Harry Keogh, the first Necroscope, is gone, his essence splintered, dispersed, and shards of his metaphysical mind dispatched into the darker corners of the myriad Universes of Light. Thus, to all intents and purposes, he is dead.
Death: the cessation of life. The absence of life, and the End of Being. Or at least, the living have always deemed it so. But as the Necroscope above all others (except perhaps the dead themselves) was aware, death isn't like that. Mind goes on.
For how may any great poet, scientist, artist, or architect simply dissolve to nothing? His body may quit, but his spirit--his mind--will go on, and what he pursued in life he will continue to pursue in death.
Great paintings are planned, and landscapes scanned in the dead mind's eye, and never a brush applied to canvas. Magnificent cities rear, and ocean-spanning roadways circle the planet, but they are only the dreams of their dead architects. Songs as sweet and sweeter than anything devised by Solomon in his lifetime are known to the teeming dead, which can never be known to the living; for he sang the ones we know more than two thousand years ago, and time has improved him.
But here a seeming contradiction: if death is such an empty, silent place, how then all the singing, painting, building? How do the dead go on?
To questions such as this there was no answer until there was the Necro-scope: a man who could look into the graves of men and into their dead minds. And through him--only through Harry Keogh--the dead were enabled. He taught them deadspeak, how to converse with one another, and joined them up across the world; he brought sons and daughters to long-lost mothers and fathers, reunited old friends, resolved old doubts and arguments and reinspired the brilliance of great minds guttering low. And without ever intending it--scarcely realizing what was happening--he became a lone candle flickering in the long night of the dead. And they basked in his warmth and loved him for it.
But as much as Harry Keogh gave the dead, just so much and more he received. From his mother, who in life had been a psychic medium, the germ of that metaphysical skill from which his greater abilities derived. From August Ferdinand Möbius, a long-dead mathematician and astronomer, knowledge andmastery of the Möbius Continuum, an undimensioned place (for want of a better description) parallel with all time and space. And from Faethor Ferenczy, the history of a vampire world and its undead inhabitants, some of which--much like Faethor himself--had from time to time found their way into our world. But it should be stated that this latter knowledge was obtained more out of the extinct vampire's longing for life than his love of the Necroscope ...
And from that time on--from Harry's discovery of vampires in our world, to the time of his "death" in Starside--the Necroscope was dedicated to their destruction. For he knew that if the terrible Lords and Ladies of the Wamphyri weren't put down, then that they must surely enslave mankind.
But in the end--himself a vampire and fighting the Thing within him to his last breath--even Harry gave in, "died," and was no more. Oh, really ... ?
But for every rule there has to be an exception, and Harry Keogh, Necroscope, was--he is--the exception to the rule of negative interaction between the Great Majority and the living. For in life he was the master of the Möbius Continuum, and used it to pursue vampires. So that now, in death ... ?
Harry Keogh was not alone in his lifelong war against the Wamphyri. Recruited into E-Branch as a youth, he had the backing of that most secret of secret organizations almost to the end. And even when Harry was himself no longer entirely human, still Ben Trask, the Head of E-Branch, was his friend. It was Trask, the human lie detector, who saw the "truth" of Harry: that he would never turn on his own kind; but still, best to take no chances, and Trask had been tasked to hound him from Earth.
Nevertheless, when at last the Necroscope returned to Sunside/Starside, to fight his last great battle there, he went of his own accord and not because he was driven out.
And it was Ben Trask, too, along with many more members of E-Branch, who saw--who were given to see--Harry's passing on the night he died.
It was a vision, a hologram, a real yet unreal thing. They saw The End of Harry as if it were here and now when in fact it occurred in an alien world on the other side of space-time.
Thirteen witnesses in all, in the ops room at E-Branch HQ; they all saw the same thing: that smoking, smouldering, hideous corpse, cruciform and crucified in midair, tumbling backwards, head over heels, free of the floor as on an invisible spit. And despite the crisped and blackened face, Ben Trask had known who it was, that this was Harry.
And for all that they encircled it, still the thing seemed to fall away from them, growing smaller, receding toward a nebulous origin--or destiny?--out of which ribbons of neon light reached like myriad writhing tentacles to welcome it.
The figure dwindled, shrank to a mote, and finally disappeared. But where it had been--
An explosion! A sunburst of golden fire, expanding hugely, silently, awesomely!So that the thirteen observers had gasped and ducked down; and despite that this thing was in their group mind, they instinctively turned away from the blinding intensity of its glare--and of what flew out of it. All except Trask, who had shielded his eyes but continued to watch, because that was his nature and he must know the truth.
And the truth of it had been fantastic.
Those myriad golden splinters speeding outwards from the sunburst, angling this way and that, sentient, seeking, disappearing into as many unknown places. Those, what, pieces? Of the Necroscope, Harry Keogh? All that remained of him, of what he'd been and what he'd meant? And as the last of them had zipped by Trask and vanished from view, so the writhing streamers of red, blue, and green ghost-light had likewise blinked out of existence ...
... Returning the ops room's illumination to normal. Then everyone had known that Harry was no more, that he had died in Starside in an alien vampire world. And only Ben Trask--Trask the human lie detector--recognized the "truth" of what he had seen, and knew that death, especially in the Necroscope's case, simply wasn't like that ...
Time has passed, twenty-one years of time, during which a different Necroscope--but a true son of his Earth father--has come to manhood in that same alien world that claimed Harry. And no less than his father, Nathan Kiklu (called Keogh by his friends in our world) is a vampire hunter. But Nathan has his own problems and hunts his enemies in Sunside/Starside.
Between the Earth and Nathan's parallel vampire world are two "Gates." One is natural, the other came into being when an ill-conceived Soviet experiment backfired. The first Gate lies along the route of a subterranean river flowing through a cavern system under the foothills of the frowning Carpatii Meridionali, the Transylvanian Alps.
The second Gate lies in an artificial complex built in the late '70s and early '80s by the Soviets in the base of the Perchorsk ravine in the northern reaches of the Uralski Kbrebet--Russia's Ural Mountains. While E-Branch has access to and control of the natural Gate, the Perchorsk Complex lies outside the Branch's sphere of influence. Closed down five years ago by the Russian premier, who diverted water from the Perchorsk dam into the mainly ruinous scientific complex to flood it, recently the artificial Gate has been reopened by the leader of a burgeoning military faction. This was done out of greed; the power-mad Russian general who ordered it had found out that Sunside/Starside is rich in gold; he and a platoon of soldiers went through into Starside in an attempt to fathom the extent of its riches.
Their expedition coincided with a vampire resurgence; the Russians were taken, and before the general was done away with, two Lords and a Lady of the Wamphyri extracted from him and the men in his command knowledge of our world.
Under constant guerilla attack by Nathan, the three Great Vampires, Wamphyri, decided to take their chances on Earth. Invaders (albeit secret invaders),they used the natural Gate to enter our world at E-Branch's Romanian "Refuge," a special hospice for traumatized orphans on the banks of the Danube at the junction of Romania, Bulgaria, and the former Yugoslavia.
Slaughtering the Refuge's personnel and inmates, the trio split up, dispersing themselves abroad in the world ...
E-Branch alone knew of the vampire invasion. Zek Föener, the love of Ben Trask's life, had died in the massacre at the Romanian Refuge; but in her final moments the telepath contacted Trask to tell him what was happening. Thus Trask was "with her" when she died--at which moment, in his grief of griefs, he had vowed revenge!
But the rest of the world couldn't, mustn't be told. Else panic at the thought of an invisible, almost invincible plague loose among us would run riot. E-Branch's Minister Responsible must be told, however, and he gave the Branch carte blanche to track down and destroy the monsters out of Starside. Moreover, liaison with many of the world's great powers guaranteed their assistance, too, in the event that Trask's organization should need it. These were, of course, covert agreements; only the most tried and trusted leaders were privy to the facts, and then not to all the facts ...
Some three years after the invasion, finally E-Branch "locators"--humanbloodhound trackers of men and monsters--picked up the "mindsmog" spoor of the Wamphyri in Western Australia's desolate Gibson Desert. But even as plans were made to counter the menace, so a timely quirk of synchronicity (not to mention the paradox of a once-familiar phenomenon) took place.
Jake Cutter, a young man with a dubious record, had been incarcerated in a top-security Turin prison for certain acts of vengeance which in fact amounted to murder. But murder only insofar as the law's legal definition. For Jake had taken revenge on a gang of drug-running thugs and rapists--affiliates of the Russian Mafia--who had brutalized and murdered a woman of his intimate acquaintance.
In answer to Jake's revenge serial killings, the leader of the gang--a mysterious Sicilian called Luigi Castellano--made arrangements to have Jake killed inside the prison. Learning of this, Jake had attempted to escape. But prison guards in Castellano's pay had opened fire on him as he scaled the prison wall. In which moment of extreme danger, there had come an astonishing intervention. At first Jake had thought that he'd been shot; he had actually seen the bullet--or the track of a golden bullet, or the coruscation of its ricochet, or something--strike home into his forehead. And then he had fallen, but not to the hard-packed earth of the prison's exercise yard.
Instead Jake had "fallen" into the Möbius Continuum--and instantaneously more than five hundred miles through the Continuum--to Harry's Room at E-Branch HQ in London! Harry's Room, which decades earlier had provided accommodation for the original Necroscope during his brief tenure as prospective Head of Branch, and which Branch espers had since maintained in pristine condition.
Simultaneous with Jake's appearance at E-Branch HQ, so the same espers--especially the locator David Chung--sensed that something of the Necroscope had returned. Trask, however, remembering what Harry had become before he quit Earth for Starside, could scarcely help but wonder what facet of him had come home. And Trask was also given to wonder: when Harry Keogh died, had his vampire been purged, or had it purged him ...?
The three invaders from Starside are Lords Malinari and Szwart, and the female Vavara. Malinari "The Mind," a mentalist of phenomenal power; Lord Szwart, who is the very essence of darkness, a constantly mutating victim (and survivor) of his own metamorphic nature; and Vavara, whose hypnotic disguise is that of a beautiful woman when in fact she is a hag.
When these Great Vampires came into our world they brought four lieutenant servitors with them, one of whom, Korath Mindsthrall (whose name identified him as being "in thrall" to Malinari the Mind), was sacrificed as a means of gaining entry to the Romanian Refuge.
Thus when the vampire trio destroyed the Refuge, butchered its staff and inmates, and took new thralls before splitting up and venturing out into our world, Korath Mindsthrall's dead and broken body was left behind, pulped and drowned in a metal pipe in the shattered sump of the gutted Refuge. The true death for a vampire thrall whose ambitions were always above his station, or so Malinari had suspected.
For Korath had been his man for long and long, and a great deal of Malinari had rubbed off on his lieutenant. Too much for his own good ...
Meanwhile in the Möbius Continuum, some faint echo--some fragment, residual memory, ghost, or intelligence--of the Necroscope Harry Keogh had become aware of scarlet life-threads where they crossed the blue threads of men. One such blue life-thread was Jake Cutter's, and because of its prevalence in some future conflict, the Harry revenant traced it back to its source ... to Jake in the Turin prison, and indeed to the rigged jailbreak.
But the revenant had its limitations; spread throughout all the Universes of Light, Harry's presence--his ability to effect changes in the mundane world of men--was at best tenuous. Also, his nature and Jake's were opposites in so many ways, and yet very much of a kind in so many others. And here he was, the very man, Jake Cutter himself--as unknown to the spirit of the ex-Necroscope as Harry was to him--about to die under the hammer blows of brutal bullets. But down future-time streams Harry had seen Jake's blue thread crossed by scarlet vampire threads, and the once-Necroscope knew for a fact that, "what will be has been," or that it would be. Wherefore Jake's life couldn't possibly end here. But how to save it?
The answer came in a moment, but without Harry's instigation! A golden dart, one of his myriad familiars, striking home in Jake's head to enhance whatever there was of the metaphysical in a currently mundane mind. A dart of knowledge, yes, and a set of scrolling numbers--like a computer screen runningamok, conjuring the Möbius Continuum--which in its turn bore Jake to Harry's Room, at E-Branch HQ in London ...
Australia, and Trask took Jake along for the ride. For whatever Trask's misgivings--and he of all men should know the truth of things--the rest of his espers saw Jake as a possible answer, and perhaps the only answer, to their needs: a weapon as powerful as anything the Wamphyri could bring to bear. But first, of course, he must accept what had happened and come to terms with it, learn to utilize the great gifts that he may have received, which as yet remained undeveloped in him.
To which end and between times, when the Keogh revenant was able, it/ he spent time with Jake; usually in Jake's subconscious mind, his dreams, when he was relaxed and more receptive of esoteric knowledge. But just like Ben Trask, the ex-Necroscope found Jake obstinate, cynical, and frequently infuriating. For Jake had his own agenda, a certain Sicilian criminal called Luigi Castellano, and until that had been dealt with he knew he could never be his own man or anyone else's ...
In the nighted, gurgling black sump of the ruined Romanian Refuge, Harry and Jake used deadspeak to talk to the sloughed-away Korath Mindsthrall where his polished bones clattered endlessly in the swirling water of a filtration conduit, and they learned the histories of Malinari, Szwart, and Vavara. And now the ex-Necroscope can only hope that in the waking world, Jake will remember what he learned in dreams.
But here a problem:
Despite Harry's warnings, Jake--of his own cognizance, his own free will--has agreed a pact with Korath, giving him limited access to his mind. For without the vampire he could never remember Harry's numbers, the formulae that conjure the Möbius Continuum. And without Jake, the dead but still dangerous--very dangerous--vampire can never stray from his watery grave.
Together, however, they have the incredible mobility of the Möbius Continuum. Moreover, Korath (once Mindsthrall) now knows hope where no hope existed. Enabled, he can now begin scheming toward a suddenly feasible future ...
On Australia's South Pacific coast, Trask and his team of espers have tracked down and attacked Lord Nephran Malinari in his casino aerie in the Macpherson Range of mountains; his lieutenants and various vampirized victims have been killed, destroyed utterly, but the Great Vampire himself has escaped.
Jake Cutter played a major part in what measure of success E-Branch enjoyed; but aware of his compromised position--and alone in this knowledge, unable or unwilling to tell Trask and his espers about his "problem"--he can find little or no satisfaction in his newfound status within the organization.
All Jake wanted was to be rid of a strange, unwelcome tenant: the ex-Necroscope, Harry, who had seemed intent on taking up partial (and perhaps even permanent?) residence in his head. But now that Harry has gone, a verydifferent and far more devious intruder has taken his place. Now, too, Jake finds himself plagued by Harry's warning: "Alive or dead makes no great difference. Never let a vampire into your mind!"
As for Ben Trask: many of his concerns have been assuaged, but still there are questions that remain unanswered. Foremost among them: why Jake? Why has this problematic young man been chosen, apparently against his will, for work as important as this? Jake Cutter--spoiled as a child, unruly as a youth, and reckless as a man. Why him?
And not only the Head of E-Branch, but the ex-Necroscope, too (in his immundane, incorporeal fashion), has wondered why. For those myriad attendant golden darts, revenant of his once-being, are apart from Harry and given to act of their own accord. He is the advance guard and scout, but they are the soldiers, the army. Thus it was with Jake: the ex-Necroscope found his life-thread, and so found him, but the dart struck home of its own cognizance. Why? Why was Jake chosen?
Perhaps Harry should look to his own past for an answer, but in certain cases the past may be just as devious as the future. Even in a mind freed of bodily restraints there are bound to be blank spots, times and places that remain forever unremembered. And in the Necroscope's life entire years were lost like pages torn from a book.
Perhaps the answer lies there ...