The Adventures of Béla, the Vampire Girl
Book 5: New Beginnings
He was lying on a hard surface. He moved slightly and moaned through his closed mouth, suddenly realizing his head was throbbing with a dull, then acute pain deep inside his skull.
Opening his eyes, he was able to gradually focus on the rafters high above. The sweet scent of hay met his nostrils as he continued to regain consciousness. He was in Master Corona’s barn. Then he remembered climbing the steep stairs to the loft.
‘Why was I coming up here?’ Sy asked himself, sitting up and holding his head, pressing hard with both hands to relieve the pressure deep inside and behind his eyes.
Then he remembered. A secret tryst with Lannie – she was supposed to follow when she could get away. He also remembered something else – a bright, blinding blue flash of light that had pierced into his very soul.
As a military man, he knew, in retrospect, that someone had used a Personnel Thumper somewhere nearby, and most likely everyone in the immediate area was either knocked out or just now recovering like he was. Being up on the second floor of the barn was just lucky. The destructive force of a thumper was mostly conducted through the ground.
A hissing squall emanated from immediately behind him as Sy attempted to stand up. Spinning around in shock and surprise, he almost lost his balance and fell again.
It was only Lannie’s werecat, probably startled at his sudden movement. It was about half the size of Lannie herself and, logically, weighed about half of what she did. It lay on the cabinet next to the wall, panting heavily. Sy smiled at the beast, remembering when he had given it to her. From Lannie’s own DNA mixed with the DNA from a desert wildcat, he had grown it just for her.
Lannie immediately fell in love with it the very first instant each laid eyes on the other. But it was expected they would bond, of course, recognizing themselves in each other. Lannie also loved Sy, and, of course, so did the werecat.
“Hello, Cutie,” Sy grinned at the feral-looking creature. “Come to wake me up, have you?”
The feral creature didn’t react to his touch in the usual manner of erotically shoving its sinuous body against his hand. In fact, it didn’t react at all. Instead, it lay its head down, its breathing becoming more labored.
“What’s wrong, Cutie,” Sy murmured lovingly to the beast, putting his face down directly in front of it face to gaze into Lannie’s emerald green eyes.
The creature flopped to one side and spasmed, accidentally raking his cheek with its long, deadly claws.
‘Hell… p…’ it gurgled, then slumped, apparently asleep.
“Oh, Zari!” Sy cried. “Alana!”
The creature and Lannie were psychically connected and something terrible was happening to her, right this instant!
Sy bounded down the steep stairs, lost his footing near the bottom and sprawled awkwardly across the floor. Hurriedly scrambling to his feet, he raced across to the wide-open entranceway, then stopped suddenly, remembering the ‘Thumper’.
‘We’re under siege!’ he suddenly realized.
If he raced out into the open yard, he would likely get cut down by a sizzle beam or worse. Thinking quickly, he pressed his back against the front of the barn and peered cautiously around the doorway.
There was no one in sight, so he scurried around and pressed himself as flat as he could against the outside of the barn. As he reached the corner, he could hear noises – the frightened neighing of pookas, and the sound of creaking leather on furred flesh.
Daring to expose his head, he bent himself around the corner. Master Corona, Lannie’s father, was hanging limp and swinging from a rope around his neck. Lannie was up on her knees in the saddle of her pooka with a rope around her neck as well. Her feet were braced against the sides of the saddle and she was doing her best to control and placate her pooka with her mind while…
‘That’s an Arcadian!’ Sy realized as he watched the grotesque creature trying to slap Lannie’s pooka out from under her.
Sy reached for his sidearm, knowing that it wouldn’t do much against an Arcadian while simultaneously trying to figure out how to save Lannie and why an Arcadian would been here anyway, of all places.
He also discovered that his sidearm was not in its holster.
‘I must have dropped it when I fell down the stairs!’
Backtracking quickly to the barn entrance, Sy raced to the foot of the stairs, his eyes locked on the silvery glint of the non-lethal weapon. Even as he grabbed it, he heard Lannie’s pooka gallop across the yard and a very unfeminine sound that could only be coming from Lannie’s throat as her weight, light though she was, crushed her larynx.
Frantic with fear for her, Sy still realized that going up against an Arcadian while armed with what was basically a pellet tranquilizer was a good way to get killed. And if he were dead, he wouldn’t be able to help Lannie.
‘I’m in a barn, for Zari’s sake! There should be SOMETHING here!’
Then his eyes lit on a common pitchfork. Grinning madly at the insanity of going up against an armed Arcadian with a pitchfork, he grabbed it and raced toward the little side door that would (hopefully) open *behind* the alien intruder, desperately hoping it would give him some small element of surprise. Bursting through the door, Sy slammed right into the heavy Arcadian. They both grunted at the impact – Sy with surprise mixed with terror; his opponent with dumb surprise.
The monster stared at Sy for a moment, then at the pitchfork sticking out of its chest and mouth. Then it fell, almost toppling over on Sy. Terrified, Sy pushed hard against the blue-tinged chest of the creature, shoving it violently to one side as it toppled down.
“If you had allowed us to alter your species DNA when we offered, you might have survived that,” Sibilius told the dead alien, mostly to calm his frayed nerves.
A gurgling sound from above and behind him finally got his attention as he remembered…
She was kicking and bucking furiously, an enraged rather than a fearful expression on her face, swinging wildly above him while fighting to free her hands.
“Stop fighting it! You’re crushing your windpipe!” he cried anxiously at her.
She ignored him – well, not exactly. She snarled at him, as best she could with what air she had left, then furiously continued her wild kicking as she tried to pull her hands out of the ropes binding her.
Raising his pellet gun, Sy shot her twice in the stomach. The tranquilizer shells dissolved and knocked her out almost immediately, but not before she gave him one last hateful glare.
Sy sighed and looked up at her now limp form hanging by the neck. Sighting carefully, he thumbed his sidearm to automatic and pressed the trigger. It took almost thirty seconds for the steady stream of tiny pellets to cut through the heavy leather holding Lannie up. He wasn’t quick enough to catch Lannie when she fell, so she landed in a limp, unconscious heap in front of him.
He quickly unstrapped the leather collar from around her neck. Then, taking a deep breath, he exhaled into her warm, still mouth. He was rewarded with her lungs moving outward as his exhaled air filled them. Two more breaths and she was breathing on her own.
Turning away from her, Sy climbed up the rafter and cut the harness holding her father. He also fell to the ground in a heap, but it was too late; Master Corona was dead.
There was a noise from in front of the barn. Someone was coming! Quickly scooping up Lannie’s still form, Sy unceremoniously and very hurriedly threw her over his shoulder and raced around the other way to hide behind the barn.
Once behind the barn, he decided not to stop and ran as fast as he could into the thickets. After that, he just kept running until, almost totally exhausted, he discovered a ditch where they could hide.
It was a good thing he stopped, because Lannie was waking up, and she was pissed.
“Why did you shoot me, you Horak!” she croaked at him.
She had meant to scream at him, but a sorrowful croak was the best she could manage until her throat healed.
“That was an Arcadian!” Sy whispered hoarsely at her.
“No stoke, Heimlick!” Lannie spat at him. “I noticed! There are two more! That’s one pitchfork apiece! Let’s go!”
“No! Wait!” Sy yelped, tackling her slender form as she rose to climb out of the ditch. “Settle down! You’re going to get us killed! We have to stay hidden!”
“Well, hiding here isn’t going to save us if they fire another Thumper,” Lannie grunted, barely able to breath under Sy’s weight on top of her.
“They won’t fire another one,” Sy explained, fiercely holding her down. “They have personnel on the ground, now. Besides, you’re just a kid! What do you think you’re going to do?”
“I’m full-grown!” Lannie snarled, “Same as you! My dad gave me that pooka for my coming-out party on my fifth birthday so I’m an adult now and I don’t need any lectures from some pomp-ass breeder!”
Sy wasn’t a breeder. He was a bio-engineer. Lannie knew that, but right now, she was too furious at him to be particularly truthful.
“You don’t need a lecture, that’s sure,” Sy snarled down at her. “You need whipped! You don’t attack sizzle-armed aliens with pitchforks. Are you TRYING to get killed?”
“No!” Lannie grunted, fighting his hold on her as best she could. “Lemme go… (urk!)… damned… Whose side are you on, anyway?”
Grateful that the squirming young Viragoan had decided to argue instead of fight with him, Sy relaxed his hold on her for an instant. It was a mistake. With a smarting kick to his chest, she was up and over the top of the ditch in an instant.
Sy scrambled up after her, clearing the ditch just in time to get kicked in the head as she came sailing back down. As he slid down the steep side, he felt nimble fingers grappling at his waist, trying to unholster his sidearm.
A shadow eclipsing the bright, blue-white sun behind him was the only warning he had, then something large struck him, shoving him facedown into the bottom of the ditch. Lannie ducked as it sailed over her head, then actually snarled at it as she rose behind it and opened fire.
Sy opened his eyes to see a Dagon about twice the size of Lannie crouching for another pounce. It was wearing a spiked collar and was completely ignoring the tiny drugged pellets showering its breast-plate.
“Aim for the eyes!” Sibilius yelled frantically, hoping she still had enough ammo to blind the beast after he’d used most of the five hundred pellets to free Lannie and her father.
Without letting up on the trigger, Lannie raised her stiff-armed aim and shot out its right eye. Then the little pellet gun was empty.
Enraged now, the huge beast let out a roar and charged. Lannie didn’t even flinch at the eardrum piercing roar. Sy watched unbelievably as she began her own charge at the same instant the Dagon leaped. But when the Dagon leaped, she dived beneath it with one claw raking down her backside.
Lannie and the Dagon faced off again. Lannie’s tight-fitting top was open in the back and she shrugged it off without taking her infuriated young eyes off the alien hunting beast. As the Dagon stepped menacingly forward, so did Lannie, even though she had absolutely no chance of even scratching the great beast.
Sy recognized what she was doing. If she backed away, it would leap immediately and her young life would be gruesomely over almost before it began. It wouldn’t really matter though if the beast leaped on her now or ten seconds from now. She was dead meat walking, but the look on her face told him that she refused to acknowledge it.
Sy was getting up his courage to stand up and attract the beast’s attention away from her and almost missed the slight, quick movement at the edge of his vision. Lannie’s werecat was suddenly on the Dagon’s face, clawing and scratching at the Dagon’s good eye. An instant later, the werecat was dead and broken beneath the beast’s cruel claws, it’s death cry echoing from Lannie’s throat.
But the werecat had done its job. The Dagon was blind. The monster began furiously clawing all around, desperate to find its antagonist. Even as Sy wondered where she’d gone, she was jerking frantically on his arm and trying to get him to “Get a move on, dammit!”
The blinded, enraged beast turned toward the sound of her voice and charged. Lannie shoved Sy to one side and scrambled up the backside of the ditch. As Sy reached the top of the other side, they sat, gasping for air as quietly as they could, each one gazing down at the beast as it tried to decide which one to go after.
The breeze was carrying the scent of Lannie’s bloodied backside and her body scent down to the great beast, enabling it to make up its mind. With a single bound, it was up on the ledge above the ditch, searching and sniffing where she’d been but an instant earlier.
As quietly as possible, Sy reached down a hand to her and helped her climb up the front side of the ditch. As her face came into view, Sibilius stopped for an instant and gazed at her. He could see the death of her father in those emerald green eyes, as well as the death of her beloved werecat. And behind the grief in her eyes was a hard, cold anger that proclaimed that those responsible wouldn’t get away unscathed.
At that instant, he was in love with Alana, a crazy young girl-child so fearless that she’d stared down a battle-trained Dagon without any weapons and lived through the experience. Without a doubt, Sibilius knew he’d found his lifemate.
But first, they had to get away from the pain-crazed, blind Dagon. They slowly, quietly walked away until its painful roars were no longer audible.
“Breakfast, Father,” a cheerful female voice said, breaking through his dreams and awakening the aged Regent.
Blinking awake and stretching in the low, artificial gravity of Northern Depot, Sibilius sat up to view the cheerful intruders who had interrupted his dream.
“Good morning, my children,” he replied, smiling at Dawn and Rebecca as they approached his too-soft human bed.
“Pleasant dreams, I hope,” Dawn asked, having felt the affection that he’d radiated in his sleep.
Sibilius simply smiled and gave no answer.
“I know you don’t really care for sweets, Father,” Rebecca said lovingly, “but I want you to just try this. I made it just for you.”
Setting down her tray, she raised a flat plate up toward him. A single, rather thick slice of dark, moist bread and a tong occupied the plate. Sibilius smiled at the clean, fresh-baked scent wafting up from the plate and picked up the tong. Cutting a modest piece from the bread, he raised it to his mouth and dropped it in.
Then he smiled as he mashed the morsel up against his taste buds in the roof of his mouth. It hadn’t smelled sugary, and it wasn’t. Instead, it was clean and fresh, tasting of whole grains while still being as soft and moist as sugar cake.
The Regent took his time chewing and swallowing while both goddesses waited anxiously. Sibilius smiled and took the cup of tea from Dawn’s hands as she held it out to him. After taking a sip, Sibilius smiled at Rebecca.
“That was very good, Child. I would have you serve me, again.”
Rebecca smiled and blushed, then backed away and fled through the door. She was going to bring him the whole loaf!
“What were you dreaming, Father?” Dawn asked, curious. “You seemed… happy.”
She wouldn’t have commented on his mental state except for the fact that, for many years, now, Sibilius seemed bored… No, more like… unfulfilled; even anxious at times.
“I was dreaming of my youth, Daughter,” Sibilius smiled at her, “as do we all when we get old.”
“You’re not old, Father,” Dawn lied. “You’ll live for thousands of years, yet.”
“No, my child,” Sibilius gently disagreed. “My life is almost done. I’m not young, anymore, and my accomplishments are complete. I have done what I was supposed to do, and now I can reap what fruits of my labors are available to me.”
Carefully setting the teapot on the nightstand, Dawn climbed up in bed and snuggled up with Sibilius.
“I know you better than that, Father,” she whispered to him. “You always have something planned… something going on in that marvelous mind of yours. Are you planning something special for Béla’s arrival?”
“No,” Sibilius replied, smiling down at her affectionately as he absorbed the warmth of her body. “Elaine and her human lifemate are taking care of all that. But, I would like to see this ship – this marvelous creation of my first granddaughter’s mind.”
“Okay,” Dawn grinned happily. “Get something on and we’ll go!”
“What?” Sibilius asked, then he could see it in her mind.
The ship was bringing supplies and more humans to New Eden. For the last three months, the crew had salvaged most of the gravity plating from his old ship and replaced almost all of their own interior bulkheads with the advanced alien material. Theoretically, the teardrop shaped earth ship could now travel at any speed and the gravity would remain the same inside, held constant by the artificial gravity plating they’d installed.
But the ship itself wasn’t needed to bring Béla or her daughter back to New Eden – they could have returned at any time they chose simply by teleporting. And that was what Dawn offered her father – a free teleportation to the bridge of the Phoenix III.
Despite the fact that he would be saddened at standing on the bridge of a ship that was not his own, he looked forward to seeing firsthand what his first daughter and her extended family had created.
“Alright, Child,” Sibilius agreed, smiling at this radiant girl who would be his guide through the solar system. “Give me a few minutes to prepare.”
Dawn practically danced out the door. “Bye! See you soon!”
Sibilius sat up on the bed and put his legs down to the floor. It was warm enough so that his feet didn’t feel cold. Closing his eyes, he immediately saw Alana’s young face that terrible day so long ago – almost nine thousand years, now.
On that same fateful day that Lannie had lost her father and her wonderful werecat, she also found the most important person in her life. That night, she lost her virginity to him as they made love out on the desert sands. They clung to each other tightly to ward off the cool night temperatures and the ghosts of their trials from the day before.
The next morning, they reached the neighboring farmstead and were able to call for help. They found out later that they were the only survivors from the six landing sites chosen by the Arcadian advance scouts. Rescuers had quickly descended on the Corona farmstead hoping to actually get their hands on a real, live, or rather, dead Arcadian, or, at least, one of their trained Dagars.
But the Arcadians had cleaned up after themselves, taking everything with them, including the remains of Lannie’s werecat. There were DNA traces left behind, however, and Sy volunteered to conduct tests to, hopefully, find a weakness in the species that the Viragoans could use to their advantage.
Alana (Lannie preferred that name as an adult) graduated with honors from the military academy three years later and was offered her first command on a deep space science vessel two years after that. While picking her crew, she remembered her first lover and offered him the venerable position of Science Officer and head of the Bioengineering Department under her command. He accepted, and they were together for the next five thousand years until she died of radiation poisoning right here in this very solar system.
“Father, aren’t you ready yet?” Dawn’s voice called from the doorway.
Sibilius jumped, startled, then frowned, remembering that he was unaccustomed to being startled.
“Come on, get dressed!” Dawn chided him, coming into the room and opening his closet. “What would you like to wear when you see Béla and her daughter – your granddaughter?”
She turned to see him simply standing in the middle of the room. Reaching out, she held his hand in both of hers as a feeling of unease swept over her.
As Sibilius’ legs gave out, Dawn awkwardly held onto his arm as he sank down onto his bed. She felt the deep wounds in his mind for the very first time as she steadied him on the bed.
Knowing there was nothing she could do to ease his mental torment, she helped him lay back on the too-soft pillows and hugged his rail-thin body to her own, offering him the only solace she could – the presence of a beloved daughter.
After a time, Sibilius seemed to notice she was there, lying next to and embracing him. He smiled at her, then closed his eyes and slept. Rebecca watched from the foot of the bed, her uneaten loaf lying somewhere in the passageway behind her. She’d dropped it and fled forward, returning to the bedroom as swiftly as she could when her father’s sudden pain had swept through her mind.