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... Et Willelm Ad Pevensae Venit

Authors: Andrew Caruthers
Show Year: Y3
Rating: PG
Date: 2000

Story 3 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
Nick and Nat have settled in to life on the wandering Moon. But a ghost from their past threatens their new existence... Sequel to Forever Alpha and Greetings From Cylon.
Average Rating: No reviews.

Chapter One

Doctor Natalie Barber finished up the final test on her patient, and switched the equipment off. Looking up from her clipboard to Maya as she made notes, she smiled.

"Well?" asked the Psychon, hands folded, her voice a mixture of excitement and trepidation.

"As near as I can tell," said Nat, "both you and the baby are just fine." She watched as Maya slid off of the table, her smile a mile wide. "According to the ultrasound, the amniocentesis, and all of the genetic tests, the future member of the gens Verdeschi is as healthy as can be, Maya."

"I'm so glad," said Maya, obviously barely able to contain her excitement. "With this being the first...I mean Tony and I..."

"I hear ya, Maya," said Nat. "I hear ya. In fact, I should have said members." She waited a bit as the news sunk in. Maya's face brightened even more, which was, Nat thought, quite impossible.

"Twins!!" exclaimed Maya, her Psychon accent growing more pronounced the more excited she became. "You mean..."

"Uh huh," grinned Nat, and the two women embraced. "Two. And both of them read as A-1, Maya. Perfect."

Natalie had never seen Maya this...gushing, before. As Moonbase Alpha's only resident alien, she had worked hard to both assimilate to the often confusing patchwork of Human ways, and hide her own often excitable emotions. Now, however, she was positively glowing. At this rate, Nat thought, they probably wouldn't be needing the new power plant they were building. Maybe they could just take Maya, and wire her up.

"Thank-you," said Maya again, effusively, grasping Nat's hands. "Tony will be so happy, Natalie."

"Well, when he gets back from that survey mission with the Commander, remind him that he's due for his annual physical. Long overdue."

"And well he knows it," said Maya. "But what with Helena being laid up with a broken leg..."

"Yes, well I'm used to working the night shift, Maya. But it sure is more to my taste, dealing with the living." She turned away, and filed the clipboard.

"Natalie?" said Maya, coming up behind her, "Why don't you and Nicholas have a child?" Almost at once, Nat's shoulders sagged. "You both obviously love children, and you're so good with people. You especially."

"We can't, Maya," replied Nat, the sadness heavy in her voice. She tried to control it, but there was no fooling Maya's sharp senses. She picked up instantly on Nat's emotions, and mentally kicked herself.

"I'm sorry, Natalie," she said, putting a tentative hand on the other's left shoulder. "I...I never stopped to think. This must be awfully hard for you, when I'm..."

"Hey, it's the way things are, Maya," she replied, turning around. "There's nothing that can be done about it. Nick and I have come to accept it. That's all that you can do. Accept what can't be changed, and move on, Maya."

"I know. me, losing everything I'd ever known," she sighed. "Home. Father."

"And us. Cast off from home because the physicists screwed up, and nearly blew us all to Kingdom Come." She sighed as well. "Science triumphs again."

After Maya had left, Nat stood for a while, staring out the windows at the stars. In the just shy of three and a half years since she and the rest of the population of Moonbase Alpha had been blown out of Earth orbit, she and her husband Nicholas had been able to, with a few close calls, keep the truth of their identity a secret. Only Helena, Alpha's CMO, and Alan Carter, chief Eagle pilot, knew the truth about them.

Knew that she and Nick were, in fact, vampires.

While the bio-synthesizer technology she and Nick had developed kept them sustained with the blood they needed, it nonetheless could not change the fundamental nature of their being. As a vampire, Natalie was as barren as Nick was sterile, and situations like Maya's pregnancy, normally an occasion for rejoicing, only rubbed more salt into a wound that didn't want to close. She and Nick, despite all, wanted a family as much as any two people ever had. But, she reminded herself for the nth time, pounding a fist on the sill;

"Vampires can't have children."

Alpha was presently just entering a star system consisting of two stars, both spectral type G-2, orbited by numerous asteroids and several impressive comets, but no planets capable of sustaining them. One little barren, Mars-like world, was all that there was. At present Tony Verdeschi, the Commander, and two geologists were on their way to survey it for its mineralogical potential. Assuming there were no problems, they would be returning to Alpha tomorrow night.

In the meantime, she, Nick, and Drs. Mathias, Vincent, and Spencer were taking up whatever slack there was, with Helena being herself a patient. Called to one of the new sections being constructed to tend a minor injury, Helena became one herself when a ladder fell on her, breaking her left leg. And, Natalie decided, it was true! Doctors, especially chief doctors, do indeed make the worst patients. Smiling in spite of her low spirits, she logged her report on Maya, booked off, and left Medical Center, heading for her quarters. As she walked through the base, she found herself, as she did often of late, reflecting on her life since the night of her twenty-sixth birthday.

The night she had come face to face with the Undead.

Ever since meeting Nick, aka Nicholas deBrabant, Natalie had striven to unlock the secrets of the malady that afflicted him. Vampirism. Even now, that she herself had become one, she still found it difficult to believe in. All her scientific and medical training had left no place for mythology and folklore. Creatures who fed on blood, shunned the daylight, and lived forever, had no welcome whatsoever in such a worldview.

Until the night one of those very mythological creatures had sat up on her autopsy table, and looked at her. He had stood, looking at her with his torn flesh healing in front of her, messily drained an entire bag of emergency blood, and declared:

"I am a vampire."

Thus began the odyssey of Doctor Natalie Lambert, an odyssey that had led her from the M.E.'s office in Toronto, to Moonbase Alpha, and then, unwillingly, into the unknown.

Why, O why, did she have to answer that damned ad for the Lunar Science and Research Organisation? Or, for that matter, the Coroner's Office?

Once at their quarters, she unhooked the commlock from her belt, and keyed open the door. From within wafted the voice of her husband Nicholas, his words in-


"Agricola Salvio imperavit ut omnia explicaret," said Nicholas, sitting at the dining table. Across from him, books and papers spread out between them, was Jackie Crawford, born a few months after Breakaway, and Alpha's only child. Though not yet four years old chronologically, he was physically closer to nine, thanks to his temporary possession by a hostile alien malefactor, Jarak, who had transformed Jackie's infant body into that of a five-year-old, in order to escape his pursuers. Once freed of the alien life entity, Jackie had seemed at first to completely revert to the state of a newborn. But within weeks, he was growing, and eating, at a tremendous rate, which did not slow till he reached the middle of his second year. Doctor Russell could find no reason for it, despite all her tests, so it was assumed to be some sort of aftereffect of his experience. His mother, also possessed by one of the aliens, showed no residual effects at all, save for unpleasant dreams. At last, the boy's metabolism and cellular regeneration slowed to normal levels, but it gave Susan Crawford a half-grown son, rather than an infant, forcing her to adapt far faster than the average parent. Now that adolescence was in the foreseeable future, his mind needed to be developed to match his body, and various members of Alpha had undertaken to help in his education. Alan Carter tutored him in mechanical things, Victor Bergman and Maya in math and science, and several of the medical staff in their own particular specialties.

Thank God, said one and all, quietly, that nothing of Jarak's murderous and rapacious persona remained behind in Jackie.

As for Nick and Nat, they saw to both history and anatomy, respectively. As time went on, the boy had shown a remarkable aptitude for languages as well, and had picked up a working knowledge of several. French, Japanese, Italian, a smattering of Psychon, and now Latin. Natalie stood, watching the two of them, as Jackie strove to repeat the words. He did so fairly well, then translated;

"'Agricola told Salvius that...'"

"No, not 'told', Jackie. Agricola..."

"'Agricola ordered Salvius that he explain everything.'"

"Right, Jackie. You're doing splendidly." Nick turned to see Natalie, and began closing the books. "Okay, kid. That's it for today."

"What's for next time, Nick?" asked Jackie, bright-eyed and eager as always.

"The genitive, dative, and ablative plural of the relative pronoun qui. Study up."

"I will, Nick. And the history stuff?"

"Uh..." Nick looked at the books. "Development of Feudalism. Charlemagne to the Battle of Hastings."

"Right, Nick." He turned and saw Nat. "Oh, hi Nat. I read all of the stuff you gave me to. The anatomy of the respiratory system, and the alveoli. I'm ready for my test."

"Okay. Tomorrow, at 1200. How's your mom?"

"Good. She wants to know when you can come to dinner."

"Uh...we'll let her know, Jackie. Goodnight."

"'Night, Natalie. Nicholas."

"So," said Nat, unhooking her belt and running her fingers wildly through her luxuriant hair, "how goes it with the Class of 2018?"

"As a matter of fact, Nat," said Nick, clearing the books off the table, "he's doing fabulously. It's been a long time since I've had a student who was so bright." He returned the books to their respective shelves. "He's soaked up everything like a sponge. Anatomy, chemistry, astronomy, and all the history that I've given him so far. And the Greek philosophers, plus Thucydides. Plutarch. Livy."

"He's sure a bright kid, that's for certain, Nick. And he idolizes you, almost like a father figure."

"He is a little obvious about it, isn't he?" smiled Nick.

"Well, you did save both him and Susan from that Dorcon soldier. To him, you're the next best thing to God around here."

Nick nodded, remembering. When the Dorcons, seeking to extend the life of their ruler by brutally dissecting Maya and taking brain tissue from her for transplant had taken over Alpha, some of their soldiers had wandered through the base, looking for whatever they could find. One of them had found Susan and Jackie Crawford, and declared that Susan was just too cute to ignore, and that both she and her son would bring a good price on some planet called BiiRek. Jackie had fought for his mother's honor, and been powerfully backhanded into a wall for his trouble. Nick however, with his vampiric senses, heard Susan scream, and raced there with a speed not even a Dorcon could follow. He burst in, and before the lecherous trooper could raise a weapon, he clamped powerful hands on his head, and twisted his till his neck snapped like a breadstick. He dragged the dead soldier into a closet, and saw...

That he had an audience. Jackie, still conscious, had seen him kill the Dorcon warrior. Susan as well. Had they seen his eyes, he wondered, as the dead Dorcon had? How to deal with this new wrinkle?

Shortly afterwards, the Dorcon ruler was murdered by his own nephew in a power grab, and Koenig was able to retake the base from them, and destroy the Dorcon ship. Susan and Jackie talked before Nick or Natalie could try and blank their memories, but it wouldn't be a problem after all. Neither Crawford had seen his eyes. Koenig had observed to him that he must be stronger than he looked, and Nick shrugged it off with his boyish grin.

"But why teach him this?" asked Nat, eyes fixing for a minute on an old edition of Wheelock's Latin. "It's a dead language."

"He wanted it. I gave him some Cicero and Pliny to read, and he wants to be able to read them in the original languages. The next day he devoured St. Thomas Aquinas." He opened their small fridge, removing a bottle and two glasses. "Whenever we do find a new home, Nat, there has to be some measure of continuity. Just because it's a new planet doesn't mean that we just dump our past."

"Oh I agree, Nick," she said, sitting at the table and taking the proffered glass. "But why a language we no longer use in daily life?"

"Like I said, Nat. He asked me. And the Romans, well, I've always admired them. To go from a bunch of thatched huts and goats to ruling an area bigger than the U.S.? No mean achievement, Nat." He sat down and filled his own glass. They both partook of the red fluid, and let it roll over their tongues. The fruit of their labors, it alone kept them fed.

And the Beast at bay.

"But they were bloodthirsty conquerors, Nick. More like Dione, or the Dorcons, than decent people."

"If we are to avoid the mistakes of the past, we must learn it. Besides, I didn't sweat under the ominous glare of Brother Gui, just to let it go."

"Brother who?"

"Brother Gui. After my father died, my mother engaged him to tutor Fleur and I. He was good."

"But?" she half-smiled.

"But he was a taskmaster, believe me. Aw hell, Nat, he was torturer. I can still remember that glower of his whenever I got my verb conjugations mixed up, or flubbed a famous quote." He shuddered theatrically, and took another swig. He closed his eyes, and let the energy of his only food suffuse his limbs. "So. Get anywhere, today?"

"No. We've all had to take up the slack with Helena being laid up."

"How is she?"

"Grumpy, and a lousy patient. What doctor isn't? So with that, the tests on Maya and Athena, and everyone's physicals, I haven't been able to work on the cure for nearly a week."

"Well, if the sick, twisted aliens will just leave us alone for a while," sighed Nick, corking the bottle of synthetic blood, "maybe we can get somewhere."

"Amen to that," replied his wife. "I was up to Litoveuterine J. I'm running out of alphabet."

"Then we'll double up. How's Maya doing?"

"Aglow like that supernova that hit us," said Nat, polishing off her dinner. "And asking a lot of questions, too."


"Babies, Nick. You know, girl stuff."

"I wouldn't know about that sort of thing, Nat. What with Mother and Fleur. All their nattering. What would I know?" She stuck her tongue out at him. "But she did live with just her father, for years. She never had a mother to teach her, well, you know."

"Ah, my ever so delicate Nicholas," she teased, and leaned across the table and kissed him. He responded, and before long the bed, and everything around it, was a total mess. "Who ever would have believed it?" said Nat at last, to all and none.


"Us. Being what we are, stuck on the Moon, traipsing blindly through the cosmos. I mean, who would ever have dreamed of something like that, huh?"

"Someone writing really bad fanfic?" he said, deadpan. She thumped his nose. "Okay, you have a point. But, at least you don't hate Maya anymore, Natalie."

"No," mused Nat. "No."

When Commander Koenig had returned to Alpha from the breakup of Psychon, Nat had barely been able to be civil towards her. After all, her father had ripped away the minds of some of their friends, and threatened them all with his mad scheme to restore Psychon to its former state. Koenig and his landing party had barely escaped the disintegrating planet, bringing with them a newcomer. Maya.

Being a vampire did not erase the basics of Human nature, and Nat found herself hating Maya for Mentor's sins. Even when they had learned the facts of Psychon's final minutes, she found it hard to see anything good or virtuous in the alien woman.

Natalie, it seemed, was a strong believer in the sins of the father.

It was not until Maya had saved Nick's life while on a planet survey that her opinion had changed. A few months back, Nick had been slated to take part in a survey mission. Unable to worm his way out of it this time, he went along, fortunately with Alan at the helm. Carter, Alpha's chief Eagle pilot, was one of only three people who knew what he and Natalie were. Helena, having caught Nat "resurrecting" once was another, as was Victor Bergman, who had met Nick many years ago in another guise, and had at last figured it out.

They'd landed on the terminator of the planet just shy of dusk, near a promising pitchblende reading, and gone about their work. However, the planet had turned out to be inhabited by a race of primitive, Stone-Aged simian creatures, several of whom leaped out of the forest, one hurling a huge spear at Nick. With blinding speed, Maya had reacted, blasting the attackers with her laser, sending them running back into the forest, as Alan pulled Nick out of the way. With her thus distracted, Nick pulled the spear from his leg, passing it off as just a flesh wound. None of the rest of the landing party had seen him closely, and the crisis moment passed.

Natalie couldn't do enough for Maya after that.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, the planet turned out to be a wash. Not only was it already inhabited, but also the water, soil, and plant life were rich in sulfur, cadmium, arsenic, and most horrid of all, thallium. None of the plant life brought from home could grow in that soil. And, as icing on the cake, the planet's orbit was frequently crossed by numerous comets and asteroids, making life there precarious at best. So they had bid goodbye yet once again, to another possible new home, sailing off once more into the endless blackness.

But Maya had gained a friend.

Chapter Two

Nat awoke, disturbed and agitated, in Alpha's wee hours. Her dream, if dream it had been, had faded almost at once, leaving her unsettled. Next to her, Nick was tossing and jerking, as if deep in the throes of a dream of his own.

As her vampiric "Master", Nick had a real, if tenuous, psychic bond with Natalie. Though it was not entirely clear in her mind, she sensed enough of Nick's emotions to know that he was upset, disturbed, even frightened. His hands clutched as if gripping something, and he muttered words in the Medieval French of his childhood, which Nat barely understood. Suddenly he began to thrash, his voice rising to a shout, then snapped awake, eyes and fangs...

"Nick! Nick!" she shouted, grasping hold of him. He struggled a moment, then relaxed, his eyes at last focusing on her. "Nick, wake up! You're here! With me!" He swallowed, and his eyes returned to their normal color.


"Yeah Nick. It's me," she smiled. "You okay? That dream of yours must have been a doozy."

"Dream," he said, shaking his head. "Yeah, it was."

"Want to talk about it?" she asked, lying back down.


"He was in it, wasn't he?" she asked. Oh that look.


"You can't use the boyish grin with me, Nicholas. I heard you cry out LaCroix's name. Loud and clear."

"Yes. Yes it's true." He sighed, relaxing. "I dreamed I was in battle."

"The Crusade?"

"Yes. There was a force of Saracens there. It was this skirmish I was in with one of their patrols, near the Jordan River. 1227. They attacked us from ambush, and Jean-Louis, the man on my right, went down, then my squire. We barely made it back to our camp alive. We wouldn't have either, if some Knights Templar hadn't turned up just then."

"Were you wounded, Nick?"

"Slightly. Nothing serious at all."

"So, how did Sweetie Pie get into it? He certainly wasn't off in the Holy Land crusading for the Cross, not to mention in daylight."

"I don't know, Nat. We were fighting like I said, then suddenly there he was. In armor, and..." He fell silent.


"Oh, I don't know, Nat. Dreams are funny. Here I was in Outremer with my men, then suddenly its nighttime, and I'm somewhere else. That, and the armor was different."

"Different? How?"

"I'm not sure. It's all fuzzy. But it is different, Nat, and LaCroix is there. And so is someone else. But...I don't know who."

"Well, stop dreaming about LaCrypt Keeper, okay?" Nat gave him a tiny shove.

"I'll try."

"And tomorrow?"


"Get rid of that picture of him."


"Nick. Ni-ick."


"Geez," snorted Nat. "Crusader knights. Lord help us."

Commander John Koenig radioed back from the planet. While possessing little in the way of life, the planet was of value mineralogically. In an area of jumbled terrain, geologists Reilly and Sanderson had detected large deposits of rhodium, yttrium, uranium, copper, and manganese. While not in gigantic quantities, they were nonetheless free for the taking, and beggars on wandering moons can't be choosers. Koenig ordered a full geological team to launch at once to take the greatest possible advantage of Alpha's time near the planet, which, because of it's rugged, unforgiving terrain, Alan Carter had dubbed "Outback". According to Victor Bergman's calculations, Alpha would pass within 70,000 miles of the planet at its closest approach, then begin to arc its way out of the system.

As Nat worked in her lab, once more pursuing a cure for the affliction that she and Nick shared, she paused to look out the window. Outside, what had been once empty ground had become, gradually, a building site. A new section was being added to Moonbase Alpha, thanks to the wreckage salvaged from a destroyed alien vessel.

The aliens, a robotic race called Cylons had been encountered a little over two months before, in deep space. One of their immense vessels, called a BaseShip, had been discovered wrecked and drifting in space, on a collision course with Alpha, and pulled into lunar orbit. Not long after, they encountered the Cylon's mortal enemies, a race of Humans from a distant group of worlds called the Colonies. Apparently, the Colonies and the Cylons had had it out, and the Humans lost. With but a single remaining warship, the Battlestar Galactica, and a rag-tag fugitive fleet of dilapidated wrecks, the survivors were seeking a new home. To wit, the planet Earth!

The surprise was great on both sides, and the Alphans, after some hesitation, had planned to abandon their peripatetic refuge and return to Earth with the Colonials. They could at last, go home!

Naturally, that didn't work out. Thanks to a traitorous Human the Alphans had unwittingly rescued, they were all betrayed to the Cylons, and with another BaseShip quartering in, Moonbase Alpha was in the biggest fight of her life. The derelict BaseShip was destroyed, the second retreated as did the Galactica, while Alpha drifted ever closer to the speeding blast wave from a supernova.

Fortunately, the blast wave from the destroyed sun had attenuated just enough by the time of impact to merely deflect the Moon rather than pulverize it. Once it was past, and their scanners back on-line, neither the Colonials nor the Cylons were anywhere to be seen. But Moonbase Alpha had, once more, survived.

And now the huge amount of salvageable wreckage from the enemy carrier was being put to good use. Enough sheer metal from its hull had fallen to the lunar surface to be salvaged and utilized for this construction project. Parts of Alpha never finished at Breakaway, or merely confined to paper, could now be turned into reality, along with repairs to exteriors of several of the existing structures. After the base's completion, most of the construction equipment had been left behind, in special bunkers. After all, why ship it back to Earth? Now, it was in use again, and the workers in full swing. Along with the metal, the technology harvested from the encounter had already borne fruit. The air filtration and recycling plant was showing an almost 20% increase in efficiency, the waste and water recycling system nearly 25%. With that, and the abundance of icy comets in this system, Commander Koenig had, at last, relented.

Since Breakaway, they had not been able to permit any increase in their population. Despite a number of deaths since leaving Earth, food, water, and air were all too finely balanced to risk it. Now, with all the advances, and the fact that there were some babies on the way anyway, that policy was out the airlock. There would be room, and resources, for the new Alphans. One above-ground building, never completed, was going to become the expanded technical section, where far more minerals could be processed than ever before, another would allow for a doubling of hydroponics and therefore expanded food production, and a third permit the storage of several hundred tons of new water, projected to be harvestable from this system's abundant comets.

It would also, Helena opined, boost people's morale. With children allowed, the Alphans could see that they really had a future, something to plan for and anticipate. Something beyond mere survival to look forward to, to fill up their remaining days. Already, six women had come in for tests to make sure they could have children, she reported to a Command Conference with a smile.

Which of course made Natalie sad. When she'd been mortal, she had, like a great many other career women, felt that "there was time" for children, somewhere off in that vague unknown realm called "later". Now that she was a vampire, immortal, she could not, for like all vampires she was sterile.

All the time in the world, and you...

She shook her head, casting such lugubrious thoughts aside, and returned to her work. Still attempting to unravel the genetic code of the vampire virus, she was continuing to find it one tough nut to crack. Standard analytical techniques for viruses seemed to have scant results. In almost all her experiments, she either got nothing at all, or the virus was completely destroyed, leaving her with useless garbage. Only recently had she begun to get any meaningful results, and that was merely a handful of base pairs.

Frustrated and annoyed by her consistent lack of success, she nonetheless, like the good scientist that she was, recorded what she had and moved on, trying not to remember all her failures. Her experiments had been wrecked at Breakaway, and she'd had to start all over again. In the sudden evacuation to Piri they'd been damaged, sent flying when Companion had taken pot shots at them, and ruined again in the violent wrenching away from Arkadia, not to mention various space warps. The most recent was when Carolyn Powell (Nat paused to swear), in using her newfound psychic powers to eliminate her romantic rival Sally Martin, had bulldozed one of the labs in the process.

Guess which one?

So, Nat was trying it again, but with some of the medical technology gleaned from the Colonials, she was gradually burrowing deeper into the horrid little bug that made she and Nick what they were. And, with it, she had been able to produce Litoveuterine I, another variant of the synthetic hormone that had, once, seemed to offer a cure for Nick's vampirism. Type B had, however, produced bizarre and unforeseen side effects, quickly turning Nick into a paranoid junkie. The newer variants did the job as well, but none were entirely free of dangerous side effects.

Like Type I. It not only shut down the anomalous Transfer RNA sequences in Nick's cells, it actually caused the virus itself to break open, disintegrating completely. Victory! Nat had thought.

Well, not quite. Not only did the new drug, as they had hoped, kill the vampire bug, but it also destroyed the cells that produced certain neurotransmitters in the brain, leaving the nervous system devastated. Not, Natalie had decided, the sort of mortality that they were looking for. So, chuck Type I, and go on to J. As she pondered, trying to come up with yet another new approach, something began to tug at her mind. No, someone. What...


For a moment, her mind was filled with thoughts of Nick's vampire Master, back on Earth. Why? She hadn't given him a moment's thought in ages. She thoroughly despised him. Why in Heaven's name...

Then, just as suddenly, he was gone, as if someone had turned off a light. No trace of him at all. Nothing. She concentrated, feeling along her psychic bond to Nick. Yes. He had felt it, too. She could sense the disturbance in his mind. He had dreamed of LaCreep, last night, and now this. Was there a connection?

She looked up, as the door slid opened. It was Maya Verdeschi. Nat glanced at her watch. Ouch! Was it really that late? End of shift? Lord.

"Maya. Hey, what's up?" she asked, tidying up her area.

"Oh, nothing much," said the Psychon. "It's the end of watch, and Tony won't be back for another couple of hours yet. Join me in the cafeteria, Natalie?"

Nat's initial impulse was to reply in the negative, but seeming to be normal was the key to survival. The two women went to the cafeteria, and while Maya had a light salad, Nat had an herbal tea, one of the few beverages that didn't disagree violently with her vampire physiology. As usual, she told Maya that she wasn't really all that hungry.

Maya it seemed had no particular topic in mind, just wanted to natter. Since deciding that she was okay, Nat had found the Psychon to be a mine of information on virtually every topic under whatever sun they were close to. She especially liked hearing tales of what Psychon had been like, before its orbit had shifted, and it had begun to die. For her own part, Maya liked tales of Earth, and enjoyed hearing about Nat's days in the Coroner's Office in Toronto. Except towards the end, Psychon had had little crime, so the use of science to aid in the search for criminals fascinated her. Psychons don't have fingerprints either, Natalie discovered, so she had to explain.

But she liked it. She was, after all, still the same Natalie listed on her birth certificate. Unlike Nicholas, she had no need to lie about most of her life, having been a vampire for only a few years. She'd signed on to Alpha in an attempt to pursue her researches in Man's most advanced scientific facility, and to get as far away as possible from the Enforcers, the dreaded vampire police.

Boy, had she ever.

As she talked, answering Maya's questions about what Alpha had been like before Breakaway, and her own part in trying to figure out what was killing the astronauts of the Meta Probe, she found herself missing Earth powerfully. She longed for the green fields and blue skies, the sun on her face, and the wind in her hair. She even found that she still missed Sydney, her cat! Now there was an intelligent life form!

Maya, it seemed, had had a pet as well, as a little girl. Called a s'reth, it had resembled the Earth cat, but had had long coiling hair, a prehensile tail, and had been marsupial in its anatomy. She had named it Dorzak, after her father's poet friend, much to Mentor's umbrage. Then, Nat got really interested.

Psychon, it seemed, had had vampires.

As a scientist, Maya was most loathe to believe in things that she could not quantify. But the conversation had strayed into the area of religion and the spiritual, and she told Nat of the rew, those folk who, though dead, did not rest, but from fear of the sun haunted the darkness, seeking fresh, warm blood so that they might live forever.

"Really?" asked Nat, deadpan. "We had a legend like that back home." Oh shit, Nat, why did you say that? Dumb!

"You did? What were they called, Natalie?"

"Vampires," said Nat, wondering just Maya would think if she knew what was sitting two feet from her, and beginning to feel hungry.

"Oh do tell me," said Maya, leaning close, eyes bright. "I always liked ghost stories and such, when I was little. My uncle would often tell me ghost stories at bedtime, till Mother made him stop it."

Smart woman, thought Nat.

Squaring her mental shoulders, she began, unfolding the legends to Maya, and listening to the Psychon version in return. She was trying to come up with an excuse to cut it short and go, when Nick entered.

"Ah, Nicholas," said Maya, "Natalie has been telling me about some of your Earth legends and folklore."

"So I heard," replied Nick, forcing a smile. "And they had vampires on Psychon?" He looked from her to Natalie.

"We had a very similar legend." Her commlock beeped. "Yes?"

It was Tony, less than a minute from touchdown, and she took her leave of the Barbers to go and greet him, leaving them alone in the room.

"You see the way she tore out of here? You'd think she and Tony were a couple of teenagers who just discovered hormones," said Natalie.

"I noticed. Now..."

"She was just talking about legends, Nick. I let nothing slip."

"You're right, Nat. I guess I'm overreacting. 800 years of skulking does tend to make one a little edgy. So, they had it too, eh?"

"Yes, and I found out one interesting point. One that I'm sure will be of interest to you."

"Oh?" he asked, as they left the cafeteria. "And that is?"

"Some people, she said, were immune to the vampire's bite."

Chapter Three

It was indeed interesting, but for the moment all thoughts were directed towards the new planet. The initial geological report was, it seemed, in error. The lonely planet fairly abounded with goodies, and the wish lists from the various departments got predictably longer. And, it turned out, the planet was not quite as lifeless as they had at first thought.

The bulk of the planet's atmosphere had, so it appeared, been blasted away by an asteroid impact. And quite recently, too. Sometime within the last three or four hundred years, according to the sensor data. In a few low-lying places, there was however still sufficient air pressure for liquid water to exist. And in one of those deep crevices they found it, a deep pool heated by geothermal energy.

They also found life. A deep, deep hole, where steamy water gushed from the fissures, the pool filled with fish and algae.

"It's incredible," said Dr. Ed Spencer, scanning the area. "This algae has many of the properties of species back home, Commander."

"Is it dangerous, at all?" asked Koenig, up to his ankles in the hot fluid.

"Not that I can see so far, Commander. I'm going to take some samples back to Alpha for a more complete analysis."

"Do it." He looked down into the pool. "What about the fish?"

"I'm no expert on ichthyology, Commander, but I used to fish a lot, as a boy. They look a lot like carp of some sort. I'd like to take some of them back to Alpha, as well."

"Okay, Ed, but be careful. At the first sign of anything dangerous, I want everything destroyed."

"Right, Commander."

As Ed gathered up his specimens, Koenig looked first at the geologists cutting ore in the back of the cave, then up through the roof. This world's sky was red, a darkish red, and reminded him of Mars, with its dust and winds. For a moment, he let his mind wander back there, and wondered how the colonists had fared. Had they survived the catastrophe, or had they been cut off from Earth completely in the aftermath of Breakaway? Had they been able to go ahead with the Mars Terraforming Project, or had they perished?

He shook his head, and returned to the present. He climbed up out of the crevasse, towards the surface, and stood there a moment, surveying the desolate landscape. Red dust and rocks for as far as the eye could see. Directly ahead, the planet's two suns were dropping close to the horizon, but it would be a while till dark. This planet rotated once every 39.44 hours, and it would be at least another six hours till sunset. A few degrees to his left one of the Eagles rested, its crew busily extracting minerals. He turned to the right, and there on the horizon, still little more than a bright speck, was Alpha, drawing closer to Outback with every breath. He hoped they would have the time to fill as many stockings as possible, but with so much stuff...

"John," came Victor's voice over his helmet radio.


"Could I see you?"

"On my way." Koenig took one of the moon buggies, and rode the four miles or so over the rough terrain towards Eagle 13, where Victor was. Inside the Eagle, Victor sat, perusing several mineral samples, and artifacts.

"Good Lord," said Koenig, as he took them in. Fragments of glass, a piece of plastic, an iron pipe, and a skull, lay on the bench. "Relics?"

"Yes. Reilly's team found them, not an hour ago. We were looking for minerals and life, John, not ruins. This whole area is littered with ruins. He switched on a screen. "As you can see from the orbital scans Alan and Athena are sending us, the planet's covered with them. Most of them buried under the sand and dust."

"How old?" asked Koenig, studying the skull. It looked very Humanoid, in appearance.

"It's preliminary so far, but it looks like no more than a few hundred years ago. This planet was alive, John. Seas, rivers, cities. Then...poof." He put up another graphic. "We've scanned an impact site, on the far side, in the Southern Hemisphere. A basin nearly the size of Australia. That looks to have done it."

"Not surprising, with all the comets and asteroids crossing this planet's orbit," replied Koenig. "And in this light gravity..."

"Only 41.8% of Earth's, John." As he spoke, the ground beneath them trembled slightly. "Uh oh."

"How..." Koenig began.

"Only a 3.1, John. And quite deep, from the geoscan. Over four miles down. Alpha's getting closer."

"Well, this civilization and its mysteries are something we don't have either the time or the resources to probe, Victor. We've got to gather up as much as we can while Alpha's within range."

"I agree, John. But there may be another problem, looming."


"With Alpha passing this close, there's a high probability of serious moonquakes. Possibly quite large ones. I've been running simulations, but I wanted to tell you first, rather than put it over the speaker."

"When will you know?"

"Impossible to say. But I'd recommend taking precautions, on Alpha."

"I'll call Helena." He looked at Victor, eyes glued to another screen. "What?"

"Another anomaly, John."


"This planet's magnetic field."

"What about it?"

"Well, a planet this small, and with this slow a rotational period shouldn't have much of one. But it does, and it's as strong as Earth's."

"I agree that's a bit odd, but why is that a problem?"

"Well, I'm not sure that it actually is, but scans show the field isn't stable. It fluctuates. From paleomagnetic evidence in the rocks, it sometimes increases violently, and..." Victor turned back to the computer, and switched graphics. "It also flips polarity."

"And Alpha will be passing well within the field," said Koenig, studying the screen.

"And if that weren't enough," said Victor, "the evidence shows the core and the rest of the planet do not rotate at the same rate. Alpha will be passing close enough to exert considerable gravitational stress on the crust."

"So, what's your prognosis?"

"Can't say I have any, John. I know how badly we need the minerals, but with the kind of quakes Alpha may trigger, it might be dangerous to have this many teams down here on the surface at one time."

"Well, then let's just pray that the planet stays quiet, while we're here. We need those minerals."

"Not to mention the water, John. I've looked at Ed Spencer's preliminary report," Victor picked up a hardcopy, and ran his eyes over it, "and the water in that cave is nearly free from bacteria, and the mineral content is a lot like spring water, back home. He'd like to fill the tanks, and augment our supply on Alpha."

"Alright," agreed Koenig, "go over his data with Helena and Maya. If they concur, go for it."

"Right, John."

Chapter Four

Back on Alpha, in what had once been one of the base's nuclear generating stations, Nick and Ouma were running final checks on the air seals. All were nominal, and slowly oxygen cracked form the ice of one of this system's innumerable comets was pumped into the chamber. Both men checked their pressure gauges, watching as the numbers slowly crept up.

This facility, once completed, was going to be Moonbase Alpha's newest power plant. Ever since the bizarre possession of the late and still lamented Anton Zoref by an unknown non-corporeal life-form had resulted in the destruction of one of Alpha's nuclear generating stations, Alpha had had to rely upon the remaining two, rather than the original three. The plant had been deemed far too heavily damaged to be repaired, and after decontaminating it as best as possible under prevailing circumstances, it was sealed off, and abandoned. Massive storage batteries below, and highly efficient solar energy collectors positioned all over the lunar surface helped to fill the shortfall at normal times, but in emergencies Alpha's power was stretched to the limit. If this current plan worked, however, that would be a thing of the past.

One thing gleaned from Alpha's encounters with the brutal Cylons was that their gargantuan BaseShips were not powered by any conventional sort of fuel. Though they possessed backup engines, their main mode of power was what had been known to theoretical physicists on Earth as "zero-point" energy. Using equipment salvaged from the destroyed BaseShip, data from her computers, and the aid of the Colonials stranded on Alpha, they were about to tap into that same, virtually limitless source of power.

Victor and Maya had computed and calculated ad infinitum, enlisting the aid of Athena, Greenbean, and Bree, the stranded Colonials, who contributed all they knew of Colonial science to the project. Alpha's need of more energy had been made brutally clear by recent events, and they were close to exhausting their supplies of enriched uranium for the two remaining fission reactors.

Nick looked up from his pressure gauge, to survey the conduits and coils that made up the core of the new system. In all his travels with Alpha, he'd never seen technology like this, and he wondered if even Victor and Maya really understood it all. Even with his vampire-perfect memory, and well above-average intelligence, he wasn't sure he did either, even after immersing himself in both physics and electrodynamics the last couple of years, after Koenig had decided that they could not afford to specialize any longer.

A light on his console went green, and he and Ouma popped their helmets. The vast chamber was now habitable once more, and as Ouma began running checks, he opened the hatch. Jim Haines and several of the guys from engineering came through, hauling crates of equipment, followed by Ben Vincent with the First Aid gear, ready to be mounted on the bulkheads.

"So, how did it go?" asked Natalie later, in their quarters.

"Great, so far. All the Cylon equipment, plus the stuff from the ship John and Tony brought through the space warp are interfacing well with our own." He took a long drink. "We should be able to run an initial power test in a day or so. And if it works, it'll put out more than triple the power of all three original reactors, Nat. And no more radiation hazard, no more atomic waste."

"Sounds good to me, Nick. I've never liked nuclear power."
"Beats polluting with coal and oil, Nat. No carbon monoxide."

"Uh," she merely grunted.

"How's Helena? Back on her feet?"

"Uh huh. We finally got that bone-welder on-line. Nick, it's incredible. It fused the tibia in seconds. It was almost like watching one of us healing. It's actually stronger than it was before."

"You're kidding."

"Uh uhhh. And some of their drugs? Incredible, Nick. They almost make our pharmacology look like something out of...ancient Sumer or something."

"Anything that might help us, Nat?"

"Maybe. The Colonies' level of genetic and bioengineering is eons ahead of ours, Nick. I'm studying it, hoping that maybe we might find a new approach to our problem."

"Great. With all this new technology, maybe we're finally closing in on it."

"I sure hope so, Nick," said Nat. She doffed her uniform jacket, and sat down. "I want to walk in the sun again, Nick. I want to see bright flowers, waving in a green meadow. Taste real food. And..."


"Well, I...I", she turned to look him in the eyes. "I want a baby, Nick."

"Nat, you know that neither of us..."

"I know, I know Nick. It's just...well, with Maya and Athena being pregnant...It just..." She shook her head, her shoulders sagging. "I'm sorry, Nick." She started to cry.

"I know Nat," he said, sitting next to her, wrapping her in his arms. "I want that every bit as much as you do." He sat there, gently rocking her till it passed, and wondered what men since Adam have wondered, through all the eons.

Why do they cry?

Next morning as he dressed, Nick looked out their window. Already, Outback was visible low on the southern horizon, about half the size of a pea held at arm's length. There was a beep, and he picked up his commlock. It was Jackie Crawford, and Nick beeped him on in.

"Tot libros emisti, ut vix eos portare posses," he said by way of greetings, as Jackie entered, arms piled high with books. He paused as he set them down, working through that one.

"I didn't want to forget anything, Nick," said the boy, looking up at him.

"Doesn't look like you did, Jackie," said Nick, looking the stack over. "Oh. By the way."


"Serius venisti!" he said, glowering, pointing a finger at his tardy student.

"Fessus sum, Magister!" replied Jackie, and Nick laughed! Oh, the idolization!

"The second oldest excuse, Jack. I remember using it when I was about your age."

"Did it work?" asked Jackie hopefully.

"Hell, no," said Nick, for a moment recalling the stern and unbending Brother Gui. "Not for a second."

"You said second oldest, Nick."

"Well, since there aren't any dogs on Alpha, nothing is likely to have eaten your homework." He picked up a sheet, examining Jackie's work. "Ready?"


"Good, kid. Let's get to it."

"But Brother Gui," said Nicholas, wishing yet again that his feet could touch the floor, "why do I have to learn this?"

"It is your mother's wish, Master Nicholas," replied the monk, sternly.

"But why?" whined the eight-year-old Nicholas. "I don't want to! It's just a dead language!"

"WHAT?" squeaked Brother Gui, in shock and outrage. "DEAD? You dare call the language of Holy Writ dead? The tongue of Holy Mother church, dead? Foolish, impudent boy!!" Gui picked up a switch, and swatted Nick with it. "You would do well to learn to guard your tongue, whelp!"

It would have done Gui well to remember a seminal point of military science: don't ignore your rear flank. "Don't you hurt my brother!" cried Fleur, Nick's sister, throwing an inkwell at the monk. Momentarily caught off-guard, he turned, and Nick grabbed the switch, turning it on his tormentor, lashing him repeatedly with it. The wiry little man fell off his stool, and Nick hit him again and again...

Until a huge meaty hand grasped his little one, wrenching the weapon away, and pulling him to his feet, then off of them. Nick turned as best he could, and found himself staring into the bewhiskered face of Henri, his late father's castellain. All 6 foot 7 inches, 290 pounds of him.

"Let me go!" demanded the boy, but Henri did no such thing. He thrashed Nicholas soundly, and sent him along to his room. Fleur he did not touch, but sent off as well.

"Nick? Nick?" said Jackie, and he returned to the present, centuries, and parsecs, from Castle deBrabant.

"Hhmm? What?"

"I said, did I get this right?" He handed over a practice sentence, and his attempt at translation. Nick studied it a moment.

"Mostly, but remember to introduce a negative clause with ut, then follow it up with a non, or nemo. Whatever."

"Right," said Jackie, making a note in the margin of his paper.

Nick smiled at the boy, again recalling his own school days. How he had hated Brother Gui, but resolved that no mere peasant was going to outdo him, a nobleman's son! He buckled down, he studied his butt off, and he learned. In fact he learned so well that within a year his skills surpassed those of (heh heh!) Brother Gui, much to the delight of his mother, Fleur, Henri, and even the Abbot!

Though not, of course, Brother Gui.

His reminisce was interrupted by a sudden, sickening feeling of dread. He straightened up and looked around the room. His quarters seemed safe, and he could still sense Natalie through their link. But...

"Nick?" asked Jackie. "Nick? Are you okay?"

"I'm...I'm fine, Jackie. Go on with the next lesson. I'll be right back." He got up and left his student, heading for the can. Once there, he felt it again-a sudden chill, a sickening dread. No, not dread. A vile, cloying evil, all around him. He felt as if were being submerged in it, as if evil were a sludge one could fall into. He fell to his knees, heaving, unable to draw breath. Nothing came up, but he wretched again. Then, in his mind's eye, he saw him. LaCroix. His Master. His tormentor, standing naked before a fire, his eyes...

Nicholas recoiled at the image, even as the cloud of evil seemed to thicken about him. It was like the assault from the Darkness he'd experienced at Vanderwal's. As if he were being eaten up by pure evil. So he did the only thing that came to him. Vampire though he was, he prayed.

"In nomini Parti, et Fil..."

He got no further, before the choking, suffocating miasma of evil lifted off him. Suddenly it was gone. His vision cleared, the horrible pressure on his body was gone, and he could breathe once more, drawing in huge lungfulls of air. For a moment he reveled in the coolness of the floor, then passed out.

Jackie looked up from his lesson, and wondered how Nick was. He'd been in the john a long time, and Jackie needed to use it himself. Feeling a tad bored, he got up and looked around the room.

Nick and Nat sure had a strange taste in dcor, he thought, studying the walls. Most quarters on Alpha were utterly bland, just the basic white of the original construction. His mom, for instance, had a potted plant or two, some pictures of Earth, and one of his late father, but that was all.

But Nick was different. On one wall was a large painting of the sun, with petal-like flames surrounding it. Personally, Jackie thought it sucked, but he'd never say so. Out loud. Another, stacked near the easel, looked very old, and was of a very beautiful lady with bountiful waves of dark hair, and a gaze that seemed to follow you. From the artistic style and her dress, it looked like a DaVinci, but no way could Nick and Nat have anything that old! Another, that of a thick-necked, somewhat balding man in Medieval clothes with intense, disturbing eyes, arrested his attention. Something about that face frankly scared Jackie. This, he decided, was definitely not a nice man. Who was he, he wondered? Nick's father, perhaps? Now that he thought about it, Nick never talked about his family. Natalie had, telling him about her mom and dad, her childhood, and once her brother, but never Nick.

He went from the paintings to the whatnot shelf near the table. There were photos here. One of Natalie with a heavyset black lady in a morgue, wearing napkins, a bonesaw in one hand and a fork in the other, and a chicken on the examining table. Weird! Another was one of her graduating class from medical school.

A box on a higher shelf caught his attention. Opening it, he found a wooden cross inside. Very old and bound with rawhide, it had some slight scorch marks on one side. Underneath was a smaller cross, of silver, on a silver chain. Hhmm. He didn't know the Barber's were religious. He closed that box, and looked through another one. Ah, more pictures. One was of Nick, with a slightly heavyset man with receding hair, in a rumpled suit. There were more of him with the same man, in a police station.

"Donald Schanke," he read on the back of one. Next to the name was written a recipe of some sort. "What's a souvlaki?" he wondered aloud. He put the snap back, and looked at the others. Nick, dressed in black, standing with an oriental woman, and another next to a very sexy young blonde lady with a peaches and cream complexion, and a big black man, in the same police station. Police station, again. Why?

"What..." said Jackie, as he found and opened Nick's old ID folder. Toronto PD, Detective Nicholas Knight? "But..." He turned, the need to use the can acute now, and crossed to the door. He knocked. No response. Funny. "Nick? Nicholas?" When he got no answer, he opened the door, just as Natalie burst into the room, and found Nicholas insensate on the floor.

Chapter Five

"Ah, the Moon," said the sibilant voice on the radio. "Its silvery light. Do you miss it, boys and girls? Hhmm? Do you look up, into the dark sky, and long for the nights that were?" Lucien LaCroix waited for a few seconds, considering his next words.

"I know I do," he continued. "I wish I could still look up there, and see it. See them." He waited a beat. "Yes, My Children. Them. Our departed friends. This new project, this latest undertaking, cannot ever, truly, replace that which has been lost. It can never, ever, bring our loved ones back. What do you think, listeners? Tell me. The Nightcrawlers wants to know."

After the show, Lucien LaCroix went up to the roof of the Raven, and scanned the sky. He still vividly recalled the night of September 13th, 1999, just after 8 PM, when he'd looked up and watched the impossible. Watched in utter horror as the Moon, and everyone on it, was blown out of Earth orbit. How he'd stood in shock, how he'd raged, at the loss of Nicholas, his Nicholas, to a cosmic accident.

But Nicholas still lived! Of this, he was certain. However tenuously, he had never ceased to feel his son through the link forged between them so long ago, when he had brought Nicholas across. Wherever it was that Moonbase Alpha had carried him, wherever in the unthinkable immensity of the universe he might be, Nicholas was alive!

He looked up, to where the Moon once had been. Instead of the dark of night, he saw a bright dot in the sky. The New Moon, it had been dubbed, the most ambitious construction project in all of history.

When Alpha had been ripped away by the explosion of the nuclear waste dumps, the effects on Earth had been terrible. The earthquakes alone had killed over three million people in the first week, the tidal waves and disease which followed millions more. Weather patterns had shifted, and while floods devastated some areas, famine threatened others. What else lay in store?

It was then that a wild, desperate plan had been hatched, to use the nearly completed Meta Probe ship to try and rescue the people of Alpha. But, even with the latest cutting-edge technology of her engines, she was unable to reach the departing Moon before it disappeared into some sort of sensor distortion, and was lost to all tracking. Reluctantly, angrily, admitting defeat, the crew had turned the ship around, and...

Someone had an idea. A wild, nutty, insane idea. The Moon's loss was devastating. Well, when you lost a critical part, didn't you try and replace it? After months of debate and counter-debate, the crew of the Meta Probe decided to ignore the pencil pushers endlessly muttering "Oh dear, oh dear", and did it on their own. Straining even her powerful engines to their limits, they successfully hijacked an asteroid. Barely twenty miles across at its widest, of carbonaceous chondritic material, and already on an Earth-crossing orbit, they latched on, pulled, tugged, and nudged, at last shepherding the space rock into Earth orbit. With the help of several Eagles, and not a few explosives, it was at last put into an orbit of 240,000 miles mean above the Earth.

"Brilliant!" said the politicians and scientists, many of whom had balked at the original idea. But, as always, success has a thousand fathers, and the Space Commission was ordered to gear its resources towards a new goal. Giving Earth a new moon. Now, an endless wagon train of modified Eagles trucked to and fro, plundering the asteroid belt to build up Earth's new satellite, dragging back everything current technology could possibly budge. Some of the larger asteroids were pulverized, others were just plopped onto the growing mass, whichever worked the best, as its gravity increased.

And it seemed to be working. Already the new satellite had grown from the initial 20 miles, to well over a hundred, and it's orbit settled in at just over 28 1/2 days. While most space scientists cautioned that it was still far too early to tell, the number of killer quakes had diminished, and the shift in Earth's axis perceptibly slowed. In some areas, small tides were even being reported once more. Wishful thinking at this stage, or portents of success to come? No one could say, but the project continued at a feverish, ever-increasing pace.

But LaCroix cared little for it, one way or the other. Man's science might replace the Moon, but not his Nicholas! For that, he would have to turn to something else. Something far, far older than mere mortal science. Something that worked.


He looked at his watch. Still four hours till dawn. Down below in the street, he spotted someone. Ah, sustenance! He looked about. The coast was clear. Speeding down, he took them, filling his mouth with the first rush of their hot blood. But not all of it. The rest of it, and the victim's life, was reserved for what was to come. He took to the air and flew across countryside, carrying his insensate dinner, anxiously anticipating his next step. After about half an hour, he touched down in a clearing amidst thick woods, miles from anywhere. In the clearing below, all was in readiness; above, clouds were gathering.

"Lucien," said Janette du Charme, greeting him. She took the unconscious victim and laid him on a rough slab of stone, binding him. "You have fed?" she asked him.

"Only what I needed to get here, My Child." Still, after all that had happened, he still called her his child. Always arrogant, Lucien. Always.

"Here," she said, and handed him a bottle. Unlike the swill Nicholas had kept in the old days, this was the real stuff. Human, and fairly fresh. LaCroix drank ravenously, knowing he would need all his strength, for what was to unfold. He finished two full bottles and part of a third, before returning to the altar. As he did so, thunder rolled somewhere far away.

Once, Lucien LaCroix would have scoffed at the very idea of such a rite. There was, he had so often stated dogmatically, no God. No devil, no afterlife. All that we have, vampire or mortal, is this world, and only a fool believed otherwise. All belief, all faith had died in him long long ago, as the boy Lucius had watched his beloved mother dying painfully of consumption, his prayers to the gods unanswered.

He had grown hard, Lucius Pontius Pilatus, as he'd grown up. Soldier, courtier, mover and shaker in the politics of Rome. But through it all, from the blood-soaked battlefields of Britannia, Gallia, and Judea, to the depths of Nero's most twisted orgies, he'd believed in nothing. Even after Divia, and his unexpected salvation from Pompeii, it did not change.

Until Vanderwal. Vanderwal, the priest who had exorcised the demon that had taken possession of Nicholas. That was something for which the silver-tongued disciple of Lucretius had no answers. None. Except to believe the evidence of his own eyes.

So, much to his own surprise, Lucien believed again. But in what? He could hardly go to a priest, be he Vanderwal or another. The mere sight of a cross, even for one as old as he, made him weak and fearful. So...

So, he sought out the other side of the equation. The Dark Side of the supernatural, the very font of Evil.

"Bring me my Nicholas back!"

It could be done, of course. Yes, it could be done. Of course, he was told, there was a price. There was always a price. The price (part of it) that now lay upon the granite slab.

The fire was kindled, the victim awakened (thanks to the IV Janette had saved) and strengthened. Naked, LaCroix advanced upon the unfortunate, loric raised high. He spoke the words he had been taught and practiced for so long. Two others had gone the same way, two nights past. Now, with this third oblation to the Father of Evil, his wish would, he fervently hoped, be granted him.

He looked into the eyes of his terrified victim, and as lightning flashed, he laughed.

Nick awoke, staring up at Helena in Medical. Momentarily disoriented, he tried to remember where he was.

"Nick?" asked Helena.

"Tracy?" he replied weakly, trying to focus. "Tra..."

"It's Helena, Nick," said Nat, at once by his side. "You're in Medical Center."

"You collapsed in your quarters, Nick," said Helena. "Jackie found you, in the bathroom. Do you remember? " Slowly, he sat up and looked at them both.

"Ah...yeah. I do. I was giving Jackie his lesson, and then I...I felt sick. I went to the can. I...I don't know."

"You were on the floor, Nick," said Helena "Unconscious. We found some blood next to you."

"I...yeah. I felt evil. Something sickening. Vile. Almost like I was drowning in it."

"Any idea what it was, Nick?" asked Natalie.

"It was..." he spared Helena a brief look, "LaCroix."

"Who?" asked the CMO, confused. "Oh. I see," she said, remembering at last. Nick had once told her of his "Master".

"Nick, are you sure?" asked Nat. Busy in Medical at the time, she'd felt something through their link, and rushed home. She'd called Helena alone, since Helena was one of only two people on Alpha who knew the truth about them.

"Yes. He was there, or I was. It was a field, a clearing. In the forest. He was standing naked over an altar, Nat. With a knife in his hand. And someone was on it. Bound and gagged."

"That sounds disgusting," said Helena. "Are you sure it wasn't a dream, Nick, or an hallucination?"

"No, Helena," said Nick, getting to his feet. "It was no dream. Nor am I coming down with Green Sickness. I'm not going to pull a Sanderson on you. It was LaCroix. It was real" He looked at Natalie.

"Trust us on this," said Natalie, to her chief. "There are things in the vampire world even I haven't figured out, yet." She handed Nick a beaker filled with red. He downed it slowly, feeling strength return. Helena watched, face disgusted. Though she knew the truth, she still couldn't help feeling a certain morbid fascination with the Barber's dining habits.


"Medical," said Helena.

"Helena," said Koenig, still down on the planet. "I heard we had a casualty. Doctor Nick Barber?"

Blast Alpha's grapevine, she thought.

"Yes, John."

"What happened? Is he alright?"

"Yes, he's okay, and I'm discharging him. It seems the...environmental controls in the head locked up somehow, and he passed out for lack of oxygen."

"Well, I'm glad he's okay. The controls?" Koenig was obviously stifling a smile.

"All fixed, John."

"Good. Doctor Barber?"

"Yes, Commander?"

"When will you be ready for the first test on the new power plant?"

"We have some more equipment to hook up, Commander, and plenty of checks to do, yet. But we're still on schedule for a trial power-up at 0800, tomorrow."

"Good. I should be back there by then. Helena?"

"Yes, John?"

"You and Bob should be glad to hear we've found terranium. Over fifty pounds of it, so far."

Oh that's great, John. We need it badly. And the rest of it?"

Nick and Nat left the Koenigs to discuss their wish list, retiring to Natalie's lab. As usual, some new, vile-smelling experiment was in progress.

"What's it all mean, Nick? This vision?" She took some blood from him, and put it onto a slide. Mixing it with some of her latest witch's brew, she popped it under one of the newly constructed scanners.

"It was real, Nat. it's as if I were there. Actually there."

"Back on Earth?"

"Yes, but as though I were looking at it through a glass, or a fog. Not clearly."

"And he was sacrificing someone?" she asked. "On an altar?"

"Yeah. It was weird, but it felt sick, too. I...I prayed."

"Nick??" She looked up at him.

"Yeah, I did. It went away, and I passed out."

"Well, why would LaCruel be sacrificing someone? Other than to himself, I mean. Usually he just indulges his stomach, and that's that."

"I don't know, Nat. It is weird, I admit." He looked at the slide. "Anything?"

"Well, not unless bleeding to death is your idea of fun."

"Excuse me?"

"Well, my latest brew destroys the vampire virus alright, and the anomalous RNA sequences."


"It also destroys the platelets."

"Oh great. No clotting."

"Uh huh." She shut the scanner off. "It'd make us mortal, alright, and then hemophiliacs. Not exactly the kind of mortality we want, Nick."

"No, not really Nat. Though it would be a sick, poetic kind of turnabout, I suppose." He went to the window. Outback was larger now, features becoming visible on its surface as Alpha drew closer. It was funny, he reflected. These dreams and visions. They'd begun about the time they'd detected Outback's suns on the long-range scanners. He wondered...

No. It was a coincidence of place. Nothing more.

"Look! Look, Lucien!" cried Janette, pointing. LaCroix looked up from his victim. Yes! Yes, it was working. It was him! It was Nicholas. Before them, dressed strangely, was Nick. The images were blurred and jumbled, the shimmering rift in the air before them wavering like a fuzzy old picture tube.

"Oui!" shouted LaCroix, and leered down at his victim once more. "Enfin!" The wind had risen, lightning flashed across the sky and with a sick howl he arced the knife down.

At 0750 Lunar Time, Nick, Ouma, Jim Haines and four others were in the new power plant's control room. Diagnostics were in progress, as were simulations on the newly designed flow sensors, technology culled from alien encounters.

"How's the intercooler read?" asked Nick.

"Up to 93.8%," said Haines. "Climbing."




"Rectifiers to 100%, Nick."

"Excellent." Nicholas checked the flow sensor display in front of him. All the tests said it was perfect. As the intercooler rose past 98%, he heard the control room door behind them open. He turned and saw Jackie enter, Nat behind him. He smiled. "We're almost ready."

"Cool, Nick," said Jackie, moving closer to him. He pointed to a panel. "What's that?"

"Temperature, Jackie," he replied. "And that's the..."


It was Koenig and Maya at the door. They would witness the test from here, Victor would monitor things from his lab.

"Well?" asked Koenig.

"Two minutes thirty," answered Ouma. He edged a paddle up, and pressed a button. "Recorders on."

"Check," said Nick.

"Jackie, shouldn't you be in class?" asked Koenig. Perhaps understandably, Koenig had never been able to warm to the boy.


"I said he could be here, Commander," said Nick. "Right now is his usual class time. I thought this might be educational."

"Please? Can I stay, Commander?" asked the boy, all eagerness.

"Alright, son," relented Koenig. "But don't touch anything."

"I won't, sir."

Now within a million miles, the Moon's gravity was beginning to be felt by Outback. Tremors near one of the drill sites had forced it to be relocated, and one of the decaying ruins had collapsed, narrowly missing burying an Eagle and its crew.

But it was deep within the planet that Alpha's tug was most strongly felt. The Moon's gravity pulled unequally on various parts of the planet, resulting in land tides and, most significantly for the Alphans, minute changes in the planet's rotation. In the core, spinning at a slightly different rate than the upper layers, Outback's magnetic field suddenly and unpredictably spiked...

A low hum began in the power room, as the system was engaged. With their sensitive ears, the vampires were the first to hear it. As it rose in pitch, it began to "sizzle" as well. In the center of the room, the coils began to glow as it started to collect energy. All across the panels, the indicators rose steadily and smoothly. Power was beginning to flow.

"Temperature 7.5 degrees below predictions," said Maya, checking a readout.

"Output now at 1,000 watts," reported Ouma.

"Increase to 2,000," said Nick. Haines pointed out the sine wave on another indicator, for Commander Koenig. Koenig nodded. Smooth and sweet. 3,000. 4,000. Up the new machine climbed, slowly. Perfect.

And spiked wildly. Outback's field suddenly soared by over 30 gauss, the waves wafting out through space.


Suddenly the power went down to zero. A puff of smoke roiled out from under one of the supports, and they could all smell the fried electronics.

"What is it?" asked Koenig.

"Fused coupler," said Nick, checking a sensor. "Piece of cake. I'll replace it." He grasped a replacement part from an open crate, and left the control booth, descending to the power room floor. Sure enough, one of the couplers was toast. Nick reached for his tools, and...

"Merde!" he muttered. "Jim? Could you bring me the number four wren...spanner?"

"I have it, Nick!" cried Jackie, and grabbing up the requested tool, darted through the doors.

"Jackie!" cried Nat, but he was gone. She shook her head. "He's sure inherited his dad's engineering bent."

"But he shouldn't presume like that!" said Koenig, sternly. "Jackie," he boomed over the PA. "When you've given him the tool, come back up here, please."

"I could use him for a second, Commander," said Nick, looking up at the booth. "His hands are smaller, and I need to reach under this."

"Very well," conceded Koenig. He'd talk to Jackie and his mother later in private. The boy needed some serious discipline.

As Nick worked, his mind was once again flooded with images. LaCroix. An altar. Janette. What in Heaven's name...

Lightning arced down, and struck LaCroix's raised fist. He felt the searing agony as the power ripped through him, and he screamed.

"There," said Nick, as the new coupler was popped into place. He stood up and gathered his tools, then froze. All around him, the system's coils were ablaze, energy pulsing through them suddenly. How? Not yet!

"Shut it down!" he screamed, as he felt his skin crawling with static. "Shut it..."

Once more, Outback's magnetic field violently pulsed. Pulsed, and then reversed polarity. Its waves flew outwards, and...

Struck the pulsing coils surrounding Nick and Jackie. There was a blinding flash of pure white light, and a sound like the shriek of ripping metal. Nicholas felt as if he were being torn in shreds, and then all became mercifully black.

"Lucien!!" screamed Janette. "Lucien!!" But there was no answer. Nothing but silence from the smoldering pit where he and the altar had been.

At last, Ouma shut the system down, physically pulling an entire cable trunk out to do it. At the instant Nick had reconnected the coupler, a circuit board smoked, an indicator had spiked and things had run rapidly out of control. The power output had gone totally off the scale, smoking several instruments. Then, as quickly as it had started, it was gone. The system was dead.

"Nick! Nick!" shouted Natalie, running for the power room floor. Koenig called for Helena, and followed her on down. Panicked, Nat could at first see only a leg, and smell the odor of burned flesh. Totally forgetting herself, she moved with a vampire's speed. She screamed at her first sight of the two. One body was hideously burned, flesh charred and smoking, lying amidst chunks of...stone? The second, face down, was more intact and had horrible burns on their back, legs, arms, and...

"What the hell?" she cried as she took it all in. Both bodies were those of adults, and one was entirely nude! She drew closer, but already her senses had told her the truth. She stopped, and the others rushed past her. Helena arrived, and turned the naked body over. It was a man, and despite the damage to the face...

"My God!" she swore aloud. "LaCroix!"

Chapter Six

"What do we have?" asked Tony Verdeschi in Medical, standing over the newcomers.

"As near as we can tell," said Helena, trying to come up with something to tell him, "we have two males, one aged about 45-50 I'd say, the other one...mmm, nearer to 30. Both DOA of course. I'll know more after the post mortem examinations." She glanced at Nat. How long? her eyes asked.

"How the hell did they get here?" Tony went on. "It was Nick and Jackie, down there in the power room. I've never seen these two before."

"I don't know, Tony," said Helena. On one table lay LaCroix, still "dead". On the second was the body of the other man, burned beyond recognition. "Both died of massive burns, as you can see." She held up the stump of LaCroix's left hand. "His hand appears to have been lost in an explosion of some sort." At that moment Commander Koenig entered, looking even grimmer than usual.

"Well, Helena?" he asked. She repeated for the Commander what she'd just told the others. "You alright, Natalie?" Nat nodded. What was there to say? "Well folks, we have a new wrinkle."

"What?" asked Tony.

"Our trajectory has shifted," he said, face grim. "There's a better than 90% chance that we'll go into orbit around Outback."

"How, John? We were supposed to pass by it well out of..."

"We don't know, Tony. The computer's on it, and so is Maya. Victor's trying to figure out what the hell happened in the power room. Whatever it was, it knocked down systems all over the base. Even the Cylons went down."

"And now?" asked Nat, pulling the sheet back over LaCroix's body. Hopefully she could start cutting before he returned. Ooooooooooooh, she liked that idea!

"Most of it was just kicked breakers. Technical's got everything back up, even them. But..."

Natalie did not hear the rest of Koenig's words. On the very edges of her senses, she could feel LaCroix returning. He would resurrect soon, and if he did so, in front of all these witnesses...

And, he would need blood. Lots of it she guessed, if his condition was anything to go by, and he wasn't likely to be gentle about it. She had to safeguard the rest from his ravenous hunger, when he arose. How the...

" know him, Natalie?" it took her a few seconds to realize she was being spoken to. She looked up. It was Verdeschi. Oh that look, she thought. All cop. He pulled back the sheet, and looked down at the corpse. "I heard you, Natalie. You said 'Oh My God. LaCroix' Do you know this man?" He looked down at the body, and his brows furrowed. "Santa...Helena, look!"

Oh shit!

They all strained to look. The horrid burns on LaCroix's arms and face were visibly, if slowly, healing. Everyone save Natalie uttered something coarse. His eyes twitched. Close. Realizing the jig was up, Nat fairly flew to the locker, and retrieved the one thing LaCroix was going to need.

All three mortals recoiled in horror as the burned corpse suddenly took in a huge gulp of air. Mouth open, he drew in huge amounts of it, then sat bolt upright, opening his good eye.

"Cazzo!" hissed Tony, stepping back.

"No!" bellowed Nat, as Tony moved to draw his weapon. She barged between them and shoved the tube from the bag into LaCroix's mouth, squeezing. The ancient vampire drew hard on the succulent fluid, groaning loudly, draining the bag in one go. It was at once replaced with a second. As he drank, they could all see the healing begin to accelerate. LaCroix raised his hands to grasp the bag, one only slightly burned, the other a charred and mangled stump. No one said anything as Nat replaced the second bag with a third. LaCroix slobbered his way through it as greedily as the first two, then when it was empty let out a long sigh and lay back down.

"Helena," said Maya entering. She stopped short, dropping her datapad, eyes fixed on the moving corpse. "Aza'b!" she swore aloud.

"What in God's Name..." began Koenig, when LaCroix opened his eye again, and looked around at all of them, at last fixing on Natalie. He smiled that non-smile of his, or at least tried to, and opened his savaged lips. His voice was thick with pain.

"Well, well. Doctor Lambert. Whatever can you be doing here?"

Jackie had absolutely no idea where he was, except for one inescapable fact. He wasn't on the Moon, anymore. He'd awakened to something rough rubbing against his face, and opened his eyes to thick forest, the trees nearly blocking out the sunlight. He was face down in the mud, and the rough something was a rock. He tried to rise, pain rippling through every muscle and joint, thirst burning, and made it to his knees. He wiped the mud away, and looked around him. A shaft of sunlight penetrated to the forest floor, and reflected off a small stream. He crawled there, and slaked his thirst. The water was muddy and tasted of things he'd never experienced on Alpha, but he didn't care. Water was water.

Thirst satisfied for the moment, he looked about some more. Nick. Where was Nick? He got slowly to his feet and moved around, looking under trees, bushes, everywhere. At last he heard a soft groan, and turned. Under a thorny bush he found Nick, on his side, face scratched up, but otherwise seemingly hale.

"Nick! Nick, wake up!" he said, shaking his teacher. Nick groaned, but nothing else. Not knowing what else to do, he drug Nick over to the stream and bathed his face in the water, mere inches from the shaft of sun. "Wait a sec," he muttered, and unhooked the commlock from his belt. Despite all, it appeared undamaged, and he keyed it.

"Uh...this is Jackie Crawford, calling Moonbase Alpha. Come in, please." The tiny screen however, gave only snow, the speaker only hiss. He keyed in his mom's code number, but got no answer from her, either. It was the same with Tony's, Maya's, Alan's, the Commander's. All of them were dead air. He tried Nick's unit, but got the same results. So, alone, scared, and not knowing what else to do, Jackie did what he'd often seen or heard his elders do, at bad moments.

He swore. Cussed a blue streak Alan or Sanderson would have been proud of.

As if in response, Nick stirred and flailed one arm. Jackie slapped cold water on his face again, and noticed something odd. His scratches. He was sure there had been more of them. How...Mmmmmm, must be the crummy light, here. He tugged Nick into the shaft of light to get a better look, and got one hell of a shock instead. Nick's skin began to hiss, vapor rising from it. He was at once awake; eyes wide open, screeching in pain. Instinctively he recoiled, pushing Jackie away and scrambling back into the gloom.

"Nick? Nick, what is it?" he cried, as the vampire turned to hide his face from the boy. He crawled into the shadow of the foliage, and stopped. A few moments later, he relaxed, and turned to look at Jackie. The skin on the right side of his face was red and inflamed, some of it peeling. "Nick? What's wrong?" asked Jackie again, drawing close.

"Where...where are we?" croaked Nick, hand to face.

"I don't know, Nick. I woke up a few minutes ago, right here." Nick reached for his commlock. "I already tried that. Nobody's answering." He handed Nick his back. "Maybe this is that planet we're getting close to? Outback?"

"No," replied Nick, taking in a deep draught of air. "Outback's atmosphere is too thin to breathe. Not much life" He sat, back stiff against a tree trunk, and breathed again. He knew this air! He could smell the soil, the water, the trees, the animals in the forest. And somewhere not too far away, the sea. He knew not how, but this was Earth. He was home!

But how? And where was Natalie? He leaned back and closing his eyes, concentrated. There, ever so faintly, was his link to her. She was still there, but how the...

"What's wrong with you, Nick?' Jackie asked again. "You're skin..."

"I have a skin disease," he replied, eager to deflect the boy's quick mind now. "It's called phototropia, and it makes me allergic to the sunlight. It can hurt the skin pretty badly, sometimes."

"Oh. Is that why you never go down to any planets?"

"Yeah.Yeah, it is."

"I'm sorry, Nick. I didn't mean to hurt you. I was worried."

"It's okay, Jackie," said Nick, with his disarming smile. "Don't beat yourself up over it." He tried the commlocks again, and of course got nothing. Nothing excepts Jackie's. Both units still worked, which puzzled him. Whatever had happened in the power room should have toasted any electronic device. Why not these?

And why weren't they dead? The energy released in that brief moment should have killed them, or at least Jackie. Yet, aside from a little residual dizziness, both of them appeared to be fine.

Again, Nick looked around at the forest. He at once recognized several species of trees and plants. A sparrow alighted on a moss-covered rock, a crow cawed from a branch somewhere above. All Earth species. Despite the seeming impossibility of it all, it was true. The two of them were, somehow, back on Earth. But why did their commlocks pick up nothing? Virtually all Space Commission facilities, and several militaries, used them dirtside, as did a number of private companies. Fully charged, each had an effective range of a few miles. But still nothing. He didn't get it.

He felt the breeze rise, and it was getting chill. The shaft of sunlight was gone now, and he got to his feet. Like Jackie, his joints and muscles hurt like mad, and he moved stiffly. He went to the stream and drank deeply, washing the horrid dry taste out of his mouth. He straightened up, looked over at Jackie, and felt...

Hungry. Deep within, he felt the first stirrings of the vampire, and the need for blood. He looked at his commlock again. It read 1430, Lunar Time. Over six hours. No wonder he was feeling hungry now. And Jackie was looking sooooo........

He stood, shaking off the feeling for now, and scanned the forest with his vampiric senses. Upstream, he sensed a few animals and something else. Something artificial.

"Come on, Jackie," he called. Since he'd awakened, the light had noticeably dimmed. Unlike himself, Jackie would need warmth and shelter, soon. As for his needs...

An hour's trek or so brought them to a clearing, and an overgrown shack. It was hard to see much detail in the rum light, but it looked crudely built, and seemed long abandoned.

"Shelter," said Jackie, and moved ahead. Nick held him back.

"Take it easy, Jackie. Let's be careful." Nick scanned the area, but sensed no one. He sniffed. Nothing. They moved closer, and Nick suddenly recoiled, with a hiss. Over the door, which was slightly ajar, was a rough-hewn wooden crucifix. It took him a moment to recover himself.

"You okay, Nick?" asked Jackie.

"Uh, yeah. I stumbled on a rock, I think."

"Okay." Without preamble, Jackie entered the hut. Almost at once, Nick heard his sharp intake of breath, and cry of fear. He dashed in, cross irregardless, and found Jackie staring down at a corpse.

Or, more accurately, skeleton. On a simple bunk, to the right of the door, lay the bones of a man, still attired in a rotted monk's habit. Jackie turned away in fear, and Nick held him close.

The dead man had owned a tinderbox, and soon Nick had a small fire going, and had lighted a lamp. As reverently as possible, he took the dead man outside, laying him next to the side of the hut. Returning, he saw the horror in Jackie's eyes. Aside from the dead Dorcon warrior, he'd never seen a corpse. Bones were something on X-rays, or computer graphics in class, not reality. Nick kicked himself for not sensing it himself. All that time in the sterile, artificial environment of Alpha had obviously numbed his perceptions.

"Any idea who he was?" asked Jackie, a little later.

"No. He was dressed as a monk, though."

"What's a monk?"

Nick explained it, and the whole concept of monasticism. In his studies, Jackie had found the word, but not gotten into it, yet. Of course, in the closed environment of Alpha, virtually no one was celibate, and there were certainly no canonical strictures in force. On the Moon, there was no Rule of Saint Benedict. He found the whole thing strange.

By the light of the tiny lamp, Nick searched the humble shack. The late occupant had lived simply, in the extreme. He found some water in a barrel, gone foul, a small jug of wine, definitely not foul, and some bits of long-spoiled food. What was someone doing out here, living like this, in the modern world, Nick wondered? True, there were still people of faith in the modern, secular world, but to live this rough? Weird. At the foot of the bunk, he found a small chest. Inside were books. Books...

All written by hand? There were about half a dozen of them, written by hand upon vellum, along with a few scraps of parchment, an ink well, and a number of quill pens. This was getting weirder and weirder by the minute. He held up one parchment to the light. It was a Psalter. In Latin, and beautifully illuminated, too. The vampire in him eschewed the holy symbols, but Nick the man soldiered on. The rest of the writings were sacred as well, as was the one found near the body. No doubt he'd been reading when he'd fallen asleep for the last time.

Still, there was nothing modern. This bothered Nick. There wasn't even a watch or a clock, to mark the hours for a monk to sing the offices, something he would have had to keep track of. Why?

Once more he felt the sting of hunger, as the Beast stirred within. He could hear Jackie's heartbeat pound loudly in his ears, smell his hot blood! He turned to look...

"I'm going out," he said. "Stay here, Jackie."

"What for, Nick?"

"To try and find out where we are," replied Nick. "I don't like not picking up anything on the commlocks. Keep yours open, in case I call."

"But Nick..."

"Stay here! Please." He leaned down to look at the boy, and in a very bad Austrian accent, said, "I'll be back!"

With Jackie's grumbling astern, he was out into the night. With the senses of a vampire, make that a hungry vampire, he prowled the woods. After a scant few minutes, he scented something. He sped towards it. A deer! With a speed so great the deer sensed nothing till the last instant, he was upon it. The beast struggled, thrashing violently, but quickly fell, it's hot lifeblood filling Nick. He felt the hot nectar dribbling down his chin, he moaned in ecstasy, reveling in the sheer, sweet pleasure of the kill.

As he stood over the twitching kill, he chastised himself. To react so quickly, so thoughtlessly... Had he learned nothing in all these years? No control? Could he not wait till they...

He froze, suddenly, as he felt it. Something was changing, he could feel it. Something that, perhaps, only a vampire could feel. A light, an energy, a...

He turned. Through a gap in the forest, he saw it. Saw her. Saw that thing which could not possibly here, now, but which unquestionably, undeniably, was. Nick stood, rooted to the spot, and watched as the Moon rose through the trees, higher and higher into the sky.

Chapter Seven

"He's who?" asked Koenig in his office. With him were Tony, Helena, Victor, and Ouma.

"We've identified him as Lucien LaCroix," said Tony. "He lives in Toronto, Canada. According to what little we had before Breakaway, he owns a nightclub there, called the Raven, as well as hosting an all-night call-in show on station CERK, called the Nightcrawler. I remember hearing it myself once or twice, before we left Earth. Bizarre stuff, really. Creepy."

"Me, too," said Ouma. "Weird bird, Commander."

"I think the real question, John," said Tony, looking up from his report, "is not so much who this man is, but what is he? You saw it. A man, horribly burned to death, suddenly starts to heal, and gets up off the slab and starts talking? That's sure as hell no ordinary man, John."

"I agree. Helena, how's Susan?"

"Sedated for now. She's in a bad way, emotionally, John."

"What about these men?"

"Well," she began, wondering how far she could go, here, "I'd given both bodies only a cursory examination, John. From what I saw, both men appear to be Human. Bob is running tests on this LaCroix, and Ben's autopsying the other one. So far, we've found nothing out of the ordinary from a biological standpoint. The internal organs all check out, the skeletal and muscular systems too. All perfectly Human."

"Normal Human beings do not rise up from the dead like that, Helena," said Tony. "That man was dead. No pulse, no respiration, zip. Then..."

"And Natalie certainly knows something about him," said John. "She said 'LaCroix' in the power room, and he called her by her maiden name, Lambert."

"He is unnatural," said Ouma, shaking his head. "I know what he is." He looked at them all. "Vampire."

"Oh..." began John, but Ouma pushed forward.

"I know it sounds like superstition, Commander. But I grew up in Jamaica. I can still remember the stories my grandmother used to tell me, when I was a little boy. About those lost souls who walk forever in darkness, and feed on blood." He waited a beat. "We all saw him drink it. And rise from the dead!"

"Sure sounds like a...well, vampire," said Tony, reluctantly. "My uncle used to scare the hell out of me at bedtime too, with stories about them, John."

"Victor," said John, turning to him. Right now, he needed to feel something scientific and solid under his feet. "Any clues as to what happened? Where did Nick and the boy go, and how did we end up with LaCroix and the other man?"

"We're still working on it, John," replied the old academic, scratching his head. "But we've got an idea about our trajectory."


"Yes. Apparently, the magnetic field of the planet surged, or spiked, at precisely the moment Nick replaced the fused power coupling. It powered up uncontrollably, and then Outback's field reversed."

"Like two magnets," said Ouma.

"Exactly. The energy produced by our equipment, and Outback's field, pulled us closer. As we speak, we're in a long, elliptical orbit."

"Permanent?" asked Tony.

"We don't know, yet. But if the computer projections are correct, we'll go from just over a million miles at the highest, to under 70,000 at the closest, in this new orbit."

"Actually, that might not be so bad, John," interjected Helena. "With a constant source of solar energy, we could build domes, and expand our food production even further. And the planet is full of things we need on Alpha. Metals. Water."

"Blessing in disguise, you think?" Koenig asked her, scratching his chin thoughtfully.

"Perhaps. It's raw materials far outstrip the Moon's."

"She may be right, John," said Victor. "If we do remain permanently in this system, we could establish a base on Outback, and begin terraforming. It has huge amounts of water below the surface in the form of permafrost, and the poles are over 60% frozen carbon dioxide. In time..."

"Okay," nodded Koenig, after a moment. "Assign one, just one, person from your department to draw up preliminary plans, in case we end up here permanently. For now, I want all but one team on Outback recalled to Alpha. If..." he held up his hand, "the planet's field goes wild again, I want as few people at risk as possible. Eagles 4 and 9 had system failures from the pulse. I don't want anyone to get stranded down there."

"Right," said Tony.

"And Victor, we need to start processing ore from Outback at once. Whatever happens, we need to be prepared."

"We're on it."

"And now," said Koenig, getting up, face grim, "I want to talk to Doctor Barber. I want to know what's happened to our people."

Nicholas stood, staring at the Moon for several seconds, too stunned even to think. This was not possible. The Moon? Here? At last shaking off his surprise, he looked about him, once more. Yes, that was indeed a deer. That tree over there was an oak, the other one a larch. All species native to Earth.

An Earth that no longer had a moon, as he had very good reason to know. After all, he'd been there! He'd experienced Breakaway, along with all the rest of Alpha. Experienced...

The alternate Earth! It must be! He recalled the time Alpha had passed through a bizarre space phenomenon, of unknown properties. Shortly thereafter, they had found themselves drifting back towards Earth! And not only drifting, but going into a perfect orbit around it. Only this Earth, it seemed, was uninhabited, devastated by Breakaway, civilization completely eradicated. It also sported another moon, with an abandoned Alpha on it! Down on the surface, they had discovered their own duplicates, struggling to survive on a wild and inhospitable Earth. And their own Moon, on a collision course with the other one.

But Alpha, at least their Alpha, was not destroyed. It was, after a few tense moments, suddenly in yet another unknown part of the galaxy, the meaning of it all entirely unclear, as usual. Though of course very curious, neither vampire had enquired of the landing party about their particular doubles.

That might explain the hovel they'd found, Nick decided. All technical civilization gone. The colonists from the other Alpha must have sunk to a primitive level. Could he contact the others, he wondered? The other Victor seemed to be the leader of the survivor's community, the landing party had said, and Victor Bergman knew what he was. Perhaps...

"Later," he muttered, shaking his head, and hefted the dead deer. It was all very, very confusing. Back at the shack, he found Jackie perusing the dead man's belongings. He turned, startled, as Nick entered carrying the fruit of the night's labors.

"What's that?" asked Jackie, stepping back a bit.

"It's called a deer," said Nick, explaining it to someone who had never seen any animal before.

"Uh, okay. What do we do with it?"

It was only at this point that it occurred to Nick that they'd overlooked a part of his education.

There was a knife among the dead man's possessions, and soon Nick had the deer gutted, skinned, and sizzling over the fire. Though hungry, Jackie looked very dubious at the prospect of putting that into his mouth.

"Nick," he said, as the venison sizzled.


"Are you sure that this is Earth?"

"Yes. Yes it is."

"But it can't be, Nick. I...I saw the Moon. It's our Moon, Nick. Just like the pictures I saw in school."

"I know, Jackie," replied Nick, handing him a steaming chunk of venison on a stick. "I saw it too. But it is Earth, just the same. All the plants and animals are from Earth. Those parchments are in an Earth language. This is Earth, Jackie."

"But how, Nick?" he asked again, almost a whine. "How can it be when there's a moon? Our Moon?"

"I don't know, Jackie." He watched as his charge bit into the food. The boy grimaced, but chewed and swallowed manfully. Nick bit some off as well, spitting it out when Jackie wasn't looking, tossing it into the fire. "Yeah, it sure could use some seasoning," he smiled, watching Jackie's face curl. "I remember Francois our cook, when I was a kid, he..."Nick stopped, realizing he'd started to reminisce out loud.

"Who was Francois?" asked Jackie, curious about Nicholas for his own reasons. "You had a cook in your house?"

"Yeah. My parents were wealthy, Jackie. We had a big...home, with a cook, a butler, and a gardener, all that stuff. I even had tutors, too."

"What did your dad do?"

"He...was in politics," replied Nick.

"Oh," replied Jackie, taking another bite. It was bland, yes, but it sure was filling. He hadn't realized just how hungry he really was. Well, maybe burned animal flesh was...okay. "Yeah, seasoning. Maybe garlic. Garlic would be good."

"Yeah," said Nick, shuddering even at the thought. "Too bad we don't have any."

"Nick, how did you catch this deer?"

"Uhh...I found it dead," he answered, much too quickly. "I decided we needed it more than the scavengers did."

"Right. Lucky, huh?'

"Yeah. Sure was."

Later, full as a tick, Jackie fell asleep and Nick laid him on the humble bunk. Moving outside, he looked up at the Moon, and wondered. Even Victor, and later on Maya, had never been able to explain the phenomenon that had produced a duplicate Moon, and brought it here, then themselves. But do all that it had, and now here he was.

He stood in a small clearing, and lifted off the ground till the treetops were hundreds of feet below him. As he scanned 360, he saw no artificial lights whatsoever, incandescent or fluorescent. He stretched out his senses to their maximum. No aircraft, no motorized vehicles of any sort within his range. He looked upwards and sensed. That was odd.

No satellites. Though civilization may have collapsed down here, the report of the Commander's flight to the surface did show a few satellites still in orbit, as well as the remains of the International Space Station. Surely something must still remain in orbit, if only wreckage!

But Nick could sense nothing. Below, the land spread out to the horizon, except to his right. He both heard and smelled the sea. But upon it's surface, there seemed to be nothing, at least of the modern sort. No steamships, no diesels, nothing.

Shaking his head, he drew his commlock, and punched in the number of Paul Morrow's old unit. He called. Nothing. Victor's. The same. He went through every one that he could remember. All channels were dead. Damn! This wasn't right! Someone, something, must remain. How...

He reset his commlock again, and pointed it at the Moon. When the other Alpha had been evacuated, one navigation beacon had been left functioning, its signal drawing them to the abandoned base. He scanned, but there was nothing amidst the static. Then he cursed, remembering. The landing party had turned the beacon off!

Wait! Victor had said that Earth's axis had shifted between five and six degrees, in that reality. And looking at Polaris, the North Star, it did seem to be off from where it should be by a few degrees. He tried to remember what the Right Ascension and Declination for Polaris ought to be, but he'd never paid much heed to astronomy. For a moment he thought of his sister, Fleur, and wished he'd teased her about her interest in astronomy less, and listened to what she'd learned more. Damn. Why hadn't they built a compass into these commlocks?

He suddenly heard something below, and descended to the ground. Just ahead through the trees was a road, and someone was travelling on it! He waited as they approached, listening. As they drew nearer, he heard not the sound of an engine, but the beat of hooves upon dirt. At last! People! He...

He sensed that which only a vampire can sense, the presence of another of his own kind. He faded back, he wasn't sure exactly why, into the trees, and stretched his senses to their limit. The hoofbeats stopped, about a hundred yards away, and he heard voices.

" feel it?"

"Aye, I do. Tis one of ..."

Blast this wind, thought Nick. Even as a vampire, he could barely hear them. Three, he was sure.

"...not show himself unto us, I won..." said one voice, a man's.

"As like tis some wretched carouche, that doth lurk in yon wood," said the first voice.

"Then let us ...his badgers and moles," said another, a woman's voice. He knew that voice! If only it were clearer! "We've no need of such riff-raff."

"Mon Dieu!" swore Nick, as it sunk in at last. The trio, after some moments, resumed their ride, and were lost to his senses. He dashed out onto the road, little better than a wagon track, and watched them disappear into the darkness. He stood there for a few moments, in pure, utter shock. How? Why?


It took him several seconds to realize that his commlock was beeping. He pulled it from his belt clip, and Jackie's image came up on the tiny screen.

"Nick? Where are you?"

"Ahhh...just scouting the area, Jackie. Are you okay?"

"Of course!" replied Jackie, with a measure of wounded pride. "I just wondered where you were at is all."

"Okay. Be right there." He switched off, and reclipping the unit to his belt, flew back towards the hut. He touched down behind some trees and stepped out into the moonlight. At once, Jackie was out the door.

"Nick. Find anything?"

"Not much, Jackie. There's a road, that way," he pointed, "but I didn't see or hear any cars on it."

"Maybe we can find someone tomorrow, then. You think?"

"Yeah. Hope so." He led the way back into the hut. The fire had burned low, and Nick tossed a couple of faggots on it, stirring it to cheery life again. After a few minutes, he was aware of Jackie looking at him.



"How come your face is all healed up?"

"Arrogant, isn't he?' said Koenig, watching and listening to LaCroix on a monitor in Helena's office. From his bed, the old vampire was hurling sarcasm and vitriol at one of the nurses, safely on the other side of the window.

"A real SOB," nodded Tony. He turned to Natalie, seated across the table from them like the defendant in court. "Now, what do you know about this man, Natalie? You called him by name, and you fed him blood when he pulled a Lazarus on us. He called you by name. Now please Natalie, I really don't want to get nasty. We've been friends. You saved my life, once. Maya's too. And I don't forget that. Ever. But the safety of Alpha is my number one concern, Nat. And hey, you want to find out what happened to Nick, don't you?"

That was one hell of a low blow, Verdeschi, she thought, and tossed him a nasty glare. She looked from him to Helena, then Commander Koenig.

"Yes, I know LaCroix. I've known him for years."

"Doesn't sound like he's a friend," said Koenig.

"Lucien LaCroix is nobody's friend, Commander," she replied with some heat. She looked at Helena again, but the CMO could do naught, without revealing the truth. "He is a vile, cruel, sadistic, murdering bastard. Take my advice, Commander. Shoot him out an airlock like Balor, and we'll all be better off."

"And how do you come to know him so well, Natalie?" asked Tony.

"Before I came to Alpha, I was Crown Coroner in Toronto as you well know. More than once, I saw the evidence of his handiwork." They already know, Nat. You've got to deflect them...

"And how do you explain him being here, or what we all saw?" asked Koenig. "I know what it looks like, Natalie. Please tell me I'm wrong about this."

"No. No, you're not wrong, Commander." She sighed. "Lucien LaCroix is a vampire." No one flinched, scoffed, sighed, or exclaimed disbelief. How could they? "A very old, very powerful vampire. I was sworn to secrecy, Commander, about what I had learned. An oath, never to speak of it." Helena squirmed at that, and Koenig caught it.

"If you hate him, Natalie," said Koenig, "then why did you help him? You fed him...well, you know what I mean."

"Upon reviving, a vampire's one and only thought would be to get blood. A horribly injured one doubly so. A room full of people would have been the perfect feeding ground. It would have glutted him, Commander. And he's strong, believe you me. Strong like a demon straight out of Hell! You wouldn't have been able to stop him before he'd drained everyone."

"Well whatever he is, he certainly seems to know you," resumed Tony, tone unfriendly. "He's told us a lot about you and Nick. Including the fact that Doctor Nicholas Barber is in fact Detective Nicholas Knight, late of the Toronto PD Homicide Squad." Silence.

"Well?" asked Koenig.

"It was...necessary for Nick to leave," she sighed. "His life was in danger, Commander. He knew too much. We knew too much." Behind Tony his deputy, Pierce, snorted. "We came here, to escape."


"The Enforcers," answered Natalie, growing both tense and hungry. "The vampire police."

"The what?" asked Tony. "Oh come on..."

"Yes! The vampire Community, as it is known, thrives on anonymity, Tony. They hardly want people to know about them. The Enforcers see to that. Anyone, vampire or mortal, that in any way endangers that anonymity is dealt with. Permanently. That's why we came to Alpha. To escape them. Pure self-preservation." She waited a few beats. "After Breakaway, it hardly mattered anymore. Nick and I kept our secrets to ourselves, and that was that."

"So Nick was up here under a false identity," said Koenig. "You know that's a violation of the law, Natalie."

"Commander Gorski knew about it," she replied. "And so did Commissioner Simmonds. We were like Dr. Queller, Commander."

"And they've both done great work in the Medical Department," said Helena. "The letter of the LSRO regulations certainly has little meaning now, John."

"I agree," Koenig sighed.

"Unfortunately," Tony resumed, "neither Commander Gorski, nor our dear, late Commissioner, are available for comment just now, Natalie. We only have your word for any of this."

"No." They all turned to look at Helena. "You've got mine too, Tony. I knew about them before they came to Alpha."

"Helena?" asked John, clearly taken off-guard by this.

"I had already met Natalie, at a medical convention, back in 1994, in New York. When she applied to Alpha, I gave her a letter of recommendation. She told me about the problems with Nick and all that, so I helped smooth things over with Simmonds' office. He was so damned preoccupied with the Meta Probe, it was a snap." She shrugged. "After Breakaway, it really didn't seem to matter."

"And it doesn't now," nodded Koenig. "But we still have to figure out what happened, and try and get Nick and Jackie back." He looked to Helena. "How's Sue holding up?"

"Better," said Helena. "She's out from under the sedation, but its rough on her, John. She seems..." She stopped, turning to look at Natalie, as she coughed loudly. Nat was gasping for breath, clutching at her throat, and turning a bilious shade of green. She struggled to rise, and reached out to grasp the edge of the desk.

"What..." began Tony, but his deputy, Pierce, was looming over Natalie, holding something right up against her face. At once, they could all smell it.


"What the hell are you doing?" yelled Tony, yanking Pierce's hand away, and tearing the crushed herb from it. To his surprise, Pierce did not resist. "Garlic? What in God's name..." He stopped, looking back to Nat. She'd crawled away towards one wall, gagging madly for breath. Helena at once went for an oxygen bottle, putting the mask over Nat's face.

"Pierce, what..." began Koenig, rising, but he turned as a sound utterly inhuman came from Nat. He actually leapt back at the sight of her, eyes ablaze, fangs bared, gaze fixed murderously on Pierce.

"Yeah," said Pierce. "See? She's one of them, too."

Chapter Eight

Nick slept fitfully the next day, sheltering from the sun in the monk's hut. From time to time he would awake, pondering this whole mess, and find his thoughts drifting towards Natalie. How was she? Mon Dieu! He missed her powerfully.

And last night, on the road, it had been them. LaCroix and Janette, with a third vampire, who he didn't know. But they were here, his Master, and Janette. Here. What were the chances?

Nicholas had never doubted that LaCroix had survived the aftermath of Breakaway. The old vampire was notorious for his survival instinct. So, he reflected, was Janette. But the more he thought about it, the less it made sense to him. The hut, the dead monk, the old manuscripts, the lack of any signals, the archaic language and transport of the others. It all added up, regardless of his constant redoing of the numbers.

He and Jackie had somehow been transported hundreds of years back in time.

But when? Who was the third vampire? Himself? He didn't think so, although he had no idea what meeting himself would feel like. Was this a time before he'd been brought across? Before he had been born, even? Could...

He rose, being careful not to awaken the loudly snoring Jackie, and returned to perusing the parchment fragments. Most of them were in Latin, and of these the bulk were religious in nature. Parts of the Gospels, an illuminated Psalter, Saint Augustine's De Civitate Dei.

But at the bottom was a letter, written in Old French and very worn, yet lovingly preserved. He read the letter, from a woman to her oldest son, bidding him, albeit reluctantly, Godspeed on his journey into the religious life. As he read, he realized that the style of the language was old-fashioned, even for him. It predated his own era, and as if to clinch it, it was even dated. There, in the flowing hand of the author, he read-

Michaelmass, Anno Domini 1016.

Suddenly it all came together. The dreams, the stars, the vampires on the road. And, an old, old mystery.


They all looked on, frozen in place, as Natalie glared at Pierce, held at bay by the garlic. She hit the corner, and slowly got to her feet, never taking her eyes off of him. She at last spoke, fangs down.

"Get that away from me!" she rasped, it's odor still burning her throat. Tony tossed the offending herb down a disposal chute, and quickly washed his hands, making Pierce do the same. Soon, the filtration system cleaned it out of the air, and Nat felt the burning begin to ease. She took huge lungfulls of air, grateful for Helena's oxygen mask, as her vision and other senses cleared. After a few moments, she put the mask aside, and let her appearance return to normal.

"Alright," said Koenig, looking from Natalie to Pierce, then back again. "I want the whole story. And this time I want the TRUTH!" The Commander glared at both of them, pounding his fist on the table, and his eyes reminded them all of the fact that while John Robert Koenig might be a fairly easygoing fellow generally, he was most definitely not a man to be trifled with, and one did so at their peril. "Now!"

"Yes," said Natalie, calmly going to a locker and withdrawing a unit of blood. She poured it into a beaker, drank it down, and then resumed her seat. "I'm a vampire, Commander." She cast a murderous look at Pierce, then turned back to Koenig. "I have been since before I came to Alpha."

"How long?"

"May of 1995. When I lived in Toronto. When Helena and I met at that convention, I was still mortal."

"Why did you come to Alpha?" he asked, sparing Helena a look.

"To escape! I did not ask for this, Commander. I never wanted to become a vampire, and would undo it if I could." She decided that her and Nick's emotions, that night in his old loft, were nobody's business. "There was simply no choice."

"So how did it happen?" asked Tony.

"Is Nicholas a vampire, too?" pressed Koenig, though she could tell from his tone that he'd already arrived at the truth of the matter.

"Yes. Yes, he is," she replied, taking another drink. "And before you ask, yes. It was Nick that brought me across."

"Across?" asked Koenig.

"Made me a vampire. That's the usual term for it."

"Why? Why would he do that?" asked Tony.

"I was dying," Nat replied, finishing her meal. "I had only minutes to live. Nick had no other choice."

"Okay, so what's all this got to do with LaCroix?" pressed Verdeschi. "If Nick made you what you are, where does he fit into things?"

"He's the one, I believe, who took my blood, and left Nick with a choice. She related her association with Nick, and his own love/hate relationship with LaCroix. How, she was sure, it had been he, and not Nick, who had drained her to the point of death, and left Nicholas with Hell's own choice.

Either bring her across, or let her die!

"And you've been working on a cure?"

"Yes, Commander." She told him of coming to Alpha to both develop the synthesizer technology, and pursue research into a cure, away from LaCroix, away from the Community.

Away from the Enforcers.

"We both want to be free of it!" she exclaimed. We want to be normal people again, not fugitives skulking in the dark, having to hide, feeding on blood. And we were so close, before Breakaway, Commander. So close."

"Go on."

What the hell, Nat thought. She could boozle both of them later. She told them about the Enforcer that had come to Alpha, and how they had destroyed her, moments before Breakaway. She did however, understandably, leave out Alan's part.

"Why didn't you tell me?" asked Koenig. "Come to me?"

"We weren't sure then just what sort of man you were, Commander. Would you have believed us? Would you have reacted as so many have?" She spared Pierce a withering glance. "Then we saw you in action. Terra Nova. Piri. That whole miserable thing with Simmonds and Zantor. We saw what sort you were, but as time went on, why? You had enough burdens to crush twenty men. Why add any more?"

"You knew?" Koenig asked, looking at Helena. She nodded at last. "Why didn't you tell me?"

"I couldn't believe it at first, John." She related her experience of watching Natalie rise from the "dead", after Carolyn Powell shot her down. "When I found her on the lab floor, I examined what I thought was a corpse. Then, she got up, perfectly alright. Technically, that made her my patient. Ethically, I could tell no one. It's no different than if she'd had a broken bone, or you had cancer. Confidentiality bound me. And then, I was afraid. What if others found out about them? How would they react to the knowledge that we had vampires among us?"

"We didn't need the whole base turning into a lynch mob, Commander," Natalie went on. "Anonymity best suits us, not the Salem witch trials. So we lived off the synthesizer," she held up the cup, " and let things be."

"I see," sighed Koenig. Then he turned to look at Pierce. "And you? How did you know?"

Pierce, it turned out, had been an agent of "The Company," sent to Alpha under deep cover, to try and discover what two members of "The Community" were doing there.

"The CIA?" asked Koenig, disgusted. "You're kidding."

"No. I can show you my old ID, Commander, if you wish. It's true. We in The Company know...knew about the existence of vampires. We have for years. We maintained extensive files on some, even utilizing their particular talents on occasion, to get into places and situations that no one else could."

"And you followed us up here?" asked Natalie. "Why?"

"We had information that there was a terrorist plot to sabotage the Meta Probe, and just after that we found out that you two were here. Then, astronauts started dying. I was planted in Security, to investigate. After all, the US had sunk tons of money into Alpha, and the International Lunar Finance Committee."

"You were Carolyn Powell's boyfriend," said Nat. "The one who slipped her the bugging devices."

"I was. At first, she was just a way to worm into Medical, and keep tabs on you. It was one hell of a shock to find out that LaCroix was paying her to spy on you and sabotage your work here. We hadn't known that."

"And the Meta Probe?" asked Tony. "Was there a plot?"

"I wasn't able to find out if it was true or just so much hogwash. Then we blew out of orbit, and it didn't matter any more."

"Why didn't you expose us?"

"You said it yourself. A lynch mob. Hell, we sure didn't need that. We needed all the medical help we had."

"And now?" asked Helena. "You act as though you hate her and Nick."

"I do. I hate them, hate what they are. I hate him!"

He pointed in the direction of LaCroix's ward.


"Yes!" hissed Pierce. "Lucien LaCroix is a killer. And they," he pointed at Natalie, "are his children." He straightened up, and glared down at Nat. "Lucien LaCroix also killed my father." She glared back at him.

"Be that as it may," said Koenig, "he is not they. You can't blame them for LaCroix's actions, Pierce."

"They share his lineage, therefore his guilt. Oh," he added, smirking, "and Alan Carter?"

Shortly before nightfall, Nick heard the sound of approaching footsteps. He extended his senses, and concentrated. It was but a single person, a man, and not in armor. He moved to the door and looked out. The fading light stung his skin, though not badly, and he waited, listening. He drew his commlock.


"Yeah, Nick?"

"Someone's coming. Better get back here, now."

"Okay Nick."

The newcomer entered the clearing a moment before Jackie did. He held only a walking stick, and was quite old. He stopped, looking at Nick in the dying light, then turned when Jackie emerged from the trees, carrying a bucket. He obviously noticed their odd dress, but said nothing as he approached the hut.

"Jackie," said Nick, motioning him to approach. The boy did so, never taking his eyes off the newcomer.

"God save thee, good sirs," said the newcomer in Latin. Closer now, Nick could see his cross, and tried not to recoil.

"And you," replied Nick.

"I seek Brother Modestus," said the old man, obviously a monk as well. "Where is he?"

"He hath departed this life," said Nick, and showed the newcomer the bones. "We happened upon this place, and found him thus." The monk crossed himself, and Nick swallowed hard. Though old, the monk's blood excited his senses and he felt his hunger begin to rise. He would need to feed. Soon.

"So it hath pleased God to recall him to His mercy," said the other. "I am Prior Wulfric. Thou art?"

" Nicholas deBrabant, Prior. This is my son, Jacques."

"French. Well, God save thee both." He reached out, and touched Nick's Alphan uniform. "Thou art strangely attired, Sir Knight. I have seen naught like unto it."

"We...lost all in the crossing of the Channel. Tis all we could find. Hast thou supped, Brother Prior?"

Nick invited the monk inside, and they cooked more of the venison. As they did so, he wondered whose Estate or Manor they were on, and hoped nobody's forester or parker showed up, to get nasty about his violating someone's poaching laws. As they spoke, he realized that the old man was Saxon, and since Nick knew the old version of the language, they conversed in it instead.

The late Brother Modestus had, it seemed, withdrawn even from the monastery, to become a total hermit, and no one had seen or heard from him since last winter. He had obviously been dead for some months. Brother Prior evinced surprise that a French Knight should speak the Saxon tongue, if somewhat roughly, and Nick told him that his late wife had been English, and that he had brought the boy over here to meet her people, etc...

"Faith, 'tis an unsettled time to be travelling," said the Prior. "The Norsemen descend upon York with the help of Earl Tostig, and King Harold sits upon an uncertain throne. Duke William will not let such a chance pass!"

God, thought Nick, that pins it down! Harold Godwinson of Wessex was at this moment King of England, chosen much to the fury of a certain French noble. Across the Channel, in Normandy, Duke William was preparing to invade, and claim the Crown.

William the Conqueror.

The Battle of Hastings!

Chapter Nine

"How interesting," said LaCroix, now out of bed, albeit in a wheelchair, and still under guard. "I am here, and Nicholas is not. Once again, Doctor, it would appear that your wretched technology has betrayed you."

"Is it technology, LaCroix," asked Natalie, charting him, "or your deal?"

"My deal, Doctor? Whatever do you mean?"

"We autopsied the other man, LaCroix. I ran a tunneling electron microscope scan of his cells, and he doesn't have the extra Transfer RNA sequences we do. He was no vampire. Cause of death-one stab wound, right to the heart. We found the remains of a knife, amid the junk that came with you, and the fragment of the knife tip, still embedded in a rib. He was clothed, and you weren't. I always knew you were evil, LaCrap," she said, turning to face him squarely, "but when did you sell out to the Devil?"

"Oh come now, Doctor, you know full well that I..."

"Bullshit, LaCroix! We had to take a course in the Coroner's Office, on recognizing the signs of ritual violence. I've seen enough ritual killings to know what I'm looking at. We found traces of blood and tissue on the knife handle. Yours." She looked out the window at Outback, about the size of a quarter at the moment, measuring his silence. "Are you that obsessed with Nick, that you, even you, would sink that low?"

"There seems to be little point in denials, Doctor," said the old Roman, looking out a window as well. "I have never relinquished my claim on Nicholas! Nor will I ever do so. Never! He is my son, my creation!" He turned to glare at her, his other eye open now. "Some trifling error with your nuclear waste does not change that."

"I would hardly call what happened trifling, LaCroix. You weren't here."

"Nor should you have been. You, or Nich..." He stopped, shocked, as Nat slapped him across the face. Hard. Bits of his still-healing skin came off on her gloves, as his wheelchair rolled back to thud against the bed.

"Shut your mouth, or I'll rip your heart out," hissed Natalie. The two vampires glared at each other, one furious, the other in utter shock. No one dared...

"I do..."

"Shove it! Remember, you are still weak, LaCrude, and I'm as full as a tick." As if to rub it in, she downed a full beaker of synthetic blood right in front of him. "Right now, I could kill you with my bare hands. You know it."

"Calm yourself, Doctor," smiled LaCroix, trying to regain both composure and face. Nat was right, and he knew it. He still felt horribly weak, and his hand was still regenerating.

"Calm? Calm myself, when I'm face to face with I hate most in the whole universe? Balor was a stand-up comic next to you. Mentor was a Blessed Saint!!! If it weren't for...for you, I'd still be Human, and on Earth! You took my blood, and left Nick with Hell's own choice, you sick bastard."

"My word, Natalie. I never..."

"Liar! I tasted your blood, while you were down, and saw the memories. Your psychotic obsession with Nick drove us to Alpha to escape. "We're here," she pointed at Outback, red-faced, veins bulging, "orbiting some dump of a planet, because of you! All my loved ones, my family, half a galaxy away, because of you!" Out the window, she could see an Eagle returning from Outback, loaded with ore.

"What do you want of me, Natalie?" asked LaCroix, quietly. "I cannot undo the past, nor put the Moon back in her place. But do not lay the blame for Nicholas' poor choices and indiscretion at my door. I warned him, more than once, not to pursue his relationship with you. Janette as well. He did not heed me, as usual. He..."

"ENOUGH!" she bellowed, rounding on him, eyes amber. "You want to know what I want of you? I want to see you burn in hell, you bastard! I want to hear you scream forever in utter torment, as you pay for your 2,000 years of serial murder and all the other untold misery you've caused." She dumped her gloves in the bin, and turned to go. She stopped, and turned back to him with a grin most unpleasant. "You know, Lucius," she said, emphasizing his old Roman name, "there are quite a few religious folks here on Alpha. They might be very interested to discover just who your father was, Lucius." And with that, she was gone.

"God, she really hates him," said Koenig to Tony in Security, where they'd been watching on the monitor. "You can feel it from here."

"It's no put on," said Maya, next to them. "The voice stress analyzer says she's telling the truth." She noticed Koenig shaking his head. "Commander?"

"Just trying to absorb it all, Maya." He looked over at Alan and Helena. Angry at first upon learning he'd been deceived, he'd slowly come to realize how needful it had been. Helena had been acting as a conscientious physician, and Alan was a man of titanic personal loyalty. What else could he have expected of them?

"Nick saved my life in that terrorist attack," Alan had said, after being exposed. "I owed him. And he did after all save us from that Enforcer bitch."

"Yeah. So, what do we do with him? LaCroix, I mean."

"Interrogate him," said Tony.


"Information about Earth. Victor say this proves that the Earth that contacted us, Dr. Logan I mean, could be an alternate reality, or in our own far future. This LaCroix is from our own world, and time."

"Good point," said Helena.

"Okay," nodded Koenig. "But remembering what he is, until we can either send him back or make use of him, how do we control him?"

Controlling LaCroix turned out to be much easier than expected. Natalie had calculated that eight ounces of synthetic blood per day, no more, would be enough to sustain him and permit the healing to continue, but not enough to allow him to return to his full vampiric strength. He was discharged from Medical, and given specially altered quarters (actually Simmonds' old rooms). Tony's logic was impeccable. If LaCroix got uppity, he could be more easily surrounded and dealt with here than in Medical, where other patients might be at risk. Predictably, LaCroix did not like the arrangement much, but his continuing convalescence and need for blood had tamed him for the moment. The rooms were, to him, drab and uninspired, but it was better than remaining in Medical, and in the company of the effusively happy Dr. Russell. Did, he wonder, the Commander know about her...

He turned from glowering at Outback as the door opened, and Koenig entered. LaCroix at once disliked the Commander of Moonbase Alpha. Here was a mortal, his senses told him, with a mind as strong, a will as steely, as his own. Someone whom no vampire in their right mind would ever consider bringing across. So amplified, they would in time rise up and destroy their creator.

Like himself.

"Ah," said the old Roman. "Room service. Put it over there, Pierre. I'll sign for it later."

Koenig said nothing, but was followed by one of the salvaged Cylons, carrying a slab of steel. He set it up, and waited.

"And what is this?" asked LaCroix, seeing one of the cybernauts for the first time.

"Watch," said Koenig. "Fire," he said to the robot. It drew a very lethal-looking pistol, and fired point-blank into the steel slab. Amidst the smoke and light, the pistol blew a charred hole in it, dead center. LaCroix recoiled as the metal vaporized, leaving an acrid stench in the air. "You can imagine what it does to flesh," added Koenig pointedly.

"Was it something I said?" flipped LaCroix, trying to regain his composure.

"Get this," said Koenig, quickly pressing a hypo to LaCroix's arm. "You will do nothing, absolutely nothing, to harm any of my people. This is a subcutaneous homing device. Main computer, Security Section, and Falxa here will always know where to find you. You see, we know about a vampire's speed, and your hypnotic powers."

"Doctor Lambert has been entirely too free with her tongue, I see."

"She understands the needs of Alpha, Mr. LaCroix. Alpha comes first, and has, since Day One."

"Nicholas has been most remiss in his schooling of his child," replied LaCroix with a sigh. "I am somehow not surprised."

"I want some information, LaCroix, and I want the truth." Koenig's voice, and look, was sharp and uncompromising.

"I do not take kindly to being spoken to like this!" snarled LaCroix, his 2,000-year-old ego rising up. "Who do..."


"By your command," said Falxa, and took hold of LaCroix. LaCroix glared into the others' optical sensors, and found the sight of the oscillating red bar intimidating. Try as he might, he could not break Falxa's hold, the robot's whining servos compensating for every pull and tug.

"Let go of..."

"At one word from me, Falxa will smash every bone in your body, and dump the remains out an airlock. I doubt that even one of you could survive on the airless surface in full sun, Mr. LaCroix. Falxa." The Cylon let go and stepped back.

How like the ultimate Alpha Male wolf thought LaCroix, who had often watched them as a boy in Italy. He enters, and at once establishes his dominance over all. He goes right to the point of killing, and holds. Holds, but never hesitates. Obviously, this Commander Koenig was not a man who hesitated. Not where the welfare of his people were concerned. Roman of him. LaCroix smiled slightly, and sat down, having no other real choice before him.

"What precisely, Commander Koenig, do you wish to know?"

Chapter Ten

Brother Prior spent the night with them, eating sparingly of the venison. Though his eyes were not what they once had been, they saw clearly enough that this man was not quite what he claimed to be. His odd way of speaking, his odder dress, all bespoke a mystery. The boy, Jacque, asked him about life in the monastery, and Wulfric decided that it was most odd that the boy should know naught of monasteries and monks. Faith, one would have to live on the Moon to be so ignorant!

At last Jackie and Brother Prior slept, and Nick slipped out of the hut to hunt. He was terribly hungry, and all the time listening to Wulfric he'd had to fight his reaction to the smell of his blood. Nick sniffed the air, listening. He heard a rustling in the underbrush, and dove, coming up with a badger. Its struggles soon ceased, and his hunger eased.

He rose up again, and cast his senses wide. He could feel no trace of the vampires from last night, but he did sense mortals, close by. He also smelled smoke. Curious, he moved over that way, coming to ground in the forest near to the road. Through the trees, he saw a wagon, and two men with a woman next to a fire. All were asleep. Just humble travelers, he decided. Tinkers from the looks of their wagon and its wares. He felt glad that LaCroix and the rest were nowhere near, and turned to go, when, faintly, he heard approaching hoofbeats. Two riders from the sound of it, and coming fairly fast.

Nick's sense of danger began to tingle, growing stronger the closer they came. As they drew even with him, he could see two men in armor, armed with swords. The two conversed in hushed tones, then dismounted and moved stealthily towards the camp. Obviously up to no good, Nick decided.

And they showed it. One leaped from cover, drawing sword on one of the sleepers. In a blur Nick was there, eyes ablaze. He tore the weapon from the thug's grasp, and hurled him away into the brush. The second, rifling the cart, turned to see Nick, and reached for his sword. It never cleared his scabbard. Nick grasped his arm, and crushed it in a grip of steel. The thief yowled in pain, then Nick felt something sink into his back. He cried out himself, and let go the man to turn about. The first, still alive, had thrown a knife, but was unprepared for what happened next. In a blur, Nick had his crushing arms about him, and sank his fangs into his neck. He thrashed as the life drained out of him, then twitched a little before falling still. Nick dropped the corpse, and turned back towards the other thug. He was oblivious, still cradling his wrecked arm, when Nick picked him up and glared into his eyes, snarling. He kicked and tried to draw a dagger with his good hand, but Nick quickly sent him on to follow his partner in crime.

He dropped the corpse, and reached around to pull the knife out. The campers had fled for the moment, so he rifled the dead men. Both had a little money, and weapons. On the edges of his vision, he sensed the others, watching him. In the best Anglo-Saxon he could muster, he bid them return.

"Thou art safe, friends. These two be dead."

Slowly they emerged, one by one. An older man, perhaps fifty or so, and a woman, apparently his wife. The third, no more than 20 or so, was obviously their son from his looks. Nick began to strip the dead men, as they drew nearer.

"Fear not. I shall not harm thee, good sir. Madam."

"Why hast thou aided us so?" asked the father.

"Tis not meet that thieves and murderers should have reign," replied Nicholas. He bundled up the armor and clothes, and gave the tinker a few coins. "Besides, does not Holy Writ say 'Be ye kind, one to another'?"

"God bless ye, sir," said the lady.

"And thee as well," said Nick. He looked at the son. "And thou. Be more alert next time, for they father and mother's sake."

"I...I shall."

Nick was unsure whether his nature had been seen, and had decided to hypnotize the lot, when he sensed someone else drawing near. He turned as they emerged from the woods.


Prior Wulfric had fallen asleep, and Jackie had awakened, restless. He'd gone after Nick, using the commlock locator beam to home in on his position. They rode back on the two horses, since the previous owners would have no future need of them, and dumped the corpses in the underbrush for the scavengers.

"You were supposed to stay in the hut, Jackie," said Nick.

"You never said that," replied Jackie, truly enough. "I woke up, and you were gone. I didn't call where the old man could hear me."

"Huhh. No harm done, I suppose."

"Who were they, Nick? Those guys you whacked?"

Whacked? Oh, please!

"They were thugs. Thieves," said Nick at last. "They meant to rob and murder those people."

"And you killed them." Not a question. Nick sighed again. He had hoped to shield the boy from violence here, if possible. Now, he'd witnessed him kill. He felt ashamed. He'd taken the blood of both men, and easily. After all the effort, all the struggles, he'd fallen back into the vampire's way as easily as remembering how to ride a horse. Yes, the dead men had been criminals, something he needed no blood knowledge for, but still...

Being for too long inside the comfortable, temptation-free environment of Alpha had weakened him morally, he decided. There, he'd had to resist little, and had powerful reasons to forebear, but now, when temptation had come along...

"Nick?" said Jackie.



LaCroix could not help but smile a little at Koenig, despite his contempt for the man. The smile of frustration, of course. The man was relentless, both in his questioning and his suspicion of LaCroix. In fact Koenig reminded him of his old centurion, when he'd first made optio. The fellow had been just like Koenig; iron-willed, uncompromising, demanding results and answers NOW! A man who, to be fair, demanded as much of others as of himself. And, LaCroix recalled, he'd had quite a way of interrogating prisoners. Of course, that had gotten results too.

LaCroix had told him, truthfully, of the current state of things on Earth in the aftermath of Breakaway. The quakes, the tsunamis, the altered weather patterns. Koenig, and the older man who joined him, Bergman, were extremely interested in the New Moon Project. He told them all he knew of it, which was little more than one could have gotten from the papers, or CNN. LaCroix was, after all, no scientist.

Then it got personal. Joined by Verdeschi, he was asked a lot of questions about himself, and his relation to Nicholas. He felt his contempt grow, at these mortals asking such things of him, but hungry, dependant, and thoroughly controlled for the moment, the old General had no choice but to parley.

"Now," he asked at last, "perhaps you will answer a question or two for me? Where are we, and how did I come to be here?" He listened as Koenig told him of their current predicament, and the accident in the new power room. LaCroix mulled it a moment or two. While no physicist, he could put a fair idea together. Nicholas had been doing whatever it was at the very moment Janette had seen the portal open, back home. Some sort of transposition had obviously taken place. He had been drawn here, across countless light-years, to Alpha, as surely as Nicholas had been, to Earth. Fascinating.

"Why are you so obsessed with Nicholas?" asked Tony. LaCroix looked at him with contempt for a moment.

"Obsessed?" he replied haughtily.

"Yes. Obsessed. You sink to the depths of sacrificing to the...the Devil, to get him back. Most people would have watched the Moon sail away and gotten on with their lives. But not you. You kill a man, in a ritual fashion, all to get him back."

"Why is Nicholas so important to you?" asked Bergman.

"You would not understand," replied LaCroix, condescendingly. "I am not 'most people'. Neither is Nicholas." He turned away, as though they were beneath his notice.

"So we've gathered from Natalie," said Koenig, and watched as LaCroix's brow furrowed. It was obvious that he hated the doctor. Given what they already knew of LaCroix, that was hardly surprising.

"Doctor Lambert..." he exploded, then at once caught himself. "The good doctor does not understand the nature of the relationship between Nicholas and myself, Commander. She never has."

"I can't imagine most wives would," said Tony, with just the right tone. LaCroix glared at him, his eyes going amber for the barest second. Tony said no more, but smiled at the vampire's response.


"But she's one of you, now," shot in Bergman, eager to defuse the moment.

"A vampire, yes. One of us, no. Nicholas is my son! My creation! I gave him everything. Life. Power. Immortality. All the things he wanted. All the things men crave. All the things mortals lust after!" LaCroix was getting angry, they could see. His eyes flashed again for a moment. "And how does he repay me?"

"I take it he changed his mind," said Tony drolly.

"He insulted me! Betrayed our covenant, and she helped him!" he gestured vaguely in the direction of Medical.

"Natalie says she's been working on a cure," said Tony. "So she told my wife."

"There is no cure!" insisted LaCroix. "Once done, it is done! Immutable. Forever."

"Which no doubt accounts for your anger," said Koenig.

"Have you children, Commander Koenig?" asked LaCroix, suddenly.

"No. Why?"

"Then you do not understand the pain a parent suffers, watching a child continue down the same foolish path, despite repeated and continuing disaster. Like a wayward daughter, seeking love in an endless series of beds, a son searching for happiness in one needle or straw after another. Seeking the love and guidance only a father can give. This pathetic search for a cure has given Nicholas enormous pain and heartache for centuries. And now?" He waited a beat. "Stuck on a wandering lump of rock, lost in space, separated from all who love and treasure him. It gives me the greater pain, to see it."

"But Nick is not biologically your offspring," said Tony. "Nat said he was the son of a French knight. A family named de Brabant."

"When Nicholas accepted my offer, freely and without coercion, he became my child. My son. I am his father, always and forever! It is our way."

"That is one sick puppy," said Tony, on the way to Victor's lab. "Makes the Mafia back home look like the Salvation Army."

"Yeah, he's a creepy one for sure," replied Koenig. "Just being with him..." He shuddered.

Victor and Maya had been working on the problem, and had come up with some preliminary results. Apparently, said the old academic, the interaction between the new power coils and Outback's unpredictable magnetic field had not only pulled the Moon closer, it had torn open a rift in the fabric of space-time.

"A wormhole, Commander," said Maya. "If what LaCroix says is true, and that Nick was visible through some sort of portal, it was actually a wormhole. All three things, LaCroix's actions, Outback's magnetic pulse, and our initiating the power plant, all intersected in space-time, and it happened." She gestured towards a screen, packed with computations.

"Can we recreate it?" asked Koenig. "Trade them back?"

"John, I just don't know," said Victor. "By LaCroix's own account, he was struck by lightning. That introduces a variable into the mix. We don't know how strong the bolt was, how long it was in contact with him, or anything else about it."

"We are working on computer modeling," said Maya, "but we need to reactivate the power plant."

"Are you sure?"

"It's the only way, John," said Victor. "Right now, we don't have enough data on its interaction with Outback's magnetic field. We've got to have that data, John."

"Alright, but only for as long as you need to. We don't need any more surprises."


"Commander," said Maya, "what are we going to do with LaCroix, if we return him?" Just then, the base shook slightly, reminding them that the interaction with Outback worked both ways.

"I don't know, Maya," replied Koenig. "I just don't know."

Chapter Eleven

The next day, Prior Wulfric gathered up the remains of Brother Modestus, and began the journey back to his Abbey. Nick wanted to help the old man, but the sun prevented him. So instead of accompanying the Prior, Nick gave him one of the horses, instead.

"To ease thy burden," he said, indicating the bag filled with Brother Modestus. Despite his vampiric impulse, Nick resolutely looked at the rough wooden cross Wulfric wore about his neck, and bid him Godspeed. Wulfric did the same, and was gone. Once they were alone, the silence between the two was palpable. Jackie reheated a little venison, while Nick looked over the armor and weapons.

One sword was crude and nicked; not the best quality steel. The second one on the other hand, clearly of Viking make, was princely. The cunningly carved ivory hilt bore on one side the image of the Norse god Odin riding his six-legged horse, Sleipnir, the other his son Thor wielding his mighty hammer. The two daggers were smaller versions of the same. No doubt, thought Nick, plundered in some battle from the Norse invaders.

"Jackie," he said, looking over one helmet. "Here." He set the helmet on him, then readjusted the straps inside and tried once more. It was a tad big, but it would serve him reasonably well.

"Why do I have to wear this, Nick?" he asked, scrutinizing it.



"Look, Jackie," said Nick, turning to face him, "we're in the Middle Ages. The autumn of 1066, to be exact. You've studied enough to know that swords and axes are the rule of the day, here. I don't know when, if ever, we'll get back to Alpha, but while we are here, you're my responsibility, and I have to see to your protection."

"But I don't know how to use a sword, Nick," he replied, almost whining. He picked one of them up. Ten pounds if it was an ounce and unwieldy to boot, his hand only just closed over the hilt.

"I can teach you, Jackie. A little, anyway." He stood up, and took off his Alpha jacket. "Could you go and get some more water, Jackie?"


Nick watched him go, then stripped down to his Alphan undies. As he did so, he pondered. Jackie had seen him kill at least one of the men, perhaps both. Of that he was certain. Had he seen enough to guess what he truly was? Much to his mother's lament, Jackie loved watching the cheesy old horror flicks in Alpha's library. He certainly knew what a vampire was, even if his knowledge were limited to Bela Lugosi, Geriant Wyn-Davies, and Buffy. If Jackie knew...

He returned, and they both washed as best they could. Nick donned one set or armor, sound chain mail over a stout leather jerkin, which was a reasonable fit. For Jackie, he had to adjust it for his height, but fortunately the second man had been short, even for the 11th Century. Standing up, Jackie wouldn't look too ridiculous.

"There," he said, finishing up. "You look like the proverbial knight in shining armor."

"More like rusty and smelly armor," said Jackie. He sat down, and sighed heavily, head in his hands.

"What is it?"

"I was just...missing Mom, is all. Is she okay? God, I want to go home, Nick."

"So do I, Jackie," said Nick, putting his arm around the kid. Jackie wanted, but resolutely refused to cry, holding it in. He certainly wasn't going to lose it in front of his idol!

It passed, and Jackie stood up, looking out into the forest. Nick stood behind him, waiting. Though he had never tasted Jackie's blood, he could practically feel the turmoil inside of him. He was radiating a mix of fear, curiosity, loathing, and need. Everything, all rolled into one. Extending his senses, Nick tried to read him. What...

Jackie turned around and looked up at him. Despite his age, his eyes looked deep, and Nick felt them pierce him to the core.

"Okay, Nick," he said, drawing his sword. "I guess I'd better start learning how to use this thing."

On Victor's advice, several Eagle's were launched, to take up positions in orbit around Outback, as well as between the planet and the Moon. All sensors fine-tuned to the utmost, they waited. Slowly, the repaired power plant was fired up again, and its waves traveled outwards. Sensors and computers whirred and buzzed, and both Victor and Maya retreated to their lab to crunch the numbers.

In her own lab, Natalie continued her researches as well. Through her link, albeit tenuously, she could sense Nicholas still. But the proximity of LaCroix nearly drowned out everything. She sensed him well enough; his impatience, his anger, his malice, all were clearly present.

So was Helena. The CMO was helping her analyze the latest test results, and calming her fears.

"You did your best," said Nat. "We figured it had to come out sooner or later, Helena." She slid some blood samples into a centrifuge. "I just hope it doesn't sour things between you and the Commander."

"John understands," said Helena. "He's not really mad, and so far no one else on Alpha knows."

"And Pierce?"

"John told him that if he didn't keep his mouth shut, he'd maroon him."

"Good. I never did take very well to being assaulted." She shut down the centrifuge, and removed the test tubes. "Helena, do you think we can get Nick back? I...I don't know if I can go on without him." She leaned against the table, choking back a sob.

"Nat," said Helena, moving to her side, and putting a hand on her shoulder. "I know this might not mean a lot, but I felt exactly the same, when Lee was lost."

"Your first husband?" Helena nodded in response.

"When I got the message that his ship was lost with all hands, I fell apart. I didn't see any patients, I didn't eat for days, I hardly spoke to anyone. My family didn't know what to do with me. Lee was my life. Losing him nearly killed me, Nat. I could only think about dying, and being with him."

"What stopped you?"

"I was in a bar, getting totally wasted, trying to build up the courage to do it, when someone collapsed from cardiac arrest. I was bombed, believe me, and I had no business touching a patient in that condition, but I acted without thinking. I did CPR, and gave him mouth to mouth, while someone called 911. And he lived."

"And that did it?"

"Yeah," she nodded. "And so did I. I wasn't sure I was going to live the night out. I had a gun, and everything. But saving that man's told me something. It told me that I still had something to offer. Something to do." She patted Nat on the shoulder. "But it won't come to that for you, Nat. We'll get Nick back. Believe that."

"I have to, Helena. I don't have anything else." She turned around. "For good or ill, Nick has consumed my life, since the night I met him. He has become my life. Our quest for a cure."

"Which we will find, Natalie," Helena reassured her. "We'll beat this thing. It's just a germ. We'll beat it. Just like we'll find a new place to live."

"Outback?" asked Nat, scornfully.

"Maybe. If we're stuck here permanently, it may be possible to Terraform it."

"That'll take centuries," laughed Nat. "Perfect. I'll be the only one who gets to see it."


"Promise me one thing, Helena. Promise me, if we can't get Nick back, you'll help me kill LaCroix."

"Kill him? Nat, I..."

"Hear me out. About a year before I was brought across, LaCroix conspired with a serial bomber named Vudu to bomb an airplane Nick was supposed to be transporting a dangerous prisoner on."

"Why?" asked Helena, aghast.

"To get Nick to return to the fold. If Nick 'died' so publicly, he'd have to move on. Only he wasn't on the plane, and hundreds of innocent people died in the crash."

"My God."

"Including two very dear friends of ours. Nick's Captain, Amanda Cohen, and his partner Donald Schanke. There was a last-minute trade, Nick being what he is, and they were transporting Dollard, the prisoner, only LaCroix didn't know about it."

"And he killed all those people, just to get Nick? That's utterly insane!"

"Oh LaCroix is insane, Helena. I'm convinced of it. He's obsessed with reclaiming Nick, no matter the cost in lives. He looks upon mortals the way the rest of us look upon sheep, or carrots. Just another food source. Beneath him."

"Tell me more," said Helena. Nat did, from LaCroix's beginnings in Imperial Rome till now, as she knew it. Helena was both fascinated and disgusted at the man's history. Though never a believer in capital punishment, Helena found herself sympathizing with Nat's point of view. LaCroix was, without question, evil. As evil as Balor, or Dr. Rowland, Mentor, or Baltar had ever been.

But no, she could not help kill LaCroix. She was, after all, a doctor, and had sworn an oath to save lives, not take them. And, like it or not, LaCroix was her patient. Which reminded her, it was time to check on him.

"I'll do it," said Nat. "No, don't worry, I'm not going to stake him. A little obvious on camera, after all."

LaCroix was surprised to see Natalie, but submitted to her doctoring all the same. She changed the dressing on his hand, and charted the progress of the regeneration. Three carpal and one metacarpal bone had completely regrown, and feeling was returning to the fingertips.

"I must say that your odyssey has been a fascinating one, Natalie. I have been reading on the computer of your travels. Commander Koenig has kindly allowed me library access."

"Well, he's not a monster," said Nat, drolly. "Unlike some."

"Well aimed, Natalie," smiled LaCroix. "But I also see that you and Nicholas have been most heroic in your own way."

"We're doctors, LaCroix," she replied. "We save lives."

"But you are capable of so much more, Doctor. Intellect, strength, perceptions-all enhanced by what you are."

"I have no desire for power, LaCroix. No wish to rule or dominate others, vampire or mortal. Neither does my husband."

LaCroix shook his head, muttering-"Husband". Then louder-"But Nicholas was born to power. Wealth. Position. Surely you know this."

"That doesn't make him want to go back to being Lord of the Manor, LaCroix. Besides, anonymity here is as important as it was back home. There are two of us, and over 250 of them." She glared at him. "You do the math."

"Quite," conceded LaCroix. "But a few disciples, here and there, never hurt."

"More people developing food allergies and skin problems? More of us never eating in the cafeteria, and avoiding landing party duty? Yeah, right. Besides, we have no desire to inflict our own hell on anyone else." She finished up. "There, LaCroix. Your hand is regenerating quite well. At this rate, it should be fully restored in four or five days."

"Thanks to your skills, Doctor."

"Thanks to your vampire nature, LaCroix. Can the flattery. Now, tomorrow at 0800, I want you in Medical."

"Why? You just said..."

"Helena wants to study the regeneration of your tissues, in the lab."

"No. Absolutely..."

"How would you like your blood ration increased?"

LaCroix decided that he would like that. He would like that very much.

"But don't try anything rash. We've kept the truth of what you are from nearly everyone. It would be a total bummer if they were to suddenly find out."

"Do not threaten me, Doctor!" snarled LaCroix. "I am not so easily cowed. If I go down, I shall not do so alone!"

"But you'll go down first," she shot back, full power to the Lambert glower. "And whatever happens to me, you'll be very, very dead. Then you and Divia can watch each other burn."

Anger flared in LaCroix's eyes at that name. He did not like his daughter's name to be mentioned. Ever. As she headed towards the door, a thought came to her suddenly.

"Oh, and one final thing," she said, turning casually back to him.

"And that is?"

With blinding speed, she grabbed his arm and bit down. Stronger than he for the moment, she took a mouthful, and let him go.

"Thanks," she said, and left. Once back in her quarters, she gave the images and thoughts from the blood knowledge full reign, letting them flood into her mind.

And looking for answers.

Chapter Twelve

A few miles from the monk's hut, they came to a village called Bosham, and Nick got them rooms at the local Best Western. It was, of course, a complete hovel, but it had a roof and shutters on the windows, and that was all it needed to have. No one questioned the man in armor with a boy, here. Father and son, knight and squire; it was common enough. Sitting in the inn's common room, Nick closed his eyes, and let the surroundings carry him back across the centuries. After so long in the filtered, purified, recycled environment of Alpha, he'd nearly forgotten the smells of home. Wine, sweat, smoke, urine, horse shit, and other things. In the back, he could both hear and smell meat cooking. As usual it made his stomach churn, though not so much as it once would have. Obviously, Nat's potions and therapies were having some sort of effect.

He opened his eyes, and watched Jackie eat. Obviously, roast meat agreed with him, after the reprocessed everything of Alpha. He was devouring the hunk of boar and the bowl of some sort of porridge with gusto. Thank God he's not a fussy eater, thought Nick, who had even allowed him a little wine, as well. Nick had tasted his first wine at seven, under his mother's watchful eye, and it had done him no harm. It might also look a little out of place here, if he did not. He sipped his own wine, a somewhat passable vintage, and recognized it with some surprise as coming from his own family's vineyards. How utterly bizarre, he thought, to have come all this way, and to run into a family export!

Apparently, it was song night at the Medieval Bar and Grill, and each of the patrons sang a verse of some ditty, then passed the harp on to another. Nick agreed, and began a love lay that his mother had taught him, when he was barely old enough to hold the instrument in his little hands. He must have been in good voice, for he was asked to play again, and did so, till he felt a tingling at the edges of his awareness. Vampires! Others of his kind, and very close. Even as he stretched out his feelings, he heard them on the steps of the inn.

The door opened, admitting a gust of chill, wet wind, and the three of them entered. From his corner, Nick watched as they shook out their cloaks, and were shown to seats near the fire. They, of course, sensed his presence as well, and turned, looking about the room, at last fixing their eyes upon him. Nick passed the harp on to the next patron.

LaCroix had the same arrogant look of disdain as always, as he took in the place. Nick could almost hear him decrying the quality of prey, hereabouts. Janette, as usual, was trying to keep her obscenely expensive clothes clean here, and the third...

The third was Aristotle! Aristotle, the master forger, who more than once had helped Nick vanish from one life into another. Need a new ID? Passport? Work history? Tax returns going back 20 years? Aristotle was your guy.

And yet here he was, back in 1066 with Janette and LaCroix, and the answer to one of Nick's most puzzling personal questions. How could he possibly have known Aristotle in that year, when he would not even be born for well over a century? That, and he would not even become a vampire until 1228.

Nicholas had first met Aristotle in late 16th Century England. By then, he was already a master of forgery and false identities. Though he would never say whether or not he was the Aristotle, the student of the great Plato and tutor of Alexander The Great, Nick knew for a fact that his Greek, make that ancient Greek, was flawless. They had met at a party, given by an English Lord, to which LaCroix had gotten invited somehow. Aristotle was "something" in Queen Elizabeth's court, and they'd been introduced. After the festivities, the drinking, and the feeding, Aristotle gave Nick profuse thanks.

"For?" he asked Aristotle. For saving his life at the Battle of Hastings of course, Aristotle told him. Surprised, Nick explained to him that he hadn't been there, hadn't even been born, yet. It wasn't until 1198 that his mother had given birth to...

"'Faith, tis manifestly thee, Good Nicholas," said the other. "Never have I forgotten thee, or thy help."

"But, truth..."

"Nay, I know tis a secret that LaCroix keeps from the Council. It mattereth naught to me if he chooseth to vouchsafe it unto none. His secret and thine shall stay so."


"But I am in thy debt, Young Nicholas". Aristotle looked about furtively, as if he expected hoards of mortals with crosses and stakes to suddenly burst in, or the Enforcers to descend upon them like snowflakes. "Thou hast but to come to me, Nicholas. Papers, passports, letters of credit, all of them. They are thine, without expense, forever. Not a groat shall they cost thee."


"Oh here you are," said Janette, all ruffles and folds and frills, suddenly interrupting. "Do come, boys," she said, in her condescending way. "Lord Burleigh has arrived."

Nick shook his head, returning to the "present". Janette had smiled at him, and had the landlord send him over a tankard of wine.

"Nick!" said Jackie, between mouthfuls. "Look who it is. That's the man you painted!"

"Hush, Jackie. Please," said Nick, alarmed that the others might hear him over the din of the other customers. "Don't mention that."

"But Nick..."

"Jackie! And keep your voice down." He hesitated to hypnotize Jackie, being both too fond of him, and suspecting that he was a resister as well. Obviously, things were getting thornier by the minute. He tasted the wine Janette had sent over. It was only just above Chateau d'Treatment Plant, but in it he tasted a few drops of her blood. Nick raised an eyebrow. An old custom, it signified that the offerer came in peace, and wasn't trying to muscle in on anyone's territory. Nick was surprised, having never actually seen it practiced in his time. He took another sip, and nodded, acknowledging her gift. He also sensed from her that she was horny.

How unusual.

"Nick, what's going on?" asked Jackie once more, though a little quieter this time. "What are they doing here?"

"I'll tell you later," sighed Nick. He'd hypnotize him, and...

Janette and Aristotle rose, and came over to his table as soon as two other customers had left the inn. Having no choice, he bade them sit. LaCroix left the inn as well, off into the night. Nick did not have to wonder why.

"My thanks," he said to Janette, indicating the flagon of wine.

"Thou art welcome, good sir," she replied, her eyes and expression as lustful as when he'd "first" met her, on the way home from the Crusades. "I am Janette duCharme, and this is my friend, Aristotle." She indicated the other vampire. "And thou?"

"Nicholas", he answered. "Nicholas deBrabant." It didn't matter, he decided. After all, there was such a noble family, even now, back home.

"And who is this?" Janette asked, eyeing Jackie. She looked him up and down, this time with a different though no less real lust.

"This is Jacque," he answered.

Jackie could just make out enough of the Old French to get the gist of their conversation. Something about this lady made him nervous. The way she looked at him was decidedly not maternal. As for the balding man with her, he never took his eyes off of him. But Jackie didn't like being left out of things, having been the center of attention all his life, and rose up, offering his hand to the woman, regardless.

"Bonem noctem, Domina," he said, since his Old French wasn't up to it. "Mihi nomen Jacobus est. Pergratum est te convinere."

"Well," said Janette, "let it never be said that the young have no manners." She offered her hand, and he kissed her ring. "Mihi quidem volup est, juvenis Jacobus." She looked at him again, and Nick recognized that look. Janette was sizing Jackie up for his nutritional potential. He could hear her heart begin to beat rapidly, and her nose twitched.

"No," he said quietly in Old French, firmly locking eyes with her. "He is mine." She nodded reluctantly, and he smiled. After all, in this time she was only a couple of centuries old, while he had the strength of eight. It would be no contest. Of course, should she appeal to LaCroix, it might be a different matter. She was, now, LaCroix's favorite child, and he could refuse her little, indulging her much, much too often for her own good.

Such as in the matter of a certain French Crusader knight, 162 years from now.

"Thy squire?" asked Aristotle, his pulse almost as loud to Nick as Janette's.

"Yes, after a fashion." He looked down at Jackie, and squeezed his leg under the table. "I found him amongst the ruins of a monastery the Norsemen had burned in France. I kept him as my servant."

"However dost thou resist such...succulence?' asked Janette, eyes on Jackie, tongue stroking her teeth. Her eyes flashed for a brief moment.

"He did save my life from a Norseman that recognized me for what I am. Ran him through with a spear before the barbarian could take my head. I was in his debt. I made him my squire. My protégé."

"Doth he know?" asked Aristotle?"

"Indeed. There was no way to hide it, and he is a resister. One day, if he wisheth it, I shall bring him across."

With that, he could feel the others back off a bit. One did not interfere with the mortal protégé of another vampire. While they were few, some vampires raised mortals from childhood, eventually offering them the Dark Gift when they were mature enough to make a reasoned choice. So reared, few declined it. It was a reasonable, believable explanation, and Nick could sense that they were buying it.

The door opened, and he looked up to see LaCroix re-enter the inn. From his Master's flush skin and self-satisfied expression, he could see that he'd fed. With his usual arrogance, he took a seat among them, without asking.

"I was wrong," he announced. "The hunting tis good, hereabouts. Very good." He took a draft of wine, and looked at Nick, then Jackie. "And who have we here?" Nick introduced Jackie again, and told the same story. "Lucien LaCroix," said the old vampire, and extended his hand to both Alphans. As he and Nicholas touched, there seemed to be the faintest of sparks, and LaCroix looked oddly at him.

Can he sense it? Nick wondered. Can he perceive our link?

"Nicholas deBrabant," replied Nick. Something told him that he'd been very dumb to give his real name, but he couldn't undo it now.

The data from the sensors aboard the Eagles confirmed Victor's theory. The unforeseen and unpredictable interplay of energies when the power plant was fired up had created a temporal rift in the fabric of space-time. Somehow, through that rift, Nicholas and LaCroix had passed in opposite directions.

"Can we replicate it?" asked Koenig, looking at Victor's computer model. "Reverse the procedure?"

"John," said Victor, looking up as well, "I just don't know. Part of the mix was the polarity flip on Outback, and part was the electrical storm LaCroix experienced back home. We can neither predict the next flip, nor know exactly how strong the bolt of lightning was. The only constant we have is the plant itself. That much is certain."

"Not even a theory?"

"We're working on an idea, Commander," said Maya. "But it depends on the planet's magnetic field, and when Nicholas is."


"The rupture wasn't just spatial," the Psychon went on. "It was temporal as well. LaCroix may have come from present day Earth, but Nick and Jackie didn't go there." She indicated a screen full of equations. "See?"

"Well...sort of," he shook his head, trying to follow the math. Lord, how did Maya do it?

"With information from the Cylon database, and the transport chamber we used to rescue you before," said Victor, "we may be able to come up with a method, John.' Koenig shuddered, recalling the drafty, smelly old Scottish castle.

"Well, keep me posted," he said, and left them to their work.

Nat headed for Medical, her mind filled with new information. She now knew for certain that LaCroix had not merely drained her, and conspired with Vudu in the plane bombing, but had also killed Alyssa, Nick's first wife.

It had hit her suddenly, like a laser blast. The way LaCroix had muttered "husband", had triggered something. When Nick had married Alyssa centuries ago, he had attempted to bring her across. All had seemed well till, come morning, she was dead. LaCroix had been there, almost at once, berating him for his failure to succeed, oblivious to Nick's grief, and shrugging it all off as if it meant nothing. As usual, LaCroix wanted nothing and no one to come between Nicholas and himself. When Nick found out...

And as if that were not enough, she knew for certain that LaCroix had "gone over" as it were to the other side. That LaCroix had murdered innocent people, as an oblation to the Father Of Lies himself, in order to get Nick back. She shuddered at the pure sickness of it all. The unadulterated evil of Lucien LaCroix.

She entered Medical to find him already there. As always, he was ruthlessly punctual. He wore a leftover uniform from the period before Breakaway, without indication of department or rank, and only an ID badge with his photo and name. Helena entered a few moments later, and began scanning LaCroix's regenerating hand. As a doctor, she was fascinated by the progress of the tissues. Already the little finger was back, and the two middle ones longer by nearly half an inch. Human bodies did not do this, yet here was one doing it nonetheless. She took some cell samples and plates, and set the computer to analyzing it all. A sample of LaCroix's DNA soon followed them.

True to her word, Nat gave him a little extra blood, an ounce to be exact, and Helena scanned the accelerated healing. Natalie thought her chief looked as happy as a loan officer at a foreclosure at what her studies were showing her. She was smiling, and had that excited glint in her eye.

"Okay," said Nat, and began grilling the old General. About the night in Nick's loft, and the bombing of Schanke and Cohen's plane. But mostly about Alyssa. It was obvious to even a non-vampire that LaCroix had been taken completely off-guard by this revelation. Obviously, Natalie was more adept at reading the blood-knowledge than he had expected. He hated her all the more for that, angry already at her pestilential questioning. No one, certainly no mere pup, ever dared treat him this way. And lived, that is. But, in his current predicament, he had no choice but to cooperate with all questions and tests.

Revenge would come later.

"And what precisely," said LaCroix, with a sigh that nevertheless conveyed his vast contempt, "do you hope to learn, Doctor?" He looked at Helena as though she were an customer at the Raven with an overdue bar tab.

"Science is a journey, Mr. LaCroix," said Helena. "A quest. And knowledge is its own reward." She positioned a scanner over his chest. "Besides, we're a bit short of prosthetic limbs here on Alpha. If we could adapt this regenerative capacity of yours to ourselves, we might be able to replace lost or damaged tissues, should the need arise."

"What I am is not adaptable to mortals, Doctor," he intoned dogmatically. "Save by being brought across. Once done, the body is proof against nearly all damage or maladies."

"So I have seen," said Helena, casting a quick glance at Natalie. "It's truly remarkable. But I'd rather not."

"A pity, Doctor. Your beauty, preserved for all time." He smiled at her.

"Your soul infected with bloodlust for all time," added Nat sarcastically, doing a fair impression of his voice. "Can it, LaCroix."

"Doctor Lambert, I..."

"It's Barber, LaCrap. Or deBrabant if you wish," Natalie shot back, and jabbed him with a needle. "Ooops. So sorry." He glared daggers at her, but before he could do more than say "ow", the door opened, and Sue Crawford entered. She looked haggard from her days of worry, and approached LaCroix, glaring.

"Anything, Natalie? Helena?" Her voice was controlled. Too controlled.

"Nothing yet, Sue," said Helena. "Victor and Maya are working on a theory. It looks promising, but nothing so far." Sue didn't respond, but just looked at LaCroix. He returned her gaze, wondering who this woman was.

"Is there something I can do for you?" he asked at last.

"What have you done with him?" she asked, slowly. "Where is he?"

"Who?" asked LaCroix, though he at once guessed.

"My son. Jackie! Where is he? What have you done with him?"

"I assure you, Madam, that I have..."

He never finished, for Susan leapt forward with a scream, pummeling him with her fists. So sudden was her attack that he received a broken nose and split lip before hurling her across the room, to crash into a chair.

"How dare you..." he began, rising, eyes and fangs to the fore, but Nat shoved him back down with her greater strength.

"Where is he?" screamed Sue, as she saw him thus. "What have you done to Jackie? Monster!!"

"I have done nothing to anyone," he snarled, anger barely in check. "I do not even know this 'Jackie'."

"Liar!" she screamed as Helena helped her to her feet. The door opened and Falxa entered, but Helena bid him hold. "Liar! You..."

"Sue! Sue!" said Nat, taking hold of her, and looking into her eyes. Sue looked back, and slowly began to relax.


"He had nothing to do with it. Do you hear me?"

"Yes," said Sue, softly.

"He had nothing to do with Jackie's disappearance. Do you understand?"

"Yes. Nothing. Nothing to do with it. I knew that."

"And you never saw him like that. You never saw him with anything but normal eyes and teeth. Sue?"

"Yes. Normal. He's just normal."

"In fact, you weren't even here. Go back to your quarters and sleep. Sleep, Sue. This never happened."

"Never happened," said Sue, and left. Nat took a deep breath, and turned back to LaCroix and a stunned Helena.

"My thanks, Doctor," said the old vampire, wiping his nose.

"Don't thank me, LaCroix. I did that only for Sue, not you. But..." and she got close, almost nose to nose, "hurt anyone on Alpha again, hurt so much as a potted plant, and I'll pump you so full of muscle relaxants that a two-year-old with muscular dystrophy will be able to rip you apart, limb from limb, like string cheese. Starting here." She jabbed him where it hurts the most. He bent over, gasping in pain, eyes wide. "Got me?" She waited a beat, as he glared up at her, eyes buggy. "IS THAT CLEAR???"

"Crystal," croaked LaCroix, eyes murderous.

"Good." Then to Helena; "How unprofessional of me."

As Natalie turned away, LaCroix managed to straighten up. After a moment or two, he looked at his healing hand, then to Helena. Alpha's CMO had stayed out of his dustup with Natalie, but she felt herself coming to share her hatred of him more and more.

"So, Doctor, once I am fully recovered, what do I do?" His voice had a decided squeak. "What is my place, as it were?"

"We'll just have to see, Mr. LaCroix," she answered. "But we'll find something for you. You can count on it. Here on Alpha, everyone pulls their weight."

"You catch that, LaCrotch?" said Natalie, motioning for Falxa to return him to his quarters.

"Understood, Doctors."

"Good God," sighed Helena, when he was gone. "Sick."


"I'm surprised we didn't have to clean up in here when Sue hit him."


"Everyone knows shit splatters, Nat."

Chapter Thirteen

Janette and Aristotle had departed into the night to hunt, inviting Nick to join them. He declined, declaring that he preferred to hunt alone. He ensconced Jackie in their rooms, then went out. Although he was loath to kill anyone, he was very hungry by this time, having not fed for more than 24 hours. He looked about for an animal, finding a cow in a yard behind a small house. He hesitated, sensing people within; he did not wish to deprive some poor family of what might be its only livelihood. Nick was above all a kindhearted man, and had been a kindhearted Lord of the Manor, before war and seemingly endless killing had changed him. He turned away-no peasant's would go hungry because of him.

And was nearly knocked over by someone with a knife. The attacker stabbed him in the chest, then began to rifle his clothes as soon as he was down.

Then screamed, as red eyes glared up at him. There was a blur of movement, fangs, burning pain, then a slow descent into oblivion, and flames.

Nick tossed the dead mugger into the woods, after relieving him of both weapon and purse. Apparently, business had been good, the bag was plump with cash. As he returned to the village, he mused upon how he'd killed three people in two days. He loathed killing, even in self-defense, and salved his conscience with the knowledge that, so far, they had all been malefactors. The blood knowledge from this one was quite clear. The man who had attacked him had been a thief and murderer of long standing. No great loss to society, there.

Still, it bothered him, to have had to kill. Part of the process of becoming Human once more had been his foreswearing of killing for food. As he re-entered the inn, he found himself praying for repentance, evil as the other man may have been.

Returning to their rooms, he found Jackie, sitting up and wide awake. Curiously, perhaps as a result of his possession by Jarak, the boy tended to need little sleep. Like now, as he sat up staring at Nick, eyes never leaving him.

"Nick," he said. "Where ya been?"

"Out, Jackie. Just...out."

"Doing? You find a woman? That one at the table, maybe?"

"Jackie!" Nick responded, trying to hide his surprise, turning to him. "I'm married. I..."

"But Natalie's not here."

"Hey, you watch it," said Nick sternly. "I don't want to hear that kind of stuff." He had to admit, however, that it had been tempting. Janette, as beautiful and luscious as ever, and oooooooooh so close! He'd been sorely tempted, but no. She'd know, with the first taste of his blood, the truth of things. And, be it the 21st Century or the 11th, a vow was a vow, as far as things with Natalie were concerned.

"But you wanted her, Nick," the boy went on. "I could..."

"Enough!" Nick barked. "Janette and I are none of your con..."


"Janette," said Jackie, with the barest hint of a smile. "First names, already."

"Look, Jackie, I do not wish to discuss..."

"Why you have a painting of her in your quarters? Why you have another one, of that weird guy with the punk crew-cut?"


"Or why you don't go outside in the daytime, and heal up so fast?"

"It wasn't so bad, that, as it first..."

"I saw you last night, Nick, with those robbers. I saw you kill them. I saw how you killed them."

Any pins dropping in, oh say Canterbury Cathedral at that particular moment, might understandably have been mistaken for multiple explosions.

"Jackie," said Nicholas, lighting a candle, then drawing closer and looking into his eyes. "You saw nothing. Do you understand? You saw nothing out of the ordi..."

"Bull," said Jackie, blinking. "I know what I saw, Nick." He waited as Nick leaned back, frustrated. "Don't worry, I'm not going to blab it all over."

"That's good," sighed Nick.

"Does Natalie know that you're a...vampire?" Nick looked at the boy. A long, annoyed, even angry look.

"Of course she does, Jackie," he sighed, disgusted.

"She's one too, right?"

" long have you known?"

"Only since we got here. But I've suspected it for a long time."

"Why?" asked Nick, rising.

"The way you killed that Dorcon soldier. He was really strong, but you offed him like he was nothing."

"Offed," muttered Nick, shaking his head.

"And your speed. You move faster than any runner."

"And my reaction to sunlight, I presume?"

"Uh huh. You avoid the solarium like the plague. And I've never seen you eat. Sometimes you pretend, like the other night, but you never really eat anything. And last night, I saw you bite one of those suckers on the neck. You took his blood."



"Yes. Yes, I took his blood, Jackie." Nick sat in silence a while, mulling it. Better perhaps to have the kid in the know after all. Of course all his well-laid lies fell to dust, here. And who could have predicted this situation? "Aren't you afraid, Jackie? Afraid of me?" He looked at the boy, and let his fangs drop.

"No," replied Jackie, though his voice quivered a bit.

"Oh? And why not? After all, I am what I am, Jackie." He let his eyes flash.

"You're a good guy, Nick. You saved me and Mom. You saved those people here when you didn't have to. And beside, you were a cop." More silence. "I saw some of your old pictures."

"I ought to paddle your butt for snooping," growled Nick. "Did not your mother teach you any manners?"

"I was curious. Nick?"


"Have you fed, tonight?" Nick turned to him again, glaring, then relaxed.

"Yes. Yes I have."


"Someone tried to mug me, Jackie," he sighed.

"I thought so. There's a tear in your cloak that wasn't there, earlier." He reached up and fingered the tear. "You were attacked, right?"

"Yes! Now, if Little Mother Jacqueline is quite through," he snapped, "it will be dawn soon."


"Yes. 'Uhh'! You have to guard me, Jackie. While the sun is up."


"Now that you know the truth," he snapped again, finger to the boy's nose, "there is responsibility. I am a knight. You are my squire. In this time and place, that is how it must be."

"Okay," grumbled Jackie, and in keeping with his new station got up and helped Nick out of his armor, handing him the bowl of water and a rag. That done, Nick laid down, the sky already beginning to lighten, and Jackie closed the shutters. As he felt the tiredness steal over him, Nick wondered where LaCroix and the rest were hold up.

"Nick," said Jackie.


"What's the date? It looks like fall."

Nick searched the blood knowledge of his recent kills. One had been moderately well educated, and had known the date.

"September 23, 1066."

"Right." There was a long silence. "Nick?"


"Where's the bathroom?"

The mining and exploitation of Outback continued without letup. As Victor had calculated, the shift in their trajectory had put them into a highly elliptical orbit around the planet, though it was very unclear at present whether or not they would stay. Victor and Maya also continued to refine and recalculate re the vortex problem. On the sixteenth simulation, Alpha's upgraded, speeded-up X-5 computer succeeded in "opening" a temporal rift. When and where it went, however, were another problem.

"Inigg!!" swore Maya, as another simulation went thud.

"Maya?" said Victor, surprised to hear her use so...colorful an expression.

"Oh this model, Victor! We just don't have enough data! LaCroix was transported here from modern-day Earth. But we cannot be sure...Oh, I am sorry, Victor," she said, calming down. "I'm just so frustrated is all." She began rubbing her temples, eyes squeezed shut.

"I understand perfectly," said Victor, with a smile. Hormonal, he decided, though he did not voice it. His mother had been just the same, when she'd been expecting his sister. He smiled at the long-ago memory, for a moment letting himself wonder about them all, back home. Were they alive? Were they well? Perhaps... He flinched, as Maya swore again. Some things, it seemed, transcended time, space, and species.

"A date!" growled Maya. "O Elementals, give me a date!"

"Still confined to quarters, LaCroix kept on reading those things that the computer permitted him access to. He was somewhat surprised to discover that the computer even had a file on him. A couple of Nighcrawler broadcasts were in here, as well as that hideous episode of Cop Watch, with Nicholas and Don Schanke. For the barest instant, LaCroix regretted Schanke's death, and his own part in it.

But that moment of penitence passed quickly, and he looked at Nick's personnel file. Carelessly, he'd been left access to those. Oh well, it was something to read. Hhmm. Aristotle had done quite a good job, with Nicholas' latest identity. How unfortunate his own sabotaging of it hadn't borne fruit before Breakaway. He read Nat's, next. He was, in spite of all, pleased that her beauty would not fade with time, now that she was one of Them. Pity that she had no personality. Commander John Koenig. Ughh. He passed him over, quickly. Ditto Kano, Paul Morrow, Bergman...


Ah, Maya. Interesting. LaCroix had never once given the slightest thought as to the reality of extraterrestrial life, before. As a vampire, who cared? But here was a real, live alien. As he read, he saw she was listed as "Science Officer". Perhaps he should talk with her. Aside from his twisted, evil psyche, LaCroix actually enjoyed purely intellectual conversation, and had a nearly eidetic memory. A relic, no doubt, of his education in philosophy and rhetoric, standard for a Roman boy of his day. But what excuse?

He continued to flip through the files. Weyland-deceased. Collins-deceased. Lowry-deceased. Picard-deceased. Kelly-ditto. Simmonds- He laughed at that one! Served the bastard right. Kesslan-Deceased. Crawford-deceased. Gods! What fools rushing in these Alphans must be. Such a death rate! Craw...Ah, the hysterical woman in Medical. Hhmm. Widowed, one son. Jac...

"Di Immortales!!" swore LaCroix, eyes widening as he saw Jackie's photo. He stared at it for a long time, blocking the uniform collar, and scanning just the face. A bit younger perhaps, but it was he, nonetheless! He shook his head, as various old things came together.

"Di Immortales!" he swore again, scarcely able to believe it. He keyed the compost in his quarters. Yes, Doctor Lam...Barber? Might I speak with you?"

Jackie awoke before Nick. He thought the chamber pot barbaric, but had little choice. Settled back, he observed Nicholas in repose. He'd really liked Nick, as Nat put it idolized him, for as long as he could recall. A father figure. The revelation of what Nick truly was had come as a severe blow. His idol, his hero...

A vampire.

But Nick wasn't like the vampires in the old horror flicks, or novels. Nick had saved people, he and his mom among them, rather than killed them. The tinkers would certainly have died, if not for him. Those guys were thugs, and got the reward they so richly deserved. Same with the mugger Nick had told him about. But...

What must it be like, to be a vampire? To live forever? To never face age, or disease? On the other hand, what must it be like, to hunger so unnaturally, to have to hide, and to fear the light of the sun? Of course, this explained why Nick was so good at history. He'd lived through so much of it. And why he was so good at so many languages, too. How old was he, Jackie wondered? Had Nick lived in this time? Would they meet his earlier self? That might prove...interesting.

Nick stirred, and he returned to the here and now. September 24th, 1066. Right now, up north, King Harold Godwinson was getting ready for all that hack, slash, and chop stuff with the Vikings, and then would soon be heading back this way. In three days, William, Duke of Normandy, soon to be known to history as William the Conqueror, would set sail with his huge invasion fleet. The two would meet at Hastings a few scant miles away, and history would, as they say, be made.

Jackie was both excited, and terrified. Excited to be on the spot when history was in the making, on his parent's homeworld. History that he had only read about. Terrified when he recalled that after the battle, the victorious Normans had been none to gentle with the locals.


"You know him?" asked Maya, in the lab. With her were Victor, Helena, Nat, Tony, and the Commander. Across from them sat Lucien LaCroix.

"Yes, after a fashion," replied LaCroix. "This boy, Jackie Crawford, was, briefly, known to me as Jacque."

"And this was in 1066?" asked Koenig.

"It was. I and two companions were traveling through England at the time, and in the inn of a picturesque English village, there he was."

"Was he alright?" asked Natalie.

"Nicholas appeared well, as did the boy. I sensed considerable confusion in them both, which I did not understand the reason for at the time."

"What were they doing?" asked Helena.

"Eating. Or rather the boy was. Stuffing himself with abandon as I recall. Janette, one of my companions, sent Nicholas a blood-greeting, and we fell to talking."

"A what?" asked Tony, and LaCroix explained. Recalling Janette's predilections, Nat asked: "Did Janette harm..."

"No, Doctor. Nicholas introduced the boy as some waif whom he had saved from a Viking raid on a monastery, and made his protégé. Under the Code, that made his person inviolable." He saw Nat and the rest visibly relax.

"Didn't you sense anything of your link with Nick, LaCroix? Surely you must have."

"I did, but it confused me. After all, Nicholas would not be born for well over a century. I did not yet know him, and dressed as a knight, he seemed to be exactly what he was." LaCroix was silent a moment, reflecting, and Maya began imputing data into her model. Natalie, who knew LaCroix far too well, knew where his mind was going.

"So what did you think, when you finally met Nick, in 1228?"

"I did not think, Natalie. I felt only shock and surprise. I could not believe it, neither when Janette told me of the young knight, nor when I first saw him for myself. It was Nicholas, exactly as I had seen him, all those years before, down to his voice, and the slightest mannerisms. Yet, he was mortal. When I first tasted his blood, I could sense no knowledge, no memory, of that time at all. It was as if he were an entirely different man, yet it was Nicholas."

"Well, you can hardly be blamed for not thinking of time travel then, Mr. LaCroix," said Victor. "It isn't a medieval concept, after all."

"Did you ever speak to Nick about it?" asked Natalie.

"No. Somehow, I could not," he replied, as if the admission had cost him quite a lot. "I probed his mind, more than once, but I found nothing." He looked down at his hand. "When I was old enough, I was permitted to search the archives of the Community. There was no reference to him, nor to anyone from his family, before 1228."

"What name was he using?" asked Tony.

"His own. Nicholas deBrabant. No others from that family were ever vampires, except Nicholas or yourself, Natalie." He waited a beat. "Unfortunately."

"You leave her out of this," said Nat, stiffly.

"Who?" asked Koenig.

"Nick's sister, Commander. Fleur. But that's another story." She glared back at LaCroix.

"Anything more, Mr. LaCroix?"

"Well Commander, after a time, I began to think that he might have actually been a sorcerer of some sort."

"A sorcerer?" asked Helena. "Why?"

"Because of something that he and the boy carried under their cloaks. Something which, until I saw Jackie's picture here, never clicked for me."

"And that was?" asked Koenig, realizing the truth at the same moment.

"This," said the old vampire, and plucked Maya's commlock from her belt.

Chapter Fourteen

For the next two days, they hung around Bosham, Nick managing this time to find some animals to assuage his hunger. Jackie, for his part, began to find a genuine Medieval town fascinating. The sights, sounds, and smells, none of which he had ever experienced before in the enclosed environment of Alpha, held him spellbound, at least for the present. He purchased, per Nick, some extra clothes for himself, and a decent pair of boots. He also brought back food for himself, and, much to the butcher's surprise, a large jug of blood which he quickly mixed with a little wine.

"Thanks," said Nick, as he partook of his sustenance.

"How do you stand it?" asked Jackie, watching him drink it.

"This? I don't want to be a vampire anymore, Jackie. I made a terrible mistake, a long time ago. I don't want to kill anyone, ever again."

"But you killed those guys, the other night. What about them?"

"It was an automatic reaction, Jackie. Inside every vampire is what we call the Beast. It's like a wild, thoughtless animal, wanting to get out. Every moment of your life, it's there. Sometimes, regrettably it does get out."

"When you are afraid?"

"Afraid, angry, or very hungry. That's why I never let myself get too hungry, Jackie. It's too great a risk."

"And that's why you never come to dinner with me and Mom, isn't it? Or ever have lunch in the cafeteria."

"Yeah, it is. We can't eat real food, Jackie. We just don't advertise."

"How do you live with it? All of those people..."

"Please, Jackie. I don't want to talk about it, alright?"


"No! Now, it'll be dark in another couple of hours. I need to get some more sleep."

"Okay, Nick," he sighed, and they fell into silence. As they did so, across the Channel, the largest armada those waters would see until 1944 was hoisting sail.

After nightfall they fed once more, Jackie with exuberance, and then rode out of Bosham to get closer to the site of the "future" action. All the way, Nick felt the others somewhere nearby, also heading this way. He recalled LaCroix's sick taste for raiding battlefields, and knew the old reprobate was drooling, waiting for this one. Though only Nick and Jackie knew exactly battle would be joined, everyone and their brother knew that Duke William was coming, and that the Sussex coast would soon provide a feast for crows.

And vampires.

They reached the village of Watling just as the edge of the sun came over the horizon, and made a mad dash for the inn. Nick's skin and eyes stung madly, but his cloak and some cloud cover protected him till they got indoors. The innkeeper was already up, and soon they were safely ensconced in a dark room behind shutters. Once alone, Nick downed some of the remaining bloodwine from his wineskin, and at once felt the pain subside. He let out a long sigh, and sagged back onto the bed.

"Why here, Nick?" asked Jackie. "Why not stay where we were?"

"It's closer, Jackie. From here, we can see Duke William's fleet land."

"Okay, but why do we have to be at Hastings at all?"

"It's necessary, Jackie."

"Why?" pushed Jackie, testily.

"Because it is! Now just let it drop!"

"It's got to do with those other vampires, doesn't it?"

"Jackie!" bellowed Nick, getting up, fist striking a table and reducing it to firewood. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. "I'm...I'm sorry, Jackie. I just don't want to talk about it now."

"Fine!" growled Jackie, and hopped onto the other bed. Arms crossed, he proceeded to pout, with a touch of fume. Sitting there, Nick was struck by the boy's resemblance to his late father. Jack Crawford of the Clan Crawford could look just like that, when his Scots temper got the better of him. Seethe, boil, and yes, pout. Like father, like son. Tired and annoyed, Nick let him, and setting aside helmet and sword belt, he lay down, and fell at once into sleep.

Jackie, however, did not. Annoyed at Nick in the way that only kids can, he also powerfully missed home. Alpha was, after all, the only home that he'd ever known, and he felt cut off, not being able to reach someone by commpost or commlock. He still felt the urge to draw his when encountering a door, still unused to something as simple as a doorknob. He was also getting sick of the smells of real life, and felt horrid, not having bathed in days.

Bored, he got up and went out. Yeah, he was supposed to guard Nick, but he was in no mood to be obedient just now. He wandered the village till he came to a point where he could look out over the water, Pevensey Harbor as it then was known. Long silted up by the time of Breakaway, it still provided a haven for mariners in this time. He looked around, and on a promontory to his right, he saw the village of Hooe, to his left that of Halisham. Directly across the glinting water Pevensey sat, basking in the sun, a few boats here and there.

With no idea what was about to hit it.

Then, from one of the tendrils of mist obscuring the Channel, something emerged. Jackie squinted, trying to focus on it. Yes! A ship! He drew his commlock and called Nick. It took a few seconds, but at last a bleary Nick responded.

"Jackie, what are you doing out? Get back here right now young man. On the double!"

"Nick, they're here! Now!"

" sure?"

"Yeah. Look!" He turned the vid pickup of his commlock towards the approaching fleet. More ships had emerged from the slowly dissipating mist, and he could make out seven, so far. Eight. Ten. Thirteen.

For a moment, Jackie forgot about his irritation with Nicholas. Here he was, watching history being made. William The Conqueror's invasion fleet was landing, here at Pevensey, just like the history books said it had. Right in front of him!

"Can you see 'em, Nick?" he asked, excitedly.

"I can," he replied, over the commlock. There were now over a score of ships in the bay, and more were coming into view by the minute. The tide was still rising, and William's helmsmen were taking full advantage of it. Twenty-five ships. Thirty. As he watched, the lead ship reached the beach, and someone leapt out. He at once fell flat on his face in the mud, and as quickly picked himself up.

"Just like the history books," muttered Jackie. By this time the harbor was full of vessels, the sun glinting off weapons and shields, and more of them were putting ashore. Hundreds of men were now milling about, unloading horses and equipment, and others had begun to rob the town. Pigs, sheep, and cows were looted, and soon were either roasting on spits or boiling in cauldrons.

"Jackie," said Nick, "get back here. Now."

"Nick, I..."


"But this is history, Nick! Not a book, but the real thing!"

"And those swords are the real thing, too. And they are sharp. Plus, if you remember what you read, they'll be sending out recon patrols, soon. This is England, 1066. They are Normans, and you are not. Clear?"

"Okay, Nick," sighed Jackie, annoyed at being bested. "I'm coming." He watched a little longer, as yet more ships entered the harbor and more men and equipment were off-loaded. At last, reluctantly, he turned back and headed for the inn.

As Alpha continued to orbit Outback, the mining continued unabated. So far, over six tons of useful material had been wrested from the planet, and more would soon follow. The power plant was recalibrated to where everything had been and restarted once more, every bit checked and rechecked as they did so. But as of yet, nothing happened. Outback's magnetic field was stubbornly quiet, with no signs of surging or flipping again anytime soon. The planet was scanned round the clock, but showed no signs of change. There was, though, one tiny bright spot according to Victor.

"If we have to stay, the planet might not be as bad as it looks, John."

"How so?"

"Well," he said, pointing to a sensor map of the planet on one screen, "there's still a huge amount of water and carbon dioxide locked up in both the poles and under the surface. Plenty of geothermal activity, too. The planet could, I think, be brought back to life."


"Yes. It is feasible. In fact, according to our scans, the atmospheric pressure is increasing on it's own, due to natural processes."

"How quickly?"

"Current estimates put it at about 0.001 percent of a millibar per decade. But with a push from us..."

"Yes. I see." Koenig considered a moment. "But will we stay here, Victor? What about our orbit?"

"Well, it's highly elliptical, John." Victor changed graphics. "As you can see, our last orbit around Outback was nineteen hours, four minutes, and we came to within 67,400 miles of the surface. According to computer, our next one will bring us closer yet, about 66,000, and our outward loop faster still."

"Are we going to break orbit?"

"Not unless something new happens. According to the best computer modeling, our orbit will eventually stabilize. It'll take years, but..." He trailed off.


"It was the interaction between Outback's magnetic field and our new power station that yanked us off our path and into this new orbit."


"Meaning that if Outback's field pulses again, or flips, while the power station is operating, it could snap us out of this orbit, and back into space." Victor stopped, but John knew his friend far too well. There was something more.


"Or sending us crashing into it."

With all this new data to mull, Koenig only intensified the exploitation of Outback for all it was worth. For the first time since Breakaway, Alpha's storage vaults threatened to burst, much to the complaint of no one. Every department looked forward to getting its stocking filled for once, and the morale of everyone was perceptibly higher.

Not everyone. Natalie wanted Nick back, and really didn't give a shit whether or not Physics got its ytterbium samples, or Technical restocked its supplies of moly grease. For her, nothing else really mattered. Life without Nick, even an eternal one, wasn't worth the effort, as far as she was concerned. The two of them had become so much a part of each other, that each seemed but half a person, alone. No, it wasn't worth it.

For LaCroix, it was much the same. Alpha, frankly, bored him. He did not wish to spend eternity stuck on this wandering rock. Not only did he have no place here, no skills, but it utterly lacked, to his mind, any redeeming virtue. The art and culture he that craved were not to be found here. Also, he could neither be Master here, nor hunt. He was merely an unwilling passenger, on an endless cosmic bus ride.

Susan Crawford also did not share in the optimism. She was tired. Tired of the endless journey, tired of the emptiness. She'd lost Jack, a casualty of Breakaway, and thought she might never make it. Theirs had been a marriage of intense and endless passion, as well as great plans for the future, when Jack's tour on Alpha was up. If it hadn't been for carrying his baby, she had scarcely wanted to go on. Only Jackie, all that remained to her of the greatest love of her life, had given her a purpose and kept her going.

Then, quite against her inclination, she'd found herself growing closer to Baxter, one of the Eagle pilots. A man who loved kids, it seemed perfect, till Baylor's machinations brought that relationship, and his life, to an end.

She'd buried herself in work, and raising Jackie, trying to close herself off from the rest of their little world. But her work in hydroponics had brought her into frequent contact with Picard, another pilot, whose hobby was breeding orchids, and experimenting with Alpha's precious supply of grapes. The two had at last hit it off after a slow, somewhat bumpy start, and eventually begun planning a life together.

Plans brought to ruin by Mentor, and his ruthless plans for Psychon.

So, once more Susan retreated back into herself, and her work. She'd lost it all, over and over. Jack, the others, now...

"No," she sighed. "No. I won't." Calmly she rose from her work bench, and went to a tool locker. She selected a knife. Thin and sharp. It would be better, like this.

Chapter Fifteen

Once fully ashore, Duke William's men did indeed send out patrols, but Jackie made it back to the inn in time to avoid being seen. Already, riders from all the villages and Abbeys hereabouts were on the road, to warn King Harold of this new invasion. At Nick's insistence, they remained in Watling, and the reason was soon made clear.

Duke William broke camp here, and moved on to Hastings. He and much of his army did so by sea, the rest overland around the bay. While the other villages and Manors in the area were raped and plundered, Watling was overlooked.

"Why?" asked Jackie.

"Who cares?" said Nick. "But the history books said it was, so..."


As night fell, and Nick awoke, he felt the presence of the others nearby. Yes, LaCroix was, as ever, drawn to battlefields, like a vulture. "I love the free food", he had once stated in a war 800 years, and an ocean, away. Once it was fully dark, Nick too prowled the gloom, among the ruins of a nearby Manor. Burned buildings and hacked bodies littered the place, and he assuaged his hunger on a horribly injured dying ox. As the blood entered him, and the poor beast passed beyond all suffering, he felt his senses sharpen, and he heard them. He turned, and in the gloom saw LaCroix, fangs buried in a quivering victim. He dropped the dead, and looked at Nicholas.

"Two minds with but a single thought, I see," said LaCroix, wiping the blood from his mouth, and walking over towards Nicholas. "How thoughtful of Duke William to have set this feast for us, eh?"

"He's a barbaric butcher," said Nick, with contempt. "He cometh not but for to steal a kingdom that is not his, and murdereth them that hath no part in his quarrel with King Harold."

"And what is that to us, eh? How doth that concern the likes of you or I, Nicholas?" LaCroix looked about, searching for more survivors. "Let the mortals fight for their petty kingdoms, Nicholas. I have seen so many rise and fall. As, I suspect, hast thou. Thou art no pup." He scented another survivor and sped there, but Nick prevented him. He unhooked a canteen from his belt, and gave water to the helpless woman. Nick could almost hear his Master's scowl.



"Why dost thou so? Help a mortal?"

"Why not? She did not ask for this. She gave the soldiers no offer of battle. If the sword hath spared her, I shall not kill her." He snorted. "Battle. Rape and robbery more like."

"And again I ask, what is that to us? She is mortal. She will die irregardless. Doth it matter, how?"

"To me," replied Nick, nodding sharply as he washed her wounds. "Besides, hast thou so quickly forgotten the Code?"

"The Code?"

"She is with child, LaCroix. Cans't thou not sense the babe within?" Both closed their eyes. Yes, the tiny heart within still beat. "Tis forbidden."

"I...stand corrected," said LaCroix, clearly unhappy about this turn of events. He'd sensed the child, yes, but did not care. But for this one, who would ever have known? The woman came to, and it was apparent that apart from a badly cut arm and bruised face, her injuries were superficial. She recoiled in fear at the sight of armed men, but a look in the eyes from the handsome golden-haired knight, and she forgot her fear, and much else besides. The next thing she knew, she was on the road inland towards Lewes, with two silver pennies in her purse.

"I must say, I have not met a vampire like thee, Nicholas. Thou carest for mortals." They moved through the ruins, finding only corpses. Still feeling the need of sustenance, Nick nonetheless declined to drain a body already dead. Unless given no choice, he would take no man's blood, alive or dead. Certainly no one's life for it. "You decline such nectar, for the blood of beasts."

"Blood is blood," he said, answering LaCroix's scornful look. "But I will slay no man for it."

"And what of the cutpurse you slew in Bosham, a few nights past?" As usual, LaCroix's look was arrogant and self-righteous. "Was he a goat, perhaps?"

"I thought I sensed thee. He attacked me with a knife. I defended myself, as would any man, vampire or mortal, and he paid with his life. He was a thief and murderer. But I will seek out no Human prey, LaCroix. The blood of beasts sustaineth me, well enough."

"Vinegar compared to wine, Nicholas," grunted LaCroix, contemptuous of Nick's food of a moment ago.

"Where are thy friends?" asked Nick, picking his way through the rubble. A large trough or ditch had been dug, and he used it to bury the dead he's found. LaCroix watched in stunned silence, as Nick buried them, prayed over them, and the put up a ...

"A cross??"he hissed, turning away.

"Twas their Faith," said Nick, heart racing, his hands starting to burn even through his gloves. "As it was my own, once."

"But thou art a vampire!" exclaimed LaCroix, still shaking from the cross, crude as it was.

"I was a man, first!" snapped Nick. "And a warrior of the Cross."

"Thou art a fool!"

"Where are thy friends?" Nick asked again, letting the cross go at last. For a moment he let the pain tear through him, like a cleansing bath, reminding him of who and what he truly was. Then he turned, leaving the dead in peace.

"Hunting. Who was thy Master?" LaCroix waited a moment. "Speak! Who?"

"A Roman girl," said Nick, after a moment's thought. His anger at LaCroix, over things not yet done, was rising, and he enjoyed taunting him. "From Pompeii."

The old vampire froze a moment, eyes wide with shock. How? How could...

"Nick?" came a voice.


"Nick," said Jackie, voice wafting from under his cloak.

"What?" said LaCroix, looking about, "the boy is with thee?" Jackie called again, and LaCroix saw the glow from the tiny screen under Nick's cloak. With his usual grace and courtesy, he grabbed it, staring at the device in utter befuddlement.

"Give it me," said Nick, and reached for it. He took it back, and looked at Jackie. "Yes?"

"Sorcerer!" whispered LaCroix. "Tis an engine of sorcery!" He actually backed off a step.

"Then be gone!" hissed Nick, eyes red, and feinting at LaCroix with the device. The old Roman flinched, and with a look of both fear and anger, took to the air. "Till we meet at Hastings!" added Nick as a Parthian shot. "Yeah, Jackie?"

Jackie had gotten worried. Someone had broken into the inn, ransacking several rooms. By the time Nicholas returned, they were on their way out through the stable yard.

Only Nick said no. They challenged him in the yard, and he fought them both. Neither had ever met anyone so fast or so skillful with a sword, and soon one second story man was screaming, bleeding his guts out on his knees, the other's head in a pool of mud, eyes wide with shock. The innkeeper and his wife were profusely thankful, as Nick went through the burglars' sacks. He returned the guests' belongings, and gave the innkeeper several coins for the damages. The rest, as he and Jackie were in a somewhat tight position, he kept for themselves.

Would the wandering knight and his son like a job? The innkeeper offered him the position of security guard, in return for free lodging. Nick mulled it. It was a few days yet, till Hastings, and the history books said this place was safe. Not, of course, that there was a lot of business at the moment, and Jackie needed food.


"Will she make it?" asked Koenig, in Medical, looking down at the unconscious Susan Crawford.

"Physically, yes," said Bob Mathias, who'd found her in Hydroponics on a chance visit there. "We've replaced the lost blood, and treated the wounds. But mentally, I just don't know, Commander. It's as if she's given up. No will to live."

"I see."

"To her, she's lost everything. I met her and Jack when they were first assigned to Alpha, and I've never seen a couple so close. Losing him was like losing an arm, or an eye. It's only Jackie that's kept her going at all, Commander. First Baxter, then Picard, those she could handle, as long as she had the boy. But without him..." Mathias shrugged.

"Well, we'll get him back, Bob. Both he and Nick. Maya and Victor are working on an idea."

"I hope so, Commander."

Maya and Victor did indeed have ideas. Having now a date to plug into their model, the Psychon could, theoretically at least, track Nick's movements through the space-time continuum. As to why he hadn't ended up in modern-day Canada, Victor had only the barest theory. A bare-bones theory that took up over twenty pages of hardcopy, black with equations. He tried to explain it to John, but soon went so fast and deep that Koenig got lost somewhere between "quantum fluctuations" and "electron states".


The transport chamber was brought into the power room, and hooked into the system. All sorts of tests and checks were done, and then a small video recorder was sent through to, they hoped, the right time period.

Not quite. The first recording to come back gave them a beautiful rendition of several men in trenchcoats and fedoras being gunned down in a dingy warehouse. Maya, shocked at the pictures, had the Saint Valentine's Day Massacre explained to her by Tony. The next try gave them a great panorama of a troop of elephants crossing the Alps, followed by a clear view of the torpedoing of the Lusitania,to finish up with the sack of Constantinople in 1204.

"We're getting there, Commander," said Maya. "It's a matter of refining the date."

"But even if you do find the right date, how do we lock onto him?" asked Nat.

"He's been through a temporal rift," said Athena Carter, whom Maya had brought in for her enormous experience with scanning myriad anomalies with the systems aboard the Galactica."Like Alan, Helena, Commander Koenig during their experience with being transported into the past, the quantum signature of Nick's atoms has been changed, Natalie. By adapting the warp locator you found aboard the derelict vessel, we can scan for those changes."

"I'm not sure I understand," said Nat.

"Nick is Human, from Earth. His quantum signature should be the same as everyone else on your planet. But the passage through the rift has altered it. It's like...scanning for one tiny signal, in a sea of background noise."

"LaCroix said that Nick used his commlock," Nat added. "Would that help?"

"It might, if he uses it again. He and Jackie must be using them to keep together."

"But we're not entirely sure how to scan for that, yet," said Maya. "We have more computer modeling to do."

"And how do we send LaCroix back?" asked Tony. "The sooner the better."

"Once we figure out how to set it for where Nick is," answered Maya, "we can alter the settings for him as well."

"Hope," muttered Nat.

"Amen," sighed Tony.

Nick stayed at the inn until October the 12th. With William's invasion, travel through the area was choked, and business nearly at a standstill. He left the innkeeper a few pennies for his trouble, and was on his way. They rode out of Watling come sundown, but an hour or so later ran into one of King Harold's patrols. Nick tried to bluff his way through, but his Anglo-Saxon didn't seem quite good enough for the big, no, huge fellow with the serious-looking ax, and he was forced to resort to subtiler methods. They were let past, the soldier pleased that yet another warrior was on his way to join King Harold's army at Hastings.

"It is so cool, the way you can do that," said Jackie, as they rode on into the night.

"It helps," shrugged Nick.

While Victor and Maya worked on their solution, Natalie tended to Sue Crawford. Checking her scans and charts, it was obvious that she was doing well. Physically. But what of the rest?

Nat understood, at least in part, how Susan must have felt. She'd been traumatized when Richard had been shot. She'd felt even worse when, after Nick had brought him across at her plea, he'd gone off the deep end, and had to be destroyed. It had taken quite a while to get over that, but it hadn't been the worst.

She'd gotten pregnant in med school, and by an utterly wonderful guy. Not at all unhappy at this turn of events, they began planning their future together, meeting each other's parents, and intending to specialize in pediatrics. It had been a joyful time for Natalie, filled with wonder and expectation.

Until the day, walking back to dorm after dark, he was mugged by two drug-crazed men with knives, stabbed over a dozen times, and left to die on a freezing sidewalk. It was never solved, but Natalie was utterly devastated. So great was her emotional trauma that she miscarried, and for two weeks barely spoke, ate, or communicated with anyone. Family, friends, fellow students. All were shut out of her very private hell. She wasn't sure how she'd found the strength to go on. Certainly Calvin Tucker, a fellow student, had gone more than the extra mile for her, actually jeopardizing his own studies to see her through. Richard also missed more than one law exam to make sure his sister got back on her feet. After that, pediatrics just didn't hold the interest it once had, and Nat at last switched to pathology, eventually winding up in the Coroner's Office.

And meeting Nick.

But Susan had no family to see her through the loss of Jack, after Breakaway. So Alpha had become her family, and she'd grown close to the Barbers. Perhaps it was only chance that their quarters were so close, perhaps not. But Natalie had almost come to think of Sue as the sister she never had, more so now that her crises were compounded.

"Natalie," said Susan weakly, opening her eyes.

"I'm here, Sue," replied Nat.


"Why what?"

"Why didn't you just let me go?"

"Can't do that, Sue. You know that."

"Why? There's no point, anymore. No reason for me to go on."

"What about Jackie? Isn't he reason enough to go on?"

"Jackie's gone, Natalie. He's..."

"We'll get him back, Sue. Victor and Maya will figure it out. They're working on a plan, right now."

"Thanks, Nat," said Sue. "Thanks for trying, but we both know he's gone. Gone fore..."

"Hey! Listen to me," said Nat, sternly, putting down Sue's chart. "Stop that. No more of that horse hockey, you hear me?"

"Oh come on, Natalie," said Sue, more loudly. "He's gone! So is Nick. How can you..."

"Stop talking like this," said Natalie, locking eyes with Susan. She pushed. "You'll stop this kind of thinking. Now. Do you understand?"

"Stop...thinking like this. I understand."

"And you will never do this again, Susan. You hear me? Never. We are going to get them back. Do you understand me, Susan?"

"We'll get them...back. Yes."

"Right. Now go back to sleep."

"Sleep. Sl...." Susan faded out. Almost at once, Nat felt LaCroix, and turned. Sure enough, the door opened and in he came.

"What the hell are you doing here?"

"My daily appointment, Doctor," he said, holding up his hand. It was almost fully regenerated, and his hair and eyebrows were beginning to grow back. "Unfortunately, you have no apples for me, to keep the Doctor away."

"They all wilted when they heard you were here," she shot back, and began her examination. Before she was even done, Maya was on the PA.

"Lucien LaCroix, please report to Physics Lab. Lucien LaCroix, report to Physics Lab."

"Now what?" asked Nat.

"No doubt, they have made yet another breakthrough," said LaCroix, condescendingly. "Shall we go?" He looked from her to Falxa.

"Yeah." Nat put away her instruments, and turned back to see LaCroix gazing through the window into the next ward. On the floor was an adult woman, an attractive blonde, squatting on her knees and playing with... blocks?

"Who is that?" he asked.

"Don't you recognize her?" said Nat testily, her gaze daggers. "She worked for you."

"Worked for...ah," said LaCroix as the woman turned, and he recognized Carolyn Powell. LaCroix had paid her handsomely to sabotage Nick and Nat's work, before Breakaway. Since the loss of her psychic powers and its resultant brain damage, she'd been in here, mind wiped clean, an infant again.

"I see," said LaCroix, as Natalie explained. He turned away as Maya called once more, only Falxa seeing the evil expression on his face.

Chapter Sixteen

Nick and his charge reached the environs of Hastings mere minutes before dawn, taking shelter in a stand of trees near to the ridge. For as long as his eyes could endure it, he watched as more of King Harold's army arrived and made camp. It was a tired army, having marched rapidly north, fought and defeated the Vikings at Stamford Bridge in a savage, brutal engagement, then marched back south, to face William's invasion here. Depleted by heavy losses and bone tired, it was nonetheless a tough, seasoned, battle-hardened army. A determined army. Nick pitied them, for what lay in store. The loss of their land and culture, and a generation of their best sons, all to satisfy the juvenile ego of a man that Nick had never thought well of. Though born and bred a Frenchman, he had never sympathized with Duke William's, to him, dubious claim to the English crown. The man was an overgrown, spoiled brat he thought, an adult-sized two-year-old who would kick and scream accordingly, till he got his way.

For a moment, Nick toyed with the idea of changing history. England, indeed all of Europe, would be better off, much better, without William of Normandy. Perhaps...

But no. Like it or not, he must leave things as they are, or rather would be. William The Bastard would win here, and that was that. With a sigh, he turned away, the sunlight reflecting off armor and weapons too bright for him now. He took shelter in the shadow of a huge tree.

"You okay, Nick?" asked Jackie.

"Yeah. It's just too bright, now." He began burrowing into the dirt under some thick bushes. "I have to get out of the light."

"Here, let me help." Jackie hove to, and helped Nick tear out big clods of earth. After the vampire was safely ensconced in the soil, he crouched under the brambles, too. Tired and a little hungry, he drifted off to sleep.

"I need to know," said Maya, in the physics lab, "exactly when you first saw Nicholas use the commlock, in your year 1066."

"After all this time? I do not..."

"We need it, Mr. LaCroix," said Maya, testily. He just hated the way her Psychon accent rendered it LaCraw, and scowled. For Maya's part, now that she saw one of the creatures of her childhood bedtime stories come to "life", she decided she didn't like it so much. And LaCroix, frankly, gave her the creeps.

"Allow me to think," he replied. Although it was over 900 years past, and a trivial event, he soon pulled it up out of his eidetic memory. "September 29th, 1066. I am not certain of the hour, but the Moon was fairly high. Is that of help?"

"Very. Thank-you," said Maya, and input the data into her terminal. After a few moments, she smiled, apparently pleased with the results before her. "Ah!"

"Positive results, I take it," said LaCroix with a smirk. "Might I go, now?"

"No," said Maya, looking up. "I need you to step over there." She pointed towards what looked like a cross between a badly bent UHF antenna, and a floodlamp.

"And what precisely is this...apparatus, might I enquire?"

"It is going to scan you for your quantum signature, Mr. LaCroix. It is needful for our plan."

"I...see. Another test."

"Can the attitude, LaCretin," said Natalie. "Just do it."

"And why should I?" he snarled, turning to glare at her, angrily.

"Because," said Maya, laying a hand on LaCroix's shoulder. He turned, and nearly screamed at the site of some horrid, shaggy, hulking thing, with very big teeth. "If you don't," Maya went on in her new guise, smiling, voice rasping like a dull saw, "I shall start ripping your arms out of their sockets, Mr. LaCroix." She shifted back to her normal shape. "Or I can have Falxa here do the honors, as you wish." She glared at him with a look straight out of Mentor. "Falxa?" The Cylon stepped closer.

"How could I possibly refuse so...gracious an invitation?" replied the old vampire at last, regaining control of himself.

"Just so," said Maya, with her sweetest smile.

Jackie awoke near to nightfall, to feel himself being shoved. He scampered out of the way, and watched Nick rise up out of the ground. It was a ghoulish sight, reminding him of one of the old George Romero flicks he'd seen on Alpha. Nick at last broke free of his grave, and stood up, shaking the dirt and dead leaves from his hair and beard.

"Nick, are you okay?" he asked, handing him the canteen of bloodwine. He watched as Nick took a few precious sips, morbidly fascinated.

"Yeah. You?"

"I guess. I'm a little hungry, though." He checked his satchel. There were only a few morsels left. He reached in, and chewed a bit of boar.

"Well, the English lines are near. We may be able to get something, Jackie." Once the sun was fully down, the unlikely travelers left their hiding place, and slowly approached the English lines from the rear. Getting in was not hard, at least not for a vampire, and soon they were mixing with the troops. Many were bedding down, getting what would be the last sleep of their lives. A few were eating or cooking over their campfires, talking of the coming battle. Some were confident, others afraid.

Nick sat with some of the men, and Jackie ate his fill, and then some. ( Did I eat that much at his age? Nick wondered.) One old soldier, scarred by more battles than anyone should be, reminded Nick of a Medieval Victor Bergman. What did he think, asked the old warrior?

"Only God knows where we shall all be, tomorrow," said Nick, in his best Anglo-Saxon. "We must just stand to our tackle as best we can."

"Aye," said the old veteran, handing something on a spit to Jackie. Typically, he did not refuse, and it soon disappeared. "I know where I'd be, were it mine to say."

"Where?" asked Jackie, around his meal.

"Home," whistled the old warrior through the gaps in his teeth. "Say what they will, all warriors, deep within, wish they were home. One day, young one, if thou livest, thou shalt learn."

"Yeah. Home," said Jackie. Nick heard the word, and for a moment felt himself transported there. Not Alpha, not Toronto, nor any of the myriad other places he'd lived through the centuries. No, he for an instant was back, in Castle deBrabant, surrounded by those he'd loved. His mother, his beloved Fleur, his father, whose big, powerful arms used to carry him about on warm sunny days, or around and around in the Great Hall before the huge fireplace, as a small child. How he missed that, he suddenly realized, his father's warmth and love, his voice, his stories of honor and valor made incredibly vivid to a wide-eyed toddler. Mass in the castle's chapel, Father Etienne's voice proclaiming God's Word to the family. Even...

He shook his head, returning to the moment. Jackie was staring at him, face both surprised and concerned. Nick felt the blood tear running down one cheek, and quickly wiped it away, hoping no one else had seen it. After a suitable time, he and Jackie rose and bid the old soldier Godspeed, and kept on moving through the camp. Before long they saw a cluster of men moving their way. In the midst of it was a tall, handsome, powerfully built man, a crown...

"Nick, is that...?"

"Yeah, Jackie, it is. It's King Harold Godwinson."

"Gee. This is cool. I've never met a King before."

"Well, stay quiet. We don't want to mess things up."

They stood as King Harold came by, exchanging a few words here and there with his warriors. Both Alphans were struck by how kindly a man the King looked, yet how tired and careworn also. Both were also struck by an indefinable resemblance to Commander Koenig. Both men, pressed and worn by terrible burdens, each unwilling to lighten his own load at the expense of others. How sad, Nick thought, that by this time tomorrow, this promising, personable man would lie, literally, in chunks, among the English dead. If only...

No!He would not interfere in the time-line. He would let history play out, as it should. After all, Alpha was a product of this history. If he fooled...

But if Alpha could never recover them, could he not alter history as he chose? Manipulate key persons and events? Create, in a sense, a new time-line? One free of many of the mistakes of the past, one more peaceful? As he mused, he realized that the King was in front of him, and he took the proffered hand. Jackie, more in the here and now than Nick, had returned the King's words, and the two were exchanging pleasantries in Latin. The King looked to Nick: "Thy son is a credit, Sir..."

"Nicholas of Shrewsbury, Sire," said Nick, quickly. "Yes, he is."

"Guard him well, boy," said Harold to Jackie, and then moved on, lost among the soldiers. After he was gone, the two retreated towards a dark corner, and then Nick flew them out of the camp, back to the woods. Jackie was still almost in awe, at having met an important historical figure. Nick smiled, remembering the first and only time he'd met his own monarch, the King of France, as a boy. He'd felt much the same, yes.

Nick laid out for the boy everything he knew about the coming battle, all the time wondering where the others were hiding. Surely LaCroix was not hold up in the ground, and he could scarcely see Janette deigning to get so much as a speck on her sumptuous gown, which had probably cost more than a year's wages for the average working man in this time. God, such conspicuous waste!

"We need someplace better to hide," said Jackie. "We're way too close to the action to be safe."

"Yeah, I know."

"We have to scout the area some more, Nick."

"There are patrols out, Jackie. From both armies."

"And tomorrow the sun will be up."

"Yeah. Good point."

"Not send him home?" asked Koenig, in his office.

"Yes, Commander," said Maya, next to Tony. "Why return him at all? We all saw the autopsy report on the dead man. LaCroix killed him, in some sort of dark ritual. Why return a murderous criminal to Earth? Surely, every society has its undesirables. Why would Earth need any more?"

"I have to agree, John," said Tony. "While he's committed no crime here on Alpha, he's admitted to crimes back home. He's in affect confessed to murder. Under normal circumstances, we'd hold him till whichever nation it was extradited him from Alpha."

"Which of course isn't going to happen," said Koenig.

"Exactly, but in our situation screw the law. We're all the Earth law there is out here, and LaCroix is from Earth. We can judge him and sentence him right here. We shouldn't send him home, just so he can go on killing people."

"After all, Commander," said Maya, "he is a ...vampire. He kills people for food, and thinks nothing of it. On my world, for what it's worth, something as unnatural as he would never see another hour."

"But Nick and Natalie are vampires, too. Doesn't that make them evil, as well? Unnatural? After all, Nick is over 800 years old, to hear Nat or LaCroix tell it."

"But Natalie did not want to become what she is, Commander," said Maya. "And Nick has turned against it. He wants to be normal again. Look at all the good he's done here on Alpha. All the good he did on your world before, through his deBrabant Foundation. It helped to fund Alpha, and help countless people through hospitals and charities. Nick is not the sort of...well, man that LaCroix is. If I had to, I know who I would rather trust my life to."

"I agree, John," said Tony. "Returning LaCroix to Earth is the same as giving him a license to kill again. He reminds me of those scum at the Nuremberg trials, always trying to justify what they did, or mobsters who insist that it was 'just business'. Maya's right."

"I agree that I have no liking for the man. He is evil. A sociopath, Bob calls it. But what do you suggest we do? As if I needed to ask."

"Kill him. Nat's told us some of the ways you can kill a ..vampire. Once we get Nick and Jackie back, or we know for certain that we never can, we put Lucien LaCroix to death."


"I agree," said the Psychon, nodding with a sigh. "We must." Koenig was surprised. Maya was usually the most pacifistic person on Alpha. For her to recommend execution...

"Very well," said Koenig. "I'll let you know what I decide."

But the castaways found no better place. They encountered a Norman foraging party of four men, and for a moment it looked bleak. Nick nearly had the leader convinced they were okay, when one of the soldiers, shouting " sorcerer! " hurled a javelin at him. He missed Nick, but the spear struck Jackie.

With a snarl of rage, Nick attacked, first killing the spearman by smashing his body against a tree. With blinding speed, he drew his sword, ripping one fellow's guts open, and beheading another on the backstroke. Then he tripped, going down on his back, thwacking his head on a rock. The leader advanced on him, sword raised to strike. Nick tried to clear his head and focus, realizing he had but seconds...

Till a spear ripped through the Norman's throat from behind, and he dropped, gagging blood and tongue onto the ground. His nostrils aflame with the smell of blood Nick rose, and saw Jackie on the other end of the weapon.

"Take him, Nick!" said Jackie, and the inflamed Nick did so, draining him. "The rest to.. Come on!" urged the boy. A little surprised, Nick nonetheless followed suit, filling himself with the essence of the dead men. Done, he remembered himself and looked at Jackie. The boy had suffered only a glancing blow to the abdomen, the stout chain mail turning the point. He'd have a nasty bruise, but no more.

"I killed someone," he said at last, as Nick looked him over. Jackie looked down at the dark heap of the leader's body, the gory spear next to him. "I..."

"Jackie, don't. Remember, they would have killed us. You did what you had to do. We'd both be dead if you hadn't acted."

"You? But I thought vampires were immortal."

"We can die, too. If we're decapitated, or staked, or burned, then we can die." He moved to the corpses, and rifled their sacks. Within were a few loaves of bread, some very late apples, and a couple of live chickens.

"Why'd that one guy freak, Nick?"

"He must have been a resister, Jackie, and thought I was a witch."

"Gold!" said Jackie, checking one purse.

"Good. Hold onto it."

They took the weapons of the dead, and a cloak to wrap it all up in. Then, in the distance, they could hear a horn sound. A signal? His vampire senses told him that dawn was not far away. They left the dead for the scavengers, and sought a better place to escape the approaching sun. They found it in a burned-out farmstead, east of the ridge amid some trees. Part of the barn was still intact, and Nick hid there. From between the slats they could see across to the field of battle.

Nick fell asleep, albeit lightly, till Jackie roused him.


"It's starting, Nick," he said. "Look."

Squinting and looking between gloved fingers, Nick risked a glance. The sun was behind them, so he could handle it for a bit. There was a throaty roar going up from the Norman lines, as their archers advanced towards the ridge. They drew bow, and let fly, pouring the first volley into the English lines.

The Battle of Hastings was on.

Chapter Seventeen

While Maya and Victor labored on, LaCroix was declared fit to be released from medical supervision. At both Tony and Nat's urging, straightaway he was put on trial for murder. The affair was short and to the point. They had the evidence, to wit one dead body, the weapon, Nat's medical opinion, concurred with by Doctor Russell, and LaCroix's own words. Against LaCroix's objection that Alpha was outside of Canadian jurisdiction, and therefore had no authority in this matter, Koenig ruled it a change of venue. Acting as his own attorney, LaCroix objected, and was overruled.

Never had LaCroix faced anything like this. Someone, some mere mortals!daring to sit in judgment of him. Who in Hades did these ants think they were? As if to add insult to injury, Tony produced Pierce, against him. When Pierce had been a child, his father, an FBI agent, had encountered LaCroix in Buffalo, while investigating a series of bizarre deaths. Vengeful as always, LaCroix had eliminated the troublesome fellow, tracking him right back to his own home. Only there had been a witness. A witness who now recounted the events of that long-ago night in DC, when Lucien LaCroix had broken in to the house, and slaughtered the elder Pierce.

Needless to say, LaCroix was found guilty, and not all the Ciceronian eloquence at his disposal, which was considerable, could stay the verdict. Lucien LaCroix, aka Lucius Pontius Pilatus, was guilty of murder.

But what of the sentence?

Koenig was, even when faced with the blatant evil of this man, loath to order his death. After all, he wasn't a judge in the usual sense, and this wasn't like blowing Balor out an airlock, or detonating a surprise under Dione's ship. Those were do or die situations, barren of the luxury of deliberation or thought. But here...What if Nat's cure could be found? They didn't even know if Nick and Jackie could be retrieved. Perhaps...

Koenig, much to everyone's surprise, delayed sentencing. For now, LaCroix was "assigned" to work one of the mining sites down on Outback. Emphasis on the word work.

"But John..." Tony began, after the old vampire was lead away by Falxa and Hasta.

"One of the miners on Outback broke a leg," Koenig interrupted. "We need a replacement at once, if we're to stay on schedule. And, on the surface, he won't be likely to pull anything, so far from his blood supply. Right now, it's the best brig we have."

"And later?" asked Pierce.

"Later, if I decide in favor of execution, he can...have a malfunction of his helmet seal, or a tragic accident on the surface."

"In a corner, John?" asked Victor. "That's not like you."

"We've never had anyone like LaCroix, before. I have lived in fear that one day I might have to actually decide to execute one of our people, Victor, ever since we left Earth. I'm Commander, not dictator or judge. I've always been uncomfortable with capital punishment, anyway. If we openly execute LaCroix, his true nature might leak out. And there are still a few folks who fear me, like Sanderson did. I won't risk another mutiny at a critical time. If we decide that LaCroix must die, we won't do it openly. It'll be in secret, and we'll concoct a story. Agreed?" He looked at them all. One by one, they nodded. "Court" was adjourned, and Pierce was returned to duty.

LaCroix fumed. How dare they!!? To him?? A General in the Emperor's army? Dig ore, like any...any slave?He wasn't sure how, but he would most certainly have his revenge.

Falxa escorted him to the Eagle hangar, and he was shown by Alan Carter how to suit up. He was put aboard the next Eagle to Outback, and shown where the emergency oxygen and the eject were, then strapped in. The Eagle was, he decided, actually quite comfortable, though Outback certainly was not. Once there, he was given the tools, shown their use, and put to work. From his position, on the bottom of a long-gone sea, he could see nothing but flat, rocky desert stretching for countless miles in all directions, the gorgeous view broken only by an erupting volcano on the horizon.

How picturesque.

With a sigh, he bent to it, scooping up the manganese nodules that littered the area, followed always by the ever-vigilant Falxa. As he returned his first load of ore to the Eagle, he felt his wrath begin to cool, and slowly began formulating his plan.

Nick slept fitfully while Jackie watched the battle surge to and fro. Even from several hundred yards away, he could clearly hear the screams of dying men and horses, ripped by the fearsome English battle-axes. Already hundreds of dead littered the field, and still the two sides continued on.

It all seemed so pointless, Jackie thought. Cruelly so. Thousands of young men, in the prime of their lives or nearly so, were being slaughtered, essentially to satisfy the selfish conceit of one man. All the English wanted was to remain as they were, under their own system. A system much freer, he thought, than that which the Normans were going to impose. It wasn't right, he decided. It just wasn't...

And so musing, he fell asleep, once more.

For two more days, Lunar Time, LaCroix continued to work the drill site on Outback. He remained there the entire time, safely away from Alpha, guarded by one of the Cylons. Fortunately, the helmet visor screened enough of the solar radiation to make the daytime non-lethal for the old vampire, though LaCroix was never entirely rid of a stinging on his face, and even through the suit. The dirtside crew was supervised by Alan, who knew what LaCroix was, and adroitly saw to it that LaCroix never messed with the other workers. The only thing that he consumed, in an opaque bottle, was his "medication".

"I have to admit," said Alan, looking at the day's tally, "you're doing pretty well. You've filled your quota, and then some."

"Servio,"replied LaCroix flippantly. Alan recalled enough schoolboy Latin to get it, but let it slide.

"Tell me about yourself," Alan went on. Though he knew what LaCroix was, and hated it, he nonetheless had orders to keep him in one piece. For the moment anyway, and casual conversation seemed better than fighting, so...

Perfect,thought LaCroix.

"What has Nicholas told you?" he asked, fingers steepled in front of him.

"A few things. Not much. You were a General, once. A Roman. Something about you lived in Pompeii."

"Yes, I did."

There was a beep. A call from Alpha for Alan. It was Athena, with some mundane report about something in the Eagle hangar, followed by a stomach-churning round of "How's the baby?"s, and a choking miasma of "I love you"s. LaCroix tried not to wretch. Athena at last, Jupiter be praised, signed off.

"My wife," Alan explained, pointing to the monitor.

"So I gathered," replied LaCroix.

"You ever been married?" Alan asked him. "It's great, trust me."

"Ah, wedded bliss. Waking up to a pair of pigtails on the pillow that were not there before," he said disdainfully. He was silent a moment. "Yes, Captain. I was once."


"As a youth, as was the custom in those days. I was 16, she was 15."

LaCroix drifted back to those days. The girl, Holconia, came from a wealthy and influential family. It was a good match, and the girl even came to love him. It was a beautiful and blissful union.

Until the day he returned home from business in the Forum, watching his father give a speech in the Senate before the Emperor Claudius, to find the house his father-in-law had given them on fire, Holconia, the baby, and several of the slaves trapped inside. Despite heroic efforts by himself, the neighbors, and even a few passing Praetorians, it was hopeless.

Young Lucius had been crushed. Completely beaten down. For two days he had wept, very un-Romanlike. So overcome with grief had he been that he'd slit his wrists, wanting only to see and be with his family, once more. He'd failed, thanks to the vigilance of both his mother, and his old nurse.

He'd healed, but only on the outside. Once he was well enough, he performed the appropriate rites for the dead, and then left. Left, and joined the army, rising within less than 20 years from grunt, to General.

"Sounds kind of young," said Alan. "Teens."

"It was the Roman Way, Mr. Carter. Like most Roman boys, I was taken to the Forum when I turned sixteen, given my first shave, and allowed to don the toga virilis, or manly gown, signifying that I was now an adult citizen. I then married the girl my parents had chosen for me. It was my duty."

"Duty? What about love?"

"A minor consideration for us, Captain. We Romans were bred to duty. Ingested it with our mother's milk. It was our way." He sat quietly a moment, lost in the past.

"What happened to her?" Carter asked finally.

"She died young," he replied simply. For the barest instant, Alan saw regret in LaCroix's eyes. Had he loved her? Had her death changed him, perhaps made him the hard, callous man he now was? Was there, far down inside, still something Human left in him?

Then it was gone, and he was the same old LaCroix once more.

All through the conversation, LaCroix had been probing the edges of Alan's mind. Natalie had warned him that Alan was a resister, and LaCroix's subtil probing confirmed it. But, as with Don Schanke and Tracy Vetter, there were ways of working around that. He rose.

"Where you headed?"

"To what you picturesquely call the head, Captain. Even we, now and then, are required to visit the facilities.

"Oh. Yeah. Right."

Once inside, LaCroix searched through the medical supplies. Yes! Now, once Carter was asleep...

Jackie awoke again, and looked out. The battle still raged on, the bodies piling up. The Norman horsemen were in the midst of being repulsed by the English shield-wall, and both men and horses tumbled screaming down the hill in an avalanche of blood and death.

"How goes it?" asked Nick awake suddenly.

"Just like the history books said, Nick," replied Jackie. "The Normans just got their butts kicked at the shield-wall again. Can you look?"

"Yeah," said Nicholas, and rose up to peer through the slats. The light stung a bit, but he could see well enough. Surviving Normans were retreating down the hill, a few foolish English pursuing them to their own doom. Like Jackie, he shook his head at the utter waste of it all. "What time is it?"

"Uh...a little after three," said Jackie, checking his commlock, reset to local time. "If we got this right."

"It'll do," said Nick. At this time of year, the sun would set soon. Five or so, he thought. Then he could go out. But...

Where were the others?

"What?" he asked, hearing Jackie swear.

"Dunno, Nick. The commlock was acting weird."


"Yeah. Look."

Nick drew his own. For a moment all he got was snow and static. Then, the picture cleared, telling him the time. Odd. Solar flare, maybe? Huh. He shrugged it off, and went back to the battle.

Chapter Eighteen

"Victor, look!" said Maya, in the power room. The old academic turned and regarded her. "It's Nicholas! We've found them!"

"Let's see," said Victor, as usual as calm as a forest pool. He looked at her screen, switching from the video to a graphic showing countless waveforms, then back again. "John," he called into his commlock.

"You're certain?" asked Nat, with Koenig and the scientists.

"Yes," said Maya. "Nick's transfer through the rift left a ...well, a wake Natalie."

"A wake?"

"It's like the rift is still open, sort of. The quantum..." She stopped, realizing that Nat wasn't up to an hour or so of uninterrupted technobabble. "Well, suffice it to say that enough of the rift remains open that we can receive signals from the other end. Just under half an hour ago, we got one. From a commlock."

"Nick's using his commlock," said Nat. "Just like LaCroix said."

"Yes, and enough came through to get this," said Victor. He put a picture up on a monitor. Fuzzy and distorted, it was nonetheless recognizable as Jackie Crawford.

"He's okay, then," said Koenig.

"Nick?" asked Natalie.

"Yes," said Maya. "A few seconds later, another signal came through." She put up a shot of Nick. "It is possible our scanning for them was picked up, and caused interference with their units. After all, in your Middle Ages, there was nothing else to pick up." Nat studied the image. Nick was scruffy. Dirty. His hair and beard grown long. Man, he must be living rough.

"Can we get him now?" she asked.

"We have a few more refinements to make to our settings," said Victor. "That and a power test. But we should be ready for a try by 2230 tonight."

"Good," said Natalie, with a deep breath, nodding.

"Professor Bergman," said Sanderson, over the commlock. Victor answered it. "We've got some new data on Outback, sir."

"Right, I'll be there." Almost at the same moment, Sahn called from Command Center for Koenig, with urgent news.

"Uh oh," said Koenig.

As the light began to fail, Nick watched as William's archers loosed yet more volleys. This time, it did the trick, and the Saxon shield wall at last began to crack. Soon Duke William and his troops were smashing through it, and Harold's cause, and his kingdom, was doomed. In the final fight around his standard, they watched the hideous carnage as body piled upon body, till at last Harold Godwinson, last Saxon King of England, finally disappeared from view, under the hacking swords of four Normans.

Some of Harold's warriors fought on, but Nick turned away. Even from here, the scent of all that fresh blood was maddening, and he could feel the Beast begin to stir. He fought for control, and reached for the leather bottle in his cloak. The bloodwine dulled his hunger, for a while anyway, and he looked back outside. The English survivors were fleeing into the gathering gloom, and he got up.

"Come on, Jackie."


"We've got to go. The woods will be full of retreating English soldiers, soon. And the Normans won't be far behind. We don't want to be found."


As he spoke, Nick felt it. The nearness of one of his own kind. LaCroix and Co. were up too, and active. Which meant he had to, not escape, but seek them out!


Soon, he and his young charge were mounted, and heading off into the near darkness.

It was a double whammy waiting for Koenig in Command Center. According to Sanderson's report, Outback's magnetic field was beginning to ripple again. Alpha's gravity was affecting the planet's rotation again. The magnetic field would spike, and flip once more. But when?

And, adding to the upbeat mood, Alpha's enhanced sensors had detected a large comet, heading their way at high velocity.

Make that a huge comet.

"Computer modeling show's that Alpha's the culprit," said Athena. "The comet would have missed the planet by nearly seven million miles, but the Moon's gravity has perturbed it."


"Sometime tomorrow," said Athena. "But that's not all, sir." She put a high resolution magnification up on the screen. "See?"

"Yes," said Koenig. "She's breaking up." The head of the comet was visibly beginning to fragment. "Will any of it hit Alpha?"

"That depends on whether it breaks up fully before hitting Outback. If not, we may just miss it."

"And if not?"

"We'll be facing towards the comet when it passes," said Victor.

"Meaning we could catch it," said Koenig. "Okay everyone, keep on it. See if you can refine it any further, Athena. Sahn, contact Alan on the surface. Tell him I want all mineral teams to close down, and be ready to return to Alpha by 1800 tonight. No later."

"Yes, Commander."

"Maya?" asked Koenig, returning to the power room. "You've got something?"

"Yes. What have you decided about LaCroix?"


"You can't send him back."

"I know. We've discussed this, Maya."

"No, I mean for physical reasons."

"Physical? Is there another problem?"

"It appears so." She indicated a graphic. "Mass. The passage of any mass through the rift alters its parameters. See?" Koenig pretended he did. "Nick and Jackie are retrievable with few unknowns. But LaCroix came through with another man."

"Who's now been buried on Outback," said Koenig. It had seemed a humane gesture at the time. Certainly more so than cremation in Alpha's electric arc furnace, he'd sent the body down with one of the mineral teams.

"Which leaves us short almost 200 pounds," said Maya. Helena estimated his weight in life at about 180 or so. LaCroix weighs in at 237. If we were to send him through by himself, he might not end up exactly where we meant him to go. He might shift in time, or space. We cannot be sure."

"And I'm certainly not digging up a dead man," said Koenig.

"So, we must not return him," said Maya. "After all, he has been killing for nearly 2,000 of your years, Commander. We had creatures of his like on Psychon, once. He is just the same. And," she sighed, quiet a moment.

"And what?"

"Well, he's planning something, Commander. He's...plotting. Something evil. I know it."

"How can you tell?"

"That look in his eye. I have seen it before, Commander. The look of someone with dark designs. I've seen it before."


" father, just after he detected Picard's Eagle heading for Psychon."

LaCroix had to admit that flying in space could be exhilarating. As the Eagle took off and he watched Outback fall away beneath the ship, he decided that perhaps he understood now why some people had opted for the space program. He was up in the cockpit with Alan, the cargo area being full, Falxa in the service module. He sat transfixed as Outback's atmosphere thinned to black, and Alan turned her towards the Moon.

Carter had proven a tough nut to crack, being very resistant to hypnotism. He'd judiciously applied the power, dropping in a word here and there, and hoped it would be enough. The recall signal had come sooner than he expected; would it be sufficient?

"Eagle Four to Alpha," said Alan, as he kicked in thrusters, "we have LOI. ETA Alpha 93 minutes, 4 seconds, mark."

"Eagle Four from Alpha, we copy," said Kate, in Command Center.

"I must say, your people are most efficient," said LaCroix, scratching at his regrowing hair. "Almost like a legion, in some ways."

"We have to be, stuck out here in space. I'll bet you had to be, too, stuck out on the frontiers, far from Rome."

"Indeed. We often had to make due with less than full resources."

"Must have felt good, to get home from the Front."

"Very much so."

"Pompeii, right?"

"Yes. It was a very pleasant place, then. The Bay of Naples still is."

"I visited there once, with my folks when I was a kid." For a moment he scowled, remembering his sister, Sally, the survivor of a vampire attack. Though she'd survived, she'd never really recovered, mentally. He tossed that thought away. "It was kind of spooky, all those plaster bodies."

"Indeed. I revisited there myself, a year ago. It was surprisingly little damaged by the Moon's departure. Vesuvius was quiet."

"That's good to hear. Which house was yours?"

"It had not yet been excavated, the last I heard, Captain," said LaCroix. "It was next to that of Caecelius the banker." To whom, LaCroix recalled, he'd been heavily in debt before Vesuvius balanced all accounts.

"I saw that one. Interesting fellow, from the bio they had."

"Yes, he certainly knew how to throw a party." LaCroix fell silent, thinking back. He wondered what lay beneath the ruins of his old place. Who would the archaeologist find first? Proconsul Flavius? Selene? For a moment he found himself thinking about her, his mistress, and the mother of Divia. He had not seen her, after awakening to the eruption of Vesuvius, and being brought across. When asked about her, all his daughter had said was "She is doomed". Had she survived? He never knew, one way or the other. He found himself actually missing her, strongly, and hoped that she had escaped Vusuvius' wrath. Missed her. Yes, by Jupiter's beard, he missed...

He shook off these feelings. How distasteful, these episodes of regret. Thankfully, they came along only every century or two. They would certainly become most tiresome, otherwise.

"Nick said your father was famous, too," said Alan, voice less friendly now. LaCroix watched the approaching Moon through the cockpit windows for a moment or two before responding.

"Yes," LaCroix said at last. "He was. Is."

"Pontius Pilate."

"Yes," said LaCroix, almost in a growl. The very mention of his famous, or rather infamous father, irritated him at best.

"Look, I'm curious. One of the most famous men in all history, and we know next to nothing about him."

"If only I could say the same, Captain Carter."


"Let us just say," said LaCroix, taking a deep breath and keeping his composure, "that today one of your child welfare agencies would have us in foster homes, and him in jail."

"Abusive. I see."

"Yes, even by the standards of my era."

"Was your mother..."

"Captain, might we just drop the subject? It is not one I choose to wallow in."


"Enough!"snarled LaCroix, eyes momentarily red. "No more of it!" All this reminiscing had taken its toll. Remembering his father was bad enough, but thoughts of his beloved mother, dying right after Holconia and the baby...

"Okay," said Alan, momentarily frightened by the display. As per LaCroix's hope, his barriers had dropped a bit, and the old Roman pushed a thought while glaring into his eyes. It was quiet in the cockpit for a few minutes, then Alan spoke. "Man, I'm thirsty."


"I'll just..." began Alan, sliding the seat back.

"Allow me," said LaCroix. "You must pilot. I shall fetch...what?"

"Coffee," said Alan. "Cream and sugar. And, well, we don't have anything in your area."

"That's quite alright," said LaCroix. "Water will do. My throat is somewhat dry as well."

He went back to the service module, and under Falxa's questions and gaze, got Alan a cup of coffee, and a cup of water for himself. Once his back was turned to Falxa, he dropped the capsules into Alan's cup. After a minute or two, his head plopped forward, and LaCroix hit the autopilot. He checked the chronometer. ETA Alpha in just under one hour.

"Captain," he said, raising Alan's head. Carter tried to open his eyes, but the Demerol was dragging him down. Had he given him too much, LaCroix wondered? "Open your eyes, Captain. Open them!" Alan tried, mind a fog. "Listen to me, Captain. Listen to my voice."

"Liss...listen..." slurred Alan, as LaCroix poured it on. "When we return to Alpha, you will do certain things for me. Do you understand?"

"...things. Things."

"Exactly. Now, once we return, you will bring Mr. Pierce to my quarters. Do you understand?"

"Pierce. Your...quarters."

"Very good, Captain. And then, there is Carolyn Powell."

Chapter Nineteen

Near the edge of the battlefield, Nick paused. He felt one of the others closeby. He looked across the carnage, and saw him there. LaCroix. Finishing off some poor soul hovering near death. His dark task quickly done, he moved on, seeking out other dying men.

For his part, Nick wished to be able to shield Jackie from such horrific sights, but dared not leave him alone anywhere around here. Certainly not with three hungry vampires about. The risk was too great.

Where? Where was he? And where the hell was Aristotle?

"Water," someone cried, and Nick looked down. A wounded man, face swollen and bloody, arm limp, lay staring up at him. Fighting down his hunger, he got down, and washed the other's face and wounds with a little water from Jackie's canteen. He tore a strip from the knight's tunic, and bound up his arm. The wounded man cried out in pain, but Nick looked into his eyes, and he soon fell into a peaceful sleep. He looked again at his coat-of-arms. No. Not him.

"Nick," said Jackie, tugging at his cloak. "Look!" Nick turned, and saw several armed men approaching, but after a moment he could also see the stretcher two of them were carrying.

"It's okay, Jackie," said Nick. "They're just collecting the wounded." They stood, and after a few words helped lift the wounded soldier onto the stretcher. This one, at least, would escape LaCroix's fangs, and live to see another sunrise. The medics did not question a French-speaking knight on the field, and he was left free to move on.

He continued searching through the heaps of dead men, looking for both Aristotle and more survivors. He found LaCroix's handiwork on a few, and cursed the old vampire. He helped two more men, watched several others die, and then came upon another.

"Nick, why are we doing this? I thought you had to find this Aristotle guy," asked Jackie.

"I do, but..." He knelt down, and removed the fallen soldier's badly dented helmet.

"Nick!" said Jackie in shock. "He looks just like..."
"Ah," said LaCroix, suddenly upon the scene, "if it be not the Angel of Mercy."

"This one is mine!" said Nick, sharply. "Do you hear me?"

"Nay. I shall have him," said LaCroix.

Nick ignored him, removing an arrow from the wounded man. Fortunately it had not gone very deep, and had missed the heart. He gently teased it out and washed the wound as best he could.

"Dost thou hear me?" said LaCroix. "Give him me!"

Nick looked up at him, and could see the bloodlust in his eyes. He understood it. LaCroix was gorged with the blood of warriors, men whose blood had been filled with the lust of battle, the rage to kill or die killing. That bellicosity was thundering through LaCroix's brain right now, making him even less reasonable than usual. "Go away," he ordered LaCroix, and turned back to the injured soldier. LaCroix laughed, baring his fangs.

"You heard him!" said Jackie suddenly and unexpectedly. "Get the hell outta here, buttwad!"

LaCroix turned to glare at the boy, eyes going red. No one spoke thus to him! The pup! He moved, with great speed, and belted Jackie across the mouth. Jackie flew off nearly twenty feet, landing in a heap.

"I'll take thee, also" snarled LaCroix, but suddenly his way was blocked by Nick, hands gripping his arms.

"Go! While you can," said Nick, fangs down, eyes red. "They are mine. Seek other prey!"

"The Furies take you!" snarled LaCroix, and heaved against Nick. Nick flew back, and was just as quickly on LaCroix again. He kneed the old General in the crotch, and LaCroix bellowed in pain, following it up with a fist in the face. He both heard and felt LaCroix's nose break, and felt the blood on his hand. LaCroix retaliated with a brutal kick, sending him sailing into a pile of dead.

"I shall glut upon thee as well!" hissed LaCroix, his face already starting to heal. "How dare..." He never finished, for Nick slammed into him with great speed, cracking ribs and ramming him into the blood-soaked turf.

"Maya?" asked Nat, at the controls.

"I've got the date set," said the Psychon. Looking up, the transport chamber was glowing, dull and fuzzy images swirling within it. "But the battle covered a huge area. Where at Hastings?"

"Here," said Nat, and drawing her commlock, keyed in Nick's number.

Jackie awoke to pain and noise. His right shoulder hurt like hell, and he saw, once his vision had cleared, a scene from the same place. Two vampires, eyes ablaze, fangs bared, in "mortal" combat. LaCroix kicked, barely missing Nick's knees, while Nick brought both fists down on the other's left shoulder blade, hard enough to send blood spewing from his nose and mouth. The old vampire stumbled, going to his knees.

"Thou art far...stronger than you look," he gurgled, looking up at Nick. "Who wast thy Master?"

"Go to hell," said Nick, and landed a mailed boot in the other's face. After a brief cry of pain, LaCroix was off the ground, and had Nick in a bear hug. The old Roman was terribly strong, still full of the blood he'd taken, and Nick felt his crushing strength.

But he was hardly weak himself. Baring his fangs, he buried then in LaCroix's neck, and pulled. After a mouthful of his Master's blood, he yanked back, ripping a horrific wound in LaCroix and bringing forth a scream. He wrenched on the other's arm, till the joint parted loudly, and at last LaCroix let go, staggering back as blood gushed from the wound.

"!" he cursed, blood running from mouth and throat. He staggered, going to his knees once more.

Jackie knew he had to help, but how? Except for Polanski's The Fearless Vampire Killers, and an episode or two of Buffy, he wasn't much up on offing these creatures. After all, supposedly they were already dead. Well, when one was in need, one improvised. He took up two pieces of a broken lance from a dead soldier, and made a rough cross. As quickly as his injuries allowed, he moved in front of LaCroix.

LaCroix hissed in horror and disgust as he saw it. Unable to flee, he recoiled as Jackie pressed it into his face, his skin beginning to burn under it. With a cry of "Die, asshole!" Jackie speared him with the steel point, pinning him to the ground. LaCroix screamed, and lay still.

"Thanks," grasped Nick, nearly exhausted. He got up, and led Jackie back to the injured man. He was, slowly, reviving. Nick felt his pulse. Weak, but not dangerously so. He gave the fellow water, and helped him to a sitting position. The wounded knight thanked Nick in a weak voice, and Jackie could not believe his eyes. The two of them...

They turned, as a scream like a damned soul came towards them from behind. LaCroix, savaged but still functional, was moving towards them, eyes ablaze with fury and hate. He pulled the lance from his gut, and broke it with his fingers. He spoke no words, just the growlings of a mad beast. He knocked Nick aside with his good arm, and went for Jackie.

But Jackie was prepared. He had taken up a discarded English battle-axe, as a crutch for the injured knight. Seeing LaCroix advancing on him, he reacted without hesitation. With a strength one would never have expected from his size, he gripped the fearsome weapon, all seven feet of it, raised it and swung, a scream escaping from his mouth as he did so. LaCroix, beyond thought, didn't, or couldn't, get out of the way. The hideous tool of death sank deep into his gut, ripping organs and snapping bones all the way to his spine. He did not scream this time, only gasped loudly, spewing blood, and fell to the side, rolling partway down the hill, axe still buried in him. He came to rest against a heap of other bodies face up, entrails spilling, eyes sightless.

"Oh God," cried Jackie, starting to shake like a leaf. "What have..."

"It's okay," said Nick, embracing the boy. "Don't worry, it'll be okay." At that moment, more men with stretchers appeared, and took Nick's patient in charge. One of them looked at Jackie, gore-spattered, and voiced approval.

"Come on," said Nick, once they were gone. "Let's go. I've got to find Aristotle."

"Nick? I..."

"LaCroix sent out a mental cry for help, to Janette. We must go before she gets here, Jackie. Besides, they'll be time for our feelings later. Come on."

Victor was, much to his own annoyance, wrong. The comet would impact sooner than expected. The Moon's gravity was accelerating it more quickly than predicted. On top of that, the head was now visibly coming apart. No question. Alpha was going to get it. Also, as Alpha drew closer in its orbit to Outback, the ripples in the planet's magnetic field were increasing. It would not be long.

The last of the Eagles landed, and began off-loading their cargo. As the storage bins were filled, they had to resort to stacking crates in the corridors, or piling them up in the catacombs. This part of the operation, at least, had wildly exceeded all expectations.

Which, LaCroix hoped, his plan would as well. As Falxa escorted him to Medical, he hoped Alan's status on Alpha would overcome any objections to the suggestions he had planted. Though Verdeschi was in charge of Security, Carter seemed to engender more respect among the Alphans. A pity, since Verdeschi was, he could plainly see, no resister. Still, you did the best with what you had.

He had counted on being taken to his quarters first, but upon reflection decided that it didn't really matter. Natalie was not here, but in the power room with the scientists. Helena was tending to a minor injury elsewhere, and he was greeted by Dr. Ed Spencer.


"Helena should be back, shortly," said Spencer, over his shoulder. He was studying one of Outback's few remaining indigenous life-forms, and paid LaCroix little heed.

Pierce fumed, as he logged off duty, and headed for his quarters. He was barred from all contact with LaCroix, and all attempts at reasoning with Koenig had been to no avail. The CIA file on Koenig had been, he decided; right on the money. Once made up, his mind was as inflexible as a battleship's hull. He entered his rooms, and tossed his jacket aside. As long as LaCroix was free...


He checked his commlock. Interesting. What did he want?

"Yes, Alan?"

LaCroix turned, as Carter entered the ward with Pierce. He smiled. Dr. Spencer did not.

"You are barred from all contact with LaCroix," said Falxa to Pierce.

"It was necessary to bring him here," said Alan, a little vaguely. "He is ill. There is a security problem down on Level Five, Falxa. Go at once."

"I have heard nothing from Security Chief Verdeschi," droned the machine, after a moment.

"There is a communications breakdown, there. I was sent to call you. Go at once."

"By your command," said the cybernaut, and left. Spencer stood, thoroughly puzzled now.


"Doctor," said LaCroix, turning to Spencer. "Return to your quarters at once."

"Re...return..." mumbled Ed.

"Yes. At once, Doctor."

Without another word, Ed left. Pierce looked in bewilderment from him, to LaCroix. "What the hell am I doing here?"

"Dying," said LaCroix with a smile. He looked to Alan, who wordlessly snatched Pierce's laser, and stunned him. He crumpled to the floor with barely a groan. LaCroix watched him fall, then ordered Alan to lock the door, himself moving to the door to the next ward. Not coded, it opened freely. On the floor, Carolyn Powell was crouched, playing with a small plastic truck, and a doll which she kept running over with it.

Some things never change.

"Carolyn," said LaCroix, and the woman looked up, eyes wide. LaCroix, fangs down, tore the transponder from his arm, and tossed it into a corner. The wound at once began to close, Carolyn fixing wide, puzzled eyes on him. "Carolyn, do you remember me?" She looked at him, but there was no flash of recognition. Her brows furrowed, but there was no flicker of memory. "Well," said LaCroix, reaching down and bringing her to her feet, "I remember you." And your bar tab. He looked deeply into her eyes, and probed. Yes! Perfect! Like a blank page, or a lump of wet clay. "And I remember my promise, as well." He smiled slowly, a malignant smile. "Can you say ' Master'?"

Carolyn, of course, said nothing.

"Well, let it never be said that LaCroix doesn't go the extra light-year to keep his word."

Chapter Twenty

Nick flew across country, senses wide. There!Below, on the north side of a hill, he sensed another of the vampires. He and Jackie settled to the ground, near a tree, and looked out.

There was a deep ditch, crossed by an old decrepit causeway, which the English were defending, and the Normans were trying to force it. In darkness and unfamiliar with the area, many of them, along with their horses, tumbled headlong into it, to be hacked to bits by English troops still fighting on. Javelins, arrows, and stones rained down upon them, and the smell of blood slammed into Nick once more. He also felt the other vampire very near. Where...

There! Leaving Jackie in some brush, he braved the ravine, and found him. There, amidst the heaps of dead and dying Normans, was Aristotle. Cradling a broken arm and badly hurt, he was down and at the mercy of a soldier with a spear. With his speed, Nick knocked him askew, and scooped up the old forger. Within moments he was back with Jackie.

Aristotle was in a bad way. Not only had he a crushed arm, but he'd been torn by a spear, and had a leg smashed by a stone. Nick poured the last of the bloodwine into Aristotle's mouth, and watched his wounds begin to close faster. He offered his wrist to Aristotle. The wounded vampire sucked greedily till Nick pulled away. The other lay back, and his eyes slowly closed.

"What a fool I've been," he sighed.

"So I see," replied Nicholas.

"I thought to lay in wait in yon ditch. Had I known it would become a battlefield..."

"Put it out of thy mind. Rest."

" in thy debt," said Aristotle. "That warrior would have pierced my heart. Thou hast..."

"Tis done, sir. Leave it..."

"Nay, but I am thy debtor. If ever thou hast need of aught, I am thy servant." Slowly he rose to a sitting position. "Papers, hiding places, letters. All are thine, Nicholas."

"As thou wishest," said Nick. He could see the confusion in the other. He only hoped that in his dazed and confused state, Aristotle would remember nothing of the blood knowledge, and the future. But he dared not try and make him forget, lest the whole loop of this reality come undone.

Aristotle slowly got to his feet, and tried out his restored limbs and joints. Except for stiffness and some pain, all seemed ship shape. He thanked Nick again, then looked down at Jackie. "Serve thy Master well, young Jacque," he told the boy. "He is noble, and one day, mayhap, he shall reward thee."

"I will, sir," said Jackie. Just then, there was a scream, and a spear sailed close.

"Tis time to flee," said Aristotle. "Till we meet again, Nicholas." With that, the old forger was off into the night. A moment later, Nick had taken to the air with Jackie. The timing was propitious, for just then, Nick's commlock began to beep.

"Got him!" said Maya, as an image began to coalesce in the transport chamber. It was dark and vague, but they could see movement. A man in a cloak of some kind, and what looked like a tree.

"You sure?" asked Nat, trying to divine what the displays meant.

"Yes," said the Psychon, adjusting something. "The date's right, and so are the geographical coordinates."

"See?" said Athena, next to her. She pointed to a graphic of Earth. "Right here, in your northern hemisphere. This island." She magnified the picture. "England. The place called, uhh...'Hastings'."

"Hastings." said Nat. "But...Battle of Hastings? Of course! Aristotle..."

"Commander," called Sahn over the commlock.

"Yes?" answered Koenig.

"Astrophysics reports the comet is accelerating its breakup, sir," she informed him. "A piece of it is projected to impact near Alpha in fourteen minutes, nineteen seconds."

"Understood," replied Koenig.

"And the planet's magnetic field is rippling more as well, sir."

"Estimated time to shift?"

"Unknown, sir."

"Alright. Activate the force field."

"Yes, sir."

Almost at once, the images faded out. Maya clicked some switches. Nothing.

"What happened?" asked Nat tensely, turning to the Commander.

"Our deflectors are up," said Koenig. "A chunk of that comet's going to come down near Alpha."

"While the shields are up, we can't scan for them," said Athena.

"We'll have to wait," said Maya.

"How long?" asked Nat and Tony at once, irritation rising.

"Yes, how long?" said a voice, and they turned. Pierce was entering the power room, though it had not been his voice. Behind him were LaCroix, Alan, and...

"Carolyn?"said Koenig. He reached for his commlock.

"Do not," said LaCroix, quickly seizing the laser from Pierce, who wore a vacant expression. "Disarm, all of you. Kick the weapons towards me."

"Alan?" cried Athena, not believing what she was seeing. "How..."

"Do it now, or I shall shoot Mrs. Carter first!" ordered LaCroix. Having no choice, they obeyed.

"Oh my God!" whispered Nat, who sensed what had changed.

"Where's Falxa or Hasta?" asked Tony. "Alan?"

"Down on your level five," said LaCroix, "which is now securely locked down and incommunicado, thanks to Mr. Pierce."

"Alan, what the hell's going on?" yelled Verdeschi.

"Mr. Carter is under my control for the moment," said LaCroix. "He has very kindly helped me escape, and commandeer Mr. Pierce. Now, you will send me back, or I shall destroy Alpha."

"We can't," said Koenig. "Our screens are up. There's a comet on the way towards us. We don't dare lower..."

"A nice try, Commander. Activate that device."

"We can't!" shouted Koenig. "We..."

"Very well." He looked at Carolyn. Much to everyone's horror, she now sported the amber eyes and fangs of the vampire. LaCroix smiled, and it was a malignant smile.

"Daddy," said Carolyn, in a very childish, immature voice, looking at LaCroix. No one had heard her speak in months, but there was no forgetting that voice. "Hungry."

"Of course. How remiss of me. You may feed now, My Dear," said the old General, and motioned towards Pierce. The Security man screamed as Carolyn attacked him, taking him in a grip of steel and sinking her teeth into his throat. Nat recognized it...First Feeding. Pierce was Carolyn's first victim. LaCroix had kept him alive for his knowledge of Security codes, his voice, and as Carolyn's first meal. Pierce struggled and thrashed, but the outcome was never in doubt. He gave a last gargled cry of pain, and sagged in her arms. Carolyn continued to pull, draining every last bit of life from him, then dropped the corpse to the floor. The sight of her face, befanged and bloody with eyes red, expression suffused with ecstasy, disgusted even Natalie. Were it only Carolyn, she was sure she could take her. She was, after all, only a fledgling, barely a few minutes old.

But LaCroix...

"Ahhhh. Good to the last drop," said LaCroix, watching the look on his new daughter's face. "Now, Mrs. Verdeschi. I have, as you see, solved the mass problem. And I have no compunction about doing what it takes. Activate that device." No one moved. "Do it, or I shall let her loose on Mr. Carter, and then the whole base."

"Security will cut her down," said Tony.

"And how many of your people will she take first, eh? Especially with half your department locked down below? Two? Five? A dozen?" Still nothing. LaCroix's face went cold. "How about this, then?" He ran his laser up to "kill", and pointed it at the power coils. "The whole room goes up, and Alpha with it."

"Daddy, hungry," said Carolyn again. "I'm hungry."

"Patience, child," said LaCroix. "Well?" He smiled as Koenig relented, and ordered the deflectors turned off. At once, Maya began powering up the equipment again.

"Scanning," she reported.

While the wounded were being tended, and The Conqueror slept in his tent amidst the carnage he had created, Nick and Jackie were getting as far away from there as they could. While LaCroix had been very handily dealt with by Jackie, Nick knew, from his own experience with trying to kill him, that he wouldn't be down for long. And he wasn't going to be too happy, either.

He and Jackie at last came down near a farmstead. A quick sweep of the place showed Nick that it was abandoned, no doubt in fear of the Normans. They went into the house, and Jackie began searching for food, not too sure just when he'd eaten last.

"Jackie," said Nick, as the boy found a hunk of bread and some cheese in the larder, "what you did earlier?"

"Yeah?" Jackie had demolished one piece of bread, and was making an impromptu sandwich with the rest. There was no wine, only a little milk that had not yet soured.

"Don't let it get to you. You did what every warrior does in battle. You did what you had to."

"Yeah," said Jackie, shrugging. Still hungry, he dug deeper into the food, finding some ham, and what looked like turnips.

"Jackie, don't..."

"Nick, I'm eating." he snapped back. "Just cool it, okay?" He stuffed something into his mouth. Nick gave up for the moment, letting his charge eat. Which reminded him he was getting hungry, too. Fighting LaCroix, helping Aristotle, then flying had all drained him. He sniffed the air. When the farmer had fled, he'd left at least some of his livestock behind him. No doubt, one of them would provide what he needed. When Jackie had finished for the moment, he stuffed more food into a leather sack, and Nick put a few silver pennies in their place. He led Jackie out towards the barn. He listened. It was quiet...

But not for long. In the distance, he could hear men approaching on horseback. Damn!


"People are coming, Jackie."

"Let's go, then."

"I...I can't, Jackie. "I'm too weak to fly. I need blood."

"Would...would some of mine help?" Nick could hear the fear in his charge's voice, and for a moment his own eyes flashed in hunger.

"No! don't have enough. I'd take too much, and you'd die."

"Well, what then?" There aren't any horses."

"Into the barn!" ordered Nick, and they ran for the fairly new structure. Inside were several animals, and Nick looked them over. Several chickens, a cow, some pigs and geese. He'd made up his mind as to which when they heard horses enter the barnyard. With a burst of energy that he could ill afford, he shot up into the loft to hide. He was obviously weak, even to Jackie, and Jackie took his knife and made a short cut on his arm. He put it under Nick's nose...

The vampire dove for it, without a thought. He pulled, feeling Jackie's thoughts and fears, as well as, much to his surprise, those of the long-gone Jarak. Those of the alien interloper disgusted him, and he pulled away.

"I told you no!" he said, wiping his mouth.

"And I need you,to help me survive," countered Jackie. "Besides, isn't a squire always supposed to help his knight? Get him food?"

"Blood isn't usually part of the deal," said Nick. "But...thanks, anyway." He already felt a little better, the tiredness in his limbs beginning to ease some. "Hush!" he ordered, as the barn door burst open. Below, armed men, three of them and Saxon from their speech, entered. From their talk, Nick understood they were survivors of Hastings, having barely escaped the carnage. Much to his annoyance, they were planning on staying the night.

The blood from their wounds excited the Beast inside, but Nicholas held firm reign on it. He would not take advantage of helpless men. But he would study them. One man he recognized. The sentry that had stopped he and Jackie on the road. Interesting. The second, a smaller man, he did not. The third, wrapped in a cloak, was almost as big as the first, and Nick could sense that he was badly hurt. One of the men built a small fire in the middle of the dirt floor, and the big man's cloak fell back, revealing his face.


"Nick!" whispered Jackie. It's..."

"King Harold."

Pondering what to do next, things were complicated by one of the commlock's beeping, the noise sounding like a shout in this place. The warriors looked up, and they could hear steel being drawn. "You there!" barked the big one. "Come down!"

Chapter Twenty-One

Quickly, before Nick could make protest, Jackie obeyed. Both commlocks were beeping, now. The big man pointed his still bloody sword at Jackie, expression decidedly unkind.

"Who art thou, boy?" Jackie said nothing at first. "Speak! Art thou deaf?"

"Uhh...Ave, Magister," he stammered at last. He didn't know more than a few words of Anglo-Saxon with any proficiency, and he didn't figure French would get him very far just now.

"Eh?" said the other. "What's that, boy?"

"Uh, bonum vesperum," Jackie went on, figuring if you can't dazzle 'em with brilliance, baffle 'em with bullshit. "M..m..mihi nomen Iacobus est, Magister." He waited a beat, forcing a smile. "Quod tibi est..."

"Bah," said the big one dismissively, turning back to his companions. "Latin. As like tis some novice run away from his monastery."

"He's a spy," said the other, eyes unfriendly. "Why speaketh he no Anglish? Speak up, boy! Art thou a spy?" The smaller man prodded him with his sword point. "Ah. He be armed. Tis no novice." The commlock beeped again.

"Oh shit," muttered Jackie, as the point stung him. The soldier popped the commlock off his belt. It beeped again as it hit the floor, and the men stepped back.

"What tis't?" asked the smaller one, eyes glued to the device. "What manner of weapon is this?"

"Tis some engine of sorcery!" opined the first. "Ah! That be it. The boy is some sorcerer's apprentice." He raised his sword, and chopped down on the commlock. It burst into a ball of sparks, screeching as it died.

"What the..."

"Maya?" asked Tony.

"I had them. Both commlock frequencies. Then one went dead. Total failure."

"Which one?" asked Natalie.

"Jackie's," replied the Psychon, checking the ID code. "It just..."

"What is wrong?" demanded LaCroix, moving closer. He gripped Maya by the shoulder, snarling.

"I DON'T KNOW!!!!" Maya bellowed back.

Far above Alpha, part of the fragmenting comet continued moving away from its companions, arcing towards the Moon.

Far below, in the interior of Outback, the fluctuations in the planet's rotation were again being felt along the inner/outer core boundary layer. The strength of Outback's magnetic field spiked, dipped, then spiked again...

"Hey!" shouted Jackie. "Cool it, will ya?" He jumped back far enough to draw his sword. Both warriors laughed at the sight of one small boy, trying to hold his sword. Both laughs died in their throats, as Nick descended slowly from the loft above, to land in front of Jackie, facing the warriors. Sword drawn, eyes ablaze, he glared at the others.

"Be gone," he ordered them, and Jackie could feel the hypnotic power he was using. "The house is empty. Take your King there." As he spoke, the man in question stirred, and looked out. He was in a mess, and Nick doubted he'd live till daylight. He turned back to the others. "I give you the gift of your lives. Do not squander it!" But one of them was, it seemed, a resister, and raised his weapon.

"Demon!" he screamed, and attacked, his blade clanging against Nick's. As he dodged, so did Jackie, scattering embers from the fire into the hay.

"It's open!" shouted someone, as the transport chamber began to hum loudly. LaCroix moved towards it, eyes ablaze. There, as if through a mist, he could see Nick, in combat, sword crossed with another warrior, flames behind them.

"What is this?" he demanded.

Still not back at full strength, Nick recoiled at the first blow from the Saxon. But the warrior was wounded, and the vampire took full advantage of it. He ducked, and then thrust upwards, slashing the fellow's left arm from wrist to elbow. He bellowed in pain, then struck back, slashing Nick's left cheek.

The second, meanwhile, had gone after Jackie. The boy, however, was prepared. As the warrior struck, he fell over backwards, and his attacker overbalanced himself. Jackie leaped up, the hopped onto his back, beating him repeatedly with the pommel of his sword, then getting it around his throat. The warrior reached for the blade, and then rolled, trying to get on top of him.

Though Nick felt weak, the first man was still no match for him. With his speed, Nick got around him, and struck. His first blow shattered the man's sword, and it fell it pieces to the floor, the second took off his right arm from the elbow. It thudded to the floor, amidst his screams of agony. In a blur, Nick had him in his grip.

"You were a fool to ignore me," were the last words he heard this side of the Gate. Nick felt the hot blood sear his mouth and throat, filling him with energy. As he dropped the dead man, he looked up...

And saw Harold, looking back at him. The King was in a bad way, and Nick could sense his life-force diminishing steadily. How had he escaped?he wondered. History said...

"What art thou?" the King asked weakly, trying to rise to his feet.

But Nick's answer was delayed by the fire, and Jackie and the other struggling amidst it and the screaming animals. He leapt into the flames, despite his fear, and knocked Jackie's opponent aside. But the other was surprisingly fast, and as Nick turned to lift the boy back up, he felt a sword pierce his back.

But the attacker had too quickly forgotten one small boy. Nick wrenched away, pulling the sword from his hands. Once he had a free shot, Jackie plunged his own point into the man's gut.

"THERE!"shouted Nat. Now clear, the image was truly like a view through an open door. Nicholas, on his knees, eyes ablaze, Jackie pulling a bloody sword from a falling body, flames all around. Jackie turned...

"Nick!" he cried. "Look!"

"Jackie!" gasped Nick., and Jackie pulled the weapon from his knight. Marginally better, Nick looked up...

And saw Natalie! There, surrounded by a blue shimmering border, like a door or a window, Natalie, his beautiful sweet Natalie, stood in the new power room on Alpha. Next to her were Koenig, Athena, and... LaCroix? He stood, feeling his body beginning to heal from the sword wound. The air around them was filled with smoke and the screams of terrified animals. Next to him, he felt a presence, and turned.

King Harold?



Of course...!

"COME ON!" he shouted, feeling strength returning. "Let's go!" Grabbing Jackie, he leapt for the portal...

...and exploded through in a shower of sparks and noise. Smoke, embers, and several screaming beasts came through, before Maya could shut down the portal. Nick toppled to the floor, and then the lights went out.

Outback flared...

And the lights blazed back. In the mad confusion, Nick opened his eyes, and saw LaCroix, hulking over Maya, shouting something.

"I cannot! The comet..." she was saying.

"Do it!" bellowed the vampire, fangs bared, hand around her throat. The chamber glowed again, and grasping Carolyn's hand, LaCroix spared a look backwards. "Nichola! Mon fils!"Nick looked up, and the two locked eyes. "Here, Nicholas! Come with me. Now!"

"LaCroix?" rasped Nick, still shocked at seeing his Master here. He saw LaCroix's eyes find Jackie, and scowl. For a moment, rage suffused the elder vampire's features, and he took a step towards the boy who had so handily defeated him, long ago. Then, he stopped, and looked back at his son.

"Nicholas, come here!" he ordered, and Nick could feel his Master's hypnotic powers. He fought back, shaking his head. "Come here. And bring the boy!"

"No! Burn in hell, LaCroix!" He stood to his full height, sword in hand, and dared his Master with a look to fight him over the point. After a long moment, LaCroix seemed to shrug, accepting the outcome.

For now.

"So be it. For now. But remember, the gods are not through with us, Nicholas," he cried, with a last look over his shoulder. "Avoir, mon fils!"And so said, he and Carolyn leapt into the portal...

As the comet fragment, all 40,000 tons of it, raced down towards the surface, gaining ever more velocity...

Again, couplers and panels sparked and blew, plunging all into darkness. Nat felt herself shoved into something hard, and the darkness was filled with screams, both Human and animal.

"Not again!" she heard someone groan, then something plowed into her once more.

Janette gaped in horror, as LaCroix vanished in the blast of lightning. Was he...was he dead? She had never seen lightning like that, not in over a thousand years. He seemed to shimmer, flicker, like...

She didn't know what. After hours of searching the surrounding woods, she returned to the cabin, tired, hungry, and frustrated. She partook of what blood stores remained, and then saw the sky. She cursed the dawn, then went inside for the day. When she awoke, after hours of jumbled, tormented dreams, it was still light, but she dared a look out the window. The shattered altar was still there, and the scorched vegetation had at last stopped smoldering. She pondered what to do next. What should she do? LaCroix's disappearance would not go unnoticed by the Community, certainly not by the Elders. Not one as old, as powerful, and as respected as he. Make that feared. Sooner or later, there would be questions, and she did not relish having them asked the way the Enforcers asked them. Would they believe her, that she had not killed her first Master? Nicholas had survived his attempt to kill LaCroix only because LaCroix had survived. But now, with all this...

As the sun slowly dropped lower, she began to feel something. Like static electricity on her skin. She looked outside, again. A few yards beyond the ruined altar, something was happening at the edge of the woods. There was a mist, and flashes of light and electrical discharge, just like last night. Then, in the midst of it, shapes began to be visible. Human shapes, and a swirl of lights and noise.

"Lucien?" she gasped, as the form of her first Master became visible. Behind him, she could see vague images of lights and people, but nothing clear. Then, in an intense flash of light that nearly blinded even her, they were through.

Yes, they. Her Maker, and someone else. They emerged from the portal, to collapse on a patch of ground barely two feet from a shaft of sunlight. She heard a scream of pain, but knew her duty. Grabbing up her coat, she also snatched a heavy blanket and rushed outside, to where LaCroix was on his knees, skin smoldering, cradling a stranger, whose skin likewise was burning. Casting the cover about them both, she carried them all into the cabin, sealing out the lethal light. Almost before LaCroix could emerge from the blanket, Janette had a glass of blood in his hands, and he downed it in a breath. Soon, more was provided for the newcomer as well, a normally beautiful blonde, blue-eyed woman, whose face was peeling from the sun. Janette regarded her a moment. Yes, she was a vampire. A fledgling from the feel of her aura, and scarcely a few hours old. How...


"Ah, Janette," said LaCroix, at last getting to his feet. He was dressed in a uniform she recognized as being from Alpha, and he smelled like a barnyard. "Mon Janette." He finished another draught, and embraced her. "Mon Janette, would not believe the tale."


"No. In that, I have failed." She could hear the hesitation, the badly wounded pride in his voice, as he admitted that. "But..." he indicated his fledgling. Carolyn had filled herself with the offered blood, but had as yet barely begun to heal, having not the strength and vitality of the elder pair. " Janette, this is Carolyn Powell." Carolyn looked from LaCroix to Janette, and slowly smiled, instinctively sensing the relationship between them. As Divia had once observed, "One always recognizes family".

"Say hello to your new sister, Carolyn," said LaCroix.

"Hello, Janette," said the erstwhile Alphan, smiling, eyes golden. Janette matched gazes with her, and inwardly shuddered in revulsion. Steeling herself, she handed her more blood, and her regeneration quickened. "I am Carolyn."

Chapter Twenty-Two

The emergency lights came back up, to reveal total chaos. Not only were several pieces of equipment smoked, but there were at least a dozen terrified farm animals running amok, as well as Nicholas and Jackie in a heap on the floor. Koenig got to his feet, and saw that the livestock weren't the only uninvited guests. One very angry Anglo-Saxon warrior stood, glowering around him, face twisted in pain. He took a step forward...

"Oh my God," said someone, but they had little cause for worry. With a sword wound in his gut, the warrior was a threat to no one just now. He reached out and tried to get to Nick, but toppled over, face down. Next to a second Saxon...

"Nick! Nick!" cried Natalie, at once by his side. He was covered in blood and gore, his hair and beard caked with filth. But, he was back and alive! That was all that mattered. "Oh thank God you're alive!" she cried, and kissed him, regardless, and helped him to his feet.

"Commander!" Sahn's voice echoed from somewhere, and above it all boomed Verdeschi's outrage, as he tried to escape from the smelly tongue on his face. Maya began to giggle.

"Will someone get this goat off of me?!?"

Within half an hour, most of Alpha's critical systems were back on-line. Once more, the unwilling travelers got up, took stock, and counted their blessings.

On the screen in Command Center, they watched Outback shrink as they moved away from it. The interplay of forces, coming just at the point where the Moon was moving the fastest, had done it. Snapped them out of their orbit around Outback, and sent them back on their endless journey.

The cometary fragment missed Alpha when the Moon lurched, and impacted near the Mare Crisium instead. The rest of the fragments hit Outback, much as predicted, vaporizing on impact, triggering volcanoes, and releasing gargantuan amounts of water vapor and carbon dioxide into the thin atmosphere.

"It will become a more habitable place, in time," said Maya, reading her scanner. "More Terraformable. Perhaps..."

"We couldn't live in a cosmic shooting gallery," said Tony. "Yeah, we might have Terraformed it, but how long would it be before another bullet from space came along, and destroyed it all again?"

"I know, Tony," said Maya, watching Outback slowly recede. "It's just I want our children to be born someplace...alive. To grow up to know the kind of worlds we once had. Green. Full of life."

"Do not worry, Maya," said Sahn, suddenly at her side. "We will find a home."

"And our children will know the open sky," said Athena.

"That's right," said Kate. "We never give up."

Jackie's reunion with Sue was, of course, very emotional. On Sue's side. Jackie himself was oddly quiet, though of course Nick knew why. Once he was cleaned up and dressed in Alphan costume once more, he looked much like his old self, and not very noticeably older.

Except for the eyes.

Nick had looked horrible, Nat thought, with his hair long and unkempt, and his ratty beard. Once cleaned, combed, and coifed, he lay in bed in Medical while she monitored his vital signs, and told him of LaCroix's uninvited visit to Alpha.

"How like him," he sighed, shaking his head. "A pact with the Devil. At least now I understand his obsession with me a little better."

"Yeah, he never understood how the mortal that he'd brought across in 1228 could have been the vampire he'd met in 1066." She shook her head. "The itch he could never scratch."

"I always felt as if there were something he was holding back from me, Nat. Even in the blood knowledge. The Old Ones can do that, sometimes." He sighed again. "At least we know that Earth is okay, and picking up the pieces. A new Moon."

"Uh huh."

"So, how many know, now?"

"About us? Koenig and Tony. Pierce did, but he's toast. We'll fix 'em."

"We can't. At least not all at once, Nat. They were involved in this for too long. We'll have to reorder their memories, bit by bit."

"I didn't know we could do that, Nick."

"It comes with age and practice, Nat."

"I see. Well don't forget, your two months or so back in Merry Olde England was only a few days, here."

"Right. Still kind of hard to grasp, though."

"True. And Jackie?"

"He's a resister, Nat. Big time. I can't. I tried."

"Hopefully, he'll keep his mouth shut."

"He's already promised, Nat. Except maybe to Alan. Which reminds me. What happened to him? Carter's a resister."

"Not against drugs, Nick. Somehow, LaCroix got ahold of some Demerol, and hypnotically took him over when he was drugged." She explained it all. "He'll face no charges."

"That's good to hear. Damn LaCroix."

"Amen," said Nat, and crossed herself. Nick gulped, and she felt only a slight stinging on the skin. "Now, we have a meeting, handsome."

"Where, beautiful?"

"In the Koenig's quarters, at 20:30 hours, tonight. A debriefing, as it were."

"Oh, Nat..."

"Hey, Koenig has gone far to shield us, Nick. He kept the truth of LaCroix's nature from almost everyone. He's still covering for us."

"Quite a man, our Commander."

"Yes, he is."

Helena was herself late for the "meeting." She'd been in surgery most of the day. The Saxon warrior that had stumbled through the rift had, it seemed, been tougher than they at first thought. Though horribly wounded, he had only lapsed into unconsciousness. Back home, he surely would have died in short order, but with a team of superlative doctors, and equipment undreamed of in the 11th Century, it was a different story. Against all expectations, he had pulled through.

As did his companion. The other body on the floor of the power room had been, unbelievably, King Harold Godwinson, last Saxon ruler of England. Also hovering near death, he'd been saved by a science 900 years beyond his time. Like his soldier, he would live, but just what the hell they were going to do with an 11th Century Saxon King, and one warrior, wasn't something anyone had an answer for at the moment.

Koenig of course wanted to hear about their adventure, and Nick told as much as he could. Alan particularly enjoyed hearing about the battle, having a somewhat martial spirit himself, and enjoyed the tale of the fight at the ditch, or the Malfosse,as History had christened it.

And they had pictures. Each commlock contained a digital video chip, able to store up the last full hour of images, much like an airplane's flight data recorder. Jackie had transmitted images of William's landing, and part of the battle, to Nick, and his commlock still held them.

"Incredible," said Helena, watching the Normans storm the shield wall. "Actual images of one of the seminal events of Earth's history."

"It's just because Nick couldn't go outside," said Jackie. "So I acted as scout."

"You were so brave," said Susan, hugging her son.

"Aw, Mom..."

After dinner, Natalie walked back to Sue's quarters with her. By the time she awoke the next morning, Sue remembered nothing whatsoever of vampires, or of what the Barber's truly were.

As to the rest of it, Victor and Maya had determined the cause of the initial failure of the power plant, and with several modifications, Koenig permitted it to go back on-line. The mineral wealth wrenched from Outback's crust was soon finding its way into nearly every part of the base, as the fabrication facilities filled orders for filters, electronic components, plastic sheeting, the works.

The livestock that had so rudely followed Nick and Jackie home were also put to use, though Maya was unable to determine why their passage had not prejudiced her settings regarding mass. The old plans for a lunar stockyard, shelved in Simmonds' mad rush to get the Meta Probe launched, were dug out and modified. One of the new sections, abutting the extension to hydroponics, would be turned into an animal pen. Seven chickens, two goats, three sheep, and several noisy piglets and geese completed the roster.

This will be good, John," said Helena. "We can augment our diet with meat, milk, and eggs, and recycle the wastes for fertilizer, and extract oxygen and hydrogen from the methane."

"Yes, it looks pretty feasible," agreed Koenig, perusing the computer's analysis. "We can all certainly use a more varied diet, Helena."

"Even if it's hardly kosher," she teased him. "And, when we do find a place, John, we'll have more species from home to seed there as well. Animals, as well as the plant life that we've kept going." He nodded, agreeing with her. "Oh, and John?"

"Hhmm?" he replied, now scanning a report from astrophysics on their new trajectory. It was very different from their course before Outback. They had entered Outback's system at about two degrees above the ecliptic. They were exiting at over forty degrees off their original trajectory, at nine degrees above the ecliptic. The way ahead, said the scanners, was clear.

"Speaking of seed...?"

"Hhmm?" Helena pulled the paper down slowly with an index finger.



"You and I, my heroic Commander, are doing a little seeding of our own."

"S...Helena?" he cried, slowly going from confused to grinning.

"Uh huh. First Athena, then Maya, and now me."

Koenig dropped all the reports, and forgot everything for the moment but his wife's sparkling eyes.

"What shall we do with them?" asked Maya, looking down at the recovering newcomers. Like herself, they were forever cut off from all they had ever known. Unlike her, they'd been shot forward into a world beyond their imagination, and either way, she felt for them.

"Teach them. At least try and bring them into the modern world," said Natalie, checking their vitals. "It's all we can do, Maya. The world they knew is dead and gone forever, and ours is God knows how many light-years away."


"I'm sorry we lied to you, Maya," said Nat. "We just... can't afford to let people know about us. You saw how Pierce acted. Imagine half the base that way."

"I understand, Natalie. It's when I shift, to protect myself. I try to appear as other than what I truly am, for survival's sake."

"That's an...interesting analogy. I..." She turned as Nick entered, Helena behind him. "Well?"

"Done. Ouma has forgotten all about vampires, and so has...Tony." He spared Maya a look. She nodded. Tony had been suspicious, even a threat, before Breakaway. He'd seen, and then been made to forget. He'd been made to forget again. Maya, however, could not. Whether by virtue of being a resister, or her Psychon neurophysiology, they did not know. "I am sorry, Maya."

"I understand, Nicholas. We are all refugees. We all do that which we must, to survive. The Commander?"

"That'll take longer. Bit by bit. In fact, I'm not even sure..." He was interrupted by the door, and in came Jackie. "Ah. Done?"

"Uh huh. I got the armor and the sword all mounted on a stand, Nick. You?"

"The same." He looked at Maya. "A souvenir of our little adventure. So, what's up, Jack? Isn't it past your bedtime?" As he spoke, the boy's shoulders fell.

"Aww, Nick, I..."

"I'm sorry. You're right," said Nick. "After what we've been through, I shouldn't be treating you like a child. You've gained a lot of maturity in the last few, well, weeks, for us. So?"

"I just wanted to see how they were, Nick," he said, indicating the convalescing warriors. "After all..."

"Hey, kid, you did what you had to do. He was armed, and you fought him like a warrior. I mean that, Jack. I could have used more like you, when I was on Crusade. You saved me."

"Aww, but you're a..."

"Yes, well. But that doesn't change things."

"I'm proud of you," said Natalie, giving him a hug. "You brought Nick back to me. I can't ever repay you."

"Hey, Natalie," he shrugged, looking down at his toes.

"Okay, well off to bed, now," said Helena. "And that is a medical order, Jackie. Before your mother calls."

"Okay," said the boy, then turned back. "Nick?"


"I still don't get it. That man you saved. I understand the part about Aristotle. You had to save him because of the future you had with him and all. What he'd said about Hastings. But why that other guy? That wounded knight. Why fight LaCroix over him?"

"It was after we'd been there a while, that I remembered something. A story my father told me, when I was first learning to ride a horse. He told me about Hastings, and the de Brabant that had joined Duke William's cause."

"An ancestor of yours?" asked Maya. "There?"

"Yes. Father told me the story of how he'd been wounded, and then been saved from the Angel Of Death by two heavenly messengers. One appeared as a golden-haired knight, and the other one a boy, who spoke strangely. Suddenly, I realized what it was all about."

"You had to go back, then," said Helena. "It was ordained."

"A predestination paradox," said Maya. "Nicholas had to be there, in order to save his..."

"Greatgreatgrandfather. Louis de Brabant."

"Yes. If he had not, LaCroix would have killed him, and there would have been no Nick for him to meet in, ah..."

"1228," said Nat.

"Then it was all ordained," said Helena. "Predestined. Had you not become a...vampire, you'd never have been on Alpha, to...God, it's dizzying," she said, massaging her temples.

"Yes, it is," said Nick. "Once again, our path seems guided."

"By God?" asked Jackie. "Remember Nick, Prior Wulfric did wish us Godspeed."

"Yeah. Yeah, he did at that, Jack." Nick thought for a moment, then looked at his squire/student. "Enough wondering for tonight, young squire. Off to bed with thee!"

"Goodnight," smiled Jackie, and was off. Once gone, the adults turned to look at the newcomers, both still sedated.

"This explains a bit of a mystery," said Nick. "There has always been some doubt about the absolute identification of King Harold's body, after the battle."

"I guess we know why, now," said Maya. "But then, who died in his place?"

"This one," said Helena, indicating the big soldier, "awoke, briefly. He asked if this were Heaven, and was I an angel."

"I translated," Nick told Maya. "He babbled, under the influence of the medication. It seems several of Harold's knights decided to spirit him away, once they saw that all was lost, and like Alfred The Great, organize some sort of guerilla movement against William. A soldier who resembled him voluntarily took his place, and Egbert here carried him away, despite his protests."

"Someone died for him?' asked Maya, looking at the sleeping Harold. "Such loyalty."

"Indeed," said Nick. "One day, I'll explain the whole culture of medieval chivalry to you, Maya. Anyway, they decided to camp at the same abandoned farm we did, and here we are."

"I wonder what effect that had on history," said Nat.

"None," said Maya. "After all, your history records that this William the Conqueror won, and King Harold was killed in battle. Had he stayed, and survived, your entire history might have read very differently."

"Which it does not," said Helena. "Again, it all seems predestined."

"So it may be," said Nat. "Still, I wish we could have kept LaCroix from returning home." Grunts of assent all around followed this. "Who needs him?"

"No one," said Nick.

"Oh, Maya," said Natalie. "Remember when you told me that according to Psychon legend, some people were immune to a vampire's bite?'


"Well, at some point, I'm going to pursue that line of research. Not now, of course. With you being pregnant, nothing in your system is at baseline. But afterwards..."

"Of course," nodded the Psychon. "Anything that I can do to help you and Nicholas free yourself from your affliction."

"Thanks, Maya," said Nick. "And thanks for helping to shield Nat, while I was gone. That means a lot to me."

"Fellow castaways, Nicholas."

"Yeah," said Nat. "And wishing they were home. And speaking of back home..."

"Indeed," nodded Maya. "I wonder as well. What will happen to..."

"Yeah," said Helena. "Carolyn."

Chapter Twenty-Three

The Raven was packed, as was the usual for the Friday night strip, the noise of the customers and music penetrating to the street outside. He stood there, in the darkness, watching the people come and go. He cast an indecipherable look upwards, at the ever-growing New Moon, then crossed the street towards the entrance.

He seemed out of place here, among the Friday night revelers, dressed in a black suit with red tie and handkerchief. Ignoring the crowd, the waiters, and the undulating performers, he headed straight through the mass of living and Undead, straight for the bar. People began to move away from him without knowing why, the music seemed to falter for a moment, and he stood there, gloved hands on the bar, unmoving, till Miklos caught sight of him.

"I am here to see Monsieur LaCroix, please," he said, in perfect French. Something about him set the barkeep's nerves on edge. He looked at the fellow. Tall, trim, athletic, with a narrow face, piercing black eyes, jet black hair slicked back Stalin-like, and a well-trimmed goatee. He looked an ordinary man, yet Miklos sensed... what?

"He is busy," replied Miklos, looking over his shoulder. Inside, his boss was at work, instructing his new fledgling, and had left strict instructions not to be disturbed. Instructions one did not take lightly. He turned back, but the stranger just looked at him, calmly yet imperiously. He felt his heart constrict, and the strength suddenly go out of him, and the stranger's eyes momentarily flashed red. Surely, thought Miklos, nearly in shock and gasping for air, this was no vampire, but...

"Who...who shall I say is calling?" he got out at last, surprised at how weak his voice sounded in his own ears. The stranger reached into his breast pocket, and withdrew a card. He set it on the bar, and slid it across to Miklos, never taking his eyes off the bartender. It was black, and printed in red letters was a name. Just a name.

"Deal," said the stranger. "Lucius Deal."

"I...I'll get him," said Miklos, and fairly ran to obey.

Dedicated to the Memory of Wilma S. Wray.

With thanks to Professor Stephen A. Berard.

This is story 3 in the "Forever Alpha" series. Previous story - Next story
Copyright (c) 2000. 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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