“You’re a vampire. And I’m the god damned king of America,” Henry said. “This is fucking ridiculous.”

“Is it so hard to believe? You’ve seen my fangs and my marble skin, and you’ve felt my strength and speed. Not to mention, you just fought your way through an army of zombies. Are vampires so much harder to believe than zombies?”

“Well, uh…yeah. Actually, they are. I mean, zombies could be the result of some military experiment, or some alien contagion, or something like that. Vampires are just weird.”

Dragos laughed, a deep, unholy, unnatural sound that Henry sincerely hoped he would never hear again. “Your world is about to be exposed to dangers far beyond your understanding.

Soon, everyone on your planet will believe in vampires…and zombies, werewolves, and all manner of creatures you once thought of as mythological,” Dragos said.

“Why? Because you’re planning an invasion?” Henry asked.

“Not me. I’m just the messenger. The Peri have opened a door they should not have opened, and hell is coming through.”

Sucks for the Peri, then,” said Henry.

“After they have finished the Peri, they will come for your world, too,” said Dragos. “You may find the Peri to be allies even before they are enemies.”

“Why are you telling me this? Why warn Earth–or the Peri—at all? Are you some kind of traitor?”

“I am not a traitor. I am…a refugee, I suppose. When this Peri spaceship opened the portal to our dimension, I seized the opportunity to escape. Truthfully, I do not care about your world, or the Peri. I just want to get as far away from the rift as possible. That means Earth. You may try to kill me again later, if you wish, but for now, we have the same goal. Perhaps we can work together?”

“Take you back to Earth? Why would I do that? If you’re a vampire, as you claim, why in the hell would I take you back to Earth? So you can kill everyone I know?”

“Not all of the myths about my kind are true. I have no desire to kill any of you. I do not need to drink your blood, or sacrifice virgins, or do whatever other evil deeds you imagine. I only wish for a place to hide, and exist peacefully.

“Yeeaahhh. And I’ve got a bridge for sale in Kansas. I don’t trust you. At all. But, since I can’t beat you, I’ll join you. Let me get this cube plugged in, and we can be on our way.”

“Excellent. Most excellent, indeed. The captain’s chair is yours, my friend.”

Henry plugged Artemis into the receptacle, and the ship came to life. The lights came on, the instrument panels lit up, and the engines began to hum. Within a matter of seconds, the ship lifted from the asteroid, and surged into space.

“Who is the other passenger, Henry?” Artemis asked. “Why can’t I detect him on any of my sensors?”

“His name is Dragos…and it’s complicated,” Henry said. “Dragos, meet Artemis, the ship’s artificial intelligence. Artemis, meet Dragos.”

“Charmed,” Dragos said.

“Likewise,” said Artemis.

“How long before we get to Earth?” asked Henry.

“There are too many variables to answer that adequately at the moment,” said Artemis. “Give me a few moments, and I will have more information for you. Both of you should sit down, and strap in. This might get a little rough.”

Henry strapped himself into the Captain’s chair, while Drago chose one of the seats behind him. He neither knew, nor cared which station he was occupying. Artemis, however, had other plans.

“We’re being pursued,” she said. “Dragos, if you could move over to the tactical station, to your left, that would help our chances of survival immensely.”

“Aye, aye, captain,” Dragos replied.

“The shields are offline,” said Artemis. “The Tesseract Drive is malfunctioning, too. If we had shields, we could fight the Peri warships while we repair the Tesseract Drive. If the Tesseract Drive was working, we could enter the fold, and escape. Henry, I need you to go down to engineering, and see if you can figure out what’s wrong with the Tesseract drive. Dragos, I need you to fire as many of the laser cannons as you can, as often as you can. If you get a solid lock on one of the battle cruisers, fire an implosive device. However, be careful with them. We don’t want to run out before we get to Earth, and there’s no telling how many ships will be sent to capture us. I’m going to launch the fighters from this ship, and hope the AIs inside them are on our side.”

“Hope they’re on our side?” Henry asked. “You mean you don’t know?”

“I haven’t had time to interview them. Most of them will be with us, but a few might be too scared to go up against the Peri. They might sabotage us in the hopes of gaining favor when we are destroyed.”

“Mama fucking goddess,” said Henry. “Save me from ignorant assholes who bite your hand when you try to feed them.” He checked to make sure he was still carrying the metaphasic pistols, and went over to the lift. He cleared the bodies that had been blocking it. Once they were clear, he stepped into the lift and pressed the button that would take him down to the engineering section.

He wondered, briefly, how many more zombies he would face, but then decided it probably wasn’t good to think too much about it. Didn’t matter how many there were…he’d have to kill them all before they reached Earth anyway.

Artemis brought all of the fighters online, and opened the hangar doors. The fighters flew out and began escorting the Kirasu. There were a few fighters that tried to open fire on the ship, but they were quickly dispatched by the overwhelming majority of fighters who were loyal to the AI resistance.

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