Paved with Good Intentions

by Kaol

Kaol removed his feet from the control panel and sat up in his chair as an alarm sounded in the cockpit of the Falcon Two. Casually, he flipped a switch and the sound desisted. Almost without thinking, his hands flew across the panels surrounding him, making the necessary adjustments to his course.

With a heavy sigh, he sat back in the chair, picking idly at the stuffing coming out of its torn side. Flipping another switch, he engaged the communications system. Mark and his other companions on the Pegasus were too many light-years distant to engage in actual communication, but he could at least beam them information on his status. Sarann had been emphatic that he do so, though if something were to go wrong, he doubted they'd be able to arrive in time to be of much use.

Clearing his throat, Kaol spoke into his headset. "Okay," Kaol spoke. "This is Captain's Log, Stardate 23775.33." He paused and smiled. He didn't know why, but Mark had always insisted he begin transmissions like that. Kaol didn't get it, but Mark seemed to find it terribly amusing and said you had to be from Earth to understand.

Kaol continued, "Okay, guys, I'm currently zipping by a very pretty planet with lots of rings around it. I must admit, Mark, you Earth-folk have an attractive system. Can't believe y'all have never bothered to fly out and do some sightseeing yourselves. Awfully backward planet, if you ask me. Which you didn't, but as you can't talk back to me now I can pretty much say what I want.

"At any rate, I've almost reached your home planet and everything seems to be working normally without problems for a change. Of course, we both know that will undoubtedly not last, but I'm enjoying these brief moments of peace and calm."

Kaol looked down at the glowing ring on his finger. It pulsed a pale red now, but Mark had indicated it would glow brighter as he approached his target. A tiny arrow appeared to float just below the surface and pointed in the direction he was heading. Kaol thought, not for the first time, that he was lucky to have a sorcerer as powerful as Mark as part of his crew. This little ring would make his task infinitely easier.

He related this information to Mark and the others. "The ring is working like a charm. Charm, get it?" He chuckled to himself. "At any rate I should be able to locate Ammyram and get back to y'all in incredible time if things continue the way they are. I should be arriving at your planet within the hour and will broadcast again tomorrow at around this same time, give or take. Enjoy a glass of toozle on me. This is Kaol, reminding you to keep your feet on the ground but keep reaching for the stars." He smiled as he turned off the communicator, knowing Mark would get an incomprehensible laugh out of this as well.

Kaol turned somewhat more serious again as he looked at the blue-green ball now filling the monitor. It was not his first time on Earth, but he remained somewhat suspicious of the place. He considered it the equivalent of a child with a loaded blaster. It had more power than it realized and hadn't clue one how to handle it. While backward by galaxy standards it had incredible potential.

And somewhere on that vast planet was his long-lost crewmate, Ammyram. His brow furrowed in worry as he considered that and the last time he had seen his blue-coifed friend. At that time she had been struggling in the arms of a four-armed Mashoba while he was dodging blaster fire at the other end of a corridor. He'd been forced to abandon her and had assumed she'd been killed. A dull pain throbbed in his chest as he remembered these events. Even now, he felt he'd had no choice, but that didn't make the abandonment of one of his closest friends any easier. He'd been carrying that guilt around for over a year now.

Yet now was an opportunity to get rid of that guilt. He'd had Mark cast for Ammyram for the past month, hoping against hope that she might still be alive somewhere. Ammy was a survivor, after all, and it was just possible she'd escaped the Mashobas.

Not only was it possible, but it was true. Mark had found her, and where had she ended up? On Earth, of all places. Perfect. Ammy had always liked to tweak him, and even now she was managing to do so. Yet his heartbeat accelerated at the thought of seeing Ammyram and a wistful smile curled up his lips. He only hoped she would forgive him. But he had a bottle of toozle stored in the back of the tiny ship which he would share with her, and if he remembered Ammy, that would go a long way towards making things better.

Kaol engaged the cloaking system as he made prep for the final approach to his destination. He toyed with the idea of buzzing around uncloaked to give the astronomers a thrill, but opted against it. Business first, playtime later.

Entering the planet's atmosphere, Kaol engaged manual override and took control of the ship. The ring on his finger glowed brighter now, and he steered towards a small island in the northern hemisphere. Thin eyes narrowing further, he studied what seemed to be a large resort in the view screen. His stomach churned as he had a feeling that this was the place he was looking for. He over flew it once and then settled his ship down in a clearing not too distant from this place where he would soon be reunited with his crewmate.


Kaol stood, hands on hips, outside the large rock wall surrounding the castle. In the gathering twilight, he was able to read a sign suggesting this to be a Castle Donnegan. Yet something he couldn't define suggested this was no run of the mill castle. He wasn't sure what it was, but something felt, well, funny. There was more here than met the eye. There was nothing he could pinpoint, but Kaol had learned long ago to trust his instincts.

Although not from Earth, Kaol was physically indistinguishable from the locals, and so he slowly moved in with the others approaching the gates. From what he could gather, this Castle must be a local tourist attraction. Yet as he scanned the faces of the crowd milling about outside the gates, waiting their chance to enter, his eye caught that of someone who seemed to stand out from the other tourists. She was clearly very attractive, dressed in tight attire that made her young and well formed body stand out even more so. Deciding it wouldn't hurt to make an ally here, he edged over to her.

"Here to see the Castle?" he asked.

"Hmm? Pardon?" she responded in an accent far different from the American one Kaol had come to know from Mark. "Did you speak to me?"

"Uh, yeah. I hope that's not a problem. Thought I'd introduce myself. Name's Kaol."

She eyed him speculatively and for a moment he would have sworn her eyes widened at the sound of his name. But he warned himself not to get too jumpy. No need to expect disaster or act paranoid. In fact, she was smiling at him now, and he found himself relax in return. "I am Eve," she replied. "I am happy to meet you. This is your first time?"

"No," Kaol replied. "I've introduced myself to lots of people."

She laughed at that. "No, I mean visiting this castle. Myself, I have been here before and was simply observing the guests as they enter. I do find people watching fascinating, don't you?"

Kaol really wasn't sure what she was talking about, but decided to agree. "Yes, I like to watch people too. I'm watching you right now."

"You would not be the first," she commented, arching an eyebrow. "And what about you? What brings you here?"

"Ah, well, I'm here to meet an old friend. She said she'd be here and I came to meet her." Not totally a lie.

"Is that so?" she eyed him curiously. "You are a hard man to read. I think there is more to you than meets the eye."

He smiled nervously back. "Yes, well, I'm working on that. Trying to cut down on sweets and all."

"Yes," she returned his smile, but it was somewhat confused and more reserved than before. "And who are you looking for here, may I ask?"

"A woman named Ammyram, or she may go by Ammy."

"I have not heard of her, but perhaps you will find her all the same. The Keep has many rooms. Yet if she wants to be found, I'm sure you will meet."

"The Keep?" Kaol responded. "I thought it was Castle Done Again or something like that."

Eve nodded slowly, a mysterious smiling teasing her lips. "It is the name of the place you wish to enter." She slid her hand into his. They were now the only two standing outside the gates. "Come with me and all will be revealed."

Kaol ran his eyes up and down her body and thought that sounded promising.

Yet as they stepped through the gate, Kaol could not repress a gasp. While it had been twilight outside the gate, it was now dark within, and his eyes took a moment to adjust. He was reminded of the book Mark had him read once of a girl stepping through a mirror and finding her world suddenly changing. Kaol had an idea of how she must have felt. He turned to look at Eve, his mouth opening in question, and found her gone.

Kaol studied his surroundings with some apprehension. This was more like it. This was weirdness. He had experience with this. It had been going too smoothly before and it had dulled his edge. Now he was in his element.

Glancing to his left he saw a large, luminescent clock. Nice. He darted off to his right, seeking the cover of the forest there. It seemed quite possible that he was being observed, but he could not be certain and did not want to make an easy target. Where had Eve gone? At least he had been correct in his presumption that there was something unique about her. Yet he still couldn't figure out what had happened. Had he entered another dimension? It wouldn't be his first time. Yet what to do now? Too bad Mark hadn't tagged along. He'd have known what to do. This was right up his alley.

Kaol studied the large Keep before him. Was Ammy in there? Had she been somehow taken prisoner? From here, those large, solid walls looked as though they could easily be a prison. Yet if it was, how was he to free her? He gnawed on a fingernail, considering. He could march right up as if he owned the place. Eve had seemed at ease regarding the Keep. Kaol considered it. Maybe this supernatural element was part of what made it such a tourist attraction. Certainly all those people who entered before them had seemed eager to pass through the gates. Maybe he was overreacting.

Kaol shook his head. No way. He wanted to explore more before he made any decision. He crept uneasily through the trees, the earlier strains of paranoia plucking at his nerves now a full blown concerto. His eyes strained to hear the sounds of pursuit, but all he could hear was the sound of merriment and splashing off to his left. He frowned. They certainly had a casual approach to tracking a quarry in this dimension. In fact, as he listened, he decided he was not being tracked at all. Nor were those sounds what he would associate with a prison. It sounded like people having fun in a pool. Slowly, he began moving in that direction.

He'd not taken more than a few steps when a shriek pierced the sounds of merriment. Perfect. He turned in the direction from which it had come, back in the woods, and reached to pull his blaster from his backpack. It was gone. Double perfect. He knew he'd had it before entering this dimension. Had it not passed through with him? Or had it been carefully removed? Eve? She might well have lifted it. Fine then.

He raced towards the sound of the scream and came upon a woman who at first look seemed to be sitting on the ground. Even at a glance, he could tell she was very attractive, her light brown hair hanging to her shoulders, and as his eyes traveled downward they bulged almost as much as the bikini top trying vainly to contain it's contents. Kaol blinked in amazement and stared harder. Yet as he lowered his eyes further still, he saw that she appeared not to be sitting on, but rather in the ground. Kaol ran a weary hand over his face and sighed.

"Help me," the young woman cried upon seeing him standing in the row of trees before her. She waved her arms wildly over her head and her body trembled fetchingly with the motion. "Please! I'm trapped in..."

"Quicksand," Kaol finished for her. "Yeah, I know. Rescuing buxom young maidens from this substance has become a bit of a cliché' for me, if you want to know the truth."

His apparent nonchalance calmed her somewhat, and she rested her arms on the trembling surface of the quicksand, now circling her ribs. "Well, this may be an everyday occurrence for you, but may I assure you from my position this is anything but routine."

Kaol nodded. "I'll bet. But from where I'm standing, it's somewhat entertaining. Do the waving your arms thing again. It was quite dramatic and really looks good on you."

She crossed her arms across her chest, which submerged them, and her lips stuck out in a pout. "You really aren't very amusing, do you know that?"

"I've heard the rumor. Don't worry, though. I get funnier as my winning personality grows on you. And don't worry, I'll rescue you. It's in the hero handbook, or something like that. Anyway, you're too pretty to let drown."

"I'm not sure if I'm flattered or not."

"Then we're even. I'm not sure if I was flattering you or not. Name's Kaol, by the way. I'd offer you my hand, but in your position you might just pull me in. Not that I'm totally against that, mind you, but we hardly know each other." He moved into the undergrowth and uprooted a small tree, carrying it over to where the ground began growing soft.

"I'm Katrina," the girl replied, her arms reaching eagerly towards the lifeline he extended to her. "I do appreciate this."

"No doubt," Kaol replied, wondering if anything would go wrong with this rescue. But so far so good. Katrina had a good grip on the sapling and he began walking slowly back, pulling her towards the shore.

When she got near enough, he reached out with his hand and gripped her own. Her dark eyes stared up into his own and Kaol paused. There seemed to be an amazing contact there and he felt his heart flutter. Shaking his head as if waking from a dream, he pulled harder, watching her body slowly come out of the dusky earth. As he watched the ground reveal her body inch by sensuous inch, he found himself becoming all the more interested. She was amazing, no doubt. He gave a happy sigh. This job did have it's perks.

At last she lay on the earth next to him, and he sat down. "Thank you ever so much," she said, squeezing his forearm. "I'd give you a hug, but I'm not really in much condition for that just now."

"You can owe me one. But perhaps you could tell me what happened here?"

Katrina shook her head. "I don't know. I just went swimming..."

"Yes, I see. Where I'm from, most people prefer a pool."

"If you'll let me finish. I went swimming and decided to go for a walk on the grounds. Who'd have thought there'd be quicksand there!"

"Yeah, who'd have thought," he agreed, but Kaol was starting to think that's exactly what he'd expect to find on the grounds of this place. "I guess you're lucky I came around, huh?"

"Yeah," she nodded. "Look, would you walk me back to the Keep? I really need to change. Besides, I'd like to buy you dinner to thank you for saving me."

Kaol hesitated, and then looked at Katrina again. Her nearly naked body was wet and glistening in the moonlight, and when his eyes went up to her eyes again, he found them as deep and captivating as the quicksand alongside them. He could do far worse than spend an evening with this woman. Besides, it was possible she could help him locate Ammyram. His glance fell down to his ring finger.

The ring was gone.

"No!" Kaol cried out.

"Fine then," Katrina huffed, standing. "I'll go back alone. Thanks for the rescue anyway."

Kaol stood up then, quickly putting a restraining hand on her shoulder. "No! Not you. I'd love to have dinner with you. It's just that I lost my ring." His glance fell on the path around him, and then towards the quicksand. If it had fallen in there, well, it was gone for good. Or bad.

"What does it look like? Where did you lose it?" Katrina suggested, and Kaol was touched by the concern on her face.

Kaol scanned the ground again, but felt in his heart he knew where it was. With his luck, there was only one place it could be. "No, I don't think we'd find it. I think it fell off when I was pulling you out."

Her hands flew to her chest and the corners of her mouth dropped in dismay. "Oh no! I'm so sorry. Now I really do owe you even further."

Kaol waved her off. "Forget about it." He forced a smile. "Now let's go get ready for dinner." But behind the smile, he was disturbed. What could go wrong next?


As they entered the Keep, Kaol noticed several things almost simultaneously. First of all, nobody seemed to take particular notice of them. He didn't really know Earth customs that well, but he'd have thought a quicksand-coated, bikini-clad, beautiful girl might have attracted a few stares crossing a hotel lobby, but nobody seemed to notice. On one hand, Kaol liked that. It meant no one was likely to horn in on his date for the evening. Still, it was peculiar.

The second thing he noticed was the sheer opulence of the place. It was clearly a resort, but what a resort! And what a fascinating collection of people he saw milling about. Although they seemed not to be staring at him, he was not returning the favor. In fact, he had to try not to look like too much a bumpkin here. Yet as he stared about himself, some things struck him as odd. There was something about the guests here that seemed out of the ordinary, though he still wasn't sure what it was. It was the feeling he'd had again and again since approaching the Keep for the first time.

His mouth dropped open when he saw his first definite proof that something was out of sorts here. A creature that looked half man and half wolf was ascending the curved stairway in the lobby. He wasn't human, and yet his understanding was that humans were the only intelligent species on Earth.

"Have you checked in yet?" Katrina asked, apparently not noticing this anomaly.

"Did you see that?" Kaol hissed, jerking his head in the direction of the stairs.

"See what?" Katrina peered over in the direction he'd indicated. "Oh, that's just Nigel. Why, what did he do?"

Kaol eyed her as if she were mad, and then calmed himself. "Do? Nothing? But he's not human!"

Katrina eyed him curiously. "Well, of course he is. He's just a werewolf. Please, don't tell me you're prejudiced! I thought you were more open minded than that."

For the moment Kaol was speechless.

"You aren't prejudiced against were-folk, are you?"

Kaol shook his head. "No. Never mind. Tell you what, I'll check in later. Let's go get you cleaned up first."

Katrina smiled, and for the moment Kaol was able to accept werewolves as a matter of course. "I'm in the east wing. This way."

Kaol followed and as he watched her go, considered making thong bikinis mandatory as the uniform of his female crew when he returned to the Pegasus.


The sound of running water was relaxing as Kaol lay on the bed and stared at the ceiling. Katrina was showering, and though he'd considered offering to help, he decided he was already distracted enough and had to keep sight of why he was here in the first place. This Keep was clearly a supernatural setting and he suspected that many of the guests here fit in that category as well. He decided that it made sense that if Ammy was going to end up on this planet, she'd gravitate to someplace like this. But how would he find her here? It was huge.

He sat up in bed. It would be easy! He'd been at resorts before! He'd just leave a message for her at the front desk. A wide grin came over his face and he settled back on the bed. Could it really be that simple? Would they be at last reunited after so long? He could just imagine the look on her face when they first met.

Which left him to consider Katrina further. Was she supernatural as well? Her figure certainly fell in that category, defying gravity it appeared, yet he wondered if there was more to it? Would it be in poor form to ask, he wondered?

The sound of water stopped, and he heard Katrina stepping out of the shower. There was the rustle of the towel on her body and he swallowed hard. He couldn't wait to tell Mark about this little adventure.

Moments later Katrina emerged from the bathroom. She was clad in a short, brown leather skirt and low cut blouse. Her head was tilted to the side as she ran a comb through it. "Ready for dinner?" she asked.

He grinned back. "I do suddenly have quite an appetite."

Katrina smiled back. "I think we can find something to satisfy you."

"I hope so. But I need to leave a message for my friend. That's what brings me here. I'm looking for somebody."

"You a cop?" she asked, and Kaol detected a slight coolness to her tone.

"A friend. Or I was once. I guess she'll have to decide if I still am."

"She?" Katrina repeated, and the temperature in the room dropped several more degrees.

"A friend," Kaol repeated. "Just a friend."

"If you insist. What's her name? Maybe I've run into her."

"Her name's Ammy, or Ammyram. Have you met her?"

"No," she said, quickly. And Kaol knew in that instant that though she was beautiful, she was also a terrible liar. She knew Ammyram. Kaol kept his face a mask, not wanting to betray his own knowledge.

"Look, Katrina, maybe we need to be straight with each other here. This place, Night's Keep, it's different, I know that. What type of people are the guests?"

Katrina sat on the bed beside him, and Kaol found her closeness distracting, but he persisted. "Tell me."

Katrina sighed. "Like yourself, all of us are supernatural creatures or psychically sensitive in some way. There's a variety, but I guess the majority here are vampires."

Without thinking, Kaol jumped to his feet. "Vampires! Is that what you said?"

Katrina stood up with him, but gently laid her hands on him. "Yes, but it's not what you think, I..."

Kaol pushed her away. The legend of the vampire was known throughout the galaxy, and though he'd believed them only to be legend, he was willing to believe that if they did exist he would stumble into them sooner or later. And Ammyram was trapped among them! She wasn't here willingly after all. What he knew of vampires suggested them to be cunning, cruel creatures. Ammy had probably been sold here by the Mashobas and was being used to quench their thirsts or for some equally foul purpose. He thrust an accusing finger at Katrina. "I suppose you're a vampire too."

"No," Katrina protested. "Calm down, Kaol. You clearly don't understand anything."

"I think I'm understanding plenty. Now I see why it's so dark on the grounds of this place. That first girl I met, Eve, I'll bet she was a vampire too."

"Yes, Eve is, but..."

"Yeah, of course she was. And I guess I'm not surprised that you know her either. I'll bet she sent you after me so some more of your group could hide Ammy away," Kaol nearly shouted, his temper rising as anger and fear churned within him. Kaol backed to the door and opened it without taking his eyes off Katrina. "Too bad, Katrina. I thought you seemed pretty nice, but if this place is a haven for monsters, I guess I know what that makes you as well."

Katrina had stopped trying to argue by then, but stood soundlessly shaking her head back and forth. He closed the door behind him on that image and moved quickly down the corridor. He wanted to break into a sprint, but feared that would make him stand out further. How many of the creatures in this place knew of his presence here? Could they simply look at him and tell he was not one of them? There was so little he knew about this place, and so much he had to learn if he was going to get Ammy out alive.

Kaol's mind whirled as he considered what to do next. If an alarm was sounded, and he had no doubt it would be, he had very little time to locate Ammy and facilitate their escape. He suspected now that Katrina had intentionally caused him to lose his ring in the quicksand earlier.  Eve had removed his blaster and Katrina his ring, leaving him virtually helpless here. But he had been in tougher spots than this, and he wasn't going to lie down and quit.

Spotting a stairway, Kaol sprang up it several steps at a time. He was passing a number of people, monsters, he corrected himself, but they paid him no mind. It seemed Katrina had not been able to get the alarm out yet. But how much time did he have?

Kaol walked swiftly down the corridor, trying to decide if he should seek an ally, or randomly start opening doors looking for Ammy. There just wasn't time to come up with an effective plan. Without thinking he ducked through an archway and stood in what appeared to be a large game room. He tried catching his breath without making it obvious to those around him that he was winded. He stared around in apprehension. How many of these apparently harmless individuals were actually vampires? What had they done to Ammy already? Was he too late?

Kaol fought down his impulse to break into flight as a brown haired man approached him and smiled graciously, revealing somewhat crooked teeth. "Care for a game of billiards?" the man asked, hand extended. "I haven't seen you around here before. I'm Dirk."

"Kaol, Dirk," Kaol responded, taking the man's hand with reluctance. Kaol hated to think what he was actually shaking hands with. "No, I'll pass on the game. I'm, uh, meeting uh, Eve for dinner."

The man's forehead wrinkled in mild confusion. "She's having dinner with you? She told me earlier she was having Ammy for dinner in her room tonight."

Kaol kept his face a mask at this news, but felt his stomach churn. "Oh, well, I just got in and Eve changed her plans."

"Very well. Some other time then."

"Right," agreed Kaol, moving out of the room. "But don't hold your breath," he responded quietly.

Moving swiftly down the hall, Kaol fought down his panic. Eve was planning to kill Ammy tonight, if Kaol understood that information. But that did mean Ammy was at least here, and still alive. Yet Eve would change that if Kaol didn't hurry. No wonder he had been led astray. Kaol had probably picked the worst person on the grounds to talk to when he had arrived. If Eve held Ammy captive, then all Kaol had to do was locate Eve. Of course, that really wasn't much help either, as he considered it.

"Pssst. Kaol. Over here."

Kaol stopped at hearing his name. An adolescent girl was peeking out of a doorway and motioning to him. Without breaking stride he spun around and moved to her. "You know my name," he stated bluntly.

The girl nodded, her straight black hair shimmering in the hall light. "I'm a friend of Ammy's. She sent me for you. You can call me Anya."

"I'll call you whatever you want if you can lead me to her," Kaol responded and stared intently at her. "You're not one of them, are you?" he asked, though he suspected he already knew.

"One of them? No. I'm like you, just a sensitive. Now come."

Kaol walked swiftly behind her as she moved to a stairway and started up the stairs two at a time. As he followed, he readied himself. He was well aware he might be heading for a trap. Yet this girl clearly knew who both he and Ammy were, and at this point he had few options and no time. Besides, this girl was not one of the creatures that populated this place. He didn't know what she was doing here if she wasn't, but now wasn't the time for checking her credentials.

The girl stopped in front of a doorway and looked up at him. "She is in there. Before you go, don't enter with a closed mind. You are a stranger here. People like us, we are the different ones here."

"What's your point?" Kaol asked impatiently.

"Just that you should not judge everyone by your own standards or you may regret it later."

"Nice. Very deep. Anyhow, thanks for the morality lesson, Anya. Now wait here and I'll bust you out once I get Ammy."

In response, Anya gave a sad smile and shook her head, walking off down the hall.

Kaol ignored her and pushed the door open. It was darker in this room, but Kaol sensed the presence of others here, though he could not yet see them. The room was filled with archaic weaponry and Kaol looked for something he could use. A long pike was held in the hands of a suit of armor, and Kaol jerked it free, swinging it around in front of him. He felt somewhat more secure with that between him and whatever awaited in the darkness.

"Ammy," Kaol hissed into the hall ahead of him.

"Kaol," a familiar voice replied.

Kaol's heart swelled at the sound and he turned the corner into a circular room filled with an even stranger display of artifacts. Yet standing in the middle of the room was Ammyram, with Eve right behind her. Kaol wanted to run and give his old friend a hug, but with the vampire behind her, he hesitated to move and kept the weapon lowered. Yet his eyes ran up and down Ammy's body. Her hair was still the long, lustrous blue it had been when he'd last seen her, and her health seemed none the worse for their time apart, though her complexion was more pale than he remembered. He hardly knew what to say or do. "Ammy?" he croaked. "Is that really you?"

Her lips curved upward in that smile he had missed for so long. "It's me," she nodded, cupping her hand to her mouth and fighting back tears. "I can't believe you came for me. Not here, not now."

Kaol shook his head, a guilty flush washing over his cheeks. "I'm sorry I took so long. We thought you were dead, and for the longest time I was kept too busy trying to stay alive myself to be of any help to you. I'm so sorry, Ammy. We never forgot about you."

Taking a deep breath, Ammy continued. "You don't need to apologize. I'm fine. Oh, Kaol. I just can't believe you've shown up now, after so long."

"Better late than never, right?" he offered a lame grin. "Now move away from Eve and I'll get you out of here."

Eve stepped forward then. "That's not going to happen, Kaol. She's with me now."

Kaol lowered the tip of the pike so it was level with her chest. "Eve, you just keep your distance. Don't try any of your vampire crap with me. I don't know if this will kill you, but I'll bet it will at least irritate you."

"No, Kaol!" Ammy interrupted. "You don't understand! Eve is my companion now. She's my teacher. Katrina and Eve have only been obeying my wishes to keep you away."

Kaol's eyes narrowed and it felt as if his heart had been covered in frost. His mind seemed unable to process what he was hearing.

"Yes, Kaol," Ammy pulled down the neck of her sweater to reveal two fairly fresh bite marks. "Eve transformed me a week ago and brought me here to help instruct me in my new powers. I'm a vampire now. She did it because I asked her to do so. Kaol, I'm not a victim. I don't need rescuing." Her eyes pleaded for understanding, but Kaol's mouth set in a thin, hard line.

"So. That's how it is, is it?" Kaol grunted. "You've been brainwashed as well, eh? Well, there may be still time to free you." He charged forward, pike level at Eve. In the back of his mind, he was recalling that he had heard he might be able to save Ammy from the thrall of a vampire if he destroyed the one that created her.

But Eve moved with incredible swiftness and leaped over Kaol. His spear smashed into a display case and he spun around, ready for a counter attack.

Ammy held her head between her hands and screamed. "No, Kaol! This is just like the first time we met! Don't you remember? You don't know what you're doing!"

Her words stung Kaol as he remembered their first encounter. Yet he didn't trust her to know what she was doing. Dropping the pike, he reached through the broken glass of the display case and jerked forth a stake of wood resting there. He smiled at the widening of both Eve's and Ammy's eyes as he held it in front of him. "What?" he asked, breathing heavily. "You don't like this? Can this hurt you?"

"Dammit, Kaol!" Ammy snapped. "You don't know what you're doing! For your own sake, stop this and leave! You are putting yourself in serious danger!"

"I'm leaving, but not without you," he responded, advancing on Eve, who now eyed him warily and back slowly into the corridor.

She stopped as her back encountered the wall. "You picked the wrong aliens to screw with, lady," Kaol grunted, raising the sharpened wood, and began to race forward.

He heard Ammy scream in the background as he was suddenly struck from the side. Kaol picked out Katrina's face in the blur of movement and grunted as his legs were pulled out from under him. The wooden stake flew from his hands and he spun about wildly, the world whirling about him too fast for him to register.

Kaol felt a tight pressure about his body and found himself unable to move. "No!" snapped Eve. "Do not hurt him, Katrina. He believes he is doing a noble thing but acts out of ignorance and misplaced loyalty."

Kaol stopped struggling and shook his head to clear it. He looked at Katrina and his eyes widened in surprise. She was the same amply proportioned beauty he'd rescued earlier but with an important difference. Emerging from her skirt were no longer legs but the thick and sinuous body of a large serpent. Her lower body was now wrapped about him and held him helpless as a babe. Her eyes were more serpentine as well and he shuddered within her embrace. "I wouldn't hurt him, much," she reassured Eve. "I told you I was not a vampire, Kaol," she hissed and laughed. He was not too distracted to notice that this still affected her anatomy is a positive way.

Ammy stepped up to him and gave him a hug, though not nearly as tight or enveloping as Katrina's continued to be. Ammy shook her head and ran a gentle hand through his hair. "Kaol, you haven't changed, you know that? You'll be lucky to live to see thirty at this rate."

"And now you never will," he responded.

Ammy pulled back as if slapped, but then lifted her head. "No, not in the way you mean, but I will exist forever, or as long as I desire at the least." She lowered her eyes to meet Kaol's. "You do not know what this is all about, Kaol. These people are my friends now," she said, raising her arms to indicate Eve and Katrina. "And so what if they have abilities that you and I did not have? Does that make them any more alien than some of the races we've encountered in our travels?"

"I'm not in much position to argue," Kaol responded. "But I still say it's different. This isn't natural."

"Kaol, please get off the high and mighty kick, okay? Can't you see? I'm happy here? I've gained new powers, made new friends, and I don't have to hurt or kill people if I don't wish to do so." She crossed her hands over her heart. "Kaol, can't you see that I'm the same person I ever was?"

Kaol stopped then and stared into her eyes. He relaxed and exhaled a long deep breath. She was the same Ammy. He could see that clearly was true. Maybe the rest of what she said was true as well. Besides, was her transformation really that much different than the changes he had been through since they had parted company? He sighed again. "Ammy, you're right. I acted without thinking again. I have just been carrying this guilt around at abandoning you for so long that I felt I had to save you, whether you wanted it or not."

Ammy signaled and Katrina released him. Kaol stood up and watched in wonder as the serpentine portion of her body shortened and then divided into two legs. In a moment, the Katrina he had first met was standing beside him. Kaol looked sheepishly at her and then Eve. "I suppose an apology is in order."

Eve stared at him hard, and Kaol saw that she would not be quite so quick to forgive. "You've broken the laws of our Keep, Kaol. If anyone knew what had gone on here, we could hit you with penalties that would make you believe us the monsters you claim us to be. I really should banish you from the Keep."

Ammy bit her lip and looked at Eve. "Banish him?"

"She has the right, Ammy," Katrina cut in. "I know Kaol was acting on good intentions from his point of view, but trying to kill Eve was a violation and could lead to his execution if a tribunal was called."

"Please, Eve, Katrina," Ammy said, beckoning both in turn. "Nobody needs to know what happened here tonight. We can clean up this mess. We can make up a story."

Eve studied Ammy closely and seemed hovering on indecision.

"Come on, Eve," Kaol chimed in. "I admit I seem to have acted on ignorance, but how do you ever expect me to know the truth about this place and it's clientele unless you allow me to interact with them and get to know them? I can be a useful ally if I see that you are a fair and peaceful group. I have some powerful friends who could also spread the news about your kind around the universe."

"And I still owe him a dinner," Katrina cut in.

Eve shrugged and nodded. "Very well. I'll give you a trial of one week and if you behave yourself during that time, you are free to come and go as you please. However, " she put an arm possessively about Ammy's shoulder. "Ammy stays here unless she chooses otherwise. Is that clear?"

Kaol held his arms up in defeat. "As crystal." He smiled sheepishly and stared down at the floor in embarrassment. "This really is ironic," he said, peeking up at Ammyram. "This is almost identical to the way we met, isn't it?"

Ammy moved next to him and gave him a hug. "You never did know when to mind your own business."

Kaol laughed softly. "I don't think that will ever change. But, at least I know you're safe and fine now. Or at least as safe as you want to be."

Ammy laughed. "You may not believe it yet, but I really am."

Kaol nodded. "Well, I guess that's something I'll be able to find out for myself now." He turned to Eve. "I will behave myself. I was only trying to help Ammy."

"Understood," nodded Eve. "But she no longer needs your help."

Kaol nodded. "You may just be right about that. Well, I guess I should go about checking in to this place officially. Been awhile since I had a vacation anyway."

Katrina took his arm. "I'll show you the way. I'm still up for dinner, by the way" Katrina said. "If you aren't against echidna for company."

Kaol gave a half-grin. "Not if you aren't against ignorant spacemen."

"Are there any other kind?" she asked and led Kaol off down the corridor. Kaol looked back over his shoulder and saw Eve slide her arm around Ammy's waist. He still wasn't sure what he thought of Eve, but he suspected she would do better at keeping Ammy safe than he had. Biting his lip he turned back around and smiled at Katrina.

"So," he asked. "Ever flown in a space craft before?"


Copyright 1995 Kaol

Page created February 7, 2000