The Cullen-Volturi War challenged me mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and morally in ways I had never imagined. Mentally, because it was a war of strategy and I was playing for the lives of my family members. Spiritually, because I came to question just what kind of a god would allow the pointless loss of life that resulted from the war over what was basically reproductive rights. Morally, because I authorized the use of nuclear weapons on my enemies, but the majority of victims were innocent humans. And emotionally, because I had lost my son.
Carl was irreplaceable to me and I loved him beyond measure. He was so much more than my son or a fellow healer; he was my precious child who brought life and joy into my life. He made my wife’s eyes light up and sparkle with happiness. He made my cold dead heart warm with love. He made his brothers laugh and smile. He was smart, kind, loyal, and full of love. He was the glue that held our family together. He made us whole and without him, we were broken.
I replay the events that led to his death over and over again in my head. Not a day goes by where I do not find myself with my head in my hands, grief in my heart, and the burning sensation of dry tears in my eyes as I think about my lost son and what I could have done differently that day. I should never have allowed Carl and his friend Rosita to leave the living room during the battle. Esme and I were in charge of watching the children and in letting two of them leave our sight, we failed as parents and as protectors. We were useless when it mattered most.
I should have checked on the children, to make sure they were not getting themselves into trouble and that they were still there. I should have heard when they left. I should have asked Scryan, the psychic, to scry their future for me. Of course he had not seen anything, nor had his mother Alice, because there were hybrids involved. But if they had looked more closely, maybe they would have noticed the blind-spot in their visions. Maybe they would have given us a forewarning of the tragedy that was about to happen. Maybe we could have stopped Carl and Rosita from going out on that battlefield. Maybe they would still be here, alive, today.
I should have asked Eliza and Masen, the mind-readers, to tell me what Carl and Rosita were thinking while they were upstairs. But I did not ask and they were busy reading so many other minds that day that neither of them had noticed the aberrant thoughts coming from the third floor. Most of the fight was within mind-reading range, so they were flipping through the thoughts of the warriors on both sides and watching the battle unfold first hand and in real-time. And what they could not see from the warriors, they were getting from Scryan and Jackson.
There were enough hybrids involved that Scryan’s visions of the future were severely diminished, but he could still see all of the hybrid-free sub-battles raging on. And of course he saw this before it actually happened, so Masen was busy telepathing warnings to various fighters on our side, trying to save, or at least prolong, a few more lives. And although Jackson’s visions were of the past and on a time delay, he was the only one who had the entire picture of what had happened in crystal clear detail. Eliza could not help with the telepathing of warnings, but she had been enthralled with the play-by-play going on inside Jackson’s head.
Maybe the empaths could have sensed the deceit associated with Carl and Rosita sneaking out the window, but they had not. The rage, fear, and despair of war all around were sufficient to drown out two small specks of aberrant emotions and occupy their minds. Ashley, the youngest empath, was in such pain from the emotions of war that it was all Jasper, her father, could do to make the situation bearable. Neither of them had been in any state to notice two tiny specks of mischief running out onto the battlefield.
We had so many chances to notice something and to prevent this tragedy before it happened, but in the end, Carl and Rosita slipped through our grasp without any of us even noticing, and it was all my fault. Esme and I were the ones assigned to watch and protect the kids. We were the ones who let Rosita and Carl out of our sights. We were responsible for their deaths and Esme was a wreck. She had already lost a son as a human and a pair of eggs, because we had not known what they were, so Carl was the fourth child she had lost. He was my third, but I had to be the strong one and hold myself together, because we still had two living children who depended on us.
Our oldest son Aiden had lost his littermate, his roommate, and his brother and he was devastated. Those two loved to bicker and fight, but deep down they loved each other and had a bond that could never be broken. Adriel, our youngest son, looked up to his older brother Carl and thought that he and his brothers were invincible. This was the first cruel indication of mortality Adriel had ever encountered and he was not dealing with it well.
So I had a lot to deal with emotionally at home and I could live a hundred thousand years and never get over the loss of my Carl, but there were other issues that had to be dealt with and I could not just curl up into a ball and hide myself away from the world. I had to be strong for my family and help Aiden, Adriel, and Esme through their grief, but also, I had a larger family to be strong for and other issues on my plate. Rosita, who had also died, was my family too.
Esme and I had adopted six young adult vampires in the years before we learned that biological vampire children were a possibility. Edward, Bella, Rosalie, Emmett, Alice, and Jasper were our first children and no matter how old they get, they will always be our children and hold special places in our hearts. Our love did not get stretched thin when our family grew, because our hearts and ability to love grew with each new addition. And as difficult as it was to lose a child, it was equally as devastating to lose our granddaughter and to have to watch our children lose their daughter.
Rosalie and Emmett were heartbroken over the loss of their Rosita. She was just as integral to their family as Carl was to ours. Children were the one thing Rosalie had desired in this half-life of ours and she was miserable for the first hundred-plus years when she thought that she would never be able to have them. Her three daughters meant everything to her and I was happy to see the smile on her face when her dreams of motherhood finally came true. But now one of those dreams had been revoked and cut short, robbing my daughter of her chance to see her own daughter grow up. And as devastated as Rosalie was, her husband Emmett was worse.
Rosita had been Emmett’s first egg to survive. She had come out of his stomach. He had been the one to carry her for a hundred years and now he had lost her and she was not the first child he had lost either. Like my wife and me, Emmett and Rosalie had also lost a pair of eggs before we learned of their secret. Rosalie had mourned their loss fervently, but it was Emmett who never really got over it. He felt like a failure because he had thrown those eggs away, not even recognizing that they were eggs. I am not sure if he will ever get over the loss of his third child.
Rosita and Carl were not the only casualties of war, but they were the youngest and most innocent. Besides the losses in my immediate family, there were numerous losses of life in my extended family. Everyone who had stood by us in our hour of need and was on that island during the battle had lost coven members. Not one coven had escaped intact and many were down to only a few members. Only individual nomads or pairs of vampires had survived intact, but that was only if one did not lump all of the nomads together. As a group, plenty of nomads had died as well.
Tanya, Jason, and Carmen of the Denali’s were gone, leaving Eleazar, Kate, and Garrett to carry on without them. The same story applied to the Amazonian coven, which was down to just Zafrina and her mate Fernando. Only Maggie, Sean, and Siobhan were left from the Irish and English covens. Both Romanians survived, but there were only two of them to begin with. And on the other side of the spectrum, Benjamin and Tia, the last of the Egyptians, had both perished.
So everyone in our extended family was grieving and we had to carry on and rebuild in the absence of our fallen friends, family, brothers, sisters, sons, and daughters. There was very little damage to buildings, but that is not the type of rebuilding I am talking about. The Volturi brothers had been our leaders for over four thousand years and with their deaths, our government ceased to be. That was what we wanted, freedom from their tyranny, but now there was a glaring gaping hole where they had been.
I never wanted power and I’ve done everything in my capabilities to avoid positions of authority. When I told Aro that I wanted peace, I meant it. I would have been happy to live for eternity under the Volturi’s rule, if only they would have allowed us to live in peace. Our family first appeared on their radar because of our size. Our coven was large, but it grew out of love, not greed or desire for power. My children stayed because we all shared a series of moral beliefs and ideals. We valued human life and desired to live without murder, but that was just what we had done.
We dropped a hydrogen bomb on Volterra, which was a human city in the middle of Italy. Hundreds of thousands of innocent people happened to have been within the blast range, resulting in numerous injuries and the loss of over eighty thousand lives. These were people who had families, friends, and children who loved them. Many of them were even children. The blood of over eighty thousand people was on my hands and their loss will probably weigh on my conscience until my body turns to dust.
But in the end, dropping that bomb saved more lives than it took. It served a purpose to us, in that it destroyed the Volturi, but it also served a purpose to the humans. The Sudanese terrorists, also known as the Sudanese Liberation Movement, were planning on dropping a hydrogen bomb of their own on Rome during Easter; if they had succeeded, the death toll would have been at least an order of magnitude greater. But as it was, the terrorists were killed and their bomb components were destroyed and their organization thought that they had been successful. They were disappointed that the bomb had not reached its target and the magnitude of deaths they had planned had not been achieved, but it was clear that they could not try again now that their cover was blown. The United Nations was on high security alert throughout Italy, so there would be no second attempt at blowing up Rome.
Sudan and the surrounding countries were at war with the rest of the world, because of the New Ebola virus. The Sudanese and other people in sub-Saharan Africa were asymptomatic carriers of New Ebola because they had all been infected with the disease in utero, acquiring the disease from their mothers. If the mother was infected, the fetus would be persistently infected, immune to the acute form of the disease, and live a full and normal life. And since everyone had it, it was not a big issue for the Sudanese people.
The issue was what happened when people with the virus came into contact with other people. If the mother was not infected, the fetus could not acquire the disease early enough to develop a persistent infection. By the time the infants were born, it was already too late and only an acute infection could develop, and subsequently death would ensue.
The non-infected people tried to develop a vaccine against the virus, but its RNA genome evolved too quickly, presenting the same problems associated with HIV and influenza vaccination. Even so, New Ebola was the number one most deadly disease and a great deal of effort was wasted on trying to develop a vaccine. But in the end, no vaccine was a hundred percent effective, or even thirty percent effective, and the virus would evolve immunity within a matter of months.
There was some hope at first that resistance could be genetically spliced into the human genome, using standard biotechnological techniques. Even more money, time, and effort were wasted on this fruitless endeavor, because the modifications proved to be lethal. Biologists had tried to remove or modify several critical human proteins that were essential in the course of New Ebola infection, but invariably, either the modification was not sufficient to provide protection from the virus, or the modification was lethal, because all of these human proteins were critical for normal human function.
In the end, the researchers gave up on vaccines and germ-line modifications in favor of containment as the number one method for prevention. The virus was contained to sub-Saharan Africa and every effort was made to prevent its spread to the rest of the world, which meant the rest of the world was susceptible to the infection. If the containment was breached, everyone who comes in contact with the virion would develop acute Ebola with all of the classic symptoms, including hemorrhaging, such as vomiting and coughing up blood.
The biggest difference between New Ebola and Classic Ebola, besides the increased difficulty with respect to vaccination, is that Classic Ebola only presents with hemorrhagic symptoms in ten percent of cases, while New Ebola presents with these symptoms in one hundred percent of acute cases and consequently has a hundred percent lethality. Thus it is absolutely lethal to Caucasians and not surprising that these people have a problem with the disease.
The part of the globe inhabited with New Ebola-sensitive people is vehemently opposed to not just the spread of the virus, but the existence of the virus at all. The current three biggest super powers, China, India, and Brazil, had declared war against New Ebola and Sudan, and they had even convinced the majority of the lesser super powers, such as the European Union and Mexico, to join the war effort. The New United States of America had joined the war effort at first, but we were able to convince Jacob to use his power as Chief of the Quileutes to convince the US to back out, but that was over two hundred years ago now.
The Sudanese and the rest of the world had not been at war for this entire time, because there had been several truces and attempts at peace talks. The Chinese, Brazilians, and Indian governments would never have agreed to back down in their genocide of the Sudanese, but the Sudanese had reverse engineered the hydrogen bomb and set a few off in each country. Millions of people were killed, but all three countries recovered and all three had surrendered, just as long as the Sudanese agreed to stop dropping bombs and to stay out of their countries.
Normally the winning country occupies the loser to ensure compliance with the terms of the surrender, but the Sudanese could not do that, or their disease would spread and the Chinese, Brazilians, and Indians would all die. So instead the losing countries were left free to oversee their own efforts to comply with the terms of the surrender. They were charged with destroying their own armories, weapons, and military and converting their societies back to peace-loving civilian-centric countries. Needless to say, they did not comply.
A few decades passed and the Ebola-sensitive side regrouped and attacked again. It was not so much the virus that they were fighting over now, because the Sudanese had complied with their side of the bargain and contained their virus to sub-Saharan Africa. Now the war was mostly about jealousy and money. The Sudanese were evolving into a new species of humans that were smarter with much larger brains and consequently they were leading the world in inventions, innovations, and new ideas, not to mention gross national product. The Sudanese were surpassing all three of the three biggest super powers and the three super powers did not want to let that happen.
So China, India, and Brazil attacked Sudan just two decades after the end of the first Sudanese War. The second war lasted a decade and ended the same way as the first, with the Sudanese manufacturing destructive weapons, dropping them on the aggressors, and forcing their surrender. And the cycle did not end with the second war, because they Sudanese let their enemy see to their own compliance again, because they still were without a choice in the matter, so that just led to the third Sudanese War. That gave way to the fourth and fifth Sudanese Wars and now we were in the sixth Sudanese War.
The sixth Sudanese War was different in that this time the Sudanese were the aggressors. They had always been the defenders, only trying to protect their rights to exist and their lives. They had always waited to drop bombs until they had no other choice, but not this time. This time they were monitoring the Indians, Brazilians, and Chinese and when their enemy started training their soldiers for the next war, the Sudanese decided to act offensively for once.
But the official Sudanese government had signed a treaty with the UN saying that they would not attack and they wanted to maintain their reputation. They were vying for the top position as the world’s largest super power, now that Brazil, the former top, had taken an economic down turn. And although the Sudanese were doing well on their own and within the African continent, they would never be able to achieve that goal if they were not trading with the rest of the world. And the rest of the world was Ebola-sensitive, so they were sympathetic to the anti-Ebola movement.
And in this precarious situation Sudan had been placed in, a new organization had formed that called themselves the Sudanese terrorists. The name was a misnomer, because the group was really from Uganda, but Uganda was part of the Sudanese Union and were close allies with their neighbors. Whenever Sudan went to war, Uganda and all of the other countries in the Sudanese Union were dragged into war with them and there was nothing Uganda could do about it, because they too carried the deadly virus.
The Ugandans were sick and tired of the two plus centuries of war and wanted to put an end to the anti-Ebola movement. They released a website proposing that all humans be deliberately infected with the virus and that natural selection be allowed to take its course; its course being the elimination of Homo sapiens allowing for the spread of Homo sudaniensis. Not only would this plan put an end to the endless wars, but also it would provide their burgeoning species with five more continents to inhabit, as opposed to just the one.
It was still a bit premature to separate the two populations of humans into separate species, because they could still interbreed in a test tube. But in just the last few hundred years they had clearly diverged into subspecies and with New Ebola acting as a population barrier, there was little hope for mixing and joining of the two. If two people from opposing sides of the divide tried to mate, the one without Ebola would die within two weeks.
It was possible for an Ebola-infected female to conceive before the Ebola-sensitive male died, but it was socially forbidden both because of the war and because of the difference in intellect. The war meant that the two sides were quarantined from each other and had no interaction with each other, so that there were no opportunities for romance and hybridization. And because the classic humans were so much dumber with such tiny heads, no Sudanese woman in her right mind would find a Classic human man attractive.
And so the Ugandans had formed the Sudanese Terrorists and planned a pre-emptive strike. They were going to drop that hydrogen bomb on Rome during Easter, when the city would be packed with tourists, but their plan had been thwarted when we dropped our bomb on nearby Volterra, which was only three hundred kilometers to the north. The terrorists and their bomb components were all within the blast range and so had been destroyed and the head of the organization back in Uganda had claimed credit for our bomb. Needless to say our bomb started Sudanese War number six, even though the first official blow did not occur until later when the Indians bombed Somalia.
I wished I could tell the two sides what Alice saw in her visions, because I thought that that knowledge would help to put a stop to all of the fighting. Alice saw both sides coexisting indefinitely, because in the next few hundred years, the virus and the Sudanese people will have evolved in symbiosis with each other so long that an exclusive virus-host relationship will develop. New Ebola will become exclusive to H. sudaniensis and completely loose its ability to infect classic H. sapiens. Once that happens the two species will be able to live in peace and harmony with each other and the wars will cease on their own.
As big as this change was for the human world, its effect on the vampire world was equal. Most of the vampires on this planet drink humans, whether they be Classic or Sudanese, they are our natural food-stuff. No one is more opposed and disgusted by this fact than myself, but I have come to accept it. I cannot change others or bend them to my will and I do not even want to do so. I wish that all vampires would discover the joys of animal blood, but I will not force them to do so. Instead I stood and watched and listened to the debates on the war.
I have never been more ashamed of my species as I was when I first learned that vampires were considering altering the course of history in favor of one side over the other, based upon the taste of their blood. They say that Classic human has a sweeter taste, while the Sudanese have a more flavorful, nuttier taste. The whole issue is absolutely disgusting and repulsive if you ask me, but that does not stop the others from arguing that their favorite flavor should win this war.
Some vampires preferred the sweeter taste of the Classic humans, while others preferred the nuttier taste of the Sudanese. Some wanted to tip the scales in the favor of the Classic human, so that they could continue to enjoy that sweet taste whenever they wanted, while others wanted to tip the scales the other way, so that the nuttier taste would become more widely available. It was Alice who suggested a third alternative that both species be allowed to live, so that we might have variety in our diets.
Humans have thousands of edible food items to choose from, but vampires only have one: human blood. Sure my family has added variety to the monotony by consuming animals, but the taste is so vile that the average vampire would never touch an animal when they could have a human. By doubling the number of human species alive simultaneously, we were doubling the number of food sources and therefore flavors available for our species. In the past there had been numerous species of humans available for consumption, so this would be a return to a more balanced diet for us.
I was utterly shocked and sickened that my own adoptive daughter would think of such a repulsive idea, but once she explained her logic behind it, I jumped on board. Alice did not actually want to drink from either species, because she was fine with animals and synthetic blood, but she had seen this rational in a vision and realized that it was a perfect fit for us. It was perfect because it was an argument that other vampires, the carnivorous ones, could support. And most importantly, it was an argument that would increase the odds of both species surviving, which was what our family wanted in the first place. I hated to think that either species would genocide the other, and so we were pushing for the survival of both types of humans.
But who was I to say anything? Who was Alice to convince our entire species that her idea was right? We had no power and no authority. Before our war with the Volturi ended, Aro and Marcus had been controlling the vampire population and enforcing our laws. They had ensured that we all kept the secret and that none of us interfered with the war. Alice had sent an anonymous letter to Aro explaining the advantages of maintaining the two species and by some stroke of luck, he had been convinced. Aro put himself in charge of keeping the vampires out of this war, so that both species would be available for us to drink, but now Aro was gone.
In the aftermath of the destruction of the Volturi, vampire society had lost any semblance of government, order, or law that we had. Vampires began to flaunt the one true law, that we keep the secret, and were flat out ignoring all of the lesser laws. There was a colony of immortal children in Antarctica, a colony of human livestock in Indonesia, and the mysterious sparkling albino humans in the mountains of Sudanese South Africa. And those were just the three biggest stories that made their way to human ears. The human livestock incident was passed off as part of the human slave trade, and the Antarctica incident was said to be an indication that yet another new human species was evolving increased cold-tolerance, while the sparkly people were ruled by the Sudanese to be the result of a mass-induced hysteria brought on by the consumption of bad beef. The Classic humans thought it was an indication that the Sudanese were crazy.
By far the worst part of the wild vampires running loose among the humans was never reported. The worst part was the hundreds of vampires who were attacking either Classic human or Sudanese soldiers en mass, in the hopes of turning the war in favor of their favorite flavor. Whole armies were found mysteriously dead with no signs of the enemy. Entire fields would be found filled with soldiers with broken necks, slit throats, and drained blood. The humans blamed it on propaganda from the other side and refused to release the stories to the media, but I knew the truth.
I knew that innocent humans were being murdered because the vampires were out of control. I knew that they had to be stopped and that I was responsible for the destruction of the one and only vampire organization that had ever placed itself in charge of controlling vampires and preventing incidents like these from occurring. I had unleashed this curse upon the humans and it was up to me to right this situation.
I could turn my head and look the other way and let some other vampire clean up the mess I had created; someone who actually had desires to rule. But our last leaders had desired to rule, they had wanted the power that came with it, and look where that got us: oppressed and not even free to germinate our eggs. We were sentenced to death for having children, when reproduction is a basic desire common to all forms of life. There is nothing more universal than the desire for children, except maybe the desire to make their lives better than our own.
What kind of world I was making for my children was a major factor in my decision to step forward and take an active leadership role. I did not want another repeat of the Volturi or for my children to have to fight another war for freedom when they grow up and get tired of whatever harsh restriction the new regime inflicts upon us. Tyranny ends here and now and our next government will be a democracy in which we are all permitted to vote upon what is right.
Kair and Kare, my granddaughters from the future, had told us all that the next government would be a democracy. Kair and Kare were Jasper and Alice’s time-traveling twins that came to tell us that it was okay to drop the hydrogen bomb. I would never have allowed the dropping of that bomb if those two girls had not convinced me that even more lives would be lost if we did not. But also, the twins had given us information on what was to come.
They said that the new government would be called the Democratic Republic of Vampiredom, or the DRV. They had even said that my oldest son Aiden would be president of the DRV in their time. Aiden, with his talent for peace, was the perfect logical choice for president, because he would ensure that everyone got along and settled disputes in a peaceful fair manner. And Aiden was no megalomaniac; he had no desire for power or control. He would make a good, fair leader and oversee a time of peace for our violent species.
But Aiden was just a boy. How would he ever be able to realize my dreams of peace and freedom for all if he would not be able to start for another eight hundred years? Who would take over and what damage would they cause in that lengthy period of time? Could I really let the world go to pot and leave my son to clean up the mess on his own when he grows up? Would I really let my son inherit such a mess?
The answer was clearly no: I would step up myself and see that our society was put back together in a fair and peaceful manner. I would play the role of the reluctant leader, so that my son does not inherit an impossible situation and another unending war. I would ensure that the secret is kept, that immortal children are not doomed to this existence, that humans were not kept prisoners to be used as food, and that armies of humans were not slaughtered to tip the scales of war. I would champion peace and rebuild vampire society.