Saturday, December 15, 2012

Happy Holidays and such and such and what not...

Happy Holidays, everybody! I figure we're about due (ridiculously overdue?) for one of those chats where I fill you in on all the crazy stuff that's been going on and you--well, you don't really say anything... Unless you comment of course. But yeah, a LOT has happened since I last properly updated the folks out there who are actually (suckers) awesome enough to keep up with all things RSW and the like.

The first thing I've only recently mentioned is that my novella EXIT REALITY was accepted for publication by Blood Bound Books in early October! The book is due out in both Trade Paperback and Kindle editions in early 2013! If you don't know anything about the story why not check out my NEXT BIG THING POST that talks all about it.

The second thing on the docket is an update on BLOOD TYPE: AN ANTHOLOGY OF VAMPIRE SF ON THE CUTTING EDGE: Since I last mentioned the anthology, I have confirmed more authors who will contribute and accepted more stories. The book will include stories from Laird Barron, Tim Waggoner, Stephen Graham Jones, Michael R. Collings, Peter Giglio, H.E. Roulos, and Jason Duke. So, if you haven't already, check out the BLOOD TYPE Indiegogo fundraiser. All monies raised go to pay the authors for contributing and to pay for perks. Speaking of perks, in exchange for donating you can get some really cool stuff depending on how much you give. An early ebook copy, your name listed in the acknowledgements, all of my current and future ebook titles for free for life, a BLOOD TYPE bookmark, a trade paperback copy of the final anthology, a trade paperback copy signed by the editor with bookmarks individually signed by all the authors, and the grand whopper prize: one of the characters within the anthology named after you! So check it out and please, please donate.

And number three on the list: I made my first professional short story sale! My dark science fiction story COMA will be published in an upcoming magazine issue in 2013! More details coming soon.

Number four would be that all of my titles are on sale for the holidays:

In Dark Reaches: Kindle $.99 Smashwords: $.99 1-year subscription (6 issues): $5.99 on my website

Shining in Crimson: Kindle: $2.99 Trade Paperback: $9.99

The Quiet: A Novella: Kindle: $.99 Trade Paperback: $5.99

Forcipules: FREE on Smashwords!

Born to Kill: FREE on Smashwords!

And number five: The same can be said for Nightscape Press:

And finally number six:

Some of you may not know this but for many years before I wrote fiction I was (and I guess still am) a musician. I sang, played guitar, bass, keyboards, piano since I was about 12 years old. Between 2001 and 2003 I recorded about 20 industrial rock/metal songs with a 233MHZ Compaq desktop computer, a Shure SM57 microphone, and a crappy Creative Labs sound card and somehow managed to end up with a fairly listenable 17 track album titled 10 Million Ways to Say Goodbye. I released it myself online to a handful of friends. Without a backup band to help promote it, it didn't really get the attention I felt it deserved. But such is life.

Years later I recorded some acoustic songs that had a totally different vibe, then I started experimenting with some acoustic versions of the Escape From Saturn songs and realized what I was working on was different enough from EFS to warrant a new title. Hence LiberatedServant. I recorded several demo songs and had planned to compile them together as a short EP called River's Rising and never ended up getting around to it.

Cue this past year, I'm going through old files and find some of my music tracks, videos, etc. and I decided maybe it was time to give both albums a better shot. So, I recompiled 10 Million Ways to Say Goodbye, remixed the tracks for River's Rising and put them up on Amazon. They're now both available in CD format and will soon be available in MP3 format on Amazon! You can listen to them below. Anyway, Happy Holidays and all that jazz! Until next time.


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Next Big Thing

Two awesome writers, Stephen Bacon and Brad Hodson, have tagged me to do this new-fangled Next Big Thing post. So here's my post participating in this big literature extravaganza. Also be sure and check out both Stephen and Brad's posts and their work in general. Both are absolutely fantastic writers. Anyway, let's get started, shall we?

1) What is the working title of your next book?
Exit Reality: A Ray Garret/Lifeline Techno Thriller

2) Where did the idea come from for the book?
Ha! More like where didn't the idea come from. The idea came from many places. For one, the name came from a misreading of an Exit Realty sign. 

But the overall story whether it started to evolve before or after that is much harder to pin down to one source. I've always been a big Christopher Walken fan. One of my favorite movies growing up that completely blew my mind was Brainstorm. Brainstorm was about these scientists who create a device which you could use to record and replay experiences through all of the human senses; sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste. So that movie was definitely a big part of the inspiration.

Another source of inspiration came from a documentary I watched that I don't recall the title of. It discussed, among other topics, Ray Kurzweil's controversial concept of the "coming singularity" between man and technology. The idea that before long you won't be able to differentiate between human beings and computers as they become more and more dependent on each other.

And then I thought: what if there was a device that people could use to record or playback experiences? Would they really just be used for that purpose in this day and age? No way. We've got social networking like Facebook and, even more inspirational to my story, Second Life and Youtube. Imagine recording the experience of skydiving--the sight of it, the thrill of it, the rush of air against your body--and then going home and posting that experience as a computer file on the internet for others to experience as well without even having to leave the comfort of their own home. A network where people could share real and artificial experiences: Lifeshare. What would a network like that be like?

I'll tell you what it would be like: Big fucking trouble, that's what. And of course then you put that idea into the mind of a horror writer and it's like a veritable playground of possibilities. So the first thing to be a concern in a world where almost everyone's brain is literally connected to their computers was murder. Really crime in general. So along comes Ray Garret, a jaded Antivii agent whose wife is recently deceased. A man who has nothing else to live for but the job of finding killers who exploit the Lifeline looking for innocent victims.

3) What genre does your book fall under?
Well, that's a tough one. Most of my work tows the shadowy line between horror and science fiction. That's definitely true of this book, but it's ultimate premise is based in crime fiction. Several people who have read it call it Cyber Punk. Personally I've not read much Cyber Punk, so maybe that fits too.

4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
Ray Garret I'm gonna say maybe Nestor Carbonell and of course Christopher Walken to play the antagonist Roger Benigan.

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
The future of experience is digital... even in death

6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I'm very proud to say that Blood Bound Books will be publishing Exit Reality in early 2013

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
Well... two years if you only count the writing. Five if you count research and story development. I was researching and developing the idea for this story for three years before I even started writing.

8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Hmm that's a tough one. Some of the biggest inspiration on my writing and particularly on this story has come from two particular writers; Philip K. Dick and Peter Watts. But I don't know that I would compare it to their work. I have been told that it's very comparable to the work of William Gibson who I've actually not had the pleasure to read yet.

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?
If any one person inspired this book more than any other it would probably have to be Ray Kurzweil. His ideas about the future of technology are very amazing. Yet at the same time some of his ideas concern me on a moral level. Something the story line of Exit Reality only begins to scratch the surface of. Another story of mine that's currently out to an editor for consideration touches on one of these concerning ideas much more head on in short story form.

10) What else about the book might pique the reader's interest?
How about the following blurbs?

“As visionary as William Gibson's Johnny Mnemonic and as seedy as Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe stories, Robert S. Wilson's Exit Reality is a supreme achievement. Wilson has created a world so plausible, and yet so full of nightmares, that you might never want to get online again. I loved this book. Write faster, Mr. Wilson, because I want more!”
—Joe McKinney, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of Flesh Eaters and Mutated

“Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of Robert S. Wilson's fast-paced novella, EXIT REALITY. The story is compelling and well-written, the author deftly negotiating the line between SF and Horror—a difficult sub-genre that only the best writers can manage. Recommended without reservation.”
—Gene O’Neill, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of THE BURDEN OF INDIGO and OPERATION RHINOCEROS HORNBILL

“Kiss the world you know goodbye and get ready for Robert S. Wilson's terrifying sci-fi novella, Exit Reality. With powerful storytelling and fast-paced action, Wilson's ready to entertain and move you in equal measure.”
—Peter Giglio, author of Beyond Anon and co-author of The Dark

“Exit Reality is a fast-paced blend of sci-fi horror. Robert S. Wilson has created a believable near-future and populated it with all-too real characters. The nightmarish spiral of Ray Garret's descent is thrilling and unforgettable, and the technology feels just one step away. The narrative thrums with loss and desire. Wilson's muscular writing grips you tightly and pulls you along. Escape is futile. This will be one ride you won't forget.” —Stephen Bacon, author of Peel Back the Sky

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Ladies and gentlemen...

I present to you a guest post from my partner in crime at Nightscape Press: Mark C Scioneaux

On Hollow Shell and why the Zombie Genre is Coming Back from the Dead
By: Mark C. Scioneaux

I cannot speak for all horror writers, but I think the first subject an aspiring writer tries to tackle is the zombie novel. There are a few reasons why the zombies are the popular choice, but mostly I believe it is due to the simplicity of the subject, and the way the story develops.

First, you have undead monsters. Scary, right? There is nothing more horrifying and heartbreaking than the thought of your mom, dad, sibling, child, etc. coming for you with no remembrance of who you were to them. All you are now is a meal. Second, it lets the writer craft a tale of survival, and doing what it takes to persevere during trying times of the walking dead. Third, and lastly, the aspiring writer can make a choice of where they want their novel to go. Gratuitous amounts of sex and gore? A cast of characters, ranging from your basic stereotypes to original and unlikely heroes? The writer is free to do what they want, for the world has ended and they are at the control panel. Writers are free to carve their own paths, and zombies help pave the way.

Why am I rambling about this? A few weeks ago, I received an email from a publisher. He was cancelling an anthology of which a story of mine had been submitted. His reasons were honest and understandable, but one didn’t sit well with me. He said the genre was flooded with bad zombie books. He wouldn’t make any return on his investment for the anthology he’d planned. The zombie genre was dead; a bullet put right between the eyes of the literary ghoul. To a point, I agreed. With the surge of self-publishing, it appears any and all aspiring authors, who don’t venture through traditional publishing venues for their work, have a zombie novel uploaded to Kindle. I’ve read more than my fair share. Some are great. Plenty are bad, often filled with poor editing and even worse writing. With the popularity of The Walking Dead leading the way, zombies have infiltrated every aspect of our pop culture. The public is burnt out, and who can really blame them? But I think they can be saved and restored back to the prominence and respect they deserve. It is my hope that my serial, Hollow Shell, assists in the revival of the zombie book.

When you start Hollow Shell, you’ll see I jammed my foot on the gas, and very rarely do I let up. The tale centers around one central character, Chris. He isn’t special, really; just an ordinary guy trying to do the right thing. He’s not a super soldier, or someone who can make headshots while sprinting through a field. He’s you. He’s me. I wanted to make him that way so you, the reader, would feel for him, think like him, and ultimately place yourself in his situation and contemplate over the choices you’d make if you were in his shoes. There is another character, Dawn, who joins Chris on a most epic journey. I won’t spoil it for you where they are going, or why, but it will be something pivotal that drives our main character forward, much to the dismay of the young woman accompanying him.

Chris and Dawn make a good pair, and I think they represent real people in a tragic situation. There is tension, violence, sex, and gore; all things one expects to happen when the laws and rules of society have been thrown out the window, but it’s kept in check. It’s balanced. It’s real. When I write, I try to put myself in my character’s shoes. How would I react? What would I say? How would I get out of this predicament? The result, I feel, is a story with realistic consequences to actions. I want to show the reader that yes, zombies are scary, but humans are so much worse. There will be times when you cheer for the zombies. Hopefully I’ve written enough moments that make your jaw drop and your fingers fumble your e-reader when you go to turn the page.
I plan to update the series every quarter. It will take time to not only write, but also go through the proper editing and proofreading channels. Self-publishing isn’t a bad thing. As a person who has been traditionally published and is co-owner of Nightscape Press, I feel this is what the Kindle was made for. But the key is you have to give the customer a professional product, and one you’d be happy to put your name on. I hope I have done this for you, the reader.

Hollow Shell is violent and tragic. It also has moments of humor and raw emotion. It is charged with a certain tension that I feel would exist in a situation like the one our two characters are thrust into. What I love the most about zombie literature isn’t so much the zombies, but the interaction of characters as the world falls apart. There are so many great opportunities for me as a writer to explore the human condition and psyche. That’s what draws me to post-apocalyptic books. The zombies are awesome. They give your characters a reason to act the way they do. But they’re only a part of the story. In Hollow Shell, you’ll care about the characters and realize that these are normal people trying to survive with the zombies as a backdrop. I hope you will keep up with Hollow Shell, because it’s going to be a wild ride.

In closing, I’d like to thank Robert Shane Wilson for allowing me to share my thoughts on zombies. I hope you enjoy Hollow Shell and follow the series to the end, whenever that may be. Don’t abandon the zombie story. There are many good ones out there, and like the undead, they are going to just keep coming!

Aim for the head,
Mark C. Scioneaux

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A sample from Hollow Shell: Part 1

“What have I done?” Chris said as he slid down the living room wall. 
A faint trail of gray smoke rose from the gun, slowly dissipating into the atmosphere and stinging his running nose. His hands shook uncontrollably, so bad the gun almost fell from his limp grasp.
“Why, God? Jesus…Why?” he gasped, the tears starting to roll down his stubbly face.
With each passing moment, panic at the realization of what he had just done started to settle in. It was a sickening feeling developing deep in the pit of his stomach. He felt a wave of nausea wash over him. He closed his eyes, drew in a deep breath, and let it out slowly.
Why am I calling out to God? he thought, as the idea of asking an all-mighty and benevolent creator for help had proved to be a waste of time. God didn’t seem to be present at the moment he put a bullet right between the eyes of his loving parents and once beautiful sister. Those same eyes that gazed down on him the day he was born. Eyes at one time filled with unconditional love, now glazed over in a pale aqua-blue glow. The look they once bore replaced with an insatiable hunger. Chris couldn’t let them live like that. His sister, so beautiful and caring; so young and full of dreams, had been turned into a deformed creature. There was nothing left of who she once was. The same sister Chris beat up a playground bully for. The same sister whose ice cream cone hit the floor and Chris readily gave her his. The thought of her pain made him tear up and the urge to scream rushed up through his throat like vomit.
She had come toward him with the same look as his parents, those hungry, lifeless eyes. His hand made steady by a surge of adrenalin gave him a brief moment of clarity and precision, though his vision had become blurry with tears. The sound of her moaning and shuffling feet became louder as she moved closer. He aimed, closing his eyes as he pulled the trigger, feeling the hammer kick back and the gun jolt in his hand. The abrupt discharge was followed by a soft thud. He opened his eyes and in that moment came to the sick realization that he was an only child and an orphan. All done by his own hands.  
One more bullet left in the chamber, he thought to himself, and that one is going to be for me. The searing heat of the gun singed the inside of his mouth, but he didn’t care. One squeeze and everything would be all right. Just a loud noise, maybe a little pain and his troubles would cease to exist. Or maybe there wouldn’t be any pain at all. It would be a coward’s way out, but given the current events and his decaying mentality, it felt like the right thing to do. He closed his eyes tight as his finger slowly depressed the trigger. Just a little more, he thought. Just do it!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

New release and more to come...

In the midst of editing manuscripts to pay the bills and editing/formatting and the like for Nightscape Press, I  finally finished the first draft of Exit Reality a couple of days ago. And what better way to celebrate a coming new release than with...well a new release?

Forcipules is my latest short story release for Kindle. Here's the description for it:

Ever since the local factory was destroyed by the meteorites, Edgar's been down on his luck and drunk. Marilyn wishes he'd just quit moping and look for a job. But that rock he brought home from the debris, it's got a secret. A creepy crawly secret with 15 pairs of legs.

As the town is taken over by something not of this world, Marilyn is the only one in her right mind to witness it. Can she do anything to stop them?

***This short story is an ode to the pulpy science fiction/horror stories of old. Not for the squeamish when it comes to bugs, particularly centipedes.***

You can get it for just 99 cents on Amazon US here: or Amazon UK here:

I took the time to read over the draft of Exit Reality last night to see how I felt about the story as a whole. I read it in one sitting and I hope that it has the same effect on my readers. After five years of researching and developing, three years of which before I even started wrting (and one failed attempt to start writing), and some of the most intimate self-examination I've ever done in any form of communication in my life, I now have an approximately 24,000 word novella that I think is the most intricate thing I've ever written. Combining horror, crime fiction, and science fiction, I think it's a big milestone in my evolution as a writer.

So between the drafting and editing process I should be able to release it into the wild fairly soon. And with that now mostly behind me I can truly focus on finishing Fading in Darkness: Empire of Blood Book Two. Look for more updates to come as things progress.

Monday, September 3, 2012

KillerCon cometh...

So... there's a lot in the works right now. A lot I haven't really touched on here in my blog yet. First of all as the title suggests I should probably mention that I'm going to be at KillerCon in Las Vegas September 20th through the 23rd. This will be Nightscape Press's first convention selling our own books. We'll be sharing a table with the great guys and gals of Blood Bound Books and hopping back and forth between our table and the Horror for Good table which will be selling--you guessed it--Horror for Good: A Charitable Anthology.

Now there's an interesting significance to this convention for me as it will be held at the Stratosphere Hotel. Anyone who's read my novel, Shining in Crimson, knows that the Stratosphere plays a very large role in my book. What many may not know however is that I've never really even set foot there. I did tons of research on the building when writing the book and in some cases filled in the blanks where my research couldn't reach. Us writers have to take some liberties with reality from time to time. If you hadn't noticed...

Shame of it is, I'm not going to this convention for my fiction. I might bring some books, but I'm not sure I'll even be comfortable putting them on the table. As a press owner and editor and self-published author, I keep my fiction separate from my press's titles. But that's a whole other story.

I'll also be at the Southern Festival of Books in Nashville along with Mark Scioneaux my fellow Horror for Good co-editor on the weekend of October 12th to the 14th. We'll have a session talking about Horror for Good and fiction for charity in general, that sort of thing.

And speaking of October, I'll be opening submissions on October first for an anthology I'll be editing all by my lonesome called BLOOD TYPE: AN ANTHOLOGY OF VAMPIRE SF ON THE CUTTING EDGE that will also be for charity. This time I've picked a charity called The Cystic Fibrosis Trust that's done a lot of great things to help out a friend of mine across the pond whose daughter has this terrible disease. I'll be aiming for an anthology of vampire fiction that is dark, original, and has a strong science fiction core or reveal much like I Am Legend by Richard Matheson and Necroscope by Brian Lumley, and Peter Watts's vampires in his novel Blindsight. I think it has the potential to be a very unique book and I hope any writers reading this will consider sending me a story to consider when subs open.

At the moment I'm pretty busy with editorial and press work, but I'm getting chunks of writing in between when I can. I'm working toward getting EXIT REALITY out within the next month or so and FADING IN DARKNESS: EMPIRE OF BLOOD BOOK TWO out before the end of the year. So if you're friends with me on Facebook and you see me screwing off, be sure and remind me I have books to get finished! I'll also be getting back to revising and finally finishing up a dusty old novella of mine called THE NESTING PLACE shortly after getting my other two books out. I've also decided that not only will I be writing a novelization of THE QUIET but all these questions about a sequel got my wheels turning and now it looks like I have an idea for a trilogy.

The sad thing about being a busy editor who writes: I suck at editing my own work. Line edits I do okay with, but when it comes to looking at my own work with an objective eye, I'm not so great, so I'm on the lookout for an editor. Ideally I'd like to find someone thorough who would be interested in swapping edits (in other words another busy editor who writes and sucks at editing their own work).

Anyway, this post is trailing off quite a bit, so I think I'll wrap it up. I want to thank those who have been emailing me (or messaging me otherwise) to let me know they've enjoyed my work. It means a lot to me. I can't wait to get more of this awful stuff out of my head and into the world for people to waste their time reading and hopefully enjoying.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Editing Services

For those who don't already know. I offer professional editing services for genre fiction writers at just about any level of their career. I've worked with new authors all the way up to award-winning and bestselling authors. I've added a new page to my blog particularly for those looking to learn more about my services. If you look in my list of page links up above you'll see it in a nice clear gray box that says "Editing Services." Or you can click the sneaky link I just made in that last sentence.

In other news, I'm getting back into the swing of making progress with Exit Reality and hope to have it released soon. I'll update more as that develops. In the meantime don't you people have things to do other than read my ongoing obnoxiousness? Smile and be happy and don't forget...


Friday, July 27, 2012

Big Sale!

This week, from today until next Friday, in celebration of absolutely nothing I've put my novel, Shining in Crimson on sale for 99 cents for the Kindle edition and $6.99 for the paperback edition! So, if you don't have it yet, or if you want to get it as a gift for a friend or family member, or maybe you have the Kindle edition and you'd like a nice pretty trade paperback copy to put on your bookshelf, here's your chance to get it for cheap. Feel free to spread the word to those out there in internet and/or really-real land.
As for those still waiting for Fading in Darkness, I wish I could give you better knews than this, but I'm still working on it when I get time. Unfortunately, lately, time is the most elusive of commodities for me. But I'm hoping to have the cover to reveal soon and some other work coming out in one form or another. I'll update in more depth soonish (if we're lucky that won't be my typical version of soonish, i.e. cobwebs on skeletons and such).

So, with that, I must be off. I only ask that if you enjoyed Shining in Crimson or any of my other works and would like to help spread the word please be so kind as to share the image below and the news of my week-long sale on your favorite social networking site, or with a friend you think might be interested, or print it out and wear it as a cape as you stroll through the city screaming out passages of my work if you so choose. Okay, maybe that's just a tee tiny bit over the top...maybe. But you get the idea. Until next time, thanks for reading and thanks for the support!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Did I Ever Tell You About The Time I Started A Publishing Company And Then Was Never Able To Get Anything Done?

So, I guess I should start this post out by admitting I was a little bit disappointed that the Kickstarter pretty much fizzled out. And between that and being piled over with freelance editing work and a large array of duties for Nightscape Press, I've pretty much put a slowdown on writing for both FADING IN DARKNESS and EXIT REALITY. Thanks to all I have going on, it seems every time I would come back to one or the other, I'd have to spend long periods of time rereading prior material just to figure out where the hell I was.

So, instead, I've been writing short stories. Not a ton mind you as I've not had much time even for them, but I've finished a few and have probably five or six partially finished. But I've been exploring some different things with these short stories. Anything from things in my life that I keep very close to myself all the way to weird off-the-wall concepts like alien centipedes taking over human bodies. Some of these stories are fun and some of them are the hardest things I've ever tried to write. Will these stories see the light of day? That's yet to be seen. I'm sending them out to various magazines and anthologies. One of these stories has been accepted. A flash story entitled THE LAST TIME I SAW MY BROTHER NATHAN will be appearing in the upcoming zombie anthology A QUICK BITE OF FLESH from Hazardous Press alongside several friends/authors I highly respect.

But alas it's come time for me to get back to work on my longer projects and I do plan on making EXIT REALITY my biggest writing priority. And then once it's done, FADING IN DARKNESS will take its place.

In other news, we at Nightscape Press have released our first three titles, A REQUIEM FOR DEAD FLIES by Peter N. Dudar, BUTTERFLY POTION by Trent Zelazny, and WORLD'S COLLIDER edited by Richard Salter. All three are amazing books I highly recommend anyone and every one consider checking out! In fact, A REQUIEM FOR DEAD FLIES has even already made the Horror Writers Association's Bram Stoker Award™ 2012 Reading List. Speaking of, another great title to have made this list is HORROR FOR GOOD: A CHARITABLE ANTHOLOGY edited by Mark C. Scioneaux, RJ Cavender, and myself and published by Cutting Block Press. We're all very excited to see these two titles make the list.

Anyway, that's what's been going on lately. Maybe one of these days I'll manage to update this thing more regularly and even get some books of my own out. Ha! Until then...

Sunday, May 27, 2012

FID Kickstarter Update

There's now only 4 days left of the Kickstarter for Fading in Darkness: Empire of Blood Book Two and The Rise of Caesar: An Empire of Blood Novella. I'm still rather far off from my goal, so if it sounds at all interesting any dollar amount pledged would be a big help. Since my last post I've added a $10 option as well. In case it doesn't get funded I have a contingency plan for the limited edition novella to still get produced and along with it other perks could be acquired. But it would mean that it would likely take me longer to get these things done.

Along with that news, I should mention that Shining in Crimson: Empire of Blood Book One is FREE for Kindle today (Sunday May 27th 2012) for those who come across the Kickstarter and do not know about the series and are interested in giving it a try (and of course anyone else who would like to give it a read).

So just in case you couldn't find the link to the Kickstarter in the last post...

Here's a link for you thats REALLY REALLY BIG just in case you didn't see it last time ;-)

And in case you missed the last post, here's a recap of what the Kickstarter's about:

Fading in Darkness: Empire of Blood Book Two and more...

In this second installment in the Empire of Blood series, Hank Evans is headed back to Necropolis, but this time he won't be running for his life...or will he?

Tensions between the American Empire and the vampires of Necropolis have risen to an all time high. With the Emperor threatening Toby's life, Hank's new position as the mediator has just been unofficially upgraded to Imperial spy. But his internal thirst for revenge and newfound sense of purpose can't stay hidden forever.

Hank must now find a way to release the hold the Emperor has over him in order to fight back. But an unexpected struggle will put him at odds with who he really is and who he has yet to truly become.

By donating to this project you get the opportunity to receive an early ebook copy of the upcoming novel, Fading in Darkness: Empire of Blood Book Two as well as the choice of some special prizes including an exclusive limited edition hardcover novella and interactive placement in the story itself. Or you can even have an Empire of Blood story written and bound just for you.

For a sneak peek at chapter one go to:

For those who haven't heard of the series the Kindle version of the first book, Shining in Crimson, will be FREE to download on for 3 days during this Kickstarter (Friday through Sunday: May 25th, 26th, and 27th). You can find the book here: as well as a free Empire of Blood short story here:

Praise for Shining in Crimson: Empire of Blood Book One:

"One of the best surprises I've had in a long while. Writing with a smart, self-assured ease, Robert S. Wilson has given us a gift with Shining in Crimson. Part Underworld, part Escape From New York, Shining in Crimson is genuinely frightening, genuinely thrilling, but above all, first-rate storytelling. I'm a Robert S. Wilson fan from now on!"--Joe McKinney, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of Flesh Eaters and Apocalypse of the Dead
"A big-scale vampire thriller that changes the rules."--Scott Nicholson, bestselling Kindle author of Liquid Fear, The Red Church, and They Hunger
"Robert S. Wilson shows a lot of promise here with this debut novel. Now it's time to see where that promise will take him."--Ray Wallace, The Chiaroscuro

"You'll not find some glistening torsos and smouldering eyes in this book. What you will find is a brilliantly thought out society of Vampires."--Jim Mcleod, Ginger Nuts of Horror

"The Mesh of Religious symbolism and political commentary tucked neatly between pure horror and suspense is superb."--Lisa Lane, The Cerebral Writer

"With well-fleshed characters, multiple storylines and a vampire history that makes sense, Shining in Crimson: (Empire of Blood #1) is a well-written horror novel. I am anticipating the second and third books in the series."--Trembles Horror Magazine
All time frames for perks listed are the latest estimation of when they will be received and may be ready sooner.

The money raised from this Kickstarter will go to paying for editing, artwork, and production of both the novel, Fading in Darkness, and the novella, The Rise of Caesar.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Big News in Empire of Blood land!

Click me to go to the Fading in Darkness: Empire of Blood Book Two and more Kickstarter!

I have some bad news and some good news. Now most people like to tell you the other way around. "Hey, let me tell you the good news so you'll be happy and maybe won't even feel the blow of that terribly nasty bad news I'll then unveil upon you with the cold chill of my sharpened claw." Me, that's not how I roll... Hell who am I kidding? I don't roll. Logic is typically my friend and hereby my reason for reversing the standard order of good news/bad news. So, on with it, here it is...

The Bad News...

Fading in Darkness: Empire of Blood Book Two will not be ready to publish by the end of this month as I had so strongly tried and hoped for it to.

*Cringes and backs away into a corner*

The Good News...

Fading in Darkness: Empire of Blood Book Two will be ready soon... and although some of you are sharpening your daggers and polishing your swords, loading the chambers of your muskets, testing the weight of your maces, and tempering the tension of your bowstrings, I have a truce of which I call to you!

What if in waiting for Fading in Darkness, I offered you something more than just a peek into the story? What if I could offer you an extra exclusive peek? One not everyone will get to see... What if I also offered for a very few the chance to step within those pages? To dwell in them for a time? And lastly, what if I also offered a chance at plucking someone from those pages and inserting them into other pages just for four solitary readers? Any character from the story... Because that is indeed what my good news foretells. The chance at opportunities like the ones I just referred to.

Although I am working hard on the novel, I've also been working on other projects. Some of which I have talked openly about, some of which I have not. Some time ago it came to my attention that there was a character within the pages of both SIC and FID who had a long past yet to be explained, possibly never fully explained within the story line of the full novels. From this loose thread the story started to weave itself before I could catch hold of it and return it neatly back to where it fell from. Before long I had way too much of a story to let go of. And a novella was born:

The Rise of Caesar: An Empire of Blood Novella.

But I wanted this novella to be something special. Something far different than the novels that gave birth to it. So, I decided it would be at least for now a bit of a limited affair. A limited exclusive hardcover to be more exact. Hence one of the biggest reasons for what I unveil today:

The "Fading in Darkness: Empire of Blood Book Two and more" Kickstarter.

The following perks can be earned based on how much you donate:

  • A pre-release ebook copy of Fading in Darkness: Empire of Blood Book Two
  • A signed paperback copy of Fading in Darkness: Empire of Blood Book Two
  • A signed limited hardcover copy of The Rise of Caesar: An Empire of Blood Novella exclusive to this Kickstarter.
  • The opportunity to have one of ten vampires in Fading in Darkness: Empire of Blood Book Two and possibly future Empire of Blood novels named after you or a name of your choosing.
  • The opportunity to become one of several new major characters introduced in Fading in Darkness: Empire of Blood Book Two. Your name, your likeness, aspects of your personality, etc.
  • Finally, I offer as a grand prize for up to four people to be given the opportunity to choose a character, any character from the series, and have a unique short story written including this character as the main character to be printed in a single bound chap book just for them and no one else.
And for those who have no clue what the hell I've been talking about this entire time--"Empire-of-what-the-fuck-are-you-talking-about???"--I will be setting the Kindle version of the first book in the Empire of Blood series, Shining in Crimson: Empire of Blood Book One FREE for three days during the Kickstarter (Friday through Sunday May 25th, 26th, and 27th). Speaking of dates, this Kickstarter started today and lasts until May 31st, 10:23AM EDT. That's only 14 days.

So there it is... the bad news and the good. I only hope that the good news was so awesome as to protect me from you throwing many, many rocks at me upon your reading the bad news!!! Thank you for wasting your valuable time reading my ridiculously long-winded over-explanatory blog post and good day.

Friday, April 13, 2012

It's Been One Hell of a Ride...

...and it's not over yet! And as usual I've been terribly neglectful of this dusty cobweb-covered shamble of a blog. So, I figure, why not sweep in with an epic update to end all updates. Well, not really all updates, but a ton's happened in the past few weeks. So much that the need to tell about it is bursting from my every pore. So here goes talky... or well, texty--bloggy? Whatever.

World Horror Convention 2012

I really had no idea what to expect when we started planning our trip to Salt Lake City late last year. Here I was, a convention super virgin about to cut my teeth at my first one. And not just cut my teeth so much as maybe saw myself in half more like it. Sure, most people go to their first horror convention as a fan, as an author looking to make connections... Mark Scioneaux, Jennifer Wilson, and myself... we go to our first convention to run the table for Horror For Good: A Charitable Anthology. We go to our first convention representing our own new publishing company Nightscape Press. Wait... let me back up here. I just need to get this out there so everyone knows and understands this:

(And it's coming soon to Kindle as well!)

Anyway, back to what I was saying--what's this about a new publishing company you ask? Nightscape Press has been in the works for some time (especially if you count the time it spent bouncing around in my head...). Nightscape Press is the result of everything I've learned as a self-published author, everything Mark and I learned putting Horror For Good together, everything I've learned over the years about the writing and editing process, all the experience and Honors English Jennifer Wilson has accumulated since before high school, and all of the marketing experimentation I've done in the past year or so all rolled up into a brand new dark fiction publishing company that focuses on variety in the genre and quality over quantity. Was that a sales pitch? Well, it wasn't meant to be. In fact, I should have posted about NSP over a month ago and as usual total blog fail is my default state. But not today. Today I make up for all that. Besides, I figured you folks at home would appreciate knowing what the hell I'm talking about when I start blabbing about NSP.

Da Plane! Da Plane!

So, to acquaint you with some history from my boring life, before WHC, I had only ever flown once. Well, twice if you count that it was a round trip and who really does, so never-effing-mind me--anyway... That was over 11 years ago. December 2000 was the one and only time I've been on a plane. Pre-911, Jacob hadn't even been born yet, Elexus was only a few years old, and Jen and I had only just met earlier that year. So, needless to say, I was a little nervous at the idea of flying. It wasn't exactly a terrible experience the first time or anything. Uncomfortable, yes. A little nerve wrecking and nauseating, yes. But not really horrifying or anything. 

I suppose the whole 911 thing adds a degree of anxiety, but if anything it's more in a symbolic way. From what I know of airport security from reading on the internet, a terrorist would be lucky if he could get on a plane in someone else's body with nothing even remotely weapon-like on his person. No, I had seen enough to know that terrorism was highly unlikely, especially when you consider I was going to Salt Lake City... (you can't terrorize that which is already terrorized...)

Mostly it's the whole going-way-the-fuck-up-into-the-sky thing. 

That pretty much sums it up. The idea that when you're up there, the ground is all the way down here and if the plane was to go down, grab all the floatation devices you like, hold on for dear life to that silly little seatbelt that might as well have come from a 1950's model Chevy, breathe in that pressure bag thingy as much as you like, put your head between your legs, kiss your ass goodbye, because nothing you can do will stop you from completely disintegrating into millions of tiny ashes and being put in a clumped-together list of names on a news report that most everyone will forget within a week. Yes, I'm always this filled with rays upon rays of sunshine up my ass just waiting to be released into the world.

So, I was a tad nervous on the flight. But there was a rainbow beyond the horrifying, flesh-melting, sky-toppling storm: Jennifer and myself would be meeting our business partner, my fellow editor of Horror For Good, and real and very genuine friend, Mark Scioneaux, for the very first time mid-flight. Now life can be strange sometimes. And other times it can get even stranger. But Mark and I have probably talked on the phone during the process of working on Horror For Good as well as the building of Nightscape Press more than a truckload of teenage girls, each with unlimited phone plans. We had honestly had an entire shitload of conversations on the phone and had we not Horror For Good and Nightscape Press wouldn't exist today. Quite frankly I'm a telephobe myself (aka I avoid answering my cell phone like the plague), but it quickly proved far more efficient for us to talk on the phone to get things done. 

Anyway, I digress... You talk to someone that much on the goddamn phone and you really get to know them. Is that a true substitution for getting to know someone in person? No, but Mark and I certainly became very close friends throughout our extensive phone and Facebook conversations. So, when you meet someone in person who you've been talking to that much, who you've accomplished that much with, in person, it's a truly surreal experience. I have to admit the plane ride from there was a little awkward at first. But it didn't last. You get a distorted perception of what someone's really like in the really-real world when you've only known them online and over the phone. So it takes a short bit for reality to obliterate and replace what was in your head all that time. 

Not to mention that motherfucker is TALL! Like nearly-bumping-his-head-on-the-ceiling-of-the-goddamn-airplane tall.

So the ride from Denver to Salt Lake City was a little bumpy, but we made it just fine. We got off the plane, got our bags (one got a little banged up), and we were outside and ready to smoke (Jen and I anyway). And who do we happen to see about to get into a cab, but none other than Horror For Good contributor, (then) future stoker-winning author, and our personal friend Joe McKinney! Yet another amazing moment getting to finally shake Joe's hand and meet him in person. He truly is an incredible and humble guy. But apparently the cabbie wasn't a fan of us introducing ourselves right then and was in a rush to head off so we had to say goodbye for the time being. 

It wasn't until we were in the cab that we got to see the mountains. You hear people talk about how beautiful the mountains are and you're like, "Yeah, yeah, large chunks of earth higher than everything else... blah, blah, blah," and then you see them and you're like, "Dear Christ!" (A statement I'm pretty sure comes with a penalty of death in Salt Lake City.)

So, we get to the hotel and of course it wouldn't be the World Horror Convention if you didn't run into the HWA President himself, Mr. Rocky Wood! Rocky actually contributed a very well-written foreword for Horror For Good that touched on the history of the horror story and the natural combination of charity and horror fiction.

After that we went to our room, took a load off for a while, and unveiled the cover to Trent Zelazny's amazing upcoming novella, Butterfly Potion on Facebook. Coming soon from none other than Nightscape Press. (I'm really honestly not trying to sell NSP to anyone here. Honest!)
We were also excited to find that our postcards for World's Collider (yes, another upcoming Nightscape Press title, an apocalyptic anthology edited by Richard Salter) had made it into the World Horror Convention goodie bags!

With that done, we were off to try out the local cuisine at a place called The Red Iguana which had been recommended by my old friend Marvin and Mark had found it in a list of places that had been on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives.. It was a bit of a walk but one of the most unique Mexican restaurants I've ever eaten at (and here in Tennessee there's a Mexican restaurant on every block, Mexican restaurants across the street from Mexican restaurants--they're apparently Tennessee's equivalent to Starbucks. Yes we have lots of those here too, but still more Mexican restaurants.) 

I'm honestly not going to go over every last little thing that happened at the World Horror Convention or I would never finish this blog post, so I'll just recap the highlights as they come to mind and go from there. That is... if you're still awake... or even still reading this page... hello? You still there?

Day one was a Thursday so it was pretty uneventful. Very few tables were set up yet and Boyd and R.J. (from Cutting Block Press the publisher for Horror For Good, R.J.'s also the other editor for Horror For Good in case you've been living in a box or happened upon this post while searching for examples of ridiculously long parenthetic asides) hadn't arrived. Later that night was the Cutting Block Press party which went pretty well. Save for the fact that I woke up late that night with the biggest headache ever and couldn't stay asleep most of the night (the excuse I'm sticking with is the combination of altitude sickness and trying Tequila for the first time). So, I ended up sleeping through a chunk of Friday. 

Then Jen and I went to eat lunch at a local burger joint and happened upon Joe McKinney again and this time we had lunch with him. (Again, Joe, I'm sorry I wasn't very sociable, I was still pretty hungover/sick/whatever from whatever hit me the night before.) Meanwhile, Mark ran the HFG table and apparently all the really cool stuff happened throughout that whole chunk of time. Go figure. We had several proof copies of Horror For Good at the convention and were able to get all the authors that were at WHC who had contributed works to the anthology as well as us three editors to sign them and raffled one of them off over the weekend. The other copies will be going to future conventions to be raffled as well and to get any more authors' signatures that we don't already have. 

Later that night there were actually three separate parties. We stopped by each and when we arrived at the Evil Jester Press party we managed to make it just in time for it to be closed down by the hotel due to hallway traffic. Apparently this happened with the other parties at some point throughout the night and the party kept moving. I wouldn't know. Still feeling like my stomach had been pulled through my brain, I went to bed early that night. Yes, I'm old. Please stop laughing at me.

Saturday Jen and I ran the HFG table for most of the day. It was much slower than Friday, but we sold some raffle tickets, heard a couple of pitches for Nightscape Press, and met lots of interesting people. That afternoon we managed to get into the only panel we were able to attend during the weekend with Marc Ciccarone. The panel was about music in horror. Then we ran the table for a while longer and waited to do our interview for Horror Library Radio. We also stopped by the mass signing and had Joe McKinney sign a couple of books for us and C.W. LaSart too. When the time came to do the interview, we had very little time before the Bram Stoker Awards and I managed to completely screw up my part. Again, go figure. 

We sat out of the Stokers. I would have liked to have gone, but I didn't have a suit and with all the other last minute arrangements we had to make before the convention we decided not to take the extra time to get one, so we passed on it for this year. Instead, the three of us and Andy Taylor went out to see the Temple, Mark had a long philosophical discussion with strangers, and then we had a nice meal at the mall.

The Stoker after party was pretty cool. Lots of people. We ended up hanging out with some new friends like Marc Ciccarone, Theresa Dillon, C.W. and Louis LaSart, David Hayes, Rena Mason (one of the authors in Horror For Good), Charles Day of Evil Jester Press, Andy Taylor and a ton of others.

I was especially happy to learn that Joe McKinney, Rocky Wood, and Richard Matheson each won a Bram Stoker Award that night. Having met Joe and Rocky in person I can say that they are both fantastic individuals and of course Matheson is one of my favorite writers of all time. His short novel I am Legend of which the feature film is (supposedly) based on won for Vampire novel of the Century, a new award given out for the first time this year. 
A lot of people left during Sunday. There weren't many tables open including ours. Turns out that night had the most interesting party (in my opinion). I'll just leave that one at that. All in all a lot of cool networking was done and a lot of interesting future prospects were set in motion for both Horror For Good, Nightscape Press, and Cutting Block Press. We also raised $223 for amfAR from the raffle tickets sold. And lots of new friends were made.

Long story short, on Tuesday we had a very long and frightening flight back to Nashville. But we made it safely and it was nice to be back home with the kids. 

And since we've been home: 
For those of you who don't know, Jen's mother has Multiple Sclerosis and every year we try to do our local chapter's MS Walk. The MS Walk raises money for the MS Society. This year we're going to be giving away a free signed paperback copy of Shining in Crimson to anyone who donates $15 or more through our team link. We have a total of 8 copies left. So, please consider donating to this very needy cause by clicking here.

(Oh and I'll also throw in a World's Collider and a Horror For Good postcard with each copy.)

Well, I think that's it for now. If I write anymore I think my fingers might fall off... All in all it's been one hell of a ride and like I said before, it's not over yet.

The Mid South Chapter of the National MS Society is a community of individuals who are committed to achieving a world free of MS. The Chapter helps over 8,800 individuals throughout Tennessee, northern Georgia, northern Mississippi and eastern Arkansas impacted by MS to move their lives forward. We provide comprehensive support services and educational programs to people with MS, their family and friends, and raise funds locally to support the National MS Society’s research initiatives.

Horror For Good is a charitable anthology. All revenues, less direct costs for production, marketing and distribution (net profits of each purchase, estimated to be at least 10% to 15%) will be donated to amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research. For more information on amfAR, please visit:

Friday, March 23, 2012

Fading in Darkness: Empire of Blood Book Two (first 5 chapters)

In this second installment in the Empire of Blood series, Hank Evans is headed back to Necropolis, but this time he won't be running for his life... or will he?

Tensions between the American Empire and the vampires of Necropolis have risen to an all time high. With the Emperor threatening Toby's life, Hank's new position as the mediator has just been unofficially upgraded to Imperial spy. But his internal hunger for revenge and newfound sense of purpose can't stay hidden forever.

Hank must now find a way to release the hold the Emperor has over him in order to fight back. But an unexpected struggle will put him at odds with who he really is and who he has yet to truly become. Especially when his dreams begin to reveal a terrifying future.

And when the city of the dead goes up in flames, and the vampires of Necropolis are forced to flee to the Queen's hive, there is no turning back from civil war.


Download mobi version of first five chapters

Fading in Darkness

Empire of Blood Book Two

Fading in Darkness: Empire of Blood Book Two
Copyright © 2013 Robert S. Wilson
All rights reserved.
Cover artwork by Elena Helfrecht

For Vickie

Part One
To Heed Warning

Chapter 1
The Assistant

The bastards had starved Jack for months. They'd kept him in the isolation of his cell without any blood. It was bad enough before, just the isolation, but the blood had kept him centered. It was good blood. Not quite as innocent as he would prefer, but it still kept him strong. Then, one day, the Imperial sentry just stopped bringing it, stopped coming around at all. It was now July and nothing but silence had accompanied Jack since April.
He focused in on the rough gray concrete and watched as a huge, panicked crowd of hundreds of thousands of microorganisms scattered at random across its surface. He heard the faint reverberated tapping of shoes against concrete somewhere on the floor above him. He followed them in his mind's eye as they entered the elevator. A clump of dirty shoulder-length hair fell from behind his ear as he listened. Whoever it was seemed to be coming down to his floor. The elevator door closed and the smell of human blood almost put him in shock as footsteps slowly became louder and louder. Then, for the first time in almost four months, he heard the peephole screech open.
"Cellmate number 536637?"
Jack looked up at the faint glow of light, his entire eyes black with bloodlust. "It bloody-hell sure won't be anybody else, now will it, you fucking prat?"
The sentry sighed and went silent, save for his heart seemingly jack hammering in Jack's ear.  "The Emperor would like a word with you. You're to be transported to a safe room to be briefed."
So that's why they'd starved him. Jack wouldn't be much of a threat if he didn't have any strength.
"Well, you can sod off and tell the Emperor that he can bloody well fuck himself silly! And while you're at it, get me some goddamn blood." He might not have any strength, but Jack Draper always had plenty of spirit.
The peephole scraped shut and the sound of nervous echoing footsteps faded away. Jack knew when he had the upper hand in a situation, he'd seen it happen enough the past 500 or so years. He could smell it just like he could smell the blood in their veins. He caught himself then, biting his own arm again. He lapped up the two little crimson bubbles beginning to build and run down the small of his elbow. Fucking prats, the lot of them, he'd break even with them soon enough. The next bloody one of them to open that ear-piercing fucking peephole would regret it.
But days went by and no one came. After the fifth day, he started to have doubts about the overpowering smell of bullshit and fear that had come from the last sentry. He went back to counting as he often did at times of lengthy boredom. 1,453,456. 1,453,457. 1,453,458—the sound of the elevator distracted him as it neared his floor. He came to immediate attention as something snapped in his senses.
He could smell her. She couldn't have been any more than six years old. She was with him. He'd smelled that strange mix of aging human and ancestor blood enough times now to recognize it was accompanied by the Emperor. So much for transporting him.  But why the little girl? She was frightened, but trusting. He could smell that too. His sense of smell had always been strong but he was pretty sure it had more than doubled since he'd been stuck in this cell.
The peephole screeched that deathly pitch again and light spilled into the room in a thin, rectangular beam that spread across the floor of the cell and blinded Jack's eyes for a second.
"Ah... Mr. Draper. Nice to see you're still getting along."
"Sod off."
"Now, now, Mr. Draper. Weren't you ever taught it's unwise to bite the hand that feeds?" The Emperor's voice was scratchy, but with a hint of playfulness to it.
"Your bloody torturing me, aren't you? That's why you brought that lamb along, eh? Well, I can take it. I've starved a lot longer in shittier caves than this fucking rat hole."
"Mr. Draper, I have no intention of... torturing you. Quite the opposite. You see, I've come to offer you this young lamb as a gift. A sort of down payment. And if you'll be so kind as to hear what I have to offer, I think you'll find this gift to be quite a small offering indeed. At least, compared to what I'm willing to offer overall. Would you be willing to hear me out now, Mr. Draper?"
Jack was biting his arm again, trying to fight back the thirst. She was so innocent. So precious and innocent. And all he had to do was say yes, and even if the Emperor didn't plan to give her to him, he would take her. All he needed was for that slimy old bastard to open the door. The smell of death on him was almost as strong as the blood of that innocent child. It wasn't a smell Jack had ever noticed from any other living human.
"You see, Mr. Draper, I'm in need of a new assistant. I'm finding it hard to find someone loyal enough to do everything I tell them without letting their own emotions get in the way, but I think—"
"Piss off! You and I both know good and well you're no god. You'll get no bloody loyalty or worship from me."
"Mr. Draper, I never said I was looking for a new acolyte. I have plenty of followers. I need an Assistant. And a loyal one. You needn't believe in my divinity to be loyal. It's very simple, actually; you do what I say to the letter and I provide you with more like her. Many more like her."
Jack had torn a gash out of his arm as he listened to the Emperor’s words. He pulled his teeth from the wound and concentrated on the pain as his flesh began to heal. He was hungry enough to drain them both and thirst for more but something about that dead smell coming from the Emperor held him back. It was revolting. Human blood couldn't always be as precious as the rare, delectable drink of the innocent, but it was barely ever revolting.
He found himself nearly as intrigued as he was hungry.
"And precisely what is it your assistant does, Mr. Emperor, sir?"
"A great many things. Not the least which would be killing. Lots of killing. Would you say you're suited for such a job, Mr. Draper?"
"Bloody hell if I'm not. I suppose you've done some digging, or else you wouldn't be knocking on my sodding door, eh?"
"Yes. I did indeed choose you with a certain criteria in mind. What do you say, Mr. Draper? Do we have a deal? All the innocent blood you can handle in exchange for being my loyal assistant?"
Jack leapt at the door and put his arm through the peephole, stretching the metal opening. But his hand grasped empty air and an even stronger arm grabbed hold of his own and snapped it clean at the elbow. Pain exploded from his dangling limb as he stood stuck against the door.
"Nice try, Mr. Draper. As you can see, I am certainly not in need of a bodyguard. I can protect myself just fine. What I do need is an assistant. And if you value your life, I'd suggest you take my offer before I take the pulse from your throat."
Jack didn't understand. He had moved with the same speed as if he hadn't been starved but still it hadn't been enough. It took all the strength he had left and now he was spent. And still the hunger coursed through him, making him quiver at the smell of the child's blood. The Emperor held his arm in that broken position, preventing it from healing.
"All right, all right, I'll fucking do it, you fucking bastard."
The Emperor released his arm at once and let out a sigh. "You see, Mr. Draper? There wasn't any need for all that show of opposition, now was there?"
For once in his long life, Jack held his tongue. When his arm finished healing, he pulled it back into the cell and rubbed it where the break had been mere seconds before. He heard an array of mechanical workings from within the door. Then, they were abruptly cut short by a single echoing thunder of metal as the door visibly shifted from its locked position.
Although Jack had set aside his ambitions to escape and would actually give this deal a chance, he couldn't help having an impulse to try and take a bite out of the Emperor while he had the chance. The door slid open and the Emperor walked in without a hint of fear or concern. The little girl appeared to be in some sort of trance as she played with a porcelain doll in a red dress and matching sandals.
Jack watched her with black, watering eyes and his mouth went even drier with thirst. The Emperor leaned down and whispered into the girl's ear. She looked up at Jack and smiled. Jack shivered. She was so innocent. She was made even more innocent by the fact that she was oblivious to the danger surrounding her.
Jack knelt down before her and reached his hand out to her. Her smile grew and she laid her tiny hand in his. He gripped it gently and spoke.
"Now, what might your name be, little lass?"
"Samantha," she said then looked at the floor shyly. She began to sway back and forth, still grinning all the while. So much life in her. So precious. It was taking everything he had now to hold back. But that's when he saw it. She looked up at the Emperor as if for approval and Jack could see then that he did have her in a trance.
"Well, it was nice meeting you, Samantha. Do come back and visit some time." He turned away stiffly then and walked toward the corner of the room to show his denial of the Emperor's offering.
"What are you waiting for, Mr. Draper? Isn't she just what you've wanted all these years you've been cooped up in here?" A good deal of impatience was slipping into the Emperor's voice now.
"She is, but I won't have you brainwashing my food, eh?"
There was a loud scream from the little girl and before Jack could react, he heard a snap and the screaming went silent. He turned to see the girl's body lying lifeless in the middle of the floor and the Emperor standing over her and staring at Jack with equally black eyes. His anger at what the man had just done overwhelmed his curiosity as to whether the Emperor really was a man at all.
He leapt at the Emperor, going right for his throat. Before he could come anywhere near him,  he felt two clawed hands grab hold of him and thrust him back into the concrete wall of his cell. The Emperor stood there holding Jack against the wall and staring right into his face.
"I'm not usually a believer in second chances, Mr. Draper. But I'm willing to make an exception with you.
"I'll be back... eventually. Enjoy your little hunger strike while it lasts and I'll bring you another offering when the time is right. For now, remember this: I could have killed you twice and yet I have not. I have great confidence that we'll be able to work together, but I will only bend so far."
He let go of Jack and straightened up his white robe, brushing it off and loosening his stance. "Good day, Mr. Draper." Jack slid down the wall holding his ribs. Caesar turned and walked out of the cell, taking care to step over the young girl's body as he went. The thick metal door closed behind him, returning the cell to its original state of complete darkness. He was sure then. The Emperor was definitely not human.

Chapter 2
The Mediators

Hank knelt down in the mud watching the rain pelting Diana's headstone. His eyes weighed heavy with moisture from a mixture of rain, tears, and lack of sleep. He traced the letters of her name, his index finger, sliding against the wet granite. He felt the grief build up in him again and before he could stop it, he started to weep. A chill in the air momentarily reminded him of the outside world again.
There was a time when he wanted to leave this life behind. But now, he had a new sense of purpose. He would do whatever he could to bring an end to the American Empire. The Emperor, then a powerful leader of the Coalition of Christian Militias, had led a civil war against the United States. He convinced over four million American Christians that the second coming had occurred and he was the son of God.
Hank wasn't sure he could pull it off. But he knew now that the Emperor had a weakness. He'd known it ever since they met. It was the strangest of circumstances. By all rights, Hank should have been dead before that night. Yet, somehow he managed to survive. Along with 12 other men, he'd been sentenced to die in Necropolis. Lucky 13. For 20 years the Empire had been sending anyone caught breaking the criminal or moral laws to the city of vampires.
He stood up, wiping the mixture of tears and rain from his face. Then, he shook out his mop of dark, wet hair, feeling somewhat lighter than when he'd arrived. There was something freeing about doing this from time to time, letting out the longing for a moment or so.
Hank looked back at the Empire-assigned Buick parked at the edge of the grass, waiting for him. Being the only human to ever escape Necropolis alive had landed him a job with better pay and benefits than he could have ever imagined. Too bad it required him to work for the Emperor and go back to that place. The job was Imperial Mediator to Necropolis. The Mediator dealt with vampire/Empire relations. No one in their right mind wanted it.
All of the former mediators were now dead, in one form or another. The most recent, he learned up close and personal, was now a vampire himself. These were not good odds. However, Hank had managed to make a sort of alliance with the head vampire of the city. That, he hoped, would help to smooth things over for him. Besides, even if he didn't want to, he needed to go back. The vampires were the only ones he knew in large numbers who might have the power and desire to help him.
As Hank pulled into the driveway he could see Toby on the porch reading a book. He wondered then, how long would it be before the Empire took even those? A large number of titles from the past had already been taken or censored. New works to be published all had to be approved by the Imperial Communications Commission. He got out of the car, walked up to the porch, and watched his son for a long moment. Toby sat, immersed in his book, seeming not to notice his father.
"Hey," Hank said. Toby jumped then looked up at Hank, his eyes narrow.
"You could've let me know you were there before freaking me out," Toby said.
"What? Didn't you hear the car?"
"Yeah, I thought it was across the street."
"I wish you would've gone with me this morning."
Toby put a slip of orange paper in his place and closed the book. "I wish you would go see what Diana left for you." Toby glared at Hank then walked across the porch and into the house, slamming the front door as he went. Hank wanted to tell him why he couldn't go. But, he really had no choice. Even if the Emperor didn't kill his son, as he promised he would if Hank told anyone, Toby would be in danger if he knew. Hank sighed.
It was a problem he couldn't seem to find a way around. How would he warn Ishan? How would he fight back if his enemy could see and hear his every move? The Emperor implanted a device in his body that wirelessly linked his eyes and ears to the Emperor's personal terminal. Everything Hank did was being recorded. What chance did he have?
He walked into the house, straightening the clutter as he came through the living room. As usual, Toby's door stood shut and probably locked as well. Hank set his keys down in the tray. Then he sat down on the couch and laid his head back, closing his eyes. Something, he thought, something has to give.

* * *

As the first star of night sparked into life about a thousand miles away, the city of Necropolis was beginning to stir. Like the automatic gates in prisons, long since obsolete, each titanium door in the underground nest made a thunderous sound as it opened. All along the silver hallways of the custom-built underground bunker, human vampires of all shapes and sizes emerged. As with any other city, some had jobs to go to, some had errands to run, and some enjoyed doing nothing at all. But unlike other cities, all of them awoke at precisely the same second.
The same exact second the doors were programmed to open. And they weren't alone. The Ancestors woke at this same time every morning, too. The Ancestors, being natural vampires, had given the human vampires the gift of immortality. Those who saw it as a gift anyway.
For Simon Withers, the matter was still undecided. He sat up at the foot of his bed, rubbing his eyes. He remembered bitterly, as he did every evening upon waking, how much his life had changed. He was still conflicted as to how much of this change was good and how much was bad. He saw familiar faces walk by here and there outside his door. More than a few of them looked in and nodded in the way the human undead do. Incredibly fast and impersonally. For immortal creatures, they sure worried a lot about time management.
Simon knew he was likely the only one still in his quarters. The memory of changes brought a wave of despair again. Ishan had said there would be a grieving period. Simon had experienced Ishan's grieving period himself. That was how he knew that his was different. Of course, Ishan knew now, too. The two were still psychically linked. This was now nearly unbearable to the both of them. Simon wondered if any two people could ever get used to being in each other's head all the time.
For him, Ishan's constant worrying about the city and the Queen made it impossible to think. Yet, Simon knew for Ishan, his regular first reaction to anything vampire, like a child with a bitter taste in its mouth, actually waned the ancient vampire's patience. Not much else could do that. After thousands of years of living, your knack for patience can get pretty big.
Time to snap out of it, Simon. I need you to actually show up to the council meeting tonight. Ishan's voice sounded exhausted inside Simon's head. But of course he knew all too well why. He couldn't escape knowing, even if he wasn't locked inside Ishan's thoughts. Nearly half of the vampires had been working on the project for over a week. Ever since he became a member of the council himself.

* * *

Her eyes were red again. He'd dreamed about her for days and each time her eyes had been the same. Sometimes she was herself, sometimes she was Rachel. Either way, in the dreams, Diana's eyes always looked the same. He didn't understand it. Diana's eyes had been brown, Rachel's green. He had only seen one vampire before with red eyes: Ishan.
Wiping the sleep from his eyes, Hank wondered again how he would pull off telling Ishan anything. He got up from the bed and stepped into the bathroom. He closed the bathroom door behind himself and leaned his back against it, listening. When a moment of silence passed, Hank opened the secret door, his hand trembling on the handle. Light spilled from inside, revealing dozens of small plastic vials full of thick black vampire blood. Hank took one with both hands and held the top to his nose. The smell sent chills of pleasure down his spine.
He was about to take a drink when the bedroom door outside the bathroom creaked. Hank chugged the red liquid. Then he replaced the vial and closed the secret door faster than human eyes could have seen. The moment the blood touched his tongue, all senses heightened to the extreme. Only, now he knew how to tune them to his will. The imperial training helped with that. How the Emperor had even known about the blood when even the vampires of Necropolis hadn't was still a mystery.
If it hadn't been for Hank accidentally drinking the blood of an ancestor in the first place, the vampires would still be in the dark. Hank was too bloodthirsty to find humor in his own pun. He attuned his inhuman hearing to the next room. Toby's heart beat faster than normal. Hank stood still, listening. Keeping his secret addiction and powers from the boy had been proving more and more difficult lately.
Papers shuffled in the next room, followed by the opening and closing of drawers. Footsteps tapped against the hardwood floor of the bedroom toward the bathroom door. Hank locked the door in a silent flash. The knob jiggled for a second and then stopped abruptly. The boy's heartbeat doubled. Then his faint voice came to life through the door.
"D-Dad? Are you in there?"
Hank almost tried to pretend he wasn't there, but didn't have the patience to do so. "Yes, what do you need, Toby?"
"Oh, nothing, Dad. I was just trying to figure out where you were."
His heartbeat told otherwise.
Hank knew all too well what he was looking for. Toby had been trying desperately for days to find something to explain why his father was behaving so differently than normal. Why his father had become more concerned about his job as the Imperial Mediator to Necropolis than receiving the last message from his dead, beloved wife. Why his father had been attending the Imperial Church lately and immersing himself in Caesar's Bible, the official holy book of the Empire, half written by Emperor Caesar himself. Why his father spent long hours studying history books on the subject of empires from the past. It was like he'd become a different person literally overnight. Ever since he went to that ceremony to be "blessed." He came home that day a changed man. Toby probably wondered if the "blessing" had included some sort of brain-washing as well.
"Okay, Toby. I'll be out shortly."
"All right, Dad. Don't fall in." Toby's heartbeat relaxed a little and his voice was back to its old self. He still was the same boy Hank had raised and loved for the past 16 years. Just confused. Hank knew what he was doing was tearing his boy apart, but there was no other way to protect him. Not yet, anyway. When the bedroom door shut and Toby's footsteps faded toward the front of the house, Hank let out the breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding.
Two days left. Two days to figure out the impossible.

Chapter 3
The Second Offering

The days had gone by one after another and still all Jack could think about was that precious little girl. The way her golden curls framed her face and her warm, vibrant skin. But most of all he remembered the sound of her heart beating and the smell of that rich innocent blood flowing through every vein in her body. He could even remember the look of those veins as the blood pumped through them behind her skin. With every image seared into his brain, every sense she had affected, he felt the hunger tear through him even more.
He'd lost count of how many days had went by since the Emperor had brought her, but he knew they were adding up. As was the case with starvation, his pale skin had sunken into his bones. He could even feel his ribs poking through the flesh of his chest and stretching it slightly. He lay in the darkness thinking of that beautiful child for at least the hundredth time that day. At first they had left the body in his cell to rot. The smell of death didn't quite affect his kind as it did humans, but it certainly wasn't a pretty perfume, either.
After several days went by, a cleanup crew of sentries finally entered the room and removed her, leaving the place as though she'd never even been there. Never even existed. By then Jack had lost the last of his strength and had no choice but to smell their blood as they cleaned up the remains. He could barely lift his own fingers, let alone lunge at the sentries with the strength it would take to kill or even get a taste of them.
After they'd left he found himself weeping, yet no tears would come. If he ever did get the chance, he'd decided, he would take the Emperor's offer without any fuss. He only knew he needed blood and needed it soon. He'd never went this long without any at all, and wasn't sure how long he could last this way. He was wondering when he would get his second chance when that sodding elevator started up again.
Every time it moved up or down that little glimmer of hope lit up within him, and he'd be damned if he'd let it spark into life now. But there it was in the back of his mind. Brilliantly luminescent and shiny. As the elevator neared his floor he cringed weakly with the little bit of muscles still working within his face. Would it stop this time? Or, just like every other time, would it move on and leave him to starve. He'd seen centuries go by quicker than those moments. Time stood still and held him over the edge of a cliff towering over a boiling sea of lava.
When the elevator latched into place, the sound of metal on metal echoing throughout the outer hallway, Jack hardly realized it to be true. He was so used to it moving on at this point that he could hardly rationalize why it would stop. He heard the door open with an excruciating clarity. Then came the smell again.
Innocent blood.
It was him, all right. Sodding bastard. And this time he'd brought an even sweeter prize to offer Jack. The hunger was giving him a second wind he hadn't realized to be possible. He was almost able to sit up.
The peephole screeched open, tearing through Jack's sensitive ears. Light spilled into the room and Jack could see those stale lips within the thin rectangular slot. There was a long pause and then the Emperor began to speak.
"Mr. Draper, how wonderful to see you again. I do hope this time we meet under more mutually beneficial circumstances. I trust you smell the offering of which I have brought and are able to appreciate the value it exhibits. But I think, once you've heard me out, Mr. Draper, you will find this offer to be much more to your liking in more than just one way."
While the Emperor paused for what Draper knew to be dramatic effect, Draper smelled exactly what the Emperor was talking about. He could smell the fear in them. This elicited even greater excitement in him than the precious girl the Emperor had brought before. But there was another who felt no fear and Jack was at a loss to understand the entire bargain the Emperor was about to explain.
"Good, I can hear your brain working with excitement. Good, indeed. Curious are you... as to why I've brought their mother?"
Jack could only let out a small whimper in reply but that was all that was needed.
"Yes, I am most proud of what I have prepared today. You see, Jack, the mother, as I'm sure you can already smell, is under a spell much like the young lamb I brought before. Consider her your daily ration... your main course, if you will. But the true prize, the dessert, I'm sure you know, is her twin daughters."
With that Jack could hear the hearts of both little girls beat madly in their chests. Oh, the precious blood those tiny organs must pump through their sweet, innocent little bodies.
"I'm going to open the door and let the mother in. She has been instructed to come to you and do whatever is necessary so that you may regain your strength. I will be leaving the door open. And to make it more to your liking, Mr. Draper, I've decided to take the girls with me. If you can hunt us down and take them from me, you shall have your first taste of the bigger picture that I truly have to offer you."
Jack nearly choked on the saliva building up in his mouth. He longed for the hunt almost more than he longed for the innocent blood coursing through those precious girls standing behind that door. The gears within the thick metal door turned and a deep thud resonated through the walls and the metal bed beneath Jack. Yellow, blinding light filled the room as multiple footsteps echoed in varying speeds along the walls. One set came calmly toward him as another sped away from the doorway.
Other layers of sound and senses overwhelmed Jack so that he was nearly void of awareness for a moment. Then her delicate skin touched his lips and he felt the vibration of it as she spoke to him.
As she pressed her throat against his open mouth, Jack put all of his being into pressing his fangs into her flesh. It was slow at first but as soon as the skin was punctured and the first drop of blood touched his tongue, his sense of strength renewed with every taste of her. Before long he was gripping the back of her head and the blood flowed evenly. He could feel her body lighten as he drained her more and more. It had been over 15 years since he drank from the source and of course the thirst was now stronger than he'd ever known it to be.
He cast the body aside as he leapt to his feet. His senses were on full alert and every cell in his body was alive. With his thirst abated, now he could savor the hunt. He lunged through the door and pounded his feet against the concrete floor of the hall in the direction he'd heard the Emperor's footsteps lead. Not a second's thought went into opening the elevator door in the traditional manner as he sped toward it. It grew before him as he reared his shoulder forward to ram through it with brute force.
As he crumpled into the thick titanium elevator doors, he remembered just how secure every unit of construction within this place had always been. The collision sent a rupture of pain through his arm and side. He slid down to the floor still moving with the momentum that had thrown him at it.
After a moment of dizziness, he flung himself upward and grabbed at the place where the two doors met in the middle. His claws pressed into the thin crack between them and stretched the opening slightly further. Pressure pushed against his fingers where his claws attached to the flesh. The pressure became pain and his claws were near to breaking from his fingers when he finally managed to gain passage for his fingertips.
Fingertips led to knuckles. Knuckles led slowly and painfully to more of his fingers until finally he had enough of his hands inside to grip. Then, he started to pull with his arms, so that the doors would move away from each other. At first they stood firmly still, but with time and focus they began to budge like glaciers in the sea. The opening exposed more dull gray features from inside the elevator, only these were of a different texture than the rest of what he had seen inside the hallways and his cell.
Seeing inside the doors encouraged his strength and will and he pulled harder with more focus, creating a gap wide enough he could have fit his arm into. After a moment of even more focus and pulling with all of his strength, he had the doors open with enough of a gap to fit in sideways. He let go with his right hand and twisted his body fast enough to catch hold of the door and then wedged himself through. As soon as he was in the elevator the doors slammed back together and an alarm sounded within the tiny space. Red lights flashed all over the control panels.
Jack tried typing instructions on the keypad along the right side of the doorway, but nothing happened in return save for the monotonous screaming and flashing of the alarm. In frustration, Jack swung his fist full on into the control panel, shattering it like glass. Silver shrapnel shot out in all directions and sparks flew as electricity hissed from inside the hole that had been the panel.
He reached his hand inside the hole and felt the pressurized jolt of electricity flowing through his body. It barely slowed him as he pulled his hand back from the opening with a handful of wires and metal. The alarm stopped, but still the elevator sat still. Jack looked up at the ceiling and could see the vulnerability he had been looking for.
He flung himself upward with all of his might and slammed through the thin sheet of metal that covered the top of the elevator car. Dozens of thick cords, which usually held the elevator as it went up and down the shaft, reached upward and downward deep into the darkness. He grabbed two of them and immediately pulled himself upward toward the mixed scent of his prize and the Emperor's musky dead odor.
He pressed his feet into the side of the elevator shaft as he continued to pull on the cords, sending himself upward at an incredible rate of speed. Friction had long ago warmed his feet to the point of pain, but he was determined to find his prey. His momentum and the scent of them grew in a cycle; each one pushing the other further on. He glanced back in a flash as he passed another floor. A quick sniff of the air told him to continue upward.
Several more floors up and the smell was overwhelming. A sense of gleeful anticipation grew within him and he held it back so when the time was right he could let it explode. He knew as he climbed beyond it, the next floor was the last one he would have to pass. He looked upward at the elevator doors protecting the entryway to the floor he desperately needed inside. When he was at just the right distance he leapt backwards in an upward somersault. His body moved through the air with an elegance most figure skaters would kill to emulate. This time, although he was sure it would hurt insanely, he knew he was blasting through that door. He envisioned it and his muscles prepared for the shock of the coming collision.
His momentum combined with gravity managed to slam him into the door with enough force to bend the doors inward and give him something to grab hold of. His feet planted on the thin flap of flooring where the doors were bent inward. He pushed forward and leaned his weight into the doors. The doors stretched open more. He swung into the opening feet first.
When his feet were in, he only had to use his hands to pull the rest of his body through. Once inside, he assessed his surroundings. He was in a gray hallway adjacent to the elevator. It was like all the others except that it wasn't lined with cell doors. He let the scent of the children's innocence wash over him.
Something was wrong.
They had been separated. One's scent came from one direction and the other girl's came from another. He found himself at a loss as to which direction to go. The Emperor's deathly odor was in neither direction and the two scents were identical. He decided either one would be the same, so he ran in the first direction his instincts told him to go. Although he ran, his body moved with the stealth and skill of a lion. A ways down the hallway, it intersected with another adjacent to it. The smell came from the new hallway and Jack turned left with immense speed.
He'd come close to slamming into the wall as he swung into the new corridor. It wasn't nearly as long as the hallway he'd just come from but there were still no cell doors lining the walls and he could see it ended in a single doorway. The door stood ajar and a faint glow spilled out from inside. As he charged silently closer to the door, several smells caught his attention. There was a hint of pickle and rye coming from the little girl's breath. Also, saturated sweat and urine marked his prey's fear. It had been the one thing missing from the Emperor's first offering.
That smell mixed with the scent of innocent blood drove him mad and he purposely let his footfalls rise in volume. The increase in her heartbeat combined with the collage of perfumes mixed together made for the ultimate temptation.
As he neared the door, he slowed himself to a human race-walk. Then he steadied his rhythm gradually until he was just outside the door stepping with deliberate intimidation. The girl began to whimper with fright. This was the best part of the kill. Savoring it.
"There, there, little lamb. It's just me... Jack. Mum was nice enough to give a chap a nice topping off."
The girl's whimpering turned to nearly silent screams of terror.
"What's the matter, little lamb?" he stepped into the room where she sat curled up in the corner behind a small wood-finished desk. Jack stopped and stood there, his bare feet slapping against the cool, white linoleum tiles of flooring. He looked down at her, his fangs fully showing behind a cruel grin. The girl curled up tighter trying to back impossibly farther into the corner, her body shaking with trepidation.
Jack leaned down, bending at the knees until he was at eye level with the precious, innocent, sweaty little girl. He looked her in the eyes and she broke his gaze, quickly looking at the floor. He reached his hand out and she screamed, but he didn't flinch as he continued to gently set his hand under her chin. Her flesh quivered at his touch as he lifted her head to reinitiate eye contact. She tried to look away with just her eyes, but he gripped just tightly enough to move her head so no matter where she tried to divert her eyes, they would still be locked in his general direction.
After a moment of this, she gave up rebelling and returned his gaze lamely, her body still shuddering with horror.
"There. Now that wasn't so hard, was it, little lass? Now tell me... what's your pretty little name, girl?"
She opened her mouth to speak and her teeth chattered violently as a faint, hoarse groan uttered from the back of her throat.
Jack released her chin and brought the back of his hand down the side of her face in a soft caress. "Shh. I suppose I've overestimated your ability to keep cool under pressure. I do believe I'm scaring the willies out of you. That just isn't very fair, now is it?"
The girl nodded, a sweat-soaked curl coming loose from behind her ear.
"Yes, I know. How about we even the odds just a little, eh? Give you a fair chance. Whattayasay?"
She nodded again and with that, Jack stood and stretched out his arm in a "right this way" gesture. She looked at him with an expression of surprise and made her way up from the floor, sliding against the corner as she stood shaking.
Jack took several steps back to clear a path to the door. "Go ahead. I promise, I won't bite..."
The girl took a single, cautious step, then another. Then, she took several more in more rapid procession.
"...Just yet."
She stopped abruptly, her body convulsing with fear. Jack smiled and winked at her almost solemnly. She seemed to relax some causing Jack's patience to thin. But he knew if he waited it out, his reward would be a hunt and fear so much more than he was already savoring.  She took several more steps and was merely a few feet away, the smell of her sweat and blood nearly mesmerizing.
The next step she took, before she had a chance to even set her foot down, Jack crept down behind her shoulder and whispered in her ear with a tender inflection in his voice.
"If you want any chance to get away, now's the bit where you'll want to run, lass."
The little girl's shoulder fluttered with every syllable. "Run with all of the fury your little precious feet can stammer out."
There was no hesitation. Her little body erupted into a run straight through the doorway. Her tiny black dress shoes clapped against the flooring as she raced down the hallway. It took a deeply calculated will to keep still as she went. He stood there waiting like a granite statue. But as soon as she got to the corner and turned at the main hallway, he finally let go.
He shot forward after her with the stealth and grace of a lion. Air blew back his hair from his eyes and friction warmed his flesh from the quickness of his sprint.

Chapter 4
Submit Unto Caesar

Hank pulled into the vast parking lot of the local Imperial Church and parked in a secluded area. He killed the engine and sat there staring into the steering wheel of the car. He'd spent more time in his own head lately than ever before in his life. The most important things he had to say and do, for now, had to be kept to himself. Otherwise, the Emperor would know them too.
The sun was setting over the horizon beyond the parking lot. He'd been having to adjust his sleeping schedule in order to prepare for his first visit back to the city of the dead. He pulled the keys from the ignition and got out of the car. He walked toward the huge church, the bottoms of his shoes slapping against the blacktop and echoing across the parking lot.
Two sentries greeted him at the door as he went to enter. One had a long scar across his right cheek. The other had a high forehead resembling that of a Neanderthal. Both had short, trimmed black hair.
"The Emperor is waiting in his private chambers," the scarred sentry said.
They opened the doors for him as though he were a guest of honor. He'd been able to tell from his interactions with them that more than a few highly coveted his position. They could have it for all he cared. If it weren't for his need to contact Ishan, he might've made a run for it over a week ago. No, he knew better than that. There was still the matter of the implant to overcome.
And there was still the blood.
He stepped inside the seemingly empty church and walked between the pews down the same aisle he had the day he was "blessed" into his position. Without all the mindless, screaming worshipers the room seemed dead. The throne sat empty at the top of the stage. Without the Emperor sitting there, Hank could see that the back wall was lined with the same stained glass image of Caesar that covered each huge window of the church.
Hank passed the stage and opened the side door that he knew led to the Emperor's chambers. He knew it wasn't Caesar's real chambers though. He'd been in those chambers before. This church, like many others, only served as a place for him to indulge in being the center of adulation.
Two more sentries stood guard at the door to the Emperor's chambers. They both stood aside as Hank came close but neither of them attempted to open the door for him. Probably out of fear of the Emperor.
Hank looked them each in the eyes one at a time and then knocked on the door with three short knocks.
"You may enter," came the Emperor's scratchy voice from behind the door.
Hank opened it and walked inside. It was a small featureless room with wood-stained walls. The Emperor sat in a huge luxurious chair almost the size of his throne. Hank had to fight back the familiar hatred that bubbled in his throat whenever he saw the man. Caesar motioned to a simple wooden chair sitting in front of him. Hank took the chair and sat facing the Emperor with the best composed face he could stand to make.
"You've been practicing tuning your senses like we've been working on?"
"Yes. I'm making great progress, especially with my hearing."
"Good. I had been monitoring your progress from time to time, but I've been rather busy this past few days." A sly smile came to the Emperor's face and made Hank's stomach turn. "Besides... The last I checked, your progress was more than satisfactory. Tonight, we have other business to attend to."
Hank felt a slight dizziness come over him. What now?
"I have made a decision that will affect a great many lives, be them human or not. And with you in a position to be my eyes and ears within Necropolis," the word came out metallic and bitter, "I'll need you to follow some more particular instructions while you're there. You will receive these instructions directly from me." The Emperor let out a long sigh that came off almost cheerful and then he bore his eyes into Hank's and smiled.
"I haven't been completely honest with you, although I haven't really lied either. There is one more thing your implant can do that I didn't feel the need to relay to you before making this decision. The implant can also relay messages to you in an auditory fashion."
Hank let out his held breath. He was sure for a moment there that the Emperor would say it could read his mind.
"Given that I will need to make use of this method of communication, I wanted to give you advanced notice, so it wouldn't alarm you or cause you to do something stupid." The Emperor stood up and started to pace around the room. "I also wanted to remind you, Mr. Evans, that I intend beyond a doubt to stay true to the deal we made. Most especially with my expectations for you to gather information within the city, I will need you to do nothing and I mean nothing at all to alert Ishan or the other vampires to your intentions." He sighed again, this time in mock pity. "If one of them were to have the slightest notion of what you were doing, it would be most sorrowful for little Toby, now wouldn't it, Mr. Evans?"
The Emperor's cold clammy hands clamped down on Hank's shoulders from behind. Hank centered himself as best he could to keep from lashing out or saying something he would regret.
As if on cue, there was a knock at the door and the Emperor released his grip on Hank's shoulders.
"You may enter, Mr. Draper."
Hank turned around as the door opened and a pale man of medium height and build with dirty blond hair framing his face entered the room and closed the door behind him.
"Mr. Draper, I'd like you to meet Mr. Evans."
The man named Draper locked eyes with Hank and a chill ran down Hank's back.
"I recognize 'im from the photo in his file, Mr. Caesar," the man said in a thick British accent. Hank stood staring at him in awe. Not only had he not addressed the Emperor as lord, but something immediately caught Hank's attention when Draper spoke. Those two sharp, pointy teeth.
"Hank Evans meet Jack Draper."
Draper made his way toward Hank and reached out his hand as if to be shaken. Hank reached in return and before he had a chance to stop what was happening, Draper grabbed Hank's hand and pulled his arm behind his back, turning him round and pushing his face into the wooden chair he'd been sitting in.
"You see, Mr. Evans, Mr. Draper will be responsible for taking care of things if you step even one hair out of line. And I don't mean just you. If you should do anything rash or even slip up and have yourself caught while following my instructions, Mr. Draper here will be sent for your son. And I'll have you know, he happens to have a rather strong liking for innocent blood."
Draper snickered as he pressed Hank's face harder against the chair that was now lifting from the gray carpeted floor. This vampire was strong. Hank was fully tuned to his senses and strength and much stronger than he'd been when in Necropolis with having had a regular supply of blood build up in his body. Yet this vampire held him with ease against his will.
"Release him, Mr. Draper."
The vampire released Hank from the excruciating hold he'd had him in. Hank stood up and shook his arm to try and loosen the muscles. He looked at Draper and Draper returned a devilish grin.
"What do you plan on doing that you need me to spy on them?" he asked, continuing to stare at Draper.
"Mr. Evans, what makes you think I have any intention of telling you?"
Draper winked at Hank, still giving him that amused look.
Hank swallowed, turned, and locked eyes with the Emperor, keeping his mouth shut. He'd already crossed a line and he knew it.
"That will be all, Mr. Evans. Mr. Draper, would you be kind enough to walk Mr. Evans to his car?"
"It would be my pleasure, sir," Draper said with that thick British accent. Then he turned and opened the door and motioned for Hank to go first. Hank walked through to find both sentries gone. He stopped just outside the door. Draper came out and walked past him, heading for the main worship room. Hank followed briskly, his body still shaking from their exchange.
When Hank came into the main worship room, he was surprised to find Draper staring bitterly at the Emperor's throne. When he noticed Hank, Draper's face became smooth and void of emotion. He turned on his heel and started for the main doors. When the two were outside and walking toward the car in the cool night air, Draper stopped abruptly and turned to Hank.
Hank stopped and waited anxiously for whatever might come. Draper reached into his jacket and pulled out something small, thin, and white Hank couldn't make out at first. Draper turned it over and Hank understood instantly. It was a picture of Toby taken recently. From the looks of the surroundings in the photo, it had been taken while he sat on their porch and without him knowing it.
"I've already been to your home, Mr. Evans. Already smelled the little bugger's blood for myself. Don't make me go back, understand?"
Every muscle in Hank's body had stiffened as his throat went dry and his vision became blurry. This monster had been watching Toby, maybe worse. Hank nodded, trying to keep the hatred from showing on his face.
"You don't have to hide your anger with me, eh, Hank. I can smell it. It comes off of you like the sweat on a man's brow." That devilish smile had returned. "Besides, it's no bloody fun to threaten a chap who doesn't react accordingly, eh?" He laughed and pushed Hank's shoulder as if they were old friends and he'd just told a funny joke. Hank didn't change his expression. After a moment, Draper's smile melted into a sneer of anger.
"Whatever you choose, mate. I don't have to see it to know you want nothing more than to stab my bloody eyes out right here in this parking lot. That's satisfaction enough for me." He walked past Hank back toward the church. "Goodnight, Mr. Evans. Enjoy your first day—I mean night—on the job tomorrow," he said and laughed without turning around. Hank stood there a long time trying to hold back his temper and the urge to run after the man and show him just how strong he really was. Instead, he took a deep breath, turned, and walked back to the blue Empire-assigned Buick sitting in the middle of the now empty parking lot.
All the lights were on in the house again when Hank came in through the front door. Toby's door was shut, and loud but muffled music came from the room as if it were playing under water.
Hank set his keys and cell phone down on the end table as he walked by and headed for Toby's door. He knocked once and waited, but the boy didn't answer. From almost the moment they moved into the house, Toby had been spending more and more hours in his room like this. Bass vibrated through the door at Hank. He knocked harder and louder.
The music cut completely. The door flung open and Toby stood there staring at Hank as if his father had punched him in the face.
"I just wanted to say hi before you have to go to bed and that I'll miss you while I'm gone. Dustin texted me earlier and he'll be waiting here when you get home from school."
"Great. Have fun in Fuckropolis!"
The door slammed in Hank's face. He was equally shocked and unable to keep from snickering at his son's remark. Yet, the sting in the boy's voice still crept under his skin and left a twinge of emotion beneath it all. He sighed and stared at the door a while longer before heading back to his own room. He had a lot of thinking to do before the sun came back up. Best to get started as soon as humanly possible. Not that his brain was that slow now. The blood had already made some fairly drastic changes to his body that didn't seem to go away even when he was late to keep up on his "daily dose."
Still, he worried about the boy. He couldn't tell Dustin about Draper any more than he could tell him about the blood or his new assignment. He was about to start packing his clothes when the Emperor's voice spoke inside his ears for the first time.

Chapter 5
A Heavy Burden

Ishan sat at the head of the table waiting for Simon to arrive. Internally, he could experience input from any of Simon's senses at will, but he'd been trying to give Simon his privacy as lately there seemed to be a lot of friction growing between the two of them. After 2000 years of various different life experiences, this linking of minds between he and Simon was far different than anything he'd ever been through before.
Stanislov sat to Ishan's right, tapping his finger on the table as a warm breeze gently stirred the thick brown hair on his face. The lights of the city cast a light neon glow on the somewhat reflective surface of the table. Edgar cleared his throat from the other end of the table.
"Should we carry on without him, Master?"
"No, give him another moment. In the meantime go ahead and tell me about what the scouting party found."
Edgar gave Ishan a nervous glance, looking as though he had just impossibly aged another decade.
"Boris and Rachel's remains were found."
Ishan tensed, unsurprised and yet shocked. Emotionally shocked.
"Our analysis of the ashes were inconclusive as to whether they died before the sun rose, but there is very little trace evidence of blood, so it's at least conclusive there was some major blood loss. Just like the others."
"Are you telling me they might have been drained?"
Edgar sat in silence.
A coldness passed over Ishan as the loss fully registered. Although he wasn't sure if she had kept loyal to him or not, he still couldn't hold back his feelings for Rachel. If it weren't for the Queen, things would have been different. But that was a thought best left behind. Especially now that he knew she was dead.
Simon rushed through the glass door then. He walked to the table, pulled out a chair, and sat down.
"Sorry I'm late. What else did the scouting party find?" Ishan needed a moment to soak in Rachel's death and Simon knew it would be best to move on with important matters.
"Very little. Trace evidence of Mr. Evans and his escort mostly," Edgar said, his throat tightening around that last word.
"Mostly?" Ishan's voice whispered, his eyes glaring into Edgar’s.
"Well, sir, we did find signs of a struggle."
"What signs?" Simon asked as Ishan's jaw clenched.
“Several dried pools of Mr. Evan's blood were found near Rachel's ashes. And no evidence of a third party." Edgar coughed to punctuate his sentence.
Ishan stiffened and Simon knew it was time to move on to other things.
"I think it's time to shift gears. There's the issue of this girl that keeps getting put off."
Stanislov seemed to harden in his seat as his fist came down to strike the table. His other hand came up with a large sausage-like finger pointing at Simon's face.
"And just what have you contributed the past few council meetings to do anything about that?"
Simon opened his mouth to speak, but before he could, Ishan spoke up for him.
"I'll be the first to admit disappointment in Simon's lack of participation, but Simon is doing something to keep this council meeting moving and I see that as a welcome change." At that Stanislov sat back in his seat, his body still tight as a drum. But he made no attempt to argue nonetheless.
"Well, personally, I don't understand why you haven't already sent her on her way out into the desert, master. She's a useless child and an insufferable brat. She's managed to waste her time as a fledgling only groveling and whining. She has done little to attempt adjusting to the new life she's been given," Edgar said and sighed.
Simon's face turned a sharp red.
"The ancestors have made their choice. And whatever the Queen may have behind it, she must have a reason," Ishan said. "If the fledgling will not choose to do something with her life then the choice will be taken from her."
"What do you suggest, master?"
"Put her to work. A few weeks on the restoration team should give her a sense of discipline."
Edgar smiled. "Indeed, sir. It would be my pleasure."
Ishan was getting back into a rhythm now. "Isingoma's latest results have yielded no new breakthroughs. All 12 subjects died within minutes of ingesting the ancestor blood. Each one represented a different biological history, including samples from various regions, races, and blood types. All with the same result. Almost instant death. It is my opinion that we must do all we can in our power to peacefully encourage Mr. Evans to submit to some testing to help us single out what has made him so unique, what it is in his body that allowed him to survive. I refuse to believe he is the only human being who can survive let alone reap the rewards of drinking the blood."
The three other vampires only nodded. But Simon spoke to Ishan with their connected minds. I think it would be wise to keep the Queen's “information" about Evans to ourselves for now. It might affect our meeting with him negatively. Ishan's agreement went unspoken externally and internally, but Simon knew it was there. Often, Ishan had shown himself to be even more expressive by expressing nothing at all.
"Does anyone else have anything to add to this session?" Ishan asked.
The others shook their heads in that detached, lightning, efficient way.
"No questions? Okay. This meeting is adjourned."
And with that Ishan was gone. Only Simon saw his movements.

* * *

Ishan stood within the shadow of the giant welcome sign that bordered the eastern edge of the city. Tears streamed down his face as he looked out into the desert, longing to run free of the place. If he went no one could stop him of course. He could even return most likely unnoticed. But he had battled with this impulse before. The risk was still too great. Only when the time was right would he make his move. He longed for the touch of his queen and the reassurance that came with it. He wondered how long it would take for Simon to realize that he had learned how to block Simon's side of the connection. So far, he'd been careful to keep these moments of relief few and far between and as short as possible. But this time he needed more. He would risk having to explain and possibly argue with Simon for this one time. Even if that meant he would have to teach Simon how to do it himself.
No, the Queen's voice spoke in his head. It's too soon. He is not ready to have privacy yet. You know the doubt that still lingers within him. He doesn't yet know his place.
The sound of her voice in Ishan's head made the longing grow. He lifted his foot to take that final step that would take him over the boundary of the city. A feeling of weightlessness hit him before he could even set his foot down. He landed about a hundred feet back from where he had been, his body lying in the crater of grass and concrete its impact had made.
You have much more self control than this, young one. Show it. I didn't call upon you to have you mourn and make foolish decisions.
Then why have you called on me?
I’ve called on you to heed warning. The one who was Penitent and become Mediator will come bearing a heavy burden. Until the time is right, do not show him your trust.
But you've told me his future. You've told me his importance. How could I see him as anything but an ally?
An ally he remains, young one. But his hands are bound by the Emperor. I sense something weighing on his heart as he changes his mind many times each day.
If his loyalty is questionable, we don't have a chance.
The Queen's laughter filled Ishan's head. Since when do you put so little faith in your mother? In your lover?
Ishan was stricken then. He knew beyond reason that the Queen would never lie to him. But he couldn't help feeling unsure at just how much truth she would tell him, either. A terrible pressure squeezed his temples.
You would be wise to remember that while you may be able to hide your thoughts from Simon, you are unable to hide them from me. Remember, my love. I need no arm to reach you. I need no means to find you. I need no mouth to drain every last drop of blood from your body. You are my chosen and I can un-choose.
A deep bitterness and despair overtook every bone in Ishan's body. No. Please, my love, forgive me. Drain me if you must, but please, please do not un-choose me.
Goodnight, my love.
Ishan lay there a long time holding himself; metaphorically trying to keep himself warm from the Queen's icy threats. Without her, each century would be an empty shell of time. He couldn't go back to that place again. Wouldn't. He closed his eyes as wind began to gust and blow a wall of sand above him and into the city. He let his thoughts stray to what she had told him of Hank. He hadn't respected another human being so much since his father had left the earth so many centuries ago. And the Queen had told him Hank's future. She knew what he would go on to do. What he would choose. She had shown him from her very own vision the day in the future when he would decide to lead them. All of them. Vampire and human. When he would lead them against the Empire. When he would make the decision himself to go after the Emperor, personally.
Ishan felt another awareness then.
What the hell happened? Are you okay, Ishan? Ishan didn't answer. He could feel Simon searching his senses then searching his mind. What the hell happened to you? I've been unable to sense you for hours now. Why are you so close to the city limits. And what the fuck happened to the connection? Ishan continued to sulk as he lay there. He no longer had the energy to block Simon and now he no longer cared.
Fine. Don't say anything. Leave me in the dark. But when you've had your little hissy fit, you'd better start explaining. I don't have any other reason to be here but you. You take that away and why should I bother staying in this city? Or even staying alive? Ishan could see the image in his head then of Simon standing in the desert waiting as the first light of dawn spilled out over the horizon and scorched every inch of Simon's flesh.
Don't threaten me with such things, Simon. Give me some time. Then we can talk. But for now I need to be left to myself.

Fine, take your goddamn privacy and shove it.