I need a weapon of war to discuss matters
with people who feel I only need the right
to vote if I vote their way.
The Biplane General
by L. Neil Smith
Attribute to L. Neil Smith’s The Libertarian Enterprise
[AUTHOR'S NOTE] What follows is a brief excerpt
from my new novel Only the Young Die Good, on which I will
place the finishing touches and submit for publication this week. A
sequel to my first vampire story Sweeter Than Wine, it will be
the thirty-fifth book I have written in my career.
This is an extremely important event for me because just over four years ago, right in the middle of two novels I’d been working on, I suffered a stroke, the debilitating and frustrating effects of which I had to overcome to go on writing. That’s why there was no article in TLE from me last week; I was so intent on this task I simply lost track of what day of the week it was. This book is the first product of that effort and I sincerely hope it pleases you as much as it has pleased me, to have another adventure with J. Gifford and the seductive Surica Fieraru, my charming “vampires next door".
“Every heart sings a song, incomplete, until
another heart whispers back. Those who wish to sing always find a
song. At the touch of a lover, everyone becomes a poet.”
Chalcedonia began to stir fitfully, deep in the night, unexpectedly weakened, dizzy, and disoriented. She wasn’t quite sure where she was. She was also very cold, not a feeling she was accustomed to. Somewhere behind her, she heard somebody breathing—not Atahualpa or anyone she knew.
“He’s gone,” that somebody, whoever he was, muttered before she could speak. Masculine, decisive, American English, maybe a touch Southern. It was supposed to be dark, but, of course, she could see perfectly well. With great effort, she managed to roll over. He was big and handsome with strong features. She could feel the heat radiating from him like some great engine.
“Three short weeks,” the stranger said disgustedly, more or less to himself, “and now he’s gone. The goddamn greedy fools broke their word to him—to both of you—they would have promised you anything, of course. They took too much and simply left him for dead. You right alongside him, Chalcedonia. What’s the current expression? You were ’circling the drain’. That’s why there’s no surveillance in this room any more. Tell me, do you want to live?”
Chalcedonia suddenly found herself flooded with a bleak and appalling emptiness; she could feel nothing, which was disastrous, since her actions were ordinarily dictated by her emotions rather than her thoughts. “My King is dead?” she croaked, her throat impossibly dry. “Atahualpa? Then I, too, must—but strangely, strangely, I do not want to die.” She felt as if she had betrayed him, somehow, by not dying. She had been with the great man for almost two centuries. She pounded a thigh with her fist. Why couldn’t she feel anything?
“I’m extremely glad to hear it.” her unknown rescuer told her cheerfully. He grinned down at her. “Like they say on TV, ’A redhead’s a terrible thing to waste’. Hold still, kiddo—I’ll take that damned collar off your neck, and give you something to drink. Then we’ll blow this pop-stand.” She wasn’t sure she understood his peculiar choice of words, but she heard the faintest of metallic clicks and the heavy weight left her neck. To her surprise, when she swung her long legs off the gurney she found she was lying on, they very nearly collapsed under her. Chalcedonia wasn’t used to being weak, either; she despised it.
“Be careful, now,” the man warned her, sounding like the father she dimly remembered from so very long ago. He was tall and strong and kept her from falling. “Severe blood loss will do that to you. Here, drink this.” He set her back on the gurney and handed her a pint of blood in a heavy plastic bag. “That’s the ordinary stuff, so they probably won’t miss it for a while. It’ll feed your virus.” He touched the side of her throat. “I already injected another pint into you. That’s what woke you up, I guess.” She watched the stranger boldly looking at her naked form, inspecting her, taking in her long, slender limbs, her narrow waist, her subtle hips, her ample breasts, her long, red hair, and back to her ample breasts—he was a man, after all. She discovered that she didn’t really mind it. Oh, Atahualpa!
Sitting up again, she gratefully accepted the flexible plastic bag he offered her—it had obviously been refrigerated recently—and drank, holding the neck with one hand, supporting the weight of the bag with the other. It was like ice cold tomato soup. “Is this why I’m so cold?”
He nodded. “I reckon.” That’s it; he sounded like a cowboy.
“Who are you?” she demanded once she’d emptied the bag. She wiped her lips fastidiously on a corner of the gurney linen. This was certainly not the first time in her long life that she’d been forced to resort to hospital supplies, although she hated the taste of blood preservative.
His expression suddenly changed. “I’m deeply ashamed, that’s who I am. I’m a goddamned coward. I freely confess to my complicity. I watched them commit this outrage and many others like it and did absolutely nothing. In fact, I benefited from it. This time, I started with Surica Fieraru’s blood, ‘stolen’ from your King. I’ve got yours and his circulating in me right now. I can’t help Atahualpa any further, but I can sure as hell help you. I’ll carry you if I must. For the first time in many years, I suddenly find myself strong enough. Here’s a robe to wear. You ready?”
“Yes, I am, indeed,” she replied, slipping the robe on, a little breathless at a gallantry that she hadn’t seen in at least 180 years. She was beginning to feel warm inside again. “I believe I can walk for myself … what shall I call you?”
“Call me Billy,” he told her.
Their descent through the giant skyscraper was nothing if not harrowing: hurtling ninety-odd stories earthward in a windowless steel box. Chalcedonia anxiously watched the indicator as it counted down the floors. For a pair of individuals who had mostly lived their long lives outdoors, the whole thing was a claustrophobic nightmare. Chalcedonia and her strange companion expected to be stopped violently at any moment.
Yet it wasn’t until they reached the polished granite ground floor lobby, bordered by dark, gigantic windows, that they encountered their first real opposition. Billy was ready as the elevator door trundled aside. A dozen guards—probably normals—were stationed at various points around the great room, not the Struldbrugs’ digitally camouflaged forces, but ordinary Building Security. It was only their masters’ fervent wish to preserve Chalcedonia, unexpectedly alive, that kept her and Billy uninjured. Several heavily armed young men strode briskly toward the elevator as its door slid open and Billy unhesitatingly shot them all with his service 1911. The old .45 caliber war-horse had never spoken more articulately. The steel box they were in rapidly filled with pistol powder smoke. He’d leave the mess to the proprietors to clean up.
The remaining dozen or so guards had no idea what to do. They all dived for whatever cover they could find. As the escapees had descended in the elevator, ambiguous orders had been transmitted from the top floor. The clearest command was not to injure Chalcedonia at all costs.
Their leader busied himself now by calling upstairs—again. Billy quickly grabbed Chalcedonia’s arm and ran with her, half supporting her, to a huge circular concrete planter set in the middle of the lobby. One guard started to raise his M-16 and Billy shot him in the face. The rifle clattered to the shiny floor and he fell. In the stunned silence that followed, the fugitives escaped through a revolving door that had been unlocked when extra guards had arrived. Billy had been counting. Of the original seven, he had only a single .45 cartridge left.
Out on the sidewalk, mercifully empty at this time of night, Billy made the pistol disappear and flagged a cab. That was something that hadn’t changed in the eighty years he’d been “out of circulation”. He and the girl were blocks away before the first guard popped his head out of the door.
Award-winning novelist and essayist L. Neil Smith is a retired gunsmith, Publisher and Senior Columnist of L. Neil Smith’s The Libertarian Enterprise and the author of over thirty books. Look him up on Google, Wikipedia, and Amazon.com. He is available, at professional rates, to write columns, articles, and speeches for your organization, event, or publication, fiercely defending your rights, as he has done since the mid-1960s. His writings (and e-mail address) may also be found at L. Neil Smith’s The Libertarian Enterprise, at JPFO.org or at https://www.patreon.com/lneilsmith, to which you can contribute, directly. His many books and those of other pro-gun libertarians may be found (and ordered) at L. Neil Smith’s THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE “Free Radical Book Store” The preceding essay was originally prepared for and appeared in L. Neil Smith’s THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE. Use it to fight the continuing war against tyranny.
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