Now would be a good time to repost a standard disclaimer: These stories are entirely fictional and any resemblance to any people or events is accidental. Also this story is rated R for lots of swears and weird blood rituals.
“Listen, Sandy, I know it’s time for the weekly status on this, but we’re not quite… prepared.” Alejo Quiñones scraped a hand through his hair, hesitating for a moment, and then dropping a pile of folders past the FRD Acting Chief nameplate on her desk. The mound of paper landed with a hollow slap, as he coughed and rubbed his forehead. “You are not gonna believe this shit we’re onto now.”
“Try me.” Sandra slowly took a sip of coffee and leaned back in her chair. “Well? You’re not usually short for words, Investigator.”
Staring at the ceiling, he shrugged and made a pained face. “These hacker people, they did the recent leak? We think they’re vampires, okay? Fucking vampires.” Alejo knew if he looked his boss in the eyes just now, he would bust out with nervous laughter. And she was decidedly not a person you laughed at on a Monday morning.
Sandra Mosley bared her teeth and sighed at the pile of paper. “Awful lot of bullshit flowing out of you, Quiñones. Don’t I get at least a few hours of peace before you start in?”
He took a deep breath, staring at the ceiling again, and then looked back at the folders, still unable to meet her gaze. “Okay, I know this sounds crazy. But it’s in there.” Alejo gestured helplessly at his team’s careful research. “So, like… instead of straight suckin’ that blood, these dark denizens of the night get their, uhh, energies from that sweet, sweet data. Sally and Ed and me, we’re getting pretty confident these weirdos did the Equifax damage.”
Sandra shook her head, and her eyes wrinkled in either displeasure or disbelief. “Quiñones. Stop. You’re trying to tell me that the worst personal data breach in recent memory was engineered. By people who think they’re… vampires? What the hell does that have to do with identity theft?”
“Well, c’mon. Remember that FPCA case a few years ago, the mafia boys what were doin’ all that weird ritual shit? It happens sometimes.” He finally worked up the strength to make eye contact, and stared at her, gripping the arms of the chair. “I’m serious, Sandy. Blood rituals, identity data, and a cabal of vampires.”
“You call me Sandy one more time while piling me up underneath your garbage fire, I’ll bust you down the DOJ ladder so far you’ll be partying with the worms. You get me?” Despite the harshness, she began to curiously page through the case files, flipping at random.
“Yeah, but this is real. I swear it. They even had an insider.” Alejo nodded, lips pursed, when she looked up over her glasses at him. He had to convince her he wasn’t pulling her leg, and this was the start.
“Someone inside at Equifax? You should have led with that, you goddamn idiot. Not all this mumbo jumbo about blood suckers. Why would they have gone so far to have someone inside for the leak? We had been going in just assuming it was shitty programming, right?”
“Right. But it’s definitely something more.” Thinking back to last week, Alejo rewound his memories of the break in the case. The video was probably the most convincing piece of their theory to lead with. “Okay, here’s where you stop thinking I’m crazy. Pull up the case share and go into FRD and then 2291. Now the EQ security cam footage.” Leaning over, Alejo pointed at a file. “Yep, there. That one. Watch this.”
As the video started, she squinted at the racks of servers in the unassuming room. “Datacenter is on site there?”
Alejo nodded. “Yep. Can’t trust the cloud.” He chuckled. “Now watch what this tech does.”
An unassuming man entered the frame, wearing office casual with a messenger bag slung over his shoulder. He slung the bag off onto the ground, rifling through it with his back to the camera. When he walked towards the servers, Sandra couldn’t quite make out what he was carrying. “Hold on, is that a knife? What…”
“Well, uhh, more of a dagger than a knife. And that’s a spray bottle of some kind under his arm. Just wait.”
The man stooped down, setting the dagger and bottle on the ground. Then he pulled out a keyboard from the rack of servers and began to type. Alejo said, “Okay, the stage is set. You can fast forward. Skip to seven minutes in or so.”
Sandra clicked, and then instantly grimaced, instinctively looking away from the screen. She smacked him in the arm. “What the fuck, Quiñones?”
He covered his mouth with a hand to hide his smile. “Yeah, you’re seeing that right. He’s sliced his arm open and is draining the blood into that weird spray bottle contraption.” The video wasn’t high enough resolution to see the detail, but the bottle was clearly filling up with a dark liquid.
Sandra leaned in for a closer look. “No offense, investigator, but I don’t think you know what a vampire is. They don’t do blood rituals with servers.” She had kicked back in her chair and started shaking her head, when he pointed back at the screen.. The man had screwed the top back on, and was leaning over a bunch of rectangular objects on the floor. “Is he… is he spraying the fucking drives that he took out of the rack?”
“Yeah, we think so. He’s, uhh, misting them with his blood.”
They watched, baffled, as the man put the drives back into the servers. After a few more brief keyboard commands, he loaded his tools back into the bag and began to walk out. Sandra clicked pause.
Alejo took a deep breath. “So, did you see the flicker before he picked up his shit?”
Shaking her head, Sandra ignored him. “Okay, so you’re telling me there’s some sort of group behind this, and Captain Polo Shirt here is a member of some vampire cabal? And not just some weird dude half out of his gourd?”
“Yep.” He walked back around the desk, plopped down in the chair, and just nodded slowly and stared back at her, waiting.
“Clearly he knows the camera is there, even though he didn’t even glance at it. Why not delete the footage?”
“Oh, they did scrub it. Pretty sneaky shit, too. But luckily, Sally is better at forensics than this cabal of weird fucks.”
“See, now, you said ‘cabal’ again. What else are you onto, Quiñones? Why the hell do you think it’s a group of vampires, of all fucking things?”
“Well, there’s more in the files. Some all-too-convenient connections. But it’s vampires, cuz there’s more to this video. You didn’t notice the flicker, and neither did Sally, at first. Got Ed to thank for spotting this. Pretty rusty with detective skills on this fraud job, myself.” Alejo paused, while Sandra just glared at him. “Ahem. Go back to the folder and pull up the copy that says ‘SLOWED 32x’.”
“Oh, great. Warn me this time what we’re going to see?”
He shook his head. “You already saw it, just happened too fast.”
Sandra clicked play. The man stood near his bag, frames staggering like a strobed dancer, clicking over one by one. And then he was gone, and a bat hovered in place over where had stood. “Fucking hell,” she breathed.
“Vampires,” Alejo said. “Fucking vampires.”
“Okay, maybe I’m starting to believe you and this isn’t some job-ending prank. Why the drive spraying?”
“Well, we’ve got theories, but uh, that’s all they are. Sally thinks they have some kind of, well… magic powers, and the blood gives them some kind of control over the systems that they couldn’t get by other means.”
Sandra frowned. “Like a bleeding spell instead of a rootkit?”
“Yeah. Who knows. Ed’s still certain sure that this footage was faked, but Sally was pissed he thought he had a better eye than her. She recovered it, she’s our real tech wizard, and trust me Sandy: she seems damn sure that footage is the real deal.”
“Well what? Other than some tenuous connections, that’s all we’ve got so far.”
“Well, what the hell do *you* think is going on, Investigator?”
He coughed, embarrassed. “My current theory is, uhh, even dumber. Ma’am.”
She waved at him impatiently. “Out with it.”
“Fine.” Alejo stood up and began to pace between the fake plants. “But it’s all stupid and impossible.” He sighed, twisted his hair with his hand, and started in. “What if the whole vampire sucking blood thing is kind of a misnomer? What if they really did that whole rigmarole to, uhh, swap blood with people? Like some sort of… viral *spirit* infection. And it was the swapping that kept them alive, spreading their life force out among the populace.
“I started to think this is some kinda modern replacement for how they used to swap blood for sustenance. You know, to survive. Some new way for them to get a tiny piece of people, a tiny sacred bit of each of a ton of different people. Better for the victims, better for the vampires. No bloody messy murders with suspicious holes.”
Waving at him to break his train of thought, Sandra shuddered. “Okay, okay, you’re right, that’s weird. I don’t need to hear you say ‘suspicious holes’ any more, today, inspector. What’s your next step? A concrete thing you can do. We got an ID on this bat-man?”
“The guy’s a ghost.” Alejo caught himself. “Well, not a ghost. Whatever he is, he’s not in any systems we’ve got access to.”
“Get your team on it, then. And we should probably bring the FBI in on this now.”
“We’re on it, ma’am. Have the bureau coordinate with Ed. Sally and I are heading down to Atlanta to meet with their tech team. Was already planned for today, even before all this nonsense.” He jabbed a thumb at the screen, paused on a frame of the bat. “We were going to talk to them about the leak, and potential mitigation. But shit is about to get way weirder for them.”
“Stay safe out there and try to keep your blood *inside* your body.” Sandra frowned, staring into her coffee mug. “Or, if your theory is right, try to keep their virus *out?* I guess?”