Worst Date Ever. – Peter Watts


He turned, flinched, brought his hands up barely in time to catch the box sailing towards him. It might have held a large pizza, judging by size and shape; maybe three of them, stacked. Scasers, adhesives, bladders of synthetic blood nestled in molded depressions under the lid. Some kind of bare-bones first-aid kit.

“Fix it.”

Somehow Valerie had already stripped down to her coverall, geckoed her abandoned spacesuit to the wall like a crumpled wad of aluminum foil. Her left arm was extended, wrist up, sleeve rolled back. A Victorian junkie awaiting an injection. Her forearm bent just slightly, halfway down its length. Not even vampires had joints there.

“What— how did—”

“The ship breaks. Shit happens.” Her lips drew back. Her teeth looked almost translucent in the glassy light. “Fix it.”

“But— my ankle—”

Suddenly they were eye-to-eye. Brüks reflexively dropped his gaze: a lamb in a lion’s presence, no recourse beyond obeisance, no hope beyond prayer.

“Two injured elements,” Valerie whispered. “One mission-critical, one ballast. Which gets priority?”

“But I don’t—”

“You’re a biologist.”

“Yes but—”

“An expert. On life.”


“So fix it.”

He tried to meet her eyes, and couldn’t, and cursed himself. “I’m not a medical—”

“Bone are bones.” From the edge of vision he saw her head tilt, as if weighing alternatives. “You can’t do this, what good are you?”

“There must be some kind of sick bay on board,” he stammered. “A, an infirmary.”

The vampire’s eyes flickered to the hatch overhead, to the label it framed: Maintenance & Repair. “A biologist,” she said, something like mirth in her voice, “And you think there’s a difference.”

This is insane, he thought. Is this is some kind of test?

If so, he was failing it.

He held his breath and his tongue, kept his eyes on the injury: closed fracture, thank Christ. No skin breaks, no visible contusions. At least the break hadn’t torn any major blood vessels.

Or had it? Didn’t vampires— that’s right, they vasoconstricted most of the time, kept most of their blood sequestered in the core. Valerie’s radial artery could be ripped wide open and she might never even feel it until she went into hunting mode…

Maybe give her prey a fighting chance, at least…

He tamped down on the thought, irrationally terrified that she might be able to see it flickering there in his skull. He focused on the bend instead: leave it, or try to reseat the bone? (Leave it, he remembered from somewhere. Keep movement to a minimum, reduce the risk of shredding nerves and blood vessels…)

He pulled a roll of splinting tape from the kit, snapped off a few 30-cm lengths (long enough to extend past the wristit was starting to come back). He laid them down equidistantly around Valerie’s arm (God she’s cold), pressed gently into the flesh (don’t hurt her, don’t fucking hurt her) until the adhesive took and hardened the splints into place. He backed away as the vampire flexed and turned and examined his handiwork.

“Not set straight,” she remarked.

He swallowed. “No, I thought — this is just tempor—”

She reached across with her right hand and broke her own forearm like a sapling. Two of the splints snapped with a sound of tiny gunshots; the third simply ripped free of the flesh, tearing a divot in the skin.

The fascia beneath was bloodless as paraffin.

She extended the re-fractured arm. “Do it again.”

Holy shit, Brüks thought.

Fuck fuck fuck.

Not a test, he realized. Never a test, not with this thing. A game. A sick sadistic game, a cat playing with a mouse…

Valerie waited, patient and empty, less than two meters from his jugular.

Keep going. Don’t give her an excuse.

He took her arm in his hands again. He clenched tight to keep them from shaking; she didn’t seem to notice. The break was worse now, the bend sharper; bone pushed up from beneath the muscles, raised a kotty little hillock under the skin. A purple bruise was leaking into existence at its summit.

He still couldn’t meet her eyes.

He grabbed her wrist with one hand, braced against the cup of her elbow with the other, pulled. It was like trying to stretch steel: the cables in her arm seemed too tough, too tightly sprung for mere flesh. He tried again, yanked as hard as he could; he was the one who whimpered aloud.

But the limb stretched a little, and the broken pieces within ground audibly one against another, and when he let go that lumpy protuberance had disappeared.

Please let this be enough, he prayed.

He left the broken splints in place, laid down new lengths of tape adjacent. Pressed and waited as they grew rigid.

“Better,” Valerie said. Brüks allowed himself a breath.

Crack. Snap.

“Again,” Valerie said.

What’s wrong with you?” The words were out before he could catch them. Brüks froze in their wake, terrified at the prospect of her reaction.

She bled. The bone was visible now beneath stretched skin, like a jagged deadhead in murky water. The contusion around it expanded as he watched, a bloody stain spreading through wax. But no, not wax, not any more; the pallor was fading from Valerie’s flesh. Blood was seeping from the core, perfusing the peripheral tissues. The vampire— warmed

She’s vasodilating, he realized. She’s switching into hunting mode. Not a game after all, not even an excuse.

A trigger…

48 Responses to “Worst Date Ever.”

  1. Mmmmm. Lunch.

      Daniel(Quote)  (Reply)

  2. I always forget that your vampires only ever speak (think?) in present tense.

      Rick Ward(Quote)  (Reply)

  3. Chilling. But Valerie doesn’t seem like a scary enough name for a cold blooded killer.

      Matt(Quote)  (Reply)

  4. She was named for a department head at Simon Fraser who’d retired the year before. The department head mistook it for a compliment.

      Peter Watts(Quote)  (Reply)

  5. @Matt, who wrote in-part: But Valerie doesn’t seem like a scary enough name for a cold blooded killer.

    Matt, it has been my experience with a variety of dogs that it’s the ones named “Snuggles” or “Precious” which are most likely to bite.

    @Peter Watts: I trust this means you’re getting close enough to completing the book so that I can soon buy it and read it to place this in context.

    At first, I was wondering WTF exactly Valerie thinks she’s doing, but a moment’s reflection on the way you’re writing Brüks as extremely paranoid, and noting that Valerie seems to have the opinion that mission success is highest priority, it seems to me that she might just be testing his ability to do complex tasks under pressure. (Brüks clearly considers this but differently attributes motive.)

    First she checks to see if Brüks can remember his training when she’s in close quarters, and he does, but not to her satisfaction. Or/and, she’s also testing to see if he can get some theory-of-mind on her which doesn’t just feed his paranoia to the point of incapacity.

    Can he figure out that she’s able to engage self-control to the point of repeatedly breaking her own bones and still not lashing out from pain? (Not too sure if the Wattsian Vampire has very rapid healing and/or really unusual ability to ignore pain. Most carnivores are pretty wimpy about avoiding injury where possible and nursing their wounds when injury was unavoidable.) He passes the first few levels of testing but here comes the big test: she knows he knows how to recognize and fear a vampire going into hunting mode, but can he remain collected enough to understand that she could be in hunting mode but he’s not the prey, rather, she may need him to do fast patching of wounds so she can get back into the fray (or on task, whatever). Again, I don’t have the context and backstory and so could be way off base here.

    Also, whatever Brüks is thinking, she might be less of going into hunting mode because she thinks he looks tasty, and more entering the non-vasorestricted state because she wants some blood flow to wash out the wound. Or maybe she’s playing a sociopathic game with her physiology to see if she can make him faint from the sight of blood. Brüks seems to think so, though outside of the context I can’t know whether Brüks’s opinion is just his opinion of a really stressed-out moment, or if this (not a test, a game) might be something known from past experience to be characteristic of Valerie in particular or all Wattsian Vampires in general. (I have mentioned the “cheerful malice” some have associated to the high-function end of the autism spectrum. Maybe your vampires have a really bad case of it. ;) )

    Whatever, great flow and characterization, at least if you’re trying to characterize Brüks as someone trying to rise above natural terror. Also, I retain the impression that the way you write vampires, they’re in a mental mode where they keep expecting the non-vampires to figure out what they’re doing/thinking/feeling, sort of object-lesson type stuff, and the “normal” people never fail to disappoint. Maybe she’s just trying to convince Brüks that no matter how badly she’s hurt or how engaged in hunting model she may be, he is not going to have to worry about her turning on him. I mean, she’s already had plenty of time and proximity even without amping up the physiology. Presumably she could of just beaned him with the first-aid box and gone from there. Brüks should understand she’s being patient, she might be thinking.

    Wow, lots to think about in such a short fragment. Thanks, squirming in seat awaiting publication….

      Mr Non-Entity(Quote)  (Reply)

  6. It looks like she’s teaching him under stress.

      Trowo(Quote)  (Reply)

  7. Christ, and here I thought Sarasti was a creepy bastard.

      Bastien(Quote)  (Reply)

  8. As someone who has a lot of personal experience with broken bones (because I actually carry a mutated gene for type-I collagen), I would just like to say:


      Steve VanDevender(Quote)  (Reply)

  9. Not sure if Non-entity is over-thinking it, or i am not thinking about it enough…

      digi_owl(Quote)  (Reply)

  10. One question: is Valerie beautiful? Is she look like Selen from Underworld?

      Docbrain(Quote)  (Reply)

  11. Valerie’s like one of the blue-eyed longwalkers from Game of Thrones. Only with hair.

    Whether that meets your standards of beauty is for you to decide. Personall, I find it kind of hot.

      Peer Watts(Quote)  (Reply)

  12. And more: when publication Exopraxia? An when you will write novell from Island and novell about Polaris War, canadian biologist and giant squids?

      Docbrain(Quote)  (Reply)

  13. “Valerie’s like one of the blue-eyed longwalkers from Game of Thrones. Only with hair.”
    I not see Game of Thrones.

      Docbrain(Quote)  (Reply)

  14. Docbrain:
    And more: when publication Exopraxia? An when you will write novell from Island and novell about Polaris War, canadian biologist and giant squids?

    1) August 2014.

    2) Sometime after that– it might turn into a crowd-sourced video game before it becomes a traditional novel.

    3) Sometime even after (2); although I am actually quite excited to get started on that project. I think of it’s the kind of project Micheal Crichton would have written, if Micheal Crichton could write.

      Peter Watts(Quote)  (Reply)

  15. I may read too many dodgy manga, but it might be her idea of foreplay. There are other reasons for blood rushing into places than aggression, after all.

      Nestor(Quote)  (Reply)

  16. Docbrain: I not see Game of Thrones.

    Your loss.

      Peter Watts(Quote)  (Reply)

  17. And what about beauty of Valerie, Watts?

      Docbrain(Quote)  (Reply)

  18. It’s in the eye of the beholder.

      Peter Watts(Quote)  (Reply)

  19. Peter Watts: . I think of it’s the kind of project Micheal Crichton would have written, if Micheal Crichton could write.

    mr.Watts, i readed Michael Crichton. You are not Michael Crichton.

      Docbrain(Quote)  (Reply)

  20. Don’t I know it. If I could figure out how to tell stories even half as compelling as the yarns Crichton spun — while at the same time limiting myself to prose whose stylistic charms would barely pass muster in a fortune cookie — I would be able to retire on the proceeds of my next novel. The man had to be some kind of genius.

      Peter Watts(Quote)  (Reply)

  21. Roswell!!! Roswell!!!!

      Dark Hunter-X(Quote)  (Reply)

  22. In the novels of Michael Crichton, never had a fantasy. They always plot revolved around existing technology or scientific discovery. Your books are fantasy.

      Docbrain(Quote)  (Reply)

  23. Docbrain:
    In the novels of Michael Crichton, never had a fantasy. They always plot revolved around existing technology or scientific discovery. Your books are fantasy.

    Well, I’d argue that my stuff is more scientifically rigorous than most of what passes for SF these days. On the other hand, I write about vampires, so I won’t argue with you on the SF/fantasy scale.

    I do think I’m a better prose stylist than Crichton was, though. That’s all I’m saying.

      Peter Watts(Quote)  (Reply)

  24. Aliens, is a fantasy too

      Docbrain(Quote)  (Reply)

  25. Dark Hunter-X:
    Roswell!!! Roswell!!!!

    Dude, if you’re ever in Toronto, you have to let me buy you a beer.

      Peter Watts(Quote)  (Reply)

  26. Peter Watts: Dude, if you’re ever in Toronto, you have to let me buy you a beer.


      Dark Hunter-X(Quote)  (Reply)

  27. So, besides aesthetic enjoyment, what I get out of this is that, should I break a bone and find a biologist at hand, I should not get my hopes up too much.

      Alexey(Quote)  (Reply)

  28. Dark Hunter-X: What?

    Seriously. The fondest hope of any true empiricist is to be proven wrong — and I would dearly love to believe in the things you claim. Which is exactly why I have to be especially skeptical of them. But if you were ever in town, I would gladly pay for whatever beers it took to give you the opportunity to argue your case. I can’t promise I’d be convinced — but it would be worth the bucks just on the chance that I would be.

      Peter Watts(Quote)  (Reply)

  29. This is for the Blood Type anthology, right?

    I tried my luck as well, but has yet to hear if it got accepted. :)

      Michael Kamp(Quote)  (Reply)

  30. Michael Kamp: This is for the Blood Type anthology, right?

    Nah, this is the new novel. The story I wrote for Blood Type involves the same character, though, and takes place just before the novel starts.

      Peter Watts(Quote)  (Reply)

  31. Peter, hi, sorry I know I am asking for already published data here, but can I clarify please

    1 This extract is from a new novel, the side-quel to ‘Blindsight’? Is that what the ‘ex-xxx’ string noun refers to?
    2 OR is the new novel of a different universe of yours?
    3 When can we see either/any of the damn thing?
    4 Who doesn’t watch GOT??


      Gary Flood(Quote)  (Reply)

  32. 4) I don’t and never shall. No matter how good Game of Thrones is, it’s not worth subscribing to another pay cable channel. But besides that — I just don’t enjoy such stories anymore. It’s about royalty wars, right? 99% of the people making up that universe will never cross the stage.

      Ross(Quote)  (Reply)

  33. Gary Flood: 1 This extract is from a new novel, the side-quel to ‘Blindsight’?


    Is that what the ‘ex-xxx’ string noun refers to?

    I do not know what ‘ex-xxx’ string noun even means.

    2 OR is the new novel of a different universe of yours?


    3 When can we see either/any of the damn thing?

    August 2014, apparently. (Now that I think about it, not the best time of year for book sales…)

    4 Who doesn’t watch GOT??

    See above, apparently.

      Peter Watts(Quote)  (Reply)

  34. @ digi_owl, who wrote: Not sure if Non-entity is over-thinking it, or i am not thinking about it enough…

    I am over-thinking it. I’d say “so is Bruks” but he’s clearly pretty close to “mental meltdown”. Sorry, I am a big fan of the literature, see also back to UseNet news:alt.vampyres or for that matter news:alt.culture.vampires (which may have been the biggest and most tongue-in-cheek UseNet troll since the Empire of Meow). The best time period to Gooja is probably 1994-1998 or so.

    Of course, my sadly demented personal opinion is that if there were any such thing, there would be nothing more worthy of over-thinking than vampires… at least when they aren’t right there studying you to try to know what you’re thinking before you do.

    @Peter Watts: I don’t recall seeing any fiblets with a concise description of Valerie. Can we assume that she’s not much different from the female mentioned in the beginning of Blindsight? A bit taller than the average “normal” man, a head taller than the average “normal” woman, thus about 6’2″ or a bit under 2m height, built a bit like one of those tall Russian tennis professionals but even more of a “stretch” model, yellowish eyes and the hands of a concert pianist? Not exactly anyone’s idea of “pretty” but not particularly beastly? Maybe someone you wouldn’t much notice other than for height and skinny build, so long as they were just standing there, but whose slightest motion would inspire a seriously creepy feeling if not actual flight response?

    Re: Crichton was not too horribly bad when he was in his “docu-drama” mode, as in Terminal Man. If one doesn’t mind a story that is mostly a lot of vignettes of policy briefings, police roll-call meetings, and the minutes of government meetings, he’s usually pretty readable. For those whose daily lives consist of that sort of meetings and memos, reading Crichton is like spending a few days in the career of someone whose job is more interesting than one’s own. ;)

      Mr Non-Entity(Quote)  (Reply)

  35. Peter Watts,

    I’ll just have to make do with the collection piece until then?

    Re GOT, what you North Americans may not get is how damn NORTHERN it is. So gritty. It’s like an evening down my local – only with swords. (About the same amount of breasts.) Fantastic casting and voice coaching if nothing else.

    I thought I saw a name like Extrophobia around the site. Or maybe that’s some bugs you are experimenting on?

    Re prose style: you piss on Crichton. Simples.

      Gary Flood(Quote)  (Reply)

  36. Though he did churn out some good pot-boilers. I re-watched ‘Andromeda Strain’ the other day, the movie version v faithful to the book; he kind of invented that techno-thriller genre, right, with all the file heading report stuff etc? But that’s a one-trick point if ever I saw one. But it rocks along pretty well, as does ‘Jurassic Park.’

    How about Crichton = the band Uriah Heep, Watts = Led Zep? Does that work as an analogy?

      Gary Flood(Quote)  (Reply)

  37. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Crichton’s books: couldn’t put Andromeda Strain or Terminal Man or Jurassic Park down (Lost World, not so much). But there was always this dissonance, because his prose was so damn clunky; he should have been the definitive case study in why one should show-not-tell. In the middle of the story he’d throw in The professor found himself explaining that DNA was a helical strand of chemicals called ‘bases’ … and you’d find yourself derailed by a two-page infodump.

    And yet, somehow, it worked. My typical experience reading a Crichton novel would involve one part of my brain looking on in horror thinking I can’t believe anyone could be so tone-deaf, while another would be going Turn the page turn the goddamn page I wanna see what happens next!

    Not familiar with Uriah Heap beyond the Roger Dean album covers. I won’t complain if you want to compare me to Zeppelin, although said comparison gives me too much credit.

      Peter Watts(Quote)  (Reply)

  38. I am really disgustingly pleased with the analogy, though, as UH – simple but effective boogie music, LZ – simple but effective boogie music with 47 extra dimensions.

    Now stop playing with your blog, have a big coffee and write some more lovely challenging complex content, Mr W.

    After all: ‘Winter Is Coming.’

      Gary Flood(Quote)  (Reply)

  39. Since names were mentioned, where did Jukka Sarasti get his? I was telling a friend about blindsight and mentioned him, and he remarked on how overtly vampiric it sounded. A bit of a riff on Bela Lugosi I imagine…?

      Nestor(Quote)  (Reply)

  40. Crichton, Meyers, Larry the Cable Guy, Miss Kitty, the “secret” is accessibility. Fancy writing and subtlety don’t hold a candle to universality, I suppose.

    I think Peter often does just fine explaining multiple subjects that Crichton, due to how he handles it, could only cover two or three in a book. Sometimes Peter throws that many or more in a paragraph. Makes your head spin but in a good way.

      Whoever(Quote)  (Reply)

  41.   Alexey(Quote)  (Reply)

  42. Reading this episode between Valerie and Brüks reminds me of training the dog.
    Does Valerie have a pet now?

      fvngvs(Quote)  (Reply)

  43. The department head mistook it for a compliment.

    Wut? You no like scary ladies? (rofl)
    I have no idea why, but I really like the sharp and scary ones.
    Wish fate was not what it was with that six-five blonde who had such neat scars.


    No offense, but most people would agree Dr.Watts writes somewhat better, stylistically speaking.

    Quality is no determinant of popularity, as the massive success of Turd Brown has demonstrated.

      Y.(Quote)  (Reply)

  44. “But— my ankle—”

    Did she break his ankle in the scene before this?

      Sheila(Quote)  (Reply)

  45. Nestor: Since names were mentioned, where did Jukka Sarasti get his?

    A fan from Finland (whom I expect to meet in the flesh for the first time in a month or so) has a friend called Jukka (whom I met in the flesh for the first time last year). It stuck with me, and I was looking for name consistent with icy pallor, so anything Scandanavian worked.

    As for “Sarasti”, the syllables just came together in my head one day.

    fvngvs: Does Valerie have a pet now?

    No, That would be Sengupta. But in a weird way, you’re closer than you might think.

    Y.: Wut? You no like scary ladies? (rofl)

    I like them just fine. It’s the cannibalistic ones I have a problem with.

    Sheila: Did she break his ankle in the scene before this?

    Nah. A stack of Michael Crichton novels fell on it.

      Peter Watts(Quote)  (Reply)

  46. Yeah, but the Blindsight vampires do not actually need to eat people, since that deficiency was engineered out right? They left in just the crucifix glitch?

    Cannibalism is a little offputting, but not a dealbreaker I would say. I mean, as long as she’d only eat despicable people, of whom there is plenty… :p and not leave body parts and blood all over the place.. .

      Y.(Quote)  (Reply)

  47. Is this female vampire going to be a main character in the new book? I’d definitely like to read more of your vampires, since they’re so different than what we usually see in fiction. I wouldn’t mind knowing more about how they think and live.

      lynnderiso(Quote)  (Reply)

  48. Y.,

    ha, I don’t need to eat adorable animals, but I do.

      Sheila(Quote)  (Reply)

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