DARK PRINCE is a gay romance/political thriller set primarily in the US. It is mainstream with gay primary characters. It is not erotica. If you want the erotic version, dig through the Nifty archives for CONFESSIONS OF A VAMPIRE. DARK PRINCE is an extensive rewrite of that (and, with the setting overrun by reality, I have to rewrite it again, extensively.
DARK PRINCE is fiction. It copyrighted to me and I permit only Nifty to release it and only electronically. If you are under 16 -- 18 in America -- DA is pretty tame sex-wise. Your preacher will condemn you to Hell for reading it, though, which will probably set your mum off. You aren't even supposed to visit Nifty. Perhaps you should go...
If you like this chapter and look forward to reading more, perhaps you can give Nifty a few dollars on your credit card to keep this free service.
I stress again that the following story is in main part a political thriller. It's in the same genre as THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE, 7 DAYS IN MAY, and THE DAY OF THE CONDOR are. There are few Bush government's programmes mentioned and few negatives shown other than the US economy ruined by 8 years of voodoo economics. The bad guys mostly aren't even in the government.
I would appreciate your comments and suggestions, good or bad, at Vichowel (just one L) at aol.com. If you like PRINCE, I'd like to refer you to my unfolding historical thriller FLIGHT AT PEENEMŰNDE in the Beginnings folder.
"Herr Doktor Bönner?" I asked from the doorway of the small office. I studied the back of a heavy-set, balding man sitting before me. I clicked my heels and nodded stiffly when he turned to look at me.
I needed this man. He was to be my key to the twenty-first century. Even so, I had every intention to maintain the correct distance our relative positions required.
Eyes enlarged by thick glasses peered curiously at me. Even without telepathy, I could hear the gears churning inside his head as he calculated what my worth and probable needs were.
He decided on the deferential approach and smiled slowly. "I am not yet a PhD, sir," he answered. "Another two years..." He shrugged and continued to gaze at me.
I wondered at a world where middle-aged men still struggled to become whatever they would become. But, then, hardly more than a month before, I had wondered at how everyone seemed to have a motor car which he drove as fast as he could on the autobahnen that were the arteries of modern Europe.
"What may I do for you, sir, and – for that matter – what name shall I call you?" he asked.
"Karl von Maribor," I answered, bowing slightly.
I sensed him stiffen at the sound of my name and was surprised at how well he was able to hide his reaction. I wanted to touch his thoughts and learn what my name meant to him. Yet, he was alert to me; and there had always been mortals who could feel their minds being explored, even when it was but surface thoughts being read.
"I seek a computer expert." I told him and smiled. "A magician, more like. And I'm told you are the best in all the Schweiß."
"In all of Switzerland?" He chuckled, establishing that he could be self-depreciating as well as deferential. "Hardly, sir. Perhaps, here at the university..." He shrugged again.
I had been told that Bönner was the best 'hacker' in Zürich. I was still unsure exactly what all the word implied. I knew it was both pejorative and complimentary, depending on who used it; but it did imply the man was a computer expert and most probably adept at winding his way through the labyrinth that was governmental red tape. From the looks of Herr Bönner as he studied me, I was assured that he could be financially influenced, as well.
"What specifically brings you to me?" he asked.
"Perhaps we could discuss that over a glass of wine – or beer?" I suggested and glanced out the small window of the cubicle. The sun had finally set and only strands of twilight remained. I gave him an image of a large tankard of good, dark Münchener beer in his hand to speed us along the way to acquaintance.
"And perhaps dinner as well?" he asked and glanced at his watch.
"I know just the place," he said and grinned.
He rose and reached for a light jumper from behind the door. He was large and the small room immediately became too small for the two of us.
As he led me out of the university's computer sciences building, I found myself picking up on his interest in me and shuddered. In my time, such men as he and I took pains to pretend their lack of interest. Bönner seemed to be taking pains to let me know of his. He was not the first man to do so since I had awakened, but he was the least attractive.
Unglaublich! Yes, definitely unbelievable.
I reminded myself that I needed him. From student and professor alike, I had learnt this Marcus Bönner was the one person at the university who could do what I had come to know I needed done.
Bönner smiled as he set down what had been a full stein of beer when it left the table moments before. He glanced about for the waiter for a refill as he said: "I've heard somebody was looking for a computer whiz. The whole thing was quite garbled."
I certainly hoped it was garbled! The idea that a nearly 160 year old vampire was going to leave a trail back to himself was laughable. I certainly was not freshly made. Between indirect questions and vampiric telepathy, whatever trail there might have been would have had the most experienced officers of the SS or NKVD pulling their hair from their head.
"I need some things done."
Bönner smiled broadly, the act filling his beefy, peasant face as he sat across from me. "From what I was able to put together, Herr Fürst von Maribor, I'd say you want to build some records or delete them. Most probably, the former."
I jerked in surprise. The man had somehow traced me back through my subterfuges – before I'd even approached him. He knew my title from more than sixty years ago.
"Why do you so honour me?" I asked, attempting to still my heart.
"I like to know those with whom I'm dealing."
He leant back in his chair and studied me closely. "You were perhaps twenty years old when you acquired your title in 1935." He smiled tightly. "I must say you carry your age very well, my Prince. Looking at you, I wouldn't think you were more than..." He smiled. "Perhaps, that same age now."
I sat very straight at the table and wondered where I could kill him. To a mortal, knowledge such as his was a sentence of death. "How were you able to gain that information?" I demanded, no longer pretending.
He grinned. "The admittedly fuzzy picture I had of you came from people you questioned, your accent being Austrian, old records from Vienna, and newspaper photographs from before the war. They don't do you justice, by the way."
"You will still help me, knowing this?" I asked suspiciously.
Perhaps his life could be prolonged until he provided me the records I needed to be considered alive in this modern age. How much longer I wasn't willing to guess.
Bönner laughed. "For a price, my Prince. A very hefty price – but my world will be yours and you can move about as you wish."
"How much?" I grunted and sat back.
"A million francs – Swiss." He folded his fingers together and pursed his lips.
"That will make you second-generation Swiss," he continued, "a fourth cousin of the last Fürst von Maribor, a graduate of this university, the only surviving child of the heir to the last Fürst von Maribor's chosen heir. All records duly noted in Bern and Vienna." He shrugged. "It also provides you with an Austrian passport."
"A million francs?" It would be but a minor debit against my account, once I could again reach it. "Is that all?"
"There's only one other thing, my Prince. I want your secret of immortality for myself."
I showed no sign of emotion, but I could have jumped with joy. Marcus Bönner hadn't come to the very illogical conclusion that I was a vampire, even as he jumped to so many others to know what he did of me.
I nodded. "I have no doubt becoming an instant millionaire will provide you with everything you really want."
"I want time to enjoy it."
"Natürlich. Then, our arrangement is a million francs and the secret to long life."
He smiled. "The money is to be paid half before I begin and the remainder after the records are where they need to be, my Prince."
"I'd have to see the product of your labour before I pay you, Herr Bönner," I answered, frowning as I remembered that I needed this man's records to access my account and pay him.
"In your case, though, my Prince, I'll accept a partial payment after the Swiss records are installed."
I glared at the mortal who knew that I could not reach my account until he had created the records.
"Which bank do you use?" he asked.
"Hauptmann's – why?"
He spread his hands palms up across the table. "I wrote their security programme, my Prince. You may access your account any time after noon tomorrow."
"They will want identification," I grumbled.
"They won't after the noon hour. They'll be completely satisfied that you are who you say you are."
"Thank you," I mumbled in gratitude, looking down at my hands in my lap.
"I like to have everything laid out clearly so that there are no misunderstandings," he said and turned to look out onto the street beyond us. "You have a secret that may not be healthy for me to know."
I looked up at him sharply, clinching my jaw. "I am a man of honour," I growled, "and I tell you that, on my honour, I will not harm you -- or have you harmed."
"I accept your vow, Fürst von Maribor," Marcus Bönner said quickly. "But I will feel considerably safer if I install a back-up in these government records you want created – a virus that requires that I feed it a password six months from now to keep your identity as it will have become."
"Why six months?" I asked, past anger and simply curious.
"You're a sane man." He smiled. "Six months from now, you'll have seen that I won't blackmail you or expose you. Fear doesn't last that long in sane people. You'll be far away, and I'll be safe."
Someone pushed my shoulder as they passed by me.
I saw Bönner frown. Beside us and, then, behind Bönner, I watched a blond boy push his way through the crowded café. He wore khaki trousers and a long sleeve white shirt. I blinked as I realised that there was a large armband around his left forearm -- black with a gold cross. The boy reached the centre of the sidewalk café before I realised that four more boys were converging on him from different points in the café.
"What an ill-mannered child!" I said.
"Yeah, one of the Ami brats – they're all like that," Bönner snarled, eyeing the boys who'd managed to come together. "They're from TOMORROW!, judging from the outfit."
"TOMORROW!?" I asked, looking back at him.
"An American evangelical group for teen-aged boys," he explained. "They come over here and presume they own us." He snorted. "They claim to be evangelicals – even standing outside our churches and trying to save the church-goers."
I raised a brow in disbelief.
"They do. And they get so angry when we won't speak English with them."
The boy who'd pushed past me and the others formed a five-pointed star with each of them facing out. They began to march in place.
"The sun on the prairie is golden and warm," the blond began to sing in English, putting his clenched fist over his heart. I struggled to understand his words.
"The deer in the meadows run free.
Come, brothers, join with me and call forth the storm:"
The other four boys joined the blond as he reached what I realised was the refrain. The addition of their voices, however, made the words more difficult to understand.
"The new day belongs to me!"
"Though the leaves of the forest each year turn to gold,
And frost rimes the winter-grey sea,
Still somewhere are waiting Your glories untold:
"The new day belongs to me!"
One patron and, then, another stood and began to sing along with the boys. Each placed his or her right fist over the heart.
"Come Heavenly Father, Lord, show us the sign --
Your children are longing to see.
The morning will come when the whole world is mine:
But the new day belongs to me!"
I hadn't spoken English in a hundred years and hadn't understood most of the words. But I recognised the tune behind the song -- Tomorrow Belongs To Me. I had heard it almost every day I continued to live in Vienna after the Anschluß with Hitler's Germany. I would recognise the Hitler Youth anthem to my dying day.
I stared at Bönner, my eyes bulging. "Wannsinn!" I whispered.
"Insanity is right," Bönner spat. "I'd forgotten this restaurant draws a lot of Ami. TOMORROW! hits it every time a new group comes through Zürich to get the juices flowing in the American troops stationed in Europe."
"But that's a Nazi party song...!" I looked across at the five boys happily marching in place and leading what appeared to be half of the patrons in another stanza of their song.
"Not exactly," Bönner said. "It's the same tune, but their evangelists re-wrote the words."
"I can't believe that the country that destroyed Hitler is falling for his insanity," I groaned.
"The Amis are crazy these days. The EU has even asked them to pull out of their bases here."
I turned and stared at him. "Unmöglich!"
"Even the Engländer," he chuckled and stood. "Just a month ago ... Get back with me tomorrow, Herr Fürst," he said. "I should have some news."
"About this time would be the earliest I can make it," I offered lamely.
"I have a class to teach at this hour. Meet me at the office at 1700 hours." He smiled and said: "See you tomorrow evening."
I watched him leave before I paid the bill and left, making sure I walked in the opposite direction from the one he had taken. I couldn't get his conditions out of my mind as I walked home.
It had been the beginning of October when I arrived in the banking capital of the world, sixty-five years after Hitler started the war that was to change the world. I was still learning the extent of that change even after a month of steadily moving westward while skirting the Tyrol.
Zürich did not have the largest banks in the world, or the richest. It did, however, offer a stable government and account-friendly laws. And it had done for hundreds of years.
The banks also offered autonomy from inquisitive governments. When I first opened my account with Hauptmann's Bank in 1875, not even the Swiss government could gain access to those accounts held by foreigners. A hundred and twenty-nine years later, that had changed to where only those accounts with criminally acquired money could be opened. The other government had to prove its case as effectively as it would in a British court of law.
Hauptmann's still held my funds. I still had the same account. However, I needed identification to claim the more than three hundred million Swiss francs that were there.
I had taken inexpensive lodgings in a student section of town, on a side street between Bolleystrasse and Huttenstrasse, less than a kilometre from the Universität Zürich. I appeared young enough to blend into the neighbourhood. I felt safe amongst the students. There was too much I didn't know about this world three years into the second millennium for me to be ostentatious. I also needed identification. I needed to learn how to live in the world I now found myself in.
I was satisfied with a fifth floor walk-up garret. It gave me privacy, for I had already learnt modern youth weren't interested in the exercise such a walk would give them. It gave me a balcony with a beautiful view of an old church, one where I could remember a simpler past and contemplate the complex present. And one that gave me access to the nearby university as well.
The university. A centre of and for knowledge. And knowledge was what I now needed desperately. I hoped that I'd found it in Marcus Bönner.
Hitchhiking across southern Austria, I'd learnt of driver licenses, Bismarck's social security now available to all in Western Europe, credit cards, and Interpol -- and the computers that enabled governments to maintain ever larger amounts of information about their citizens and the visitors inside their countries. Himmler and his SS would have been ecstatic with such extensive knowledge of people.
I knew these things existed. I understood the need to have identification to exist comfortably and without suspicion in this new world. But I had yet to learn how I could create such information about myself so that I could access my money and live in that comfort.
I understood the need; I simply did not know how to satisfy it and keep my nature hidden. Someone at the university would, however. With housing secured, I set out to find that person who would open the new world order of the twenty-first century up to me. I was ready to travel the infobahn -- but on my terms and with a chauffeur of my choice.
Now, I had the chauffeur of my choice but was not happy.
* * *
Back in my rooms, I raged. Marcus Bönner had the audacity to question my honour. I would kill him. I would tear his head off.
There were other hackers. I didn't need him. Austria, Germany, France -- I could take my pick of the men who lived to ride the infobahn. People who took pleasure in thwarting governments and companies by finding their secrets in cyberspace.
I raged, but I was not insane. This Bönner had found me out. He knew who I was or thought he did. He had traced me back to the young man I had pretended to be in 1935; he could make me more than eighty years old. At the very least, he could embarrass me.
With me having no identification, I suspected he could do worse. And, without that identification, I could go nowhere -- not France, Germany, or Austria -- to find another hacker. I was stuck with Herr Bönner.
Stuck with him, yes. But, definitely not defenceless before him. I was still a vampire. I could read thoughts and direct them. I could even instil false memories in a man, as long as they were mundane, simple things. I could build on a man's own greed and lust; I should therefore be able to build on his revulsion and fear. I smiled and ended my pacing.
Marcus Bönner was in for some surprises.
He would have his million francs, of course. That was fair. And he would live his natural span of years. What he would provide me was well worth that. I had never been filled with avarice. A new persona to accommodate my twenty-five year old appearance was worth nearly any price.
I smiled and searched for his thoughts. If he was home alone, I was about to give him a fantasy he'd have a hard time believing.
My face fell immediately, the nature of what I would put in Bönner's mind forgotten as whispering, unchannelled thoughts touched mine for the first time in nearly sixty years.
Sergei's thoughts! Just as before when I found him in Würther's body. Disorganised and meaningless, but bearing my love's signature nonetheless – just as those others had.
Sergei had returned, calling me to reclaim him.
I collapsed in the nearest chair.
The awareness that, this time, I must protect him crashed over me. No more Bloody Sundays. No more mountain plateaux in the middle of the night. He would again be a vampire and, together, we would seal our bodies off from the worst the mortal world could bring against us.
I accepted that as a given. I had been alone too long -- with no Sergei to make my life miserable, yet unbelievably and permanently happy.
But where was he?
In 1935, when last I heard his soul's whisperings, he was less than twenty kilometres away at the country church servicing my district. The year before, when I first heard him whispering to me and his soul's voice was the most faint, he was no more than a hundred kilometres away at his seminary.
His spectral voice now was not faint. It was a loud, random call to me across the spectrums of telepathic thought. As loud as when Würther was a curate at the church and I was in residence at my estate. I accepted that meant he was nearby. Possibly even within twenty kilometres of where I now sat in the gathering autumn of 2004.
I shuddered as I accepted that. Zürich was a city of more than a million residents, plus the million and more in its many suburbs. Additionally, it had sixty thousand or more students at the university and the advanced technical college living within its boundaries, young men and women the city fathers of Zürich didn't count as residents and taxpayers. How was I supposed to find him? What were the odds of walking up on him as Würther had me in the confines of my home almost sixty years ago?
Was he a student? That might well explain the loudness of his soul's whispering to me. But it was just as possible that he was a fifty year-old butcher two blocks away, two hundred kilos waiting to land on me. All I knew was that, if I saw him or he saw me, we would know each other in the instant of that sighting.
That was how it had been when Father Würther entered my residence near the Yugoslav border when I still had an estate. But how could I make it possible to meet every person within twenty kilometres of where I had taken residence? Two million people, give or take a hundred thousand? Even given that half the population was female and he was kind enough to come back as a male, that left a million men and boys for me to meet personally to find one man.
Unglaublich. Not to mention its impossibility.
I tried to filter his whispering from my thoughts. I would search for him now that I knew he was here, but I still had things I must do, things that took precedence. The hacker especially -- or I would end up like the student he was entertaining when last I touched his thoughts.
And, more immediately still, I was hungry.
I had not yet fed. The mere thought of feeding had me immediately slavering as if I were a dog in Dr. Pavlov's laboratory. No other thought dared enter my mind now that the animal in me demanded glutting. I opened a window and, changing into bat form, flew into the already chilled night.
I did not have to hunt far.
The Plattpromenade speared the onrushing Sihl River and divided it before it could become the Zürichsee eight short blocks from my student garret. Even in autumn it was a refuge for the worldly but weary young of Europe.
Young men prostituted themselves along its paths while others shot heroin into their bodies and died in the fields of poppy only they could see. Already, in the short time I'd lived in the neighbourhood, there had been five drug overdoses. Those young, once handsome, men become gaunt in death lay wherever Zürich interred its indigent and unknown.
I landed in an evergreen bush and hopped to the leaf-covered ground. My body elongated, becoming larger, thicker and stronger, as I changed to wolf form. Tonight, I was hungry and I had to fill myself sufficiently so that I would control myself when I met Bönner tomorrow. There would be another corpse in this park when the sun rose again over Zürich.
I padded along the cobbled paths of the park, enjoying the sensation of the chilled, wet air on my fur, relishing the city smells that touched my snout. The thick scent of Italian salsas mingled with the aromas of German kuchen and torten. The odours reminded me of Vienna when once I lived there and could eat dead food – a polyglot of scents greeting the visitor.
A youth knelt before me, slowly sticking his hand out to me. I sniffed his palm, then licked it. He smiled. His other hand stroked my back. I nuzzled his coat and enjoyed his smell. His thoughts told me he was a student at the university, looking to make next week's spending money by hiring out his body. He was handsome, tall, and lithe -- exactly the way I liked my men.
His longish, curly hair was light-brown with reddish-gold highlights, his face thin with high cheeks and forehead, and his skin was light-complexioned, almost translucent under the lamps lighting the promenade.
My snout went to his crotch and sniffed his heat. He chuckled and ruffled the fur between my ears. There was no sickly sweet scent of heroin about him and his thoughts were clear as he looked past my wagging tail for sight of a possible assignation. I nuzzled him and felt his tumescence through the corduroy of his trousers.
I touched his thoughts again, moving along their surface.
He had bought his girlfriend a bracelet and now wished he had been more careful with his money. She was worth every franc he reminded himself over and over again; it was just he'd been left so short. He hadn't been careful with his stipend and that embarrassed him. His lack of control had forced him to come to the park and that, too, embarrassed him.
He was uncomfortable on the promenade. His girlfriend satisfied his sexual needs. He was comfortable with her, and his life with her was not fraught with the dangers he sensed from the men who hunted in this park.
Memories of a tongue prying its way beneath his sensitive prepuce, lips pushing it back along his shaft. Encompassing his sex. A nose against his pubis, hot breath parting the short hairs. Those drew him even as he resisted their lure, drawing him as much as the money did.
He skirted the danger every time he returned. He wondered what it would be like to do to others what they did for him. It was a curiosity he resisted vehemently; but it was there, barely submerged beneath his surface thoughts. That and the curiosity of what it'd be like to be mounted as some of the men who hired him wanted.
Surprised, I realised my careful planning for my resurrection had held no thought to my sexual needs. Though not considered, my lust had taken care of itself by finding this lad. It didn't take me more than a moment to decide that I would hire him to keep my libido satisfied until I once again held Sergei in my arms. I found this youth's name and where he lived among his memories.
I wanted this Emil Paulik. I wanted to worship Eros with him. To relieve his curiosity. But gently. Kindly. Without feeding. Not tonight, but another time. When we could together explore his fantasies leisurely.
He stood expectantly and I sensed a middle-aged man approaching us, a man whose thoughts were already imaging the lad's endowment. I wagged a farewell to the youth and left him to his transaction. I had my own transaction to find. My canine bowel growled in anticipation.
When the first vampire rose from the gore of his birth, he was blessed with the ability to feed on any blood, regardless of what microbes or molecules it carried. Neither human nor animal disease touched those of us who traced our being back to that long ago ancestor. Of course, clean, healthy blood tasted far better than dirty, diseased blood – much like the difference between a Chateaubriand and jerky.
I chose not to taste my Chateaubriand as young Emil would have been to me. I knew heroin-tainted blood would taste like soured wine. But I chose not to feed on a man who was healthy and had harmed no one. By choosing to sate my hunger on the sick and afflicted, I was only speeding them to the end they'd chosen for themselves.
My dinner sat alone along the darkest path in the park at the northern end of the river island. He wore a thin shirt and denim trousers, his shoes had come unsewn at the toes. His hair and beard were wild, uncombed and unwashed. His thoughts were incoherent, sliding towards unconsciousness as the night's chill held him and consumed his pain.
He did not stir at my touch on his hand and his skin was already as cold as my own. I nodded to myself as I realised he would not live out the night, even if I did not end his lost life for him. I changed back into human shape, standing before him nude. I felt the bite of autumn chill in the air, but it didn't affect me as it would a mortal – I could lope across the Antarctic without fear of death.
Lifting him, I carried him into the bushes beyond the path and laid him on a bed of leaves. It was the best setting I could provide him for his encounter with the man on the white horse.
I pulled his trousers to his knees and used my preternatural sight in the darkness to find the needle tracks along the inside of his thigh. I wagged my head at how close they had come to his scrotum. The man before me was in the last stages of his addiction, all but his largest veins were collapsed. Baring my teeth I plunged them into the artery at the joint.
After his heart had failed and I was gorged, I pulled his trousers back onto his hips and zipped them. He didn't deserve the indignity of being bared to the world in death, no matter how undignified his life had been.
The whispering was calling loudly to me as I flew into my room and changed into human form.
"Sergei, where are you?" I demanded softly even as I knew he could not, would not, answer me. The whisperings were but the mutterings of his unawakened soul, a reflexive voicing of its re-emergence on the physical plane -- much like the cooing and gurgling of a new-born child. He would not awaken until we were in each other's presence, when he would finally recognise me and know himself.
That recognition would trigger his reawakening. Whoever he was now would not become Sergei until that had happened. Then he would be Sergei, Würther, this person, and everyone else he had ever been – an amalgam of personalities.
I did not envy him his incarnations. Nearly one hundred and sixty years of memories were often too many for me; I could well imagine the paralysis caused by a deluge of memory from his first sentient moment. It had almost destroyed Würther, leaving him prostrate for two long days and fearful of himself for nearly a year afterwards.
How long had I waited for Würther from the first whispering until he walked into the estate house that evening? A year? Longer?
Gott im Himmel! Did I have to wait that long this time?
I forced Sergei and my anticipation of him from my mind. I closed the window and dressed. And allowed myself pleasant thoughts of introducing Emil to what he feared most but was drawn towards. Several hundred francs a week would not cause me financial pain, but they would help him considerably. With them, we would both find our interludes pleasant – I would ensure that, along with paying him his wages.