Vampire Code: Direct Line

The Third Movement of New World Symphony

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“It’s done!” Brennan said.

“It’s complete? Congratulations!” Cathy replied.

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For the past three years, Brennan Stuckey had been in charge of the Loogaroo Express, a new line of Five-World Rails, connecting a remote village in the Windenburg Alps to the greater San Myshuno megalopolis.

During the span of this project, the Stuckey-Tea family had grown. The baby was born from love, for in spite of differences, spats, and separate living arrangements, affection between Brennan and Cathy endured.

Their twins, Florinda and Sparkroot, embraced the idea of being the big siblings when Mom explained why her belly was so huge.

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Cathy sought the usual blessings from Sugar, onezero, and Jacklyn, the three wise women who were sure to bring every child safely into the world.

“It’s a boy!” predicted Sugar.

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“He’s a wild one,” said onezero.

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“What will you name him?” asked Jacklyn.

“Rocket,” said Cathy.

“Rocket?”

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Cathy nodded towards the spaceship in corner of their lot, and Jacklyn, perceiving her meaning, blushed.

“Well, it beats Closet!” laughed Jacklyn.

“Or Shower!” said Cathy.

“Bush!” They both collapsed in laughter.

“Speaking of Bush!” screamed Cathy. “Oh, my bladder!”

Rocket, indeed a wild child, learned to walk before he could crawl.

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His big sister, Florinda, loved him, for she could tell him all her stories, and sometimes, he even sat still to listen.

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And his big brother, Sparkroot, doted on him. They played together for hours each day.

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The family felt complete, even though Brennan still lived in his own antiseptic house in another town.

The kids rarely saw their father, but it hardly mattered, for their little home on the hill in Windenburg nestled into its own little world.

Brennan called when he felt like it, took his wife on dates at the conjuncts of his free time and her inclination, and boasted of his A-student children and precocious toddler.

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“I want Sparkroot to go with me on the inaugural train,” Brennan said.

“What about Flor?” Cathy asked.

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“Erm, no,” replied Brennan. “It’s not a place for women or girls. I won’t have you going there, ever, and not my daughter, either. And, by the way, did you plant that garlic like I asked?”

She had.

“In a circle around the home?” He inquired.

“In a circle, just like you said.” Some of Brennan’s commands, Cathy followed, if they seemed like fun to her. And planting garlic was definitely fun. Others, like where she could go and when she could go there, she let dangle through the air, until the vibrations of his voice faded, and with them, any remnants of command. She may have married the devil, but she certainly didn’t need to obey his dictates.

“Right. So have the boy ready at noon,” Brennan said.

“The boy? You mean our son?”

“Exactly,” said Brennan. “My firstborn.”

“Well,” she said, “technically Florinda was born first.”

They hung up before an argument could ensue.

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The moment Sparkroot stepped off the train, all the excitement of the speeding scenery, the steaming cup of hot chocolate, the leather smell of fancy seats, and the funny, bouncing, zipping, electric sensation of movement on a fast rail, evaporated.

Sparkroot didn’t feel so good.

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“I don’t like it here, Ada,” he stated.

“What don’t you like? History? Culture? Tradition? The old ways? What’s with you, boy?”

But a giant black slug was squeezing Sparkroot’s stomach and badgers were gnawing his heart.

“It doesn’t feel good,” he said.

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“Nonsense,” replied Brennan.

They walked around the central square, Brennan pointing out the historical features, and Sparkroot holding his stomach and counting backwards from a hundred to keep from crying.

“Everyone here works for me,” Brennan said.

“Really?”

“Well, not technically. But they all work for who I work for, and I’m his right-hand man, so, in practice, yes. When you’re the boss’s Second-in-Command, everyone who works for the boss, works for you.”

Somehow, that news made the badger gnaw harder and the slug squeeze tighter.

When they arrived back where they started, Brennan said, “I’ve got to see a man.”

“What for?”

“Work.”

“Do I come with you?” Sparkroot asked.

“No, boy,” said Brennan. “You wait here.”

“It’s dark,” said Sparkroot.

“There are streetlamps,” said Brennan. “If you get bored, play chess.” He pointed at the chess tables standing in the courtyard.

“When will you be back?” Sparkroot asked.

“When I am.”

His father headed up the cobbled path through the drooping forest.

Sparkroot looked down the empty streets.

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He sang the alphabet backwards. He named every color he could think of. Magenta. Puce. Marine. Indigo. Azure. Cerulean. Aqua-verdigo-chartreuse-rose-violet-sienna-umber-purple: which was probably just another word for black.

He rattled off every word he could think of for light: Brightness; Shiny; Sparkly; Spark; lumen-something; Glowy; Blazing; Bright White; Sunshine.

His stomach started to feel a little bit better.

Since his dad still hadn’t returned, he set out after him. It was getting late.

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I can do this! He thought. The street lights glimmered hopefully. He raised his chin, whistled, and marched. I’m a soldier in the Light Brigade!

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The path stretched forever into darkness. The drooping trees gave way to barren branches. The lights became sparse.

His legs grew heavy, and the slug tightened its hold, and the badger began to gnaw again.

At this time of evening, back home, Mom would be reading Rocket his bed-time story. Florinda would sit outside the room, with the door open, pretending to do her homework, while really listening to “The Tale of Benjamin Bunny.”

Oh, if only he were home right now!

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He passed a lone street lamp. Instead of cheering him, the faint glow filled him with dread. He could barely look where it shone, for mists covered a field of tombstones.

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When at last he did look up, two burning eyes bore down on him. A creature arced his wings and opened a fanged mouth.

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When the monster hissed, Sparkroot turned and ran as fast as he could all the way back to the town square.

He hopped on the first train and texted his father.

tk trn home. Am OK. Bye.

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