Another one from the late ’90s vampire phase. …
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“… and so it comes to this. From an intellectual standpoint it is considerably disappointing. To have lived some 4,000 years, only to lapse into hunger and madness. I feel it setting upon my brain, even as I set down these old-fashioned words. Were it not for that — the madness — the physiological possibilities of what might happen to me would make for interesting conjecture. But that is not why I am compelled to put my final coherent thoughts down.
“Why am I writing this? Why indeed? Aside from habit, after existing so long, I suppose I fear the end. I remember gazing upon the stone towers of Ec’taylohn with boyish wonder so long ago. I’ve spent the eons watching the human race spread across the world and beyond, empires rising and falling, others like me succumbing to madness or accident, while I endured. But now it appears that even I am coming to an end. Were the astronomers wrong? Did the orbital defense systems fail? I suppose I shall never know. Perhaps all this is just the law of averages finally catching up to me, along with death and insanity. … It’s strange, Tem, even though I lost you so long ago and by now even your bones are dust in the ground, among my last thoughts are thoughts of you. …”
“… I hope you will forgive me for using such an expensive means of communication, and further apologize for interrupting your work on the third planet, however I believe you will want to personally investigate this matter.
“It seems that a routine sweep by a sensor drone in one of the larger cities in the northern hemisphere of the fourth planet revealed an anomalous biological reading. Although loathe to take anyone away from the principal impact sight in the southern polar region, I did dispatch a small team of several junior team members and one senior archaeologist to the sight when mechanical inspection of the drone revealed no malfunction in its AI. You will find their report in full attached … “
“… We located the source of the sensor anomaly deep within the building, which extended for nearly a quarter of a kilometer below the surface. It was a body, clearly a member of the indigenous intelligent species. Apparently this individual had become trapped far below the surface when this building collapsed (the surrounding city showed destruction typical of a minor impact site). Initial computer translation of a hand-written journal found near the body seems to confirm this (complete translation file of this journal is attached). After intensive analysis of sensor data collected personally at the sight, I could only conclude that while the body was not alive in any medical or technical sense of the term, there was nevertheless evidence of activity at the cellular and molecular level. This of course, is incredibly remarkable, assuming this being became trapped there during the original cometary impact in this region. Furthermore, while one would expect the body to be well preserved given the conditions, there was no evident decay whatsoever, even at the molecular level — only extreme emaciation.
“Considering that this was the only such remarkable artifact to be found in the years we have been searching this system, I concluded that we should remove the body to a laboratory ship for further study, as this specimen could prove invaluable to our understanding of this particular race’s physiology. However we made an even more remarkable discovery when we tried to remove the body from the structure. …”
It was the sun that brought him back to life, ironically enough. He had been trapped for so long that it took exposure to sunlight to bring him back to consciousness. He could smell his smoking flesh and feel the burning before he realized what they were. With a scream he leapt up from the makeshift gurney and sprinted back into the cool, shadowy ruins of the building that had served as the roof of his tomb for untold eons.
With a moan he collapsed to his knees, wrapping impossibly thin limbs around his bony, blistered torso. Hunger. He was so hungry. Dimly, awareness began to confront confusion in his mind. He had been trapped, hopelessly trapped, with no food, no blood. Hunger and madness ensued, and then oblivion. As he searched his memory he heard the shuffling of someone behind him. If he had been healthy he would already have been gone, or that someone already dead. As it was he merely lifted his tired gaze toward them. A being stood there, an impossible being. An odd assortment of limbs, not exactly tentacles, protruded out of the top and bottom of a central body. Its skin, which turned from a light brown at the tips of the limbs to almost black at the central torso, looked wet, and yet is smelled of dry leather. Studded at seemingly irregular intervals along its uppermost limbs were black orbs. It wore a suit of plain brown material, from which hung several small instruments, some familiar, some not.
It stopped several meters before the vampire, holding one of the instruments hanging from its garment towards him the entire time. The vampire suddenly felt more than heard the high pitched buzzing coming from the creature and it was soon joined by several comrades who obviously shared a common biology, although were all somewhat shorter in stature than the first one, who stood roughly a meter and a half tall. Then the dusty maze of broken concrete and twisted steel around him was buzzing with high-pitched wines of varying tones and intensity. As he studied the aliens the vampire realized that these tones with which the creatures apparently communicated were far too high for normal human ears to hear. He was too weary and hungry to be awestruck, though. He merely slumped the rest of the way to the dusty ground as unconsciousness claimed him once again.
This time his consciousness clicked on like a light; as it always did when the sun went down. He opened his eyes with a start to subdued lighting. He smelled blood. His hunger was not gone, he realized; he still felt the gnawing feeling deep in his gut and the burning in his brain, but it was somehow lessened, or dulled. Perhaps it was the dark maroon fluid that was dripping into his right arm from the IV pole standing next to him that took the edge off his thirst. He remembered trying artificial human blood when it had first been marketed system wide some years ago; it had not been able to sustain those of his kind. But whatever this was dripping into his arm was apparently adequate, if not a substitute for the real thing. It was keeping the madness at bay.
As he sat up he reached over with his left hand and pulled the odd-looking needle out of his right. A crimson trickle escaped from the small wound as it quickly healed, “but not quite as quickly as it should have,” he thought. He raised the strange plastic-like needle to his nose. It certainly smelled like blood, but again, something about the aroma wasn’t quite right. Dropping the needle he turned his gaze away from it and surveyed his surroundings.
He was laying on a padded table, nude except for the thin sheet draped over him. His bed was the only furniture in the large but simple room. As he looked around a door opened opposite his bed and one of the creatures undulated into the room. It slowly moved almost silently to the side of his bed, holding a small square device in two of its arms. Small appendages seemingly sprouted at random from the ends of the arms that held the half-meter square box out in front of itself. As he stared alternately at the box and at the creature holding it, he heard the almost inaudible whining that he had heard in the ruins. He flinched as the side of the device facing him glowed to life and began displaying alphanumeric characters. Simultaneously, the box began to speak to him in modern human language. “I see that you have recovered consciousness,” the box stated, ” I hope you are feeling well.”
It had been a simple matter for the aliens to synthesize human blood corpuscles — having studied his physiology and learned his long-held secret they realized that this is what he needed. Throughout history that had always meant certain death to his kind, of course. But he need not have feared for his existence. Indeed the alien archaeologists considered him precious beyond compute.
So the chief archaeologist and the vampire conversed for the next eleven hours and forty minutes, and managed to cover — among other things — the first thousand years of human history as the vampire had experienced it first hand.
The race of beings currently investigating the ancient human civilization and its neighboring planets and colonies were known throughout the galaxy for their work in history and archaeology. One of their current work sites out on the galactic arm had sent a disturbing ripple throughout the civilized cultures of the galaxy. Despite a lifetime of work investigating the native solar system of the now extinct humans, the “sifters,” as they were casually known, had not determined what exactly had led to the humans’ destruction. Aside from the system-wide evidence of cometary impacts two millennia ago, there was no physical evidence left to explain why the entire human race had suddenly and literally died. While the damage to the inner planets and outer colonies was extensive, and would naturally disrupt the ecosystems both natural and otherwise throughout the system for generations, this type of destruction was nevertheless not without historical precedent and should not have led to the extinction of the indigenous species. Yet the species that had called itself human was gone.
It was a matter that particularly bothered the chief archaeologist in charge of the system exploration. He was under pressure from economic elements within the galactic oligarchy to open this system for development. This was not deemed feasible, however, until it was determined what exactly had caused the extinction of the indigenous species. After nearly a lifetime of research throughout the system theories abounded as to what happened to the humans after the comets crashed throughout their system, but no conclusive evidence presented itself despite the well-preserved and abundant archaeological record.
Until recently the chief archaeologist had been on the third planet. One of his favorite theories was that the advanced terra-forming efforts on this planet had created biological anomalies that had somehow contributed to the system’s demise following the ecological disruption of the comet impacts. But it quickly dropped its work when the report came that its associates discovered a living and apparently indigenous being. At last, answers might be had.
“So you see,” the alien stated through its translator, “we certainly intend you no harm.”
The vampire was given the run of the aliens’ mother ship. Stationed in geosynchronous orbit, the vampire had to sleep twelve hours out of the day, but the remainder of the time he spent with various aliens reviewing records and discussing human history. While he could provide no clues on what happened to the human race, having lived through a majority of its history, the alien historians and archaeologists found him invaluable. And they were all to happy to supply him with the adequate — if not satisfying — synthetic blood.
On occasions the aliens left him to his own devices and he researched alien physiologies. Unfortunately, while there were a few out of the several hundred known intelligent species that resembled human beings, the appearance was purely incidental; their underlying biology was considerably different. But then it occurred to the vampire at some point that perhaps the incredible medical technology the aliens possessed might be put to interesting use.
One “evening,” shortly after rising, the vampire sought out the chief archeologist in its quarters. It was preparing its final report to the oligarchy, recommending that the system be opened up for expansion. “Indeed,” it said as it turned to face the vampire, “I can find no reason not to recommend expansion into this system, despite the mystery of humanity’s extinction. Furthermore, the lack of indigenous, intelligent species makes it an excellent candidate for expansion.”
“And what’s to become of me,” the vampire asked.
The alien was silent for a moment. “I have given the matter thought, as most of us have. You are certainly welcome to return to the galactic core with us,” it finally replied. “I can use what power I have in the way of diplomacy to clear the way for you to seek citizenship within the galactic oligarchy via the sponsorship of my race. This is rather unusual, in that you are only an individual, not a race, per se, and the oligarchy is nothing if not conservative, but I can make it so, if you wish.”
“I would be grateful,” the vampire said quietly. “Indeed I am grateful for all that you have done for me.”
“You’ve been a great help to us, believe me. And if I may be completely open, our actions regarding you have been dictated by self interests as much as benevolence.”
“I understand self-interest,” the vampire said thoughtfully. “But tell me. From my research of your libraries, I understand that within the oligarchy, aside from medical purposes, that genetic engineering and manipulation is essentially outlawed. Why are there such strict controls on this technology on oligarch worlds?”
The alien archaeologist went completely stiff for a moment, all its appendages straight. It emitted a very low, almost inaudible hum. The vampire had come to recognize this as laughter. After its limbs gradually relaxed, it replied. “As I said, the oligarchy is nothing if not conservative, principally because it is so old. As you no doubt know — having perused our history — the galactic oligarchy was formed after an eons-long war among many worlds and races that occurred when life on your planet was only beginning to emerge from its oceans — a war that involved the genetically modified on both sides of the conflict, not to mention many other technologies that were abused, such as artificial intelligence.
“So genetic engineering, while very beneficial in the realm of medical science, can, like any technology be used for counter-productive, not to mention amoral purposes. Hence the strict laws concerning it.” The alien paused for a moment. “Let me give you an example of how the bureaucratic oligarchy works. Despite my recommendation, which many, including corporate representatives from my own world, will view as rash, it will probably be another century or so before this system is opened for development. The financial gain versus the probability that what happened to the humans may occur again — thereby disrupting the financial and social fabric of this area of space — will be examined in minute and exacting detail.”
The alien paused for a moment as the lights of the translator died away. It pointed all of its limbs towards the floor in the alien equivalent of a shrug. The vampire meanwhile looked thoughtfully out of the windows for a moment; the continent containing the country which bore him so long ago passed slowly above them. “Look,” the vampire said finally, “you know what — why — I’m asking.” He turned to face the alien archaeologist. “So within the realm of oligarch worlds, I assume it would be illegal for me to synthesize human DNA? To bring the race back to life?”
The archaeologist was again silent for a long moment. “You could apply for a permit to do so,” it said slowly, “but unless you have some medical application or purpose which required the living DNA, I can say with authority that you would be turned down. The laws regarding replication of genetic material of intelligent species, extinct or otherwise, are very strict.”
“I see.” Of course the vampire knew or suspected all this from studying historical records; the chief archaeologist merely provided confirmation. And what had been the mere seeds of a plan in the back of his mind coalesced and came to the fore. But all he said was: “So when will we be leaving for the galactic core? I’m anxious to see it.”
“As soon as the last of the smaller ships returns from the outer colonies, we will be leaving the system. Eight to 10 more orbits, I expect.”
Deep in the bowels of the cavernous alien vessel, it was nearly deserted. Most of the aliens were busy in laboratories, examining and cataloging human artifacts. The remainder were busy preparing the vast ship to leave the system. Despite the fact that there seemed to be few if any aliens about, the vampire moved as stealthily as he could towards the belly of the ship, where the appropriately-named mother ship housed its smaller companions.
He paused on wide gangway overlooking the array of berthed ships to pick out one he wanted. He needed a laboratory vessel with adequate medical facilities. He soon spied one that would suit his needs far below. “It’s a good thing this is second nature,” he thought, as his body rippled and shrank and took the form of a bat, “because it has been a long time.”
Slowly he spiraled downward to the ship he had picked, rematerializing outside the airlock on top of the vessel. He bent down and paused, recalling all the technical details he had committed to memory, and then proceeded to enter the airlock and let himself down into the ship. He found himself in a relatively narrow corridor that ran the length of the ship. After getting his bearings he proceeded to the navigation chamber. He entered the doorway and stopped. The lights automatically came on to reveal an alien in the center of the room. The vampire had not been with the aliens very long, but he learned to recognize individuals relatively quickly. It was the chief archeologist.
The two regarded each other for a moment in silence. Its limbs suddenly writhed in a gesture the vampire had learned to interpret as apprehension. Then it spoke. “I thought you might come here. I’m afraid that …”
The computer translation abruptly stopped. The vampire didn’t reply right away, but simply stared at the alien. He didn’t know if his powers would work on the alien, but it was his only chance. Slowly he advanced on the now still creature, his mind beginning to touch the other’s. He sensed the strange alien thoughts; felt the seemingly impossible, random jumble of appendages and eye orbs. He purposely made his thoughts peaceful and sensual as he began to reach for the vital area of the creature’s anatomy between two large appendages. He briefly wondered in the back of his mind what alien blood would taste like.
Then the creature spoke to him, inside his head. “It is not necessary to kill me,” it said.
The vampire leaped backward in amazement and crouched in the doorway, the trance broken. The two regarded each other again. This time it was the vampire who broke the silence. “You could communicate with me during the trance.”
“Yes, it was a most interesting sensation. There are two known, sentient species in the galaxy that can communicate telepathically with persons outside their own race, but this was different. It was more feeling. I could not move physically, but I could still think. I could sense your mind. How strange to have only four limbs.”
“Indeed,” replied the vampire ruefully, slowly rising to his feet.
“In any event,” continued the alien, in the pragmatic way the Sifters had about them, “It is not necessary to take my life. Furthermore, as you no doubt already know, my blood has high concentrations of ammonia, which I guess would be unpalatable for you at best. But as I was saying, there is no need. I will let you take the ship.”
“Yes. And I gather from your computer searches that you already have this, but I have programmed this ship’s memory banks with the human genome. You will also have no need for one of these” — it indicated its translator — “I programmed the ship to recognize and respond to your language.”
The vampire stared at it for a moment, astonished. Then he bowed deeply and smiled as he did so. “Why?”
The chief archaeologist thought for a moment before it replied. “I suppose it is because we admire you. Throughout much of human history you endured. An outcast because of the nature of your relationship with humans, you still managed to endure. You are indeed a living artifact. Certainly no one is more qualified to appreciate what that means than all of us.
“Also, when our minds touched briefly, I confirmed what I suspected. Our manufactured heme sustains you at best. You need something that no one else in the galaxy can provide. At least not under the laws and beliefs we follow under the oligarchy.”
The vampire continued to stare at the alien. “If you only knew,” he finally said quietly. “At some point I even wished you had never found me. Sometimes I feel like I’m constantly one step away from madness. I know that the blood you give me is chemically indistinguishable from O-negative blood. But I need blood that has flowed through the vessels of a living being; blood that has nourished a mind and soul as well as a body. I need blood that is human.”
“I understand,” the alien replied. “The ship is yours.” And then it shuffled past the vampire and into the corridor where it stopped. An upper appendage slowly turned its eye orbs back toward the vampire. “I assume you have familiarized yourself with the operation of our vessels. You will be able to leave the mother ship unhindered. You will also find the navigational data for several different systems that may suit your needs.
“You are a remarkable being. I wish you luck and bid you farewell.” And with that it left.
Five hundred light years away from where he was born thousands of years before, the vampire stood beside his ship on a sandy beach. He stood on the shore of a large southern continent of a planet remarkably similar to his own, watching its single moon shine over one of its vast oceans. The fact that there was only one instead of three did not matter. Nor did the fact that this planet had more water as well, or the minor difference in spectra between this yellow dwarf and the star of his home world.
There was also evidence that several primate species were present on the planet who showed some indications of intelligence, and he felt that he should investigate — but no matter. He was tired of looking and tired of waiting, and human kind would flourish here.
Yet the vampire wondered what the future held. He wondered if this time things could be different; if human and vampire could or would exist peacefully together.
But then he laughed as a thought came to him unbidden. He turned his back on the surf and gazed into the distance of the lush jungles of his new home. “You’re right Tem, what will I and the children do with all this plant life?” Many thousands of years hence, the descendants of his mortal children would call that land Alkebulan, the “mother of human kind.” Later still, they would call it Africa.
Author’s Note: Theodore Sturgeon was right; 99 percent of science fiction is garbage because it’s been done before. Of course the idea of vampires as keepers and protectors of human kind is not new, nor the idea that humanity was actually born somewhere else. But I hope that in this context, I’ve taken two tired ideas and managed to create an original story.