To Hell and Back - 13 | vi

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Vescovi's head throbbed as if a drummer band was marching across his forehead. Making his way through the tunnel with his men a blast came out of nowhere knocking them down and rendering them unconscious. He woke up in a crumpled heap with his men, all in various stages of recovery. It took him several tries to get to his feet and stay there, the drumming in his head growing louder with each movement. Walking straight was a task, but it was urgent that they get to Xavier and the others. They were delayed enough as it was getting the remaining civilians under Anax Corp ready for transport to the Mountain. Pentorium was under an evacuation order.

He paused when he saw that the panel leading out of the tunnels was open. It was plausible that Xavier had left it like that since it was their way in and out but Vescovi could not ignore the prickle at the back of his neck. Were they too late? Silence hung heavy with dread as he continued forward, his men with him.

Bodies, unconscious, some bleeding, were spread out across the platform. Others were hanging over the edge while some were down on the tracks.

"Check the men," Vescovi said. "See if any of them are alive." At least a handful of them were, their heartbeats labored but present. "Move them back," he pointed at the ones in danger of being mangled by the train they were expecting any minute now. It was a small reprieve that the attack took place before it arrived.

Vescovi took in the scene unsure of what to make of it. Among his men were soldiers. Human soldiers. What were they doing there? More to the point—how had they found this level? Those privy to the sublevels were the vampires and their human families. Humans who could not divulge sensitive information, not even under physical coercion.

"Salvay," Vescovi said between his teeth. He must have given the human forces the information. It wasn't bad enough that he started a plague and exposed all of them. It wasn't bad enough that the man had brought death to this world opening the gateway between Lansguard and Earth. Now this? Vescovi vowed to rip Salvay a new one the next time they met.

"Sir?"

He turned to face the person who called to him. The man pointed halfway up the stairs leading to the next level. When Vescovi saw Martha, his heart bottomed out. Blood stained the steps.

"Find Xavier," he said to the man as he climbed the steps to Martha's side. Vescovi needed to know what had happened. With his already dark view of the humans, this was only more confirmation that he had all right to despise them. He had expected them to turn on all vampires if they knew they existed, he just didn't realize how much their treachery would affect him. How much it would have changed him.

To his immense relief, Martha was breathing. Her heartbeat steady but weak. She had lost a lot of blood. He brushed her hair from her face unsure of how to move her.

"Martha? Martha? Can you hear me? Martha?" Vescovi noticed her hand. From her elbow down to the tips of her fingers, her skin was an angry red blister as if she had stuck it inside of a flame and held it there. His eyes moved from her down to the platform. What the hell happened? Below some of the unconscious men were stirring, the others he came with helping them to catch their bearings.

He was lifting Martha when she made a small sound. Her eyes fluttered open as he stood on the steps her in his arms.

"Think I'll stick to cowering from now on." She winced when she tried to move.

"What were you thinking coming here?" Though he chided her for coming without supervision or without telling anyone, his voice did not hold an edge. It was Martha.

"I-I wanted to help. Did I get them?" Her voice was getting groggier.

"Get who?" Vescovi asked as he carried her down the steps.

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