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The Last Aerie

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The Last Aerie

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Author: Brian Lumley
Publisher: Tor, 1993
Series: Necroscope: Book 7
Book Type: Novel
Genre: Horror
Sub-Genre Tags: Vampires
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Synopsis

Nestor and Nathan Kiklu are the twin sons of Harry Keogh, the Necroscope. United by blood, they also share some of their father's awesome powers--but what they do with those gifts cannot be more different!

Nathan takes up the struggle against the metamorphic vampires, while Nestor, fascinated by the vampires' eerie evil, has become his twin's worst nightmare: a Wamphyri Lord!

Harry Keogh's sons have become the bitterest of enemies, each determined to destroy the other. When next they meet, one will surely die!


Excerpt

I

Harry's Passing

To the members of E-Branch, bad dreams were an occupational hazard; it was generally accepted that nightmares went with the work. Ben Trask, current head of the Branch, had always had his share of bad dreams. Indeed, since the Yulian Bodescu affair twelve years ago, he'd had more than his share. And only half of them when he was asleep. The sleeping ones were of the harmless variety: they frightened but couldn't kill you. They were engendered of the waking sort, which were very different: sometimes they could kill and worse. Because they were real.

As for this one: it wasn't so much a bad as a weird dream. And weirder because Trask was wide awake, having driven his car through the wee small hours of a rainy night into the heart of London, and parked it opposite E-Branch HQ... without knowing why. And Trask was fussy about things like that; he generally liked to be responsible for his actions.

It was a Sunday in mid-February of 1990, one of those rare days when Trask could get away from his work and switch off, or rather switch on. To the normal world which existed outside the Branch. It should have been one of those days, anyway. But here he was, at E-Branch HQ in the middle of the sleeping city, and in the eye of his mind this weird dream which wouldn't go away, this daydream repeating over and over, like flickering frames from an old monochrome movie projected onto a window, so that he could see right through it. A ghost film: if he blinked his eyes rapidly it would vanish, however momentarily, and return just as soon as he relaxed:

A corpse, smouldering, with its fire-blackened arms flung wide; steaming head thrown back as in the final agony of death; tumbling end over end into a black void shot through with thin neon bars or ribbons of blue, green, and red light.

It was a tortured thing, yes, but dead now from all of its torments and no longer suffering; unknown and unknowable as the weird waking dream which it was. And yet there was something morbidly familiar about it; so that watching it, Trask's face was grey and his lips drawn back in a silent snarl from his strong, slightly yellow teeth. If only the corpse would stop tumbling for a moment and come into focus, give him a clearer shot of the blistered, silently screaming face...

Trask got out of his car into a sudden squall of leaden raindrops, as if some Invisible One had dipped his hands in water and scooped it into Trask's face. Muttering a curse as he turned up the collar of his overcoat, he glanced at the building across the street, craning his neck to peer up at the high windows of E-Branch. Up there he expected to see a light--just one, burning in a window set central in the length of the entire upper story which was the Branch--lighting the room which housed the duty officer through his lonely night vigil. Well, he saw the duty officer's light, right enough, and keeping it company, three or four more which he hadn't expected. But he saw more than the lights, for even the rain couldn't wash away the tortured, monotonously tumbling figure from the screen of his mind.

Trask knew that if he were someone or thing other than who and what he was--head of a top-secret, in more than one way esoteric security organization--then the experience must surely scare the hell out of him. Except, well, he'd been scared by experts. Or he might believe he was going mad. But there again, E-Branch was...E-Branch. This thing he was experiencing, it must be in his mind, he supposed. It had to be, for there was no physical mechanism to account for it. Or was there?

Hallucination? Well, possibly. Someone could have got to him, fed him drugs, brainwashed him...but to what end? Why bring him here in the dead of night? And why bring these other people here? (The extra lights up there, the shiny black MG Metro pulling into the curb, and the bloke across the road--an E-Branch agent, surely?--even now running through the rain toward the Branch's back door entrance.) Why were they here?

"Sir?" A girl struggled stiffly, awkwardly out of the Metro. She was Anna Marie English, a Branch esper. English by name but never an English rose--nor any sort of rose by any other name--she was enervated, pallid, dowdy, a stray cat drowning in the rain. It was her talent, Trask knew, and he felt sorry for her. She was "ecologically aware"; or as she herself was wont to put it, she was "as one with the Earth." When water tables declined and deserts expanded, so her skin dried out, became desiccated. When acid rains ate into Scandinavian forests, her dandruff fell like snow. In her dreams she heard whale species singing sadly of their decline and inevitable extinction, and she knew from her aching bones when the Japanese were slaughtering the dolphins. A human lodestone, she tracked illicit nuclear waste, monitored pollution, shrank from yawning holes in the ozone as a coral polyp from a diver's probing spearpoint. Yes, she was an "ecopath": she felt for the Earth and suffered all of its sicknesses, and unlike the rest of us knew that she, too, was dying from them.

Trask looked at her: she was twenty-four and looked fifty. Despite his pity, perhaps paradoxically, he thought of her in harsh, disassociated, almost disapproving terms--thick-lensed spectacles, liver spots, hearing aid, straggle-haired, crumpled blouse, splay-legged--and knew he disliked her because she mirrored the decline of the world. And that was his talent at work. Ben Trask was a human lie detector: he recognized a lie when he saw, felt, heard, or otherwise perceived one as other men recognize a slap in the face; so that, conversely, in the absence of falsehood he must acknowledge truth. Except Anna Marie English's truth was unbearable. If Greenpeace had her and could make the world believe in her, they would win their case in one...though of course it would be lost at one and the same time. For they'd suspect that they were too late. But Trask also knew that it wasn't quite like that. The world was a huge creature and had been sorely wounded, and Anna Marie English was just too small to sustain so much damage. But while she was suffering almost beyond endurance, the Earth could go on taking it for a long time yet. This was Trask's view of it, anyway. He supposed it made him an optimist, which was something of a paradox in itself.

"Can you see it?" he said. "Do you have any idea what it's all about?"

She looked at him and saw a mousy-haired, green-eyed man in his late thirties. Trask was about five feet ten, a little overweight and slope-shouldered, and wore what could only be described as a lugubrious expression. Perhaps it had to do with his talent: in a world where the plain truth was increasingly hard to find, it was no easy thing being a lie detector. White lies, half-truths, and downright fables came at Trask from all directions, until sometimes he felt he didn't want to look anymore.

But Anna Marie English had her own problems. Finally she nodded her bedraggled mop of a head. "I see it, yes, but don't ask me what it's all about. I woke up, saw it, and knew I had to come here. That's all. But I've a hunch the world's a loser yet again." Her voice was a coughing rasp.

"A hunch?"

"This thing isn't specific to me." She frowned. "This time I'm just...an onlooker? It isn't hurting me. I feel for him, yes, but his fate doesn't seem to have made much impression on the world in general. Yet at the same time, somehow I think it makes the world less."

Copyright © 1993 by Brian Lumley


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