By: Webfic

Chapter 1 A New Assignment

SASHA POV "SPECIAL OPS 13, TO COMMANDER ANSELM S OFFICE. SPECIAL OPS 13, TO COMMANDER ANSELM S OFFICE," the speakers in our living room ceiling scream in a professional, robotic voice, assailing my sensitive ears. "No," I growl, stalking irritably into my bedroom, which is little more than a closet adjoining the main living area. Highly honored as WASP claims special ops are, they have not invested much in our barracks here at HQ. "Oh, come on, Sasha," Zoe cajoles me, standing where I can see her in the living room as she scrapes her long, blonde hair into a flawless high ponytail. I don t know how she does that. My wild locks cannot be so easily confined. "If he s got a job for us, at least it ll get us out of this dump." "Ever the optimist," Rika remarks as she emerges from her own bedroom to follow me into mine, where contrary to my own inclinations, I am reluctantly making myself presentable. Rika s deep black eyes share a look of scornful exasperation with me in the mirror, which is backed with aluminum, rather than silver, allowing her to see her reflection. As a vampire, Rika is always thrilled by such benefits of modern innovation. "You re doing the talking," I mutter, having somewhat successfully captured my voluminous, wavy black tresses in something resembling a bun. "Always a pleasure to converse with our commander," Rika replies dourly. She s looking extra gothic today, which I m sure Anselm will hate. Good. I shouldn t be the only one angry today. "Come on, you two. He s not exactly known for his patience," Zoe urges us from the living room. "I m sorry my hair isn t naturally cooperative and that I wasn t planning to be seen in public today," I grumble as Rika and I join her by our door. "And it s not like I m allowed to shift and go that way, even to save time getting ready. We just got back a few hours ago—" "You know that doesn t matter to Anselm. He likes to keep us busy. Maybe he s got new recruits for us to train or something." "There s not a snowball s chance in hell that he s going to waste us on training new recruits," Rika retorts disdainfully. "You know better than that." "I just hope it s not another search-and-destroy mission." We all share a shudder and then leave our tiny abode without another word. Our last mission was less than pleasant. Some young, mischievous fae would not stop pranking a local human settlement and were breaking many WASP laws in the process. We tried all manners of persuasion, we tried relocation, we warned them what the consequences for persisting in making themselves known to humans would be—all to no avail, leaving us with no choice, per WASP policy, except to execute them all. Rika and Zoe don t usually perform any actual executions, unless there are too many or circumstances are too difficult for me to kill them all myself. This mission did not qualify for their involvement in the dirty work. My teammates provided support and made sure none of our targets escaped, but every last one of them fell at my hands. The screams of the young fae are still echoing in my brain, much as our footsteps echo in this futuristic, all-white hallway. Our little barracks apartment is furnished to our taste, sort of a Craftsman-style abode, but most of the rest of the WASP HQ compound looks like something out of a sci-fi movie: shining white, non-natural surfaces, fluorescent and LED lighting, security cameras everywhere. I hate it here. The walk to Anselm s office is not a long one, which is both a blessing and a curse. At least he usually summons us here, instead of coming to see us himself. Zoe uses the biometric scanner on the door to let us in; despite WASP s general technical prowess, the scanner doesn t recognize Rika s undead-ness, and I will not do anything to voluntarily see Anselm if I can avoid it. Not yet. I m still not ready yet. The smooth white door swings open, revealing a similarly futuristic white office with a completely anachronistic heavy mahogany desk in the center, heavily laden with several computers and overflowing manila file folders. Behind the desk is the hulking figure of Commander Anselm, the shifter in charge of all of WASP s special operations forces. He stands well above six feet tall, broad as a barn with gray-flecked golden hair and a grey-streaked gold beard. His eyes are also gold, with feline pupils not unlike my own. "Ah, Special Ops 13. Thank you for coming on such short notice," Anselm rumbles. His voice is so deep it doesn t seem real. "It s always a pleasure to see you, Commander," Zoe replies brightly. I m glad she s taking charge. Out of the three of us, she definitely has the most pleasant personality and natural charm. Anselm raises an eyebrow at this assertion—I suspect he knows that at least one member of our squadron decidedly does not think it a pleasure to see him—but chooses to ignore that, at least for the time being. "I know you have just returned from a mission—thank you for the very thorough report, by the way—but another…situation uniquely suited to your skill sets has come up." "Where are you sending us?" Rika inquires. To her, this is the all-important question; she s a wizard with all sorts of technology and insists on taking selfies at every new location we visit, positively gleeful at the ability to capture her own likeness with a camera (which she never fails to remind us hasn t always been possible for her kind). "Columbus, Ohio." Rika, Zoe, and I exchange glances. "But isn t Ohio, like, just a bunch of cornfields and cows?" Zoe asks for all of us. "What sort of problem that would demand our attention could have come up there?" "Columbus is actually a rapidly growing city of close to one million humans, and many more creatures that fall under WASP s jurisdiction. The individuals that concern you for this mission are a coven of vampires using a bar as a front for a human trafficking and feeding business. Scouts in the area just sent in the evidence necessary for conviction this morning, about the time you returned, but I wanted to give you a few hours to rest before sending you in." "You re too kind, Commander. I take it you will be giving us all of that evidence and other necessary information?" Rika responds, a hint of dry humor coloring her tones. She hates the rogue vampire cases more than any others, probably because a wrong turn or two in her own path could have landed her among them. "Sent," he affirms, pressing a couple of keys on his computer keyboard. Rika pulls out her tablet and immediately starts scanning through the information even as Anselm continues to talk. "You will handle this quickly. The scouts have reason to believe, although as yet they lack concrete evidence, that some turnings are also happening at this coven s hands. The situation is out of control." "Based on what we have here, I think we should be able to terminate this problem within 36 hours of our arrival in Columbus." "Excellent. That s the kind of efficiency we pride ourselves on, and the reason I ve selected you for this particular mission. Well, that, and there s another potential problem I d like you to look into for me while you re there," Anselm says ominously, his golden eyes boring holes into me. Likely he s annoyed that I refuse to speak to him. He ought to be used to that by now. It s all I can do not to squirm under the intensity of his gaze. "The Columbus area scouts have also sent me reports of a few lycans making trouble in the area. We have no concrete evidence or anything yet, you understand, but I have made arrangements for you to stay in Columbus for as long as you need to for investigative purposes. Not, of course, that I want you to stay a long time, but based on the information I have at present, I believe your team has exactly the skill set necessary to handle this particular situation effectively." "Do you have files or any other information on these lycans?" Rika inquires. Anselm hits a couple more buttons on a computer keyboard. "I ve just sent you a database of all the lycans we know to be in the area, with the potentially disruptive ones marked for you. Your first priority is the vampire situation, but once you ve cleaned that up, start investigating the lycans. Finding the truth seems to be somewhat beyond our scouts capabilities, and there s no better team in all of WASP than Special Ops 13." "You honor us, Commander," Zoe smiles winningly. Anselm does not appear impressed with Zoe s charms. "Vampires first. But as you investigate the lycans, remember—" "There is no room for compassion, only the law." Zoe has amped up the winning smile specifically for this moment, to spare me from having to recite that awful motto, no doubt coined over my father s corpse. "We know our duty, sir." "See that you execute it. Coordinates for your Columbus housing are already programmed into your plane. All of the other information you need has either been sent to you electronically already or will be shortly. Make haste. Justice must be served, and the law must be enforced." "Yes, Commander," the three of us answer severally, with varying levels of enthusiasm. "Dismissed."
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