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Authors: Tananarive Due

Tags: #Fiction, #General, #Fantasy, #Contemporary, #Horror

Blood Colony (10 page)

BOOK: Blood Colony
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Fana visualized a blanket falling over her, the way she masked her thoughts, and she spread her blanket over Caitlin, too. She might be terrible at rearranging memories, but she was expert at masking. Even Teka could not penetrate her thoughts if she didn’t want him to, nor could he even realize that she was hiding from him. That was how she kept her secrets.

The voice spoke again, in Amharic. “
Esua konjo nech
.” She is beautiful.

He was speaking into a transmitter, Fana realized, communicating with another sentry. Was he talking about her?

Cautiously, Fana probed at him. His thought stream was only the smallest trickle, with very little noise. He was on duty, so he was masking too, Fana realized. She could not learn his name without a more assertive probe, and that would be dangerous. But small details emerged: Fana didn’t sense any emotions or images to betray that he knew of their escape—a relief. He was alone. And he was groggy from sleep, or he would have noticed her approach.

He was at a campsite. A few more steps, and they would have stumbled right into it.

Suddenly, Fana wanted to
see
him. She had spotted sentries from a distance a half dozen times before, but she’d never been permitted to study the men whose vow to protect her drove them to a monk-like existence in the woods. They had once protected Khaldun and done his bidding as his Searchers; but now, Teka said, they had at last found what they’d been searching for.

Fana poked her head around the juniper’s trunk, concealing as much of her face as possible. Caitlin tugged at her arm, confused, but Fana waved her hand at her.
Be still.

Fana felt her pupils dilate, allowing in more light, and the forest came alive. She saw the firefence rays, pillars of Douglas firs, the craggy branches of big-leaf maple and western hemlock trees, and a riot of leaves beneath the pale moon.

The moon found him for her.

He was standing in a spotlight exactly fifteen yards from her. The man was slender but muscled, more than six feet tall, standing with one arm supported against what looked like a tree trunk. He wore dark, tight-fitting clothes that reminded her of what a diver might wear; clothes meant to make him invisible in the night. He was not looking toward her, but she could clearly see his silhouette, even at this distance; a long forehead, a well-etched onyx jaw. He looked like he was only twenty or twenty-one, Caitlin’s age.

He was living art. All of him was breathtaking.

Because she had to know his name, her probe intensified until she fished it out:
Fasilidas.
The long-dead Ethiopian king, now reborn with this man’s face.

Despite the perspiration that swamped her clothes and her racing heart, Fana felt a deep, sudden ache that had nothing to do with worries and guilt about Aunt Alex, the death of a priest she had never met, or her decision to leave home. The feeling was both new and old to her, but the sting had never pierced through every part of her at once.

The pain in her hand had ended before it had begun, but this pain never died, and never would.

This man loved her so much that he had moved to a strange land to undertake the never-ending task of preserving the colony’s safety. Even if he had not been an immortal, he gladly would die for her. He was a true supplicant.

But Fasilidas could never be hers. No one could.

She could never love anyone who worshiped her. She might never be safe to give her heart and bed to anyone, even among the tiny, selective race of immortals. How could she know the difference between genuine feelings and those she might accidentally seed herself? Whose mind could be strong enough for her? Whose heart?

The man moved suddenly, straightening. “On my way now,” he said, in Amharic.

Who was he talking to? Fana had forgotten to concentrate enough to learn what the other sentries’ positions might be.

The sentry swept his arm down, and the tree beside him was gone. Blinking, Fana realized he had never been standing beside a tree at all; it was a tangle of shrubbery growing atop a man-made entryway standing vertically. He had let it fall soundlessly against the forest floor, vanishing. Like their Brothers in the Lalibela Colony in Ethiopia, the sentries lived underground.

“Yes,” the sentry said to his invisible Brother. “For the love of Fana.”

For the love of Fana.
He said it as if it was his customary goodbye.

Fana was so amazed by the sound of her name from his mouth that she nearly forgot her mask. Her surprise forced her to retreat from the sentry’s mind faster than she would have liked, or her precious blanket might fail. Fana ducked behind the juniper, her eyes full from the sight of him. Did she dare probe him again? Would she ever see him again?

Not tonight, certainly. Tonight, she and Caitlin must sit and wait until her beautiful guardian was far from them. Then, they would continue their frog-hopping escape until dawn. As beautiful as he was, Fasilidas was an enemy tonight.

At some point later, Fana knew, the Brothers would piece together how she had circumvented the firefence. Teka had more than enough clues to determine their path. Soon, it would be known that they had passed under this poor man’s nose.

Silently, Fana whispered apologies to her sentry, which he would hear only later, while he slept:

Do not feel shame, fine guardian. You performed your duties well.

You could not have turned me back.

It was my time to
go.

Nine

Seattle

N
o matter how many clothes he wore, Stefan could not get warm.

His feet were numb, especially his toes. Were toes the last to come to life?

The security employee’s oversized pants and shirt had warmed his limbs enough to stop his violent trembling, and he had found his way to the door of the freezing prison where he had awakened. He had also found a white doctor’s coat and Mariners baseball cap before he hurried outside into the night. Undetected, by sweet blessing. In his weakened state, Stefan lacked the thought for evasion. His walk was barely more than a stagger on two dead feet.

Stefan searched up and down the street for a place to disappear from sight.

Bright signs behind him identified the King County Medical Examiner’s Office and Harborview Medical Center, a sprawling campus. A screaming ambulance raced toward the emergency room, lighting Stefan’s coat in red as he hugged himself in the night chill.

Suddenly, Stefan knew exactly where he was from the domed brick towers of St. James Cathedral five or six blocks north. He mourned that there would be no sanctuary for him inside that church, even if he had once been welcome with warm smiles and instant fraternity. How he would miss those magnificent organs! All of his years of work were lost now. Father Arturo Bragga was dead at last. His body was drenched in the odor of formaldehyde to prove it. He had been so close! The girl had come to him willingly. How had that black man surprised him? How had he been discovered? The ancient text’s warnings were valid; if he had ever doubted, he now had further proof. The Blood’s enemies were powerful beyond imagining. He must talk to Michel right away.

Stefan lurched toward the row of businesses across the street, seeking rest. And sustenance. Without food, he would faint. It was a wonder he was on his feet. The sandwich shop would have to do. Nothing else was open.

The restaurant was empty, and the college-age girl behind the counter looked happy for company. “Hard night, Doc?” she said, grinning. “Welcome to Subway. How can I—”

Stefan waved his hand, silencing her. “Make me three sandwiches. No, four,” he said. “Mostly meat. Bring them to me in your rear storeroom. Otherwise, I’m not to be disturbed.”

The girl nodded eagerly and grabbed a loaf of bread in each hand from the oven without hesitation. Her grin never left her, and Stefan was relieved. If he’d been too weary to control her, he would have had to kill her, the way he’d killed the security guard. His son was impatient with Stefan’s erratic telepathic skills, but he was glad to spare this girl.

Killing the young was hardest. She could wait until The Cleansing.

The Miami girl had been different. They’d had to make an example of her.

Stefan grabbed an armful of milk cartons from the refrigerated case and stumbled past the counter into the restaurant’s storeroom. He drained the first carton so greedily that much of the milk splashed across his chin and clothes. Opening a second carton, Stefan found a small desk in the cramped room’s rear and collapsed into the chair. The telephone beckoned him. Another blessing! He had taken the dead security guard’s cell phone, but it was better not to use it.

He tore open a bag of potato chips from the crate beside him and began dialing. The plaintive violin in Pachelbel’s Canon in D filled Stefan with hope. Michel’s ringer.


Pronto?
” Michel said, anxious.

Stefan was so relieved that he wept. “It’s me,” he said, finding his voice. “I’m well.”

Michel let out a river of exclamations. “I’ve been so worried, Papa!” he said. “I know you asked me to stay away, but I felt your spirit when you died. And I saw you on the news! I’m on my way to you now. Those fools Romero and Bocelli were detained in New York. Expired passports! I’ve been petrified you would end up in an incinerator, or buried somewhere.”

“No, don’t come here,” Stefan said, tasting the salt of his tears. He wiped his eyes. “It isn’t safe for us. We are exposed.”

Stefan was shocked to hear the sound of his son’s raucous, childish laughter. “Then you don’t know!” Michel said, and laughed again.

“Speak your thoughts. I’m not like you, to hear them from so far.”

Michel lowered his voice to a whisper. “It is
we
who have found
her
.”

The counter girl arrived with the first of Stefan’s sandwiches, and none too soon. Stefan felt himself slipping from his chair. He gnawed off a bite of bread and meat, trying to hurry sustenance to his healing-ravaged body. A large chunk of beef nearly caught in his throat before he forced it down through sheer force of will. Had he dreamed his son’s words?

“Again,” Stefan said. “I don’t understand.”

“The man you met was her
father,
Papa. Do you see? He touched your mind. He touches hers. She touches his.”

“You mean?…”

“He has brought us together!
You
have, Papa. You did not suffer in vain. I can see her now. Not only in dreams, like before, but I can see her in waking hours. She’s mine. If you don’t need me, I’ll help sort out Romero and Bocelli. We’ll go to her now. She has left her home. There will be none to challenge us.”

Stefan’s confused heart thundered with renewed life. All of these years since the Chosen girl’s birth, Michel’s abilities had been inadequate to find her. Had their exile in the wilderness of ignorance finally ended? The receiver nearly slipped from his palm. Stefan dropped his food and fell to his knees on the hard floor, crossing himself.

“Thank you for blessing Your poor, tired servants so…,” he whispered.

“With some credit to me, I hope,” Michel said.

Stefan had battled his son’s arrogance for fifty years, since before the boy could speak aloud. All glory was due to the Witness. Stefan could never forget that, or he was lost.

“They butchered you, Papa,” Michel said, his voice sober. He had been so preoccupied that he had overlooked Stefan’s memories, until now.

“Autopsies are a daily hazard,” Stefan said. “I destroyed my samples, but I’m so tired, I can barely walk. The attack was a torture. Not since the war…” Stefan didn’t go on. He was not proud of the war; the memory of his deeds felt more heinous in light of their failure. He prayed for the souls he had killed, hoping to bring them peace, but he had nothing to show them for their sacrifice.

And then the suffering! First a spear, and then his harrowing recovery from fire.

“What was his name, Michel?” Stefan said. “The one who stabbed me?”

“Dawit.” Michel didn’t hesitate. Truly, he had learned what had been unknown to them.

Stefan cringed, remembering the knife’s torment. “Ethiopian. I met him once, I think.”

“If you did, he didn’t remember you. He believes he killed you in error. How lovely when irony plays a hand,” Michel said. “So much more is known to me now, Papa. Even the couriers! All of them. It will be nothing to do away with them, and quickly. We will not fail this time. I promise you, we shall have what is ours to safeguard. And Fana is
beautiful
.”

“There is no beauty in the work remaining for us, Michel,” Stefan said. “I pray you understand this. Sometimes Father God demands sacrifices upon His altar, as Abraham offered Isaac. There is no gentler way to uphold our sacred duty.”

“I’ve had no illusions, Papa,” Michel said. “What choice was I given? My sensibilities are not as delicate as you like to pretend.”

It was a jubilant day, but Stefan felt sadness, too. Each day, he thought of Michel’s mother, Teru, and how she had begged him not to take away their extraordinary child. She sat imprisoned even now, kept comfortable in the castle in Tuscany, lost in the gentle dreams Michel wove for her from a distance. Even with all the death behind Stefan in the name of Sanctus Cruor—and the death yet to come—Teru had been Stefan’s greatest sacrifice.

But Michel would know love even if he could not. Michel would have the mate the ancient text had preordained for him. His only equal. His divine match.

“Travel safely,” Stefan said. “Your destiny is soon fulfilled, my good son.”

“And I am ready for whatever Destiny may ask of me.”


Ciao,
Michel.
Benedetto sia il Sangue
.”


Benedetto sia il Sangue,
Papa.”

Bless the Blood.

BOOK: Blood Colony
4.82Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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