Alicia pulled back the hatch and took a deep breath. "Ready?" she asked as she watched Mara and Ulla un-transform.
"Two seconds," replied Mara as she held two pairs of fangs up to the light. "We're going to copy Mesmera's lead," she added as she gently snapped the injectors off of both pairs before putting one set in her mouth and handing the other to Ulla.
"Thanks," Ulla nodded as she slipped the fangs into her mouth, all while dust continued to pour down from above. Once the fangs were set, Alicia fully opened the hatch and dropped inside of the tunnel system.
Once she got down she looked around, keen to make sure there were no vampires closeby. When she realized the coast was clear, Alicia motioned up to Mara and Ula.
The pair quickly dropped down before brushing themselves off. "Okay," began Ulla, "Where do we think the current prison is?"
"Likely one of the larger rooms," Mara supposed, "But I want to take Alicia to the lab first. The more information she goes in with, the better."
"Right," agreed Alicia, "And some confusion in the lab might help me sneak in, especially if they have to defend it. Remember the way?"
"I don't know exactly," sighed Mara. "The rooms weren’t marked, but I know the general direction. We'll have to work out which room is which."
"Can do," Alicia said with a nod as Mara started to walk down the corridor. It was weirdly nostalgic to be back in this first tunnel, even if they had last been here a couple of hours ago. It has been a long night and it felt like an eternity.
Alicia's fists remained clenched as she moved, ready to lunge at anyone who attempted to cross them. But once again, the corridors were mostly clear. Alicia was unsure if this was because of a lack of vampires, or if Ulla blowing the front off of the castle had drawn a load of them outside.
The place was still disgusting. There was trash everywhere, including discarded snack wrappers and various bits of clothing. Alicia really couldn't believe a group could live like this, but after seeing the chaos around the rest of the park she wasn't surprised. It seemed that the vampires had little to no oversight most of the time. This was not a well-oiled machine. It was hardly even oiled.
"It’s quiet," mumbled Alicia as she peeked around the corner.
"Very quiet," started Mara, only to stop as she pointed to another turnoff. "Red," she said firmly.
Alicia took a few seconds to notice what Mara was pointing at. Around the corner was a very faint red glow. It wasn't as intense as the one from the screen, but it was about the same shade of red.
"I'll go in," said Ulla firmly. "If I stop or get that sort of look, slam me to the floor."
"Right," nodded Mara as Ulla quickly moved down the corridor. Mara quickly followed along, with Alicia a few steps behind. As they turned around the corner, the flashing grew brighter and seemed to be coming from another door slightly further down the corridor.
Ulla motioned to the other two as she ducked down. They crept towards the door and, once they were close, Ulla slowly rose up and peeked through the door. However, as she did, her eyes went wide, a red glowing filling her pupils as her body stiffened. Mara moved quickly and grabbed Ulla's belt, yanking her to the floor.
Ulla fell back stiffly before hitting the floor with a thud. The red instantly faded from her eyes as she shook her head. Mara looked Ulla over, sighing. "Guessing it's in there?"
"Yeah," groaned Ulla as she rubbed her head.
"Any memory of what you saw?" asked Alicia.
"I don't remember very much at all," groaned Ulla. "It must be super close to the door."
"Right," nodded Alicia as she grabbed her phone, "Picture time." She reached her phone up to the window and quickly snapped a picture.
As she retracted her arm and looked at the picture, Alicia gasped. There were several people in the room. Each was stood at a messy desk. At the front of the room, Alicia could see the corner of a red screen at the far end of the room.
"Alicia, turn around please," Mara suddenly instructed.
"Why?" Alicia asked, blinking.
"I'm going to take my shirt off and wrap it around my head," Mara stated. "I don't want to risk shooting behind myself, again."
"Oh," Alicia understood with a nod as she turned and covered her eyes. Mara slowly unbuttoned her shirt as she let out a sigh.
"Pumpkins," giggled Ulla.
"I wanted to be thematic," chuckled Mara. "Emergency Armour On," she called as Alicia heard the sound of Mara transforming and then the sound of fabric tightening. "I'm going to go in and aim high, hoping I can hit the screen."
"Right," nodded Ulla, "I'll shout if you miss."
"Good!" said Mara as Alicia turned and saw Mara heading into the room. Alicia did her best to not look, both out of respect for Mara and because she didn't want to get caught by the Lamia Queen's gaze.
After a few seconds, the sound of Mara's claw firing echoed around the room, quickly followed by the sound of something hitting metal. The red glow faded as Alicia let out a relieved sigh.
"Clear!" shouted Ulla.
"What is," groaned a voice as the sound of Mara's detransformation echoed around the room.
"Oh right," gasped Alicia as she ran into the room to see a topless Mara being stared down by about six stunned people. "Shirt off, shirt off," whispered Alicia.
"Who are you?" moaned one of the vampires as she held her head. However, as she did, a sudden flash of realization crossed through her eyes. "I don't know you!" she shouted.
"What?" asked Mara as she pulled her shirt off of her face, only to see the vampires looking at her. "Oh, you recovered quickly!" she chuckled as the vampires stumbled closer.
"Hey. We can talk this out," offered Alicia as she stepped in front of Mara, "Wouldn't that be nice?"
The vampires continued to move forward, hissing as they did. "Protect the Queen," groaned one of them as she stumbled forward, swinging her arm in a futile attempt at a punch despite the fact she was several feet away from Alicia.
"Hey now, we're all friends here!" chucked Alicia as she channeled her power, feeling the familiar tingling in her eyes. "We're all friends here, calm down," she added as her voice became a soft whisper.
"I, we're," started one of the vampires as she started to sway on the spot.
"Nope, we're friends!" giggled Alicia.
"But, I don't know you," gurgled another vampire as she slumped against the table.
"Well now is the perfect time to get familiar," Alicia continued as she leaned forward and gently nodded her head, watching as the vampires mindlessly copied her, "To become friends. Trust me,"
"I" gurgled one of the vampires as they slowly slid down the wall, her eyes turning silver as Alicia continued to gaze at them. A trail of drool ran down the vampire's chin.
"Yes! Just relax. You must be feeling woozy," cooed Alicia, "So heavy you can hardly keep standing. You can only go down. Go down down down," she continued as she swayed her head, watching as the vampires copied her every movement. "That's it, now, put your arm out, get ready to shake hands with your new friend," smiled Alicia as she watched the vampires continue to sway and slump.
Slowly, the vampires shuddered as their arms slowly extended as the silver fully overtook their eyes. Their whole bodies started to tremble as their mouths dropped open. If it wasn't for their stiff and outstretched arms, you would have presumed that they had just woken up.
"Good!" Alicia said with a grin. "And you know that once we've been introduced, you can sink down into a deep sleep. Fall into a sleep so deep you can't escape from it. You have nothing to do but rest," cooed Alicia as she moved down the line, gently shaking the hand of each vampire before pulling it towards her. Each time, the vampire let out a soft moan before slumping forward, their silver eyes rolling up into their head as they did.
One by one, Alicia passed the limp bodies off to Ulla who gently piled them up at the far end of the room as Mara put her shirt back on. "Well that was embarrassing," sighed Mara.
"I thought I was pretty," started Alicia, only to understand what Mara meant. "Oh right, you mean the shirt. I could wipe their memory if you want?"
"It is fine," chuckled Mara, "let's not waste time, this place could be useful."
"Right," nodded Ulla as she finished making the pile of bodies and started to look around, only to spot a bank of computers at the far end. "I'll go check those," she said as Mara nodded.
"I'll check the chemical sets they were working on," she said as Alicia looked around for something to do. She had been so focused on putting the vampires under, she hadn't looked around the room.
It was a strange room. It had obviously been cobbled together very quickly. The opposite side of the room was dominated by a large screen that showed the footage of the Lamia Queen. Or, it would have if Mara hadn't put her hook through it.
In front of the screen were several rows of tables and each row seemed to have a different purpose. Some had keyboards on them, some had various bits of lab tech and others had massive piles of the fangs.
"You're not going to believe this," laughed Ulla as she lifted a monitor off the floor. "They were typing, but I guess the screens blocked the videos so they had them on the floor."
"Wow," laughed Alicia as she started to search around the room. "What were they typing?"
Ulla started to look over the screens, only to sigh. "Press releases. Hundreds of them. To every media outlet big and small within the local area."
"Bit late for that, most won't come out if they hear it tomorrow morning," mumbled Mara as she looked over the test tubes. "Wow, no wonder everyone here is having a bad time."
"What?" Alicia inquired as she moved over to look.
"Seems this table is for producing the fake blood. Personality suppressants, uppers, and a load of psychoactive substances. They're all off their face. It explains a lot of the chaos."
"To keep them obedient?" asked Alicia.
"Yes, but," Mara began with a sigh, "From what I can tell from the labels, this is the drug equivalent of going into a burger place. Smashing their drinks fountain with a hammer and then drinking whatever comes out. Sure it's a lot of stuff, but it isn't fine-tuned. It is less of a cocktail and more of a slurry."
"You've got to be kidding me!" shouted Ulla.
"What?" asked Alicia as she raised her head.
"These are not all press releases for tomorrow. They're for further down the line as well."
"What do you mean?"
"They mention a load of different things. Disappearances in the city. Vampire sightings all over the place. Even something about a statement from the local government about vampires."
"I," mumbled Alicia. "So, they're going to expand. That's why they needed everyone to climb up the mountain!"
"So the Queen can hypnotize everyone, turn as many as possible, and then some of their already turned vampires can sneak back down into the city!" deduced Mara.
"And while there is chaos up here, they have sent a raiding party out to turn people." Added Ulla.
"Could that be the ranks?" asked Alicia. "Find the strongest. They raid while everyone is under the gaze's control?"
"Likely. Especially if the Queen's gaze causes memory loss," Mara nodded. "People won't remember what they're doing and by the time they get their head back together, they'll get jumped and bitten."
"And then they can fan out. Spreading more rumors and getting more people." Alicia nodded along.
"The downside," sighed Mara, "Is they are not ready. This drug is a mess. They can hardly produce enough as is, let alone with a load of new vampires. Unless they're planning to take over a chemical plant, they have enough for two to three days tops."
"Why?" questioned Alicia.
"Do you think it is the Queen?" asked Ulla. "Like the Golden Goose?"
"What do you mean?" Alicia as she looked up at Ulla.
"Well, the Queen's bite and her blood would let them turn an army, so the courtesan kept pushing her to turn more and more people. She got cocky, putting their plan into overdrive. Of course, the Queen can't support this number of bites. But, rather than waiting, the Courtesan tries to skin the goose."
"That makes so much sense," Alicia said thoughtfully.
"Which would leave them in this situation tomorrow," added Mara. "They're running out of artificial blood. They've got too many prisoners. They're going for a do-or-die rush on the city, trying to get as much of it as possible before a counterattack."
Suddenly, a shout came from the door. "Hey! What are you doing!" The girls all turned to see a vampire stood in the doorway. She looked like an utter mess. Her hair was matted and her clothes were caked in mud.
"We're looking for the Queen," Alicia smirked as she nodded at the other girls, "And you're our ticket."
"This area is only for my revenants! Why isn't the," started the vampire, only to notice the pile of girls in the corner. "What are they doing?"
"Taking a nap!" giggled Alicia as she charged forward and tackled the vampire to the floor. "Please, join them!" she gave a smile as her eyes turned silver. She covered the vampire's mouth and gazed down at her. "You look tired. It's been a long night, such a long night. You're so sleepy. I can see it in your eyes, you need a nap."
As Alicia spoke, the vampire's eyes fluttered. It was clear that the shock of the tackle had knocked her off guard. Her eyes quickly filled with a silver glow before fluttering shut. "Sleepy," she groaned as she squirmed under Alicia.
"Exactly sweetie," cooed Alicia, "And do you know where the prison is? Do you remember that?"
"Yeah," whispered the vampire.
"Why don't you take me there? Lock me up. Wouldn't that be fun?"
"Yeah," nodded the vampire. "Fun. Prison, fun." She let out a soft little sigh, her eyes rolling up into her skull.
"So fun, in fact, you're not going to care to check this room! Take me straight to jail! Feel so powerful! You'll get promoted!"
"Powerful. Promoted," gurgled the vampire as Alicia climbed off of her and sat on the floor. "And 3, 2, 1 awake!" With that, she clapped her hands.