The party finds that Daphne, Margaret, and Beth’s cells don’t open with the others. Beth’s body seems to have decomposed rapidly, her guts going to dust. The party also notes that tiny runes have been inscribed on every exterior surface of the cell block, including the floors. Those with the green stripe on their tunics (Seamus, Mike, Jamie) all experience an uncomfortable burning sensation when touching the walls with their skin (thankfully, their shoes and clothing make walking around and sitting on the benches tolerable).
Emily continues to experiment with her power. After a time, the dumbwaiters open with breakfast, and the meals include a mug of what appears to be warm blood. The party only has a moment to consider this before Margaret’s cell opens and she emerges. Her doublet now has a deep red stripe across it like Beth’s did, and she proclaims to the party to have been made into a vampire. For good measure, she downs the mug of blood.
Emily continues to experiment with her powers on the doors to the cells and the dumbwaiter. Finally, she feels that she might be able to get the doors open. After surreptitiously informing the party to prepare, she reaches out with her powers and manages to trigger both the inner and outer door of their cell block.
The party charges through a vestibule the size of a hospital elevator and charges into a single armed guard who they quickly subdue after a brief struggle. Besides the man’s sub machine gun and sidearm, they take a radio that has gone silent and a high-encrypted cell phone. Emily senses the presence of a wireless network, but cannot access it.
Outside the cell, the decor is much more institutional, with floors and walls resembling a hospital. The floor is dedicated solely to their cell block plus two additional rooms at the end of the hall – one to organize food prep, and one with several gurneys designed to stage patients/prisoners in and out of the block. A large elevator is at the end of the hall.
Emily manages to crack the security on the elevator and the party proceeds down to the lowest floor that Emily senses is available. The doors open into a sitting room and security booth, where several armed men are waiting.
A brief firefight ensues, during which time Emma displays an alarming a ability to, apparently, steal the life force from others, causing them a great deal of suffering. One the firefight is over, Emily uses the computer terminal in the security booth to release a bot and unlock the doors.
Most of the party stays in the waiting room to question the surviving guard. He admits to being a U.S. Marine assigned tot he facility as a duty station. He admits to knowing shockingly little about the goings-on of the facility save the names of his direct superiors and that his duty station is to guard one of the facility’s “principals”.
Margaret and Hugo head down the short hall past the security booth and find a small cubicle for preparation of a formal tea service. At the end of the hall they enter a large room. On the near side of the room there are several chairs, then a six-inch-thick clear wall separating the other side of the room, which is decorated like a formal study, with a (fake) fireplace, chairs, a writing desk, and various accoutrements.
In the room is a man in a dressing gown playing a violin. He looks up when the two enter and smiles slightly.
“Hello,” he says, “my name is John.”
The world was strange, hazy and fading in and out of focus. It was like a fevered dream, no, more like a nightmare; things felt unreal and distant. Not comfortable, though, regardless of what Pink Floyd might claim. Sometimes, she thought she was in some kind of machine, like an MRI; whether it was dream or not, she could not quite tell.
Then she woke up.
Her first thought was, ‘Oh, I am still alive’. Her second was: ‘Am I?’
She found herself back in what looked like her cell. Granted, they were pretty much the same, so it could be any cell, really. It was not as if they had in any way been permitted to personalise the cells. But she was at least in a cell like the one she had spend the last several days in.
She started taking stock of herself; it took just a few moments to find out that her heart was no longer beating. Just a few more seconds to spot the stripe on her clothing. A dark red stripe, with bright red borders. Of course it was. She wondered then, if mr. Jones had planned this all along, if it was just a cruel coincidence, or whether there was some other reason why it had turned out that way. Perhaps it was because Beth had died. That they, for some reason, wanted a vampire, and a young one, with the group.
‘Not alive, then’. Rational Margaret was hiding under her mental bed, crying, but this time, Dreamer Margaret wanted to join her. ‘I definitely have to come up with some other names for the other one. How about Undead Margaret’, she thought. ‘Or Insane Margaret. Hmm, Other Margaret will do just fine’.
It did occur to her, not for the first time, that she might very well be delusional, locked up in some asylum or mental hospital. Maybe none of this was actually happening. But if it were just in her mind, then she was undeniably crazy, and trying to act as if she were not would be somewhat useless, especially since she had no idea how to react to something she was unable to see, hear, or sense in any way. And if it was indeed real, then the best she could do was to treat it as if it was dead serious, and her life, or unlife, or whatever she should call it, depended on it. Because there was a very real chance it did. So, whether she was demented, or this world she found herself in was truly her world now, she might as well act as if it was in fact reality.
Briefly, she wondered what might have happened to push her over the edge, if she was insane rather than a vampire. And when. For a fleeting moment, the idea that Brandon might still be alive, that everything, including Ezra, had just been the fantasy of a delusional mind. But no, it had been too long, and her life had been, until she met Ezra, fairly normal.
It could have been Ezra, or his death that had done it. Regardless, thinking about this too much would most certainly drive her crazy, so she would, until she got any indication she was wrong, accept that this was her new reality.
Carefully, she started exploring, testing. Figuring out how to extend her fangs did not take long. It took a bit longer to determine that she did not manage to turn into mist or a bat, or doing more or less anything else that vampires were supposed to be able to do. ‘If I start sparkling, I am going to be very offended’, she mumbled to herself. Just in case, she chose not to try. Then she got the distinct feeling that she was no longer entirely alone in her head.
There was another presence there, one that she only noticed because she was taking an inventory of herself. He; not that it was possible to tell whether it was a he or a she, but it made things easier to think of it as a ‘he’ than as just ‘someone’; was not really far away. She sensed him below her and off to the side. Though she tried, she seemed to be unable to communicate with him. All she could tell was that he was bored, and a little bit sad.
It occurred to her then, that even if most of what she knew, or thought she knew, about vampires was taken from fiction, there might be some truths to it. A lot of fiction claimed that there was a bond between a vampire and his Childe. Although the Sire and Childe concepts were taken from fiction, or games, but they worked, at least for now.
The people who had turned her into a vampire presumably had the blood, or the virus, or whatever it was, from somewhere. Most likely another vampire. So there was a non-zero chance that the vampire whose blood they had used to make her one was the presence she was sensing. Had she been able to reach him, her first question would have been if his name was John. It was a leap; Ezra had never actually told her that his missing friend was a vampire. However, he had said that he knew John was alive, although he was missing, but had not explained how he knew. Even so, she did not think it too far-fetched to suspect that there might have been some bond between the two. One, perchance, like the one she felt in her head.
Also, Ezra had mentioned that he feared that the people who came for him also had gotten their hands on his friend. There could not be that many clandestine organisations hunting supernatural beings, could there? Unless she got clear indications of there being more than one of these organisations operating in the US, she was going to assume it was the same one. There was, however, the possibility that they had more than one of these facilities, but the more they had, the harder it would be to keep hidden and secret. So there was a very real chance that this John was here, somewhere.
The door to her cell opened. She could hear the others talk outside, it seemed like they were talking about Beth; someone was wondering if their captors had made a mistake, or simply somehow not registered that Beth was permanently dead. Margaret was pretty sure that she knew what they were talking about, then.
Making certain that her movements were slow and as unthreateningly as she could make them, she walked out of her cell, noting, at the back of her mind, that it was, indeed, her cell.
‘Hi, guys’. They turned and looked at her. ‘I’m…’ It was surprisingly difficult to say. ‘I’m a bleeding vampire!’ Pun intended. Because what else could you do but try to make a joke out of it? It was what it was, nothing would change it, and she might as well get a laugh out of it, even if it was not be much of one. None of the others appeared to think she was funny, though; Brandon would have, but he might have been the only one. It made her feel slightly embarrassed. Not that she had ever been very funny in her previous life either. Or should that just be ‘in her life either’?
It felt strange, to think of her life as her previous life, but there it was. Her old life was over, no matter what happened. There was no way she could go back to her old, admittedly boring, existence. But it had been _her_ boring existence. Now, what she had was this. At least, she thought, she had possibly a slightly better idea of what she was in for than Beth. And hopefully, a slightly longer life expectancy. That would require them to get out of here somehow, something that would require more than a little bit of luck.
Heading over to the food slots, she picked up the pitcher with blood that the others had discussed. Not wanting to think about where it came from, not to mention what she was actually drinking, she took a careful sip. Rational Margaret was sick in the corner, Other Margaret, yes, that worked, Other Margaret pushed away the thought of what she was doing, and reminded herself that she really did not want to become starved enough to lose control. With this crowd, that would be a lethal mistake, one she could not afford to make.
As she was drinking, Emily came over, whispering to her that she was going to make another attempt at opening the doors. Margaret joined the others at the closest table, waiting and watching. It had not succeeded the previous times Emily had tried, but she had been able to sense the mechanism, and it was good to see her willing to try again.
And, just to prove that sometimes, miracles happen, the doors slammed open. In front of them was a small room, and another set of doors. Another set that also opened, and they all rushed out; she suspected everyone was worried that the doors would slam shut again and take away their one opportunity at getting out. They stumbled into a hallway, and into one single armed man.
The man, dressed in what she thought a member of a SWAT team might wear, succeeded in getting off one single shot that hit nobody before the others managed to knock him unconscious. It was almost funny, Margaret mused, how she was supposed to be a vampire, and thus a dangerous predator, but she was the one just standing there watching while the others were fighting. At least she was not a vegetarian, nor squeamish around blood, or, in general, dead bodies; her year-long stint working at a morgue had seen to that; that would have been _seriously_ awkward, worse, even, than the vegetarian weretiger from one of the books she had read.
Jamie looked at her over the unconscious soldier.
‘Still hungry, Margaret?’ The twat. The others looked at her as well. The idea made Other Margaret recoil, while Rational Margaret, to her surprise, thought she should do it; the man had tried to kill them, he had been one of the people keeping them imprisoned here, he had helped turning her into a vampire. Also, she had already drunk blood, and there was a chance that whomever that blood had belonged to was no longer alive. But he was unconscious, and defenseless. There was no way she could make herself kill him, and she was not sure if drinking from him would kill him. Also, to Other Margaret, it felt like doing that would be crossing the Rubicon. It seemed that to Rational Margaret, she already had.
‘I can’t do that, I might kill him’. It sounded stupid too, now that she said it out loud. Still, she meant it. The thought that she, sooner rather than later, would have to drink blood from someone, from a living person, was not a welcome one. Drinking blood, ok, that she could live with. Or be dead with. Or whatever; she really had to figure out how to think about that. Drinking from a living human being? Not so much. The idea that she could accidentally drain and kill someone was terrifying.
Cole and Hugo took the man’s weapons, Emily found a phone on him able to open doors, among others. They stripped him for anything that looked useful, before some of the others headed down the corridor. She, Jamie and Emma dragged the unconscious man towards the cell block they had been held in. None of them wanted to risk going inside, so they simply pushed him inside the smaller room and closed the doors behind him. Hopefully, that would keep him from raising an alarm or come after them with a gun again. Of course, since the whole place was probably riddled with cameras, so their captors were most likely aware that they had gotten out of their cell-block.
Heading after the others, they caught up with them at the end of the hallway, where another corridor crossed it. One lead to a locked double door. The other lead to a kitchen, or at least a room meant for preparing their meals, and what looked more like a medical room. There were no other exits from that end of the corridor, so the only way out was likely through the locked double doors.
After a brief examination, Emily was able to determine that it was an elevator, and she was even able to call it. The doors slid open, and they all crammed inside. There were no buttons, no panels, nor hatches in the elevator, though. Truth to be told, Margaret did not remember having seen any elevators with hatches in the ceiling; she suspected it was mainly a movie thing, at least hatches that could be opened from the inside. Regardless, there were no hatches here.
Margaret did mention that she had felt someone, probably another prisoner, below them. She hoped they would be willing to look for him or her, but the others seemed more interested in finding a way out of this place. Not that she could blame them, not really. Besides, all her arguments would be just guesses, and considering their reaction to her when she told them she was a vampire, they might not be too eager to help her if she told them she was probably looking for another bloodsucker.
Emily did something again, and the elevator started moving. Down. In the direction where the presence she felt was. It was a pleasant surprise that the elevator stopped at the level where she could feel the other presence. Not far away now. But as the doors slid open, Margaret realised they had another problem. So did everyone else.
There were uniformed men with guns waiting for them. Five of them; one of them inside a glass cage with a small embrasure through which he could fire at them. If the soldiers started firing into the elevator, it would be a massacre. Then Hugo and Cole opened fire, and within moments, three of the soldiers were down. Seamus rushed towards the only one left standing, aside from the one in the glass cage, fists swinging.
Margaret moved quickly out of the elevator, trying to find some cover. The elevator was far too exposed. There was a couch and a table near the elevator; better than nothing. Emily joined her, but moved, crouching, towards the glass cage, to see if she could somehow open the door leading into it.
Emma did something, then. Black smoke started streaming from the man behind the glass towards Emma, and the man screamed. Everyone, it seemed, stopped and looked at Emma. She looked almost defiant, angry. ‘It’s him or us, isn’t it?’ It sounded as if she was trying to convince herself as much as the rest of them; most of the others seemed less hesitant to kill than Emma and Margaret herself.
‘Even if it might be bulletproof, the glass was not Emma-safe, then’, Margaret thought. Also, as the soldiers did not seem prepared to fight even regular opponents, she wondered how they would fare against real monsters. Admittedly, now that she herself would probably be considered a monster, she was not sure that the soldiers’ odds were that bad. So far, all their enemies had been taken out by conventional, or perhaps mundane, means. The man behind the glass was still alive too, just rather shaken.
Another shot, and the soldier that Seamus was fighting went down. There was just the one left, then. The one behind the glass. Hugo raised his gun, the one he took from the soldier upstairs, and, almost casually, shot the final soldier, through the embrasure. The shot should have been impossible. Clearly, it was not. Unless, that was, Hugo had some magical ability that made him a master marksman with random guns.
A couple of the soldiers were still live, one of them was even conscious. While Margaret was feeling less than charitable, the soldier might have useful information. Also, it felt important that their group did not kill people unless they had to. It was something she had believed for a while, that what made you a monster was not what you were, but what you did. So there were lines she did not wish to cross.
She started trying to patch him up, and then thought better of it; Emma was more suited for this. Besides, she had an idea on how to make certain the soldier would be willing to talk, and not being the one to patch him up would make it more effective.
Emma healed him, at least enough to keep him from bleeding out. It was strange how he looked so ordinary, but then, looks were deceiving, and sometimes, the monsters looked very human indeed. She looked at him, tilted her head slightly, and said, trying for an innocent, sweet voice: “So, who are you wankers?” Still looking at him, she made certain her fangs were out before she slowly licked some of his blood off her hand. Rational Margaret was shrieking in the back of her head.
It was effective enough; the guy answered nearly every question they asked him. Whether it was her, or Cole looking menacingly at him, she could not quite tell. She was slightly disappointed, still; it seemed either these people were way too used to swearing, or they did not understand British slurs and curses. Oh, well. It did have the effect she wanted. When he seemed to hesitate slightly, she licked her hand again. The blood tasted good, though. Too good; she decided to not do it again. Losing control here would be bad. And probably fatal.
She kept her voice low and mild, as if she was talking about, no, not the weather; with the uproar around climate change and global warming, those discussions could easily get heated. The idea was to keep the soldier off balance; to let her voice be very much at odds with the situation and what he now should know about what she was. Not that he seemed all that perceptive. Or bright. Uneducated would possibly be a better word; he did not seem to pick up her reference when she told him ‘You’re just following orders’.
Granted, he might just have been too terrified to catch it; the group of escaped prisoners/test subjects had, in a matter of seconds, taken down five men armed with machine guns, without much use of supernatural powers, and with only two guns between them.
At least they got some answers. He claimed to be a US marine, which appeared to annoy Cole. It seemed they had been trained, conditioned, or just ordered, to think of their prisoners as subjects, not people. That made sense, as it would be a lot harder to keep a project like this secret if the guards thought of the prisoners as persons with pasts and lives of their own. He, and the men with him, had been guarding one of the more important prisoners, one of two. And if this one was not John, he might still be here somewhere; it seemed to be a giant complex, after all.
Hugo had clearly been doing a little bit of exploring. He came back and told them that there was a teapot further down the corridor past the glass cage. The corridor that went, approximately, in the direction where she could feel this someone in her head. True, a lot of people, including a lot of Americans, drank tea. But she was fairly certain that the tea was for the person she was looking for.
She headed towards what she assumed was the cell. Emily, while Margaret and some of the others had been asking questions, had found a computer and was asking questions of her own. And she had a way to open the doors.
Normally, Margaret would have been wary of opening doors with potential monsters behind them. This time, though, curiosity got the better of her. Besides, the presence in her head was curious, and did not feel threatening. Dangerous, probably, yes, but so were the people around her, clearly. In fact, she wondered if she would be safer with him than with her co-prisoners.
The door slid open, and she looked into a large room. The first thing, oddly enough, that she noticed, was the violin. The second was the man behind the plexiglass wall. For some reason, the first sentence that popped into her head was a Dr. Who reference. It was a silly one, but, all things considered, in an odd way, an appropriate one.
He looked at them and said: ‘Hello. My name is John’.