To Fear the Dawn: Chapter 14
“Are you sure we ought to be doing this?” Pascal asked worriedly as the three brothers crept up to the dark laboratory in which they worked.
It was a massive complex, nearly four acres under roof, partitioned off into different areas of research and development. Each area had its own entrance and its own security clearance, and the brothers headed toward the section devoted to biological study. Luckily they had database clearance for that area, or else they wouldn’t be able to get into the computer, no matter that they could get through the door.
“I’m sure that if we don’t do this, the whole town will regret it,” Lazlo answered testily as he swiped the stolen key through the reader. The heavy door clicked open, and with careful looks around them, the three of them stole inside.
“God you’d think we were here to rob the place or something!” Vidcund said with exasperation. “I mean, we work here.”
“Yeah, we work here,” Lazlo said, “but we’re just peons. That’s why I had to thieve this key in the first place. They don’t trust the likes of us with a key, no matter how late we always stayed after our shift was up.”
Pascal flipped a switch and the primary biological study area of the lab was instantly filled with light, illuminating high-tech computer systems, lab tables, high-powered microscopes, centrifuges, sample collection kits, and biotech lab stations.
“Ah, the key won’t be missed, though,” Lazlo continued,smiling mischievously at Vidcund. “I nicked it from Beaker’s locker.”
Vidcund set the sample case carefully down on a table. “How did you manage that?”
“Ask me no questions and I’ll tell you no lies,” Lazlo joked, pulling on latex gloves in preparation of helping Vidcund unpack and sort the samples.
Pascal carefully replaced the phlebotomy equipment he had “borrowed” earlier, satisfied that five collection tubes and a syringe wouldn’t be missed. He lifted out the disposable biohazard container in which he had placed the used syringe and dropped it into the biowaste recepticle that was headed for the incinerator in the morning.
This done, he joined his brothers in dividing the samples for study and they all settled in for a long night at the lab.
“Well, you can forget about studying Nerv’s sperm cells,” Lazlo said to Vidcund some time later. His voice was muffled as he was staring intently down into a microscope as he spoke.
“Take a look.” Lazlo indicated the microscope and sat back. “There aren’t any.”
“What?” Vidcund crossed to the microscope and peered through it. He adjusted it a little and then sighed. “How odd.”
Pascal came to look as well and was just as mystified. “I wonder if that’s a side effect of the vampirism or if he’s always been that way.”
“There’s no way to know for sure,” Vidcund said, “...but I would venture a guess it’s the vampirism. We’re seeing a complete absence of sperm cells here. None at all, alive or dead. Not just a low count or poor morphology, but nothing. That’s highly unusual, unless he’s been surgically sterilized.”
“Which I doubt very seriously.” Pascal said. “He’s always said he wanted children someday.”
“Yes, but remember all those experiments we know Circe and Loki did on him. It’s hard to tell what effect that would have had on fertility,” Vidcund reminded them all. “I know they both eased up on him after a while, but when he was a teenager they were doing all kinds of things to him, and that could have done this, we just don’t know.“
“So we can’t say for sure it’s the vampirism making him shoot blanks,” Lazlo commented. “...but it could be, right?”
“Right.” Vidcund answered. “At any rate, we won’t be able to use his reproductive cells to diagnose any genetic abnormalities, and that’s unfortunate.”
“Do you think we should tell him?” Pascal asked.
Vidcund thought for a moment. “Of course we should tell him, but not now. I think he has enough to worry about at the present time."
“So do we,” Lazlo said. “It’s nearly five in the morning, guys. We better pack it up. They open the lab at seven.”
The next several days were a blur.
The brothers felt as though they were spending twenty-four hours a day at the lab, and they weren’t far off. Not wanting to arouse any suspicion, they continued to show up for their regular shifts every day via the car pool, which meant they went home a few hours before it was scheduled to arrive.
That gave them enough time to grab a shower if they were lucky, before it was back to the lab once more. They supposed the only one who might suspect something was the cab driver who shuttled them home in the early morning hours, but if he did think anything was strange, it was part of his job not to comment on it, and just drive.
They slept in shifts at the lab and ate their meals on the run. They were men possessed, and what made it even more rough on them was the fact that they didn’t seem to be getting anywhere with the research.
Try as they might, they could find no abnormalities in Nervous’ DNA whatsoever. No mutations, no irregularities, not one thing that would indicate this wasn’t the DNA of any other normal human being out there in the world.
What was so frustrating was that it wasn’t. They knew that, but they couldn’t find it, and after many nights of staring at computer-generated printouts of perfectly healthy, normal DNA, they began to get worried.
Would they ever find anything?
Vidcund consoled himself with the knowledge that at least Charity was still human, as far as they knew. They checked in with Nervous every evening and he had heard nothing about a wedding, although all of Reginald’s offspring knew how blissfully happy their parent was these days, and how he no longer prowled the streets Turning other vampires, preferring instead to feed quickly and then return to his residence. Nervous could only assume it was because he was spending time with Charity, to Vidcund’s bitter horror.
What was actually going on between Charity and Reginald, Nervous could not say, and the endless thoughts that ran through Vidcund's mind stabbed him like a hot knife between the ribs. He had come to terms with the fact that Charity would most likely become the wife the Grand Vampire and a vampire herself, yet he could not let her go.
Whatever love she feels for that monster is not true, he told himself, but only the result of coercion and manipulation. Vidcund was absolutely convinced of this. It was the only thing that kept him going.
That and the research. He checked and double checked the prints, he ran the centrifuges again with new samples to no avail. He searched and searched... for something... anything... and then, when he least expected it, he found it.
He stared at the data in shocked surprise as the computer whirred, generating a print.
“All this time, we’ve been looking at the DNA,” Vidcund said to his brothers, words tumbling over themselves in his excitement. “DNA! And as you know, we’ve found nothing...his DNA is unchanged, down to the last mitochondria.”
“Vid...you’re not telling us anything we don’t already know,” Lazlo said wearily. “We’ve tried everything...and we– "
“Look at his cells!” Vidcund interrupted triumphantly, shoving the print at his brothers. “We’ve been so concerned about his genetics, we’ve totally ignored the cellular level, but look... just look..."
Pascal took the print and began to read. “The cell structure was altered...” he whispered, his eyes whirring from side to side as he scanned the print. “The cell wall was compromised.....” he broke off and ran to the microscope as Lazlo pored over the print, Vidcund grinning broadly.
“Lazlo!” Pascal yelled. “Look at this!”
Lazlo bent over the microscope. “...it’s a healthy cell...” he muttered.
“Wait.” Pascal said.
“Hold up...it’s changing.” Lazlo said. “It’s... wait a minute! Are you saying this vampirism is a disease?”
“It’s a virus.” Vidcund said. “Look closer.”
Lazlo adjusted the magnification on the microscope and his breath caught. “Viruses. My God. Not very complex ones, either.”
“Do you know what this means?” Vidcund said excitedly, then went on, not waiting for an answer. "If the body treats this vampirism as an illness... a disease, that means we ought to be able to cure it like one!"
"What do you mean? Like make some kind of medicine?" Lazlo asked, turning to Vidcund questioningly.
"That's exactly what I mean,” Vidcund said. His eyes held a far off look. “We’ve already done most of what needs to be done in the preliminary stages, now it just remains to isolate the virus and start working backward... ”
“A virus.” Lazlo commented, then broke into a merry laugh.
“What’s so funny?” Pascal demanded.
“Oh, just thinking about poor Nerv,” Lazlo smiled impishly. “...and how we pretty much made him jack off into a cup for nothing.”
To Be Continued...