Teaser: “O-Negative”, Chapter One (Sequel To “Rhesus A”)

Things are beginning to roll here Down Under, where winter is setting-in and work is consuming if not all, then most of my waking hours. Thankfully I do get some time off (for good behavior?) therefore getting time to write is not completely impossible.

Productive I have been, and in the probably rather prolonged build-up to the sequel to my first novel, “Rhesus A”, (which is about newborn vampire Ashley Zetterburg’s attempts to adjust to life as a Ward of the Vampyre Council and new member of the Vanguards, the secretive Black Society which specializes in spying and infiltrating human and vampire groups) maybe excuses for delays have niggled and eaten at me.

“O-Negative” carries-on our heroine’s journey as she returns from overseas and starts her training as a spy. She is in for a mighty shock, not only at what profession she chose to become, but upon discovering secret human farms and a way of life she had never believed true, she realizes her own hypocrisy and tragic ethical choices.

Ashley may not be able to change the Black Society, but her importance gives her something even her new friends can never imagine – influence and the power to lead.

Without any further delay, here is Chapter One of “O-Negative” (Ashley Zetterburg book 2):

© Kaden Brown. All rights reserved, 2013.

At least I wasn’t circling the drain any longer. Things had settled down now I had got home. Comparatively anyways. Getting back to Los Angeles, the comfort of Allison’s and the routine of working at The Vanguard Club down on Hollywood had given me the space inside my head to deal with the stuff that had slammed me so hard. It seemed from the minute I awoke to being undead my life had assumed a sort of chaotic and threatening character.

My maker disowned me. In +Amsterdam, my friend Lillian, turned out to be a vampire slayer who then promptly got executed. Overlord Popov gave me protection from attack. Threatened and coerced into infiltrating a coven in my own town. My best friend, Elizabeth, who turned-out to be a mass murderer. And the romance and satisfaction of being with Miguel. Hmm, yeah, things had been sort of crazy.

For me, I was getting over the name thing. Heck, obviously I couldn’t go around using my human name. My mom and dad thought I was dead, or missing. That meant I had to drop the Dee Dee Chisholm moniker. It would do no good for family or a friend to know that not only was Dee still out and about, but that I was that thing of whispers and urban legend: an undead. Vampire.

Nope, hecky-bobs, that would be no good. So now I am Ashley. Ashley Zetterburg. I am getting over the name. It seems traditional that the Vampyre Council assigns newborns with identities that even the most dedicated would be hard pressed to fathom. I work in a night club in LA. The Vanguard Club. Sleep in a Protective Sleep Unit by day. Hang out at a cool café called Solar De Cahuenga with Mig, after work. Occasionally knock back a readymade meal from one of two people Mig keeps locked-up. Oh, and I love blood, Rhesus A positive to be exact.

I will drink other types, it’s just like that blood type diet some humans try. Like people with certain blood types are naturally inclined to like certain food types. Mine was nuts, berries and cereal. Yup, I was Rhesus A positive as a human. Now, along with my green eyes, slim figure, five foot eight height, dark straight hair and pale skin, I have inherited that too. Well, the taste for it. So, at home I keep a good supply of the stuff ready to be warmed. Can’t eat food though. The stuff makes me puke.

Most vamps exist almost entirely on a diet of blood – be it fresh or processed – and alcohol, spirits mostly. My fave is a Red Cossack. Blood and vodka. Sometimes I’ll have ice too. But that makes the blood coagulate too much. So usually, it’s warm blood and vodka. Yum. And we don’t get drunk either. Just content, like after a person has eaten a big meal. Full of blood and vodka. A lot of us smoke like troopers too. Seems that we might as well, seeing as it ain’t going to kill us.

The only downside to being Ashley, Ward of the Vampyre Council, is the horrors I’ve seen. Mind you, it is the sort of thing you learn to deal with in your head. Not to learn to love and accept the violence and pain we experience and witness. Rather, our world is so dripping in it that we would do anything to avoid it. In the main, vampires love humans.

Sure, we use them for food, but rest assured we don’t want to kill them or cause them pain. I, with my telepathic connection to them, can vouch for that. I tell you, the god damn mind-reading thing is a curse. Sure, I can control a person, but, their thoughts can be awful, really! If I could give it away I would. © Kaden Brown. All rights reserved Plus, I had no idea how other vamps felt about their mental powers – it had never come up in conversation. Maybe I was just a bit slow in getting used to the flood of painful emotions and thoughts that come at me half the time. Perhaps I should stop drinking from Mig’s stash. Improve my diet, so to speak. Not sure Allison would appreciate having them tied-up in the bathroom or closet or somewhere though.

Getting back to Amsterdam was no problem. The same helicopter and pilot flew me back to a waiting car and I was at the Center by two. The place was a hive of activity, the post Presentation parties still going strong. It was strange to pass the main foyer, crowded with laughing newborns and families all in the finery, whilst I trudged by with my meager possessions preoccupied by the night’s events.

It had only been four hours since Elizabeth had been forced to come clean over her killing humans. The recent massacre in downtown LA being the worst of her recent work. Mig hadn’t waited for confessions or an inquiry. He had killed her there and then. Rather him than me. Torturing her even in anger had shaken me to the core. Such things for me were impossible, actions I had always detested and lived in fear of, human or vamp. My losing it with Elizabeth, when I smashed her leg the wrong way had left me feeling sick and empty. If a vampire could be described as gaunt and haunted, yeah, that is exactly how I felt.

So Mig had appeared to me rescue and finished the job. My best friend forever, the girl I had loved and who had brought me back from the edge of human oblivion had been the monster we all feared. She had never loved me. Not truly. My feelings were not reciprocated. She had fooled me, as well as all the humans around me, just so that she could compete with Kaji. Killing people and making me, the doppelganger of Kaji’s long-lost Fatima were no excuse. She had to go.

Whatever Popov or Darshan Deyer would have to say about things I had no idea. The consideration was only beginning to enter my mind as the receptionist handed back my room key. They had sent me back home to spy on the locals. Executing Elizabeth may not have been in their plans. Maybe they’d be pissed at me.

Watching a group of newborns smiling and drinking as if they were humans, without a care in the world I pushed through the security door and made my way back to my room. Thankfully, I avoided more partying vamps and with a long look at Lillian’s door down the way, went in dropping my gear beside the bed. I just lay back and let out a long breath of relief and closed my eyes.

A knocking on my door drew my attention and I reluctantly moved to answer it. Overlord Popov stood there beaming at me. She looked happy. Drunk? She seemed to be on something.

“Ashley!” She seemed excited. I stood there clinging to the door, gaping at her. She was dressed informally, in black pants and white blouse. Heck, she looked like an office worker.

“Huh?” Needless to say, I wasn’t in the mood for dialogue. I opened the door wider and turned for the bed. If Popov wanted to enter she would. I sat on the edge of the bed and Popov sauntered in after me.

“Very well down! You managed things wonderfully.” She took hold of my hands and bent from the waist so she was close to me. “Amazing, really not sure how things went down so well.”

“I’m not sure I did anything. Mig was there and finished them off,” I explained, trying to downplay my role. © Kaden Brown. All rights reserved

“Don’t be so modest Ashley. Without you getting in there nothing would have happened. It was risky and dangerous.”

“I’m not so sure. I was their friend; they would have let me in no matter.”

Popov gripped my hands harder, her jubilation still evident in her shaking them. “Rubbish. There was no one else who could have got in and certainly not another person or vampire alive who could have uncovered the truth. You did brilliant.”

I gave her a not-so-sure look and grimaced.

“I haven’t had time to think about how thing went. I just wish that it hadn’t been my best friend who was guilty. I mean, her – why did it have to be Elizabeth? Why?”

Popov switched to a serious face and bit her lower lip as she scooted next to me on the bed.

“Some of our kind, they go crazy. Maybe it’s boredom or a sense of supremacy. It seems to affect those of us who are around humans a lot. Sort like a god complex. You know, compared to people we have powers, strengths and abilities that can make a vampire lose it.”

“Like they snap, sort of.”

“Yes. Being around human beings makes them feel all-powerful, invulnerable, and they start behaving in totally irrational ways. Maybe she thought she could do anything without getting caught.”

“No one could really think that, would they? I mean, she killed people, in the open, for the world to see.”

Popov nodded, seemingly understanding my disbelief at Elizabeth’s guilt.

“Sadly it is a common condition. Not an everyday thing, but when one of us is crazed like she was – the massacres and other killings – it is perhaps the first diagnosis, that the perpetrator has broken from the control and purpose the undead world strives so hard to give each of us.”

I felt like a few little pieces come together in my head. Like a puzzle beginning to take shape.

“Oh, that explains a lot.” I looked at Popov beside me. “Why we have so many rules and stuff. The strictness of things.”

Popov’s eyes went wide as if she was seeing that I had realized how thing were supposed to be. That I had figured out the purpose of the Council.

“The need for vampires to show their allegiance and thereby maintain order and discipline,” I continued.

She just nodded, a huge smile widening across the face.

“You understand,” she said almost in a whisper, her eyebrows rising as if taken by surprise. “There aren’t many vampires who even think about why things are as they are. Definitely no newborns.”

My thoughts were still racing laps about my brain, but things were certainly beginning to calm down inside. Popov sat silently as I processed her words. I was feeling a bit better. To be recognized as unusual, in a good way, pushed some of my gloom aside. Not much, but enough to change my mood from sullen to hopeful.

“Maybe I can deal with things.” I looked at the Overlord, like I had looked at my mother thousands of times as a human girl. Pleading for protection and that hope that things would all work out fine.

She wrapped her arm around me gently and drew me closer, our heads touching. I was embarrassed and just stared at my fingers in my lap. Popov took hold of them.

“Things will be fine Ashley. You will see that as time goes by. For now, well before sunrise why don’t you come downstairs to the hall and we’ll give you a surprise.”

A surprise was the last thing I wanted. Maybe my face showed it. Come to think of it, yeah I did give Popov a childish frown. She laughed.

“Nothing bad. A ceremony for you.”

“For me?”

“Your first complete mission.”

Popov let me go and stood, making for the door.

“What I get like a medal, or something?”

“A tattoo, your choice of what. Think of a symbol if you want. We can give you a standard mission icon if you want.  Come down around five, dress casual – as you are.”

She was half out the door when the tattoo thing slammed home. I jumped to my feet and dashed after her.

“Er, a tattoo? Like others have?” It seemed ludicrous that I would have one. “I’m just a  baby vamp.”

Popov nodded. “Yes. Your choice.” © Kaden Brown. All rights reserved

With that she was gone, leaving me standing there holding the open door and pondering the imponderables of vamp tats. Me getting a tattoo, what the hell! I’d seen so many, yet I had no idea what was expected. On my shoulder, arm, back, hand, finger or leg? Someplace else?

One thing Popov’s visit had done was pick me up. The tattoo thing had distracted me further, to the point of wondering about the ceremony she had got me into. Hopefully, I wouldn’t be obligated or responsible for doing anything. You know, like being interrogated – where I would be executed for the wrong answer or something.

I may understand the need for keeping things together, but hell, I was terrified of the consequences of things I had no idea about. And my experiences thus far had shown me that there was no shortage of murder, execution and general mayhem.

With trepidation I made my way downstairs to the hall where the presentation had taken place. I’d topped-up on Rhesus A from the fridge whilst I waited for five to roll around. A minute in the microwave and the blood was nice and warm. I was still taking small sucks from the plastic bag as I entered the hall. The lights had been dimmed and the tables were largely vacant of seated guests, apart from a few closer to the stage area.

Searching through the mingling crowd of newborns, center staff and Overlords I spotted Darshan and Popov directing the laying out of tables near the far left wall. Having sucked the blood bag dry, or well, to the point of not being able to lick the insides of the bag, I dumped it in the door way bin and proceeded through the groups still drinking their blood mixes.

By the time I was halfway through the crowd of maybe a hundred, I had been handed a bottle of fizzy gin and blood with a straw. That was new to me. I looked closely at the glass: yup, this must be what is meant by blood-lite. The gin seriously outweighed the blood. Still, something was tasty. Weird, I didn’t know what else was in the drink, but it still worked for me.

The clothes I was wearing for the ceremony were most definitely not the same ones I’d gone to Liverpool with. That would have been uncouth and awful. There was no way I was going to wear those things again, especially for an award ceremony. I was thankful that I had brought some other casual stuff with me from Los Angeles.

Most people wouldn’t know that as a human girl I never wore grunge or combat clothing. Hell, I would not have been seen dead in stuff like that. My style was more up-class than that. Leaving the pants and boyish stuff to Kalinka I prefered the skirts, tubes and heels – and accessories – only available at the more expensive boutique shops.

That was until my parents broke-up, that is. Until then I was the girl with everything. Afterwards, I was the girl with nothing, except a broken family, a broken heart, and a serious dependency on all things alcohol, drug and sex related. I still wore sexy clothes, but I was more often than not picked-up by the police, not a guy.

Yet, now, here I find that I embrace all those things that I rejected. Gone are the days of fluffy wool and faux fur. The inner girl, the one destroyed by my mom and dad and all that went before was me, I took grasp of and firmly ditched, giving the finger to the human world. I may be hurting from losing Jason, the way I fell-apart following the divorce of my parents, but one thing I was not going to do was to mourn the loss of that weak and broken girl I had so been.

Watching the final preparations for the ceremony I simply stood alone, at the edge of the crowd and watched. The staff were running around at Popov’s behest, fetching this, carrying that. Finally, with me in my black flared jeans, doc martens, and black I’ll eat you! t-shirt and my hair clipped back © Kaden Brown. All rights reserved by a barrette I noticed a little crowd gathered about me. Darshan Deyer appeared from nowhere and came to stand next to me.

At Popov’s command one of the guards started clinking the clinking a glass with a knife and the crowd simultaneously seemed to tighten around me and quieted down.  I think that the crowd was only prevented from swamping and bumping into me by Darshan Deyer and his guards, one of which had wordlessly taken up a position on my left.

Pushing aside the thought that everyone was looking at me, I steadfastly looked at Popov. She waited a few moments for the jostling and sounds of movement to die down and then stepped front and center, directly in front of me, just a couple of yards away. She was slightly shorter than me, something I had never noticed before.

“Thank you ladies and gentlemen.”

She paused for a moment. My eyes flickered past Popov at the table. I couldn’t see any medal there.

“Whilst we were all celebrating this year’s Presentation to the Council, an operation was underway in the United Kingdom. The mission was successful and brought the vampire responsible for the Los Angeles Massacre to justice. The vampire responsible for those murders, as well as many attacks upon humans over the years, was executed at approximately eleven o’clock British time last night.”

Popov was positively beaming at me and the crowd. From behind and beside an excited gossip arose, a rumble of voices, punctuated by what could only be described as victory punches and exuberant “yeses”. Even I felt a tingle of pleasure to know that the killer was dead.

Letting the joyous outpouring continue for a half minute or so, Popov merely smiled. It was like a huge burden had been lifted off her, allowing a new and happier Overlord to show herself, instead of the concerned, serious one of last night.

“The operation could not have been carried-out and completed with the participation of Ward of the Council and newborn Ashley Zetterburg.” Popov held a hand extended toward me, showing all the assembled vamps, the high and mighty, the new and old, who I was. Under their eyes, I think I shrank a couple of feet trying to hide. Popov stepped closer and gently taking my arm guided me closer to the table. I hesitantly followed her lead, too nervous to even bat an eyelid lest I lose control and went running back to my room.

“Ashley Zetterburg,” Popov repeated to the crowd, “is responsible for the success of the mission, her first!”

The crowd broke into a roar. “Whoaa! Whoaa! Whoaa!” It sounded like something the marines do when on parade.

With the roar still ringing loud in my sensitive eardrums Popov nodded to Darshan. In a literal flash he had left and returned with a box from the table. He held it chest-height and closed whilst Popov lifted the lid on a box sitting on the table. That one seemed to contain a multitude of inks. I assumed the one Darshan held contained the tattoo machine thingy.

“Ashley, in recognition of your service to the Vampyre Council in fulfilling your mission, I am empowered to grant you a mission icon.” She looked intently at me, smiling and giving me a teeniest of nods.

“Yes, I am.” Should I address her Overlord? Too late, Popov had continued.

“Do you have your own choice of icon you would like to use?”

“Er, no. I don’t.” Not having planned any of this thing I had no idea what the hell I was meant to get tattooed. Maybe a liver bird, symbol of Liverpool, my home town?

Popov reached for Darshan’s box and lifted out a small sort of ink-gun. A tattooing gun I suppose. Addressing me squarely she pointedly looked from my left shoulder to my right. Then she eyeballed me. Oh right!

I smiled and pushed the neck of the t-shirt down to show my right shoulder. Popov smiled then nodded to Darshan. He whipped the t-shirt off over my head, my nudity startling me momentarily, before I refocused on Popov. I had a bra on anyways. I wanted to ask, what were they going to tattoo on me, after all it would be with me for like. Surely I had a right to see it beforehand?

I think Popov saw my face flush with stress. She reached out to rest a hand on my forearm.

“You okay? It’s just a little tattoo.” I nodded stiffly. Popov moved around to my side and lined up the tattoo gun. “This will sting just a little,” she whispered.

© Kaden Brown. All rights reserved

Starting the sequel to “Rhesus A” has been a long time coming, and it is with some relief that finally I am there. Note that the out-take (above) is a vanilla version, which means it has not yet undergone any proof reading, or editing.

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