Vampire 2.0 – Wayback Machine – Part 2

(Want to know where it started? The story starts here…)

“Are you certain this is the place, Brand?”
Vlad’s voice was tentative, laced with a veil of disgust and caution as he surveyed the exterior.
The place proclaimed itself as “Gothique,” with a blue neon sign easily as tall as Vlad himself and some twelve feet wide. The front of the building appeared to have been redesigned from warehouse roots into a mock-up of a castle. The windows were large arches with red and yellow streamers blowing about in an attempt to replicate fire, papier-mâché gargoyles and grotesques were mounted at regular intervals, and all of the signage was done in a font that even Vlad – who had been tutored in Arabic during his youth and had been fond of Copperplate during the 18th century – found difficult to decipher from barbed line art into coherent words.
Brand, who was glaring at one of the gargoyles – a particularly noisome one with the facial features of a pig and bared breasts that had bullets for nipples – jerked out of his reverie to glance at his master.
“Huh? Oh, yeah, boss. You want to talk to someone from the Marellis, you talk to ’em here. Good authority, ya know? My cousin, he once bought this mail-order bride from the guys…”
Vlad shook his head, tapping his wrist and trying to ignore the faint metallic tinging the gesture produced. Brand raised his hands, shook his head, and continued.
“Right, right. Anyways. Yeah, the Marelli guy my cuz was talkin’ to, he hangs out here. Gets off on the whole vampire thing. Pretty funny, eh, boss?”
It wasn’t, at least not to Vlad. The idea that humans were so in love with the creatures of the night, while useful to him – and he was not above exploiting it when it served his purposes – was a source of confusion and disdain. Despite his status as Lord of the Night, he found his own nature at least somewhat repulsive, and had chosen it only when there had been no other options left to him. The fact that most humans had no idea when a real child of darkness walked among them – only reinforced by the living creatures scurrying around him, staring at each other, practically drooling, while brushing past him as though he didn’t exist – wrung sour bemusement from him.
“Anyway. He’ll be in there. Somewhere. And, hey, maybe we can set aside a budget for some affirmative action? Those statues are racist. I’ve never seen a ‘goyle that looks like this!”
He gave the nipple of the offending statue a tweak, then cawed in surprise as it came off in his hand. Stuffing it sheepishly in his pocket and glancing around to see if anyone had noticed, he spread his palms in a “what can you do?” gesture.
Vlad was hardly listening. He’d taken a moment to scan the crowd again, and had seen her. Stepping from a cab and looking roughly as pleased as Vlad himself was to be here – which is to say, not at all – was a young woman in a form-fitting purple dress over a pair of black tights. It looked a trifle loud for the crowd here, but Vlad felt it suited her well. She was rummaging in her bag, probably to pay her fare, and kept flipping a lock of thick black hair that refused to stay in place over her shoulder.
Had he still possessed breath or a heart, they might have stopped. The curves of her face, the style of her hair, the way her eyes flitted between her search and the cabbie, all reminded him achingly of his lost Mina. interrupting his reverie, the most unwelcome display of his internal systems overlaid its search data, feeling it important to inform him that her name was Monica Harkness, age 28, Blood Type A, and her last known credit score was 730. He closed his cybernetic eye and allowed himself to focus on his more human feelings without the information overload; he looked at her, and for a brief time felt as a man again instead of a walking corpse twice over.
As though alerted by that primal sense that most humans choose to ignore, the woman glanced over her shoulder, picking him easily out of the crowd – his own attire wasn’t particularly suited to the venue, either – and locking eyes with him. Her mouth curled in a faint smile, her thick lips quirking ever so slightly upward. The look in her blue eyes seemed to be equal parts confusion and lust; somewhere inside he could hear circuits turning over, clicking away as they tried to convey something to him, but he refused to open his other eye. He was content to use his own senses to take her in. He took a deep breath, willing her scent to come to him.
Past the layers of sweat and pancake makeup, the atrocious stench of desperate hormones seeking mates, the hundreds of forms of alcohol inside and their hellish combined miasma, the perfume that had been layered atop hundreds of bodies, often to excess… past that, he found it. Lilacs on a summer afternoon, the heightened number of enzymes in her own body that spoke of frustration, curiosity, and a shock of lust. Something he hadn’t smelled in nearly three centuries. He knew that if he allowed it to, his internal system would identify it as a match to his own memory. It was not enough that she looked like his lost Mina; she carried her scent as well.
Interrupting his reverie and breaking the moment, Brand elbowed him in the knee.
“Hubba hubba, am I right, Boss? I mean, look at those kno-”
The gargoyle was silenced by Vlad’s robotic hand clamping down on his shoulder, squeezing tight enough to spawn a muscle spasm and turn the flesh into a hard knot of misfiring neurons.
The woman – Monica, his internal systems insisted on telling him – finally tore her gaze away, laughing with a self-conscious hand over her mouth, before returning to her business of paying the fare. Free from her gaze, Vlad deigned to open his other eye and stare down at the gargoyle.
“Find this Marelli. Inform him of our intents. Show him the photograph. If he knows where to find Van Helsing, procure the information from him regardless of the price. Wait for me in our suite.”
Brand gulped, scrubbing at his shoulder as Vlad released him.
“Uh, yeah, sure, Boss. You got it, dependable as always, but wh-”
Vlad cut him off again, no longer interested in Brand’s asides. He was lost in his own memories, and for a moment wished he were still who had been rather than who he was now. There was so much more mystery and entertainment in the hunt – be it for blood or the favor of a woman – when you didn’t already know everything about them before even speaking to them. But he would still relish asking this woman her na,e, and what she did, and how she had come to end up at this place. All the delicate steps of courtship, as he had done twice before, and reliving them a third time would be no less sweet for the repetition… or for the almost certain poor end it would come to.
“See to our business, Brand. I have business of my own.”
Brand glanced between the woman and his master again. His face pulled back into a mockery of a sly smile.
“Oooh, I gotcha, Boss. Go get yourself some. I got this, no problem.”
The gargoyle toddled away, heading towards the bouncer. Vlad remained still, watching and waiting. She would come this way soon enough, and then the dance would begin.
Mina. Again. After all this time


(Want more? The story continues here…)

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