Friday, 6 March 2009

The Enemy Within

Dmitrie left the sleeping figure laying on the sofa and made his way to the large bay windows covered in blackout blinds and heavy velvet drapes that matched those in the study. But realised that he would not be able to check for anyone watching the house from there as the sun had now risen, so taking a look out of the window could be the very last thing he ever did. For occasions such as these he had a camera mounted on the side of the house so that he could watch from the safety of his study’s television.

On returning to the study he sat in the comfortable armchair and reached down for the remote that controlled not just the wall mounted monitor above the desk, but also the camera.

The monitor flickered into life and he moved the camera about the street.

The street was wide and lined with trees, and the houses were well back from the road with steps leading up to the large black front doors. When Vlad was a younger man each of these houses had been the residence of just one family, but times had changed and they had been divided into apartments.

Vlad began to look for suspicious activity, but saw nothing but the usual parade of mothers with pushchairs, be-suited people rushing to the local tube station and children on their way to school (or indeed avoiding it).

He was desperate for some sleep, but he knew that he would have to venture out into the daylight at some point – as risky and potentially deadly as that was. He had very little food in the house, especially considering he had an injured man who would need to feed as soon as he was awake. Not only was the sunlight a danger, but so was venturing into a butchers shop and asking for pigs blood – since even the dimmest butcher would suspect that the buyer was not making their own boudin noirs.

It was fortunate then that one man had decided to adapt everyday objects for the Old Kingdomers. The main business dealt with items such as specially tinted windows, doors that could be opened without the need for hands, and other ephemera for the non-human inhabitants of the earth. You could have all of these – at a price – and it was a price that for many was too high.

Vlad suspected that the business was an effective cover for selling specialised equipment that could be used in warfare. He was not alone in his suspicions, but nothing could be proved. The company also had no competition, as anybody who had tried to set up their own small concerns suddenly shut up shop and disappeared.

With a sigh he pulled on a hooded top that hung loosely on the back of the armchair (what else are chairs for if not to hang discarded clothing) and from a trouser pocket withdrew what appeared to be a pair of sunglasses – but the eye pieces were designed to cover the entire eye in the manner of a pair of swimmers goggles. On one of the arms of the glasses was the mark of the maker – a simple letter K. It matched the embroidered symbol on the hoodie.

With hooded top, sunglasses and a scarf covering the lower part of his face he was ready to leave the house – then he set the timer on his watch. He would only have a maximum of 30 minutes before the protective garments would cease to shield him from the effects of the sun.

As he ventured to leave, he felt the presence of a man standing in the doorway.

“I see you are up and about then Count,” Vlad said without looking up, and stopped the timer on his wrist watch.

“Thank you for your help,” came the reply in a rich dark tone, accented heavily with his native Romanian.

“I need to go out for supplies, but if you are hungry then there are two or three packs in the cupboard above the oven,” Vlad smiled revealing his white teeth with a pair of sharp, prominent, canines.

“Oven?” Count Antonescu inquired.

Vlad laughed, the first time he had done so for some time and it felt good. It reminded him of his father, a proud man who would have been the same age as the Count had he survived. He had never understood his son’s apparent need to blend in with the humans, and had stared uncomprehendingly at the shiny new appliance in the kitchen until he had it explained to him that it was for heating up raw foodstuffs.

“It is just for show, as a lack of one can excite comment – but the microwave can be invaluable for bringing blood to the correct temperature,” he replied smoothly.

The Count wandered up to Vlad and fingered his hooded top. 

“I see you have invested in protection from the sun from his company.”

“If there were anyone else I would go to them – he might be a self interested egotist but his company has allowed our kind to live more ordinary lives.”

“And why should we?” the Count suddenly raged. “We are not ordinary, we are extraordinary…” he faltered, the outburst seeming to sap all his energy.

He continued more quietly, “We should celebrate the fact that we are of the Old Kingdom, not apologise for it. And this excuse for a Vampire,” he indicated the letter K, “is not helping anyone but himself.”

“Count, if you don’t mind me asking, why are you here? You should be back in ConstanĊ£a – protecting our people.”

“Yes…but we are losing the battle Vlad, they seem to be one step ahead of us at every turn. They are getting information from someone as to our movements and our strategies. You have seen the numbers for yourself.” 

The Count lowered himself into the armchair, and breathed heavily. 

“It is one of us Vlad; one of our own is selling us to our enemy, and I think we both know who that might be.” 

Once again he pointed to the K symbol.

Vlad nodded.

“Kingsteignton.”

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