THE FIREBORN CHRONICLES:
BAT IN THE MOON
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“Consider the history of monsters. Where did they come from? Where did they go? Do we think them extinct because we no longer see them? Or do they walk among us—evolved into something more?–Eric Barrows
EXCERPT OF BOOK 5
--A FIREBORN CHRONICLES PREQUEL--
* * * *
Eric stopped and stood stone-still before the entrance to his capsule. He drew a deep cleansing breath and exhaled slowly in an attempt to regain a much-needed state of calm. The very hardest thing about working this project had been to harness his strength in the Moon’s gravity.
“It would do no good, and be very inconvenient, to damage the outer hatch,” he chanted like a holy mantra. When he’d successfully regained his composure, he opened and entered the outer chamber to the Raven.
Halfway through the decompression process, he cast off the bulky suit humans so desperately needed to exist there. In vain defiance Eric extended his arms, threw his head back, and willed his body to shift and melt until only a hovering mist remained.
From the beginning, he had always loved this form. Like music, he floated, unseen, untethered. It was exhilarating to become so immersed, so much a part of his surroundings. He didn’t do this often for the transition back to solid form felt like crashing into a wall of too many memories, too many past lives. Thoughts of Lila’s youthful exuberance tangled and clashed with old memories of his monstrous rebirth, so very long ago.
He willed his body to coalesce, returning to its most recent incarnation, leaving him once more a tall, well-muscled, attractive, neatly coifed, and fully dressed blond-haired young man with eyes as clear and blue as a mountain spring. Lost in thought, he remained in the center of the bare little chamber with open hands and unseeing eyes.
“Yes, Lila, I can do all the things of legends.”
The harsh environment and silent solitude of the Moon had encouraged him to forge his physical manifestations to a level he would not have considered possible before. Across the room the interior chamber lock released with a clang. He ignored its invitation to open the inner hatch, instead allowing himself to phase through it before reforming on the other side.
A wash of anger assailed him as he took stock of his situation. He had lived in castles, possessing land as far as the eye could see. He’d owned a whole chain of islands. He had built edifices which rose into the sky so high they pierced the clouds. And here he stood in an oversized lunar landing module barely wide enough to manage five cartwheels across the main room. It was not until he’d paced its length that he recalled the reason for Lila’s visit. The blood shipment.
Returning to the still unopened decompression chamber door, he peered through its window. Sure enough, the heavily insulated box lay on its side by the wall. Eric shook his head. As if eternity wasn’t hard enough, these were the people they saddled him with.
He took hold of the wheel-lock and spun it until the hatch opened. He had forgotten how a human presence could affect him. Even contained in airtight suits, humans exuded a delicious vulnerability which flicked his innermost monstrous core to life. Ten years out of practice at restraint, he had actually hungered beneath his agitation. It would make things more interesting--Chinese curse interesting. A glance at the chronometer on the wall confirmed his need to eat.
He snatched up the nourishment transport case and returned to his living chamber. That the case felt lighter than usual bothered him. He released the lock holding it shut, causing a tiny hiss reminiscent of old cola cans when opened. Eric smiled. He’d always like that sound and the almost undetectable sweet scent that came with it.
His reverie broke at the sight of its contents. Instead of his monthly allotment, he found barely a week’s worth of sustenance. Grabbing one at random he headed for the kitchen cabinets. Choosing a tall, heavy, stemmed glass goblet which captured and reflected sparkling hues of orange and black and green, he leisurely poured the rich red liquid to fill it. Something about the way liquids languidly poured on the Moon enhanced the blood’s rich color, texture and iron-tinged scent. It certainly did not live up to the thrill of the hunt, but in a more cultured and civilized way, it helped.
Unbidden, he heard and recognized his long dead mother’s voice telling him how hunger would always be the very best spice. It was funny, the things which stuck with a person. Gently, he lifted and studied the glass. Its creation had been his first successful endeavor into design and production of a pattern via the capsule’s small replicator unit. The sparkling refractions from the particles within pleased him. He’d specially selected and mixed different samples of Moon regolith for the conversion.
Eric took a sip from it. Mmm. O-negative.
On the Moon, control was everything. Lighter gravity had forced him to hone his movements. In a way, it had been refreshingly fun to have to rediscover how to harness his enormous strength and preternatural senses. Eventually, by becoming more attuned to the nature of motion itself, he’d mastered it by compressing his movements into the smooth, fluid efforts of a dancer.
Across the room the open hatch caught his attention. He sighed and placed the glass onto the counter. They’d barely settled into the dome and he was already getting careless. From the com center across the cabin the first of what he already assumed to be too many messages from Dome 1 rang out. Ignoring it, he took the time to close the hatch and secure his sadly limited supply of nourishment. He’d have to talk to Barry about that but didn’t really feel up to it yet.
The nonstop ringing began to annoy him. He was definitely going to change that sound bite. He retrieved his glass, alongside the partially filled bag of blood, and sought out his comfy chair to enjoy it. For a while he simply glared at the persistent noise-maker from where he lounged.
Surely, they would take the hint.
It rang and rang and rang.
Why wouldn’t they just leave a message?
Each ring became a rolling din, raking across his nerves. What had happened to common courtesy?
Finally giving up any hope of enjoying his meal, Eric reached out and punched the connect button. “What. Do. You. Want?”
From the screen Lila’s slumped form shot to terrified attention. “I—um Barry told me to call you.” She licked her lips and stammered long enough for Eric to realize he’d get no gratification or message from her unless he eased up his glare.
He leaned back in repose and resumed drinking from his crystalware. Looks like dinner and a show now. Having always harbored a fascination for human reactions in minutia, he took in every nuance of her shock and discomfort, while waiting for her to wind down. It took a couple of minutes, but at some point, he realized she had begun studying him and her doe-eyed fanatical adoration had returned.
Eric heaved a heavy sigh and set the near-empty glass down. “What did Barry want you to tell me?”
Lila’s grin widened. “Barry says that, starting tomorrow, you will be expected to give vampire-human indoctrination classes here at Dome 1 every day.” Her smile faltered at the rage-tinged flare of his glare.
Eric enjoyed her recoil. “So, you do still have survival instincts after all.” He gifted her with a perfectly sinister smile, making sure to expose his sharp canines.
Lila’s rapid recovery flattened any hope of escape he’d fostered.
“Earth Control needs us to all be able to work together. For an hour a day you are to walk among us.”
Eric sat, stiff-backed, staring at the screen in disbelief. Sure, he’d suspected something like this would have to happen, but, for some reason, he’d not expected it to be so soon. He watched Lila’s golden ringlets waft back and forth across her tender young neck. “No,” he replied.
She pouted in response. “But—”
“Tell Barry I accept no commands through relay. Only he is to directly contact me from now on.” He stared her to silence despite a half-formed word on her lips. He snarled, “Do. You. Understand?”
She sadly nodded.
He flipped the com link off. “Children.” He’d reached for the glass and lifted it before realizing his hand was shaking, and his razor-sharp, darkening nails had emerged He returned the glass to where it had been, and forced himself to calm until, once more, he could comfortably lounge back into his seat. He’d walked among men in one form or another since the tenth century.
For ten years they had been absent with no sight, no smell, no continual presence of them, and not even the persistent drone of their tiny little minds in the background. Eric glanced at his hands. The nails were retracting. How could he have not foreseen this?
The accursed com-set rang again.
He leaned forward and activated it, this time admiring the return of his long slender fingered hand.
The Earth Control emblem momentarily filled the screen before a stern looking command officer appeared. “Eric Barrows?”
Eric tilted his head and sighed. “Yes.”
“We’ve been informed that you are refusing to proceed with the program you are under contract to complete.”
Eric watched the beefy protruding vein on the commander’s neck bounce about as he spoke. It occurred to him that the lure of prey had ceased to be a driving force long, long ago. He’d almost totally forgotten it—until now. He allowed the man on the screen to wait for his response.
“Contract? You consigned me to build Dome 1 for you or die. Now you want me to mingle with them? They’re children and groupies! I thought humans protected their young. What’s the matter with you people?”
“They’re settlers. It’s part of our program to colonize other worlds. This whole process is part of a plan.”
“I only agreed to build your base.”
“If you refuse to participate, we will send an executioner or perhaps a jailer until we require your services again.”
Eric glanced at the cold storage unit containing his meager food supply.
The military man lifted his jaw in defiance. “Vampire, you are expected to report to Dome 1 every day at 2100 hours. During this time, you will interact with the settlers for a minimum of one hour. You will start by meeting them in groups of ten for an orientation, of sorts. I want these people to understand your nature well enough to coexist.”
Eric’s silence encouraged the commander to continue more forcefully. “We will be watching you. There will be reports filed, so if you are not going to cooperate, you may as well tell us now.”
Eric shrugged. “Guess I don’t have much choice.” He casually examined his left hand, turning it from front to back. “I have a feeling you’re not going to like how this plays out, though.”
The officer scowled. “What do you mean by that?”
Eric smiled and clicked off the transmission. “I don’t know.”
* * * *
End of chapter 3
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4.0 out of 5 stars Good read!
Reviewed in the United States on January 26, 2020
Andrews delivers another unique and compelling story in the Fireborn saga. The prequel kept my interest and still offered some unexpected twists and turns, despite knowing where things eventually end. It was a good read and crosses the dimensional planes between fantasy and science fiction and the paranormal. Andrews makes Psionic Sci-Fi truly a genre of its own.