a Serial in Seven Parts
By CJ Alexander
The whistle blows. The turbo-lift doors open. Cadets and crew scramble to attention as the first officer intones: “Captain on the bridge!”
No, this is not an episode of Star Trek and I’m not James T. ‘heart-throb’ Kirk. Who I am is Rune Gaspare, a man with no heart. For centuries I have risen through the ranks of NASA, first as an astrophysicist, later as an astronaut. After my conversion, I became the first vampire in the history of the United States to command a star ship, but other than the members of the Hierarchy, no one knows what I really am.
Pause and pose: I make my grand entrance. Not as grand as if I’d arrived wearing my trademark ruff-necked cape, but I daresay I draw admiring glances nonetheless.
I inspect my crew. Oh, the appetizingly ruddy-cheeked young faces, so healthy looking, so full of pulsing blood! Most aren’t compatible donors, but a few were recruited specifically to provide my required daily nutrients. This elite group will retain no memory of my slurping at their necks. They have forgetfulness genes that the Hierarchy scientists within the Red Cross have genetically implanted against future need. And now- the need has arrived. Ours is a one-way mission, the first of its kind. We are the pioneers of what will be a long diaspora to a clean, uninhabited planet.
That’s our official mission.
I too have a mission, a secret one: to smuggle my human—yes, human—grandchildren away from the clutches of the Hierarchy.
Only my closest confidants know of my hastily conceived ruse to get those kids off the planet. We evacuated their sleeping bodies the night before launch, and hid them in a crate bearing my name. Their sedatives had almost worn off before the crate was delivered to my quarters. I have locked them into the guest chamber next to me, where they’ll be safe until we reach our new home. Not the best plan I’ve ever had, but I promised their mothers I would protect them at any cost.
“All systems are go, Captain.”
“Engage.” The mission to explore the newly discovered earthlike planet orbiting Alpha Centauri is underway. It’s exciting, but I’m anxious to check on the kids.
“Commander Toloache, you’re in charge.” I hurry from the bridge, reminiscing. After both of my daughters died from heart attacks, I enrolled Adam and Eve in the elite GEH (genetically enhanced human) program at the Biodesign Institute. They had both inherited early onset, congenital heart disease. After genetic reprogramming, their prognosis was excellent. They were monitored for possible complications until they reached puberty. Now they attend the Institute’s secondary school and hopefully, later, college. They’re smart and utterly normal, so I treat them like any other human kids. They don’t know I’m a vampire. I was sired at a relatively old age and I look like a grandfather should.
A few days before this mission began, my sources informed me that the Hierarchy has been surreptitiously grooming Adam to be a prize bull to lease for stud when he comes of age, and intends for fertile, gentle Eve to be mounted like a cow, producing a child every twelve months until both of their bodies break down, like mere livestock…livestock! If I’d had any blood to boil it would’ve welded shut my veins.
I may be a vampire, but blood ties run deep. I felt the timing to be serendipitous – emergency evacuation was in order.
I nod to the crew members as I make my way toward my wing. Renata Toloache seems to be a capable, efficient first officer. I would have preferred someone of my own choice, but I follow orders like everyone else. I feel the crew’s excitement as I slip into my quarters. Then, I quietly speak to the intercom.
Eve promptly answers. “Granddad! How quaint you are. Are we allowed to come out now?”
“Afraid not, sweetheart. We talked about this before, remember? You’ll be safer in your room until we reach our destination.”
“There’s nothing to do in here!” Adam.
“Yeah, and how will we eat? We’re starved!” wails Eve.
“Don’t worry, I’ll bring you plenty of food from the launch banquet a little later.”
Adam again: “I want pizza!”
I laugh. Teenagers… “You’ll have to settle for filet mignon or something like that.”
“Yuck, no way…”
* * *
I apologize to the chef, a white lie about being too wound up to sample his sumptuous fare. “I’ll just have a plate sent to my quarters, thank you,” I say. By all that’s unholy, I nearly drool at the panoply of tantalizing arteries spiced with adventure. I can barely keep my fangs retracted. Oh, I’m hungry all right, but not for these steaming piles of limp, slimy green and yellow plants, these platters of dry, white slabs of grain with all their flavor and nutrients bleached out. Bread, the staff of life, the life of my staff. People food! Disgusting! What alchemy transforms these dead victuals into my living dinner? Anyway, I’m in no danger of starving. After all, I’m the only vampire on board and this vessel teems with delicious Type A blood…Easy does it, I chide myself. I force myself to mingle for an interminable while.
Alone now, tedious opening ceremonies finally dispensed with, and kids duly fed, I pace in my quarters. When I’m sure my real meal is in her room, I’ll dine lightly and return replenished, before anyone notices my absence.
To be continued