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By Kevin Ryan
Pocket StarCopyright © 2004 Universal Studios Licensing LLLP
All right reserved.
Chapter OneDr. Frankenstein made his final adjustment.
"Igor, check the conductors."
His assistant made a face and turned to walk up the stairs. His defining feature was his twisted back, which forced him to hunch sharply to one side, making his gait unsteady. His features were blunt and, oddly, he had no eyebrows over his small, deep-set, and perpetually red-rimmed eyes. Long, stringy red hair hung down past the man's face, only adding to his peculiar looks.
Frankenstein had had doubts about hiring Igor to assist him in the lab. It was not his appearance, though he knew most others were put off by Igor's misshapen form, and Gerald and the other servants voiced concerns about him as well. Frankenstein understood their worry, but his friend Count Dracula had felt strongly about Igor. Besides, as a scientist, he preferred to deal with the real, the tangible - with things that could be quantified.
And as a physician, Frankenstein understood the nature and cause of the deformity and had at one time dedicated his life to healing people such as Igor. In a rush of excitement, he realized that he was about to succeed beyond his wildest dreams. Even Gerald would be impressed, and he had rarely seen his servant excited about anything.
But Gerald is gone....
Yes ... all of them were gone. Gerald had stayed the longest, his loyalty to the family running the deepest. Still, they had all left one by one. That had been what? A year ago? No, closer to two.
On a certain level, Frankenstein understood why. He had changed. His Work had completely absorbed him, and had let many other things slip. Even now he could not remember the last time he had rested. Sleep was not the pleasure it once was: dark dreams always came to him. His only release was his Work, where he could be lost and forget about everything else ...
... even Elizabeth.
It hurt to think of her, so much so that the count had urged him many times not to. Dracula wanted what was best for him, for his Work. The count was helping him take his place with Hippocrates, Pasteur ... the giants of medicine.
Great deeds required great sacrifice - sacrifices like Elizabeth.
No! part of his mind rebelled. I do not want to give her up....
But he had. She stayed longer than the others, but then she, too, had abandoned him. It had been inevitable; she had never liked the count and was interfering with his Work - the Work that was almost finished.
When he had succeeded, he would win Elizabeth back. They would all come back....
Yet, part of him knew it was too late. Too much had happened. Looking around his lab, he wondered what his father would think of what he had done to the watchtower of Castle Frankenstein. Then he was jolted by the realization that this was not his ancestral home. The count had Frankenstein move his lab to the Transylvanian region of Romania, and had provided him with this castle. It was a very generous gift: Dracula was truly his friend.
It was here that Frankenstein had installed the dynamos, the generators, the powerful electromagnets, the chemical-reaction tanks. They represented the best German engineering, much of it based on Frankenstein's own designs and all of it made possible by his friend the count. As he looked around, he saw progress, the future. There were machines - creations of man - about to aid him in the ultimate act of creation. If he were still alive, his father would appreciate that much, even if he might not understand all the science.
There was something else here, though, something that his father would not have approved of. It wasn't the dust, grime, and cobwebs that covered much of the lab. It wasn't even in the rank smells, the leftovers of previous, failed experiments. It was the overwhelming stench of corruption.
More sacrifices for his Work, which had gone much faster than expected. The count had pushed Frankenstein to be more aggressive. The experiments on humans began almost immediately. There had been the ethical questions, of course, but Dracula had allayed all of his concerns.
And the count was his friend.
There had been some intoxicating victories. If only he could have published the results, then the fools on the Goldstadf Fellowship review board would know how wrong they had been in scorning him. They would see the genius of Frankenstein. Yes, genius. He would not deny the simple truth now, any more than he would rob himself of the triumph that he knew was within his grasp.
"The conductors are secure, Doctor," Igor called from the stairs.
Frankenstein raced across the room and checked his generators. Gauges showed that they were operating at full power. He flipped the first switch, the hum of the equipment rising in pitch. Then he activated more switches, careful to maintain the correct sequence as he turned on the electromagnets and dynamos and finally engaged the chemical-reaction tanks.
Electricity arced across contact points, and the hum increased in volume. The sound was intoxicating. It was the call of new life waiting to be born. Frankenstein spent minutes more adjusting, calibrating. The convergence of forces had to be just right. Electricity and magnetism along with chemical catalysts had to be perfectly aligned to bring about the primal energies he sought to summon.
When he was satisfied that all was in order, he moved to the structure that dominated the center of the room - a very special pod that looked like an oversize surgical table connected to electrodes and his precious equipment. On it lay his greatest creation: the Work incarnate.
A large figure covered in bandages, sewn together by Frankenstein's own hands. Pieces from cadavers carefully selected and assembled using surgical techniques that his colleagues had yet to imagine. Yet, it was only the beginning.
Even now, life was beginning to flow into his creation. Nerves, bone, and sinew were healing on the cellular level. It was not yet alive, but it was no longer completely dead.
Frankenstein knew he had nothing to do now but wait. Looking down at its closed eyes, he whispered, "You are truly my son."
The only one I will ever know, a voice in his mind supplied.
This new truth awakened in him feelings he had never known. With Elizabeth gone, there would be no children ... no family ... not with her - and if so, then not with anyone.
"You are my legacy to the world and I shall love you like my own son," Frankenstein said. Tears ran freely down his face. He could not tell if they were for his old life or for the new one before him. In the end it didn't matter; he simply let them come.
"And I shall do right by you," he promised. In his visible form, his son was not aesthetically pleasing. He wished he had done better, more careful work in the assembly. But the count had been in such a hurry.
And the count is my ...
Frankenstein found that he did not want to think of Dracula now. This moment was for father and son alone. Once he was alive, his son's form would be perfected; he would be the first to receive the benefits of Frankenstein's work.
Lightning flashed in the distance. Frankenstein counted off two seconds before the crack of thunder came. Two miles away. Closer than the last one.
"I give you life. And I shall see that life nurtured. I have failed many, but I shall not fail you. With your life, I give you the will to live it. The free will that is the right of all men," Frankenstein declared.
Another flash, another thunderclap. This one was less than a mile away. It wouldn't be long now. There were other sounds coming from outside, voices, shouting. Frankenstein knew he should be concerned but could not take his attention away from his task for an instant. After coming this far, he merely willed the lightning to approach.
All the while, his machinery worked, delivering its power to his son. He felt the connection between them growing. It was something he had not counted on - a finding he had not anticipated. Still, he welcomed it.
More dazzling light; the thunder was very near. His equipment was crucial, but the final breath of life and the incredible energies that it would require would come from above ...
... from the heavens.
Suddenly, Frankenstein knew that he was only part of a plan - one that was not his. For an instant he had fancied himself as a master of creation. But he was not the master here. No matter. He had his son now and he would make everything right.
Frankenstein saw the lightning strike before it actually hit the conductors on the roof of the watchtower. He felt it when the force that would fulfill his vision touched the machines. They sprang to life first, gathering the incredible power of the universe into the crystal diffuser Frankenstein had placed into his son's chest. Electricity arced across the length of the laboratory, and life surged into his son. Then, as quickly as it had come, the flash of energy disappeared and his son's eyes flickered.
The scream came from a deeper place in himself than Frankenstein knew existed. "He's alive.... He's alive.... HE'S ALIIIIVE!!!"
The euphoria was indescribable, maybe what God Himself must have known in His greatest moment of creation. Now all of his sacrifices seemed worth it, as he had achieved something that no one else in the history of mankind had even attempted.
A loud crash brought him out of his bliss. There was the sound of splintering wood, angry voices. Running to a window, he saw a torch-carrying mob outside in the night. He recognized one of them: a tall man wearing a large top hat. Frankenstein knew why they had come, and felt a chill as he realized that their anger was righteous. If he could only talk to them, he would explain why some of his unconventional methods had been necessary.
Some were carrying a tree trunk. They surged forward, charging the castle's front gate. Another crash. Wood splintered, but the gate held, though Frankenstein knew it would not be for long.
Screaming, more fury from below. He would have no time to justify his work and its incredible value. His creation - his son - was in danger. They would never understand. The mob would look upon his son and see only a monster. Where was his friend, the count? Dracula should be helping him, protecting him, so why was he abandoning him now?
"Success!" a voice cried out from behind him.
Frankenstein spun around and found himself face-to-face with a dark figure. The fear in his stomach reached his throat and he screamed. Then he recognized the familiar features and felt the terror briefly subside.
"Oh ... Count ... it's just you," Frankenstein said, glad to see his last remaining friend.
Dracula stepped forward into the flickering lights created by the surging electricity all around them. There was something wrong. His voice was flat, toneless, and his eyes were like ice.
"I was beginning to lose faith, Victor." Then the count looked down at the villagers. "A pity your moment of triumph is being spoiled over a little thing like grave robbery."
The mob surged forward, the villagers moving through the night as if they were a single living organism with just one purpose: revenge. They still could not comprehend why anyone - let alone someone who called himself a doctor - could commit such unspeakable and unholy acts as grave robbery. But whatever the motive, the desecrations had driven their entire town into a frenzied state of horror and outrage. Though not all or even most of them had been wronged, they would have vengeance just the same.
Most carried torches and all carried weapons, makeshift arms of pitchforks, shovels, and axes - tools for tilling and tending the land that would be put to a much darker purpose this night.
They prepared for another run at the gate with their tree-trunk battering ram as the new Castle Frankenstein rose out of the moors in front of them.
Centuries old, the castle had withstood invading armies, but the villagers were certain that it would fall to them tonight. There would only be one man inside, and they would have him before the evening was through.
At the head of the organism was the village undertaker in his top hat. His eyes reflected the torch he wielded and a gleam that showed genuine pleasure at the task at hand. He urged them on with cries of encouragement. "You know what he's doing in there - to the bodies of your loved ones!"
A roar rose up around him. The men holding the tree trunk went at it again. The weakening gate still held, as if reluctant to give up the fight.
Again, Frankenstein was struck by the lack of concern in the count's voice. Grave robbery was a serious charge. The mob would be through the castle gate soon. From there, the front door would be little trouble ... then there would be no stopping them.
Frankenstein looked pleadingly at Dracula and said, "I must ... I must escape from this place."
With growing panic, Frankenstein raced through his laboratory, seeing it as if for the first time. It looked more like a rank dungeon than a place of scholarly scientific research. The machinery and equipment that had once thrilled him were now frightening. The dynamos, the generators, the chemical vats, and reaction chambers were grotesque, abominations churning away as his world crumbled around him.
Something was terribly wrong here. The count was viewing him with something like contempt, only much worse - surely not friendship. In the blink of an eye, the one certainty in his life vanished and threatened to take the rest of his mind with it.
The count's voice materialized from above: "Where are you going to run, Victor?"
Dracula was now impossibly high up in the rafters, as if he had been magically transported there. If it was magic, then it was a very dark art, indeed, Frankenstein realized.
It was too much to take in all at once, so he tried to focus. Throwing open a nearby traveling chest, Frankenstein wildly began packing. He had to get away, to get his creation away from here ... away from the mob ... away from Dracula. Then he would sort out what was happening.
"Your peculiar experiments have made you ... unwelcome in most of the civilized world." Dracula's voice was cold with just a hint of mockery. Frankenstein looked up and saw that the count was now somehow on the other side of the room, pacing on the great mantelpiece over the fire.
It didn't make sense. It defied the laws of physics and motion as he understood them. Who was this man, really? He had lied to Frankenstein - from the beginning.
Excerpted from Van Helsing by Kevin Ryan Copyright © 2004 by Universal Studios Licensing LLLP. Excerpted by permission.
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