Alex Van Helsing Voice of the Undead - By Jason Henderson

Chapter 1

Alex Van Helsing accelerated the gunmetal gray Kawasaki Ninja and watched the trees along the road around Lake Geneva melt into a twilight blur. Just a few miles to Glenarvon Academy, just a few more minutes, and no one would be the wiser.

Training had gone on longer than Alex had expected. What was supposed to be a late Saturday afternoon exercise with Sangster, his—what should he call Sangster?—mentor, had turned into a half-day ordeal. Sangster, who everyone else knew as Glenarvon’s literature teacher, had let Alex join him and a team of active agents in a mock incursion into an enemy stronghold.

The “stronghold” was a small office building in Secheron, the lakeside village where Alex and his friends sometimes went for ice cream; the exercise was a hyped-up version of Capture the Flag. Three agents were posing as terrorists holding a trio of “hostage” mannequins, and Alex joined the team that had to sneak in and neutralize the enemy without allowing the hostages to be harmed.

This was serious business to the agents of the Polidorium, a multinational organization, which a month before Alex had not known even existed. There were countless Polidorium agents scattered around the planet, but hundreds of them were located right here at their current Lake Geneva headquarters, and Sangster had been slowly allowing Alex access to that world. The exercise this morning had been a test of sorts. After a month of training one-on-one with Sangster, this was Alex’s first time mixing with other agents.

Sid, Alex’s gangly, excitable Canadian roommate at school, had been thrilled when he heard about the exercise. “It’s like you’re going to do a LARPG,” Sid had said over Saturday morning breakfast in the Glenarvon dining hall. He had pronounced this acronym larr-peg.

“What is a LARPG?” Alex was already laughing. Sid’s joy at a million things Alex had never heard of was infectious.

Sid put down his fork and gesticulated wildly with his hands. “That would be a live-action role-playing game.”

“Have you ever done that?” Alex asked.

“Absolutely,” Sid said. “In Montreal there’s a yearly meeting of the NALAVRPG, that’s the National Association of Live-Action Vampire-Role-Playing Games. I’ve been three times.” Like Alex, Sid was fourteen, so going three times meant Sid had been doing this since he was—eleven? “I have a clan that—”

“Wait, wait, wait.” Paul, Alex’s other roommate, a beefy, British boy, nearly choked on his poached eggs. “Stop. That is the bloody saddest thing I have ever heard. How many people go to these things?”

“Thousands,” said Sid. “They divide up into vampire hunters and fifteen classes of vampire. You’ve got your Nosferatu, your Tuxedos, your—”

Paul waved his arms. “Thousands of barmy people running around in costumes and stabbing one another with foam stakes. I think things that you have exposed me to are going to damage me forever.”

“Anyway,” said Alex. “We’re gonna rescue some mannequins.”

“You have the coolest life,” Sid said to Alex.

Paul looked around at the white plaster of the dining hall. Glenarvon was a converted castle, but the dining hall was the single drabbest feature of the place. “It must be nice, this having a life,” he said wistfully. “Just don’t miss curfew, mate. I can lie for you but Sid always turns pale, and the poor bloke can’t get much paler.”

Alex shrugged. “I won’t miss curfew.”

He was going to miss curfew. Alex and the commandos of the Polidorium had spent an hour and a half on the first mannequin-rescuing scenario, and then had switched sides, and then switched again. The last time around, Alex had attempted to sneak up on an enemy “vampire” but had been tagged: An agent playing a vampire heard him coming and marked him on the neck with a blotch of red ink—and decapitated the mannequins to boot. After that Alex had to play dead and lie there with the plaster people.

And then it was nine thirty. Alex realized he was going to be in trouble if he didn’t make it back. Sangster had let him out early from the hour-long after-action review, and Alex was cut loose, finally on his own.

The road curved and then stretched out again for several miles, and Alex whipped around a couple of delivery trucks, upping his speed once he’d passed them.

He’d been nabbed missing curfew twice before. One more time and the RA would pass the paperwork up to Headmaster Otranto, and there would be a talking-to and probably a call home to his parents. Alex couldn’t have that.

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