aSG: Chalandra Harkness: The Bloodchip Matrix #11 (series finale)

Gary W. Olson swede at
Thu Jul 29 05:30:27 PDT 2010

                         CHALANDRA HARKNESS:
                        THE BLOODCHIP MATRIX
                 (a tale from altiverse 998SUPERGUY)
                             Episode 11
                            Gary W. Olson


     From darkness came memory.  Past, present.  Old faces, hard
hands, ravenous minds.  Lovers long gone.  Enemies fought and
forgotten.  Cities, dreams, nightmares.
     Everywhere, the petals of electric blue roses.
     They were in the wind as she left the grave of her father for the
last time.  In the forest as she fought the weres alongside her kin.
In the reflections of neon in the glass towers that rose in cities the
world over.  On the skin of the Belgian, her last human lover.  On the
tongue of Symon, whose betrayal she forgave and forgave, if only he
would come back.
     Through this silent river of the past came sharp bursts of sound
and touch.  Being carried from a crashed and burning hovercar.  A
bright and busy room.  Hot water jetting against her skin, brushes
scrubbing everywhere.  A machine.  A hum.
     A bed.  Sleep.  Silence.
     Darkness and memory.  Petals of electric blue roses, dissolving
as had the programmed shackles on her memory.  New programs ran inside
her, within a matrix she had long possessed but only recently learned
was there.  They slept as she did.  They waited.
     She woke.
     There were no windows and no lights, but she knew the room as
Symon's at once.  They had loved one another on the bed she was in
now.  All his books, his tech, his paintings... all the pieces of him
were here.  But his scent was faint.  She had been in the silent river
for a long time.
     The soft question bearing her name came from the stillest part of
the room.  At once she felt vulnerable; she should have right away
picked up that she was not alone.  Surviving a tumultuous fight in a
flying, mountainous nightmare was no excuse....
     Memories came to her again, these recent.  The maddening impulse
to escape her captors.  The look of Vedrik Temekhan as he fell into a
nucleonic firestorm.  The revelation of what had been done to her, by
Vedrik and by Symon.  The way Symon's head landed in the garden of
blue roses, after it was separated from his body.
     "You're awake."
     The soft voice again.  She knew who owned it.  She focused.
     On a loveseat across from the foot of the bed was a woman.
Shrouded in shadow, though Chalandra Harkness could fill in her
features with memory.  A pretty face with pale skin and delicate
features, framed by long, jet-black hair.  The lithe body of a dancer
and an assassin.  Grace and beauty and murder in a wire-taut frame.  A
vampire, like Chalandra.
     "Akane."  As Chalandra said this, a light came on in the next
room, and another form entered.  A man, almost as wiry and nimble as
the woman.  Less sure of his movements, less sharp in his presence.
But not by much.
     "Is she--?" the man started to ask.
     "Hello, Alexei," Chalandra interrupted.  "Yes, I am."  She
started to sit up, and a wave of weakness broke over her.  "What--?"
     "You haven't fed in two weeks," said Alexei Rasputin.  "Save for
what we've given you."
     More memories.  Cold flesh against her mouth.  Both of them, in
turns.  From neck, from wrist, from breast.  All the while she
struggled, frenzied by her need for the first time since creation.
One held her back while one gave.  For... weeks?
     Akane sat on the bed next to her.  Alexei did as well, though he
sat closer to the wall.  Chalandra pushed herself up again, felt weak,
and was caught by Alexei's hands before she could collapse.
     Up close, she could resolve details.  The light from the next
room played against alabaster curves and supple movements.  Chalandra
reached out and caressed Akane's shoulder, before letting her fingers
slide down her arm.  To elbow, to thigh.
     There were no memories of this.  This was new.
     "Feed," Alexei whispered to her.  His hands moved down her back.
He leaned in, though not to restrain.  Akane leaned in.
     She fed.  And fed.
     Eventually, so did they.


     He seemed no different than any other patron.  Movements lean and
precise, he ignored the vampboys and the jackers as he slipped from
the door to the shadows.  They in turn paid him no mind, noting him
and then forgetting him as they took in the stage show and their
poisons of choice.  But Chalandra Harkness saw him, and considered her
     On stage, a man and a woman danced and preened, eliciting mild
interest from those seated close.  A few in the darker recesses of the
club watched--though, she reflected, if they were anything like her,
they were seeing something else.  A memory of something better, if
they were lucky.
     She made a decision, and leaned forward.  Just enough light
touched her face to make its outlines clear; it was enough to attract
the attention of the new arrival.  He was at her table in moments.
     "Chalandra," he said.  "May I--?"
     "Sit, Alexei," she replied.
     Alexei Rasputin slid onto the chair next to hers.  His black mesh
shirt was as tight against his wiry torso as the leather pants on his
muscular legs.  Her own apparel--black leather jacket, pants, boots,
and a shirt with an illustration of a flesh-eating cartoon cat--was
somewhat more conservative, though not by much.
     "Not much of a show," he said, after a minute.
     "They're not who I was hoping to see," she replied.
     Alexei watched the stage for a few more seconds, then gave her a
sad smile.  "I don't think she's going to be dancing here anymore."
     They lapsed into silence.  Chalandra considered the last few
     The evening following her revival and their shared feeding, Akane
and Alexei revealed what had happened in the chaotic aftermath of
their rescue of her from the Red Fortress.  The hovercar had gotten
clear of the Fortress, barely, before a stray shot damaged an engine.
The crash landing had been rough, but all had survived.
     Akane arranged with Shodani Group to get a decontamination
facility to treat Chalandra.  Nucleonic radiation could damage even a
vampire's ever-regenerating tissues; fortunately, Chalandra had not
taken a fatal dose, and her body was mending.  They scrubbed her down
anyway, and ran diagnostics on her implants to be sure they were
functional.  Most were.  The Bloodchip refused all input; eventually
the techs concluded it had been irretrievably damaged and would no
longer function.
     The Red Fortress did not crash, though its erratic flight path
for the next day and a half was noted with equal parts alarm and
bemusement.  When it resumed normal flight, a terse statement from Red
Sky blamed terrorists in the pay of the Dying Sun, and promised
     The statement was unsigned.  No word had been said about the
deaths of Vedrik Temekhan.  Neither Akane nor Alexei heard any rumors
about it in the weeks to follow, though they did hear rumblings about
internal struggles within the Dying Sun, due to the sudden absence of
their leader, Fekesh.
     Fekesh.  The alternate identity of Temekhan's cyborg bodyguard,
Percy McFae.  The one who lured her from San Francisco to Tokyo with a
deceptively-edited tale of a computer chip that could enable a vampire
trained in the ways of internal control to change her nature, and show
the way for vampires to remain dominant in a world that had eclipsed
their old advantages.  The chip was the Bloodchip, and she, like it or
not, was the vampire.  Symonachadra Mataphouri, her old teacher and
lover, was the architect of the chip's programming--a fact she had to
deceive him to learn.  A deception that cost him his life.
     Chalandra looked at Alexei again, and saw he was looking at her.
She did not have to guess at what he was thinking.
     "I won't be coming back," she said.  "I can't take Symon's place
as your teacher."  She paused, felt the corners of her lips curl up.
"I don't think there's anything I can teach you you don't already
know."  She had tried.  In the weeks following their escape from the
Red Fortress, the intimacy forged by the battle and its aftermath made
the idea of staying seem inevitable.
     But every inevitability passes.  Especially for a vampire.
     Symon had told her that, once.
     Alexei, too, showed a wry smile.  "I'm sure there is something,"
he said.  "But I understand."  He paused, and his smile vanished.  "I
don't believe Akane does."
     Chalandra nodded.  Though both Akane and Alexei had forgiven her
for how the mutual deception between her and Symon had swept them into
a battle that had little to do with them, Symon's death had affected
Akane in ways that grew clearer in the weeks that followed.  Nor was
it as simple as blame--Akane seemed to accept that Symon had brought
his fate down on himself.  But without him, she had to find a new way
of being, a way not to be found in the old places.  As Chalandra spent
less and less time in Symon's lair beneath the Shodani Towers, so did
     "Do you know where she is?" Chalandra asked.
     Alexei shook his head.  "Though I have my suspicions.  Being who
she is, and all."
     Being who she is.  Chalandra realized how little she really knew
about Akane, other than her skills as a dancer and a warrior.  How
little Akane had revealed, even in the most intimate times.
     "Who... is she, then?"
     Alexei told her.


     The last time Chalandra had been at the top of the tallest
Shodani Tower, the surrounding Tokyo sprawl had been the last thing on
her mind.  She took it in now--all the seams of light burning orange
and yellow and red, the smoke that hovered in blanketing layers over
the areas that had little use for the light, the twisting and defiant
architecture of the modern buildings that dwarfed, and in some cases
consumed, the older ones.  From roughly eight thousand feet up, it had
the look of something erupting from below the surface, a light-and-
steel parasite taking over its host.
     "Chal," said Akane, behind her.  "Why are you here?"
     Chalandra turned and regarded Akane.  Gone was the leather and
the wire; she wore a tailored crimson suit in its place.  Her long
black hair caught the wind and flowed toward the railing, catching the
light from the elevator door.  She did not have to glance about to
know they were not alone.
     "I'm leaving Tokyo," Chalandra answered.  "I came to say
     "No," Akane corrected.  "You came to tell me something else."
     She stepped closer.  Chalandra remained where she was, at the
railing.  When Akane was less than a foot away, she spoke.
     "I want to make a deal.  Shodani Group lets me go free.  No
spying, either in person or through the net.  More than that, they do
what they can to keep Red Sky off my back as well."
     "And in return..."
     "I give you regular updates on my progress with the Bloodchip."
     "The Bloodchip scanned as inert."
     "The scans were wrong."
     A smile curled the edges of Akane's thin mouth.  "We figured as
much," she said.  "Did Alexei tell you I would be here?"
     "No," Chalandra answered.  "He told me who you were.  I worked
out the rest for myself... Shodani Akane."
     Akane nodded.  "Did it surprise you...?"
     "At first," Chalandra admitted.  "Though it did explain why Symon
was able to hide so securely beneath Shodani's central tower.  And how
you were able to get a decontam unit available to scrub me.  But I
confess I can't figure what else you hoped to gain... unless you, too,
knew what Symon and Temekhan did to me."
     "That's because my time with Symon had nothing to do with you,"
Akane replied.  "When I met him... I was in descent.  My William... a
human I loved... died.  He would not let me save him, and I could not
force him to become as I am."
     Chalandra nodded, and thought of the Belgian.
     "I made that mistake once," Akane went on.  "The Scholar... you
know him?"
     "Of him.  Lore gatherer and info broker out in Boston."
     "More than that," said Akane.  "I was there, seven decades back.
There was information that brother Kaoru... that Shodani... very much
needed.  He was reticent, to the point he tried to take his own life,
and nearly succeeded.  I forced the turning.  He gave up what I wanted
to know."  She looked away, toward the darker stretches of Tokyo.
"He's never forgiven me for that."
     Chalandra remained silent, and refused to think of mistakes of
her own.
     "The things we do take their toll," Akane went on.  "Which is
true regardless of whether we are human or vampire.  But vampires...
we... we have much longer to carry the consequences of our acts.  And
that burden only grows.  When Symon found me... I was ready to lay it
down."  She shook her head, as if to clear it, and might have taken a
deep breath, had she needed to breathe at all.  "But you're not here
to listen to my woeful tale of woe, are you?"  She paused.  "And I
don't expect I can convince you to stay."
     "No," Chalandra said.
     "Where will you go?  Back to San Francisco?"
     "I can't say."
     "Can't?  Or won't?"
     "I don't know yet," said Chalandra.  Now she regarded the darker
stretches.  "It's not just Shodani's eyes I want to avoid.  Red Sky
would love to find me again, I'm sure."
     "But you will... report."
     "As I agreed," Chalandra answered.
     "Have you been experimenting already?"
     Chalandra thought of the nights she had spent in the deepest
recesses of the city she could find, the journeys within using the
techniques taught to her by Symon in bygone decades.  Traveling the
matrix within, exploring her body with the strange new eyes given her
by the Bloodchip.  Temekhan had likened the changes she might cause
within herself to evolution--a metaphorical likeness, at best, but one
that pointed at his hopes to stay beyond and above mortal humans.
Symon, meanwhile, had another vision.
     Chalandra took Akane's hand, and brought it to her lips.  She
kissed Akane's fingertips, then lowered the hand to her chest, palm
spread over her heart.  She closed her eyes.  Concentrated.
     Her heart beat.  Once.
     Akane's eyes shot open.  The shock on her face was plain.
     "Be seeing you," said Chalandra, as she withdrew.
     As she walked to the lift from which Akane had come, the lift
that would take Chalandra to ground level and the next book of her
life, she expected Akane to call out questions, or even tell her to
stop.  But no words came.
     Her last view of Akane was of her back, as Akane gazed out over
the city.  A suspicion formed then, in Chalandra's mind, that she
would not wait for Chalandra to tell the Bloodchip's legacy.  What was
made once could be made again, and Shodani Group, more than any other
corporation, had the wherewithal to do it.
     And Shodani Akane had the need.  One more thing Chalandra well
     Then the lift doors closed, and Chalandra's descent began.

Copyright (c) 2010 by Gary W. Olson.  All Rights Reserved.
Gary W. Olson
swede at novitious dot com
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