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  Table of contents Issue Twenty-three THE THIRD INDEX

Part 2 of a Margo LePlatt Tale

by GARY CLIFTON
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gentle alarm sounded and the all too comfortable beds beneath their bodies vibrated gently. Margot slowly opened her eyes and Shelby, already having stirred from her hibernative state, peered out the cabin window. “Mama, this Zeta Zed Five planet appears to be primarily vegetative. From what I can tell, it’s all jungle. General Izak said his planet was made of gold. All I see are trees and swampy terrain.”



Margot LePlatt, Director of the Central Intelligence Agency and Supreme Commander of all U.S. military forces, yawned sleepily and leaned across her daughter’s lap to the portal. The reverse thrusters were screeching as they made the final descent onto a vividly green planet at the corner of the Milky Way. Shelby was correct; the desolate ground below did not appear to be gold.



Margot, brilliant and beautiful, and little Shelby, now trapped as an eight-year-old for eternity, had been bitten by the Baron of Espot three hundred years earlier. After several normal lifetimes of stress and danger, Margot, with super intelligence and ability to read human minds, had been recruited by the C.I.A. and had rapidly risen to her current position.



Margot directed a war effort against off-world, robot soldiers who were four feet tall, and literally little green reptilian men. Most Third Index troops who had invaded earth were manufactured, and to the delight of Margot and Shelby, edible.



Margot had negotiated a compromise with General Izak, the military leader of the “Third Index’, wherein Zeta Zed Five would trade a ton of gold to earth regularly in return for transport loads of saltwater, which he explained was a vital necessity on the distant planet. Gold had no monetary value to the CIA, and an influx of it would certainly change the economy in a way that would devalue it for everyone else, but government scientists had recently found it could have other, more ‘top secret’ uses. The problem was that they’d need a lot of it, and they’d need to acquire it under the radar of the rest of the world. General Izak had arrived at the perfect time, and when he invited Margot and Shelby to visit his planet to finalize details of the arrangement, she was happy to oblige- this deal would connect her with the darker corners of the American government, and to research that she’d been keen to have her eyes on for decades.



Margot had noticed when Izak spoke through a voice translation medallion he wore around his neck that he had said Zeta Zed Five had “individuals like yourself.” General Izak seems such a dolt; she’d disregarded the comment. No way, this talking frog could have knowledge of Vampires or our background, she’d thought to herself.



They completed the journey in less than two weeks earth time, Margot and Shelby getting some much-needed rest in a hyperbaric chamber. As they made their final descent, Margot studied the rapidly approaching terrain and realized instantly that Izak had duped her, although she couldn’t immediately discern his intention. “Shelby, we’ve survived for centuries, and we aren’t stopping that trend now.” She patted her daughter’s shoulder, the look of determination in her eyes reassuring Shelby.



Suddenly, their chamber snapped free of the main ship, tumbling further into the green planet’s atmosphere as the larger ship they had just been adjoined with came briefly into view through the window and, with a blink, disappeared into the sky. The sound of retro rockets firing up was followed in seconds by the capsule righting itself and landing in a small clearing, surrounded by desolate, marshy swamp.



The capsule was instantly encircled by many heavily armed, little green troops which Margot recognized to be identical to the manufactured and vampire-edible troops her army had encountered on Earth. Izak had said they were called “Eggex.” A reptilian face appeared at the small portal. Obviously, an officer in charge, Margot saw he was similar to the Eggex creatures, but somehow not manufactured.



Shelby looked up at Margot calmly and said, “Mama, we can get out and kill this whole bunch with our bare hands.” She fumbled at the portal for a release handle.



“Baby,” Margot said. “There a thousand troops out there. Even we have our limitations. The trade agreement of saltwater for gold was a ruse. We’ll wait and analyze the situation before we act.”



“It’s not good, mama.”



The reptilian officer raised his translator medallion to the portal. “I am Captain Jarl, sector commander of Quadrant Orange of the Army of the Third Index, of which you are now prisoners. Any resistance will result in force necessary to affect your surrender. Do you understand?”



“What part is orange?” Shelby quipped.



“Surrender or we will burn the capsule.”



“We surrender,” Margot replied. “As Commander of all Allied Forces of the American/Canadian Alliance. I demand to speak to your superior. Failure to negotiate will result in a reign of fire from Planet Earth which will immolate this sink-hole.”



A raspy growl which Margot sensed was laughter blared through the medallion. “Earth fool, do you actually think my superiors inhabit this useless piece of space rock? We are of the planet Gregorious, of the Third Index, which Earth weapons will not reach. Ignorant earthlings know little of outer space.”



“You will clarify,” Margot demanded.



“We of Gregorious used this wasted land as hunting ground. All that reside here are me, several thousand Eggex troops or Eggex escapees, and many individuals like yourselves we have gathered throughout the galaxy.”

“Individuals like ourselves?” That rang a bell.



“Vampires, you insolent sow. Now, you predators will know what it is to be hunted.” The tone of his voice raised the hair on Margot's arms. It was clear that these people had a long and troubled history with vampires. He raised a hand and his army rapidly dispersed into the surrounding jungle.



Margot said coolly. “Shelby, keep looking for an opening to escape.”



Captain Jarl reached over his shoulder and flipped a switch on his backpack. The rockets, which Margot had not noticed, sizzled, then the noise increased as he began rising above the chamber. “The door will open in ten seconds,” he shouted. “Feel free to gorge your horrible habit of eating flesh and blood on the mass of Eggex slaves who inhabit this place. But just remember, The Eggex on this planet have blood infected with properties that will weaken your powers. You can torment yourself with starvation and remain a worthy opponent, or you can drink from the fount and die a happy weakling. Perhaps you will make contact with some of your own kind before you’re slain by Gregorian hunters.” With that, he had rose above and out of sight. When they could no longer hear his transportation device, the entire end of the capsule dissolved into nothingness, dumping Margot and Shelby into soft, soggy soil.



“Shelby, it’s hot here - about 120 degrees, but the air is breathable.”



“Yes, mama,” Shelby regained her feet. “And the humidity is double. Mama, I’m hungry, and that critter said they were going to hunt us.”



“Baby, we must move quickly away from this spot. We cannot eat the Eggex, but the soldier said there may be other vampires. We might have to cannibalize to survive.”



They moved quickly into the jungle, out of sight of inquiring Third Index satellites.



In an hour, Shelby, wading through knee-deep water, managed to capture an Eggex that was hiding in a hollow tree trunk. Normally they would have devoured the creature cold, but Shelby had the idea that cooking it could remove whatever inhibitive properties it might possess. They were roasting an early dinner over an open fire, still deciding whether to eat it or starve, when noise in the thick underbrush warned of movement.



A female vampire, with sunken, dark eyes emerged from the thicket. “Please, mistress, a morsel of food for a poor, kidnap victim.” She was clearly too weak to hunt. Did she know that the Eggex would decrease her power? Or did she not care?



Margot, by this time, wanting to judge the potential strength of a potential victim, asked, “When were you bitten?”



“Two hundred and fifty years ago…in Bulgaria.” She caught the scent of the woman. Something was very familiar about her odor. Very familiar indeed.



“Are you alone?” Margot snapped.



“No mistress,” She gestured back toward the jungle. “My master awaits yonder there for your decision to share food.”



“Is he bitten, also?” she asked, already knowing that this creature was about to tell her.



“Well, of course, mistress, he is lord master of the Barony of Espot. I have been his slave for 250 years.”



“Espot?” Margot said sharply. “In Transylvania?”



“Yes, Mistress. I fear I’ve offended you. Please don’t beat me.”



Margot barked, “Show yourself, Espot…now!”



The tall, slender man appeared from the brush. He clothes were in tatters. A bandage-rag circled his right arm.



“Come closer,” Margot snapped.



Margot interrupted. “Mama, that’s…”



“Yes, baby, it’s Baron Espot who made us vampires and slaves. He fled to Bulgaria when the villagers came with their torches. This creature was bitten fifty years after us.”



“Mama, let me kill him. We can feast on him instead of the Eggex.”



“Quiet, Shelby. He doesn’t recognize us. He would be a match for both of us even if we were well fed.”



“I don’t care, mama, I’m going to kill him for the things he did to us after we were bitten…made us his slaves. Made you a slave of his lust....” She could see Shelby’s little fists tightening, the fingernails digging into the flesh.



“Shelby, I understand your temptation. I realize the burden you bear, trapped in a child’s body for eternity. But we once belonged to him…he may still have a preternatural power over us both.”



“Mama, we’re both powerful vampires now. Hell, you’re the head of the C.I.A.. We don’t belong to anyone.”



The Baron crept closer, then suddenly stopped, recognition in his glare. “Margot, Shelbina. I’ve hungered for you both for many years. Come to me and bow.” Margot realized that the command had no effect on her. Shelbin...Shelby even took a step backward!



“Baron, come no closer. There is no food, nor succor for you here,” Shelby stood as tall and ferocious as an eight-year-old could. She had been probing the roasting Eggex over a spit with a sharpened tree limb. She thrust it toward the Baron, then took two quick steps forward.



The Baron, turned and fled into the underbrush. The emaciated female slave turned to follow. The moment made Margot feel more powerful than she had felt in her entire afterlife. The baron was fleeing....from her.



Shelby said, “Madam, you are safe here with us. Stay and share our evening meal.” But she looked up and winked at Margot, a hunger in her eyes.



The woman said. “My name is Alena. I love the Baron, but I’ve been wronged for many years by him. Perhaps if he’s burned or staked, I can be truly free.” Shelby took a step towards the woman, clearly intending to strike.



Margot, feeling a jolt of pity for another victim of the Baron’s said, “Shelby, for God’s sake…”



“God, mama? Where was God when we were mistreated by the Baron and on the run for 300 years. I intend to hunt down that vampire and finish him myself, and I will need strength to do it!”



“Shelby,” Margot said softly.



But Shelby turned back to the roasting Eggex, her face a mask of angry determination. “After dinner, mama, I’ll begin the hunt to make us free at last.”



   
   

 

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Gary Clifton, forty years a cop, has over sixty short fiction pieces published or pending with online sites including Bewildering Stories, Flashes in the Dark, Spinetingler, and Black Heart Mag. He's been shot at, shot, stabbed, sued and is currently retired to a dusty north Texas ranch. Clifton has an MS from Abilene Christian University. Gary’s stories can be found in the following issues of HelloHorror: Blood Passion appears in the January 2013 issue, Measure Twice, Cut Once appears in the April 2013 issue, Mother’s Nature appears in the August 2013 issue, Mind's Eye appears in the October 2013 issue, Sinning in the Rain appears in the December 2013 issue, Special Handling Required appears in the April 2014 issue, Queen Margot appears in the June 2014 issue, The Trial of Margot LePlatt appears in the Winter 2014-2015 issue, The Ace of Cooper Avenue appears in the Spring 2015 issue, Bridge Work appears in the Summer 2016 issue of HelloHorror, and The Third Index, Part 1 appears in the Fall 2017 issue of HelloHorror. All but one of Gary’s stories appearing thus far in HelloHorror have been part of the Margot LePlatt series. Read more of Gary's work at his new blog, Bareknuckle Thoughts.



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