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Stories from the Verse
For Better or Verse
Chapter 91: Hastings 123
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Chapter 90: Brown 82
"So," Lauren said, "how many of them are there?"
Bethany looked at her. "How many what?" she asked.
"I'm sorry," Lauren replied. "How many vampires. How many do we have to kill to free the earth."
Bethany stared. Lauren realized that until this moment, Bethany hadn't realized that she was planning to go to war against the undead slavers of the earth.
"I," she started, "I don't know. I don't think anybody knows, unless it's Tubrok himself. There might be as many as a million vampires by now."
This was not encouraging. Even if she could kill twenty vampires a day--something she could not do for sheer time if nothing else--it would take longer than all human recorded history for her to get that many. Had God sent her on an impossible mission?
The idea of an impossible mission, put that way in her mind, reminded her of the old television show. They managed to complete an impossible mission every week. After all, impossible was often a matter of definition. She might be here to end the tyranny of the vampires; that didn't mean she had to kill each one by hand. Perhaps only Armageddon itself could finish the last enemy, as the light of Christ penetrated all the darkest of places. She was part of the advance guard He had been sending for centuries, millennia now, the initial Delta Team, the Green Berets or Rangers, sent to liberate and mobilize the resistance movement in preparation for the landing of the primary assault force. The marines have landed, she thought; I am they. But, she wondered, what were her mission objectives?
"How many," she asked, "are in important positions in government and society?"
"I couldn't begin to guess."
Bethany leaned back in her chair. "Twentieth century living," she said, and the room faded. Lauren's breakfast chair softened into the sofa of a pit group, sunken into the floor for privacy. Her unfinished tea sat on a coffee table in front of her. Bethany, now settled in a comfortable-looking overstuffed recliner, continued.
"Every government official of every significant city or state in the world is a member of the Superiority Party. Anyone elected who is not a member converts to it, often before they're sworn in, or mysteriously dies or disappears. It got to the point that no other party could field candidates. Then there were no other parties. People still say that they're Progressivists or Greens or Republicans, but there are no party officials, no organizers, no caucuses or primaries--and above all, no candidates. Most of the judges have converted as well. I certainly don't know how many or which ones are vampires, or just ghouls, or in fact whether there are humans in the mix. But I'd say there must be thousands of vampires in prominent positions of power. I can't imagine that Tubrok would have let anything else get elected. Besides, it's a potent recruitment tool. Anyone who wants to be anyone in government has to become a vampire to get there."
Governments were like that, Lauren thought. This was going to be a problem.
"That sounds rather defeatest," Lauren said. "I don't blame you, Bethany. It must be overwhelming. But we need to find ways to weaken the power structures and bring down the hierarchy--shine a bit of light in the dark places."
That gave her another idea. "Tell me again about these domes," she said. "Why were they built?"
"I think," Bethany said, "they were built because the vampires wanted them. That is, as I think back, there were a lot of reasons put forward for why they should be built, not one of them any good, but somehow together they became convincing."
"How do you mean?"
"Well, there was this idea of protection against the Chinese. A lot of people knew that the Chinese were in no position to attack anyone, really, but it was said that if they had nuclear bombs and missile delivery systems they could launch attacks on our cities. Domes were supposed to protect the cities against such attacks, although several scientists said they wouldn't do any good. So they're there to protect against the Chinese, who wouldn't and couldn't attack anyway, and now are part of the world system.
"They were also supposed to defend against terrorist hijacking attacks, you know, the sort of thing where they steal a commercial jet and crash it into an important building. Jets were already fading from use, and the domes meant closing airports anyway, so this didn't make much sense to anyone. Again, it appeared that the domes didn't really protect anyone against this kind of thing, as the terrorists could just crash the jets into the domes--a much larger target, and the collapsing structure would probably kill more people on the ground below than would ever be killed by hitting a building. So they're there to protect against crashing airplanes that don't exist anymore and would have been more trouble with the domes if they did.
"Then there was this argument about pollution. That was pretty much a thing of the past, and everyone knew it. The air wasn't perfect, but it was remarkably clean compared with what it had been in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It was argued that domes would keep air pollution outside and fresh air inside, and allow the air to be filtered and purified. A lot of people pointed out that once you had contained the air inside the dome, it was going to be a lot more trouble to keep it filtered than it would have been merely to run huge filters to clean all the air in the city; and you were going to have to do air exchanges with the outside, because most of the people lived inside and most of the trees which would change carbon dioxide to oxygen were outside, and there was no really effective energy-efficient way to change that much CO2 to breathable air except trees. So they're there to keep pollution out, even though they require huge air exchangers to bring in the outside air which isn't polluted anyway.
"There was also a fear of biological attacks, and this was supposed to help with that. That was probably the most confusing reason I heard. They said that having the cities domed would keep such things out, even though it was obvious that those attacks would come from inside anyway. They said that if a city was attacked, having it contained would prevent the virus, or whatever, from spreading, even though the mass transit tubes were perfect for funneling them from one city to the next. They said that the air filtering systems would remove such things from the air, even though the filters can't remove or destroy viruses like they would have to. The whole reason was bogus."
"I'm beginning to get the picture."
"It was really crazy. It was like no one had a reason they believed, but there were enough reasons, none of them good, that everyone was in favor of doing it. I mean it would be like some guy saying to some girl, you know, you might be pretty, although you're not; you might be bright, even though you're really dull; you might be really sexy, but that's not true; you think you can cook, but that's not true; your mom thinks you'd be a good mother, but I don't see it; and you pretend to be a hard worker, although everyone knows you're lazy. So because you might have been pretty and bright, sexy, a great cook, a good mother, and a hard worker, I'm going to marry you, even though I don't believe a word of it. It's like he got married because he wanted to get married, even though there was nothing about her that was worth marrying."
The illustration confused Lauren for the moment. "So," she said tentatively, "what you're saying is that they built the domes because everyone thought it was modern and futuristic to have domes, even though every reason that could be given for having them was complete nonsense and everyone knew it."
"Right. There was not a shred of truth to any of the evidence, but the sheer volume of it was overwhelming."
"And that means the domes really have only one function: they keep out the sunlight so the vampires can walk the streets safely."
Bethany's nod confirmed the thought. Lauren let this simmer in her mind for a moment.
"You said that crashing the domes would cause them to collapse and kill people inside them." Lauren said this mostly because she was thinking she had to collapse the domes, but if this were true that was a bad idea. Yet she was trying to find an answer, and that seemed the starting point. "Do they open?" she suddenly asked.
Bethany blinked, with a startled look that suggested the sudden recollection of a forgotten memory. "You know," she said, "it's been a long time. A long time. But I seem to recall when they were talking about the designs of the first ones, one of the features was that they would be designed to open. There were going to be computer systems that would control this. It was an answer to the people who were afraid of cutting off the cities from the world--concerns like what would happen to the cities if somehow the life support systems malfunctioned. It became a sticking point in the plans that those who were most strongly against the domes would find ways to stop them unless they could be opened. It became the compromise that let the projects go forward. I don't know whether all of the domes open, but I'm sure several of those in the United States Eastern Megalopolis--the oldest of them--and probably London, Chicago, Paris, the California Megalopolis, Moscow, Berlin, Tokyo, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Cairo--"
"I get it," Lauren said. "If we could figure out how to open them and keep them from closing, we put a substantial dent in our enemy's mobility."
"I'd say you're right. I don't know how we would do that. I don't know anything at all about computers. Besides, don't you think Tubrok would be aware of the danger, and by now have done something about it?"
"Well, we can hope," Lauren said. "I don't know much about computers, either, but I know we're not alone. We just need to figure out what we can do so that when the resources reach us we know how to use them. Meanwhile, I think we should start targeting a few key vampires--not Tubrok, not yet, but members of his support structure. If we can start killing them, we'll let people know that they are not invincible, and those who have been afraid to fight back will start finding courage. So, where do we begin? Do we want to start locally, like with the Mayor of London or the Prime Minister of England? Or do we want to strike in Tokyo or Sidney or somewhere out there, so they don't start looking for us in England right away?"
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with ten other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #198: Verser Trials. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter. It may contain spoilers of upcoming chapters.
As to the old stories that have long been here: