Sister Helena: The Beginning Contains: A Time for Change Huntress: Blood and Lust

By Christopher W. Blaine

The characters and situations contained in this story are copyright a2004 by DC Comics Inc. and are used without permission for fan related entertainment purposes only. This document, the original story and layout are all copyright a2003-2004 by Christopher W. Blaine and may not be reproduced without permission. This document is meant to be distributed freely over the internet. If you paid for this document, the person who sold it to you has committed a crime. The author has received no compensation for this work nor shall accept any compensation for this work in the future. This document is part of the library of original fan fiction by Christopher W. Blaine that can be found at Darth Yoshi’s World, the author’s website and the place on the internet to find the best in fan fiction. http://darthyoshi.topcities.com The following software packages were used to create this document: Microsoft Wordf, Quark Xpressf, Corel Photo-Paintf and Adobe Acrobatf.

A Time for Change was first published in February, 2002, to the internet. Huntress: Blood and Lust was first published in November, 2000, to the internet.

Huntress: Blood and Lust has received the following awards & nominations: Nominated for Best ElseWorlds Story - 2000 Damn Fine Awards Winner of the Fan’s Choice Award - 2000 Darth Yoshi Awards

Other e-book format stories by Christopher W. Blaine: Nightwing: Out of Time Series: Nightwing: Out of Time Nightwing: Out of Time 2 - Time is Running Out Nightwing: Out of Time 3 - The Hunt for Black Robin Batman: Dark Side Series Batman: Dark Side 2: Dark Prince The Wardens Trilogy DC Comics Presents: Killing Roy Harper DC/Marvel: Access Denied ElseWorlds Legend of the Batwoman Saving James DC Heroes/BattleTech Series DC Heroes: MechWarrior I Batman/Resident Evil Crossover The Gotham Protocol Star Wars Infinities Series The Apprentice The Warrior BattleTech Hero of the Clans War is Hell Trilogy Batman/Command & Conquer: Red Gotham

BOOK 1: A TIME OF CHANGE

It was a feeling of both cold and hot, of pain and pleasure and of life and death, but Dick Grayson could only concentrate on the burning desire for revenge that filled his soul; a soul tainted by his dark fantasies of blood. He wanted to cry out in agony and ecstasy, his hand reaching up to grab the dark hair of his lord and master, and that caused a temporary wave of disgust to wash over him. He was dying and yet he was being born. The pressure on his neck increased and he felt his blood leaving through one puncture and then returning through the other. There was a coppery taste in his mouth, and the nineteen year old knew he had bitten his tongue, yet there was no pain. His nerve endings were on literal fire with sensation, but there was no anguish. His vision began to blur and the spots that were forming seemed to dance until he suddenly became aware that his eyesight was changing, not fading. He was seeing the movement of gnats and traces of their body heat as they buzzed around their heads. It was a warm night, yet Dick felt none of the heat from the Gotham City summer as death's cold hand embraced him, but did not grip too tightly. His life drifted in and out of his thoughts, as he also pondered the new life he would lead as he joined Bruce Wayne in his crusade of immortality and justice. For years, ever since the night his parents had been murdered as part of an extortion scheme against the circus they performed in, he had thought of nothing but being able to strike back against those who sacrifice the innocent. As a mortal boy, he would have been no match for the forces of evil that made up the Gotham City underworld. However, he was no longer a boy and in a few more minutes, mortal would be an insult. His mentor, the man who had been present that night to take him in when the world would have abandoned him, his guardian angel of the dark, was not born of two parents of the homo sapiens variety. Bruce Wayne was of a species that had many names in many cultures, the most common term being that of vampire. Of the many different races of vampires, Bruce was of the most powerful, the most pure. He was born of the union between a vampire and a human, which meant he was, as far as vampires went, genetically pure. Many times his mentor had explained the many facets of vampire physiology; thereby preparing the boy for the day he would take his place next to Wayne's side. That day was here, Dick thought, smiling with pale blue lips, as Bruce slowly lowered him to the ground. Monsignor Clark Moses Kent sat with his hands steepled together under his chin, listening to the status report being presented by a red-haired father. The father, a man about a decade younger than the Monsignor, was of steady gaze and voice, but he had a slight Midwestern accent that Kent, raised in Kansas, found refreshing. In Vatican City, everyone spoke Latin and it had a tendency to affect their English accents. "Final testing of all recruits will begin next week. We expect that most should pass and from there, they shall be partnered up with more senior members." Kent nodded and dissected the information behind his steely blue eyes. "Father Harper, I take it then that I can report to His Holiness that His Titans are ready to begin the Church's mission?" It was a question that the Monsignor had asked several former leaders of the Roman Catholic Church's special response team. "Are we able to perform God's work?" Father Harper bowed his head. "In truth, Monsignor, we are always able to perform God's work; it is whether we perform it well or not that we have to question." Kent smiled and stood up. "A true statement, Father, but I'm afraid that isn't what the Holy See wishes to hear. The Titans have a long history…" "Of course, Monsignor," the junior priest began, a slight blush coming over his face. "I meant that the Titans are of course ready at any time to perform the Lord's work." "Peace Father, I meant no slight, only that if you plan to lead, then you must think like a leader," Kent said coming around to the front of his desk. He sat down, a rosary in his hand. He had a habit of concentrating on it even when speaking about something else. It was a curious one, Father Harper noted, made of what appeared to be glowing green glass. A jealous priest who said that the Monsignor had dared to spend Church funds on such a gaudy thing made a comment about it once. He had been severely reprimanded for his words and it was explained that it was hand-made by Kent, from a stone found on his parent's farm. "Without it on my person, I feel strange…as if the devil were trying to fill me with evil power, power that makes me want to do things that only God, not man, may do," Kent had once said. "When I was first given the position of leader of the Titans, there were very few people of…unique abilities. You do know that the Church frowns upon the use of what are called 'metahumans' in our work. Your mission will be more difficult than mine was or your predecessor's." Father Harper understood. "Yes, Monsignor; I have spoken at length with Father Logan and he explained that he ran into the same thing. There are so many government-sponsored teams out there, the foremost being the Justice Society."

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"Yes, the Justice Society of America. You understand that while the Church tries to work with other government teams, the Justice Society is considered not a team worthy of notice. They have heretics and homosexuals in their ranks." Kent stood up and walked over to the large window. Outside, several recruits for the Titans, young priests and nuns, were busy running laps on the track. "The Titans inherited the legacy of the Poor Soldiers of Christ, the Templars. Because of the actions of some of the Templars during the Crusades, it was decreed that a new organization be formed to deal with religious matters that required a more martial touch. This included the addition of laywomen. At the time, it was believed that their presence would be a calming influence upon the men." "Not exactly the politically correct attitude," the priest replied. Kent considered explained that the Catholic Church did not use terms such as "politically correct". He decided it was easier to ignore it. Father Harper was one of the few priests that had been married prior to taking up his vocation and therefore possessed a more unique view of the world than most other men of the cloth. "The Titans have been charged with doing what is required to protect humanity from Satan's minions on Earth. It is a war, Father Harper, and a bloody one at that. Are you sure that you are ready for the Titans?" The priest was silent for a moment and Kent turned around to ensure the young man was all right. There was a faraway and painful look in the man's eyes and he looked very much like a child and not a man who represented the teachings of Jesus Christ. "Monsignor, are you aware of the circumstances of my taking the vows of the priesthood?" Kent had to confess he did not, only that he had been told that the Titan's leader was a widower. "My wife, Donna, and my daughter, Leanne, were killed before my eyes…" "I'm sorry, Father, I wasn't aware…" "Please, Monsignor, allow me to finish," he replied, holding up a finger. "They were killed, slaughtered by a vampire clan that had invaded the archeological site where we were working. My wife was a photographer and I was a guide for the local tribes. I was raised by Indians, did you know that? No? A local missionary gave me my education after my father died, which is how I became Catholic." "I see," Kent said, stepping away from the window. He looked up at the crucifix above his desk. Some argued that the Passion of Christ involved feeling all of the emotional pain that ever was and ever would be and he wondered if even God could withstand such sadness. Under the mournful gaze of Christ, he tried to console the young priest. "Try to not let your hatred guide you or let it fill your heart." "My heart is not full of hate, Monsignor, but full of love. Love for humanity, for all souls that live and breathe as Adam and Eve. Anything else, well, according to Church doctrine, must be a mistake." All Monsignor Kent could do was nod. Everything that Father Harper said was true or was at least in accordance with the Catechism of the Catholic Church, but that did nothing to ease the feeling creeping up his spine. He wished he had some sort of X-ray vision so he could look into the priest's soul. Then he prayed for forgiveness for even considering such a thing. Again, he felt "old Scratch knocking at the door" and he gripped his rosary tightly. "Very well, Father; I find your report satisfactory. I see no other alternative but to recommend implementation of your proposed plans." "Thank you, Monsignor, God bless you," Father Harper said walking over. He took Kent's hand and kissed his ring. "Peace be with you, brother," Kent said, blessing the priest. "Go in peace." Father Harper left the room and nodded to the Monsignor's personal secretary, who went into the office and closed the door. Father Harper considered the Monsignor's choice of words and realized that something was not quite right. He wondered if it were possible that the older man knew about Harper's conversation with the Mossad agent when he was last in Tel Aviv? He dismissed it as simple paranoia and checked his watch. If Kent did know something or even suspected, he would be obligated by his vows to block the appointment to leader of the Titans. If that were to happen, all of his plans would be ruined and his mission to save humankind would be in ruins. Whatever the cost, that must never happen, he thought to himself. Helena Joan Bertinelli slumped onto the ground with the other trainees and tried her best to catch her breath. Several of the students succumbed to their exhaustion and fell onto their stomachs, calling out several prayers for strength and forgiveness for wanting their taskmaster to feel their pain. Father James Job Corrigan strolled over, the streak of white in his otherwise red hair reflecting sunlight. It seemed as if there were an actual radiance coming from him, even though one look at his face would dispel such ideas. "You are all pathetic! How can you call yourselves servants of the Almighty when you can't even run a simple course?" Not so simple when

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one considered the 25-kilometer length of it, Helena thought as she struggled to get to her feet. "Your pain is nothing compared to the suffering of His Son upon the cross! Draw strength from the Lord and get up!" Helena said a small prayer of forgiveness for her weakness and stood up. Though she was barely out of her teens, today she felt a million years old. The past year of training, after being specially selected by His Holiness himself, had run her ragged, taken her to the edge and beyond of her physical, mental and spiritual abilities. "Look here, you unworthy patsies," Father Corrigan cried out, coming over to stand next to Helena. She immediately began to shiver as if a wave of cold followed the priest everywhere he went. So tough was his physical training that the students had come to call him the "Priest of Vengeance". "This is what I am talking about! All of you have made a commitment to God and the Church, pledged your minds, bodies and souls to waging war on the mortal plane. Do you think the Satan's minions are going to allow you to catch your breath?" Corrigan surveyed the rest of the students and spat. This was the so-called "cream of the crop" of the Titans training program, which occurred only once every ten years. It was a fact, though not one that was publicized, that the average life expectancy of a member of this holy order was not very long at all. Helena could expect not to see her 30th birthday unless she became very good at what she was training to become. The history of the Titans was well known to her, though she privately thought that naming a Church paramilitary organization after the forefathers of the Greek gods of myth was something of an oxymoron. However, its mission was a just and holy one that required those who had chosen service to God as their vocation to perform duties not normally taught at the convent. "You have ten minutes to find your souls before firearms training," Corrigan said to the assembled students. He put a hand on Helena's shoulder. Were they not members of the Church, she would have broken the hand for such a familiar touch. "Is there something you require of me, Father?" she asked. "If you don't mind, Sister, I would have a private word with you," he said softly. Normally, a request for a private conference with Father Corrigan meant that you had washed out of the training program and you would be reassigned. If she were male, she might have been able to transfer to the Order of St. Dumas, a martial order older than the Templars. Being female she would have to settle on wherever the Church deemed she would be most useful. "Of course, Father." They walked in silence away from the group and moved towards some beautiful marble benches set around a small pool. This was normally a place of silence and meditation, but since it was empty, it would serve as a sentencing arena for Helena. She wondered what she had done wrong. "Is there a problem, Father?" she asked as they sat down. "Let us pray first, for guidance and…honesty," Corrigan said. Helena said nothing, but bowed her head as the priest began to pray, his Latin eloquent and beautiful. Helena was reminded of the chanting of monks, something she had always appreciated and enjoyed. When they had finished, they both made the sign of the cross and looked at each other. "Sister, have you decided on a code-name yet?" Helena smiled. "I was thinking of something dangerous, yet feminine…Huntress." Corrigan nodded his approval. "There are some within the Church that would say that wanting a feminine name is selfish and self-indulgent; I say that it is good that while you serve God, you not forget what a wonderful creation you are." He paused, as if he were mentally trying to soften his tone. When he spoke again, it appeared that it worked, for his voice sounded almost angelic. "You realize that you will graduate very soon and you will be assigned a partner for your first three years. I have requested that your be given Brother Jean-Paul Valley of the Order of St. Dumas." Helena was shocked. "Father, forgive me, but I thought that the Order of St. Dumas had their own mission for the Church…that they have very…different vows…" Helena found herself struggling for the correct and most polite terms. The Order of St. Dumas was notorious for forgiving the excesses of its members. It was even rumored that many of the members kept the company of women at night. "Who is this Brother anyway, Father?" "Jean-Paul is an expert vampire prosecutor, perhaps the best that the Church has, plus he has dealt with other situations not related to the vampire problem. However, he as made the statement that he feels his good fortune…or I should say his heavenly grace…is about to run out and he wishes to train a replacement." "And Monsignor Kent agrees with this? Putting a woman with him?" Corrigan took in a deep breath. "It is true that Jean-Paul has developed some unique methods of dealing with the Morningstar's lackeys, but his soul means well." Helena was puzzled. "But still, wouldn't Father Harper be better suited?" Helena had not met or even seen the newly positioned leader of the Titans, but his name was well known to all in her class. "Brother Valley personally selected you. He claims that his Guardian angel told him that you and him were destined to become the best of friends."

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"Prophecy, Father? Has the Church approved this?" Corrigan laid a hand on top of hers. "He does not claim to be a prophet, but we cannot deny that he must indeed be receiving special protection. I worked with him when I was still a field agent and the things I saw him get out of…" Helena nodded, and accepted that if Father Corrigan was impressed than so should she. As the Titan agent known as the Spectre, Corrigan had served with distinction on Monsignor Kent's Titans as an undercover operative. He would infiltrate vampire cults, becoming the ghost in the machine, providing real time intelligence for the Church. He had been forced into retirement after he had been killed. Monsignor Kent had been the one to provide the CPR that had brought him back. They said that he had seen Heaven in those few moments. "It is an honor, Sister Helena; however, His Holiness has decreed that you must willingly accept him. Otherwise, you will be assigned one of the other agents. Your position in the Titans is not in jeopardy." "That is assuming I graduate, Father," she said, flashing a mouth full of straight white teeth. She was stunningly beautiful and could have commanded any one of the fashion runways in Rome. Her obvious Roman features were accentuated by the Olympic figure. Many young priests had found themselves confessing of lustful thoughts for her and yet none of it affected her pleasantness. Despite the loss of her family, orphaned at such a young age, she still believed in the goodness of man, regardless of his occasional slip-ups. It had made her the most popular of students. Father Corrigan stood up. "That's why we're here. Congratulations, Sister; you are now a Titan. Report to the operations barracks by evening mass." When the priest was safely out of sight, Helena jumped up and whooped, singing songs of thanks and praise to God above. I'm going to die! The fear tore through Barbara Gordon like a hit knife as she was pushed back into the bushes with in Gotham Park. The man who had gabbed her smelled of tobacco and strong drink, and his hands were sweaty and greasy. Her attacker had an odd laugh, an almost hysterical cackle that made her skin cringe even more. She shouldn't have been out here in the first place, just as her father had told her. Her butt hit the mud without a sound, except for a small yelp from her. "You smell real good, slut," the man said, wiping his drooling mouth with his dirty jacket sleeve. "Are you a natural redhead?" Barbara understood completely what the man was getting at and the large knife in his trembling hand indicated that she would have no choice but to submit if she wanted to live. She had already struck at the man, employing the rudimentary judo skills her police commissioner father had taught her, but the man had just laughed at her. The laughing was the worst part of all, as she imagined him on top of her…that smell…that laugh… "You tell me, meat, are you really a natural red blood?" came a raspy voice in the dark. Barbara did not recognize the voice, but her attacker began to slash the knife around. He mumbled something about the "Bat-Man" and started to move away from her. Obviously, the voice was overriding the man's desire to bed a young college freshman and despite her fear, Barbara was curious. "I'm no boogey-man, meat," the voice said again. Then there was a laugh, but it was not the maniacal call that her would-be rapist was so good at, but something more primal and evil. It carried with it an artic cold that froze the hairs on the back of Barbara's neck. She slowly stood up as the man stumbled out of the bushes, still hacking at the empty air. She brushed her red hair back and fought the urge to flee. She wanted to know what was going on. For years, homeless men, drug dealers, pimps and all sorts of other criminals had been disappearing from Gotham City, no trace ever seen again. It was happening to too many of the same type of people that it could not be coincidence. Her father, in investigating the crimes, had come across several references to a "Bat-Man", a man-like figure that swooped down from the sky and scooped up the criminals to take away to some unknown cave or something. Her father was positive that it was vampires, or possibly harpies or hobgoblins. Such a thing would have been laughable some twenty years before when creature of myth were considered just that…myths. The awful truth had been revealed during a live telecast from the Olympics in Sarajevo, when a vampire attack and an actual vampire had been captured. Very soon after that, the Catholic Church made a full disclosure about a two thousand year battle against what they called the forces of darkness. Scientists heralded it as the coming of the next generation of humankind. Barbara peered from the bushes, noting momentarily that her shirt had been ripped open and she was exposing her naked flesh to the thorns of the bushes. She looked down for only a second to see of she could somehow preserve her modesty when whatever it was attacked. There was a blood-curdling cry and something wet hit Barbara in the chest. In the dim moonlight, she saw that it was

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a dark liquid and she immediately felt faint. She looked at the man only to see a teenage boy and a young woman ripping him to shreds with their teeth. Horrified, Barbara screamed and turned to run. The boy leapt down in front of her before she could get fifteen feet away. He was a handsome boy, except for the blood all over his mouth and the evil look in his eyes. He was dark-haired and for a moment, he reminded Barbara of her boyfriend, Richard Grayson. "Don't hurt me," she pleaded. The boy stepped forward. "You ever done it with a minor, sweet-blood?" He sniffed the air. "Yum, yum…virgin…I can smell it, you know? Like a fine wine. Can you smell it, Dinah?" The blonde appeared to her left, holding a bloody scrotum. "Bite?" she offered. Barbara felt herself going into shock as she realized that her bad situation just became much, much worse. The prospect of becoming a vampire's meal was not at all pleasant. "Where you going, virgin?" the boy asked, his hand going to his crotch. "You ever gotten a cold one?" The blonde grabbed Barbara and pulled her close. Her breath was coppery and foul. Barbara wanted to throw up, but she hadn't eaten anything that day and all she did was dry heave. "I want to watch, Jason," she said. The vampire called Jason smiled, showing his crimson-coated fangs. "This is going to be good; I've been wanting a piece of you since the first time I saw you." Dinah's hold on Barbara tightened and Barbara wondered where she had seen this boy before or even his older companion. Jason reached out and tore off her shirt and bra, his ice-cold hands tracing circles on her breasts. Despite what was going on, she found herself compelled to look at him as he molested her. When their eyes met, a strange feeling overcame her. It was not subtle, more like a battering ram of lust that washed over her and much to her embarrassment, she found herself thrusting her chest out towards the vampire, physically begging for his touch. A warm feeling was beginning in the pit of her stomach and Dinah's tongue on her neck was bringing her waves of pleasure. "Get the hell away from her, Jason!" Jason turned and hissed. "Go screw yourself, meat!" Richard stepped into their field of vision. "Move or die." "He's changed," Dinah said. "He's not meat…you smell it?" She let go of Barbara, who simply slumped to the ground, feeling drunk and horny, embarrassed and shocked. Her vision was hazy, everything looking as if it were very far away, at the end of a tunnel. She recognized the voice of her boyfriend, confronting the vampires. He had come, just as he had promised! Now, those vampires would pay and she would reward her man with a big kiss and maybe so much more. She drifted into a lustful fantasy and Richard found the anger welling up inside of him as he watched her arch her back and moan on the ground. "I thought I warned you about going near her, Jason. You above all should know better, Dinah," Richard said as he bent down to check Barbara's neck. "You're damn lucky that she hasn't been harmed." Jason smirked. "Just because you're technically the older brother doesn't give you the right to push me around, you understand? You think because Bruce finally turned you that you have some special rights? We all have the same standing in the family, you piece of flesh-rot." Richard stood up and said something in the ancient vampire tongue. Dinah giggled. "You need to work on conjugating verbs, sweetheart. However, I'm all for it if you two are." "Shut up, bitch!" Jason said. He had been turned at fifteen and never looked back. In Bruce's family, he was the black sheep, the problem child who was unable to control his lusts either for blood or sex. Vampires were sexual creatures by nature, but Jason took it to extremes. He was lucky that Dinah, one of Bruce's blood-brides, also shared the same psychological extremes. "That little heifer needs to breed and bleed! I have standing over you, so get out of my way, newbie!" Richard erected to his full height, which was at least six inches above that of Jason. Long claws extended from his hands and he displayed them prominently. For years, he had trained in the art of vampire fighting with Bruce, using special equipment of course since he had been human. Bruce had found it necessary to allow Richard to lead a normal life for a time in order to give credence to Bruce's cover as an eccentric playboy. What self-respecting vampire would keep a human child after all? "Standing or not, I'll kill you of you touch her." Jason started laughing. "You really love this little dish, don't you? Wake up, Grayson! Once she sees that you're vampire she'll go running to her daddy and then the jig is up! We'll be on the run like so many of the other families. She's a liability. C'mon, we'll both do her and then we'll eat her." Jason took another step forward and Richard reached out and grabbed him by the throat and lifted him up. The action caused no real pain and since vampires stored oxygen from the blood they drank, there was no chance of choking him. However, Jason had once been human and those years had taught him the symbolism behind the gesture. "You're a fool, Dick! One day, you'll realize that when I'm running things." "You'll die that day, Jason, if you cross me," Richard said as he threw Jason down.

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Barry Allen rubbed his eyes and once again applied them to the microscope. Next to him were stacks of slides containing various samples of vampire genetic material. For three years now, ever since he joined the Justice Society of America as the Flash, he had been using the impressive government facilities to further his research into the origins of deviant species. At one time, before the accident that had granted him his powers, he had been a devout disciple of Lex Luthor, the world's leading geneticist. Like any scientist worth his salt, however, young Barry had decided that there were flaws in some of Luthor's theories and he had been cast out. It was only that he had the ability to move at super-speed that he was able to continue his research and was not relegated to a dismal life of forensic science for some police department. "At it again?" Ralph Dinby, the Elongated Man said. As eerie as it was to watch, Barry was starting to get used to Ralph extending his limbs like they were made of putty. Right now, Ralph's arm was out of sight, no doubt heading to the kitchen. "Think you can find the gay gene in there?" Barry lifted his head slightly and turned to his teammate. "Ralph, as much as you would love to have the evidence to throw in the Catholic Church's face, homosexuality is a lifestyle choice, not a genetic mutation. You're gay because you want to be." It had become more than just a simple joke, the statement about the gay gene. It was one of Luthor's newest theories about human evolution. Luthor had proposed that certain members of the species were predetermined to be homosexual to prevent over-population. It was that sort of crackpot science that Barry could not digest, respected and educated men trying to explain every whim and decision with nothing more than four-syllable words and a PhD. Because he had come out publicly about his homosexuality, Ralph Dinby had been excommunicated from the Church, of which he had been more or less very devoted to for his entire life. That had generated a desire to find some explanation for his way of life other than a simple desire to live that way. In fact, of all of the members of the team, Barry was probably considered the most normal one, with the exception of his powers. He was Lutheran, however, and could give a care less what the Catholic Church thought. "Do you have an actual reason for bothering me, Ralph?" "Actually, yes; I was wondering if you're friend Hal was available?" Barry returned to his slides. The Justice Society of America was officially sanctioned by the United States government to apprehend and deliver vampires to Lex Luthor's labs. The idea behind it was to try and find a "cure" for vampirism. Hogwash, mostly, as Barry understood that the military was very interested in vampire physiology. Vampires had incredible immune systems and rapid cellular growth potential. Barry was able to get his own samples in much the same way. If there was a so-called cure, if vampirism was a disease, he knew the only person who would actually be searching for a cure would be him and him alone. On the other hand, if they were an actual separate species, he wanted to prove that beyond a doubt. "Hal is straight, Ralph, sorry." "Too bad," Ralph mused. He picked up a slide and looked at it, extending his finger and prodding the sample. "Don't!" Barry shouted. "That's active vampire cell culture; there's a possibility of exposure if you aren't careful." Ralph set the slide down and pulled his other arm back. In his hand, just as Barry had guessed, was a plate of cheeses and some crackers. "Hungry?" Barry sat up straight, listening to his back pop as he did so. He looked up at the clock and saw he had been at it for over twelve hours. "No, I think I'm going to go to bed." Barry started picking up the slides to put them away in a refrigerator. "Barry, have you ever sat down and talked with Hawkman and Dr. Fate?" Barry nodded. "Sure. I'm not much into the entire reincarnated Egyptian motif, but they seem to be pretty solid guys. I miss Hawkgirl, though, she was really nice to look at." "Oh, please…there was a wonder bra in the halter top, Barry!" Barry shrugged. "I don't care. Look, maybe you don't like a pretty girl, but I do, okay? When she and Hawkman broke up, I honestly thought I had a shot, but then she just up and left. I hear she's coming back…they've got a weird relationship." "They think they're reincarnated Egyptians…with blonde hair no less!" Ralph shook his head and put his feet up on a nearby table. "I'm just saying that talk like that doesn't exactly make me feel safe when we're supposed to be going up against the forces of evil, you know? How do we know that we won't run into a master vampire or something that these guys knew back in Ming Dynasty?" Barry suppressed the desire to explain that the Ming Dynasty had absolutely nothing to do with ancient Egypt, but thought more about ending the conversation so he could go to bed. "I really wouldn't worry about it, Ralph. Just do what you're

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told…Hawkman and Dr. Fate are capable leaders." "I'm just saying that it's kind of weird. You know, in another time and place, we'd be fighting super-villains." "And what the hell do you think we're doing? We aren't fighting bank robbers and embezzlers; we're going after those individuals who would harm society…we bring justice." Ralph raised his eyebrows. "Do you believe that? Let me ask you, how many vampires are there in the world, Barry? Just an estimate…" Barry shrugged his shoulders, closed the refrigerator door and said he had no idea. "I'll tell you what the latest figures are saying; approximately 1 million out of a population of 6 billion. Now, we know for a fact that not all of them survive on human blood…some have actually developed a taste for other species…" "God, Ralph, not that Chupacabra theory again! Goat-eating vampires…that's too much for even me to believe," Barry said shaking his head. "Listen," his friend said, suddenly sitting up. "I'm serious here, man. Now, we've declared war on the vampires, even though it's a fact that we humans kill more people than the vampires could ever hope to. Sure, there are some psycho babykilling vampires, but they really are few and far between and you know it! We're going after them because of some primitive prejudice and fear…we should only prosecuting those that commit crimes." "Sure, Ralph, and maybe we can open up the blood banks for the good ones. It's a nice theory, but a little far-fetched. Vampires kill humans, so humans kill vampires." Barry started to walk back to shut down his workstation. "What is your problem tonight?" "Man, think about it. What happens if we wipe the vampires out and not learn to live with them? We've coexisted for thousands of years and now they've become a great scourge? When they're gone, who are the people in charge going to go after next, especially with secret weapons that believe they'll live a thousand lifetimes?" Barry looked at Ralph like he was crazy, trying to figure out exactly what it was he was getting at. What did he mean about who would the government pursue next? Then a thought occurred to him, Ralph was talking about himself. For now, in the battle against vampires, the conservative forces in the government were willing to overlook Ralph's homosexuality. If the major threat were out of the way, could they start looking towards a more domestic agenda? He wanted to say no, that it wasn't possible, but he couldn't deny the possibility. "Ralph, I'm sure everything will be okay…" Ralph looked at him and his eyes conveyed that he did not necessarily believe in what Barry was saying. "Well, just remember what we talked about, Barry. One day it's vampires, then they come for anyone who isn't like them." Barry watched him leave and found himself clenching his fists. It took him nearly three more hours before he could fall asleep. Jean-Paul Valley, Brother of the Order of St. Dumas on loan to His Holiness's Titans, sat up and started coughing immediately. In reaction, he reached for the pack of Marlboro cigarettes on the nightstand on the opposite side of the bed. His tanned forearm brushed against the shoulder of the unnamed female next to him. He tried to remember her name, but it failed to come to him. Grabbing his cigarettes, he got up out of bed, made the sign of the cross, and walked over to the balcony. He was not surprised to see a familiar face sitting at the small table, eating a piece of toast. "Good morning, Brother Azrael," the man said. Jean-Paul regarded the man, slightly miffed that he was being addressed by his Order code-name and not his actual one. He returned the courtesy. "Bonjour, Zauriel; I trust you are out doing the Lord's work this morning?" He lit a cigarette, coughed again and inhaled deeply. "I did not expect to see you for at least another few years. An undercover mission in Iraq, wasn't it?" "Alas, my cover was blown," the other man said. He appeared to be older than Jean-Paul, but still youthful despite the gray hair. He nibbled at the toast. "You know, you took a vow of chastity." "Under duress…" came the quick reply. "I joined the Order to serve God as a weapon, not as a eunuch. I am a man; besides, our Order doesn't take such vows…it was some B.S. that Monsignor Kent had me do. You know how the black robes want everyone to fall into line." "You do represent the Church…" Jean-Paul held up a hand in chopping motion. "Stop! I am aware of my vows, my duty and my responsibilities. I have done more in the name of God than any of those whining little mass-makers could ever dream of. They preach for man's soul; I kill for it." When Zauriel put his eyes down, obviously chastised, Jean-Paul plopped down into the chair opposite of him. "You still haven't answered my question."

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Zauriel looked up. "There's something going on in Egypt, but we're not sure what just yet. It looks like some sort of death cult. There is also another matter going on in Germany we'd like you to look into." "I'm busy," Jean-Paul said, pouring himself some coffee. "I'm being assigned a new partner, plus Father Harper himself asked me to stay on." "Ah, yes, Sister Bertinelli…not quite your type," Zauriel smirked. Then he got serious again. "Jean-Paul, perhaps you didn't hear me when I said my cover was blown." Tossing the cigarette on the ground, Jean-Paul breathed out hard and flexed his arms, stretching the hard muscles. "What do you mean? I figure you screwed up…" Shaking his head, Zauriel played with a small spoon on the table. "No, my cover was perfect. We think that someone knew I was there and let the wrong people know about it. You know that the Order's business extends well beyond His Holiness's obsession with vampires." He was silent for a moment, and then he brought his head up to look into Jean-Paul's blue eyes. "We think there may be something going on in the Vatican, some sort of secret society thing." Jean-Paul was silent as he pondered the implications. The Order of St. Dumas had been originally established by Frankish knights who sought to serve as the pontiff's personal internal affairs division. As such, they were charged with duties that would include bringing nobles to justice that plotted against the Church. This brought them into conflict with the Templars during the Crusades, and the Order was forced to scale back its operations and begin taking new approaches towards age-old problems such as avarice and greed. The Church was eternal and good; its members were a different story. "Sounds like paranoia to me." Zauriel looked around, as if expecting to see someone watching them and then leaned in close. "It's not. If you haven't noticed, there is a power change occurring in the Church and we are not sure the direction it's going in." Jean-Paul leaned in close as well, a smile on his face. He looked around as well, but in a more comical way. "We take orders from the Pope, not from our baseless fears." "There may be a base to our fears that we do not see, Jean-Paul." The Frenchman rolled his eyes and sat back, taking in the smells of the Parisian morning. "Is that all you came here for? To try and get me to back your fears? Did you ever stop to consider that maybe you are just a bad operative? Perhaps a life of meditation would be better suited for you." Zauriel's reply was chilling. "If what I fear comes true, we will not have time to meditate because we will all be dead." He moved back as well and picked up his remaining toast. "Just think about what I say, Jean-Paul and keep your eyes open. I'm actually here to warn you, and this comes from the Order: stop the flagrant disrespect of the Church's ways. While attached to the Titans, you will accord yourself in a manner that does not reflect poorly on the Order. There are many who would see our Order dissolved and absorbed into, say, the Dominicans. We are an old order and we would like to stay active so that we may perform the Lord's work." "Oui, oui," Jean-Paul said, waving his hand. "Whatever…you try hunting vampires for a living and see how it affects you. They fill your mind with such thoughts…" "I'd say those thoughts were already in your mind, Brother. I'm curious, though, why did you even join the Order or the Church. Forgive me, but you simply don't seem like the type to do so." Jean-Paul mumbled something in French, and then cleared his throat. "Angels. Angels appear to me sometimes and tell me what I must do. Sometimes I think if I do the wrong thing, they'll go bother someone else. Lord forgive me, but I wanted to be an artist, not a killer." He reached for the cigarettes again, taking one out and tapping the butt on the pack. "Just like the angels said I should work with this Bertnelli woman, this nun warrior the Church has created. God! What are we doing? We should be out do good works, not slaughtering…" "We do what we must, Jean-Paul, for we are not privy to the Lord's plan. We can only know our small part in which we play. Do me a favor? Lay off the wine, women and song before your friend Father Harper finds out. He's very conservative…" "He was my partner for five years; he knows what I am like." "Jean-Paul…don't make me order you." They were silent for several minutes and the Zauriel shrugged and stood up. He wished Jean-Paul peace of mind and soul and left the balcony, not even glancing at the sleeping woman in his brother monk's bed. Jean-Paul huffed the cigarette down and then went over to the open bar and pulled out a small bottle of American whiskey. Downing it, he considered hopping back into the bed to warm up, but then he remembered what was being asked of him. A reluctant monk, the angels had steered him towards and order that more or less operated independently of the Church. It was there he could do what they required while not surrendering the passions that made him who he was. He wished

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there were a better outlet, perhaps in his paintings, but it had been fifteen years since he last picked up a brush. He had traded that for his sword. The blade hung in its scabbard just inside the balcony doorway. He briefly wondered if he could count how many had died so he could perform the Lord's work and he wondered why God would even allow such things to exist if all they were going to be was killed by him. He knew that Zauriel was right, he was burning out, losing his edge and they were afraid that his actions while a Titan would cause the Holy Pontiff to end the Order of St. Dumas. He would have to mend his ways or quit. The angels would not let him pursue other vocations, so he decided to wake the woman and tell her she had to go. Barbara Gordon opened her eyes slowly, a chill overcoming her senses as she tried to determine if she was asleep and dreaming or awake and living a nightmare. There was very little light and she could smell mildew and decay in the air. The air itself was cool and moist and she felt like she was in her grandmother's basement. She moved to sit up and realized that she was naked, save for a simple blanket wrapped around her. She heard a thrumming sound to her left and as her eyes adjusted, she could see that there was a doorway. On weak legs, she stood up and closed the blanket to hide her nakedness. There was water on the floor, but it was more from the air condensing and not from some type of flooding. The hallway beyond was unlit, but there was a door at the end and she could see light underneath. Her head hurt and the images that were going through her mind were confusing and frightening. Images of carnal acts, blood and violence assailed her. By the time she reached the door, she felt sick in her stomach and soul. Opening the door, she stumbled into the light. Richard called her name and moved like lightning to catch her falling form. In his strong arms, she found safety. She looked up at him and saw that his face was red and there were streaks running down it. Crimson streaks like tears; tears of blood. She touched one and saw it was moist. They were in a laundry room and the sound had been the clothes dryer that Richard had been standing next to. He lifted her up without little effort and set her down gingerly on the top of the dryer. Its warmth was welcome on her soggy bottom. "Richard…" He looked away. "I'm sorry, Barbara, but I can't look at you. You see me as a monster…a freak…" "I want to understand why you would do what you did? Why would you stop being human and turn your back on what you are." He still kept his face hidden. His voice was soft. "What the hell is so great about being human? It was a human that killed Bruce's father and mother, and his mother was human by the way. It was humans that killed my mother and father. Everyday, humans kill each other for things as ridiculous as a pair of shoes." He moved a little farther away from her, as if her very disdain for him caused him pain. "Humans tear unwanted children out of wombs, their governments attack and torture their own citizens and they refuse to exact equal punishment upon their law breakers." He then turned, the blood tears flowing freely. "You tell me what is so great about being human." Despite her fear, she felt her heart breaking as she realized that her lover had been holding so much back for so very long. In all of the time they had been together, she had avoided talking about his parents. She was aware that he had been adopted by Bruce Wayne, the eccentric billionaire, and that his parents had been murdered, but she never pressed it any further. Then the realization set in as facts began to fall like puzzle pieces and she was busy making the big picture. All of the disappearances of criminals over the past several years had been Bruce Wayne and those other vampires! Now Richard was one of them. "Is this what you really wanted?" He reached out for her. "Barbara, you have no idea what it is like, how different everything is. I see emotion, I feel shadows…I can read your mind." She straightened up immediately. "Well, don't…don't read my mind! Is that what that other vampire did?" "His name is Jason and he's my brother…my adoptive brother. Bruce turned him almost immediately…not very smart." He looked down again. "I wanted to wait because I didn't want to be a kid forever. Bruce is different, he ages very slowly because he's a real vampire…born that way…" Barbara reached out and cupped Richard's face and brought it up. "I don't care about that; I want to know about you! Why did you do this? Why now, when we were getting so close. My God Richard, I love you." His lip trembled and she caught sight of a fang. Not quite sharp yet as it must have been still growing. "Nothing in this world can describe how I feel about you, Barbara. You are the beat to my heart, the resonance of my voice and the fire of

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my passion. I want to love with you forever." His eyes were pleading, tearing at the heartstrings and making her breath heavy. She understood what he was saying; he wanted her to join him. He was not only offering himself but also offering freedom from death. "Richard…you kill to live; don't you understand? It's inhuman!" "I'm not human! My humanity was taken away the day my parents died! Bruce showed me that; he showed me what a truly disgusting creature man has become. I renounce my humanity!" He banged a fist on the dryer and it made her jump. "You are the only thing I have ever found that meant more to me then burying the pain…I'd rather die than not be with you. We can be immortal, Barbara!" She looked at him and all of her fears left her as she fell into his arms, their lips meeting in a hot embrace. She half expected him to be cold, but found him to be hot and he tasted sweet. He grabbed her face and forced her to look into his eyes. The room faded away and they were alone on top of a high mountain. It was springtime and she could smell the flowers in the night air. A high moon illuminated their faces as their hands explored naked bodies. In the distance, a wolf announced the beginning of their lovemaking to the moon. The grass had that new smell and she could feel droplets of his sweat as they fell onto her chest. She made him look into her eyes as their rhythm started to match the breezes. As their tempo intensified, so did the winds and as she heated on the inside from his attentions, the air cooled her skin. She screamed with each thrust and put her nails deep into his back, symbolically and literally penetrating him at the same time. He looked at her, unable to force enough air through his throat to speak, his chest flexing as he strained to gulp oxygen. His eyes, however, conveyed his love, his desire and passion for her. As they approached the peak of the moment, her world suddenly went red and she found herself still kissing him in the laundry room. She backed away, trembling. He was sweating, the effort of such a potent link of their minds, of witnessing his fantasy, had physically drained him of strength. Barbara realized that whatever Bruce Wayne had done to him must have occurred not too long ago. "Richard, sit down, please." He nodded and set down on the laundry table opposite of her. "Your clothes are drying. I'm sorry I can't sew, but you can borrow one of my shirts to wear." "I don't know," she said, still trying to shake off the effects of their link, "I kind of like this running around naked." He laughed and she was surprised to see just how human he looked and she could see how Bruce Wayne had been able to survive for as long as he had. She thought back, trying to find one time she had ever seen Bruce Wayne in daylight, but all she drew was a blank. "Richard, now that I know about you…" "Nobody will hurt you so long as I live." She thought of her encounter with Jason and how sinister and bloodthirsty he had been and she realized that if there were any more vampires like him around, Richard could end up dead. "I can't ask you to do that." "Then don't; join me…together we can go anywhere for as long as we want. We can truly live happily ever after." "Really? And along the way we kill some children and drink their blood?" The thought almost made her cry as she realized that eventually he would have to drink blood to survive. "Can you live with that?" "We punish the guilty. What about that guy who tried to rape you tonight? Aren't you glad he won't be doing that to someone again?" His eyes were fiery as he spoke. He was right. Whether it was morally or ethically wrong meant nothing to her. "Yes, a part of me is glad he's dead…" "You don't have to decide now, Barbara; give me a chance to prove to you what we can be together." He smiled and for a moment, he was the high school athlete nervously asking her out. "Together, my love, we can be forever."

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The rain poured on Gotham City in wave after wave, as if God was trying to wash the filth away. Gotham stood up to the rains, in its normal way, silent and cold. So cold, in fact, that Detective Harvey Bullock cupped his hands around the lit end of his cigar in an attempt to warm up. He was frozen and wet, and like an alley cat caught in a rainstorm, he was angry. He barked orders to the uniformed police officers that stood around the barricade, being casual. Casual would get them dead, Harvey knew, if the "Bat-Man" had anything to say about it. Somewhere, in the abandoned apartment building that the police had surrendered, was a vampire. Harvey hated vampires. A black sedan rolled up, the license plates indicating diplomatic immunity for the occupants. Harvey knew who it was, the Vatican's representative. He wondered what a stuffy, old priest was going to do to a vampire in its prime. The driver got out, dressed in a black suit and opened the door directly behind him. A tall, blonde-haired man stepped out. He was wearing a beige overcoat and he plunged his hands into his pockets as the wind picked up. Harvey guessed that the man was no more than twenty-five and didn't appear to be a priest. Harvey assumed that the man was simply a bodyguard. The rear door closest to Harvey opened up and a woman, clad in black leather stepped out. The cigar fell from Harvey's mouth and died quickly in a puddle at his feet. The woman was more beautiful than Harvey had seen for a long time. Perhaps it was the jet-black hair, or the piercing blue eyes; Harvey thought it was probably the way the leather hugged her ample features. He took her in with his eyes, slowly undressing her despite himself, when he noticed the gold cross around her neck. He recognized the symbolism. "Good God! What kind of nun are you?" Harvey asked, crossing over to take her hand. "Harvey Bullock, Gotham PD." "Helena Bertinelli, Sister Joan Helena Bertinelli," she said flashing perfectly white and straight teeth. "And I'm not the kind of nun you're thinking of." The blonde haired man had some around and Harvey noticed the shining black combat boots. "You a priest?" The man smiled and Harvey noted that his features seemed almost too perfect. He was handsome, much to handsome for a priest. He was not clean-shaven and his eyes flashed with a coldness that made Harvey shiver. "No," the man began. "A priest I am not, but I am a Brother of the Mother Church." Harvey noted that the man had a strange, European accent. "My name is Jean Paul Valley of the Order of St. Dumas. The sister and I are here to rid you of your pest problem." Harvey nodded and then pointed to the building. "Damn whacko's killed three of my officers!" Helena laid a gloved hand on Harvey's arm. "Were they bitten?" Harvey shook his head. "Naw, had their throats ripped out with his claws. We tried shooting him, but I guess our bullets don't affect him. The spotlights are bothering him though." Helena took a few steps forward and looked up at the building. She shielded her eyes from the falling rain and scanned the windows. "How do you know he's still in there?" "We had the precinct chaplain bless the entrances, the sewers, the garbage cans and the phone lines just to be safe." Harvey answered, pulling out another cigar. "I never thought we'd have a vampire problem here." Jean Paul smiled grimly. "It's only a problem for Europe, correct Detective?" Harvey glared at him. "No, that's not what I meant. We had no evidence of any vampire activity. Whoever this guys is, he must have a secret hide-away to store his kills. Not only that, he must have bucks out his butts because we don't have that many missing persons to support a healthy, feeding vampire. He must have been going all around the state." "Do you have a bullhorn, Detective Bullock?" Helena asked, keeping an eye on a particular window. Harvey unslung the bullhorn he had under his coat and handed it to the leather-clad nun. She thanked him and walked up to the yellow police tape and ducked under. She heard the whispers of the male officers and caught the leering glance of one of the female officers. She pushed the thoughts back. "What the hell did she just say?" Harvey asked Jean Paul after Helena lowered the bullhorn. "It's Aramaic, the language of the vampires. They brought it from Palestine to the New World centuries ago," Jean Paul answered, pulling out a cigarette. There was no reply from the building and Helena called into the bullhorn again. When she was met with only a thunderclap miles away, she turned and moved back to where Harvey and Jean Paul stood smoking. "He refuses to surrender to the authority of the Church. Detective, we will be going in." "Do you want some of men to go with you?" Jean Paul laughed. "Only if they want to be dinner." The two entered the building without stealth, for they knew that the vampire inside already had sensed their presence. They were quite a team, a peaceful nun from a warrior order and a warrior from a peaceful one. They were part of the Vatican's special response team, code-named Titans. It was the Titans job to seek out and eliminate the enemies of God in the world.

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Vampires had, for a long time, been officially denied as existing by the Church for centuries until the late 1980's, when the creatures began to run rampant throughout Africa. Persons to have survived their biting attacks developed a disease that degenerated the immune system. The disease, now known as AIDS, originally spread through sexual contact, leading many to believe that it was the Lord's wrath upon the sinful. The Church knew, from the beginning, that it was much more than that. When the Pope had announced that vampires were real, the public was mixed in their reaction. It wasn't until several were captured during the wars in the former Yugoslavia that the horrid truth was held before the peoples of the Earth. There, live on CNN, you could see evidence of the Devil's presence, sneering and spitting, speaking in a tongue no longer used. What vampires really were and what they represented were unimportant compared to the need to rid the Earth of them. They were an abomination sent to plague man and the Church was the only organization prepared to handle such a crisis. Even countries that traditionally did not trust the Church made appeals to the Pope for assistance, and the very special members of the Titans were sent all over the globe to provide that aid. For Sister Joan Helena Bertinelli, having taken her vows before God only a month before, this was exciting. She had been in the convent of Our Sister in Arms since she was 12 years old, when rival mobsters had gunned down her father, a Mafioso with connections worldwide. At the Order, which had been established centuries before by Saint Joan of Arc, if the rumors were true, was meant to train sisters in the art of war, should the day come they would need to take up arms against the forces of Hell. She had excelled in swordsmanship, gymnastics, and archery, earning her the opportunity to join the Titans after her vows had been taken. Her partner, a monk who had conceded that his vows to celibacy and poverty were made when he was drunk, was still a good man who believed in God and his son, and would do the work of the Church without question. A former soldier, he had joined the Order of St. Dumas after his wife had left him and he was contemplating suicide. The Order took him in and he made the vows, winking as he did so to his Heavenly Father. Perhaps he wasn't the best monk, but he was the best operative the Church had and even the Pope was willing to look the other way if Jean Paul would carry out his special holy duties. They walked from room to room, fearless. Jean Paul was wearing a Kevlar weave body suit, while Helena had her leather uniform on. The outfits, more for function than effect, were blessed in specific rites that prevented a vampire from being able to bite through them. On the third floor, they found the vampire. He was tall, with hair as dark as Helena's, and shoulders of breadth that she had never scene on a man before. He was handsome, darkly handsome, and his voice was soothing and calm. *Welcome, my dear sweet child* he said in his ancient tongue. He moved into the beam of her flashlight and simply stood there, naked save for a simple pair of boxer shorts. His skin was not pale, but had a deep rich tan that indicated he had enjoyed the light of the sun prior to his turning. His features placed him as from Mediterranean origin, but it could have been a trick of the light. *Surrender before the power of the Church and its servants, demon* she replied. Her hand grasped a crossbow, loaded with a bolt made of the purest silver, the only metal that could penetrate the vampire's skin. The vampire moved closer to her and she heard the sound of Jean Paul's sword, blessed by the Pope being removed from its scabbard. The sword was a mixture of silver and steel. The vampire stood before her, his face illuminated by the flashlight. He made no move, only looked at her with icy blue eyes. He inhaled and Helena could not help but notice the movement of his chest, how the muscles within it flinched ever so slightly. A tingle she had never felt before began someplace between her throat and breasts. *I cannot surrender to the Church, for I am damned, and I am tired.* In his eyes, she saw something flicker and for the briefest of moments, she saw a vision of herself with this vampire, entwined on a moonlit beach. She was gasping and moaning as wave after wave of sensation tore through her from the waist up. He temperature rose and fell with the vampire's movements, only subsided as the ocean's waves crashed on them. "Helena!" Jean Paul cried out. Helena's training took over and she instantly brought the crossbow up and fired. The vampire, its face twisted in rage, fangs bared, had tried to bite her on the unprotected cheek. The bolt went straight through the vampire's throat, causing him to fall back. Black blood spurted from the wound as Jean Paul made his attack. The vampire had not been prepared for the quick strike by his hypnotized prey and was falling victim to his own complacency. Jean Paul swung, screaming in Latin as he did, cursing in French when his blows did not land. Even wounded, the vampire was a formidable enemy, applying various martial arts moves on Jean Paul. Helena joined in, trying to land a punch in the throat wound with her signet ring, which had a cross on it. Because they were hell-born, the vampires were especially weak against the symbols of Heaven and the Father.

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Helena missed and the vampire smacked her across the room. This, however, left him open for Jean Paul's attack and Helena soon saw she was being joined by the disembodied head of the vampire, still moving it's eyes to take in the final scene of its life. It stopped rolling and came to stop between Helena's legs. She looked down at it and it looked at her crotch area, licking its lips. She felt a wave of disgust wash over her. She was experiencing her menstrual cycle and the vampire, lost in blood lust, was trying to get to her. Jean Paul kicked the head across the room where it thudded against a wall. "Give it a few minutes to die. They don't need air, but they do need blood." Helena nodded and wiped a tear from her eye. "I'm sorry. I failed." Jean Paul smirked and helped her stand up. "That was a hell of a shot, Sister Joan Helena; not what I call failing. Don't worry about the thought he puts in your mind. It's a weapon, that's all, it got nothing to do with you." "Have they ever done it to you?" she asked, reloading her crossbow. Jean Paul smiled. "Oui, mon cherie, that they have, only I liked it too much and started chasing the female vampire around." He started laughing to himself as he remembered the incident. Across the street, in another abandoned building, another vampire, younger and leaner, cried tears of blood as he was held by his mate. Over and over again, speaking in the language of his kind, he recited "father". The woman, with hair the color of blood and fire, stared across the street at the sword-wielding meat-puppet that had killed their blood-father. Silently, as she stroked her lover's dark hair, she swore an oath that she would feast upon this zealous protector of the Church. "Please come in," Commissioner James Gordon said from behind his desk. He got up and extended his hand to the Vatican's representatives. "I'm Jim Gordon, the one who contacted the Arch-Diocese about this situation." Jean Paul sat down, shifting his sword as he did. "Problem? Non, mon ami, that was no problem, that was a major catastrophe waiting to happen. I haven't seen a vampire that fit in years." Helena also took a seat. "It was my first encounter with one and he sure impressed me. Do you know who he was?" Jim sat down on the corner of his desk and pulled out his pipe. As he lit it, Jean Paul withdrew his pack of Camels. The monk would not smoke until someone else did. "His name was, as far as we know, Bruce Wayne. His family goes back to the founding of the city. He himself, if what I've read about vampires is true, may have even been one of the founders." Helena nodded, recalling her course in vampires. "Vampires are the spawn of fallen angels and sinful women, unholy creatures that are not mortal in the sense we know, but mortal enough that they can die. Because of their unique characteristics, they need fresh blood to remain alive, and on the genetic level, they do not age." "I knew Bruce's father, but I can't recall ever seeing him in the daytime…" Jean Paul took a drag and blew smoke rings into the air. "You mean Thomas Wayne? We think he may have been a vampire; the man who killed him was a former priest named Joe Chill. Chill found out about the vampires and demanded that the Church make a public statement. When it refused, he resigned and became a vampire hunter. Died in prison I heard." "You do your homework, Brother Valley," Gordon replied. Helena spoke up. "This Thomas Wayne must have been a very powerful vampire to be able to breed naturally. By their nature, vampires are very sexual, but they normally cannot reproduce the way we do." "We learned about Wayne by accident. A drug dealer named Bane figured out who Wayne was; I don't know how, but he sold us the information. When we confronted him, he led us on a chase through Gotham that has lasted weeks. We were at our wits ends when I contacted the Church." "The Catholic Church is always ready to lend a hand in such matters, Commissioner. I can tell there is something else you want to talk about," Helena said coolly. Jim regarded her and for the life of him, could not understand why such a strikingly beautiful woman would be involved in such things. He had no doubt that Sister Joan Helena could have been a model, and actress or the wife of a millionaire. Her beauty reminded him of his sorrow. "It's my adoptive daughter, Barbara." Jean Paul looked up. "She's a vampire?" Jim nodded. "Wayne had a son, Richard Grayson. Him and Barbara were dating for quite some time. When the news about Bruce broke out, they both disappeared." "Was Grayson a vampire?" Jean Paul asked, stubbing out his cigarette. "Not originally; Wayne adopted him after his parents were killed. I think he needed a human son to give him legitimacy," Jim said thoughtfully. "It's hard to believe that a vampire of such power could operate right under people's noses," Helena said.

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"He must have turned Grayson at some point, to prevent him from being used against him. It's an old trick, but an effective one. I'd say he's turned your daughter as well, Commissioner," Jean Paul said glumly. "You still have a vampire problem." Jim stood up and walked over to the window behind his desk and stared out at the rain falling. "If my daughter is a vampire, I want you to kill her before I have to. If she's not, then please bring her back to me." They were safe for now, hidden away beneath the city, away from the small patches of sunlight that would break through the clouds as the storm tried to decide whether it would stay or go. Dick's sadness had been replaced with desire, a desire to survive and get revenge for Bruce. Bruce Wayne had been an honorable man, a worthy blood-father who had taken Dick in when criminals had murdered his parents. His blood-father had shown him the Church misrepresented his kind and proved that Dick had nothing to fear. Bruce fed on the criminal element, bringing justice to an unjust world that would not tolerate anything that wasn't human. "We will have revenge," Dick said, pushing Barbara against the wall. His eyes flashed a brief emerald in the fading light and he kissed her savagely. She returned the kiss, her tongue running over his fangs until it cut into the muscle. The blood slowly dripped, though not the fresh fluids of a human, but enough to begin their blood passion. "Yes, yes we will avenge him. The meat must be made to learn who is their true masters!" His hands ran along her sides, her skin goose bumped at his touch. "We will love tonight, tomorrow we will hunt. We will find the Church's swordsman and make a meal of him." She ripped his shirt open and ran her tongue down his chest. "Yes, tonight we love." Helena was dead tired when she closed the door to the private room she would occupy for the time being. A sister had shown her to it, deep in the basement of the Our Lady of Gotham Church, and had then had stated she would have to be up by a certain time in order to eat and help with the care of the church. Helena had raised an eyebrow. "Listen, Sister, I'm a Titan, get it? I answer to the Holy See only, get it? If I get up and miss breakfast, then I'm going straight to Burger King! Oh, and I don't do windows either!" She regretted having snapped at the sister, but her mood was edgy after the experience with Bruce Wayne. For a brief moment, she had actually felt what it was like to be with a man. She was a virgin, and having taken a vow of celibacy, she would always remain one. Never before had that choice bothered her, for she didn't understand what she was missing. Now, it was different. The vampire, in an attempt to take her, to kill her, had flooded her mind with images and sensations she had never experienced. She shuddered thinking about them again, and she wrapped her arms around herself. The carnal fantasy played again and again and she nearly screamed trying to block it out. She felt dirty and embarrassed and stripped off her uniform, save for the crucifix, and went into the adjoining bathroom to shower. She scrubbed until her skin was pink and then she turned the water to its hottest, trying to use the pain to drive the picture of Bruce Wayne, muscles rippling from the efforts to satisfy her, out of her mind. God help her, she prayed, I can't stop thinking about it. A knock at her bedroom door broke her from her dreaming and she shut the water off and threw on a robe she had packed. It was a gift from her family, embroidered with her initials and a small cross. "Who is it?" she called. "Jean Paul, please open the door." "I'm not dressed," she said, wanting to be alone. "Good, it'll give me something to look at while we talk," he said through the door. Helena sighed and opened the door. Jean Paul stood there, clad in his workout clothes, drenched in sweat. His odor sent her mind reeling and for just a moment, she desperately wanted to rip his clothes off and look at him while they talked. "What do you want?" she asked, her hand on her forehead. He walked in, brushing past her. His touch was warm. "Got a headache?" She smiled. "Yes, a bad one." "It's the after-effects of the hypnosis. It will take some time to get over it. The more powerful the vampire, the longer it remains in your head. Don't worry about it, though, try praying. It worked for me." Having Jean Paul actually dispense clerical advice was new to her. Even though they had only been working together for a week, she felt as if she had known the man her whole life. He was only a few years older than her, but he had lived a lifetime already and he was far from the ideal candidate for the life of a monk. She sat down in a chair. He remained stand-

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ing. "I hate to ask you this, but after what I saw today, I have to. Are you having your period?" She flushed. Never before in her life had a man ever asked her such a thing. "Yes." "I was afraid of that. You can't go out after the other vampires. They'll smell you a mile a way," Jean Paul said, avoiding her eyes. "What? No! I'm not quitting because I happen to have fully functional ovaries," she snapped. Her head was throbbing. "You're not off the case, but you'll have to remain here until you get off of your period. Then you'll have to clean up real good. I'm sorry, but we don't have time to be nice. That's probably why the hypnosis worked so quickly on you, your hormones are active making you susceptible to the vampire's pheromones." "Pheromones?" Helena asked, more intrigued now. "Yeah, it's a little side effect of their 'condition'; the Church says its from being created from angels, scientists say its 'evolutionary adaptation'. It allows a vampire to more easily attract its prey." "I suppose I can use the time to research possible hiding spots for our loose vampires," Helena said, too tired to fight anymore. "Good idea. Father Harper will be here tomorrow to help me out until you're ready," Jean Paul said, moving to the bedroom door. "Father Harper?" Helena asked, on the verge of passing out. "Yes, code named Arsenal for all Titans transmissions. He's been working in the middle east. Rumor has it an Arabian prince has discovered the secret of immortality. The Church wants to know if it is true. He's been reassigned here. Gotham City has been very kind to the Church in the past. Get some sleep." Helena was just that before the door even shut. Father Roy Harper reviewed the records provided by Commissioner Gordon via netfax as he rode in the Vatican limousine. He was surprised by the level of secrecy, the absolute sophistication of the ruse perpetrated by Bruce Wayne. It was indeed possible that Wayne had been a genetically pure vampire, as the documents suggested his mother and father had both been as well. The mad priest, Joseph Chill, had tried to take the Lord's work into his own hands, and Father Harper felt a strange kinship to the man. Had he been a priest only twenty years later, Father Joseph Pious Chill would have been a member of the Titans. His association to the Church had been buried, and we he was declared a lunatic, the matter was thought to have been dropped. The one question Father Harper had was why hadn't Chill killed the boy as well? He had to have known that he was a vampire as well, and a potentially powerful one. Vampires were, in Father Harper's opinion, the ambassadors of Hell. He had read the works of Lex Luthor, the world's foremost geneticist, and of his theories that vampirism was merely a disease that could be cured. More likely, Father Harper thought, Luthor was hoping to scare the public into buying the drugs his company put out to ward off vampires. From the pages of Bram Stoker, to live on cable news, the vampire had traveled a long road in the minds of modern man. As a priest of the Titans, it was his job to safeguard God's children from this evil. Father Chill had thought the same thing and had paid for it with his sanity. The files on the two "children" of Wayne were even more fascinating. Dick Grayson had been a normal youth, who had excelled in his studies and played high school football. The woman, Barbara, was a few years older, but had seemed immediately smitten with the young man. A true love perverted by the unholy influence of vampires. Father Harper crossed himself and said a silent prayer for his departed wife. They had married young, too young in fact, but they had loved so fiercely that when she was taken from him, by one of those wretched creatures, he knew he would never love lie that again. His beloved Donna, how much he missed her. How much their daughter, Lian, missed her as well. The Church had accepted him and seminary was only a year behind him, but he was a priest, with all of the privileges that came with it, and the responsibility. He embraced that responsibility just as he embraced his work with the Titans. He would get revenge for Donna. He would make them pay, and though it was a sin to wish such things and he made an effort to suppress his feelings, he couldn't help himself. He was only human. For that, he thanked God. He pulled out a digital recorder and started making notes. "It is obvious that Grayson must have been turned recently, so he may be new to all of his abilities. Then again, with Wayne being as experienced as he was, he may have trained the boy to prepare him for the mantle he must now assume. If they follow the standard clan format, and there is no evidence to

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believe otherwise, Grayson will have to gather all of Wayne's 'children' and either accept leadership, or abdicate to the most senior. There can be no doubt that Grayson was handpicked by Wayne to succeed him. The Gordon girl is a different story, it is possible, though not likely, that she has not been turned. If she has not, her father has requested we take her to the Vatican for immediate re-education." Father Harper turned the recorder off as the car stopped in front of a church. He waited for the driver, really a bodyguard from the Swiss Special Forces, to open the door. A light drizzle was falling, and Roy put his hat on to keep his red hair from getting wet. As he climbed the stone stairs to the massive oak doors, he heard a voice call to him. "Father Harper!" Running up the sidewalk was Jean Paul. Roy waited for the man to meet him and they hugged. "It's good to see you, Brother Valley." Jean Paul pulled away and smiled. He had a bottle of whiskey, unopened, in his hand. "Forget the titles, Roy, time to get drunk!" Barbara moved her naked body closer to the sleeping form of Dick Grayson. She loved the feel of his cool hips against her backside. He made no sound, but his hand was slowly making circles on her bare stomach. She knew why. More than anything, he wanted a child. Was it possible? That would remain to be seen, for very few vampires could reproduce naturally. Bruce had not been able to and had tried for years with the various members of his clan, but to no avail. That had not stopped him from languishing over his adopted son, and the bond between the two of them had been stronger than…. She choked back a tear. How she wished her father had been more understanding, that he could have seen the love between the two young people. He only saw a rich playboy's son, interested in nothing more than bedding his daughter and moving on. How wrong he had been! If only he could have seen the shy young man, sweating from his exertions after a particularly rough game of football. If he could have heard how this…this…man had stumbled on his words, trying to sound mature and worldly to the college sophomore home for the weekend. So many other men had tried to win her affections, but it was the undeniable charm, as well as the haunting blue eyes of Dick Grayson that had made her tingle, that had left sleepless in her dorm room. No, James Gordon never approved of Dick Grayson. Maybe it was jealousy that Dick was seemingly perfect; but Barbara knew his flaws. He was lonely, his only companions being his adoptive father and their butler. He had no friends to speak of and never went out on dates. His entire reputation was the fabrication of old upper society women talking around a bridge table. Then came the night that Dick revealed his awful secret, a secret that he was sure would send her running away. He loved her too much to hide the truth. He was a vampire. He had not been when they met, because, as he explained later, he would have been stuck at a young age for the rest of his existence. No, Bruce had made him one of the "unholy" well after they had met. He offered a choice. Be with him for eternity or be without. She felt she had chosen wisely. The secret door opened and Barbara immediately sensed the new presence. She jumped up, modesty aside (she had given that up the night she had turned) and bared her fangs. Dick was already across the room, assuming a defensive posture. Bruce had trained him well in the arts of combat. "Peace, Blood Leader," Selina Kyle said, walking into the dim light. She was dressed in leather, looking the part of a typical Goth. Behind her, others entered, and the rest of the clan Bruce Wayne had formed. Dick relaxed and accepted a small kiss from Selina. "How did you find us?" Dinah Lance smirked. "Heard her moans halfway across town." Barbara hissed at the blonde. Dinah was more or less the slut of the clan, and it was well known that she intended to become Blood Queen on her back if required. There was no love lost between the two. "We've been checking all of Bruce's hideouts around town. We were about to give up," Ivy said. She was dressed in a green outfit that made her look like a librarian. The truth was that she worked as a telemarketer. She was the only member of the clan to actually hold a job. It was her thing as she often said. "You know why we're here, boy," Alan Scott, the physically oldest of the group said. He looked to be about 50 years old, and had been an ace fighter pilot in the Korean War. He had met Bruce through a gentlemen's club. "Will you take leadership?" Selina asked, licking her lips. "If so, you know you have to bed all of us to prove your-

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self." Alan spoke up. "Except me, boy! Try it and change you from a bastard into a bitch!" Dick spoke slowly. "I don't know. I haven't had time to think." "Screw you, Grayson," a young, dark-haired youth said, pushing by Dinah. He grabbed her butt as he walked by and she gave a little yelp. "I don't think you've got what it takes, old man!" "Shut up, Jason," Dick said, trying to ignore the boy. Jason walked up and got into Dick's face, barring his fangs. "I challenge you for leadership! I'm stronger and more worthy. I have the potency required to breed a new clan!" There were murmurs and Dick turned to Alan. "What do the laws say?" Alan scratched his ragged beard. "If I remember correctly, Bruce explained that the challenge of leadership is to the death. It can be made only at succession and no other time. If you refuse, you forfeit all of your clan rights, including your blood mate." Barbara made a small sound and Jason turned to her. "That's right! Once I get rid of him, I'm going to do things to you they haven't even imagined in Hell yet!" "You better fight him, Dick," Selina said in a cold voice. "I'll be damned if I want this little fish trying to spawn in my stream." "Bitch, you better show respect to your betters!" Jason screamed at her. Selina drew a hand back, revealing long nails, perfect for tearing throats open. "We'll take a vote," Dick began. "Everyone who wants Jason dead, raise your hand." There was silence for a moment and Jason sneered at the assembled vampires. Slowly, hands went up, save for Dinah's. She and Jason had been lovers for months. "So be it," Dick said, shrugging. Jason turned, ready for a fight and was thrown back against a wall. He shook his head and tried to stand up, but suddenly felt weak. In Dick's hand was Jason's still beating heart. Blood dripped from it and Dick raised it up to his lips, drinking in the dark fluid. He spat it out. "Tastes like pee." As Jason slowly died from lack of blood, the other vampires started laughing, even Dinah who knew to keep her mouth shut. "How?" was the last thing Jason spoke before his soul was freed for the next life. "Bruce showed me how to do it. You have to do it just right, extend the nails just so. It's very difficult," Dick said, offering the bloody muscle to the others. As with tradition, they all took a piece and started eating it. Most spit it out, except for Selina. "It tastes like pee, Selina; how can you stand it?" Ivy asked. "Sugar, what I like the taste of is my business." She swallowed her piece and wiped her mouth. "So, you agree to take leadership?" "May I have some time? I have sworn vengeance for Bruce, I need to take care of that first." Ivy spoke up. "Yes, of course, Dick." She shook her head and her red hair came flowing down. In a way, she looked a lot like Barbara, only more endowed. "But we will not wait long. You have two days to decide. In the meantime, I believe we have a body to dispose of." Dinah smiled and moved towards the fallen body of Jason. "Guess which piece is mine?" Helena awoke to find herself in an uncomfortable position on the chair. During the night, she had been assaulted by more of the images of her and the darkly handsome vampire. She was bathed in sweat and had to shower before she could dress. As she entered the kitchen of the church, the nuns stopped talking and eyed her suspiciously. She noted that the one she had verbally abused was nowhere to be seen. She thought about asking for the sister, so she could make amends, but she doubted that an apology would mend the broken fences she was creating here. No, it would be better for her to finish her mission and return to Rome. A red haired priest walked in, saw her and did a double take. "Don….no, I'm sorry," he said holding out his hand. "I'm Father Roy Mary Harper." She took the hand and shook it, introducing herself. "I'm sorry if I startled you, Father," she said. He held a hand up. "The fault is mine. You look very similar to my wife, God rest her soul." He made the sign if the cross before continuing. "I was married before I became a priest." Helena nodded and went to get herself a cup of coffee. "I didn't expect you to be dressed so priestly, Father." Roy smiled and got himself a cup as well. The nuns began going about their business, some still eyeing the leather uniform that Helena wore. "Actually, I always wear the robes of my office. I'm not much into the costume scene myself."

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Helena shook her head. "Forgive me, Father, but I couldn't help notice how young you are." "Yes, well you will soon find that there is a short life expectancy in the Titans, Sister; most of the older members have retired. I would say that Jean Paul is the oldest of us now. Chasing vampires and such ages a man quickly." "And woman as well," Helena added. They started walking out of the kitchen. Roy asked her if she needed her confession heard and she told him she did. They went to a confessional, where Father Harper immediately became immersed in his duties, speaking in Latin and blessing her. She kneeled inside the box, thankful for the extra padding in her knees. "Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned. It has been two days since my last confession." "And what sins have you committed, Sister?" Father Harper asked from behind his screen. "I have had impure thoughts and I have shown anger to another Sister." There was silence for a moment. "These impure thoughts, did they start after your encounter with the vampire?" She nodded. "Yes, Father, and I fear they will drive me mad. I am a virgin, Father, inept in such things as physical love, but I swear with the Blessed Virgin as my witness that I feel something when I close my eyes. I feel as if I am on fire, that I thirst for a man's touch in my most intimate places. I have tried prayer and contemplation, Father, but I fear my faith is lacking." "No, child, you have not sinned, except perhaps showing your anger. These thoughts are the vampire's tools, it is how he captures his prey. The human body, when it is in a state of sexual ecstasy, is hyper sensitive to their will. It was wrong to send you there." He finished with an order of penance for her actions against the nun and then blessed her. When they came out, he saw that she was crying. He wanted to put an arm around her and comfort her, but he dared not. Her resemblance to his dead wife was too great, the temptation would be too strong. Instead, he tried soothing words. "Most of us, in the Titans, are persons of experience who have been called to serve God at later points in our lives. We are not as weak before the vampires, for we have trained ourselves to forsake that which is natural for us to desire. You, my dear, for not knowing a man's touch, are not properly suited for such a task. Though I love His Holiness with all my heart, I cannot figure out why he let you on our team." She looked at him, anger behind the tears. "I'm not quitting!" She had his wife's fire, her spirit, and her determination. In another life, perhaps this woman would have just been a relief worker like Donna, struggling to make life better for those less fortunate. Yet, that was what she was doing, wasn't it? Roy knew that it was that determination that the Pope had seen in this young woman. "I don't want you to quit, Sister Helena, but I do want you to spend the day in prayer. You are going to need His help in this." "I don't freakin' believe it!" Jean Paul roared, holding a netfax in his hand, waving it around. "Merde!" Roy looked up from the small table he was at, moving his attention away from the map of Gotham City to the angry monk. "What is it?" "You are not going to believe this; the Society is coming." Roy felt his heart and soul sink. "Why? Who called them in? Who gave the authorization?" Jean Paul flopped down in the chair across from Roy and pulled out a cigarette. One of the priests who actually worked at the church started to protest and Jean Paul flipped him off. "It seems that Mr. Bruce Wayne made several campaign contributions to the governor. He wants this thing shut down before word gets out to the press. He called the president, the president called the Society." "What's the 'Society'?" Helena asked as she came in the room. "The Justice Society, a government sponsored special response team. Think of it as the U.S. version of the Titans, except they rely on science, not God." Roy spoke next. "The Justice Society captures vampires for study; this violates the papal decree issued on the disposition of vampires. The Vatican has lodged several complaints with UN on the practice, but the United States government doesn't seem to care." Helena was confused. "Why would they capture vampires?" Jean Paul stood up, waving the netfax again. "Because they're stupid, that's why! They think they can control the vampires, make them into weapons, learn from them." "I'll call Monsignor McNider in Los Angeles; he used to be pretty friendly with the Society leader," Roy said. "Monsignor McNider is a good old man; I met him a couple of weeks ago when he was on sabbatical in Israel. He told me about his dealings with the Society during the California riots." Jean Paul began cursing in French and then excused himself to puke, as he put it. "What do we do now?" Helena

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asked. "Try to find those missing vampires before the Society does," Roy answered glumly. Though they had been against it, both Jean Paul and Father Harper had to agree in the end to let Helena pursue the few leads they had for the whereabouts of Grayson and the Gordon girl. It would take the combined efforts of Roy and Jean Paul to stall the members of the Justice Society when they arrived in Gotham City. It finally made sense to her why Commissioner Gordon had been so adamant about what was to happen to his daughter. He must have suspected immediately after Bruce Wayne's secret was revealed that the governor would be worried about his links to the reclusive millionaire. A political insider like Gordon knew that measures would be taken to prevent any embarrassment. Some of those measures might include his daughter being taken to a secret government lab to be studied. While not making the accusation directly, Father Harper had hinted that it was how the government was creating metahuman agents. The files Gordon had provided indicated several land holdings and pieces of real estate in the city owned by Bruce Wayne. Some of these properties were connected by a series of old tunnels that ran under the city, tunnels originally dug during the Revolutionary War to hide contraband from the British. The police had checked the holdings, but had not explored the tunnels themselves. It was possible that Wayne, with his vast financial resources, had been able to create one, if not several, secret hideouts beneath the streets of Gotham City. A Swiss guard, in plainclothes, offered to escort her, but all she asked for was the man's overcoat and hat so she would not be noticed as she made her way through the city. She would have to walk, to avoid contact with anyone who might suspect her true intentions. She didn't mind, because she the time in the fresh (well, somewhat fresh) air of the open city to clear her mind of the lustful thoughts that kept nagging her. What had the vampire named Bruce Wayne planted in her mind? True, remembering her encounter with him, she did find him attractive. She was human, and given to human failings that she tried very hard to overcome. She had always felt fortunate that she had abided by the Church's teaching of celibacy, never giving in to the temptations of the flesh. How difficult it had been as a young teenage girl, surrounded by the handsome young male priests that helped in her daily studies. Some of them had been no older than Jean Paul, and some had made her wonder if she had made the right choice. Their courage and faith had helped strengthen her resolve. She walked for a few hours, weaving in and out of the sudden drizzles that seemed to be unrelenting in their attempts to drown the city, until she reached an area of Gotham known as Crime Alley. The files had indicated that it had been here that the mad priest, Father Joseph Chill, had attacked and killed Thomas and Martha Wayne, shooting them with a small caliber handgun. It was never officially revealed, but he had used silver bullets. Silver, it seemed, reacted negatively with the particular body chemistry of a vampire, acting like an acid when exposed to the tissue. Chill had run off before being able to kill the boy, and no explanation had ever been given. The Church had cooperated with the local authorities and Chill had been sent to prison where he died. His conviction had been based upon the testimony of then 9-year-old Bruce Wayne. If Thomas and Martha Wayne had been pure vampires, the truth had never been known. Vampire bodies look no different than human bodies in death, and only genetic analysis would reveal the slight differences in DNA. It was one of the reasons vampires had been able to operate outside the public attention, and also the reason why the Church had not pursued them with vigor. Without the science to prove their existence, the Church would be seen as sanctioning murder. Bruce Wayne had grown like a normal child, as most vampire children do. It wasn't until he reached puberty that he had disappeared to study abroad with his guardian, Alfred Pennyworth. At puberty, the vampiric changes take place, beginning with the sensitivity to ultra-violet light. The Church rationalized this as saying the sun was the Light of God, and no unholy creature could stand before it. She looked around, ensuring she was alone. A bum snored loudly from a stoop, and Helena reached into her small money pack on her utility belt and pulled out a few American dollars. She stuffed them into his shirt pocket and made a small prayer for his soul. Convinced that he would be in a drunken rest for several hours, she stripped off the coat and covered him with it. She had chosen the purple and black outfit this time, and adjusted her bolt quiver at the side. This uniform was a little thicker than her solid black one, but had not been blessed. She was taking a risk. She found the manhole cover that had been indicated on the map, and moved it. Many would be surprised by her strength, but the truth was that the Church demanded a regiment of physical exercise from it's younger members. Too long, the stereotype of overweight, lazy clergy had damaged the reputation of the Church. Helena represented the Pope's new generation of Warriors for God. Taking one last look around and pulling out her maglite, she climbed down into the sewers of Gotham City.

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They did not look normal, not to the shrewd eye of Father Harper as he stood on the sidewalk outside the church. A small crowd of reporters and photographers stood behind a yellow police tape erected as soon as the Society's private jet had landed at Gotham International. Jean Paul, in full Titan uniform, hand on his sword stood slightly behind the priest, offering whatever support his friend would need. A gray van, escorted by state police cars, pulled up in front of the church, amid a shower of flashes from cameras and the monotone sounds of reporters speaking into cameras. The side door opened and the occupants started filing out. Roy recognized all of them, but of course anyone would, since they were celebrities. A man in a white and red costume, holding the hand of a small woman in a blue and white one approached first. Roy recognized the pair as Hawk and Dove, Carter and Sheira Hall. Hawk was the team leader and had been with the team since it had been formed. The file the Vatican had supplied on the Hall's indicated that Carter Hall, once a practicing Catholic, had given up on religion shortly after a trip to Egypt years before. There had been no information on Sheira Hall, other than she had been a student activist prior to meeting Carter, who was ten years her senior. The Flash, publicly known as Barry Allen, stood out in his bright crimson outfit. The Vatican had worked for years to find out more about the seemingly mild-mannered man, who said little in public, but all efforts had failed. Allen was for all intents and purposes, simply a normal man with extraordinary ability. He had been clocked recently at Mach 2 out in Nevada. The tall, gangly man next to him was Ralph Dinby, a man who had experimented with several chemical compounds until he had discovered a way to make his body pliable. He was not well-liked by the Church, since he was openly homosexual and Father Harper had been given strict instructions to bar entry into His House by this man and the individual behind him. Perhaps the most feared operative of the Justice Society, Dr. Fate claimed to be the divine messenger of the Lord of Order, which brought him in direct confrontation with Church dogma. While the Church abhorred violence, both Roy and Jean Paul knew that under no circumstance was Dr. Fate allowed entry onto sacred ground. "That's far enough, Mr. Carter," Father Harper said , holding up a hand. "I prefer that you use my code-name in public, Arsenal," Hawk said, indicating that the government had its files on the Titans. "Very well," he began, saying a silent prayer for strength. "We will discuss everything here. Certain members of your party have been refused entry into the church." Dr. Fate moved forward, his golden helmet, which covered his face hiding his features. "We do not wish to have this break down into a contest of whose territory is whose." "Bite me," Jean Paul said, taking a step forward. "You're as bad as the vampires, mon ami; how do I know you're not a blood sucker underneath that helmet?" "We don't have time for this," Hawk said, putting a hand on Dr. Fate's chest. "We have the governor's authorization to take over this situation, he's revoked the Vatican's authority in this matter." "True, but this falls under United Nations jurisdiction," Father Harper countered. "You're just stalling for time," the Elongated Man said. It was obvious he had a beef with the Church. "You want to kill these vampires. That's the way the Church has been since it was formed, destroy anything that is different." "Listen fruit pie," Jean Paul started. "Piss off, Azrael," Dinby said, using Jean Paul's Titans code-name. "You're the worst of the entire bunch, a womanizing drunk of a priest!" "I'm not a priest, you genetic mistake," Jean Paul said moving past Father Harper. The Flash moved quickly between the two. "Please, guys, not in front of the cameras!" "Barry's right," Dove said, her voice soft. "Its obvious we aren't going to solve anything here. I suggest that we go to our hotel and contact the District Attorney. Local legal authority has the right to supercede the UN sanction in cases of vampires. We'll get a court order signed by a judge." Hawk looked at his wife, and Roy could sense the anger flowing away from the man. The woman had the most amazing calming effect on him. "Okay." He turned to the priest and extremely agitated monk. "I'm warning you, though, we will be watching. You try and take these vampires out, I'll personally hand your bloody asses to the Pope." Jean Paul flipped the man off and stomped back into the church. Father Harper waited for the van carrying the heroes to leave. His attempts to keep the Society out of this had failed, and he knew it would only take a few hours for the District Attorney to get the court order needed to give the government heroes the authority they needed to proceed with their operations. The crowd started to disperse and it began to rain. Father Harper turned and went inside.

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Barbara sensed her first, the human female in the middle of her cycle. A slight chill ran up her spine as she realized that this female was moving towards them in a deliberate manner. Dick, still caught up deciding their future, at first didn't realize what was happening. When he sensed the woman, he jumped up. For a second, he closed his eyes and stretched out his senses the way Bruce had showed him. "Damn." "What is it?" Barbara asked. "I can smell the silver…it must be the woman who was with the swordsman." Barbara moved immediately to the emergency exit, with Dick following. They would run, for their battle was not with the woman. They were hungry, having not feed for at least a day, for neither would partake in the remains of Jason. To Dick, it seemed too wrong. Jason had been his brother after all. Barbara saw the end of the flashlight beam play across the bottom of the front entrance of the secret lair, and moved through the emergency exit and started climbing the ladder that led to the streets above. It was night, and the two could move into a crowd and blend in. Part of Barbara wanted to fight, to defend her territory, but she knew that Dick was right in not wanting to kill the woman. If she were to be killed, it was possible that the Vatican would send more hunters, for the male sentimentalism of the Church could not abide by the slaughter of one of its daughters. No, their battle was with the blonde-haired priest with the sword, the one they had seen smiling as he had decapitated their Blood Father. With little effort, Barbara flung the manhole cover away and heard it hit a nearby car. She still was amazed at how much she had changed since that night. That night, a cold dark one in October, they had laid in the grass of a field outside Wayne Manor. She had been a virgin until then, but everything seemed to be so natural. He had taken her, first as a woman, then as prey. His fangs had slowly pierced her neck, even as his body had pierced her womanhood. Pain, ecstasy, more pain, then the tingling as his vampiric seed moved from her neck through her veins into her heart. They came out onto the street in the middle of a pouring rain. Barbara helped him out and they walked hand in hand towards the end of the alley. They were halfway through when figures began to step out of the shadows. "Where ya goin?" Barbara saw at least six youths, not much younger than Dick, each brandishing a knife or pipe. She saw the hint of evil in their eyes as they contemplated the things they were about to do. It was on these maggots of society that they had been taught to feed. This was their natural prey, the outcasts that were never missed. If any of these boys were to disappear tonight, wouldn't society secretly breathe a sigh of relief? Weren't the vampires akin to the shark, cleaning up the urban food chain to allow the rest of humanity to live peacefully and grow? The lead boy, a red haired, freckled boy with crooked teeth spoke up. "That's a mighty pretty piece of tail ya got there." He stared at Barbara's chest, which was obvious in the soaked T-shirt she wore. She silently wished she had worn a bra, but since her turning, she found such things as undergarments to be too constrictive, too much of a barrier from allowing her lover to touch her. "Leave now, meat," Dick said, pushing Barbara slightly to the side. Another boy laughed and grabbed his crotch. "I got your meat right here, pretty boy!" The other youths laughed and Barbara started to move towards the alley wall. Dick moved his neck from side to side, and she heard it pop. She loved the sound; not because her lover was preparing for the battle, though to watch him move in the hunt was pure joy. No, the sound reminded her of their loving, when he would arch so hard at the end, she could hear his vertebrae crack from the effort. Two of the boys jumped for Dick, while the rest went for Barbara. In an instance, her vision changed as the protective membranes rose over her eyes. She saw in patterns of heat now, and could anticipate their moves by the color of their muscles as nerve ending were excited to stimulate the muscles of their limbs. The first made a reach for her shirt, trying to rip it off. She extended her claws and brought it straight down, cutting through the soft flesh of the boy's wrist. As the boy stumbled back, she reached out with her other hand and caught another attacker by the throat. He screamed as she bared her fangs and bit him, right on the Adam's apple. The sweet blood poured into her mouth, energizing her. A knife had managed to pierce Dick's shirt and he tore it off, intending to use it as a weapon. In the rain, it had become wet and he wound it until it was a long, whip like thing. He used it to grab the wrist of the boy with the knife and twisted so that it held the boy secure. As the boy's partner moved in to pull Dick back, Dick leapt into the air, back flipping over his caught prey. The extra strain caused the wet shirt to twist the boy's arm and a definitive crack could be heard as the arm broke. Barbara tossed her bleeding attacker down and jumped another one. He hit her and screamed, but it only served to make her pulse race in excitement. The smell of blood was strong, not only from her kill, but from the one handed boy screaming against the wall. She saw Dick toying with his assailants, leaping and jumping, using his shirt to yank and pull limbs. A small fire was being lit in her abdomen, which would travel to her thighs soon as the blood lust consumed them.

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She was about to feast upon the panicked boy beneath her, when she was sent reeling by a kick to the side of the head. Barbara rolled to see a leather clad woman, armed with a crossbow helping up the boy. "Don't move, Barbara," the woman said. Barbara hesitated, caught between blood lust and the need to survive. Dick finished off his attackers and whirled. "Get away from her!" he cried in voice that sounded like pure torture. "Don't kill her!" Helena took a step back, to keep both of them in her line of sight. The male, whom she assumed to be Dick Grayson, stood panting in the rain, his dark hair plastered with rainwater. Lightening flashed and she saw the muscular chest heaving, the biceps twitch. It was happening all over again. She saw herself nude, standing before a window in a large room, no doubt in a castle. There was a small fire burning in the fireplace, and she could feel the warmth on her back. As she stared out at the snow-covered hills, there was a touch on her shoulder that sent tingles washing through her. Her hairs stood on end and she felt herself becoming hot in strange places. The lips of Dick Grayson moved along her neck, as his hand slid down her side, his fingertips barely touching her. She reached an arm back as his hand moved to her chest. She felt his hair and moved her hand down to his back, to the shoulders that rippled with hidden power. He moved her arm away and grabbed her other one, slowly putting them up above her head. His strong hand easily held her two wrists together, while his other arm, wrapped around her abdomen, pulled her closer to him. Slowly, she could feel something pushing at her, down there, where no man had ever been. Helena broke off from the dream and moved the crossbow to where Grayson was, only to find he wasn't there. She looked around the entire alley, but found only corpses. She had again failed and prayed to God to help her in this most difficult task of fighting off the urges that she knew she couldn't. They sat atop of the building, looking down into the alley. It had only been luck that Dick had the presence of mind to use the dream-sight on the hunter. Still, Barbara was uncomfortable with the way Dick looked at the woman down below. Certainly the woman was beautiful, there was no doubt and she was of innocent, virgin blood. Did Dick intend to make her part of the Clan? Would Barbara have to endure the torture of watching the man she loved servicing the other members of their extended family, as was the way? When Dick had not immediately ascended to the position of Blood Leader, Barbara's heart had jumped for joy. Was he going to declare his undying love for her and her alone, preferring to live a solitary existence, just as Thomas and Martha Wayne had? "Dick, honey, we have to go," Barbara said softly, a small red tear running down her face. Dick turned to her; his determined look replaced with the boyish grin that had first charmed her. "You have nothing to worry about, my love; I know what you think and you are wrong. For all the nights that the moon shall rise for all of the eternities to come, I will love no other but you. Some call us unholy; others say we're are soulless. I know they are wrong, for I pledge my soul to you forever more and to no other shall I make this vow. If you die tomorrow, the I will surely rip my own heart out and offer it up as a sign of my devotion." The tears flowed easily and she threw her arms around him. It was her turn to cry. From his vantage point, Jean Paul could see the vampires embrace. His hand twitched on his sword, his desire to kill them almost overwhelming him. He knew he was lucky to have overheard Helena talking with Father Harper about the route she would take. He knew that she would find the blood-sucking bastards. He prayed to God, asking for strength and slowly removed his sword from its scabbard. With a cry and a leap, he came down, his sword blazing an arc in the dim light. Helena heard the battle cry, and instantly recognized Jean Paul's voice. It had come from above and she looked to the sky. Rain pelted her eyes, but she was able to make out movement on a rooftop. She quickly ran for a fire escape that led up and started to climb. Dick tried a blocking move, his hand batting at the flat of the blade, but it burned his skin. The masked priest, the killer of his Blood Father, cursed at him in French, but Dick ignored it. He tried several different moves to put a hold on the man, but the hunter was too quick and experienced. The blade came at Dick's head and he dodged, but the swing carried through and the blade sliced across Barbara's torso. He screamed as she fell, blood gushing from the wound. Barry Allen had been assigned to watch over the Titan known as Azrael, and he hadn't been particularly pleased about

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it. He was the "normal" member of the Society, the outcast, and the oddball. He was the Flash to the world, but the Gopher to his team. He hated being on the Society, but he really had no choice. He would need support from other members of the metahuman community in order to let his dream come true, a dream where metahumans were not controlled by the government, but were controlled by their passions and their morality. He even had a name for this dream: the Justice League. He had hoped that membership within the Society would give him access to other like-minded individuals, but that had been a bust. He was glad that he kept the real extent of his powers a secret. The Society had no idea how fast he could really move. He watched the Titan and the vampire battle and he felt a twinge of regret. He knew, as a scientist, that vampirism was much more than a genetic anomaly, but possibly an entire evolutionary tree to be investigated. Experiments conducted by the government showed that vampires did not necessarily need human blood, as so much as they were extremely protein deficient, among other things. He believed that the long war between vampires and humans might have been started as a defense by the vampires against human persecution. The Church, in an effort to establish its place as the Knowing Authority, came up with the story of fallen angels and women of ill repute as a way of physically showing the effects of sinful life. Barry was protestant. He didn't give a hoot what the Pope or the Church thought. He believed God created all things for one reason or another. Because of that, he knew that today was his last day with the Society. Helena leapt over the edge of the roof and tumbled over the fallen form of Barbara Gordon. The girl was gasping and losing blood quickly. "Hold on," Helena said. She saw Jean Paul fighting with Grayson, and a quick image of her dream-state lovemaking entered her mind. She shook her head and looked down at the dying girl again. Barbara reached up and grabbed Helena's hand. In that instant, the connection had been made. Helena saw, for the first time, what life was like through different eyes, eyes that had not been blinded by the desire to be perfect. Whereas Helena had strove for approval, Barbara had worked for independence. As Helena had collected accolades from members of the clergy, the daughter of Commissioner Gordon had collected secret kisses on warm summer nights. A voice cried out in Helena, screaming at her that she had denied herself, that she had taken the Church on as a surrogate father when hers had been murdered. There was a flash of light and Helena was there, in the car when the bullets had broken through the glass. She remembered her father throwing himself over her and how his body had jumped with each strike of a bullet to flesh. The pain of watching this man, who had dearly loved his daughter, make the ultimate sacrifice had made her withdraw. Gone was the young girl who flirted with boys at parties, that watched MTV after church services and ignored the comments made by the other children about her father's line of work. Passion had been buried, only to resurface by a chance encounter with a man consumed with a darker passion of his own. Dick wanted to go to Barbara, especially when he saw the female hunter appear, but he knew if he turned his back, then the sword would be jammed in it. He wanted to hate this man, the one who had murdered his Blood Father, he wanted to feel the salty goodness of revenge rise up in his throat, but he could only think about the woman he loved. Finally, he had decided he had enough, and began a series of moves to force his attacker to move the sword where he wanted it. Dick knew that even if he timed his strike just right, he would be hurt badly. His attacker thought he saw an opening and tried to skewer him, but Dick brought his hands up on either side of the blade. With a quick move, he snapped the blade. Fragment of silver dug into his palms, and blood poured from the wounds as they enlarged and he screamed. His attacker stopped and held the broken sword in a state of disbelief. "Son of a bitch," Jean Paul said. Dick kicked out, catching Jean Paul in the stomach, but the armor took the brunt of the blow. Jean Paul reached to his side and drew a dagger and prepared to plunge it into Dick's chest when a red blur whipped past. Jean Paul's empty fist hit Dick with a thud. Jean Paul looked at the Flash, standing next to him, holding the knife. "What the hell are you doing?" Barry didn't answer and Dick took the chance to run over to Barbara. Helena backed away as the vampire approached the fallen girl. He knelt slowly down and picked up her head. She

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was pale and small rivers of blood flowed from her eyes. "I'm so sorry," she began. He smiled and put a single finger to her lips. "I love you, please stay with me." She coughed. "I don't want to die. I want to stay with you." He was crying now. "You will be with me, I promise, nothing will ever keep us apart." She tried to speak, but the words simply couldn't be formed. The blood from her wound stopped flowing and she passed. Dick howled into the night and dropped the body. He turned to the three others. "Are you happy now? Are you satisfied? Is your God pleased?" The assembled hunters could only stare as the vampire shook with rage. Blood was pouring from his eyes and hands and Helena saw his claws extend. She assumed a defensive position, as did Jean Paul and the Flash. "Perhaps God isn't satisfied, but I don't care. This world is nothing to me now, damn you! You can have it!" he cried. Then he took one clawed hand and raised it in the air. With swiftness that only Barry could perceive, he brought the hand down into his own chest and dug deep. There was a gory pop as he pulled out his own heart. For a long moment, the vampire looked at them and then slowly knelt. As his life's fluid poured into the puddle of rain collected on the roof, he smiled briefly and then fell forward. "Are you sure this is the right decision?" Father Harper asked as Helena finished packing. "Yes. I've realized that there is a part of my life missing." He nodded. "Maybe you just need some time, perhaps a vacation?" She smiled at him. He was trying very hard, but was failing miserably. "I saw a so-called unholy creature kill himself over the life he couldn't have. Do you know that he loved more in that instant than I have in my whole life?" "I know what it is to love; it is a beautiful thing. The Church loves you…" Helena held up a hand, cutting him off. "No, the Church loves my skills, but does it love me? How can a an institution based on love sanction something as brutal as murder?" "Its not murder." She closed her suitcase. "To me it is. I understand how you feel, I do, Roy. It was like when my father died. I think I felt it was because I wasn't a good and proper girl. I mean, I didn't go sleeping around; I was only 12 for goodness sake, but I think I felt that God was punishing me for not being a strict Catholic." "God doesn't punish in that way," Roy responded. "I know, but I also know that I don't belong here. I want to help, but I think there is a better way. I'm not so sure that vampires and other such creatures are as unholy as the Church says." "Consider this a test of faith." She walked over and kissed him on the cheek. "I have faith; I believe God is wonderful and kind, and I also believe that he doesn't want me here. I think this whole event was to open my eyes that I cannot deny what I am, a passionate person who isn't satisfied with wearing a habit and praying all day. We all have our vocations, mine just isn't here." They walked out of the church together and stopped at the bottom of the steps. "Will you tell Jean Paul I said goodbye?" Roy nodded. "He's been upset since the whole thing. I think he's having a crisis of faith as well." "Good. Maybe he'll straighten up." They laughed and Roy added, "I don't think so, but we'll see. I will have to ponder what you have said and what we have all learned. Maybe we'll see things alike one day." Then he remembered cradling his dead wife and his face darkened. "But I doubt it." A car pulled up and a man with close-cropped blonde hair got out of the driver's seat. "You ready?" Helena smiled at Barry. "Yes," she said handing him her bag. She went to get in the car, but noticed a young man sitting in the passengers seat. "Oh, Helena, allow me to introduce a friend of mine, this is Hal Jordan," Barry said as he put the bag in the trunk. "Jordan? Any relation to 'Backhawk' Jordan?" she asked. "As a matter of fact," he said looking her over, "he was my grandfather. I've taken over the family business, quite a pilot myself. Barry says he's got an idea for a team, thought I'd look into it." Helena and Barry piled into the car and drove away.

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