The vampire blinked and looked around, quickly pushing herself up off the floor. As her eyes made contact with Alicia, they went wide. "You! You're coming to prison! You won't insult the Queen anymore!" Shouting, she grabbed Alicia's sleeve.
"Oh no! I've been captured!" replied Alicia sarcastically, winking at the other two as she was dragged into the corridor.
"Going to get promoted," mumbled the vampire as she dragged Alicia through the various corridors and tunnels. Alicia was quickly realizing that half the chaos in this place was because this tunnel system wasn't designed to be used as a living space.
After several twists and turns, the vampire dragged Alicia towards a group of vampires who were stood outside a door. "Captured one!" shouted the vampire dragging Alicia as one of the vampires turned to look.
"You!" came a shout, as Alicia instantly recognized the source. It was Thirty-Six.
"Oh hey!" giggled Alicia as one of the other vampires pulled open the door. "Nice to see you're still terrible."
"I won't let you escape this time!" shouted Thirty-Six. "We've moved the problem prisoners like you. The Queen wants a speedy conversion."
"She's useless. All bark, no bite." giggled Alicia as she stuck her tongue out at Thirty-Six and motioned to the other seven vampires. However, before any of them could react, Alicia was thrown into the prison cell. She slid back along the floor, only to feel two sets of arms grab her shoulders and lift her.
Alicia turned her head quickly and realized that it was Katie and Beth. "Hey again," giggled Katie.
"How did you end up here?" asked Alicia.
"Might have staged a small jailbreak," coughed Beth, "We got caught before we could get out of the compound."
Alicia smiled, impressed. "How?"
"Beth threw a chair at one of them as they came in," said Katie as Alicia brushed herself off.
"I like it!" Alicia nodded, looking around the room to spot a few other prisoners.
"You won't like it when you've tasted the Queen's blood and spirit," Laughed Thirty-Six.
"The Queen has requested they take the place of my next batch," nodded the vampire that had brought Alicia.
"Thirty-One, can I take her?" asked Thirty-Six, "I want to see that girl suffer."
"Maybe, if we can come to a truce," grinned Thirty-One.
"A truce is pointless. Your little show ends tonight," smirked Alicia.
"You'll speak differently soon," huffed Thirty-Six.
"Once you've tasted the Queen's blood and spirit, you will be nothing but a thrall," added Thirty-One.
"Really?" sighed Alicia. "You realize you're not the only people who know bad movies, right?"
"What?" asked Thirty-Six.
"Blood and spirit. It's from an old movie. It was terrible. I've seen it," continued Alicia. "I've been trying to place that dumb line all night, and it just dawned on me."
"Don't you dare insult the Queen!" screamed Thirty-Six as Alicia whispered to Beth and Katie. Once she was done, Beth clambered up onto Katie and Alicia's shoulders as both girls started to flap their free arm.
"What are you doing?" Thirty-One glared as she opened the door and started to move into the cell, baring her fangs as she did.
"Blood and spirit!" Alicia, Katie, and Beth screamed with a mocking tone as Katie and Alicia comically stomped their feet, "Blood and spirit!"
"This is what you sound like!" shouted Alicia. "Come on girls! Louder!"
"Blood and spirit!" screamed the three in harmony. "Blood and spirit!"
"Stop this now! Right now! Do not insult the Queen!" shouted Thirty-Six, obviously trying to shout over the girls. But Alicia, Beth, and Katie easily drowned them out.
"Blood and spirit!" cackled the three.
"We're a load of idiots!" added Alicia.
"They dress like a Halloween store's dumpster!" giggled Beth.
"And not even a fancy Halloween store. Abandoned strip mall!" interjected Katie.
"Also, a monarchy? In this day and age?" teased Beth. "This is just fairytale cosplay for goths!"
"Nah, fairytale cosplayers have some self-respect!" replied Katie. "I bet the Queen's crown is made out of plastic!"
"She got it from a fast food place!" added Beth.
"How dare you talk like that," started Thirty-Six, only for the girls to cut her off once more.
"Blood and spirit!"
"No! No!" shouted Thirty-Six as she hissed and opened her mouth. But as she did, Alicia and Katie charged forward. Beth put her feet out, causing them to smack Thirty-Six in the chin, knocking her to the ground. Beth tumbled off the top of the tower, crashing down onto the vampire as Alicia dived forward and grabbed Thirty-Six's throat.
"What are you doing," growled Thirty-One as she put her face up to the bars.
"You come in and I'll break her in half," smirked Alicia.
"What makes you think you can negotiate," coughed Thirty-Six.
"Because I know something you don't. Girls, get behind me." Alicia squeezed Thirty-Six's throat.
"What could you possibly know?" laughed Thirty-One.
"I know your whole system is falling apart. I've met your Queen," chuckled Alicia. "You're not going to have a good morning."
"The queen would never see you," coughed Thirty-Six.
"Saw us. Jumped out of a window to escape us," continued Alicia as she pushed her forehead against Thirty-Six's head.
"Lies!" shouted Thirty-One.
"Truth!" shouted Alicia. "She's using you as pawns. Tomorrow, you're going to run down the mountain and get slaughtered! You don't stand a chance."
"How do you," started Thirty-One, only for Alicia to cut her off. A flicker of doubt appearing on her face for an instant.
"We've been everywhere. We've seen every inch of this place. We saw your Queen. She isn't looking good. Courtesan has her hopped up on enough drugs to launch a space shuttle."
"How," started Thirty-One, obviously confused by this news. The other vampires also looked confused, all of them looking to Thirty-One for guidance. "Don't try to fool me," she growled.
"Why would I need to? You've seen it with your own eyes," Alicia said with a sigh. "I can read it on your face. That little shard of doubt."
"I don't doubt the Queen," asserted Thirty-One.
Alicia smirked. "Don't lie to me, I know. Think about it. If your Queen was so strong, so powerful, how would three of us have outrun you all night?"
"Because, you're devious. The Queen has more important things to deal with," interjected one of the vampires.
"And Mesmera as Thirteen? Really?" chuckled Alicia. "I've told you," she said as she looked down at Thirty-Six. "Mesmera is weak. I've put her down. Ulla has put her down. Emergency has put her down. The fact she can rise so high in your ranks shows your system is so broken!"
"I won't," groaned Thirty-Six as she grabbed Alicia's wrist and tried to force her hand off of her neck, but Alicia's grip was firm. "You won't."
"Oh, but I will," declared Alicia. “That drug in your fangs? You're getting cut off soon."
"Drug?" asked Thirty-One.
"That lab the revenants work in. What do you think they're doing?" asked Alicia.
"I don't know," mumbled Thirty-One, her doubt becoming louder with every passing moment.
"Of course you don't. The Queen is keeping you all in the dark. The Courtesan doesn't want you to know what's going on. She doesn't want you to know that your fangs are drugging you. And bad news sweetie, you're soon going to run out."
"But the fangs," mumbled Thirty-One.
"They're a symbol of our eventual will to turn! Our desire to throw off our shackles," shouted another vampire.
"Is that your thought? Or are her eyes burning holes in your brain?" replied Alicia as she tightened her grip on Thirty-Six. "They're injectors. They fill you with drugs that boost suggestibility. Induce obedience. But, you're going to have one hell of a comedown."
"Stop her spouting lies!" screamed one of the vampires as Thirty-One pressed her face up to the bars.
"Have any of you not been bitten?" asked Alicia. "You can pull the fangs right out."
"Disgusting," growled Thirty-One. Alicia looked down at Thirty-Six and smiled.
"Nothing personal," she said as she turned to face Katie and Beth. "Hold her mouth open." The girls looked at Alicia with confusion before nodding and quickly bending down and wrenching Thirty-Six's jaw open.
"You won't," gargled Thirty-Six, only to be gagged as Alicia reached into her mouth and pulled on the fangs. Thirty-Six yelped as the fangs came away with a wet slurping sound.
"See?" Alicia grinned as she threw the fangs at the doorway. "Come right out."
Thirty-Six bent down and picked up the fangs, turning them over in her hand as her eyes went wide. "These," she started, only to stop.
"They're not natural. They're not special. They're needles going into your gums. Nothing more," said Alicia. "I know you understand me, and I know whoever you were remembers that this isn't you."
"The Queen said," started Thirty-One.
"The Queen lied," interrupted Alicia. "In her parlor, I didn't see a monarch. I saw a tired snake and a desperate courtesan who would throw you to the wolves if she thinks she would keep her power."
"I," moaned Thirty-Six as she stumbled back holding her head.
"She's lying," shouted one of the other vampires.
"I wish," sighed Alicia. "You really think I want to be involved in a damn hostage situation right now? You think that's how I want to spend my weekend? Do you even know what's going to happen tomorrow?"
"We won't tell you our plans!" screamed the other vampire.
"I," mumbled Thirty-Six. "This."
"What?" asked Alicia. "Tell me."
"Don't listen to her," growled one vampire. "She lies! She just wants our position! She just wants to be the highest rank!"
"But," mumbled Thirty-One, "It makes sense and doesn't."
"I'm ending this! They turn now," screamed the other vampire as she moved out of the crowd and yanked the door open. She barred her fangs and charged at Beth.
As the vampire ran, Katie moved forward, standing between Beth and the vampire as she closed her eyes. "Move!" she shouted, keeping her eyes tight shut as she awaited the bite.
"Eagle! Dragon! Fusion Complete!" echoed a computerized voice as Katie heard a gasp from the vampires. She opened her eyes a little, only to see Alicia holding the vampire in the air, her hand wrapped around its jaw.
"No," said Alicia firmly. "This is what you don't get."
"You won't disrespect the Queen," hissed the vampire as Alicia planted her foot on Thirty-Six's chest.
"You realize that if I wanted to, I could crush all of you? It wouldn't even be a fair fight," said Alicia, sounding like a disappointed school teacher. "I don't, because I know you were someone before the Queen got her hands on you."
"Stop! Spreading! Lies!" screamed the vampire as she ineffectually swung her fists at Alicia.
"It isn't a lie," replied Alicia as she threw the vampire back towards the door. "Your queen is doomed. She's pitting you against each other. Two tunnels. Numbered ranks. It is all so you don't see how weak she is! She's brainwashed you!"
"But," started Thirty-One, only for Thirty-Six to cut her off with a groan. Alica nodded to Beth and Katie.
"Get her sat up," she said as she removed her foot from the downed girl. "Looks like she is about to have a comedown."
"Right," nodded Beth and Katie as they grabbed Thirty-Six and dragged her to the side of the room, propping her up against the wall.
"What did you do to her?!" shouted one of the vampires.
"I removed the fangs. And if any of you do it, this is what's going to happen to you," said Alicia firmly. "Your Queen's salvation has an expiry date."
"How dare you!" growled another vampire, moving forward and obviously considering if she wanted to risk Alicia's wrath by moving further.
"You know I'm telling the truth," said Alicia as she nodded at Thirty-One, "I can see it in your eyes."
"No! I belong to the Queen!" cried out Thirty-One.
"What has she done to earn that?" asked Alicia as Thirty-Six let out a low groan. "What has the Queen done for you? What do you get from her plans?"
"I," started Thirty-One.
"What have you been doing? Sure, you've been ferrying people back and forth to that parlor, looking over the lab, but why? Do you know why?" Insisted Alicia.
"My head," groaned Thirty-Six.
"Keep an eye on her," said Alicia as she looked at Katie, "If her pulse goes too high or too low, let me know. I can try to stabilize her."
"Got it," agreed Katie as she gently gripped Thirty-Six's wrist.
"See?" said Alicia. "This is what is going to happen. Be it now, or tomorrow when you guys don't get your fangs refilled."
"But," started Thirty-One, "You can't."
"Who were you?" asked Alicia. "I know you're still there. Who were you a week ago? A month ago? A year ago?"
"I," started Thirty-Six.
"She was the Queen's loyal slave," started another vampire, only for Alicia to cut her off.
"No. This is new. You've been here a maximum of four months based on the mess and garbage. You were not born here. You did not emerge fully formed to serve the Queen."
"I," groaned Thirty-One.
"You can feel it. I know it," Alicia nodded. "Don't fight it. I know it's scary. I understand."
"Hey, her pulse is really high," interjected Katie.
"Right, I'm going to try and bring it down," replied Alicia, tilting her wrists as she did. "If you guys have any water, I would appreciate a cup," she added as she looked back at the doorway.
"Really high," added Katie.
"On it," Alicia nodded as she crouched down in front of Thirty-Six, her eyes shining silver as she gazed deeply into Thirty-Six's eyes.
"My head," moaned Thirty-Six.
"I know, sweetie," said Alicia, "Give me a minute and we can try and make you comfortable. Look into my eyes, just for a second," continued Alicia as she gently grasped Thirty-Six's chin and angle her head so that she could gaze into Alicia's eyes.
Thirty-Six's mouth instantly dropped open as her eyes turned silver. She let out a soft whimper as she slid down the wall a little bit. Alicia nodded softly, watching as Thirty-Six groggily copied it.
"Yes, just relax. Deep breaths, it is going to be okay," whispered Alicia gently. "All okay, just relax and this will pass in a little bit. Just relax deep breaths. Feel all your muscles relaxing. It is okay. All going to be okay." Alicia rubbed Thirty-Six's hair. "Just close your eyes. Just take a nap, and when you wake up you'll feel a lot better. I know it feels weird now, but just relax, trust me. Take a nap."
Thirty-Six's eyes fluttered as she let out a soft moan. Her eyes slowly closed as her body went limp. Alicia looked towards Katie who nodded at her. "It is more normal, now."
"Good," smiled Alicia. "Poor girl."
"Behind you," said Beth, motioning over Alicia's shoulder. Alicia spun around and saw that Thirty-One had stepped into the room. The other vampires were looking at her, obviously trying to work out if this was a sign to charge.
"So?" asked Alicia. Thirty-One held out a bottle of water before rolling it along the floor towards Alicia. Alicia reached forward and grabbed it before handing it to Beth.
"Make sure she swallows it slowly," instructed Alicia as she gave the bottle to Kaite. She then looked back at Thirty-One and nodded. "Thanks. I appreciate it."
"Will she be okay?" asked Thirty-One.
"In a few hours. But, there could be more side-effects. I don't know for sure, and the drug is so badly made that we're not able to get a proper reading on it," said Alicia bluntly. "It is why I would like to end this sooner rather than later."
"I," started Thirty-One, her voice dropping to a low whisper. "I think I remember?"
"Oh?" Asked Alicia.
"I wasn't always here. But it seems so far away. Like a dream," mumbled Thirty-One.
"I know. This kind of thing does that to you," Alicia said. "It can really mess you up. It is why I don't want to inflict this on more people."
"It makes me feel dizzy to just think about, but I wasn't always here. There was somewhere else, but it’s faint," groaned Thirty-One. "This suddenly all makes no sense, but it felt so clear."
"I," started Alicia only to stop.
"Umm, hey?" said Beth, gently tapping Alicia on the shoulder. "You okay?"
"A piece just fell into place," Alicia said, returning from her thoughts with a smile, "The last piece I needed to make all of this work."
"What?" asked Katie.
"I heard the Courtesan saying that people slowly come around after the Queen's gaze wears off, so this is her solution. The ranks self-regulate. If anyone starts to break out, they're socially pressured to keep in the role. To keep serving," said Alicia. "If everyone keeps telling you something is the way things are done, you'll eventually learn to accept it as normal. You get lost in groupthink."
"So a cult," interjected Beth.
"Well, yes," Alicia nodded. "I was trying to be kind."
"Cult?" replied Thirty-One.
"Yeah. They did a number on your brain," sighed Alicia. "This whole place is set up to mess up your brain and keep it messed up while the Queen and the Courtesan work out new ways to keep you messed up. Except, they have no idea what they're doing."
"She is trying to trick you!" cried out one of the vampires from outside of the cell.
"Why would I bother?" sighed Alicia.
"Because you want to overthrow the Queen!" shouted the vampire.
"I could have done that hours ago!" groaned Alicia. "If your Queen is so strong, then how have we been able to wander around all night? Three of us, and they couldn't stop us."
"I," started the vampire. Only for Alicia to cut them off.
"These two got out of your prison! These two!" She said as she waved to Beth and Katie. "I'm sorry, but I know them, Katie has set her oven on fire making pancakes. She isn't really the type who could pull a prison break against a competent monarch."
"Fair," giggled Katie.
"The Queen doesn't care about you. The Queen has no plan. She's just trying to keep herself going," continued Alicia, "And sooner or later, the Courtesan's going to run out of the Queen's blood and run out of the drugs she's got you on, and then she is all out of options."
"Gail," mumbled Thirty-One. "Gail! Gail! Gail! Gail!" She continued shouting, sounding like she was feeling the word out in her mouth. "My name was. Is. Gail!"
"That's it!" exclaimed Alicia.
"I came here. To be an. Actress? I think? It feels weird, but I remember it!"
"What did you do to her?" hissed one of the vampires. She moved forward, only for Thirty-One to move forward and get between her Alicia.
"I remember! You can, too! We've been tricked! I remember so much! You were a person before this."
"Stop with the lies!" hissed the vampire as she pulled her hair. "Stop with this."
"I remember as well," shouted another vampire from the crowd. "They wanted me to paint something!"
"They wanted me to write something for them!" shouted another. The ripple ran through the crowd. Several moans of pain echoed out as the girls started to talk among themselves.
"No! No!" shouted the vampire as she hissed at Thirty-One and Alicia. "This isn't what the Queen would want!"
"Screw the Queen!" shouted Beth.
"Yeah! Screw her! She's done nothing good! Look at this dump!" added Katie. "If she wanted respect, she should have treated us better! She's had you living in a tunnel!"
"Right!" agreed Alicia. "She's had you in a maintenance tunnel for god's sake. There are caravans out there, but she makes crappy flophouses in the tunnels! While she has her fancy room in the castle!"
"Yeah!" shouted several of the vampires.
"I," mumbled the vampire. "This."
"You know we're right," said Alicia firmly. "You know we're telling the truth. The Queen has used you and exploited your devotion. She doesn't deserve it."
"But," grumbled the vampire as she started to rub her head.
"I say we go find the Queen, and get you what you deserve!" shouted Alicia. "I say we take this place for ourselves! No ranks! No tunnels. We end this. We'll get you back to the people who love you."
"No! Stop this!" cried the vampire.
"Get some rope," said Thirty-One as she looked towards the other vampires.
"What do you plan to do?" hissed the vampire.
"Hold you until you see sense," nodded Thirty-One.
"Your mercy is admirable," smiled Alicia.
"I understand her head," replied Thirty-One, catching the bundle of rope that was thrown towards her. She quickly bound the angry vampire and yanked on the free end of the rope. "I hope she'll realize what I have."
"She will," reassured Alicia.
"Should we remove our fangs?" asked one of the vampires, only for Alicia to ponder for a few minutes and shake her head.
"While I think it would help, I don't have the resources to keep a group this size stable when cut off. Once the Queen is sorted, we can slowly wean you off in somewhere that isn't a dingy service tunnel full of garbage."
"Right," nodded Thirty-One.
"Do you remember where the Queen hangs out outside of her parlor?" asked Alicia.
"There are a few places, but we can go to all of them!" nodded Thirty-One.
"Good," Alicia said with a smile. "Let me take the front. I can hold off a few of them. Whatever happens, stick together. We'll be weak if we scatter."
"Okay," agreed Thirty-One as she shook a little.
"So, we're leading an insurrection?" asked Beth.
"I guess so. Yeah." Alicia smiled. "I can find you guys a place to hide until it's over if you want."
"No way. We're sticking with you!" Katie gave a smile. "Down with the Queen!" she screamed.
"Down with the Queen!" screamed several of the vampires in response.
Alicia smiled. "Alright! Let's do this! Just tell me where to go!" She listened as Thirty-One gave her directions, dragging the bound vampire behind her as she did. As the group walked on, Alicia pulled out her phone and sent a message to Ulla.