Summary: Alisa and her former FBI partner, Joel, learn of a government plan to capture them in order to steal and analyze their vampire blood for the purpose of duplicating it, and when Joel is caught, Alisa risks her life to free him.
Tagline: This time the world hunted her…
I remember nothing about this book. I know I’ve read it. I’ve probably even read it multiple times, though not since my early 20s, if not even before that. But I have no idea what the plot is here, or even who, besides Alisa, is around.
ALISA NEVER GONNA DIE BECAUSE I’M GODDAMN PERNE IS BACK.
Let’s do this.
Did you know that Alisa is a vampire? Because she certainly opens with that, and the fact that blood doesn’t bother her, not even her own blood, but the idea of what her blood can do to others terrifies her.
I really want to mock that the third book in a series about vampires that is called The Last Vampire opens with the protagonist telling readers that she is a vampire — but I can’t. Goddamn it, Alisa, I’ve fallen for you just like everyone else does, you delightful, terrible, strange, murderous woman.
Anyway, Alisa is now the oldest living creature on earth. We’ll see about that, Perne. I have zero doubt that another, even older vampire could pop up at any time, born before you through some other demon. Is this likely to happen? Probably not. Is it impossible? Not in a Christopher Pike book!
We pick up with Alisa waking up in a living room with Joel Drake, FBI Special Agent, now a vampire. Turning him is the first time she’s broken her promise to Krishna, which was that she would not make another vampire, but which she has grown to realise means that as long as she turned them out of love, she had not broken her promise.
But she turned Joel without that love, and in fact turned him when he begged her to let him die in peace.
Krishna’s protection is now gone, and Alisa wonders if she will die soon. But maybe not, because she does not die easily. I love you, Alisa I’m Goddamn Better Than All Y’all Perne.
They’re still in the Fender house dealing with the fallout from the last book; Mrs Fender is dead, her body in the living room with them, and Eddie Fender is in a freezer at the back of the house. Alisa does a very brief recap of all of this, which I appreciate; Pike could have dragged this out because it is a series book, but he does not. He trusts his audience to either have read the previous books or to figure things out as they go, and I like that.
Alisa has been unconscious for almost 24 hours, and Joel will wake soon, at which point they will have to take off. She doesn’t want to leave any evidence of Eddie behind, though, not for the FBI to examine and not for anyone else to access, not after what Eddie did with Yaksha’s blood.
She decides to burn down the house after coating it with gasoline that is powering the freezer pump. She loves fire, even though it can destroy her; if she wasn’t a vampire, she might have been a pyromaniac. Alisa, I love you.
The gasoline is stored in 20 gallon steel tanks, and though she does not expect them to be difficult for her to move, they are even lighter to her than they would have been before. Before Yaksha gave her his blood, because with his blood came his power.
With all the noise she’s making Joel starts to stir but doesn’t wake; newborn vampires sleep deep and wake up hungry. She wonders if he, like Ray, will be reluctant to drink from the living, and then we get what may be my favourite line in the series so far: I loved Ray above all things, but as a vampire, he was a pain in the ass.
Alisa. You are a gem.
Ray has been dead for less than 48 hours. My god, it feels like it was longer than that, but obviously not, considering how fast things happened in the last book. Thinking about him makes her bitter; she has no time for grief or for joy, only for life, pain, and death. Creation was a joke to god, a dream. Krishna told her secrets once, in a dream, but she thinks he lied to her then.
Before she’s ready, she hears police cruisers, at least 20, heading toward them. There are no sirens, but police drive differently than normal people, faster and more aggressive. That is a true statement.
She wonders if they’re coming for Eddie, or if Joel told his superiors about her. Though she could have gotten sloppy in her old age, she knows. There’ve been a ton of strange killings in Los Angeles over the past few days, superhuman kills. The police could be following their own leads straight back to Eddie, the same way she did.
Alisa wakes Joel, who is not thrilled about being a vampire, but before they can get out of the house and set it aflame, they’re surrounded by cops, including SWAT and at least one helicopter. Alisa does not like being surrounded because being trapped brings out her most vicious side; she once killed over 100 people when surrounded by an angry mob in the Middle Ages. They, of course, didn’t have guns, and she thinks a bullet to the head would probably kill her.
Joel wants to talk to them, because they still think he is human, that he is an FBI agent, but she still can’t let anyone have Eddie’s blood. She stares out at the cops, and realises she can almost read their thoughts, and learns that they know there is something unusual about her. Yaksha’s blood, it seems, has given her more than just increased strength.
Joel admits that he told them too much about her, because they were getting suspicious about how so many people were killed, torn to pieces, and they had his file on Eddie. They don’t know she’s a vampire, but they know she is fast and strong. So what in the world do they think she is, then? A human high on something?
Alisa ponders fighting her way free; even if she dies, she’s fine with that, because more of them would die first. But Joel would die, too, and she’s not so cool with that part. I would fucking hope not, considering you just nonconsensually turned him into a vampire. Which, if the act of giving him blood is, as it so often becomes in vampire stories, a metaphor for sex, then you’ve raped him. That’s some shit, Alisa.
Joel talks to them, but the other agents don’t greet him as a friend, and she realises, suddenly, all of their suspicions; they know the “plague of death” going through LA is communicable, Eddie and Alisa both left too many bodies behind, and there was that cop whose blood she drank as she flat out told him she was a vampire. The others might not believe him, but they apparently do think she’s “some kind of demon from hell.”
Look, if they’re going to go all the way to full on demon from hell, they’re probably going to believe vampire at this point, too.
They handcuff Joel and put him into an armored vehicle. She’s pissed that she listened to his plan, because now she has to let herself be taken into the vehicle. She can’t let him be alone, because she doesn’t know what he’ll tell them or what they’ll do with his blood.
Many people are going to die, and Alisa, with her recent distaste for violence, is not a big fan of this. Nothing for it, though. Needs to be done.
She lights the house on fire and walks out the front door, badass as always. She lets them handcuff her, thinks sarcastic thoughts about her right to a pint of blood and how, if she can’t afford one, the court will bleed a little for her, and I legit laughed.
They do put her in the same vehicle with Joel, which I would not do, especially if I thought they were vampires or demons from hell or infected with something that makes them fast and strong and murderous, whatever. Point being: don’t put them in the same place at the same time, goddamn.
Joel and Alisa are chained to the floor and three men with automatic weapons sit across from them, another two armed men up front with the driver, protected by bulletproof, soundproof glass, which Alisa knows she can break with her little finger. Showoff.
But there is still the rest of the miniature army, and they won’t break so easily. (Police militarization: very real, very dangerous.)
At least a dozen cars follow them, and the helicopter remains overhead. Alisa thinks their precautions border on the fanatical, and she would know from fanatical. They know that she is capable of extraordinary things, and it shakes her, because for 5,000 years, she moved unknown through history, but now she is exposed, now she is the enemy, now her life will never be the same even if they escape.
“I’ll have to tear up my credit cards.”
Fucking hell, Alisa, another full laugh from me.
Alisa tries to talk to the guards, but they shut her down fast. She tries to turn that stare of hers on them, her hypnotic voice. She almost talks one of them into releasing Joel, at least, but he hesitates, and his partners are careful not to look at her — at least at first. Then the youngest one snaps with fear, and she starts to pick into his thoughts. She gets two of them to turn their guns away from her, and she takes that moment, snapping the ankle chains locking her in place. Once again, she kicks someone to death, because kicking in people’s chests is Pike’s Alisa’s favourite move. She cracks the skull on the second guy, and just wills the third to die, because her will is poisonous when she’s mad, but now with Yaksha’s blood in her veins, she’s “worse than the venom of a cobra.”
Joel begs her to kill him, because he can’t stand what she is, what she does. She tells him he will become it, too, and he refuses, though he has no illusions really. He asks her to leave him behind, let them kill him in a shootout so that his blood soaks the pavement and nothing more. You really think that blood can’t be collected, Joel?
He doesn’t want to become a killer because he’s spent his life trying to help people, not destroy them. UGH JOEL MY HEART.
Alisa tells him that she can’t just let him die, and he doesn’t know what she sacrificed to keep him alive: the love of god. Except he never fucking asked for that, did he? You can’t actually expect him to be grateful you risked something so important to you when he actually begged you not to do what you did. Come the fuck on, Alisa.
He asks her not to kill when she doesn’t have to, and she says she’ll do what she can. Not really a ringing promise there, Alisa.
She kicks out the window (shocking), and knocks the two guards unconscious, though she leaves the driver awake and alive. (Because concussions aren’t as serious as death, is the implication, but concussions kill too, Pike.) She threatens him into telling her where they’re being taken, which is C14, not the police station; it is a governmental high-security facility that probably has labs in it.
Alisa tries to figure out a way for them to escape without more death, putting Lenny, the driver, to the task of helping find a way. The more he tells her, the more she wonders how they could possibly know her so well to take so many precautions. Is it based just on the evidence she left behind the coliseum, maybe? Or is something else happening?
Alisa arms herself and Joel, and then has Lenny drive down an alley that crosses many bigger streets. At first, they’re okay, but on the third, they smash into a produce truck, and the police cars start to pile into them from behind.
A pileup is exactly what she wants. Alisa shoots a spray of bullets at the cars behind them, sending the cops out of their vehicles; the helicopter swoops low, dangerously so, and focuses the spotlight on her long enough for a marksman to get her in his sights.
Then she shoots off the top of his head. So much for that not killing thing.
She shoots out the spotlight next, and then the small vertical rotor at the rear, though that takes two shots. This causes the helicopter to crash in the line of police cars; the explosion kills several cops.
Yeaaaaaah, again, so much for that trying not to kill thing.
Less than 10 seconds has passed during all of this, without the police being able to fire a single shot; Alisa drags Joel down the street just as the next set of cop cars comes around the block. She kills the two officers in the first car and getting other cars to stop. This set fires at her, but the flak jacket she put on catches most of the rounds, doing no damage. One does hit her leg above her left knee and then another her right arm above her elbow. Still, she gets Joel into the car and manages to get away from the crowd, though not without the car getting shot up quite a bit. Two police cars remain on their tail and a new helicopter is in the air, this one flying high enough they can’t attack it, low enough he can track them.
Alisa’s wounds heal in a matter of minutes now, thanks to Yaksha’s blood. So maybe this whole time I should have been saying Yaksha Goddamn First of the Vampires is Better Than All Y’all, but my statement stands for Alisa now (and then).
She quickly decides that the only way to escape the police copters is to get into one themselves; there are plenty of choppers on helicopter pads at the top of high-rises downtown, and, of course, Alisa can fly one. She “can operate any piece of machinery humankind has developed.”
This is why people roll their eyes at you, Alisa. (Right before you rip them out of their heads.)
They’re up to 10 cop cars by the time Alisa leaves the freeway; down on city streets, she’s forced into a basement garage of a building she doesn’t know. At the elevator, she shoots back at the police, killing another 3 people. They take the elevator all the way to the top floor, #29, even though, as Joel tells her, they can stop the elevator from the basement. They don’t do it in time, though, because I guess they are incompetent? Whatever.
On the top floor, Alisa surveys the street; she has to cross a block and move over a few buildings in order to reach a high-rise that actually has a helicopter pad. Well, this is going to be a thrilling adventure, isn’t it?
I’m disappointed this hasn’t been adapted into a tv show or a movie (or a made-for-tv movie/Netflix original/whatever). It would be such a fun thing to watch with of Alisa’s action; it’s probably a little too in her head for a direct adaptation, but I would love to see things from a third person POV.
(It’d also need to figure out how to deal with the cultural appropriation, and I’m not sure that can be extracted from the story, so it’s probably better it hasn’t been adapted.)
Joel knows that law enforcement won’t come up after them until they are surrounded top and bottom. There are now three helicopters in the air and all the cars gathered around the building. Alisa tells him that she’s going to set a new Olympic record by leaping across the street to the building there that is three stories lower. Joel is impressed, of course. Alisa, I love you, but less talking about how awesome you are and more just doing what makes you awesome.
She promises to come back for him with a helicopter; he begs her, again, to let him go, to leave him behind, to let him die. He can’t live with all the slaughter on his conscience, and those deaths only happened during this one escape. Just imagine how many more will happen throughout his life.
Alisa, you have seriously got to stop turning people with such strong moral compasses. Find someone who can adapt faster, at the very least.
Alisa holds firm that he’s too dangerous to be allowed to be taken by anyone else; the humans could inject his blood into animals, into themselves, just like Eddie did, and that’s exactly what they will do, eventually, because they’ve seen what Alisa, Eddie, and even Joel can do.
He asks if she would die to save all the people; she says she would die to save him. He asks her, again, what she sacrificed to keep him alive. She wishes she could cry, but she left that behind long ago. (Though I could have sworn there was a one bloody tear type moment sometime in the last two books. I may be mixing that up with all the other dramatic vampire main characters, though.)
Joel finally realises what Ray meant to her, and admits that he did not know how important Ray was when Joel watched him die. How about when Alisa watched him die, dude? You watching him die doesn’t really matter, now does it?
Alisa kicks out the window, because she kicks everything and I love her for it even as I ridicule it, kisses Joel quickly because sure, why not, and actually jumps so far and so fast that she almost overshoots it, but does not because everything she does is flawless.
I was going to mock how perfect she is again, but actually, I’m going to briefly talk about how impressive it is that despite all these perfections, Pike still makes readers care about her and what happens to her. She’s very nearly invincible. She’s the best there is at everything. We should not give a fuck about her, because there’s no room for improvement or real risk or tension or the potential for consequences — except that somehow, there are. While I’m reading, I know that there’s little chance for her to actually die at any point in the near future, but I still worry and care and am engaged. I can’t even figure out why, because I don’t actually understand why I like Alisa so much. She should be boring, because she’s already the best there is and has seen and done everything and on and on.
And yet. Her emotional vulnerability, even when it feels like love at first happens to her far too often, is what makes her interesting, I guess. And in that way, though she’s long been this static creature moving through the world but not being changed by it, she is changing now, and that’s interesting.
Alisa races across the rooftops, none of those jumps as dramatic as the first, but the last one, to the skyscraper with the helicopter pad, is the most dramatic of all. It is 20 stories higher, and she is going to jump into it through the wall of windows and just hope that she doesn’t hit the steel and concrete between the floors.
She runs, she jumps, she kicks out the window her timing perfect like everything else, and even though I know she won’t fail, because she can’t fail, because she’s Perfect Alisa Perne, I still worry for her making that jump.
She doesn’t cut herself on the glass (which, is it safety glass on those windows? I know a decent amount about glass requirements in buildings because of a former job, but we didn’t work on skyscrapers, so I have no idea about that), but lands badly on a row of secretarial desks. This damage doesn’t last long, though, because within a minute, she’s healing because of Yaskha’s blood. Because of course she is. And yet I still care what happens to her. Goddamn it, Pike.
The helicopter comes level with the hole in the skyscraper, and she considers taking the police copter instead of the civilian one, but the pilot is smart and has learned and keeps it moving, forcing her to try a different plan. She moves through the darkness around to another window, punches it out (at least that’s a change from a kick), and shoots the fuel tank, making the helicopter blow up. cool.
Alisa passes a custodian on the way to the elevator and doesn’t kill him, which is a nice change of pace for her, but then again, he’s not a threat to her. There’s an old guy working as a security guard on the roof, and she can’t bring herself to lie to him for some unknown reason when he asks if she’s a cop. Are you kidding me? You’re slashing and burning a swathe through L.A., but you can’t lie about being a cop?
He’s pretty chatty and chill with her, says he saw her jump across buildings, and she tells him it was steroids, which he absolutely believes, then helps her choose a helicopter so she won’t have to kill him. The one he shows her has a range of over 300 miles, which she’ll need because she’s being treated as a terrorist. Of course she is, white girl or not.
She easily picks up Joel, because the police helicopters are keeping their distance now, not used to being blown out of the sky. UMM. She’s taken out two so far, why would anyone be surprised by what she did to the second?
Alisa is surprised that the police helicopters hang back so far, at least 20 miles, as she heads toward the wilderness, trying to find a place for them to disappear. This does not make her feel better, because she knows they’re still under observation and it just makes her think that everyone is waiting for something. Reinforcements, she thinks. Army helicopters, probably. Joel tells her they will probably come from a large base to the south, so she should head north, which was already her plan, once they reach Cajon Pass, which cuts into the desert where Highway 15 leads to Vegas. Joel suggests she doesn’t wait that long, though.
They briefly talk about how his fever and cramps comes from his thirst for blood. She reassures him that he doesn’t have to kill to drink a human’s blood, nor will drinking the blood turn them into a vampire. (We also get to hear about how she met Bram Stoker once, and though he didn’t know she was a vampire, he knew she was something different and tried to pick her up. Because of course he did. These are the moments when I roll my eyes and try to remember why I like Alisa so much.)
She tells Joel that she’s going to open a vein for him and he needs to suck her blood; he calls it kinky, and she promises him that he’ll enjoy it because she tastes wonderful. Ah, that’s why I love you, that sly humour that runs through even you being the most dramatically serious.
Joel is not like Ray, blood does not make him sick, and he drinks hungrily, deeply; she has to stop him before she gives up too much blood. It leaves him feeling powerful and aroused, and she’s delighted by this, laughs, but that cuts off sharp when he asks if they can be killed by a stake through the heart, which reminds her of that time she was staked when she blew up her house to kill Yaksha. Her wound still aches, but that pain has lessened since she drank Yaksha’s blood. She wonders what he would think of her breaking Krishna’s vow. She misses Yaksha, after so long of hating him and fearing him. She misses Ray. She misses Krishna.
When they reach the gap in the mountains, they have about 4 hours of night left, and the police choppers are 30 miles behind them. She has to find a place that is sheltered from the sun for Joel and time for her to plot her next moves. They could hide in the cliffs, but she doesn’t want to stop so soon.
Instead, she plans to crash the helicopter into a lake. She should head toward the closest lake, Big Bear or Arrowhead, but she doesn’t want to head into the snowy mountains. She doesn’t like the cold still, and Joel will be extra sensitive to it. Vampires are serpents are the offspring of yakshinis — they prefer warmth. She will go to Lake Mead, instead, with Hoover Dam.
But she’s waiting too long. Two military helicopters come at them from the west. They are sixty miles away and, of course, are tracking her on radar now. They are Apache helicopters, the most lethal attack helicopter on earth. (Is that still true? I have no idea. Shit, I don’t even know if it was true when this was published.)
Joel suggests they surrender, but Alisa never surrenders.
Though it would be easy for the Apaches to shoot them out of the sky before they reach the lake, the Apaches don’t; Joel thinks that someone has told them to take them alive, and it could be as far up as the President of the USA, but probably came from the commander at the choppers’ home base.
Alisa reassures him that if they can get to the water, no one will imagine they are escaping that way, because no one can imagine they can hold their breath for so long. Alisa can hold hers for an hour. Joel is not certain he can do the same. I am not certain that, after everything else, anyone coming for them wouldn’t assume they could hold their breath/walk through fire/fly/whatever.
The Apaches won’t let them get close to the water, though, shooting in front of them when Alisa tries to head that way. Alisa manages to get them about 1/4 mile from the water, but then the choppers open up and shoot their rotor blades. The first round doesn’t take them out of the air. Alisa continues toward the lake and tells Joel to jump as soon as they hit the water and to swim for the far shore, staying underwater as much as possible. Because I’m sure no one will notice a body falling out of the helicopter they’re chasing.
Oh, and also, he doesn’t know how to swim. She flips out at him for a moment, because why didn’t he mention this earlier, but then tells him that all vampires can swim, he’ll just have to learn how. She says so, and since she’s the only authority on the subject, well then.
I mean, she’s not wrong…
He again asks her to jump with him, but she has to wait until they fire the lethal shot, so they’ll think she’s dead. There’s some more dramatic flying, one of the Apaches shoots off the tail rotor, and though Alisa loses control, she ends up over the water anyway.
Joel jumps, Alisa tries to get away from that spot both to draw their attention away from Joel and to give herself more room to maneuver. She shoots at the Apaches with her shotgun, but it does little, because they are far tougher than the police helicopters. It does, though, get them to finally fire a missile at her.
She’s fast, but not even she can outrun a missile, which is actually shocking (though, I suppose not so much, considering she also couldn’t outrun an explosion). Instead of being staked through the heart with a piece of wood, a fragment of burning metal cuts into her skull and the shock of the explosion tears her up inside.
The molten metal in her head does not react well with the cold water, and she sinks into the lake, flickering in and out of consciousness and falling as if it is a bottomless lake.
She thinks of Krishna, thinks that she doesn’t want to die without his divine grace, thinks how she wants to see him on the other side, thinks of how she loves him, god forgive her. Not sure why you’d need him to forgive you for loving him, but sure.
Y’all. Y’ALL. That was all chapter one WHAT THE FUCK.
Anyway, she wakes up with light panning across her face. It is the helicopters searching, of course, but she is deep underwater. She doesn’t know how long she’s been out, but her mind must have been able to stop her breathing even as she fell, unconscious.
Her left leg is pinned under the wreck of her helicopter, which is the only thing that kept her from floating to the surface and being shot. She starts to swim away from the lights, but she’s not sure if she’s getting closer to shore or farther away. She’s certain she can be free now, but isn’t sure whether Joel has escaped, and if he hasn’t, she isn’t done.
Eventually, she feels safe enough to surface, and sure enough, Joel has been captured. She wants to rush in to save him, but she knows that’s not going to be the best plan. Joel is put into an armoured truck and some of the soldiers are putting on scuba gear to search for her body. She has to hurry to follow Joel, but she also has to stop killing, because they will keep an eye out for suspicious deaths as a way to confirm she’s still alive.
(Alisa is “a better swimmer than most dolphins” because of course she is. Oh lord.)
She steals a Ford Bronco from some nearby campers and drives away with the window down so she can follow them via noise. Normally, her sense of hearing is best, but with the wind in her face, her sense of smell is her strongest sense and she can easily smell Joel. Another gift from Yaksha, she thinks, because he was a yakshini, a demonic race of serpents, and snakes have an exceptional sense of smell.
Again, she notices how she can sense their thoughts, and this sense of smell will help her follow them from afar, because they are looking for someone to follow them.
They head toward Vegas at first, and then turn east about 5 miles outside it to a restricted area, some sort of government base about 50 miles away. She has to proceed on foot from there, which of course is super easy for her.
The base is very well protected, with a fence 100 feet high (that she could easily jump) that has manned towers with machine guns and grenade launchers every 200 feet. There’s also some sort of weird paralyzing electricity field, and vampires are sensitive to electricity. She thinks this is the top-secret base where the government tests advanced fighter craft, nuclear weapons, and biological weapons.
Ooooh, vampire biological weapons, now that’s something to fear for sure.
Alisa knows she will not be able to break into the compound, not with all that security.
Joel is handed over to a bunch of white-clad scientists (because without their lab coats she couldn’t tell what they were, so of course they’re wearing white), and the way they look at him makes her think they actually do know about vampires, though that is impossible, for at least 2000 years, she and Yaksha were the only two vampires on earth, and though there have been more lately, she destroyed Eddie and all of his offspring, leaving only her and Joel.
Though she begins to doubt that.
The general who is looking Joel over is the one who wanted them taken alive, she decides, and he wants something from Joel.
She has to get Joel out of the compound before they can analyse his blood, but she can’t break inside, she has to sneak in. She might be able to seduce and hypnotise one of the guards, but it appears all of them live on the compound. Still, Vegas is nearby, and surely they leave sometimes to go to town.
Conveniently, one of the scientists leaves, and she immediately follows him. As she goes back to that stolen Bronco, she notices that her exposed skin is glowing with the same iridescence as the full moon. (And yet still no werewolves.)
This is strange, but she decides to worry about it, and whatever radiation they’re fooling with on the base, later.
Alisa hopes that the scientist lives in Vegas, but he heads straight to the Mirage, foiling that plan. She starts to follow him immediately, before she realises she’s still wearing bloody clothes and a ripped flak jacket. Again, conveniently, there are clothes in the Bronco for the family she stole it from, and those clothes sort of fit her, though they’re too big. Because of course campers kept clothes in their car rather than, you know, their tent.
She finds the scientist at the dice table inside, holding a pair of red dice. HELLO THERE TITLE DROP.
She watches him long enough to learn that he is betting higher than she expects for a scientist on a government payroll and that his name is Andrew Kane. She then follows him home, so that earlier frustration over her plan not working was moot and we really didn’t need the casino scene at all.
Also, she’s pretty casual about not getting to Joel faster, considering how worried she is that they will start experimenting on his blood. They’re probably already doing that.
Alisa hypnotises the reservation agent into giving her the luxury suite, has her business manager in NYC send her a code red package, which has everything she needs to start a new life: passport, driver’s license, cash, and credit cards, and it will arrive in the next hour. So … do you have one every 100 miles or something? There’s also an elaborate make-up kit inside, wigs, and coloured contacts.
Tomorrow, Andrew Kane will follow in love with a mysterious young woman.
(Chapter three. We’re only on chapter three.)
This mysterious woman is a demure redhead with short bangs and green eyes. Alisa has been sitting outside Andrew’s house in a new Jeep since noon, but he’s been asleep that whole time. She’s trying to learn more about him before she approaches him.
Their fight in L.A. is all over the papers, but the papers talk about three dozen Islamic fanatics, which is such complete and utter bullshit. (Also, since I know this is a reprint because I bought the ebook, I wonder what it was when the book was first published. Let me know if you know!)
Even Alisa feels the drain of the sun at this point, but Yaksha’s blood helps her handle it better, and she thinks that the sun had no effect on Yaksha before he died. She prays that he is finally at peace with Krishna, and is surprised by how often she prays to Krishna even though she’s supposed to hate him.
Andrew doesn’t leave his house until five p.m. He’s not off to the casino again, but back to work. She follows him because she wants to see how long it takes him to get through security, how many individual checks he goes through. The guards know and trust him and don’t even search his car or anything.
Alisa heads back to Andrew’s house, wondering if the general thinks she will be coming for Joel. She bets he won’t expect it. Why the fuck wouldn’t he? You’ve certainly set it up that they know a ton about you and possibly about vampires. Of course they should expect you to come.
(Probably they won’t, because Pike likes making things easy on Alisa sometimes.)
She learns a lot about Andrew very quickly: he’s a vegetarian, doesn’t smoke but does drink, doesn’t use cologne but does use some make-up. She assumes because he resents middle age, but maybe he just likes make-up, damn. Besides the debt at the casino, he is at his limit on three credit cards and some other debt to banks.
In his office, there is a model of a standard double helix DNA molecule. But there is also a more complex model of a twelve-strand DNA, one that Arturo Evola, Italian alchemist, first created 700 years ago after 6 months with Alisa.
Andrew, it seems, has already started to crack vampire DNA.
I fucking told you they know more than you think, Alisa Way Too Fucking Cocky For Your Own Good Perne.
(Chapter four. The chapters are coming way the fuck faster now.)
Aaah, back to Italy during the 13th century. Art, church abuse, best and worst of the middle ages, Alisa lived in Florence for about 30 years, Pike goes on and on about the terrible things christian churches do (and religion in general, though mostly the criticism is of christianity). Alisa thwarted the Inquisition by killing many of the inquisitors, killed them painful and slow while telling them she was an angel of mercy. No one’s working through any issues with religions here, nope not at all. (And there’s nothing wrong with that! It just seems very heavy-handed all of a sudden in this chapter.)
Arturo was a devout Franciscan priest, brilliant and forgotten by history. Alisa met him after Mass, where he gave her the Holy Eucharist and she can tell he’s attracted to her. Many of the priests had mistresses then. She sought him out based on a “gypsy healer” who held a high opinion of him. Reminder: Gypsy is a slur. The healer sent Alisa to him because he’s doing work that had to be kept from the church; as an alchemist, he was doing “comprehensive physical and metaphysical system [work] embracing cosmology as much as anthropology. Everything natural and supernatural can be found in it. The goal of alchemy is to experience the totality of the organism.”
So that sounds right up Alisa’s alley.
Their first afternoon together, they talked about astronomy, had a meal, went for a walk, and he was in love with her immediately. And then she fell in love with him, too. They slowly talk their way around to alchemy over time, and eventually Arturo admitted his mission in life, which was to discover the elixirs of holiness and immortality.
Vampires, basically. Or at least Alisa.
There’s a lot of stuff about auras and showing the spiritual body instead of the physical body, crystals and magnets, etc. He creates a grid with his crystals, one that transmitted unseen energies. She can actually feel energy rising from her body and her mand expand. This lasts forever, and at the end, he knows she’s not just a normal woman. She was okay with that, though, certain she could keep everything else a secret from him, but that’s not really how it worked.
They befriend this boy, he becomes like a son to Alisa, she saves his life after a great fall, and Arturo sees everything. When he confronts her, she can’t lie to him, because it’s always hard for her to lie to those she loves, so she tells him everything, including stuff about Krishna.
The more he learns and tells her, the more he frightens her, because he mixes his Christianity with the vampires and thinks that her blood will save mankind from itself, while she worries about how mankind will become just that more effective as monsters.
Despite the fact that she refuses to make more vampires, Arturo still has hope, because they are not creating vampires, they are creating a new man, a hybrid of human and vamp—–waaaaait. Wait. Wait.
There were no more vampires left but Yaksha and Alisa, per Alisa’s claims. WERE THERE HYBRID VAMPIRES? IS THAT WHERE WE’RE GOING? OH PLEASE OH PLEASE OH PLEASE.
Anyway, a hybrid of human and vampire that could live forever in the “glory of light instead of the shadow of darkness.” Well, you’ve certainly found someone just as dramatic as you are, Alisa.
He has a secret, the secret to permanent transformation, and if he has the right materials — i.e., her blood — he can transform anything, including her. She could become a hybrid. She could become a human.
And then we get this bullshit: He paused, perhaps thinking of my ancient grief over the loss of Lalita, my daughter. He knew my sterile condition was the curse of my unending life. He must have known, since he added, “You could have a child, Sita.”
Okay. Brace yourselves. WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS BULLSHIT. Now, on one level, it works for the character we know (Sita or Alisa or whatever name she’s using at the time), because becoming a mother was such a huge thing for her and she’s had this weird, twisty reminder of her human family ever since book one, but it’s not just about this one character.
This plays into a much bigger trend, which is that a woman can’t possibly be happy and complete if she can’t have a child. Alisa’s infertility as a vampire being the curse of her life (not, you know, watching everyone she loves grow old and die or killing people she cares about or killing huge swathes of people in general or knowing that her maker is hunting her and everything like her or on and on and on) is a part of this. She cannot be a mother again so she is cursed. This turns up all over the place. (Twilight, where the one woman who shifts into a wolf is, of course, only able to do so because she is infertile and therefore can never fulfill her real role as someone who will give birth to the next generation of shifter or where Rosalie is so desperate for a child she will destroy everything to make sure Bella can give birth; Avengers: Age of Ultron, where Natasha tells Bruce that he’s not the only monster and, from the way she frames that conversation, she says it not because she’s killed so many people, but because the Red Room sterilized her before they set her upon the world, and she’s a monster not because of what she’s done but because of what she can’t do; across science fiction; society’s obsession with having children being the natural and only way to becoming an adult (in the USA for sure, but elsewhere too); and on.) There is nothing wrong with wanting children or being infertile or being fertile or not wanting children or wanting to adopt or struggling with your infertility, etc.
But the story we are told over and over again is that a woman is not complete without becoming a mother, a woman’s body is not complete without successful pregnancy and childbirth, and a woman is monstrous if she does not or cannot do those things.
Which is seriously fucked.
Moving on, that whole “You could have a child, Sita” is the end of the chapter, and is a decent dramatic chapter ending. Take note, Point Horror authors.
Back to the current time, Alisa is armed and carrying tools, including a Geiger counter, because she is haunted by her glowing skin and whether they are using radiation on Joel. She has to make her way on foot up to the top of the hill that the compound is dug into, which gives her plenty of time to think about how badly she wants to kill the general, who reminds her of Eddie with his delusions of grandeur. I don’t know why she has that much time to think about it, because she’s supposed to move so goddamn fast.
Once she’s in place, she sees a sleek jet land on the runway; it looks like no other jet she’s seen before, and she thinks it can do Mach 10 (ten times the speed of sound) and that Congress has never heard of it. SECRET GOVERNMENT CONSPIRACIES HERE WE GO GOD I LOVE THIS SHIT LET IT ALL OUT PIKE.
Per her Geiger counter, the radiation is three times normal, but still within safety limits, so it is not what is making her skin glow. (Oh my god, (a) have you become a Twilight vampire and (b) did Meyer read this before she wrote Twilight even though she swears she never read vampire fiction? GLOWING VAMPIRES WHAT.)
Still, the radiation level means that there are nuclear warheads somewhere, probably stored in the caves under the hill.
This is how the human race gets into trouble. The danger of renegade vampires is nothing compared to the folly of handing unlimited sums of money over to people who like to keep “secrets.”
Alisa continues to be preoccupied with how Andrew has managed to duplicate Arturo’s work all these centuries later. She cannot imagine an explanation. GEE, ALISA, I SURELY CAN.
She also worries that the general has the authority to detonate the nuclear warheads if he wants, and who knows what will set off that desire GEE I CANNOT IMAGINE LIVING IN A WORLD WHERE NUCLEAR WEAPONS ARE AT THE WHIM OF PETTY MEN WITH DELUSIONS OF GRANDEUR OH WAIT.
As she heads back to Vegas, she suddenly wonders if the glowing is not radiation, is not man-made. She pulls over, gets naked, and holds herself out to the moon until her entire body begins to glow — but then she can will it to stop, and her skin returns to normal.
So, Pike, what I’m getting here is that you’re going to do something with full moons and supernatural power AND YET NO FUCKING WEREWOLVES THANKS A LOT.
She keeps inviting the moonlight into her body, until she can actually see through her arm to the ground below. So that’s clearly (heh) a thing that’s going to be useful soon.
Also, what the fuck can’t Alisa Goddamn Perne do?
Alisa is Lara Adams when she approaches Andrew in the casino later. You only just used that name two months ago, Alisa! Ray was recently killed in the middle of all the vampire stuff in L.A. This could be traced back to you! (My guess: it won’t. Of fucking course.)
Andrew is holding the dice again, because symbolism or something. She starts gambling with him, and at first they are down $800, but she quickly wins it back because vampire. She throws ten wins in a row before she lets herself lose once, so as not to draw suspicion. Pretty sure the casino would have already flagged you, but let’s move on.
They gamble for awhile, she gets him drunk, and over dinner she tries to ease information out of him. He calls himself a mad scientist, and does admit that he works as a genetic engineer for the government, in a lab “in town.” Riiiight. He goes on to talk about how he’s not resentful of his job, but he’s frustrated that, because they must work away from other scientists, the opportunities presented in the lab are not being fully exploited. He wants more disciplines involved, from all over the world, though he does understand the need for security, especially lately.
He asks how old she is, because she seemed thirty at the table but now seems much younger. She’s designed herself to look older, and her paperwork says she’s twenty-nine. She teases him for the compliment to how much she takes care of herself. They flirt a bit, but then he asks how she learned to throw the dice so well, by starting with the number she wants in her open palm. He’s never seen anyone who could control the dice.
I FUCKING TOLD YOU, ALISA, YOU ARE UNDERESTIMATING THESE PEOPLE!
Andrew takes her back to his place, drinks even more, which means he’s being far too open about his job (though mention of Joel or vampires, which would be just a step too far for me to believe) but also means she’s having trouble reading him.
He tells her that he keeps his work in his office to inspire him, though a raise would do more for him, and they talk about the models. She says she took biology classes during her undergrad, though her degree was in English lit, so she knows that DNA is a double helix molecule and encodes information for life. The other one, he says, is a model of a project he and his partners have been working on for the last month.
Which is, of course, within the timeline of Eddie turning so many vampires. She’s confused, though, because Eddie basically admitted to her that there were no other vampires and he could not have lied to her — but maybe someone lied to him and made a vampire he didn’t know about. This, of course, complicates her rescue mission.
Also, if they are so close to decoding vampire DNA (Andy has an outline of it, at least, and possibly more and other people there might as well), it is only a matter of time before they can create their own vampires.
Though, as much of a control freak as the general is, all that information is probably locked up at the compound. Hmmm, I wonder if there are possibly things there that could be blown up which will both help and hinder Alisa’s need to destroy the compound and everyone on it.
She teases him about making a modern Frankenstein monster, and he says they are playing a high-stakes genetic game, and though it is exciting, they have the wrong pit boss in charge: General Havor, a hardass who believes in order, performance, sacrifice, discipline, and power, and doesn’t create an environment for free thinking and cooperation.
Alisa plays the understanding girlfriend and tells him he should quit if he’s so unhappy, but he won’t walk away from “one of the greatest discoveries of modern time.” Or the money.
She convinces him to meet her at her suite in the Mirage the next day after work, and then takes off.
(At some point throughout this, he tells her that she seems familiar, like they’ve met before, and she blows this off in trying to trick him. Alisa. ALISA. Every time you or someone around you feel like you’ve met before, it’s some sort of reincarnation metaphor or reality or something. Maybe don’t ignore it here!)
Frankenstein, we learn, is one of the saddest stories in modern literature, at least per Alisa, because in a sense, she is that monster, and is, knowingly or unknowingly, the inspiration of nightmares for much of history, the primeval fear of something that refuses to die. She considers herself more human than Shelley’s creation (hey, he was plenty human!) and more humane than Arturo’s offspring; she is a monster, but she can love deeply.
Sooooooo, are we going to get more of that backstory now?
YES WE ARE.
(I’m so glad I remember nothing of this book, because this is GREAT.)
Arturo’s secret transformation was both simple and profound; he used crystals to amplify the aura around people (and cruel emotions are much easier to amplify); he believed that the mind created the body, not the other way around, and so by changing the aura from the mind, he changed physiology, too, and he was right.
Of course it was the drive to be a mother again that caused her to give him her blood despite all her worries. This is, obviously, a mistake, and it is because for all his good aspects, he was a genius who thought he had a great destiny to create the perfect being. This is not going to go well.
She bleeds into a chalice for him, and he’s going to put her blood above the head of selected humans to “merge the vibration of [her] immortal pattern into that of a mortal” so the body would also be transformed. He will not put her blood into anyone’s veins, he promises, and swears that her god and his god are the same and she will not break her vow because of his actions.
Alisa admits that she had already broken a part of it and she does this for him. She has broken her vow for herself and for him, and so he must do the same, break his vow for himself and for her and make love to her.
He tells her he can’t because his life is dedicated to Christ. (She tells us, the readers, that the seed of everything that came after was hidden in his words, but she did not see it then, not clearly, and I — wait, wait, wait, is this going to lead to some antichrist birth thing?)
What finally convinces him is when she says he believes her blood is the path to god, so he should pretend she is his god at least for that night. Goddamn, Alisa, get in there with your vow breaking and sacrilege.
The secret ingredient he uses is mirrors. Oh lord, that never goes well. He uses one above the crystals that is coordinated with one outside that reflected moonlight through the crystals, and that is what set in motion the vibration in the aura that altered the body.
This reminds me simultaneously of using mirrors in excavations and of all the stories of magic and monsters that pass through the mirror, and I love it.
Anyway, Arturo would never use sunlight, because it was too strong, but even back then, he understood that the light of the moon was actually sunlight, just softened by “cosmic reflection.”
Oh, cool, experimenting on a local child who was “retarded” since birth, because there’s no terrible history of real experiments like that, awesome. (Reasons why you should stop using that word, including as a pejorative for people who are doing things you don’t like.)
The moonlight through the mirrors, crystals, and her blood make the child hyperventilate, but he remains calm through it, so they don’t stop the process. When it is done, his eyes are bright and he can speak in full sentences. He tells her he loves her, he loves “Sita” and she is so full of joy that she didn’t even notice that she’d never given him her real name, that only Arturo and Ralphe, that boy she saved earlier, knew her name. [Wing: Note from the future, where the fuck does this go? It’s dropped, and I need to know why the kid suddenly knew her fucking name!]
She cried tears of water, not tears of blood, and just earlier in this goddamn book you said you wished you could cry at all, which the fuck is it?
Next Arturo goes for a leper because he wants to see a drastic physical change, and it works, too. At first, she seems stronger and more alert, and then within a few days, she regrows the toes and fingers she lost to it, and within two weeks, there’s no sign she was ever sick.
They swore her to secrecy; she told everyone.
Arturo passes her cure off to the grace of God, but that doesn’t really save him, because the church believes it is better to burn a possible saint than to let a genuine witch live, and a saint might really be a witch.
(I am not going to get into a huge long thing about the damage religion does when it is abused, as it so often is within Christianity, in part because Pike clearly has his own hate-on in this book, but my god, the fallout we still see from bullshit abuse of Christianity. And if you think there aren’t Christians who still think, for example, better dead than queer, then you have been sheltered and lucky.)
Arturo doesn’t heal any more lepers, no matter how much different people beg (which is pretty shit of him), but he continues his experiments. Alisa gives us a little aside about how hope brings grief, and the people who are the most content are those who have ceased to dream and expect nothing. What a painful thought.
Arturo hates how much he loves sex with Alisa, because he believes he is sinning over and over again, breaking his vows just when he’s about to fulfill his destiny. Alisa encourages him to go to confession to help himself, but he will only confess to her because only she understood him.
But she did not understand, at least not what he meant to do.
He starts to have visions again, which he’d had before, but now they are peculiar; he started to build models from them, and it wasn’t for 700 more years that she realised he was building DNA models. Human DNA. Vampire DNA. And one other form. The hybrid form.
Double helix of human DNA, twelve straight strands of vampire DNA, and the perfect being will have twelve helix strands.
(I have zero idea of how grounded this is in any kind of science, and right now, I don’t even care, I’m too entertained by the story.)
Arturo decides he must move his experiments to normal people instead of those who are sick, and wants to start with Ralphe. Alisa saved him before by giving him her blood, and Arturo doesn’t think this is any different, even when she begs him not to mix Christ and vampires in his mind, because Christ did not know of vampires and it is blasphemy, even to her.
She tells him to experiment on her instead, and he says he can’t change her, not then. AND OF COURSE HE CAN’T, BECAUSE HE NEEDS HER PURE VAMPIRE BLOOD AND IT NEEDS TO BE FAIRLY FRESH AND THOSE DREAMS OF HERS START TO SHATTER UGH ALISA I LOVE YOU SO MUCH KILL HIM NOW.
She also calls him on this idea that immortality, perfection will only be given to an elite, exclusive club, because that is how the world worked then (and how it works now). God, I love you Alisa. I don’t even care how didactic and heavy handed some of your statements are.
Alisa and Arturo both get sloppy with their decision making, and soon enough, Arturo has experimented on Ralphe. The screams alert her to what’s going on, and she finds five mangled bodies with their limbs torn off; one woman is still, barely, alive, and before she dies, she tells Alisa that a demon child did that to them.
An angry mob gathers after the second set of kills just a few minutes later, and they chase the child into the woods. Alisa tries to warn them to get more reinforcements, but mob mentality has set in and they demand vengeance. This really is a Frankenstein’s monster story!
It is, of course, Ralphe, and when she finds him, he has snake like eyes and is a serpent on the prowl. There is a faint flicker of affection when he sees her, and that is why she does not kill him instantly. Oh, Alisa, you will literally never learn.
She tries to reason with him, and when he acts mournful and hurt that Arturo made him what he is, she swears not to kill him, not for the whole world. Then he bites a big chunk out of her right arm and tells her she tastes good.
That is the end for her. She offers him her other arm, once again crying (I THOUGHT YOU COULDN’T CRY, WOMAN), and as he bites her other arm (“lustfully” because why not throw in some incestuous hints again), she breaks his neck.
She knows she should flee, but killing him is too much for her, killing someone she thought of as her child, and she stays there, weeping and holding him, until the mob finds her. Instead of killing them or escaping, she lets them drag her back to town and throw her into a dungeon.
Alisa is not sure what to do. They cannot kill her unless she allows it, but she loves Arturo and they can easily kill him if she doesn’t stop it. But at the same time, if he lives, he will continue his experiments, and he has enough of her blood left to immediately make another Ralphe, or worse.
Alisa testifies against him, because she can’t let him live with what he knows, but she cannot kill him herself.
Arturo himself never confessed, no matter how much they tortured him, and Alisa never saw him again after the trial. She didn’t attend his execution, but heard they burned him at the stake like any witch.
So. This man that you love and that you condemn to death because the world is not safe from him, you choose not to watch to make sure he’s really dead. Even knowing that he has been doing experiments with immortality and your blood. Really. That is a decision you made.
Alisa is at a poker table, trying to bluff a high roller into folding; her mind-reading keeps getting more powerful, and now she can see his cards as if she’s looking through his eyes. Dear god, will her talents and strengths and perfections never end? It’s mighty convenient how her skills keep increasing just enough to keep up with whatever’s happening around her.
And, it works. Of course, he’s a sore loser and all his friends turn on her, one even going so far to grab her arm because they want the chance to win their money back. She tells them she’ll give their money back if they all go for a drive with her. They underestimate her, of course, and follow her in their cars, as she requests. They are afraid of her, and armed, but they are afraid that she’s setting them up to be robbed, which is a valid concern normally.
They frisk her, take the money she gives them, and then want to know why she dragged her all the way out there. She tells them she’s hungry and wants prime ribs. She insults them some, they call her bitch a couple times and one goes so far as to slap her across the face, and she flat out tells them she’s the one the cops were chasing in L.A. and she is a 5000 year-old vampire. Have your fun, dear girl.
She offers to let three of the men go, but only two of them are scared enough to take her up on it. The other one, she controls into putting the gun in his mouth and nearly pulling the trigger, because she is trying to frighten him into leaving with the others, and he does.
The man who hit her, who insulted her, becomes her meal. He begs for his life, says he doesn’t want to die, and she pulls out that favourite line of hers again (and even calls it her favourite) and tells him that if he didn’t want to die, he should never have been born.
After her meal, she wanders the desert for awhile, even though she should be planning for her night with Andrew. She keeps thinking that she has missed something important, a piece of the puzzle that is just at the edge of her knowing but she can’t quite get it.
She can’t shake her thoughts of Arturo, and considering how often the memories of someone in her past have been applicable to someone in the present, she should probably be more concerned about that than she is.
She strips, takes in the moon, makes herself transparent, and then starts to float.
WELP, INVISIBLE FLYING VAMPIRE THAT IS WHERE WE ARE THREE BOOKS IN. INVISIBLE. FLYING. VAMPIRE.
Back at her room, she calls Seymour. SEYMOUR! I’ve missed you. He is her friend, her personal biographer, her psychic twin, and the man she cured of AIDS a few months ago. She tells him everything that is going on, and he says that he’s been writing another story about her; in it, she was an angel, glowing white and flying high above a ruined landscape.
So, you mean, basically exactly what she was just doing.
They go over a couple of different options to try to get in and out of the compound, but really she wants him to tell her what she’s missing. He’s not sure what that is, but he does tell her things she doesn’t want to hear: she can’t go straight for Joel when she’s inside the compound, she needs to go for the general so she can control him; he also tells her what I’ve been shouting throughout this, which is that she keeps underestimating what they know about her and they know she’s coming for Joel; she needs the general to detonate a nuclear warhead so all the samples and research are destroyed; and she might not be able to get her and Joel out alive, and maybe not even herself.
He asks her to make him a vampire so he can help her, but again, she refuses, because he’s too special to be contaminated by her blood.
Alisa and Andrew go gambling again, though she is distracted by the thought of a nuclear bomb exploding on the Vegas strip, even though that’s not what will happen. At most, they’ll get a little fallout if the wind is wrong.
Andrew gets drunk fast, and they head down to the Excalibur. Hey, Excalibur! (Random Wing fact: the past couple trips I’ve taken to Vegas with Dove, Raven, and Ostrich, we’ve stayed at the Excalibur. It’s pretty fun.)
By dawn, she has him back at her suite at the Mirage, though, and he grumbles that he hates his job. She gets him talking about his boss and how horrible he is; he’s ordered them to artificially clone the explosive genetic material they’re working with, and he’s worried about duplicating something that could affect all mankind if it got out.
So chemical warfare as usual, right?
This is worse than she feared, though, and it’s time to get to work. She tells him what she knows about Joel, more or less, and he realises that she’s the other one they were all told about. She also tells him about Eddie and how he was the one doing all the killing before that big night in L.A. Which is kind of a lie, Ms I’ve Killed Thousands or Hundreds of Thousands or Maybe Even Millions, but let’s go with it.
When he asks how many of them are there, she says that she thought it was just the two of them, but she thinks they have another at the compound. He refuses to tell her, though; instead, he tells her that Joel has been sick with fever and severe cramps and nothing they’ve tried can help him. He freaks out at the idea of feeding him blood. Are you telling me that someone allegedly this smart hasn’t considered “vampire” with everything else that is going on? Clearly we’re beyond regular human understanding. Why not go to blood drinker? This is either really sloppy or really intentional and I’m not sure which I find more frustrating.
They talk a lot about what does and does not make a monster and how the blood and research must be destroyed and whether he should help her and how vampire blood takes over human blood. He tries to get her to confirm this, but she is cagey with this information.
He finally admits that there is another vampire, one they captured about a month ago in Los Angeles. He never talked about an Eddie, though, but another person whose name Andy has forgotten. Alisa is certain this confirms her theory. I am doubtful, and also highly entertained that her cockiness and confidence so often leads her into making the wrong assumption and then into terrible situations. I love that flaw in her even as I’m shouting at her to pay attention.
He’s now virtually comatose, because they didn’t know what to do with his illness and he never asked for blood. She thinks that means he was captured right after he changed, before anyone could tell him what he is.
(I’m still back on the whole thing where the scientists had even figured out that the one type of blood could change human blood AND YET NO ONE THOUGHT TO GIVE THE SAMPLE DONOR BLOOD WHAT THE FUCK.)
She agrees to stay with him through the dawn, and dreams a dream she’s had before. Grassy plain, no sun, hundred blue stars, people walking into a violet spaceship, you know, normal things. She’s talking to Krishna again. She says she feels lost; he tells her that all of creation is a part of him, so how could she ever be lost? She has already been to earth, she is home now. She vaguely remembers a husband, a daughter, but there is a dark film over her memories. Creation is a stage and it is all illusion and she could never sin. She again asks if that means she doesn’t have to leave him, and he tells her she’s not listening, she could never leave him because he is always there, everywhere.
He tells her the story of a fisherman and his wife; the only complaint is that the fisherman only eats fish, nothing else, no bread or rice or pastries. Finally she tricks him into eating a bit of cooked lamb in among the scales of the fish, and then he begins to choke and cough, and this has poisoned him. He thinks she should know who he is, but all he can say is that he is what he is before he dies and he turns into a fish, which he had always been, and as a big fish, he could only eat smaller fish and everything else was poison.
I … do not think that is how fish actually work.
(I also realise I’m getting caught up in the details of a fable within a story and am being ridiculous.)
Alisa hides in the trunk, wearing a white lab coat and a fake security badge, so now she is Lieutenant Lara Adams, Ph.D., a microbiologist on loan from the Pentagon, one of the many scientists who have arrived lately. They get into the compound without trouble, and Andy parks so that she can get out of the trunk without anyone seeing her.
She decides to follow Seymour’s advice and goes for the general’s private quarters, but the general is not there. Though she thinks Seymour wise, she thinks he is overestimating the general’s intelligence. Look how easily she got into the compound.
Alisa. Darling. I think you are underestimating literally everyone.
Since the general isn’t as home (as she suspected he wouldn’t be), she goes to get a look at Joel, because Alisa is making terrible decisions la–well, no. I was going to say lately, but really it is always and forever my god do you ever make good decisions? How have you stayed alive this long? (Oh, right, Yaksha let you live because he loved you, and since his death, you’ve been surviving only through his blood and deus ex machina.)
She actually goes all the way to the security center, where she can see Joel on one of the screens, but not another vampire on a separate monitor. Oh my god Alisa WHY ARE WARNING BELLS NOT GOING OFF IN YOUR HEAD YOU COCKY TERRIBLE WOMAN.
She learns that Joel is in a box so thick an atomic bomb couldn’t blast through it, which is useful to her (if it isn’t an exaggeration, something she has yet to consider), and then she knocks the guards unconscious. What? NOW you stop killing people? Dear god, woman.
She opens Joel’s room, rushes toward him even as he tells her not to, and SURE E-FUCKING-NOUGH IT IS A TRAP NO ONE SAW THIS COMING.
ANDY IS ARTURO. ANDY. IS. FUCKING. ARTURO. I FUCKING KNEW IT GODDAMN IT ALISA WHY ARE YOU MAKING SUCH TERRIBLE CHOICES.
She is left in the room for several hours, sitting with her eyes closed, seething with rage, at the general, at Arturo, at herself. YEAH YOU SHOULD BE MAD AT YOURSELF TOO. She can’t stop thinking about all the signs Arturo left for her:
- Joel was brought in front of Andy when he was captured, and Andy confirmed he was the one with the special nature, but Andy didn’t stay to examine him, he left to go gambling, which she never thought was weird before but does now, and of course, he was doing it to lure her in.
- She never saw Andy in the sun, because he is sensitive to it like a vampire.
- Andy talked about his highly classified work to her without her hardly needing to prod it out of him, and she took this as a gift and not a warning sign.
- He protested when she asked for help but in the end agreed to do it without her having to manipulate his brain.
- HE HAD ARTURO’S MODEL OF VAMPIRE DNA WHAT THE FUCK.
While talking to Joel, she shouts at the monitor that allows them to talk to her without entering the room that Arturo will end up with a thousand Ralphes running loose with what he’s doing now. That prompts him to start talking to her again.
He tells her that he had to stop her because of the violent murders in Los Angeles, which he knew was her; she doesn’t let him get away with that lie, because he knows that she never killed for pleasure. Now who is starting your first real conversation in seven centuries with a lie, Alisa?
She tells him about Eddie and what he did, and they argue back and forth over what Arturo is up to. He finally tempts her with some knowledge about how he’s still alive, which she shoots down, because of course he was experimenting on himself even though he swore he wasn’t. No shit. He never reached full hybrid status, which is also no shit, because he’s aged.
Alisa is curious about what happened after the trial. The inquisitor offered him a hanging death rather than burning if he confessed; it was a calculated risk on Arturo’s part, one that paid off.
He finally admits what happened with Ralphe, which was that he used the midday sun and not the moonlight. Ralphe begged for it, because he’d been spying on them without them knowing it (HOW? WITH ALISA’S SENSES, HOW DID HE MANAGE THAT?), and Arturo knew with the word spreading about him, he only had a limited time to finish his experiments.
She demands to know why he didn’t do that to himself rather than to the child they both loved, a child who couldn’t really consent to such an experiment; he did, though, before the mob got to him, but they interrupted the process and broke the vial. That is why he’s been able to live so long, but why he did not become a hybrid.
He also has a theory that Ralphe felt fear during the transformation, and that warped his DNA and turned him into the monster he became.
She tries to get through to him through guilt over what he’s become and how she trusted him because he was so gentle when they met. He can’t defend his acts, though he thought the rewards worth the possibility of failure, and apparently he still does.
They talk more, pushing and pushing at each other’s buttons, and then she swears in the name of her god that Arturo will never get to heaven, in this world or the next. And that puts fear in his eyes.
Joel sleeps, Alisa listens as hard as she can through the wall and can just make out the guards in the security station. They’re talking about pro football, the Cowboys and the 49ers. (Huge rivals.) She ignores that and focuses on their thoughts, as Yaksha’s blood gifts continue to grow stronger. Guard One is hurting because of an ulcer. Guard Two is thinking about naked women and needing to pee. Guard Three writes science fiction in his spare time, and his lawyer brother-in-law told him to forget becoming a writer after reading his last book but Guard Three doesn’t think just being a lawyer doesn’t mean he can spot talent — Alisa confirms this, because his mind is full of creative ideas. (Pike, did a lawyer hurt you? I think one did.)
She starts to think that she can manipulate their thoughts even without being able to look into their eyes. She starts with Guard Three and gets him talking about how dangerous she is, and then gets Guard One talking about how they have to be alert and keep watching her. Guard Three is all over that idea, too.
Guard Two takes a piss, and she’s so chill about it, two out of three ain’t bad. I laughed out loud, y’all.
She keeps working on their paranoia. It works best with One and Three, but Two is shaken because he doesn’t know how to calm them down or why they need to be calmed down. She builds them up and builds them up, until they are certain that if they don’t look at her every second, she will get out.
Her plan: to break the lights so they will panic and call for help. General Havor himself will come, she’s certain. She tells him no more of her plan, probably because it is pretty vague in her own head, but tells him to get ready.
She looks right at the cameras and tells them that they’d better run and hide, because she’s coming for them and she’s very hungry. Then she shatters every light and they freak the fuck out.
Again, this scene would be great in a movie.
Arturo and the general come themselves. Arturo tells the general to keep the door locked and all will be well, but the general doesn’t like it that they can’t see her and they don’t know the extent of what she can do, she could be breaking through the wall right then. They argue for awhile, but the general agrees that they’ll wait and see what she does next.
She tells Joel that she has to make a lot of noise and projecting into the general’s mind and needs him not to talk to her and then to wedge himself behind the door when they start to open it, because there will be gunfire and that is the safest spot.
Alisa slips into the general’s mind, which is a nasty place to be. Of course he wants to rape her, because that always has to be a threat in a story even about all-powerful vampires, he will kill Arturo as soon as the experiments are done, and there is no real trust between them.
She starts putting thoughts there, that she will break down the door, that they can get her blood from a dead body as easily as from a living one. The general is fantasising about shooting her in the head, killing her, and immediately putting her blood into his veins, which would protect him from Arturo being able to stop him or kill him.
With all these things set in his mind, when she starts kicking the door and creating an overwhelming noise, he is primed to think that she’s going to break out and that he might as well go in and kill her while he has her cornered, to hell with Arturo.
After five minutes of kicking, she listens to the general and Arturo argue over what the general wants to do. Finally the general wins the fight and orders his mean to get ready to go in.
The door begins to open, Alisa wedges herself into a corner of the ceiling, Joel hides behind the door, and they wait. No one comes inside, but there are plenty of soldiers between Alisa and the general, and she needs him to get them out alive, so she needs to get him within reach.
She grabs a soldier who turns out to be Guard Three, and after letting him scream for awhile, she tells him that she won’t kill him if he helps her terrify his friends. She tells him her plan, which involves cutting him enough to blow his blood out where the others can see him; she also tells him not to listen to his brother-in-law, who is like all lawyers “envious of those who do honest work for a living.” Good lord, Pike, no really, WHICH LAWYER HURT YOU?
(I do love that she encourages him to keep writing.)
They go through her plan, she drops him behind the door with Joel, and she grabs the next soldier, who is not one of the guards whose thoughts she read earlier, which means things aren’t going to go well for him.
Her work terrifies the others, but it disturbs her, too; she does not like kill if it is not efficient and painless, and she doesn’t have the stomach to make another example. It is time to go.
She grabs the machine gun the soldier dropped and shoots into the hallway, killing soldiers as she steps into the hall. Arturo and the general are at the far end, of course, trying to get away. There are plenty of soldiers between her and them, but they are terrified and the general has lost control. She tells them she will let them live if they drop their weapons, and most of them do. She kills the ones that don’t.
The large number of deaths throughout this situation, from all the way back in Los Angeles, has not numbed her to it, and she feels each and every one she kills. She thinks about them, and the people they were, the life they leave behind; if it was just her life, not Joel, not the risk of her blood in the wrong hands, she would let them kill her.
(This reminds me of that Leverage episode, “The Experimental Job,” where Eliot talks about how he’s never counted how many kills he has because he can remember — well, here: What do you want to know? Names? Dates? Locations? You want to know what food was on their breath? Their eyes – what color their eyes were? You want to know the last words they spoke? You want to know which ones deserved it. Or, better yet, the ones that didn’t? Do you want to know which ones begged? Do you know why I remember these things? […] Cause I can’t forget. So there’s nothing you can do, no punishment you can hand out that’s worse than what I live with every day. So, to answer your question, no. No, I haven’t counted. I don’t need to.
I need to rewatch Leverage again soon.)
Still, Arturo and the general disappear around the corner, and she calls Joel out to come with her. She drags them straight up through the ceiling and into the floor above them. Amazing. She puts a bullet into the general’s thigh, forcing him to stumble, and that gives them time to reach him.
They go to the cave with the warheads, and though they reach it without excessive bloodshed (who knows what that even means to her now), they have to kill all the soldiers inside. She’s not even sure if protecting their blood is worth it anymore, but she cannot quit now that she’s begun this fight.
They get locked inside, and she tells the general this is his fault, that since the beginning of history, she chose to stand apart so that mankind has been able to move steadily forward, but he has forced her to change her style and he is the cause of this endless slaughter. There’s some threats, some arguing, some dramatic monologuing (mostly from Alisa, of course), but she gets her bomb and within 10 minutes, they wheel a fully armed warhead out of the mountain, with 15 minutes until detonation. That should give them all time to get out.
(More full moon, still no werewolves, goddamn it, Pike.)
Arturo is the highest ranking commander on the outside, now, and he tells her she is making a mistake. He will sacrifice them all, because the order has come down not to let her and Joel escape. I have zero percent belief that he cares one whit for the chain of command.
She tells him that just as she did at the inquisitor’s court, she will kill whoever it takes to protect humanity. He challenges that, because what is she protecting them from, a chance to evolve into something greater, something that never needs to hurt each other? (Not sure how you’re going to work out that whole human nature to kill each other thing.)
When she tells him that he cannot become godlike by merging with a monster, he is shocked because she is not a monster. She argues that she is also not an angel, or if she is, she is the angel of death, and that once she had the right to live, granted by Krishna, but she has broken her sacred vow, and she and humanity can never join.
He talks about himself as an example of what they could do together, but she sees him as the prime example of why this should never happen. When they met, he was an ideal person, devout, loving, and brilliant, but everything that was good in him was perverted the day he got her blood.
At 10 minutes, she gets him to let at least some of the men go. There are too many left for them to try to run, though; she remembers the box they were in, but if they run for that, they’ll be gunned down then, too.
The standoff continues, until she starts to glow because the moonlight has been filling her since she stepped outside and now she is becoming more and more transparent, and she feels like she is made of glass.
She can fly away, but when she reaches for Joel, her arms go right through him and he can barely hear her because it’s hard to focus on her. Joel tells her to go and that he loves her and the grace of God is still with her. Arturo then gives in and admits that she was probably right and that everything she needs is in his basement and it is her choice. UMM. You couldn’t have made this decision five fucking minutes ago and let all these people live?!
Anyway, she doesn’t understand what he means, but it’s pretty clear he’s giving her the chance to be human again. She tells him she loves him, too, and Alisa spends a great deal of time saying good-bye to the people she loves right before they blow up.
She soars and the bomb explodes; the compound is gone, the stolen blood vaporised (along with all those people), and the world is safe.
But I, Sita, I am lost in the night.
DRAMATIC AS FUCKING EVER.
Though that would have been one hell of a line to go out on, there is an epilogue. She finds everything she needs in Arturo’s basement, and finally figures out what he meant. Of course she calls Seymour to talk through the possibilities, because that is what she always does now. He tells her to wait until he can join her, and join her he does.
They argue, but eventually, he gives her his blood and she sends him away while she does the experiment. She uses the sun, of course, not the moon, and when she wakes, she feels weak and disoriented, and someone is knocking at the door. Her vision is blurry, her skin feels spongy (what, not marble hard anymore?), and her head hurts.
Right before she opens the door, she remembers everything and wonders if she is human now.
When she asks who is outside the door, the person says it is her darling, but it doesn’t sound like Seymour. The voice is familiar, though, from a long time ago, demanding, impatient, and then the person tells her to open the door.
She wonders if she should. She looks down at her trembling hands and wonders many things.
I had a good time recapping the first two books, but oh my god, recapping this one was amazing, in large part because I had no memory of it at all. I know I read it, because I do remember having that cover, but what happened? NO IDEA. The only thing that seemed even a little familiar was the lake, but I was really thinking back to Monster (which is my favourite Pike book ever and will be recapped toward the end of the year), which has a couple of amazing lake scenes.
I fucking love going into this not remembering anything. I love Alisa, I love the ridiculousness of everything, including her perfection, I love the hell out of this ridiculous world.
BRING IT ON, PHANTOM. BRING. IT. THE. FUCK. ON.