Magdalena considered Lucas’s request as she descended the stairs, “…Fetch me something to drink. I want something full bodied this time, matured at least ten years, and be sure to let the vessel breath at room temperature before you serve it.”
There was a part of her that was repulsed at the thought of what he was asking. This was no mere glass of wine. She would be required to hunt but be denied the satisfaction of a quick, clean conclusion. Post-human life had been good to her so far, with artificial food sources to cover her specific _dietary_ needs and a political lobby to maintain her rights in society. What Lucas was asking of her was just so primitive, so feral! Her assessment of the man was correct. He was a killer to the core. Had there been a concience at any point in the past, it was quiet and still these days. He was a predator at the top of the food chain, a carnivore sitting at the apex of a hill of bodies.
Lucas came from a different world and the moment of cognitive dissonance allowed Magdalena to step back from the circumstances to observe herself. She remembered for an instant why she was here. She remembered her mission. Immersion into the culture had seemed like such a good idea: to study the various strata of the created society from the vantage point of the privilaged elite, almost a stroke of genius. Yet here she was immersed and now losing touch with her true motives. The war inside her had been raging for some time, arrayed on two hillside of her psyche the armies had only been tossing insults to and fro. Now she found herself in the middle of a battlefield. One side arrayed in Scout Service dress uniforms and using hi-tech gear. The other side feral, with long shaggy hair, talons for fingernails and covered in blood. Battle was joined and the raw primal passion of the animal within her was growing and wanting to be free. Step by step, Piece by piece she found herself giving in to it’s beguiling message. “Be free, be true to yourself. Express your true nature completely!”
The sheer visceral pleasure of taking her lover’s life was nothing compared to the inrush of life and power she’d felt. His death had given her life. Unbidden, a voice prompted her with an old Sunday school lesson, “the life of every creature is its blood.” she thought, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life” came the voice again. She shuddered at the blasphemy of it all. Scientists had been studying the haemovore issue for decades and had proven that it wasnt the blood they needed per-se. The blood was a vessel, a carrier, for live stem-cells. Her artificial food suppliment was little more than a proein shake with manufactured stem cells. It satisfied the physical needs but she had discovered since immersing herself in this primitive culture that there was far more than physical needs at work. The psychological need (“almost an addiction” she thought) drove her to feast on the living. Each kill had been swift and clean. There had been no lingering pain for the … she struggled for a word … for the donor.
Lucas had been different from the get-go. He revelled in power. He thrived on it. Everything he did was to further his own agenda. Magdalena found his aura of power to be intoxicating. He was so _free_. He did exactly what he chose to do, in exactly the way he wanted to do it. His example called to the animal lurking in her. It bayed and clawed at the doors of her mind. She remembered an old Native American teaching – that two wolves fought for dominance in every man, and the wolf you feed is the wolf that will win. The battle for Magdalena’s soul was joined. The combat was messy and she’d come to realize that she was enjoying the unbridled freedom more and more. The addiction called to her and promised greater pleasure. Each step had come at a cost which she’d gladly paid. Each step came easier than the last. She was spiralling down toward the same decadent hedonism that Lucas enjoyed and the voices of sanity, of civility, were getting steadily quieter in her mind.
Lucas’s command, “Fetch me something to drink” was non-negotiable. She would have to comply if she wanted to continue with her study of the society. If she gave in to weakness now, the experiment would be over. Whatever findings she’d accumulated thus far would be written up and would represent the sum total of her work here. She needed the breakthrough, needed the bonus at the end of the mission. She needed to be free of the Scout Service and living her own life. The closer she came to ground level of the hotel the clearer it became in her head: she had to fulfill Lucas command for the good of the mission. It needed to be done. None of the other crew members would be any the wiser, they would only recognize the wealth of information that she presented at the next staff meeting. Step by step she made her decision.
This hunt would be a watershed moment. She’d killed and feasted before, when she’d been much younger. Clandestine hunts back on Earth happened all the time. She initially had abhored the practice of hunting. She’d been such a vocal opponent of the underground movement, urging participants to give up the feral behaviour and come out into the light. She enjoyed the sense of _doing the right thing_ when one of her brethren gave up the old ways and adopted a lifestyle based around the artificial suppliments. She been part of the movenment, she argued, and she managed to give it up and integrate into society. If she could kick the addiction so could they! Lucas was commanding her to turn her back on the past. To wake up from the dream of civility and life alongside the human population. He was asking her to revert to a darker time in her life. A time before she’d embraced science as her personal saviour. A time before she learned discipline at the hands of the Scout Service.
She was deep in thought as she got to the ground level of the hotel, walked through the lobby and out of the main door. Without warning an ebony hand flashed out and struck her in the temple. Dazed, she was dragged into the alley next to the hotel and pressed roughly against the wall, pich black hand around her thoat. She recovered quickly, far quicker than her assailant had accounted for. She laughed. He’d been expecting the old, civilized “Magda”. His miscalculation would be his undoing. She flashed into movement, broke his hold on her, and pressed him backward with a series of powerful but not well executed blows. He barely blocked them. She became bolder and threw herself into the fight. This would be an easy victory! Her blows rained down on her opponent.
Part of her mind was screaming to stop but a feral blood-lust had kicked in. There was no pleasure in the sight of him staggering under her blows. He was covered head-to-toe in black, an animated shadow, and she could only imagine the wounds that she was inflicting. A broken rib here, smashed collar bone there. He fell heavily to the ground and she crowed in victory before launching herself for his throat, teeth bared.
“Enough!” the commanding voice boomed. Magdalena opened her eyes and found herself sitting in a chair, arms bound behind her, echoes of his voice still lingering in the vast empty space of the warehouse.
An ebony shadow slowly circled her. Him! He should be on the ground. She hissed in frustration, bared her teeth and pulled at her bonds.
“Untie me!” she screamed at him.
The burly shadow stopped his pacing and faced her. Head to toe black melted to be replaced by skin tones and military fatigues. In moments he transformed from faceless enemy to trusted crew-mate. Patrick Arnaud, soft lilting French accent, dry humour and a wicked right-hook when sparring. She knew him. They’d shared the same tin-can of a Scout Craft for years now.
“How many terms have we served together Magda? I’ve never seen you like this!” he said, concern written all over his face. He stepped closer, “It’s going wrong, just like you said it might. You warned me this could happen.”
Magdalena remained still, gathering herself. He stepped closer again and she gauged that she had what it took, and threw herself at him. Her momentum carried her forward, straight through his insubstantial form. She fell forward still strapped to the chair and closed her eyes expecting a painful impact with the rough floor of the warehouse … which never came. She opened her eyes and found herself sitting on a park bench in London.
“You bastard, let me out of here!” she screamed into the air.