The wind whistled through the trees gently, the shadows cast by the full moon danced and the branches cracked and creaked. Few creatures stirred, so many were tucked up in bed but there were of course the nocturnal eyes that leered from the dark. It was these that Will was listening for as he checked the location on the GPS tracker once again. He was in the right spot, the hive had to be close but he just couldn’t see it.
He fiddled with his bag once more, the weapons, explosives and night vision equipment were all at hand, he decided to whip out the goggles. Despite the full moon blasting down, the thick trees kept too many secrets from him.
Attaching the goggles to his head and switching them on he scanned the area slowly hoping to find a clue. As he scanned, Will’s mind flashed back to the past few days and how he had got here in the first place.
After escaping Blaine by the skin of his teeth, he and Chen had taken off as fast they could. They were out of the city within hours and only by some very subtle contacts with the few people Will knew in the city, none of which he fully trusted, they ascertained that the business man at the head of the technology company STANTHORP known as Mihai Aleksik, or Derrick to those who knew him, had indeed departed the city in the early hours of the morning. So there didn’t seem much point in sticking around Zagreb and thus they had set up shop in a small town about an hour from the Hungarian border. It was a small serene area, hills in the distance, green all around, it seemed relatively lush. The locals didn’t seem to mind them being there, they were paying board and pumped at least a little bit of money into their town, so why would they complain?
The two large bags they each carried were probably just sporting equipment, maybe they were part of a sports team and had come here to relax? The village was mostly full of older people, none of whom spoke English and the two men seemed to only communicate in hello’s and thankyou’s to everyone, so it wasn’t possible to find out why they were here.
It gave the two men some time to calm down and collect themselves whilst they planned their next move. They had been there only two nights, they were sitting on the balcony of their small lodge overlooking the green fields as the sun set picking at their dinner of mediterranean salads, with fresh lush vegetables, flavour filled olives and a dash of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, finally with a hint of cracked black pepper.
Will hadn’t used his powers all day, he was almost getting to the point of getting relaxed as he sipped his cool sauv blanc. The smell of the wine complimented the mercifully cool breeze which picked up elements of the citrus trees in a plantation not so far away. He allowed himself only a half glass, even that was bucking a trend. He thought however that perhaps he should do a scan of the perimeter however, just to make sure.
‘This is the part of the job I quite enjoy,’ said Chen as his glass clinked against his plate. He was at the end of his first glass of wine and was already getting a little drunk.
‘I didn’t think you liked salad.’
‘Well perhaps not everyday, but you can’t argue with the view.’
‘No, true. Maybe we should cook some rice for you tomorrow ‘
‘Ah, that would be heaven,’ Chen said wistfully.
‘I’m going to go for a look around, wont be long.’
‘You’re always on duty aren’t you officer.’
‘Got that right.’ Will finished his wine and took the last scrap of his salad and left the lodge and did a full circuit of the village. It was a quiet place, even on the weekend there was only one restaurant within view which was ticking over a slow business. The place was full of pensioners, living month to month, it wasn’t easy for them, it was less than 200 euros a month as Will understood.
He watched an old lady, shawl over her head, wrinkles across her face and a look of stubborn resistance as age, gravity and reality worked to bring her down, her torso had given up and was already nearly at a horizontal, but her legs kept shuffling, she wouldn’t go down without a fight. Will smiled, admiring the old lady.
Will tapped into his power, almost imperceptibly, it was like he was swimming in a vast pool in his mind’s eye, at the centre of the pool was a glowing ball, pure energy. It was the thing that enabled him to use his powers, he thought of it as his centre, but knew no other name for it.
He would reach out to it, embrace it with both hands and that would enable the power to come flooding into him. But it was also dangerous, not just because it would draw the attention of the creatures around him, but also because he could conceivably overdo it and draw so much energy that it would pour out of his body in a catastrophic way. It could kill him in the process but at the very least it would leave him damaged and unconscious.
So instead, Will would gently grab the power with but one hand, and this would give him better control. He could then manage how fast the energy flowed into him, and thus how much he could use before having to refill, or recharge himself. It meant that it was harder for his enemies to detect him, but also that he could only draw enough for a short battle before he would have to take a moment to recharge, and if that moment was in the midst of battle, then it could be catastrophic. So his life was a constant choice between strength and stealth, finding a balance wasn’t easy, but staying hidden usually turned out more favourably. As it was, he barely brushed the hand of his mind’s eye against the power to enable him to sense his local surrounds. He felt that he was only scanning the equivalent of half the village, but unsurprisingly he felt nothing. The thing about the creatures is that they needed their power and used it almost constantly. This made detecting them easier and thus gave Will an advantage. To be safe he drew just a little more power and cast a wider net encompassing the entire village. It all seemed clear but as he concentrated he could pick up the barest ‘blip’ on the radar in his mind. It was like there was a spec of white-yellow that flickered in the distance. Through much practice Will was able to turn his head to the direction of the spec and knew exactly where it was in the real world. He kept the image of the ‘map’ in his mind as he closed in on whatever it was that was drawing the power, it had to be a creature, that much was certain, but it wasn’t very strong, or it was only drawing a tiny amount of its power.
Will walked on and in only a minute he was on the outskirts of the village. He was now within twenty paces of the creature, or whatever it was, but the old dirt path stopped and there were shrubs and bushes concealing it.
It had to be small to be under such an area, so not likely an enforcer, but Will had to be ready all the same, he had learnt long ago not to underestimate the creatures no matter their size.
He stood in silence for a moment, readied his body, a rustling of leaves caught his attention, he looked at one particular bush, that was it, it was there. He could smell the fresh soil under his feet, the bushes gave off a slight perfume as well, but the stink of something evil overwhelmed them all. He moved towards it slowly, silently. He didn’t have his weapons with him, but he had trained himself to be deadly without their aid. He was within ten paces and getting closer, now pushing through the low shrubs he tried to miss the mass of twigs as the slow breeze rustled around him. He was within five paces, he could almost smell the creature, for that is what it was there could be no doubt. Will crouched down and readied himself to attack, he charged a little energy into his hands to strike readied a little more to protect himself in case of a counter attack. Cornering creatures was like cornering an animal, they fought and they fought hard.
He heard a voice behind him, Will turned on his heel and saw an old man walking past the road, he was calling out. Will turned again as the bushes rustled around him. He reached out but couldn’t detect the creature any more. It had run, and run fast, so it didn’t want to fight him, but it was most likely spying on him.
Will returned to the path, the old man was talking to a friend. They barely noticed him as he walked past, they were talking in an old Croatian dialect that Will didn’t understand, but he had more important things to deal with.
He went back to the lodge and found Chen finishing his second glass of wine and nearly falling asleep on the couch.
‘You Asians, can’t handle your booze,’ he said as he sat down. He chose not to partake in a second glass he like to keep a manner of discipline in his diet.
‘Bah, you white men aren’t much better, you know how much money is spent every year fixing damage from drunken idiots? Lots, that’s how much.’ As if suddenly remembering why Will had left in the first place he added, ‘find anything?’
‘Yeah, a creep.’
‘Yeah, but it got away.’
Creeps was the term Will had given to the smaller nameless, the ones that were less powerful but were sneaky and used as spies. They were difficult to detect which made them the perfect spy.
‘So what now?’
‘I’ll keep an eye out and see if it returns, I want to see what it’s up to.’
‘Well, for one thing, does it know who we are, or is it just in charge of keeping an eye on the area. If it doesn’t know, then maybe its ignorance could be an advantage.’
‘I’m not going to pretend I understand what you’re saying, but if you don’t need me, I’m going to crash out.’
‘Right, sleep it off you drunk.’ Chen disappeared into one of the two rooms, Will stayed up, he wasn’t ready to sleep, his job wasn’t done yet.
The night crept on, not a creature stirred. The village had gone to bed hours before, not just because most of the residents were elderly, but mostly because they had grown up without the advent of electricity in their homes. Small villages in the Balkans shared a phone between them and electricity to every house was unheard of up until the 1970s in many places and was slower still in the more remote areas. Thus, people got up with the sun, and went down with the sun, it was a simple life which the younger generation was doing its ardent best to get away from. Cities filled up with youth, older villagers died out.
So the village was still, until a sniffing and snuffling sound could be heard, a dog walked the streets in search of food, a cat walked across the roof of one of the several dozen houses, all was as it should be.
But the dog stopped suddenly, it could sense something, it could smell something it wasn’t familiar with, this put it on edge as it walked gingerly to the edge of the village and looked off into the darkness. What was it? The dog was used to marking its territory and would fight with other dogs, but this was something different. It sniffed the air and then moved slowly closer to the brink of the wilderness, leaving the antiquated civilisation behind. It didn’t know what was out there, but it was an intruder and so the dog growled, that’s all it could possibly do. It growled, and got lower on its haunches and prepared itself for a fight.
The bushes in front of the dog rustled, the dog grew silent and then growled some more. There was a sudden blast of motion from the bushes as something not much larger than the dog jumped out at and screeched. The dog barked, panicked and ran as a claw struck its body drawing blood, it yelped and disappeared into the streets.
Two of the closest residents stirred and looked out the window, but they saw and heard nothing and so they went back to sleep.
It was now past midnight, the warm summer night carried on, insects kept a hum going in the background as the one and only visitors lodge in the village sat in silence. There was a ‘tick, tick,’ as a small creature moved through the undergrowth and made its way up to the balcony which lead into the small living room. The door was open letting in some breeze and also an intruder. The creature stalked slowly, it turned its head left then right, looked at the first door, a bedroom and made its way over. Moving a claw up, it manipulated the handle with surprising dexterity, the door swung open with a gentle creek which made the creature pause for a moment. It kept its body close to the ground, on all fours which was its natural state. The bed was in front of it, it could hear snoring. Even if the human woke up and looked to the door it wouldn’t see the creature, it was too low.
The creature tap, tapped its way over to the sheets that dangled to the ground, it could see two feet. The creature drooled, it was hungry, but no, it had a job to do, that would have to wait. It moved to the foot of the bed and poked its head up. It could see perfectly well in the dark, the Asian man was sound asleep, not stirring even a little. The creature would have smirked if it had the facial features to do so, instead it moved slowly onto the bed, its first claw came up, then its second. It was almost too easy.
It cried out in pain as there was a blinding flash that took its vision away. It fell to the ground, unable to see for a few critical moments, it thrashed around desperately. What happened? There was a sudden blow to the creature’s head and it fell silent.
‘Damn it Will, if you’re going to use me for bait, at least let me know.’
‘Sorry, I needed you to be sound asleep.’
‘What happened?’ Chen sat up groggy, but at least he was no longer drunk. He had awoken to the sounds of the creature thrashing around next to his bed. It was small by still about two-thirds the size of a man, with sharp claws and fangs that matched their larger counterparts. It was a rather rude awakening.
‘I turned the light on, they really hate that.’
‘The incredible power of the nameless brought to its knees by a neon bulb and light switch.’
It was nearly an hour before the creature awoke, it was tied up securely, completely unable to move. It thrashed around and gnashed its teeth. The rage in its large dark eyes was palpable. After it calmed down, exhausting itself, Will sat down in front of it in the living room. Chen stood nearby sipping a cup of tea. Neither seemed particularly concerned by the sight of the creature, which was another first for it, after being tied up and subdued so easily.
‘Ok you little sneak, we’re going to try it like this, we will ask you some questions, if you answer them there’s a good chance you will survive, if you don’t, you will die and you will die quickly.’ Will spoke simply, and in English. The creature didn’t respond.
‘Maybe it doesn’t know English,’ Chen offered.
Will tried in Serbian, then in German, and finally in French. No reply.
‘Maybe it’s just stupid, some of them really are just dumb animals.’ Chen sipped his tea and played with his cigarette packet.
‘Maybe, oh well, it was worth a try, I’ll just kill it.’
‘You want to cut off its arms and legs first?’
‘Maybe, haven’t done that for a while,’ Will said as he stood up and walked to the creature.
‘No!’ It growled.
‘Ah, so you do speak?’ Chen piped up.
‘Of course, this was an important mission I bet, they wouldn’t send just a dumb animal. So little one, what can I call you?’
‘Meat?’ The creature nodded. Its voice was like a growl mixed with a hiss.
‘Ok Meat, did Derrick send you?’ The creature looked at him uncertainly. ‘Derrick, from Zagreb, he just left today, but he sent you out to find us right.’
‘Derrick, boss.’ It said.
‘Yes, your boss, but who gave you the orders.’
‘He gave them to you directly?’ The creature nodded. ‘Ok, good, you’re doing well, now tell me,’ Will crouched down next to the creature, his tone was non threatening, but it was matter of fact, ‘what was your mission?’
‘Oh, so you were going to kill us?’ It nodded. ‘I like your honesty. So where did Derrick go? What is his next move?’
‘Are you sure? You haven’t been very helpful yet meat, now speak up. What is your connection to Derrick.’
‘Yes, I gathered that, but where are you normally posted, do you stay here, in Croatia?’
‘Croa-tia?’ The concept of countries was sometimes lost on them. ‘With Derrick.’
‘Yes, he’s your boss I get it, but where are you normally?’
‘With Derrick.’ Will looked at Chen who was frowning in concentration.
‘I think he’s saying he normally stays with Derrick.
The creature nodded.
‘Oh,’ Will’s eyebrows shot up at the revelation. ‘So you’re part of his private force?’ The creature nodded. ‘Well now, that is interesting. So where is he going next?’
‘Come on Meat, just give me that and you’re home free.’
‘Ok, after the mission where were you supposed to go?’
‘To forest, to nest, wait.’
‘To a nest, to wait.’ Will repeated. A nest, or hive as Will called them were basically where the nameless lived that couldnt’ shape shift. I they couldn’t disguise themselves as human then they would have to stay well hidden, and this often meant away from towns and cities and often underground to hide from the sun. The creatures were very nocturnal and whilst the sun wasn’t a full proof stop for them, they certainly found it unpleasant and tried to avoid it.
‘So you wait there for orders from Derrick, and then what? Meet up with him again?’
‘Yes, he say, he need me for something, he moving.’
‘Excellent meat, so where is this nest?’
‘I know, can show you.’
‘Very good meat, you show me, I will go to it, and if it turns out ok, you’re free to go, if not, you know what happens don’t you?’ The creature looked up at him, its big black eyes looking scared and pathetic.
Thus it was now two days later and through some tricky negotiation, they had managed to hitch a ride on a truck to the border of Bosnia. Meat was able to point out the exact location using GPS coordinates, which would seem strange in what looked to be a primitive creature, but the advent of such technology helped the nameless move around and communicate with each other. Will had seen GPS coordinates for some hives before and so knew this was common, but he nevertheless prepared for all occurrences. Chen would stay with Meat and if Will didn’t return, he was to cut his throat. Now, in the forest only half an hours drive from the Bosnian border, a patch of green relative to the hilly rocky lifeless area around it, Will scanned the clump of bushes in front of him. It was after a few minutes that he saw some movement. Two small creatures crawled out of the bushes and scampered about going in the opposite direction to Will. He could see an opening now, it was small, but he might just be able to fit through. If it was a trap, it would mean very little to him that the little lying critter would be killed, but he was prepared to take the risk. This could be the link back to Derrick, he had to try it.
(C) T.W. Norrich ‘The Nameless Saga’ 2016