Prologue

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It was nearing midnight when I stepped out of the cab. The rain pelted the asphalt; it's steady drumming providing the soundtrack for the otherwise deserted street. A pair of streetlights cast a pale amber glow over the swollen puddles lining the gutters; even the city lights on the horizon couldn't penetrate the ebony clouds above. I paid the driver, ignoring the dirty look I received when I didn't tip. He snatched the crumpled notes from my hand and sped away.

The old buildings, only two or three stories, imposed on the narrow street on which I stood. They were dockworker's houses, built in the 1920s and long since abandoned with the advent of new technologies. Their reddish-brown bricks, although not much to look at, had ensured their survival against the elements. In another decade or so, they would all be demolished and replaced with studio apartments and a Starbucks. All in the name of progress.

The damp had already seeped through my canvas shoes and into my socks. A loud squelch accompanied my footfall as I stepped off the curb, avoiding the used condom sitting in the gutter, and crossed the street. There was an odour of stale piss hanging in the air. Although the street appeared empty, I felt a hundred eyes watching me from each dark window. I was definitely in the right place. I glanced down at my hand, where the address I needed was beginning to smudge; 78 Park Square and the name Alexander Lance. I looked up at the row of houses in front of me, found the correct number, and walked towards it.

I thumped the side of my balled fist against the thick metal door. Even someone with superhuman strength would struggle to kick the door off its hinges. At least these people know their shit, I thought. The last group of hunters I'd visited were based in a suburban semi with a pink wooden front door.

A slit in the door opened and a pair of dark eyes peered out. I flipped down my hood and took a step closer.

"What?" a deep, masculine voice demanded.

"I'm here by invitation of Alexander Lance," I replied politely, yet firmly. I raised my wrist to his eye-level to prove my identity. Whilst I had nothing to fear from hunters, it was important to let him know that I wasn't intimidated.

The slot snapped shut and I heard the sounds of bolts being withdrawn. A few moments later, the door opened a couple of inches.

"In."

I squeezed through the gap between the door and its frame. As soon as I was inside, the stranger slammed the door shut and locked the bolts. Once he was finished, he moved in front of him and jerked his head to indicate that I should follow him. He was six-foot-five; a tank-topped monster of a man. His head was shaven and decorated with tattoos in a Celtic design. He stopped through the house with all the grace one might expect from a man of his stature.

From the outside, the house had looked abandoned but inside it was a different story. We passed several hunters, who kept their heads down and snuck glances when they thought I wasn't looking. I could hear them whispering, but ignored them. They all looked different; different hair colours, gender, age, and clothes. But I knew they all shared one common detail; A small star-shaped tattoo on their inner wrist. I consciously pulled at my jacket sleeve and clutched the cuff in my fist.

"How many of you are there?" I asked curiously.

"We're about twenty, give or take," the man replied, "about ten of us are actively hunting."

The bitterness in his voice told me that he was one of the active hunters. Part of me shared his resentment; we were the ones out there, risking our lives for the sake of humanity, whilst the rest of the so-called 'hunters' took the spoils. The other part of me understood, however, that every war needed financing. We were outnumbered enough as it was.

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