“Are you… you’re a vampire! You’re not supposed to be - I’m calling security!” Lydia scrambled for her phone, but the boy moved with blurring speed to crush the device in one hand.
“No, I don’t think so.” He smiled, and even in the dimness Ivan could see his incisors glint just before they sank into Lydia’s throat. She gasped, slowly slumping to the floor. Unconscious, not dead - a vampire’s bite could lull its victim into a stupor, for later enjoyment. “Some people simply cannot leave well enough alone.”
He had pale skin and dark hair, and he wore the black military uniform and half-cape of the Federal Agency. On his arm he bore the red double chevron of the Internal Bureau, the division of the Agency tasked to investigate and quell political dissent. Within the Federation, their reputation for relentlessness and brutality was well-known - none dared speak out against the state for fear of torment beyond death. Despite their name, they were rumoured to conduct operations beyond the Federation’s borders, but the Federation denied all involvement, even when its agents were caught red-handed. Or red-lipped, in this case.
“That’s better. I haven’t had a decent drink for far too long. Supplements can keep one going, but nothing can replace the real thing.” The boy licked Lydia’s blood off his lips with catlike satisfaction, and set her limp form aside. “This country is awfully backwards-minded, isn’t it? Imagine banning an entire race from your borders just because of a few isolated incidents.”
“Who… who are you? What do you want with me? I don’t -”
“Come now, Mr Nikolaev. Cease the pretence. That is a clever disguise, but you should know that we have your bloodscent. No matter how you run and hide, the Federation will find you in the end.” He reached into his uniform to produce a badge. “I suppose we should do this by the book. I am Special Agent Alexei Ignatov, and you, Ivan Nikolaev, are under arrest for crimes against the Necropolitan Federation, sedition and treason chief amongst them. You are to come peacefully and face justice in the Federation for your crimes. On the other hand, I am authorised to perform extraterritorial executions, in the event that you decide to put up a fight. Please, try me.”
The jig was up. Ivan had known that this would happen at some point - even before the betrayal, the politski had been on his tail. He’d hoped escaping to Halcyon would throw them off his trail, but that was wishful thinking. After what he’d done in Nocturnov, the Federation had him marked for death, and no amount of distance or subterfuge would throw them off his trail.
“No backup, Agent Ignatov? Attempting to apprehend a dangerous fugitive on foreign soil all by yourself? Awfully brave of you.”
Ignatov bared his fangs. “You give yourself too much credit, Mr Nikolaev. One agent is more than enough to take in an incompetent petty thief with too much ego and not enough discretion. You couldn’t content yourself with burglary and fraud, could you? You just had to speak against the state.”
“I wasn’t speaking against the state, I was speaking to the people. If they didn’t like what they heard, the Federation only has itself to blame.” That was putting it lightly. Ivan had escaped from Nocturnov amidst a spontaneous cascade of protests, demonstrations, and riots that left the Federation’s capital city a powder keg one spark away from an outright uprising.
“Please. Are you truly deluded enough to see yourself as some sort of revolutionary messiah? Theft of personal and government property, libelous speech against members of the Undying Senate, conspiracy to incite rebellion… everything on your charge sheet was done to line your own pockets or pursue some petty personal agenda.”
“Or to fuck over the oligarchs, the magnates, and the festering pile of rot that calls itself a ruling party, growing rich and corpulent off the exploitation of an entire nation. Let’s keep that in perspective.”
“As I said, petty and personal.” Ignatov’s teeth slipped behind a scornful smirk. “Just so you know, nothing you did had any lasting impact. The unrest in Nocturnov has been dealt with, and your co-conspirators have already been brought in. Did you really think you could bring the Federation to its knees? You, an insignificant quickling?”
“Apparently I was significant enough to warrant dispatching a Special Agent to a forbidden territory. Things didn’t go so well for the last vampire caught here, did they?” The Hegemony had a strict no-vampire policy, flatly rejecting the rhetoric espoused by the Sanguinopol foreign office. Officially, at least, vampires were forbidden entry to Halcyon. Unofficially, Ivan knew of at least a few in the Underworld, though they mainly kept to themselves.
“Lashings with silver. Backwards-minded, like I said.” Ignatov’s smirk soured into a sneer, and he stopped pretending to be casual. “But that fool was a tourist, an amateur who thought himself above the law. Some lessons simply have to be taught the hard way.”
Ivan took a half-step backwards as Ignatov spoke, his ankles brushing against each other lightly as his soles swept over the soft carpet. “I don’t think I’m above the law, Agent Ignatov. But if it wants me, it’s going to have to work for it.”
“Work? This hardly counts.” Ignatov’s fangs shone through the gloom. “I generally try not to mix business and pleasure, but I might just make an exception for you. I can’t decide whether it’ll be more satisfying to haul you before the Undying Senate or drain you dry right here and now, but either way I’ll enjoy myself.”
The boy sprang forward with one grasping hand outstretched, vampiric speed turning him into a shadowed blur - but Ivan had been prepared, trusting his reflexes to kick in. Time seemed to slow, letting him take in Ignatov’s smug grin as he closed in - what was he going to do, beat a vampire to death? They were said to be invulnerable to most mundane weapons, not that he’d ever tested that theory. No Federation citizen would ever dare set a hand on a vampire, or any of the Undying - it was a capital offence, under Federation law… but if he was already marked for death, what harm in adding another charge?
His legs pulsed with a familiar thrum as his foot arced upwards, his hardlight blades splitting the shadows and taking off Ignatov’s hand.