www.sparkythegoldfish.com is all about Sparky and his unusual life.

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Night Life - 8

Kara and I finally got some time together several days later when she snuck into my room. I sat up in bed, grinning happily.

"Sparky, we don't have much time." She sat on the edge of the bed. "I don't know how much longer we can safely stay here. That monster is feeding human children to his own children, and every day I reject his advances I fear more for your safety."

"I thought we had to wait for my memories."

"Yes, that's why we came here. But I can't let them hurt you, Sparky." She looked genuinely worried about me.

A glimmer of hope filled my eyes. "Then you do care about me."

"Of course I care about you. What are you talking about?"

My voice grew uneasy. "Well, when Étienne asked you to marry him, you told him that I wasn't the reason you said no."

Kara took a slow, measured breath. "This is very complicated, Sparky. When you get your memories back, you will have no feelings for me. I know that man, and he is not someone I would ever let myself get close to."

"But the kiss we shared..."

"I had to help you shield yourself from Étienne's influence. You don't know how to program the little ones, so I had to give you some that were already programmed."

"Oh..." My stomach knotted.

Kara saw my anguish and put her hands on my shoulders. "I can't let myself fall for you. Don't you understand? We're on a mission. We have to restore your memories." Her voice choked as she spoke, tears streaming down her cheeks. "I can't fall for you. I can't ..."

I pulled her to me and kissed her. Our arms wrapped around each other as the kiss lingered. The room seemed to dissolve into a swirl of bliss. I brushed a strand of hair off her face and kissed her tears. She was so beautiful, so vulnerable right now. I looked deeply into her eyes, and spoke with firm resolve.

"Screw the memories. You and I can leave here now, and we'll figure out another way to save the world."

"It's almost dawn."

"Then we'll leave at sunset. Kara, we are stronger when we are together. Like this." I kissed the tip of her nose. "Trust in me."

She slowly nodded her head and we kissed again.

This time we weren't transferring programs for the little ones.

posted 2005-04-01 00:00:00

Night Life - 9

I tried to sleep, but all I could think about was Kara. She had gone back to her room to avoid suspicion, and I longed to hold her again, to kiss her again. Soon we would be on our way. Far from this horrid place and the monster who ran it.

I looked over to the goldfish bowl to see my little friend.

Phillip was standing next to it, studying the goldfish as it swam. I startled.

Phillip's gaze never left the goldfish. "Choo choo," he said.

I quickly surveyed the room. He was alone. Jacqueline was not with him. "Phillip," I said, straining to keep the nervousness out of my voice. "So nice to finally meet you."

His little cherub head turned to me, his eyes dark and sinister. "Do you think goldfish taste good?" he asked, grinning.

I slowly stood up next to the bed. "Now, Phillip. That goldfish is my pet."

He giggled and took a step away from the goldfish bowl. "I don't care about the goldfish. But there is something I need for my science experiment."

"Your science experiment?" I involuntarily stepped away from him.

He stepped closer. "Papa may live in the past, but I don't. Technology is really amazing these days, don't you think?"

I continued to back away from the little monster, until I eventually met the wall.

"You'd be surprised what kind of knowledge and equipment you can get your hands on when you can hack into any computer system in the world. For example, I regularly scan everyone who enters this house. And your brain, Sparky." He shook his head. "Your brain has a lot going on up there, doesn't it?"

"I... I don't know what you're talking about."

"Let's see what's going on inside that brain of yours."

He moved so fast I had no time to react. He was on me, pinning me to the ground. He raised a sharp chisel into the air, aimed at my head.

Darkness.

posted 2005-04-02 00:00:00

Night Life - 10

Kara entered the room and saw my mutilated body. The skull was cracked open and hollow. She screamed and fell to her knees. Étienne ran in a moment later and froze, startled by the sight. Kara sobbed, her body shaking. Étienne rested a hand on her shoulder and she jumped away, landing in a crouch on the far side of the room, hissing at him.

"M'Lady, I'm so sorry. This wasn't my doing." He opened his hands as a peace gesture.

"Stay away from me!" She slowly stood, her body still heaving with sobs. "You murderer."

"You must believe me. I will find out who did this and he will be punished."

Kara slowly turned to the side, still keeping him in view, but avoiding his gaze. "You already know who did this, don't you?"

Étienne sighed. "My son, Phillip. He's -- difficult -- sometimes."

"Difficult?" She pointed at my body. "You call this difficult?"

"Please, Lady Kara. Please do not hold this against me."

She turned with her back toward him and glanced over to the goldfish bowl. Two goldfish swam around inside. She moved closer and surreptitiously slid her hand into the water. I swam into her fingers and they softly wrapped around me.

"I want to leave this place now," she said. "If you really care anything for me at all, then let me leave now."

I could hear the dejection in Étienne's voice. "Very well. You may go."

posted 2005-04-03 00:00:00

Angel's Gift - 1

I almost had the illusion of flying. Suspended in a water-filled ziplock sandwich baggie from the rearview mirror of the Lamborghini, cruising down the open road at one hundred and sixty miles per hour, was kinda cool and it helped pass the time during our long drive.

Kara eased off the accelerator and we slowed down to around ninety. "We need to start looking for someplace to stop," she said. "Sunrise isn't too far off."

Étienne had actually let us go. Led us through the bewildering maze of their underground transit system, all the while trying to talk Kara into staying, and delivered us to the Lamborghini, all fueled up and ready to go. Even repaired the broken window. How nice of him.

Kara had kept me hidden from him, and we weren't sure what he or his monstrous little son, Phillip, knew about me, if anything. When Phillip had cracked open the skull of the body I was controlling, I had fallen out to the floor, and did my best to flop around like any normal goldfish would do. As if it were perfectly normal for a goldfish to fall out of a man's brain after you cracked his skull open. Little Phillip ignored me and worked quickly to transfer the human brain parts into a container he had. Only after he had secured the brain did he put me into the bowl with the other goldfish. And there I waited for Kara. Afraid to communicate with her for fear that Étienne would hear me. Hoping she would see me.

We had been driving for hours. Now we were running parallel to a large canyon on our right. It had to be a mile drop over the guardrail. Even at night under the silver moonlight, the view was breathtaking.

We were free from Étienne. This was supposed to be a good thing. But I couldn't help feeling very sad. All I wanted was to have a human body again so I could hold Kara in my arms. I sighed and let my body float aimlessly inside the baggie. Soon I was facing the rear window.

My heightened vampire goldfish eyes saw the shape of two vehicles behind us, accelerating, their headlights off.

"We've got company," I said.

Kara's eyes flashed up to the rearview mirror. "We don't have time for this," she said.

The flashing police lights and sirens came on all at once.

posted 2005-04-04 00:00:00

Angel's Gift - 2

Kara downshifted and we accelerated like a rocket, leaving the police cars far behind. During my days swimming idly in my goldfish bowl watching TV, I had seen enough police shows to realize that we had to find an exit off the main road. The police would surely be setting up a road block ahead. And eventually they'd bring in a helicopter.

The car hugged the road as we whipped around the bends in the road. If not for her superior reflexes and eyesight, we surely would have crashed by now.

We both saw the spike strips ahead of us at the same time. Kara lurched the car hard to the right and we skidded off the road, barely missing the sharp spikes covering the highway. The Lamborghini was not made for off-road driving, and Kara had trouble regaining control as we skidded through dirt and gravel. She barely made it back onto the road.

We both thought it at the same time. This wasn't right. They had already been waiting for us with the spike strips. We were in serious trouble.

Blinding lights from three helicopters suddenly appeared in front of us, and a huge line of police cars blocked the road ahead.

There was nowhere to go. Dawn was rapidly approaching and would kill us both before the police could sort anything out. The drop over the guardrail was a mile if not more. Kara had been able to survive a three-story fall, but it had been close. No way she could survive this height. We were too far out in open land to get out and run. Police were everywhere.

The car suddenly swerved right and accelerated for the guardrail.

"What are you doing?" I yelled.

Kara frantically pressed at the pedals and tugged at the steering wheel. "It's not me! I can't control the car!"

The guardrail rapidly approached as the car sped over the gravel out of control. "Jump out!" I yelled.

But it was too late. Kara was reaching for me before she would try and jump out of the car. And that was a precious extra second she didn't have.

The car smashed through the guardrail at over two hundred miles per hour, out over the mile-high canyon floor.

posted 2005-04-05 00:00:00

Angel's Gift - 3

A vampire's body can only take so much damage. The head and the heart are the key areas. Keep those parts intact and you can live forever. Smashing to the ground from a mile-high fall is most likely going to damage one or both of those parts. Even for a vampire. And if we somehow managed to survive, we'd be incapacitated long enough for the police to arrive and the sun to rise.

So all in all, as Kara and I crashed through the guardrail over the canyon, I pretty much figured this was it.

I decided to spend my final moments of life doing something worthwhile. As the car plummeted to the canyon floor, I directed my soundless voice toward Kara.

"Kara --"

"Yes, Sparky."

"Kara, I lo..."

Twisting, screeching metal suddenly distracted us, and we looked up to see the roof of the car being ripped away. Two magnificent beings were on top of the car as we fell, opening it up and reaching in for us. They looked identical, each with long golden-brown hair, deep piercing eyes, and wearing silver clothes with large billowing cloaks flapping in the turbulent air. They seemed perfectly calm as the ground raced up to meet us. Working quickly, they grabbed us both and pulled us from the car. We shot out along the ground at a blinding speed and I barely had time to look back and see the car smash into the ground, disintegrating into a twisted mess of metal.

We landed softly on the ground, a few hundred yards from the car. One of the beings gently set Kara on the ground and the other placed me into her hands. They looked down at us, smiling benevolently. One of the beings then sat down in a cross-legged posture and his twin stood behind him. Kara managed to sit up as the police helicopters were investigating the car wreckage, their searchlights beginning to scan the surrounding area. Our rescuers ignored them. We could only watch, transfixed.

The being sitting down suddenly stiffened, and I could barely make out some type of white energy light shooting up from his body out the top of his head. The other being standing over him seemed to receive this energy into his head and lurched back, almost losing his balance. The sitting figure slumped forward and the standing figure smiled at us, revealing fangs.

"A gift," he said. And then he flew away into the darkness.

Kara and I stared at the slumped figure as a helicopter search light found us.

"Do it," I said.

Kara tore open the baggie and took me in her fingers. A loud voice from above boomed at us.

"Freeze right where you are."

Kara slid me into its mouth.

I worked fast, tiny filaments shooting out of my body into the roof of its mouth.

I heard helicopters landing, feet running all around us.

I opened my eyes and saw Kara's beautiful face looking right at me, her eyes wide.

I wrapped my arms around her and flew us up into the night sky.

posted 2005-04-06 00:00:00

Angel's Gift - 4

My new body was much more powerful than the old one. I could fly!

Kara studied my new face with amazement as I flew through the air. We were far from the police and the crash site, moving over a long stretch of trees. My will seemed to guide us and I effortlessly aimed my body in the direction I wanted us to go.

"Sparky, the sun," Kara said.

The sun was minutes away from revealing itself, and we were out in the middle of nowhere. My body was a vampire too now, so it seemed. I scanned the ground, searching for a place we could hide and be safe.

A faint melody sang in my mind, like an ancient music box accompanied by a young woman's voice.

Come, my children
My cradle is bare
Fill my longing
To meet you there 

Come, my lover
My heart is torn
Fill my longing
To taste the thorn 

The voice pulled at me, and I found myself changing direction, accelerating toward a valley just beyond a mountain of trees. Kara's fingers dug into my back as the first rays of sunlight crept over the horizon, racing toward us.

I darted straight down into the valley, and saw a large two-story house next to a small pond. One of the upstairs bedroom windows was open and large enough for us to enter. We slowed and passed through the open frame, my feet landing on the hardwood floor with a gentle thud. I set Kara on her feet as my large cloak fluttered around us and settled down.

A young woman, possibly eighteen years old, stood in the bedroom, dressed in a long white silk robe. She had long blonde hair, braided down to her waist, and a delicate face. She quickly opened the door to a large walk-in closet, and Kara and I hurried in. She closed the door behind us and it was pitch black inside.

I held Kara's hand. We could both feel the sun rising outside. The hairs on the back of my neck tingled with warning not to go outside. We felt our way in the dark closet and sat down on the floor.

Outside in the bedroom I heard someone knocking on the young woman's bedroom door.

"Madeleine? Is everything okay in there?"

"Yes, Daddy. I was just moving a chair."

"All right, sweetheart. Off to work now."

"Bye, Daddy. Have a good day at work."

A music box started playing. And the young woman hummed the haunting melody that had led us here.

posted 2005-04-07 00:00:00

Angel's Gift - 5

Kara and I sat in the dark closet, holding each other's hand as our eyes gradually grew accustomed to the darkness. We talked without making a sound.

"Can we trust her?" Kara asked.

"I don't know. I think so. We don't really have a choice, do we?"

The sun had risen outside, and we were helpless until nightfall.

I felt Kara swallow uneasily. "Sparky, what's going on?"

I squeezed her hand, trying to appear more self-assured than I felt. "I wish I knew. Something called me here. A song in my head."

"It's not just that. Look at this whole night. Cops appear out of nowhere, obviously waiting for us, something seems to take over control of the car and drive us through the guardrail, two flying vampires just happen to show up and rescue us from the falling car, they give you a new body right when we need one, and here you find this place where this girl hides us in her closet just as the sun's coming up, as if she'd been expecting us."

I shrugged. "Maybe we're really lucky?"

Kara giggled and put her hand to her mouth.

"Look," I said, softly running my hand down the side of her face. "I don't know if we have a guardian angel or if we're being manipulated. The important thing is that we're together and we're safe."

She squeezed my hand and let out a breath she had been holding.

"We'll find the answers," I said. I had no idea if we'd find any answers. But somehow I felt a lot more confident in this new body.

I leaned back through some hanging clothes until my back found the closet wall, and pulled Kara into my arms.

"Rest," I said. My eyes stayed open. I wanted to be ready in case someone opened the closet door.

posted 2005-04-08 00:00:00

Angel's Gift - 6

Madeleine opened the closet door and peered inside. I sat up straight and Kara stirred against me, still sleeping. Light from the bedroom illuminated the back of Madeleine's head and shoulders. She was wearing bluejeans and a black t-shirt. Her long blonde hair was hanging free now, with two small braids in front on each side.

"You can come out now," she said. "The sun just went down."

Kara woke as Madeleine spoke and we slowly stood. Madeleine watched us with utter fascination.

I got a better look at her bedroom as we stepped out of the closet. The walls were a dark maroon color, lined with antique paintings. One in particular caught my eye. A male angel was sprawled across a rock, his head tilted back facing upward, his arm dangling out to the side. I wasn't sure if he was asleep or dead. The background was draped in black. A small plaque at the bottom of the frame read:


Morpheus
by Jean-Honoré Fragonard

"I've been waiting for you my entire life," Madeleine said. Her voice had an edge of nervousness to it. I had the feeling she had practiced this speech many times, but now that she was finally delivering it, she wasn't so sure of herself.

"I'm ready," she said.

Kara and I looked at her blankly. "Ready for what?" Kara asked.

Madeleine pulled her hair to the side, exposing the bare skin on her neck. I could see her blood flowing through her artery there and found my palms were tingling and moist with perspiration.

"To receive the immortal kiss," Madeleine said, trying a little too hard to sound dramatic.

Her neck looked so inviting and without even thinking my tongue caressed against my fangs and my body was filled with heat.

Kara elbowed me in my side and I started. "We really appreciate what you've done for us," Kara said, "but you don't know what you're asking."

Madeleine stared at me. "Oh but I do."

I suddenly felt uncomfortable. Being in a human vampire body was still new to me, and Madeleine's neck looked so delicious. The desire to bite into her neck was close to overwhelming me. But Kara was right. We couldn't do this to the poor girl, even if she asked for it. Could we? Would it really be so bad?

Kara grabbed my arm and pulled me over to the window. "Get a grip on yourself!" she said silently.

I blinked my eyes, trying to shake the fogginess from my mind.

"You have a rich, full life ahead of you," Kara said. "The last thing you want is this curse."

Kara made one more silent communication to me. "Take us out of here. Now."

Madeleine reached out to me, but grabbed only empty air as I held onto Kara and flew out the window.

posted 2005-04-09 00:00:00

Angel's Gift - 7

Kara and I hovered in the air above the trees a few hundred yards from Madeleine's house.

"I'm sorry," I said. "I don't know what came over me."

Kara smiled. "You need to feed. And it looks like you need a little help in controlling your new urges."

She kissed me deeply and I lost my concentration for a moment. We dropped suddenly, narrowly missing the tops of several pine trees.

I grinned sheepishly and Kara chuckled. "We should go into town," she said. "I believe it's that way." She tilted her head to the north.

"Maybe we should do that again," I said. "The little ones might not have transferred over with the new programming."

She let out a small laugh. "They've already transferred over, Sparky."

She kissed me again anyway, much slower this time.

Life is good.

We soared through the air, a gentle evening breeze flowing against our faces and through our hair.

"Maybe it's time you filled me in on our mission," I said. "If we're not going to restore my memories, I need to know all the details."

Kara tensed a little. "I'll tell you," she said. "But I'm violating protocol. The person you'd be if we restored your memories might just kill me for telling you all this."

I gasped. "How can I be such a monster? I would never hurt you."

"He's very by the book , Sparky."

Kara pointed down below. "There's a hospital. Land nearby."

I glided down behind the large complex of buildings and we were soon walking on the freshly cut grass.

"We're stealing blood from a hospital?" I asked. "I thought all this time you had been..."

"Sparky," she said disapprovingly. "We're here to protect human beings. Not feed on them."

"Oh," I said. "Why did you say we have to kill all the vampires?"

Kara touched my arm and we stopped walking. "There wouldn't be any vampires on this planet if not for us."

"What?"

"I don't mean you and me, Sparky. I've told you before we're from another world. Far away from here. But we aren't the first ones to come here. You and I are chasing after a very dangerous criminal who came here centuries ago. He used the little ones to alter the DNA of human beings, to turn them into vampires."

"Why can't we reprogram the little ones and cure everybody?"

Kara sighed. "He encrypted the program. We can't break it. We've estimated that the entire planet will be infected with vampirism within another hundred years. And then humanity will begin to die out, because their food source will dry up."

"So that's it? We're supposed to just kill all the vampires?"

"And find and stop the fugitive."

"Kill him you mean."

"Yes, kill him."

I looked at her in the moonlight. "What about us? We're both vampires. If there's no cure..."

Kara bit on her lower lip and looked into my eyes.

"We die, too, Sparky."

posted 2005-04-10 00:00:00

Angel's Gift - 8

We hid in the woods and drank from the blood packs. It was impossible to drink from them without letting blood dribble down our chins. Kara looked very sexy in the moonlight, her eyes half-glazed over as she drank, blood trickling down her neck. I shook my head. Weren't the little ones supposed to keep me from feeling this way?

"There's got to be another way," I said. "We'll force him to tell us how to decrypt the program."

Kara ran her tongue over her lips, licking up blood. "We'd need a cipher key," she said. "It's likely he doesn't even know the key. Chances are he generated it randomly and never bothered to record it. Once he created the virus, it self-propagates. He wouldn't need the key anymore."

"I don't care. We're not committing mass murder on all the vampires. And you are not going to die."

Kara sighed and folded the empty blood pack. "Sparky, if we don't, every human being on this planet will be dead within a hundred years."

"Let's slow down and take this one step at a time. Don't we need to find this fugitive first?"

"Yes. Who knows what other viruses he's cooked up or plans to cook up. We need to stop him first."

"Good," I said. A reprieve! We had something else to do besides killing vampires. "And how do we go about finding him?"

"We need to find the oldest living vampire and hope he can point us in the right direction. Someone's got to still be alive who knew him."

"What about Étienne?"

"I don't know if he's old enough. But I guess that's our best place to start."

The music box melody began playing in my head again.

Come, my children
My cradle is bare
Fill my longing
To meet you there

I put my hands on my temples. "Stop it!"

Kara's eyes widened with concern.

"It's that song," I said. "I can't get it out of my head."

"Let's go have a little talk with Madeleine," Kara said.

I nodded and took Kara in my arms, willing us up into the air.

Come, my lover
My heart is torn
Fill my longing
To taste the thorn

posted 2005-04-11 00:00:00

Beast - 1

I knew something was wrong as we approached Madeleine's house over the treetops. The melody in my head had started playing in haphazard bursts, the tempo speeding up and slowing down. Kara sensed my uneasiness.

"What's wrong?" she asked.

I coasted to the ground in an open grassy patch. "Madeleine is somewhere in the woods. Alone and scared."

Kara nodded. "And we can cover more territory separately, on the ground."

I touched the side of Kara's face. "Be careful."

I entered the thicket of trees. The moon was shining bright, but the trees effectively formed a canopy that shielded much of the light. I moved quickly and quietly, expanding my awareness through the darkness, listening, looking, smelling. I felt the pulse of nightlife in the woods, even the pulse of the trees and the land.

It was too quiet. The forest was waiting. Holding its breath. Something powerful and savage was here.

I caught the scent of Madeleine's perfume. Jasmine. Faint. Mingled with fear. I hurried toward it. The tree branches seemed to bend open for me as I ran through the woods. My cloak weaved with my movement, avoiding snags, almost as if it were alive.

I froze in my tracks. Something was watching me. I saw nothing but felt its eyes locked on my back. I stood utterly motionless, a frozen statue. No breathing. No heartbeat. Not alive. The thing seemed confused, as if I had disappeared, and in a flash it was gone.

I looked around, smelling the air. Madeleine was moving, running. I raced in her direction, keeping my awareness wide so I might detect this thing if it came at me.

I saw Madeleine in the distance, about one hundred yards away. She desperately tried to run, but exhaustion had overtaken her, and she doubled over, heaving in vain to catch her breath.

A giant beast crawled slowly to her, from twenty yards away, stalking her. It must have been over eight feet tall, with broad muscular shoulders, moving on all fours, wild black hair streaming all over its body, huge claws and fangs. Eyes of a predator.

I would never make it to her in time.

I flew across the air toward the beast. Madeleine saw it now, and opened her mouth to scream but only a high-pitched whimper came out. The beast reared back on its hind legs and leapt.

Loud pops pierced open the silence and the beast jerked violently back away from Madeleine. It roared a deafening shriek as blood spurt from its body. A figure dressed in jungle camouflage seemed to rise up out of the ground, his rifle aimed at the beast.

The beast lay on its side, twitching. The man slowly approached the beast. I cautiously moved closer, staying hidden.

The man fired three more shots into the beast and it stopped moving.

Madeleine had regained her breath now and was starting to sob. The man turned to her and lowered his rifle.

He never saw the second beast leaping for him.

posted 2005-04-12 00:00:00

Beast - 2

The second beast was on the man in an instant, powerful claws slashing, razor sharp teeth biting. The impact knocked the man's rifle out of his hands. I moved like a bullet, racing across the ground with my body aimed like a spear. I saw Kara appear behind Madeleine and pull her away from the carnage.

My fists slammed into the side of the beast and knocked it off the man. It howled with rage and slashed wildly at me as we tumbled through the air. It was fast. It took everything I had to avoid its claws. My momentum sent me tumbling past the beast and I hit the ground hard.

When I got to my feet again the beast was ready to pounce on the wounded man. He was struggling to crawl away, but his gashes were severe and he had trouble moving. I yelled at the beast and spread my arms wide. It spun around and faced me, bearing its many fangs, roaring with power that made me shudder. I could not fight this beast hand-to-hand. It would tear me apart. The man crawled some more and the beast turned back to him. I yelled again and moved closer to the beast. It turned to me and slashed out, its deadly claws barely missing my face. I moved to a crouch, just out of its reach. I kept moving at odd angles, holding the beast's attention. It kept coming at me, adapting to my feints. It was learning. Soon I wouldn't be able to avoid it any longer. I had to do something. Something fast.

I flew up into the air in a wide arc over the beast, but I misjudged its ability to jump. Its claw raked into my cloak, snagging the material and shredding it down the middle. Suddenly my ability to fly was gone, and gravity sucked me down onto the beast. I kicked down as hard as I could, my foot finding the beast's head, but its powerful arm smashed into me and slammed me onto the ground. I hit hard and momentarily could not see. I opened my eyes and the beast was over me, raising up on its hind legs to make the killing blow.

More loud pops and the beast cried out as bullets ripped through its flesh. The injured man had drawn a handgun and was emptying the clip into the beast. The beast faltered but did not go down. The man was bleeding badly, and he kept pulling the trigger even after the gun was empty. The beast turned to him, mortally wounded, but somehow having enough strength left to take down its killer. The man didn't flinched. He stared the beast in the eye and yelled a warrior's cry as the beast opened its jaws wide and went for his throat.

One more loud pop and the beast collapsed onto the ground with a thud.

I looked up. Kara had found the man's rifle.

I hurried to the man to see if I could help him. He reeled back from me, fear in his eyes. His hands fumbled for a cross and he held it out at me. Something burned and I fell back, barely keeping my balance.

"What are you doing?" I yelled. "I'm trying to help you."

Kara held up her hands in a gesture of peace. "We just saved your life. We're not your enemy."

The man hesitated, unsure. His well-defined jaw-line and high cheekbones cast sharp shadows across his face. Cherokee, I was betting.

I looked into his eyes. "You'll die if you don't let us help you."

He met my eyes and slowly put the cross back under his shirt.

And then he passed out.

posted 2005-04-13 00:00:00

Beast - 3

"What the hell was that thing?"

I spun around and saw a large heavyset man holding a shotgun. He had short gray hair and was dressed in a red bathrobe.

"Daddy!" Madeleine caught his attention and they ran to each other, hugging.

Kara relaxed her grip on the rifle and let out a breath. We exchanged a look between us of how close this confrontation had been. Too close.

I kneeled next to the injured man who had passed out. "This man needs a hospital," I called out.

Madeleine's father was still trying to understand what little he had seen near the end of the battle. "Bring him back to my house. We'll call for an ambulance there."

Kara leaned in close to me as I lifted the unconscious man in my arms. "Sparky, why don't you fly him to the hospital?"

I turned so she could see my torn cloak. "I can't fly."

She reached out and felt the cloak's material. "Amazing."

We walked toward Madeleine and her father. "How so?" I asked.

"If I'm right," Kara said, "your cloak is made entirely out of the little ones. That's how you've been able to fly. They're probably repairing themselves as we speak. Eventually your cloak should be as good as new."

We reached Madeleine and her father, and he started walking us back to his house, nodding to Kara and me. "Name's Clifford. Clifford Baker. This is my daughter, Madeleine."

"Nice to meet you both," Kara said. "I'm Kara Nix, and this is..."

I couldn't help but smile at her hesitation.

"...Sparky. Sparky Nix -- my husband."

My eyes widened in surprise. Kara failed to hide a smile and avoided looking directly at me.

"I don't know how I can ever repay you," Clifford said. "You saved my daughter. She's all I got left."

"This man here was the one who saved your daughter," I said. I looked down at the fallen warrior, wondering if he'd live.

"Well then," Clifford said. "Let's be sure he makes it."

We walked through the woods, and the blood on the man I was carrying started to bother me. I wanted to drink it. It hadn't been that long since I fed, and the little ones were supposed to have stopped me from craving this way. But I couldn't help it. His wounds were so fresh. His blood so warm and filled with life.

posted 2005-04-14 01:00:00

Beast - 4

The ambulance took the injured man away and I managed not to drink any of his blood. I figured he needed all he could get.

Two police officers had arrived at the Baker household. Officer Stokes questioned us in the living room. He was tall and slim, dark brown skin, hair graying at the temples. Clearly the senior officer. His partner, Officer Hatcher, was young, wiry, pale complexion, and a little too cocky to be walking around with a loaded weapon in my opinion. He toned it down a few notches in front of Stokes, but I could see it in his eyes. He was angry he had missed the big battle and was itching to shoot something in the line of duty.

"Animal control is on the way," Stokes said. "Is everyone sure they don't know what kind of animal it was?"

I could only imagine what would happen when they finally did see the dead beasts. It was no known species on the planet. The general public had no idea that vampires, and now these beasts, existed. Only small fringe groups, such as the vampire slayers we had encountered before, acknowledged our existence. We suspected the government knew and were keeping it secret. What they were doing about it was a mystery.

"It was a werewolf." Madeleine's soft delicate voice shivered as she spoke.

Kara and I stared at her disapprovingly. Government agents were sure to arrive before long, and if everyone here believed the bests were werewolves, I'm not sure what would happen. The government would not want a panic to spread.

Hatcher laughed. "Yeah, right. Someone's been watching too many scary movies."

Clifford was sitting next to his daughter on the couch and held her hand. "You didn't see it. The damn thing was huge. Bigger than any wolf I've ever seen."

Hatcher sighed with impatient disdain. "Probably a bear."

I looked right at Hatcher and spoke softly. "Maybe it was a Teddy Bear."

Kara let out a small laugh.

Hatcher's face flushed. "Oh, is that what you think there, Spar-ky?" His tone was blatantly condescending as he said my name.

Stokes glared at his partner. "Hatcher, why don't you go wait outside for animal control."

Hatcher gritted his teeth. He had enough sense not to say anything further and went outside.

"Sorry about that, Mr. Nix," Stokes said. "Rookie in training."

I smiled. We had all sized up Hatcher. Poor Stokes had to work with him.

We told Stokes pretty much everything that had happened, leaving out the parts about me flying. We told him that Kara and I had been out for a late stroll and heard the commotion. Stokes didn't buy it, but he didn't push us. At least not yet. He also didn't like the fact that neither Kara nor I had any identification. We were trying to cooperate, but we couldn't let him take us to the police station. Dawn was not that far off, and we still had to find somewhere to hide from the sun. Madeleine's closet was probably not a good idea anymore.

Hatcher came back in, flanked by two animal control officers. "Let's go see what these critters really are," Hatcher said.

Stokes rolled his eyes, then looked at Kara and me. "Could one of you show us where the animals are?"

Kara and I both stood up at the same time. "We'll both go."

posted 2005-04-15 00:00:00

Beast - 5

Kara and I approached the two dead beasts with Officers Stokes and Hatcher, and the two animal control officers. Everyone suddenly stopped when they clearly saw the large carcasses.

"I don't think that's a bear," Stokes said.

The animal control officers shined large flashlights and gasped. They cautiously walked up to one of the dead animals.

"Sir," Hatcher said nervously. "I'll call for backup."

Stokes managed to keep his cool, even though the sight of these beasts unnerved him. "Backup for what, Hatcher? They look plenty dead to me."

Hatcher paced around, maintaining his distance from the bodies. One of the animal control officers moved to the other beast. They both started taking photographs, the camera flashes creating an eerie strobe effect out here in the woods.

"Do we have to stay here?" I asked. Kara and I had an hour before the sun would rise.

"We don't need you here," Stokes said. "But wait for us at the Baker's house. I still have more questions I need answers to."

"Thank you, Officer Stokes," Kara said, smiling.

Kara and I began our walk back, talking softly so no one would hear.

"Sparky, we need to find a place to hide."

"I know. It's a shame we can't stay and learn more about the beasts."

"We already know everything we need to know," Kara said. "Madeleine's right. They're werewolves. Our fugitive's latest experiment altering human DNA with the little ones."

"See, Sparky? I was right."

I froze in my tracks. "Madeleine?"

Kara looked around, puzzled. "What are you talking about?"

"I just heard Madeleine." I scanned the area around us and saw nothing.

"Now will you give me the immortal kiss?"

I looked into Kara's eyes. "She's speaking to me in my mind."

Kara's eyes widened. "That's impossible. She would need the little ones inside her in order to..."

"Yes she would," I said. I stared at Madeleine's house, now visible in the distance.

"It seems Madeleine is not what she appears to be."

posted 2005-04-16 00:00:00

Beast - 6

Madeleine met us outside in her back yard. "I have no idea what you're talking about," she said. "I've never heard of the little ones."

Kara's voice grew stern. "Cut the crap, Madeleine. You've established a link with Sparky using the little ones. Even Sparky doesn't remember how to program them to do that. It takes years of disciplined practice."

Madeleine looked into my eyes and seemed quite delicate. "Sparky, please don't deny me the kiss."

I sighed. Yes, it was frustrating that Madeleine seemed to be hiding a lot from us. And she seemed so intent on ruining her life by becoming a vampire. But what bothered me most is that I wanted to give her the kiss. It's not a sexual thing. Her neck is just so inviting. To drink from someone so young and willing...

"I can't," I said. "It would be wrong." I looked at Kara. "We need to go."

Madeleine grabbed my arm. "You can stay in my closet again. I'll keep you both safe."

I removed her hand from my arm. "How can we stay in your closet when we don't trust you? You're hiding something from us."

"I've only ever been completely honest with you," Madeleine said. "I don't know why I have this psychic ability. I don't know why I've always known that I am to become a vampire. It's my destiny. I feel it in my bones."

I shook my head. "Goodbye, Madeleine."

Kara and I turned to leave. Stokes and Hatcher emerged from an opening in the woods in the distance, running, panic-stricken.

"Get inside!" Stokes yelled. "Now!"

I quickly escorted Madeleine into her house and turned back around. Stokes and Hatcher ran full out. Every thirty feet or so Hatcher would turn around and fire a shot into the woods. I couldn't see anything behind them. Hatcher was panicking.

I held the door open for them and once we were all inside, shut and locked it. Stokes and Hatcher struggled to catch their breath. Clifford ran into the room and stayed close to his daughter.

"What happened?" I asked.

Stokes glanced up at me. "More beasts." He pressed a small radio unit fastened near his shoulder. "Eleven ninety-nine. I repeat, eleven ninety-nine. Officer down. Do you copy?"

Hatcher's eyes were wide with fear. "They tore their goddamn throats out."

I looked out a large bay window. Outdoor floodlights illuminated much of the back yard. I scanned the area.

"Our bullets didn't even faze them," Hatcher said, his voice shaky.

"You need silver bullets," Madeleine said.

Hatcher stared at her wildly. I wondered how soon until he fell apart.

Then I saw them. All in a row, slowly walking into the light at the far edge of the yard.

Fifteen angry beasts.

posted 2005-04-17 00:00:00

Beast - 7

I turned to Clifford. "Please tell me you have a cellar."

"Yes," he said. "It's a furnished basement."

"Everybody down there. Now."

Clifford, Madeleine, and Hatcher immediately started toward the basement. Stokes was focused intently on his radio.

"Bring SWAT," he said. "Tell them to come with heavy firepower."

I gently touched his shoulder. "We need to go downstairs," I said.

He nodded. I was very impressed with Stokes. Thrust into an unpredictable, dangerous situation, he was keeping his composure.

The centerpiece of the furnished basement was a large pool table. I had always wanted to play pool. Back in my goldfish bowl days I enjoyed watching Nine-Ball competitions on TV. Not sure now would be the right time to suggest a game.

"We need to secure the door and windows," I said. One wall had a wooden door, with a simple deadbolt and sliding chain, and two windows with small locks. The beasts would go through those locks like they were toothpicks. Clifford had a woodshop in the back corner of the basement. Good man. We grabbed two-by-fours, a hammer, and nails. Everyone chipped in. Even Hatcher, after Stokes snapped at him.

"Don't forget the door leading upstairs," I said.

Kara had the rifle and handgun belonging to the injured man who had helped kill the first two beasts. "How much ammo?" I asked.

"Twelve rounds," she said.

That wasn't nearly enough. Barring up the doors and windows would only slow them down.

Hatcher walked up to Kara. "What do you have? Silver bullets?"

Kara sets the guns down and started helping Clifford barricade one of the windows. "Yes."

"What's going on here?" Hatcher said. "Who the hell are you people?"

"Hatcher!" Stokes was running out of patience.

"This is all wrong," Hatcher said. "We're all gonna die."

I wanted to say no, we're not going to die. Trouble was, I didn't believe that.

posted 2005-04-18 00:00:00

Beast - 8

Eventually, we had barricaded all the doors and windows the best we could. It looked better than I had thought it would. We even moved some heavy furniture in front of the downstairs door and windows. Exhausted, but still keyed up, we stood around the pool table. It was eerily quiet outside.

Clifford filled the silence with a story about how he and his daughter had moved here six years ago. Stokes leaned close to me, practically whispering. "You and your wife moved that armoire like it weighed nothing."

I looked into his eyes. He was a no-nonsense man. He'd smell a lie a mile away. I spoke very softly, the sound of my voice whispering through the air to him so that only he would hear. "We're vampires," I said. "But we're good vampires."

Stokes gaze remained strong and intense. Then he relaxed and shook his head. "You're telling me the truth."

"We're on your side," I said. "Please believe that."

He smiled. "I really don't have much of a choice about that, now do I?"

I smiled back. "No, I don't suppose you do."

Hatcher jumped. "Did you hear that?"

Everyone fell silent and listened intently.

An upstairs window shattered. Soon we heard soft thuds from above, footsteps landing on the floor after jumping through the window.

Madeleine held onto her father. "Daddy..."

Clifford pulled her close. Everyone's eyes were wide with fear.

Listening.

Waiting.

posted 2005-04-19 00:00:00

Beast - 9

The beasts moved through the house above us. Rough claws scraped along hardwood floors. We all looked at each other, not moving, not making a sound. The door leading upstairs had no heavy furniture blocking it. And they would find it first.

I looked at my cloak. It was still badly shredded. Not that I could really fly away and leave everyone else here.

Silence for a moment.

Something crashed against the door leading upstairs. Everyone jumped. They had found us.

Clifford took Madeleine back into the woodshop area.

More loud crashes against the door. Several of them were taking turns, rapidly throwing themselves at the door. The wood we had hammered around the door started to splinter.

Hatcher backed away from the steps leading up. "That's not gonna hold," he said, his gun out. Sweat poured down his face.

Stokes stepped close to Kara and me. "Those silver bullets will kill them?" He nodded to the rifle Kara was holding.

She nodded. "A good head shot will. If it's not a good head shot you'll just piss it off."

"And you only have twelve rounds?" Stokes asked.

"Right," Kara said. "And I counted at least fifteen of them outside."

Kara's eyes were fixed on the door as it creaked and shook while the beasts hurled their bodies at it.

Stokes touched her shoulder and she looked at him. He smiled. "They don't know we only have twelve rounds."

I couldn't help but admire the man. He was thinking on his feet while death moved in.

"It might work," I said. "If we can kill a few of them so the others can see, it might scare them off."

Hatcher was listening in. "No way you're opening that door!"

My hand twisted the fabric of my cloak. Think. Come on, Sparky, think.

One of the beams covering the door split in two. The door was almost caved in.

I held up my cloak to Kara. "Can you program this to reinforce the door and leave a small hole to aim the rifle through?"

A glimmer of hope entered her eyes. "Depends on if the little ones will allow it," she said.

She tossed the rifle to Stokes and grabbed my cloak, moving up the steps to the door. She put a corner of the cloak into her mouth.

"What is she doing?" Stokes yelled.

A chunk of wood punched out of the door and a large hairy arm thrust through, slashing, grabbing. Kara kept walking up the steps. Stokes aimed the rifle toward the door.

"Wait," I said. "You'll know when."

Kara was inches from the beast. They could smell her. Their ferocity increased as they worked on the door.

Kara threw the cloak at the beast's arm. The cloak spread out and latched onto the edges of the doorframe. It stretched itself tight, forcing the beast's arm back through the hole. The cloak was still shredded from before, but held fast to the door. A small hole opened up in the center of the cloak.

A beast immediately put its head to the hole, primitive eyes of rage staring at us.

Stokes pulled the trigger.

posted 2005-04-20 00:00:00

Beast - 10

The bullet hit the beast right between the eyes and it fell back with a yelp and thudded to the floor. Another beast looked through the hole in disbelief at what had just happened. Stupid beast. Stokes fired again.

Kara had flattened herself on the stairs after throwing the cloak, and now she crawled back down the stairs, giving Stokes a clear line of sight to the hole in the door. We saw nothing, and it was very quiet once again.

Hatcher started laughing nervously. "It worked," he said. "That scared them away." Hatcher was on the far side of the room. As far away from the steps as he could get and not run into the woodshop with Clifford and Madeleine. His back was against a large armoire blocking one of the windows.

"How long until help arrives?" I asked.

Stokes eased his grip on the rifle and pressed his radio shoulder unit. "Base come in. This is Victor three fifteen . Come in base."

Static.

Stokes tried the radio again, and still nothing.

"Why aren't they answering?" Hatcher asked, fear creeping back into his voice.

Stokes looked up at me, still trying his radio. "It's like the signal is being jammed," he said.

Glass shattered and the armoire pounded into Hatcher's back. He fired his gun while falling to the floor. The bullet narrowly missed Kara.

I ran over and pressed the armoire back to the window. The beasts were on the other side, smashing through the wood barring the window. Stokes readied the rifle and moved to where he could get a good shot. Kara moved down to Hatcher and grabbed the gun from his hand. He didn't complain. He just scurried back away from the armoire.

More beasts came and started pounding on the other window and the downstairs door.

I turned to Stokes and Kara. "Get back into the woodshop area. I'll try to take a few of them out when they break through.

Hatcher ran back to the woodshop.

Stokes appeared hesitant. "I'm not leaving you out here."

"Neither am I," Kara said.

"Stokes, you have to go back there. They'll tear you apart in a heartbeat. I can fight them off for awhile. Buy you some time."

"But they'll kill you," Stokes said.

"Your job is to protect Clifford and Madeleine."

Stokes hated it, but he slowly backed up toward the woodshop.

The monsters crashed against the wall like thunder, slowly weakening the door and windows.

Kara stepped up to me and placed her hand softly on my shoulder.

We stood together, readying ourselves.

Ready to face the beasts.

posted 2005-04-21 00:00:00

Beast - 11

One of the beasts thrust its upper body through the wooden barrier covering a window. Large, muscular arms flailed wildly, slashing at the air. It looked at Kara and me standing there, eyes cold and dark, filled with a terrifying primitive force that penetrated to my bones. It struggled to get the rest of its body into the room.

We backed up a step against the pool table. The pool table. "The slate!" I said. Kara and I grabbed each side of the pool table and we rammed it into the beast. I glimpsed startled eyes right before I heard bones crack and a weak yelp. We held the pool table against the windows.

Hatcher stared at us from the wood shop area. "What the hell are you two?" He raised his gun. "No human beings could do that!"

Stokes pushed Hatcher's arm down. "What's wrong with you? They're keeping the beasts out."

The pool table seemed to be holding the windows. My cloak was stretched tight across the upstairs door, its fabric turned into something impenetrable. That only left the downstairs door.

I looked to the door and it burst into the room, two beasts tumbling in after it. Stokes immediately shot one of them in the head, and I leaped onto the back of the other one. Kara slung the pool table toward the door and caught a third beast trying to come through.

I wrapped my arms and legs around the beast's back, holding on with all my strength as it thrashed around, claws slashing back at me. I jerked my weight from side to side, narrowly avoiding each strike. One of the windows was now uncovered and another beast broke through it. Stokes shot it, but the bullet hit its chest, and it lashed out at Kara, claws tearing down her shoulder. She screamed and I stiffened, allowing the beast I was on to grab my leg, claws sinking in, sending jolts of pain through my body. Stokes fired again, a perfect head shot to the beast about to strike Kara again. She continued to hold the pool table to the door and most of a window, despite the deep gashes in her shoulder. I grabbed the beast's head in front of me and twisted with all my might. Its neck cracked sharply and the beast collapsed to the floor.

In a flurry, five more beasts streamed through the unguarded window. Too many. Too fast. I stood at Kara's back and crouched down, flashing my fangs in a snarl.

They all leaped at once.

Suddenly it felt like my skin was on fire. My body jerked and stiffened, my eyes wide. Deep inside my body everything buzzed and shook, like an electric shock. My vision was failing me. My legs wobbled, my teeth clenched. I saw Madeleine in the distance starting to convulse as the shaking in my own body increased. I saw all the beasts begin to shake uncontrollably. I felt Kara convulsing against my back.

Then I passed out.

posted 2005-04-22 00:00:00

Captives - 1

I opened my eyes and everything was white. White ceiling, white walls, and a figure clad in a large white protective suit leaning over me.

"You're awake," she said. Her voice was tinny, being broadcast through a tiny speaker in her suit. I tried to get up. I couldn't move my arms or legs. Then I realized they were strapped to the table I was lying on.

"Where's Kara?" I asked, my voice dry and scratchy.

"The others are elsewhere," she said. Her voice was flat and neutral. She appeared to be working on my leg. I didn't feel any pain and I should have. Instead just a pleasant warmth throughout my body.

"Who are you? Where am I?" It bothered me that I couldn't see her face clearly through the suit's helmet.

She ignored me and continued to work on my leg. My brain felt like it had been scrambled and stir-fried. Flashes of memories darted in and out of my awareness, and I had to expend a great deal of energy to try and focus my attention.

"All done," she said. She held up a needle and squeezed the excess fluid out the tip.

"What's that?"

She jabbed the needle into my arm and the darkness rushed up to take me.

posted 2005-04-23 00:00:00

Captives - 2

When I woke up this time I was strapped to a metal chair. I blinked my eyes and looked around. Kara sat strapped in a chair to my left. She had apparently just opened her eyes, too. On my right was Madeleine, still unconscious, also strapped in a chair. This was a larger room than the first one I had been in, but it was still all white.

I looked into Kara's eyes. She nodded ever so slightly, letting me know she was all right. Also letting me know that we shouldn't try to communicate silently. Otherwise she would have done so. Madeleine began to stir. I turned to see how she was when a door in front of us opened.

A young man in his early twenties walked into the room, dressed in an immaculate white three-piece suit. His short hair was bleached white and his skin was pale. He appeared very delicate, his thin frame and face moving with slow deliberate movements. His eyes were large and round. At first I though his eyes were weary, but then they shifted to something unreadable, as if he had no emotion. He sat down in a chair facing us.

"Good morning," he said. His voice was soft and made him sound younger than he looked.

"Who are you?" I asked.

He studied me for a moment, as if I had just said the most amazing thing in the world.

Madeleine let out a shaky breath and we all looked at her. She looked at me, her voice trembling. "What's happening?" she asked me.

I did my best to appear calm. "We're safe now. Are you all right?"

She nodded. "I think so."

The young man cleared his throat and we all looked at him. "I will answer all your questions in good time. But first I have a few for you."

I casually pressed my wrists against the straps the held them to the chair. The straps felt very strong.

"My name is Lawrence Amarante. And I want to know where you were born."

I did not expect this question. I started thinking of what city and state I would answer with. I could say anything. How would he ever know?

Madeleine answered first. "Marseille, France. We moved to the United States when I was two. I don't remember anything about it."

Lawrence nodded politely and turned to me. I had narrowed it down between Antwerp, Belgium (a city whose name I could never hear without laughing) and San Francisco, California. I decided San Francisco would be the safer answer.

Kara spoke before I could answer. "We were born in a galaxy approximately four point seven billion light-years from here. There is no name for the galaxy, star, or planet that would have any meaning in English."

My mouth dropped open and I stared at Kara. She gazed firmly at Lawrence. I turned to see what Lawrence's reaction would be.

He nodded politely and spoke into the air. "Please come get Madeleine and take her to her father."

Madeleine's eyes widened and she smiled.

Two large men came into the room, removed Madeleine's straps, and led her out. She turned to look at us at the doorway, concern on her face, and then left.

"Why the straps?" Kara asked. "Are you afraid of us?"

Lawrence smiled, the corners of his mouth turning up in a barely perceptible movement. "Either one of you could kill me in a split-second," he said very calmly. "And that brings me to my next question."

He paused and studied us very closely. "Why have you come to my little planet?"

posted 2005-04-24 00:00:00

Captives - 3

"Your planet?" I said.

Lawrence shrugged. "A figure of speech."

"Cut the crap, Lawrence," Kara said. "You don't mind if I call you Lawrence, do you? You already know why we're here."

Lawrence's eyes flashed a hint of surprise. "I'd like to hear it from you."

"We've come to your little planet," Kara said, "to stop one of our own who came here a long time ago. He used our technology to turn human beings into vampires, and now werewolves. We had originally estimated that the vampires would destroy most of humanity in the next hundred years. But now with werewolves in the equation, it could be much less."

Lawrence nodded. "And how do I know you're not here to add to the chaos? After all, you're both vampires."

Kara sighed impatiently. "We had to become vampires to infiltrate their ranks and attract the attention of the older vampires, who we hope can lead us to the fugitive we're after." Kara stared at Lawrence and gave him her best sarcastic grin. "You can trust me, Lawrence."

Lawrence laughed and then spoke toward the ceiling. "Come release our guests and show them to their quarters."

I blinked. "You're letting us go, just like that?"

Lawrence stood and smoothed the fabric of his suit. "From the chairs, yes. From our fine facility here, not yet. I believe I can be of service to you in stopping this fugitive of yours. Let's move to more comfortable surroundings so I can answer your questions."

Lawrence left the room as two men came in to free us from our chairs. I turned to Kara. "How did you know he already knew everything about us?"

"Remember what happened to us in the basement?"

Images of Kara, Madeleine, the werewolves and I -- all convulsing -- flashed in my mind. I nodded.

"Lawrence here came very close to frying all of the little ones inside our bodies. He has somehow designed a weapon based on detailed knowledge of what the little ones are and how they work." Kara gazed deeply into my eyes as the last of the straps were undone.

"A weapon that can easily kill us all."

posted 2005-04-25 00:00:00

Captives - 4

They gave us nice clothes to wear, similar to what we had on before. My cloak had even been salvaged and was now fully repaired. A middle-aged woman led Kara and me through a series of corridors and we eventually reached a large room furnished with sofas, chairs, a widescreen television, shelves of books, and paintings on the walls.

Madeleine, Clifford, Stokes and Hatcher were all sitting comfortably and stood when they noticed us. Madeleine got up and ran to give us hugs. I couldn't help but smile.

Stokes grinned. "You're alive," he said. "We were beginning to wonder."

"Why are you all still here?" I asked.

Our guide excused herself and left. Kara and I walked into the room and took a seat together on a cozy loveseat.

Hatcher was the only one who didn't seem pleased to see us. "Because Larry is holding us prisoner," he said.

Stokes leaned forward in his chair, resting his elbows on his knees. "They keep handing us a bunch of nonsense about national security being threatened if any of us leave. At least they let me call my wife and tell her I would be away for awhile on important government business."

"This is important government business," Lawrence said. We all turned to look at the doorway. Lawrence stood there in his white three-piece suit. "And it is very much a matter of national security."

"How much do they know?" Kara asked, gesturing to our companions. I felt Stokes retreat from us in that moment. Kara and I were in on something that was responsible for keeping him prisoner here.

Lawrence walked over and sat in a chair that dominated the room, a chair the rest of us had avoided. "They might as well know everything," he said. "They can't leave until the situation is resolved. And afterward it won't make any difference what they know. Believe it or not, I'm holding them here for their protection."

"Yeah, right," Hatcher said. "I can take care of myself."

"Not against those beasts," Lawrence said. "If you left here, the beasts would find you and kill you within twenty-four hours."

Stokes sat back in his chair, crossing his arms. "But that's not the main reason you're keeping us."

Lawrence let out one his slow soft sighs. "No, not the main reason. Merely one I thought you'd appreciate the most."

Kara looked at Stokes. "If anyone associated with the vampires or the beasts found you, they could make you talk, and learn about Lawrence and this place." Kara turned to Lawrence . "Isn't that right, Mr. Amarante?"

Lawrence nodded. "Very perceptive, Ms. Nix. So why don't you tell your friends here who you really are and why you're here?"

Everyone except Madeleine looked at us suspiciously, waiting for an answer. Madeleine didn't care what the answer was. I could see it in her eyes.

She just wanted me to give her the immortal kiss and turn her into one of the walking dead.

posted 2005-04-26 00:00:00

Captives - 5

Kara told them almost everything. We were aliens, here to stop a fugitive who turned human beings into vampires and werewolves. She didn't tell them we were supposed to kill all the vampires and werewolves. She didn't tell them I was really a goldfish, residing in the brain of a human body I controlled. She told them everything we knew for sure that Lawrence had knowledge of.

Clifford and Stokes listened intently, hiding none of their astonishment, and seemed to believe us.

Hatcher just looked angry. We were monsters to him. Monsters he would like to kill if given the chance.

Madeleine seemed disappointed. She wanted to be a real vampire. Not someone who had been genetically enhanced to appear to be a vampire.

Clifford was the first to speak after a long stretch of silence. "Why did my daughter go into convulsions with the rest of you? She's not a vampire or a werewolf."

"Because," Lawrence said, "she has the little ones inside her body. Think of the little ones as millions of very tiny intelligent machines."

"Nanotechnology," Stokes said.

"Yes," Lawrence said. "Except far more advanced than anything human beings have dreamed up. We're not sure why they are in Madeleine's body. They act very differently from the other little ones we've seen. We suspect they were passed on genetically."

Clifford's eyes widened. "Genetically? Are you saying I gave them to her?"

"You or her mother," Lawrence said. "Since you have no little ones inside you, either her mother passed them on, or they eliminated themselves from your body once they had propagated to your daughter. They don't tend to serve any purpose inside her body. They don't seem to be doing anything. It's as if they're waiting for something."

I thought of the haunting melody of the music box and the song Madeleine had transmitted to me so only I could hear. We looked at each other and said nothing. Best not to volunteer information for Lawrence.

"This is all really fascinating," I said, turning to Lawrence. "But what happens next?"

Lawrence leaned forward in his chair and smiled. "You and Kara will go out and stop your fugitive."

"And how will we do that?" I asked.

"Simple," Lawrence said. "I know who he is."

posted 2005-04-27 00:00:00

Captives - 6

Kara's eyes widened and so did mine. Lawrence sat in his chair, looking at us, his lips curled in a slight smile that I have come to find very annoying.

"Who is he?" I asked.

"His name is Étienne. I believe you've already met."

My mind reeled with the information. Étienne could have killed us. Why didn't he? He must not have known who we were. And his attraction to Kara. Asking her to marry him.

"Is he old enough?" Kara asked. "I pegged him for eighteenth century France when he was made into a vampire."

Madeleine's eyes lit up. Why had this information intrigued her so much? I remembered the paintings on the wall in her room. All of them were by French painters. Eighteenth century French painters.

"He's much older than that," Lawrence said. "Eighteenth century France seems to be the last era he was extremely fond of."

I thought of Étienne's son, Phillip. Phillip, the little monster who ate children his father had delivered to him. Phillip, the little monster who cracked open the skull of the last body I was in and scooped up the brains for his science experiment. Étienne took children and fed them to this little monster. Étienne had turned humanity into vampires and werewolves. Étienne was slowly destroying the human race. My blood boiled as I pictured Étienne's smiling face, trying to win the affections of Kara.

"Let's go get him," I said.

Lawrence noticed my anger and gently raised his hand. "Not so fast. Étienne is very powerful. You're going to need a plan. And some help."

"And you're going to help us," Kara said.

Lawrence nodded. "We can't find Étienne on our own. But I believe you two can find him again. We'll supply you with a homing device. Initially it will be deactivated and hidden from detection. When you are with Étienne, and you know you can keep him with you for a short while, you will activate the homing signal. Then my people will move in."

"And zap everyone?" Kara asked.

"It's the only way," Lawrence said.

The thought of convulsing again until I passed out was not very appealing.

"How do we know you won't kill us all?" Kara asked.

Lawrence gave Kara and me the same sarcastic grin Kara had used on him earlier.

"You can trust me."

posted 2005-04-28 00:00:00

Captives - 7

Lawrence provided Kara and me with an arsenal of weapons. Guns and rifles with silver bullets. Even a couple of Uzi sub-machine guns. A variety of different size blades, wooden stakes, crossbows.

We walked outside late at night with Lawrence and were presented with a brand new Lamborghini Murciélago.

"Wow," I said.

Lawrence smiled. "We've made a few modifications. Kara will know how to talk to the car."

"The little ones are inside this car?" Kara asked.

Lawrence nodded. I really needed to learn how to program the little ones.

"After we eliminate Étienne," I said, "you are going to let everyone go?"

"Yes," Lawrence said. "Étienne is the only serious threat. Once he's out of the picture, the rest will be easy by comparison."

"The rest," Kara said.

Lawrence stood very still, studying our reactions. "Removing all the vampires and werewolves."

"And since Kara and I are vampires..." I said.

Lawrence sighed. "You both knew what you were getting into when you came here. You knew it was a one-way ticket."

I started to protest that I didn't know. But he was right. The only reason I didn't know was because my memories were never restored. Memories that would probably make me into a killing machine as dangerous as Étienne. I wondered if I was strong enough to take on Étienne without those memories. I wondered if I was dangerous enough. Ruthless enough.

Now Kara and I had to go and kill Étienne.

And then Lawrence would kill us.

posted 2005-04-29 00:00:00

Infiltration - 1

Kara drove us along the dark desolate highway. Lawrence had given me the keys and I had started to climb into the driver seat, when I noticed a pouting glare from Kara, came to my senses, and tossed her the keys. She smiled and gave me a nice kiss.

Several things were bothering me. I didn't trust Lawrence and his people to remove all the vampires and werewolves after Étienne was dead. That was supposed to be our job.

I didn't want to kill all the vampires and werewolves. They were human beings, stricken with a curse. Kara had explained that the encryption on the little ones couldn't be broken, and there was no cure. Meaning all the vampires and werewolves had to die to stop the curse from spreading.

But you know what bothered me the most? I know this is very selfish of me, but Kara and I will never have a chance to live a normal life and be happy together. We'll never have a chance to live in a house and snuggle in each other's arms every night. We'll never have a chance to make love in our own bed and not worry about getting killed two seconds later. Hell, we'd never have a chance to make love. I don't think it would be very romantic to say, "Hey, I know we're about to go start a bloodbath, but would you like to make love first?"

"What are you thinking about, Sparky?"

Kara was looking at me, concern in her eyes.

I found it difficult to look into her eyes. "Nothing," I said. "It's nothing."

Her head turned back straight ahead, and I could tell she knew something was bothering me. She wasn't pressing. God, I loved her so much.

"We're going back to the nightclub?" I asked. My voice sounded a little choked. I took a deep breath and tried to relax.

"I think it's our best bet," she said.

"Étienne will be very happy to see you again."

"Yes, I suppose he will."

My fingers fidgeted with my seatbelt. "The nightclub's only two hours away. We have plenty of time before sunrise."

I felt Kara looking at me again while I stared out the windshield.

Suddenly she accelerated and turned off the next exit.

"Where are we going?" I asked.

She held up a finger to her lips. "Shh..."

Surprises. Kara was always full of surprises.

She pulled into the parking lot of a nice, expensive hotel.

"What are we doing here, Kara?"

She turned to me, and her face looked more vulnerable than I can remember.

"Something we should have done before now, Sparky."

I put my hand to the side of her face and gazed into her eyes. "Are you saying what I think you're saying?"

She nodded. "Let's get a room."

posted 2005-04-30 00:00:00