OK, I lied, this isn't the conclusion. But, considering that it's been over a year
since I last updated, I figured nobody would mind overmuch if I split up the last chapter into two. All the important stuff, as usual, belongs to Stephen and Joss, and I'd like to give a well-deserved “Thank You” to the Beta Team. You know who you are.********
While the A-Team gaped, the supposedly dead man next to them lurched off the table, staggered to his feet, and charged B.A. with a bestial roar. B.A. responded to this with a single punch to the other's face, a move which usually was enough to finish any opponent that he might happen to meet.
This time, however, B.A.’s finishing move didn’t. His attacker was stunned, but recovered almost immediately and now went for Face. As he came within striking range, the berserk man suddenly turned cowering from Face. Or rather, from something Face had clenched in his hand.
As Face shoved his old rosary – complete with miniature crucifix – in his attacker’s face, B.A. took the opportunity to grab the man from behind and put him in a headlock. He barely kept his grip as the pale youth thrashed around, giving the rest of the team a chance to take a close look at his face – a face which featured a mouth full of fangs, impossibly yellow eyes, and more ridges than the average caveman.
As B.A. struggled, Face cautiously approached the . . . he really didn’t want to call it a vampire, but that word was looking more accurate all the time. He leaned forward and gently touched the rosary against the side of their captive’s face.
There was a slight hissing noise, and the youth gave an ear-splitting shriek. Face jumped back, while Hannibal frowned and leaned in closer.
“Look at this,” he said, pointing at a red, cross-shaped burn. “What’d you touch him with, Face, a hot poker?”
Somewhat sheepishly, Face held up the rosary. The rest of the team stared at him, momentarily dumbfounded.
Their captive, however, took this opportunity to break free from B.A., this time making a lunge for Murdock. Lacking B.A.’s brawling ability, Murdock leapt out of the way, crashing into the table and causing it to collapse underneath him. Hannibal, meanwhile, whipped his gun into position and shouted, “Hey, fangface! Freeze, or I’ll shoot!”
When Fangface didn’t comply, Hannibal started shooting.
Submachine gunfire filled the warehouse as Face and B.A. joined in, sending dozens of rounds at the ex-corpse.
He jerked back and forth as the bullets hit him, but as the team’s fire fell silent, he remained standing, a demonic leer on his deformed face. Suddenly, he stiffened and – much to the team’s surprise – dissolved into a pile of dust. Standing behind him was Murdock, clutching a broken-off table leg.
“Man,” B.A. complained, “all that ammo and this fool kills it with a piece of wood?”
“Yeah, there’s something pretty screwy around here,” put in Face, “and we should leave before more dead bodies get up and try to eat us.”
“Great idea.” Hannibal quickly switched out his magazine and covered the rest of the team as they went back to the paneled hallway. As they did so, he noted Murdock pausing to survey the corpse-filled room, then pull something out of his jacket pocket and fling it against the wall. Following their pilot out the door, Hannibal glanced down at the object.
It was a set of plastic vampire fangs.********
As they re-entered the main club area, the A-Team found a nasty surprise waiting for them. “Sylvia” and the various members of her retinue were standing menacingly between them and the exit, faces filled with fangs and ridges. Spotting the team, she cried, “Seize them!”
Fully aware that they would be less than helpful, the team brought their guns to bear on the vampires (the team by this time had few doubts about what they were up against) as Hannibal muttered “Flying diamond, guys – meet back at the van.”
The next few moments were a kaleidoscope of shouts, gunfire, and hand-to-hand combat as the team frantically fought their way to the door. B.A. was the first one through, plowing through the steel-clad exit without even bothering with the latch. With the vampires hot on their heels, he led his friends down the alley towards the van.
As they burst into the already waning sunlight (how long were we in there? Face wondered) their pursuers stopped short; except for one unlucky vampire who lost her balance, fell head over heels into the sunlight, then (to the A-Team’s halfhearted astonishment) burst into flames and burnt to ash. With the last of the clumsy vampire gently wafting away, the team lost no time scrambling into the van. B.A. prepared to peel into the traffic, but a horrifying realization stopped him short.
“Hey, where’s Hannibal?”
Face and Murdock looked around in dismay, as all of them realized what had to have happened to their colonel.
“They’ve got him!”
“We’re comin’, Hannibal!” B.A. shouted, throwing open his door.
Face grabbed his friend’s enormous arm. “Wait, B.A. – if we go charging back in there, we’ll all just end up in the same mess as him!”
“Face, we cannot
just leave the Colonel in the hands of those –“
“Of course not, Murdock, but we have to come up with a plan to get the upper hand over these – people.” Face grimaced. “It’s what Hannibal would do if it was one of us. After all, he –“
“ – loves it when a plan comes together!” chorused Murdock and B.A.
Face smiled sadly, hoping that they would get to hear that phrase again from Hannibal himself. “B.A., head for that construction site we passed a few blocks back. Here’s what we’re going to do . . . “********
B.A. pushed his driving skills to the max as Face explained his plan to overcome Hannibal’s vampiric captors. When they arrived at the construction site, he immediately zeroed in on a pile of discarded pipes and a welding torch, while Murdock began gathering up broken pallets and other wooden debris.
Face, for his part, quickly located and broke into a large cabinet marked “EXPLOSIVES”, then started packing the contents into small cardboard boxes. Everyone worked as quickly as they could, knowing that every second counted as Hannibal’s life hung in the balance.
A short eternity later, the team was sitting in the van, idling a short distance from the west wall of the building in which Hannibal had been captured. Face looked over the team’s handiwork – the new addition to the van’s bumper, the maze of tubing leading away from the propane canister just inside the side door, and the van-shaped ring of small cardboard boxes duct-taped to the wall directly in front of them. He nodded in approval.
“Alright, guys – let’s go get Hannibal.”********
Groggily, Hannibal regained consciousness and found himself in darkness. He was upright, his arms wrapped around a metal pole and chained together behind his back. Bruises covered his left shoulder and leg, and from the way his head was pounding he could tell that he had recently smacked it on something.
Hannibal dazedly remembered taking the rear-guard position as his team retreated from the vampires; being gradually surrounded as the pursuers started gaining ground; taking a low-slung tackle that tripped him up and sent him tumbling to the ground (there’s the bruises, he thought) mere yards from the sanctuary of the van; feeling a grim satisfaction as his fall knocked one of his pursuers into the fiery sunlight; and then – waking up in the blackness.
Suddenly, Hannibal’s musings were interrupted by a feminine voice, at once alluring and repulsive.
At the unfamiliar word, light blazed from a dozen torches and numerous candles placed along the walls.
“Nice trick,” said Hannibal, blinking at the change. “Have you ever considered putting together a stage show? Taking it on the road?”
The voice disdained to answer this. Hannibal took the opportunity to note that he was back in the warehouse, and that most, if not all, of the shrouded bodies were now walking around and eyeing him hungrily.
“John ‘Hannibal’ Smith”, continued the voice, as though reading from his records, “formerly of the United States Army, served in Korea and Vietnam, attained the rank of colonel, renowned as an . . . unorthodox tactician, now a fugitive who has eluded mortal authorities for thirteen years.”
Hannibal was not terribly surprised when the owner of the voice stepped into view and turned out to be Face’s ‘contact’ from The Nest.
“You sure know a lot about me,” he remarked. “Now how about telling me a bit about you?”
“About me? I am Lady Sylvia d’Eath, favored of the Countess, soon to be the ruler of this city!” she exclaimed, fangs bursting out in excitement. Lady Sylvia d’Eath leaned in close to Hannibal with a wicked grin. “As well as your future mother-in-darkness.”
Although Hannibal had no idea what it meant, that last comment had made him rather uncomfortable. “My mother,” he acidly responded, “passed away in a nursing home while I was in Vietnam.”
Sylvia shook her head in amusement. “No, no, silly – soon, I will turn you from the weak mortal you are, into one fit to lead my forces to victory. Truly, good fortune has smiled on us today – bringing me such an experienced solider, and bringing you to be freed from your bonds of mortality!”
Hannibal gave a roguish grin. “You mean like breathing? Sorry, I like my victory cigars too much to give them up.” His eyes hardened. “And then there’s the whole, ‘leeching off other people’s blood’ thing to consider – so thanks, but no thanks.”
“For such a supposed tactical savant, you are being particularly dense,” the vampiress responded. “This is an offer you’re not allowed to refuse.”
She then brought her face close to Hannibal’s, angling to bite at his neck. He immediately head-butted her, setting off a short, violent struggle which ended with one of Sylvia’s hands locked under Hannibal’s chin, the other pulling down his collar. “Don’t worry,” she cooed in his ear as he struggled, “it will all be over soon.”
Suddenly, the back wall of the warehouse exploded.
Sylvia jerked her head up at the noise, and Hannibal cheered inwardly as the team’s van burst through the wreckage. He was initially mystified by the pointy wooden structure now attached to the grill, but when B.A. plowed through the crowd and impaled several vampires on the device, he was quite impressed.********
As his new hood ornaments crumbled, B.A. jumped out of the van, grabbed the nearest vampire, and punched it in the face. He grinned at the cross-shaped welts this left, then delivered several more punches until the vampire lay down and quit trying to eat him. Face’s idea’s working great, he thought, reaching for the next vampire, gold crosses that once hung around his neck now wrapped around his hands.********
Murdock and Face, meanwhile, had leapt out of the side door as soon as the van screeched to a halt. Face made a beeline for Hannibal, lock-picks in hand, while Murdock threatened the crowd of vampires with what appeared to be a metal pole attached to the van by a hose. Hannibal barely had time to register the presence of a tiny flame inside the pipe before a stream of fire burst from it, setting several of the undead alight.
Unfortunately, Face was having a bit more trouble. Having assured himself that Hannibal was still alive (in every sense of the word), he had gone to work on his friend’s bonds. “Dammit,” he muttered, “it’s a late-model Gordian. Hang, on, Hannibal, I’m gonna need some bolt cutters or something.”
“Here, use this.” Hannibal and Face both jumped at the voice, which heralded the return of the mysterious vagrant.
“You!” Hannibal hissed, as Face took the offered hacksaw and went to work on the chains.
“Yes, me.” The stranger was maddeningly unruffled. Turning to leave again, he continued, “I warned you to stay out of here.”
“So, what – you went and got Lady Dracula to grab us, then help us escape when she does? What kind of sense is that supposed to make?”
Stopping short, the stranger half-turned to look back at Hannibal. “If you mean Sylvia – you think I brought her to you?”
“Well, if you’re not with her, then who are you?” Hannibal demanded, stretching the kinks out of his arms as the chain fell away.
“Let’s just say I’m your guardian angel.” The stranger’s words hung in the air as he vanished into the crowd, which was by now racing every which way trying to escape Murdock’s flamethrower.
“Unbelievable,” remarked Face. Just then, a section of the roof collapsed from the rapidly spreading flames, blocking the A-Team’s impromptu entrance.
“Face, find Murdock and get the two of you back in the van,” ordered Hannibal. Face rushed off to do so, leaving Hannibal to find B.A. He was just tossing a vampire end over end into the van’s new grill when Hannibal raced up.
“B.A., we need to get out of here. Your exit’s blocked; can the van fit down the hallway?”
“I’ll make it fit,” was the growled response.********
On the public side of the building, the nightclub had just opened for business, and the bartenders and few early customers were blissfully unaware that the back of the building was currently a blazing inferno. Therefore, they were understandably quite shocked when the A-Team’s van burst through the back door, leaving fiery destruction in its wake.
B.A. hit the brakes and spun the wheel, skidding the van across the dance floor. Lining up with the door, he pounded the horn as a warning and hit the gas. Bouncers and patrons scattered as the van shattered the doors, bounced across the sidewalk, and flew into the road. Narrowly missing a bright yellow Volkswagen, the A-Team disappeared into the twilight.