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Chapter seven

Inea ran from him as if he were truly evil.

It would be so easy to stop her with Influence. Titus skidded to a halt in the midst of a weight lifting class and summoned the revulsion hed felt as hed forced each of the codes out of Suzy Langton. I wont be addicted to Influence.

Hey, Mister, anything wrong? called the instructor, a muscular young woman who had oiled her black skin until she looked like an ebony statue. Abner Gold stood behind her.

Titus noticed an odd intensity in her gaze, but brushed it aside. Oh. just forgot something. He pushed on.

As he emerged from an arch in the vine that shielded the weight lifting area, he found Inea poised on the balls of her feet, eyeing him. They were near the entrance to the gym. The rowing team hed seen working out was gone, and their area was dimmed. Titus cast about for any trace of Abbot. He found nothing, but one of his string could be watching.

Titus moved into the rowing area, and called, Inea, you didnt see what you thought you saw. Not here and not in the cafeteria. We really need to talk. Come sit?

He settled cross-legged on the floor beside one of the rowing machines, leaning against its side, waiting. He had almost given up hope, when she drifted through the gate.

As she entered the area, he erected a shield around them to divert the interest of passersby. Let me explain my-apparent behavior. Please, Inea, please listen.

I cant imagine what you could say after what I saw.

Remember the bat?

She glanced sharply at him. So?

I can make people see anything. In the refectory, you thought Id eaten a meal. Here you thought Id taken a woman. I did neither.

How do I know? You could say anything.

This was why hed promised himself never to Influence her. Think, he pleaded. People must believe I eat, so I must create that impression even if it means using the defensive gift of my kind.

Titus watched as she digested that, and recoiled. You lied to me. You drank blood from that woman. Is she dead?

He sprang to his feet. God, no!

But she was out and around the divider, racing back to the dance floor. He caught up to her at the dance floors hedge, grabbed her by the shoulders and held her. Listen to me! he whispered fiercely. I havent lied to you. I will never lie to you. The cut on Suzys face nearly drove me out of my mind, but I didnt take anything from her-except the information I need to do my job. Shell never remember me. Youve no cause to be horrified-or even jealous.

She relaxed. All right, then let me go look.

Shell be waking up soon.

Ill be quiet.

He let her go. She crept through the hedge. Titus thought he could feel Suzy stirring. Perhaps she had, for a moment later, Inea reappeared. Well, shes not dead anyway. I guess I shouldnt leap to conclusions.

He put his arm around her shoulders and led her back to the rowing area, this time guiding her all the way in and sitting her down beside him. Do you still doubt me?

I dont know. When I saw you eating in the cafeteria I thought youd tricked me, but I couldnt imagine why unless you really had killed someone and had him buried in your place.

Why didnt you go to the authorities right then?

I-I wasnt sure. Then I saw your expression when Suzys blood spattered all over the mat.

He groaned. Did I really give myself away that badly?

No, everyone was lusting after the sight of blood. I dont suppose theyre all vampires.

No. Humans have their own ideas of amusement.

You didnt find it amusing. It made you hungry.

Yes.

Then why didnt you just drink Suzys blood?

You believe I could but didnt?

I dont know what to believe. If you could do such a thing-if you have to do such things-why didnt you?

Because I didnt have her permission.

Permission? Is that supposed to be funny? You took information from her, you said-I presume with this power of yours. I assume she didnt give permission for that.

What I took from her was not for myself, but for the benefit of humanity. What I refused was for myself alone.

You never used to be so selfless-or concerned about honor.

Thats true. The young have so little power, they dont have to agonize over its proper use.

Slowly, she said, I believe you. It adds up. Ive been trying to watch you, but I cant keep up with you. Nobody can go as long without sleep as you do. But why steal information from Brinks? To sell it? Professors dont make much. It takes lots of untraceable money to create false identities.

But anyone in the market for Brinks secrets couldnt be trusted to use them for the benefit of humankind.

Why would that stop you?

He caught her hands and hissed, I dont use any power, human or otherwise, in such ways! I simply do not!

Stunned, she let her hands lie between his.

Against his will, his head lowered and his lips sought hers.

Barely making contact, he hesitated, feeling her flesh tremble as his body pressed against hers, revealing his state more clearly than words ever could. But he held back.

When she was sure he wasnt going to force her, she relaxed, and he felt the divine power of her. He didnt know which need was more urgent, the growing heat in his groin or the thirst that burned in every cell.

He felt the waves of arousal that beat through her, surging between them, possessing them both, and he knew he had another power over her. Now she wouldnt say no.

He scooped her into his arms and buried his face in her damp hair. Before I died, when we were engaged, he said, I never felt like this. It was easy then to wait until our wedding night. He had never felt true arousal until after his wakening, when it became tangled up with the thirst. Luren didnt reach sexual maturity until after First Death.

When you died. I cried myself to sleep each night because wed waited. Id rather have been alone and pregnant than alone and a virgin. The next time I didnt wait.

Did you ever marry? You arent married now, are you?

Divorced. The one I did trap into marrying me-well, I hated myself more than he ended up hating me. If youve learned not to use your power, then Ive learned recreational sex doesnt do much for me. This time, Titus, I have to be sure! Especially with what you say, I have to be sure!

He started to move back, but she clung to him. It feels so good, Titus. How could it be wrong?

Yes. He schooled himself to patience, wanting her to have what she needed from him.

But she felt his tension. Is it that you want to. bite my neck?

He thrust back from her, holding her shoulders at arms length, embarrassed enough by that truth to laugh it off as another myth. But he owed her more. He shrugged. Any vein will do. But I no longer drink from humans. I told you.

Your canine teeth arent very long.

He laughed. No, but incisors do break skin, only not too neatly. We use surgical tools so the wound heals fast. He took a deep breath, struggling to quell his urgency. But all Im asking now is what any man would want. Im human, too, remember? Im asking you to go to bed with me. Nothing. kinky. Just what weve always wanted with each other. Just that. Maybe it will be enough-for now.

Is it especially good with. vampires? Or is that a myth, too?

Ill make it like nothing youve ever known.

Like you did with Suzy?

No! That was illusion. I wont need any illusion with you. But he knew that his hunger sharpened the experience for his bedmates, even when he used no Influence. I promise, everything between us will be real.

I keep believing you-and I keep going back to my room wondering if Ive gone mad. I havent got a shred of real evidence to prove what youve made me believe.

Tell me what evidence you want-itll be yours.

She put her hands on his cheeks, fingering the roughness of his beard. He waited, but when she didnt name her proof, he pleaded shamelessly, But in the meantime. ? He pressed his lips to her palm and let them describe his offer.

She listened to his silent message, eyes closed, but when he worked up to the inside of her wrist, she sensed his hunger rising. She jerked free, staring at her hand. What if youre really a vampire? And what if youre as evil as legend says and if I let you-then I-Ill become-

Is that what youve been brooding about?

If you really were such a horror, youd compel me to believe you, so the more I believe you, the more I doubt.

Actually, thats wise- -with Abbot around.

Are you telling me you are evil? She wrenched away, trapping her arms over her chest. How melodramatic.

No, not evil. But youve got to prove it yourself. Even wasnt evil, just scared of the power of his cattle. Will you tell me what you took from the Brinks woman?

No. Its bad enough that one non-Brinks person has it. No one else will ever get it from me.

Thats not proof. Thats not evidence.

I know. Nothing I can do or say is evidence. You must define for yourself the proof that you would accept. It might be best if you can get it without my knowing.

She scrambled to her feet, stared down at him, then yanked herself around and made for the opening in the divider. Over her shoulder, she warned, Dont follow me this time.

He felt that if he did, she would surrender. But he also knew what he hadnt understood that time hed paced outside her door and had almost gone in to seduce her. The next day her doubts would return and spoil everything forever.

He dragged himself back to his room and to a very miserable night. Nothing helped. Unable to sleep, he carefully recorded the codes hed memorized then tried three times to use them, but he kept keying mistakes.

In the morning, he pulled himself together and went to the lab hoping work would banish his mental conversations with Inea. When he had assigned everyone to a task for the shift, he barricaded himself in his office and patched his calculator into his desk terminal, invoking one of Abbots handy programs. It caused Security programs to forget that certain files had been accessed. He hadnt dared to use it before because it had been known to fail on other Brinks systems used by banks. But this time he had Brinks own codes, so he went after the records of those heading clandestine departments.

He sweated through every pause, afraid the old program, which had allowed his kind to create identities, was finally obsolete. The Projects systems had to be superior to banking systems, for banks had to show a profit while the government didnt. So government could spend absurdly on security. Langtons codes had been changed, or if hed gotten one wrong and he couldnt answer a challenge on the first try. he refused to think about that.

At last he found a compilation of hobbies and prior professions of those working in Biomed and Cognitive Sciences.

Someone had gone to great lengths to assemble scientists who seemed ideal to perform one sort of task, but were in fact better suited for something else entirely. The two key figures turned out to be Mirelle and Mihelich, with Gold a close third because of his Sandia connections and his work on low-grav bio-cybernetic laboratory instruments.

Mihelich was not just an M.D., but a geneticist, a research cytologist, and a pioneer in cloning techniques with several patents on work done under the auspices of various corporations, so that few people knew of his contributions.

Titus dug out some of the mans more esoteric papers and waded through the alien language of biomed. Clearly, Mihelich was one of ten researchers who understood human cloning well enough to produce a viable luren or orl fetus. And he had gathered all the help and equipment hed need.

When Titus uncovered the profiles of Dr. Mirelle de Lisle and her co-workers, the scope-the sheer audacity-of the clandestine half of the Project came home to him.

It would be useless to clone an alien without knowing what he was. The Cognitive Sciences, which included anthropology, ethnography, ethnology, linguistics, and psychology, yearned to dub themselves Xenology. But there had been no strangers to study until Kylyd arrived. Now, the leaders of that movement were on the moon to create an environment suitable for raising alien children.

But the biggest discovery, Titus made by accident. One of Mirelles reports-which read like a textbook in applied kinesics, a branch of anthropology dealing with communication encoded in subconsciously controlled movement-contained an illegible document that seemed like gibberish until he recognized the phonetic alphabet and looked up the symbols.

An hour later, he stared at a screen full of squiggles he could read as plainly as English. But it wasnt English. It was luren. distorted pronunciations, strange words, and odd syntax aside, it was the language Abbot had taught him, and the document seemed to be a transcription of a kind of verbal log recording off Kylyd.

Theyve tapped the ships electronics! And not a hint of that had ever appeared in any official report from Project Station. He backed out of the file stealthily, his mind leaping from the sketchiest hints to rock-hard conclusions.

The first time hed seen Abbot in Kylyd, squeezing through the twisted portal, hed been carrying something that could have been a recorder. Abbot was an electronics wizard. Abbot had Marked Mirelle, who was on the clandestine side of the Project. Abbot knew what she knew.

Knowing that it had been done by the humans, never mind that official reports said they couldnt even ignite the lighting system, Abbot could have jiggered a recorder to mesh with Kylyds own system. And if so, he could have been pulling data out of the control console he bent over with such absorption while Titus hid in the sleepers chamber.

Abbot had this transcription as well as others the humans knew nothing about, and Abbot was learning to read Kylyds records. The humans, of course, had no idea what Mirelles gibberish meant; there was no Rosetta stone.

Why would Abbot spend so much time on language? Just to send the SOS in the right dialect? Hardly. He intended to wake the sleeper. But what did Abbot plan to do with a wakened luren-a pure-blood?-a pure-blood who would become his son-wholly in his power?

Titus shied away from that idea, telling himself it was just wild conjecture, but he was unable to get the thought of the orl out of his mind. What if they had been aboard as crew, not food? What if the galactic luren of today would not regard Earths humans merely as a food supply? And what if Abbot was right? What if this really was the last chance for Earths luren to survive intact as luren? What should I do?

The question haunted him through the rest of the day, despite distractions, and when the evening crew left, he stayed, coveting time alone during the one shift when the lab was empty-He had to think through, in the most absolutely rigorous fashion, what he must do. He had to build a mental model of the situation and run some trial solutions to his problems to see what the major effects would be.

Knowing life wouldnt be as simple as physics, he was nevertheless methodical as he listed his goals and options in his calculators private note file. Pondering the result, he suddenly added, I could waken the luren and father him.

Staring at that absurdity, he heard the labs hall door open. Inea peeked around the cowling of the airlock.

The labs lights were on full, but Titus had dimmed the light in his office; the levelors were shut, the door ajar. She found the lab empty, and crossed to the observatory. She grabbed her lab coat off the rack and donned it, covering her lilac and pink gym suit as if she did this every night.

Curious, Titus shut his note file and watched from his door. She bent over a reader, calling up files, reading. He tiptoed to his desk and slaved his unit to hers. She was checking the daily worksheet on the computer repair.

The screen went blank again, and he saw her move to the observatory instruments. Most were receivers tied to the major solar orbit observatories, but some were tuned to the few dozen extra-system probes that were still alive. His observatory recorded everything that came in, but the data were useless until the main computer came back on line.

There were three installations on Earth and one in Earth orbit that could synthesize portions of the data, but the Project had the only system able to interpret all the data according to any one of the prevailing theories of the universe, and run a continuous comparison of the results against all new data. They had not only capacity, but unique programming on unique hardware.

Inea, a skilled interpreter, could tell by inspection if the raw data was unusual. She pored over the readouts intently.

All his adult life, Titus had postulated the position of the dim, distant star that had to be the origin of the flight that had deposited his ancestors on Earth. It was hidden behind the brighter bodies in the Taurus region, but legend gave him an approximate line and distance. Data captured by the extra-solar observatories that saw Kylyds approach would pinpoint the home-as soon as Wild Goose answered.

Inea raised her head, frowning in frustration at the dissected computers out in the main room, and then back at the screen she was reading. Has she found something?

He crossed the lab to the glass partitions of the observatory. At the door, he hesitated. His foot hit a screwdriver abandoned on the floor. Inea whirled, stifling a squeak. Darr-Titus! Do you have to sneak up like that?

Im sorry. Im curious about what youre doing here.

Well, this is my job, you know. And Im not putting in for the overtime. I wont screw up your bookkeeping.

Do you come in every day? Has Abbot seen her?

Y-yes, she confessed. Is that so terrible?

I just didnt expect it.

Im an astronomer, not an electrician. On my own time Ill do astronomy. She tilted her head to one side. Is there some reason I shouldnt be here?

No, of course not. Knowing you, I should have realized youd come. He entered the observatory, and scanned the recorders. Did you see what came in this afternoon?

Yes. I wish Id been here.

It could be our big break. The tracings indicated an object where no one had seen one before.

Yes, if its a star and its spectrum checks against the data from the alien ship, we wont need your star catalogue.

I wouldnt go that far, but this afternoon, I asked for the data to be processed on Earth and the results relayed to us. Only by then our computer may be up-our shipment from Luna Station is due in two days. Will you be ready?

Ive been ready for a week. When should I report?

They discussed the state of the repairs, Titus insisting she report the day after Abbot was due to finish his job on the computers. He didnt explain the timing.

As he dodged her questions, she became more insistent and curious. Then, without warning, she desisted.

As if capitulating, she walked toward the observatory door, hands in her gym suit pockets. Titus followed and was arms length from her when she turned, and thrust a large silver crucifix in his face.

He backed away, trying to focus his eyes. She took it for aversion and shoved the object up against his nose.

Reflexively, his hands clasped the crucifix. Bright beauty sizzled through his every nerve, stiffening his body as high voltage current would. Forgetting everything, he drank it in as thirstily as if it were blood. A strange ecstasy stole over him. Transfixed, he heard music so sweet he needed to cry. He was filled by an indescribable scent and laughter bubbled through his veins.

In one instant, he was totally consumed and reborn.

The current spent, he drooped, leaning on a desk, propping himself on stiff arms. His head lolled onto his chest as he gulped air. Every vampire sense was alive in him. Inea was a redolent human warmth, the cavernous lab echoed empty, and he felt the distant throb of humanity throughout the dome.

So you did lie. Ineas voice was ripe with grief.

Dizzy, he yearned for time to assimilate the precious gift that had flowed into him, the strength he so desperately needed. Inea, I didnt lie, he insisted wearily. Give me the cross. He groped vaguely in her direction.

She approached, holding it before her like a shield, waiting for him to wither in its light. But it had spent itself. He took it from her taut grip and held it to his lips, feeling her warmth still in the pure silver.

Turning, he sat on the desk corner. He cradled the cross in his hands and smiled up at her. Thank you. But I cant imagine where you found this.

Theres a Catholic chaplain over in the other dome. He loaned it to me. She added in a small voice, It almost killed you. Why are you sitting there holding it as if it was your greatest treasure?

At that, he laughed, a pure spontaneous celebration.

Because it is! Or was. For the first time in days, his hunger had gnawing at him, and he felt he could face down Abbot himself, if necessary. Listen. I told you Im not afraid of religious objects of any sort, and thats the truth. But a charge such as this one held is rare. It takes a priest of great purity and power to consecrate anything like that-and its silver.He was dabbling at the edges of metaphysics. There was no rational reason why silver would hold such a charge while other materials didnt.

Perhaps this one had been charged recently?

Silver bullets are supposed to kill your kind.

Sure. Any kind of bullets will if they hit a vital spot. Myths. The power stored in this cross discharged into me, in the most exquisite-

You mean it was good? A pleasure?

A pleasure I could crave endlessly.

How could a legend get so twisted?

Easy. You saw how it disabled me. Even you thought youd killed me. If youd run in terror, youd have been convinced youd vanquished me-wouldnt you?

And that you were too evil to abide a symbol of good.

He nodded, watching her work it through. Then he said, curiously, But youre not Catholic. Surely there must be chaplains of other faiths here? Why did you choose-

But Catholics are the ones who train exorcists and-her eyes went to the crucifix he fondled-I guess you passed that test. On the other hand, I have only your word for it that youd welcome another Catholic whammy.

Catholic whammy? How about Jewish? See if you can find a kosher mezuzah somewhere and throw that at me.

You serious? Or are you just doing Brer Rabbit begging not to be thrown into the briar patch?

He rose, his legs able to hold him now. Brusquely, he told her, It was your test. You ought to be satisfied. But next time, please give me a couple of seconds warning. He handed over the crucifix. Take this back to the chaplain and tell him it ought to be reconsecrated. If he was the one who charged it in the first place, itll work again.

She held it by the long shaft. That wouldnt prove anything. It didnt prove anything this time.

Is that my fault? Im very tired of this game.

So am I. I thought this would settle it. I honestly didnt expect you to react at all. You did tell me you didnt fear religious objects!

And I dont! he snapped, then realized it was his sexual frustration driving him. Im sorry. Everything Ive told you is true. But I havent told you everything there is to tell. I never said I had.

Ive yet to uncover one piece of concrete evidence to substantiate your story.

I doubt you ever will. Whatever you observe, Inea, youll be able to find another explanation.

Years ago, you taught me about Occams Razor-that the least complex explanation usually turns out to be true. Why assume youre a vampire when human tricks can account for everything you do?

Why would I insist on this wild tale when I could let you believe me human and take you to bed right away?

Reaching, she suggested, Because youre crazy?

Your hypothesis is getting complex. Think about that. Then go find the holographic equipment I snuck in and installed in your room during the few hours I was on Luna before you invited me there. You saw the bat form. You believed it. Youre not that easy to trick.

True. She sighed. Ill devise something definitive, and I promise it wont be silver bullets. I dont want to hurt you. She sidled past him, planting a shy kiss on his cheek that left him as limp as the crucifixs charge had. And the joy that came in the wake of her kiss was almost as potent.

That night, he slept cherishing the memory of that single, voluntary kiss. He hardly dared imagine what it would be like when she finally took him to her bed.

On Abbots last day of work in the lab, the shipment from Luna Station arrived, escorted from the docks by three rough-cut Brinks guards commanded by Suzy Langton. There was one huge crate and two smaller ones, which were waist high on Titus.

When they broke the seals under the watchful gaze of security, they discovered the larger one contained all the parts theyd expected. The other two crates carried a variety of items shipped from Earth just after Tituss group had left.

While the others were picking over the bounty in the large crate, Titus took the crowbar to the other two, and discovered to his great relief that nestled among bottles of B&J High Purity Solvent which Titus hadnt ordered were a few dozen small packets of dark crystalline powder labelled B&J Additives. Connie had shipped him blood to replace what had been stolen. She must have acted instantly.

As he leaned over, his upper body jackknifed into the crate, Titus felt Abbot approach. Before he could hide the evidence, his father peered down into the crate.

But it was a Brinks man who bent over Abbots shoulder and asked in a deceptively soft Southern accent, What have you got there? Powdered solvent? I didnt know there was such a thing, but it surely doesnt belong here. Hey, Suzy!

Everyone followed Suzy over to the smaller crate.

Titus realized he should have cloaked his actions when he opened the crate. He could have removed the packets to his office without anyone noticing. Now it was too late.

Shimon plucked up one of the bags and tossed it from hand to hand. Odd stuff. Whose do you suppose it is?

Tituss eyes met Abbots, hardly daring to plead.

Abbot inspected Titus with a sardonic smile. Then he shrugged and finessed the packet out of Shimons hands. Ill find out who it belongs to and take care of it. He spoke to the Israeli, but his attention swept the crowd as he insisted with powerful Influence, It cant be important.

Titus added his Influence, summoning all his power and trying to emulate his fathers tightly leashed control. Its trivial-Abbot and I will take care of it. You can all safely forget it.

At that moment, Inea swung through the door carrying a toolbox and wearing a lab coat and white gloves. She had her hair bound back in a clean-room cap. I heard the shipment was here and I came to. Whats the matter?

Abbot reached out with his Influence, focusing real power to subdue her curiosity as he insisted, Not a thing. We have more imp-

Without thinking, Titus reacted, the whole force of his raised Influence behind the command. Abbot, no!


Chapter six | Those of my blood | Chapter eight