a Serial in Seven Parts
By CJ Alexander
At promptly 0800 the next morning I stride from the turbo-lift and settle into my chair.
“You look better today, Captain,” notes Commander Toloache.
I recall Margo last evening, supine on the floor. I don’t think I drained her, but I need to know if she’s all right. “Get Counselor Malone up here. I’ll see her in my conference room.”
When Margo’s face appears on the view screen I let out a sigh of relief. “Enter!”
“You asked to see me, Captain?”
“Please, sit down.”
She sits gingerly on the edge of the chair. There are no marks on her lovely neck. By all that’s unholy, I not only remember feeding, but also stopping long before I was sated.
“Thank you, Captain. I see you took my advice. You look much more like your regular self this morning.”
“Yes, I do feel more in control. I appreciate your help, Counselor. You’ve been working overtime during this crisis. Take the day off.”
She stands, rubbing her neck. “If you say so, sir. I’ve got a full docket…but I suppose I can reschedule.”
“Just an itch. It’s nothing.” I look away, feeling guilty for exploiting her.
“Be careful. Please.”
“Of course, Captain.”
No sooner do I regain my self-confidence than men and women start dropping dead by the dozen. Addled, frightened crew members gossip that maybe we picked up alien insect larvae on that ocean-covered planet a few weeks ago. This ‘bug’ has now hatched, and leaves marks on the victims’ necks when it feeds, which inspires the moniker “Vampire Bug”. Some horror story aficionados are calling it “Captain Trips” in honor of the ancient writer, Stephen somebody. In any case, I now know I’m not to blame, because I’ve been feeding on a regular schedule and everyone I’ve drawn blood from is still around, and they smile when they see me. But I don’t believe a ‘bug’ is to blame, not entirely at least.
Because as of today, I’m convinced there must be another – undocumented- vampire on board and I have to find it before it kills the rest of my crew.
“Report!” My trousers hit the chair. The skeleton crew manning the bridge scare up half-hearted responses to my request. I let this breach of protocol pass without comment.
“Send someone up from astrophysics,” I say. “Anyone.” Dr. Hawking got drained last week. “Right away, Captain,” someone whose name I can’t remember replies.
Renata Toloache’s face appears on the screen. “Enter!”
“Why were you in astrophysics, Commander?” I ask.
Her eyes boldly challenge mine. “There’s no-one left aboard who’s qualified to be there, other than you. I studied basic physics and astronomy in college and I’ve read every bit of ship’s data. I’m now the entire astrophysics staff, Captain.”
I sigh. Like it or not, I must place navigation under Renata’s control. “Are we near any solar systems? Anything that indicates a possible place to land, even if we have to wear spacesuits?”
“Nothing in range that I can see.”
“Inform me at once, no matter what hour, if you see anything at all of interest.”
“Sure thing, Captain. Can I go now?” Something really doesn’t compute.
* * *
Oh, this ‘bug’ – this vampire – is clever. Keen of eye, fleet of foot, invisible. It viciously rips open each targeted artery, splashes blood on the walls, the carpeting, and the victims’ uniforms. It hunts, feeds, kills, all without mercy, all hours of day and night now, terrorizing the crew with random acts of carnage. How did it get on board?
Many days pass in this same pattern. Few crew members are available to patrol the hallways, not that it makes a difference. Morale? There is none. Staff fail to report for duty. They pray in the tiny chapel at all hours, or work out in the gym, or just stare into deep space. And I’m no closer to finding the elusive vampire than I was when I first felt her – yes, HER – presence.
It must be a woman because the bite marks are small and close together, the kind only made by feminine sized fangs. Of all the women on board I believe only Margo to be above suspicion. I drank her blood, didn’t I? If she’s a vampire, I’d have been unable to glamor her, let alone feed. No, it has to be someone else. Could it be…Renata? Of course it can’t. Surely I’d know if she was a vampire. Nevertheless, I’ll keep a close watch on her for the next several days.
To be continued