The apartment was empty when Kelly woke the next morning.
She prowled around the apartment twice, looking for Daniel. Since they hadn't paid much attention to niceties like making the bed, she couldn't tell whether the couch had been slept in or not. She paced restlessly in front of the door for several minutes, then finally made up her mind to pull some pants on and look outside.
Just as she was slipping her boots on, though, the front door burst open and Daniel ran in. "Kelly?" he called.
"What?" she snapped, a little more irritably than she had intended.
"Great, you're ready," he said, picking up the sword from its spot outside the kitchen. "Come on, you've got to see this."
"Where have you been?" she said crossly, as she followed him out the door.
"Sorry," he said, as they set off across the parking lot. "I should've left a note or something, I guess. I didn't think I'd be gone that long. I just... I went for a walk. I needed to clear my head."
"Oh, like I don't?" she muttered, glancing at him.
"What?" he said.
They made their way through the back ways of the neighborhood. "So where are we going, Daniel?" she burst out finally. "Don't act so damned mysterious. It's pissing me off."
He glanced back at her. "Sorry," he said. "It's -- well, you know how your friend Matt said he'd found some raptors' eggs?"
"Y-yeah," she said. "Yeah, I remember."
"I'm sorry," he said. "But I'd been wondering where he'd found them. It couldn't have been too far from here."
"You found them?" she breathed.
A smile twitched at the corners of his face. "Yes," he said, savoring the word. "I found them."
The chain-link fence was around ten feet high, and topped with barbed wire. The padlock had already been cut off the gate, and lay in two pieces in the grass nearby. A sign next to the gate said, "DANGER: High Voltage. Keep Out."
"Shit," said Kelly as they pushed the gate open. There were eggs everywhere. Each egg was about two feet long, and had a delicate tracing of red and blue lines on its surface, reminding Kelly of arteries and veins. "There must be hundreds of these. Even thousands."
"These just about have to be raptor eggs," he said, prowling through the substation with his sword at the ready. "They're nothing natural, that much is for sure."
There were stacks of eggs at the base of each of the huge transformers, eggs on top of the transformers, nestled in among the girders of the huge towers with incoming and outgoing power lines, eggs scattered everywhere. A large group of them near the gate had already been smashed open, and the ground was sticky with dried egg white.
A sudden rattling noise caught Daniel's attention, and he advanced slowly toward a small clump of eggs in an open area, where the sun was already shining down on them. One of the eggs shivered back and forth, then was still.
He beckoned Kelly over. "It's hatching," he breathed.
The egg was still for several minutes. Then, without warning, there was a sharp cracking noise, and a spiderweb of cracks appeared in one side of the egg. Seconds later, there was another crack, and a section of shell broke away, to be replaced by a pointed black snout.
"Kill it," Kelly said, her voice harsh.
Daniel just watched the hatchling, spellbound. The snout withdrew, then cracked at the shell again. A large section of shell broke away, and the entire head emerged. It was unmistakably a newborn raptor. It shook itself, and the remaining portion of shell split and broke away as it spread its wings and stretched out. Its body was almost three feet long, its wingspan probably five feet.
Then its eyes snapped open, and it spied Daniel. It opened its mouth and began to make a low, keening hiss, unlike any sound they had heard the raptors make before.
"Kill it," Kelly urged again. "Damn it, Daniel, we don't need any more of these things. Matt was right. Smash all the eggs."
Then a crack sounded from behind them. And another, off to the side.
The newly-hatched raptor screeched, and then, proving that it was as fast as a full-grown adult, launched itself at Daniel, who yelled and fell over as the raptor impacted his midsection and tore at him with its claws.
"Daniel!" cried Kelly, darting forward. The sword clattered out of Daniel's hands and onto the ground as he tried to defend himself against the raptor. Kelly reached the sword, and snatched it up, just as Daniel managed to knock the raptor off of his stomach and onto the ground.
Kelly brought the sword down. The raptor screeched again, then burst into light. Then it lay still.
A series of cracks was echoing around them now. Daniel struggled to his feet, and Kelly gasped at the dark bloodstains spreading across the front of his shirt. Another shriek came from behind them, then another.
"What are you waiting for?" he snarled, leaning against a transformer for support. "You've got the sword! Go after them!"
Kelly glanced toward her coat pocket, set her jaw, and swung the sword wildly at a pile of eggs, shattering three of them in one blow and three rapid-fire pulses of light. In the near distance, four new shrieks rose in the air.
Another swing shattered two more eggs, then another two. "This thing... is heavier... than it looks," she panted.
Then two newborn raptors, egg whites still trailing from their wings, flung themselves at her. One attached itself to her leg, one to her arm, and she went down hard, knocking the breath out of her.
"No," Daniel gasped, stumbling forward.
A sound was approaching from the direction of the gate, and it wasn't a raptor sound. His brain couldn't quite connect the sound with anything. He could feel the fever spreading from his stomach and radiating through his body.
Then the rider and horse swept by him, and the raptors scattered.
"No farther," Kelly gasped as the horse pounded along the street. They had traveled over a mile from the breeding ground at the power substation. "I can't take any more of this."
The rider glanced back at them and nodded, slowing the horse to a walk, then a stop. Kelly slid off, stumbled on her bloodied legs, and fell heavily to the ground, the sword slipping from her grasp.
"I fear for your friend," the rider said in a broad Irish brogue, dismounting with Daniel still cradled in his arms. "He may not make it."
"Bullshit," she said, crawling over to the grass where the rider gently set Daniel down, and dragging the sword behind her. "That poison's nothing. We've fought through it before." She carefully lay the sword across Daniel's stomach.
"What on earth be ye doin' that for?" the rider asked, kneeling to take Daniel's pulse.
"Trust me," she said with a weak smile. "I just hope it works quick. I think those things' poison got to me too."
He looked at her with alarm in his eyes, and she laughed. "No, I'm not going crazy, and I'm not in shock," she said. "Trust me. This thing works."
As if to prove her words, Daniel took a ragged gasp of a breath. The rider looked at him in amazement.
"So who are you?" Kelly said, sitting back until she was lying down on the grass.
"Please to be forgivin' me," he said with a slight bow. "Seamus O'Toole, at your service."
"And do you... normally ride around rescuing people?" Kelly asked, closing her eyes.
He grinned and shook his head. "Can't say that I do, ma'am."
"How did you know we were there?" she said sleepily.
Seamus looked sharply at her. "Here now, don't you be fading on me," he said, reaching over and grasping her shoulder. "I can't be having my first rescue fail like that, now can I?"
A dreamy smile spread across her face, but she did not open her eyes.
"Here," croaked Daniel, gripping the sword weakly and trying to pull it off his stomach. "Hold this up to her where the raptors clawed her."
Seamus stared at Daniel, then swiftly took the sword and held the flat of the blade against Kelly's bloodstained legs. She pulled in a sharp intake of breath when the metal touched her. "Oh, that's cold," she said, opening her eyes to stare at the sky.
"Damn, that hurts," groaned Daniel, clutching his stomach. "I think I'll need another turn once she's doing a little better."
Seamus' eyes shifted rapidly between the two of them, and he swiftly crossed himself. "Who -- what are you two?" he asked, his eyes wide.
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