The alarm went off.


It was dark outside.


A small hand reached from under the duvet, felt for the snooze button and hit it.


Five minutes later, the alarm went off.


This time the hand retrieved the spime. From under the duvet a voice told it “Sshhh. Half an hour.”


Thirty minutes and three more snoozes it was still dark outside. The alarm went off.


A foot snuck out the bottom of the duvet, and tested the air.


Cold and dark. Great combination.


With a groan, Mercy unhooked the arm round her, pulled on a red wooly gown, that had seen better days, and padded, sleepily, to the bathroom.


She stared at herself in the mirror, waiting to finish pissing.


She thought she looked old. Old and tired.


Oldandtiredandfat. She should tell him that. He’d love it.


She grinned, wiped and flushed.


“Cawfee.”


Placing one of the mugs of rocket fuel on the table, she took hers to the window, skillfully avoiding being tripped by the hungry assassin cat weaving between her feet.


“That’s not nice, you know. Why should I feed you if you keep trying to kill me?”


She bent to pick him up but he dodged her hands and pranced away, figuring it didn’t want to be fed so much if it meant being cuddled.


“Little shit.”


“This mine?” He asked.


She nodded. His hand found her waist, his lips the top of her head, then her neck.


“It’s too early and too dark.”


“And too cold.” She replied, shivering.


“And in September,” the both finished, giggling.


“Can you do the cat?” She asked, on her way to the bathroom.


He nodded at her back and grabbed the bowl, taking a few seconds to admire her body as she slipped off the robe.


The water started, and he powered up his spime to check the news.


He was still reading as she came back. “World still standing?”


“Barely. It says it’s quite bad out there today, I don’t think you should take the bike.”


“Oh, come on! I know these streets. It’s not like I don’t do it every day.”


“Take the truck. Do you want me to worry about you all day?”


She stuck out her tongue out and deliberately wiggled her arse at him as she went to get dressed.


Back in the bedroom she checked the time. “Shit.” She was going to be late.


She pulled on her bra, adjusting the cups so she wasn’t in danger of falling out, but still looked great. Matching thong and then the ritual of standing outside the wardrobe.


T-shirt. Tight, with obligatory smart arsed comment. Check.


Combat pants. Grey…and check.


She pulled them on. He walked passed her, leaving a trail of wet footprints. They kissed.


“You have to hurry if we’re leaving together.”


She pulled on her boots, checked herself in the mirror. Looking good.


Finally, she turned and typed in the code for the secure wardrobe.


It hissed open.


She pulled her flack corset and strapped it on. Next her back and shoulder holster, flexing so they sat comfortably.


She bent and fitted her ankle holster.


“I’ll put the cat out and get the lights.” He walked past, naked still.


“Thanks, love.”


She checked the ammo in her hand guns and, finally, the shot gun and packed them all. 


She had never fired in anger and never shot anyone. Well…not dead. But the ankle gun had saved her life more than once.


Finally she shouldered her bag, with the spime slotted and powering up on a shoulder strap. It was designed to allow the shotgun to be pulled quickly and easily.


He came out in a tight black combo, all zips and pockets, a pair of goggles hung round this neck. As powerful as she looked, he looked lithe. He was checking his needle gun.


“All set?”


“Uh huh.” He slung a bag over his shoulder. 


One final kiss and they left the house to face the day.


The door burst open two minutes later. There was a mad hunt for keys, that were eventually found on the side, under some paper.


“When’s young’un back?” He asks.


“Tonight – you’ll be here to meet him?”


“Sure.”


One final kiss and they left the house to face the day.

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The Dread Pirate Roberts rounded a bend in the river. Ahead of her, on the most exclusive harbour on the west coast, she could see the lights of the Consortium’s yearly award show.


“Central – prime the bombs.” A light on Jet ski turned from green to red.


“Mermaids – push that target into place”


Up ahead, a barge slowly got pushed out into the water. The Dread Pirate aimed towards it.


“Crew. Plan A.”


A single command fired off a horde of zombie machines. Each machine hit the Vault, giving partnered data to programs buried deep in its code. Within minutes the walls crumbled and data was being linked to public access sites across the world. A set of primed users were being sent unlock codes to every disk ever sold. Entertainment was about to hit the public domain.


While being a Dread Pirate was fun – the hours were great; there were costumes and Yarrrs – the pay was lousy.


“Linus. Plan B.”


“At Once, Madam.” Enthusiastic. Her trusted computer had no idea what would happen next.


Plan B accessed the funds of the Consortium and laundered them through a set of blind companies, each one collapsing as soon as the funds had passed through.


By the time the dust had settled, the Consortium would be a lot less rich. 


She had planned, prepared. It’s what she does.


There was a house. A name, a set of papers, a life.


All she had to do was not get blown up.


“Linus. Dial her.”


“At Once.”

 

She answered again. “Yup.”


“Captain. You’re up. Good luck. I’ll be watching but then you’re on your own.”


The Ex Pirate Roberts slipped the breathing apparatus into her mouth and took a test breath. She brought the ski to a halt. “Crew. It’s been emotional. Good luck. Be gentle with her. She’s new.” 


One more thing left to do.


“Linus. Home Time.”


There was a crackle of static and the line went dead. A pang of sadness hit her.


Her final act as Captain – locking the handlebars in place and setting the jetski off on it’s final run. She jumped backwards, diving straight into the water and swam away.


Behind her the jet ski hammered the barge, exploding in an enormous fireball.


Her goggles flicked on.


The Show coverage. “- not sure what’s happening. There has been an enormous explosion in the water behind us.” People were scattering, gasping and screaming. The barge was still burning. There was another explosion.


She’d had worse times.


The broadcast signal cracked, something was trying to hijack it but it wasn’t strong enough.


“Central. Boost that signal.”


A command was given and the ghost signal broke through. On screen was a tall woman, a bow strapped to her back. She was masked and in a pirate’s hat. She looked good. Not as good as she did…


“I am the Dread Pirate Roberts. Today, content is free.”


A caption appeared under her name. “I am in ur content, spreadin ur data.”


“Everything is now available to everyone. And it will be for a long time to come. The people will control data. Play with it. Move it. Keep it free.”


The channel cut and the original show flashed up for about 2 seconds before a news broadcast came on.


“That was a lousy speech.”


She turned off her goggles, pulled the ear piece out and let it drop to the river bed.


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She had prepared for this for a long time. One final score, go out with a bang.


It’s what she did. She prepared, she planned, she plotted.


***


The Vault.


The Consortium’s charming name for its store of the entire world’s entertainment. Held, whored, and seeped out in small, managed packages.


Spimes gained access to this data on demand and, because of this, entry into The Vault was controlled and frequent.


To bring the wall down would take a massive endeavor, but any obvious attack on the system closed access to it, changed the passcodes, updated all links, and closed down the mirror that was under attack.


In the event of a concerted, mass attack the system would simply shut down and an emergency broadcast would play while the attackers had their systems fried through an enormous feedback loop.


The easiest way to take down the Vault would be to install a small set of code onto every machine that accessed The Vault. And then the have a partnered take down code built into every system that accessed The Vault.


***


“Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, kids of all ages. This is your captain speaking.”


She was answered by a chorus of “Yaarrr”s.


“Tonight is my ultimate night. So, what say we knock it up a scoach?”


She was the Dread Pirate Roberts, taking her name from a book that she knew no one would remember. It was a good book, and no one read those anymore.


And, in a former life, she and her friends helped to design and build the systems that ran The Vault.


***


“And we’re on the Red Carpet for The Show today. Up this carpet the rich and famous will be here answering questions for you.” The presenter gave his cheesiest grin for the camera.


“Behind us is the last great river we have. The flow today has been stopped to allow for this amazing floating stage to be pushed out on it.” A dumb blonde in the tight jumper giggled.


“So, that’s happening later. Thanks alot guys, that sure looks a lot of fun.” The Anchor was the final of the triumvirate.


***


She made her final check over the jetski. The explosives were rigged, the data connections were camouflaged.


She took a deep breath and looked out into the night. 


Today. 


The Show.


“Central. I’m going to voice, on a private channel. I’ll need you to be my hands.”


“Aye aye, cap’n.”


She giggled. That never got old.


She fitted her goggles, checked her breathing unit and did a final check on the explosives before gunning her jet-ski. Once she picked up some speed, she talked into her headset again. “Central, I need you to patch a secure line through to my base unit.”


“Aye, Capt’n”


“Linus.” She waited. “Linus.” Nothing.


“Shitty computer.” She took a deep breath, slowed the ski down, trying to cut the noise. “Linus.”


There was a chime.


“Linus. Dial her.” Her voice was measured.


“At once, madam.” The perfect English butler.


A young voice answered. “I’m in place. What do you want?” Petulant.


“Just checking in. You have to be ready.”


“I know. You make it go bang, I’ll do the rest.”


Roberts thought for a moment that, perhaps, she hadn’t chosen her successor wisely enough. Still no time to worry about that now.


She rounded a bend in the river. Ahead of her, on the most exclusive harbour on the west coast, she could see the lights of the Consortium’s yearly award show.


“Central – prime the bombs.” A light on Jet ski turned from green to red.


“Mermaids – push that target into place”


Up ahead, a barge slowly got pushed out into the water. The Dread Pirate aimed towards it.


“Crew. Plan A.”

 

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The rain lashed down from the sky, the wind driving it hard into anyone foolish enough to be out. Lightning flash and thunder ripped the air apart. Dustbins were picked up and hurled through windows.


It was one of the storms of the century.


And, there, atop of the highest building, at the end of an ornamental gargoyle.

 

There I stood.


Me. With the blood of GODS in my veins. I, who will never die. Who was 21 at the turn of the Twentieth Century.


“I. AM. VAMPYR!”

 

My roar coincided with lightning flashes and thunder cracks.

 

This was, of course, because I’d been monitoring how the storm had been moving. You don’t get to be as old as I am without learning about showmanship.


I stalked along my perch.


I have seen the world change – two World Wars, Victoria, Elizabeth, the moon landing, computers.


I have seen it all.


I spat.


“In the company of morons!” Another roar into the storm.


It was fun for the first few decades – new, exciting. But then I noticed I was with dullards.


I asked a few of our kind -Why did you not turn Newton, Galileo, people like that?


Some said they hadn’t thought of it, and giggled.


Others were more honest. “They were frightfully ugly. Would you want to spend the rest of your unnatural life with that kind?”


I was overruled on bring Einstein over – “With that hair? Nonono.”


But this new lot.


“Christ!” This is what I’m reduced to, yelling in storm.


The new lot.

 

“We can’t be visible – we have to maintain the illusion. If not, They might kill us. Remember the Burning Times.”


Twats. 


We don’t even know what can kill us. The Cattle sure as fuck don’t.


I checked the wind speed. And the time.


They’re having a meeting down there. Discussing what is best for us.


Not me. Fuck that shit.


There’s three types of vampire in this world.


The effete egomaniacs, languishing in their faux hedonism, creating intrigues out of gossip.


The psychopaths who just kill and kill and kill until one of the old guard take him down.


And me.


Downstairs, the Effete have been discussing whether it is right for us to call Human’s ‘cattle.’


For 5 and a half hours. Because they have nothing better to do.


I unzip my trousers, and listen.


As soon as they hit the lobby I start pissing. 


I’ll say their names as they reach the street. They’ll look up – they always do – and get a face full.


Fucking Vampires.

 

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Dr Sarah Collins was escorted into the lab by two guards. Pavic, her boss and lead on this project, told her she would be involved in some important research today.

A body was strapped to the gurney, moving and moaning. It smelt her enter and struggled to reach for her.

She shuddered. She hated working on the “live” ones. Not the risk…it just seemed…wrong, somehow. Cutting into something that was moving.

Pavic told her to work on the eyes. She took a deep breath, and hold of the scalpel but as she leant over the body, a wrist strap snapped.

Its teeth were in her, through her, before she could react. It bit into her hand, taking off the thumb, flesh, bone and all. She screamed.

The guards came running and shot the specimen. Subdued it. Their term.

Not that it would matter.

Pavic walked into the room.

He silently cleaned the wound.

The only, and last, thing he said to her was, “I’m sorry.”

Then he turned to the guards. “Keep her under observation.”

And with that he walked away.
***

The Government’s Chief Scientist, Dr. Arnold Pavic, was tired. He took off his glasses and squeezed the bridge of his nose.

It was another press conference. They were always the same, their inane bloody questions.

They ask, “What is happening?” “How do we stop it?”

He answers, “I don’t know.”

But not today. Today he adds, with a sigh, “Just…just bring it out.”

“Bring it out.”

Three words that lead to disaster.

The guards brought it out. A walking corpse. A woman. It used to be a woman. It strained at its leash, grabbing and snapping at the reporters.

She could smell the flesh. It had to eat. Part of her remembered who she was. But that part was getting smaller.

The Hunger and The Pain was all she had.

And they smelt so good.

The reporters backed away, silent, shocked.

They didn’t back away far enough.

No one knew if it was luck or judgement but one minute it was shackled, the next it was free. First it just stood there. Uncertain of what to do with its new found freedom.

The smell filled her mind, the calm voice pleaded with her to resist. With a growl, the calm voice lost.

It lunged into the crowd. Biting, tearing, ripping the flesh of the assembled press, reveling in the taste, in the warm splash of the blood.

But one man…

One man she wanted.

The guards had drawn their weapons but they needed a clear shot. Orders were screamed at the paniced mass of reporters. They needed to get it clear.

“Paaaavvviiicccc.” It moaned

The last of Sarah Collins died as her corpse leapt across the room at Pavic. He held up his hands to ward her off.

“It’s going for Pavic”
“Sir. Get down”

The hand gave her a great target.She took a chunk from his hand – most of his thumb, flesh and bone, ripped away.

So he’d remember.

“Shit. It tagged him”
“NOW. GO, GO, GO”

A single shot rang out and, with a thunderclap, the hunger stopped.

Dead.

It was a shot that was, later, to be echoed by Pavic’s own. Not for him the slow descent. Not for him the indignity of feeling himself slip away.

Not that it mattered.

He’d come back.

They all come back.

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