Chapter 8: Rhino blood

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When I woke up and saw the bright lights shining overhead, I knew exactly what had happened.

I didn't even need the reclined dentist-chair with the restraints on the wrists and ankles, tying me in. Or the gray, featureless room made of cinder blocks.

Oh yeah. This trip courtesy of the US government.

Funny how I'd forgotten all about Cindy and her men in black handlers. I'd been so caught up in Jia-Li's machinations that everything else had paled in comparison. Despite the fact that these were the people who Jia-Li was planning to wipe out.

They had to know I was awake. A video camera inside a glass dome was pointed at me. I jerked my head at it. "Come on, already."

Should I warn them about Jia-Li? I tried to frame the conversation in my head. "Yeah, I know this lady who's really a dragon, and she just hired a bunch of fox spirits to wipe out all the vampires."

They'd probably sedate me again.

The reinforced steel door swung open, and a man in a navy blue uniform stepped in. A woman followed, pushing a cart stacked with racks of little glass vials. Vials of blood. Oh man, this wouldn't end well.

"Dalton Meeker?" said Uniformed Dude.

"Sup?" I said.

He had eyebrows like furry caterpillars, and they scrunched together over his eyes. Gray, faded eyes. He'd been a vampire for a long time. "I'm Colonel Stryke. Do you know why we brought you here?"

"Not a clue." I couldn't resist adding, "So when they have a new turn like me, do they say, 'Time to Stryke'?"

Stryke's face didn't move, but the woman arranging the blood cart bit her lips to hide a smile.

"You are valuable to many people, Dalton," said Stryke as if I hadn't spoken. "Your vampiric ability is rare and most coveted. You understand your power, yes?"

I nodded. If he didn't, I wasn't going to spill the beans.

"The Department of Defense has been looking for an absorption power for a long time. We'd be honored if you'd join us in protecting this great nation."

Something trembled inside me. I loved America and being an American, and using my powers to protect people would be wicked awesome. But I was a dragon feeder. Therefore, as much as I hated it, I owed Jia-Li my loyalty at the moment.

I shuddered to think what she'd do if the men in black showed up at her door. Toast them to cinders, probably.

Stryke was waiting for my answer. I swallowed. "That'd be really cool, but ... I can't."

"Why not?"

"I uh ..." Why not give them part of the truth? "I accidentally fed on this really rare blood type, and now that's all I can eat. Drink, I mean."

"What type?"

I shook my head. "I don't know, but I'd know it if I tasted it again."

"How many times have you fed?"

Technically? "Once. I'm almost drained now."

Stryke nodded and turned to the woman. "This is Sargent Greenwood. She'll give you taste tests until we isolate your feeding preference." He excused himself and walked out. I'll bet anything he watched everything through the video camera.

"You can untie me, Sargent," I said. "I won't do anything."

"I can free your hands," she said, "but not your feet. Protocol, you know." She had a pretty smile. Her blond hair was regulation length--that is, hardly there at all--but her face was still round and pink.

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