The Underground Revised Proudly
Chen had always collected bladed weapons.
While his training as a hunter-warrior ensured that he
was proficient with almost all forms of weaponry --
from guns and explosives to archery equipment and
bludgeons -- his upbringing as a practitioner of
Eastern combat arts placed a special emphasis on
swordsmanship. Chen himself was in fact the last in a
long line of swordsmen, and his collection of such
weapons dominated the small room in his apartment he
used as an armory.
His apartment was sadly barren in the most important
aspect, however; he no longer shared it with his
daughter Xu. She'd been the bright, joyous part of his
life for all ten years of her life, and she'd been all
that'd kept him from going insane with grief after the
death of his wife.
She had been all that until very recently, when her
life was stolen ... when her blood was drained from
her body by a creature of the night, a vampire.
Chen himself was that vampire.
He had been bitten and turned by Claymore Valentine,
the CEO of Alucard Industries, a corporation comprised
of vampires. Chen had been hired to wipe out Alucard's
vampiric competition before he'd learned of his
employers' true nature.
Then, after a week of captivity, in which Chen had
been shackled and deprived of blood, he'd pounced on
the first human victim to enter the dungeon. That
victim was Xu.
He'd realized what he'd done, he'd sworn vengeance,
and he'd escaped the dungeon.
And now, as he meditated in his apartment, surrounded
by his collection of blades, he recalled exactly how
he'd achieved his vengeance. Fittingly enough, it had
started with meditation.
His eyes were closed as he sat on the cold dungeon
floor in the lotus position, his mind deeply absorbed
into the world of meditation. He was aware of the
dungeon's cold atmosphere, the smell of mold, and the
sound of footsteps approaching the vault door nearby.
He was acutely aware of the lifeless body next him --
Xu's body -- but for now his focus was on channeling
his boundless rage and newfound vampiric restlessness.
He'd just fed, so his body insisted on movement of
some kind. He sensed it was nightfall, so every
impulse screamed at him to engage in nocturnal
hunting. But he denied that impulse, and simply bided
his time while he attempted to bring his vampiric
instincts under control.
Soon enough, glimpses of memory flashed across is
mind's eye. Sounds assaulted his consciousness. He
couldn't piece together what the sounds and images
represented at first; all he could do was recognize
that they were memories.
A distinct face and echo of giggling caught his
attention. It was Xu. It was his daughter, and the
realization filled him with equal parts hope, sorrow,
and revulsion. Hope for the bright future and love
that she represented. Sorrow that her life had been
taken much too soon. Revulsion that he had been unable
to stop himself from taking it.
Giving in to such emotions was not productive, he
realized. He had to channel everything, as he'd been
taught, into useful energy so that he could move with
the correct purpose. So he could--
With a loud click, the vault door opened. Light
spilled into the dark stillness, but Chen forced
himself to remain in the meditative state, aware of
everything around him but focused on his inner
Six vampires entered the dungeon: three were Alucard
Corporation guards, two were unfamiliar, and one was
Claymore Valentine. Chen didn't have to see him to
know that the CEO was smiling. "So," Valentine spoke,
"did you enjoy my present?"
By 'present', he meant Xu, but Chen refused to lose
his self-control. He kept silent; his eyes remained
"Not in the mood to talk to me, I see," Valentine
observed. "I thought you'd be more grateful to be
reunited with your daughter, but if what you were
screaming in here a minute ago is any indication, you
didn't think highly of it." He stepped toward Chen.
"Really, swearing dramatic vengeance on the one who
turned you into a vampire? Very twentieth century."
Chen remained calm and meditative.
"At least look at me when I'm talking to you,"
Valentine ordered, growing impatient. Vampires have
this thing where they're compelled to follow the
orders of the one who 'sired' them, y'know, so how
about a little cooperation, here?"
Chen opened his eyes, glaring at the CEO. His eyes
widened in surprise as he realized Valentine was
wearing Chen's specially made daisho belt,
which held his katana and wakizashi
"That's better," Valentine continued happily. "Listen,
Chen ... I can't really understand why you'd be so
upset about being turned. I mean, I gave you your
daughter back and everything."
"You turned me against the only family I have left,"
Valentine shrugged. "So? The first thing I did as a
vampire was go after my own family. Consider it a
tradition. Besides, you looked pretty eager to sink
your teeth into her when she first stumbled in."
"I didn't have a choice!" Chen bellowed, standing up
and showing his fangs.
"Believe that all you want to, but you can't kill me.
That's another one of the rules: you can only protect
and obey me." He unsheathed both swords from his belt
and handed them to Chen. "But here -- let's test this
out if you don't believe me." Gesturing for his
subordinates to keep their distance, stared at Chen
and gave the order. "Attack me, and see if you can
"Gladly," Chen consented. He paced around Valentine
like a hungry lion in a cage, gritting his teeth and
focusing his rage. As per his warrior's code, he
circled around to the CEO's front in order to make eye
contact with his enemy when he killed him. With a
mighty shout, he drove the blade of his katana forward
toward Valentine's chest.
An inch from Valentine's heart, Chen found himself
stopping the blade in mid-plunge.
"See what I mean?" Valentine gloated. "Try again."
Chen circled his prey again, whirling his swords
around his body to properly prepare himself. Assuming
eye contact was the reason he couldn't go through with
this, he closed his eyes and raised both swords,
crossing the blades in an 'X' formation, and holding
the edges to Valentine's neck as he stood behind the
businessman. He attempted to scissor the blades
together, but his arms refused to move.
He grunted and threw as much muscle strength as he
could into the effort, but to no avail. He growled in
frustration, at both his enemy and at his own body's
refusal to cooperate.
"You finished yet?" Valentine inquired. "Look, you
quite simply can't bring yourself to kill your new
master, so I suggest you put away your hurt feelings
along with your swords." He removed the sword belt and
handed it to Chen. "Maybe now that we have that out of
the way, we can be friends."
Chen collected his daisho in one hand and the belt in
the other, donning the sheathe belt once again to
holster his weapons. "We will never be friends."
Valentine shrugged. "Have it your way. But regardless,
you're working for me know. You're a vampire loyal to
Alucard Industries, and don't you forget it."
Chen's eyes alighted on Valentine's lackeys. "As they
are?" There was little of note about the three
familiar corporate guards, but the unfamiliar armored
male and female were particularly interesting. The
male vampire was the tallest figure in the room,
standing almost seven feet tall, with wide shoulders
and muscle mass that conveyed power by intimidation.
He carried a heavy battle axe that was as tall as he
was; he carried himself with the air of an
By contrast, the woman was small and lithe. Her cruel
eyes -- the only parts of her that were visible
through her black head-to-foot dominatrix bodysuit --
regarded Chen with interest as she idly ran a gloved
finger along her weapon. Chen recognized it as
a tetsugen, a wire weapon with a knife blade at the end. Between that and her outfit, everything about the woman revealed that she was every bit as dangerous as her partner.
"Right, where are my manners?" Valentine asked
rhetorically. "Allow me to introduce you to my other
two corporate warriors: Guillotine and Garrote." He
gestured to each one in turn, but Chen didn't need
Valentine's help to figure out which was which.
Guillotine was obviously the executioner, and Garrote
couldn't have been anyone but the dominatrix. "You'll
be working with them quite a bit," the CEO went on.
"You can hate me all you want, but at least try and
get along with these two, okay?"
Guillotine snatched an armored chestpiece that a guard
was holding, and handed it to Chen. "Here. Put this
on. You'll be wearing it from now on."
Chen noted that the black chestpiece was similar to
the armor he'd worn as a freelance hunter. The biggest
change was the Alucard Enterprises logo proudly
displayed over the heart. Only from Chen's
perspective, the display was less proud than
"Come with us," Valentine ordered Chen as he led the
others out of the dungeon. "There's something I want
you to see."
Moving from the dungeon to the uppermost floor of the
Alucard Enterprises building allowed Chen a chance to
study his environment more closely than he had the
first time, even though he, Valentine, and the others
with them took the elevator for most of it.
The swordsman noticed a handful of details about the
building that he hadn't thought too much of before.
First, the windows were apparently polarized to let in
as little sunlight as possible. Considering they were
in what was once known as the Texas Panhandle -- a
region of North America with a constantly-overcast sky
that allowed very little sunlight -- the only lighting
in the vicinity of the building came from the building
Then there was the artificial lighting itself: it was
much dimmer than most buildings, which Chen realized
he'd only scarcely noticed upon his first visit to the
building a week ago. Now it made sense: vampires'
eyesight was keen in low light but not equipped to
handle stronger light. At least, he noticed that much
about his own eyesight.
After emerging from the elevator, they traversed a
long hallway and approached a heavily-secured door.
Valentine talked almost nonstop during the trip; his
current subject was codenames: "If you're gonna be one
of my warriors, Chen, you'll need a codename. No
particular reason, mind you -- it's mainly for
morale and it's strictly enforced." He gestured to his
two established warriors. "Guillotine and Garrote are
named after weapons -- or at least implements of
execution and torture -- so they're my kind of people.
Feel free to pick a codename along those lines."
Chen raised an eyebrow, skeptical about this. "What's
wrong with real names?"
Again, the CEO gestured to Guillotine and Garrote. "I
have a hard time pronouncing theirs."
"Fair enough." Deciding to play along for now, Chen
looked away, pursing his lips in thought.
A flash of inspiration suddenly jolted him ... or more
accurately a flash of memory. Just as before,
he recognized his daughter's general presence, but in
much more detail than earlier. He could see the
apartment they'd shared, smell the still air
and the faint scent of Xu's skin, feel the
computer keyboard under fingertips and the couch
cushion under body, taste beef-jerky-flavored
chewing gum, and hear her voice and his. But
his voice was a tickle in her ear as he'd said his
parting words to his daughter. He realized the
perspective of the memory flash made it highly
unlikely to be Chen's memory. It was his daughter's
experience, and he realized that the previous glimpse
of recollection he'd recieved in the dungeon was hers
as well. He had no idea how that was possible.
"We're waiting," Valentine announced, clearing his
throat and interrupting Chen's train of thought.
"Gonna pick a codename or not?"
Oh, yes, the codenames. Chen mentally searched for
something suitable, and he discovered that Xu's memory
contained something perfect:
...though who'd wanna name their kid
He smiled, locking eyes with Valentine. "How about
The CEO looked distinctly unamused. "Rrrright ...
feel free to pick any codename but that."
"What's wrong with 'Blade'?"
"Everything, if you're a vampire. That's the name of a
notorious hunter in the twentieth century who preyed
on our kind. They called him the Daywalker, and he was
rumored to be one of us, but only partly. Not sure why
he'd want to slay us in that case, but he did, racking
up an impressive body count. According to the legends
-- or at least a friend of a friend who was around
back then -- he and Dracula were arch-enemies. Around
the turn of the century, those two fought one last
time, and they slew each other. Our kind lived on
without them, and we eventually survived all the wars
and changes in government since then. Now here we
Chen filed this information away for future reference,
fascinated by the history lesson. "I see."
"Do yourself a favor, Chen," Valentine continued as
her punched a code into a keypad next to the R&D lab
door. "Call yourself 'Sword' or something, but leave
Blade in the past where he belongs."
The Research & Development lab was appropriately
futuristic, with no expense spared on its computer and
processing technology. The architecture was similarly
involved, with giant vats of liquid taking up most of
the floor space, catwalks with computer workstations
above it, levels housing different bizarre inventions
above the catwalks, and a network of cantilever
rafters high above all that.
The chemical stench from the vats was strong enough to
peel paint; Chen wasn't particularly happy when
Valentine led them onto the catwalks. "Shouldn't we be
wearing breathing masks?"
"Why should we?" Valentine asked. "We're vampires,
remember. We don't need to breathe, and it's
not like the stench is going to kill us." Gesturing to
the greenish-yellow liquid, he declared, "This is a
recent acquisition, and my greatest investment. I call
it 'Sunlight Serum'. It's the cure for what ails us --
namely, our allergic reaction to sunlight. At least
theoretically -- we're still running tests."
Chen was skeptical. "That vulnerability has a cure?"
"That's the idea. Regular injections of this will
alter our body chemistry and give us human-grade
immunity to UV radiation. Which means we'll still
probably sunburn and wrinkle, but it beats the shock
out of our usual reaction, don't you think?"
"'Regular injections' ... I'll assume that's a
necessity to keep other vampires dependent on the
The CEO grinned. "See? Now you're thinking corporate.
We could improve on the formula so that one shot is
all it takes, but that would decrease the demand for
such a useful commodity."
The swordsman pursed his lips, continuing to ponder
the implications. "Thus allowing this corporation a
lever over the other vampire companies...."
"And a way for us to compete with the human-run
megacorps, by allowing us to expand our operations
more effectively into the daytime. We're currently
limited by what we can do during the day, even when we
take precautions. But once we're no longer ruled by
"Your power base increases exponentially."
"Exactly." Valentine patted Chen on the shoulder. "And
we couldn't have done it without you."
Valentine gestured once again at the liquid. "See,
this was until recently something RedTech was working
on. We'd done research into this particular field, but
unfortunately, RedTech was further along. So we took
steps to corner the market."
Chen glared at the CEO. "By hiring me to wipe out
their governing body."
"And you repaid me by locking me in a dungeon,
starving me, and manipulating me into feeding on my
"More or less," Valentine replied with a shrug. "It
was a complicated plan, I'll admit, but it worked like
a charm. I was able to get rid of a rival corp-clan,
acquire their serum, and put myself
unquestionably at the top of the vampire heap
-- and all I did was hire you."
Chen scowled at the CEO. "That's insanity."
The power cut out, plunging the entire building into
"Shock!" Valentine cursed. "What the shock was that?
Are we under attack?"
"The backup power should have kicked in by now," one
of the guards observed, "unless that was taken out
"I'm well aware of that, Sharpe," Valentine shot back.
"Have your men fan out in teams and search the
building inside and--"
Energy beams rained from the high ceiling, striking
three of the guards. From the complex cantilever work,
multiple creatures descended, beam bistols blazing.
Chen counted twelve of them; they wore black bodysuits
that contrasted with their deathly-pale faces. Their
ears and facial expressions were batlike, and their
mouths were pulled into sadistic grins that revealed
"Who are they?" Chen asked as the guards returned fire
and Guillotine and Garrote leaped into battle.
"N2 agents," Valentine answered, calling attention to
the letter and number on the corporate crest of each
creature's jumpsuit. "They're nosferatu."
Chen recognized the word from his and Xu's research
into vampires -- "Nosferatu" was the title of the
first motion picture made on the subject. "Just how
many different kinds of vampires are there?"
"You'd be surprised. Now let's get out of here. The
others will hold them off, but I need you with me."
Valentine turned to sprint for the doors, but one of
the nosferatu landed on the catwalk in front of them
and fired at the CEO.
Chen stepped in front of Valentine, blocking the
energy shot with his sword. The nosferatu's face
sizzle as the light from the blade reflected back at
"They're firing concentrated UV bursts," Valentine
warned, pressing a button on Chen's new uniform. "Your
suit's forcefield will filter it out, but only if the
Sure enough, Chen could hear the steady hum of the
forcefield and feel it surround him. The nosferatu
fired at him, and the UV energy dissipated upon
hitting the forcefield. The swordsman knocked the
pistol out of the creature's hand with the flat of his
katana, then drove his blade through the creature's
heart. He caught the pistol with a free hand as it
fell, then he hoisted the nosferatu off the catwalk
and into the vat of Sunlight Serum.
"Your first kill as a vampire," Valentine commented as
the N2 agent's body burst into flame, ashes mixing
with the serum. "Not bad, but next time keep the
corpses away from my product!"
"My apologies," Chen replied as he led the CEO toward
the exit. A pair of N2 agents blocked the doorway, and
Chen fired two shots at them, drilling through their
skulls with white-hot beams. Valentine shoved their
ashen bodies aside.
Once in the hallway, they made their way toward the
elevators, with more gunfights taking place around
them. There were quite a few more N2 agents,
suggesting that the nosferatu had surrounded the
building and used multiple entry points. A squad of
Alucard guards fought it out with them, and Chen
actually found himself willing to help his new
teammates out. He knew they were vampires, and
therefore his enemy -- but then, he was now a vampire
Chen and Valentine raced down a long hallway that led
to the bank of elevators, but six nosferatu guarded
them. They opened fire, but once again Chen's
forcefield protected him and Valentine from the
ultraviolet beams. So the N2 agents switched tactics
and drew silver stakes from compartments in their
The swordsman advanced on them, pocketing his energy
pistol and drawing his katana. Leaping into their
midst, Chen sliced at them, whipping his sword around
to block their stakes and disarm them -- literally.
Not only did he separate the nosferatu from their
stakes, he also cleaved their arms from their bodies.
As expected, this royally pissed them off.
Only one of the nosferatu was smart enough to hold his
ground, but the other five lashed out in a blind rage,
fangs bared. Chen calmly sidestepped their attack and
swung his katana in a wide arc, beheading all five of
them in a swift motion.
The nosferatu landed on the floor, bursting into flame
while Chen faced down the sixth agent. The swordsman
and the nosferatu circled each other warily. The
latter's gaze flitted around quickly, but whether it
was to find an escape route or another weapon, Chen
Until he saw the nosferatu locking eyes on Valentine,
who quietly slipped to one of the elevators and
pressed the call button. Valentine had
obviously counted on Chen to keep the N2 agents busy,
but he wasn't sure if the CEO had planned to leave
Deciding it didn't really matter, Chen threw his sword
at the nosferatu. Forged from carbonadium alloy and
laser-sharpened for a molecule-wide cutting edge, the
katana pierced the creature's heart. The strength of
the throw lifted the agent off the ground, and the
blade buried itself in the wall next to the elevator.
Unfortunately for Claymore Valentine, the blade had
impaled him in the process. Pinned face-first against
the wall by the combusting nosferatu, the CEO's
expression was one of wide-eyed horror. "What ... the
shock ... just happened? You're supposed
to protect me!"
Chen approached his impaled employer, smiling faintly
with satisfaction. "I am charged with the slaying of
your enemies. If you happen to stand in a dangerous
place when I do that, whose fault is your injury?"
"Yours! You're not supposed to attack your master,
even when you're dealing with the enemy!" The
nosferatu's corpse collapsed in a pile of embers,
allowing Valentine the space and leverage to pull the
sword from the wall and from his own body. He was
thankful the blade had missed his heart. "This shouldn't happen!"
Chen drew his wakizashi as he approached. "Then it
seems my love for my daughter overrides my loyalty to
you." He readied his shortsword, but rather than lash
out at Valentine, he spun around and parried Garrote's
knife blade. The stealthy henchwoman had attempted to
stab him in the back.
Their blades clashed, each attempting to overpower the
other. Garrote and Chen locked gaze with each other,
but the latter remained mindful of Valentine, who
still had Chen's katana. He withdrew as the CEO lunged
at him, allowing Garrote's pushing momentum to carry
her into the path of Valentine's attack.
The dominatrix was every bit as swift as Chen, however; she
deflected her employer's sword, then in the same swift
motion she moved behind Chen and wrapped her
silver-coated wire around his arm and neck. Garrote
pinned the swordsman face-first against the elevator
doors with her knee at his back. The complicated
arrangement of the encircling wire placed the blades
of their respective weapons on either side of his
neck. The silver coating on the blades and the wire
bit into his skin, singing and burning it. "The
smallest move, the tiniest tug," Garrote warned, "and
your head will be removed from your body."
"Nice work," Valentine told his subordinate, "but if
anyone ends this traitor's miserable existence, it
will be me."
Chen felt Garrote's grip loosen ever so slightly in
response to the order, and he prepared to take
advantage of that. The elevator chimed -- accompanied
by its usual friendly recorded greeting -- which
provided further distraction. He twisted his arm free
of its entanglement, grabbed Garrote's wrist, and used
her knife to slice through the cat's cradle of wire,
freeing it from his neck.
The arrival of the elevator Valentine had awaited
caused the doors to open, and Chen quickly moved off
them to drive blades into chests: Garrote's knife into
Valentine's chest, and his own wakizashi into
Garrote's. He yanked the female vampire into the
elevator car, reached in and pressed the button to
send the car to the subbasement, and moved away from
the elevator to return his attention to Valentine. The
CEO had been stabbed in the same place Chen's katana
had just impaled him.
Valentine seethed as the knife burned the wound that
had yet to close from the last time. "Will ... you ...
quit ... stabbing me?!" He pulled out the knife
with his left hand, his form shapeshifting into that
of the giant batlike creature he'd assumed a week
before. He attempted a horizontal slice with the
katana in his right hand and a forward stab with
Garrote's knife, but pain and rage made his attack
Chen quickly ducked the katana slice and grabbed
Valentine's left wrist to intercept the knife attack.
He straightened his posture, and as the CEO brought
the katana back in the opposite direction for another
slice, he grabbed Valentine's right wrist to halt the
The two of them struggled for several moments, locked
in a contest of strength. Chen ended it by twisting
and breaking Valentine's left wrist, then Garrote's
knife into his enemy's chest. This time, he didn't
miss. The vampiric creature roared as his heart was
pierced, his body bursting into flame. Chen watched.
As the CEO's body was reduced to a sculpture of
tortured, burning ash that collapsed inward, the
swordsman sheathed his reacquired katana. "Xu ... you
have been avenged, little one."
Again the elevator chimed, greeted, and opened. A
badly-injured Garrote stepped from it, holding Chen's
wakizashi. One look at Chen standing near burning ash
informed her what had happened. "Master!"
The swordsman calmly picked up Garrote's knife, drove
it into her arm, caught the wakizishi she dropped in
the process, and pushed her back into the elevator.
"Thank you," he spoke as he sheathed his shortword.
"I'll see myself out."
And he did; he ran at full speed and crashed through
the nearest tinted window, dropping hundreds of
stories toward street level.
Weighing his options, he decided the impact of his landing wouldn't kill him ... unless he cracked open his skull and dashed his brains on the pavement. He had no desire to find out for certain if that was lethal to him now. He also had no wish to shatter every bone in his body, which would leave him vulnerable to attack considering he was near an office building filled with vampires who would be thirsty for retribution. Then he had encroaching daylight to worry about....
Spotting a flying car below him, he seized the
opportunity and angled his fall, plunging his katana
into the car's trunk and stopping his descent. That
his arms weren't torn from their sockets was a minor
The car had violently veered off its flight path, and
its driver cursed loudly and comprehensively, but Chen
couldn't bring himself to care. He'd exacted his
revenge and survived to tell the tale. It was a
victory, if a hollow one; his daughter was still dead.
Once the car landed on the nearest-available parking
garage, Chen removed his sword from the trunk and
sheathed it. "You're gonna pay for that, shocktard,"
the burly driver ranted once he got out and confronted
the swordsman, grabbing him by the arm.
Chen bared his fangs, hunger blazing in his eyes. The
human looked strong and healthy, and his blood would
provide more than enough fuel for Chen to recover his
stamina and heal from the battle. One bite to the
He shook his head, banishing such thoughts, and he
tossed the frightened driver aside. The idea of
drinking human blood was absolutely repulsive to him.
He resolved to find another way.
Which led to the present time, and his present predicament. Meditation was an imperfect substitute for lifeblood, but it allowed him some measure of control over his body and a respite from the gnawing hunger.
His meditation also allowed him the clarity to realize his absorption of Xu's memories was probably not a unique incident; he could probably gain the memories of his other victims if he wanted to, but he had no interest in testing that theory, considering what he'd done to his own daughter.
He decided that since fate had rendered him unable to forget Xu or his demise, he would embrace that fact. He chose to be reminded of her in every way possible.
He dyed his armor in shades of red, reminiscent of Xu's favored colors. He listened to her music. He even took to chewing beef-jerky-flavored gum.
And when he hunted vampires, he called himself "Blade".
BLADE 2099'S STORY CONTINUES IN 2099UGR UNLIMITED #7. NEXT ISSUE: A TALE FROM DOWNTOWN NEW YORK, GUEST-STARRING SPIDER-MAN 2099!.