Commander Keefe turned in the direction and saw Commander Reese, the leader of the vampire unit. A hybrid: half human and half vampire, he appeared mostly human with the exception of the red pupils of his eyes and the pale skin. But unlike the men he led, he received no detrimental effect from sunlight—the benefit of the mixture of the two species.
“Commander Reese,” the captain said, “please join us.”
The commander strode over to where the CO and XO stood.
“Gentleman,” he said in greeting.
“Tell me, Commander,” Captain Priestly began, “seeing as how we are so close to the destination which even I was not informed of, where the hell are you taking us?”
The Commander hesitated, a look of confusion momentarily passing over the features of his face and then he spoke. “According to intelligence, this planet is at a stage of development that may pose a risk to our civilization due to their violent and destructive nature. Our mission is to infiltrate the native population to…” he paused as if he was carefully choosing his words, “to affect a change in their development.”
“You mean kill them, don’t you?” the Captain said. “It’s a little late to be mincing words, Commander, isn’t it?”
Commander Reese showed no emotion as he answered, “If that is what it takes to ensure survival, then yes, sir. But there are always possibilities.”
“Such a diplomat, Commander…your careful choice of words. And they call this war. Such bullshit—this is as dark ops as they come.”
“The preservation and the security of the United Planets is our main concern,” Commander Reese said plainly.
“That’s a rehearsed answer if I ever heard one,” Commander Keefe chimed in, “even from one of your kind.”
Commander Reese looked sternly at the XO. “You don’t approve of my kind.”
“No. No, I don’t, and with good reason,” Keefe said, wanting to blurt out what happened five years ago. Instead he took another approach. “I can understand the creatures you command for they are an alien race which existed on another world. They are what they are and they can’t help that. But I have issues with what you are; when we start altering the ways things are by using them in a way that perhaps they were not intended to be—or when we start playing the game of altering the species, I don’t feel comfortable about that.” His tone softened, “But at least you have some human inside of you, unlike your…men. They have no human in them. Hell, by all logic and legal standards, they are not even alive anymore.”
“Definition is not always the accurate way to approach some situations,” answered Reese.
Keefe ignored Reese’s comment and continued, “It’s such a wonderful ploy…they, these creatures, can’t be held accountable under law because a dead person cannot commit murder. Nor can anyone scream forced servitude because dead people can’t be slaves or used against their wills because simply stated they have no will to be concerned about. So the military gets off scott-free in terms of any liability. The lawyers have been and will be spinning for years over this one.”
“But I am one of them,” Reese said, his red pupils glowing strongly in the dim light of the bridge. “I possess characteristics of human and vampire. I accept what I have become because there was no choice.”
“That’s right,” Priestly began, “you were part of the reconnaissance team that discovered them—they tried to kill you but your body reacted in a different way.”
“One in a billion…they tell me,” Reese added. “The odds of this type of mutation happening. I have no choice but to accept this living death.”
“But you are still alive,” Keefe countered, “not completely dead like the rest.”
“Perhaps,” Commander Reese said and offered no further explanation on that subject.
Keefe continued, “I’m curious, Reese, your men—the vampires, they were found on the devastated world on the edge of the system?”
“Yes,” Reese agreed, his voice tentative sounding, as if he wished to avoid the subject.
“The chain of command had to be concerned about their destructive nature?” asked Keefe. “I mean after all—look what they had done to their own world.”
“From what we were able to ascertain,” Reese began, “after years of coexisting with the human colonists, there was a war of the vampire factions on the planet. Because vampires cannot reproduce in the normal sense, the only way to increase their numbers was to turn more and more of the human population into vampires so that they could fight each other. By this over-multiplication, the vampires destroyed their own food supply, which led them to the point of their own extinction. There was only a few hundred left out of thousands when the world was discovered.”
“Perhaps that would have been better,” Keefe said. “Maybe some other lives could have been spared.”
“The extinction of a race?” asked Reese. “That’s a bit cynical wouldn’t you say?”
“Not really,” Keefe snapped the defiance evident in his voice.
Reese continued, “Have not our own world and civilizations been on the brink of destruction several times? Have we not almost destroyed our race by war?”
“Not the same,” Keefe scoffed.
“Why?” Reese countered. “Just because you do not agree with the way in which my kind live or survive.”
“Like you said, Reese,” Keefe retorted, “they destroyed their own food supply, which included the human inhabitants. That’s murder.”
“Is it that different than what some of the animals on our own world do to survive? Is that not the law of natural selection that the stronger species survives and the weaker perish?”
“But not at the expense of the human race?” Captain Priestly interjected.
“Exceptions to the rule, sir, isn’t that a double standard?” asked Reese, “The picking and choosing of who shall live and who shall die?”
“So you side with them?” Keefe asked.
“I side with what I am,” Reese said casually. “Is that not what we all do? My race did not ask to be removed from the home world, as has been done. Maybe they would have perished and maybe not. The rules of evolution are never specific beyond the fact that the fittest part of a race will survive where the weakest shall perish. But by removing them from the planet—everything has changed. Perhaps for the worse. ”
Keefe thought about what Reese said and could not avoid the fact that there was some logic on his stance.
A beep emanated from the communications console, followed by the announcement, “Communication for the Captain’s Eyes Only,” the computer voice said, “orders clarification.”
“It’s about damn time,” Priestly said as he went over to the computer and retrieved the message.
Commanders Keefe and Reese stood together alone—the silence after the debated conversation seeming to haunt both of them, evident by their restless and fidgety movements.
Reese broke the silence, “It’s happening all over again.”
“What? What’s happening?” Keefe asked.
Reese looked intently at Keefe and spoke, “An element of society has decided what the proper requirements are for those who shall be first-rate citizens and who shall be the dredges of society, who shall be trusted and who shall be feared, and who shall live and who shall die.”
“What are you talking about?” Keefe asked. He stared at Reese quizzically as if not sure how to interpret the man’s ramblings.
“History, Commander Keefe,” Reese said as he smiled sardonically, “we never learn. We just keep repeating the same mistakes over and over.”
“What the hell are you talking about?”
“Wait a minute,” the captain interjected as he stepped back toward Reese and Keefe with a piece of paper in his hands. “I’m to ensure that your landing craft is permanently disabled? This is a one way? You’re not…coming back…?”
“No Captain, we are not coming back,” Reese began. “Unfortunately, the rest of our so-called civilized world agrees with your position. We are a threat and an undesirable element. We are the last of our kind and we are to be deposited on this world and left to our own ends as to whether we live or die.”
“So what you said earlier…that the life on this planet was a threat to our civilization was all just bullshit?”
“Yes,” Reese agreed. “This planet is some backwater world with very little technical capability. I understand that the culture is still entrenched in myth and legends. We are to be deposited here and left to our own devices.”
“But you…you’re not like the others…Why you?” Keefe asked.
“I still require blood to survive, so I too am considered a risk. I am the only one of my race. And I also am a threat of polluting the human gene pool.”
“And what about the other vampires?” asked Keefe.
“They were all killed with the exception of me and my group. We are the last of our kind. We were spared by the fact that I was able to convince the Joint Chiefs of my argument of survival of the fittest. So we are being left on this planet where there is no chance of space travel for a very long time. The odds suggest that we will not survive that long but this way the conscience of mankind is not completely blemished by the destruction of another race.”
“Orbit established,” the computer said.
“View screen on,” Priestly said.
As the screen initialized, a planet loomed in the main viewing screen. They all stared at the blue oceans, the land masses of brown, gold, green and white which were accentuated by the assorted shapes of clouds that spotted the atmosphere.
After a few moments of silence Captain Priestly spoke, “Well let’s get to it then. Commander, join your…men in the shuttle launch and we’ll get you on your way.” The captain then turned his back on Commander Reese in a dismissive gesture.
“Good luck,” Keefe said, the words flowing across his lips before he had a chance to consider what he was saying.
“Thank you,” Reese said and departed the bridge.
Captain Priestly and Commander Keefe stood in silence as the computer counted off the time to shuttle departure. Finally Keefe spoke, “God help them.”
“Who?” Priestly asked, “The people on the planet or the vampires?”
Keefe smirked and said, “You know, I’m not sure anymore. Some of the things that Reese said made sense. He has some valid points.”
“I suppose,” Priestly added, “but it’s still hard to figure where it fits into the grand scheme of things.”
“Some say we evolved from apes,” Priestly said. “It sounds so foolish, doesn’t it?”
“Scientists, some days you don’t know who or what to believe,” Keefe added.
This last statement hung in the air as the two men remained silent. Minutes later they received confirmation of the landing and the destruction of the shuttle engines which would prevent escape from the planet.
“We’re done,” Keefe said.
“What the hell is the name of this place?” asked Priestly.
“The information blackout should be complete by now,” Keefe said. “Let’s see what information the computer has on it. Computer—state planet designation and location of shuttle launch.”
The computer responded: No formal designation in library. Intelligence reports only local designations.”
“They must really want to hide this place,” Keefe said, “they won’t even name it.”
“Apparently,” Priestly agreed. “Computer, what are the local designations and location of shuttle?”
“Planet is locally designated as Earth. Shuttle has landed in one of the major continents called Europe in a region known as Transylvania.”
“What was it that Reese said,” Keefe said aloud, “that the inhabitants of this world believed in myths and legends—well I guess they will have a new one to go on now.”