Today I walked a sleek, well-kept world, ruled by Vampires. It was all my lovely girlfriend’s fault. I only blame her because I know better, we both do, but her aspect is nurture, and no kitten or puppy is safe from her rescue. She was helping yet another stray, or set of strays, who walked into Dave’s from elsewhere. Dave’s is the bar where she works. I first met her there, so it’s a dive after my own heart. She brought them over to Quan’s Curious Goods and Found Treasures thinking either I or Quan would be able to help them. Quan was around, after a fashion, but choose not to advertise that fact. He made a good call, as it happened.
They were a brother and his older sister, hurt, hungry, lost, and literally irresistible, from my beloved’s point of view. Cute, too, dark, mixed race, Chinese and European, almond eyes with open, trusting faces. The brother was serious and handsome, protective, and the sister, beautiful, sad and twice as protective. I suppose the Vampires must have selected for beauty and charm, in the population crash and great restructuring that their Earth had gone through, a few generations back. Hindsight is twenty-twenty, and something of a bitch, too.
Vampires always want more blood, it drives their politics and wars. They are not very different from us and our petrochemical paradise. Last century dawned on oil, and set on oil, and it is a lot of what WWII was about. From the Japanese trying to secure the East Indies, to the Wehrmacht’s drive to the Caucus, and the Brits holding onto the Suez and therefore Mesopotamia, the land between the rivers, it was oil that drove grand strategy. In this world, the Great War was about the control of flesh-bags full of blood; the industrial workforce of Europe and the vast numbers in Asia. It seems that the winners took over South China and the English speaking world, coopting the old British Empire. Victoria was a vampire, and reigned well into the late 20th Century. One of my personal heroes, Winnie, Sir Winston Churchill, fought them. He went down swinging in a place called Coventry, trying to free the home islands from a great evil.
You cannot die better than fighting for your homeland. I misplaced mine, literally, when I accidentally walked between worlds. Now I suppose I’m a sucker for lost causes. Tina and George, the brother and sister, were on the run from the powers that be in their homeland of Hong Kong. The vampires had formed a sort of bloody corporation, with the higher vamps as major stockholders and nobles, and the lesser ones as a hungry lower tier oppressing the kine ruthlessly, now and forever, without a prayer.
This unholy British and Chinese Empire didn’t know about world-walking and world-jumping. These two had found yet another way, machine magic, spell-engines with symbols of power that folded the fabric of time and space and made a way between worlds. It’s all very diesel-punk, actually, very Hellboy, or Indiana Jones. They wanted help, a sort of Underground Railroad.
I took a few precautions, including stepping into the back and talking to the walls. There was a snatch of song, ‘When the saints come marching in, oh when the saints come marching in, I want to be in that number…,’ so I knew Quan was mocking me ever so gently. I get the impression that I’m his hobby and that he lives vicariously through me. For the kid’s benefit, I scribbled Quan a note. I also palmed a strand of hair from each sibling. That should be enough for him to follow us to the right world, and he’s got markers for myself and my love. He (She? I’ve never been sure, and it only matters to another Kwind) is an alien and a traveler, and the last of his kind. I can depend on him.
The kids were a trap, of course. We went with them to a Potemkin village of ‘escaped slaves’ and were captured. The frightened eyes of the slaves almost gave them away to us in time. I was looking for hope, and saw despair. We are waiting for their vampire lords and masters to decide exactly what they want to do with us, and are hopeful of rescue. ‘Readiness is all’ for what chances may fall our way.