Later, she would learn it was her anger that had attracted them.
She strode down the street, eyes blazing. The gym was only two blocks away, and hitting the heavy bags seemed like a good plan. The condo had a gym, but it wasn't like Mic's. Mic himself was a retired initiative soldier, and his gym was built with his clients in mind. Initiative, slayers, and demon hunters all worked out at Mic's. There was a bar half a block down that catered to the same clientele. Astrid
had only ever been in Mic's, but Alicia had been in the bar and promised to take her when she was older.
She didn't notice the woman following her, but she did notice the guy who pulled her into the alley. It was the woman who knocked her out. When she woke she was tied to a metal folding chair, in a small room. The door was ajar, and she could see light, dimly filtered from a candle. The air was damp, and had chill to it. The sub-tunnels then; there were any number of demons that used the sub-tunnels as housing and transport. She tested the ropes. Her hands were tied tight, but her legs had some wiggle room. They'd left her boots on. Footsteps, she closed her eyes.
"This one is strong," A young man's voice. "Mother says she'll feed us for a long time if we're careful with her."
"Careful is no fun." Another young man answered, truculent. "They taste better when they're screaming."
"But Mother said," The first began.
"Mother said," The other mimicked.
"Yes," A woman's voice. "I did. Leave her, Gork. This one is your brothers. We'll find you something." She could hear them moving off. The first voice spoke softly, "Not as nice as mine." He stepped away, and the door shut.
opened her eyes and waited as they adjusted to the darkness. A cheap tap light was turned on, hanging from a nail on the wall to her left. Bare concrete walls and floor. A cot in the corner, small folding table, and her in the chair were the only things in it. They hadn't tied her upper half to the chair except to loop the rope tying her hands through the back. She could bend.Astrid
listened to them leave. They sounded human. There were footsteps, on what was probably concrete. And it was cold down here, with a wetness to the air. Tunnels then. Great, first she'd have to kill whatever caught her, then she'd probably have to fight her way out. Well, no, first she had to get out of the chair.
She bent, reaching, lifting her knees, and finally, blissfully, her fingers closed on the thin, faintly rounded edge of her knife. She pulled it out. A boot knife was something Alicia had taught her. "Always have a weapon. Never rely on it," was the older slayer's motto.Wedging the knife between her knees she began to saw at the rope between her wrists. Dry and pulled tightly apart, she had her hands free in four minutes. Every minute she expected them to walk in.
They weren't vampires, that much she was sure of. But without getting a look at them, she didn't know what they were. They had human voices, but any number of demons could have that. Their footsteps had sounded human. One of the boys had been wearing heavy boots. She untied her feet and stood carefully. She could feel the lump on the back of her head, but she was steady on her feet. She did some basic math in her head. Probably not a concussion. She took stock of the room.
Aside from her knife, she had the rope she was tied with, a dirty cot, and a metal folding chair. She tucked the longer bit of rope around her waist and folded the chair up. It would be an awkward bludgeoning tool, but if they weren't expecting an attack...
Carefully she opened the door. The hallway was the same, bare concrete. She could here a man screaming down the way. She knew she should escape while they were occupied, but she was still unsure. Then, in the quiet between screams, she heard a woman whimper. Astrid
's face hardened. She was going to get everyone out of here.
Footsteps, and she quickly closed the door. Standing to the side she waited. He came in muttering to himself. She launched a quick and vicious assault with the chair. She hit his knees first. Unsure of what she'd bee fighting, but knowing they had feet, her first goal was to disable. With a popping sound, his knees gave out and he fell. His scream died in his throat as the metal edge of the chair smashed into his neck. She looked him over.
Human shaped, his skin had the small green scales of a lizard. His eyes were slitted, and stared up at her in pain and confusion. His vocal cords had been crushed, and his airway was severely damaged. Grimly, she set the edge of the chair against his throat and leaned. His hands, tipped with sharp nails, struggled weakly to push the chair away. She leaned on him even after he'd quit moving, until she saw the spark of life leave his eyes. Vampires looked angry when you killed them, and usually surprised. The lizard man had looked desperate.
She listened carefully. If the other demons had heard the struggle there was no sign of it. The man screaming down the hallway was probably a good distraction. Dragging the lizard demon by his ankles, she moved him out of the doorway. There was door across the narrow tunnel wall. It was rough cut, and hung half off its hinges. She eased it open. A girl of about twenty looked up from her whimpering, reflexively hitching up her shoulder to fend off a blow. She was chained by her ankle to the wall, her hands tied in front of her.
Finger to her lips, Astrid
approached her. She slipped the knife from her boot. "I'm going to use this to unlock you, o.k.?" She said quietly. The girl nodded. "Can you walk?" Carrying her would be slow, and she'd have to put her down to fight. The girl nodded again.
"I pace when they're not here." The girl told her. "To keep warm." There was a click as the manacle unlocked. Astrid
carefully cut the ropes on the girls wrists the slipped out of her jacket. "Thanks. I'm Nell." She said, slipping into the jacket and zipping it up.
." The slayer returned. She looked at Nell's bare feet, then crossed to the bed, just out of reach of the previously shackled girl. Tearing strips from the sheets, she wrapped Nell's feet, winding until they wrapped her ankles and tying them off. She handed Nell more strips. "Stick them in the pockets." She instructed. "And stay behind me." Picking up the chair again, she edged into the tunnel. The man had quit screaming.
They reached a larger chamber. It smelled of blood and sweat things best not thought about. There was a man crumpled on the floor. "I want another one." The whiny voice Astrid
had heard earlier complained. "This one's almost gone. Look, he passed out. Please."
"We'll take the bus out and find you a nice drunkard." The woman began.
"No! I want a good one. Glak got a strong one. I want a strong one!" He whined. "An athlete. Glak got an athlete." He continued.
"Glak takes better care of his pets." The woman began.
With a deadly accuracy, the slayer threw her knife into the woman's back. It hit with a thunk. "What?" The woman managed before staggering. "Gork!" She called, reaching for her spawn. The lizard man pulled the knife from his mothers back as she sank to her knees.
"How?" He sputtered. "How dare you!" He charged her, knife in hand. Sweeping Nell sideways with her, Astrid
brought the chair up like a shield.
"Asks the lizard who kidnaps people?" Astrid
returned, shoving the chair into his middle the letting it fall. The air whooshed out of him. Grabbing his wrist she bent it until the knife fell from his hand. He swung his taloned free hand at her. Dodging, he hit her shoulder instead of her face. She felt blood run warmly down her arm. Snapping a kick at his knee, she jumped back. "Nell, get him out of here!" She called. "Take the first ladder you find to the surface. I'm right behind you."
Staggered by the blow to his knee, the lizard man still moved forward. "You're dead!" He screamed at her.
"Like your mommy?" She asked him mockingly.
With a bellow he launched himself at her again, talons swinging. She ducked under, and brought her shoulder into his middle. With a heave the demon went flying. He hit the wall with enough force to daze him. Nell was struggling to wake the man on the floor, tears streaming down her face. "Please," she begged. "Please, Johnny, you have to wake up. You have to wake up!" She pleaded.
said gently. "We can send people back for him."
"No!" The other girl protested. "I can't leave him here. Help me wake him."
With a sigh, knowing it would slow them down, Astrid
slipped the slim man over her shoulders in a fireman's carry. Nell wrapped her arm in a strip of sheet. "You must be really strong."
"Comes with the job." Astrid
answered. "I'm a super hero." She continued, striving for lightness.
"You should have a cape." Nell replied. "Or a really fancy pair of boots."
"Ooh, boots." Astrid
answered. "Yes. I should have fancy boots." The continued down the tunnel. A vampire came around the corner. Astrid
couldn't have said how she knew he was a vampire, his face was normal. Something in the predatory hunger of his eyes.
"Ladies." He said. "Escaping the lizards I see. I usually like my meat a little fresher," He began. Astrid
stabbed him neatly through the throat. "That was a love tap." She warned. "Show us the ladder out, or I'll cut your head off."
"Slayer," The vampire hissed, a hand at his throat. Astrid
smiled coldly at him. "Follow me."
"If you try to trap us, I'll make sure you die first." She warned. Ahead of them, he nodded silently.
"No tricks." He promised. Leading them through a series of tunnels, he pointed them to a ladder. "Should take you up right behind an old butcher shop. A few of us raid it when we're hard up." He admitted. "Another night, I might have killed you. But I figure we probably owe you for the lizard men. Nasty bits, them."Astrid
regarded him. "If you've got a lair down there, move out." She warned. He nodded, and turned back the way they'd came. Nell held Sammy while Astrid
climbed up and pushed the manhole aside. When it was open she went back down. Nell had been holding up well so far, but the adrenaline was leaving her, and shock would set in soon. How long had they kept her down there? She sent her ahead and tried to think how to carry Johnny up. Finally she tied the rope around his wrists and put his arms over her shoulders. With super human efforts she managed to get them to the top and replace the manhole cover.
Chicago wind sliced bitterly at them. Nell huddled into Astrid
's jacket. It was the wind that woke Johnny, propped beside the back door. Astrid
broke the lock off the back door and helped young man inside it as Nell slipped inside. He didn't speak, still in shock. It wasn't much warmer inside the building. Moving through the cold back room, they finally found the small office. Astrid