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Dark Lords: Book One, Chapter 19, Wake

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Chapter Nineteen

Wake

New Oxford General University Hospital, New Oxford, Planet Albion, Realm

 

Claudette took a deep breath, she hated morgues. The body lay on the stainless steel table. Lifeless. They had known him for such a short time, yet he had been filled with such promise.

George was staring at the body. He was feeling sick, physically and something deeper. This was not how things should have gone. The body seemed small, diminished somehow. Death was always with those who lived a thousand years, but not since the war had he been affected thus. Tears were again threatening.

Around them the hospital was operating under quarantine. Johanna was infected, and quite possibly Claudette and himself. He could handle a direct enemy. But this … this smoke and mirrors. This striking at children! This boy was barely a man, he had not even had this thirtieth birthday yet!

George knew that Claudette was angry, that her anger would be a cold thing. The man had lived under their roof, he had eaten meat with them, his mind, his future had been full of potential. He had been in their care and his life had been taken, why?

A dark thing in George wanted to release Claudette from her promise. Wanted to send his beautiful, deadly wife into the universe to hunt down those behind this. In the same breath he wanted her safe. If they could strike so close to home, how could she be safe? Were any of them safe? A pressure on his shoulder brought him back to the cold truth of the body on the stainless steel table.

Claudette squeezed her husband’s hand. She waited until he composed himself.

Gregor had entered the room, a data pad in his hand. George looked at the dark skinned man who accompanied him. The coroner waited for the Armorum’s nod before starting.

“Death was from a self inflicted gunshot to the head.”

“Why?” George asked. “Why would Patrick do that?”

“To warn us. Once he died, the alarm would have sounded. They had to stop him from warning us. So he did the only thing he could. No doubt they were unprepared. He shot himself, before he could die,” the coroner rolled Patrick Ulster’s body over, “they inserted the device, here into his brainstem.”

The electronic nannite implant lay on the small stainless steel trolley.

“It kept his heart going and his biometrics reading normal, but he was already brain dead. It couldn’t last. His body was shutting down. They were running out of time.”

“I believe, that is why they acted so aggressively. When the device failed, we moved in,” Gregor said. “Section 42 figured out we were hitchhiking on their signal twelve hours ago. When their agent went to the aid of Malwas and Hunter, she used an open signal to warn everyone what was happening.”

George looked over to the body on the next table. Another young life taken. She had been only eighty-five years old. Her young face stared lifelessly at the ceiling. Charlie Girard, head bowed, stood a few feet from her. The sheet covered her body, both halves. The thing had literally torn her in half, but not before she had used a jammer to stop whom ever had been using the ELF from escaping. The whole of Albion was now under lockdown. One of the ELF bodies lay on the next table. On a rolling cart sat the magnetically sealed unit inside of which was whomever had controlled the male ELF Or at least a copy of that person’s mind. Where ever the third creature was, it’s master also was not escaping.

* * *

The coffee, Charlie had to admit, was damn good. The real cream was just decadent. For a moment he let himself no think, but the moment passed. He took his seat, across from the Armorum. Carla was going to be missed, but Brian would recover. As for the others, he felt a level of helpless anger he hadn’t for a very long time. If the Guard, the Realm’s equivalent to the Interplanetary Federal Security Forces, hadn’t been there, Charlie knew he’d have lost his entire team, his second team and maybe more. This op was turning into his worst nightmare.

Sitting at this table, drinking real coffee, he decided that having Caudette De La Roche go through his head was almost worth it. She had been kind. But his entire team, their entire ship had been gone through, was still being gone through. It was rather embarrassing. The fact that the Vampires had found a spy when his own people couldn’t still irked him.

“So it is a virus then?” Gregor asked Doctor Morgan Oberlander. The woman nodded, Dr. Shepard next to her was already nodding.

“And nano tech combined. It was hidden within an ecoli bacteria. Designed from the atoms up,” Dr. Oberlander said. “Just like the ELF’s downstairs, I understand?”

Gregor nodded.

“I’m sorry, Dr. Oberlander, what is your specialty?” Charlie asked.

“I am the Vampyre Sapiens Specialist. I am here doing a study.”

“And you Dr. Shepard are the Doctor on call?”

“Trauma specialist.” He nodded. “Twelve years.”

Charlie thanked them. “And this virus, it’s designed to be lethal to Vampires but didn’t kill Jason Malwas?”

“No, not to be lethal. To implant itself in the brain and neural tissue. It builds a biological neural net that can act as an override. A very advanced Puppet Virus. I think it was supposed to turn them into biological sleeves, like the engineered life forms in the morgue.” Dr. Oberlander replied. “Malwas was infected in the washroom. What ever they were trying to implant, it is still affecting him, but over time his immune system would have won. The Vampyre immune system adapts, so it is in a constant battle. They just could not have known that he would bite Mr. Hunter.”

“I don’t understand?” Charlie asked. “How does Mr. Malwas biting Mr. Hunter change things?”

“There are physiology effects of a proper bite—” Dr. Oberlander started, but the Armorum cut her off with a wave and a glare.

“Morgan, Mr. Girard does not require a biology lesson.” Gregor’s voice was iron.

Charlie knew that there was something here. Something to do with the bite.

“Mr. Malwas’ body responded to the bite by pumping his immunities to their fullest. When Jason drank Mr. Hunter’s blood, his body began creating antigens for anything that it found there.” She glanced to the Armorum before continuing. “Mr. Hunter’s unique genetics meant the process was more efficient than normal. And Mr. Hunter had been infected with the same virus.”

Charlie watched the doctors fidget. There was something big they weren’t telling him. Charlie had always had a sixth sense about such things, and there was something here, very important, he could feel it. “So Malwas’ immune system went crazy fighting this ELF virus. That’s why he nearly died of a fever?”

“Yes, exactly. But with our viral database and technicians we were able to boost his immune system and it has wiped out the active components of the virus, more importantly, we’re synthesizing an universal antigen now. We will have everyone given an immunization within tweny-four hours. There will still be a response but no one will be able to install a neural net in unsuspecting people.”

And there it was. Charlie nodded and acted like it wasn’t a big deal. But there was no way in the verse that they should have been able to stop that neural net building virus so fast. A virus they had admitted was part nano-tech. A virus which would account for some of the madness currently sweeping the HFSS. Which meant that the whole Vampire bites only resulted in a buzz and lower plasma count was a line and he along with the rest of the Hominid systems had bought it. But maybe, the Puppet Masters hadn’t. Which meant what?

“How long would this Super Puppet virus have lasted? Would it have built a working bio-net?” Charlie watched the look pass between the two doctors. He needed his specialists in here.

“Long enough to do harm,” Armorum Bowie said.

“So the ELF’s were just meat suits and thanks to Carla Najib you’ve got an isolated head in a bottle?” Charlie waited.

“It would appear.” Claudette spoke. “Unfortunately, the first one escaped when it’s biological sleeve became incapacitated. Jason and Alex fought well, if uncoordinated.”

* * *

Doctor Shepard was heading to the crash quarters. That was what they called the rooms put aside for extended shifts. He was exhausted. Though their emergency was now well in hand, the hospital quarantine would not be lifted until they knew, with certainty, that the threat to their Vampyre was neutralized. He glanced at his watch. He had been up for thirty-two hours.

He decided to do a quick check on the patients. Entering the ICU monitoring centre, Doctor Scott Shepard was surprised to see, through the window, Morgan setting up a tray next to Malwas’ bed. More surprising, there were no other staff present. Dr. Shepard entered the recovery room as Morgan began closing the privacy curtain around Malwas.

“Morgan, what are you doing?”

“Collecting samples. I will see you in crash in a few minutes.”

He slipped through the curtain and stood by the foot of the bed. Automatically he checked the sensor readings. Everything was within the green zone.

“Morgan?” Shepard motioned toward the sample kits that she had set up.

“I am just going to prep him.” Morgan put on gloves and pulled back the blankets.

“Morgan. He has told you no for eight years. You cannot do this!” He reached out and caught her wrist. “What are you thinking?”

Morgan Oberlander looked at Scott Shepard. “What did you call the group from Avalon?”

Dr. Scott Shepard looked confused. “Crazies. I called them crazies.”

“They were right about the virus. They were right about the target of the attack.”  Morgan watched Scott’s face.

“I hate it when the crazies are right.” He muttered. Scott released her hand. “This is morally wrong. Ethics—”

Ethics be damned!

Scott pulled back from the vehemence in her voice.

“We’re down to fucking twenty-one familes! We are under attack, Scott! What do you think is going to happen when the actual numbers come out? And they are going to come out. We are the next Avalon.”

“That is not going to happen here!” Scott snapped back at her.

“It already is happening.” Morgan motioned to Jason. “He brings the number of pure’s capable of reproduction to eighty-nine, on the planet.”

Shaking his head, Scott looked at Jason then back at Morgan. “You are wrong, there are more, there has to be. Morgan, this is not right…”

She inserted a needle into Malwas’ IV line.

“We are slipping over the event horizon and nobody’s noticed.” Morgan took a second hypodermic needle and injected Jason’s IV. “I do not know if there is enough time. But I damn well know I am not taking no for an answer any longer.”

“It is wrong, Morgan.” Scott looked down at the young man. Young Vampyre, he corrected. And it stuck him that Jason Malwas was the last Malwas. His parents had died, been murdered in front of him. His sister and her husband had died years ago in a freak hover car accident. When was the last time he’d heard of any of the other of Avalon’s scattered Vampyre?

* * *

Jason opened his eyes. He felt strange, weak, yet like he’d drank blood full of adrenaline. The room was too bright. He tried to move, but was restrained. Panic began to fill him, but it was sluggish.

“Good morning, Jason. I am Dr. Oberlander. This is Dr. Shepard. And I am sure you recognize Dr. Kincaid.” He looked to where she had pointed. He nodded, yes, he knew Dr. Kincaid. The man nodded to him, sagely, as he looked over Jason’s chart.

“Why—” In a rush it all came back. The bathroom. The thing. Carrying Alex. “Alex! Is he okay?”

“He has not regained consciousness yet, but things are definitely looking up.”

“Why am I restrained?” He lay back on the bed. Jason’s heart was pounding. He could feel the old panic starting. Being tied to a bed had never gone well before, and this didn’t feel any different. He wasn’t sure if it was the weakness or the way everyone was staring at him, but he was getting a really bad feeling.

Dr. Oberlander explained what had happened.

“Am I drugged?” Jason asked. Why did he know her name? He hadn’t needed a doctor for years.

“Just a muscle relaxant.” Dr. Oberlander, smiled. “We could not have you hurting yourself.”

The door opened and Johanna walked in. Jason shifted his knees and gave Dr. Oberlander a look. He’d never heard of muscle relaxants having that effect. Then he remembered how he knew Dr. Oberlander. “I take it you’ve collected all the samples you were after, Dr. Oberlander?”

“That was my call, Jason.” Dr. Kincaid said. “As director of medical services, I have that authority. Dr. Oberlander, do you have all you need?”

“For now.” Dr. Oberlander said as she flipped up the controls for the bed so they were within Jason’s reach.

Jason looked at the controls. He raised his head higher.

“Why am I not being un-restrained?”

“We are not yet a 100% certain, Jason, that we have removed the viral and naninite neural net that you were infected with.” Dr. Kincaid said. “We have a high level telepath coming in to scan you.”

Jason could hear the monitor above beep as his heart rate increased. “There are laws regarding privacy. Are you going to respect any of them?”

“I would think, Jason, that you would want to be sure that the influence of the biological sleeve’s host is completely gone.” Dr. Kincaid’s smile was fatherly. He turned and gave Johanna a hug that she returned. “How are you doing, Johanna?”

“Good.” Johanna stepped away from Dr. Kincaid, looking Jason in the face. He couldn’t believe how big and grey her eyes were. She stepped up to the bed. “How are you feeling?”

“Fine—” Jason jerked his head away from Johanna’s hand. She frowned, letting her hand drop to the bar that his left arm was strapped too. Her finger tips felt hot and he shifted his knees as best he could, but there was no hiding his reaction.

“Johanna?”

“Yes?”

Jason looked her in the eyes, he wanted to reach out and touch her mind, but he wasn’t actually sure how to do it. This wasn’t the first time he wished he’d been properly trained.

“Could you contact a friend for me? Tell them that I’m here?”

Johanna looked from Jason to Dr. Kincaid and Dr. Oberlander. “Yes, of course.”

“Richter, Leigh Richter. She’ll be worried about me.”

Johanna nodded, her cheeks colouring slightly. “Yes, of course. I will do that, Jason.”

“If you have any concerns, Jason, we are right here, for you.” Dr. Kincaid said.

“You’re here to look after little me, really?” His voice was overflowing with sarcasm.

“Mr. Malwas,” Dr. Shepard started, “Your health—”

“My health is none of your concern. I have a doctor, a Dr. Oberon Ken. Has he been notified?” Jason looked to each of them, but not Johanna.

“I will check for you, Mr. Malwas,” Dr. Shepard said and headed to the observation room.

“Johanna, can I have a word before you leave?” Dr. Kincaid asked. She nodded and then he motioned Dr. Oberlander to the observation room.

“Jason, these people are sworn healers. They are our friends—”

“They might be your friends, Johanna, but they are not mine.”

* * *

Claudette entered the observation room and was surprised to see Johanna talking to Malwas. The man was twice her age and someone whose behaviour was reprehensible. Charging people to bite them! And having been a rock star, how gauche!

Claudette watched her daughter. Whatever she was saying, Mr. Malwas was certainly uncomfortable and Johanna was getting angry. Johanna might have her father’s investigative nature, but she had her mother’s temper. Claudette’s eyebrows rose as Johanna laid her hand Malwas’ arm and leaned in close. Above his head the monitors showed his heart rate jump. Whatever Johanna was saying to him, Malwas’ heart rate was now beating fast enough to get the nurses attention. Then Johanna turned and strutted from the ICU into the observation room.

She started at seeing her mother.

“You seem overly concerned with Mr. Malwas, Johanna—”

“Jason. His name is Jason. And I am not overly concerned … it is just—someone needs to be looking out for him.” Johanna started to walk past.

“Where are you going?”

“To contact his lawyer.” With that Johanna marched from the room. Claudette turned back to look at Jason.

“I’m fine!” He was snapping at a nurse. “Just undo these restraints.”

 

 

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