Vampires & Vigilantes – Ella Summers

As my father and I drove through San Francisco at a snail’s pace, our truck spluttered and let out a loud belch. Thankfully, it didn’t expel any black smoke. The last thing we needed right now was to attract attention to ourselves. We had to get out of here. Now. But our getaway had stalled when the highway melted into a normal road. I stole a glance behind me. Jack, the ten-year-old boy we’d rescued from a goblin gangster, was still fast asleep in the backseat. I didn’t blame him. He’d had a rough week. Four days ago, Jack had gone missing on his way home from school. His parents hired us to find him. Father and I tracked him to Earth. Every Saturday night, a group of supernatural misfits held a high-stakes poker game inside a warehouse in a small town south of San Francisco. They didn’t bet with money; they bet with children.

My stomach churned, and I gripped my armrest, my fingers digging into the squishy-soft leather. The black eye I’d given Silvertongue, Jack’s goblin kidnapper, was far better than he deserved. “We have to report this to the Galactic Assembly.” My voice shook with anger. “They can’t get away with this.” Father reached over and gave my arm a comforting squeeze. “We will. And they won’t.” The Galactic Assembly was our galaxy’s governing body. They made and upheld the rules with merciless, cold-hearted efficiency.

I had no love for them or their methods, but they had their uses. The Assembly had strict laws against child trafficking—and especially against doing that here, where the Veil of Secrecy was still in place. The people of Earth didn’t know about magic or the existence of thriving planets beyond their own, and the Galactic Assembly was adamant about keeping it that way. Silvertongue would pay for his crimes. Eventually. Unfortunately, he’d gotten away. It had come down to a choice between saving the boy and capturing the goblin. The goblin himself hadn’t given us much trouble. His minions were another matter altogether. Silvertongue hailed from Goldstone, a world known for its flower gardens, beaches, and deadly robot bodyguards.

We’d made it out of the warehouse. Barely. And now we were cruising away through traffic at the impressive speed of—I glanced at the dashboard—ten kilometers per hour. I could have walked faster than that. “Are you sure we lost Silvertongue’s forces?” I asked. The robots were gone. Father had blown them up inside the warehouse. But robots weren’t the only pets the goblin had brought to Earth. Father tapped the steering wheel with perfect serenity. “We’ll make it.

” Blue lights flashed in the rearview mirror. I turned to find a police car driving right behind us. Shit. His face still perfectly calm, Father pulled our truck over to the side of the road. I opened the glove compartment and shuffled a black leather folder to find our vehicle’s registration information for Earth. I handed them to Father, along with his shiny California license. I knew a guy—a girl, actually—who could forge documents and hack any computer system on Earth. Father rolled down his window. A female police officer stepped up to the truck. I placed her somewhere in her mid-thirties.

She was tall and packed with lean muscle, but she’d still kept her feminine curves. A long braid hung over her shoulder, as black as her full eyelashes. “Good evening,” Father said, hitting her with a pleasant smile. He handed her the documents before she even asked. Her dark eyes panned across the page, then she leveled a cool, professional stare on him. “Are you aware that you have a broken bumper?” Broken was an understatement. The thing was holding on by a few strands. Father’s smile didn’t fade. “A large moving object hit us.” The object being one of the goblin’s robots smashing into the truck.

“A large moving object?” Father opened his mouth to answer, but I cut in. “A delivery truck. The driver wasn’t paying attention to where he was going. We’re heading straight home now.” She shifted her flashlight toward me. “You’re his daughter?” “That’s right,” I said, hoping she didn’t notice the blood on my clothes. It was a good thing I was wearing black. The police officer’s light fell on Jack, who was thankfully still sleeping. “Your brother?” “Yes,” I said. “He’s tired.

The collision was very traumatic for him.” If she looked closely, the game would be up. Jack was an elf. The pointed ears were a dead giveaway. Luckily, his long, sandy hair was covering them right now. “What is your profession?” she asked, addressing Father again. “Why do you need to know that?” His voice was pleasant, his smile unfading. We could just as well have been discussing the local bake sale. “For statistics,” she said, her voice no-nonsense. This was someone who was used to getting what she wanted, no questions asked.

Statistics. Not this nonsense again. It seemed to be a big thing with the Earth police right now. “You don’t have to answer that question,” I told Father aloud. Silently, I begged him not to mess with the police. “Nonsense, pumpkin.” I quirked my eyebrows at him. Pumpkin? “We always cooperate with our friendly police,” Father continued. He smiled at the police officer. “I’m a paranormal PI.

” I resisted the urge to bury my face in my hands. That would just draw attention. “Excuse me?” The police officer blinked, her determination melting into surprise. She must have never heard that one before. “There’s no need to excuse yourself, my lady. You did nothing wrong,” he replied pleasantly. She blinked again, but then quickly recovered, her expression hardening. Father’s smile never faded. His cheeks must have been aching by now. “I’m a paranormal PI,” he repeated.

“A paranormal PI?” He nodded. “I investigate paranormal threats, which include but are not limited to monsters, galactic pirates, and denizens of hell that threaten the safety and wellbeing of galactic citizens.” There was no shock on her face now—only hard, cold professionalism. “It’s a criminal offense to lie to an officer of the law.” “I’m not lying. I get paid to hunt down the forces of evil.” “Sir, I’m going to have to ask you to step out of the vehicle.” I shook my head in disbelief. Now he’d done it. Father stepped out of the car.

The police officer put him through a sobriety test. Father went through the motions, amused. He never drank. He said it made him slow. I didn’t drink either, but that was because alcohol didn’t mix well with my magic. “You’re very thorough,” he said as he tapped his nose with his fingertips. She directed him to walk a straight line. “The Earth is safer with you protecting it.” An irritated line formed between her eyes. “Are you mocking me?” “Not at all.

It was a compliment. Just like this: you’re a very beautiful woman.” “Don’t make me add solicitation to your charges,” she warned him. He chuckled. “I’m not a prostitute. It would be a simple coffee date.” “I am involved with someone else.” As soon as she said it, she pressed her lips together. She was probably wondering why she’d spoken. The answer was Father’s magic.

“You know he’s cheating on you,” he said seriously. Her mouth dropped in surprise. She didn’t realize that Father was really good at reading people. It came in handy in this business. “Ridiculous,” he continued. “Why anyone would want to cheat on a stunning, fierce woman like you is beyond me. Leave him. You deserve better.” Her eyes grew bigger. “I’ll tell you what,” he said.

“If I can guess your name, you go out on a date with me.” She recovered a little from her shock. “You won’t guess it.” “Then there’s no harm in trying.” He stroked his chin thoughtfully. The effect would have been more impressive if he’d had any facial hair. “Julie.” He watched her closely. “No, Samantha. Mara? No, that’s not right.

Natalia? No.” He nodded slowly. “I’ve got it. Naida.” He smiled. “A very lovely name.” “How did you guess?” she gasped. His teal-green eyes sparkled. “A magician never reveals his secrets.” Father was very good at reading people.

He wasn’t a mind-reading mage, but he could decipher the most subtle facial expressions. It was a valuable skill for a private detective. It wasn’t always fun to be his daughter, though. I couldn’t keep secrets from him. “I win,” Father told the police officer. She frowned. “I never agreed to play this game.” “I’ll pick you up from your house tomorrow at eight o’clock in the evening.” “You don’t know where I live.” “I’ll find you.

As I told you, I’m a PI.” She gaped at him, speechless. My father was like no one else. The road quaked. I opened my door and hopped out. Another thump. It sounded like a giant was stomping through the city. Father’s eyes darted around, seeking out the threat. He’d heard it too. “They’ve found us,” I told him.

I took out a small sphere and tossed it into the air. An invisible wave of energy burst out from it. The reality distortion field scrambled all cameras and tech within a threeblock radius. It also cloaked us to human eyes. We’d just bought it last month. It was egregiously expensive tech, but it was an essential investment in our business. We traveled to Earth all the time. Bail jumpers, kidnappers, and other criminals often fled here. It was harder to catch them here because we couldn’t use any magic or tech that would alert the locals to our existence. The reality distortion field rippled, and a monster appeared inside it.

It was a large horned beast about three meters tall and nearly as wide, a bizarre cross between a bull and a t-rex. Dual horns sprouted out of its head, each one as thick as a street lamp. Its body was corded with hard muscle, but it had no hair. Instead, a hard, grey shell of scales covered its body. As it breathed, fire puffed in front of its mouth. “What the hell is that?” Naida gasped. Her eyes grew as wide as a pair of full moons. To her credit, she didn’t run away screaming. She pulled out her gun and fired. Her bullet ricocheted off the beast’s chest and sank into the side panel of our truck.

“Your gun won’t do anything against it,” I told her. “You need a lot more firepower to take out that thing.” Father ran to the truck, popped the trunk and pulled out a grenade launcher. He fired it at the monster. The scaled beast fell down, but it got right back up. “What is that thing?” Naida asked. “A Horned Ravager,” I replied. “It’s a nasty beast native to Summerland.” “Summerland?” Screw it. She’d already seen the beast.

There was no turning back now. “A planet in the Selpe Empire. The vampires raise the beasts so their young soldiers can battle them. It’s part of their military training.” She just gaped at me. Father shot the beast again, but he wasn’t doing enough damage. The Horned Ravager kept turning to block the shots with its heavily-armored breastplate. I pulled my two Versatile swords out of the car: double-edged straight blades, seventy centimeters each. I ran at the beast, slashing and cutting, making myself enough of a nuisance that it turned to chase me. Its mouth opened wide, revealing an inferno inside.

The raging flames poured through its lips. I ducked down at the last moment, and Father fired into the monster’s open mouth. There was a dull, echoing boom, then the beast dropped to the ground with a resounding thump. “It’s dead,” Father declared, looking into the monster’s lifeless eyes. I walked up next to him. “You certainly waited to the last minute. It nearly ate me.” “I knew you could take it.” He gave my arm a pat. “And if it ate you, you’d have split it open from the inside.

” I glared at him. “Some father you are.” Chuckling, he loaded his weapons back into the truck. I noticed Naida was down. She must have been taken out by the earthquake that had signaled the beast’s demise. I knelt beside her and brushed my hand down her neck, feeling for a pulse. “She’s alive,” I told Father as he came up behind me. Her eyes fluttered open. She blinked a few times. “Who are you people?” “I told you, we’re paranormal PIs,” Father said with a sigh.

“I believe you,” she declared solemnly, then passed out. I looked around. Fissures split the road where the monster had stomped. Besides Naida’s bullet, our truck was no worse for wear. Her car, however, was not salvageable. Two of the wheels were missing, and a light pole had fallen on the roof, partially collapsing it. “It is passable as earthquake damage,” Father said, his eyes panning the scene. “But we need to remove the monster.” “We have to wipe her memory, you know,” I told him as I spread healing cream across Naida’s most serious injuries. “It’s a shame.

I really liked her.” “You knew her for all of five minutes,” I reminded him. “During which time she submitted you to a sobriety test, you told her you’re a paranormal PI, and we were all attacked by an otherworldly beast.” “Exactly. If our relationship survived that, it can survive anything.” “You’re such a romantic for a private dick.” He winked at me. “Well, remember who I used to be.” How could I forget? Our privileged, perfect life was lost forever—because of me, because I couldn’t just leave things well enough alone. I’d been exiled, stripped of my titles and sacred armor.

Father had stood by me. He was the reason I was still alive. And because of that, he’d lost everything. A mage without her sacred armor was nothing. It enhanced our magic and allowed us to control our gifts. We’d managed to buy secondhand armor and weapons, accessories that gave us access to some spells and abilities. But we were both so weak compared to what we’d been before. That was two years ago, two years of lying low and taking jobs to scrounge up enough money to buy upgrades to our gear. The latest accessory, a pair of gold-tipped gloves, was one Father had bought me. It allowed me to access one of the Phantom powers: to manipulate minds.

I couldn’t do much with the gloves yet, just wipe a few minutes of short term memory. But it was enough for this. I wasn’t exactly a Phantom, a specialty that included telepathic and telekinetic mages. I was a Prophet with occasional, random bursts of Phantom power. And with the gloves, I could control some small parts of the Phantom magical spectrum. After healing Naida’s most serious injuries and wiping her memory, I put her into what was left of her car. Then I helped Father load the Horned Ravager into our truck. “Are you sure they’ll think it was an earthquake?” I asked him as we drove toward the portal that would take us home. “The damage isn’t perfectly consistent with a natural disaster.” “It’s close enough,” he replied.

“The people of Earth believe what they want to believe: that there is no magic, and they’re the center of the universe.” I turned to look at Jack in the backseat. We’d been chased by machines and monsters, survived falling street lamps and raging fire—and he’d slept through it all.


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