2099UGR Unlimited # 4 - July 2005

Issue Four, Volume One

"Blood Loyalty"

Written by David Ellis

Assistant Editor: Jason McDonald

Chief Editor: David Ellis


Claymore Valentine



N2 Nosferatu


The Underground Revised Proudly Presents...

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 consciousness.

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 closed.

"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 swords.

"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," Chen growled.

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 kill me."

"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 executioner.

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 obnoxious.

"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 itself.

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 'Blade'?

He smiled, locking eyes with Valentine. "How about 'Blade'?"

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 are."

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 product."

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 daylight ...."

"Your power base increases exponentially."

"Exactly." Valentine patted Chen on the shoulder. "And we couldn't have done it without you."

"Come again?"

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 own daughter."

"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."

"That's business."

The power cut out, plunging the entire building into darkness.

"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 too."

"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 jagged teeth.

"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 him.

"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 field's on."

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 as well.

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 jumpsuits.

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 couldn't tell.

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 without him.

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 sloppy.

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 motion.

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 miracle.

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 jugular....

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".