Immortal Earth (Vampires For Earth Book 1), page 1
VAMPIRES FOR EARTH: BOOK ONE
Immortal Earth (Vampires for Earth: Book One) Copyright 2014 by Sarah Warden
All rights reserved.
All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living, dead, or rendered undead by science, is purely coincidental.
For my sister, Pokie.
VAMPIRES FOR EARTH: BOOK ONE
I have been speaking to you all of your life. In the gurgle of a tide pool, I breathed myself into you. I drew you down from the trees, and I lifted you onto your feet. I freed your hands to become your tools, so that you would cradle me in my old age, but you have turned on me. My strongest warrior for life, you have been transformed into an insatiable messenger of death. Only a few of my children are still listening when I howl to them, crying in the night, sending the oceans in great surges to cleanse my land – to cleanse, and to warn you who no longer listen.
I WILL BE HEARD.
Thule Airbase, Greenland
Afon Solovyov had only a few hours to live, although his life had been designed by science to stretch out for eons. Born a short thirty-three years ago, he had been made immortal for less than five years by the same scientists who had gathered now to put the final touches on his execution chamber. Those who had made him into what he has become, are now preparing to do away with the final evidence of their mistake … him.
Afon sighed, and looked through the shaded glass of the adult sized incubator that he went to sleep in every dawn. The nanobots coursing through his body could repair any damage he sustained. Knife and bullet wounds, broken bones, cancer … there was nothing the teeny tiny doctor machines inside of him could not cure. Even something as minor as a sunburn would show no evidence on his skin, hours after it appeared. The scientists had been cautious with their Immortals though, keeping them all in coffin-like incubators during daylight hours, unwilling to risk the development of even one wrinkle on their human lab rats.
Through the tinted glass of his incubator, Afon could see his two fellow Immortals: Nanook K’eyush and Jian Hu.
Jian was sleeping soundly, despite his impending death. From the beginning of this experiment, Jian has had the peace of mind granted to those who place all of their unquestioning faith in authority. If his death were required to ensure the survival of China, Jian would be proud to lay down his life in service to the one great power that had come through the almost-global apocalypse of twelve years ago as a unified nation.
Nanook did not sleep so soundly, and Afon caught his eye. “Good morning, Nanook,” Afon said.
“This is only a good morning if you are happy to die … or if you got in one final visit with Isi last night, you lucky bastard,” Nanook replied.
Afon winked at him, “Dr. Isidora Nizienko did come to perform a checkup on me yesterday, but it was nothing out of the ordinary. I swear it.”
“Of course, my friend,” Nanook chuckled, “but ordinary, for you and your beautiful comrade, usually means a night of trying to repopulate the Earth, all by yourselves. You should let Isi know, if she wants some genetic diversity, I’m available … for the next couple of hours, at least.”
“I am not so sure that you and I are going anywhere today, Nanook,” Afon said sadly. “I think we shall be stuck here, like unwanted dogs in a shelter, waiting to be released only so that we can die.”
With the truth spoken, all of their remaining words stuck in their mouths. There was nothing more to say, nothing but verse written hundreds of years ago, verse that the three remaining Immortals had committed to memory, words that they said every day, as they waited for darkness to fall.
Afon and Nanook locked eyes, and quoted Shakespeare in unison:
“From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered –
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he today that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother, be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their manhood’s cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.”
Later the same day…
Afon and Nanook woke up to the mechanical hissing noise of the opening door to their room, but Jian slept on uninterrupted. The precision marching thump of the booted soldiers of the AmEur Alliance, as they escorted Dr. Isidora Nizienko into the room, finally managed to elicit one half-opened eye from Jian.
The soldiers split into groups of two, and moved to the incubators of the three remaining subjects of the Immortality Project clinical trial. Through small access holes in the sides of the tinted glass incubators, the soldiers of the AmEur Alliance slapped handcuffs on the three men.
Tonight was to be no different from any other dusk that these soldiers had worked for the past few years of the clinical trial. They had to secure the handcuffs, unlatch and open the lids, and step back and stand guard, while their doctor examined the Immortals.
Discipline kept the soldiers of the AmEur Alliance from meeting the eyes of their prisoners – discipline, and shame as well. The men they held captive were human beings who had volunteered for a clinical trial, men who had made the choice to serve, men who were now about to be summarily executed because science had found a new way to, maybe, save the world. It was not a comfortable job to be a soldier of the AmEur Alliance; orders that tugged at the conscience had to be followed, in order to give the few fragile humans left on Earth a shot at survival.
Fyodor Nizienko knew this lesson as well as any soldier of the Alliance who had served twice as long. At the young age of twenty, after only five years in the military, he was holding open the lid of the day coffin of Afon Solovyov, the man Fyodor had once thought would be his brother-in-law.
Afon chanced a look at the young man who stood at attention next to him. Six feet tall, straight shouldered, and wearing the dress blues of the AmEur Alliance, Fyodor should have had an aura of command about him, but his grey eyes had a watery edge as he rigidly stared off into space. Afon could tell that under the Captain’s hat was still the blond, cow-licked scruff of Isi’s baby brother. A little boy brought in to kill an immortal man.
Dr. Isidora Nizienko had ten years on her brother, and was the picture of professional compartmentalization in her freshly starched lab coat. She looked at the image suspended in the air in front of her, and scrolled through a holographic screen detailing Afon, Nanook, and Jian’s latest vital signs. Dr. Nizienko was going through her daily routine with the three Immortals, a routine Afon thought was absurd and surreal today – of all days – and he said so.
“Seriously, Isi? You really need to find out how healthy we are before you kill us?”
A smile curled the left side of Afon’s lips up and exposed one of his two enlarged canines: normal human teeth stimulated to overgrow by the nanobots inside of him that used human blood as their fuel. Combined with a violent hormone fluctuation whenever the nanobots were low on energy, Afon had spent the past five years, since the beginning of the clinical trial, in a state of constant craving. Afon wanted blood like a cigarette smoker stuck on a many hours long flight eagerly awaiting his first drag. It had been three days since Afon’s last infusion, and his snarling smile was both a flirtation with Isi, and a display of
Fyodor and the other AmEur Alliance soldier guarding Afon moved closer to him, but Isi only returned Afon’s smile, and gestured at the guards to relax. She turned back to Afon and stared into him for a moment, her unblinking hazel eyes told him to calm down, and were almost an apology … almost, but not quite.
Afon could normally read every inflection of Isi’s eyes, but this look – not an apology, not a warning, not an expression he’d seen before, was troubling him, until his brain locked onto hers. While all of the Immortal’s senses were higher than unimproved humans, they couldn’t literally read minds – though it sometimes seemed that way, because they could see the most fleeting of truth-revealing micro-expressions that cross all human faces. Afon understood what Isi was thinking now. Her look was almost a signal, though an unconscious one; it was a sign telling him so much more than to relax, and not to be afraid. It was an indication that she had a plan.
A not very well concealed plan, Afon thought, as he noticed Isi chewing on her bottom lip and glancing over at her brother Fyodor. Of course! Isi would never have allowed her baby brother to be assigned to Afon’s execution detail, unless there was not going to be an execution … unless she needed her brother’s help with whatever she had planned. Damn it! Why can’t she just let me die in peace?
“Afon, Nanook, and Jian, all of your vital signs appear to be normal. Were there any unusual symptoms, or difficulties, over the past twenty four hours?” Isi asked.
Dr. Isidora Nizienko then tore her eyes away from Afon, and settled her gaze onto Nanook and Jian, inspecting their bodies for some external sign of a fault, viewing her patients with the dispassionate eye of a car mechanic. She took in Nanook K’eyush’s sunken cheeks and hallowed out brown eyes, and remembered the full-faced, glowing, serene and immensely built Inuit man that she had recruited to join Project Immortality five years ago. Nanook had been the janitor in the section of Thule Airbase that housed her research lab, and his life before his work at Thule was unknown. Like the other few surviving natives of Greenland, Nanook’s history had been wiped away when the icecap covering his island nation had melted in the year 2100.
When Nanook had first met Isi, five years ago, he’d noticed her studying him and had entertained some hope that she was attracted to him. While he was only a janitor in her lab, Nanook K’eyush was also six feet, seven inches of deeply tanned skin and muscle. He knew the effect that he could have on a woman with one look from his sleepy, dark eyes, and a deliberately modest reddening of his cheeks. Nanook was a powerful draw to most women, but Dr. Isidora Nizienko was not most women. The whole time that Isi had been looking at Nanook while he’d mopped the floors in her lab, she’d not been engaging in some lurid fantasy, but had actually been imagining what a perfectly large test subject he’d make for her clinical trial. Despite his disappointment in Isi’s cool attitude toward him, Nanook had agreed to participate in Project Immortality. His home was gone, his family was gone, and if he could play some part in preventing the extinction of the entire human race, he’d been ready to try. Five years ago, Nanook had believed that he had been signing up to save the world.
Jian Hu had been “volunteered” for Project Immortality by the Chinese government. The People’s Republic had not come as far in the field of medical nanotechnology as the AmEur Alliance and, while the human race might survive if the clinical trial were successful, China had wanted to make sure that the Chinese would survive as well. The Chinese Army had picked a young, but disciplined, officer to become one of the Immortals. Jian had been happy for the assignment, at the time, but he had become increasingly distraught, as he’d realized what he needed to do, what he needed to drink, in order to stay immortal.
Afon Solovyov was the only one of the three remaining Immortals who didn’t care about human extinction, or the continuation of his own country. Afon cared about only one thing – Isi – and she was standing right in front of him.
Almost as if she could hear his thoughts, Dr. Isidora Nizienko quickly turned away from the other two Immortals, and looked at Afon.
“Your brothers aren’t adjusting well to the new rationing routine that we put in place after the shortages at the blood bank. Jian is white as a ghost, and Nanook looks like he’s lost a third of his weight in the past few days … how are you fairing, comrade?”
Isi reached out to attach a device similar to a blood pressure cuff onto Afon’s arm. The machine would measure both the amount of nanobots coursing through his bloodstream and their effectiveness. Without blood, the nanobots energy level would start to fade and the microscopic machines would slowly die off, like a car that’s run out of gas. When the nanobots are disabled in this way, their hosts become as mortal as any other human.
Afon started to yank his arm away from Isi, when Nanook suddenly erupted, “Goddamn it, you bitch! You’ve been starving us all week just so you can kill us off. Take that fucking machine off of him, or I’ll …”
Afon clamped his fingers hard around Nanook’s arm to silence him, and softly said, “Let it go, my brother.”
Nanook ignored him, and rose from his previously slouched and demoralized state. He leaned his full six feet, seven inches toward Dr. Isidora Nizienko, who was now standing behind all six of the AmEur Alliance soldiers who had accompanied her to the lab.
Bearing his fangs, Nanook started toward Isi.
“K’eyush!” Isi called out Nanook’s last name with as much confidence as she could muster. K’eyush was the Inuit word for Chief, a fact which Isi and Nanook had discussed in the past. Why would she call him by that name, instead of yelling stop, or ordering the AmEur Alliance soldiers to shoot?
Nanook took a step back and bumped into Jian, who had maintained his usual stoic demeanor, despite Nanook’s momentary rebellion. The only active soldier among the three Immortals, but the smallest of the men, Jian’s grip on Nanook’s arm was powerful as he said, “Better to go to one’s death standing tall, my friend.”
As Nanook relaxed his posture, Isi pushed the soldiers away from her side, and walked up to face the three Immortals.
“May we continue now, gentlemen?”
“Yes, doctor,” Jian said, met her eyes, and nodded that he was at her command. Nanook and Afon both just grunted in acquiescence, and looked away.
Isi turned and addressed the soldiers protecting her, “I think I’ve got this now, men. We’ll meet you upstairs when my examination is done.”
She turned back to face her patients, but heard no movement behind her. Isi paused to remove her glasses, straightened her shoulders, and turned to confront the six soldiers of the AmEur Alliance. With her blonde hair held carefully back in a military style bun, and her hazel eyes piercing every one of them, the soldiers knew exactly who was in command.
With one word from Isi, all six soldiers moved to the door of the laboratory in formation. The last of the men stopped before leaving the room.
Turning to face his sister, Fyodor said, “Dr. Nizienko, with your permission ma’am, may I stay to escort you upstairs?”
Hiding her emotions, Isi responded, “Permission granted, soldier.”
Fyodor waved the others on their way, shut the door, and turned to face Isi. He was flashing the eager smile of a child who had done exactly as he was told, and his words came in a rush.
“We got them, Isi!”
Fyodor silenced himself, as Isi quickly raised one finger to her lips, and then motioned to her ears, and then the ceiling, and the walls.
They are listening.
Somewhere on Thule Airbase, their conversation was being monitored for the kind of admission of rebellion that Fyodor had just made.
Covering quickly, Fyodor continued, “We got them all set up and ready to go for you, when you’re done here, Dr. Nizienko. The Infinmachine and the Recycler are both fueled and fully operational.”
Isi smiled. Her younger brother had just covered his slipup, and also slyly revealed to the
The ninety-seven other participants in the Immortality Project clinical trial, who had previously met their deaths, had all been executed in the AmEur Alliance’s Recycler. Their deaths had been far from peaceful. In small groups, each of the ninety-seven other Immortals had been put in the Recycler, and the oxygen had been sucked out of the machine, as soon as the lock on the door was engaged. Having been starved of their human blood fuel for weeks before entering the machine, the nanobots didn’t have the resources to save their human hosts as they were suffocating. Once the bodies of the Immortals appeared dead, the Recycler’s incinerator function was turned on, and the nanobots were burned away into nothingness … along with their formerly immortal human hosts.
Afon, Nanook, and Jian all knew the fate that tonight held in store for them, but why did Fyodor mention the Infinmachine? What could a last ditch effort to save a miniscule number of human lives using a time machine, have to do with the fate of the three men scheduled for execution?
“Thank you, very good, Captain,” Isi responded to Fyodor, before any of her three patients could ask a question that might reveal, and thereby doom, her plan.
Moving quickly, Isi walked across the laboratory to a wall of steel refrigerators, opened one of the doors, and withdrew six bags of donated blood. She cast a meaningful look at Afon, Nanook, and Jian – one by one – and made a motion like a zipper being pulled across her lips. None of them should let the recording devices of the AmEur Alliance hear that the Immortals were about to be fed, in violation of pre-execution protocol.
Nanook nudged Afon with his elbow, hitting him in the shoulder. At six feet tall, Afon was not short by any normal standards but, next to the six foot seven Nanook, an elbow was easily a shoulder nudge. Nanook raised his dark brows at Afon, and asked a silent question with his look, What is Isi up to?