Happy Fourth of July to everyone in America. And for some people not in America. On this day, nine years ago, I was sitting in a pub in Kilkenny, Ireland with a group of friendly Australian kids my age (that’s kind of repetitive, isn’t it? Friendly Australians?), drinking a Coke and listening to a band play “Sweet Home Alabama” (my request; the Aussies asked for “Down Under.”) We didn’t have fireworks, but we did have firecracker party favors. Any excuse for Irish people to drink. Although I’m sure the thought of Americans throwing off the shackles of British colonialism pleased some. Do you know that MacDonald’s, in Ireland, serves hot dogs around the Fourth of July?
Anyhoo, I have been very busy the last few days working on my second book. I’m practically re-writing it (but more on that tomorrow). I’ve also tinkered with a few things in my first book. I’ve decided to go with my husband’s suggestion to get rid of the Prologue. When I think about my book, I see Kalyn’s Acceptance as really being the first part of the book—the heart of it (that would be why I named the book “Acceptance”). So it seems odd to make that the second chapter. The original first chapter was Anselm finding Ciaran. I think it sets the stage for what happens in the first book—the fight between Anselm and von Gault, Canichmehah versus Imuechmehah—as well as the original Prologue, so I moved it up to that position. The original Prologue, though, is what sets up the entire series. Although I guess I can make that the Prologue of the third book, which will be what finally introduces Shelby, the main antagonist—the vampire who wants to kill all others. That will be the final fight between all of them—war and genocide mixed together.
So, since I’m not going to use it for a while (if ever; there’s always the possibility that I’ll write some other Prologue and use it instead for the third book), I present it for your reading entertainment.
General Copeland’s forehead was knotted in concentration as he read a dense proposal. Eggheads never could write anything that anyone else could read. There was a rapid knock at his door. Before he could even give permission to enter, a young private, still a bit pimply in the face, opened the door.
“General, sir, they’ve got one.”
The General’s rising anger at the breach of protocol evaporated immediately. “Where?”
“They’ve locked it up in one of the storage rooms in the lab. Apparently the thing’s damn strong.”
The General hurried down the halls, ignoring the salutes of men who jumped quickly out of his way. The lab was a frenzy of activity: half a dozen MPs were milling around, trying to look important, and just as many scientists were darting back and forth, grabbing papers and bottles, their white lab coats fluttering behind them.
The General pointed at one MP standing next to a door; the man looked tough and had a little gray at the temples. Copeland liked a veteran. “You, stay. All the rest of you, out.”
“Sir, this thing…” one of the MPs began.
“Wait in the hall,” he said with finality. If there’s a problem, then you can come back in.”
With grumpy faces, five of the MPs filed out of the room and shut the door behind them. The scientists continued flitting around the lab; either they assumed the General hadn’t meant them, or they were so occupied with their work they hadn’t even noticed he had said anything.
The General turned to Peters and Smith, the two scientists whose proposal he was trying to digest a few minutes before. “What have you got?”
The two men were nearly beside themselves with excitement. “We’ve got a vampire,” Peters replied.
“Are you sure it’s a vampire?”
“And not just any vampire,” Smith chimed in.
“What do you mean?” the General asked, confused.
“Did you get a chance to read our research that was part of the proposal we sent you?”
“I was just starting it when I got called down here.”
“Well,” Smith began hurriedly, “the long and the short of it is that vampires live in communes. All of them live in communes. You can’t just take one. The others would notice its absence.”
“No doubt living in communities was a cultural evolution that protected them against hunters and others who would seek to destroy them,” Peters added with a sage nod.
“And it’s worked, at least against us,” Smith continued. “From what little we’ve learned about them through the old wartime files, I was not interested in sending anyone in to take one. I mean, they worked in nuclear facilities for the Manhattan Project expressly because they’re resistant to radiation. They can survive radiation exposure at levels many times higher than what kills a human being. They’re also incredibly strong. There’s a record of three of them who saved the lives of five people at one facility when an accidental blast caused a partial collapse of a building. Four men tried, unsuccessfully, to shift a beam, which had people trapped underneath it, then one of the vampires came in and moved it by herself.”
“Oh yes, the females seem every bit as strong as the males. At any rate, they’re many times stronger than one of us.”
“Well, what has that got to with anything?” the General growled.
The scientists looked taken aback, as if they had expected their story to explain everything. Peters took the lead. “For one thing, it explains why we haven’t been studying one in the lab. We couldn’t take one without its fellows knowing. And surely they would attempt to rescue it. Who would want a dozen or more of those things after you? They’re very hard to kill; you can’t just shoot them and be done with it.”
“And when the government asked if they would participate in research on their species back during the war,” Smith chimed in, “every one of them refused. We think they probably have a mandate among them not to cooperate.”
“So that’s why this program really hasn’t made much progress since they all left the service in ‘45.”
“Until now.” Both men grinned broadly.
The General spoke, “So if we’ve been too afraid to take one, why did we get one today?”
“Because they got rid of him.”
“I don’t understand.”
Peters replied, “Vampires not only live in communes, they have humans who live with them—knowingly. And the vampires feed on these humans regularly; they don’t often bite people who don’t belong to their group. That’s probably why they’ve managed to stay hidden for so long.”
“But one of our agents managed to infiltrate the local group,” Smith added excitedly.
“They’re not completely isolated, you see,” Peters continued. “They interact in the normal world—the humans more so than the vampires. The humans all seem to have jobs, although some of the vampires do as well. The humans have kids, and the kids go to school, like they’re normal. They make friends on the outside, even fall in love. Sometimes humans, and even vampires, bring someone from the outside into the group.”
“Does that person become a vampire, or stay a human?” the General asked.
“Depends on who brings them in,” Peters replied.
“That’s how our agent got in,” Smith continued the story. “We knew which humans belonged to one group, and we put several agents on those people to try and earn their trust. About a year ago, one of our guys got close enough to a woman that she told him about their group and introduced him into it.”
“He’s been able to provide us with much better information regarding how they feed and reproduce,” Smith interjected.
“We’ve learned more information from him in one year than we had in our files, going back a number of years.”
“Like the fact that they have some level of mind control. Our agent’s contact told him that the biting didn’t hurt and she was only vaguely aware of it when it happened. Apparently they are capable of putting people into some sort of trance. We think—we hope—that this is done only through eye contact. It’s going to be hard working with this specimen if he can read our minds or alter our behavior or senses in any way.”
“So how did you managed to get one without the others knowing?” the General interrupted, trying to get the briefest version as possible. These guys were almost as long-winded in person as they were on paper.
Smith replied, “Well, it just so happens that one vampire—the vampire we captured—committed a crime and he was expelled from the group. Apparently this is a very rare punishment, so it’s extremely lucky that it happened in the group where we happen to have an agent. Of course, our agent notified us immediately.”
“So, if he’s expelled from the group,” the General said slowly, “no one will come looking for him?”
“Exactly.” Peters said brightly. “And not only is he expelled from the local group, but no vampire anywhere else will have anything to do with him. Apparently all vampires recognize some sort of supreme authority; while each group appears to be autonomous, it also operates under some basic laws that govern them all.”
“Kind of like the difference between a state and the United States,” Smith explained.
“Probably more like the difference between the original colonies and the United States,” Peter corrected. “We don’t think their central government is anywhere nearly as complicated and far-reaching as our own.”
“Never mind vampire government,” the General said hurriedly. “What I want to know is are we good to start research on this vampire?”
“Yes,” Smith said. “Although we didn’t expect to actually procure a specimen.”
“Not in our wildest dreams,” Peters concurred.
“But when we found out that this one had been put out, we knew we had to act. If your men hadn’t caught it when they did, it might have disappeared completely. It would have been impossible to find a single vampire, much less one that is trying to hide from its own kind.”
“What’s your point?” the General asked.
“We don’t have a storage facility for it,” Smith said. “We’ll need to build something that can contain it and allow us to get near enough to it to do some blood and tissue sampling. We can’t keep it tied up and locked in our supply closet indefinitely.”
“Send me a report on what you need,” the General said briskly. “If we have to, we’ll put together something that will contain it sufficiently until we can build whatever you really need onto the lab.”
“That’s great, General,” Smith said smiling. “Hopefully we can start testing in a year.”
“If you will work on the containment system,” Peters said to Smith, “I’ll start getting down some ideas for areas of research, then we can build teams based on which avenues we want to look at most.”
The General started to turn away. “The lab belongs to the two of you. All I want to know is can we can give its best traits to humans and make them better soldiers.”
“Yes, sir. We’ll start work on that just as soon as we have the facilities.”
The General stopped at the door and turned around. “Out of curiosity, what did it do to be thrown out by its own kind?”
“It killed one of the children in its group,” Smith said with a detached sort of interest. “Apparently even vampires have some morals.”