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Vampires in the Gutters

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Crewman's log, Natasha Johnson. Shipdate 1.

So, they want me to keep logs of everything, apparently. Not that I have anything in particular to report on at the moment, but since they want me to keep logs, I suppose I will anyway. I always aspired to be a novelist when I was growing up, but this wasn't exactly what I had in mind. No matter.

They're also insisting on using a 'shipdate' system rather than just going by the actual dates of things back home. I suppose that makes sense, since we'll be far from home and might not even be properly in sync with them anymore, but it seems awfully strange to me at the moment. Especially considering they didn't bother including any concession for years, weekdays, or anything else. Just raw numbers. Such a useless system. Perhaps I should propose something better, but I doubt they'd actually listen to a junior crewman anyway.

Alright, so, I'd best get some actual information in here. I didn't want to record anything official of my presence aboard this ship until we were safely out of the galaxy for fear of Imperial reprisal. I don't know for certain that the Karzan Empire is actually after me, but by the way my Sire, Vanessa Jordan, ushered myself and my useless broodmates out of the system, she certainly thought we were in clear and immediate danger.

It wasn't long after my escape that I heard rumors circulating over the 'net about the sudden disappearance of my Sire and the Empress, Talia Richards. The Church tried to sanitize their vanishing with claims of their 'Ascension', which frankly I thought was a load of crap. Things were starting to look darker and I'm quite glad that we got out of there when we did, before anything else happened and they actually found me. For all the measures I took to cover my tracks, I have no doubt that I would have been found if anyone had been seriously looking for me.

I won't lie about my intentions. I primarily joined the Karzan Exploration Brigade and took a position aboard the Perplexity in order to be certain of getting out of this universe as soon as possible. I don't trust what's been happening here, and after recent events, I would be perfectly content never to come back here.

Be that as it may, I will, of course, try to pull my own weight and do the job which has been assigned to me as a Junior Sociologist. I don't really know why I was given this position, since it was biology that I studied at university. Once we arrive at wherever it is we're going, anyway, and assuming there's any societies there to study. For all I know, where we're going won't have any life forms more advanced than fungus. Some cynical part of me thinks this might even be an improvement over where we were.

Crewman's log, Natasha Johnson. Shipdate 14.

After two weeks of wormhole travel, we've finally arrived at the next universe over. Or something like that, anyway. I really don't understand interdimensional cosmology all that well, and don't really care to. Suffice it to say that we're safely in another dimension now, and one that might not be looking to be being screwed over in the immediate future. So I hope at least.

During this time, I have been keeping up on my studies and learning how to do my job, and hoping that I have an opportunity to put what I've been learning to good use soon. I would be very interested in doing some long-term studies of alien cultures. It's something that I never really considered having the opportunity to do before, but my vampiric status does have its benefits in that regard as it's now a real possibility.

My roommate has been a royal pain now that we've actually had to spend some time cooped up together. Her name is Kinzen, and she's a kitsune, and a stunning example of the annoyance of the breed. She's not really so bad most of the time... until she gets bored, anyway. I'm not even certain why they let her aboard in the first place, or just what she's supposed to be doing here.

She was excited at having arrived here finally, but after realizing there still wasn't anything to see, she scurried off into our quarters and began to rifle through my belongings. It took me forever to locate my underwear again. What she was doing with it, I have no idea. Maybe this is some sort of bizarre come-on or something. I'm not entirely certain.

Crewman's log, Natasha Johnson. Shipdate 16.

When I signed up for this, I had expected to be studying strange and interesting alien cultures, but as it turns out, the first universe we came to was another reflection of Earth. For all that their present year also places them in the 31st century, however, they appear to be fairly primitive and disorganized. Some great disaster in the past has thrown them off the path of advancement, and they never even achieved any form of interstellar travel.

It was my first opportunity for an away mission, nonetheless. I gathered up into the shuttle with various other scientists and some security officers conspicuously wearing red shirts, and we flew down to the night-side of the surface to discreetly land outside one of the population centers. I doubt that we weren't seen, but if we were, no one bothered to attempt to shoot us down at least.

The place was extremely run down. Judging by the distribution of lighting, electrical coverage was uneven and unreliable. The streets were filthy, as if sanitation workers had been on strike for the last millennium. We stumbled across at least one half-decayed body that had been just left in an alleyway. Ew.

Needless to say, however, we stood out a bit from the crowd, not so much because of our uniforms, but because of the fact that we were clean and apparently healthy. The first natives we saw were some filthy punks who attempted to mug us. They were wearing tattered leather jackets and looked as though they hadn't bathed their entire lives, and came at us with rusty knives, a crowbar, and a pipe.

The security guards hardly flinched as they whipped out their blasters and stunned them, dropping the five men flat to the ground before they could even touch us.

The one man who remained conscious enough to speak promptly dropped his knife and said, "No frag us, skip. Put away the rayguns, mercy!"

He had a fairly strong, unidentifiable accent, perhaps due to lingual drift, but after spending much of my life listening to various slang, I understood it well enough, even though I had to translate for the security guards. "Why did you attack us?" I asked the man.

"Yas looked flush, like yas got booka chips," he replied. "All seppy and gay, like that?"

"Did you just call me gay?" snapped a security guard, raising his blaster at him again.

"No, ya surely not," the punk said.

I put in quietly aside to the guard, "Don't get upset. It probably doesn't mean the same thing anyway."

The guard grumbled and lowered his blaster again, taking my word for it for the moment.

"Ya gibbers all datey, like. Ya must got chips a-flowin' ta be gettin' dis var o' eju 'n garbs."

"What in the galaxy is he saying?" the team leader, Lt. Faldrez I think was his name, stage-whispered toward me.

"Um," I replied, stumbling to piece together the strange dialect as quickly as I could. "I think they attacked us because we look rich."

"Must be," the native man went on. "Ya no grok gutter-gibber, ya gibbers all hine-midey, like flush gops. Ya gots magic rayguns dat musta been booka share. Whyfore yas be gallanting in the gutters, skip?"

"Are you capable of speaking in plain English?" Lt Faldrez asked him. "Or are you just doing this to annoy us?"

I grimaced and looked at the lieutenant. "It's very likely," I murmured to him, "given the state of the planet, that he really doesn't have much of an education and this is the only way he knows to talk. It will require further study, and there's very likely countless local variations. It's a wonder he speaks anything recognizable as English at all."

"We should take one of them back to study," Lt. Faldrez said. "See if we can't piece some of this together so that we might actually be able to communicate with them... and pass among them more easily. Ask him." He indicated the native man.

"You want to come back with us?" I asked the man. "We'll give you a bath and new clothes and good food, all you have to do is help us out a bit, give us some info, do you, uh, grok?"

The punk blinked at me in surprise. "If yas be feelin' lib'rous, I no turn down. Yes. I go."

The other fellows were starting to regain consciousness by this point, and most of them scurrying off into the darkness while we were distracted. We gathered up the filthy young man and headed back to where we'd left the shuttle nearby. He was positively in awe of it, though I don't think he realized that it as actually a space vehicle and not merely some sort of aircraft. The way Faldrez had him sit in the back and not even look out the viewscreen as we returned, I doubt he realizes he's aboard a spaceship at all.

I and the other sociologists will be dealing with him shortly to see what we can learn. I will make further reports as more information becomes available.

Crewman's log, Natasha Johnson. Shipdate 17.

The man's name is Jack Merne.

He's proven somewhat helpful, if rather flippant, since getting cleaned up and a bit of good food in his belly. Thankfully, with him a bit happier, he made considerably more effort at speaking clearly and not slurring his words together quickly quite so much.

"Look at me, all gay in this novy garb," Jack commented, looking at himself in the mirror and posing a bit. "How do I look? Like a real gop? Or just a straight?"

"Well, that depends," I said. "Do you think looking 'gay' is a good thing?"

"Why wouldn't it be?" Jack said. "Like, it's not all black and not bonnie for gallanting in the gutters, but sometime I wish I was flush. What you pense it mean?"

"Um," I said delicately. His dialect seemed a strange mix of French and English, but thankfully as I understand both languages I was able to piece together most of it at least. "Around here, if I said you were 'gay', it would mean you sleep with other men."

Jack blinked at me in confusion. "You have a word for who you use a pad with?"

"Er, I mean..." I stumbled over my words. If I weren't a vampire, I might have been blushing. It wasn't that I'd ever thought of myself as a prude or anything, far from it, but trying to explain it in terms he could understand was difficult. "That you have sex with other men."

If anything, Jack was even more confused. "Sure I do. Why would I not? And what that have to do with my garb?"

I cleared my throat lightly. "Just... forget about it. It's not important."

"You not some straight who pense sex is diabbo, are you?"

"No, no, certainly not," I assured him. "It's just hard to explain things sometimes, you grok?"

"Yes," Jack said. "But you tries. You grok booka more than the others. I no grok all your gibbers, but sometime I grok the penses less."

"Yeah," I murmured. "I know so little about who you are or how you live..."

"Let us grok each other surer, then," he said, proceeding to take off his clothing on the spot.

"Er, wait, what?"

He paused. "Did you not gibber you not straight?"

The man was so very confusing at times, but I figured it might provide further understanding, or at least make him happy. I shrugged a bit and acquisced to his desires. Don't think me a whore for it. I was doing it in the name of science, honestly. Well, mostly.

Crewman's log, Natasha Johnson. Shipdate 18.

The other scientists were a bit upset over my liaison with Jack, perhaps in part because he was far more willing to open up to me for some reason than to them. Oh, sure, he was helpful and all, if a bit reluctantly at times, but most of the time they didn't even understand a word he was trying to say.

"Bonnie morn to you, Tasha," he said to me. "How my novy sissa?"

It was the first time he had actually called me by my name. I also baffled a little at him calling 'sister' someone whom he had just had sex with. Was incest routinely practiced on this world? "I'm fine," I told him. "How are you?"

"Gay and bonnie as can be," Jack replied. "Oh, and no worry of the wigglies. I had my shots this cycle."

"I wasn't worried," I said with a smirk. "I can't even get pregnant."

"Oh, your belly dead?" he asked.

"Along with the rest of me, yeah," I said. "I'm a vampire, you see."

"Sure you are. You was all nipping and licking my neck and it feeled booka bonnie. I pensed you was sucking my juice, but there was no holes."

"Yeah, sorry about that, I couldn't help myself," I said, smirking a bit.

"Whyfore you gibber sorry?" Jack asked. "I not vixing."

"And I healed up the holes after," I explained. "Want me to show you? Give me your wrist."

He didn't hesitate to extend his wrist to me, trusting me completely. I bit into his wrist and drank a small amount of his blood to demonstrate, pulled away for a moment to show him the marks and display my fangs, then licked them closed again.

"Kai-rah! You is a sure vampire!" Jack said, eyes widening. "I not pense they was sure. I hears gibbers, but I pense they just tales."

"Yep, I'm sure, I'm real," I said to him, grinning. "Hope you're not too upset about that."

"Why would I?" he said, confused. "If you was wanting to frag me, you could done sans the gibber and fuss. No, I fides you surely. You no be diabbo to me."

"That's good to know," I said. "That's bonnie to pense."

Jack chuckled in amusement and reached up to ruffle my hair fondly. "Never looked a gop tries to grok gutter-gibber prevy."

We talked for a long time, and I learned a good deal about the world and how the gutter-folk lived. They were organized, such as it were, into close-knit sexually-active groups which absolutely trusted one another. I had to wonder at the occurrance of sexually transmitted illnesses or infections because of this, but Jack assured me that most such diseases had been eliminated long ago, and they received regular shots from the gutter-clinic against the ones which weren't and to prevent unwanted pregnancies. For all their apparent filth and squalor, they were actually healthier and better organized than it would appear.

Crewman's log, Natasha Johnson. Shipdate 19.

Disappointing news.

"Tasha, didn't you hear?" Kinzen said as I was returning to my quarters after some work this morning. "They're sending your pet punk back to the surface."

"What? Why? I was making excellent progress!" I protested.

"Oh, yeah, you were boinking him silly," Kinzen said, rolling her eyes. "Torrie-hos. I don't think your superiors much appreciated it, whatever your results might have been."

"Bah. But why didn't they tell me directly?"

"They did." Kinzen replied. "Don't you ever check your messages?"

"What are you doing checking my messages?" I snapped, muttering. "What the hell are we going to do now?"

"Don't look at me. You're the wannabe sociologist here. I'm just analyzing the biological changes the natives have undergone during the last thousand years, which was where this timeline apparently split off."

"Bah, what do you know about biology?" I snorted.

"I know that there's vampires and shapeshifters still running around down there, even if most of them don't realize it," Kinzen replied. "Maybe that's why they wanted to send the man away. They thought you were telling him too much."

Still grumbling, I headed back out of our quarters to go speak with my superiors. They weren't sympathetic. Apparently other scouting teams had also located a more affluent neighborhood and I was being reassigned there, ignoring the knowledge of the gutter-talk which I had gained through my conversations with Jack. They also ordered me not to attempt to contact him again. I was extremely displeased and may have expressed my displeasure a bit more harshly than I had intended.

I returned to my quarters and began to make preparations. "Getting ready to head for the surface?" Kinzen asked me.

"Yeah," I grumbled.

"What are you doing, writing more log entries?" Kinzen said. "You're not going to be exactly turning this into a bestselling novel or anything, you know."

I snorted. "Are you reading my logs?"

"Of course," Kinzen said brightly. "I do so love to see what you're saying about me. Though I must say, you really should have gone into more detail with your dealings with Jack. You'll never hit the erotic fiction market that way."

"Go away, Kinzen."

I gathered my equipment and boarded the shuttle back down to the surface. We landed in an area that looked considerably cleaner and neater than the run-down area known as the gutters. Appearances could be deceiving at times, however, and for all its filth, I feel that the gutters had been far more honest.

They weren't interested in my analysis of gutter-talk. They sent me out to speak with the people here, who spoke perfectly good English, albeit with strange and unfamiliar accents. They didn't even have the courtesy to send me back to the ship when dawn came, leaving me stuck holed away in the back of the shuttle struggling to stay awake while the sun was up in order to get some work done. But I fell asleep anyway.

Crewman's log, Natasha Johnson. Shipdate 20.

Tonight I met the most beautiful woman in the world. Anastasia...

I'd woken up at dusk and crawled out of the ship. I wasn't certain where the others were, as the only one around was the security guard who had been left to ensure that nobody ran off with the shuttle, and he just grunted and shrugged when I asked him.

I went and headed into one of the buildings. A warehouse, an electronic repository, perhaps the closest thing that passed for a library around there. There were some people milling about inside, a handful of them as it was late, well-dressed, clean-shaven, "gops" as Jack would call them.