Author: Julian Miles, Staff Writer
Colin claws his way through a ruined doorway, his sight near-obscured by the blood smeared across his face. Slumping to the floor, he wipes his vision clear with his sleeve, then surveys his surroundings.
An ancient stone vault, lit by an ultra-modern lamp. The soft light highlights the exquisite etchings on a steel coffin, and is reflected in the smoky chrome of the blaster clutched in a taloned hand.
A calm voice emanates from the shadows above the gun.
“Good evening, Mister Dawson. A stimulating journey, I trust?”
The reply tails off into a wrenching sob.
“I take it your little army came to a sticky end?”
He gathers himself. There’s still a chance.
“Well, here we are, exhausted hunter and indifferent prey. What next?”
“Defiance. How sweet.”
“We’ll get you. Not me. Not my team, God rest ‘em. But someone will find the data caches.”
Hopefully enough impetuous fools will have vanished by then to make the rest wary. Make them investigate this evil thoroughly, using all the technology available, and then not make stupid assumptions based on centuries-old cinema.
“You left them with Susan?”
“Not just her.”
“Then other people might see them.”
The choice of words catches his attention.
“But not if we’d only left them with her? What have you done?”
“Nothing new. Now, enough byplay. Time waits for no-one, not even me.”
“Choices. You may join us, or you and your family will simply disappear.”
“You didn’t think I was a singular aberration, did you? That was a rash. Our attrition rate is vanishingly small amongst those who fully adapt.”
“So I work for you, or you eat my family?”
“In short: yes. Technology still trips us up occasionally. Having someone who can intervene is essential. Since you discovered and then killed Tez Wallace, you will take his place. It can be quite lucrative, and the health benefits are excellent.”
Colin nods. A sop to his selfishness to make servitude bearable: old techniques, but effective. The data is his only hope. All he has to do is buy time.
“I’ve no choice. I’ll obey our bloodsucking overlords.”
“The term is ‘nightwalkers’, and I am not one of the voivodes. We should both pray to whatever gods we have left that we never attract the attentions of such. They are busy trying to save my kind from the ravaged planet your kind have created. Petty distractions receive short thrift.”
“You’re trying to sneak onto the colony ships!”
Fangs flash in the darkness.
“Very good. A few self-contained feudal domains are the ultimate goal, I believe.”
Marty’s crazy idea had been correct. He’d been right to insist it be included in the cached data.
Colin smiles. Good on you, Marty. When Susan gets the truth to the media, you’ll be famous.
There’s a chuckle from the shadows.
“You still haven’t realised, have you?”
He looks up.
The sound of skirts rustling makes his eyes go wide. A raven-haired figure in a pale ballgown steps into view.
“Did you really think you had any sort of advantage? Susan has belonged to my voivode for years. Our monitor within the hunter collectives. Bringing about your downfall was her final task before being embraced.”
She smiles, revealing long, delicate fangs instead of canine teeth. Green eyes show no hint of regret.
Colin feels hot tears start down his face.
“We of the dusk are eternal. Will you serve us?”
He nods, still crying. This surrender is only to save his family. It will never be more than skin deep.