‘Twas the Sunday before Christmas and,
stuck without chimes,
a Monster was ad-libbing
Okay, that happened.
Let’s see if I can scare something up for y’all.
Right. Here we go. Picking up where we left off, Scanlon is getting introduced to Professor Teng.
“‘Your’ vamps,” I repeated. “Okay, I’ll take the conversational bait. What exactly is this organization you have in here?”
He held out his silk-sleeved arms at the patchwork of magical penetration and mundane innovation around us. “My dear sir, you are in the headquarters of the Blood Rescuers. You haven’t heard of us, have you?”
“Good. I am determined to run only the most secret of secret societies. Why don’t you come into my study, and I will tell you what’s going on?” he offered. The other vamps nudged me forward.
I followed Professor Teng through the large dark door and into a room that was part office, part observatory. The room, oddly enough, actually seemed much bigger than the atrium we had just left, which seemed big enough to cover most of the library. The center was dominated by a huge, spiral staircase winding up to cloudiness, while most of the walls were covered in bookcases.
“Some time soon, I will take the time and introduce you to all my volunteers, but at the moment, you seem a bit alienated, so perhaps it’s best if the worker bees don’t see much of you until you’re more adapted,” he suggested while leading me through the aisles that wound between the bookcases and the stairs.
“No, I wouldn’t want to upset your worker bees. Speaking of which,” I ventured, “if I’m not mistaken, those are mostly mundanes out there, and you don’t really seem the type to associate with the non-magical crowd.”
“An old sorcerer can still learn new tricks,” he stated proudly. “I was one of the old guard in Rezarta, but after the way it fell apart, I’ve learned there’s something to be said for choosing one’s battles. Mundanes, at least the ones who show up here and ask to work with us, are quite a pleasure to work with. They’re curious, energetic, dedicated, and it must be said, it helps that there are a lot more of them.”
“But you seem a lot more interested in vampires than in mundanes,” I said.
“Guilty as charged,” he announced. “Perhaps it was inevitable that I would eventually grow comfortable with mundanes, since my initial interest was in the undead. You may have noticed, have you, that vampires are a sort of sticking point between the mundane and magical societies?”
“I noticed that vampires were pretty much the central reason why Rezarta was an untenable situation.”
“And yet, oddly enough, Rezarta made it possible for me to pursue my interest in vampires,” he recalled wistfully. “No one before Arturo Reza could give me the infrastructure and support staff necessary to reclaim the undead. Those vampires who brought you here? They’re my handiwork; I mean, I couldn’t make them mortal, but I brought back their old selves. Before my staff captured them, they were just as far gone as the ones who turned you. That they can carry on with ethics and restraint, and protect their mortal communities rather than prey on them, is one of the great achievements of my life.”
“Sounds like you brought back their old selves kicking and screaming,” I observed.
If he noticed the antagonism in my voice, he wasn’t in the mood to humor me. “Oh, it’s true, after decades of having no choice but to prey on helpless mortals, vampires seem completely beyond our aid, but we proved it beyond a doubt: there is still humanity in them. You should have seen Andra before she had her breakthrough; more than half the handlers were terrified to go near her.”
“She’s still pretty terrifying,” I pointed out.
“Oh, sure, she’s prickly, but she has a conscience. Predatory vampires are just sadistic, but Andra never causes pain for its own sake. My vamps are also quite a lot stronger, healthier, and more light-resistant than preds, and that speaks of their ability to get healthy donors to feed them.”
“Not that your work isn’t impressive, Professor, but,” I asked, “with all those resources at your disposal, I still don’t understand why you felt the need to perform experiments on vampires. If you had the wherewithal to round vampires up and place them in captivity, why not just stake them all?”
“I’m sorry to say that my people were forced to stake a few of the vamps they tried to capture. Self-defense,” he explained. “The point is,” he turned to me with eager gesticulations of his hands, “that any asshole who can afford to hire slayers can destroy vampires. It demonstrates a lack of imagination, in my opinion. It takes real vision, and serious power, to turn vampires into decent people. That is a true victory over the curse, far more than mere destruction.”
He seemed beyond argument on that point. “And now that there is no longer a Rezarta, what are you doing with your tamed vampires?”
“The question isn’t about what I’m doing with them, it’s more about what they’re doing for me,” said Teng. I lacked the will to give him a challenging retort, so he continued, “I detained and reclaimed twelve vampires during my tenure under Arturo Reza. They’re all still around, still on the good side, all still a part of the Blood Rescuers. There are plenty of associations dedicated to the eradications of vampires—slayers’ covens and such—but we have a novel approach. We’re the ones who have non-predatory vampires on our side. That gives us a much better connection to preds like the ones that turned you. I believe you were first approached by a young woman called Flora?”
“I knew something was off about her,” I said. “She looked like a teenager playing dress-up with her mother’s hooker costumes.”
“Name’s Flora Logger. She was a governess for a wealthy Boston family when she was turned in the 1870s. Turned by her brother, in fact. He’s since been staked, but it doesn’t seem to slow her down.”
“Do vampires often turn their siblings?” I asked.
“Relative to whom else they turn? Yes, fairly frequently. Vampires generally turn people with whom they feel a certain connection, as equals, or kin. There aren’t many female vamps turned before the 1960s, but of those that exist, most were turned by their brothers or fathers. Although some were turned by romantic partners. Ask Andra how she joined the ranks sometime. It’s a terrible story.”