Previously, on "Nightfall"…

Nightfall: The First Season

The world is over-run by vampires, and a small group of survivors fight to live through another day, soon finding that they are not alone…and that the vamps are organized.

Nightfall: The Second Season

We learn more about the truth behind the vampires, and of their Lord, and of the military plans to try and eliminate them. They are joined, occasionally, by a group of "Holy" vampires, members of the cloth that were killed by vamps but returned with the powers of a Master and none of the blood lust.

Nightfall: Predator

A military group of survivors, located in Georgia, encounter an alien creature that has come to earth to hunt, and become involved in a battle between it and a Master vampire. (Located at , this story takes place close to the end of the second season, and deals with new characters, who later join the main story arc.)

Nightfall: The Third Season

The survivors deal with creatures created by the Vampire Lord; truths about themselves; and with other dangers. They also encounter the Pack, a group of lycanthropes that have been in hiding for generations, and are now ready to face down the vampires once and for all.

Nightfall: The Final Season

The battle is taken to Germany, as the group strives to reach the lair of the Vampire Lord, but their quest is not an easy one. Bizarre creatures and even Angels and Demons become involved in their quest, and they learn that there is more than one fate possible

Nightfall: Oblivion

The final battle takes place, deep with the lair of Bartholomew, to decide the fate of the world.

Nightfall: Resurgence

A new threat rises up, in the form of a vampire-lycanthrope hybrid, seeking to be the new, dominant species of the world. As if that were not enough trouble for the survivors, they must also deal with the apparent return of the Vampire Lord, Bartholomew.

And now…

Nightfall: Hunters

"Snare"

With two RAH-66 Comanche attack copters circling overhead, the Sikorsky S-80 transport settled down into the main courtyard of the Cutherman Institute and immediately disgorged the infiltration team, the ten members taking up a perimeter around the craft.

"Area's clear, Sir," reported Mai.

Captain Miller emerged from the Sikorsky, followed by Bill and Paul, and the trio joined Sergeant Mai at the front of the perimeter, near the main entrance of the Institute.

"I still can't believe that I let you talk me into this," quipped Paul.

"Would you rather take your chances out there? With them looking for you?" asked Bill.

"If everything that you've told me is true…then no, I wouldn't. But what about the other Halflings? Aren't you worried that they'll find them?"

"You're the only one that they've actually seen…"

"Thanks to you," interrupted Paul.

Bill lapsed into silence rather than start another verbal sparing match with the man. They had had more than a few harsh words when Bill had recovered him, and though he wasn't having an easy time accepting it, Paul was beginning to believe that there was something to the story about him being a Halfling.

When it came right down to it, Paul had to admit that he had been very intuitive when it came to avoiding the vamps. He had led his small group past many nests, through numerous dangers, and he had often wondered how he had done it.

The answer that he had been given was not one that he liked.

"Tell me we've go some good news, Mai," said Miller.

"No such luck, Captain," replied Mai. "Strider says that there's some kind of interference blocking Bright Star's scans."

"Interference? What kind of interference?"

"Techs don't know, but it could possibly mean that the place still has power."

"Perhaps our vampire clones haven't vacated," noted Miller, glancing around at the others. "What about it, Bill? Sense any thing?"

"No," he answered, shaking his head as feelings of desolation radiated from the surrounding area. It was strange, almost eerie, the way the entire Institute gave off a feeling of…nothingness. "It's like the whole place is…dead."

"Nice choice of words," muttered Paul.

"Teams three and four, deploy," spoke Miller, into his throat mike. "We're going in."

Two hours later, the group had transformed the lobby of the Cutherman Institute into their base of operations, and Miller and Mai were busy working out a search rotation that would let them cover the most ground in the least amount of time.

There had been a brief discussion about the possible meanings behind the Institute still having power, but there were too many possible explanations and not any evidence to indicate which one might be true.

After helping unload supplies, and helping a blanketed Roy move from the Sikorsky to the main building, the non-military personnel found themselves lacking a purpose.

Paul busied himself with helping Amber Masterson, the team's computer expert, as she continued hacking deeper into the Institute's mainframe. Before the world had gone to hell, Paul had been in the middle of his second year of computer sciences, and was proving to be an asset to the team, having helped Amber set up her own control network for accessing the security cameras.

Bill had continued trying to sense something from the compound, but had given up in a fit of frustration, unable to understand why he couldn't pick up on anything at all. Even if the clones had vacated the Institute as soon as their secret had been learned, he should have been able to detect some sort of ambient energy, some telltale echoing radiance of their being.

Feeling a bit useless, Miller having strongly requested that he not go off on his own, Bill resigned himself to standing off to the side, observing the Captain as he tried to work out a strategy for their search. Every now and then he would eavesdrop on the conversation going on between Roy and Traci, and he thought it a bit amusing that the woman was hanging onto Roy's every word as he related a number of events that they had gone through in the past few weeks.

Roy was going on with such a relish that Bill wondered what had happened to the modest being that had previously downplayed some of their adventures.

The conversation between the two also gave Bill food for thought. He was beginning to wonder why, exactly, Traci wanted to know so much about their past. Either she was giving them the benefit of the doubt, trying to understand what they really were…or she was just trying to get to know a possible enemy.

Bill didn't like thinking that he'd have to worry about having the woman at his back, but he couldn't ignore the fact that she was Rein's head of security, and it didn't seem right that the professor would let her go so easily.

Perhaps there was an ulterior motive for her wanting to come on this mission.

Bill shook off the thoughts, remembering how such mistrust had nearly separated him from his friends on their previous quest, and he decided it best to give her the benefit of the doubt.

Mai nodded and moved towards the exit, indicating that she and Miller had settled on a plan, and Bill stepped up to the Captain.

"I take it that you've decide how we're going to proceed," said Bill.

"Yes," confirmed Miller, nodding. "The above ground structures are mostly offices, and support facilities. The research centers are all underground, connected by a central hub that's accessible through the bank of elevators in this building."

Miller ran a finger over a computer-generated diagram showing three separate facilities, interconnected by tubes that ran to a smaller structure, located directly below the building they were now in.

"There's Genetic, Bio-mechanical, Chemical," he continued, pointing to each facility as he named it. "Since the genetic center is our main concern, I figure me, you, Roy, Traci, Mai, and your friend Paul will take it. I'll combine the other teams into two, and have each of them take a different section."

"Do you really think we should split everyone up like that?" asked Bill.

"It'll give us a team of six, and both of the others ten each. We're well armed, and trained, and if the ammo that Roy blessed for us works as well as we've previously seen, we should be more than able to handle any vamps that we might find."

Bill nodded and mumbled a half-hearted agreement.

"Besides, it'll be more strategically sound to handle it that way. The access halls may be a good size, but once you get into the actual research centers you're looking at close quarters and a lot of corridors. Too large of a group would just hamper our movements."

"Yeah, I can understand that," agreed Bill, thinking of the first time they had faced down a Master and his brood, back in Ohio. "How soon are we going in?"

"It's almost dark now," said Miller, nodding towards the main doors and the shadowy landscape outside. "Figure we'll wait until morning, let everyone get rested up. Besides, they're still prepping a lot of the equipment that we'll be using, and I don't want to rush in unprepared, even if it seems that the place is clean."

Miller's last statement sounded a lot more like a question than an opinion, and Bill knew what the man was getting at; he was questioning the Halfling's abilities. Bill didn't really blame him, though. Hell, he was questioning them himself.

He just couldn't understand how the entire area could be giving off such an empty, negative energy. He couldn't even sense the natural energies of the surrounding environment. It was almost like a mask had been pulled over the whole…

"Oh, shit," swore Bill, suddenly struck with a very disturbing thought.

"What's wrong?" asked Miller.

"I think this might be a…"

A massive explosion abruptly lit up the outer compound, the Sikorsky blossoming into an intense fireball that spread out far enough to engulf the two Comanche attack copters. The other aircraft ignited, adding to the destruction, and the glass front of the building blasted inward, trailed by intense flames, with shockwaves that knocked everyone to the floor.

Miller clamored to his feet and began racing towards the ruined entrance, barking orders into his comm-unit for everyone to regroup at the front of the building.

Bill numbly rose from the ground, feelings of guilt swelling up inside of him as he cursed himself for not having figured it out sooner. The clones were still here, and they had been masking their presence, hiding from his mental probes.

"You bastards," swore Bill, seeing far less people standing than were scattered about the grounds, dead.

Sporadic gunfire erupted from out in the darkness, and Bill could clearly see dozens of forms swarming across the grounds, falling upon those still standing.

The invaders that were hit blossomed into brief bursts of flame before crumbling away into dust, and there was no doubt as to what they were.

"Vampires!" screamed a voice over the walkie-talkie, before drowning out in a blood chilling gurgle.

To Be Continued…