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Interview

I’ve been called many things in my life. Mad, monster, villain, murderer. All of the usual.

That’s by the people who know me. The people who don’t often call me worse. It could hardly be otherwise.

The point is I’ve done terrible things. Awful things. But this is the lowest I’ve stooped yet.

Full time employment.

It won't be permanent of course, just until the recession ends, but the consulting business hasn’t been doing so well recently and do you have any idea how much it costs to maintain and run a van de graaff generator?

Academia was out of the question of course, so the private sector it had to be. I searched around, and eventually found a company that seemed like it might not be entirely tedious. A human-computer interface was almost something I’d choose to work on on my own, if I knew more about computers.

The interview so far is not, however, living up to that promise. I glare over the top of my spectacles at the HR drone across the table from me.

“Now, Vic-”

“Dr. Frankenstein”

“Excuse me?”

“The correct form of addressing me is Dr Frankenstein.”

“Oh, um, but your CV said-”

“Dr Frankenstein.”

It wasn’t my fault that the idiots on my PhD committee had lacked vision and had had me physically thrown off campus and permanently blacklisted from the entire academic research scene, and I see no reason to forgo the family title out of petty credentialism.

The HR drone blathers on - something about company culture and free snacks and I don’t know I’m not really paying attention. I’m sizing him up for a slab.

The problem is the lab is out of space. I suppose I could clear out slabs eighteen through twenty. I’ve already gathered enough data for my next paper for the family journal to show that formula #17 could not regenerate whole limbs in humans (p < 0.01), so I might as well get rid of those experiments.

Wait. That sounded important.

“I’m sorry, could you repeat that?”

“Oh, um, I said you’d be heading up our biology division?”

“No, the bit before that.”

“About our engineering team? I said it was a small team but they had over two hundred years of combined experience between them.”

That doesn’t sound like a small team.

How small a team?”

“Only three people.”

“With 200 years of experience between them.”

His eyes glaze over.

“Yes? Oh, um, no that doesn’t sound right, does it? I must have misspoke. I…”

Interesting.

I sit up as straight as I can and smile at him. I’m told my smile is not an entirely unpleasant sight.

“Why don’t you tell me more about this team…”

His eyes focus again and he looks brighter.

“Actually, our CTO would love to meet you. She was the one who insisted we interview you. With the lack of credentials you didn’t really fit our profile, but she said you sounded ideal for the role. Would you like to meet her now?”

Yes, definitely slab twenty. The one where I haven’t quite got all the rust off the manacles.

“Naturally.”

He gets up from behind the desk and opens the door.

“Right this way.”

He walks off at a pace. I curse and scramble to keep up. Maybe I’ll try the new replacement feet on him. That’ll show him.

He knocks on the door to an office, and a muffled voice from the other side says “Come in!”

He opens the door and gestures me inwards. I walk in, and come face to face with a predator.

Is that? Oh gods, I think it is .

I hear a faint whuff and look down and there’s a dog - no, that’s definitely not a dog - wolf sitting there, staring at me with a friendly look on his face that means I look delicious.

The wolf winks at me.

I dismiss him as the lesser threat in the room and look back at the woman behind the desk.

She looks briefly at the HR drone.

“Thank you, Wallace, you can go.”

He nods and doesn’t quite flee, but does shut the door behind me. I hear the faint click of it locking.

She turns back to bares her teeth in what might look like a friendly smile on anyone else but there’s just so much tooth.

“Dr Frankenstein! It’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance!”

Her voice is the sort that died out a hundred years ago but people who have never been to Europe still think English people sound like - the kind of voice you can’t really get without a plum in your mouth and five hundred years of ancestors invading other people’s countries.

She gets up and comes towards me. She is tall, aristocratic looking, with dark black hair and have I mentioned so much teeth ?

I brace myself to stop from backing away. If she’s hostile then I’m dead - I’m not physically able to defend myself from a human without adequate preparation. Let alone a two hundred year old vampire.

Deep breaths. Anyone who has been chased by this many mobs shouldn’t be intimidated by one, for want of a better word, person.

I collect myself, extend my hand, and put the smile back on a face that had gone slack.

“Please, call me Vicky.”

She takes my hand, she seems briefly unsure what to do with it but settles on shaking it.

“And you must call me Ada. And this is our head of security, Steve.”

She gestures at the wolf, who pants pack at me. I give him a nod of acknowledgement.

I was right. I can’t decide whether to fangirl or faint, so I settle on professionalism.

“Delighted to meet you, Ada, Steve. You must tell me about this project you have here. It sounds fascinating.”

My hearts are pounding at what must be two hundred beats per minute and I know she can hear them. I’m either in love or about to die and I don’t know which.

I’m not sure I care.

We talk generalities for hours - naturally she doesn’t want to give me any secrets until I’ve accepted the job and belong to, err, work for her.

Naturally I accept the job.

Day 1

Ada is doing my induction herself.

“Tell me, Vicky dear, what do you know about vampires?”

Quite a lot, really, but if I admit to that then she’ll ask about specifics and… I don’t know if she’ll care, but I don’t know that she won’t care and I do know how likely I am to survive her caring.

“Not much. Only the generalities - I know the things that everyone knows, and I think I know which of them are wrong, but you’re the first I’ve met.”

The first I’ve met uncontrolled, anyway.

“Do you know what happens when you cut a vampire in half?”

Yes.

“No, uh, please tell me it doesn’t grown into two vampires?”

It doesn’t.

She winces.

“No, that hardly ever happens -”

Interesting. I make a mental note.

“- but what doesn’t happen is the vampire dying. The vampiric symbiote is among the most resilient organisms in the world. It survives, it adapts, you can do almost anything to it will survive, adapt, and incorporate whatever biological material it can find and keep on living.”

Lightning stikes me and I understand.

“So if, say, you had some horribly invasive surgical procedure that had a very low survival rate in humans...”

She grins again. I’m almost getting used to it.

“Precisely.”

Oh my gods, full time employment is going to be amazing .

Year 2

Full time employment is awful .

I’ve been doing this for a year now, and some of it has been great. Ada is amazing to work with, and the other people here are both surprisingly normal and surprisingly tolerable for normals.

And we get free cooked food, which is nice. My normal approach to food is… erratic.

And don’t get me wrong, I love the work when it’s going well but when it’s not going well I can’t just stop doing it!

When I’m working on experiments on my own, when I get stuck or bored I can just go do something else. If an idea isn’t working I can give up on it or wait until I’m struck by inspiration and/or lightning and come back to it then.

But with a job you just keep coming back and working on the same thing . How do people cope?

The initial experiments with cybernetic implants in vampires looked promising, but the problem is they didn’t work. The vampire brain tries to adapt to the implant but then dies back around it and routes around the damaged area. The vampire is fine of course, but the symbiote knows what its brain should look like and this isn’t it.

So naturally we tried infecting the subject with vampirism after the surgery. Depending on how soon after, what you end up with is either a dead human or a brain damaged vampire. The symbiote takes some time to be able to adapt to fresh damage, and it’s just not fast enough in a newly turned vampire.

We’ve tried everything . We even switched templates for a while and tried getting Steve to bite the patients, but werewolves work even worse for this than vampires.

And now we are fresh out of ideas, but Ada is still determined to make this work, and I can’t quite bear to disappoint her even if I thought I’d survive the experience.

So I’m doing what I always do when I desperately need to solve something but am totally stuck: Reviewing our honoured ancestor’s notes.

The notes themselves aren’t that useful. We’ve tried the techniques a hundred times or more over the generations and they just don’t work. But the marginalia are like a history of our family - our hopes, our dreams, our thoughts. They’ve spilled out into entire additional collected volumes of works.

Right now I’m reading a commentary from my great uncle, next to the section about what happened when lightning struck and his creation rose. Sparks fly, and electricity writhes around the body, which levitates lightly into the air. The body rises, and then it rises .

It must have been an amazing sight, but the commentary is less than enthusiastic.

Our honoured ancestor fancies himself a bit of a poet. That is not how human bodies respond to being struck by lightning. Believe me, I know.

He’s right of course. That’s not what human bodies being struck by lightning looks like, outside of the most naive of special effects productions.

Hmm.

Human bodies.

Stereotypes would involve me shouting Eureka and running through the halls naked at this point (an impressive feat considering I am fully dressed and it takes me almost half an hour to disrobe at the best of times). Instead I calmly put away my notes, gather up an important piece of equipment, and go to find Ada.

She’s on her own, staring at some diagram on a blackboard in frustration. The little wrinkle between her eyes would be adorable if it weren’t found on the face of a centuries old bloodthirsty predator.

“Ada, I think I’ve figured out something important.”

She turns to me with a start. Affected, I think - she certainly heard me coming - but maybe she really was that deep in concentration.

Regardless, she quickly recovers her composure.

“Oh? Do tell?”

“Well, you see, I was reading my ancestors notes on resurrection and -”

Which is when I taze her.

She screams in surprise and doubles over with - yes - lightning sparking all around her. Much more than you should get from a taser actually - even a family style modified one - so there must be some sort of amplification going on. Interesting .

Her fingernails seem to be growing into talons and I can see the muscles bulging under her skin in a way that is really - no, Vicky. Mustn’t get distracted. Professionalism.

She’s starting to unbend and is looking at me with some combination of confusion and rage.

So I taze her again for reproducibility.

This time before she’s stopped screaming she blurs, grabs my hand and takes the taser from me, and has me pinned against the wall.

“Vicky. I have a strict policy of not eating employees but I can assure you that at the very least attacking your boss with a taser is a violation of the company handbook and is definitely grounds for disciplinary action.”

I blink. No, right, she meant that in the HR sense. OK.

Nevertheless I grin.

“How do you feel, Ada?”

“How do I feel? How do I feel ?!”

Her voice is rising. I think this is the first time I’ve ever seen her break composure, and all it took was a taser. Note for future reference.

She pauses.

“I… feel rather good actually. Wonderful, even. What happened?”

I’m grinning so hard my face hurts now.

“Electrosynthesis. The vampirism symbiote is good at adapting other biological material, but the sort of work it does is energy intensive and it has to get it from somewhere . Turns out, it thinks electricity is as good a place as any.”

She puts me down. I rub the curve of my back where it was pushed against the wall. I’m going to feel that tomorrow, but it was worth it.

She has a stunned look on her face.

“I see. So the solution to our healing problem is - “

“- to literally jump start the process. Yes.”

Year 4

It wasn’t as easy as that of course. While vampires like having a lighting bolt shoved through them (quite a lot once they get used to it, it turns out), computers really don’t.

There were endless details to resolve, but we resolved them - Ada and her team handled the hardware side of things, I and three other family members I’d brought on handled the wetware.

Resurrection was the key after all. You simply couldn’t make the kind of changes that we needed to a brain while it was alive, but you could get a vampire to raise from much more dead than they had previously thought you could.

And now, finally, after endless trial and error we have the one that I knew in my hearts would work. It will work .

Wallace lies on the table - still with his original feet, alas, but quite dead. His skull has been opened, filled with a mesh of tiny, detailed, and very well protected, machines, and then closed again. He has been lowered to nearly freezing, we pumped out his blood, and now we were pumping it back in with a little bit of added extra, courtesy of Ada.

All that is left is to flip the switch.

In the old days we’d wait for a lightning storm, but it’s the 21st century. We have generators and capacitors, and no longer need a natural source of lightning. I’d wanted to wait for a good storm, for dramatic effect, but Ada had rightly pointed out that we would be waiting a while in that case.

I did get my wish for an old school switch though.

Ada and I put our hands on the switch and pull it.

The tension in the air is electric. There’s also quite a lot of actual electricity in the air, but it’s definitely mostly the tension.

When you are a child, you think you know how your life is going to go. There are moments of prophecy - events you just know will appear in your future.

By the time you become an adult you know that your childhood dreams are mostly flawed. You’re older, wiser, you know better. You still remember how you thought things would go, and feel a twinge of disappointment that they didn’t, but you no longer expect them to.

I saw this moment a thousand times as a child. I’d long ago gotten used to the idea that this would never happen, that my life would be one of basic mad research and incremental improvements that man was not meant to know.

But this is it, it is really happening.

My throat has seized up and I can barely see Wallace rising off the slab through my tears of joy. Ada is gripping my hand so tightly it hurts, but I can hear her reading off the diagnostics from her computer.

“Boot cycle is complete. Unlife signs stable, integration factor solid. Slight variance in the backup systems but primaries are all green…”

More jargon follows. I understand more of it than I did at the start of the project, but this is still her area.

I know how this script goes.

I am supposed to laugh, I am supposed to shout, I am supposed to cry defiance to the heavens, but I have lost my voice and I can barely whisper.

“It’s alive…”