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Transmogrification by Brad Black

Transmogrification
by
Brad Black


I always thought that his death and mine would be linked in some way.

He lay in a state of half-sleep: aware, but detached. He could not move, didn’t want to move. He wanted to sleep, to rest, but his inactivity brought no peace. His Hunger kept him wakeful despite his weariness. A deep, yearning Hunger that he did not know how to sate.

It was dark and cold and yet he was comfortable. A close, damp, mouldy stench pervaded his cramped space, and yet even that did not bother him. He remembered a man lying dead at his feet, the corpse’s life-blood flowing onto the floor and staining his boots. The man’s name was a half-remembered thing just out of reach of his mind, like a dream nearly forgotten upon waking. He tried to remember the man’s name. It wasn’t really important, but it took his mind off the Hunger. He remembered the men in black surrounding him and the man at his feet, and he remembered the flash of their guns in his face. Further back, and yet somehow connected, he remembered a girl in a cellar and the flash of his own gun. He remembered the faces of companions lost, but not their names. He couldn’t even remember his own name.

“Avon, come.”

No, that wasn’t it. Avon was dead, but someone was near, and calling to him. It gave him an increased sense of awareness.

The voice was familiar, if not comforting, but it was also commanding. He had to obey or perish, but it wasn’t the voice he obeyed, it was his Hunger. He pushed towards the voice, only a few feet away. A cold dampness pressed on his chest, trying to hold him back. He could not move. The voice repeated the name, “Avon.”

He realised that it wasn’t his body that could free him, but his mind. With a supreme force of will, he pushed towards the voice. Nearly out, he caught a breath of fresh air and in gasping, swallowed some dirt. Finally free, he collapsed on the ground, staring up at the stars, and a pair of penetrating eyes belonging to the being he knew as Grant. He still could not move, but he could speak now. “Avon is dead.”

“I know, but I’m surprised you know.” Grant took his eyes from the man at his feet and scanned the eastern horizon. “We don’t have much time, but one question needs answering. What shall I call you?”

“Call me… Jaegar.”

“An ancient name for ‘Hunter', not very original.” Grant’s lips grew tight as he stared down. “You are in need. Rise, take your hands and place them on my chest.”

He tried to obey. It wasn’t just Grant that called, but the Hunger. It was all he could do to lift an arm. Grant took his hand and commanded, “Pull with your mind. Take from me, but not too much. We have far to go and I must be strong enough to guide you.”

He felt the warmth travel up his arm from Grant’s hand. Rather than sate, the Hunger grew to ravenous proportions. Jaegar tried to pull all he could with his mind, but Grant was too strong, too much in control. He pulled against Grant with the awkwardness of a man with numb hands pulling on a greased rope.

“Enough,” Grant commanded, and the flow stopped.

The Hunger was merely teased, but he felt stronger.

Grant pulled him to his feet. “Come.”

Jaegar held tightly to Grant’s hand. “More.”

Again Grant’s eyes drifted to the east. “Soon, but you must learn to control it.” Dragging Jaegar by the arm, Grant hurried off to the north, towards the forest.

Jaegar looked back to a patch of bare ground, a large mound of freshly turned earth. “What happened? Where am I?”

“What happened?” Grant echoed. “You lost. You’re on Gauda Prime. I’ll explain the rest once we reach safety. Hurry.” He released Jaegar’s arm and ran. Grant darted ahead, running at an impossible pace, yet Jaegar kept up.

Jaegar heard a noise. His eyes snapped to movement in the distance. “Patrol!” he hissed.

Grant showed no sign of slowing. “Keep moving. It’s pitch dark and they are more than a mile away.”

Jaegar tilted his head, like a cat listening. “I can see them, I can hear their voices.”

Grant quickened his pace. “You will get used to the heightened senses in time. Now, move.”

They covered considerable ground before Jaegar reached out and pulled Grant to a halt. “A single trooper,” he whispered. “Very close.”

“Leave him,” Grant commanded.

Jaegar’s eyes glowed. “I can take him.” He licked his lips. “I need him.”

Without looking in that direction, Grant pointed east. “Jaegar, look to the eastern sky.”

Tinges of pre-dawn red tinted the sky. As Jaegar looked, pain flowed through his eyes and into his brain. He fell in step behind Grant. “Where are we going?”

Grant did not look back as he answered, “We are going to Blake.”

“That’s impossible.”

A knowing, almost condescending grin found Grant’s face. “You are going to find a great many things you thought impossible are now child’s play.”

Grant led him to a clearing. Tall trees obstructed the growing light in the east. A ruined shack stood in the center of the clearing, its roof sagging. A lone female figure stood before it with her hands on her hips. She hurried towards them, moving so gracefully that she seemed to float across the ground.

Jaegar recognized the form of Jenna Stannis. He looked her up and down. “Jenna? I thought you were dead.”

Her eyes flared as if he had given offense. “I no longer go by that name. Do not speak it.”

Grant and the woman who refused to be called Jenna ushered Jaegar into the ruin and down a flight of steps to a cellar. A section of stone wall stood askew, revealing a tunnel. Once inside, Grant shifted the wall, sealing the entrance. Not so much as a crack remained to reveal the passage. The tunnel led to a large, cinder block chamber lined with bunks. Dark passages led away to the left and right.

Back in the dark, Jaegar was feeling bolder. “You’ve had this prepared for some time.”

The knowing smile was back on Grant’s face. “Time is always on my side these days, though a good memory helps. It must be a century since I visited this planet.”

The woman moved to one particular bunk. A body lay on it, not moving, not even breathing. She laid a hand on the man’s forehead. Grant called to her. “How is Shivan?”

She raised her head to answer, but did not look Grant in the eye. “Better. He can feed on his own if I bring him sustenance. I have done as you commanded; hunted only the beasts, and avoided humanity.”

Grant approached Jaegar. “That is our most sacred law, and our best protection. The sentient population must not know that we exist. Never admit that you are of the Kindred, except to your own kind.”

Jaegar had a dozen questions ready but put them aside as the man in the bunk stirred. One eye opened under a shock of curly black hair. Jaegar moved slowly forward, as if approaching something dangerous. “Blake? Why the hell aren’t you dead?”

Blake’s one eye shone cold. “We have Grant to thank - or curse. That, and the fact that you aimed low and missed my heart. And my name is Shivan, I’ll thank you not to call me by that other name. Tell me, did you shoot because you knew I had become one of the Kindred, or did you think I had betrayed you?”

“Kindred?” Jaegar turned on Grant. “I want to know what’s happening, and I want to know now, Grant. I’ve played your game long enough.”

“It’s no game, Jaegar, it’s quite real, and my name is not Grant, or at least it wasn’t.” Grant shrugged. “It’s been so long I can’t remember the name my parents gave me.”

“Enough!” Jaegar grabbed Grant by the shoulder. “I’ve known you most of your life. What are you babbling about, Grant?”

Grant’s smile disappeared. “I’m older than I look, Avon.” Jaegar winced at the name. Grant placed his open palm against Jaegar’s chest and gently pushed him back against the wall, in the same way a glacier gently pushes ice into the sea. “Much older, and while you may one day be strong enough to challenge me, today is not that day.”

Jaegar looked Grant in the eye. “That day may come sooner than you think.”

Blake slowly sat up. “If the two of you are done sorting credentials, I’d like to ask a question. If you are not Grant, who are you?”

Grant hissed a sigh. “I don’t know. I recall that I have always been a soldier. I first commanded men at a place called Hastings for a Kindred Prince named Harold, though not successfully. We lost.”

Jaegar looked from the woman who didn’t want to be called Jenna, to ‘Shivan,’ to ‘Grant.’ “These are nothing but names from the past. I don’t understand.”

“But you do,” Grant countered. “The Hunger that burns inside you can only be fed by the life force of other creatures. It kept you alive when you were shot by the Federation troopers, and it kept Shivan alive when you shot him.”

The woman who disliked being called Jenna spoke. “What Grant is trying to avoid telling you, Jaegar, is that we are vampires. And so are you.”

Jaegar stood silent, rubbing one hand between the thumb and forefingers of the other. Shivan leaned forward on the edge of his bunk. “No logical arguments to the contrary?”

Jaegar continued to rub his hand. “You are all most probably the result of some drug-induced torture the Federation is putting me through. If not, denying the impossible seems pointless.”

“And then there is the Hunger,” the woman whispered.

Jaegar clenched his fist. “There is that one pervasive reality. Very well, assuming I’m not mad, how did we all get in this condition?”

Grant leaned back against a bunk. “I have been of the Kindred for a very long time. I took a new name when I was reborn, as Shivan took his name. Our blonde companion has yet to decide. All Kindred take a new name to symbolise their ascendance to higher consciousness.”

“And,” Shivan interrupted, “because the mere mention of your given name brings forth unpleasant memories.”

Grant pointed to the former Blake and Jenna. “They are my fault. A Federation ship picked me up during the Galactic War. I had been in my life capsule for a fortnight and was very weak. They locked me in a cell with Jenna. I was in great need; the Hunger burned…” His voice fell off. “I regained control just in time to avoid destroying her, but I had taken so much from her that I could only let her die or help her to transform.”

The former Jenna raised her chin. “They were going modify me, turn me into a mutoid. Those so-called vampires were no match for the real thing. We took the ship easily.”

“Yes…” Grant’s voice held an edge. “She performed so well I let my guard down. First chance she got, she flew straight here, straight to Blake, against my orders.”

The former Jenna looked away. Grant took her chin in his hand and forced her to look at him. “But that wasn’t all, was it?”

Shivan struggled to stand. “She was running guns for me. When she got caught, she hit the countdown to the self-destruct and blew herself out the airlock. The cold vacuum of space was nothing but an inconvenience to her, but of course I didn’t know that. I took a flyer up.”

Jaeger shook his head. “To retrieve her body, no doubt. Sentiment was always your weak point. Let me guess, she revived during re-entry, and she was hungry.”

Shivan cocked his head to one side, a half-hearted shrug. “You can imagine my surprise when I opened the hold.”

Jaegar sneered. “You got over it, apparently.”

“The first few days are the hardest.” Shivan took a step towards Jaegar and swooned, collapsing back on the bunk. “Actually the last few days have been the hardest, thanks to you.”

Grant rolled his red eyes. “You’d regain your strength if you ate a proper meal.”

Jaegar looked at his old companion. “Is the former hope of mankind not content to be an evil undead?”

The former Jenna stiffened. “We’re not dead, Jaegar, un- or otherwise.”

Shivan reclined on the bunk. “And I for one am not evil, I intend to go on fighting the Federation, more effectively than ever. The only human life force I will drain is from the members of the High Council.”

Grant laughed. “You may find a few of them waiting to drain you. We are rare, but not unique.”

Jaegar had a faraway look in his eye. “So how did I become one of you?”

Grant looked away. “Anna. She truly was my sister, in all things.” The turned suddenly, locking eyes with Jaegar. “You think you loved her after knowing her a few years. Despite her faults I have known her and loved her for centuries; so many I have lost count. That is true love, Jaegar, not what the mortals call love: they who live and die in the twinkling of an eye. That is why her death so enraged me.”

“But if she is true Kindred,” the former Jenna interrupted, “surely she would only have gone into torpor. She might have…” A glance from Grant silenced her.

Grant’s eyes narrowed. “The Federation interrogators cremate their victims."

Grant closed on Jaegar. “She must be the reason you are now Kindred. I suspected she was running you. Your sharper mind and keener senses were signs that you had been marked by a Kindred. I thought she considered you prey, and that she would eventually drain you. But she let you go.”

“Grant.” Now it was Jaegar who bore a knowing, almost condescending smile. “Anna did not die at the hands of the Federation. She was a Federation agent!”

The change in Grant was as sudden as it was horrifying. “Liar! Impossible!” His eyes glowed bright red. The former Jenna and Blake recoiled from his fury, throwing their arms before their faces as if fearful they would be consumed by the wrath of their ancient mentor.

Jaegar stood his ground, even as Grant seized him by the throat. “Accept the impossible.”

Grant’s eyes turned red. “Tell me the truth!”

Jaegar resisted; not the command, but the invasion. Grant’s advantage was too great. Having had millennia to hone his powers, Grant easily dominated Avon - this time. Helpless, Avon obeyed the command to tell the truth. “Anna did not die at the hands of the Federation. She was a Federation agent.” Slowly Jaegar felt his own will return.

“I apologise,” Grant said. “I have accused you falsely. I owe you a part of my life-force.”

“Later.” Jaegar adjusted the lay of his tunic. “I’m not finished. I was there when Anna led a coup against Servalan. When Anna realised I knew of her betrayal, she pulled a gun on me. I was quicker. I shot her.”

“Where?” Grant inquired softly.

“Low, not in the heart.”

Grant frowned. “I mean, 'where' as in geographically.”

“In the cellar of Servalan’s mansion.”

Shivan closed his eyes. “Oh, dear.”

Jaegar continued, “And Servalan now calls herself Sleer.”

All were silent for several moments. Finally Grant spoke. “I should have seen it. Anna has always thirsted for power. I never realised the extent of her ambition. By faking her capture she has isolated me and is now recruiting allies. I feel a bloody fool.”

One corner of Jaegar’s mouth twitched. “I know the feeling. There’s more. I imagine that Sleer now has Tarrant for a companion, considering their little escapade on Virn.”

“We’ll still go through with it,” Shivan declared. “The rebellion, I mean.”

“Yes,” Grant agreed. “But it won’t be nearly as easy fighting Kindred as it is fighting humans. What the hell, I haven’t had a real military challenge since the Fourth World War.”

“Two armies of vampires fighting for the freedom of humanity,” Jenna observed. “It has a perverse irony somehow.”

***

Brad Black, October 22 1994

All original fan fiction hosted on Horizon is copyright to the individual authors. No attempt is being made to supersede any copyright held by the estate of Terry Nation, the BBC, B7 Media, Big Finish or any other licensees or holders of copyright on Blake's 7 material.

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