(This story continuation is a work of fan-fiction, in progress, using characters from the South Korean epic “The Great Queen SeonDeok 선덕여왕.” No copyright infringement is intended. This story continuation is merely the imaginings of, and for the entertainment of, the author.)
There were three survivable zones on terraformed Mars. Each one was occupied by a thriving nation state.
Alcheon helped found Silla, the largest in population of the three nation states. New Mecca was founded shortly after Silla and Eden came in about an Earth year later.
Silla was a democratic nation state. Elections were held every two Martian years (3.76 Earth years) for Governor of Silla. Alcheon won the elections for twenty terms of service (40 Martian years, 75.2 Earth years), out living most of the original settlers of Silla. He recently stepped down, feeling that new generations of Silla would do well and give the nation state new energy.
The government of New Mecca was a patriarchal monarchy that followed bone rank. The economy struggled with the poorest of citizens shouldering the heaviest burden in income tax.
Eden was a matriarchal society comprised of eight tribes. The tribes battled frequently, using weapon types that predated projectile weapons on Earth. This was considered an honored tradition. They were overseen by a war chief, who held her position through physical strength. She attained her position by killing the previous war chief. The economy of Eden was quite prosperous. Regardless of the constant infighting among the tribes, trade between them thrived.
Alcheon and Regina rested on his large sofa to watch Earth News, with the bloody battles occurring on Earth edited out by Cheonmyeong. The biggest story, and one that would have a major impact on the citizens of Mars, was the UN’s declaration that the settlements on Mars were illegally being referred to as nation states and if the citizens of Mars did not adhere to the edicts of the UN within six Earth months (approximately 26 Earth weeks (on Earth) and 49 Earth weeks on Mars), marshal law would be imposed on the populace. The president of the UN made the statement, as well the observation that since the three settlements acted independently from each other, the task of imposing marshal law would be a relatively easy task.
Regina asked Cheonmyeong to pause the playback of the news as she sat up and turned toward Alcheon. The look on her face was quite serious.
“We need to unite the three nation states,” she stated, matter-of-factly.
Alcheon looked at her, hearing and agreeing with her assertion.
While doing so, he couldn’t ignore the obvious parallel of events from fourteen centuries ago when his Peyha pronounced that the three Great Kingdoms were to be united.
Alcheon proposed unification to the assembly the next day. It prompted much debate, but after hours of deliberation, it was agreed that unification was a must and that Silla would have to spearhead the endeavor. Three conferences were proposed, one to be held in each nation state. In response to the invitations that were sent for the Silla conference, the other nation states accepted the entreaties, New Mecca being adversative to the proposal of unification.
Two days away from the Silla conference, Alcheon, once again, spent the day solidifying plans with the Governor, Andrew Smith. Security was a major challenge, as after the invitations for the conference were accepted, several instances of terrorism were revealed before being acted upon. The perpetrators had yet to be found and no one claimed the failed missions.
Tired and hungry, Alcheon slowly strolled home. All he could feel was the need for blood. As he made it to his doorway, Cheonmyeong opened the door with its usual greeting.
Alcheon entered the open room, which was dim and lit by many candles. He smiled because Regina had recreated the environment of their first encounter. He heard the music and watched Regina slowly performed the Salp’uri. The fabric of her veil and hanbok floated ghost-like in the lessened Martian gravity. He watched as she brought the intensity of the dance to a peak and then slowly back down. When finished, Regina gracefully sat down on a comforter edged against the far wall, her head bowed slightly down and her hair brushed to the side, temptingly exposing her neck to him.
Alcheon approached and sat in front of her. He was very hungry, his fangs already exposed. His eyes flashed red, as he vigorously sank his fangs into her. He was so gripped in the rapture of her warmth and the sweet taste of her blood, he barely heard her ask for release.
With renewed strength, he carried her to his bed, bandaged her wound, and joined her. His hold on her was tight, as if he never wanted to let her go. As Regina slept, Alcheon breathed in her fragrance, burying his face in her long, curly hair. After a few hours, she began to shake, almost as if she were fighting something or someone off. She started mumbling in Korean. With some concentration, he was able to make out most of what she was verbalizing. It was the speech she berated him with 14 centuries ago. He was ordering one of his men to kill him because he was injured, and she, a mere nangdo at the time, was arguing about the merits of killing the injured. The result of that speech saved his life. It was the first time, in that life long ago, she saved him.
He whispered in her ear the only word that would calm her.
Her nightmare induced struggle seemed to calm. In response to Alcheon’s whisper, in her sleep, she responded in Korean, “Hwarang Alcheon. I wish I could return your devotion.”
The next morning, Alcheon made sure Regina was comfortable. Cheonmyeong assured Alcheon that it would watch after her. He left feeling uneasy.
Several hours later, as Alcheon and Governor Smith were solidifying plans for tomorrow’s conference, the office’s AI interrupted.
“Please forgive the intrusion,” it said. “I cannot see Kim Alcheon’s AI in the network.”
Alcheon’s heart began to race.
“How can that be?” asked Alcheon.
“I do not know,” responded the AI. “Our connections are not hard wired. The only way to be removed from the network is to be decompiled.”
Alcheon rushed out, telling the AI to alert law enforcement. Alcheon didn’t hear the AI say it had already done so.
Law enforcement vehicles were already at his home by the time he arrived. His heart sank when he saw an ambulance leave as he entered his property. He ran into his house to see blood splattered all over the threshold of the practice room. The body of an unknown man blocked that threshold. He started to leave to go to the medical facility (and to keep his vampire self from reacting to the blood) when a detective (Civil Service Agent John Sweet) held him back.
“You have to stay here, for the time being.”
Alcheon fell to his knees, overcome with confusion and fear for Regina. He could smell her blood and even though he had just fed the night before, his eyes flashed red and his fangs extended.
Sweet went down on his knees, as well, partially out of respect for the former governor, but also to face Alcheon when talking with him. The fact that Alcheon had transformed to his vampire self didn’t seem to matter to the detective. His only change in procedure was to forgo asking questions of Alcheon, as Alcheon was incapable of verbalizing answers in his vampire state.
“As you probably already know, your AI was decompiled,” started Sweet.
Alcheon, the vampire, glared at the detective with his red eyes, angrily wanting answers. Another man (Civil Service Agent Hakim Abadi) approached and knelt on both knees before Alcheon. He was the detective investigating the crime of attempted murder of Alcheon’s AI. On Mars, AIs were considered sentient beings and decompiling an AI was considered equivalent to attempted murder (and murder, if there was no back up available).
“Your AI is very intuitive, Mr. Kim” commented Abadi. “I will assume that you didn’t instruct your AI to back itself up, nightly.” It was standard procedure for AIs to back themselves up weekly. “Your AI also took it upon itself to create a subroutine to run if it was damaged, or in this case, decompiled. That subroutine reactivated all the CCTVs in your house and recorded what happened here.”
The detective pulled out a mini-holographic emitter. He manipulated it to form a small version of the practice room. Alcheon, the vampire, watched as his Kisaeng practiced a dance she was preparing for him. He watched as she stopped, as if listening for something. She seemed to call out to Cheonmyeong. After a few seconds, she looked very scared and tried to find a place to hide. There was none, so she grabbed a sword Alcheon had there for practice. It was heavy for her and she found it difficult to wield. A man entered the threshold and pointed a projectile weapon at Regina. A laser dot could be seen on her forehead. At that point, Alcheon’s eyes flashed even more red and he growled like an animal. Unexpectedly and surprisingly, Regina raised the sword as if she had expertly handled one before, and seemed to yell out a battle cry. She ran at the man, slicing him quite effectively. He died immediately. She dropped the sword and fell to the floor. She never felt the projectile that entered her shoulder.
Alcheon still smelled her blood and the blood of the man who tried to kill his lover/feeder.
Sweet understood and sympathized with Alcheon, but he couldn’t let Alcheon go until he put his vampire self away.
“I will sit here with you until you can think more clearly. Then, we can go to the medical facility. If she survived, I will need to question her.”
Alcheon growled at the detective, but somewhere in his animal mind, he understood. It took a lot of effort, but he finally transformed back to his human self, even though he was overwhelmed with his anger and grief.
At the medical facility, the doctor responsible for Regina’s care, Doctor So Ju Won, allowed Alcheon and the detective into the emergency alcove where she was being treated. Two large tubes were imbedded in her neck, near where Alcheon had fed from her the night before. A pale red liquid was being pumped into her as her dark red blood was being pumped out.
Alcheon choked as he asked, “Will she live?”
“Yes,” confirmed Doctor So, “but she will be very weak for quite some time.”
“Why are you flushing her?” asked the detective.
The doctor sighed.
“I wish there had been another way to save her. Flushing is extremely painful, once the patient wakes up. It can take days before the body acclimates.”
Alcheon began to shake, and leaned against the wall in an effort to control his anger and the vampire within him wanting to come out. He repeated the detective’s question.
“Why are you flushing her?”
“She was shot with a shatter pellet.”
Sweet gasped before realizing he did so. Alcheon looked at him with question, and fear. He didn’t know what a shatter pellet was, but if the detective gasped out of surprise, it had to be important.
“What is that?” asked Alcheon. “What is special about a shatter pellet?”
Doctor So answered Alcheon’s question.
“Shatter pellets are ammunition used in projectile weapons. They are insidious and outlawed on Earth. As such, they are very prohibitively expensive on Mars. A shatter pellet is designed to hit a target and imbed itself, without causing appreciable damage. In this case, it imbedded itself into her left chest, near her heart. Once inside a body, the pellet shatters into almost microscopic shards that travel through the cardiovascular system by adhering to red blood cells. The shards tear at the flesh, causing the victim to bleed out internally. It’s an extremely slow and painful way to die. If the shatter pellet had imbedded into her brain, her slow and painful death would have also been met with the most horrific of hallucinations.”
Doctor So looked at Alcheon as Alcheon’s eyes faded from the red they had turned back to their human brown.
“There were indications that you fed from her, last night. Having fewer red blood cells for the shards to adhere to may very well have saved her life.”
Alcheon closed his eyes, overcome with grief that Regina was injured and anger that someone wanted her dead.
“Let’s go into the corridor,” suggested Sweet to Alcheon. Alcheon slightly struggled but let himself to be led away. In the corridor, the detective looked very worried.
“I heard rumors that the Unification Proposition was your feeder’s idea.”
“Why does that matter?” asked Alcheon. “She is extremely perceptive.”
The detective shook his head.
“Therein lies the problem,” said Sweet. “It is believed by some that she influences you greatly. You are aware there is a faction in each nation state that doesn’t want unification.” He looked away from Alcheon for a second, and then looked back.
“Do you remember the laser dot on her forehead before she killed the intruder?” Alcheon shook his head. He could barely remember anything from when he was in his vampire self, earlier.
“The projectile weapon was equipped with a laser targeting apparatus,” continued Sweet, “and it was pointing straight at her forehead. I believe she was targeted for assassination, because some feel she controls you.”
Alcheon clenched his fists, trying very hard to control his anger and to keep his vampire self under control.
“I need to return to your residence to complete my investigation,” continued Sweet. “I have hired a crime scene cleaning service for you, so I would suggest not returning for at least four hours. Also, I’m placing enforcers near your feeder around the clock, until your AI is repaired and you hire private guards.”
Alcheon nodded and went back to Regina, the detective slightly bowing in respect to the former governor.
Doctor So, who was removing the flushing tubes from Regina’s neck, nodded in acknowledgement when Alcheon arrived. The doctor bandaged the gaping holes with the same type of bandages that Alcheon regularly used on his feeders.
“I’m going induce her into a healing coma for the next few days,” stated the doctor. “Now that she’s flushed, the internal wounds need to heal. I hope when she wakes up, her body will have acclimated to the flushing agent. If it doesn’t, there’s not much that can be done until more human blood cells are produced by her body.”
The doctor looked up at Alcheon, after making sure the bandage had adhered properly to her wounds and skin. His look was one of compassion.
“Governor, I have heard that she is your exclusive feeder. As a feeder, myself, I envy her. She must be very special.”
Alcheon nodded. To him, she was beyond special.
Doctor So continued.
“For the next two cycles, you should not feed from her. It could kill her.”
Alcheon stayed at her bedside for nearly five hours and then left for his home. The cleaning service did an admirable job at cleaning his place. He could barely smell the blood left by the assassin and Regina.
Knowing that Alcheon’s memories were blurred earlier when he was in pure vampire form, Sweet left a hologram chip for Alcheon to view. All that was explained before now made sense to him. Watching the hologram of the attack, he saw the red laser dot on her forehead and was thankful the assassin missed. What amazed him the most was when the image of Regina wielded his sword as if she knew how to use it properly, though not to his level of expertise. It reminded him of the sword fight he had with her, fourteen centuries ago. when he was chasing her, because she had been branded as a traitor.
Alcheon spent the next hour or so installing the latest backed up version of Cheonmyeong. When it initiated its self-check routine, it immediately noted the huge time difference between the time it backed itself up and the time it just activated. It asked what happened, so Alcheon placed the chip provided by Sweet on the counter so the AI could scan it.
“I am sorry,” said Cheonmyeong.
“There is no need for apologies. This was out of your control. Welcome back. You were missed.”
Cheonmyeong reached out to the medical facility’s AI and was informed of Regina’s condition.
To ensure it would not be decompiled in the future, Cheonmyeong created a terminate and stay resident program to act as a shield against outside influences. Once completed, it spread that TSR, and the CCTV subroutine to all other AIs on Mars.
The AI network was slowly becoming Cheonmyeong’s network.