Undead's Gamble

It's the year 1998, but not as we know it. It's a world that runs on steam and not oil. It's a world where several cultural aspects have stayed the same since the late 1800s. It's a world where vampires, werewolves and zombies are more than creatures of fairy tales and horror stories, and they are increasing in numbers.
The vampire Nathan Archer lives as an inventor of various intricate trinkers and deadly gadgets, which he sells to the highest bidder on the black market.
The human Abigail Integra Jones is a rookie agent of the Secret Intelligence Service, and she is tasked with finding the reason for the sudden rise in undead beings.
Wether it is by the hands of destiny or chance, these two are cast together and must stop the group behind this secret plot, or soon, Europe will be overrun with creatures of the night before it's populace even realizes it.

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3. Getting Your Ducks in a Row

Chapter 2.

Getting Your Ducks in a Row

 

 

 

 

 

10.30 a.m., March 2nd, 1998

Abigail Integra Jones’ apartment, London, England

Abigail Jones

 

My trance was broken by a loud crack.

My eyes opened immediately. I didn’t get the groggy feeling when I woke up. I always woke up with angst. After a long night of bad dreams, sleep was replaced with angst, the bad dreams turned to blurry images of the nightmares in my head and finally they became like a forgotten memory; no matter how far you would reach for them, it would always be just outside of your reach.

My hand slit across the mess of bed linens and mechanically made three taps on my bed stand. Without thinking, it also opened the drawer and withdrew the bottle of pills. Like clockwork, I unscrewed the lid and swallowed two of the pills as the angst kept getting more intense.

I closed my eyes and my body went into a fetal position to shield myself from the world. I started to recite the digits of pi, just to focus on something that wasn't my obsessive behaviour. 3, 1, 4, 1, 5, 9, 2, 6, 5, 3...

After five minutes of reciting, the pills had taken their effect. I would probably have fallen asleep if it hadn't been for a crack identical to the one before. 

My body quickly reacted to the crack and sat up in the bed. My eyes peered for the source of the cracks and found it. A black piece of fur was making its way across my windows still. Not completely black. As the cat arrogantly made it closer to me every second, I saw the one white patch of fur at the end of the tail. The cat had knocked over two of my plants.

“Ares! You damn cat!” I yelled as I threw a pillow at him. With ease, the cat jumped out of the pillows way and landed on my bed. It was like he was gloating. And of course the pillow hit another plant.

I swore.

I had been raised not to swear and to act like a proper lady, which was hard when ill like me.

My hands found their way to my eyes and rubbed them. The pills made it feel like I was still in a dream. I hated that effect. Most people would be thrilled that they got to experience a weak high for a few minutes. On a daily basis. Legally. They were most people. I was me.

Slowly raising myself from my bed, I looked around my small flat. I lived like a Spartan: only having the essentials. There wouldn’t be much left for my brother to gain if I was suddenly killed in the line of duty. An unlikely scenario, seeing as my superiors didn’t trust me due to my illness.

I opened my closet and looked at both my options of clothes, and myself in a build-in mirror. I looked down at my left side, the scar was barely visible, but if you didn't notice it with the first glance, you would with the second.

Like most days, my clothes seemed to just fall onto me. There was the short and improper dress - made improper by the shortness of the skirt - which was held together by a corset. Black fishnet stockings went up on my legs. I wore small but tight boots on my feet. My short yet uncooperative hair was held in place by a headband. I put on a pair of tight gloves. Last I threw on a jacket with the sleeves rolled up to my elbows.

I took another look at myself in the mirror, but even though I was fully clothed, I still felt naked. My hand reached for the black garter that was also lying on my nightstand. It wasn’t a traditional wedding garter with laces and a bow. It was just a black band that went around my thigh. The only special thing about it, which was also its purpose, was the small holster on it. In that holster, I always had a small gun.

The weapon was of an extremely small calibre, only good for two shots before it had to be reloaded, but those two shots would be enough in a tight situation. Its metal works were constructed out of gold, of all things. And it had been a gift. Of sorts. Now, it made me feel safe whenever I went outside my door.

The last thing missing was the goggles. They would keep my eyes clear of smoke, insects and other unpleasant things while driving through London. I looked at the clock again and sighed.

Still in a daze, I walked out of my apartment and locked my door. Like usual, Ares tried to follow me, but before he could reach freedom, the door was slammed in his face.

Down on the street, things were messy. It wasn’t dark outside, but the clouds and smoke made sure that no Englishman in the city was hit by even the slightest ray of sunshine.

That was the reality of living in England.

Around me, people walked to the mundane tasks of the day. A man in an old waistcoat and with a sixpence on his head was walking with a shovel on his shoulder. He had strong and dirty arms, and his face matches. Probably supporting a sea of children, he worked at minimum wage in some factory, shovelling coal in a dark room in order to feed the insatiable, steam-powered machines.

A woman passed him. She was wearing skimpy attire, consisting of a dirty dress that only just covered her privates. You could see the area where her tights ended and the skin of her thigh started. She just came out from an alley with some coins clutched in her glove covered hand and with her tights and dress still in disarray.

Neither of them paid attention to a cripple who was sitting up against a lamppost. He had a dirty piece of cloth to cover one of his eyes; his hair was grey, long and dirty and covered by a crooked and partially ruined top hat. The rag of clothes he was covering his scrawny body with, were a mismatch of those worn by the poor and those thrown out by the rich. His bare foot was also dirty and without shoe or sock, and his other foot was missing. In his right hand, he held an old and rusted cup, just waiting for people to cast their pity on him.

Another sign escaped my mouth as I watched the people of London. I went into the locked alley where the residents of my building could put their things. I unlocked the gate and went straight for the copper construction with two wheels. Jack had called it a scooter. They were really rare to see in this part of Europe. I put the key in the ignition and turned it on.

While sitting on it, I could feel it come to live. My hand reached the inner pocket of my jacket and got the small container where my pills were. I swallowed two more and put the container back in my pocket.

I let my goggles slide down in front of my eyes, and then I drove out onto the street.

There were a few gasps as I drove onto the middle of the street, the place where stagecoaches were suppose to drive, but that was unlikely to happen in this neighbourhood.

The scenery gradually changed as I glided seamlessly through the streets of London. It changed to first an industrial neighbourhood, then to a residential one for the more privileged, and finally to the part of the city where the privileged worked. Everywhere I came, people would turn their heads since it wasn’t every day that you would see a scooter in London.

Finally I reached the river Thames. I looked up at the ziggurat-like building. The SIS Building, or Babylon-on-Thames as it was also known as, was the headquarters of the Secret Intelligence Service. I pulled my scooter into a small alley where no one was ever looking. Then I walked back to the front entrance.

Before entering the building, I looked across the river Thames and gazed upon my brothers and sisters in arms at the Thames House where the Security Service, or MI6, were situated.

The inside of the SIS Building matches the outside; it was beautifully designed as a mix of traditional Victorian architecture and with elements of the Mayan and Aztec cultures of South America. A peculiar choice, but the outcome was very pleasant to look at.

Everything was as usual inside the building. Men and women were hurrying through the front hall to get to some meeting, to deliver a report or whatever it was that morning.

I managed to cut straight through the traffic and reach the elevators. When the moving box came to the ground floor, I stepped inside along with five other people. Three people pushed a button on the panel next to the door, at the third, fifth and sixth floors. I pushed the eighth.

After a couple of minutes with uncomfortable silence and annoyingly cheery music, the elevator stopped at the eighth floor.

The hallway on the eighth floor was silent as always. It was mainly active field agents who worked here, both the ones that worked domestic (covertly of course) and international.

I was about to enter my office when Miss Clover called for me from down the hall. "Miss Jones, Mr. Quinn wants to see you" she said and croaked back behind her glasses. A little grey thing, which had served as Mr. Quinn's secretary since he was promoted to Head of Field Operations. That was about fifteen years ago.

With a sigh, I turned around and walked further down the grey hallway. My legs lead me into the small room right before Mr. Quinn's office. Miss Clover was sitting there and typing something into her typewriter. "Go right in dear, he is waiting for you." The sincerity was false. She was as ruthless as any and all field agents, and twice as deceiving, so when she said something with affection in her voice, she was faking it.

I ignored her advice and knocked on the door instead. "Come in" Mr. Quinn's deep voice said from the other side of his door.

"You wanted to see me sir?" I said once I was sure the door was closed again.

"Yes, Jones" he said as he lit a fire in his pipe. Mr. Quinn was probably in his sixties, but still in great shape. He had himself, been a field agent in his youth, but at some point he had taken a piece of shrapnel to his knee and was now walking with a cane.

The old man only glanced at me once, and then looked back down at the papers on his desk. “I got a message this morning from Mr. Masters over at Security Services. He said that he needed to see you as soon as possible.” He looked up at me again. “Apparently ‘Your gamble paid off, and you should get your ducks in a row’.”

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