Thank you for continuing to read DARK PRINCE. I'm glad you're enjoying it.
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David Trellum's mind was again an encyclopaedia. The conductor of the Fascisti symphony did know who had set the bomb in Greenville. The Great Smoky Mountains Militia. Fifty men, if they could ever be got all together.
Men who expected Russian troops to come rushing out of UFOs that never landed. Men who fanned out into the Appalachian Mountains annually with only the clothes on their backs and, for a fortnight, learnt to survive on berries and raw chipmunks. Men who feared secret compartments of the American government to hunt them down and destroy them. They were men who were uncomfortable in the modern world -- but most of them were not murderers. They might need heavy dosages of valium but did not merit a cyanide tablet.
Their leaders were two brothers who had moved into North Carolina's Appalachia from Tennessee. The brothers had trained at the Aryan Order's compound; specifically, they had learnt to make bombs. They had also gone far beyond being merely uncomfortable in the modern world.
They were intent on creating a mountain nation that would have made pre-Columbus Indian nations look modern by comparison. The brothers were convinced that the American government would give them their nation -- if it were forced to. They had convinced themselves that their god wanted this for them and men like them. They also believed that two men -- themselves -- could force America's surrender. They were quite willing to kill innocent people to force that capitulation.
Trellum had found them and convinced them that he could help them in their campaign. It was easy. He understood their religion and used it to convince them. They happily helped him to destabilise American society.
I stood on moss-covered rock overlooking the ravine and studied the two-storey log cabin fifty metres below me. Behind me was what seemed like an unbroken stand of pine trees marching back towards I-85 and the foothills of North Carolina.
Smoke curled from the cabin's chimney to darken the twilight sky. A cold wind moaned through the pine boughs and gripped at my shirt. Emil's hands were shoved into the pockets of his jeans and looked anywhere but the cabin. There was none of the excitement he'd shown the night we destroyed the Aryan Order in their compound. He appeared to be a youth disgusted with the fickle fates that had brought him here.
|Why don't we just scare the hell out of them?| he asked finally, gazing out at a peak that rose to our west. |If we made them piss their pants, I'll bet that they wouldn't bomb any more buildings.|
I continued to study the cabin without looking at him.
|These are the same men who just killed more than a hundred people,| I told him. |They set off that bomb eleven years ago at the Olympics in Atlanta, Emil. They've blown up a women's clinic or gay club every year since. They've killed every year for the past decade. They do this in the name of religion. Why would they stop now?|
|I don't know,| he mumbled.
|Insane people always use religion to justify hate and murder.| I turned and moved behind him, my arms going around his chest and pulling him back against me. "Touch their minds, Liebchen," I said aloud. "See if there is enough decency left in them that we can build on."
"And if there is?"
"We build on it -- so they can be humans again."
"And if there isn't?"
"Would you prefer giving their location to -- what? -- the FBI and having a shoot-out here, like they did in the old West? What if someone from the FBI is killed? Neither of us will die from a bullet, Emil. Mortals can and do."
"I'm sick of killing, Karl. I want us to be like we were the first couple of months we were in America -- only, I want Tom with us."
"What about the drug dealers you hunt?"
He shrugged. "I don't even kill them any more. Not since the compound in Idaho. I feed. They continued to live. I haven't seen the three whom I've fed on since -- maybe they've become frightened and found another kind of work?"
Unbelievable, but all too true. The two men inside the cabin were like the anarchists at the turn of the last century who blew up Tsars and Archdukes, like the Nazis who designed the pogroms that would give the world their vision of the Master Race. Like all men who had lost their social moorings. They were men who had become animals, maddened by the sight and smell of blood and accepting the pain and suffering they caused as a means to their end. I had known this about the men inside the cabin from Trellum's mind. But Emil needed to understand what they were from the source.
"Before the Aryan Order compound, I had never killed wantonly, Emil. I'd killed to feed, yes. But to destroy? Only once – Nazis who had hunted me through Austria." With just my human eyesight, I tried to make out the outline of the mountain peak we'd been watching, but night had descended on the west.
"I killed most of them," Emil sobbed and stiffened in my arms. "It was like I couldn't help myself. I was driven to each new person, to each new kill."
I held him close to me. "You learnt something about yourself that night, Liebchen. Something you will never forget. Something that has made you better. But you cannot allow the memory to paralyse you."
I felt him shudder against me. He sighed then. "How do we get to them?"
"We have to draw them outside -- or get invited in."
He snorted and turned in my arms to face me. "The old bugaboo that a vampire cannot enter a home without invitation?" I nodded. "That can't be real!"
"Would you like to test it, Emil? Try walking right up to that cabin's door and stepping inside. You can't. Not if the mortal who lives there still lives."
"You've tested this?" He studied me closely. I nodded. He chuckled then. "You and your age of reason -- and your rejection of gods because of it." He shook his head. "If something stops me from walking into that house -- or any other house -- then it's got to be aware. And a lot stronger than you and I are."
"I don't know," I admitted. "I doubt I've thought about it since Würther would manoeuvre me into one of his philosophical discussions." I shrugged. "If it is God who prevents me from entering that cabin without the mortal's invitation, I think he must be singularly strange."
"What do you mean?"
"He would prevent me from entering but would allow those monsters to set bombs that killed more than a hundred people in this Greenville in South Carolina? Such an entity has very strange values, Emil." I looked back at the cabin. "I think one of our militia brothers needs to have a call of nature."
Emil sniggered. "That's my Karl," he said, "Always changing the subject."
We projected to the bottom of the ravine, a metre from the door of the cabin. Beyond the window, shadows moved inside across the walls. I guessed the men were using a paraffin lantern. I smiled as I accepted the brothers I sought were primitivists, it would make things so much easier to separate them and lure first one and then the other to me. I led Emil around the side of the cabin and searched for a privy amongst the stand of trees that came up almost to the structure.
|Why is there a ditch here?| Emil demanded from several metres deeper down into the ravine. |God! It smells like shit!|
The brothers were even more primitivist than I had thought. They'd dug a latrine ditch, a facility that was probably as old as the first human society. I forced myself to chuckle silently. And reached inside the cabin for the first mind I could find.
The man was sitting at a table and cleaning his fingernails with a knife by lantern light. "We done that nigger's work," he grumbled to the bearded man washing dishes at the tub on the counter across from him, "we need to think about what we gonna do for our mission."
"That Davis is something, ain't he, brother?" The bearded man turned completely to face his brother. "I never saw a nigger with the balls that one's got."
Trellum was a Negro? I could not conceive it. His race was as endangered by the Fascisti as much as were gays or any other group. The soldiers of this Reich in situ that I had seen were all racists.
"We could blow up an Injun casino -- one with a bunch of Yankees in it."
"Not yet. Not til we get the movement going better than it is. Otherwise, we'll have Injuns hunting for us along with the Feds. They're better at tracking people than bloodhounds. We don't want some Cherokee brave wearing our scalps."
|You must use the toilet,| I told the man cleaning his nails. |Now!|
The man grumbled and dropped his knife. "Where you going?" his brother asked as the man started for the door.
"Gotta take a shit."
He was quickly out the door and moving towards Emil and the ditch. I smiled and followed him. |Watch the door, Liebchen. The other one will follow when he hears this one call out.|
I reached for his neck as he reached the ditch. I expected shock. I expected him to turn and face me as men would in the city. As civilised men caught by surprise by a tap on the shoulder. I had no time to tighten my belly.
The man dropped to his knees with my first touch. And he pivoted faster than any mortal I had ever seen. His fist hit my stomach with almost the strength of a vampire. My eyes bulged as pain shot through me and I grabbed my belly. He stood then and snarled. Menacingly.
"The Feds must be hard up, sending a weak little mama's boy out here."
I bared my lips and growled as my ears began to grow and my forehead sloped backward. "Jesus shit!" he screamed as my clothes fell from my wolf's body. He began to run towards the cabin, calling his brother.
I raced after him, knowing I did not dare let him gain the sanctity of the cabin.
I sprang as the man broke out of the copse of woods. My paws hit his shoulders, then my weight, pushing him forward. As he fell, I felt my side burst into pain.
|Karl!| Emil screamed in my head.
I sank into the pain that blazed through my gut. My body began to change back to human dimensions. I struggled to remain conscious.
I knew that I had been shot. I would not die. At least I would not from what I was guessing was a gunshot. But, if I slipped into unconsciousness and this man escaped me, I would be prey to anything he or his brother chose to do to me.
The man tried to pull away from me, the blood and offal of my belly making him slippery under me. I could not move my lower body to control him. I continued to slide towards unconsciousness. I lifted my head and howled to the newly risen moon.
I quickly buried my snout into the side of his neck, forcing more of it between my teeth.
I snapped my jaws shut with my remaining strength. He jerked and nearly threw me off. Then he was dying, his throat torn open. His body was capable of only reflexive twitches. Even as I began to lap at the blood pumping from his wound, seeking to replenish that which I was already loosing, my body repaired itself. I hovered on the edge of consciousness.
A hand touched my shoulder. Another slid down onto my leg from my buttocks. "Come on, Karl," Emil said, turning me and lifting me. "I'm taking you inside where it's warm."
"The other one?" I managed to get out.
"He's dead, Karl -- they both are."
I nodded my head against Emil's sweater as he carried me into the cabin. His concern washed over me when he saw my wound. "It's already healing," I mumbled.
"But you're -- you're torn open down here -- from your ribs down to your pubes."
"Am I still bleeding?" He shook his head and I relaxed. I was healing. It would take several more hours before muscle and sinew rejoined where they'd been torn apart. "Lay me down and bring me my clothes -- and relax. Unfortunately, we're going to be here a while."
* * *
Sympathetic pain spread through my belly as I walked. I still hurt from the gunshot to my abdomen a week ago; yet, everything was healed. Perhaps, I was grown old and I was succumbing to aches like middle-aged mortals. No! It would be far better to be hypochrondiac than that. That had to be it -- I was a hypochrondiac.
But it was the first time in my life that I had been shot.
As I let myself into the house, I heard Tom's voice from the sitting room and smiled. He was home; I immediately forgot the pain in my abdomen.
Emil mentally greeted me with what I thought of as his trademark -- an image of the biggest, wettest lips I could imagine. As I neared the opened door of the room, I heard Tom ask: "What's it really like?"
"You mean being a vampire?" Emil answered.
I accepted an offered link to his thoughts and listened as the two of them began to discuss the nature of my being. I stayed in the hall, electing not to join them. I was conscious that Tom might feel intimidated in my presence but was comfortable with Emil. Emil watched the American nod.
"I woke up a whole day after that bout of sex and knew immediately I was different -- and knowing the only thing that could be different was that I had changed into one," he answered. "I don't know if I can put into words what I felt that moment." He chuckled.
"You've got to understand, Tom, that I wanted to be a vampire, to be like Karl, ever since I knew what he was. But I was still pissed off when I woke up." He laughed. "It'd happened -- the biggest change in my life -- and I didn't even know it.
"I guess I expected to be taking my last, gasping breath as some old troll years from now when it happened." He grinned at the thought. "Then, I'd wake up young and good-looking all over again."
"It's made you better looking somehow," Tom allowed.
"The effervescence?" The American nodded. "When we change, the pores disappear from our skin; that takes away a certain coarseness I see in every mortal I meet."
"You can change -- into other things?"
Emil nodded. "Just about anything you can conceive of. I've been a wolf, a bat, a mist -- even a panther when I hunted." He laughed again. "Though you've got to be careful about changing shape. It's only your natural body that's affected -- you lose your clothes when you do it."
"Yeah. The first time I did it I had to come back here naked. Walking naked through a city -- even late on a winter night when everybody's inside -- is a little embarrassing."
"What did you do?"
"I finally realised I'd bounded out of the house as a wolf, so I turned myself back into one to make it back home."
"You can teleport yourself too, can't you?"
"I haven't tried it on my own -- except real short distances. You know, like across the room. But I've linked with Karl."
"You're stronger too?"
"There isn't a man who can touch me if I don't want him to. I can out-run and out-fight any mortal. He can't kill me, but I can kill him. I can see better, read thoughts..." He shrugged.
Tom chuckled and said: "What's sex like as a vampire?"
I felt Emil's embarrassment rise and his face break out in blotches. "It's better. I'm more sensitised as a vampire than I ever was as a mortal. I couldn't wait to get over to Karl's flat back there in Zürich, to get it on with him -- I guess I was pretty sensitised then."
"I know the feeling," Tom allowed under his breath.
"Only, it's a whole lot better now. I can go on and on without flagging." He grinned. "Like you do."
Emil studied the American blush. "Do you love him?" he asked softly.
"Yeah. Only, I love both of you, Emil." He snorted. "Before I met you guys that night at the Inner Harbour, I basically saw myself falling in love with just one girl and settling down with her -- marrying her, I suppose. When I had finally come to a working arrangement with Sergei and Würther and called Karl, I sort of thought -- if it developed that he and I went to bed -- that same kind of thing I imagined about me and a girl would happen between him and me.
"But there you were. And it sure as hell was obvious you weren't some pick-up like back in Zürich. That sort of threw me for a loop." He grinned. "Würther was mortified at the thought of a three-way. It took old Sergei a few moments; but, by the time I left you two, he couldn't wait to try it out."
"And you? The part of you who is Tom?"
"Shit! I wasn't queer. I didn't want to be queer. I don't know -- a one-on-one with a guy I liked wasn't exactly queer to me. But two guys? No way!"
He chuckled and I saw his neck and face blaze through Emil's eyes. "But I sure did come around soon enough!"
I had not had to touch Tom's mind to know that Sergei Alexandrovitch had set up the young American. The Russian knew every aspect of being a vampire. He had been one for more than thirty years. Yet, he had Emil explaining what being a vampire was like, instead of doing so himself. Sergei Alexandrovitch was manoeuvring young Tom towards a decision.
I suspected the spirit of the American was resisting the soul of my Russian lover. Tom, by nature, was cautious, whereas Sergei Alexandrovitch was impetuous. He had manipulated Tom into asking Emil about our nature. Now, the poor lad had two similar and glowing accounts. I wondered how long he could resist his Russian's attentions.
Tom. He was so different than I had allowed myself to expect in Zürich as his spirit's incoherent whisperings touched my thoughts night after night. He was definitely his own person; though there were occasional flashes of either Sergei Alexandrovitch or Würther when I least expected them.
I wondered if the personality that soul now wore was an improvement over the others I had known. I didn't see it, but that meant nothing. Improvements in nature came in small increments.
The night before he'd taken his month-long assignment in New York, I had seen him fall asleep against Emil's bare chest, the Swiss youth's arms around him. Würther would have been horrified at the thought of sex with anyone but me or being seen showing affection to any man. He would never have trusted himself enough to cuddle against another until sleep came to him.
And Sergei Alexandrovitch? He had liked his sex and was indiscriminate about where he found it -- as long as he was the instigator. As long as he had control. Even with me, he wanted to be the one to initiate things. I chuckled to myself, remembering that Sergei Alexandrovitch had actually pouted the few times I made an opening move on him in our thirty years together as vampires.
I suspected sex was certainly not the most accurate gage by which to determine spectral advancement. But every act of it was as much a combination of the personalities of the people involved as it was the actual mechanical coupling of bodies.
There had been occasional other partners when Sergei Alexandrovitch and I were exploring our sexual union. But he never submitted to anyone but me; it was an absolute limit he held himself to. Würther had been chaste by comparison, though just as passionate in his lovemaking. Sex to him had been just that -- lovemaking -- and never anything more or less. He had sex with me because he loved me; and he gave himself to me completely.
Tom enjoyed our romps with Emil as much as Sergei ever had one of our menages-a-trois. But he shared himself equally with both of us, something his predecessors would never have done. There seemed a simple joy that rose in him as we touched and fondled our way towards a coupling. And it didn't matter who was doing what with whom.
I smiled at the memory of our shifting union just past us. I had touched his thoughts out of curiosity, nothing more.
In the jumble of images I encountered, I found warmth for both Emil and myself in equal measure. An acceptance of us and a desire to be with us, doing what we were doing. Deeper within his thoughts were the same acceptance but a stronger, more complete desire to simply be with us, singly and together.
In the month since he first fought himself into our bed, Tom MacPherson had come to love us both, in equal measure.
At least one thing had gone right.
* * *
Tom MacPherson stood at the intersection of North Capitol Street and Pennsylvania Avenue waiting for a walk signal to cross. A horn blared and a camouflaged-painted humvee pulled into the intersection. A young soldier hopped out and stopped the trickle of traffic on Pennsylvania that had tried to ignore the disruption. The soldier grabbed his holster and began to slide his pistol out slowly; cars stopped. Another humvee with two men in camouflage uniforms inside the cabin and one manning a machine gun behind them turned onto Pennsylvania against the light. A black sedan quickly followed it.
He saw the two small red flags on the front fenders as the sedan came alongside of him and looked closer. Each had a single star in its centre. A moment later, the soldier stopping traffic hopped into the first humvee. It sped off after the others.
"What was that all about?" he asked the man standing beside him.
"Get used to it, kid. The generals have got to where they think their shit doesn't stink." The man started across the street.
Tom turned to take in the Capitol across the avenue. People jostled him as they rushed to cross the street.
He'd decided to walk downtown. He needed the exercise after a month of riding subways and busses everywhere he went in New York. He was glad he had. Washington, DC, was alive with the bloom of spring. The trees were budding. Tulips were a riot of colour in almost every block.
He smiled at that. DC had as much concrete and tarmac as Baltimore or New York. But it still found space to plant flowers and trees. They made DC seem a little better than other cities, more liveable.
At Fourteenth Street, he turned towards the Potomac River. The Tidal Basin and Polo Grounds ought to be covered by the pink haze of the cherry blossoms. That appealed to him more than the concrete, pavement, and rude, hurrying people he'd find closer to the White House.
New York had been the last straw. He hadn't told Karl or Emil that yet; but he had had it. He'd got taken in at the stock exchange in a temporary slot. He'd done his job well; he'd seen the evaluations his supervisor sent back to the agency. His MBA should have got him an offer for a permanent position. Only, there was nothing. The economy was still shit.
He knew he ought to be happy that he was working. Most of the guys he'd grown up with around Patterson Park in Baltimore were out of unemployment insurance and looking for anything to bring money in -- from delivering newspapers to cutting grass to delivering pizzas. Some of them were down at the park at night, vying with teenaged boys to sell themselves. The fucking recession was tearing guys' balls off.
Only, an MBA was supposed to be a sure meal ticket. He was supposed to have gone from student jeans to Sachs Fifth Avenue suits. When he didn't find any seventy thousand-dollar offers last year when he got his degree, he decided to give himself six months in Europe. International businesses needed guys who knew something about the world. They were supposed to fall all over themselves if the guy could speak any language other than English.
He'd done that. He probably knew more about business in Europe than that dumb ass Treasury Secretary who's one qualification for the job was that he owned the largest funeral services in America and contributed a million bucks to the president's two campaigns. He even spoke German -- maybe not as well as Emil spoke English, but he could get by.
And he still didn't have a permanent desk job. He still couldn't get his foot on the first rung of the corporate ladder.
Maybe Karl did have the right idea. He and Emil could come up with something they both could do. Karl had said he'd set them up He stuffed his hands in his jeans and shivered at the wind off the river. He needed to talk to Emil about coming up with something. He grinned as a thought struck him. Success in business didn't depend on how good a guy was, what he knew, or even whom he knew. It depended on whom he blew. If that's any indicator, he chuckled to himself, then Emil and I are sure to be a success, whatever we do. Karl is the best.
Entering the park across from the Tidal Basin, he looked out over the Jefferson Memorial as he made his way down to the river. He heard the helicopters before he saw them.
The first one rose above the Fourteenth Street Bridge from somewhere near the Iwo Jima Monument and started up the Potomac towards Georgetown. Four more followed, staying in formation over the middle of the river.
As they came towards him, Tom mused on just how like an angry insect they looked. Like wasps. The first chopper pulled even with him and he was looking into an open bay. A guy his age sat in the bay at a fixed machine gun that was pointed at Tom. "What the fuck!" he growled.
He wasn't scared. He was just shocked. He stood on the riverbank staring as each helicopter passed him. Each had a manned machine gun sticking out of its open bay.
What in the hell is the army up to? Tom asked himself. This is America!
He continued to stand at the riverbank staring unseeingly at Virginia on the other side of the water. The pink haze of cherry blossoms was forgotten. "Something's not right with this," he mumbled finally.
He reckoned that the traffic incident back at the Capitol and these helicopters were somehow related. It could even fit in with this fascist thing that Karl and Emil were so hopped up about. He just couldn't see how.