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Forever Alpha

Authors: Andrew Caruthers
Crossovers: Forever Knight
Show Year: Y1
Rating: PG
Date: 1999

Story 1 in the "Forever Alpha" series +
1 - Forever Alpha
2 - Greetings from Cylon
3 - ... Et Willelm Ad Pevensae Venit
4 - Schanke Resurgens
5 - Crossfire
6 - Out of the Frying Pan…
7 - The Path To Eternity
Dr Nick Barber, aka Nick Knight, and his wife Nat get an assignment to Moonbase Alpha. But shortly after their arrival, Meta Probe astronauts start dying of a mysterious illness...
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"He was brought across in 1228,
Preyed on Humans for their blood.
Now, he wants to be mortal again,
To repay society for his sins.
To emerge from his world of darkness,
From his endless, forever night."

Chapter One

"Damn you, Nicholas!"

He heard the voice, as he had, over and over again, day after day, dream after dream, for the last few years, since it had happened. Each time, it was the same. His Master, standing over him, spike raised, pointing directly down at his heart. He, prone over the dying body of his beloved, mind and soul resigned to the inevitable. Body tensed, he waited, ready. Ready for the killing blow, the blow that...

That never came. As in each and every dream, identical to all the others, he heard only the clatter of the twisted wooden stake, and the whoosh of his Master's departure. And, always, echoing in his mind, that voice...

"Damn you, Nicholas!"

He snapped awake, as always momentarily disoriented, at a noise. As his mind cleared, he heard it again, and sat up. The bloody sweat on his forehead dripped off, some of it dripping onto the phone as he leaned over it .

"Kni...Barber, here."

"Hey, Nick," said the voice on the other end, crackly with distance and shifts of media. "Vincent here."

"Ben, What's up?"

"Hey, are you awake at all?"

"Yeah. What is it?"

"You've been accepted, Nick. Simmonds passed on your application. Signed, sealed, and approved."

"That's great," said Nick, fully awake, now. "When?"

"You leave for Alpha in three days, Nick."

"Great," said Nick, putting his feet over the edge of the bed. he felt better now, that his dream was fading. "I...well, I just can't believe it."

"Well, believe it. You must have some resume', guy. It takes an awful lot to impress Simmonds, you know. Not to mention Doctor Russell."

"I do my best," said Nick. "See you in three days."

Nick hung up, and went for the shower, cleansing away the last vestiges of his nightmare. Done, dried, and dressed, he headed for the kitchen. Opening the fridge, he reached for a bottle, and pulled the cork with his teeth. Slowly, he downed the red fluid, letting it course over his tongue, and down his throat. Within moments, he could feel the energy begin to move through him, suffusing his limbs. He leaned his head back, wiped the small traces of blood from his mouth, and sighed, closing his eyes.

Nicholas Barber, aka Nicholas de Brabant, dumped the empty in the trash, and closed the refrigerator door. Feeling better, he opened the blinds of his apartment, and looked out over New York City, then up at the Moon, approaching full. Soon, he'd be up there, on Moonbase Alpha. Away from all the bitter memories, away from others of his kind, away from the Enforcers

And, he smiled, away from his Master, and endless tormentor, Lucien LaCroix.

Nick thought that the Eagle Shuttle was the most beautiful flying machine he'd ever seen. Its lines somehow brought to mind a fine, well-bred warhorse, such as he had once ridden into battle, as a mortal man. He smiled, at the memory, and stood on the pad, watching the techs finish their checkouts, and listened to the sounds of the night. Here, near London, one could still hear the crickets, and other sounds of the nocturnal world. For a moment, he felt the urge to leap out into the darkness, seeking prey, to revel once more in being a vampire.

But no. He fought down the impulse, and with a deep breath turned back to the Eagle. He hefted his bag, and headed for the ship, with a spring in his step, but anticipation, too. Once up on Alpha, he'd see her again. They would be reunited. He, and his...

"Excuse me, sir," said a security man at the hatch, motioning for him to stop. "I have to check your bag, Dr. Barber." He reached for Nick's satchel. "Security regulations, you understand."

"You already have," said Nick, looking into the guard's eyes, and pushing a thought. "Remember? You looked."

"Yes. Yes, of course I looked," replied the guard. "Of course. I knew that, sir."

"And you've signed off on it," added the handsome vampire.

"Yeah. That's right. Signed off," said the slack-faced guard.

"Good," said Nick, and passed on in.

The interior of the Eagle's passenger compartment was surprisingly spacious, and Nick took his seat. Once comfy, he dared a quick dive into his bag, and pulled out a bottle. He downed a long gulp, and thrust it back in, as the stewardess came out.

"All settled in, Doctor?

"Yes, thank you," replied Nick.

"Would you care for something to eat?"

"No, thanks. I've already had something this evening."

"Very well. We'll be lifting off in fifteen minutes, Dr. Barber."

"Is there a delay?" Nick looked at his watch.

"We'll be transporting several students up to Alpha as well, Doctor. A summer study program."

Ah, I see. When can I communicate with Alpha?"

"Once we're up beyond the atmosphere, sir. Right now, a relay satellite is off-line. It won't be... ah, here they are."

The stewardess left him, to greet the new arrivals, and Nick settled back into the comfy seat. He'd rarely flown before, at least not this way, and never beyond the atmosphere. Now, he was going to be the first vampire in space.

Well, he smiled, not the first.

All in, he heard the launch call, and listened to the Eagle's engines begin to whine. Then, there was a sharp thump as the thrusters fired, and the VTOL craft lifted off its pad, and began to climb. After a few minutes, he felt the ship's artificial gravity take over, and then drifted off to sleep.

"Life is a gift," he heard his Master say, once more. As always, he was in his old loft, in Toronto, Natalie on the floor, LaCroix over him, wavering and insubstantial.

"I've taken too much," he said, hearing the words come from his other self, as he watched this dream yet again. In third person, yet also very much part of it.

"You must either bring her across," said LaCroix, "or let her die."


"You must."


"I'm not afraid..."


"I have faith..."

"Damn you, Nicholas!"

"Nicholas, you must not go."


"Nicholas," said a voice, and he awoke. Across the cabin from him, standing in the hatchway to the flight deck, was a woman. In a flowing whit dress and long brunette hair, she was entirely out of place, here.

"Erica!" said Nick, as he recognized her. A friend. An old friend. Erica, a fellow traveler in the darkness. Once his lover and fellow thespian, she had at last grown weary of the world, and put an end to herself. Sitting on a park bench, she'd waited for sunrise, staring unafraid into the fire. She'd burned up, leaving only her clothes, dust, and a mystery behind. Since then, her ghost had visited Nick a few times, always with the same plea.

To join her.

"Nicholas, you must not go," said the apparition.

"Erica? What the...what are you talking about?"

"Alpha, Nicholas. You must not go there, Nicholas. There is danger there, for you."

"Erica, what do you mean? It's perfectly..."

"Come," she said, opening her arms to him, "join me, Nicholas." She drew closer. "Is it not time, My Love? I..."

"Doctor Barber? Doctor Barber?" said another voice. At once, Erica vanished, replaced by the stewardess, looking down at him.

"Hhmm? Oh, yes. What is it?" He briefly glanced at the hatch. No one. Had he...?

"There is a message for you, Doctor. From Alpha, on Channel One."

"Uh, yes," said Nick, at last coming fully awake, and shaking off his dream. "Uh..." he began, but the stewardess anticipated him.

"Phones, sir," she said, handing him some. Nick plugged them in, and activated the screen.

"Nick," said the voice in his ears. Nick smiled, as only Natalie's voice could make him smile.

"Nat, you have no idea how good it is to hear your voice."

"Same here, but it's only been a week, Nick." She got that minxish smile of hers. "Miss me already?"

"I miss you after seven minutes, Nat. How are you settling in?"

"Well, the decor up here is egregious. Whoever designed the place must have had a major plastic fetish. No, more like a plastic psychosis. And the uniforms." She rolled her eyes.

"I know," he replied, rolling his, too. "Maybe I should have worn my old Coat of Arms, and chain mail."

"Well, that and your sword sure would beat this 70's Mod revival up here, Nick. These duds look like something Rudi Gernreich would have come up with." Natalie shuddered in mock horror. "How long?"

"Uh..." He consulted his watch. "Another two hours, Nat."

"Wish that flying crayon was faster. Doctor Russell is anxious to meet you. So is Doctor Vincent, again."

"Those the only reasons?" he grinned, the boyish grin he always used on her. It worked. She blushed.

"Hell no. I'm also horny," she replied, trying not to giggle. She lost the fight.

"Well, I'll just have to see what I can do about that," he smiled back at her. "How goes the project?"

"Shaping up just great. It won't be much longer." He waited a beat, listening to the hiss of the phones. "Nat, is everything okay up there?"

"Sure. What makes you ask?" Silence. "Nick?"

"Oh..." He turned, and saw the students nattering amongst themselves. "I'll talk to you when I get there, Nat."

"Okay," she said, face a little puzzled. He terminated the connection, and the screen went back to its annoying test pattern. He hit another control, and got an image of his destination directly ahead. The Moon. Almost as soon as he had done so, there was another message for him.

From Earth.

He switched over, and was greeted by the calm, yet angrily glaring face of the one person he really did not want to see, just now. Or ever, for that matter. Someone he had known for a long, long time. A man he, illogically, both loved, and despised.

His Master. Lucien LaCroix.


Chapter Two

Nick was impressed by the sight of the Meta Probe launch complex, in high lunar orbit, as they drew close. He also felt a slight glow of pride, at the secret knowledge that it was he, or at least the de Brabant Foundation, that had helped fund much of Alpha's construction, and was also involved in the upcoming Meta Probe. One did not repay society for one's sins solely by being a cop, and catching bad guys. Already, new medicines and therapies were coming out of Alpha's medical research labs, and the spin-off technologies, not to mention the patent royalties, were piling up.

He watched the base slide underneath them, as they came over the lip of Plato Crater, then the automatic guidance took over, settling them onto pad four. Once the cowl was was secure and the hatch opened, he let the students go first, giving the cabin a last once-over with his preternatural senses. He felt no further hint of Erica's presence.

"Doctor Barber?" said the stewardess.

"Oh, yes. Coming," said Nick, and he left the Eagle.

"Any trouble?" asked Natalie, once he had settled in to their quarters.

"No. We all had to check in with Security of course, but that was no problem, Nat."

"Thank God Verdeschi isn't a resister," said Nat, kneeling behind him on the bed, rubbing his neck. "He is kind of cute, though."


"Ah, jealousy," she sighed. "Yes, all I need to do is look into his eyes, and he's mine. Do you hear me? Mine!"

"He tries it, and he's lunch, Nat."

"Yeah, I know," she sighed. "Spoilsport. You meet Gorski yet?"

"No. Verdeschi said they were all in some kind of conference."

"Bureaucracy is everywhere, Nick. It was the same in the Coroner's Office. It was the same in the Department for you. You get to the moon, and what do you find?"

"It was like that, even in my day, Nat."

"Oh, and which one of your days are we talking about, hhmmmm?" she teased, pinching him.

"All of them, Natalie. Man's greatest bane, I am certain, was the invention of writing."

"Funny, my mother always said it was television."

"Grrrrr!" he replied. He straightened his back, and stood up. "Be thankful you didn't have to write your autopsy reports on vellum, with a quill pen. In Latin."

"Oh yes, just love those declensions! Or how about with a stylus, on clay tablets," she laughed, getting up as well. "Hhmm?"

"Natalie Barber, aka deBrabant," he scowled, arms akimbo, "I never wrote on clay tablets." The scowl dissolved into a grin, then a laugh. He then fell silent, and Nat could sense that something wasn't right.

"What is it, Nick?" No answer. "Nick, you asked on the way up if everything was okay." She waited another beat. "Is it the dreams, again?"

"Yes," he knodded, then added: "Well, not exactly."

"Not exactly?" she asked, moving closer. "And just how not exactly is not exactly?"

"It's the same, Nat. That...night, in my loft. Only this time there was a difference."


"Erica was there."

"Erica?" asked Nat, obviously taken by surprise. "What did she say?"

"She told me that I shouldn't come here. That there was danger here, for me."

"And you believe her, Nick?"

"Of course not," said Nick. "She's only..."

"Only a figment of your dreams, Nicholas of Castle de Brabant," said Nat, voice going into "scientist" mode. "Ghosts, My Big Superstitious 13th Century Crusader Hunk, do not exist."

"Nat, I..."

"Nick," she said, hands on hips, glaring at him. "Ghosts..."

"There was a time, Nat, when you would have said that vampires don't exist, either," he reminded her.

"The changes to our blood and tissues can be observed under a microscope, Nick. The tools of science. Erica cannot. She's..."

"Doctor Barber," said a voice. On the commpost in their quarters, the little black-and-white screen now displayed a face. "Ben Vincent here."

"Yes?" said Nat, touching the button.

"The meeting is breaking up," said the man on the screen. "Doctor Russell would like to meet you both, in Medical Center."

"We're on our way," said Nat. She signed off, then turned back to Nick. "Ready?"

"Ready," he replied, then reached into his bag. He pulled out a bottle, and poured them both a glass of sustenance. They drank, looking into one another's eyes, then left the room.

Nicholas just hated Alpha's "decor" he decided, as he and Natalie made their way to Medical Center. He'd studied up on the base, of course, while preparing for this new existence, but pictures hadn't prepared him for the reality of it. Nat had been quite right. A real fetish for plastic. Of course, one would hardly expect a lunar science facility to sport plush carpet, redwood paneling, or planter boxes in the corridors.

The place put him, somehow, in mind of his ancestral home, Castle de Brabant. Claustrophobic and with uninspiring decor, it had nonetheless been functional. Serving its intended purpose.

"Nick." No answer. "Nick!"

"Huh? Oh, sorry, Nat."

"You flash back somewhere, again?"

"Yeah, kind of. Sorry."

Nat pulled her commlock, and they entered the Medical Center. Make that Centre he thought, upon seeing the sign. The first thing Nick noticed was not the high-tech gear, not the ubiquitous electronics, but the "click-clack" of a manual typewriter. Puzzled at hearing such a sound in this place, he followed it...

To one of the absolute loveliest women he'd ever seen, sitting at a table, typing on an old-fashioned Olivetti.

"Doctor Russell?" said Nat, and the blonde woman turned, looking up at her.

"Natalie," she smiled, and stood. " I'm sorry I wasn't there to greet your husband, but Commander Gorski had us in that bloody meeting for practically ever." She stood up, and Natalie introduced them. She took Nick's hand, and at once he could see that she noticed it. The cooler flesh.

"I'm Helena Russell, CMO of Moonbase Alpha." She noticed Nick's gaze, and understood the reason for it. Most men did that, upon first meeting Helena. Her perfection of face and form had been known to silence conversations, upon her entering a room. Not slow to trade upon it, she'd even done some modeling to work her way through college.

"Nicholas Barber," said Nick, snapping out of it. "Glad to meet you, Doctor Russell. Nat's told me so much about you."

"Well, your wife's reputation has preceded her, Doctor."

"Nick, please. I hate titles. Makes me sound like the Lord of the Manor, or something." He studiously ignored Nat's stifled laugh.

"As long as you call me Helen then," smiled the CMO. "Your wife's quite a find, Doc...Nick. For me."

"You? How so?"

"Well, her work for the Coroner's Office in Toronto, is well known in certain circles."

Yes, thought Nick. Certain circles.

"Hopefully, there won't be any bodies to dissect up here," said Nat, with a grimace.

"No, but your paper last year on hematology was brilliant. And the work you've been doing the last couple of years, on bioengineering blood replacements, has extremely important implications for future space missions."

"Well all I'm doing", said Nat, looking from Helena to Nick, "is trying to make people well."

"Both of you are," said Helena, turning to Nick. "Your work on the new synthesizer technology promises to be as revolutionary for modern medicine, Nick, as X-rays or anethstesia were for the 19th Century, or cold fusion was for spacecraft propulsion systems, in our own era." She went to the typewriter, slid the dust cover over it, and motioned them to follow her. She noticed Nick's gaze. "I know. It is out of place, isn't it?"

"Kind of," said Nick.

"My mother gave it to me, when I went off to medical school. I'm just too old-fashioned to get rid of it."

"I know how you feel," said Nick. "I collect antiques, myself." Nat almost succeeded in stifling another laugh.

"I'd love to have a look, sometime," said Helena, and led them to their new lab.

"I didn't realize that you knew her," said Nick later, in the lab.

"Yes. I met her several years back at a medical convention. Remember, I told you?"

"I'd forgotten, Nat," he replied, and they got down to work.

Natalie had been working on a blood substitute, free of the side-effects of earlier varieties, ever since meeting Nick, that night in her autopsy room, and coming to understand his condition. Now, applying recent advances in bio-engineering technology to the problem, she was closer than ever before to perfecting it.

For his part, Nick was putting his own not-inconsiderable skills, accrued over centuries, to work, as well. The new synthesizer technology, properly applied, promised a virtually unlimited supply of the sustenance he required.

And Natalie too, now.

As he worked, Nick kept thinking back, to that night in Toronto. Of Nat's entreaties, of his own reluctance, of the scent of her blood, of her fear, as he pressed his fangs to her neck.

Then, he saw her again. Erica. Her image on one of his computer screens.

"Nicholas. Nicholas," she said, voice thin and wavering. "You must leave. Leave Alpha."


"Huh?" he said, snapping out of it. He looked back down. Erica was gone, the screen filled only with scrolling data. "Oh. Doctor," he said, turning towards the door.

"It's Helena. Remember? Commander Gorski would like you and your wife to join him, in his quarters, for dinner."

"What time?" asked Nat.

"1800 hours, on the dot."

"Uh..." Nick began.

"We'll be there," said Nat. Helena left, and Nick turned to face her.

"Do you know if he's a resister?"

"No. But we'll just... have to tell him the truth."

Chapter Three

Anton Gorski, the eighth commander of Moonbase Alpha, was a man entirely void of charm. That is not to say that he did not try. He was extremely courteous towards his guests, especially Natalie. But the easiness with which Helena, or even Captain Reese of the Toronto PD interacted with others, was noticeably lacking in Gorski. Nick, who, though it was the 13th Century, had been raised with the courtly graces, felt a little sorry for the man. Here was someone very likeable, who could be a friend in other circumstances, yet essentially nothing more than an administrator. A CEO. A mechanic.

Gorski both noted, and commented on, their failure to eat. Of course, he soon forgot all about that, remembering only how such pleasant company they had been, how heartily they had partaken, and both Barber's unfortunate "food allergies". What he did remember was their intense interest in space travel, and the science involved therewith. Nat's new blood substitute, and the synthesizer technology, had revolutionary implications for long space missions, and Gorski was of a mood to discuss this with them, in detail.

Basically, would it be available, by the time the Meta Probe was to be launched, tentatively scheduled for October 1st? Neither were certain, but promised Gorski that they would spare no effort.

"Ah, a full moon, tonight," said the sibilantly silky voice, over the radio. A voice that Nicholas knew, all too well. At barely a quarter-million miles from Earth, he could pick up almost any station, and while Natalie was in the shower he tuned, as much out of habit as of curiosity, to CERK, in Toronto. As usual, Lucien LaCroix was regaling listeners with his gloomy, and sometimes ghoulish, ramblings.

"Don't you just love a full moon, My Children? Don't you? I know I do. Do you not love it's light, the silvery radiance it sends washing over us all, good and bad alike?"

"Especially bad," said Nick.

"On a night like this," continued LaCroix, "how wonderful it would be, to go out into that silver-filled night, and run. Run with the beasts, naked and free. Ah, yes. Would you like that, boys and girls?"

"I've done you one better," muttered Nick, who could just see his Master's smile.

"Or, perhaps," the old vampire went on, "you've done better." Nick started, at his Master's choice of words, for one fearful moment wondering if LaCroix could read his mind. There had, through the centuries, been times...

"Perhaps you are there," said LaCroix, "on that silver orb, even now." He waited a beat. "Alpha," he said, the soft flow of air from his lips seeming to almost caress the microphone. "That place, that beachhead in the sky, from which the silver light descends. What is it like, there, eh? Do you feel powerful, as though you were directing that radiance? What, I ask, is this castle of knowledge, this bastion of science, from which you think to solve the problems of the world? Or, perhaps, your own? Hhmm? Is it not, for all its grandiose and highflown promise, a fool's errand?"

Yes, thought Nick. LaCroix knew he was listening.

"What," asked LaCroix, "do you think to achieve, there? Solving the problems of mankind? Fixing the world?" Then Nick noticed a subtil change in LaCroix's voice, so subtil only another vampire might have been able to perceive it.

"What," probed LaCroix, "do you think to cure? Some things, Gentle Listeners, are immutable, beyond cure. Some things cannot be changed, bathe ourselves in the moonbeams of science as we will. Oh, when will some of us learn..."


Nick looked up, to see Natalie, hair still wet, wrapped in a robe, standing over the radio, finger on the "off" button.

"I wish you'd stop listening to that," said Nat, nose crinkled in disgust. "You know perfectly well it's aimed at you, Nick."

"Yeah," was Nick's limp reply.

"'Yeah'" replied Nat, a certain mocking in her voice. "Great conversationalist. He's just trying to get you down, Nick. You know that."

"Yes, but..."

"But zilch, Nick. We are close, and he knows it. He's getting desperate, because he knows we're close." She doffed the robe, and began to dress. "What did he have to say? On the way up?"

"Oh, just the usual," said Nick, rising. "How cruel I am, to torment him this way. How foolish, how ungrateful. The usual."



" unfair to you."

"Me?" she said, turning around to lance him with a gaze.

"Yes. He told me I was cruel, trying to deny you the fulfillment of your new nature."

"My new...what a total crock. He knows full well I hate..." She stopped, settling down. "I'm sorry, Nick," she said, more gently, taking hold of his hand. "I didn't mean it, that way."

"I know, Nat."

"It's just as my fault as yours, love," she said, looking up. "I pushed you, and you..."

"Yeah, I did what I could, Nat. What I had to."

Nick stared at the mirror, and flashed back to the loft. One of the few clear things, from the days following his encounter with Divia, was of he, standing over Nat, trying desperately to save her. He transfused the Type ONeg from her bag into her, tried to get saline solution into her, tried to force water into her, the lot. But, by dawn, he realized that it was hopeless. Natalie Lambert was slipping away, brain and other vital organs shutting down. She was dying.

And there was only one way that he could save her.

"Nick," she said, weakly, looking up at him from the bed.

"Nick," she said again, more strongly, and he felt her squeeze his hand. "Nicholas!"

"Huh? Oh, sorry."

"You zapped out on me again, love," she said, eye to eye.


"Well, stay clear." She looked at the clock. "Almost time."


"Poker. We're invited to a game, in the Zoref's quarters."

"Oh, right. I'd forgotten."

"Uh huh," she shook her head. "Sheesh! My hero. Anyway, it'll be Anton and Eva, Dave Kano, Ouma, maybe, and Verdeschi, from Security."

"Then let's get going, Nat."

"Oh, and," she added, rising, "Professor Bergman might drop in, he said."

"Sounds like a full house, already, then," quipped Nick, and after a little extra sustenance he led the way out.

Nick had played far too many games of chance, over the centuries, to be taken in by anyone's deceptions, and could maintain a "poker face" like no one else. As they played, he studied his fellow "Alphans".

David Kano, a big Jamaican, lived, ate slept, and breathed computers. There seemed to be nothing about the machines that he did not know. From the earliest attempts before World War II, to the latest in microprocessors, he had an encyclopedic knowledge of his subject. Or, rather, his craft, for David Kano absolutely, unquestionably, unreservedly loved tinkering with the base's mainframe. Always finding ways to get more speed out of it, to put more memory into it, whatever. Obviously, Kano and his people would be invaluable in developing the synthesizer technology.

Anton Zoref was a specialist in the base's power systems, working in one of Alpha's nuclear generating stations. As thoroughly versed in his stuff as Kano was in his, he did, however, have the ability to talk about something beyond control rods, fuel bundles, and reactor containment vessels. A fairly quiet man, Nick at once found himself liking Zoref, along with his wife, whose hostessing gave these quarters a graciousness mostly lacking on the base.

Antonio Verdeschi, head of Alpha Security, was lean, dark-haired, good-looking, and talkative. No, make that verbose. By the end of the first hour, Nick and Nat knew the names of his parents, his brother, his schools, the street in Florence he'd lived on, the original owner of the house, the number of the house, his first girlfriend, his second girlfriend, his hobbies, ad infinitum. Nick noted his almost total lack of an Italian accent, explained by several years at English Universities.

"Your Italian is very good," said Verdeschi, after Nick had addressed him in that language. "Where did you pick it up?"

"Oh, I've spent a little time in Italy. The Po Valley can be so pleasant in summer. Don't you agree?" he asked, sparing a glance at Natalie. He'd noticed that Verdeschi had been giving Nat far too much attention, during the evening. Of course, he could hardly blame the fellow, being totally besotted by Nat himself. But, he did feel more than a little jealous, and decided he would have to keep an eye on Verdeschi.

Besides, there was something in the way Verdeschi spoke to him, that made him uneasy. Could he, perhaps...

Knock it off, Nick, he told himself. He's a cop. Remember what it's like?

" weird," said Zoref, as Nick returned to the game.

"Who?" asked Kano.

"That fellow on the radio," replied Zoref. "From Canada. Calls himself the Nightcrawler. Ever listen to him?"

"I've...heard him, once or twice," said Nick. "Weird bird."

"I'll say," Zoref went on. "Tonight he was ripping on us, up here."

"Really?" asked Nat, deadpan.

"Yes," said Eva. "I've heard him before. He's terribly morbid, that one."

"But tonight, he was slamming Alpha," said Anton. "And he was talking almost as though he knew someone, here." Zoref turned to Verdeschi. "Did you hear?"

"Me? I don't go in for the Rush Limbaugh stuff. No, I only listen to music," replied Verdeschi. "The news and talk stuff is way too depressing."

"The people who call in to his show are as weird as he is," said Anna, when there was a beep. It was Professor Bergman, on the commpost. He was admitted, and introduced.

"Oh, yes," said the old Academic. "I have heard him, once or twice." He smiled, shaking his head. "Once, there was a man who claimed his friend was a vampire." Nick and Nat shared a look, but did not laugh. Nick had not known that any of that conversation had actually gone out, over the air. And, right now, he did not want to dredge up memories of his old partner, Donald Schanke. Not...

"And how goes the Meta Probe, Professor?" asked Natalie.

Good save, thought Nick.

"Oh, splendidly," said Bergman, and from there on it was spacecraft, physics, et al. All the while, though, something was bothering Nick. Bergman. He was...familiar? How? Perhaps...

Merde! he swore to himself.

"What is it, Nick?" asked Nat, later, as they settled down.

"Bergman," he replied.

"The Professor? You've met him before, then."

"Yeah. Back in...'61."

"When you were Forrester?"

"Yes. He gave a lecture, on space propulsion. I was curious, and sat in. He was only 21, Nat, but he was brilliant. Absolutely."

"And you spoke with him?"

"I did. For over two hours. I can still remember how impressed I was, by his keen mind. His complete, utter grasp of the concepts, Nat. It's no wonder he was practically abducted by NASA, for the Gemini and Apollo programs."

"You think perhaps he remembers you?"

"I'm not sure. He did look at me, quite a few times."

"Why didn't you consider him, when planning this life?"

"I...there are still a few things that are fuzzy, Nat, after that bullet in the head. I still run across gaps, now and then. I guess he was one of them."

"Well, I hear he's scheduled to be rotated off Alpha, soon," said Nat. "So let's hope he won't be a problem."

"Amen to that, Nat," said Nick, and put a hand on her shoulder. She responded, turning burning eyes to him, and pulling him to her.

On the Dark Side, just beyond the area always visible from Earth, another Eagle was putting down, at Nuclear Waste Disposal Area Two. The crew began to unload their deadly cargo, as they had many a time already. Only this time...

This time the pilot, Praeger, didn't feel so good. Damned headache...

Chapter Four

Nick spent the next couple of days avoiding Bergman. Being buried in the lab, working with Natalie, it was fairly easy. As he chewed through some computations, Nat was deep into yet another chemical experiment. In fact he was so engrossed that he did not notice when Doctor Mathias entered, and began discussing some analyses with Nat.

Nick liked Robert Mathias, the base's other black physician. Like all the medical staff here he was hyper competent, but he had a bedside manner almost the equal of Helena Russell's, and was cool under pressure.

"Nicholas," said a voice. He froze as the screen before him, filled with computations moments before, now showed only Erica. She was looking straight at him.


"Nicholas, please," said she, "you must leave. Alpha is not safe, beloved Nicholas. You must leave soon."

"Erica, what are you talking about?" Even as he spoke, Nick felt the temperature drop around him. "What danger?"

For a moment, Erica, the lab, and everything else disappeared, and Nick saw only light. Blinding white light, so strong it hurt even his eyes.

"Nick?" came a voice. "Nick?" again, and he was back in the lab, at his station. He looked up, and saw Mathias for the first time. "Are you alright, Doctor Barber?"

"Nick, you zoned out there, for a minute," said Nat, coming over. "You okay?" she mouthed, out of view of Mathias. He nodded, ever so perceptibly. Already, the chill had gone. Had the others felt it, too?

"Just a headache, Nat. Staring at that screen for too long." He noted her raised eyebrow, and understood it. She had felt it. And, asked a question. He nodded again. "I'm alright," he said, looking at Mathias. "I..."

He was interrupted by a loud crash, in the next ward, then a blaring security alarm. As one, the three ran for the next room, to find a fight in full swing. Doctor Vincent was struggling with another man, his back bent over a chair, the attacker's hands around his throat.

"Out!" he was snarling, as he tried to choke the life out of the other man. "Have to get out!"

Without thinking, Nick leapt into action, with a vampire's speed. He pulled the other man off Vincent, hurling him into the far wall. As Nat and Mathias moved to the aid of their fellow doctor, Nick kept his attention on the attacker.

"Mon Dieu!" he swore, as he saw the man's face. He'd not only gotten back up quickly, far too quickly considering, but his face...!

Particularly his eyes. His right eye was clouded over, almost opaque, as if he had cataracts. The flesh around it was livid, like raw, open burn tissue, and he was sweating. His expression was one of pure, mindless desperation.

"Out," he rasped, moving towards a window. "Must get out." He began to claw at the window, madly trying to get through it. Nick lay hands on him, only to find himself thrown off with a strength that surprised him, from a mortal. Then, the attacker leapt upon him, trying to strangle him as well. "Out! Have to get out of here!"

Faced with such a threat, Nick's nature came out. Eyes blazing, he hurled the attacker away. He sailed across the ward, into the opening door through which security was was just entering. His head struck the edge of the door with a sickening crack, and he sprawled out, into the corridor, twitched a moment, then lay still.

There was a round of "you alright?"s, then one of the security men turned the corpse over.

"My God," said Verdeschi, as he saw the ravaged face. "It's Praeger!"

"It was totally justifiable," said Verdeschi, in the Commander's office. The report on Praeger was on Gorski's desk. The Commander, as usual cheerless, was still reading.

"Do we know why he suddenly went berserk?" asked Gorski. "Prager's record is exemplary, Tony."

"No. Doctor Russell is doing a post-mortem right now, Commander."

"Doctor Vincent?" asked Gorski. "Anything?"

"No, sir," replied Vincent. "Praeger had his annual physical the first of this month. He checked out a hundred percent. Psych profile, too."

"Why was he in Medical, today?"

"He was complaining of headaches, Commander. When I looked at him, he was beginning to sweat, then he suddenly attacked me. If Doctor Barber hadn't intervened..."

"We must all thank Doctor Barber," said Gorski, returning to Verdeschi's report. "Have you anything to add, Doctor?" he asked Nick.

"Nothing, Commander. I only met Praeger once, a week or so ago. He came to the Zoref's weekly poker game."

"I see," said Gorski, leaning back in his chair. He reached out, and hit one of the buttons on his console. "Medical."

"Doctor Mathias here."

"Anything yet, Robert?"

"No, Commander. Doctors Russell and Barber are still in the autopsy."

"Very well." He clicked off.

"Commander," said Verdeschi, rising. "I have to go and file this report."

"Wait," said Gorski, holding out a hand.

"Sir?" asked Verdeschi, half-risen.

"Hold off, till we have the results of the post-mortem."

"But, sir..."

"Hold off," said the Commander.

"Radiation?" asked Gorski, later, in the autopsy room.

"It looks like it," said Helena. On the table, Praeger was laid out, open and unappealing. "Here," she indicated, pointing to an angry red mass, in Praeger's brain. Gorski turned away for a moment, from the dismantled body.

"What is it?"

"Some sort of malignancy," said Nat, getting the nod from Helena. "The cells show a pattern of damage similar to that caused by radiation, but that's all we've got, so far."

"What about drugs, or some kind of infection?" asked Gorski.

"The tox screen was negative," said Natalie. "No signs of viral or bacterial infection, yet."

"And there was nothing in Praeger's history to indicate this," Helena added. "No history of drugs, or illness. Nothing in his family." She shook her head. "Nothing."

"Till now," said Gorski. He went to the commpost. "Professor Bergman."


"I want a team from your section to check out Area Two, bow to stern. Any signs of radiation, Professor. Any at all."

"Right away, Commander."

"I don't understand it, Nick," said Nat, in their quarters. "It looked like a malignant brain tumor. But how something like that could erupt so suddenly..." she shrugged.

"You'll figure it out, Nat," replied Nick. "You always do."

"Well, I have very little experience with radiation, Nick. Doctor Russell is the expert, there."

"Then you'll figure it out, together." He fell silent, and Nat stared at him.



"Don't you 'huh' me, Nicholas de Brabant.'re thinking about it, aren't you?"


"Erica, and her visitations, and don't tell me you aren't."

"Well, yeah. Some."

"Some," sighed Nat. "Nick, it is almost the 21st Century! The age of science. That sort of supersti...""

"She was right, Nat. Danger up here."

"We are on the moon, Nick. Space. Space travel is inherently dangerous. You just..."

"I did not imagine it, Nat. Imagine her. I know you don't believe in ghosts..." He noticed her expression, a dark memory. Nat had tried, many a time, to rationalize away the "visitation" of her grandmother's shade. She was still trying.

"Well", she said, deftly shifting the subject, "the inquest is tomorrow. Can't be avoided, Nick."

"Well, Nat, I killed someone. It has to be done."

"And, saved a life, too, don't forget. Maybe more than one. That counts for something, Nick. And Verdeschi's security report looks good for you. We'll come through."

"You saw his report, Nat? It's..."

"Yeah, well," she shrugged, all innocence. "When you've got it, you've got it, Nick."

"Nat, you didn't."

Natalie only smiled.

I came here, Nick told himself, to get away from trouble. So what do I do? I get involved with a death. I cause a death, and now I'm sitting in an inquest. Great job, de Brabant. First rate all around.

Not that this was exactly Terra Obscura for Nick. As Lord of Castle de Brabant, he'd had the duty of administering justice in his demesne, and had presided over inquests and trials, passing sentence on others. As a cop in both Chicago and Toronto, he'd testified in court. However, being on the receiving end was definitely not to his liking.

It tended to draw too much attention to himself.

Verdeschi's report was straightforward. Praeger had gone berserk, and tried to kill Doctor Vincent. Nick had come to the Doctor's defense, and Praeger had, unfortunately, died in consequence. Of a cranial fracture, resulting from his impact with the edge of the door. Nick's apparently superhuman strength was explained by a "surge of adrenaline", in time of stress. The cause of Praeger's outburst remained unknown.

The verdict was as expected. Justifiable homicide on Nick's part, period. No action to be taken against him. All Doctor Russell could say was that the cause of Praeger's outburst remained unknown. The search would continue.

All through it, however, Nick was aware of Verdeschi's eyes on him. Vincent's, too. Verdeschi looked suspicious, like a cop. Vincent's look was more...puzzled. Had he seen something, in the struggle?

Obviously, he and Nat would have to keep an eye on both of them.

Next day, the report came back from Bergman's team. No radiation leakage from Area Two. Not so much as a neutron out of place. Where then, wondered everyone, had the radiation come from, to cause Praeger's illness? His Eagle was checked out, too. Clean. So were Alpha's generating stations. Where, then?

But there were no answers forthcoming, and life on Alpha returned, sort of, to normal. Nick and Nat got back to working on their projects, and everything seemed to be just fine.

"They say the moon causes madness," came LaCroix's voice, over Nick's radio. "Perhaps, My Children. Perhaps this is true. Perhaps that silvery radiance does bend men's minds. Warp them in ways that confound us."

"Do you think..." began Nat, listening.

"After all, haven't we all heard how crime increases, with the waxing of the moon? Theft. Rape. Even murder. Do we not, have we not, from time immemorial, Gentle Listeners, called it lunacy?"

Nick could practically see the smile on his Master's face, as he spoke. LaCroix knew, yes. But how? By order of Commander Gorski, the report on Praeger had yet to be sent to LSRO headquarters. Even the man's family knew only that he had died in an accident. Nothing more.

How, then...

"Perhaps, My Children," continued the ancient vampire, "she is jealous?

"Oh, God," groaned Natalie.

"Jealous of those who have violated her sanctuary, who have probed her secrets." He sighed. "But, what do we, mere Earthbound mortals, know of such things, eh? Tell me, you out there. Tell me what you think, what you know. I'm ready, for I am...the Nightcrawler."

"He knows, Nick," said Nat. "He knows about Praeger. But how? Gorski's put a lid on it, for the moment."

"You're right, Nat. I don't know how, but you're right."

During Alpha's "middle of the night", few were about. That, and Nick's unnatural speed, made getting to the main security office easy. The man on duty asked what he wanted, then quickly forgot that anyone had wanted anything at all.

Verdeschi's desk was a snap, and so was his terminal. All those lessons, Nick decided, from Aristotle and Larry Merlin, had paid off.

"Accessed?" asked Nat, later. "Someone hacked in?"

"Yeah. Someone got in, got a look, and sent the information off, privately."


"The guy on duty doesn't know, hon. He was bribed to be away from his post for an hour, last night."

"By whom?"

"He doesn't know, but he took the deal. I used the computer to do some checking, back home. A large deposit was made to his account, day before yesterday, Nat."

"You think LaCroix bribed him?" she asked. "Why?"

"Like always, Nat. He'll do anything to stop me from leaving him, for good. From becoming Human, again. You said it yourself, he's desperate. Somehow, he's gotten his claws into someone here, to keep tabs on me, for anything he might be able to use."

"To set you up, like he did in Toronto?"

"Very possibly. Damn it!"

"I wish he'd stayed dead when you staked him, Nick. annoys the hell out of me."

"Me too, Nat."

"I'd love nothing better than to do his autopsy," she grinned, evilly. "So, what are you going to do? About the guard?"

"Nothing I can do, Nat. I expose him, I expose myself. But," he smiled, "I...might induce him to change jobs."


Everyone was surprised when Security Officer Arlen Edison up and requested transfer, the next day. More concerned with the Meta Probe, and the recent death, than with mundane personnel matters, Commander Gorski gave it immediate approval. Verdeschi was surprised, but could do nothing.

From time to time, base personnel could request time in Alpha's commsuite, to send or receive personal messages. Nick availed himself of such, at last connecting with LaCroix.

"Nicholas? I'm flattered you..."

"Stop it, LaCroix," said Nick, using the archaic French of his childhood. "I know all about the bribed guard, and the information that was sent you." Not true. Nick had not been able to learn where the file had been transmitted. The logs had been wiped. But the money transfer had been from a Canadian bank.

"Nicholas, I assure you that I have done no such things. My word, Nicholas," said the old vampire.

"Why don't I believe you, LaCroix?"

"Really, Nicholas. You must overcome this cynicism of yours," said LaCroix, with the hint of a smile. A mocking smile. "Every time you have a problem, you blame me. A child cannot blame a parent forever, my boy. You really need to grow up, Nicholas."

Nick heard no more, for he cut the connection with a grunt of disgust. The lying old reprobate! Can't tell the truth for five minutes straight. Maybe he'd needed that, on the floor of the Roman Senate, or in the Palace of Vespasian, but not between them. Father and Son. Teacher and Pupil. Maker and Creation.

Master and Slave!


Nick tried to shake off his irritation at LaCroix, and returned to his lab. He was having trouble, getting the emitter diodes to stay in phase. On his off-time, Zoref lent aid, and soon the two were deep into it. So much so that Nick didn't hear Dr. Vincent calling to him.


Ben Vincent had invited he and Nat to dinner in his quarters, with Alibe, his current significant other. Nick wanted to say no, but Vincent wished to show his appreciation, and Nick could hardly "boozle" him in front of witnesses.

"See you tomorrow, Nick," said Zoref, heading towards the door. "I'll get these computations to Professor Bergman's lab." He waved a sheaf of papers.

"Right, Anton. I think we've nearly licked it." He turned back to the medico, as Zoref left. "Okay. I'll tell Natalie. Twenty-hundred?"


At that moment, down in the hangar bay, one of the Eagle pilots had a serious fall, breaking both legs, and receiving a hairline fracture of the skull. Sent home to Earth the next afternoon, he was immediately replaced by one Alan Carter, late of the Royal Australian Air Force.

Doctor Vincent knew of Nick's dietary limitations. Well, most of them. The sight of normal food, even after years of trying, could still make his stomach heave, but he hid it manfully. Natalie, still new to this, often experimented with various foods, though never in front of mortals.

A rare pleasure on Alpha was meat, and dairy products. Most of the base's food was produced in the hydroponics section. Cereal grains and a wide variety of vegetables, with an average of three new ones added each month, aside from what was grown in the protein tanks. Meat was shipped up, on a regular basis, though never in large quantities. There were plans, on paper at least, to turn one of the projected new sections into a sort of lunar stockyard, and raise livestock here, on the moon. However, nothing had been done about the proposal as yet, and with Simmonds putting the pressure on, over the Meta Probe, it would likely be a long time before anyone did.

But, tonight, Dr. Vincent was Chef Vinson, and he treated Alibe, a lovely black lady from Technical, to a rare feast. Out of politeness (and a well-honed sense of self-preservation), Nick and Nat both partook of wine (red, of course), and even managed to make it look as if they were actually enjoying the soup.

All through it, however, Nick was aware of Vincent's reticence. He wanted to talk about...something. Though the death of Praeger was still on everyone's lips, it was clear that the medico was concerned with another matter. Then, when Alibe excused herself...

"I...saw your eyes," said Vincent, under Nick's hypnotic power. "How can this..."

"No. You saw nothing out of the ordinary," said Nat, staring into his. "A trick of the light. That was all it..."

She broke off, as Alibe returned. Vincent blinked, and rubbed his eyes.

"Hi", said the eternally ebullient Alibe. "Everyone miss me?"

"Of course," said Nat, then fell to telling her about her work on blood replacement technology. After a moment or two, Vincent seemed himself again, and joined in as if nothing untoward had happened.

Chapter Five

It had been a long time since Nick had been a teacher, but he found himself falling back into that role easily. The students that had transported up to Alpha with him were still here, all High School achievers, headed for careers in the sciences. Nick, suddenly missing his days as a college prof, fell easily into explaining the ins and out of his project, as they toured the medical labs. The give and take with the kids felt good, it made him feel good. Clean. Better.

I was never a vampire in my heart, he said to himself. Not really. Not truly. He looked up at one student, a girl about 16 or so, and...

"Don't be such a fool, Nicholas," said LaCroix, lips stained red, looking up from the victim he had just feasted upon. "You are. And you always were."

"No, LaCroix," said Nick, face wrinkled in disgust. "I will go hungry, before I stain myself with such dishonor." He turned his back on his Master.

"Pot calling the kettle black, Nicholas," smiled LaCroix, rolling the corpse off into an overgrown ditch. "You cast away your so-called honor long ago, if you will remember. When you accepted my offer."

"She helped me, LaCroix," spat Nick, furious. "She found me, and gave me aid. At her own risk. And she asked for nothing." His last word was cut off by an explosion.

"You are immortal, Nicholas. You require no mortal aid. You would have reviv..."

"That does not change the facts, LaCroix. Her heart was filled with goodness and charity, and I promised her my help, in return for hers."

"She was filled with blood, Nicholas," replied LaCroix, "and promises are like pie crusts. Made to be broken." There was the whistle of a projectile, and a deafening burst of flame not ten yards away. "And speaking of broken, Nicholas, we had best be going, before Napoleon's artillery breaks us." With that, the elder vampire took to the air. Nicholas lingered a moment, casting a last glance to where the nameless refugee who had come to the aid of a stranger lay dead.

"Never in my heart," he whispered. "I swear it." He cursed LaCroix, then another blast and the approach of horses decided him, and he followed his Master skywards.

"Nicholas," said a voice, and he snapped back to the here and now. He turned, blinking, and saw Nat, next to one of the students.

"Doctor Barber?" said one of them.

"Oh. Ah, yes?"

"Are you alright?" asked the girl, named Sally Martin, from her badge.

"Oh, yes. Fine. Just mulling through a problem with...the memory buffer on the unit, is all." Natalie caught his use of the word, and realized its meaning.

"And she reminds you of this girl, Nick?" asked Nat, later, as they walked back to their quarters.

"Yes. She...she found me, shot through, several times, by the side of the road."


"Italy,1796. Castiglione, during Napoleon's campaign. She didn't know what I was till I revived. I blanked her mind. But she brought me water. She risked herself, to help another refugee. No questions."

"Guess you should have ducked," grinned Nat. "How'd they nail you, by the way?"

"I found some soldiers, one of Napoleon's advance foraging parties, raping and murdering at a farmstead. I took them all. Or, I thought I had. I couldn't help the victims they'd killed, but I could punish their murderers, Nat."

"Once again, My Hero," said Nat, with a snort. "Always..."

"Hey, it's...part of the process, Nat. Anyway, I staggered into the woods, with at least three shots through me. She found me, and helped me, and I promised her that I'd help her to escape."

"Then Sir Sweetness and Light turned up."

"Hungry," nodded Nick. "How'd you know?"

"He always does, at the wrong moment." They arrived, and Nat pulled her commlock, and opened the door. She turned, and looked at the commpost outside. "Yeah."

"What?" asked Nick.

"I am putting a planter box around that thing. This base's decor is ugly enough, without having any houseplants." She turned, and they went on inside.

"She just reminded me of that girl is all, Nat. And I'm sure LaCroix is lying." He plopped into a chair, and exhaled loudly. "Another week, Nat. Another week, and the synthesizer will be ready. I'm certain of it."

"Well, a tad more bioengineering, and the synthetic blood will be el-perfecto, Nick. In fact," she said, and pulled a flask from her bag, "here's some from the current batch."

"You sure?"

"Try it. Chateau B127-F. Yummy for the vampiric tummy." They opened the flask, and he sipped. It sure tasted close to the real thing. After a few moments, Nick could feel the energy from it, begin to spread through him.

"Close, Nat. Really close. I can feel it."

"Can Natalie cook, or what, huh? The Lambert touch shows through, every time." She sipped some herself. "Hhmm. Needs iron."

"Well, no rusty nails, okay?" he grinned. She laughed, and they fell into each other's arms, devoured by a quite different energy, oblivious to all but each other. Barely had the crucial moment passed, when Nat's commlock bleeped. It was Helena.

"Oh, I'm sorry, Doctor. I..."

"Don't worry about it, Helena. What's up?"

"We've had another one."

"Faber?" asked Nat.

"Yes. He went berserk, down in the Eagle bay, not half an hour ago," said Helena.

"The same symptoms as before?" asked Gorski.

"Yes. One of the other pilots had to stun him. We got him in here, but he died, just after I called you, Commander."

"I see." Gorski turned to Verdeschi. "Get me Faber's file. Doctor Russell, I want an immediate autopsy. The fullest possible range of tests. Bring me the results, regardless of the hour."

"Right away." Helena looked at Nat. "Shall we?"


"Yes?" said Gorski, activating his commlock.

"Commissioner Simmonds on the line for you, Commander Gorski," said Sandra Benes, from Main Mission.

"Very well," sighed Gorski. "I'll take it in my office."

Like Praeger's, Faber's autopsy showed only the mysterious eruption in the brain. No drugs, no history of illness, nothing. The slides and sections of the malignancy were compared to the earlier samples. The same.

"Well?" Nick asked, once Nat returned from the post-mortem.

"The same Nick, and still no clues. We're no closer to figuring out why, than we were before."

"Doctor Russell said something about radiation?"

"Yeah, but there isn't any. True, the malignant cells show a pattern similar to heavily radiated tissue, but the rest of his tissues were healthy, Nick. Liver, spleen, lungs, kidneys. The lot. Absolutely A-One."

"No connections, at all?"

"Well, aside from the fact that both were shuttle pilots, no. Praeger was born in Germany, Faber was from Oklahoma. They'd never even met, till they were assigned to Alpha."

Nick nodded, then sat back, thinking. Was this the danger Erica had spoken of? If some bizarre disease was on the loose, could it affect them? Once, vampires had thought themselves impervious to any and all maladies. Screed's gruesome death, from an experimental virus escaped from the lab, had shaken that assumption. What if...?


"Barber," said Nick, activating his commlock.

"Doctor Barber, Gorski, here. Could you come and see me?"

Nick did not like it, but there was a new directive from HQ. All Alpha personnel, regardless of duty, were to undergo basic flight training, and familiarization with Eagle systems. He'd have to at least pass the basics, on flying one of them.

He could, of course, "whammy" Gorski, but not all of Alpha, the computer, or the folks back home. He would have to, for now at least, go along with it.


The reason, said Gorski, was simple. Last year, while scanning the southern pole for water ice, an Eagle had been hit by a meteorite. The pilot had been badly hurt, the co-pilot killed. The geologist, computer tech, and the doctor aboard, had all lacked even basic familiarity with the ship's systems, and the Eagle, it had turned out, had still been flyable, barely, on auxiliary power. By the time all was said and done, the pilot and one passenger were dead as well.

So, flight training, and basic systems instruction, for all personnel. It was an annoying delay, in Nick's grander scheme, but he'd been through enough identities to know that you did what you had to do, to fit in.

Then, of course, it got complicated.

Alan Carter, newly assigned to Alpha, was put in charge of the program. He met his students, in the hangar bay, and went over an Eagle, stem to stern. Cockpit, passenger module, engines, landing gear, the lot. He also kept looking at Nick, while he talked. This time, for Nick, there was no doubt, no fuzziness, no uncertainties of memory. Everything was quite brutally clear.

He knew Alan Carter.


Carter was a born instructor, and had the patience needed to teach those not inclined by nature to be pilots. Nick was soon versed in the throttles, attitude controls, navigational interface, and ejection seats. Then, it was his turn to go up with Carter.

He watched the launch pad, and then the base, drop away beneath them as Eagle 9 lifted off pad four. Soon, under Carter's expert tutelage, he was flying her himself.

"Nick," said Carter, as they flew over the Mare Crisium.


"What are you doing here? On Alpha?"

"What do you mean? I'm a doctor..."

"Now you are, but...No, three degrees left," said Carter, and Nick followed his direction. He banked, and her nose swung directly into the...


Chapter Six

Carter heard the pained intake of breath, followed by a long cry of pain, and the ship banked suddenly. Nick had violently jerked away, as a shaft of raw sunlight lanced through the forward window, striking him in the face.

"Nick, what the..." began Carter, grasping the sticks, and regaining control of the Eagle. He pulled up, regaining altitude, and looked over at his student. "Oh my God!"

Nick's face was red, raw, with skin and subcutaneous tissues peeling off, from hairline to chin, on the left side. His eye was red and swollen nearly shut, blood running from the socket, and his teeth were clenched in pain, as thick vapor rose from his seared flesh. He turned away from Carter, clutching his face with white knuckles.

"Nick? What the hell is..."

"I...reaction to sun....."

"Reaction, hell! Your face is falling off, Nick." He checked the instruments, and put the Eagle on autopilot. He was about to reach for the commlink, but a powerful hand grasped his wrist.

"No," said Nick.

"Hey, I..."

"No." Nick turned to face Carter. He looked at him, and pressed a thought. "No call. You did not see this," said Nick, hypnotic powers to the full, focusing his good eye on him. Even as he spoke, his left eye socket slowly stopped bleeding, and his raw flesh started to close.


"Nothing happened," said Nick, but Carter blinked.

"Like hell, Doctor. If that's your real name. Last time I saw you, it wasn't Barber. It was Knight. Detective Nicholas Knight of the Toronto PD"

Damnation, thought Nick. A resister.

"I haven't forgotten what you did for me, Detective."

Nat met them at the hatch of travel tube 4, and slid in before Carter could exit. She took a look at Nick, and swore.

"The sun came through the cockpit window," said Carter. He watched as Nick drank from the flask Nat handed him. At once, the healing of his flesh accelerated noticeably, and Carter swore.

"It's a special medication, for his condition," said Nat, voice sounding lame in her ears. "He's highly phototropic."

"Yeah," said Carter. He watched, fascinated, as Nick's skin healed over at a rate he would never have thought possible, and his eye regained its natural color. "Some medicine," said Carter, sniffing the air. He cast knowing glances at the two vampires.

"Captain Carter, it..."

"Yeah, right," he said, and exited the travel tube, leaving them alone.

"He knows. Nick, he knows. Ah, bloody hell!"


After a few minutes, Nick was healed enough to move through the corridors, and they headed for their quarters. As they moved, sight slowly began to return to his savaged eye. No sooner were they there, then the door beeped. They both tensed, ready...

It was Carter.

Like it or not.

"Captain, you must..." began Nat.

"I haven't told anyone," said Carter. "I just logged off, and came here." He sat, and looked at them. Especially Nicholas, who had a cool cloth over his left eye. Nick looked at Nat, and resumed his story.

"It was right after the Jerry Show murders," he told her. "Tracy and I were assigned to security at an airshow."

"Oh yeah," said Nat. "I remember. Didn't terrorists try and take it over, or something?"

"They did," said Carter. "Islamic Fundamentalists, the Hezbollah I believe they were, planned to steal as many planes as possible, and crash them, kamikaze style, into all the major buildings in Washington D.C. They tried to steal mine."

"I recall, yes," said Nat. "They took hostages, and shot up one of the buildings at the airport."

"I took a round," said Carter, "and Nick here saved my life. I don't know how he did it, but he took out the two who were guarding me, got me to a medic, and got back in time to keep the terrorists from carrying out their plan."

Indeed he had. One of the terrorists had succeeded in getting airborne, but so had a certain vampire. Clinging to the screaming aircraft, Nick had punched through the canopy, and yanked the terrified fellow out. He had drained the would-be killer while still airborne, and dropped the corpse into Lake Ontario, moments after the F-15 plowed into the water, blowing itself to bits. Of course, all the world knew was that the plane had gone down, and the decomposing corpse had washed up a week later. End of story.

"Don't give me too much credit," said Nick, pulling the cloth away, and blinking. "You were the one who smelled something wrong with the guy near the utility closet, and sounded the alarm. If you hadn't, well, it would have been alot different."

"So, what are you doing here, on Alpha?" asked Carter. "A Doctor?"

"I...had to go into the witness protection program," said Nick. "I testifi..."

"Don't give me that. That's alot of bull." Carter looked at him. "I know what you are," he said quietly. For several seconds, there was utter silence.

"Then you should know to stay away," was Nick's reply.

"You never eat. You can't endure the sun. And that medication..." He stressed the word. "I know the smell of blood. Believe you me." Carter waited several beats. "You're a vampire."

More silence.

"Nick, I..."

"I tried, Nat. He's a resister."

"You can't make me forget," said Carter. "And on Alpha, there's no place to hide."

"What do you intend to do?" asked Nat. If hypnotism were of no use, then perhaps...

"Nothing," said Carter. "Nick saved my life, Doctor. I don't ever forget that. Maybe it's his own fault, what he is. Maybe not. But whichever, no one's going to hear it from Alan Carter."

"My thanks," said Nick, now totally healed. He reached for a bottle, and poured a glass. "I won't ask you to join me, Captain."

"Where..."Carter indicated the red liquid.

"Brought with us, from Earth," said Nat. "In fact, it's cow's blood. No one on Alpha is in any danger from us, Captain.

"Us? Ah, I see. And that's the real reason you're working on this blood substitute research, right? So you won't have to...hunt."

"Yes. I...I hate what I am, Captain. My greatest desire for centuries has been to become Human, once again."

"Is that even possible?" asked Carter. "Reversing it?"

"We think so," said Nat. "We've identified what it is that makes Nick...makes us, what we are. We've come close a few times. We're getting closer."

"I see. And in man's most advanced research facilities..." He knodded, then stood. "I have to go check on something, Doctors. We'll talk again."

"Fine," said Nick, "but..."

"I want to hear more."


"You tell me your vampire story, Detective, and I'll tell you mine." He gave them both a meaningful look, then left them alone. The two vampires just sat, looking at each other.

"Can we trust him, Nick?"

"I think so, yes," said Nick, after a long pause. "I remember Carter from the airshow. He struck me as a straight sort, Nat."

"His being a resister kind of makes it a moot point, anyway."

"Yeah, but think, Nat. Someone is keeping tabs on us, for LaCroix. We could use an ally up here, Nat. Maybe this was a blessing in disguise."

Across the base, in the Security Office, Tony Verdeschi was searching through a number of databases, looking further into the backgrounds of certain base personnel.

Chapter Seven

Something about Alan Carter put Nicholas at his ease. Much to his own surprise, he found this to be one mortal to whom he could open up. It felt good, suddenly, to speak about his past without fear, or the urge to hide.

"I was a Knight of the Cross", said Nick.

"A Crusader?" asked Carter.

"Yes," nodded Nick. "Returning home in the Year Of Our Lord 1228. I stopped in Paris..." For the next few hours he continued, unfolding the sad and melancholy tale of 800 years. Carter listened, with both fascination and with horror, as the deeds, and the misdeeds, of Nick's death were laid before him.

Nat found herself surprised, as she listened. Some of the events she had never heard, or gathered only bits and pieces of. And she had learned early on, vampires do not indulge in true confessions. Those mortals who learned the truth, however it had happened, usually had only two options set before them. They were either "invited" to join the Night Shift, or they could contract a rapidly progressing form of anemia.

But here was Nicholas de Brabant, vampire, letting it all hang out, as if he were merely chatting over tea with his favorite auntie. Had Nick just had enough of his endless, furtive skulking, Nat wondered, or did he have a deeper design?

"So two years ago, I resigned from the Toronto PD," Nick finished up, "and began to work on a new identity. This one."

"What made you think of Alpha, though?" asked Carter. "Quite a shift."

"It was a break," said Nick, "A totally fresh start. Someplace that could provide us with all we needed for our quest, while allowing us to do good for mankind at the same time." Carter was quiet, and Nick stood up. "I have to pay society back, Captain. I have done a great deal of wrong, a great deal of evil, since I made that terrible decision, so long ago. This is another installment. What Nat and I are doing here. And on Alpha, I'm free."

"From what?"

"The Enforcers," said Nat. Nick turned to her, obviously taken aback at her mention of them. "Might as well, Nick. Vampires do not advertise, Captain. Secrecy is necessary to...our survival. Those, both inside and outside of the Community who endanger that secrecy are summarily dealt with."

"By other vampires."

"Yes. A sort of vampire police, if you will, Captain. They deal with those who endanger the Community."

"And some in the Community take a dim view of what we are doing, Captain," said Nick. "They would take the ultimate step, to put a stop to us. Here on Alpha, we are away from all that. Free to pursue our researches, unmolested."

"I see. They can't touch you, here." He knodded. "Quite clever."

"Thank-you," said Nat. "Now."


"Your story, Captain. You did say you had one?"

"Yes," said the pilot, and he let out a deep breath. "Doctor, I realized what your husband was, almost at once. You see, I've met your kind before."

"Where?" asked Nick, after a long silence.

"Australia. I'm from New South Wales, as if you couldn't tell. It was back in '80, and I was on a church camp outing, near Ayers Rock."

"I've been there," said Nat. "It's beautiful."

"That's what I used to think," said Carter, "before. Now, I can't even stand to look at a picture of the place. One evening my girlfriend and I, we...well, we slipped away, after supper. Out of sight of our chaperone." He was quiet a moment, remembering.

"And it was then that he struck," said Nick.

"Her," corrected Carter. "Tina and I, well, we heard these noises coming from camp. Shouts and screams. We ran back, and that's when we saw her." Carter's eyes went almost blank, as he drifted back to that night. "She had Benny Frank by the neck, then dropped him. There were at least four bodies that we could see. Then we heard a shot, and she turned. She moved with incredible speed, and the bullets didn't do a damned thing. We heard more screaming, but we didn't dare move from where we were hidden, behind some trees and brush. We were both scared to death, I can tell you."

"And she didn't see you?" asked Nat.

"Oh she saw us. I don't understand how. It was pitch black, with no moon, but she did."

"How did you escape?" she asked.

"I had pocketed a pistol, when we went off, Tina and me. Sometimes you run into Dingoes, or other wild animals. I wasn't supposed to, but..." He shrugged. "Anyway, she dropped this one body, I can still see the blood running down her chin, and turned to look our way. She smiled, and it was like a leer straight from hell, let me tell you. She came towards us, and laughed."

"You fired," said Nick.

"Yeah. I fired. Right into her chest. It didn't seem to do a thing. I fired again, and again it only slowed her down. She laughed, calling me 'silly boy'. I saw her teeth. Fangs. And her eyes. Glowing yellow-white. Then, I fired into her face."

"Ouch," said Nat, recalling the head wound that had nearly spelled exposure for Nick.

"This time she fell," said Carter, "screaming in pain. I put another shot into her eye, and kept on firing, till I was out of shells. Her head was a mess, blood and flesh everywhere. I could see her brain."

"And you thought she was dead?" questioned Nick.

"Well, yeah. Part of her skull was blown off. It was a .357 Magnum, after all."

"Then?" asked Natalie.

"Tina was screaming, and it took a long time to quiet her down. When I had, we went back into camp." Carter squeezed his eyes shut, remembering. "They were dead. All of them, including Freddy Mascall, our chaperone. All but Sally. She was alive, still. Barely." Carter looked down at the floor, silent a moment.

"And Sally was?" asked Nat, though she already suspected the answer.

"My sister, Doctor," replied Carter, looking back up slowly, his eyes flinty. "She tried to talk. I gave her some water, but...what could I do?"

"I am sorry, Captain," said Nick. "Honestly."

"I found the radio," Carter continued, "and sent out a Mayday call, but it was a while before we raised anyone. Someone had ripped the mic cord out. It took me a while to fix it." He was quiet again, and Nick guessed why. "Then, we saw her again. Standing there, like she'd never been hurt at all." He looked at Nick, no doubt recalling the speed with which he had regenerated.

"What did she do?" asked Nick, though he was certain of the answer.

"We saw her, then she was right in front of us. I've never seen anyone move with that kind of speed. I reached for the rifle, but she was way too fast."

"What saved you?" asked Nat.

"She was grinning, her eyes glowing. She had us backed up against a tree, and reached out, grabbing me. Then she turned like she'd heard something. After a moment, we heard it, too. A chopper. She seemed to hesitate, and she looked from me, to the direction the sound was coming from. She tried to make me forget, Nick, just like you did. But it didn't work. We could begin to see the horizon, too. It was just beginning to grow light, by this time."

"She must have taken quite a while to regenerate," said Nat. "How long?"

"Oh, it must have been a least four hours, from the time I shot her, till we saw her again."

"Sorry," said Nat. "Doctor's curiosity. Go on."

"Well, she let me go, and her face was angry. She was in a rage, we could see. She looked at me, and said, 'Lucky boy. Another time', and then she flew off." He watched their faces. "Yeah. Flew. She lifted off the ground, and went up, into the air. Fast, too. I never saw anything move that fast, Human or bird. A few minutes later, the chopper got there, and it was light enough to see by."

"What did you tell the police?" asked Nick.

"What could we? A vampire? We just said we'd heard screams, and rushed back to find them all like that."

"They must have seen the bite marks," Nick went on.

"Oh sure, but who is going to believe in vampires? In fact they held Tina and me, for a while, but had to let us go. In the end, they put it all down to a wild animal attack, and closed it."

"It must have been horrible," said Nat, "watching all your friends being slaughtered."

"It was worse," said Carter. "Sally survived." He watched two pairs of eyebrows go up. "Yeah. She lived, but she was never the same."

"What did she say?" asked Nick. "To the police?"

"She told what she'd seen. She said it was a vampire, but no one believed her. Slowly, she spiraled down into madness. Today, she's in the Belconnen Psychiatric Hospital, in Canberra. A mental home. She doesn't speak, doesn't recognize me, or Mom and Dad. She's even afraid of the sunlight. It might have been better if she had died. More merciful."

"Can you describe this vampire?" asked Nick.

"Yeah. She was tall, with long blonde hair. Kind of honey-colored. She was built like a centerfold model and moved like an athlete. But it's her eyes that I remember the most, Doctor. Yellow, then red, shining, with the blood running down her chin." Carter shook his head. "I still have dreams about it Nick, even today. But why me? Why should I be the one to survive, when so many others didn't?"

"You were spared for a purpose, Captain. Who can say why?"

"Well, I do know one thing," said Carter. "If I ever find her again, I'll kill her Nick. I'll make her pay for what she did to my sister and friends."

"Easier said than done, with a vampire," said Natalie.

"Then I die trying," said Carter, with heat. "remember, she's already made two mistakes." He rose, and drew his commlock.

"Oh?" asked Nat.

"Yeah. One, she picked on the wrong bunch of people. And second, she left me alive."

"I'm glad you don't blame all of us, Captain," said Nick.

"Why should I? She's the one who was responsible, not you. Besides, you saved my life, remember?" He keyed open the door. "Oh one more thing, Nick."


"That Eagle we flew? Well, guess what?"

"Damn you, Nicholas!" said LaCroix again, in Nick's nightmare. Again his Master stood, stake raised to kill, blood on his lips, eyes ablaze. He tensed...

And speared the window with the weapon, instead. The sun blazed through the shattered glass and caught Nick, still prone over Natalie. His skin began to burn, then his hair and eyes. Indescribable pain ripped through him, and he screamed...

Nearly falling out of bed.

"Nick? Nick, what in Heaven's..."

"Dream," he said, still dazed, bloody sweat on his forehead. "Merde!"

"LaCroix again, Nick?"

"Yeah. Yeah, it was him, Nat" He flopped back onto the pillow, and was silent, letting his pulse and breathing return to vampire normal. Then, with a deep breath, he began to tell her his dream. "I still don't know, Nat. Was it me that took your blood, or was it LaCroix? It's all so damned muddled."

"You still can't remember?"

"Not clearly. For weeks after Divia attacked me, things were unclear, Nat. Even my memories of Tracy were a confused jumble. I really thought she'd died, Nat."

"At least she's okay, Nick. Happy and very much alive. The bullet only did minor damage."



"LaCroix, letting the sun into my loft. Someone pulled the radiation screens off the Eagle's cockpit windows. Someone who knew I would be the one in that Eagle with Carter."

"Aren't they changed periodically, as part of regular maintenance?"

"Yes. All the rest scheduled for replacement were done, except for Eagle 9."

"And the training roster was posted, too. Anyone could have seen it," added Natalie. Nick knodded, but said nothing. According to Carter, the maintenance logs for that Eagle were missing. Nowhere to be found.


"LaCroix must be behind it," he said at last.

"But he wants you back, Nick. Exposing you to the sun, and more intense sunlight than you'd ever get on Earth, is more likely to kill you than return you to the fold. He may be a complete sicko, but dumb he is not."

"But who else could it be, Nat? Who else?"

Nicholas wasn't the only Alphan unable to sleep that "night". Commander Gorski lay awake, deep in worry. Simmonds and the Lunar Commission, Alpha's governing body, had made it clear. Painfully so. Getting the Meta Probe off and running was Priority Number One. Nothing was to be permitted to interfere. At all. Period.

And now this weird illness, that had claimed the lives of two. Would it interfere? The Meta Probe astronauts, both main and backup crews, had arrived on Alpha, and begun the final leg of their training. What about them? Would they be affected, as well?

For a moment, he let his wandering gaze rest on one of the old icons, that had been in his family for generations, a Rubliev in fact, resting on a shelf near the bed. Silently, hoping the Saints were listening, he uttered a prayer for wisdom.

Damn Simmonds! Gorski pounded the mattress. He would dearly love to take that goateed weasel, and apply some pressure of his own! Meta Probe? For a moment, Gorski fantasized about putting Simmonds on a ship, alone, and shooting him into deep space!

Fat chance.

Down the corridor, Tony Verdeschi was also finding sleep elusive. Only this time, it had less to do with his sleeping alone, than with something that just wouldn't stop bothering him. One of, as his father had liked to put it, "those things".

Doctor Nicholas Barber.

He had checked out, of course. All his references. Birthplace. Schools. Yet, there was something that just refused to go away. Something...

Unable to shake it off, he got up, and headed for his security office. Calling up the files on both Barbers, he began yet another security review. Linking up with several databases on Earth, he set the machine to do an exhaustive search.


"Got it!" cheered Nat, holding up the beaker. It caught the light, shimmering like a ruby. "At last."

"Are you sure?" asked Vincent.

"Batch B-127H," laughed Nat, barely able to contain herself. She was ecstatic. "It's perfect."

She gave the flask to Vincent, who at once began an exhaustive analysis. He and Nat went over it, again and again, in minute detail. Nat's enthusiasm was infectious, and Vincent was growing more excited by the minute.

"Nick! Nick!" she cried. A moment later Nick came out of his lab, hands dirty. She showed him the preliminary test results, and he grabbed her by the arms, lifting her off of the floor and twirling her around.

"Enfin!" he shouted, as excited as she. They laughed, grabbing each other, exclaiming with excitement, till at last Nick kissed her. Vincent laughed softly, shaking his head.

"How's the synthesizer?" Nat asked at last, settling down. For an answer, he took her by the hand, and drew her into his lab. "Nearly there, Nat. We're still having a problem with the memory buffer initialization, but it's only a matter of time."

They moved to the workbench, where a handsome black man was working. Natalie recognized him as Kano's second, Ouma, as in love with computers as was his chief. In fact, the two were so alike, they were unofficially known as "The Twins".

"Where's Kano?" asked Nat. "I haven't seen him today, Ouma."

"He is in his lab," smiled Ouma. "A new shipment of parts and equipment for the Master Computer came up on this morning's Eagle. He just had to oversee it himself."

"The new voice synthesizer system?" asked Natalie.

"Yes. The X-5 will now have a real voice," said Ouma, then went back to his testing, probe touching one point on a circuit board after another.

"Nat, this is wonderful," said Nick, whispering and drawing her aside. Not that he really needed to. Nothing short of the Last Trump would have distracted Ouma, just now. "Finally, we've made it."

"And that isn't all," Nat went on. "Remember dear old Litoveuterine B?"

"Like I could forget," grimaced Nick. "Damn nearly did me in, Nat. Why?"

"Well, I've been working on it again, Nick. Alpha's labs have made huge advances in bioengineering technology the last couple of years, and I'm up to Litoveuterine D. I've been trying it on my own cells, Nick. I was finally able to culture...vampire cells."


"It bonded with the vampire virus, like B did, and shut it down, but it didn't effect the cell's metabolism the way B did. Fewer side effects, Nick," she exclaimed.

"Then it could work, Nat," said Nick, thinking back to that experiment gone wrong. A synthetic hormone designed to, of all things, boost beef production had had the unexpected side-affect of suppressing Nick's vampirism. He could endure the sun, eat real food, the works. Only it had turned out to be hideously addictive, making Nick antsy, suspicious, and then finally downright paranoid. Never again had they gotten as close.

Until Moonbase Alpha.

"Anytime now," said Nick, motioning towards the synthesizer. "All the food we'll ever need, Nat. And if your other work pans out...we can go home, Natalie. We can be Human, again."

"And have a real life, Nick," she whispered, leaning close. "A family, Nick. Babies. A..." She forgot words and kissed him. Nicholas responded, forgetting...

"Got it!" exclaimed Ouma, nearly loud enough to blow the windows out, to one and all. They let go of each other, and turned back to face him.

"For sure?" asked Nick.

"Yes. It was a corrupted initialization file in the BIOS, Nick. That's why it would not come up, but it's clear now. We can begin the data transfer immediately!"

"Doctor Barber?" came Vincent's voice, over the commlock.

"Yes?" answered both vampires. "Come on in, Ben," said Nat.

"You were absolutely right, Natalie," said Vincent. "The creatinine and myoglobuline analysis confirms. It's perfect."

Barely an hour later the synthesizer was ready for it's first test run. Ouma did the honors, and within minutes out flowed a small amount of the precious red fluid. At once subjected to analysis, it passed every test.

They had done it.

"Please," said Helena. "Keep it down to a dull roar, okay?"

"But this is something to celebrate," said Mathias. "It's perfect, Helena. Red cells, plasma, creatinine..."

"Except," said Nat.

"Except?" said Mathias. "What's left out?"

"Cholesterol," smirked Nat impishly, then burst out laughing. "It's fat free!" They all joined her, dissolving in raucous jocularity.

"Very interesting," said Tony Verdeschi, in his office. "Very."

Chapter Eight

That evening, Nick and Nat celebrated in their quarters, nearly glutting themselves on the fruit of their labors. Nick could feel the energy pulse and surge through his frame, the raw flailing power his kind took from the hunt.

"Perfect," he said, the memory of a thousand past hunts coming back to him as he savored the red fluid. He held it on his tongue, eyes closed, losing himself to the ebb and flow of the ecstasy pounding through him. He looked deeply into Nat's eyes, and drank again.

"And typeless," replied Nat. "Universal donor. Tomorrow, Gorski wants us to start restocking Alpha's blood supplies."

"Think you can fudge the numbers a bit, in Medical?"

"Ooooh, just watch. 'Hacker from Hell Lambert' they call me," Nat grinned, then took another draught and moved to Nick, drawing her lips...

She never got there.

All at once, the security alarm was blaring, and she instinctively knew what it was.

"He went berserk in the main cafeteria," said the security man, in Medical. "One minute Stewart was fine, having lunch with his girlfriend, the next he was grabbing his head and screaming, as if he were in pain."

"Just like Praeger and Faber," said Helena.

"After that he went wild," the security guy went on. "He tried to get out through the windows, and injured two people before he was subdued."

"Same symptoms?" asked Gorski of Helena.

"Exactly, Commander. Examination shows his brain has an identical malignancy to those suffered by the other men."

"And the prognosis, Doctor?"

"Right now, we're holding out little hope, Commander. Right after we got him in here, Stewart suffered cardiac failure. Right now he's going on life support, only."

"Stewart," said Gorski over the IC into the isolation ward. "Stewart, it's me. Stewart?"

Stewart didn't move. His face had a blank, empty expression, his eyes clouded over. As Gorski watched there was a slight twitch, but the astronaut made no response.

"What was his duty assignment?" asked Gorski.

"Shuttle pilot," said Verdeschi. "He ferried atomic waste from here to be dumped in Area Two."

"And you are certain there is no radiation whatsoever, Doctor?" asked Gorski.

"None," replied Helena. "The biopsy results aren't back yet, but I expect to find the same as the other men, Com..." She was cut off by an alarm.

"It's Stewart," cried a nurse. "CVA"

Helena called it. Astronaut Tilden Stewart died of a massive stroke, brought on by the unexplained growth in his skull, at 22:49 Lunar Time. As before, Helena and Nat performed the autopsy. As before, the results were the same. A perfectly healthy man had died from the eruption of a malignancy in the brain that defied medical explanation. The aberrant cells showed a pattern similar to radiation poisoning...

Only there was no radiation.

Nor was there was to be any rest, either. The next morning another pilot, Luke Park, was attacked the same way, on the way back from the Far Side. He'd gone nuts, and so had his piloting, as his co-pilot struggled with him in the cockpit. The Eagle weaved all over, at last belly-flopping into the Alpine Valley. When the rescue ship got there, Park was exactly like the other men. Eyes clouded over, face a canker, unresponsive. Fredericks the co-pilot had retreated to the passenger module, the Eagle's only liveable area, to wait as the ship's life-support failed.

Like the rest, Park lingered a few days, never recovering. In desperation Helena and Mathias tried a variety of anti-cancer drugs on the growth in Park's brain, but none evinced any effect.

Helena was frustrated. Four men, all her responsibility, stricken with an unknown illness. Now three were dead, a fourth lay dying, and she could find no cause. Grasping at straws, she investigated everything, regardless of how odd or unlikely. Finding that both Faber and Park had suffered a severe flu before coming to Alpha, she probed whether a virus might have mutated somehow, perhaps...

It turned out to be an unfortunate line of research. Gorski, needing something with which to placate Simmonds, related the "virus" angle, while suppressing much of the rest of Helena's findings. The "astronaut virus infection" soon became the official story.

Anton Gorski absolutely hated Gerald Simmonds. The man was refined, witty, urbane, cultured, and a snake. Simmonds had the moral restraint of a hungry shark, Gorski had decided. He was a man who had bullied, sullied, cheated, blackmailed, and outright lied to get where he was now. A Ph.D. in political science, he'd put his education to good use, doing what he "had to", to achieve his desired ends.

Having insatiable political ambitions, Simmonds saw, Gorski was certain, the Meta Probe as a personal springboard to higher office. If anything, ANYTHING, went wrong with the project, the Commissioner would see to it that heads rolled.

Starting with Gorski's.

And Anton Gorski was not at all amenable to being ground under heel by the ambitions of a glorified political hack. Simmonds might have gotten himself appointed Space Commissioner, but he knew about as much about space and space travel as did the average plumber about characterizing non-linear dynamics by using wavelet analysis! He was a...

Well, he was. But Gorski had no desire to end his career on a sour note. So, he'd thrown Simmonds a bone, hoping to hold the predatory Commissioner off until an answer was found, or the Meta Probe was on its way.

And that, Saints be praised, would be soon. The Meta Probe astronauts were well into the final leg of their training, and the probe ship's engines were nearly complete. The engineers were expecting to test-fire them any day now, and then the ship would be moved to the launch platform in lunar orbit, for final preparations and fitting out.

If they could just manage to keep Simmonds at bay, until then.

In the Cascade Mountains of Washington State, John Robert Koenig, and his brother Walter, were enjoying a rare holiday together. Both men enjoyed the outdoors, the unspoiled immensity that was the natural world. Hiking, fishing, camping. Ah, this was the life. As they sat around the fire, John looked up, spying the moon.

For a moment, old sour memories surfaced. His time there, on Alpha. The Ultra Probe disaster. The...

No. He would not let the past spoil his time with Walter. It was too important.

Thank God, he thought, I'm here, and not on Alpha. They'll never get me back there again.

The results of Verdeschi's search were both illuminating, and frustrating. Doctor Nicholas Barber's past was well documented and complete. Complete, except for...

Doctor Brooks, Nick's anatomy instructor at his "medical school of record." The only one who had not as yet retired, he had never heard of Nicholas Barber. Oh, the computer records were there, as well as all the usual paper files, but Brooks did not recognize the handsome Alphan. Even the official class picture lacked one certain person.

From there, Verdeschi moved on to Nick's photos, and was surprised when a match came up, from of all places, the Toronto Police Department. He was even more surprised to turn up a picture from the Chicago Department, and totally floored to dig out a driver's license shot dated 1960, from New York. The license snap was with glasses and a goatee, but the computer took care of that.

Yeah. The same guy. New York, Chicago, Toronto.

But how? Given Barber's appearance in the license shot, he looked around thirty or so. Assuming that to be the case, that would make him at least seventy years old. The man he had met and played poker with was certainly no oldster. No one at the New York DMV, or the Chicago PD, would still be there from that time.

But Toronto was another matter. Another matter entirely.

He did some more checking. The Toronto Police files rendered up three people still living who had worked with "Detective Nick Knight". One, a Captain Joseph Stonetree, had retired last year. Detective Tracy Vetter was still active, however, as was Captain Joe Reese.

Verdeschi put through calls to them both.

Nick awoke next morning, to find Nat hurriedly dressing. It wasn't hard to figure the reason.

"Another one?"

"Yeah," said Nat, clipping the commlink to her belt. "Another Eagle pilot."

Astronaut Mario Fouchet had succumbed to the same symptoms as the other men. He lay next to Park in the Medical Center as ravaged, and as blank, as the rest.

"It happened on the way to Area Two," said Paul Morrow, Main Mission Controller, and Gorski's second. He'd been on the radio with Fouchet's Eagle when the pilot had fallen ill.

"What about the co-pilot, Collins?" asked Gorski.

"He checks out," said Doctor Vincent. "No signs of the illness, Commander.



"Commissioner Simmonds for you, sir," said Sandra Benes. Gorski frowned, and retreated to his office. As usual, Simmonds was his oily, overly nice self.

"Anton," he said, stroking his beard. "What's the word?"

"We've had another one, Commissioner," replied Gorski. "This morning, at Area Two."

"Same as the rest?"


"Does Doctor Russell have any clues as to the source of the virus?" asked Simmonds.

"None so far, Commissioner," replied Gorski. "She and her staff are working around the clock to try and un..."

"Yes, of course, Commander. Now, the Meta Probe astronauts." Simmonds waited a beat, letting his expression speak for him. "They are well?"

Oh that face! thought Gorski. If only I...

"They are, Commissioner. Warren and Sparkman are in perfect health. The back-up crew, Bennett and Wyn Davies, are as well. At the moment, they are out on a training flight."

"Excellent." Simmonds leaned towards the vid pickup. "I hardly think I need remind you Commander, of the seriousness of this situation. The Meta Probe is our paramount concern. We cannot allow anything whatsoever to interfere."

You mean that you cannot let the political opportunity of a lifetime blow up in your face, you pig! thought Gorski. The anti-space movement causing you problems again?

"I understand," he said, forcing his face to remain pleasant. Oh to reach through that screen, across all the miles between them, and grab that scrawny neck...

"I trust so," said Simmonds, in his best abusive parent tone. "Now, there are two other small matters I need to cover with you, Anton."

"And they are?"

"Professor Bergman. I want him to stay on there, for now. I know he's scheduled to rotate off Alpha, the end of this month, but I'd like him to remain until the Probe ship is on her way."

"He won't like that," said Gorski. "And Doctor Linden..."

"That's not my concern, Commander. Or yours. The decision stands."

"Very well. And the other matter, Commissioner?"

"How much do you know about Doctor Barber, Anton? Nicholas Barber."

Nick was ecstatic. Both Nat's bioengineering, and his work on the synthesizer, had paid off. Big. They now had achieved their first goal: a virtually unlimited supply of the sustenance they needed, on demand. Now, now!! they could concentrate upon the second.

Forever eradicating the vampire within!

As Nat set to on that one, Nick worked with the folks in technical section, putting his new synthesizer through one rigorous test after another. Soon, another was being built, bound for the Meta Probe. Nicholas felt a tiny surge of pride. His and Nat's work, going out into space. Should the astronauts have need and their blood stocks suffer damage or prove insufficient, they would have something to fall back on.

And it was put to the test almost at once. Tony Verdeschi, Chief of Security, was wheeled into Medical with an ugly wound along his left arm, bleeding profusely. Another worker from Area Two Moses Ozaba, had gone berserk upon returning, attacking both Tony and the pilot. The pilot, Link, was fine, but Tony had taken a bad one.

"What the hell did he hit you with?" asked Nat, who happened to be the one on duty.

"A geologists pick," he said through clenched teeth as Nat irrigated the wound. "Must have grabbed it from the equipment locker, I guess." He lay back, weak from blood loss, and felt the painkillers begin to kick in. "He barreled out of there, totally crazy, Natalie. Just like the others."

Nat looked at the blood still oozing from the wound, and felt the urge rise up. Unable to resist, she put a bloody fingertip to her lips and tasted. She could feel the almost erotic jolt as it covered her tongue, and the nature...

"Santa Maria!" swore Tony on seeing her eyes. Quickly Nat squeezed them shut and took a deep breath, snapping out of it. Opening them again, she returned to her patient. "I...I saw...what the..." He tried to rise.

"Quiet, Mr. Verdeschi," she said, putting out a restraining hand. "You're weak, Tony. Weak from shock and loss of blood." She put another hypo to him, and he passed out quickly. Then, thanks to Nick's creation, she replaced the nearly two pints of blood he'd lost, patched him up, and left him to recover.

"Close, Nat," she muttered to herself. "You nearly gave the game away." The sight of all that blood had excited her vampiric nature, bringing her close to losing control. Control, Nick had taught her, came only with time. Given enough, she would be better able to reign herself in. Fortunately, Verdeschi was no resister, and could be made to forget this regrettable incident. She washed up, and left him to sleep.

Unaware that she had been seen.

There was a small party of sorts later, in Medical, to celebrate the success of Doctors Barber and Barber. Not only was the new technology working, it had already saved its first life. All in all, not bad.

Still, the celebration was muted, everyone aware of the recent tragedies that had visited Moonbase Alpha. A fifth man had been stricken with an illness no one understood, the others dead or dying.

Deciding she hadn't the moral right to ignore it, Nat set aside her own research for a while, and applied herself to Alpha's malady. For two days, she studied slides of the diseased tissue, trying to culture it, scanning it with the tunneling electron microscope.

All of which told her very little, aside from the fact that the genetic material inside the altered cells was scrambled. No surprise there. Curious, she exposed some of the cell cultures to her own blood, and waited. She watched expectantly, hoping...

And then it happened. Slowly, the cells began to change, gradually losing their malignant pathology. Within less than four minutes, she had culture dishes full of normal Human brain cells. The cells were, in effect, "cured".

"Even this, Nat?" asked Nick later, in their quarters.

"Uh huh. I was able to culture cells from two of the men. Praeger and Ozaba. Both returned to normal, Nick. The vampire element caused a total repair of the cells. Both the outer membrane and internally, Nick."

"But at what cost, Nat? Turning them both into vampires?"

"I'm not asking you to do that, Nick. And I'm not exactly eager to do it myself, either. I haven't forgotten what happened with Richard."

"And Alpha's hardly the best place to bring someone across, either," agreed Nick, recalling the bringing across of her brother. "First Feeding and all."

"Messy, yes," knodded Nat, recalling her own First Feeding.

"What did you do with the cultures, Nat?"

"Destroyed them, of course." She yawned. "Oh man. Natalie is beat." She stretched and ruffled her luxuriant hair. "I have to crash, Nick."

"Me too, Nat," said Nick, and moved to the windows. He lifted the shutters into place, blacking them out completely. Outside, Plato Crater was bathed in sunlight, and soon the moon's movement would bring that deadly radiance right through them. Though these windows were fully shielded against solar radiation, neither vampire wished to put them to the acid test.

"What the hell?" muttered Helena Russell, eyes glued to her instruments. Under them, one of Nat's cell cultures held the CMO spellbound. Helena's medical mind wanted to know. What had happened to these cells? They were Human, and from the ID number on the dish, taken from the latest victim, Ozaba.

But they weren't the same. Not only was there no trace of the malignancy that had killed the man, but the cells had been subtily altered somehow. Probing further, Helena could see strange new nucleotide sequences, in both the DNA, and the transfer RNA. Sequences she had never seen, nor heard of. She set the computer to searching Alpha's vast medical database for anything remotely like them, and reflected once more on Dr. Natalie Barber.

She knew what she had seen, and while she considered it morally repugnant to spy upon her own staff like some paranoid Nazi, she felt that she was justified here. At least, she told herself more than once, she had managed to jam up the disposal chute in time to catch one of the culture dishes.

The next morning, at 09:48 Lunar Time, Astronaut Luke Park was pronounced dead by Doctor Vincent. He was followed an hour and a half later, by Mario Fouchet. Astronaut Ozaba continued to linger, though nothing succeeded in halting the progression of the disease. No drug, no radiological therapy, nothing. It slowly continued to eat up his nervous system, heedless of anything and everything.

Natalie was beginning to feel as if she were back home in Toronto, and that Moonbase Alpha had turned into a charnel house. Since it's completion, Alpha had seen only one death. Now, the mortality rate had gone through the roof.

"And how are we today?" she asked Verdeschi, checking on her patient.

"I think I'll live, Doc," he said brightly, then looked at his bandaged arm. "At least you won't have to autopsy me, anytime soon."

"Let us hope not, Mr. Verdeschi. I have had quite enough of that. Enough to last me a lifetime, as a matter of fact."

"So, how does Alpha stack up against Toronto, eh?"

"Well, the death rate is, overall, lower, but I do miss it. I mean it is home, Tony. The lake, the open air, the smell of growing things."

"Yeah, I kind of miss home too, Doc. The parks, the old neighborhood, the bridge over the Arno." He was quiet a moment. "So, why'd you choose Alpha? Quite a career switch, wasn't it? Toronto, to the moon?"

"Not really. Medicine is medicine, and I decided that I wanted to help people before the end up in the meat wagon. The research being done here, in the medical field, is so very important. I just had to be a part of it." She looked at his chart. "Besides, the macho hunk on the recruiting poster was just too cute to pass up."

Why is he asking these questions? Nat wondered.

"Same here," said Verdeschi, as she changed the dressing, and updated his chart. "Except for the poster. Had to be a part of it."

"Cops in Space?"

"Well, my marks as a pilot sucked, but there was an opening in Security, so..." He shrugged. "Must be nice, you and your hub. Both being doctors."

"Well, it simplifies mealtime conversation," said Nat. "There, your arm is doing nicely, Mr. Verdeschi. Nothing broken, no signs of infection. You can go."

"Thanks, Doc," he said, getting to his feet. "I like the company, but the dcor is lousy in here."

"Uh" was Nat's noncommittal reply.

"Did you and your husband attend the same medical school?" Verdeschi asked as he eased back into his uniform.

"No", said Nat, who knew that Verdeschi already knew damned good and well they hadn't.

"You know, I would never have taken him for a doctor. He doesn't look like a doctor."

"And," said Nat, turning away from Verdeschi to update his file in the computer, "just what does a doctor look like, hhmm?" She waited a beat. "There are no doctor genes that give us that Marcus Welby look."

"Well, I don't know, but he just doesn't. He looks more like...well, an actor?" He paused a moment. "Or a cop."

Natalie tensed a moment, still too new a vampire to control her reactions quickly. Verdeschi spotted it at once.

"Or maybe a soldier," Tony went on, quickly. "He's got that man of action look about him, Doc." He waited another moment or two. "I guess it shows how wrong first impressions can be, eh?"

"Yeah," said Nat, turning around. Verdeschi was on to something, of that she was sure. Could she, dare she...


"Tony?" chirped his commlock.


"Jobe here. We've got a fight in the Solarium."

"Oh God, not another one!"

"No, not that. Just a squabble. Carolyn Powell, again."

"On my way." He keyed off, swearing softly, and clipped the commlock to his belt. "Well, gotta go, Doc. Munus me vocat."

"Well, here," she said, tossing him a bottle of pills. "Take these for pain. One per dose as needed, not to exceed six per day. If the pain persists, come and see one of us."

"Right, Doc."

"You're sure?" asked Nick, later.

"Oh yeah, Nick. Verdeschi knows. His hints were way too close to be just coincidence."

"But how, Nat? I worked for two years, building this identity. I cleared up my past, big time."

"Well, something got missed, my big burly Crusader. Either that, or..."

"Yes. LaCroix."

For the next two weeks, Alpha was reasonably quiet. Much to Nat's relief, the fracas in the mess was merely a lover's spat. One of the techs in Medical was breaking up with her boyfriend in Security, and it had spilled over. Nothing more.

Helena was growing more and more angry with Commander Gorski. He steadfastly refused to forward to allow her to forward any of her findings. The "virus infection" was still the official story, and would remain so. Period.

This is ridiculous, Helena told herself, as she reviewed all of the data so far. Simmonds and the Commission needed to know what was going on up here. They needed to get as many minds as possible working on this problem. No answers, certainly no cure, would come from putting their heads in the sand. Why the hell was Gorski doing this? It was madness!!

No, she told herself. Politics. Not that there was much difference betwixt one and the other, yea and nay. But she had become a physician in order to help people, cure illness, heal the sick. Not to just sit back on her hands, and do nothing. She couldn't.

She got up, and went to her old-fashioned Olivetti. With brisk movements, she typed up her resignation. One copy for Gorski, the other for that...that bastard Simmonds. No longer would Helena Russell stand by, and watch people die.

But...but any new CMO would have to deal with the same problems. Whether they promoted one of her staff, or sent up someone new, they would have to navigate the same bloody minefield. No, she thought, shaking her head.

Not yet. She took the envelopes, and put them in her desk.

Just in case.

Chapter Nine

It had been three weeks since Nick's nature had been revealed to Carter. As good as his word, the pilot had spoken of it to no one, even shifting the topic of conversation at one of the poker games away from the realm of the "supernatural", vampires of course, to something a bit less close to home for the Doctors Barber.

He also had some news for them. A thorough search had turned up no clues as to the identity of the person who had left the radiation shields off the eagle's cockpit windows. The maintenance logs were clean, the Eagle's windows suspiciously clear of fingerprints.


"What's this stuff?" asked Carter, watching Nat's latest experiment swirl and bubble.

"Litoveuterine, Captain,' she answered.

"What's that?"

"Originally, it was a synthetic hormone, intended to enhance beef production."

She could almost hear his eyebrows crinkle.

"And why would you be playing with that?"

Nat explained the attempted use of Litoveuterine B a few years back, and it's disastrous consequences for Nick. Carter totally missed the technobabble, but readily grasped the potential import of the research.

"And this will cure you?" he asked, picking up a bottle of the liquid. "You and Nick?"

"We hope so, Captain. We really hope so."

"Alan, please. Call me Alan."

"Okay, Alan. Yes, we hope so."

"What causes it? Being a ..." He dropped his voice, looking about. "A vampire, I mean."

"It's some sort of bizarre infection, Cap...Alan. A virus-like organism that alters portions of the host creature's nucleic acid sequences. Sorry," said, seeing his expression. "The DNA and Transfer RNA in our cells are changed, but we haven't yet figured out how it works."

"How do you, well...catch it? This virus?"

"You have to be directly infected by blood containing the virus, Alan. Usually, you're so weakened by loss of blood that the virus begins to work immediately. The weaker you are, the faster it takes hold."

"Then it doesn't just happen."

"No. Someone has to be intentionally brought across. Someone drained by being fed upon can't live very long, even if the vampire doesn't finish them off."

"Where did this...bug come from? Originally?"

"God knows, Alan. We have no clue. Vampires go so far back, no one can remember ou...their beginnings. Vampires have existed since before the pyramids. It's a complete mystery."

"How did you, well..."

"Complicated story, Alan," she sighed, "and I'm not even...sure we'll be there," she said loudly, shifting gears. "I love poker. Helena."

"Nat. Alan," said the CMO, entering quietly. "Nat, are those cell cultures ready?"

"Ready and at attention, Helena." She indicated the waiting culture dishes.

Then the alarms went off again.

"Anatoly Gorbushin," said Mathias. "Wild paranoia, the clouded eyes, the weird scarring on the face. Same as the rest." They watched Gorbushin, on life support, next to fellow pilot Ozaba. Neither man was responsive to any stimuli. Both Helena and Vincent were making tests, while Nat treated the minor injuries of Gorbushin's co-pilot, Collins. As with all the other men, no solid leads. None at all.

Helena, again grasping at straws, proposed excising the growth from the brain. Since the men's families would have to give permission, she'd have to contact Earth, and speak to them.

"No", said Gorski.

It was a moot point, anyway. Ozaba died, before she could have begun. In a fury, Helena stormed into Gorski's office and everyone steered clear, pretending not to hear the loud, acrimonious voices rattling through the bulkhead. Later, Helena stormed back to Medical Center, to find Nat ready with Ozaba's autopsy.

"So, what happened?" Nat asked, as they set to.

"Autopsy of Moses Ozaba," droned Helena into the mic. "Male, aged 34."

"So," said Nat, as they made the first incision. "You don't want to talk about it."

"I hate politicians," said Helena, peeling back the first flap of skin. "Gorski is an astrophysicist. He should be acting like a scientist, instead of some...some damned White House Press Secretary! You'd think Bill Clinton was on the loose up here!"

"It was no different in Toronto, Helena. Sometimes it made it difficult to do the job."

"Difficult? It's damn near impossible," replied Helena. "We have a problem up here, and I can't report even the meager findings I do have."

"We'll find it," said Nat, removing Ozaba's liver for weighing. "We'll figure this out."

While the two doctors were at it with their knives and bottles, Verdeschi sat in his office, mulling. He should report his findings. But, Doctor Barber had saved his life. Treated his injury. And Nicholas...well, he had saved Ben Vincent.

For one of the few times in his life, Tony Verdeschi found himself in a moral quandary. He honestly did not know what he should do.

And, on the Dark Side, deep within the now disused Disposal Area One, the temperature began, very very slowly, to rise.

Even for a vampire, Natalie was bushed when she got back to their quarters. Nick had dropped off, in the big ugly white plastic chair, and she let him sleep.

Only Nick was not sleeping peacefully. He was twitching, obviously dreaming, and a thin film of red sweat was breaking out on his forehead. For a few minutes she watched him, then headed for the shower. When she returned, he was still at it.

"Nick," she said. No response. She called louder, then reached out, touching his arm. "Hey, N..." She leapt back as he snapped awake, fangs bared, eyes blazing. "Nick! Nick wake up!" she cried, catching him as he leapt out of the chair. "Nick, you..."

"Yeah," he exhaled, plopping back down. He wiped his forehead, and took a deep breath. "Dream, Nat. Bad one."

"I gathered. Erica, again?" She managed to keep the skepticism out of her voice.

"Yes," he knodded. "And...Alyssa."

"Alyssa?" Nat sat down, waiting as Nick returned to normal. "And?"

"The same as Erica. I must leave Alpha, she said. There's danger here for me, Nat." He looked at her a long moment. "You still don't believe it, do you?"

"I'm a scientist, Nick," she sighed, taking the chair opposite him. Maybe, if I had been raised back hell, I don't know."

"But it's true, Nat. There is danger up here. All these deaths. A disease no one can understand. Erica was right, Nat." Nat merely shrugged. The scientist in her firmly believed that ghosts were crap. Dead people were dead. They didn't drop by for a chat. Especially when their mortal remains were over a quarter of a million miles away on another world, and several years, or centuries, in the past.

But, she could not help but remember, she had seen one. Her own grandmother had paid her a visit, of sorts. Natalie had tried to rationalize it away as nerves, exhaustion, delusions, whatever. Yet, her scientist's mind could find no other explanation but the simple reality of it.

"So. You think we should go?" she asked him, at last.

"I...I don't know, Nat. We're so close. So close to finding the way back that I hate the idea. But I'm sure they're right." He waited a moment, listening to the silence. "Anything new?"

"On the litroveuterine? Well," she sighed, shifting in her chair, "the latest batch is swirling in its beaker. I'll know more by noon."

"The disease?"

"Dr. Vincent is doing enzymatic analyses of the malignant cells from the affected men. The results should be in, late tomorrow afternoon. For all the bloody good it'll do."

"You don't expect much, then?"

"No. Not really, Nick. Whatever this thing is, it's outside the usual confines of medical science. Cells do not go from perfectly healthy to terminally malignant in a few minutes, under any circumstances I understand. It just does not happen, Nick."

"Yet it has."

"Yeah," she sighed, tiredly. "It has."

"Do you think that we could be affected?"

"No. I exposed some of the altered cells I cultured to the vampire virus from my blood. After a few minutes, they returned to normal. Well, vampire normal. The effects of this disease were completely reversed."

"Then what danger could Erica and Alyssa be talking about, Nat? If we're immune, like we are to everything else."

"I don't know, Nick," she sighed again. Personally, she suspected it was all in Nick's head, these visitations. Only he had seen them, after all. And even if they were, somehow, real, what danger? Discovery? Well, someone was playing games with them, but ultimately they knew who was responsible, and in time would discover who, on Alpha, was doing his bidding.

Nat mulled it over and over, but could come up with no answers. As she wool-gathered, she wandered back, to that night in Nick's loft. Back to her biggest unanswered question.

Who, in truth, had taken her blood?

Her memories of that period were muddled. Hardly surprising really, given the events of those days. The resurrection of the demonic Divia, her horrific swath of slaughter through the vampire Community, the suicide of Natalie's friend, the near-death of Tracy Vetter.

She'd gone to Nick's loft, deciding that it was time. She loved Nick, despite the chasm between them, and tonight she would leap that chasm. She would be brought across. Become what Nick was. Share his burden. She had entered his loft, waited for him in her negligee, fortified herself with a drink or two, and after that it was all a jumble. A Dadaist collage of images and sounds, but nothing concrete. Until she had awakened, near dawn the next morning, changed. Altered. Transformed. Dead.

A vampire.

She had awakened to Nick, looking down at her, both relief and sadness on his face. The one thing he most of all wished to avoid had, in his despite, come about. And, of course, LaCroix...

LaCroix had been there, she knew, no doubt purposing to torment Nick yet again in yet another unholy fashion. She remembered fragments, bits of words. But when she tried to make sense of it all, draw a complete picture, it was chiefly LaCroix's eyes she remembered, glaring hatefully down at her. His hands upon her flesh, his...

Had he? Had LaCroix, with his usual sick perspective on "teaching" his errant son, drained her to the point of death in order to force Nicholas to make a choice? It would have suited his ends, as well as stroked his vast twisted ego, to turn Natalie, the one seeking a cure for vampirism, into a vampire herself.

Either way, it was a done deal, and she was now one of the Undead. One of the very creatures she had once disbelieved, then striven to cure. Oh yes, most definitely. That would have given him a laugh.

But the stake? Nat was sure, was sure, amongst all the other myriad muddled images, that Nicholas had indeed given LaCroix the wooden spike, prepared to die, to really die, rather than turn Nat into what he was. From the floor, in a brief conscious moment, she saw the ancient vampire, eyes glaring, a look of utter fury on his face. Why? His joke not going over the way he'd hoped? Nicholas not playing the pliantly obedient clientus to his mighty, megalomaniacal patronus?

She had seen no more, only heard his furious "Damn you, Nicholas!", then blackness. But she could readily understand, better than Nick seemed to, why he had not plunged the weapon into them both.

Pride. To do so, to kill Nicholas, was to lose. In setting Nick eternally free of his curse, LaCroix would have been, in effect, surrendering to him, losing the argument of 800 years. With his mania for control, the old Roman had, had, to keep Nicholas alive and well, for him to dominate. It was as if keeping, rescuing, tormenting, and punishing Nicholas had become the sum total of LaCroix's life.

But however it was, he had left, stake unused, and only his curse remained behind with them. Nick, forced to it, had saved her, and here they were. Both vampires. Both hating what they were, both questing for a cure.

No wonder LaCroix hated her so much.

The next day, it happened again. Kazuo Horiushi, another pilot, was hauled out on a gurney after his Eagle returned from the Dark Side. He'd gone off, while on the way back to Alpha. Exactly like the other men, he had gone berserk, desperately seeking escape. He had tried to smash his way out of the cockpit through the windows, sending the Eagle careening out of control. His co-pilot, Weyland, had managed to stun him, set the ship down, and get out of the cockpit before the port blew. Once he was immobilized, Weyland was able to fly back to Alpha without incident.

By that time, Horiushi was like all the rest. Vacant and unresponsive to stimuli. His eyelids twitched now and then, but beyond that, nothing. Ignoring Gorski's orders, Helena contacted his family, who gave permission for her radical surgical proposal.

"Hope and pray, people," she said, as they began. The malignancy in Horiushi's brain was slightly smaller than the others, and nearer to the cortex. Exercising caution, and extreme skill, Helena was able to remove it, all in one piece. She sent it off to biopsy, and then it was time to hope.

She looked out the windows of the ward to see an angry Gorski glaring at her, but she didn't give a damn. Her job, her calling, was to save lives, to hell with rules. If Gorski, or better yet that buffalo breath Simmonds didn't like it, well, screw them!!!!! She'd take her lumps. Right now, her sole concern was with her patient.

And her patient seemed to be improving, ever so slightly. With the pressure off of his brain stem, his vitals began to firm up, and he was breathing on his own. There was even, albeit very slightly, some degree of renewed cortical activity.

For her part, Natalie closed ranks with her chief, as did the rest of the medical staff. Every man and woman. Faced with such formidable foes arrayed against him, Gorski could do nothing, and rather than jump all over Helena, spent the rest of the day in conference with Professors Bergman and Linden.

"Turning into an bloody assembly line," quipped Nat, as Horiushi was placed back in the ward, next to Gorbushin. He didn't have company for long. Anatoly Gorbushin died at 17:36 Lunar Time, that afternoon. As before, nothing helpful turned up in the autopsy, and neither Vincent's enzymatic tests nor Mathias' cerebro-spinal fluid analyses yielded any useful results.

Nat came back from the post-mortem to check on her experiment. Only there was no experiment! The beaker was empty, the computer entries gone, the whole lot cleaned out. For a moment, she felt pure rage boiling up inside of her. Weeks of work, gone!! Who? Who the hell had...?

She roared in fury, shattering the chair she had been gripping and slicing her hand on the plastic. She swore loudly, hurling a piece of it across the room. Damn them! Damn that bastard LaCroix, and his...

"Natalie?" asked a voice, and she turned. It was Helena, sheaf of reports in hand. "are you alright?" She looked at Nat's hand.

"Oh, uh yeah, Helena. The chair back just shattered when I grabbed hold of it, is all." She quickly went to a cabinet, and began to dress the cut. As she worked, she could feel the tissue beginning to heal, and moved faster. "Helena?"


"Who's been in here, do you know?"

"Excuse me?"

"My experiment. When I came in here, after washing up, it was gone."

"Gone?" Helena looked at the bench. "What was it?"

"I...had some ideas about gene therapy, in the damaged cells of the sick men. Just some preliminary research, but it's all gone." Done with the cut, she picked up the damaged chair.

"I don't know, Nat. I'll look into it." She watched Natalie put the shards into the disposal chute, and noted how angry she obviously still was. "Hey, Nat. Join me for coffee later?"

"Uh...sure, Helena. Cafeteria?"

"Right." She watched as Nat reset the experiment, then retreated to her own lab. A little later, she returned, and looked around. She was certain it was...ah.

She also looked over Nat's experiment. Funny, this didn't look much like gene replacement work, to her. She lifted a sample, and took it back into her own lab, along with the tiny plastic shard that Natalie had missed.

With blood on it.

At that very moment, in a specially modified Eagle, astronauts Frank Warren and Eric Sparkman were approaching Navigation Beacon Delta, on the Dark Side, on yet another Meta Probe training run.

"Litoveuterine?" said Helena, scowling at the computer readout. As she had suspected, this had nothing whatsoever to do with gene replacement therapy. But...a hormone to boost meat production? And one rejected as lethal at that?

"Computer, is this analysis verified?"

"Affirmative," replied the X-5, with "her" new voice. "Substance is a variation of Litoveuterine B synthetic hormone."

"And the blood sample?"

"Unknown substance in blood sample confirmed. No analogue to this substance in medical database."

"And the rest?" asked Helena, slowly.

"Anomalous nucleotide sequences in DNA and Transfer RNA confirmed. No analogue to these sequences in medi..."

"Cancel." She leaned back in her chair, pondering. A rejected synthetic hormone, and a lethal one at that. A blood sample with something in it that shouldn't be there, and altered genetic material.

What the hell was going on with Natalie Barber?

Nat went to Security, make that stormed, and Verdeschi's deputy, Sanchez, promised to investigate. Later, she met Helena as agreed in the cafeteria. As would be expected, the two physicians spoke of Alpha's current crisis, running up and shooting down a variety of theories. Then, Helena shifted gears radically.

"When did you contract phototropia?" she asked, as Nat gingerly sipped her coffee. God, but she missed this stuff. In her new state, she could tolerate it, but only in small dollops.

"Ah..." she began, hiding behind her cup and thinking fast. "Well, it wasn't till I was past 30, Helena. It was slight at first, and since I worked the night shift already, it was a while before it really became noticeable."

"Have you taken therapy, at all?" asked Helena, rattling off the names of a few drugs.

"Nothing's worked so far, Helena."

"It's an interesting situation," said the CMO. "Both you and Nicholas having the same condition."

"Well, it simplifies who will be home when," Nat replied. "In fact, we met at the doctor's." She tried to keep a straight face.

It was true, after a fashion.

"Well, I have some ideas about the condition," Helena went on. "If you'd like, I could run some tests on both you and Nicholas."

Uh oh.

"Maybe, when we've gotten answers to this illness of the astronauts," said Nat. "No sense splitting our concentration and resources just now. It's too critical, finding answers to this plague."

"Okay," said Helena, and let it drop. It was, after all, the answer she had been expecting. Natalie certainly had something to hide, and no doubt Nicholas as well. She had a few things to check on, and then she would go to...

No. Not Gorski. He'd only...

Tony. Yes. She'd go to Tony, and let the Security chief know what she had learned and suspected.

She did not like what she suspected.

Natalie, and all Alpha, held their collective breath for two days. But, on August 17th, they exhaled. Astronaut Kazuo Horiushi died at 13:21 Lunar Time. This latest victim, despite his temporary rally, died from post-operative complications. Specifically bleeding in the brain, bleeding they just could not stop, despite heroic efforts. As had become the grim lunar ritual, he was autopsied, scanned, analyzed, sectioned, ad infinitum, ad nauseum. As had also become part of the Alphan Sacred Mysteries, nothing substantive was found. No clues at all, except for death.

"Eight," said Eva Zoref, at that evening's poker game. "Eight men are dead, and we still don't know why?"

"Not yet," said Nat, scrutinizing her hand. "The enzyme and fluid analyses give results similar to radiation poisoning, but there is no radiation, Eva. None at all."

"Well, the power station was checked again this afternoon," said Anton, tossing another chip into the pot. "Not a thing. Not so much as an alpha particle where it shouldn't be." Kano and Verdeschi tried not to grimace at the awful joke. Ouma stifled a smile. Nick rolled his eyes, and thought of Don Schanke's notoriously awful humor.

And awful it was becoming. One person here had been heard to refer to it as "Deadbase Alpha", and was severely chewed out by Gorski for it. The Medical staff had been expressly forbidden to discuss it outside of work (didn't that go over well!), but the rumors were spreading irregardless. The shuttle back to Earth had been dubbed "The Meat Wagon", and those assigned to fly missions carrying waste over to the Far Side were now known as "The Graveyard Shift".

Gorski clearly let it be known that he was not amused.


Another thing that was clear, to Nick anyway, was that he and Nat were being stalked. Eight-Hundred plus years of living as he had had taught him to know when he was being shadowed. Whoever it was was not a vampire, of course. That would have been obvious, if not counterproductive. But shadowed he was, and it wasn't long before he found the first bug, in their quarters. Under the box that held Joan of Arc's cross. An hour or so later, he'd pulled one each out of he and Nat's commlocks. Furious, he'd nearly gone to Gorski, but Nat had calmed him down. They'd be subtil, she said. Deftly, she crunched two of them, putting the third into Nick's silver pill box.

"Very tiny," observed Nick. The bugs were half the size of an average aspirin tablet.

"Only the best for Alpha," Nat replied, and laid out her plan to Nick, scribbled on paper. She yanked a strand of hair, wet it, and stretched it across the box with the cross.

Now, during the poker game, Nick pulled out the pill box, and withdrew a capsule, popping it into his mouth.

"Medication, Nick?" asked David Kano. "You okay?"

"Vitamin supplements," he answered, downing it with a shot from his hip flask. "My condition leaves me with a serious vitamin D deficiency."

"Phototropia?" asked Verdeschi. "That's an allergy to sunlight, isn't it?"

"It is," answered Nat, and launched into a minutely technical description of the condition. Verdeschi tried to appear to follow her, but had clearly been left far behind.

"Oh," he said at last. "I see."

They went on with the game, and Nick set the box down on the edge of the table. Nat noticed Verdeschi eyeing it, but pretended not to, tossing another chip into the pot.

"I raise you five," she said.

"Looks old," said Ouma of the box.

"Not really," said Nick. "It's only a few years. A gift."

"It's tasteful," said Eva, then the door chimed. "Yes?"

It was Doctor Linden, one of the physicists on Bergman's staff, accompanied by Bill Fraser, an Eagle pilot. Fraser had come to a game or two, but this was Linden's first. Somewhat unpopular on Alpha, Linden would be leaving soon, retiring, but Nick had found the old man a likeable sort, and had profited from his advice on the synthesizer project.

"Oh hi," said Tony, as the two men came in. He turned, and so did Nick...

Knocking Tony's coffee cup off, onto his lap. The Security chief leapt to his feet, and Nick solicitously helped wipe the still-hot liquid off his clothes. There was a chorus of "sorry"'s, and "not a problem"'s, and they all sat back down. Linden and Fraser were dealt in, and the game resumed.

But Victor Bergman kept watching Nick for the rest of the evening.

"You get it in?" asked Nat, on the way back to their quarters.

"Got it," replied Nick. Once back in their rooms, they checked. Nat's single strand of hair was gone.

Tony got back to his quarters, and unhooked his belt. Damn thing was getting a little tight. He decided he needed to spend a little more time in the gym, or find a new girlfriend, and tossed it on a chair.

What the...

He watched as the tiny object fell from it, onto the floor. He bent to pick it up, and held it to the light.

"What the hell...?"

Chapter Ten

That night, Nick dreamed again. Once more, he saw Erica, beckoning him to leave Alpha. To leave, and join her. Yet again he saw Alyssa, his long-dead wife, making much the same plea.

"Please, dearest Nicholas," she said, arms outstretched. "Leave Alpha. Leave, My Husband, before it is too late for you."

"Too late?' he asked, standing and facing her. Suddenly, he was out of bed, out of his quarters, and out on the surface! No spacesuit, no uniform, zip. Reflexively he gagged, trying to breathe. But here, in this place, he could. Nor did the sun, blazing down from the hard black sky, harm him. He recoiled in fear from its broiling light, but remained unchanged.

"Hey, Nicky boy," said a voice, and he turned. There, leaning up against one of Alpha's navigation beacon towers, was the last person he would have expected to see. Still dressed, incongruously here, in a rumpled suit and wearing shades, was Toronto Homicide Detective Donald G. Schanke.

"S...Schanke?" exclaimed Nick, eyes wide. "What in God's name...?"

"Surprised to see me, Nick?" asked Schanke. "Frankly, I'm surprised to see you standing naked on the surface of the moon, guy. No spacesuit, nothing." Schanke pushed away from the tower and moved towards his former partner.


"How can I be here?" said Schanke. "We were buds, Nick. Partners. A bond. You know, I really want to thank you for finding the sucker who blew me and Cohen out of the sky, Nick. And for looking after Myra and Jenny. That college fund you set up for her? I never would have expected it. That was sweet, Nick."

"Schanke, what...?"

"Am I doing here? Same as Erica and Alyssa, mon Nicholas. Warning you, my vampiric friend. Get off Alpha. Get back home, Nick. This is one dangerous place to be."

"The astronauts that are dying..."

"That's just the beginning, Nick. This baby's gonna get a whole lot worse."

"How? What do you mean, Schanke?"

"Look," said the apparition. "I never told you this, but you were like a brother to me, Nick. Covering my el-tusho with Stonetree or Cohen. Saving my hide from loony cop wannabes or screwy hunters." The apparition came closer and put a hand on Nick's shoulder. It felt real. Very real. "I owe you a lot, Nick."


"You lied to me? You and Janette and Mr. Ghoulsville Himself, Toronto's very own Vincent Price, LaCroix, screwing around with my head, and hiding the fact that you're a vampire? I know. Hey, you do what you have to to survive, guy. I understand, now." Don took his shades off, and looked Nicholas right in the eyes. "It's incredible, Nick. You. A vampire, going against your own nature, trying to do good in the world. It shows what you're made of, Nicky Boy." He punched Nick in the shoulder.

"I...regret my decision, Schanke," said Nick slowly, still trying to absorb the fact that he was standing naked on the lunar surface, having a conversation with someone who was dead. "I made the wrong choice, back then. I...I have to do penance for it. God..."

"And your penance gets notice, My Friend," said Schanke, casting a glance upwards. "And think, Nick. Think of all those people who would have died, if you had lived out your normal lifespan, back in the 13th Century. The slaves you saved in the Old South? The soldiers you saved, Dr. Knight, during the Civil War? Ditto in Vietnam? The folks Vudu would have blown to bits if you hadn't caught him? The list goes on, Nick. Oh, and Tracy? You did a great job on breaking her in. Protecting her. You took care of my successor."

"Why are you here?" Nick asked, increasingly uncertain that he was not, in fact, going quite mad.

"First, to reassure you, Nick. You are quite, quite sane. I really am here. The Schanke, Himself." Schanke grinned his usual idiot grin, and made a mock bow to his friend. "Second, to let you know that your work gets the stamp of approval from Upstairs, guy. The stuff you and Nat have done here has already saved a life, Nick. Verdeschi is going to make a certain young lady very happy, a few years down the road. That baby is going to be sooo cute, believe me. Which reminds me, speaking of Vudu. You ought to know that he wasn't acting alone, Nick." Schanke's expression was deadpan. "He had help."

"Help? From?"

"Someone who wanted to get to you, Nick. Someone who thought that if you did the Big One so publicly, you would have to leave, and start another life. Return to the fold, as it were."


"LaCroix," said Nick, almost silently.

"Bingo, buddy! Ten out of ten. Smart as always. No wonder we made Partners of the Month. Of course, they did misspell my name..."

"LaCroix was behind Vudu?" said Nick, almost seething. "But, how? He..."

"Hey, Nick. My time is limited. To the point, okay?" He nailed Nick with that sharp glance of his. "Listen to Alyssa and Erica. Dewax the ears, dude. You have to leave Alpha, Nick. You and Natalie have to leave Alpha, and soon."

"But, there's still so much to do, Schanke. Our work, the search for the cure..."

"Nick," said Schanke, fixing him with a glare. "Trust moi.You have to go." Nick opened his mouth. "No buts, Nick." Schanke took his neck in a grip of steel. "Come on."

Nick felt himself moving, and instead of Alpha he now beheld another installation. All around him were metallic spheres supported by cones on lunar soil.

"What is this place?"

"Part of the reason," said Schanke. As Nick watched, the spheres began to smoke, the metal subliming into vapor, then to glow. The soil was glowing as well, becoming semi-molten, as they watched. Then, suddenly, amidst arcing bolts of energy, everything dissolved into massive bursts of light as the spheres were blasted open by incredible energy. Nick recoiled, then all was still. No explosions, no light. Just the waste dump.

"Schanke?" he called. Silence. "Schanke?" He turned, and the spheres of Area One were replaced by an interior space. It was one of Alpha's buildings, though he did not know which. Along one bulkhead were windows, with monitoring equipment set into the bulkhead to the right. Outside the windows...

Was a large, cross-shaped area, marked off by a security enclosure. Dotted with a number of cone-shaped structures, there was the universal symbol for radiation emblazoned everywhere. What was this place?

As he watched, the same thing began to happen as before. Bolts of lightning arced between cones, then cone after cone exploded, with increasing violence, till everything was engulfed in a tidal wave of furious energy. The last thing Nick saw were the windows being blown inwards, and he felt the incredible waves of pure heat. Then...

He was back in his quarters, in bed, Natalie shaking him. He leapt out of bed, disoriented, and stumbled. He at last caught himself on the edge of the table.

"Nick! Nick!"

"Ya gotta go, Nicky boy," said Schanke's voice, thin and far away. He could see his dead friend still, wavering and insubstantial, and he shook his head. Schanke was gone, replaced by Nat, and he slowly remembered where he was.

"Nick, what was it? You were having a nightmare." He stood there, breathing heavily, his skin covered in a vampire's bloody sweat. "Nick?"

"Nat," he said at last, focusing on her. "Yeah. Nightmare."

"What was it?" Nick didn't answer at once, instead heading for the shower. "Nick?"

"I saw them. I saw them again, Nat."

"Erica and Alyssa?"

"Yes. They told me the same thing. We have to leave Alpha, soon."

"Did they say why?"

"No. Only that there is danger." He fell silent.

"What else, Nick?" Silence. "Ni-cho-las!"

"I...saw Schanke, Nat." Natalie left out a little puff of disgust, and walked back towards the bedroom. "It was weird, Nat."

"I'll bet," she said, skeptically, arms crossed.

"No Nat, really. It was Schanke, telling me the same thing. Leave Alpha. Now."


"Something dangerous. He said that the astronauts falling ill was just the beginning. It's going to get worse."


"I don't know," Nick shook his head. "But I saw something explode, Nat." He described his visions, and the enormous explosions.

"Alpha blowing up?" she asked, a little incredulously. "Oh come on, Nick. Alpha is..." She watched him, as he sat back down on the bed. "There is more, isn't there? Nick?"

"Yes. Yes, there is, Nat. He...he said that LaCroix was involved in Vudu's bombing of the plane he and Cohen were transporting Dollard on." Natalie, of course, remembered the details of that horrible affair, the destruction of hundreds of innocent lives, all in order to silence one man.

"Nick, you cannot seriously believe this. People no more come back and talk to us about the other side than...than Commissioner Simmonds is going to get religion!"

"I know what I experienced, Natalie."

"And you believe it? That we're in danger up here?" Her tone was almost a challenge.

"I do, Nat. As bizarre as it is, I really do."

As they talked, deep inside Area One, the temperature inched up a few more degrees.

"Doctor Barber," came the voice over Nick's commlock, next morning. He excused himself from his conversation with one of the engineers, and answered. As he expected, it was Tony Verdeschi.

"Barber here," he answered.

"Doctor, would you please come and see me in my office? Right away."

"Well, right now we're working on the synthesizer, Tony. Commander Gorski wants it ready for installation aboard the Probe ship by the time it gets here."

"This shouldn't take long, Doctor," said Verdeschi.

And he signed off.

With apprehension, Nick went. From Verdeschi's manner he was expecting a grilling, and he got it. Alpha's Chief of Security was direct, blunt, and to the point.

"Doctor Barber, when was the last time you visited Nuclear Waste Disposal Area Two?"

"I never have," replied Nick. True, after a fashion. Both disposal areas were high security installations, off-limits to all but authorized personnel. After an attempt nearly two years ago to hijack an Eagle carrying radioactive waste, security had been severely tightened, and access to both areas strictly controlled. Except by permission of Alpha's Commander, or a medical emergency, Nick had no reason or clearance to be there.

"Okay," said Tony, plopping some photos on his desk, "what's that?" Nick leaned over, and looked. It was a print, taken from one of the security cameras inside the Area Two monitoring depot. It showed Nick, buck naked, standing not a yard away from a dark-haired, slightly balding man, in a rumpled suit. The image of the two men was fuzzy and semi-transparent, but Nick could clearly recognize both himself and Schanke. As he looked, Verdeschi tossed him another 8x10 glossy. Here, he and Don were central, standing framed by the windows, but two others were just visible on the periphery, dressed in some sort of gowns or robes. Clearly women, Nick knew them for Alyssa and Erica.

"I don't understand," said Nick at last, with perfect control. "I have never been to this place, Tony."

"Then why do we have security tapes of you at Area Two? I won't ask why you're in the buff, Doctor."

"Tony, I have never been to Area Two. You know as well as I do that I have no clearance to be there."

"True enough."

"Besides, aside from training flights with Alan, I haven't even been outside the base since I arrived, on May 24th."

"So all the records indicate, Doctor."

"Not to mention, Mr. Verdeschi, how the hell could I get from here to anywhere, completely buckass, without being noticed?" Nick asked stiffly.

"I admit to having wondered that myself, Doctor Barber," replied Tony, equally stiffly. He collected up the stills. "So, if you weren't there, why are you and these other people on the tapes? Hhmm?" He looked at Nick square on.

"I have no explanation," said Nick. "When were these taken?"

"Last night," said Tony.

"Well, I was here, all last night. My wife can confirm that as can, I am sure, all launch pad personnel."

"Well, it certainly is curious, you must admit, Doctor. It makes no sense. Why fake images of you, and in the all-together at that, in a top security area?" Tony's expression was unbelieving, bordering on rude.

"That I have no idea," replied Nicholas. Mon Dieu! He thought. He really had been there! But how could the cameras pick anything up in the, well, ethereal realm? He had no clue, but at least it meant that his experiences were no fantasy. They had been real. Nat would have no choice but to believe him, now. He was not hallucinating, or going mad. It was all true.

Which meant that the warnings must be real, as well.

But warnings of what?

"May I go?" he asked suddenly, refusing to blink under Verdeschi's stare.

"Sure," said Tony. He didn't need to add the proverbial "don't leave town" bit. On the moon, there was only one. Nicholas rose, and headed for the door. "Oh, Doc."


"Ever been to Toronto?"

Nick nearly froze.

"Once, as a kid," he said at last. "Why?"

"Just wondered. It's my favorite city in North America. I just wondered if you had."

"Long time ago," said Nick. "I don't remember much." And pressing the button on his commlock, he left Tony alone. Verdeschi leaned back in his chair, and reread the report on his desk. The two female figures were too indistinct to ID, even with the most sophisticated image enhancement available. But the man. He was a different story, altogether. A very extensive computer search had identified him at last. No mistake. He was one Donald G. Schanke, Homicide Detective, 96th Precinct, Toronto Police, Toronto, Canada. Married, father of one.


"I don't believe it," said Nat, when she had heard the story. "On tape?"

"Uh huh," replied Nick. "Me and Schanke."

"In all your glory," smiled Nat, then burst out giggling. Nick glared at her, which only made her giggle all the more. Sighing, he let her wind down.

"Are we through?", he said at last, arms crossed, as she collected herself. "Nat, this is serious. I was seen there, at the same moment I dreampt it. How the camera could do that I have no idea, but it did."

"Well, the camera doesn't lie," said Nat. "I take it all back, Nick. You were right, but what is Schanke trying to say?"

"Only that there's danger, Nat. And that we have to get away, or we'll suffer some horrible fate."

"The waste dump?" asked Nat. "Does he mean it's going to blow up, or something?"

"It can't, Nat. A lot of what's in there is spent reactor fuel, waste from fuel production, medical waste. Only a fraction of it is even bomb grade, from decommissioned nuclear weapons. It can't chain react, Nat."

I hope.

"Then...well, could it be a meteorite impact? Hitting the dump, or even Alpha?"

"I...I just don't know, Nat. But Verdeschi has his eye on me. Escaping unnoticed isn't an option, I'm afraid."

"Did he say anything about the bug?"

"No, though he must have found it, right away, Nat."

"And there was no chance to hypnotize him?"

"Witnesses. I could tell we were being watched. Like our mirrored interview rooms, back home, only on camera. I couldn't risk it, Nat."

"So how do we get away? Any ideas?"

"Not yet, Nat. I...I'm afraid I may have boxed us in this time. This time, technology may well prove to be our undoing."

"Hey, Nick, we'll make it," she said, getting to her feet, and putting her arms around him. She looked up into his eyes. "Somehow, we'll get through this, and make it home. And we shall achieve the goal, Nick." She gently rocked him. "We're halfway there, as it is."

In his office, Tony opened his desk, and took out the tiny listening device he had discovered on his person, after that last poker game. Who, he wondered as he leaned forwards across the desk, was spying on him?

"The unknown," said LaCroix, voice wafting seductively from the speaker. "A dangerous country, is it not, My Children?" Again, Nick was tuned to CERK, in Toronto. "Many an explorer could testify to that, I am sure. If only he could." There was a pause, and Nick could almost hear the malignant smile spreading over LaCroix's face. "But then, none of us knows what lies beyond the next bend in the river, or over the next hill, do we? No more than Ericsson, Columbus, deGama, Cabrillo, or Armstrong did. They accepted the risks, or were blind to them, but they really didn't know."

"What the hell is he on to now?" asked Nat, looking up from her desk.

"Not sure," replied Nicholas. "He's building up to something, though."

"So many have fallen in the pursuit of this will-o-the-wisp, this Golden Fleece we call knowledge. One wonders if it is really worth it, Dear Listeners. All it got Jason was dead friends, dead children, and a close-up view of the bottom of his ship. Oh, science has given us some wonderful things, to be sure. But, I ask you, are they worth the price? Are they truly sufficient recompense for all the agony, all the heroic suffering, that it took to realize them?"

"Just when I think he cannot possibly get any gloomier," said Nat, shaking her head.

"And the suffering continues, even in our own time, mes amis." LaCroix went on. "When we look up at the sky, and gaze upon the stars, what do we see?" Nick bristled, at the inflection LaCroix put on the word "stars". It was a perfect imitation, allowing for the language difference, of the way his sister said it, so long ago. She had told LaCroix that the stars were her passion. Yes, he was tormenting Nick over that episode, even now.

"Another ocean," the old Roman continued, "upon whose waves the brave explorers have breasted, and like those of olden time, some have stepped off upon the shores of that land from whose bourne no traveler returns. Just to get to the moon, how many have handed over their lives in exchange for that Holy Grail, eh? The list, Nightcrawlers, is an impressive one, indeed. The Apollo One crew, burnt to a crisp. The Soyuz 11 cosmonauts, who found themselves suddenly short of breath on the way home. The Apollo 13 crew, who very nearly joined them. The brave, or should we read foolish? men and women of the Uranus Probe, the Ultra Probe, Voyager, the Swift, and who knows how many others?"

LaCroix paused, and with their accentuated hearing, both vampires could hear him sipping something. How perversely it must please the old General, Nick thought, to be consuming the blood of his latest victim live on the air. Certainly he knew that Nick would hear it and be repulsed thereby, and would thus be pleased all the more.

Sick bastard, thought Natalie.

"Adventure," LaCroix went on, "is not a game for the timid. Nor, might I add, for the intelligent. Too much adventure, Dear Ones, is like too much wine, even a fine, unsurpassed vintage. Too much, too often, and for too long, and you are dead. Like the deep sea diver, or the astronaut braving the wastes of space, you assume room temperature. It takes a special sort to boldly go where no man has gone before, Nightcrawlers. The trek should be left to them, and to them alone."

"And not vampires," said Nick.

"Remember that," LaCroix resumed, "the next time you see a recruiting poster for that shipwreck overhead, that presumption in the sky, Moonbase Alpha, built upon the graves of so many. Keep that in mind the next time wifey comes home, and tells you how much you can do for mankind, up there." Nick could hear the anger building up in LaCroix's voice, slowly replacing the sarcasm and vitriol. He knew his Master well enough to know just who the arrow was aimed at.

"So, those of you out there in the night, you who are wise enough to tell yourselves the truth, do so. Without delay. Do so, and come home to those who miss you. Those who need you. Those who..." LaCroix's voice caught a moment. " you. Come home. All is forgiven."

"Oh LaCroix, please," muttered Nick.

"So, Listeners, you tell me. What thinkest thou, eh? Do we truly belong there? The moon? Mars? The stars? Should our motto be 'Ad astra' or should we remain, firmly rooted, upon 'Terra Firma'? Talk to me, people. Let me know. I'm waiting to hear from you. I'm here, for I am The Nightcrawler."

"Could he be involved in that anti-space movement?" asked Nat. "Children of Gaia, or whatever the hell it is."

"He sure sounds like it, Nat," he answered, clipped. As he sat, Nat could see the brittle anger on his face. The revelation that LaCroix had had a hand in the deaths of Schanke and Cohen had shaken Nick hard. Right to the core. But how? Vudu had been no vampire. How had a psychotic serial bomber come to meet up with the likes of LaCroix? He didn't know, but one thing was quite certain. One day, soon, he would find his cure, and return home. When that day dawned, he would perform one final act as a vampire.

He would kill Lucien LaCroix. And this time, he would make damned certain that he stayed dead.

Nat held her breath for almost a week, but there were no more outbreaks of the mysterious illness, for which she sent up a tiny prayer of thanks. Despite this, she was seriously wishing that she'd gone in for OB-GYN, or maybe truck driving, as she and the rest of the medical staff reviewed the evidence from the eight autopsies. It had been different in Toronto. Finding out why people died helped bring killers to justice. She could understand stab wounds, bludgeonings, poison, bullets, hit and runs. But this...pestilence! It defied the best medical minds available. People don't die without a cause, Natalie told herself, over and over. Cells do not suddenly mutate for no reason. But cause and reason were proving as elusive here as the Fountain of Youth, or the Philosopher's Stone.

It all left Nat feeling thoroughly disgusted with the science of medicine. It made her feel powerless. It made her feel useless.

Damn this disease! Damn it to hell!

The next day, Nat was able to get back to her experiments. Despite her efforts, Helena had not found who had tampered with Nat's litoveuterine work. Very curious about it all by now, she inquired into the exact nature of the research.

"Beef production?" asked Helena.

"I'm trying to engineer the litoveuterine to be useable in Human tissue regeneration, Helena. Think about it. Massive organ damage might, I say might, be repaired in situ, without the extensive surgery or transplants that we depend on, now."

"Not to mention the problem of rejection," said Helena. "It's a fascinating approach, Natalie. The potential could be virtually unlimited."

"All part of having that MD after your name," replied Nat, checking a readout. "And if this...this illness continues, Helena, maybe regenerating brain tissue might even be..."


"Yes?" said Helena, into her commlock. It was Verdeschi.

"Doctor Russell?" asked Tony. "Can I see you in my office?"

"Sure, Tony. I'll be there directly." She terminated the connection. "Nat, I..." She stopped, hesitating.


"When I come back, I...I need to talk with you." Her expression was uncertain.

"Something wrong with my work, Helena?"

"No. Your work has been exemplary. The best. I just, well, when I get back."

"Sure, Helena. I'll be here." She watched her chief go, wondering. Did Helena suspect something? What did she know? Did she, could she, believe? Believe in vampires?

On a sudden inspiration, she crossed to Helena's desk. Furtively, she went through its contents. Much of it was typical, stuff a doctor would have. A first-aid kit, personal letters and photos. She noticed a shot of Helena, and a dark attractive man, in wedding attire, and another of them on a beach somewhere.

Nat was surprised. She hadn't realized that her chief had been married. She had never hinted at it, and wore no wedding ring. Nat held up another snap to the light, the same man in formal setting, which was autographed: "To My Helena-All My Love, Lee". Feeling like a common burglar, Nat put it back, then noticed something else. Something familiar.

A culture dish. The culture dish she had disposed of a long time ago. The dish with her vampire blood in it...

"Oh shit," she muttered, as it began to sink in. Helena knew. She knew! How...

She pulled her commlock, and punched in Nick's code. He answered almost at once.

"We have a problem," she told him.

"You're certain?" asked Helena, seated across from Tony in his office. She held copies of photos of Nick, from the N.Y. driver's license, an U.S. passport in the same name, the Chicago PD, as well as Toronto. And, another photo his research had dug up, one of a group of French Resistance fighters during World War II. The man on the left was an absolute dead ringer for Nicholas.

"I am," said Verdeschi. "I set the computer to search for photos of anyone who looked like Dr. Barber. This one," he indicated the wartime shot, "was recently donated to the French National Archives, by the family of an old Resistance fighter." He put all the images up on a screen. "Assuming his apparent age, Helena, our Dr. Barber is at least a hundred years old."

"But that's not possible, Tony. Nick is not..." She stopped, as what she'd seen of Nat clicked into place. If she...

"I don't pretend to understand it, Helena," Tony went on, "but I cannot deny the evidence. Our Nicholas Barber has been Nicholas Knight, Nicholas Forrester, Nicholas de Brabant, ad infinitum."

"What have you done about it, Tony?"

"I've talked to him about it." He explained his conversion with Nick, and the images from Area Two. "He claims to know nothing about any of it."

"Well, it is kind of weird, Tony. Both in a security zone, and naked to boot."

"Yeah, well I can't explain it, either. But the rest of this..." He indicated the photo hardcopies.

"Have you talked to Commander Gorski, at all?"

"No. Considering his reluctance to forward anything substantive about the stricken astronauts, I went over his head. I sent a short report to Commissioner Simmonds, telling him that something had cropped up, and could his office supply me with any additional data on him."

"And did he?"

"No. Not a word back, Helena. He's too damned worried about his precious Meta Probe. Once it's on its way, maybe. But, I did come up with one additional tidbit."

"And it is?"

"Nick has had a number of communications to and from Earth. Most of them have been the same person."


"A man named Lucien LaCroix. He lives in Toronto, and operates a radio station, CERK. He broadcasts a nightly call-in show, the Nightcrawler, from a nightclub called the Raven, which he also owns and operates."

"I have heard of it," said Helena. " My sister Melissa told me about it, when she visited Toronto. Very ghoulish. But what's his connection to this little mystery?"

"In 1995, Lucien LaCroix was arrested in Toronto, on a charge of First Degree Murder. An Egyptian national was found, get this, beheaded in the Raven club, and stuffed in a beer fridge. All except the head. That was in a cardboard box on the bar, lovingly wrapped in tissue paper. The case was never solved, and the charge was dropped. The arresting officer in the case?"

"I see."

"Yeah. Toronto Homicide Detective Nicholas Knight."

Helena headed back to Medical, determined to talk to Natalie. Confront her with what she knew and now, sickeningly, suspected. She wasn't sure she could actually believe it, though. Yes, she had seen what Nat had turned into. Seen her taste blood! Fresh blood.! No, it could not be!

She had not shared any of this with Tony. No doubt he'd never believe any of it, and begin to think her mad. No, she'd just have to do this on her own. Yes, her own. She would prepare...

Just how did you prepare to go and confront a vampire?

Chapter Eleven

September 1st, 1999

"Maybe," said Nat, "it's the new fly in the ointment of being a vampire. This is the age of computers and ubiquitous electronic data retrieval. Maybe...maybe we just can't hide anymore."

"Maybe you're right, Nat," replied Nick. "Maybe we boo-booed. Maybe I boo-booed, in opting for Alpha."

"Well, fifty percent of the blame goes to me, Nick. It was my idea to respond to the recruiting ad." She got up, pacing the room. "But forget blame. If our cover's blown," she winced at the word, realizing how melodramatic it sounded, "then we have to start working on our escape."

"Well, the cargo Eagles deadhead on the return leg, except when they carry personnel rotating off of Alpha. We could stow away."

"Until we're missed, here," said Nat. "And I can't access the schedule from Medical. Not without some major hacking, Nick. Too risky."

"Carter," said Nick. "As senior pilot, he could pinch it for us, Natalie." He sat in silence for several seconds, then exploded out of his seat. "Damn LaCroix!" he shouted, pounding on the wall. "You know what, Nat? I'll bet the Foundation he's done this."

"The spy?"

"More than that, Natalie. Verdeschi practically dared me to admit that I'd been in Toronto. The only way he could do that was if he had evidence."

"But you removed all that from the Toronto PD database after you left, though."

"Yes. Only the notation of my service, and pay records. No photo ID, no fingerprints, nothing. I had Larry Merlin rip it all out."

"Only now someone's put it back in."

"Exactly. And who else, Nat, but LaCroix? He tried to destroy my life, as Knight. He interfered back when I was one of Shakespeare's Lord Chamberlain's Men. He's at it again."

"Yeah, planting your watch on that murder victim in Toronto. I remember, Nick."

"And now it's the same thing, all over again. Putting clues and information about Knight back into the system, the seeing that Verdeschi has a trail to follow."

"And his spy seeing to it that Verdeschi gets some crumbs."

"That, or relying on Tony being the naturally suspicious type, Nat. Somehow, somewhere, I slipped up. Gave the game away."


"I've put you in danger, Nat."

"Poppycock and bullshit, Nick. We're not sunk yet. Besides, I asked for this danger. Remember? I've been asking for it ever since you got up off the slab in my morgue. We share it, together. For now, the problem is how do we get out of it? I believe it was Sir Thomas More who said that our natural business lies in escaping."

"And for vampires, it's often true." He sighed again. "Well, first, I'm going to check some databases back home, Nat. I..."

"No, Nick. I will." He made to protest. "No, I'm still the same Natalie listed on my birth certificate, Nick. I don't have any past to hide, yet. I'll do it. And I know just where to start."

All the way back to their quarters, Nat cursed, as only those with Slavic blood can. All of Nick's files and records were back in the Toronto PD computer system. What had once been almost totally excised was now back, in all its digital glory. But that wasn't all.

On a hunch, she discovered that Verdeschi had gone further. The news footage of Nick, on the steps of the 96th Precinct building after Vudu had bombed it, had been requested, and a copy transmitted. Not to mention that egregious episode of Cop Watch. And, were that not enough, old black and white newsreel film of Nick, as Professor Girard, back in '54, testifying before the House Un-American Activities Committee. All sent to one Tony Verdeschi, Chief of Security, Moonbase Alpha.


And damn LaCroix! Nat had not thought it possible to hate someone so much. Certainly not that she could hate LaCroix any more than she already did. But she was learning that it was, and she could. And if Nicholas intended to kill his Master, then he had one very big problem.

He'd have to get in line!

September 4th, 1999

Again and again, over the next couple of days, Nick felt for certain that he was being shadowed. But the shadow was no vampire, of that he could be certain. He could sense Natalie in that fashion, and no one else.

Nat had the same sense, and oiled her trap accordingly. She had stayed in her lab, concealed in a storage closet, waiting. Since Alpha had not been built as a military facility, there was little in the way of internal monitoring, save in the brig, or the isolation wards. So, on a Lambert-inspired hunch, she hid out, an active commlock tucked away on a shelf.

The hunch paid off. About 0300 hours Lunar Time, an image appeared on the tiny screen of the commlock she held inside the closet. Someone was sneaking into her lab, stealthily heading for her experiment bench. From the way the intruder moved, Nat could see it was a woman. She hovered over the bench, scrutinizing Nat's work, then looked at a readout on a monitor. She looked about furtively, then erased the data. A few moments later, she picked up a beaker, and sniffed its contents, then stiffened as she heard the locker open. She whirled...

Only no one was there.

"It's water," said Nat, and the intruder whirled about again, to see her where no one had been a moment before, then froze. "Figured you might be back. It's all safely somewhere else, and the data's backed up." She hit the lights.

The intruder responded by shoving Natalie away, sending her sprawling across a table. In an eyeblink, Nat was up, blocking her escape, eyes blazing angrily, fangs bared.

"What the hell are you?" cried the intruder, face a total mask of fear.

"Who?" demanded Nat. "Who's paying you to...?"

But she got no further. In a move of surprising swiftness for a mortal, the intruder raised a weapon and fired point blank. Nat saw only a blinding yellow flash, and felt herself hurled backwards, pain ripping through her. The next thing she knew, she was looking up into the face of Helena Russell.

And Helena was jumping back, face a rictus of shock, as Nat rose up from the floor.

"Sweet Mother of God!" exclaimed Helena, eyes riveted on her fellow medico. Nat's eyes were ablaze, her fangs down, as she gazed around the room, trying to remember what had happened.

"No! Don't" she cried, as Helena reached for her commlock. "Please, Helena," she beseeched her chief, as it all came back to her. "I give you my word. I won't hurt you."

On the Far Side, the Meta Probe training flight had just passed over Navigation Beacon Delta. Below, the temperature inside the waste dump edged up a few more degrees. Above, deep inside one of the astronaut's brains, something started to change.

"I...I can't believe this," said Helena, almost in a whisper. She stood, framed by one of the windows, looking at Nat. For her part, Nat had returned to her normal appearance, and changed her uniform, burned by the point-blank hit. Upon rising from the dead, Nat had, as Nick had in her presence long ago, reached for blood. Once she was full, she could feel the regeneration of her tissues speed up. Then, head clearer, she tried to make Helena forget what she'd just seen.

And failed. Helena was, she discovered, a resister. Perhaps Nick, with his greater powers, might be able to accomplish it, but not she.

"Believe me, Helena. I'm not here to hurt anyone. I'm here to find a cure. A cure for what I've become." She watched Helena as she paced the room, at last finding a chair.

"But...Vampires, Nat? How? I just don't see how such a thing could be possible. It's...legend. Folklore. It can't have any basis in scientific..." She trailed off, realizing the obvious error of this assessment. Nat tried to explain to her the medical and biochemical aspects of the affliction as she understood them, Helena nodding as she absorbed it all. She, in return, told Nat of what she'd seen, and her examination of both the culture dish, and the bloodstained plastic shard.

"I didn't want to believe my eyes," said Helena. "I couldn't. I could not bring myself to..." She stopped, as Nat's commlock beeped. She keyed the door and Nick entered. She filled him in, and he swore softly.

"Doctor Russell," said Nick, "you must realize that silence is imperative. Our survival depends upon..."

"I would never try and harm..."

"I do not mean you specifically, Doctor," said Nick, and explained the Enforcers. "If they were to learn that you know, they would kill you, Doctor. They would find you, and silence you."

"Even up here?" Helena asked, almost in a whisper.

"I would not discount it, Doctor," Nick answered, gravely. He watched the CMO get up again, pacing.

"I...I've gone from not believing, to having, two, make that two, vampires in my Medical Center. I don't know how much more of this I can absorb."

"We are not a threat to you, Helena," said Nat, taking her chief's hand. "Nor to any of Alpha's personnel. We brought plenty of with us. That's the whole reason for the blood substitute technology work. So that we will never, ever, have to kill any living thing again."

"We hate what we are, Helena," said Nicholas. "I have hated it almost from the very hour that I became what I am."

"And how...long ago was that?" she asked carefully, unsure she really wanted to know the answer.

"It was The Year Of Our Lord 1228," said Nick, and gave her a brief sketch. Of his taking the Cross to avoid trial on a charge of murder, a murder of which he was innocent. Of his meeting Janette on the way home from the Holy Land, Janette the darkly sensuous vampire who had seduced him, and led him to his doom. Of his foolish acceptance of LaCroix's offer, and his self-loathing ever since.

"And you?" asked Helena, of Nat. "When I saw you in New York at the medical convention, it was in the daylight, Natalie. You were normal."

"I have only been a vampire for the last four years, Helena."

"She was dying," said Nick. "It was either bring her across, or let her die." Nick stood up. "Now, who was it, Nat? Who tried to murder you?"

"It was one of the science staff, Nick. Helena."

"Who?" asked Helena.

"Carolyn Powell."

Carolyn Powell was a recently assigned technician, in one of the Medical Center's labs. Competent and capable, she was nonetheless low on the popularity list. Tetchy, egocentric, and possessing something of a mean streak, she made it difficult to work with her. Some on Alpha said that her position and appointment had less to do with her scientific acumen, real as it was, and more to do with her mother's maiden name having been Simmonds.

But not too loudly.

Nick, Nat, and Helena stood outside her quarters. She did not answer, so Helena punched in the emergency medical override code, and the door slid obediently open for them.

"Hey!" exclaimed Powell, coming bolt upright in bed. "What the hell do you..." She stopped as she saw Natalie, apparently none the worse for being shot dead, fear spreading over her features.

"Surprised?" asked Natalie, deadpan. "Who, Carolyn?"


"Who paid you to sabotage our work, Carolyn? Who? Was it LaCroix?"

"I don't..."

"Who was it?" Nat asked again, and turned on the hypnotism. "Who, Carolyn? Who paid you?" For a moment, silence reigned.

"I...I was paid by a man named Lucien LaCroix," said Carolyn, slowly, her face blank. "He paid me to ruin Natalie's experiments."

"Why?" asked Helena. "Why would this LaCroix do this?"

"He didn't say," Carolyn droned on, mind still obediently numb. "He just paid me."

"How much?" asked Nick.

"Fifty thousand U.S. dollars. In a Swiss account. I was to sabotage her work, then..."


It was Tony. The emergency medical override of the door had brought Security, and Helena explained the attack upon Natalie in the lab. Carolyn was still fogged, but Tony was implacable.

He was going to take Nick into custody.

"Tony," said Helena, "You can't. He..."

"I have to, Helena. Nick is here under a false identity, in violation of the law. You know the problem we've had with terrorism, recently. I have to do this. It's my job."

"Tony, he saved Doctor Vincent's life. You're only standing here because of him! How the hell can you treat him like this?"

"You think I don't know that, Helena?" snapped Tony. "That's why I haven't called the Commander in on this, yet. It's why I came alone. I wanted to get Nick's story, first."

"And what about Carolyn's attack on me?" demanded Nat later, in Tony's office. "Isn't attempted murder slightly illegal, too?"

"It is, and she's confined to her quarters for the moment. But you, Doctor," he said, looking at Nick, "or whoever you are, have some explaining to do." He held out the photos he'd dug up of Nick from New York, Chicago, et al. When Nick did not take them, he let them fall to his desk.

"Tony," said Helena.

"Not done yet," he said, and called up a file on his terminal. It was the news footage of Nick, from Toronto. As it played, Tony watched the two vampires, studying their expressions. He let a tiny smile of victory cross his face. Yes, it said. I have you! "Well?"

"I have nothing to say," was Nick's clipped reply.

"Uh huh." Tony hit a control. "Captain Reese? Detective Vetter?"

Oh shit!!!


"We're here, Chief Verdeschi," came a familiar voice. One of the wall monitors behind Tony switched from the Alpha test pattern to an image of Joe Reese, Nick's Captain in Toronto, following the deaths of Schanke and Cohen. The policeman looked at his former detective, obviously shocked. "Nick? What in God's Name are you doing up there?"

"Hello, Captain," said Nick, slowly.

"Nick?" said another voice, and the camera pulled back to show Detective Tracy Vetter, sitting next to her Chief, in his office. "What's going on?" After a moment, she recognized Nat. "Natalie?"

"So, you do recognize him," said Verdeschi, with another smirk.

"Yeah," said Reese. "Nick Knight, one of my best homicide detectives. What the hell you doing on the moon, Nick?"

"Natalie," asked Tracy, voice thick with worry, "are you guys in trouble?"

Tracy Vetter, ever the mistress of understatement.

"You might say that, Miss Vetter," replied Tony. "In fact..."

"They're here because of me," interjected Helena, suddenly.


"Excuse me?" said Tony, clearly taken aback.

"I knew Nat, before. I helped to arrange their coming here, through connections in Commissioner Simmonds' office."

"Helena," said Tony, clearly irritated at being caught off-guard this way. "Why didn't you tell me this, before?"

"I asked her not to," said Nick. "I had to leave, Captain," he went on, turning back to Reese. "I was burned out, there. And...I was in danger."

"Danger? Who from, Nick?"

"I can't tell you, Captain. I couldn't tell anyone. I saw something I shouldn't have, and had to go into the witness protection program. Captain, Tracy, I'm really am sorry, but it was necessary. I got a new identity, and ended up here on Alpha."

"Where safer than the moon, Captain? Trace?" said Nat. "The baddies can't reach us, up here."

Ha, ha, thought Nat. Right.

Tony looked at them all, glowering. It was a limp excuse, and he knew it. But...

"Captain Reese, Detective Vetter," said Tony, his irritation ill-concealed, "I think that's all for now, but I may need to speak with you again."

"Is Nick under arrest, Mr. Verdeschi?" asked Tracy. "Nick, if you need a character witness, I'm here. And there's Miller, and Captain Stonetree, and..."

"Miss Vetter..."

"Detective Vetter," corrected Tracy, with an arch to her lovely neck. "Look, Nick is...was, the best cop I've ever worked with, Mister Verdeschi. He's saved my life, more than once. He saved thousands of Toronto citizens from being blown to bits by a mad bomber."


"And he's brought more criminals to book than you can shake one of your Eagles at, buster!!!" Tracy was nearly out of her seat, knuckles white on the arms.

"Tracy, calm down," said Reese.

"Well, Nick is my friend, Captain, and I won't let some twit..."

"Tracy, calm down!" said Reese, voice laced with authority, then turned back to Verdeschi. "So, what's the quid pro quo here, then?"

"Well, in light of this," Verdeschi looked to Helena, "I'll have to get back to you, Captain Reese."

"Right. You take care of yourself, Nick. Good to see you, again."

"And you, Captain. Tracy," he replied, and the link was cut.

"Tony," said Helena. "I..."

"Your tale may have worked on Reese and Vetter, Nick, but I'm not buying it."

"And I'm not selling it, Verdeschi. What about the attack on my wife?" asked Nick. "Are you going to do anything about that?"

"Oh I definitely will, Nick." Verdeschi rose, fists on the desk, and looked straight at Nick. "Carolyn is..."

"You are going to forget about this, Tony," said Nick, looking into his eyes. "Do you understand? Our pasts are exactly as we..."

They were all interrupted by the blaring of a crash alarm, and calls for all medical personnel to report at once. Nick's hypnotism was cut off in mid-thought, as they all leapt into action.

"What is it?" asked Helena, at once at the commpost.

"It's the Probe astronauts, Helena," came Vincent's voice. "Their training ship crashed, just short of the base."

And they all ran out of Tony's office, all other matters forgotten for the moment.

"What the hell's going on, Tracy?" asked Joe Reese after the connection was broken. "Nick, our Nick, on the moon?"

"And married to Natalie, too. I figured they had a thing going, but I hadn't heard about that."

"Me neither." He picked up the phone.

"Who are you calling?"

"I know someone in the Crown Prosecutor's Office, Tracy. He's got mega connections, and he owes me a really big favor."

"Crown Prosecutor? How big?"

"Nick and I rescued his wife and baby from kidnappers."

"Oh boy. That big."

"Yeah. I'm going to find out about Nick and this witness thing."

"Nicholas, I really am flattered," said LaCroix, on the screen. "I may set up an Alpha line for the show."

"Shut up, LaCroix," spat Nick. "I didn't call to listen to your flip humor."

"I beg your pardon," said LaCroix slowly, that cold, dangerous look coming into his eyes. One never...

"I said shut your damned mouth, LaCroix," Nick snarled back. "This time you've gone too far. Even for you." Somewhat to LaCroix's surprise, Nicholas had switched languages, addressing him in Latin.

"And what precisely, may I ask," said the ancient vampire in the same tongue, oh so icily, "does that mean?"

"It wasn't enough that you pay someone here to spy on me. Or hire someone to sabotage our work. Now they've tried to kill Natalie, and exposed us." Nick was furious. LaCroix could see the veins standing out on his forehead.

"Exposed?" asked LaCroix, clearly interested now. "How?"

"Carolyn Powell! She shot Natalie down, LaCroix! Laser set on kill. She returned from the dead in Medical Center! With witnesses." He was shouting now.

"Calm yourself, Nicholas. I assure you, I had nothing to do with any of that," said LaCroix, clearly keeping his ire in check.

"You're lying, LaCroix. I don't believe you." He pointed to his Master, a quarter million miles away. "If you ever interfere again, you know what I'll do."

"And that is, might I ask?" came the icy reply, almost a challenge.

"I know what you did to Schanke's plane, LaCroix. I know of your involvement with Vudu." He watched LaCroix's eyebrows go up. Clearly this had surprised the old General. "Why?"


"WHY???" roared Nick.

"You were supposed to be on the plane, Nicholas," said LaCroix at last, quietly. "Not Schanke. You would have survived, just as Vachon did."

"At the cost of over..."

"We have been through all this before, Nicholas. You are mine! Do you hear me? My son, my creation!" The elder vampire's eyes glowed, bulging. "Janette was gone, you should have returned to me! It was your duty to return to me! It was only after you, YOU, boy, traded places with Schanke that he was put in peril. Had you been where you should have been...well, it is done, Nicholas."

"No," hissed Nick. "No it is not, you son of a bitch."


"You are a murderous piece of filth, LaCroix. Garbage. Natalie and I are very, very close. When we return to Earth, we will step off into the sunlight. Cured."

"Nonsense, Nicholas. You and Nata..."

"We will. And you will do nothing to hinder us, LaCroix. Do you hear me? Nothing."

"I do not take kindly to threats, Nicholas!" growled LaCroix, his anger rising again. "You will not address me..."

"I will address you in any fashion I choose, chankered goat's pizzle. Hear me, and hear me well, Lucius Pontius Pilatus!" rasped Nick, fury barely in check. "One more attempt. One more try at hindering either of us, and I will expose everything."

LaCroix sat, stone-faced, fuming. He hated being reminded of his old Roman name, or of the infamous man who had been his father. But he disliked this insolence even more. The pup! How dare he speak to his Master this way!

"And just what do you mean?" he asked at last.

"Just what I said. I'll expose it all."

"Then you expose yourself! Think of that, boy!"

"I have. And it would be worth it, LaCroix. Not only will I reveal who and what I am, but I'll expose you, for who and what you are." He saw the moment of fear in his Master's face. "Yes. You. You and the whole Community. The Enforcers. All of it, LaCroix. Every name, every lair. All of it."

"You would not dare."

"I would, you damned reprobate! And I will, unless I have your cooperation." Silence. "Agreed?"



Nicholas enjoyed saying those words, as once, long ago, LaCroix had said them to him, in the argument over his younger sister, Fleur. He'd wanted Fleur, lusted after her, wished to bring her across. He'd had Nick over a barrel, then. The future, versus Fleur's life. Now, Nick could return the favor, and for vastly higher stakes. The entire vampire race.

Nick waited, enjoying the look of impotent fury on his Master's face. Even at a quarter million miles, he could sense the rage and conflict in LaCroix, through their link.

"Agreed," hissed LaCroix, through barely parted lips, jaw clenched tightly. A look of defeat came over him, and his shoulders fell. The old General was beaten, and he knew it. "Agreed."

"Very well," said Nick. "Goodbye, LaCroix. Burn in hell, Diable!"

He hit the button terminating the link, and sat back, letting out a great, pent-up sigh. There, he told himself. It was done. The final, ultimate, irrevocable break with his past. It was finally done.

Astronauts Frank Warren and Eric Sparkman were rushed to Medical, the latest victims of the mystery disease. Like all the others before them, they had gone berserk, plowing their specially modified Eagle into the ground, a few hundred yards short of the base. Now, in the isolation ward, they were just the all the rest. Blank, staring, totally unresponsive.


Alan Carter was angry. Eric and he had been RAAF pilots together, and were great friends. Before, it had all been just pilots. Just astronauts. Some other guys. Now, it was close to home. And personal.

Carolyn was let out, and returned to duty, rather foggy on the events of the previous evening, or why Tony had been questioning her. Try as she might, she couldn't remember why the Doctors Barber were so angry with her. Did they know?

"I understand," said LaCroix, reluctantly. The two large, anonymous vampires in his apartment were stone-faced, implacable, and Enforcers. He remembered them, of course. That annoying little matter of Sullivan, the Civil War photographer who had been unfortunate enough to capture him at feeding time. Nicholas, with all his compassionate, moralistic whining, had been unable to take care of the situation, so they had been called in. Now, as then, the ghoulish pair made even his flesh crawl. Gods on Olympus, didn't that one on the right ever look normal?

"The Community felt it owed you this courtesy," said one. "He is, after all, your son."

"And greatest disappointment," replied LaCroix, nodding sadly. "Very well. Who? No! Do not tell me. Just do it."

"I don't mind telling you," said a third voice. Its owner stepped out of the shadows. LaCroix took an involuntary breath of surprise. She was tall, extremely beautiful, and had long, golden-blonde hair. "I will, Lucien."

Chapter Twelve

September 5th, 1999

John Koenig looked out over his class, and sighed. Teaching, he decided, was not really his forte. Oh he was good at it, to be sure, but he would have much preferred...

No. He would not go there. He was a teacher now, for the present at least, and that was that. After the Ultra Probe debacle, he was lucky to have a job with the Space Commission at all. Here, teaching celestial mechanics to astronaut trainees, he could at least remain close to the space program. Certainly, if this year's crop of students were anything to judge by, it's future was in good hands.

"Alright, that's it," he said, rising. "Don't forget, class. Test tomorrow. Hohmann orbits." He gathered up his stuff, and watched the students file out, then returned to his office. Math, he decided, letting his gaze linger on Jean's picture, was okay, but engineering...that was what he really liked teaching. His next class was a real "hands on" kind of education. Avionics. Guidance systems. The "real" stuff. And there were going to be some exciting new things in that area, coming on-line soon. He would enjoy sharing these with his students. He was just about to leave for his next class when his cell phone beeped. He looked at the clock. Funny. Who could...


"Doctor Koenig?" said a female voice. "Commissioner Simmonds' office calling, sir."

Helena was disgusted. Two more victims, and not a single new clue. Her medical team was working around the clock, but so far fruitlessly.

As she monitored the patient's vital signs, Nat, with her vampiric hearing, could hear her chief and Mathias going at it, hammer and tongs it appeared, with Commander Gorski. After a bit, she turned away, shaking her head.

"So stupid," she muttered. It's just so f..."

"What is?" asked Vincent. "Oh. Right."

"The Commander. Gorski's a scientist, for crying out loud. Why is he acting like a...well, we all know why."

"Simmonds," said Vincent, knodding. "Have you ever met him, Natalie?"

"No. I've heard a lot about him, of course."

"And not much good, I suspect. Not a pleasant fellow, our dear Commissioner. The man is a political animal from the word go."

"I hate people like that," snorted Natalie, pulling a blood sample from a centrifuge. " I really do. They have their own unique system of non-Euclidean geometry."

"What?" he asked, brow furrowing. "Geometry?"

"The shortest distance between any two points will always be an angle."

"Well put, Natalie. Yes, that our Commissioner. If it came down to saving someone advantageous to himself, or his own mother, you can guess who he'd pick."

"Uhhh...gee," said Nat. "I dunno??"

"You really do a superlative Mortimer Snerd, Natalie."

"It's a gift."

"What do you want of me, Commissioner?" asked Koenig, sitting across from Simmonds at the very ritzy, and very expensive, 21 Club, in New York.

"How's teaching, John? This term's students shaping up, are they?" As usual, Simmonds maneuvered, like a shark, round and round, before getting to the point.

"They're fine, Commissioner. All have excellent marks, so far, but the semester's just begun. What can I do for you?"

"You've heard about the ...astronaut virus infection, up on Alpha." Not a question.

"I've heard something. Vague rumors, mostly. What's that got to do with me?"

"Well, as I'm sure you are aware, Commander Gorski has done a splendid job as Alpha Commander, John. Really first rate."

"So I've heard. The Meta Probe launch complex was refitted and put back on-line in record time, as well as under budget. No mean feat, all things considered."


Okay, thought Koenig. Now?


"But, this new wrinkle, John. The virus infection." Simmonds leaned forward, slowly. "It's going to toss a spanner into the works, if we're not careful."


"Is tired, John. Unremitting hard work, and now this."


"Alpha needs a ...a fresh face, John."

"Commissioner, I don't..."

"I'm tapping you, John. I'm tapping you for the job. The next Commander of Moonbase Alpha."



"You owe me, Koenig," said Simmonds, mood subtly shifting, eyes flinty. "You really do."

Damn him! thought Koenig. Damn him all to...

"After all," Simmonds went on, back to his usual reptilian silkiness, leaning back, "remembering the Commission's recommendation, after the Ultra..."

"I know, I know," said Koenig. "You circular-filed their recommendation, and I didn't find myself out of a job."

So I could be your tool, he told himself. And now the bill comes due.

"And you've done remarkably well, John, as an instructor and engineer, confirming my faith in you." There was a glint in Simmonds' eye. He hated being interrupted. "The astrogation system in the new Eagles shows marked improvements. But..." Simmonds leaned forward again. "I need you, up there, John. On Alpha."


"Get this problem cleared up, John. Get things back on track, before we loose our optimum launch window for Meta. Do..." He stopped as the waiter brought their meals.

Koenig noticed how very un-kosher Simmonds' choice was. Escargot. As a Jew, Koenig had been brought up in a strictly kosher home. As an adult he did not practice, but could not help wondering. Had Simmonds ordered that, just to annoy him? To rub his superior position in his face? He knew that the Commissioner cared not one whit for the sensibilities of others. Such things were irrelevant in his world. The man would walk naked through a convent, if he felt that it would serve to advance his ambitions! He certainly didn't give a damn about the Mosaic dietary...

"Do this," said Simmonds, tucking into his meal, "and we can forget all about the past, John. A clean slate."

In spite of his deep distrust of Simmonds, Koenig undeniably, almost unwillingly, felt the pull. Space! It was what he'd lived for, once. Born the same year as Sputnik, he had followed the space program religiously as a boy. At the age of twelve, watching the fuzzy images on his parent's old black and white Magnavox of Neil Armstrong stepping off onto the lunar surface, he'd realized what it was that he wanted to do with his life. Had to do. Unlike Walter, he could not follow their father to Yeshiva, and be yet another Rabbi Koenig. He honored his ancestral traditions of course, revering the memory of their great-grandfather, and the twenty-two other relatives who had died in Hitler's death camps, but he could never be bound by them. For John Robert Koenig, the motto could never be Sh'ma Yisrael, rather it would, always, be Ad Astra.

And Commander, too. He'd be up there, doing it. Taking charge! He'd ossified, no, fossilized, in a classroom. Like an athlete too long inactive, he needed to get up and get moving again. But...

"What about the illness? The virus? What's the latest word on the men?"

"Doctor Russell has things well in hand, John. She and her staff are doing a splendid job, and hold out great hopes for the men."

"That's good to hear. Both Frank and Eric were students of mine. Friends. It'll be good to see them back on their feet again."

"Of course," said Simmonds, avuncularly. "Alpha's yours, John. For as long as you want it." The Commissioner smiled, without really smiling. And you owe me, his expression said, without a word being spoken. You owe me. "After that..."

I'll still owe you, thought Koenig. He liked Gorski, really, even though he'd met him only briefly at a science conference, shortly before he was appointed Commander. The man was far from being incompetent, as Simmonds was hinting at behind his kind words. But...

"Alright, Commissioner," said Koenig, swallowing a mouthful of salad, with a pride dressing. "You've got it."

"Splendid," said Simmonds, and he smiled. Koenig just hated that glow of victory in the Commissioner's eyes. He felt sure that there was something Simmonds wasn't telling him, something he was keeping back. Total and open honesty was not, ever, Gerald Simmonds' way. "When can you get started?"

"I have my afternoon class," Koenig went on, "and I have things to clear up here, before I go."

"How long will you require?"

" Friday."

"Thursday, John. The ninth."

"I can do that," nodded Koenig, after a moment's consideration. "Yes."

"Splendid," said Simmonds again, and raised his glass, clinking Koenig's. "To the new Commander of Moonbase Alpha."

"To the Meta Probe," amended Koenig, with a smile. As he looked over the edge of his wine glass at Simmonds, he couldn't help but wonder if he wasn't making a very big mistake.

Chapter Thirteen

"Nick?" said Nat, that evening in their rooms. "What did you dig out of her?"

"I didn't have a lot of time, but it wasn't Verdeschi, but Carolyn bugging us. She was humping one of the guys in Security. That's how she got the stuff. Once she had it, she broke up with him. That's what the fracas in the Solarium was about, remember?"

"Yeah. What a piece of work, that one," said Nat, shaking her head. "And once she'd dumped him, he couldn't very well expose her for swiping security equipment. She and LaCroix are of a type, for sure. Get anything on how he met her, Nick?"

"All I know is that she visited the Raven, once. I got that, clearly. Then Dr. Vincent came in, and I had to break off." He was quiet a moment, then: "Nat, I can't shake the feeling of danger. Even with Carolyn neutralized. Real danger."

"Exposure? I don't think Helena would break her word, Nick. She's a woman of honor."

"Oh I agree. We can trust her, Nat. She jumped in, in Tony's office to cover for us. No, it's not Helena I meant."

"Then it's not just me."

"You, too?" asked Nick, surprised.

"Yeah. Look, I'm not buying into dreams, visions, and visits from the beyond, you understand, but I've got that feeling, too. Something's wrong, and it's building."

"But we can't skip yet, Nat. Not until we can cover this, or hypnotize enough people."

"Could we stow away on an Eagle home?"

"I though of that, but the security is too tight, after that terrorist thing last year. I'll talk to Alan again about maybe fixing some things for us." He sighed. "And the cure."

"And the cure, Nick," she knodded, emphatically. "We're close. Too damn close. I don't intend to give up, now that we're in the home stretch."

"And we won't, Nat," he said, putting his arms around her, "but we can't just skip, without a place to disappear to, and fast."

"Could Aristotle or Feliks Twist help?"

"I'll try and get in touch, but I suspect Verdeschi's monitoring my communications. I'll have to see, Nat."

"Right. Oh, have you heard?"

"Heard what?"

"Rumor has it that Gorski's being replaced."

"Uh oh. Who by?"

"I don't know, Nick. Let's hope it's not some political hack."

"Amen to that," said Nicholas.

On the Far Side, deep within the containment spheres of Area One, the heat continued to rise.

"To hell with this," said Doctor Russell, in her lab. She'd gone over the test results on Frank and Eric for what seemed the twentieth time. Zip. Zilch. Nada. Nihil. "Victor?" she called into her commlock. A moment or two later the old academic came on.

"Yes, Helena?"

"Can you put me a team together? People from your department."

"Of course. What for?"

"I'm going out to Area Two myself, Victor. I'm going to check those radiation seals in person. With my own hands, if I have to."

"You have something new, Helena?"

"No. That's just it. I've been over all the data again, and I can find nothing besides radioactivity that could have caused this."


"Remote sensors and cursory checks don't cut it, Victor. I'm going out there, and rip those hatch covers off myself, if I have to. You with me?"

"Gorski will never approve it."

"Which is why I'm not telling him. I'm doing this on my own initiative." She waited as Victor pondered.

"I can think of one or two here, yes. Steiner and Nordstrom. Jim Nordstrom used to work at Area Two in fact. He'll be a perfect choice."

"Good. Get them together. We'll go first thing in the morning."

"Right," said Victor. "I'll get on it." He clicked off, and looked back down at the old photo album he'd been perusing when Helena had called. He touched the yellowing old black-and-white snap of himself, back in '61. Damn, he thought, briefly. Back when I had hair. With all that had gone on of late, he'd had little time to ponder his own personal mystery. Now, he'd found it. An old snap of himself, back then...

And one Professor Nicholas Forrester.

"My my," he said aloud. "Haven't we aged well, Professor."

September 9th 1999

Come the morning, Helena and Victor were ready. Only, they didn't leave as planned. Gorski called another science staff meeting, which drug on for several hours. Nat was slated to go with them, but an accident in technical, plus an early labor for one of the ladies in hydroponics decided Helena on leaving her here. Nat actually felt touched. Despite knowing what she was, her chief trusted her.

Trust. Honor. Oh, why the hell wasn't Helena Commander? Or better yet, Commissioner?

While Nat was tending to the injured and expectant, Nick was shuttling up to the Meta Probe Launch Platform. The ship had left its construction dock late last night, under minimal power, and would be arriving about 23:00 Lunar time. Both Victor and Helena's departments had cleared the synthesizer for use, and Gorski had given the go to installing the machine aboard. Nick would oversee it's installation, while Ouma would be running final checks on the ship's computer systems, and Vincent seeing to the rest of the medical facilities and supplies.

As Victor and Helena passed over Area One, John Koenig's Eagle took to the air. Aside from the new Commander, the ship carried cargo, chiefly medical supplies and food, replacement parts for the computer, and...

One extra passenger.

"Coffee, Commander?" asked the stewardess, as the Eagle moved away from Earth.

"Thank-you," said Koenig, and took the proffered cup. Just then the pilot, Kelly, informed him of a call from Earth. Commissioner Simmonds. The stewardess retreated to her little cubicle, sparing one last glance at Koenig. "What about Commander Gorski?" she heard Koenig ask, then turned to the tiny storage locker. Inside, her predecessor was still safely tucked away. If only she'd had time to dispose of the evidence, the old-fashioned way. But, ultimately, it didn't really matter.

She looked in the mirror, and tucked a stray strand of hair back under her wig. So far, so good. She checked the other woman. Still well under. She was tempted for a moment, as a twang of hunger made itself known, to...

But no. An Enforcer did not leave tell-tales. In a few hours, the woman would awake, oblivious to all, just like the pilots already were. But by then, it would no longer be of any importance whatsoever.

She felt a tingle, a slight one, the tell-tale hint of another of her kind. Yes. She was getting close! She hit the tiny monitor in her cubicle. The Meta Probe was just docking with the Launch Complex, in high lunar orbit. Ah! There!

"Soon, Nicholas," she whispered, watching the two craft link up. "Soon."

Nat was on the way back to her quarters, when she spied Commander Gorski ahead in the corridor. She had decided to avoid him, when instead he turned and saw her.


"Doctor Barber," he said, politely.


"I presume you've heard," he said, matter-of-factly.

"Yes. I'm sorry, Commander," Nat replied. "It hardly seems fair, like this. Being so abrupt, I mean."

"Well, perhaps it is all for the best, Natalie," shrugged Gorski. "At least I shall be able to take care of my garden, now. As well as my ulcer." He attempted a wan smile, and Natalie smiled back.

"We'll keep working on it, Commander," she told him. "We'll find out what this thing is, and we'll lick it, sir."

"I've no doubt of that," sighed Gorski. "You are all superlative physicians, Natalie." They came to the hatch for Travel Tube 3, and Gorski stopped. "Doctor."


"I know about you, and your husband."



"Security Chief Verdeschi came to me, not three hours ago. He apprised me of his findings."

"Sir, I..."

"I know that your identities are false, but have no fear, Doctor. I have no intention of either revealing or pursuing anything, and I deleted the file Verdeschi gave to me. You, after all, are not the only one's here, under something other than their real names." He smiled at her, kindly and sadly. "I shall miss you both, Natalie. Please, tell Nicholas goodbye for me, in the event that I do not see him, before I go."

"I...I will, Anton. And, thank you," she added, somberly. "Good luck, sir."

"And to you." There was a ding, as a travel car stopped, on the other side of the doors. Nat moved away, to give the Commander space. The doors opened, and out stepped Professor Bergman, and a tall, captivating man with dark hair and a regal bearing, dressed identically to Gorski. Koenig, she presumed.

He looks like he could be an actor, she thought, fleetingly.

"Commander Koenig," she heard Gorski say, greeting the newcomer and confirming her suspicions.

"Commander Gorski," responded the new man, politely. He reached out to shake his predecessor's hand.

"I think we both know the situation," she heard Gorski tell his replacement, then turned away, resuming the walk to her rooms. As she reached them and closed the doors, she felt a peculiar tingle. Nick. He...No. Not him. This was different, somehow. It was... another.

Another vampire?

"I felt it too, Nat," said Nick, after he'd returned from the Meta Probe. He'd started in, about the ship and how incredibly advanced it was, its cutting edge technology. The lot. But, just as he could see that Nat wasn't buying the upbeat mood, he felt it again.

"Yeah, Nick."

"Someone's here."

LaCroix had never, in all the centuries since Divia had brought him across, felt the least bit inclined to venture out after dawn. After all, as a vampire, why? But he recalled Nicholas once telling him of how he'd turned the tables on the psychotic woman who'd been hunting him, by doing just that. He'd done the one thing which no vampire would ever be expected to do; he had braved a few moments of daylight, taking her off-guard long enough to rescue Schanke, and get away before the entire building went sky high.

Today, like his son, Lucien LaCroix would do the unexpected.

He knew the Enforcers were watching him, albeit from a distance. They certainly did not want him to sense them. Well, let them! The old vampire was well versed in tricks and traps, and smiled at the naiveté of the watchers. To think they could out-fox him! He hadn't become a General in Vespasian's army by being slow, or survived the labrynth of court politics by being a fool.

Deliveries to the Raven were made right after dawn, so he merely crawled into the truck, and stowed away. He "convinced" the driver to take him to the warehouse of Mollin Distributing, and there debarked. Inside the cavernous building, he made his way to a back office. He sniffed the air, catching the tell-tale whiff of tobacco smoke. She was already there.


"Janette, mon cher," replied the elegant vampire. "I am so glad that you could come on such short notice."

"It is the Enforcers, is it not?" asked Janette du Charme.

"Yes. How did you know?"

"One hears rumors in the Community, Lucien. Even in Hong Kong. It is Nicholas, is it not?"

"Yes," he replied, and outlined the whys and the wherefores.

"Very well," she replied, exhaling the smoke from her Turkish cigarette. LaCroix hated the things, but said nothing. "Nicholas brought me back from the point of death. I owe him, Lucien. So, how do I get to Alpha? I cannot fly the entire way."

"You won't have to, My Dear." He almost said "child", but remembered that she was no longer his child, but Nicholas', brought back from the edge to once more be a vampire, after having found a way to become mortal. LaCroix handed her a slip of paper.

"This is his ID number on Alpha, and the name he is using, Janette. They will expect me to call him. But perhaps, perhaps, not you."

"I see," she said, slipping the paper into her blouse. "Well, let us hope he can handle it, and the Enforcer is not already there, Lucien."

"Yes, let us hope," replied LaCroix. And, he added silently, pray. Which, much to his own great surprise, in his heart of hearts, he did.

"Janette?" said Nick, in Alpha's commsuite, voice thick with surprise. He had neither seen nor heard from her, the one who had led him down the path to darkness all those years ago, since she had been brought across again. She'd been fed, taken care of, then blown Toronto, but not before taking out the murderous pests that had killed her lover Robert, the man who had made her mortal. All that Nick had left of her was the DaVinci, and his memories.

Until now.

"Nicholas," she said, in French, and he could hear both the sadness and contempt in her voice. "It is good to see you, once more."

"And you, Janette. I had thought that, after...well, no matter. Where are you?"

"Hong Kong. The Ho Ti Club. You must come and see it. Listen, Nicholas. LaCroix has told me about the En..."

"LaCroix?" he replied angrily. "To hell with LaCroix! I want no..."

"Nicholas!! Listen! Listen to me!"

"Janette, he killed them. Schanke and Cohen. He was behind Vudu, and the plane bombing." He explained. Janette looked somber, absorbing it all. Did she believe him? Could she, she who had always been utterly loyal to her Maker?

"I...see, Nicholas. But that is not important, now. LaCroix sent me to warn you. An Enforcer has been dispatched to Alpha, to kill both you and Natalie."

"They're here, Janette," he replied, flatly. "We've both felt them."

"And you stay? But why, Nicholas? Why not flee, while there is the chance?"

"We are on the moon, Janette. It's not like hopping a carriage to the next town, and changing your name. We must..."

"Do whatever it takes, Nicholas! Get off of Alpha, now! The Enforcer is there."

"Then I must stay."

"What? Are you that much of a fool?" she asked aghast. "Oh yes, of course. The brave Crusader Knight will save the Alphans from the wicked Saracen. Same old Nicholas. And just what windmills will you tilt at on the moon, mon chevalier? Eh?"

"Janette, I cannot just leave, and let an angry vampire rampage through..."

"You can, but you won't. They are mortals! Who cares? Oh Nicholas!" she leaned towards the video pickup. "If not for yourself, then for Natalie, Mon Cher. She is a mere stripling. She cannot hope to..."

"No, Janette. I will not run. And do not forget, you were mortal, once. And not so long ago, or have you forgotten Robert? But, I will..." He was interrupted by a flashing light on the console. It was a Priority Message Override. "Override, Janette. I have to go. Later."

"Later, mon Nico..." Janette was cut off, as the unit switched over. Nick sighed, as he left the room, and at once felt it. They were here. Close.

But where?

"An Enforcer?" asked Nat. "Did she say who?"

"No, only the Inner Conclave know who the Enforcers actually are. But that has to be it, Nat. We've both felt them."

"But how could one of them get up here undetected, Nick? Dumb question. How did we get up here?"

"There are shuttles up almost every day, Nat. Equipment, parts, supplies. Rotation of personnel. A fake identity wouldn't have to hold for long. Just long enough." He sighed. "We can't leave, Nat. Not now. At least I can't."

"What?" she said, rising.

"I can't just leave a rampaging vampire on the loose up here, Nat. It's me he's here for, anyway." He turned to her. "You, Nat. You must return on the next shuttle back to Earth."

"No way, Nick. I am staying."


"NO! Nick, we can fight this bastard better, the two of us together. I've only sensed one, not two. That puts the odds in our favor, Nick. Besides, we've been locked together from the moment you up and pulled a Lazarus in my morgue."


"No. I'm staying. I am staying, and that's that." She turned back towards the window, and saw an Eagle putting down. Before she could draw another breath, her commlock bleeped.

"Not again," she groaned.

Again. This time it was Collins, gone berserk at the Area Two monitoring depot. Like the rest, he'd gone berserk, wildly seeking escape, even trying to smash through a window with his helmet! Stunned by Commander Koenig, the stricken pilot had been dragged from the room, and the door sealed, moments before the window blew out into vacuum. Shortly after Collins was brought back, Astronaut Frank Warren succumbed to his illness. A while later, Helena turned off Eric Sparkman's LSS, after the computer confirmed total brain death.

Alan Carter was angry. Frank and Eric were friends. He and Eric had flown together. Now he understood the depth of the lies he had been told, as they all had. Simmonds' lies.

In spite of that, Carter found that he liked the new CO of Moonbase Alpha. Despite the rush to get the Meta Probe off and running, Koenig seemed much less of a political animal than certain other Commanders. He seemed genuinely concerned with the welfare of his people.

A breath of fresh air, at last.

Nick prowled the corridors of Alpha, trying to look busy. All the while, his senses were taught, alert, looking for the Enforcer. He couldn't believe it, the Community actually taking the unthinkable step of sending someone here, to eliminate him. Someone must be desperate, to take so great a risk.

But they had. And that brought up the question of food. How was the Enforcer sustaining themselves, up here? No one had as yet turned up missing, or dead. Maybe they had brought food. But, sooner or later, they would have to feed.

"Doctor Barber," said a voice, and Nick stopped, turning. It was Victor Bergman.


"I was wondering if we might have a chat," said the old academic. "Do you have a few moments?"

"Ah..." said Nick, then suddenly felt them. Then, they were gone. "Sure, Victor," he finished, and followed Bergman into his lab.

"Still nuking your corneas?" Captain Reese asked Detective Vetter, as she stared into her computer, reviewing her current case.

"Always, Captain," she replied. "What's up?"

"Just heard from the Crown Prosecutor's Office."

"Your friend?"

"Uh huh. Guess what?"

"No Nick."

"Exactly. Nick was never part of any witness protection, Tracy."

"Was he sure? It's pretty secret stuff."

"Oh yeah. He owed me, big time. No Nick, period."

"So what's Nick doing up on Alpha? And under a phony name, to boot?"

"You got me, Tracy. I don't have a clue."

"Oh my God," said Nat, as she began Frank Warren's autopsy. "It's all gone."

"Your grandfather?" said Victor Bergman, to Nick. "No," he smiled. "I don't think so. It took me long enough, but I remember you now. Nicholas Forester."

"Victor, I..."

"Resemblances across generations do not extend to exact arrangement of teeth, or patterns in the irises, Nicholas."

"You don't understand, Victor. I..."

"No, Nick," said Victor. "Though I don't begin to understand how you can be as young now as you were back in '61. Or, what you are doing here, on Alpha. But, you are the man I talked to, Professor Forrester. Or whatever your name is."

"I..." began Nick, then looked into Bergman's eyes. He pushed. "You don't remember me, Professor," he intoned. "We never had this conversation, and you do not..."

"But I do," said Bergman, snapping out of it. He looked at Nick. "I remember you quite well, now. You're immortal, aren't you?"


"Oh don't worry, Nick. I have no desire to expose anyone's secrets."

"Then why did you bring me here?"

"Call it the curiosity of an old man. I don't begin to understand it, Nick, but I can't deny the evidence. Just how old are you, anyway?"

"Victor," came Koenig's voice, and Bergman looked up to the commpost. The Commander was in Main Mission.


"I think we've found a connection. A correlation."

"Right. I'll be with you." Victor headed for the door, then turned back. "Don't worry, I meant it. You're safe, Nick. I shan't breathe a word." After he left, Nick sat, mulling. This was getting way too complicated. Too many here had figured it out, or nearly so. Very bad, for your average vampire.

"Nick," said Nat, over his commlock. "Please come to Medical."


"Yeah. All of Frank Warren's blood is gone," said Nat. "The Enforcer."

"It has to be. But how did he get in?"

"Air vent, maybe. But why take the blood from a dead man? God, that's a no-brainer. They aren't ready to move, yet."

"And killing someone would tip their hand, too soon."

"Not to mention..." She stopped as Helena entered, muttering angrily to herself. She looked up. "Oh, Nat. Autopsy results? As if I needed any more."

"Same as before," said Nat, pulling a sheet over the late Mr. Warren. "I haven't started on Eric's, yet." She watched Helena peruse the report. "What is it?"

"Hhmm? Oh, Commander Koenig. He's flying out to Area One."

"What for?" asked Nick.

"Oh that's right. You haven't heard. Something weird is going on out there."

"Weird? Like what?" asked Natalie.

"The heat inside the waste storage vessels is rising, rapidly. But, we can't detect any radiation at all. Koenig is flying out there to check on it."

Waste storage! Thought Nick. What if...

"Can we see?" he asked her. Helena seemed a little surprised by the request.

"Uh, the cameras at Area One burned out. We lost our video feed." She went to the commpost, and called up the replay from the computer. Both vampires watched as Area One began to destroy itself.

Mon Dieu!, thought Nicholas. My dream! It's happening! It's coming true! The cones of soil upon which were set the containment spheres were glowing, the lunar dust beginning to slag, little rivulets running down the slopes. The spheres were smoking, the metal beginning to vaporize, as bolts of bright energy arced between them. Then, the video was gone.

"My God, Helena," said Nat. "What's causing it?" She looked over to Nick.

"They don't know," replied Helena. "So Koenig flies right into it. Brilliant cowboy maneuver." She snorted in disgust.

Nick left Medical, heading for Main Mission, unaware that Helena and Nat were behind him. This was it. Had to be. Nuclear waste, and an apparent meltdown at a disposal site. Once there, he was riveted to the main screen. Though Area One video was out, they were getting feed both from Koenig's Eagle, and the crash unit Helena had dispatched to follow him at a safe distance.

Area One was a mess. Metal vapor was subliming into space as the heat climbed ever higher, bolts of visible energy arcing wildly about. And, it seemed, Alpha's new Commander was in danger.

"I'm in trouble," he radioed, as his ship began to buck. "Are you still getting data?"

"The magnetic field's expanding," Nick heard Victor say, to Paul Morrow. "We can't measure it. Get him away from there, quickly."

"Hang on, Commander, we're going to try and blast you out of there," said Morrow. But it did no good. "Switch to onboard backup systems, Commander," Morrow went on, with some heat, "we're losing you." As before, it was useless. Koenig's Eagle was going down, and barely missed the hilltops surrounding the dump as it careened towards the surface.

"Backups failing. All systems out," Nick heard Koenig say, before being swallowed up by this déjà vu. He watched Koenig's Eagle belly in to the ground, then...

Then it went. No sooner was Koenig down, then one of the containment vessels burst open, followed by another. Within seconds, the entire dump was erupting in an orgy of light and energy, spewing out its radioactive guts.

Chapter Fourteen

"We're looking for answers, Commander," said Helena to Koenig, in Medical. "Not heroes."

"I didn't know you cared," Koenig shot back, and left the room. For a moment, Helena stood there, stung by his retort. And, she realized, her own feelings. Care? Koenig? She hardly...Yes, he did remind her somewhat of Lee, but there was no way...

Growling, she quickly retreated to the inner area, the word "cowboy" coming to Nat's ears. She was just finishing up Eric Sparkman's post-mortem, and turned to regard her chief.

"Excuse me?" she asked, as Helena came over to look at the corpse.

"I'm resigning," was the CMO's terse reply.

"What?" asked Nat, surprised. "You're kid..."

"Once this is cleared up, Nat, I'm going home. I cannot practice medicine in this choking political atmosphere. First, Gorski played sycophant to the great god Simmonds, now we have Commander John Wayne. I've done with it, Nat. I'm out of here, once this is over." She took the report from Nat, and began to peruse it. "Nat, where's the blood gasses and tox screen?"

"Uh, well..."

"What happened to the bl...Oh no!"

"No. No, Helena," said Nat, quickly. "I swear to you that neither Nick nor myself touched it, Helena. It just was not there."

"That's impossible. I pronounced him dead, Natalie. He was full."

"No, Helena." Nat took a deep breath. "Helena, there's something I have to tell you. About the...Enforcers."

Nick didn't go up to the Meta Probe ship, next day. No one did. Commander Koenig had put the entire project on hold, while they all bent their backs to the problem to hand. And it was, now, a far bigger problem than any of them had thought.

In analyzing the wreckage of the Area One monitoring depot, Professor Bergman had discovered, he hoped, the root cause of the whole mess. The stored waste was, over time, beginning to generate its own highly intense, though erratic, magnetic field. A field that had grown in unpredictable fits and starts, till all hell had at last broken loose. No one had predicted this effect, but now it seemed they had their culprit. Each and every man that had gone down had flown over Area One, and frequently. Constant and repeated exposure to this energy now appeared to be the cause of the affliction. Not a virus. Not a bacterium. Magnetism.

And now, Area Two...

While Koenig and Bergman prepared a remote-controlled Eagle to monitor Area Two, Helena researched all the medical literature on magnetic energy. She found that there was precious little regarding its effects upon the brain and nervous system. There were bits from the archives of the old Soviet Union, but those were experiments on prisoners in the Gulag, and were incomplete anyway. Basically, this was the medical frontier, and Helena Russell was in virgin territory.

"It has to be, Nat," said Nick, in their lab. "In my dream, I saw it. I saw the waste dump blow up. Now it's happened."

"I must admit Nick, I don't have an answer for that one," said Nat. "Happen it did. And now, have you heard?"


"Helena told me. Koenig's issued a Code Alpha One."

"Alpha One? Isn't that the emergency disaster code?" asked Nick.

"It is. Alpha's version of Doomsday. As if we didn't have enough trouble, ourselves," she sighed. "Of course, if we get an evac order, it could work in our favor, Nick. But, until then, with the Enforcer loose on Alpha..."

"Yeah. We can't leave."

Moving about this place was ridiculously easy, thought the Enforcer. Security was fairly loose, and so far no resisters had been encountered. Of course, slipping into Medical had been a bit dicey. She'd nearly been caught, there. No sign of either target, but the corpse in residence hadn't seemed to mind. She didn't much care for the blood of the dead, but it nourished, and that was the important thing.

She had not yet been able to catch either target alone, so she continued to bide her time, learning the routine of Alpha from afar. The plans she had been given of the base had proven completely accurate, making moving about by means of the air ducting system a snap.

Now she was hungry again, and made her way back to Medical. Neither target was near as she dropped into the room, but she could smell the vegetating pilot, Collins, the latest victim of the disease, in the next ward. Making certain she was clear, she took him, letting his blood flow into her. As with every victim, she could sense the thoughts of her prey, the "blood knowledge". While the higher cognitive functions were gone, Collins' memory centers were intact, and she could "taste" the events of his life.

And his fear. The utter terror and confusion that had overcome him as the disease erupted. For a moment she pulled away, so unsettling was it, and shook her head to try and clear the images.

What utter hell this man must have gone through, as his mind was stripped away from him, and he began to spiral downwards into oblivion! For a moment, she actually felt a spark of pity for the fellow. He...

No! No pity! She returned to her feeding, finishing Collins off quickly. She lingered a moment or two, savoring the last taste of his warm blood, and...

She turned suddenly at a noise. Someone was coming, and she scurried back up into the vent, and spared a quick look. It was her! Natalie. So close. So close, she could almost reach out and...No, there was another with her. The base's chief physician, Doctor Russell. They had found Collins.

The Human... cattle! Upset over the death of one dead already. No wonder the Community had decided to eliminate Natalie. She poisoned the very essence of what it was to be a vampire. Putrefied it, with her puerile, sickening pity for mortals. It was enough to make one wretch in pure disgust. How had LaCroix stood...

Nat raised her head. Ah, yes! The stripling sensed her. So much the better. It always added a certain spice to the chase, an extra thrill to the kill, that. With a silent chuckle, she scurried away.

"Nat, I know you didn't do it," said Helena. "But Nick..."

"No. Nick would never take advantage like this, Helena. Remember, we want to become Human, again. This is the Enforcer's work."

"We have to call Security," said Helena, reaching for her commlock. Nat put out a hand.

"No! We can't. Tony was about to arrest us as it was, Helena. He'll never believe it wasn't us, even if he does eventually accept vampires."

"And we can hardly go to Commander Koenig," nodded Helena, letting go of her commlock. "As if he didn't have enough to worry about, with all that going on." She looked at Collins' body. "Come on, Natalie. Let's call it."

"Right. I'll get the post-mortem set up."

Nick was surprised, as was nearly everyone else, to learn that Commissioner Simmonds himself was coming to Alpha. Rarely had the unctuous politico ever stepped out of his comfy world. He had, as a matter of fact, never even been into space, before! But now he was here.

Koenig had issued a Code Alpha One emergency transmission, a signal of near or total disaster. It had the desired effect. So hungry was he to get his Meta Probe launched, Simmonds had come to Alpha to see for himself, and if needs be, take over.

For Koenig, it was a small victory. Furious at being lied to by the bipedal snake, he'd forced Simmonds to move, having sized his opponent up superbly. Now, he had Simmonds here, under his control. He'd damn well make the ophidious little SOB see first hand what the real situation was.

Nick was not invited to the powwow in the Commander's office with Simmonds, over Area Two. Neither was Nat. She was in Medical, helping the new people settle in. Yes. New people. Implying that Helena was out of her depth, Simmonds had intended to send up an Eagle full of "top medical people", to probe into the problem. Koenig had emphatically said no. Alpha didn't need any more crew, certainly not any of Simmonds' spies, checking up on his every move. Simmonds hadn't liked it, especially when Koenig pressured him to delay any more shipments of atomic waste up to the moon. But now...

Now, now that he'd been forced up here by Koenig's Alpha One code, he'd thrown a nasty barb of his own in return. He'd brought the medical people as intended. They were to be given full cooperation, et al, et cetera, ad nauseum. While Nat had nothing personal against this Dr. Ed Spencer, or any of the new staff, she saw it as a nasty slap at her chief, and a damning verdict on her abilities. Incompetent? Helena had bags under her eyes big enough to hold her wardrobe, from lack of sleep. She'd driven herself harder than anyone else, to try and drag into the light the cause of this malady. What the hell did that politician know about medical competence? She'd just love to get Simmonds in here, she decided. Procto exam, anyone?

And, speaking of the devil, what was going on in that meeting?

Nick was at the door, listening, his vampiric hearing giving him a ringside seat at the meeting. The Commissioner and Koenig's people were discussing the latest news from...

Area Two! It was showing the same instability as Area One had. The heat was beginning to rise there, as well, just as it had in Area One. Was it going to explode, as well?

Schanke had taken him to Area Two. There was no doubt of it. And, therefore, there was no doubt that Area Two would soon share the violent fate of its predecessor. And, containing vastly more waste than Area One had...

"Oh my God," whispered Nick. "We're all..."

Then he felt it. Felt the Enforcer! Close by. He turned, and headed in the direction of the sensation.

"Nick," said Alan Carter, in the corridor near Travel Tube 3.


"Have you heard?"

"About Commissioner Simmonds? Yes. Is he really as terrible as everyone says?"

"Yeah. But I've got to tell you, Nick. I owe you."

"Tell me what?" asked Nick.

"Area Two. The atomic waste dump. It's going nuts."

"How?" Nick felt fear begin to rise, both in Carter and himself. The waste disposal...

"The heat's rising, just like it did at Area One, only faster and there's no end in sight. That, and the magnetic field surges have already wrecked one Eagle."

"What...what's to be done?"

"We're going to gut it, Nick. Disperse the waste canisters over a wider area. Hopefully, it won't go supercritical on us."

"And if it does?"

"Then God help us," said the Australian. "That place has over 140 times the junk that was in Area One." He put a hand on Nick's shoulder. "Nick, I'm only alive because of you. I don't care if you are what you are. You're a good man."

"Alan, I...I don't...can we get off Alpha? Nat's not safe."

"The last supply shuttle lifted off for return to Earth about ten minutes ago, Nick. Right now I'm on my way to the hangar to help with outfitting the Eagles for the dispersal mission. I'm sorry."

"Then we stay."

"You're kidding. Look, Simmonds' Eagle is still here. You could..."

"No. Look, Alan, there's an Enforcer on the base somewhere."

"An... you mean one of them?"

"Yes. Gunning for Natalie and I. I can't just leave you all to the mercy of an enraged vampire."

"But Nick, if..."

"No. I can't leave, and Nat can't even fly. It was a fool's idea, Alan. Besides," Nick took a deep breath, "I was a soldier, once. A Knight of the Cross. I have faced death in battle, before. This time, it's stealth and cunning, rather than sword and lance, but it is battle all the same, Captain." He drew himself up to his full height, and Carter could sense something of the power of this man. "Besides, I am Nicholas François Henri Jean-Pierre Louis de Brabant, Lord of Brabant. Knight. We do not run!"

This guy must have been something, thought Alan, even as a mortal. Knight. Crusader. Fearless warrior. But now! He actually stepped back a step, so palpable was the aura of auctoritas, the sheer raw power of this man.

"Gotcha, Nick," said Alan, and smiled. If he ever had to fight a battle, he decided he could hope for no better than Nicholas de Brabant at his side. "Well, good..."

"Captain Carter," came a voice over his commlock. "This is Pat Osgood. Please report to hangar bay. Captain Carter to hangar bay."

"On my way," said Carter. "Gotta go Nick. Good luck."

"Go with God," Nick replied.

"And you," shot back the pilot, then turned and was gone.

Chapter Fifteen

Perhaps it was the presence of one of the dreaded Enforcers. Perhaps it was the sword of a nuclear Damocles hanging over their heads. Natalie wasn't sure. But after Collins' autopsy, she threw herself back into her experiments with a renewed vigor.

Helena divided her time between Main Mission and Medical. Somehow, despite the impending crisis, she felt more drawn to Natalie than ever. And while never a garrulous woman, she found herself opening up to Nat about her life, and her late husband, Lee, as she never had to anyone else.

An astronaut, Lee Russell had been lost several years before on a mission to Jupiter. Devastated, Helena had buried herself in her work. Always hoping, however illogically, that she might someday, somehow, hear something, she had applied for, and gotten, the Alpha post. Illogical yes, but it made her feel somehow closer to Lee, wherever he was. And of course, it gave Moonbase Alpha one hell of a CMO at the same time.

"Nat", she said, after logging the last data on Collins. "I want to help."

"What with?"

"This," she replied, motioning towards Nat's litroveutrine experiments. "I want to help you and Nick to find the cure."


"No, I mean it. After all, I became a doctor in order to cure disease. From all I've seen, vampirism is just that. It is a disease, Nat. A sickness, like any other. I want to help."

"It could...hell, it is dangerous, Helena."

"It can't be any more dangerous that sitting six inches from vacuum, on this orbiting bomb, Natalie." She waited a beat. "Please."

"Okay. You're in."

Alan watched as the first of the retrofitted Eagles took off, headed for Area Two. Equipped with a winch, 500 feet of cable, and shielded electronics, they would lift the waste canisters out of their vaults, then dump them in designated areas. He hoped the modifications to the avionics would be sufficient to protect both ships and men.

But that was not all that was gnawing at him. This Enforcer, if Nick was right, was here. That meant that both Barbers were in danger. His friends were in danger, he had to help.

But how?

"Nat, I want you to go," said Nick, as she bent over her experiment.

"What?" she cried, lifting her eyes from the electron microscope.

"Alan told me. Simmonds' Eagle is still here. I know you can't fly," he said, raising a hand, "but I had an idea. We could hypnotize a pilot, and he could take..."

"Not on your eternal life, Nick. The Enforcer is here, after both of us. NO!" She held up a hand. "We're married, and that means we're together in this. In for a penny, Nick, in for a pound."

Nick opened his mouth to protest, but forbore. Nat's mind was made up, and all the argument he could muster would do no good. She would stay, and that was the way the cookie was going to crumble.

What did he expect from Natalie, anyway?

The first of the retrofitted Eagles arrived at Area Two, and dropped her cable. Latching on to the hatch cover, it lifted it off, and began removing the first canister of waste.

And, deep down below, the temperature continued to climb. Degree after inexorable degree.

The Enforcer was growing hungry again. It hadn't been all that long since she'd fed, of course, but the excitement of the chase was definitely whetting her appetite.

This would be it, she decided. Her greatest hunt, brought to its final, natural conclusion. She would finally settle her long-standing difference of opinion with Nicholas de Brabant.

And she would be free of the Eternal Curse!

Turmoil roiling inside, unable to flee or to fight, Nick did what he often did, whenever he needed to think. He made music. In Alpha's theater sat a grand piano, a Steinway in fact. While it lacked his candelabra, it would more than do, he decided. He looked around, and sighed, suddenly missing his collection of antiques. He sat, and studied the keyboard. Lord, he missed them, his friends of the past. Schanke, Cohen, a hundred others. He shook his head, and letting his mind go, he began to play.

With everyone running around like headless chickens, Tony Verdeschi had little to do at the moment. So, his mind returned to the problem he found most vexing. Dr. Nicholas Barber.

Because Nick's hypnosis of him had been interrupted, he still remembered a good deal. Nick was most definitely not who he presented himself to be. As such he presented, as far as Verdeschi was concerned, a threat to the security of Moonbase Alpha. And, being a cop, he couldn't help but wonder whether if Nick were involved somehow in all this current mess.

But whatever, he was in violation of the law, and Verdeschi would act accordingly. He'd reel Nick and Nat in, and let Commander Koenig know later, after the waste dump crisis was over. No sense bothering him about it now, with all that going on in Main Mission.

Carter headed back to Main Mission, after overseeing the last of the refits. Each of Alpha's 30 operational Eagles had been modified, but only half a dozen could work in the space over the vaults at a time. The rest were being held in reserve, just in case.

God, what a mess! Thought Carter. Chalk up another one for physics. A new and deadly side-affect of radioactive materials, and no one had seen it coming. How jolly. And to think...

He stopped, suddenly feeling apprehensive. Not that he wasn't already, given the current mess, but this was something...different. This felt like cold, clammy death, reaching out for him.

And it felt familiar, too. As if he'd encountered it, somewhere. Once before. As if...As if what? He couldn't be quite sure. He...

What in the...

It was a sight new to Alpha. Two members of Helena's medical staff, being led under arrest to Security. In shackles. Tony Verdeschi and Deputy Sanchez were hauling Nick and Nat in.

"Tony," said Nat.

"Save it," said Tony. "You can talk to Commander Koenig, after this business is over with. For now you are under arrest, and I'm putting you in the brig."

"Tony, you don't understa..."

"Tony?" said a voice, and Verdeschi looked up to see Alan Carter, dead ahead. "Oh shit," said Alan, barely audible, then louder: "Tony, what are you doing? Nick?"

"He's under arrest, Alan. They both are."

"But," spluttered Alan, "Tony. Tony, you..."

"Don't interfere, Alan," Verdeschi shot back. "This is a security matter."

"Like hell, Tony," said Alan, following them to Security. "Look, Natalie saved your life, and this is how you show gratitude?" Carter looked at both vampires. "Come on Tony. What the hell did they do?"

Close by, the Enforcer listened to the conversation, fully aware that she could be sensed by both Nick and Nat. She smiled. Perfect! The targets were being taken to the Security section, and there was an air vent leading right into Verdeschi's offices. Once inside, she would strike!

Over Area Two, Eagle 8 began to experience intermittent failure in its navigational systems. They reported it to Paul Morrow in Main Mission, and were ordered back to Alpha. Eagle 17 took off to replace them.

Down at the bottom of one of the storage vaults, one of the canisters began to swell and warp, from the inexorably climbing heat.

"Alan," said Tony, as Carter followed them into Security, "please. The Commander will pass on this, one way or the other, as soon as he's through with the waste dump problem. How's it going, by the way?"

"Every ship's committed. But look, Tony, Nick and Nat..."

"Are under arrest. Commander Koenig will decide whether we go ahead with charges, but..." Tony looked at Sanchez, and motioned him into the next room. He sat, and began to fill out a form. "Until then, they warm a cell in the brig."

"Tony, there are some things you don't understand, here. I..."

"They violated the law," said Verdeschi, not looking up from his paperwork. "That I understand." His head snapped up, pointing a pen at him, "And if you don't want to become an accessory Alan, then you had better lay off, and get out. Now."

Deep within the oldest vault of Area Two, one of the canisters began to split, then burst, spilling its deadly contents. The radioactive sludge at once began eating away at its neighbors.

"Tony, how in God's Name can you say that? We've been friends, and you accuse me of complicity in a crime?"

"Alan," said Nick, "don't involve yourself any further on our accounts. We'll get all this settled, but..." He stopped, as he felt the Enforcer. Close! He looked over at Nat. Yeah. She felt it too.

"You bet we'll settle..." began Tony, then stopped, as they all heard a thud, and a muffled scream from the next room. "What the hell's that?" He pulled his commlock. "Sanchez? Sanchez, what..." He went to the door, and keyed it open...

And stepped back, recoiling in shock and horror. Sanchez was held firmly in the grasp of a woman, her hair spilling over her face, as she brutally pulled the life from him. Nick and Nat felt the thoughtless call of their nature, as the smell of blood slammed into their brainstems. But it was short-lived in him. Sanchez ceased to struggle and with a final growl from the attacker, was dropped to the floor. She looked up at the rest, blood still trickling from her lips, dripping onto her uniform blouse. Her face was like a leer from hell.

Tony was frozen to the floor, it seemed. Never had he seen or imagined anything like this. He barely heard Nick's sharp intake of breath as he caught sight of the Enforcer's face, gaze riveted on the gory image.

"Alexandra," said Nick.

Behind him, another voice croaked out a single word, a voice choked in fury and rage.

"YOU!" shouted Alan Carter.

Another canister within Area One gave way, and the radioactive materials met and melded. Slowly, as the atoms began to fission, a chain reaction began its deadly dance.

At last shaking off his stupor, Tony reached for his weapon. But, the vampire was faster, and with a quick backhand sent him flying over his desk, to crash on the floor.

"Nicholas," said Alexandra, now drawn up to her full height. She was still as beautiful as the night he and LaCroix had first met her in that ale-house, so long ago. Tall, face and skin flawless, body superbly full and ripe. And eyes filled with an undying hate. "How nice to see you again."

"I obviously missed your heart," said Nick.

"Obviously," said Alexandra, with a mirthless smile, recalling the night Nick had tried to destroy her. "As usual, you blundered, Nicholas. As you blundered so many things."

" know this...this..." choked Alan, red-faced, neck bulging.

"Yes, I'm sorry to say," sighed Nick.

"She's the one! The one who killed my friends! Who left my sister..."

"Ah," said Alexandra, after giving Alan a moment's study. "If it isn't the lucky boy from the Outback. I told you we'd meet again, boy. Remember?"

"You murdering bitch!" screamed Alan, and reached for a weapon. His hand had barely closed around it, when he felt Alexandra beginning to tear into his mind. But, he was a resister, and fighting off her hypnotism, he fired.

Then all hell broke loose.

"Yes, Eagle 9?" said Paul Morrow, in Main Mission.

"Our navigation system's going, Paul," said the pilot.

"Understood. Return to base, Eagle 9. Eagle 21, prepare to lift off."

The shot, on a stun setting, barely seemed to faze Alexandra. She leapt with a vampire's speed into both Nick and Nat, giving Nick barely enough time to shout "Go" to Carter before Alexandra plowed into them. In the confined space of Verdeschi's office there was little room to maneuver, and everyone ended up in a heap on the floor.

Both Nick and Nat ripped apart their shackles, and struggled to get to their feet. Nat kicked Alexandra hard in the hip joint, and the other vampire skidded into a wall. At once Nat was up, Nick helping Alan.

"Not bad, stripling," said the one-time barmaid to Natalie. "Not bad at all. But you'll have to live for centuries, to get the better of me. Of course you won't be getting the chance, now."

"Why, Alexandra?" cried Nick. "Why this? Why try and kill her? I know you hate me, but..."

"The Community decided it was time to put an end to you, Nicholas. I asked for this one. I wanted no one else to have this chance, but me!"


"YOU LOVE HER!!! I want you to suffer, you bastard, knowing that it was I who killed the one you love!!" Alexandra's eyes were pulsing red, now, her fangs white and terrible. Her face was twisted in psychotic rage.

"You'll never make it off Alpha alive," said Carter, struggling to his feet, painfully aware that his weapon had flown off God knew where.

"I never intended to," replied Alexandra, giving the Australian only a moment's glance. "That's right, Nicholas. This is a suicide mission. I shall be free of this curse you brought upon me. But I'll have the satisfaction of seeing you dead, first."

"And the Community?" asked Nat, though she realized it was a moot point. If only they could keep her talking...

"To hell with the Community," shouted the other. I don't give a damn about them. All I care about is you!"

"Get out, Alan," said Nat. "Go! Get..."

Nat got no further, for Alexandra was at once upon her, fangs bared, hands around her neck. Nat was able to reach her face, and sink her nails into the other woman's flesh, ripping down, before she both felt and heard her own neck crack. With a convulsive spasm, she felt the darkness close in.

With a bestial roar, Nick exerted all his undead might, and tore Alexandra away, before she could finish ripping Natalie's head off. He threw her into the wall, the grabbed her. With enormous strength, given her by the fresh blood within her, she gave him an uppercut, fracturing his jaw, and throwing him off.

"You're stronger, this time," she panted, glaring at him. She saw Alan try to go for help. Damn! The doors were shut tight.

"Don't bother, boy, I overrode the lock. And you can forget about calling anyone, too." She slammed a fist into the commpost, sending it up in a shower of sparks and smoke. "We're all alone."

"So be it," said Nick, feeling his jaw knit. "and yes, I am stronger! A lot..." He was on her, again. The two undead creatures thrashed about the room, knocking over Tony's desktop monitor, breaking a chair, and scattering everything about. Alan tried to help his friend, but got a kick for his trouble, and landed on top of Tony. He shook his head, and found himself staring into Nat's glazed, unseeing eyes.

At Area Two, another vault was opened, and another canister was lifted out. But, deep within, the deadly dance continued on.

Alan could hear Alexandra's arm break, as Nick took hold, and twisted. She screamed, and Nick ripped harder, till she caught him with her heel, and he was forced to let her go.

"You cannot win, Nicholas," she panted. Even as she spoke, he could hear the bones and tendons in her arm begin to heal. He spared a quick look at Carter. "He cannot help you, Nicholas. I shall take him, too, and then I will be done."

"You are mad, Alexandra. Insane?"

"MAD??? Whose madness was it to make me? Who was it put me under this curse??" she screamed.

"It was LaCroix, Alexandra, who did this. It was he who brought you across. Not..."

"Do not try and shift the blame, Nicholas. You took my blood. You shall die for it!" Coiling like a cat, she readied, then attacked again, so fast Alan could scarcely follow.

But he was ready.

Gripping the piece of shattered chair, he leapt up over the desk, arms raised high. Nick had Alexandra in a bear hug, and he could hear a rib crack. For her part, she had him by the throat, his face turning purple. Throwing caution to the winds, he swung down...

Eagle 21 cleared the base, on her way to Area Two. Deep inside the vaults, another vessel gave way, more atoms starting to fission.

Alexandra shrieked in pain, as the plastic shard ripped into her back. She arched, letting go of Nicholas, and whirled so fast the impromptu weapon was torn from her body.

"Bastard!" she screamed, turning her still-mangled face to him. "I'll rip your..."

"In your dreams, bitch!" hissed Alan, and thrust the bloody piece into her chest. This time, the point hit home, piercing her heart. Mouth spitting blood, she reached out to him, face contorted in fury and pain, but there was no strength in it.

At the Raven, LaCroix awoke as the sun dropped close to the horizon. He rose, and as was his custom, went into the silent bar, taking his first sustenance alone.

How he missed them, he decided. His children. Seeing Janette here, behind the bar, Nicholas traipsing in to try and dig up some clue or other about his petty puzzles of the police courts. It was a lonely place, without them. He even found himself missing Vachon, Urs, and, Jupiter help him, Screed!

Jupiter. Father of the gods, in the religion of his boyhood. He could still remember his own father, every morning, taking his mother, his older brother, his sister and he, to the lararium, the shrine of the household gods, in the atrium of their home to perform the daily ritual.

He'd believed, then, as a small boy of six. Believed fervently that the lares and penates were real, that they truly watched over him and his entire family. How life had left him empty, he mused. How he had come to believe in nothing.

Or did he? He'd always denied it, but as he pondered the silence of his club, he found himself thinking more and more about Jupiter. Olympian Jove, or some god. Maybe Nicholas was right, about there being something else. About there being something more. Maybe...

"Nicholas," he whispered to the empty room. As he did so, he felt a twinge of something. He was in danger! His Nicholas was in mortal peril, at this very instant! The Enforcer must have reached him.

"O Jupiter," he said, surprisingly loudly. "Oh...God! Give him victory. Do not let..." He choked off the sentence, downing the rest of his sustenance, and donned his coat. As was also his custom, he exited the club for his after-sundown walk. There was still a wash of light on the horizon, and he stopped to look at the thin crescent of the moon. Silently, almost against his will, he sent up another prayer, then his brows furrowed. What...

His eyes went wide in shock.

"What the hell...?"

Alan shoved with all his strength, and Alexandra gurgled in agony. She grabbed at him, but he easily eluded her rapidly ebbing strength. She bared her fangs, glaring at him with hate, then her knees buckled. She tried to breathe, but could not. Looking weakly back up at him, she croaked out a faint-


And then toppled over, her eyes going back to normal color, then glassy.

"It's done," said Nick, straightening up.

"Yeah," breathed Carter. "Nick, I..."

"Alan, you've got to get out of here," said Nick, looking up from Alexandra's corpse. peaceful she looked, now. Peace.


"I'll take care of things, Alan. You can't be here, when Tony comes to."

"But Nick..." he began, pointing to Nat.

"She'll regenerate, soon. Go!" Nick kicked the lock on the door, and it opened, slowly. "Hurry, Alan. Before you're seen."

Carter stopped off at the can, right before entering Main Mission. He ran his fingers through his hair, and tried to compose himself. Compose? Hell, he'd just killed a...a vampire! How do you get composed after that? He checked himself over in the mirror. He had surprisingly little blood on himself. A stain on his shirt, but he hitched up his belt to cover that. He gave hands and face a quick look, and headed on in. God, don't let anyone notice!

Chapter Sixteen

In the Belconnen Psychiatric Hospital in Canberra, Australia, Sally Carter suddenly came to herself. Like a physical weight, or a thick choking cloud, the miasma that had left her a near-vegetable for years began to lift. Gradually, her mind began to clear and to function once more, as she became aware of her surroundings for the first time in many years.

"Alan?" she called out, then began to remember, that horrible night rushing back like a flood. The cold breath, the fangs, the red eyes! And the laugh. That laugh. "Alan. Alan??" She leapt out of bed, as a nurse came into her room, bringing her parents. "Where's Alan?" she demanded.

Inside the vaults, yet another of the waste canisters gave way from the heat. The hellish ooze flowed out, piling danger upon danger, as both the magnetic fluctuations, and the heat, kept on rising.

"We've had navigational failures on two of the ships," Paul Morrow told the Commander. "They've returned to base for replacements."

Alan took a place next to Professor Bergman, and studied a readout. The magnetic field around Area Two was hip-hopping all over the dial. He spared a look across Main Mission. Commissioner Simmonds was watching the whole operation, eyes darting, predator-like, about the room. He looked pissed, Alan decided. No doubt Koenig forcing him up here was part of the reason. Doubtless, his head would roll, once this whole thing was over. The...

"Carter," he heard the Commander say, and looked up to see Koenig heading towards him. "Do you have an extra ship?"

"No sir, they're all committed." Koenig turned, and looked back towards the unctuous Simmonds.

"Well, take the Commissioner's Eagle into orbit, and report on how things look from up there."

"Right," he replied, and hurriedly left to carry out Koenig's orders. That went well, he thought. No one had noticed anything amiss. Of course, who would, with all that going on?

He ran for the launch pad, fueled by his pent-up anxiety. His friends, Nick and Nat, were still in the Security Office, cooped up with an unconscious Tony, and a dead vampire. What if they were discovered before they could clean up? What if...

He tried to shove such thoughts aside, telling himself not to buy trouble, as he crawled into his spacesuit. He fairly ran up into the cockpit, and blazed through the pre-flight.

Nick drug the dead Enforcer into the inner office, and closed the door. He knelt beside Nat, still not fully regenerated. He had drained Alexandra of her blood, and could feel his own body rapidly restoring itself. Cutting his wrist, he pressed the wound to Nat's lips, letting some of his blood flow into her.

She stirred, eyelids fluttering as his blood found purchase. He could feel her life-force rising back up. "Don't, Nat," he whispered. "Don't go through the door. Come back, Nat. Come back to me." She groaned, and he felt the flutter of her heart.

With Natalie safe for the moment, he went to the Security monitor station. It was in sad shape after Alexandra's tampering and the fight, and he did his best to unlock it. He got a fingerful of sparks for his trouble, till at last one screen returned to life, giving him a view of Main Mission.

It was chaos in there. Koenig had his hands full, battling both the waste dump, and Commissioner Simmonds. He tried to key for sound, and got Alan's voice over the speaker.

"...ory computed and programmed. I will be in orbit in four minutes."

At least Alan was safe, he thought. For now, anyway. He heard a groan and turned. Tony was coming to. Merde!

"Santa Maria!" rasped Tony, shaking his head and trying to sit up. He saw Nick, and slowly focused on him. "Nick? Nick, what..."

"Tony, you've been hurt. Don't get up, until..."

"Hold it, Barber," said Tony, who'd landed on top of his weapon. He now leveled it at Nicholas. "I said hold it," repeated Verdeschi. He put a hand to forehead, then mouth. He was bleeding. "Where is she?" he asked. Then, hearing Nat groan: "What happened to her?" He looked about for his commlock, but didn't see it.

"She's just unconscious, Tony. She'll..."

"Where's Alan and that...Oh my God!" He was on his feet now, calling. "Sanchez? Sanchez!" He made for the inner office, and swore loudly. "What the hell's going on here?"

With a loud intake of breath, Natalie sat up, and opened her eyes. "Cazzo!" Verdeschi swore again, momentarily shocked back into his mother tongue, as he beheld the eyes and fangs. Without thinking, he crossed himself. Nick inhaled sharply, turning away, but Nat only smelled blood from Tony, its scent fueling her hunger.

"Stay back, Natalie! Stay back!" Verdeschi cried out, both terrified and appalled by what he was seeing. He leveled the laser directly at her.

"Nat! Nat!" Nick cried, and took hold of her. He gave her his wrist once more, and she bit deeply, moaning almost erotically as she drew the nectar from him. He could feel its power as it coursed out of him and into her, filling and suffusing every particle of her being.

"Madre de Dio!" swore Tony. "Che diavoli siete voi? " he squeaked, but Nick's eyes were on the one functioning monitor left in the room. In Main Mission, Koenig and Simmonds were nose to nose, Koenig apparently reading his superior the riot act about something. Then, cutting through it all, Nick heard a voice shouting.

"Commander, it's going up!" He saw Koenig turn from Simmonds, and run to one of the control stations, shouting - "Abort! Abort the mission!"

"Oh my God, Nick," said Nat, at last up for air. With their vampiric hearing, they could hear the shouts and cries of Eagle crews, as their ships began to break apart, struck by the wildly arcing bolts of energy, flailing from one waste vault to another.

"All ships return to base immediately!" ordered Paul Morrow. "Repeat, return to base immediately."

But it was too late. The impossible was happening. First one waste vault, then a second, erupted in violent blasts of light and energy, spewing their contents into vacuum, atoms fissioning in a dance rapidly spiraling out of control.

"Oh my God," breathed Nicholas. "He was right, Nat. Schanke was right."

In orbit, Alan had Area Two in the main viewport. There was a flash of light, then another one.


Each and every waste vault began to heave in all directions, as each and every canister evaporated in the exponentially rising heat. Within seconds, the perimeter of the dump was blown to dust, followed by the monitoring depot, less than a second later. Then after one more heartbeat, fissioning run wild, it went supercritical.

"Juppiter serva nos!" said LaCroix, as the tiny flicker of light on the limb of the moon swelled into a miniature sun. Even he was forced to shield his eyes, as the fireball grew brighter and brighter, at last casting his shadow back onto the wall of the Raven. For several seconds, the flare grew brighter still, seeming to become as large as the moon itself.

Alan shielded his eyes as well, as the titanic fireball bathed his cockpit with its angry radiance. So incredible, so impossible was this thing, that for several seconds, he simply could not think. Not of Alpha, not of his friends, his family on Earth, not even of the brave crews now reduced to plasma. His mind was utterly and completely numb. He could croak out but a single word.


Nick and Nat felt the first tell-tale vibration before anyone else, as the initial seismic waves rippled through the body of the moon. "Merde!" he cried, then felt the vibrations rise, becoming more violent. He stumbled, as the floor went out from under him. Losing his grip on Nat, he toppled into the console behind him. It erupted in violent sparks, high voltage coursing through his frame. He cried out in pain, then was brutally pitched forward, tumbling over Nat to crash into Tony.

"Get!" wheezed Tony, trying to shove him off, as one monitor screen popped, and the lights went down. Nick slid off Tony as the shaking continued, and tried to get to his feet. The emergency lights at last clicked on, then...

Nick was slammed to the floor by a powerful wave of force. Something invisible was pressing down on him, pinning him to the floor.

"N...Nick! He heard Nat rasp. "What's happening?"

"I...don't know...Nat." He tried to think, to keep his mind clear as the pressure built up on him. Then it suddenly came to him. The blast, the shaking, and now this. No. No! It could not possibly be. But it must be!

They were moving!

Chapter Seventeen

"Captain?" said Tracy Vetter, in her boss's office. She saw the flash of light through the window, and Reese turned. His eyes went wide, then he had to shield them, as the crescent moon was subsumed in light. Tracy rushed to the window. "Oh my God, Captain," she cried. "What's going on?"

"What the hell..." was all Reese could manage to say.

Lucien LaCroix literally could not believe his eyes. Even though his skin stung from this new luminance, he remained riveted to the spot, never taking his eyes off the moon. The fireball that had erupted from the limb of the moon had now swollen to bloated proportions, then sprouted a long tongue of flame. Then, slowly, almost imperceptibly at first, the moon began to move across the sky! Moment by moment, it picked up speed, till it appeared to be literally rolling across the vault of heaven.

"Nicholas," whispered LaCroix.

"What?" gasped Nat, as the emergency lights went out too, grabbing something and hauling herself to her knees.

"We're moving," said Tony, pinned like a squashed bug to the floor. He recognized G-forces when he felt them. "Dio mio! We're moving!"

"But how?" rasped Nicholas, who with his greater strength had made it to his knees as well. "How?"

Alan Carter watched in utter disbelief as the moon below him began to move. He couldn't fathom it. How?

Desperately, he tried to raise Alpha, steering his ship out of the path of the monstrous pillar of nuclear destruction. There was no answer. "Alpha can you read me? ALPHA!!?"

Then, at last, he heard a weak voice.

"Carter." It was raspy, as if in pain, but he clearly recognized Commander Koenig. At least he was okay, and something was still working down there.

"We've got tremendous G-forces," rasped Koenig. "We can...hardly...move."

"Oh, God," whispered Carter. "What do I..." Then, he saw the fiery tongue of energy begin slowly to dim, growing shorter and starting to disperse. Within a few heartbeats, it was less than half as bright or long, then began to fade entirely from view, leaving only a glowing, angry red-white crater in its wake, filled with boiling molten rock.

"Wait a minute," Koenig went on. "We're decelerating."

Nick felt the pressures on his body begin to ease, and he at last tried to stand. Nat was doing the same, as was Verdeschi. As he made it, the lights came back up.

"You alright?" asked Natalie. "Nick?"

"Yeah, I think so, Nat." He looked at Tony. What would Verdeschi do, now? Around them, Security was a mess. Wrecked controls, smashed monitors, the lot. For several seconds, no one said a word, as living and Undead stared at each other across the rubble.

"All sections report," came Morrow's voice over the speaker. Tony tried his desk, but the monitor was dead. He touched the IC.

"Security section," he announced. "We have audio contact. Video systems gone." He clicked off, and looked directly at the two vampires. "Who the hell are you?"

LaCroix watched the moon's fiery tail begin to fade, his face blank. How? How could such a thing be? He did not know, he did not care. All he knew was that Nicholas, his Nicholas, his son, was up there, on Alpha. Was he...had he...?

The old vampire plopped down onto the sidewalk in front of the Raven, one hand holding on the streetlamp, never taking his eyes off the retreating moon. His back to the wall, he felt the anguish, the pain, the despair! begin to rise up inside.

Nicholas was gone! Never again would he see him, never again would he hear that voice. NEVER! His mind was filled with that, and only that, as he watched his favorite child move ever further away into the night. Without him even being aware of it, he began to cry, the tears coming slowly at first, then bursting forth like a Russian Spring. He pounded on the sidewalk, cracking the concrete in his pathetic, impotent fury.

"Damn you!" he wailed, utterly miserable, oblivious to the people nearby, oblivious to the earthquake beginning to churn Lake Ontario. He threw back his head, and bellowed at the shrinking moon.


Alan opted to return to Alpha, rather than try for Earth. He was never certain why, to the end of his days, this was so. But, when Koenig asked if he could make it back to the base, he at once answered-

"Yeah. I can make it."

He put his ship down on pad four, and discovered that his Eagle would be sitting there a while. Though the cowling still worked, the lift was off-line. Most of Alpha's systems were still down, and the huge lift motors were without electrical power.

He was not the only one to land, however. Three of the Eagles over Area Two had been able to blast out of there. One had crashed and exploded, but the other two were closing with Alpha now.

Survivors, he thought. Survivors.

Verdeschi awoke, alone. His vision was spinning. Must have whacked his head. Man, what a...

"Sanchez?" he called. No answer. "Sanchez!" In the inner room, he found his deputy, buried under part of the collapsed ceiling. He cursed, and turned towards the door. It was damaged, stuck part way open. He forced it, at last getting the pneumatic release to kick in.

The corridor was a mess, too. The commpost was partly down, hanging from its cable trunk, ruptured conduits dangling from the ceiling. Most of the lights were out, with only a ghostly glow illuminating the area. Main Mission wasn't too bad, he decided upon entering. On the big screen was a picture of them, of Alpha, transmitted from the Mars Colony Satellite. The moon was moving away from the Earth, and moving damned fast, too.

"Santa Maria!" he breathed, and unconsciously reached for the crucifix he no longer wore. He watched as Ouma got the computer back up, and Koenig consulted it about "Operation Exodus", the last-ditch emergency evacuation of Alpha, in the event of total catastrophe. After several tense minutes, the machine delivered its report.

"Human decision required."

How like a computer, Verdeschi thought.

Koenig went on the horn, to inform all Alpha of his decision. The computer could give him no firm data from which to plot a return course. There was no way, given Alpha's current state, that an evacuation could be launched while still within Eagle range of Earth. Simply put, they were marooned.

"Therefore," said Koenig, voice scratchy over the damaged communications network, "in my judgement, we do not try."

"My...My God, Nick," said Nat, in her lab, on the edge of either panic or tears. They had "whammied" Tony, and retreated to the lab. Nat's work, the Litoveuterine experiments, lay in ruins around them. Fortunately, the blood synthesizer was still on-line. "What are we going to do?"

"I don't know, Nat," he said, and took her in his arms. She began to cry, whether because of fear, or shock, or terror, he did not know. He never had understood that about women. Tears. Not his mother, not Fleur, not Alyssa, none of them. Vampire or mortal, 1228 or 1999, he was still as much in the dark as ever. He let her wind down, at last wiping her eyes, and looking down at her. He opened his mouth to speak, but the door to the main ward popped open.

"We've got casualties incoming," said Ben Vincent. "Come on." Then, like the total pro she was, Nat shifted into "Doctor" mode, and strode, square-shouldered, into the ward.

"But how?" asked Nick of Bergman, later, in Medical.

"The blast was opposite our direction of movement," said the old academic. "It accelerated us in the direction we were already moving. Sufficiently, it appears, to break Earth's hold on us. The G-forces that pinned us down were, though, only our own artificial gravity system gone wild. It should be fine, now."

"What will we do now?" asked Nat, voice flat and exhausted. " will we survive?"

"With care, Alpha can support us for years, Natalie. In the meantime, we look for somewhere else to live. It's all we can do." He turned as Helena came in, looking as beat as Nat. It had been ten hours and some change since what was already being called "Breakaway", and every member of the medical staff had been going non-stop, tending to the casualties. So far, they had 7 dead, 161 injured, with 17 requiring hospitalization. Two were in critical condition.

"Hi," Helena said, distractedly.

"Well?" asked Victor. "How are we doing, Helena?"

"Yasko will make it. She's strong. So will Kano and Tony." Her eyes darted towards Nick and Nat for a moment. "Sanchez in Security was DOA, though. So were Kapelos and Ohama, down in the hangar bay. We just called Kabukulu, and Jack Crawford's hanging on by a thread. Could go either way." She plopped down in a chair, and fairly wilted. "If we lose him...God, he and Sue are so close, and with her just finding out she's pregnant..."

"What about the dead woman?"

Uh oh.

"She was the stewardess on the shuttle that brought Commander Koenig up. Seems she and Sanchez had something going. Tony thinks she may have been involved with a terrorist group. God knows. Explosives from the lockers were found in Sanchez's quarters, with her prints on them." Victor nodded, then rose, moving stiffly with the cervical collar around his neck. At the door, he turned back.

"Come and see me Nick, Nat," said Bergman, "once things settle down, and you've had a chance to rest. Alright?" There was a twinkle in the Professor's eye.

"Uh, well..."said Nat.

"Oh don't worry," said Victor. "Your secret is safe with me." So said, he turned and left. Natalie turned to Helena.

"No, I didn't tell him," said the CMO, "but he saw the wounds on that woman before I could cover it up. He's a brilliant man, Nat. But you can trust him, believe me. Victor Bergman is a man of his word."

"How did you write Alexandra up?" asked Nicholas.

"Fractured skull, broken neck, along with the debris in her chest. All her blood was there, as far as the death certificate is concerned. Same for Sanchez."

"I hate to blacken Sanchez's name," said Nick, "But we cannot risk it. If people find out, Helena."

"I know. Panic. A lynchmob." She turned as the door opened, and Dr. Ed Spencer entered. One of Simmonds' "top people", he'd said little since Breakaway, but was turning out to be an absolute wizard as far as triage was concerned. He handed Helena a clipboard, and she signed yet another death certificate. With a weak smile at the Barbers, he turned and left. "God, I hate death certificates," she sighed. "Like we even needed them, up here. What does Tony remember?"

"Nothing, just Breakaway," said Nick. "I blanked his mind, and took the hardcopy of our file from his office. I'll have to hack the system, later. We didn't have time to hide Alexandra's body."

"Lucky you had time for anything," said Helena. "Where was she living, by the way?"

"In one of the empty, unoccupied sections. Hardly anyone ever went in there, anyway. It was perfect."

"I understand," Helena sighed again. "And Nat," she said, putting a hand on Nat's, "I'll do everything that I can, to help you. Both of you."

"It's all gone," said Nat, looking around. "All of it. Even the computer files are gone."

"Then we begin again. And it'll be easy. I...copied your notes."

"You what?" cried Nat, clearly surprised.

"Yes. I've been tracking your research for over a month, now."

"A mon..."

"Ever since I saw you taste Tony's blood."


"Like I said," repeated Helena, "your secret is safe."

Chapter Eighteen

"Did you hear?" Nat asked Nick, later. He was standing on the gallery overlooking Main Mission, staring out at the stars. Below, workers from Technical were finishing up the repairs to the equipment, thanks in part to David Kano's obsessive stockpiling of spare parts. Barring the unforeseen, Moonbase Alpha would continue to function for years.

"What?" asked Nicholas, his mind elsewhere.

"We're out of communications range with Earth, Nick. They sent off a signal at full strength, but no one knows if anyone got it." She handed him a container of blood. He looked at it for several seconds, before raising it to his lips. He sipped slowly, and felt the new energy suffuse him. Once it was empty, he looked at the container, then back out at the stars. Up and slightly to the left, the sun was still visible, a slightly brighter dot amidst all the countless billions of other dots.

"I heard."

"And we crossed the orbit of Pluto about an hour ago, Victor said."

"That's fast."

"Yeah. Victor's people are doing calculations, but no one seems to understand why we're travelling so fast.

"How fast?" asked Nick, though he really didn't care. All he knew was that he was cut off, forever, from everything, and everyone he had ever known. And it was a virtual certainty, here in the closed community of Alpha, that his and Nat's nature would eventually be discovered.

What then? Whither they?

"He's not sure. One reading says well over half the speed of light, the next said barely 10,000 miles an hour. Each observation produces a different result, Victor said. It doesn't make any sense, Nick."

"None of this makes any sense, Nat. I should have heeded Erica's warning. I should have listened to Alyssa. To Don. Damn..."

"Nick, don't!" she snapped, shaking him and making him look her in the eye. "It's too late for that. You can't blame yourself for this, along with everything else you blame yourself for. Hell's bells, Alpha was my idea, remember?"

"Yeah," he rasped, voice thick with emotion. "I know. I know, Natalie."

"And we couldn't just run out, and leave Alexandra free, Nick. You were absolutely right about that. Maybe...maybe it's...maybe this, is just a part of our destinies, Nick."


"Hey, forget the guilt, Nick. You hear me?" She shook him again, gently. "Don't do that, okay?" She looked up at him, and smiled. For a few moments they listened to the sounds of Alpha. The whir of the equipment, the voices of the techs below trailing away as they left the room, the whir of the ventilators at last coming back up. Natalie looked down, and saw Koenig enter Main Mission, alone. He looked about, and sighed heavily, seemingly years older already. Even from here, Nat could feel the burden, the loneliness, of command that sat upon him. Then he looked up, espying the two of them.

"Come on, Nick. Let's go. Beddy-bye time. We've got one hell of a long day, tomorrow." She turned. "Nick?"

"Coming, Natalie," he said, yet lingered a while longer. Where, he wondered, were they headed? Towards a new home? Another world? Or were he and Nat, along with the rest of the survivors of Breakaway, doomed to drift forever, aimlessly, through the trackless wastes of space? Well, Erica? he thought. Dear Alyssa? Schanke? What now? But they did not appear, none of them, to speak with him. And the stars, holding their own counsel, gave no answer to Nicholas de Brabant.

Then, as he turned away, he heard, ever so faintly in the back of his mind, a thought. A thought, and a voice. An old voice, one he knew very, very well. It carried to him, he knew not how, across the countless miles;

"Damn you, Nicholas!"

Dedicated to Sara Mossman

This is the first story in the "Forever Alpha" series. Next story
Copyright (c) 1999. Reprinted with permission.
Space:1999 is (c) 1976 by Carlton International Media.
All stories are the property of their respective authors.

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