Pain lanced through Erik as he probed his side. Yep, those ribs were cracked. If Erik had a pound every time he’d cracked a rib since joining His Imperial Majesty’s Security Services, he’d be a wealthy man. Well, independently wealthy at any rate. Whatever that human-looking thing was, it hit like an orc. A very angry orc. Erik stood up on the sloped metal roof and looked down at the darkened street. His opponents were gone. The only evidence of the fight were the hand-shaped burns on the pavement. From what he could remember of the monsters of Avalon, none could look human, hit that hard, and then have their limbs burn when cut with magic. Oh, and stand up to pistol bullets. Erik was pretty sure this was another of the hidden monsters of Earth. He’d have to ask Jason about them when he got back to the apartments.

He pulled out his cell phone. From the numbers on the time display, Erik had been out for a couple of hours. There were also several missed calls from Samantha, as well as three voicemails. Well, he’d better find out what Samantha wanted before she called him again. Before he could hit the redial, the phone buzzed. The caller ID displayed “Unspeakable One.” Great, Lady Maritza was probably calling to bitch him out for going off on his own. He was tempted to let it go to voicemail, but decided it would be better in the long run to get the shouting done. Lady Maritza’s rage didn’t cool down with time, it simmered at a boil ready to explode like a pressure cooker with a faulty valve.

“Where the hell are you?” Lady Maritza in a barely controlled tone. Erik knew he was in trouble the moment he heard Lady Maritza’s high Avalon accent.

“I’m–” Erik started to say when he heard the soft footfalls behind him. He spun and slid to the side an instant before the tall dark figure fired a suppressed pistol at him. The bullet tore the phone out of his hand. Erik unleashed a full force blast of telekinetic power at the figure. There was an “umph” of pain as it was thrown back over the ridge of the roof. Erik grunted as he drew his own suppressed pistol. This was not going to be a fun fight. He hadn’t felt his opponent’s emotions as it snuck up on him. It was probably another of those human-like creatures he fought earlier. They must be trying to clean up their mistakes.

Erik crept up the roof, listening for his opponent’s movements. Erik fell to the roof as a blurring movement shot up from the roof. Erik felt more than heard the supersonic crack of the pistol bullet as it passed centimeters over his head. Erik brought up his own pistol and fired three shots at the airborne figure. It effortlessly dodged the gunfire and landed some thirty feet away. Erik pointed his pistol at it and flicked on the flashlight mounted to his pistol. There was a screech of pain as the creature was blinded by the intense white light.

Creature was definitely the right word. It was a tall humanoid, about two and a half meters Erik estimated, and just slightly less massive than an orc. Inky black skin covered the creature’s frame, with a rodent-like head. Except it’s snout was smushed in. Erik had seen those features before, but he couldn’t remember where. His memory flickered back to escorting Anne and her parents to the zoo a few weeks ago. Before the memory could be drudged up, the creature lunged at him with an unbelievable speed. Erik tried to dodge, but the creature was just too damned fast. He waited for the familiar hammer blow of a bullet. Instead stars burst in his eyes and he felt himself spinning through the air. The side of his face was ablaze with pain. The bastard had pistol-whipped him. That was just disrespectful.

The creature snarled as it suddenly materialized above him. It lashed out with a claw-tipped hand. Erik snapped up a telekinetic barrier. It wasn’t a strong one, but the creature’s blow slid along the barrier’s slant, leaving it’s midsection exposed. Erik brought up his pistol and fired. It howled in pain as the ten .40-caliber bullets slammed into its torso. It collapsed to the roof and slid down some fifteen feet. Erik crawled to the roof’s ridge. Pain blazed in his face and side. At least one of his ribs was now broken. He gingerly probed his side. Maybe two. He needed to get back to his team before his lung was punctured. At least he’d be under Veronica’s care rather than what passed for medicine on this side of the gate.

The creature stirred and started moving. It shakily stood up. The bullet holes were now puckered scars on its torso. It let out a rattling growl and took an unstable step towards Erik. Bloody hell Erik thought with a resigned air. He hit the magazine release on his pistol as his left hand reached back for a magazine with red tape on its baseplate. As the creature staggered towards him, Erik fumbled inserting the magazine. Taking a breath, Erik sent out a tiny burst of power at the creature’s feet. The telekinetic push was enough to knock out the creature’s feet from under it.

Erik took a breath and focused on slapping the magazine into his pistol. The slide snapped forward. Erik pointed the pistol at the creature. It howled again as the white light illuminated it. The creature slowly clamored back to its feet. Erik focused on the glowing dot of his front sight and stroked the trigger once, twice, three times. The creature’s howls stopped like someone flipped a switch.

“That was unexpected,” a tinkling voice said from above Erik. There was a hint of that European accent the two he’d fought earlier had used. “When did Avalonians start using silver bullets?” This one looked like a woman as it landed gracefully on the roof ridge. An achingly beautiful woman with sliver hair that seemed to dance around her and glowing blue eyes. Erik felt the creature’s psychic presence as it walked towards him. It eased some of his physical pain while calming him. All the better to eat you, my dear, Erik thought as he tried to push past the psychic onslaught.

“You are just full of surprises,” the woman said seductively. Her blue eyes seemed to pulse hypnotically. She effortlessly plucked the pistol out of Erik’s hand and ejected the magazine. She let out a silvery peal of laughter that eroded some of Erik’s resistance.

“Do the Americans know you’ve stolen some of their special bullets?” she asked. Erik clamped down before he answered the woman. Something about her voice and laugh made him want to help her. She cocked her head and gave Erik an intense stare. “I wasn’t aware Avalonians were that mind-strong, but it will be fun to break you.” The woman’s smooth and enticing psychic presence evaporated and Erik was pounded with a lash of fear and rage. He wasn’t sure if he screamed before the blackness took him.