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.)

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