"What?" mumbled Mara as she looked around. "Go limp," she added to Ulla before patting Alicia on the shoulder, "we need to move her."
"Right," nodded Alicia as she moved to Ulla's shoulders.
"Stay as still as you can," Mara continued as she grabbed Ulla's legs and let out a grunt as she lifted the girl off the floor. Alicia and Mara gently carried Ulla back towards the area they had exited from.
After a few minutes of walking, the girls put Ulla down in a secluded corner. "Anyone?" whispered Mara as she looked around.
"Doesn't seem to be," concluded Alicia as she looked down at Ulla. "What were you saying about Mom?"
"She's lying," Ulla said with a grin. "She's fooling all of them."
"How do you know that?" asked Mara, only for Ulla to go bright red.
"My fingers," whispered Ulla as she turned her head.
"The trigger?" Alicia surmised.
"What?!" Ulla gasped with embarrassment. "Did she tell you?"
"No, but I saw her doing it before we went into the castle maze and I put two and two together."
"Oh gosh, embarrassing," stammered a blushing Ulla.
Mara blinked. "Huh? What am I missing?"
Alicia turned to Ulla. "Me or you?"
"I should do it," whimpered Ulla. "So, I tend to not like these kinds of things. I just find them a little bit too intense, but I know you two really love them, so I decided to give them a try. But, I didn't want to ruin the weekend by being jumpy, so Sharon gave me a trigger to help me relax if things got too intense."
"Wiggling your fingers," Mara pointed out, "but that was just her using it against you."
"No," interrupted Ulla, "Think about the others we've fought. Even the other numbered one. They rushed us, they've not really been using advanced tactics."
"But Mesmera is different," started Mara, only to get interrupted again.
"But if she was still intelligent, she wouldn't have fought like that. She didn't try and hypnotize me. She tried to punch me. Both us and Mesmera know that her punches can't puncture armor."
"True," considered Mara, "It wasn't how she usually fights."
"And then, to finish it, she jammed my system," explained Ulla as she pointed down to her belt. As Mara and Alicia looked down, they saw that the ticket was half-removed.
"That is very precise," gasped Mara. "No way the other vampires could do that."
"I only know one system expert," asserted Ulla firmly, "and she taught Mesmera everything she knew."
"Hey!" Mara spat out with a blush, "But, the head stomp. That,"
"Was pulled," interjected Ulla. "You think Mesmera couldn't have done more damage if she wanted to? She swung her foot around so by the time it hit my face, it had slowed down."
"I just," sighed Mara, "she seemed so dedicated to the vampires."
Ulla shrugged. "I said, she's brilliant. Trust me. She's tricking them. I know it."
"Okay, if you say so," Mara conceded.
"Also explains why she got carried off so easily," added Alicia with a smile.
"Right," added Ulla.
"But where does that leave us?" asked Mara.
"Well," began Alicia, "We need to find out where they are keeping their hostages."
"Yes," groaned Ulla as she lifted herself up off the floor. "And, we need to work out how to unturn those who have been turned."
"So, what do we do?" questioned Mara.
"We follow them," Ulla said as she pulled the ticket out of her system and returned it to her pocket. "They're giving us the runaround and I don't like it."
"Yeah, they must have another staging post or something," Alicia replied. "They've basically set this park up as a maze."
"Well, let's go." Ulla set off and waved for the others to follow her.
Alicia followed after. "So we're just going straight?"
"Yep, let's see if we can get behind them."
"Hey," interjected Mara, keeping up, "Pre-Warning: this is going towards the fairytale land."
"Why are you warning us of that?" asked Ulla with confusion.
"From what I've seen, the place was creepy when it was new and wax figures tend to do badly when left alone."
"Oh!" Alicia gasped.
"Right, keep your wits about you," advised Ulla as she continued to walk forward. As they walked through the bushes behind the fountain, Alicia tried to run the events through in her head.
The Lamia Queen wanted to make an army, so she was converting people into vampires. But she already seemed to have so many vampires, enough to have some form of hierarchy. So, why wait for more people? Why let one person out to spread the rumor, and why did the one have fake fangs?
Alicia shook her head and tried to refocus. She could work out the why later on; right now she had to focus on getting her friends and the other visitors free.
As they passed through the thick hedgerow, the group was transported to a vision of whimsical horror. The little path and square were covered with decaying models. Alicia could tell who a few of them were meant to be, but some were damaged beyond recognition. It gave Alicia the creeps.
"Guess this was Wonderland," said Ulla as she slowly crept forward. "Look for any holes or structures."
Alicia nodded, surveying the area.
"I'm going to see if I can get anything via thermal imaging," replied Mara. "Cover me."
"Right," nodded Ulla as she crouched down next to a messy wax model of a rabbit. Mara's suit whirred and buzzed for a few seconds as she looked around the forest before crouching.
"Two figures. About ten feet away," she whispered.
"Human?" Asked Ulla.
"As far as I can tell," supposed Mara.
"I'll go," said Alicia softly.
"Got a plan?" asked Ulla.
"Mom is not the only one with hypnotic powers," Alicia grinned as she flicked her wrists and started to walk into the thick and overgrown woods. Every few feet, Alicia came across another damaged or melted wax figure that seemed to stare directly into her soul.
Each one made her stop for a few moments. Her mind wanted to make sure that the figures were not well-disguised people, or something worse. However, each figure remained static, allowing Alicia to quickly make her way through the overgrowth until she came to a small clearing under a tree.
Under this tree stood two vampires. They seemed to be in the middle of a very passionate, if quiet argument. "Thirteen wasn't a pushover," asserted one as the other sighed.
"Right, but I want that rank! No more bunkhouses! More blood! It's worth it," argued the other as they leaned up against the tree.
"You're going to get your head kicked off. And you know, the Courtesan hasn't been beaten, so you're going to be stuck at three at best." The other sighed. "Yeah. You've seen what happens to people who upset the queen."
"So, you'll risk becoming one of those mindless zombies? They give me the creeps with their red eyes."
Alicia listened in and smirked to herself. This was the best chance to grab two people at once. A small nagging part of her brain kept asking if this was a trap, but she pushed it down. She had to take a gamble. If it was a trap, she would have to deal with it once it was sprung.
She quickly moved through the bushes, doing her best to get in front of the vampires without being spotted. Thankfully, the pair's argument meant that they didn't hear Alicia sneaking through the foliage.
Once Alicia was in front of the pair, she took a deep breath and started to channel her power. She felt the familiar tingling in her eyes as she popped her head out of the bush.
"Don't do something dumb," started the one vampire, only to jump as she saw Alicia and her glowing silver eyes. "Hey!"
"I think I can help you," smiled Alicia as she walked out into the clearing. "Just focus on my eyes, just on my eyes. You can already feel them pulling you in. They're magnetic, aren't they?"
"I," groaned the one vampire as she stumbled backward, only to bump into the tree. They looked around, trying to find an escape, but as they did they once again made eye-contact with Alicia.
"No, time to listen," said Alicia firmly, copying her mother's firm yet parental tone. "You have a problem and I'm a problem solver, listening to me will solve your problems."
"Solve my problems," groaned the one vampire as she slumped back against the tree. The other was leaning forward, her eyes wide and blank as she gazed deeply into Alicia's eyes.
"Yes, I'm going to make everything okay! You've just got to keep looking into my eyes and that is so easy. So very easy, super simple and easy and the more you look, the more you want to look. Isn't that right?" cooed Alicia.
"Right," nodded the two vampires softly, their voices turning into soft, slurred whispers as their mouths dropped open. Both of them started to drool as the one near the tree started to slide down it.
"Just listen to Auntie Syner-Bee, she's going to get you where you need to be. Isn't that right?"
"Right," the vampires droned in unison.
"What are you going to do?"
"Listen to Auntie Syner-Bee," replied the vampires as the one away from the tree wobbled and sank to her knees, her eyes fading and turning pure silver just like Alicia's glowing eyes.
"Listen," the vampires sighed slowly as both slowly collapsed to the floor as Alicia moved forward and looked down on both of them.
"Aww, you look tired. Maybe you need to rest. Let your brain go into a deep, deep sleep. So drowsy. So tired. Just wanting to go to sleep. Your brain is turning off. Turning off, just like day going into the night, brain slipping down into sleep. That's it."
Drool ran down the vampires' chins as both of them slumped on the floor, their eyes totally silver as their bodies went limp, their breathing long and slow. Alicia took a few minutes to look over the pair before deciding on her plan of action.
"Now, feel your bodies rising up. Yes, each movement of your body just helps your brain go deeper. The body can move and follow me while the brain sleeps. Yes. So easy to follow me, just walking in your sleep." Alicia started to back up. "Just stay focused on my eyes, they'll keep your brain nice and sleepy as you just follow me."
"Follow," gurgled the vampires as they rose off the floor like puppets with loose strings. The girls stumbled forward as Alicia backed towards the place she had come from.
The vampires seemed to become more sleepy with each step, their eyes glowing deep silver as they made their way through the grass and bushes back towards the clearing.
"Alicia," whispered Ulla.
"And as I talk to my friends, you can go deeper into your minds and just let it wash over you," giggled Alicia. "Auntie Syner-Bee is going to get her friends to help! Isn't that kind?"
"Kind," slurred the vampires as Alicia stopped.
"Got two," she said as Ulla and Mara moved next to her. "Not sure how long I can hold them, so now’s the time for questions."
"I want to check their fangs. I have a theory," proposed Mara.
"Open your mouths, nice and wide. It's like being at the dentist!" Alicia whispered to them softy. "If you want to beat thirteen then you'll need a good medical check-up, isn't that right? Say ahhh!"
Both vampires let out a soft moan as their jaws dropped open. Mara quickly moved close to them, doing her best to not block Alicia's eye line as she looked over their fangs.
"Yes, and it is so easy to focus and relax on your dream of reaching your dreams that everything else is just fuzzy, like it’s wrapped in a big warm fuzzy blanket. Too fuzzy to think, too fuzzy to notice. Just think about your dream of being the best you can be! The ultimate."
"Hey, try and push that," mumbled Mara as she reached into one of the vampire's mouths.
"Yes, no pain. Just fuzzy warm dreams and happy thoughts about being the best you can be. About realizing your dreams. Nice and snug and warm," continued Alicia as Mara fiddled with the vampire's fangs.
After a few seconds, Alicia heard a soft noise as the fangs came away, revealing the woman's actual teeth. Mara quickly backed off and nodded to Alicia.
"What did you find?" whispered Ulla.
"They are injectors," concluded Mara. "But on the full set, you can see they're putting drugs into the wearer as well as being a way to administer it to a secondary victim.”
"Do you think that drug is brainwashing them?" inquired Ulla.
"Maybe, or at least making them more compliant."
"I have an idea," whispered Alicia. "Run with me, okay?"
"Okay," Mara and Ulla replied in unison.
"Good," cooed Alicia, turning her attention fully onto the vampires. "Now, in a minute, I'm going to clap my hands. When I do, you'll awaken, and you're going to be so excited as you've beaten me and taken me prisoner! In fact, you're going to take me right to where you're holding everyone else! You're so proud of yourselves! Isn't that right?"
"Right," moaned the vampires as Ulla and Mara ducked into some bushes and hid.
"I'm not sure I like this plan," sighed Mara.
"Takes after Sharon, doesn't she?" Ulla giggled. "Why use a plan when a gambit is twice as exciting?"
"Yes! You found me sleeping on the floor and now you've got me captured! So good! So exciting! You're going to get promoted!" continued Alicia as she slowly backed away from the vampires.
She kept her silver gaze fixed on the pair as she made her way over to the wax rabbit. "Yes, so good. So excited to be promoted. So happy to take me and show me off," cooed Alicia as she started to break bits of decayed wax off of the figure. "In fact, you're going to be so excited about taking me in, you won't notice or question anything I do as we walk to the prison. Okay?"
"Okay," mumbled the vampires, a puddle of drool forming at their feet.
"Great!" Alicia smiled as she moved back into the center, laid down on the ground, and clapped her hands. The two vampires shook their heads and let out a soft groan as their eyes returned to normal.