Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Post 6.

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Genia looked around the restaurant. She was clearly uncomfortable talking about this.

"What are you talking about, Bruce?"

"Do you think I'm stupid or something?"

"Well, no, I don't Bruce. I don't want to kill all the Vampires."

"Just some?"

"Just some."

"You became a Vampire to infiltrate the ranks of Markus' group."

"You got it."

"Why are you telling me all this stuff."

"Listen, Bruce, let's put our cards on the table. I know you don't kill humans."
"And that matters, how? I drink human blood, sometimes."

"How often? That's what I thought. Once a year from some willing sycophant? I know all about you. I know you wouldn't kill a fly."

"So what is it you want from me?"

"Just don't let Markus live. If you cure the disease, cure it after he dies. He has to die."

"Why?"

"Listen", she was getting very agitated, "He fed on my family, He -has- to die. He -has- to."

"Did you give him this disease?"

"No, I don't really know where it came from. But I do know that he's got it, and I want him to die of it. I can't get close enough to him to kill him myself. You can...."

"I won't kill him, I won't kill any of them."

"I know, you didn't kill me. But I can make this worth your while."

"What do you mean?"

"If you promise not to save him, I'll tell you where the disease came from, and who created it."

"And why?"

"That, I don't know, but you can find out."

"How do you know?"

"When my family...died," She was fighting back the emotion," I was approached by a group of people who invited me into their group. They told me that they wanted to keep an eye on Markus, but that I'd have to become a vampire to do it. So I did it. But I found out something about the disease."

"What was it.."

"Well, it's not easily contagious from vampire to vampire, it has to use a human as an intra-vampire carrier, and its been specifically engineers to kill vampires."

"By who?"

"A group in Virginia, part of the Government. They've noticed the undead."

About time, Bruce thought.

"And they want to talk with you."

The waitress came by and said... "Mr. Napoleon, your private dining room is ready for you.", She revealed a gun under her tray, "If you'll follow me?"

Bruce looked around ,lots of suit....1, 2,4,5,7 ear pieces. This place was mostly fed. "What a mess.", he thought.

"Sure, can you bring our drinks?", Bruce figured he'd play along, it wasn't like he had much choice, and he hadn't even eaten yet...at least he wasn't going to have to pay.

"Sure.", the waitress stacked the drinks on the tray on top of the gun. Bruce marveled at her coordination and followed her up to the private dining room. As he walked in there was one woman and two tall men in dark suits, one of them, the brunette, was the man waiting outside the restroom earlier. The other, the blond, was the pilot from the plane, Neil. The woman was Margie, the paramedic from Placerville.

"How's Lenny, Margie?"

"He's good Bruce, you took good care of him", Margie said, "Maybe we'll take as good care of you."

"I didn't know that I needed a minder."

"We all need minding, Bruce. All of us."

"What can I get you all?", the 'waitress' again.

Bruce looked at the menu and said, "I'll start with the Foie Gras Terrine, then bring me the Mesclun salad, then the Veal cheeks.", Bruce considered, "And a side of sauteed spinach"

"Sure, how about the rest of you?", she asked.

They ordered....Bruce could tell they were trying to save the government money, which he considered foolish.

Bruce added, "And bring me a Bushmills, neat?"

"Sir, the government frowns on serving alcohol during these kinds of negotiations."

"Give me a fucking break and bring me a fucking whiskey, dumbass. Do you have any idea how little your government's guidelines matter to me? Jesus tap-dancing Christ."

"Just get him the drink Sharon.", Margie said, "And bring me a coffee while you're at it.

"I need a cosmo, Sharon.", this from Genia.

"Sure Genia. Anyone else?"

The two men ordered ice waters, couldn't even order the bottled stuff. Probably fear of justifying their expense reports.

Bureaucrats.

After the waitress left, Bruce said, "Listen, before you start....I want to make something very clear. I don't work for you and I won't ever. If I interact with you it is because I choose to. I'm here because I want to be.", Bruce picked up the silver alloy tray which held the salt and pepper shakers and sugar containers, "Genia is new to this, I am not. I am both much more experienced and much older than most of the vampires you've met up with."

Bruce crumpled the tray with a quick motion of his hands, and began to mold it like it was clay. "I am here because I want you to understand that I'm not interested in some long term, ongoing bullshit between mortals and immortals. I am not in favor of immortals feeding on mortals. I am not in favor of mortals killing innocent immortals. I am not in favor of mortals killing innocent mortals for that matter. I want this to be on the record and known. I would love for our kinds to get along, but I can see now naive that must sound, considering most of you are considered food by my kind. Margie, you're the appetizer, these two would be the entree and your friend Sharon the dessert, one drop at a time. "

Bruce had molded the silver into a dog...a mastiff. He handed it to Margie. "So, is lenny really your dog?"

"Yeah, he is. I've had him for 6 years. But this isn't about me, Bruce, it's all about you."

"Me, how is this all about me. I'm nothing but a simple country veterinarian. I don't care about your problems with Markus."

"We do very much care about Markus. Markus is our big problem right now. He represents the wedge of a very large organization that we've been trying to infiltrate for the last 5 years since we learned of its existence."

"Why, Margie? Why does the fed care about this. Vampire activity seems like a matter for the states," Bruce chuckled. He didn't have a lot of respect for the current administration.

"We care because the nature of a vampire means you guys fall afoul of half a dozen federal jurisdictions. For instance, you, we have you cold on at least 10 offenses related to identify documents. I know you are hiding assets and I suspect you've been practicing medicine without a license."

"I'll have you know that I graduated the top of my medical school and I'm the best vet you'll ever meet."

"You are a good Vet, Bruce, but you were the top of your medical school in 1967 as one 'Kenneth Joeseph Graham' not Bruce Napoleon."

Finally, one of the men spoke up, "And what's up with that name."

Bruce gave him a glare, "We're talking, flunky, so shut your hole.", the flunky's face turned red and he mumbled something.

"What's that?", Bruce asked.

"I said, maybe I should go get a cross and shove it up your ass."

"Well, I gotta tell you that would at most give me a splinter, this isn't Hollywood, man, this is real life. Vampires don't work that way. I'm not going to turn into some flea infected bat either, nor will I close my coffin and call my manservant Igor into the room to eat bugs, so, I'll tell you again, unless you got promoted recently from asshole to Margie, you can just shut the fuck up."

After this charming exchange, the agent playing waitress returned with their appetizers. "Your Foie Gras, Bruce."

"Thanks Sharon.", Margie gave him a look, "What? No harm in being polite."

The waitress finished placing the food and cycled back through the kitchen, bringing out the rest of the drinks. Bruce took a swallow of the whiskey. It went down smooth. This was one of the physical pleasures he still enjoyed. A good whiskey or scotch or even vodka made immortality almost seem worth it sometime. Bruce wasn't a drunk by any measure, he usually counted months between alcoholic drinks, but he did often enjoy drinking

Bruce considered what he hadn't told the fed. Namely that one thing that really worked was the ability charm women and , sometimes, men. It was sometimes uncanny. The lat time Bruce had really turned on the charm was some 10 years ago when he really, really, needed to get the last sleeper car for a cross country train trip. He didn't want to be caught in the normal passenger compartment.

He hoped he was still good at its employ. He would need it tonight. He tucked into his terrine. It was very nice, very smooth and deeply smoky in taste. Many people found the treatment of the goose as inhumane, as if there was something inhumane about cruelty. Bruce had a chef friend who had told him "If god hadn't meant for us to jam a funnel down the throat of a goose and jam it full of corn, he wouldn't have made Foie Gras taste so damn good."

She had been right. When Bruce had been sired, one thing that perked up was his taste for meats of all forms, preferably rare, but protein was king of a vampire diet. Blood too, of course, but one could only consume so much blood before becoming horribly bored with that one single staple. A proper vampire diet included a lot of protein. Kept the constitution strong. You could always tell vampires on an all blood diet, they looked gray and sallow, like a person on some kind of vein borne Atkins diet He didn't find it particularly attractive at all.

"Bruce, we want your help."

"What kind of help, Margie."

"We want you to keep tabs on Markus' group. He's causing a lot of trouble."

"Last time I saw Markus he was weak as a kitten, causing no one any problem."

"We think that may be an act. Markus definitely wants to get to the bottom of the flu, but we don't think he has it, we think he is faking it, but we don't know why. Can you think of any reason for this?"

"I've seen his blood, he has it," Bruce had seen Markus' blood, hadn't he? He hadn't himself taken the samples, so it could have been anyones blood. "Well, maybe he doesn't, I'd need to do some tests. But first things first. Where is the disease from? Did you create it?"

"Us? No, we didn't, we only know what you seem to know. It affects vampires, isn't specific to the vampires immortal 'age' and isn't deadly at all in humans. Did you know that humans appear to be carriers, but not victims of the disease. We've even found that a newly sired human is particularly vulnerable. In fact we're most worried about a mutation of the disease that can affect mortal humans."

"That's valid, but I really don't thnk that will happen. From what I read in the epidemiology, the disease is only effecting vampires, not humankind. The disease travel would have infected at least one human if it was possible by now. Is that what you were after in my laptop, the epidemiology?"

"Yes, we want to make sure vampires get properly quarantined in the event tht this may one day jump from killing vampires to killing humankind."

They ate for a bit and Sharon cleared their appetizer plates. Shortly thereafter, she brought out the salad course. Bruce was enjoying the food so far, but he really wished he had just ordered dessert after dessert. Bruce, strangely enough for a vampire, had a pretty decently evolved sweet tooth.

"The one thing you should be worried about," Bruce said, "is that the rank and file undead will start siring people left and right to replace those lost, and then some. There is a lot of talk about it. And its only going to get worse. It isn't so wrong to consider the vampire community as one big desire organ. Once it is set in that vampires need to increase their numbers, you can count on that happening in short order. So that means a lot more Vampires in the end, and a lot more humans finding their end to feed the more irresponsible ones."

(21,266 words) (read the last bits!!)

Post 5

Catch up! Read post 0

Well, locked might have been too strong a word, Bruce messed with the door for a little while before he realized someone was trying to come through it, it hadn't been locked, but it was closed. Bruce backed away.

A tall, slim, dark haired man in a gray suit walked in, "Oh, sorry. Would you mind holding the door open for me?"

"Uh, no," Bruce said.

"Thanks.", the man in gray proceeded to pull in a cart with lots of blood samples.

"What's that?", Bruce asked.

"Blood."

"No shit, you know what I mean."

"Well, these are samples from each of the Vampires. We take a vial of blood every 6 hours for comparison. We've done it for all of the vampires in this ward."

"Really? Okay, that's handy. Do you have some time to help me out with something?"

"Sure, what can I do for you?"

"Well, take these samples into the kitchen and then arrange the most complete set of samples that you have for the most advanced two cases, I want to see how the disease changes. We should be able to come up with a disease timeline. I'll also need to know how many times these patients have undergone transfusions."

"Oh, that's an easy one."

"Really? Well?", Bruce was getting impatient with this particular mortal.

"Well, none. Only Markus is doing the transfusions. We didn't know if it would help and, well, we don't have that much blood, we want to save the blood for people like yourself and Markus."

"Oh, jeez. Okay. I'm not sure that I agree with that, but alright."

"My name is Charlie, by the way."

"Hi, Bruce," Bruce extended his hand.

"Ah, we don't do that," Charlie pointed at Bruces hand, "Not here."

"I see. Well, let me tell you something. It's not contagious. Not to humans and not through casual contact."

"What do you?"

"Well, if a human could get this disease, they'd die, but I don't think they can. This is vampire only."

"Oh, wow, how do you know?"

"I'll tell you later, I have some more tests to run to confirm it....and your loyalty."

"What does that mean?"

"you'll find out, now go and arrange those samples."

Charlie left to do Bruce's bidding. Bruce returned to the impromptu lab bench.

Bruce examined the gear Charlie had brought him, some lab glass, syringes, a microscope with microscope slideworks, some basic first aid medical gear and a box of rubber gloves. Bruce was happy to see they had a blood typing rig. Bruce slapped on a pair of gloves and got to work.

Bruce drew some of his own blood out and filled a vial with it. Then he took a pipette and took a small sample from one of the more advanced cases, blood type 0, and added it to the vial with Bruce's AB blood type.

"Charlie?"

"Yes?", he called from the freezer.

"Come over here, would you?"

"Sure.", Charlie walked towards Bruce, who was holding a clean syringe in his hand.

"What's your blood type?"

"Wha... B+ , why?"

"Roll your sleeve up, Charlie."

"uh...why?"

"I need some of your blood. I want to check something."

"Uh, okay...just don't put anything in."

"Bruce wrapped a tube around Charlie's arm and tapped at his forearm, looking for a vein. He found one and rammed the needle home, taking a small sample from his arm."

"Thanks. I'm done with you, you can go back to your sorting."

Charlie went back to the freezer. Bruce put the sample into a fresh vial, which he labled , simply, "Charlie", then he added a pipette of the diseased blood into the sample. He then took each of the vials in turn and agitated them, swirling the contents around. There was very little of the diseased sample in the vials, he wanted an orderly amount of distribution.

Taking a clean pipette, Bruce took a sample of both the vampire and human vials and made two slides from them. He gently covered the slide with a thin slice of plastic to flatten the sample and protect the microscopes lens. Then he slid the vampire sample under the glass. He could see the diseased cells and the red cells and had a feel for the proportion as he panned around the slide. He did the same for Charlie's sample.

Now, he needed to let that sample sit for a while, so , tired after such a long day, he went into the room provided, set the alarm on his cell for 7:30, and took a long, deserved, rest.

Bruce woke up to a gentle jangling of his phone, sat up and shook the cobwebs out of his head. He picked his rolling bag off the floor and plopped it onto the bed, unzipped it.

It had been searched, which had annoyed him, but whatever. He took out his kit and a change of clothes and took them into the attached bathroom where he took a nice long shower. After toweling off and shaving, he dressed in what he considered to be a very stylish outfit, but he knew it was a little bit conservative for New York, but that was okay with him.

He exited the bathroom, stopped to put on his shoes, and left the room, walked through the impromptu ward and found Charlie.

"Charlie."

"Yes."

"I'll be stepping out for a bit, make sure noone messes with the samples in the kitchen, they're," Bruce made quote marks with his fingers, "'cooking' and they should be done when I get back.

"No problem."

Charlie walked through the front room, Markus was nowhere to be seen, probably resting, and as he walked to the entry way, he heard Charlie say, "Bruce, you might want this card key. It opens the doors, just wave them on any door of the building and it will let you in. Same with the elevators, just wave the card in front of the sensor and hit both garage 2 and garage 3 at the same time, three times, to get down here."

"Okay, thanks."

Charlie left through the entryway and walked up the two flights of steps to the garage. It was 8:15, and the car was waiting. It was the same car and driver he had arrived with.

"Hi Seth"

"Hello Dr. Napoleon, where are we headed?"

"Upper east side, 73rd and Lexington. Payard Bistro."

"Be there before you know it"

Seth held the door open for Bruce, who slid into the back seat. Seth closed the door and went to his seat and started the car up. "It'll take a bit of time to get there, we have an imf meeting in town."

"That's okay, I'm not in a hurry.", Bruce never was , in fact, he liked being early for things, something that drove the other vampires crazy.

The pulled out of the garage and made their way uptown. The New York streets were a total mess. Lots of people, lots of barricades. Bruce imagines that there would be a lot fo vampires feeding tonight on the blood of the protesters. In a town of strangers, like New York, the undead thrived. Who missed a person who knew no-one. Who persued the end of a person with no job, no family and no friends. Sadly, one persons fresh start could easily turn into a vampire's fresh food.

In that, New York and Las Vegas were the most popular places for the Undead. So many strangers, so many people, many with little to lose. They were also prime siring grounds. Bruce, who disliked siring people, had even done his share in New York and Las Vegas, especially during his irresponsible years. Bruce hadn't shared the responsibility of immortality for 70 years, and he wasn't looking to start, and the temptations of New York made him agitated and filled with a kind of anxiety that he imagined an alcoholics anonymous type would feel in a bar on two-for-one night.

After what seemed like an interminable amount of time, they broke free of the bulk of the protests. Bruce said to Seth, "Don't worry about picking me up, I'll take the subway back, that was bogus."

"Thanks Dr. Napoleon, I appreciate it. These IMF protests look bad, but the city is really a nice place to live."

"Why are you serving the vampires, Seth? You seem like a nice enough guy."

"Well, I want to be immortal....live forever. Who wouldn't?"

"Oh, I guess noone...", same story.. Bruce really didn't expect a different answer, but just once he'd like to hear someone say they really had to finish gibbon's Decline or rewatch the 8 seasons of Stargate on DVD. Bruce had really wanted more time for the life of a student, he loved to learn new things.....immortality for immortality sake was boring stuff.

"What about you, Doc, how long have you been immortal?"

"Since 1926. I was 67 when I was sired. I was about to die of TB when the priest offered me immortality. I thought he was being creative about the whole God thing. Imagine my surprise when he sired both myself and my neighbor in the ward. It seemed like his night out...he fed on half the room, then sired 3 of us. The third died during the process. He was too far gone with the TB to make it through the conversion."

"Was it that tough?"

"No, not really, but we were very sick, so it was harder for us. I really don't get why he was there, sick people taste awful.", Bruce's two sirelings had been young people on the verge of premature death, and they tasted like rust and dirt. Upon achieving immortality, one of them had become that which Bruce had hated, a killer and he had given up siring after that. The other had lived what Bruce would consider an honorable immortality, but she had died in the second world war during the Blitz.

"Maybe he was simply hungry."

"Nah, it doesn't work like that. You can absolutely keep the hunger under control. A little pigs blood is indistinguishable from human. Killing humans is a very easy way of getting yourself killed. Mortals don't take kindly to having their family members offed.

"Well, what about people like me, people who want to be like you."

"I don't know, more vampires equals more tragedy for us all. The less of us there are, the less of us there are to betray the rest of us. I mean, you'll be sired, Markus is good for that, he won't just kill you, if he promised he'll do it."

"I wasn't worried about that. If Markus lives to sire me, that is. He's a lot of bluster."

Boy was this guy screwed up. Markus was dangerous, misguided, fucked up, not blustery. "Well, I don't know about that yet. Where are we at."

"We'll be there soon. You gotta date?", Seth laughed. Bruce did too. He didn't think of it that way at all.

"Me? No. you married?"

"I was."

"What happened?"

"My wife and boy died. Car crash."

"I'm sorry.", Bruce had met this kind of vampire before. Couldn't bear death because it would mean the end of remembering. He understood this kind of pain and sympathized.

"Yeah, me too."

They drove in silence for a bit, then Seth said, "We're here Dr. Napoleon."

"Thanks Seth, don't bother with the door", Bruce opened up the door and stepped out onto the New York street. He hadn't been in New York in 20 years. It was cleaner than he remember it. New York never really leaves you though, and he felt at home. New York was where he lived for 50 years before he was sired. This neighborhood was nice when he left, but it was if anything even more upscale, but upscale bored Bruce in a lot of ways.

Fine fining, however, went quite well with upscale, and Payard was supposed to be a very nice Bistro. It was just before 9pm when he walked through the door, past the confectionary counters and to the hostess stand. He peered around the restaurant, but there was no sign of Genia. The restaurant was about three quarters full.

"Hello sir, do you have a reservation?"

"Oh, well, I might, do you have a reservation for Bruce Napoleon?"

"Let me check," She tapped on her screen, "Yes, right here, with a Ms. Braun?"

"Yes, I don't think she is here yet."

"No, Not yet. Would you like to sit down?"

"No, I'll wait. Thanks.", Bruce turned around and studied the cold cases and candy cases. Chocolates, fruit pates, an a number of beautiful tartes. Eclair, and other beautiful pastry abounded. He was looking forward to dessert. That was when he thought he heard something.


(6:25)

He walked out into the street and listened. He indeed heard a low growl of a cat. Feral? He wasn't sure, but he knew where it was coming from....there was an alley to the left of Payard , it was almost a stock law and order set....dumpster, trash, wet and dirty. Dark as hell, but he was a vampire and he could see pretty well in the dark. He walked into the alleyway, behind the dumpster was ... Genia.

"What are you doing."

He had startled her, in her hands was a cat, blood staining its coat. She looked, of all things, guilty.

"How much have you drank? You can only drink a little bit before you start to hurt the cat. Only a couple of swallows....which is enough, you know."

Bruce held out his hand, "Pass me the cat, okay?"

The cat was limp, but was still awake enough to try to claw at Genia. When the cat went into Bruce's hands, the cat relaxed a bit, exhausted from its ordeal.

"Do me a favor and get a bottle of water and a can of cat food from that bodega across the street okay?"

She nodded and took off. Bruce took out a handkerchief and wrapped it around the cats neck, tight enough to staunch the bleeding but not enough to choke it. It was a Persian, but it was dirty, so he assumed it was one of the many wild cats. He felt the vets urge to neuter it, but that was for another person, another time. He was confident that the cat would live, but Genia had come close to killing it.

Of course, this was okay with most vampires, they saw no problem with killing off a simple cat.

Genia returned with the can of tuna and the water. Bruce opened the water can of food and put it down on the ground. He watched the cat eat the food for a bit then, usignthe top of the can, mounded the cat food onto the top and used the can as a cup for the water. He poured about half the bottle into the cat food tin and said, "Okay, lets go to dinner."

They walked back into the restaurant, and Bruce said, "Get our table, okay, I'm going to go wash my hands, they smell like cat food."

"Sure, and....uh...thanks Bruce."

"Yeah, okay...", Bruce walked down a long hall to the restroom while Genia got the table.

After washing his hands, Bruce looked at himself in the mirror, thinking about how he had been told, when he was mortal, that vampires cast no reflection. The lore surrounding vampires was vast and mostly incorrect, but one thing was true. They needed blood, and the new vampires never knew when to quit, its intoxication got the better of them

Bruce also thought about the blood samples in the kitchen. They should be about ready for him to examine when he got back. He wondered if it would show him proof of what he suspected: That what was killing vampires was specifically aimed at them and other undead, and only them, not their mortal counterparts. The question was, who wanted them dead...was it just an exceptionally organized group of mortals or what? Had a sovriegn state started a group up. The germans had a group set up in the early 1930s to end the undead people before the second world war, but they had been killed off rather decisively by the allies and the undead. It had been an interesting time, Bruce had hidden himself quite well in Montana in those years.

Someone tried the door and , when finding it locked, said, "sorry." Bruce put a damper on his reminiscence, finished drying his hands and walked out, there was a tall man standing waiting for the rest room, Bruce excused himself as he passed by in the narrow hallway and went out into the restaurant to Genia's table.

Genia was looking at the Menu and said to Bruce, "Hi Bruce, sorry about outside. I was just so hungry."

"Why hadn't you fed before that?"

"Well, I'm like you, I don't want to feed on humans, but I don't have your resources."

"Any good deli will have blood for blood sausage. That's ridiculous. When were you sired?"

"Four weeks ago."

"Four weeks?", Bruce was incredulous, so young, "Oh, that makes so much more sense. Why are you trying to kill vampires, Genia?"

(19145 words)
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Monday, November 15, 2004

Post 4, Rest of Chapter 3

Catch up! Go read post 0

"What I'm trying to decide," Bruce bluffed, "Is whether or not I need to kill the pilots as well."

The look on her face told him what he needed to know. 1) The pilots weren't in on it. 2) she believed him that he'd kill the pilots. And , most importantly, 3) he thought that she'd tell him what he'd want to know.

"They're not part of it.", she said, "And I gotta say, I don't think you'll kill me."

"Why wouldn't I?"

"We know all about you Bruce. For fuck's sake, you take care of kitten's and puppies. You think I worry about you killing me?"

"Yes, I do," and he did, she was sweating this. Words aside, she was clearly scared. Bruce was conflicted, he hated killing, vampire or human, but he did want to know what she was up to. The thing was, Bruce, being more than a century and a half old, was very good at being menacing.

"Hmm, okay. Well, here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to ask you....real nicely....Why. Did. You. Do. That.", Bruce stopped talking.

"You're not going to kill the pilots?"

Bruce said nothing.

"Listen, if I tell you what you want to know, you can't kill them, they had nothing to do with it. They're mortal, for chrissakes. Just want an in with the undead, don't feed on them, okay?"

"Why do you care so much about mortals, anyway."

"I might as you the same thing, Bruce."

"Okay, fuck that, I think I'm going to have to start in on you. Have you ever drunk the blood of a vampire? A lot of vampires can't do it, see it as being cannibalism. You know why they think that? The older ones instill that value in the young ones so they don't get a taste for it."

Bruce got up and went to the galley and found a knife. Like before surgery on cats and dogs, he washed his hands, picked up the knife, and he walked back to where Genia was sitting. He sat down , close, next to her and showed her the knife, so close to her face that she almost was looking at the flat of the blade cross eyed. He took the blade and cut a slight, glancing, cut on his own palm. Cupping his palm to pool the few drops of blood from the cut, he took Genia by the back of the neck and forced her to drink the blood.

He could tell she felt the power of it. Her eyes fluttered and dilated. The young vampires were so impressionable, the blood of a vampire was no different, really, than human blood, just had a few more interesting cells to make it taste a little more intense. In this, Bruce was performing a bit of voodoo, playing off the mystical beliefs some have around vampires.

"Now that you've tasted, do you think that I won't kill you, if only to feed on you. The irony of the vampire blood is that it goes bad very fast,", Bruce lied, "you can only really get a few tablespoons worth out of a vampire before it goes very bad, and can kill you. Addiction to the stuff usually solves itself. But I know exactly how to do it so that I can have a good time while you bleed out on this very nice leather seat. So, I ask you again.", Bruce held the knife up, showing the blood tinged blade, "Are you going to tell me what I want to know?"

After some time, Genia said, "Alright, here's what I'll tell you...there are people who want to know what is on that drive."

"There are?"

"Yes"

"Vampires?"

"A, yeah.", she said unconvincingly. Bruce could tell she had lied, but he was okay with that, it told him more than she could. Vampires corresponding with mortals. That was interesting. Mortals hunting Vampires.

"Who? Who sent you?"

"I , ah, I can't", she appeared to be going something with her jaw. Bruce took her head in his hands and he knocked her head against the fuselage. Instead of letting her head loll, he leaned her head back, opened her jaw and looked inside. Indeed there was a false tooth in there. This was a quandary. Vampires don't stay knocked out for long. Bruce, unfastened her from her restraints and took the belts and her back into the bedroom. After tying her down on the bed, he went into the bathroom and found an unused washcloth.

He bundled the washcloth into a thick wide tube, and jammed it in her mouth so she couldn't grind down on her tooth. He considered breaking her jaw, but that would hurt her an awful lot and Bruce wasn't really into that. Vampires didn't need to breath much and she wasn't sick, so he jammed the washcloth into her mouth and with a rope he made from a towel, he wrapped it tight around her head. Then he went into the front cabin and sat down. He picked up the airphone and dialed a number.

"Hello?", the voice on the other side was a little staticy, but that was okay.

"Sorry for calling so early, but I remembered that you worked nights at the Denny's on, so I figured it was okay to call."

"That's okay, I was about to head into work. I was sorry to hear about you losing your job."

"Yeah, that's why I wanted to call, to check up on Crystal. Has she been okay? How is she taking to the medicine."

"Oh, fine, she's been her old self, really. I really appreciate all you did for her, she's going to miss you."

"Yeah, I know, she's a good cat. Okay, just talk with Dr. Kinsey if you notice any further problems. I only called because if Crystal was still experiencing the bowel problems, she'd be getting dehydrated and I wanted you to see someone as soon as possible, but it sounds okay."

"Yeah, she's really good ,Doc, you did a great job. Let me know if you end up at another vet, okay, I'd love to have you continue taking care of her, okay?"

"Sure, will do. Have a good shift, and if anything pops up, be sure to contact me or Dr. Kinsey, okay?"

"Sure, goodnight!"

"Goodnight.", Bruce hung up the phone. That had been bugging him. As he considered Crystal's problem, he thought about how much he really liked his life, or at least did, before getting on this plane.

A door opened in the front of the cabin, a pilot came into the galley and said, "Have you seen Genia? We're a bit thirsty."

"Well, she was a bit sick, so I told her to lie down. Can I get you something?"

The pilot came over and sat down on the chair facing Bruces, and said, "That's right ,you're one of the Doctors. I gotta tell you, when I started working for you guys, I never really expected the Doctors. I mean, who thinks that the undead need a doc."

"You'd be surprised.", Bruce leaned forward, "I tell you what, I should have specialized in psychiatry. Most vampire disease is psychosomatic. It's sort of like phantom limb, some of the undead don't really get their immortality, what it does for them. I can't tell you how many placebos I've given."

"What's up with Genia."

"Maybe it was something she ate, " Bruce replied.

"Hmm, maybe, she was drinking some pigs blood, maybe she needs some human blood."

Bruce noticed the bandage on his neck, this one, he could also smell, was close to being sired. Bruce said, "Maybe. When will we land?"

"Gosh, probably about 30 minutes. I'm going to head back in. My names Seth by the way. Seth extended his hand, Bruce took it.

"Good to meet you, thanks for the smooth flight."

"Anytime. I'll probably see you on your return leg."

"Yeah, maybe."

"Take it easy," Seth said on the way back into the cockpit. Bruce could see the hints of sunrise on the horizon. By his estimate, It'd be 6:30 am when they landed. Bruce thought about Genia in the back, so he went into the bedroom, where she was feigning sleep.

"You can pretend, I put the washcloth in your mouth so that you wouldn't be able to kill yourself. I don't really care who you work for or why you're here. I really am not thrilled about being in New York and I could care less about whatever you're involved in.", Bruce sat down on the bed next to her and whispered in her ear, "Just don't fuck with me, okay, just stay the fuck out of my death."

He left the back room and headed into the front cabin and put on his seatbelt in preparation for the landing.

As was par for the course, they had to sit in a holding pattern for a bit of time over the airport, then came in for a very smooth landing. After taxiing for a bit, the engines were shut off and they were towed into a hangar. The light attenuated, and Bruce braved a look out the window. They were indoors alright, and a tinted Town Car was waiting for him.

Bruce, hopped into the back room, where Genia was lying, still. He said into her ear, "I'm going to let you go now, if you cause any problems, I'll be forced to kill you, and I don't want to do that. So just pretend to be sleeping. Bruce took off her restraints and pulled the washcloth out of her mouth. She opened her eyes and said, with a scratchy voice, "Why?"

Bruce said, "Because you could have killed me with the Sashimi, and you didn't.".

Bruce left the room considering that the tooth probably had been a small bomb, one large enough to kill her an maybe put a hole in the plane.

As Bruce walked down the stairs to the car, he handed Seth his rolling bag who put them into the back of the Town Car. Bruce slid inside and the driver said. "Hello Dr. Napoleon. I'll take you to see Markus now if you like."

"Sure, let's go."

The driver raised the darkened window between the front and back seats, blocking out the worst of the light. Bruce could still see the passing roads, trees, buildings and bridges on the way to Manhattan, but they were mostly darkness and shadow and eventually Bruce, lulled by the traffic and the noise of the road, thinking of what it meant that the mortals were gunning for the immortals again, took a nap.

He awoke when the door was opened by the driver, in a darkened garage. "Where are we?", Bruce asked.

"We're about 3 parking levels down below a building in the midtown. We're here."

The driver had retrieved Bruce's roller bag and indicated that Bruce was to follow. They walked to what looked like a service or maintenance area in the bay, where the driver swiped a card over a reader. The door unlocked and they went down two flights of cement stair cases to another door, where the Driver said. "This is as far as I can go. Talk with you later."

"Yeah, thanks for the ride."

As he heard the Driver climb up the stairs and go through the door, he heard a click from the door in front of him, he walked though into a deceptively beautiful room, decorated to look for all intents and purposes not like a converted garage level.

From an opening at the end of the room ,he heard: "Bruce, in here.". It was Markus' voice.

As he turned the corner into the next room, he found Markus, sitting on a couch watching TV in his sweat pants and shirt. He didn't look bad so much as worn out.

"How are you doing Markus?"

"I'm alright, a little sore, but alright. How was the flight."

"It was okay, not too eventful. New crew?"

"Yeah, I told the pilots once they put in a year and replace themselves, I'd sire them. What'd you think of the stewardess? Pretty hot , huh?"

"Yeah, very much so. Very easy on the eyes."

"you could've had her, you know. She's very new, still impressed by the older ones."

"Yeah, I got that, but I really just wanted to go over the paperwork, learn a little from what you sent me.", Bruce didn't think she would, but he had tried.

"Did you learn anything?"

"Not much yet, I need to take some tissue from you and if you know anyone else with the disease."

"I do, come on over here.". Bruce watched as Markus painfully rose to his feet and using a cane, walked over to a door near the TV. As they walked through, Markus gasped.

"My god, how many are there?"

"In this facility? Only 50, but we've got about 1000 in New York alone in one stage or another. We really need your help, Bruce."

"I don't know that I can. I mean, what can I do?"

"You're basically the last doctor with any real experience with blood that I trust."

"Markus, that's just stupid. I really don't like most vampires, I don't like the killing, I don't like the chaos, and I don't like the death, the very real death. I don't really even like you, for fucks sake."

"I know, but I also know that all Vampires aren't like me, and that's who you'll want to help. So stop fucking around. We're dying man."

"Fine, have you already had the familiars take blood?", Familiars was a nasty way of referring to the sycophants who hung around waiting to be sired. A familiar was the name for the animals that witches and warlocks and the other poseurs liked to surround themselves with. Bruce didn't hold much truck with Magic.

"Yeah, they're in the fridge, we've set up a kind of lab in the kitchen. There's some gear in there for you and the familiars can go get whatever you need."

"Alright, where?"

"Through that hall there.", Markus indicated at the far end of the room.

Markus, took his bags and walked past the dying down the hall. They didn't look good. Very pale, sweaty and there was a sick smell to them, it was all very unappetizing. He passed through a swing door and into a stainless steel kitchen that was very well apportioned, but not as a lab. This was going to be a long night.

There was an oven, two large commercial refrigerator and a walk in. Lots of stainless steel counter space and two large ovens, and one deck oven. Bruce thought that while this was a nice place to make a pizza, it wasn't all that handy for medicine. Against the far wall, near a door marked "stair", was the walk-in freezer. Bruce opened it.

Typical for Markus, there was a lot of blood in the walk-in, it was filled with it, Bruce assumed it was all human. Bruce didn't really like frozen blood, he found it sour, but it worked for the nutritional needs of a vampire. Bruce's phone rang. Bruce looked at it amazed, he couldn't believe that a signal reached that far underground, there must be a repeater hidden somewhere.

The caller ID said, simply, "Blocked". Bruce considered this and thought "why not" and said "Hello?"

"Bruce?"

"Yes, who is this."

"Genia. What are you doing right now?"

"What, are you high or something? I think you tried to kill me today. And I certainly thought of killing you today."

"I did, but I didn't mean anything by it. I really need to talk with you."

"Okay, how about this, meet me at Payard on 73rd at 9 o'clock."

"Great, thanks Bruce. I'll see you then."

Bruce hung up. He didn't know what he was thinking, he was in New York and he was going to waste a nice dinner on intrigue. Bruce was bored with it all. Bruce stuck his head out the swing door called out to a familiar, "Hey, come over here."

The familiar, who was fiddling with one of the sick peoples IV, said, "Sure." And walked over. "What can I do for you sir?"

"Sir? How about Bruce, and how about you tell me where I can plug in my computer."

"Oh, down the hall is a room we've cleared out for you, it has a bed, a table and a network hookup."

"Alright, show me, also I'm going to need a car at 8:30."

"Where do you plan on going."

"Fuck you, suck up, just arrange the fucking car.', Bruce had lost patience, he wasn't going to allow that kind of question from the likes of him. Bruce had been sired on his death bed, he thought he could make good with his immortality, and he had, so he didn't consider himself hypocritical.

"Yes sir, I'll make sure its here.", and he walked off. Bruce went into the room, and sat at the desk, there was a network cable and a power outlet on the desk, Bruce pulled his computer out of his bag, and woke it out of standby. As his instant messenger reconnected, he got an almost immediate instant message.

Generic76:Bruce, yt?

Bruce considered this, and typed:

Bnap32: Yes. Who is this.
Generic76: You know who, you tied me up last night.
Bnap32: Cute, what do you want, isn't it enough that we're meeting for dinner.
Generic76: Are you alone?
Bnap32: Yes, but these things send the data in the clear.
Generic76: Well, all I wanted to say was that I'm looking forward to seeing you tonight, so be sure to make sure you make it, okay?
Bnap32: Okay, I will. Talk to you later.

Bruce, closed the messenger and disconnected the app, he didn't want to be interrupted. Was Genia saying that he needed protecting? What was going on? He left the room and noticed that the hall door, which led to his room and the kitchen, was closed. He walked down the hall and tried the door. It was locked.

(16,227 words.)

Continue reading!

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Post 3, Rest of Chapter 2, Beginning of Chapter 3

Catch up! Go read post 0

"Well, that's what I'm here to do. I was asked to bring you this,", Yuri produced a USB keychain drive, "Castellano said you'd know how to read it."

"Castellano? Crap, alright. Anything else?"

"Yeah, he said to message him when you're done looking at the information."

"Alright. I better look into this, you going to stick around? Maybe when I'm done we can go grab a bite together."

Castellano gave Bruce a look.

"Alright, sure, I could use a break, mind If I watch some TV?"

"Sure, Yuri, just try to keep it down."

"No problem, man.."

Bruce walked into the study off the main hall of the apartment and turned on his laptop. While it came out of standby, Bruce thought about Markus Castellano. Markus and Bruce had worked "together" to study Vampire internal medicine. Both had attended medical school together in Oslo the last identity around, favoring classes during the dark months. While grisly, they took great intellectual pleasure in studying each others internal workings. The healing capacities of the vampire physiognomy being what it was, they could cut open and examine just about any part of each others body (well, almost any) and watch it function, and as such really understand the physical differences between humans and vampires.

While a cure for the sensitivity to light was foremost on Bruce's mind during his studies, Castellano concentrated on the ways humans die, likely hoping for some advantage in feeding. Markus wasn't a vicious person, per se, but he did have an abiding fear of detection and he solved this by living a hermit like existence in Northern Finland, near Enontekio in the Arctic Circle, Bruce got the odd email from him now and then and he wondered what was so important about this drive that he couldn't have just emailed it.

Bruce socketed the drive into his laptop and waiting for his operating system to recognize it, which it did shortly thereafter. Bruce opened the folder and saw that he had to unlock the drive first, there was one text file along with the unlocking program on the drive, labeled "Read Me Bruce." Bruce opened it and it said:


    Bruce;

    I've password protected this drive. The password is the last name of our internal medicine teacher, remember the one you thought might be worth feeding on if only to get a few more days to study for our test on Atrial Fibrillation? Anyhow, contact me once you've absorbed the information within.

    -Markus


Bruce entered the password "Anderstadt" and saw why he hadn't emailed the information. It was a lot of info, almost 4 gigabytes total. Bruce examined the directory structure and noticed one directory labeled "xray images" another, labeled "serology" and a third, labeled "epidemiology", and he knew he was in for a long night.

Bruce started with the "epidemiology" directory, inside was data related to the locations and patterns surrounding the vampire death. It was clearly a larger problem than even Yuri thought, with hundreds of the people egressing over a period of the last 10 years. Starting in what was then the central USSR, vampires had begun to die at an increased rate, sometimes out in the open (and thus thought to have been caught under the sun) and sometimes in their homes or, for the more traditional Vampires, lairs. The disease didn't look like a particularly fast one, it presented as, oddly enough, a limp and a cough, which further developed into flu like symptoms and crippling bone degeneration.

The bones, the x-ray files demonstrated, were being eaten away as the disease progressed .Bruce suspected that flu was the body way of trying to expel, unsuccessfully, the material removed from the bone by the disease. It was all very disturbing, human bones aren't supposed to be thin shells like those in the x-rays.

For Bruce, most interesting was the Serology. The blood was simply crowded with foreign matter, it wasn't surprising that even a vampires strong constitution couldn't handle it. It didn't tell him much past this, and Bruce thought how difficult these x-rays must have been to get. He suspected that they found some poor vampire with the disease (or infected same) and tracked every part of the disease until death. This was very much in line with Markus' morality (or lack thereof).

This didn't reduce the impact of the documents Bruce reviewed. The real question was, why him? Why alert him? Other Vampires knew about these things. A file in the root directory titled "contact.txt" gave am IM address and a phone number.

Bruce pulled on his headset and dialed the number:

"Bruce, that you? Damn, I love caller ID."

"Hello Markus, yes, it's me. What is this all about."

"So you read the files?"

"Yes, answer me. Why me?"

"Are you alone Bruce."

"Alone enough, no one is listening in on my end."

"Okay, well, you know how I told you about the group I'd joined up with."

"Sure, The sunnydale vampire club?"

"Cute. I hate that show, you know?"

"Yes, I do...and yes, I know the group, whetever you want to call it, how's the working out for you?" Markus had been invited to join what amounted to the guild or the masons, or the elks, even the malevolent order of the vamps. He had been invited to join them. Markus hadn't even told Bruce the name of it, as it was secret. Bruce thought the whole thing stupid.

"Pretty good, you know you'd be welcome whenever you like to join. The told me to extend the offer to you again."

"Well, that's all very nice, but you know I like keeping to myself."

"Yes, I know, but the group has resources to help you do that."

"Cut the headhunter crap, Markus, what's all this about. Why did you send this stuff to me, you are just ask likely to be able to handle this stuff yourself."

"That's true, but I'm, ah, I'm not myself."

"What? What do you mean."

"Well, I think I have the disease, and I gotta tell you brother, I really don't want to die. I've still got way too many things to do on this earth. You're it, you're the only one we know who can make sense of this, find out where its coming from. I can barely keep awake, and that's with some seriously high quality serum rushing through my system. You were always so good with blood."

"That was 30 years ago man..."

"I know, but do you know how difficult its been to get our kind through medical school lately? The new vampires, they're all so damn....young. No commitment to knowledge. I mean, I can't tell you how glad I am that our kind can mingle, the 20th century was good for our kind, if we can get past this, there's no limit on how long we can last. Shit I spent most of this year in an Apartment building ordering in Chinese."

"What, in Enontekio? They have delivery Chinese food in Enontekio? That's crazy.."

Markus snorted, "No way, man, I moved to New York last year. Where have you been?"

"I've been taking care of animals far away from the cities."

"Boy, you're still paranoid! This is our time...the world has gone 24 hour Bruce, you should get with the times."

"It's easy to say that, but I'm not the one who's going to end up with a stake in his heart."

"Nor will I, I'm going to bleed out in a bed in fucking soho. So are you going to help?"

"Let me think about it."

"Goddammit Bruce, I'm not fucking around here, I'm dying, you can help, so are you going to help?"

"I said, let me think about it, I'll call you back." , Bruce hung up on Markus, set his instant messaging client to away and walked into the front room.

Bruce nudged Yuri's sleeping body, saying, "Hey, yuri, you hungry? Let's go to Mel's,"

"Meuhuh? Oh, yeah, I'm hungry....you mean for food food or food?"

"Regular food, French fries, burgers, carbs, you know...keep our metabolisms flying along..."

"Will they serve them rare?"

"Shut up, you hungry or not?"

"Yeah, sure, let me go take a piss, then we'll head out.."

That's when Bruce noticed the cans on the coffee table... "Jesus, Yuri, did you have to drink so much of the stuff?"

"Sure I did man, that was a long ride...hold on," Yuri went down the hallway to the bathroom.

Mel's was a local hamburger joint that was open late. The research into the disease had taken a few hours out of Bruce's immortality and it was dark out, when Yuri came out of the bathroom, Bruce said, "Do you have anything that doesn't look so fucking undead?"

"What, no Goths in town?"

"Whatever, let's just go."

Bruce and Yuri left the apartment, traveled down the stairs to the street and walked the short distance to main street. Downtown was filled with a lot of quaint destinations for the transitory traveler. Too many antique stores of varying quality, too many Art Galleries with Thomas Kincade paintings, two skeezy bars and a fair share of questionable franchise operations, but Bruce still liked living there. There was a decent cheese shop that stayed open late, good bandwidth for his computing needs and a solid used and a good, if small, new bookshop. If he felt like driving there was even a few 24 hour restaurants in the event he felt puckish at 3 in the morning. All in all he liked where he lived.

"Jesus Bruce, this town is dead. Perfect place for you."

"Yuri, this is a nice place, you shouldn't be so quick to dismiss it."

"You should spend more time in San Francisco, it's great fun ,you used to party hard , Bruce, what happened to you."

"Grew out of it, I guess." They passed an antique store, "I sometimes think we belong in one of these shops."

"Yeah, I suppose so, but, I'd prefer to be in one of those..", pointing at a bar with a lot of the younger crowd in it.

They continued to walk on to the restaurant. Mel's was one of those kitschy 50's style restaurants with an American graffiti motif to it. Bruce had lived through the 1950's and hadn't ever played chicken in a chevy or gone steady with a girl in a poodle skirt. He had come close to being caught outside during a cross country trip where his car had overheated while crossing the country and had been run out of a small town for looking "different" in New Mexico after he had spoken up in defense of a drunk that some kids had been beating on, this was before he had gone to medical school.

"Man, remember the 50s? Where were you then?"

"I was in Kansas for a while, then moved on to Arizona."

"You are the stupidest Vampire I've met. Do you know how freaking sunny it is in Arizona?"

"Yes, but there are also not a lot of Vampires there. And the desert nights were something, you should really check em out. Rent a camper, go on down, be amazed, Yuri. Where were you?"

"Ah, Chicago, I think, no...Detroit. Somewhere in the middle of the country. I remember playing in some late night blues band and not much else. Lots of the undead in Chicago."

"That's for sure, that's why I avoided it. You seen any of the old crew."

"Nah, not for a while. Julian had a sunlight problem in the 60s at some outdoor concert in San Francisco. In the 70s Jackson was drafted of all things and he fled to Canada, but I haven't seen him in forever, and you remember Henry?"

"Henry Lassiter? Sure, Blond hair, thin?"

"Yeah, he never ate enough...check this out, late in the 90s, he was living pretty solidly in a small town, not unlike this one, in West Virginia. Anyhow, he's just having the solitary life, getting by, not hurting a soul when, wham!"

"Wham? What happened to him?"

"Hold on...Hey there, my friend here will have an Ice Tea and I'll have an Anchor Steam. You know what you want?"

"Sure"

"Then you order..", Yuri looked over the menu while Bruce ordered a BLT.

"Hmm, okay, I'll have a very rare hamburger, I mean, practically raw, you know? A bowl of chili and a side of Fries.", Yuri told the Waitress.

"Sorry, sir, we can't serve the burgers rare, we can only do medium.", she replied.

"Are you sure? Why not?"

"I don't know, they just told us to stop doing it."

"What if I slip you a 20?"

"Well, I'd like to, but they won't do it."

"Alright, I'll have it medium I guess. That sucks."

"Yeah, okay, I'll have it out for you guys in a few minutes.", and with that she left to put in the order.

"Anyhow, Yuri, you were saying..."

"Yeah, Wham!", he continued, "He got a jury summons. He went to report in and you know what happened?"

"He served on a jury?"

"Yep, he did, and you wouldn't believe what happened!"

"What?"

"Well, it was early, before the trial was starting, and the sun was out so he had on this outrageous getup, hat, sunglasses, big fucking coat, and it was June! anyhow...so he's sweating like a pig, afraid he's gonna bake, right, and while he's crossing the parking lot to go in to sit on this trial, a guy comes up to him, points a gun in his back and throws him into a van."

"No shit?"

"Yeah, anyhow, so this thug tells him he's going to find a guy innocent if he knows what's good for him."

"No shit!"

"Yeah, so Henry, who you'll remember is pretty stubborn, tells the guy to stuff it. So the thugs take him, and threaten to shoot him and leave him in the forest. And , so Henry says... 'Go Ahead', so , of course, they do just that. But what got him was one of the thugs really liked his Jacket, it was this really nice long leather thing with a high collar, and so they made him take off the jacket, shot him and threw his body out the door into the forest near town there."

"No kidding."

"Yeah, no kidding, he had only been dead maybe 20 years when it happened, and he didn't have his coat so he cooked. When they found the body, they thought the thugs had lit him on fire. The funny thing was that they id' the kidnappers via some dna on the coat, if you can believe it. So these two dickheads go to jail for 25 to life for killing a guy who was already dead! Isn't that the funniest thing you've heard?"

"Hmm, maybe?", Bruce thought it was stupid, Henry was a good enough guy, "How did you find this out?"

"I told you, we have our fingers on a lot of things, how do you think I found you. It's not like you told me you were out here."

"Yeah, I suppose so."

The waitress returned, putting their drinks and Yuri's chili on the table.

"Thanks."

"Yeah, so what was on the drive?"

"I can't say, I need to go over it a bit more."

"Really? Was that Markus you were talking to?"

"Yeah, it was."

"I heard he's not doing so hot. People been saying he's got the undead flu."

"Really, that doesn't sound so good," Bruce had decided to play dumb until he learned more, "Undead Flu?"

"Yeah, man, the undead have been talking about it, they think it started in the Steppes, Vampires in Moscow and Japan got it next, then German, parts of Europe. No one knows what it is, but it's really weird not a lot of us have it, but some of the older ones have been. It's got some of us freaked out. Markus said to not let it worry us, that its more than likely some mortals hunting us, but he always says that. It's something new. It's not mortals hunting us down, those guys just don't last long against us."

"Hmm, that's a pretty good ghost story, but are you sure its just not a demographic problem? I mean, as the mortal population has been ballooning so has the immortal."

"Yeah, I know, but its more than just young vampires doing dumb things, its hitting the oldest among us. We old ones are becoming endangered. You know, you never really do see Vampires older than a couple centuries, I mean, look at you and me....we know most of the old timers by name, face and email. We're just not that common. And our numbers are dwindling..."

"Bruce! How are you doing!" , a young woman who looked about 30 years old came over from the hostess stand to Bruce's table, "I heard what happened to you. I took Lenny in for his shots and they told me they had shut down the overnight shift and let you go as part of it."

"Hey Margie, yeah, they just weren't making enough money since that other animal hospital opened in Shingle Springs. It's really too bad, I liked the job."

"Yeah, taking care of the puddy tats.", Yuri chimed in.. Margie gave him a look.

"Who's your friend?"

"Yuri, Margie, Margie Yuir. Margie is a paramedic here in town, has a Dog named Lenny. Big mastiff, he'd like you Yuri."

"I bet. Good to meet you Margie. Why are you up so late?"

"I think you mean early. I tend to favor the late shifts, more interesting work. Gotta be on shift in about 45 minutes. Mind if I join you?"

Yuri looked annoyed ,so Bruce said "Sure, love to have you." He motioned at the waitress, who came over.

"Can we get a place setting for Margie please?"

"Sure. You know what you want?"

"Yeah, can I have a Denver omelet?"

"Sure, I'll bring them all out together. Anything to drink?"

"Yeah, some ice tea'd be great."

"No problem, going on shift? When do you have to be outta here?"

"Oh, I've got time, so don't worry about it."

"Alrighty, I'll go put that in. Another beer for you?"

"Yeah, thanks.", said Yuri.

The Waitress walked over and Bruce say her put Margies order into the kitchen before doing anything else. Bruce turned to Margie.

"How's the job coming along? You only started about 6 months ago, right?"

"Yeah, its going okay, last night we had a good one, a guy hit a deer on 50 going 70 miles per hour, his car was a mess, but he was okay. He had a bloody nose, but that was about it. Looked much worse than it was. He was covered in the stuff.", she looked at Yuri, who was noshing on his bowl of chili, "Oh sorry, I forget that not everyone is surrounded by the stuff every day. Anyhow, his car was trashed, it was something like 4 in the morning. We were just hanging out at the station watching some Tivo when it happened."

"God I love my Tivo", said Bruce.

"Yeah, me too, I need to get one at home, but I'm afraid I'll watch too much TV, I don't watch much at home. So, Bruce, what are you going to do now that you're not working?"

"Well, I guess I'll get another job, I've got osme savings, so I can coast for a while, but I'd like to find another job with animals. I hope I don't have to leave the county to do it though, I'm finally getting settled in."

"You moved into those apartments near the hospital, didn't you?"

"Yeah, how'd you know."

"Oh, we had a pickup there, would have sworn I saw your car, the Volvo, you know?"

"Oh, what happened?"

"A dog mauled a teenager there, it was a mess, it got a good hold on the kids neck. He's okay, but he can't remember anything."

Yuri gave Bruce a look.

"When did this happen?"

"Last week, I don't suppose you heard anything, were you at work Wednesday night?"

"Yeah, I was. It's funny how working nights cuts you off from the news."

"Tell me about it, I missed the beer festival last month. Slept right through it. Someone told me it was pretty fun this year."

"I wouldn't know, I'm not one for the festival thing. I like the Christmas tree lighting one, but the others leave me cold."

"What about Halloween? That's fun, my sister brought her kid up last year and we did the downtown trick or treat thing."

"Oh, I don't have any kids in my family.", Yuri snorted, Bruce gave him a look, "But I'm sure that's a lot of fun."

"Yeah, with your pale skin you'd make a good ghost or something. You need some sun."

Yuri nodded at Bruce's response while munching his chili, "Oh, I burn very easily, don't want melanoma in my advancing years, I try to stay out of the sun."

"What about you, Yuri, What do you do?"

"Oh, me?", Yuri swallowed the last bite of his Chili, "I'm retired."

"Retired?"

"Yeah, his family has money, so Yuri retired.", Bruce said, annoyed with Yuri's vampireness.

"Yeah, spend most of my time going to concerts, nightclubs, just hanging out.

Margie had a wistful look in her eys, "Gosh, that'd be great, I could get so much done if I didn't have to work. The reading alone I could do...."

"Nah, I'm not much of a reader," said Yuri.

"What did your parents do?"

"Oh, my Dad," by which Yuri meant his last identity, "was a stock broker, made lots of money. He passed away in 1987."

"Oh, you must have been so young, I mean, you look all of 30."

"Yeah, it was hard. I was only 13, I was in junior high school at the time."

Bruce wanted to roll his eyes at his friends made up tale of juvenile woe. Yuri's probably couldn't even remember his adolescence.

"What about you Bruce, are your parents alive?"

"Yeah, they live in Kansas City."

"Missouri or Kansas?"

"Missouri, are you from around there?" , he asked, hoping that she wasn't.

"Nah, but I always thought it funny that they both had one so close to each other. So very unoriginal."

The waitress dropped off the food, Yuri's burger was very rare, almost uncooked.

"Thanks Sweetheart, I really appreciate it.", Yuri said. The waitress, who was clearly taken with Yuri, said "Anytime, you just let me know if you need anything else."

As the waitress left, Margie's eyes went up, "Oh, I think you made a friend."

"Yeah, be back in a second."

Yuri darted off to the bar stools set in front of the cashier where the waitress was putting in an order, talking with her while drinking his beer.

"Sorry, I can't take him anywhere, really."

"He's not so bad, especially compared to most of the men in this town, I could tell you some stories."

"Yeah, not so good, the dating prospects."

"Yeah, this town isn't good for single people. You dating anyone Bruce?"

"Me? No, it was just me and the dogs and cats until last night."

"Yeah, I'm really sorry about that. You think that you're going to have to move?"

"Yeah, I might. I don't want to, this is a nice town to live in."

"You moved around a lot?"

"Yeah, my, uh, dad was an Army guy, we lived all over."

"Really? God, I'd love to travel."

"Well, maybe you'll get a chance, everyone needs emts"

"Yeah, I suppose so."

They both ate their food for a bit. Yuri came back and said, "Well, she's nice. Gave me her number, said she'd love to catch a move with me."

"Yeah, you going to commute from San Francisco to see her?"

"I don't know, your place is fine, any you're going to need someone to look after your apartment during your trip."

"You going somewhere Bruce?", Margie asked.

Bruce glared at Yuri, "Well, I might need to go back east for a bit, I have an uncle who needs my help with something."

"Yeah, he's an old friend of ours, it's why I came to town."

"New York? I loved New York. Went to it on a school trip when I was just a girl. The buildings, broadway, the statue of liberty... it was so exciting."

"Yeah, it's a fun town.", Bruce said.

"Boy, you said it, I've done things in that town that you can't even pronounce..."

"Nice, Yuri," Bruce said as Margie laughed.

"Oh, you're not so innocent Bruce, I remember that time in Greenwich village at that joint behind the post office, when you and that..."

Bruce cut him off, "That was a long time ago, I don't think I need to hear that play by play again."

They finished their meals with some more assorted small talk and Bruce said, "Well, it was nice seeing you Margie, but I've got some things I need to do back home. I hope your shift goes well."

"It will, by the way," Margie took out a pen and wrote down something on the napkin, "Here's my number, feel free to use it, okay? It'd be good to see you sometime."

"Yeah, I'd like that. Let me cover the check okay?"

"Sure, thanks, I got the tip then."

Bruce and Yuri dropped some money on the tray that the check was delivered on and left the restaurant. As they walked down the street, Yuri said, "I think she likes you."

"Yeah, no kidding? Was it the number she wrote down for me that gave it away?"

"I think you like her too. She's a mortal, man, and believe me, I'd know. I can smell em."

"Yeah, I know, there aren't many in this town. That's why I moved here."

"So are you going to do it?"

"Do what? Call her? I might. I'm dead, but I'm not blind."

"No, are you going to go see Markus?"

"Well, I don't really have much better to do, do I?", Bruce replied.

"Yeah, after all, her shift is starting, not ending..."

Chapter 3

Bruce and Yuri walked back through town, stopping only for Bruce to pick up a book at the bookstore, he chose a compendium of the works of Phillip K.Dick. "Some light reading for the plane trip.", he explained.

Once they arrived back home, Bruce told Yuri to hang out while he went back to his office, he sat down at his computer and sent an instant message to Markus.

Bnap32: Y.T?

A few minutes passed, Bruce surfed some news websites while he waited.

MarkUp: Yeah, I'm here. So, should I send the plane?
Bnap32:Yeah, you should.
MarkUp:Where?
Bnap32: PVF, if it can land here, otherwise, O61
Markup: O61? God, you live in the sticks, you know that?
Bnap32: Yeah., I know, but anyone can land at 061.
Markup:Alright, O61 it is then It should be there in a few hours.
Bnap32: You already sent it, didn't you?
Markup: Yeah, I knew you'd do it.
Bnap32: Fucker.
Markup: Pretty much, Yeah. See you soon, don't worry about dressing up, we have our own hanger at JFK and seriously tinted car will be waiting for you.
Bnap32: I bet. See you soon.

Bruce shut down his computer, a diminutive thing that weighed all of 2 pounds and slid it into his satchel, along with the book, his phone and some other odds and ends. He went into his bedroom and grabbed his pre-packed overnighted. I paid to have a suitcase ready when one is undead. He emerged into the front room and Yuri was watching a shopping channel.

"Okay, you're outta here."

"Wah? I was just watching the jewelry show..."

"I gotta go, so you gotta go."

"Ah, man, don't you want me to stick around?"

"No, and you've got maybe 4 hours of darkness left, which is long enough for you to get back home. I've got a flight."

"Alright man, you don't need to kick me out, I'll go."

"Good. You need a water for the road or anything?"

"Nah, I'm fine...let me just go change back into my outfit, okay?"

"Sure, go ahead."

Yuri disappeared into the bathroom and in a few minutes emerged wearing his leather sporty riding outfit, with his pack in hand. "Kay, let's go."

They left, went down to the garage and Yuri got on his bike, with a "Take it easy man!" he sped off. Bruce tossed his bags into the back of the car, got inside, pulled back and started the drive down to Cameron park. He thought that the people were going to be mighty pissed when the society's Gulfstream IVsp cycled at the airport, located in the middle of a suburb of Sacramento. It was a quiet jet, but it was certainly going to be breaking the noise curfew. Bruce was a firm believer that if people didn't want airport noise, than they shouldn't live near a jet capable airport. He'd likely return via Mather, though, lots of cargo operations use Mather and people are more used to the noise.

It wasn't a long drive to Cameron Park Airport, about 25 minutes to get to the terminal there. Bruce parked his Volvo near the end to the executive terminal. As he walked up, a man came out of the building, and said, "Mr. Napoleon?"

"Yes."

"Ah, good, I'm Patrick, can I take your car keys? We can take care of your car that way."

"Yes, thanks, here you go."

"Great, are those your bags?", Patrick pointed at his roller bag and satchel which Bruce had placed on the pavement.

"Yes, can you make sure they remain in the cabin?"

"That's no problem. The plane will be here in about a half hour, if you like to wait inside the hanger, thorugh that door over there.", he indicated a door not far away.

"Great, thanks."

Bruce walked up to and through the door, which was labeled "Curry Aviation" which let directly into a large, mostly dark, drafty hanger. There were a few other planes in here, a dual prop king air and a single engine Cessna. He heard a door open and then close behind him.

"You must be some kind of important guy."

"Why do you say that?"

"Well, my boss, Mr. Curry, he owns the hanger, said for me to be here and ready to refuel a jet. I said 'at 2 in the morning? Are you crazy, they'll be pissed. And he just said for me to do it. I've never heard him so happy to be getting the locals breathing down his neck. He even offered me 300$ to get out of bed and take care of you."

Bruce thought that meant the operator was likely getting a few orders of magnitude more money from the society, but said nothing.

"Yep, and we don't see many G4s out here, mostly small lears and king air's for the intel workers coming in from Oregon. They have a big office in Folsom, you know."

"Yeah, I've passed them a few times on 50. They use the airport a lot?"

"Yeah, but not at 1 in the morning! Anyhow, I'm going to go get some things ready for your flight. Would you like anything to drink to pass the time?"

"No, thanks."

Bruce settled down in a couch in a small waiting room tucked into the hanger's side, and opened his book. Time passed, and he heard the incoming sounds of the jet. A few minutes later, there was a knock.

"Mr. Napoleon, we're ready for you."

He showed him the way out to the waiting plane, where Bruce climbed the short steps. Inside, an attractive young woman was dressed in a stewardesses livery. She was so newly immortal he could smell it. He could practically see the unhealed scars on her neck. So young, the new ones.

"Can I take your bags, Mr. Napoleon."

"Call me Bruce, I'd like to keep the satchel, but please feel free to stow the roller.", he turned it so she could take care of it.

"Thanks, Bruce, I'm Genia. If you need anything, anything at all, let me know. We'll be serving a meal in flight in about an hour. We're non-stop for Laguardia, should arrive in about 5 hours. It'll be light out, but we've got that taken care of, as you can imagine."

"Great, thanks."

"We'll be taking off very quickly, don't want to get stuck here. It's very sunny in California, you know. So if you'd care to take a seat, we'll take off as soon as you are ready"

Genia rolled his bag to the front of the plane. Watching her walk away, Bruce thought back to when he was newly immortal and sighed. He made his way to a seat in the plane, latched his belt and plugged in his headphones. He had these terrific earphones which he had molded for his ear canal, Bruce found that by removed all noise, he was much more refreshed at the end of a flight. The headphones were attached to his mp3 player, where he had some Warren Zevon playing.

As he listened to "Werewolves of London" and felt the acceleration as they took off, he thought how unfortunate it was that the Vampires shied away from siring famous people. They had made that mistake one too many times before, and most vampires had agreed that famous vampires equals dead vampires, regardless of how much money the tabloids could make off of dead-celebrity sightings. As his played segued into "Leave my monkey alone", Bruce reached retrieved his laptop from his satchel.

He opened it and took it out of sleep, plugged it into its power supply, which he plugged into the planes power outlet, no need to run out of juice here, and studied the contents of the USB drive some more. He made a backup of the drive on his machine as well for good measure. The plane had an internet connection ,but he decided instead to just study.

The disease, if in fact that was what it was, presented very much like a very Paget's disease, minus the hearing problems, debilitating the bones of the hip, spine, pelvis and skull, but the speed of onset was what was so difficult for the vampire physiology. A vampires naturally powerful constitution was stymied by the detritus in the blood stream, and this led to a kind of internal choking off of the blood that a vampire needs to heal and kept the vampire immune from attacks from Virii, Bacteria and cancers, not to mention the normal onset of human aging.

Like Pagat's, could the disease be environmental, had the mortals finally found a weapon against the undead in the great volume of chemical pollutants that man was releasing during its technological advance? Ignoring the fact that they were ruining the planet for themselves, were they also ending vampires with their carelessness?

Bruce felt that pollution affected his kind more than the mortals. Many mortals couldn't appreciate the problems they were leaving to their grandchildren, but some of the more environmentally aware immortals saw a billowing smoke stack and would try to feed on the plant supervisor, as that same immortal would inevitably have to deal with living on an earth plagued with a problem.

And whether global warming caused sunnier days or an ice age due to melting glacier ice, neither sounded much fun, and considering his immortality, he wanted to "at least not have to deal with a fucking ice age", as he'd told Markus a few times during the environmental awaking in the 60's. Markus, like so many other undead, didn't care much about the environment, but had related to Bruce that he thought smokers didn't taste as fresh as non-smokers, but Bruce really didn't much care for that kind of talk, so that was where that discussion had ended.

After some more time spent studying, Genia spread out a fine meal with a sashimi appetizer leading into a beef tartare second course and a white bean and (rare) duck cassoulet. He was served chilled human blood and a room temperature California red wine that was a fine match for the meal. For dessert, he was served tiramisu with some espresso.

After the meal was cleared away and Bruce demurred from pursuing other offerings from the stewardess, asked for his roller bag, and upon receipt of it, he made his way into the bedroom to freshen up before landing. The bedroom was of remarkable size, with a full king sized bed and a full bathroom with a shower that could fit at least 5 people, 7 if they were intimate. Something told Bruce that they were often just that on this plane, but that didn't keep him from taking a nice shower, then steam bath.

The floor of the shower had a sand paper like texture and there was a chrome railing that lined the walls of the shower in the even of turbulence, but other than that, and a short roof line, there wasn't much to make one think they were on a plane instead of a bathroom in a high end hotel on earth. While showering, Bruce thought if the plane crashed, and he was naked, how inconvenient that would be. Bruce had some hairy times on planes before, Vampires were early adopters of any fast transportation technology, but he had yet to be caught in a bad wreck, unless you counted the rough flight that left 2 dead and many injured on the way into Salt Lake City in the 1970s, which other than giving him a sore neck for a day, accelerated his savings when the settlement was offered by the airline. Unfortunately, he had to leave behind the free upgrades the airline had awarded him with when he had switched identities.

That said, he liked to charter planes when he did travel, but he preferred not to travel as it was a very dangerous thing for a vampire to do. There was little upside to commercial travel for his kind, when a single delayed flight could mean vast amounts of sunlight streaming in through those vast windows that so many airports sport nowadays.

Bruce turned off the steam and toweled off, shaved, then used the other facilities of the bathroom. He then dressed in a dark suit which covered all of his body with the exception of his head. He packed his bag and went back outside, the stewardess was sitting in his seat, typing at his computer.

"Can I help you?", Bruce asked?

Genia jumped and turned, a fearful look on her face, saying nothing.

Bruce looked at the screen ,she hadn't even gotten past the password protection of the screen saver, but the keychain drive was missing.

"What are you doing? Give me the drive."

"Drive? What drive, I was just trying to play some Solitaire while you showered."

"Sure you were," Bruce ran to her, pushing her onto the ground, he turned her around and jammed his knee on her back. He frisked her, and found the drive tucked beneath the strap of her bra under her left armpit. "Solitaire my ass."

Bruce bounced her head against the floor of the cabin, and while she was dazed, he hopped over the supply closet to find something to bind her with. He found a pair of seat belt extenders and took them over to where she was trying to get up, he took her arms back behind her and cinched them tight to each other with one of them. He heard some of the small bones in her wrist crack, but knew that, while painful, they'd grow back.

He flipped her around and flung her down onto the sofa seats, cinching the lap belt so that she was immobilized in her seat. He pulled up her legs and cinched them tight with the second extender. She could kick her legs, but that was about it. She wasn't kicking though, just glaring at him. He sat down across from her and said, "Why did you do that?"

"Did what?", she said sweetly.

Bruce was in for a long night.

(Written over a number of days, 13127 words total.)

Go read the next part!

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Post 2, Chapter 2

Catch up! Go read Post 0

Chapter 2

Bruce activated the automatic garage opener and pulled into his apartment building, leaving behind an ever brightening earth. He pulled into his space and took the elevator to his floor. It was the perfect building for him. Once he pulled into the garage, there was only indirect or artificial light to be seen, and the interior hallways on his floor had windows only at the very ends of the halls, far from his apartment. He could stand a moment or two of light without too much trouble, so the odd door opening without warning didn't concern him much.

He walked to apartment 218; unlocked the door and went inside. Bruce really liked this apartment. It was owned by him through a corporate blind which he used to buy most of his material objects. Companies can live forever, people do not, so its tricky when a person owns something for longer than a proper lifetime. Forgetting for the moment the risks of being interviewed by Willard Scott, being 100 and looking 30 wasn't wise in a society just past the pitchfork and torches phase.

Like many older vampires, he didn't sleep in a casket or any such apparatus during the day. That was stupid and insanely difficult to explain away. Some traditions were fine to dispense with. That said, when he moved in, he did install 2 layers of thick, heavy drapes over the home depot (open 24 hours! Perfect for the undead hardware trade.) standard blinds, leaving only a faint easily avoidable penumbra of natural light around the drapes.

He dropped his keys and wallet on a bookshelf and made his way to the couch, loosening his tie while he thought about what to do next.

Finding a job wasn't vital for Bruce, as prudent saving and a knack for picking decent investments had paid off to the point where Bruce didn't worry about money. In fact, he had so much of it, it was everything he could do to keep things mellow and unnoticeable in the money department.

He liked working though, especially with the animals, and the vet jobs worked as he could find a shop with a night shift in pretty much every town. The other vet in town already had a night person, so he wouldn't be going there anytime soon. That night person wasn't undead, and Bruce expected that the undead would start having very real problems with their animal friends without him installed somewhere.

He considered starting his own office, just for the immortal, but that seemed so elitist and boring, he liked not worrying about payroll and hiring and accounting and the rest. These things weren't hard, but they were harder for someone who couldn't go out in the sun. For the 1000th time that month he considered moving somewhere like Alaska or back to oslo where he could get some very real nighttime going on, but he decided to stick around till his next change of identity.

His last ID change had been 20 years prior and he was really enjoying his last decade in this persona. He went for a full rewrite every time. This time, veterinarian, last time, doctor, the time before that he was a butcher. Before that he was mortal, a sad , lame mortal with the desire to live forever. So far, so good, he thought as he reached for the remote.

Uh oh.

"Authorities are baffled at the rise in animal attacks in the country, Sheriff John Steward had the following to say about it:

'We're honestly baffled at what animal is attacking these cats and dogs, we're considering a wolf or an especially aggressive fox.'

"When asked about the possibility of a mountain lion being responsible, he said that the last time the country had to trap a lion was almost 27 years ago, and that they hadn't ventured down into town where most of the attacks have happened since. Back to you Paul."

Bruce shut off the TV, there was definitely a new kid in town, and Bruce was beginning to get a little annoyed at his behavior. Picturing all those kids finding their pets mutilated and the needless speculation about what could be causing it made Bruce feel very territorial. This new guy clearly hadn't heard about his rule: don't feed on pets in El Dorado county. Or else.


Bruce made his way to the kitchen... he had something to eat earlier, but he felt the need for a little bit of blood, a bottle of which he had chilling in the refrigerator. The pigs blood tasted good going down, and he felt the fatigue of a long day coming on, before work the previous night he had woken up early to get some reading in and it was catching up with him.

Bruce checked the windows, dead bolted and chained the door and made his way to his bedroom, where within a few minutes he slept like a baby.

The phone's ring made its way into Bruce's dream. He was running from a crowd of people carrying sunlamps, screaming "Get him! Let's give him a tan he won't ever forget." It wouldn't be so bad if they weren't all wearing jodpurs and hunting vests. The sound of the foxhounds barking faded out as he woke up, annoyed by the phone.

Bruce picked up the receiver and said, groggily, "Hello?"

"Bruce. That you?", the voice was familiar, but Bruce was in a rough state, still coming awake, so he didn't recognize the caller.

"Yeah, who's this? Damnit. I was sleeping," Bruce fumbled for his watch which was under a magazine on his bedside table. The watch read 6 pm. Bruce must have been pretty tired to sleep so late.

"Jeeze, Bruce, you gotta feed on some humans, you're slowing down. It's Yuri, I'm in town. Can I come by?"

"Yuri? Valentine? Yeah, sure...when will you get here?"

"I don't know, probably and hour, I'm just on the other side of Sacramento."

"Okay, call me when you park, I'll come down and get you. Okay? "

"Sure."

Yuri Nicolas Valentine could be called a friend of Bruce's, although "comrade in experience" or "colleague" would be a better description. Bruce and Yuri were both sired the same year by the same vampire in 1926. Both were old men when they were sired and partied, and they both took great joy celebrating their newfound youth, smooth skin and strong bodies with a number of other newly immortal women.

The bacchanals of the newly immortal were something to behold, and while initially Bruce did his part, over time he slowly migrated out of that life. Yuri didn't ever get tired of the 24 hour party people branch of the intact undead, and he and Bruce had fallen out of touch with each other. They just hung with different people, took different risks.

In 2003, after the undead had managed a suitably protected web presence, Bruce had gotten an email from Yuri, who he learned was a fixture in the late night culture that was still running strong in San Francisco. In San Francisco, like in all the great cities, the undead and mortal mixed freely, even if the nature of their party mates was not clear to the mortal attendees.

Bruce didn't really approve of the direction Yuri had taken over the last 80 years, but he had given up trying to convince him to adopt a lower profile, as that wasn't in Yuri's nature. And because of that, Bruce was not expecting a call much less a visit from his old friend.

Bruce picked up the remote and turned on the TV, the tivo had revolutionized Bruce's life, making TV both accessible and convenient. A great number of the undead had adopted it. Bruce chuckled to himself considering what the Tivo marketing people would think if they knew how many of their subscribers weren't simply night shift workers but were in fact the undead. He could picture the marketing slogans, "Just because you're dead, doesn't man you have to watch infomercials," or, "Never miss another 'Buffy' again."

He selected a science fiction program he had been meaning to watch and waited for the call from Yuri that he was close. Near the end of the program, his phone rang and, pausing the TV, Bruce answered, "Hello."

"Hey Bruce, I'm pulling up, where should I park?"

"You on a bike?"

"Yeah"

"Just pull up behind my car, I'm in space 63, near the elevator."

"Great, I'll see you in a few minutes."

"Later."

Bruce watched the last few minutes of his show and pulled on his hoodie, jeans, socks and shoes, grabbed his keys and left his apartment. It was still a little bright out and the windows at the end of the hallways glowed with malevolence. Bruce took the stairs down, noting that they didn't smell like a dog had peed in them for a while, which he was happy about. He emerged into the garage right as Yuri was pulling into the garage. Yuri favored the faster motorcycles as he felt it left him the ability to run away from the police if need be, as he didn't subscribe to such mundane restrictions like speed limits and such. Yuri waved and pulled behind Bruce's Volvo, put the bikes kickstand down and pulled off his helmet. He worked the earpiece from his phone out of his ear and put locked his helmet onto his bike.

"Hey Bruce, hold on, I just gotta put the disc locks into place."

Bruce didn't have the heart to tell him how useless all his preparations were. This wasn't the city, Yuri could leave his keys in the bike and it'd still be here 24 hours later.

"Okay, you're looking well, how is San Francisco treating you?"

"Well, I have a very good time there, lots of new vampires, you should meet some of them, they're really something else, so many young people opting to become one of us, it's kind of strange, I almost want to tell them to experience their mortality first, but they just don't want to take that chance."

"And your thirst doesn't help motivate the warnings, I'd imagine."

"No, not much, I love young blood, it's like brandy, the smell alone sends me, you know?"

"I do, but I also know how risky that is, people miss the young more than the old, you know that..."

"Damn Bruce, I haven't lasted this long by being reckless with my feeding, this isn't Louisiana, you know."

"I know, but I still think all the partying is going to catch up with you some day."

"Yeah, maybe, hey, lets go inside, my face is a little hot from the ride, I really need to put more tinting film on this helmet, I think some UV is sneaking inside."

"Yeah, lets go, elevators over here..."

Bruce led Yuri to the elevator. After they entered Bruces place, Yuri went into the bathroom with his bag to peel off his leathers, with a: "Back in a second."

Shortly thereafter, he came back into the room and said to Bruce, "We gotta talk. There's a big problem."

"What? Wait, what are you talking about? Here in town? Or in San Francisco?"

"No, man, there's a problem for all of us, everywhere. Vampires are dying, the undead are dying."

"What do you mean, I haven't heard anything."

"I know man, the older immortals are trying to keep a lid on it, we don't want the people to panic and start siring mortals left and right, it would be a mess and the jig would definitely be up with regards to the whole secrecy thing."

"Wait, start over, what's going on?"

(Written November 4th, 6363 words total)
Keep Reading

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Post 1, Chapter 1 continued.

Catch up! Go read post 0

It was a remarkably clear night outside, the stars and moon bright lit his way to Julian's old saab. Bruce was constantly amazed at the poor choices that the undead made in terms of transportation. He pictured the call to AAA by his ghostly acquaintance, and the subsequent comedy of errors that as likely as not would end in the death of some poor tow truck driver.

Bruce was a big believer in reliable, tinted, cars. The Volvo he owned was about as reliable a car as he'd owned, and a part of him pined for the horses that dominated his mortal transport. He also owned a Honda touring motorcycle, as the gear you could wear as a motorcyclist made day trips possible for his kind. You can cover every centimeter of the body and nobody would bat an eye.

Bruce had dressed as a devout Muslim woman for day trips by car, but he hadn't done that in some time. Muslims got pulled over a lot lately.

Bruce pulled Tangie's carrier out of the passenger side of the car, and brought it back inside the office. Tangie was giving a low, pathetic howl, and was clearly not having the best of times.

"Come on back into the exam room, Julian...we'll take a look at her in there. When did this start?"

"Last night. She came in sometime after midnight, when I went by her bed, she had vomited a bit and was pretty lethargic, so here I am."

Bruce manipulated the cat, turning her about, running his hands up and down and around her.

Indicating the cat's underside, just above her stomach, "Uh, Julian, did you notice this cut? Looks like she ran into another cat or something. One of yours?"

"Nah, they get along, let me see that. Ew...that's a bad one. Definitely not one of mine, I keep their claws trimmed."

Bruce marveled at the mental feat of a revenant staying corporeal long enough to clip a uncooperative cat's nails. "Well, I think she'll be alright, I'm just going to give her a shot and you some pills to take home. Can you handle giving her a pill once a day with her food?"

"Yeah, I think so, I've got a new friend."

"What do you mean?"

"Well, you know why I hang around ,right?"

"Yeah, cause of that insurance thing....wait, what was it?"

"Sort of that, yeah, Its complicated. Will Tangie be alright then?"

"Yeah, just keep up with the pills. Use it as further incentive to stick around, alright Julian?"

"Sure, Bruce. Everyone thinks we revs are dilletants, don't you?"

"Yeah, pretty much, Jules."

"Well, thanks. How much do I owe you?"

"Ah, lets head out to the front desk and find out."

They put Tangie into her carrier and went out front and settled up. Bruce loaded Tangie into Julian's car for him, figuring that the less time Jules spent corporeal would be better for the drive back to his house, nothing could be worse for that cat than Julian losing it at 80 miles per hour halfway home on route 50.

"Thanks Bruce, you're the nicest vampire I know."

"Yeah, Yeah, just take care of those cats."

"I will."

Julian drove off. Bruce looked up at the moon. It was such a clear night, not a cloud in the sky, stars shone bright. It reminded him of skies from before the modern age of smog. Bruce vowed to put some time in with his telescope In the coming weekend.

Bruce, as might be imagined, didn't have many friends among the mortal. It got complicated fast. It's just too hard to explain why some things are the way they are for vampires. The real problem is that mortals are just too... mortal.

Bruce headed back inside, a sense of ennui fell over him. He missed mortality, or just maybe he missed mortal relationships. The established undead were boring in a lot of ways, those that learned to live a long time undetected were mostly subdued individuals, loners and introverts, but Bruce was these things only out of a desire for survival. He wanted to do all those things that the reckless newly undead did, but he actually wanted to continue living, he just wished there was more to it. Countless decades of life took their toll, especially when friends were few and far between.

Maybe that's why he did the vet thing, for the same reasons that ghosts haunted, werewolves howled at the moon and other vampires fed on the living, Bruce helped out animals. He derived a lot of base joy from it, and it brought him in contact with mortals, even fleetingly, and their life tended to effuse him with memories of his own mortal time.

While this may make it sound like Bruce regretted his immortality, he didn't, he loved the life of the mind that he was able to enjoy, when he was so motivated he was able to study a subject deeply, whether it was a foreign language, a science or even a vocation. Bruce had, in his long history, been a locksmith, a auto mechanic, a high energy physicist and a regular doctor, although the latter had caused so much thirst that he opted for radiology and then opted out of the profession altogether. The level of human contact that he enjoyed in the veterinarian's office was dangerous enough, let alone a job that involved actual physical contact.

Bruce had learned medicine out of a desire to learn a bit about his own physiology, but he determined that the science needed to advance a bit more before he'd be able to help with the different problems that come along with vampirism that caused him so much inconvenience along with his longevity. What was it about him that made blood so damn useful to maintaining his mortality. Why if he didn't get a certain amount of human blood every year did he start to feel, in his very bones, the onset of the cumulative years of aging?

There had been some speculation on the different undead oriented websites (disguised as porn sites, naturally, with pop-ups waiting to pounce on the unwitting) that there were some advances being made in the quest for a drug or treatment to allow a vampire to go out in the full sun without accompanying pyrotechnics, but as far as Bruce knew, there was nothing that could be done about that. So he huddled indoors or under vast layers whenever the sun shone upon the earth.

Bruce went into the storeroom in the back of the building and hauled some sacks of dogfood onto the cart, which he then wheeled into the front, near the scales. He stacked them neatly and considered how many large dogs he had come to treat in the short time he had been at the job. Large dogs used to be ananthema to him, but he'd come to some kind of cosmic agreement with them. Bruce suspected that they knew him to not be threatening to them or their mortal owners in some instinctive way, but either way he was happy it was true. Nothing is more disturbing to the undead than agitated animals, their humans tend to pay attention to that kind of activity. Which could lead to problems for said undead person.

One kind of animal that couldn't calm down around the undead was the ferret. Luckily these were illegal in California and were so damn spastic that their owners commonly didn't connect their agitation with any sort of external macabre influence.

As he stacked a second load of dog food, the phone rang. He went over to the desk, sat down and looked at the called ID. Aw crap...

"Kinsey Veterinary, Dr. Napoleon speaking."

"Bruce, damnit, I know you have caller ID there."

"Yes, I do. What do you want Radu?"
"They didn't tell you? Bacci is hurt. ", then to the cat, "There, There Bacci, stay still, we'll get you fixed up."

"Oh, was that Bacci? Fine, I'm here now, come on in."

"Alright, I'll be there in 5 minutes, anyone else hanging around? I mean, any mortals?"

"Nope, you're clear, or they are, depending on your point of view."

"Man, you're never going to forgive me of that, are you, I said I'm sorry."

"Whatever, just bring the cat in, I'll take a look."

"Kay, I'll be right in."

Hanging up the phone, Bruce sighed thinking of what a pain Radu had become in the short 9 months since he'd arrived in town. His endless scrabbling for free meds (for the cat) and blood (not for the cat) from the dispensary was pretty annoying to Bruce. Bruce worked hard to maintain his work and not nick (too much) blood and such from work. Don't shit where you eat and all that, something Radu didn't seem to understand.

After taking a few minutes to clean up the exam room, Bruce did a quick check of his email, deleted some spam and made a short list of chores to do for the day shift. It was just another regular night for Bruce. Bruce had a copy of Vet Practice News and a computer textbook he was working through in his satchel for the slow periods that were inevitable on the night shift.

Radu walked through the front door, wearing a floor length leather coat over his white t-shirt and black jeans and boots. Bruce thought he looked a bit cliche in that getup, but Bruce suppressed a giggle as Radu was carrying a purple cat carrier with flower stickers affixed to it. It kind of ruined the whole undead cool guy thing that Radu had going on. Radu had to be newly immortal, but it was impolite to ask about such things. He knew that the newly immortal vampire women tended to like the traditional goth getups, so he understood such fashions in a young vampire, obvious as they were.

"Bruce! How's it going man!"

"Good Radu, so what's up with Bacci? Bring her in to the examination room." Bruce indicated the one he had just cleaned.

"You'll see, I think a dog got to her or something." They walked into the room

Bacci didn't look good, she was faily limp and had a blood stain running down the side of her ribs, it had clotted, but it was clear that she had lost a good amount of blood.

"Hmm, looks like she got into a fight alright, pass me that electric razor would you?"

"Sure, here you go."

Bruce poured and rubbed some disinfectant over the wound and then shaved the cat's orange fur where it had been attacked. He pulled the light over. The cat was exhausted enough that its protest to such undignified treatment was limited to a pathetic mewl.

"Radu, look thought this."

"K, hmmm. That looks pretty familiar."

"Doesn't look like a dog, does it."

"So , please tell me, who is the Mother fucker who's feeding on Bacci. I'm going to kill and eat that motherfucker myself, to hell with the compacts, I'm gonna drink some vamp blood...."

"Calm down, Radu...I could be wrong, I'll have to take a sample and look at it before I can say for sure, but it does look like we have a problem here in town, hell this is how I find half the undead in the county, Bacci'll be okay, I'm just going to give her some plasma to help her out."

Radu's eyes looked expectant.

"And, no, none for you, dammit, get your own."

"It's expensive."

"Only if you order the good stuff, stick with pig or goat blood, it's almost the same. Save the good stuff for the holidays."

"Easy for you to say, you have money."

"You would too, I told you I'd teach you how to save...compound interest does amazing things for our kind, you know that.", Bruce gathered the apparatus for giving Bacci her treatment to replace her lost blood.

"Yeah, but I don't have any now, so how am I going to save for later."

"You had enough to buy that coat."

"I stole this coat off a dead man."

"And how did he get dead?"

"Aw, man, cut that shit out, it wasn't here. I know you don't want that shit going down here. It was in Reno. You think anyone cares about who dies in Reno? They couldn't film a CSI there if they wanted too, no one would watch it. It would always have the same plot. Some redneck got his throat 'cut' , no suspects."

"You better watch yourself, you're gonna make it hard on the rest of us."

"I haven't killed in years man. This coat came off of someone else's kill."

"Maybe the same one feeding on your cat."

"Hey man, don't dis my cat. Bacci is a good cat."

"I'm not, I'm just trying to point out that people don't like it when their loved ones get eaten anymore than you do."

"Yeah, yeah, I hear you. Will Bacci be okay really? Are you sure?"

"Yeah, I'm sure, just give her a little bit of time. Keep her here with me and pick her up tomorrow. She'll be pretty tired and cranky for the next few days, so just try to keep her near food and her litter box and she'll be okay. Also, she's going to have to wear the plastic protector for a couple of weeks until the wound heals."

"Okay Doc."

"One other thing."

"Yeah"

"Keep her indoors till we find out who did this, she won't survive an attack like this again."

"Yeah Doc, sure.", Radu almost looked sad about the state of his tabby.

Bruce showed Radu out.

"Okay, stay out of the sun."

"Sure man. I will, you too."

Bruce went back into the examination room, the cat was sleeping on the stainless table, the fluid dripping slowly into her. Bruce knew it would take an hour or so before he could move the cat into the kennels, so he went out front, locked the door and grabbed his magazine, knowing that anyone who came could hit the doorbell and he'd come right out.

The cat woke up when he moved his chair over to the cabinet, "Okay Bacci, just take it easy, it's Dr. Napoleon.", Bruce gave the cat a little scratch behind her ear, "You'll be alright."

This seemed to satisfy the cat, who fell promptly asleep.

Bruce took in the exam room, the office had been built in the 1970s and it had that feel to it. Lots of exposed wood paneling, linoleum floors and built-in Formica cabinets. The business was a little rocky, if you looked close you saw an old building that was way overdue for maintenance, Bruce had looked at the books ,the business wasn't losing money, but it wasn't making a lot either. He thought that Dr. Kinsey was considering retirement, which was troubling as Bruce really liked the job and the town and everything that went with it.

Which made the thought of a new vampire feeding on cat's in his domain all the more troubling.

After an hour had passed, Bruce put a scratch protector around her neck and moved Bacci into the kennels. After that the night passed without any other incoming patients. Bruce's shift ended at 6am, well before sunup this late in the year, so he had the luxury of avoiding the motorcycle gambit.

The clock read 5:30 when a car pulled into the parking lot outside. It was the bosses car. Bruce wondered what was up, he wasn't due to be in until much later. He saw him pull his case out of the backseat and walk up to the door. Bruce met him, unlocking the door and ushering him inside, out of the chill night air.

"Hey Tom, what's going on?"

"Hey Bruce, how are things going tonight?"

"Good. Two patients, one recovering from a fight in the kennels and one sent home with some pills, all the night work has been done. What's up, is Penny sick or something?" , Bruce was worried, not for Penny but how he'd deal with the sun issue should he have to cover her shift. Being a Vampire kind of sucked that way.

"No, she's fine, she'll be in , but I wanted to talk with you. Come on back into my office."

Bruce locked the door, he'd heard that exact tone many times in his many decades, he was about to be let go. Bruce followed Tom into the back room and sat down opposite his desk.

"What's up Tom."

"Well Bruce, I don't need to tell you how tight things have been around here, I'm afraid I can't afford to offer 24 hour intake anymore...."

"And since you can't afford intake, and since I do said intake..."

"Yeah, I'm afraid I have to let you go. It's really too bad, you do such a nice job, but we're fully staffed in the daytime and I can't really ask them to leave. You were never really interested in the daytime shift, and they see most of the work here...."

"I know Tom, its okay, I've seen the books too. I know how things are going. It isn't as if the town needs two all night animal clinics. The one on Mississippi Camp road is probably seeing weak demand as well. I should have seen this coming."

"Now Bruce, I want you to know that I'm happy to give you a solid recommendation wherever you want to do, you've done good work and have kept the place in fine shape, I just can't afford you anymore. I'm probably going to sell the place this year anyhow, and it has to be in good financial shape before I can do that, you understand , don't you?"

The poor guy was taking this way harder than Bruce was. "Sure Tom, I totally do, don't worry, I have some family money, I'll be fine until I can find another job. I was thinking of going back for some large animal training," he lied, "but its okay. When do you want to make this effective."

"Well, I'll give you two weeks severance, but I'm shutting down the overnight practice immediately."

"Keep the money Tom, use it to spruce the place up, I'll be fine. This was a good job.", Tom looked as if he was about to cry. Most people can't handle firing people, Bruce knew. "I really enjoyed it, but I'll find another."

"Thanks for taking this so well Bruce, you're a real good guy, you know."

Bruce left Tom's office and collected his things and put on his jacket. The barest hint of sunlight was taking the sky from the dark black of night to deep dark velvet blue.

Bruce Napoleon, Vampire Veterinarian, pulled his Volvo away from the side garage of the all night emergency pet care center where he used to work, alone, on the night shift.

Keep Reading! Chapter 2 awaits...

(written November 3rd. 4394 words total, 3678 of which count.)