Kitty Saves the World Page 3

“You know the stories: vampires and werewolves, lycanthropes, witches, all the rest of it—they’re a perversion of God’s perfect human form. They’re not nature, they’re a twisted mockery of nature! Your doctor there said basically the same thing—these monsters rewrite our DNA, DNA made in God’s image. How can corrupting that not be a sign of true evil?”

“Because … I don’t feel evil?” It got too easy to point and laugh at these guys. When they didn’t make me feel utterly exhausted.

“That’s the whole point,” the caller from Providence said, and even he sounded tired, like he’d had to explain this one too many times. “You’re a pawn. You’re being used. Maybe you didn’t start out evil, but your DNA, your very being, your soul has been warped. And why? Tell me that? What purpose does it serve? Think about it a minute and you’ll realize the answer.”

If I wasn’t playing dumb, I was at least playing stubborn. “Does there have to be a purpose? Do you know what the purpose of a cold virus is?”

“No?” the guy said, nonplussed.

“Dr. Shumacher?” I asked.

She said, gamely, “Well, the purpose of a cold virus is to make more cold viruses and then to spread. Reproduction. Biologists feel that this is the base purpose of most life on Earth.”

“There you go,” I said. “It’s a function of reproduction. Does it have to be more nefarious than that?”

“Yes!” he exclaimed. “Because this isn’t biology, this is about the war in Heaven, and the rebellion of Lucifer, and his entire purpose is twisting God’s creation and bending it toward evil! Spreading that evil! When you say this is all science and biology, you’re confusing people, turning them from the truth! Vampires, werewolves—you, even!—you’re a symptom of original sin! You’re being used!”

“You know,” I said. “There was a time when I’d say this rant never gets old. But I’ve changed my mind—this is getting old. You can’t call someone evil because of some aspect of their identity they can’t control. I’ll say it again: being a vampire or a werewolf doesn’t make a person evil. Doing evil things makes you evil.”

“You’re deluded, you’re a tool of Lucifer—”

I cut off the call. Because I could. “There’s definitely a tool here but it’s not me. Dr. Shumacher, do you ever get this kind of response to your work?”

“We have an intern whose entire job is filing the hate mail we get at the center.”

Oh. I didn’t know that. “That … do you find that depressing? This antiscience attitude? This outright hatred?”

“I think it highlights the need for education. I don’t think people are antiscience—they’re scared. They know now that vampires and werewolves exist, but they don’t know what to do about it, so it’s easy for them to believe the worst. I know you’ve done your best to get as much information out there as you can, Kitty. But, well, not to throw any kind of shadow on what you’ve done, you know very well that sometimes backfires. Any hint of conspiracy, people get more scared, not less. And vampires and conspiracy are almost synonymous.”

She wasn’t the first person to call me on that. Last year I’d stood up before an international conference and declared the existence of Dux Bellorum and the Long Game, a cabal of vampires with a nefarious mission of world-domination. Maybe that hadn’t been the most responsible thing to do. But I’d been at a loss—Dux Bellorum was real and I didn’t know how else to stop him. Speaking truth into a microphone was the only thing I knew how to do.

Dux Bellorum—Roman—was a vampire, a soldier of the Roman Empire in the first century who had become a vampire and decided to spend his immortality learning arcane lore and building an empire of his own. He’d traveled the world in search of magic and followers, whom he marked with an enchanted coin. I had a handful of the coins, collected from his minions and former minions, scratched and marred and flattened to destroy the magic in them. He had dozens of allies—the Master and Mistress vampires of cities around the world—and through them he exerted control over the entire supernatural world. Maybe even the mortal world as well, and I had begun to suspect that Roman didn’t just want to take over the world—he wanted to destroy it. Or at least damage it to such an extent that taking it over would be made easier. All the signs over the last few months indicated that Roman was on the move, that his endgame was in play.

I had evidence that he’d caused Vesuvius to erupt and destroy Pompeii, using a spell called the Manus Herculei. I believed he was preparing to use that spell again. I kept a map in my office with every volcano that had been active in the last thousand years marked with red thumbtacks. There were volcanoes all over the world. We’d never be able to stop him.

I’d been trying to track down Roman for years, ever since he came to Denver and decided I was an obstacle. There was a conspiracy, but it wasn’t about good and evil and the supernatural; it was about power and egos. The usual stuff. The supernatural didn’t fundamentally change people; it just gave them power.

I’d blown all this up in public because I figured the more people were watching for him, who knew about him, the less likely he’d be able to pull off anything terrible. Turned out, a lot of people just stopped taking me seriously. I was just like the crackpots calling into my show.

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