crystal switched to the chemical tracer filter on the goggles and could see that she was already releasing pheromones into the crowd. People who

might have been uninterested in the impromptu photo shoot in the lobby, were now transfixed and slowly growing attached to this attractive couple posing together. On the surface, things looked innocent enough, but Jack and Crystal saw it for what it was: lambs being lead to slaughter in some anonymous hotel room later tonight.

As the crowd grew from a dozen to nearly twenty in a matter of minutes, Jack and Crystal got up from their table and began to walk down to the lobby area. They were dressed in post-apocalyptic duster jackets. A cosplay grab that fit with the eclectic dress code of the nerd convention. As they walked, they fingered the holstered, plastic-looking guns that were actually loaded with silver and holy relic tipped subsonic ammo. They were suppose to take this demon and vampire in alive, but if worse came to worse, the subsonic ammo and suppressors would quietly dispose of them. Jack and Crystal each put on their shades and pulled on their gas masks to counter the vampires hypnosis and the pheromones of the succubus.

Now in the lobby, they walked casually into what was now turning into a fan mob. Not a single person among the crowd of ninjas, transformers, and alien princesses noticed nor raised an eyebrow at the Mad Max cosplay couple making their way to the front to see the vampire and succubus “models” gaining attention.

When Jack and Crystal reached them, the two supernaturals noticed them, and momentarily paused their act. For a split second, it felt like a connection was made between the four of them. Fight or flight began to take hold. The vampire and succubus noticed the gas mask and shades Jack and Crystal were wearing and tensed up. The fear in their eyes seemed to surprise Jack momentarily before realizing that he had already put his hand on his gun.

[Novel] Spymancer Chapter 1, Part 2 [Excerpt]

Author’s note: if you want to see the previous part or other stories related to this project follow this link here and here for more!

I carried her body out of the room. My left hand holding the pistol I had hidden earlier as the rest of my arm propped up her legs. I made a jog back to the elevator, but I didn’t make it so far as a few meters before I saw an angel rounding the corner after us.

“Magus!” he shouted, before raising his wings to fire a barb of sliver feathers into my chest.

    Three sharp feathers pierced my body armor, nearly cutting into my heart. My growl echoed into the dark hallway. I gritted my teeth as I struggled to support the weight of Cassidy’s body. I stumbled for a moment, almost into a half-kneel, but I still managed to raise my longinus hand canon and squeeze off several pincer shots that pinned the angel to the wall. The angel scream was deafening with a wave of anger that nearly stopped me in my tracks. Not wanting to waste anymore time, I took a deep breath, held on tightly to Cassidy, and lifted off into a sprint around the corner. As I pasted the angel he continued to spit out a string of curses at me as he slowly died from his wounds. Finally, I made it to the elevator, and using the same enchantment once again, I transformed my hand into that of Agather’s and summoned the elevator via the palm print scanner. The elevator responded with banal, womanly approval in the lyrically brutal, ancient language of Sanctum-Lilim Orthodox. I looked behind me and saw that several portals within the corridor were forming down the hall as more angels warped to my location. I took cover with Cassidy behind one of the protruding walls.

“There’s no way out, James!” one of the angels called out to me, “you’re not going to make half a kilometer before we run you down! Give up Cassidy and we promise you a swift death.”

“Really good at negotiating, aren’t you?” I mumbled.

I switched my pistol to fully automatic and fired blindly from around my small corner as the elevator was in its last moments of descent. There was a moment of pause before I heard there counter offer.

“Say your prayers, half-blood whore!” one of them yelled back in my direction.

I pulled out another loginus grenade from inside my suit and activated the trigger.

“How original,” I said to myself.

Just as the elevator doors opened, I tossed the grenade towards the pack of angels and jumped into the elevator with Cassidy in my arms. I could feel several feathers piercing into my back like knives as I shielded her from the barrage. I could hear the shrapnel exploding behind us as the elevator doors closed and began its ascent up towards the surface to a shrill burst of torturous screams. I kneeled down, placing Cassidy gently down on the floor and pulling out one of the sharp, knife-like feathers from my back. I could feel myself bleeding under the layers of my clothes.

“Are you okay?” I asked.

Cassidy slowly propped herself up and looked up at me. I could see that she was coming out of her fog, but her face told me that seeing me before her was a shock to her system.

“Is this a dream?” she asked.

“No, I’m getting you out of here.”

I smiled, but winced from the effort as I felt another sharp twinge of one of the feathers digging into me. Cassidy got up and held me by my head.

“Cassidy,” I said, gritting my teeth, “do the have the strength to heal me?”

“Yes,”

“We’re going to need to help each other out of this if we want to get out of here alive,” I told her, “there’s going to be more of them waiting for us on the surface.”

She paused.

“Cassidy?”

“I’m sorry James, but I’m not going to heal you.”

I looked up at her. My mouth was open, nearly slack jawed over what I was hearing.

“Cassidy, what the fuck are you doing?”

“I wanted to look into your eyes and see the man that left me for dead,” she said, before grabbing one of the feathers and shoving it into my heart.

I doubled over, falling on my back as she looked down on me. I could hear the elevator screeching, sparks started to fly, and a massive inferno erupted inside the box car. As the fire quickly engulfed us, Cassidy bent down and looked at me, a sadistic smile spreading across her lips. Her beautiful eyes melted and in their place were embers of fire that slowly cracked the skin of her face as if her head was made of pottery.

“Come and die with me, James,” her voice echoed in the flames as the fire consumed us, “die like the cowardly traitor you are.”

I could feel my body shaking, unable to look away from her as the fire became hotter and more intense. Somewhere, I heard someone screaming, the wail becoming louder and louder until that’s all I could hear.

[Excerpt] Night Call [Novel]

When the dead talks to the living, one tends to listen to them whether you want to or not. For me, it came in the form of a phone call at 3 a.m., via one of my burner cell phones I had been using that night. The voice belonged to a woman who I was sure I’d never hear from again, but like most clients found themselves dialing my number as a last resort. These calls never fail at being awkward, and was something I was only now starting to get used to. After giving the usual spiel of assurances on my part, she had become much more comfortable with speaking to me in the form of terse orders, and pointed questions meant to test my knowledge in a condescending sort of way with that I obliged with what I thought to be total sincerity while tuning out the rest. It was an obvious, if totally unnecessary power-move on her part to regain some perceived loss of superiority that didn’t matter to me whatsoever. However, given my position, I did have to pretend that it mattered, and play along with the mutual charade accordingly; a charade that was much easier for me to pull off over the phone.

“Are you under surveillance right now?” I asked her.

“Yes,” she told me.

“So will I need your key code to come into your home?” I asked.

“Yes, I’m not…” she paused, “I’m not entirely human right now. I’ll send you the code to the condo so that you can unlock it.”

“Maybe I should wait then,” I told her.

“No,” her voice was a stern venom of persistence over the phone line, “this is a fucking emergency. Get here. Now.”

The living also tend to do what the dead tell them to, whether they want to or not.

The condo was owned by her, or rather, she was living in the condo that was owned by a retainer of hers. Not the kind of retainer that was on my level, nowhere near that important; but he was rich, which is usually enough. I could smell the soft pheromones coming from the door as I walked down the white, brightly lit hallway to the pent house suite. I opened the inner pocket of my jacket and pulled out the thumb-pin-sized syringe containing the inoculation I’d need to take before entering. I quickly shoved the needle into a vein along my arm and just as quickly pocketed the thing. The serum, as well as the pain, was immediate. My body shivered like a cold fever while the serum went through the process of blocking any receptors to my sense of smell or taste for the next four hours. A bit extreme, but my life depended on it. I’d just as well be another victim to them otherwise; another pawn if I breathed in the pheromones long enough or taste something tainted within the condo. I’m more useful to them alive than dead, at least that’s what I tell myself. As an extra precaution, I also preformed the white mage ritual of the inde odor praesidium so that my body would not give off any appetizing scents to my client. I adjusted my suit, and pulled even tighter onto my leather gloves, and use the spare key card to open the door. The key card reader chirped with approval and the wooden door slid open, beckoning me to enter.

Inside I was greeted by a soft, violet haze that told me she had already been hard at work. It took me a few seconds to realize that the serum had made me, thankfully, immune to the miasma, but past years of nearly lethal mistakes allowed to imagine what I was walking into. It would be the classic wall of death’s stench quickly followed by the usual sweet twinge of a demon’s hard work to mask the smell of corpses he or she might have caused earlier. It was a technique that served two purposes: the first being to trap any suspicious smells from oozing out and prompting someone to investigate, and if that didn’t work the miasma would work its magic to turn the curious victims into suggestible, brain-washed zombies whose minds could be wiped or bodies turned into a second meal until a cleaner like myself arrived. Either way, it involved leaving no witnesses. I took a few more steps into the dark and adjusted my eyes to the haze that my client had created throughout the whole condo. I saw the contours of the oak polished hard wood floor and a Persian carpet that lead to the living room area. There was another trail, this time made by discarded clothes that trailed beyond a flat screen T.V to the sliding door leading to a beautiful stone terrace with a working Jacuzzi. I did one more scan to take in the Neo Art Deco interior design of the condo and then I found them.

There were three men lying naked on the living room carpet; all who looked liked they’d all died violently from heart attacks at the ripe old age of eighty, but I recognized them as acquaintances that were no younger than I was. As I got closer to the corpses, I managed to recognizing one of  them crumpled on the floor: I had lunch with him last week as he was talking about his fiance and their plans for a honeymoon in Costa Rica. He told me her name, her age, her job. She had lied to him, of course. He didn’t have a clue, and wouldn’t have believed me if I told him. I had learned to accept these kinds of lies from my clients, especially when they told them to their retainers and my agreements to reinforce said lies. It was simply a reality of the world I lived in. However, the husks I saw nearly turned to ash did not soften the blow. As I looked at the bodies I felt a presence in the room that caused me to swallow and try to stifle the fear and bile building up in my stomach.

I felt around in my suit’s inner pocket for the retractable, electric prod that I’d taken in with me. This kind of client, whether it was demon or vampire, was way more unpredictable in this particular state of duress than in any other situation. Some would be polite enough to open the door and let you in to show you where the bodies are; others, after the reveal, will apologize profusely for the inconvenience (“sorry, we know you like to sleep during these hours” is a common one). However, there are those who will just wait for you to come in and simply watch quietly in the corner while smiling, before they decide you’re next. The worst of them will hide somewhere in their home and wait for you to arrive in order to fulfill a thrill that comes with hunting human prey. Because under those human exteriors of theirs, wearing expensive clothes, and sharing polite conversation lurks a beast trying to control their urge to feed and their willingness to kill to satisfy that hunger. But then again, when it comes to me, they’re not dealing with something completely human, either.

Copyright © 2017 Philip N.R Hauser