Two of a Kind
"Don't eat too many of the junkies," the man warned, leaning against the car. The abomination turned an enquiring head towards him, gigantic teeth crunching down on the legs sticking out of its mouth as blood trailed down its massive torso. "You'll come out in hives."
The gigantic creature made a sound somewhere between a groan and a growl, music to Vulture's borrowed ears. He'd been practising his Dad jokes ever since he discovered he was one.
With its human hand, the Supreme Hunter scooped up one of the legs that had fallen free and stuffed it back in its mouth with a deliberately ostentatious crunching of bone. Vulture grimaced as a shower of gore sprayed over him; also, he suspected, deliberate.
Finishing its meal, the creature swung its head from side to side, sniffing until it found something. Hunched over as it padded forward, still taller than Vulture by a head, it's scythe arm pulled back ready to strike as it stopped. It pounced. Flipping an overturned car aside, the monster scooped up the two screaming guards hiding behind it. Ignoring the bullets as the struggling men sprayed it with gunfire, it examined the pair, impaled one on the claw arm and threw the other to Vulture.
"Thanks. Don't mind if I do." He knocked the guard's gun aside and grabbed the man's face. His prey stiffened mid-scream, paralysed as their flesh began to meld together. Changing bodies was a slow process, and the time when he was at his most vulnerable. He never used to risk the shape-shift in the open, and it was a new situation having someone to watch his back. New, but pleasant.
"When you're done with the rest, meet me back here," he said, a thousand cells vibrating to create the dry inhuman noise as he no longer had lungs or vocal chords. The last thing the Vulture saw was the creature's nod before the eyes of both bodies were gone and memories flooded in. Ah, paedophiliac cartel mercenaries. The only meal that really kept the guilt off.
Idly chewing on the remaining guard, the parasite watched the two human forms become a single indescribable blob. It had seen the melting process before, and wasn't interested in wasting time just watching, not when there was food available. Tentacles lashed out, absorbing the mutilated guard into its torso as it surveyed the house further up the hill. Quiet noises alerted it to the food moving within, unaware of the destruction of their guard post. It crouched, checked angles. From here they were concealed from the house and main road. If anyone tried to attack Vulture, it would be close enough to intervene and it could use the time for hunting. Maybe it could eat enough here that it wasn't still hungry when they left.
By the time it returned, the guard it had thrown to Vulture was leaning against the car, a small bonfire burning the remains of what looked like a mass of rotted flesh nearby.
"You ready to go?" Vulture's new voice asked, the total lack of fear the only sign this was not their victim. It snuffed the air, catching the scent beneath the stink of the bonfire, and reminded itself that this was now the not-food. Satisfied, it resumed its preferred human form. Vocal chords were difficult to manage with fangs.
"The boss's son was out with his friends. We wait?" Vulture's new body shook its head.
"The longer we stay here the more likely we get discovered. Unless you left a bed up there to sleep this off." Strange, that its ostensible grandparent always wanted to sleep after only one meal. It had eaten so many, and was still hungry.
As they drove down the dark mountain path, Vulture squashed his disappointment. The ruins of the compound had been empty of bodies and beds. He'd set chemical timers to set fire to the ruins when they were safely away, and they would have to hope the damage was put down to cartel wars. At least the Parasite had learned some restraint and not eaten so much it broke the car's suspension again.
"You need to learn to leave some for later. Kill them all and they don't come back. Pick off a couple and you can come back in a month for more," he chided, not for the first time.
"You farm drug dealers." It was turning the thought over, uncertain.
"They farm customers," Vulture said, dismissively, eyes on the road. "Call it the food chain." It looked at him blankly, but he didn't care. If it lived, it would learn. Eventually. "Now, onto the serious stuff. It has been a fun few months, but I've found a lead. One Davina Miller, put into long term coma care from a downtown New York hospital following the outbreak." The creature did not react. It was almost too still, and his instincts prickled. "Her referring physician is Dr Ragland. Ex-Gentek Ragland?" The creature still sat in silence, ignoring the bait he was dangling for it. He had a distinct feeling it was sulking. "I'm going to head back to New York, see if I can find out where she was moved to. If I'm right about her identity, Dana Mercer is my best lead on Blacklight."
"Why look for him?" The creature's rather transparent concern it would be replaced was almost touching.
"He's family, he's out on his own, and he could give us away."
"So, an ambush? Eat his sister?" The Parasite sounded downright eager, and Vulture hid a grimace.
"No. She's not food, she's family."
"Prey," it said, uncomprehending.
"Why? Because you can eat her," Vulture glowered, "and because she can't eat you back?" It didn't nod, just looked at him as if that should be obvious. Vulture did not move, carefully did not lay a hand on the creature's arm. Sometimes any degree of threat was too much. "Does that mean you aren't my family?" Parasite stopped, frowned. He gave it a moment to think, and then lightened the topic.
"Besides do you want to spend the rest of your life looking over your shoulder for Blackwatch? They'll be looking for her as well. You only have to slip once." He spun the wheel, yanked the handbrake for the turn as the car swung round the hairpin and on down the dirt track towards civilisation. "No. If I find her, I watch her, and Ragland can fill in some of the gaps about New York and Blacklight." And whether, as he suspected, the entire Redlight issue had been kicked off by some of his shape-shifted leavings or if Melchior's research had somehow made its way here. "If Mercer makes contact, we can talk to him." The grin on the Blackwatch officer's face had too many teeth to be human. "I said: talk."
"Why not just kill him?" The creature's attitude was understandable, Vulture allowed. It had nearly been eaten by Mercer, stomped into a puddle, and then had its head and arm ripped off. Since it had been trying to eat Mercer at the time, Vulture considered there to be fault on both sides.
"Because if you two get into a fight and start killing things in the middle of a city, people will start looking for us. It's why I've asked you to cut back on the snacks. Too many deaths and the wrong people get interested." The creature shifted uncomfortably in its seat.
"I'm hungry. I'm always hungry."
"I know," Vulture lied smoothly. His own hunger only kicked in when the body wore thin, every few months or so, or when he was 'killed', but when it did sanity fled and he had to eat immediately. "We have to live with it. Put it down to another way our creators were -" He swerved to avoid an oncoming car, hearing the engine long before the vehicle appeared round the bend. There was a blare of horn, growl of engines, and he caught the unmistakable odour of alcohol. The yells and jeers of the teen driver were clear to both of them as the unlit sports car streaked passed on the wrong side of the road.
"Idiots!" Vulture scoffed, steering into the skid. The worst thing a car crash threatened them with was walking but as he was limited to human speed, Vulture considered that quite a threat. "Buying a fast car doesn't mean you can drive it."
"Fast car?" The creature sounded scornful. "I could catch that thing on foot. " Vulture grinned.
"Then, you want a Veyron?" The car door was open before he could even slow, an increasingly inhuman figure hitting the dirt in a roll and streaking back up the road into the darkness as its feet kicked divots from the dirt. Vulture smiled indulgently, swinging the car round to follow as he reached over and slammed the passenger door.