Twilight Fan Fiction / Twilight Fan Fiction ❯ I Know My Duty ❯ Mission ( Chapter 44 )

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]
Twilight and its three and two half sequels are the creation of Stephenie Meyer. This story is fanfiction based on characters, settings and concepts from Twilight, its first three sequels and the first half of Midnight Sun, all of which are the creation of Stephenie Meyer. No party other than the submitting author may alter this work in any way other than font size and other reasonable accommodations to formatting.

I'd been debating whether to post this as one chapter or two. I wanted to see how the second half turned out before making that decision. Both parts are a bit exposition, this one more so.

Again, if you're reading this on Mediaminer, I apologize for the lack of italics. They'll be back after allows me to upload a file format that can handle them. (And if anyone knows a workaround, PM me.)


"Whatever or whoever was in Seattle was truly beginning to frighten me. But the idea of the Volturi coming was just as scary," –Bella, Eclipse


"I've been asking around," said Caroly. "Two more teams were attacked while we were gone."


"Injuries only. So far."

"Lost mission objectives?"

Caroly tipped her head to the side without smiling. A witness was killed by our enemies. Darien and Laurel failed to stop it.

I breathed out. "Did word of that get out?"

No. He was the only witness.

That would change.

Even without her thoughts, I could read the layers of meaning in her voice. Our enemies had struck twice while we were out on a wild goose chase. An unaffiliated vampire, a citizen of our hidden world, had died while under our protection. Two more sets of our brethren had returned and looked at Bella with questions in their eyes. Two more chances for rumors to spread. Much more and the Rumanians would gather supporters.

It also meant that our spy had been in Volterra and active while we were gone. I closed my eyes. If Bella had come with us to Paris, she would not be suspect now.

Why did everything have to happen at once? Outside our walls, things in the human world were getting worse. The Union was maintaining diplomatic relations with both sides of what the media was euphemistically calling "the Asian divide," but only says before Demetri, Caroly and I returned Andrew to Volterra, the western rebels had made public their alliance with the Taiwanese government. There was now no question of where they'd been getting late-model pulse rifles and medical supplies, though they'd probably been getting most of their food from somewhere else.

Worse, an alliance with Taiwan meant that the Americas would probably follow. They'd have to after what had happened there when Caroly had still been earning her cloak.

After the rise of Communism in the mid-twentieth century, Chiang Kai-shek had fled to Taiwan with what remained of the Nationalist government. Taiwan's full name was still technically "Republic of China." Although other countries had later recognized Mao and his successors as legal rulers of mainland China, the two nations had never formally separated. In fact, as late as 2005 and again in 2016, the Beijing government had threatened to regain control of Taiwan by "non-peaceful means" if Taiwan ever declared itself to be a separate country.

The pirates had been the excuse. There had been raids throughout the Indian Ocean, and they'd spread from there, especially as the number of young men outran the number of accessible, legal jobs. As the piracy interfered with trans-Pacific freight, China became a less attractive site for manufacturing, and those jobs started to disappear as well, making illegal activity even more appealing. The Chinese navy had been sent to patrol from Hainan almost to Korea, but the ships passed far too close to Taiwan for anyone's comfort, and too often to be entirely coincidental.

Things had gotten so tense that, in 2015, the U.S. government had even sent troops and aircraft carriers to support the Taiwanese military, which had suffered cutbacks after 2012 for economic reasons. The thinking had probably been that the Chinese wouldn't attack directly if they knew there would be a Western response.

The Chinese government had claimed that the pirates were using Taiwan as a base and demanding that the Taiwanese either put a stop to their activities or allow the People's military to do so. Most people had considered the idea preposterous, transparently false. Except it wasn't. Aro had put the pieces together three weeks before the Republic of China Military Police. One minor band had worked out a deal to fence goods with a street gang in a northern port town. Hardly a job for the Taiwanese military, let alone the People's interference. But the Chinese fleet had demanded access and been refused twice in a three-week period. Tensions had risen, culminating in what had since come to be called the Battle of Hsinchu City.

They'd sent eight of us. Eight. And we'd still had our hands full with the local vampires who had been taking advantage of the confusion, not to mention the opportunits who'd moved in.

One vampire in particular had been feeding recklessly. It hadn't hit the newspapers—yet—but internal communiques within the American and Taiwanese military and civilian enforcement organizations had reported disappearances. A midshipman. A city police officer. A watchman guarding the American base outside the city. An agent of the Taiwanese home guard. If the American and Taiwanese militaries ever got to comparing notes, it would not take long for them to put the pieces together.

Eventually, Jane had decided to split our group. Demetri would hunt the lone vampire while she went south after the covens. She'd let him choose his underlings, and he'd taken Caroly and me. That was the first time the three of us had gone off alone together. I'd known that he'd been intrigued by the way my gift worked with his, but I'd expected him to prefer his longtime partner Felix. We still hadn't been sure that Caroly had a talent. I suspected that he'd just wanted a reliable grunt.

So Jane had gone south with Alec, Felix, Darien and newborn Yifei, and Demetri had tracked our mystery man back and forth across the county for ten nights in a row without so much as catching sight of him. And he was growing more careless, making less and less effort to hide the bodies.

All the while, the area was crawling with highly trained, triply caffeinated military personnel on the lookout for anything suspicious. The Chinese wanted to find the pirates so that they'd have an excuse to make landfall and establish a "temporary" military presence on the island, and the Americans and Taiwanese wanted to prevent that, preferably by finding them first.

One night, Caroly and I snuck into the makeshift U.S. military base—the only permanent foreign bases on the island belonged to Singapore—so that I could gather intel only to find that our vampire had made his kill on board a Taiwanese warship. Neither Demetri nor myself—nor anyone else for all we could determine—had managed to lay eyes on our quarry, but as time passed, we managed to get a sense of him. This hunter was no James, with his complicated plans. The sense that formed like a heavy brown mist in Demetri's consciousness muttered about choosing the right one, showing the strong that they were weak, punishing their arrogance. There was a deep undercurrent of bitterness, of some destiny blocked or of some reward that had turned to dust. I didn't immediately know how that would help, but I'd been on too many hunts to discount it.

And there were lines, withered and dead. I'd pictured them as blood vessels extending outward from a tumor. The impression had so reminded me of Chelsea that I'd wondered if she'd been sent out to the island to spy on us. But the idea had appeared so naturally in my head that I'd finally decided that it was my own mind playing tricks on me.

It would be months before we would learn that that had been my first taste of Caroly's particular vision. The dead veins were dead connections. She'd known that our quarry had lost someone important, probably someone he hadn't liked very much.

We'd figured out what sort of prey he liked, but for every ten targets that we could predict, there were a hundred more that he could choose instead. Our only real advantage was that he didn't seem to know anyone was looking for him. He was still being carefree, still feeding every few nights. Fortunately, Aro wouldn't count a high human bodycount against us.

For two nights we chose three targets, one for each of us, never too far apart. The first night, we camped out at the U.S. army base. The second, we hid on board a Taiwanese patrol ship. Both times, he stole other prey. It wasn't working. There seemed to be a pattern to the kills, but it took me days to figure out what it might mean.

"It might be one of the marines this time," Caroly had suggested as we waited out the next day. The impending military action had produced enough vacant buildings for our purposes, and there was always the odd chance of finding our quarry in one of them. "He's taken one of almost anything else," she'd said hesitantly, "and so far he hasn't repeated himself." She'd been so deferential then. She wouldn't grow into her Bella-esque brashness until she had many successful missions behind her.

Demetri had said nothing, simply pulling Caroly's suggestion into his thoughts. I stared at the soft dust on the floor of the basement of the office building where we were hiding. Idly, I traced an outline of the coast, the main feature of the area where our vampire had been making his reckless kills. Carefully, I marked the borders of Hsinchu County. With my smallest finger, I made mark for each of the seven kills we knew of, on land and on ships. There were probably more.

I barely heard Caroly coming up behind me.

"Are you tracking the pirates?" she asked.

I'd turned around, but Demetri had only moved his eyes.

"What?" I asked.

Demetri had risen to his feet and taken in my drawing.

"The police officer, the midshipman, the private on the shore..." he'd stated.

My mind cleared, and I made the connection, "He makes his kills near places where the pirate fleet was sighted..." I said, marking each location, "One day before the police officer. Two days after the midshipman. In a cove five miles from where the private was on watch."

Caroly's lips parted.

"It's where he's waiting out the day," she breathed. "He's on a ship?"

I nodded. Demetri's mind clicked through each possibility. There were a million ways he could be hiding from the human crew, even on a small craft. He didn't need to sleep; he could hold uncomfortable positions for hours; and, with a full belly, he could ignore all that pulsing food. There had been several reports of pirates raiding at night and hiding during the day. It would have been even easier to for a vampire to remain on board a ship if it was berthed and empty with most of the crew resting on shore.

Demetri tilted his head back. "We need to change tactics," he said. A pirate fleet was easier to find than a man, but we had not been looking for one. Demetri spent some time at my makeshift map before stepping to the side and drawing a fresh one. The three of us had argued about the tide, the pirates' destinations, possible nearby targets as we'd waited for the light to die. By the end of the day, I could not have said which of us had truly put our strategy together.

Demetri and I had been trying to gain a sense of a single vampire for days. It was not easy for to switch to stalking a small flotilla of pirate ships, especially when those ships had a tendency to split up. Usually, they only showed themselves together when they struck. That was probably why the human authorities hadn't caught them yet. When there were supplies to be collected or goods to be fenced, only one boat would come to land.

There were not many places it could do so, not in a populated place like Taiwan. That was probably how our vampire was planning his kills.

Even though I knew better, I couldn't help imagining a great wooden pirate ship like the ones in those movies that my old Cullen brothers had liked so much. Modern pirates had nothing so majestic. Some pirates captured their victims with nothing but a speedboat and handheld weapons. The reports from this area had described slightly larger craft. Most of the pirate attacks took place near shore; the bottleneck getting into the recently dredged Port of Hsinchu had provided a target or two. Unlike Golden Age buccaneers and Renaissance corsairs, however, the pirates usually didn't usually steal the ship's cargo, and unlike the Indonesian and Somali pirates of the first years of the century, they rarely captured prisoners for ransom. Instead, they went for smaller, lighter items, such the crew and passengers' personal valuables and the safes in which the captains kept ready cash. That meant that they needed both fences who could convert jewelry and electronics to money and suppliers who could convert money into necessities.

It took another two days to identify the next dropoff site. First, Caroly and I had located the pirates' associates. After two years as a screwup, it was strange to find an aspect of tracking that I could actually do. Western Taiwan did not have much in the way of desolation, but these men had managed to locate a place to moor their ship. A few miles south of the Houlong, there was a stretch of coast inhabited by nothing but farmland. Along that coast there was an inlet lined with warehouses just tall enough to shield a boat. One bribed nightwatchman and an enterprising group of criminals could douse their lights and anchor long enough to make a an exchange.

Or for one shadowy figure to return to his nest a few hours before dawn. His thoughts were full of his next challenge—the American military base, which he'd cased that very night. At first, he did not climb on board, flattening himself against the outer hull and hanging on with clawlike fingers as the ship's three-man crew started the engine and headed for open water.

When he judged it safe to make for the tiny cargo bay and hide, he slipped one foot over the side, moving one limb at a time, preventing his shifting weight from alerting the humans on board. It was a trick I knew well.

By then, the bodies of the pirates, necks bloodlessly snapped, sat near the wheel, which Caroly held steady with one hand.

His fingers flexed, reminding me like a spider testing her web, bright red eyes glittering in the dark.

"How'd you find me?" he asked, giving us an American accent with a breath of Spanish.

Demetri answered, speaking for all three of us, "You were sloppy."

The vampire didn't move a fiber, but I could see him mentally inching toward the side.

I've ditched these assholes before; I can do it again.

"Don't be a fool," I told him, but I focused on the images in his head. He didn't think we were after him because of his feeding; he thought it was something else. If he'd had a brush with the Volturi and lived to boast of it, I wanted to know when and for what offense, but not if it meant risking his escape. He'd been too hard to find.

Those hunter-red eyes flickered toward me again, but the thoughts came in a different voice, a memory. "Yellow-eyes ...Our thoughts aren't safe." I frowned, but he didn't think of anything else important, and all I could glean was his name: Raoul.

Before I could wonder about anything else, we were on him. I had to hand it to this man. He struck me as being young, no newborn but not more than a few years old. He made up for his inexperience in originality. He moved sideways, grabbing hold of the carbon-fiber RADAR mast and launching himself at Demetri. He was neatly flipped over the rail, and Raoul bolted in the other direction, making for the water. It took Caroly and me both to head him off.

It was a difficult dismemberment. This man didn't need both legs to swim, and he knew it, so he kept fighting long after most vampires would have given up. By the time Demetri climbed back on board, he was in pieces.

Throughout the fight, there was an odd sense growing in the back of my mind, many voices murmuring at once, but they'd been at least a mile away. I ignored the sound, supposing that the course set by the human sailors was taking us back along the coast toward Hsinchu.

Finally, this man who'd made no fewer than ten kills, who'd risked bringing our kind to the attention of the armies of three countries, lay in pieces at our feet.

You really don't want to light me on fire, was his last coherent thought.

"You'll find that we do," I answered out loud as Caroly started the flames.

No, I mean that— The thoughts began to shrivel and twist as his brain turned to ash.

"That," Demetri said slowly as the flames spread across the boy's scattered limbs, "was irritating."

"It's over, Brother," I told him.

At my elbow, Caroly nodded, "We'll check the hold for evidence and then go home." She nodded toward the bodies of the human sailors. "How should we get rid of those? It seems a shame to waste good blood, but I suppose we'd better send them overboard."

I nodded and moved to assist her. The nagging feeling had been growing worse by then. Something about those minds didn't feel like a town. Most of them weren't asleep, for one thing.

I put the pieces together just before the radio began to shriek and running lights came up on three warships bearing down on us from open water.

I could have answered it, of course. I could probably have figured out how to work that type of radio within a minute, and my Chinese was good enough to fake a response to the messages that were being sent; simple orders to surrender or be fired upon. The only problem was that they weren't all coming from the same people.

Three different navies had been searching the water for criminal ships. We'd boarded one, killed anyone who might have known to steer clear of patrolled areas, and then we'd lit a beacon.

Demetri had uttered a truly foul curse in Russian and leaped over the side, on purpose this time. Caroly and I both followed him without a second thought.

It ended up being a nine-mile swim back to the island. I overheard both sets of ships planning boarding parties and thanked any heaven that might exist that we'd shoved the bodies over and that it was shark season. The military ships must have made some attempt to communicate with each other, because we had a good head start before the ship-to-ship fire began. I turned around long enough to see the explosion as the pirates' fuel supply went up. At least we wouldn't have to worry about evidence in the hold.

The fighting lasted for two days. The Chinese would claim that the incident had taken place in an international zone, that the Americans had fired upon them without provocation. The Americans would say that the People’s Navy had violated Taiwanese territorial waters and that they had fired only on the pirate ship. They would claim that they ordered the Chinese to leave. The Chinese claimed that the Americans had been interfering with a legal attempt to apprehend criminals in a zone with universal jurisdiction. It was the worst international incident in the area since the Third Taiwan Strait Crisis, leaving twenty-three dead, not counting vampire kills.

Although the Battle of Hsinchu City did not at that time result in further hostilities, it showed where the lines were drawn. Both Beijing and Washington had been willing to back off, but there was no denying the rift any more. The ramifications for the vampire world were slightly better: No one in the media cared about random murders when it looked like world war three was about to start.

I'd been worried about Caius's response. It had taken us more than ten days to track down our man, and then only after he'd left considerable evidence behind. Demetri had walked into the audience chamber ready to take full responsibility.

Demetri had been team leader, so he'd told our tale in an even, level tone. I'd watched the crowd, again visualizing the ties between the tracker and his brothers and sisters like thick blue cables, humming with the energy of the information he was giving. He described our mission in level, clinical tones. He spoke of events, but the crowd heard courage, innovation, action, result.

Caius wasn't telepathic, but he could see and hear the way his servants were reacting. Aro had looked at me and I'd nodded slightly.

The guard thought that we had done well. If Demetri couldn't be punished, then he had to be rewarded. Besides, causing an international incident wasn't a crime on the order of leaving evidence or failure, and we'd done netiher.

Caius had offered Demetri a boon for leading the team that had caught such difficult prey, although his tone made it clear that it would be a small one. The surprise tumbling in my tracker's mind hadn't shown on his face. Immediately, he asked for newborn Yifei to be granted the medium gray cloak of a permanent member of the coven. Felix had spoken well of her, and Demetri had always had an eye for talent. Yifei was still with us.

Through all this, Marcus's glazed eyes had moved from Caroly to Demetri to myself and back, and he'd gently laid his hand on Aro's arm in the masters' equivalent of whispering in his ear. Aro had called me over, taken my memories from my mind, laid them out them like a fortuneteller spreading her cards.

They'd sent us to Kenya next. Just the three of us. Then New Zealand. After that I'd stopped wondering, and having Caroly and Demetri at my side began to feel like having another right arm. In time, we'd both figured out how Caroly's powers worked and how to use them to our advantage, but that hardly mattered. The three of us together, we were Aro's treasure. He'd finally had his matched set. It had gone some way toward reducing his disappointment in me for my failure with Jane. And... and sometimes I felt like Aro had forgiven me, but I couldn't remember what I'd done to offend him. Marrying Bella without his consent; that must have been it.

Back in the present, I looked my Caroly in the eye. At least I didn't have to doubt that her priorities were in line with my own: If I had to cause an international incident to keep Bella from being executed as a spy, there was no question in my mind that they would both help me do it. She'd do it for Bella, and Demetri would do it to catch his man.

I heard Caroly breathe in and out, heard her think about the nervousness sweetening my scent. "Could we at least try to do this without blowing up any major countries?" she asked.

"That would be highly desirable," I responded.

Caroly looked off down the hallway, pursing her lips the way Bella did. "If we're setting a trap, then where do we set it?"

I leaned back against the wall at the sound of high-heeled shoes. An ashy blond woman in a tan suit edged in green walked past us carrying a legal tablet with spreadsheet function. One of the accounting staff with a memo too delicate for the compound intranet.

"We're setting it in the one place Master Aro hasn't thought to check," I told her.

She watched the human disappear into the stairwell and then looked back at me.

I raised an eyebrow.

Caroly's forehead cleared as she realized what I meant. "I'll get Demetri," she said.


drf24 (at) columbia (dot) edu