I looked up when I saw Nikola walking into the room.
"Are you done bugging Will about the wine issue?" I asked him.
"I'll have you know not having enough wine is a very important issue," he told me with a small smirk and I gave him a look.
"I'm sure we can find something else for you to drink other than wine," I told him.
"I don't think so," he scoffed and I shook my head while typing in my report from my latest fact-finding mission.
"I m surprised you allowed Helen to go to Egypt with John alone."
"Helen is a big girl and can take care of herself. Besides, Ashley is as much John's daughter as she is Helen's," I reminded him.
"Do you ever wish you had any children?" He asked me and I looked up at him confused. I just stared for a moment before answering.
"I'm glad we never had any children," I told him. "It's already annoying enough to be hunted by my own people. I'd never force that on a child."
"And if none of that had been an issue?"
"I've never seen myself as a mother, Nikola. I'm not about to start now." Lie. There was a time in my life when that was all I'd thought about.
"You never mothered Ashley. Not even a little?" he asked finally turning to me.
"I was her only Aunt, and I was extremely happy with that title," I told him. "And you? Did you ever picture yourself as a father?"
"Thousands of times when I was human," he told me and I stared at him, waiting for the rest of the answer. "But that was a long time ago."
"Yes, I suppose it was," I mumbled going back to my work.
"You really never thought about having a family?" he asked and I sighed.
"As you said, that was a long time ago, and I already told you I never saw myself as a mother," Nikola said nothing before going back to his own work.
"I need a sample of your blood," he told me and I went to him and held my arm out for him to do what he needed to do.
"I always hated this part," I mumbled as he picked up the needle and placed it against my skin.
"Well, there are ways I could distract you. If you'd let me," he told me and I gave him a look
"I'm surprised you're actually asking permission."
"Yes, that doesn't sound like me at all." He pulled me closer to him and kissed me passionately. I used my free hand to pull his head closer to mine. For a brief moment, I'd forgotten where we were and what was happening in the world. When it all came back to me, I pushed him off me and moved to the other side of the room.
"What the hell was that?" I asked him.
"You kissed me back," he pointed out with a smirk and I felt my cheeks burn.
"No one said I always did the smart thing," I told him, but he continued to smirk at me.
"I knew you cared about me."
"A moment of weakness shouldn't be described as caring," I told him, but we both knew I was lying.
"You can't lie to me, Eliza," he told me before holding up the syringe with my blood in it. "We both know you too well for that."
"You haven't known me that well in a long time, Nikola." I walked out of the lab.
A few hours later I walked into Henry's lab with Will right behind me.
"Hey, what do you got?" Will asked him.
"Slick-as-they-come heist at an Interpol data farm near Montreal," he told us. "Someone swiped like 200 petabytes of data."
"What kind of data?" Will asked.
"Classified kind. MI6 is involved in the investigation, which of course means British intelligence, but that's not why we care," Henry pointed out. "Someone got in and out of there without tripping anything!"
"Ashley," Will and I sighed.
"Yes! I would say that's a safe bet."
"Can you get me in there?" Will asked him.
"Yeah. Already had Magnus makes some calls to set it up." Henry handed Will a security badge. "It's your new ID. All-access pass to Spookville. Comes with a free lunch and a decoder ring."
"Unfortunately you'll have to get those from where you're going," I told him with a small smile. "Get in, get what you need, watch the security cam if you can, then get out."
"Got it. Well done, Henry," Will told him before walking out the door.
"Thank you" I offered Henry a smile before leaving the room as well.
After spending days pouring over the files Will had brought back, and once Helen and John returned, we were all in the main lab looking over the files. Well, most of us were. Nikola was pouring himself another glass of wine.
"And here I thought British Intelligence had scruples," Nikola said right before John stole Nikola's wineglass from his hand.
"If you're going to help, do try to remain sober," John ordered.
"Half-vampire!" Nikola shouted. "Alcohol doesn't affect me. Though since you showed up, god I wish it did."
"Explains why my wine cellar is now empty," Helen said.
"It was the first place he went when we got back," I told her.
"Consider it payment for averting a global crisis." Helen just glared at him.
"Okay, so... MI6 takes 6 orphans and performs this DNA-scrubbing procedure. Why? What's the end-game?" Will asked.
"Perfectly flawless DNA. Is that even possible?" Henry asked.
"Sorta," I told him.
"They came pretty close. The idea was to strip away any imperfections from their genetic make-up," Helen explained.
"Almost Aryan in its aspirations."
"Exactly. It was far too close to a eugenics project for my liking."
"After you shut it down, what happened to the test subjects?" Will asked.
"They were adopted," I told him.
"Most of them would be in their thirties by now," Helen finished saying.
"There must be something about this Project Montana that the Cabal needs," John said.
"I agree, but it could be anything to do with genetics, a rather large field of study," Helen reminded us.
"Maybe this is all a fluke, maybe they wanted something else from the data farm?" Henry suggested.
"Nah, I've been through the entire list of stolen files. Everything else has to do with geo-mapping and ice-flow charts, I mean, this has to be what they were looking for," Will told us.
"Then perhaps I should remind us all that whatever the Cabal is up to, it has something to do with the source blood," Nikola reminded us. "Otherwise, why trick us into stealing it? Why turn Ashley into a teleporting delivery girl to hand it over to them? Now, tell me, what does the source blood do?"
"Uh, activates dormant abnormal DNA."
"But Project Montana creates six orphans with scrubbed DNA," Nikola pointed out.
"They'd be completely unaffected by exposure to the blood. Why steal information about the only six humans in the world that the source blood wouldn't affect? And why do they need Ashley?" Helen asked.
"That's what we need to find out," I told her.
"Well, whatever's going on, it's a good bet that these test subjects are in some grave danger," Will pointed out.
"I agree. Henry, go through the list, find out where they all are now. We need to get to them before the Cabal does," Helen ordered.
"If they haven't been found already." Helen and I shared a grim look knowing he was right.
I was in my room getting my weapons ready when someone walked in.
"It's polite to knock before walking into a woman's room." I turned to see Nikola with a glass of wine in his hand.
"This could all be a horrible fight," I pointed out.
"Hence the weapon supply," I told him.
"I think you should remain here while they go get the test subjects." He looked down into his wine when he spoke.
"I've been in worse fights," I reminded him.
"Not against someone you love and help raised," he pointed out and I sighed.
"That's the reason I need to go, Nik," I told him. "When we find her, I have to be there and bring her home."
"Make me a promise," he requested. "Stay with me. Don't leave my side." I walked up to him and gently placed my hand on his cheek.
"If you are with us, I'll be as safe as I can. That's all I can promise, Nik." I smiled sadly at him before going back to cleaning my weapons and making sure they were in working order for what was to come.
A few nights later, John had brought back one of the test subjects, and Nikola and I performed the required tests on her while Helen and Will had gone to collect another one. They'd been outmaneuvered and the Cabal had gotten him. Helen had come back wanting to know what Nikola and I had found, not stopping for tea or sleep.
"How did things go with the test subject that John brought back from England?"
"Swimmingly. Behold, images of a perfectly normal human being, and I do mean both perfect and normal," Nikola told her showing her the screens with our test results.
"Not a single genetic defect or latent abnormality in her DNA," Helen said looking at the test results.
"Makes me sleepy just looking at it," Nikola commented.
"Assuming the other five test subjects are the same, what does the cabal want with them? Genetic manipulation, obviously, but what kind? Effective gene therapy is hardly contingent on having flawless DNA," Helen pointed out.
"And they can't use the source blood to uncork their inner monster," Nikola added.
"And what does it have to do with Ashley?" I asked. "Everything has to be linked somehow." Helen paced a few steps away as Nikola ran his hand through his hair and I stared at the screens.
"They're blank slates! And I mean literally," she told us and it seemed to click after she said that.
"I agree the Cabal's agenda revolves around using the source blood."
"They aren't trying to bring out their inner monster. They're trying to create their own," I added.
"What good is having only one?" Helen asked.
"Flawless DNA would be easiest to over-write," Nikola pointed out.
"They're making copies," Helen said.
"And the question is, of what?" Nikola asked.
After getting information from a freelancer who worked with the Cabal, we were standing in Henry's lab looking at his computer.
"Having a ballpark location was key. There's only one spot in the area with a history of sucking up a ton of juice. See? Big spikes all triangulated here? That's just a large complex about 200 klicks from anything remotely populated. There's nothing else there," Henry told us.
"Okay, well, at least we got something," Will said.
"Well done, Henry. Tell everyone we have a target. We leave immediately." The three of us left the lab as Henry resumed typing.
We were checking our weapons as we prepared to storm the Cabal warehouse.
"Once we gain access to the facility itself, our first priority is any information leading to Ashley. If we find evidence leading to the kidnapped test subjects, even better," Helen told us.
"Retrieve the source blood and it's a grand slam?" Will asked her.
"One thing at a time, Doctor Expendable," Nikola told him.
"Be nice," I ordered.
"For all we know, this could be a trap," Nikola pointed out.
"Everyone will be together. We'll be ok," I told him and he gave me a small look.
"Henry, stay in radio contact," Helen ordered Henry as he joined our group.
"Will do. Go kick some ass, people.: John walked forward and put his hands on Nikola and Will before teleporting away. Henry flinched slightly and I smiled at him.
"Carefully!" We were silent for a moment before John reappeared again. "Have fun-" John grabbed our shoulders and teleported away again. We snuck our way to the warehouse and Will peaked in the window before opening the roll-up door next to it. We quickly came through with our guns pointed and I sighed at the big nothing I saw.
"What the hell is this?" Will asked.
"It's a set-up," Helen said. We heard someone teleport in and we all quickly raised our guns in response. I smiled when I saw Ashley with her hair pulled back in a completely black outfit. "Ashley, thank God." Ashley teleported to stand right in front of Helen making her jump. We stepped a touch closer and saw Ashley's eyes were orange instead of their beautiful blue. "What have they done to you?" John teleported to stand next to Ashley as Nikola grabbed my arm to try and pull me back.
"It's time you came home." John set his hand on Ashley's shoulder. She grabbed it before spinning and hitting him. She tried to kick him, but he teleported to the other side of the warehouse. Ashley started a roundhouse kick, teleporting to John when she finished it hitting him in the face. John teleported closer to us and Ashley followed him. John tried to kick her, but she caught his leg and threw him across the room. He hit the ground and didn't get up. Ashley turned to face us again.
"Ashley. Listen to me." Ashley advanced on us, snarling and extending vampire nails. Nikola stepped in front of us and walked towards Ashley, nails out and eyes black.
"Manners, young lady." Nikola tried to hit her, but she blocked him before scratching him in the chest and kicking him across the room. Ashley turned back to us and slowly raised her hand to strike Helen. Will pushed Helen aside and we raised our guns.
"Will, no!" Will shot Ashley twice, once in each shoulder, and she staggered a few steps backward. We watched as they healed as she made her way towards us slowly again. We stared at her shocked before John teleported Will out. I got in front of Helen and tried my own attacks. I punched at her a few times before kicking her back. She managed to block my punches but not my kick. She looked up at me before running at me and scratching at me with her claws and kicking me in the chest behind Helen. John caught me before I could hit the machine behind me and teleported me back home before going back for Helen. Helen immediately whirled to John and clutched at his lapels.
"No, please! John, take me back!" Helen cried.
"Take me back!"
"She would kill you! She'll kill us all! Look at what she did to Elizabeth!" He pointed at us and I looked to see Nikola's wound had already healed and looked at my arms. Sure enough, when I tried blocking her claws she'd gotten my arms and they were bleeding.
"Henry, get the EM shield back up, now!" Will ordered.
"We had her! We found her!" Helen shouted as Henry did as he was told.
"What the hell happened? You guys were gone for like ten minutes?" Henry asked confused.
"It didn't go well," Nikola told him while checking over my arms.
"What in God's name have they done to her?" Helen asked and I leaned my head onto Nikola's shoulder.
"Will?" Henry asked alarmed and confused.
"She was waiting for us, but it wasn't any Ashley you'd know," Will explained.
"They used the source blood to change her. She's the only progeny of two source blood-altered abnormals. Smart move," Nikola said while holding me close to him gently.
"It's not going to stop there. They'll use the Montana test subjects to make copies. There'll be more just like her very soon." Helen stormed out, still crying with Will right behind her as John, Nikola and I exchanged a look.