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The ornately carved golden doors of the global court swung open, and the raucous crowd settled into their seats. Soldiers outfitted in full battle gear streamed in, marching down the long marble aisle to the raised gallery that formed a half circle behind the five vampire containment chairs. They each carried a knockout stick and a shoulder-fired laser rifle capable of delivering three second bursts of one quadrillion watts. The electromagnetic waves generated by the RF frequency systems in their helmets shielded their thoughts and ensured that not even the strongest of their enemy could hijack their mind.
Once they were positioned, the bailiff typed a code into the touchpad on the wall, and a steel panel slid open. Four hooded figures emerged, surrounded by several more guards who forcefully escorted them to their chairs. Their shackled ankles and wrists were smeared with conductive jelly then attached to electrical leads. As soon as they were seated, metal bands extended around their shins, thighs, chests, biceps and forearms, leaving them unable to move.
None of the prisoners made a sound, knowing that even a whimper would be met with another punishing jolt of current from the collars that adorned their necks, but that did little to lessen the deafening noise in the room. Every seat of the three story grand hall was occupied for this momentous event, with another 750,000 people crammed into Central Park outside. Reporters from around the globe were scrambling to get their last pre-trial clips recorded before the court was called to order.
“Some are questioning the tactics of the global court this morning,” an Austria reporter stated in her native German. “Using vampires and humans as bait in an effort to lure what most people consider to be the Vampire Queen out of hiding. So far their plan doesn’t seem to have worked, as there have been no sensor reports of vampire activity in or around New York, but with the executions moving forward today, things are expected to intensify.”
“All rise!” the bailiff bellowed out through the hall. “This court is now in session. The honorable global court inquisitor O’Callaghan presiding.”
An imposing figure with short, golden locks entered from behind the bailiff, motioning with his hands for people to take their seats. He gathered his floor-length white and purple robes in his left hand, made his way over to the furthest prisoner and yanked the hood from her head.
“So this is the all-powerful Sienna,” the inquisitor mocked, squeezing the bound woman’s cheeks with his hand. “How disappointing.”
Her once beautiful face was disfigured by several charred-black electrical burns, blood and pus oozing out of the open wounds. The pungent salve packed into her broken nose made her eyes tear up, and prevented her from smelling anything.
“Do you have anything you wish to say in your defense before I render my verdict?” the inquisitor asked, deactivating the device around her throat so she could speak.
“This will never work—she knows her life is far more important than mine.”
“It’s possible she’d let you die,” he acknowledged. “But both of her parents, her mate and her best friend? No, I think that’s far too much to expect her to endure. Sooner or later she’ll come, and the world will celebrate her execution.”
Sienna snapped to attention at the news of who accompanied her. “You have no idea what you’ve done—everyone in this building’s going to die.”
The crowd erupted at her outburst, and the inquisitor held up his hand to silence them. “And how exactly is your precious Queen going to manage that? She’ll be welcomed to our fair city by twenty thousand volts from the first alarm she trips. Not enough to kill your kind, but plenty to leave her unconscious until—”
“Sir, a perimeter alarm’s been triggered just outside the north gate,” a soldier interrupted from the gallery.
He wheeled on the man in a fit of anger. “Interrupt me again, and I’ll disembowel you! People have been jumping the fence all day—contact the guards at the gate and have them check it out.”
“We tried sir. Calls have been placed to the guard desk, the three closest perimeter sweep teams and the north tactical unit—they’re not responding.”
“Who’s not responding, you imbecile!”
“Any of them.”
“It’s too late,” Sienna said, gazing at his panic-stricken face. “She’s here.”
“Clear the courtroom and take the prisoners back into custody!” he commanded.
Before anyone could move a massive explosion rocked the third floor balcony, raining debris and body parts down on the crowd below, and filling the auditorium with a choking white smoke. The crowd flooded for the exits, which were soon hopelessly jammed. They started to push and trample each other in a desperate attempt to escape.
The lone set of stairs to the balcony was located outside the courtroom, so the soldiers had no choice but to yield the high ground to their unseen enemy. Feeling trapped, several of them started to fire blindly into the smoke, only adding to the chaos. The commanding officer who’d been talking with the inquisitor raised his rifle—against his will—and sent a chest high laser beam though the entire gallery, cutting several of his fellow soldiers in half. The ones that survived were turned to dust by an energy burst that blew out the entire back of the building.
Moments later a woman dressed in skin-tight black leather swooped down onto the marble floor, drawing two broadswords from the sheaths on her back. The inquisitor took three running steps and dove for a knockout stick that had come to rest a few feet in front of him. His body was suspended mid leap, as if he’d struck an invisible barrier of some kind, then catapulted sideways into the solid steel outer wall of the holding cells.
The vampire advanced but had to break off her attack when a laser tore through the floor inches in front of her black leather boots. In a move too fast to be seen, she coiled and launched herself across the courtroom, landing amongst the small group of soldiers that had fought their way through the crowd. A bright red mist filled the air as she executed her elegant dance of death, moving with the grace and agility of a jungle cat.
By the time she returned the inquisitor had managed to pull his body up into a sitting position and was taking short, labored breaths. She raised his chin with the tip of her blood-covered blade, wanting him to see who it was that was delivering him to hell.
He let out something between a choking sound and a chuckle, spitting blood from his mouth. “Releasing the locks requires an order from me, and the code can only be entered remotely by central command. They’re all going to burn.”
“Don’t flatter yourself—there’s nothing I need from you.” She fixed her gaze on the restraints binding Sienna to the chair. Within seconds they started to rattle, shaking more and more violently until they broke free and dropped to the floor.
His eyes widened with fear. “Wh—what are you?”
“The last thing your wife and three kids are ever going to see.” She flicked her wrist, and his severed head fell into his lap.
Fire was rapidly engulfing the courtroom, sending waves of torrid heat washing over her face. She scanned the entire hall in search of any additional threats. Most of the remaining people had succumbed to the noxious gas that was making her gag. Those that were left were sprawled out on the floor, clinging to the last threads of life. Assured that they weren’t in any imminent danger, she sheathed her weapons and turned toward Sienna. “Hi Mom.”
“I told you not to come.”
She laughed, wiping some of the blood from her face. “You can ground me when we get home. Can you walk?”
“Not far. Your father’s in worse shape though. Brooke, his heart—”
“I know—I can hear it.” Brooke reached behind her back, pulled a sports bottle out of the top of her pants and tossed it to Sienna. “You’ll need your strength.”
“Thanks.” Using both hands, she reset the bones in her nose, then popped the top, poured about a quarter of the bottle over her face and chugged down the rest. Within a few seconds the wounds healed over. They both jumped when one of the rafters crashed to the floor behind them. “I think that’s our cue. Let’s get out of here.”
Brooke concentrated on her hunched-over father’s restraints. As soon as they broke free his body pitched forward into Sienna’s waiting arms, and she eased him onto his back. “Hang in there, David,” she whispered, removing his hood. “We’ll get you to a hospital soon.”
The whirling noise from dozens of approaching helicopters sent them scrambling to free the others. Countless soldiers—an entire brigade at least—charged into the mouth of the blown-out opening just as the last of the restraints fell.
“My God,” Sienna gasped. “There’s too many sweetheart, even for you.”
“I’m what they want,” Brooke said with a resigned nod. “Take my father and head north. Stick to the rooftops until you get outside the city, so you don’t trip any alarms.”
Sienna was appalled. “We’re not leaving you here to die.”
“No fucking way!” the vampire next to her exclaimed. “You’re my wife—I’m not going anywhere without you.”
“Neither am I,” her Goddess of a best friend added, still looking runway-ready in spite of her ordeal. “Like it or not, we’re in this together.”
Seeing her loved ones demand to stand by her brought tears to her eyes. Part of her wanted to say yes, to have them all fight together to the end, but she knew how selfish that was. Three vampires with too weak of a trance ability to penetrate the RF jamming would be all but useless against an army this size, and if she fled with them it would eliminate any chance they had of escaping. She’d resisted the stupid “Queen” title from the moment it’d been forced upon her—the first and only order she’d ever given her family was that they never bow to her—but invoking that authority was the only way she’d get them to leave. Using her telekinetic ability, Brooke pushed them away, knocking her mate to the floor. “As your Queen I command it! Move!”
They all shot her stunned looks laced with an edge of betrayal. Without another word Sienna hoisted David into her arms and disappeared into what remained of the third floor balcony, the other two vampires close behind.
Brooke arched her hands out in front of her, and a glimmering light began to radiate between them. Once it had fully materialized she thrust her arms forward, hurling a ball of plasma into the advancing troops that obliterated the entire first wave. The hundreds behind them closed in, driving her back toward the flames. There was no escape. She defiantly drew her swords before the first blow from a knockout stick sent her tumbling to her knees. The second incapacitated her completely.
When she came to she was in the back of a helicopter, and a soldier was fitting a voice restraint collar around her neck. Her boots had been removed, and her wrists and ankles were bound together with the latest alloy composite, stronger than even she could break with sheer force alone.
“Sir? We’ve got her,” the commanding officer called over his satellite phone. He listened for a few moments then handed the phone back to his first Lieutenant. “Bring me the laser shears.”
“Yes Colonel.” The First Lieutenant relayed the order and soon had them in his hand. “Here you go, sir.”
“Prop her up.”
Two soldiers stepped forward and raised Brooke into a sitting position. The Colonel flipped on the shears, took hold of her chin and shaved off all of her milk chocolate colored hair.
“This cap is packed with Lorazepam,” he said, sliding a black swim cap onto her now bald head. “It’s a potent tranquilizer that’s absorbed through your skin. In a couple minutes you won’t be able to remember your name, let alone trance anyone.”
He started to walk away then stopped and turned back toward her. “And this is a gift from me, for killing over three hundred of my men.” The Colonel removed the guard from the shears and stuck the tip of his combat knife into the beam, heating it to a molten red. The other soldiers moved aside as he bent down over her and burned a large V deep into her forehead. Brooke screamed in agony, causing 5,000 volts to fire into her throat. Her eyes rolled back in her head, and her jaw fell slack.