PROLOGUE – David Depual
"I sing of the first times and the fall of Darkness." he said,straightening his cravat with a flourish. David stood there patiently, stone faced, twirling a stylus in his hand as he faced his sire. The pale Italian man gave him a lazy stareas he waited for a reaction from his childer. Finally, spreading hishands across the polished mahogany desk, he sighed. "David, what isrolling around in that mind of yours?"
"I'm wondering when you'll get to the point, Leonardo." His sire smiled with the joy of his twenty-seven year old face, but he stared with eyes that betrayed centuries. "It saddens me that you never embraced your unlife as much as you embrace your mortal one."
David's face never shifted. "What do you mean?"
"Prophecy. History. Divination. The mystic arts. I could teachyou how to make the dead's spirits howl!"
"Why should I care? The dead are dead because they failed. I needto know how to win."
"You'd be amazed what the spirits can teach you."
"Why live in the shadows, Leonardo, when you can dance in the light?"
His sire's eyebrow raised. "A philosopher so soon, David?"
David grunted a laugh. "No. I mean why dally with the dead when Ilive with the living? I deal with mortals, I feed off mortals, so I learn from mortals." "An incomplete education... you must keep an open mind."
"I always do, Leonardo. That's what makes me so good." Davidtook out his electronic notepad and turned it on. "Now, if we could getback to business?"
His sire's eyes lit up and he stroked the desk's inlaid keypad. Aholoproj floated between them; a spreadsheet filled with old Italian, anoccasional Greek note, and numbers as far as you would care to scan. "We're a little off our quota for phenol barbituates... they're verypopular in the outer ag and frontier worlds, so tell Raoul to get on thestick with that shipment of fairy's lace. We've got plenty of liquidLamota, but it hasn't been selling, so dump it off on one of ourcompetitors..." As his sire spouted off this auditing of funds, drug supplies,and shipments, David took it all down in his notepad. He scribbed inAfrikkans, a language that had been dead for a century; excellent forkeeping notes he didn't want others to see.
Finally, Leonardo came to theend of his audit, asking something more than unusual. "Now there'ssomething I want you to take care of personally." A raised eyebrow betrayed his becalmed expression. His sireseldom asked him to take care of things personally. Sure, there weretimes in which he went on sales runs to the various planetarydistributors, but those were always of his own initiative. That and...there were times in which Proxima Centauri sickened him. Barely terraformed, the third planet rained like a leaky faucet, and was settledon the unfashionable end of the Earth Federation. For the remainingmortals on Terra's first extra-solar colony, they kept to themselves; theperfect base for their operations. Although going off-system was appealing, the favor bothered him. "Yes?"
"For some reason, the Cialt Brotherhood have cut their ordersdrastically in the past few months. Now Avalon is one of the mostlucrative markets in the Federation. More money goes through the capitalthen anywhere else, so a conservative firm like the Brotherhood wouldn'twalk away from all that loot... so there has to be a reason." Leonardoswitched off the holoproj and stared at David. "I need to know why. Havethey got competition? Have they found a better supplier or market? Havethey got trouble with the law? Either way, I want you to solve thisproblem quickly, or we'll suffer a net loss of five million credits."
Damn, he thought... that's half our yearly profit! Leonardo(curse his smug little face) was right; he'd have to take care of thishimself. "I understand. It'll be done."
"Good. Now I can sleep better at daybreak. I have other affairsto deal with anyway." David just nodded his head and walked out the door.
Before hecould close it behind him, Leonardo called out, "Remember ye not Auriel's Curse?"
David knew this piece of scripture. His sire used it so often inhis early days as a vampire he got sick of it. "Eat only ashes, drinkonly blood." Leonardo smiled.
"Remember that, my boy. On Avalon, they eat allkinds of fruits, all are sweet, but some poisoned. Avoid them." David nodded and closed the door.
As he walked down the hall, hewondered why his sire was so worried. Normally he trusted his childer;after all, they had been companions for two hundred years. What was sodifferent now? The air seal broke as David approached the hall door. They swungopen automatically and a huge suited black man stood patiently beforehim. Wrap-around shades disguised his eyes; a gold earring gliterred offhis left ear. The gold skull-and-crossbones jewelry signified him asformer Tech Infantry; each one of his 14 crossbones told of one terriblebattle after another. He was a hardened veteran. "Ah, Cornelius," thevampire blinked, "Good to see you again."
"And you." Cornelius Scipio was a man for few words.
"How was Wilke's Star?"
"A shithole. What did you expect?"
"But the job's done?"
"And more." He held up three tickets.
David quickly grasped the pieces of paper. "Armageddon Lottery?!How'd you get these!"
"It's a gift... from the NEW leader of the Dark Moon."
"So it all went well... good. I'm going to need you to come withme."
"Avalon. I've got some monks to visit."
"Maybe... that's why I need you along for this one." Cornelius simply nodded. "Good," David continued. "Hire a ship and get the usual toys. We leave tonight."
FIN DE PROLOGUE
Text Copyright © 2000 by Marcus Johnston. All Rights Reserved.