Vampire 2.0: File Trace

(Enjoying the story? It starts over here!)

File Trace

An hour later, the sun safely shrouded behind the hills, Vlad was boarding his private helicopter, stalking away from an angry Dr. Franks. The gargoyle was already aboard alongside the pilot, a sullen young woman by the name of Maxwell; both of them were watching with barely disguised amusement as the doctor limped after the vampire, shouting warnings and demands.
“I am telling you, the systems, they are not ready! We must perform stress tests and brain scans and-”
Vlad, appearing to grow tired of the tirade by the way his face dropped and his lips pursed, spun towards the doctor, raising one metallic finger in warning.
“Yes, yes. You have warned me of all the difficulties inherent to my new… condition.”
His face puckered at the word, as though he would have preferred something other, perhaps more biting.
“But I will perform my own stress tests, my own assessment of functionality. If that is displeasing to you, then perhaps you should find another employer.”
Without waiting for a response – in his own mind, such logic could have no argument – Vlad spun on his heel and boarded the helicopter. Settling in, he tapped the pilot’s shoulder and then spun his finger skyward. Nodding, Maxwell flipped a series of switches, and the helicopter became airborne, bobbing once before the rotors caught fully and then lifting into the air.
Franks bared his teeth at the departing group, shaking one fist. His pet project – his ultimate success – was even now fleeing his grasp, off to do who knew what. In all likelihood, Tepes would get himself injured or suffer some form of mechanical breakdown or unknown glitch in the system, and then he’d come crawling back – assuming the so-called Dark Lord was still capable of crawling at that point – expecting Franks to repair it, to diagnose it, to make it right.
Franks sighed, lowering his fist. He knew, given the situation, that he’d do exactly as asked. The opportunity to practice his theories on such an august personage was simply too great to pass up. The fact that his work was unappreciated came as no surprise to him; such had always been his lot.
He turned, shuffling back to the elevator and pressed the button that would return him to the lab level. A voice intruded on his melancholy.
“But what if you were the master, and he the slave?”
He started, one hand clutching at the neckline of his lab coat, jerking his head back and forth in an attempt to locate the source of the voice. After a moment, he realized it had been his own. He clapped a hand over his mouth, shocked.
Certainly, the idea had a certain amount of attraction to it; he had often thought things would be different – both at the university he had come from and in his employment under Tepes and the imp – if he had greater free reign, more control. But to speak such blasphemy aloud – whether or not he had initially realized it or meant to do so – was almost unforgivable. The world would recognize his genius. One day. Or so he told himself.
The voice came again, unbidden, slipping between his fingers like rancid frosting from an ancient can.
“The world recognizes those who force that recognition.”
Realizing the attempt to keep himself quiet by gripping his jaw was futile, Franks lowered his hand. As the elevator slid open to reveal his lab – now looking empty and useless, the equipment pushed against the walls for the crime of being in Vlad’s way when he had come through an hour before, no projects bubbling, no creatures relating on the combination massage and operating table – he pondered the idea. He knew Tepes had chosen this life, somehow. Had ripped the title of Prince of Darkness from the ether and exerted his control over the other entities that existed beyond the understanding of most mortal men.
“But how…?” Franks asked himself, tapping his chin as he strode towards the computer. When Tepes had first risen from the table, the vampire had barely been aware of being alive, let alone who he was and what his powers were. Then the imp had taken Tepes somewhere, and when he returned the vampire was more his old self.
His lips splitting in a grin, Franks congratulated himself on his forward thinking. Brand had approved all the blueprints, but Franks was certain the little dullard had understood very little of the technical details. Most importantly, he’d missed the tracking device Franks had planted in Vlad’s CPU.
Humming again – Fur Elise, this time – Franks tapped a series of keys. The archaic CRT – he refused to procure new screens, considering the older equipment one of his marks of style as well as keeping his department under budget and thus Brand out of his business – obediently switched to a radar display. Twisting a dial on the side of the monitor sent several blips scurrying backwards about the rudimentary map overlaid on the radar, which Franks ignored until he saw a throbbing red dot appear.
Leaning over the keyboard, staring intently at the dot, Franks tracked the movement of the blip as it retraced the path from the helipad back into the house, then to the lab, and then…
“Aha! Mein Gott, hidden there?!”
Franks giggled, tapping another series of keys. The display switched from the radar to a grainy image of the main hall elevator. With another series of arcane adjustments, Franks managed to get the focus applied to the floor selection buttons, eyes wide with anticipation as Vlad stepped into the elevator and reached for the them. His laughter reached a new level, stopping just short of maniacal, as he saw Vlad’s metal thumb depress a hidden switch just beneath the actual floor buttons.
“Ah, keeping secrets are we? Not for long, Mister Tepes. Not for very long at all!”
Flicking the mouse to bring the radar up again, then pressing a key to switch it to global view, Franks nodded to himself as he saw the Vlad’s blip was still moving away at a satisfactory pace. The Dark Lord was indeed heading out, it would seem. Excellent.
Franks flipped off the CRT, snatched up his clipboard, and scurried off to the elevator. Time to find out what Tepes was hiding.

(Enjoying the tale? It continues right here…)

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