Blogophilia 25.11 – Philip Part 2

It’s time again for blogophilia, the fun blog group where Martien gives participants prompts to use in their blog. This week’s prompts are:

Ecrits Blogophilia Week 25.11 Topic – Time Traveling
**BONUSES:
Hard Bonus (2 pts): Use a quote or lyric from Oliver Twist (We have none of us long to wait for Death.)
Easy Bonus (1 pt): Mention a soccer player (Lionel – aka Lionel Messi)

.

***

Philip wanted to slap the smug smile off Beldren’s face; wanted to knock him to the floor, put his foot in the middle of the vampire’s chest, and shout the truth, but he couldn’t.  Doing so would jeopardize everything.

“Still, it’s odd,” Beldren added. “Malick’s never cared about the lives of the lower classes before. It makes one wonder if there isn’t more at play here.”

I’ll show you what’s at play, you-

The waiter interrupted with Beldren’s drink. Philip took the opportunity to slam the rest of his and make his excuses. He had a meeting to go to. Sorry.

As he strode out the door, he thought to himself it might have been better to feed alone for a change.

Next time.

**

Though Beldren had been annoying Philip mused over the implications of his news. The Hand of Death, or Jorick, as was his name, was Malick’s fledgling and one of the original Executioners. Philip had worked under him, and had only gotten promoted to Executioner when he left.

When he left.

Philip still remembered it; he’d been on duty that night. Jorick had stormed the citadel, slashing and killing everything in his path as he made his way to Malick – the master he planned to kill. The details of why were sketchy to Philip. He’d heard that Jorick’ wife died, that somehow he blamed his master for it, but that was all he knew. That and the force of Jorick’s attack. Unlike many of the guards on duty, Philip had survived the onslaught, and in fact gained his promotion because of his “bravery”. Still, he’d never forgotten the Hand of Death, more monster than vampire, tearing through the ranks, his face flecked in blood.

The Guild had kept uneasy tabs on him after that. They didn’t follow his every move, but Malick stayed abreast of here he was living. Until the fifties. He’d vanished from his Alabama den and that was it. No sightings of him, no rumors, nothing.

And now he’s on a beach somewhere. That Beldren had brought back intelligence was a sure thing, but would Malick send others to gather more? How long would it be before someone was assigned to go get him, bring him in, try to get him to join them again?

Ark will love that.

On the other hand, maybe it would make things better. Jorick had evolved into a kind of Legend in the last hundred plus years. Perhaps having him there, in person, would remind Malick that his fledgling wasn’t perfect. Maybe then the lectures and comparisons would stop.

Or maybe not.

Either way, it wasn’t Philip’s problem. At least, not yet. He had more important things to worry about, like his current assignment. Beldren and the others might think he was grounded, but if they ever found out the truth…

They’d be in for a surprise.

Philip made his way to one of the two elevators that would take him all the way to the secret basement of the citadel. He stuck his key into the slot, the only way to activate the floor. Not that these security measures do much. There are probably a hundred keys floating around at any given time. Still, the idea of it made it seem secure and intimidating, as long as one didn’t bother to reason it out.

And almost no one does.

Reason, that was something that most vampires lacked. Logic, precision, common sense. The masses were quick to panic, and easy to manipulate.

Just like sheep.

The elevator reached its destination, but Philip pressed the door close button, ignoring the guards outside. Alone, he leaned back against the wall and closed his eyes, concentrating on himself, on the lab, on the next few hours. An image flashed by, his own reflection in a shiny surface. He recognized it as one of the steel tables in the laboratory. The next scene was a flash of a scientist with limp hair, an open door, and then he saw the girl on the floor. A pool of crimson spread out around her, rolling toward a floor drain.

Looks like I’ll be working.

With that in mind, and Philip opened the elevator doors and exited on a sci-fi hallway. That was what he always thought of, with its shiny black floors and walls, trimmed with red.  He could feel the ancients in their chambers farther down the corridor. Celandine, Heng, and the other members of the high council. Malick’s presence was notably absent, but Philip didn’t care. He wasn’t there to see any of them.

He bypassed the dungeon, and headed further down the hallway, until he reached a metal door. A computerized plate hung next to it, but with no lights on it wasn’t yet operational.

More tech they haven’t really figured out yet.

Philip banged on the door and a guard in black opened it. Sallow faced, he stepped aside quickly, eyes cast down as Philip marched past.

Good. He understands respect now.

He hadn’t yesterday. He’d dared to meet Philp’s eyes to look sulky at being given orders, and had even talked back. Once. Philip had hit him hard enough to send him flying back into a metal table of instruments. He’d struggled to his feet, in time for Philip to grab him by his shirt and slam him into the wall repeatedly. Only when his face was a mass of gelatin had one of the scientists finally suggested he stop.

“We don’t want to train a replacement!”

Philip had left the bleeding unconscious vampire on the floor, and turned back to his work.  Another guard had hauled him away, maybe to the hospital wing upstairs, maybe to his room. Either way, blood and rest had healed his face, and taught him a valuable lesson about the pecking order.

One he won’t forget.

Philip purposefully tried to meet his eyes, but the guard continued to look away. Satisfied, the Executioner dismissed him to glance around the room. The walls were done in white subway tile, like an institution’s kitchen. The floor was lacquered gray, and the furniture was plastic and metal; maybe stainless steel, maybe coated aluminum. A pair of computers sat on a built in desk against one wall, their screens flashing numbers, or letters – pointless stuff Philip didn’t understand. Two vampires hovered over them, motioning to the output, as if it meant something to them.

Two doorways were set in the back wall. A tall scientist with dark hair stood in one, his hands clasped together. “There you are. Yes, yes, about time.”

Philip gave him a long, hard look. “Be careful, Gildan. I don’t want to have to teach you a lesson, too.”

The scientist snickered. “You won’t get far, Hmmmm? The guards can be replaced, but not us. Your master wouldn’t be very pleased, now, would he? Come, come. We have work to do.”

Philip snarled, but Gildan marched on down the hallway.

He dares to turn his back to me? I’ll show him!

Except, Philip knew he wouldn’t. As the leading scientist in the laboratory, Gildan was right. Malick would have Philip’s head if he so much as hurt the vampire, let alone killed him.

For now. One day he won’t be useful anymore, and then…

Then he’d be sorry.

With comforting daydreams of peeling the scientist apart, Philip followed down the narrow hall. They passed a couple of shiny metal doors, stopping when the hall deadened. A pair of locked doors opened when Gildan inserted his keycard, not the quick swish of a science fiction show, but a slower, noisier motion.

Gildan motioned Philip after him, into a sort of antechamber. One wall was half window, so that they could see into the next room. Empty and walled in the same white subway tiles, its bare concreate floor was stained from blood. The discoloration was the worst around the floor drain, where the liquid pooled as it slowly oozed away. There was no blood today – or at least, not yet.

Gildan pushed a button on a speaker box. “We’re ready. Bring in subject,” he paused to consult a clipboard. “Subject DE220.”

DE, for Demon Eye. The same ability Philip had. “What tests can you possibly perform on him?”

The corners of Gildan’s mouth quirked up. “You’ll see.”

Philip took one of the plastic chairs and crossed his legs. He’d watched experiments for the last two days in the scientific quest to better understand vampires’ unique powers. Yesterday they’d tested a dream stealer against a young, weak vampire with no discernable gifts. They’d begun by doing brain scans in another room, first with no pressure, and then with increasing amounts of inflicted terror and trauma, to see if the stress elevated their abilities. The scientists had oohed and awed over pages of squiggly lines, while Philip handled the terrorizing portion. That was what he was there for, after all.

“We’re scientists,” Gildan had explained. “It isn’t our job to terrorize vampires, just to collect and interpret the data.”

That was why Malick had assigned Philip to help them. They needed someone to do the dirty work; to scare the vampires, torture them, even. Someone who knew how to inflict the most fear in the shortest amount of time.

And Malick wants someone he knows is loyal to keep an eye on things.

Loyalty was always an issue, even in the Executioners. The laboratory and its tests were Malick’s pet project. Though he was the head of The Guild, and the High Council, there were vampires over him. The council in Munich, for instance. They could put their foot down and end the experiments, an edict Malick would either be forced to comply with, or face punishment.

Malick forced. The sentence seemed ridiculous, yet there it was. As strong and ancient as Malick was, rumor said the vampires in Germany were older, and stronger; that they could kill with a look. If that was true, Malick really would have no choice…

And so the experiments were being kept a sort of secret from the rest of the High Council, even the rest of the Executioners. There was only himself and Senya that knew about it. And maybe Bren. Since the pair were engaged in a sexual relationship, it wouldn’t be surprising if she told him.

Not that she isn’t having sex with the rest of us, Philip thought with a smirk. He’d had Senya before, though she was far from his favorite plaything. He preferred his women compliant – often against their will, or at least pretending it was against their will – while Senya preferred to be the one in control. Two Alphas in the bedroom was a recipe for disaster, and only worked when they were both in the mood for a quick fuck with no appetite for games or fun.

And what’s the point of that?

A door in the operating room opened, pulling Philip’s attention. A young female vampire was pushed inside. She stepped forward quickly, but on seeing her new surroundings tried to go back. The door slammed shut as she reached it, leaving her with her palms pressed against its surface.

Gildan pressed a button and barked through the intercom, “If you would step into the middle of the room please.”

The vampiress looked up, eyes wide. She backed slowly away from the door, edging toward the center of the room and the stained drain. Her mouth moved, but most of the sound was lost behind the thick walls and glass. Philip could just catch her asking what they wanted, and why.

Gildan pressed the button again. “We’re going to see if you can figure that out.”

“I’m not a mind reader!” she cried.

“No, but you’re a demon eye, aren’t you? You can see the future, yes? So look at it, and tell me f you can see what we’re going to do.”

She backed away from him, away from the drain and the window, until she was against the far wall. Philip well knew that for her to use her abilities, she’d need to be calm, be able to focus, maybe close her eyes, relax. None of that was going to be possible there. She might as well be powerless.

“She can’t you know,” he murmured.

“I know she believes she can’t, but we’ll see what happens. Have you never used your own gifts mid-battle?”

Philip paused to consider the question. Had he? Yes, probably. He’d had flashes before, sudden insights, usually when he was in an extreme situation with no time to relax and focus properly. But those flashes of the future were rarely right. They were like a mistimed reflex with little payoff. To truly determine the future one needed to concentrate, see several variables, weigh them out and average the outcomes into what was most likely. It was a talent best used by logical, calm individuals.

Still, maybe Gildan is right. Perhaps this could be interesting.

Philip shrugged and turned again to the vampiress. She was trying, but every time she closed her eyes, she’d jerk them open again, gaze darting around the room.

She should just guess that we’re going to kill her, Philip thought. The stained floor is enough evidence for that. Use your reasoning process, don’t just rely on your abilities.

It was advice he never gave her, though it soon became apparent someone should. After twenty minutes of trying with no success, Gildan nodded to Philip. “If you’d like to increase the pressure?”

Philip pulled himself up and headed for the door. He had a pair of daggers at his belt but that was it. Not as if I need much more for her. She’s young.

When he’d wound his way to the entrance and was let through, he was surprised to discover she was even younger than he thought. She couldn’t have been a vampire for more than five years, and more likely three. Her movements were still clunky, crude. Her skin was smooth, but not polished, and though her eyes glittered, they didn’t hold the depth of age, only of fresh immortality.

Is her blood debt even paid yet?

He didn’t know, and he didn’t care. Wordlessly, he advanced on her, watching as she shrank away, those eyes shining with fear.

“Please. I-I don’t know what you want. Please.”

He stopped and fingered one of the daggers on his belt. “I hope you figure it out soon.”

She gulped, and pressed back against the wall. “I-I can’t. Not like this. Please, just…just let me go back to the cell and-”

Philip drew the dagger and advanced; long slow strides. “You’ve had plenty of time in the cell. You didn’t once try to see your future? Not in all that time? Either you’re stupid, or you think I am.”

“No!” She threw up her hands, a gesture to stop, perhaps, or an effort to shield herself. “No! I-I’ve tried to use them, but I can’t relax enough. Please, just let me try again.”

He stopped in front of her and cocked his head to one side, as if he was considering the idea. “Hmmm. Well…” he saw the spark of hope in her eyes, and had to fight not to smile. “You see, there’s a tiny problem with that idea.”

The hope flickered. “What’s that?”

He leaned close, and dropped his voice, as if ready to share a secret. “I don’t really care if you ever get it to work.”

Incomprehension warred on her face, and then she understood. “But…”

“You’re part of an experiment, and I don’t care what their results are. I’m here to tease you up a little bit, and eventually start carving.” He brandished the dagger.

“Experiment? But…but…what experiment?”

“That’s the part you’re supposed figure out. Go on, close your eyes, look to the future. What do you see the scientists doing?”

Her eyelids fluttered closed, then open again. “I-I can’t. Not with you so close. Not with…with that.”

“This?” He turned the dagger so the blade caught the light. “That’s a pity for you.” He looked over his shoulder to the window and shrugged, indicating that she was useless. Gildan rubbed his chin then nodded and motioned the all clear.

Okay. Start hurting her.

Philip shrugged again and turned back. He gave her a merciful smile and stepped back, watching as her shoulders relaxed, as that hope popped back into her eyes…

Then he slashed.

The blade bit her exposed arm, leaving a trail of crimson to quickly rise to the surface. She cried out and flinched away, confusion on her features.

“It’s not personal,” Philip said as he approached again, the dagger ready. “It’s just how it goes.”

She stumbled away from him, landing on the floor. He swooped down to leave a line of scarlet on her cheek. He could smell the blood, but it did nothing for his appetite. It was the bland, dead blood of an immortal; they hadn’t fed her today.

How sad to die hungry.

Though the thought flitted through his mind, there was no emotion attached to it. No feeling of remorse as she crab-crawled away, no particular pity as he cut her again, and again, no guilt when she screamed and begged him to stop.

It’s not that she deserves to be tortured, it’s just the way it is. Bad luck, I guess. And obviously not a very good demon eye – or she’d have seen this coming.

Like he had.

After several minutes, Gildan called a halt. Philip stepped back and glanced down at his hands, both flecked in blood. A quick wipe of his face showed the same.

I’ll have to take a shower after this.

The vampiress lay in a sobbing heap on the floor.  A pool of blood ran from her, down to the drain, and her severed hand lay a few feet away, fingers still curled.

It was the scene he’d seen earlier, in the elevator.

The door buzzed, then opened. A lanky haired scientist bustled through, looking excited, and Philip took the opportunity to head out.  He stopped at a sink to wash the gore from his hands and face before heading back to the observation room for more instructions.

“Stress doesn’t seem to trigger her ability,” Gildan said, hands behind his back as he peered through the window to their subject.  “Perhaps not all powers are enhanced by it?”

“No idea.” Philip dropped back into the chair and yawned. “Demon eye takes practice to use, to focus. Even if she does get clips of the future, there’s no guarantee she’ll see herself, unless she’s focusing. And even then…” Even then there was no guarantee.

“Perhaps you’re right. Perhaps there’s too much going on here. She’s running, hiding, crouching. Physical activity may not be conducive to such powers. Perhaps we’ll try her on a table.”

Gildan gave the orders and the vampiress was dragged away. The vampire made several notes in a file, and then motioned Philip to follow. “We may want to continue the torture.”

They wound through out the door, and down the hall to another short corridor. There, they ended in a big white room that was brightly lit. Medical machinery made it look like something from the time traveling future or else the hospital on a space ship, or so Philip always thought. If only they’d lose the tile on the walls. No self-respecting spaceship would use ceramic tile.

To one side of the room, away from most of the equipment, the girl was strapped down to a table. They’d wrapped the restraints around the stump of her wrist, so tight that the purple skin puckered out over the edges. Despite that, Philip wasn’t sure it would prevent her from pulling that arm fee.

And doing what? He asked himself. There’s no hand there. Unless she’s going to beat you with her stump?

It was a fair point, so he kept his opinions to himself while they finished hooking electrodes to her head to monitor brain activity of some kid.

All this science stuff.

When they’d finished, they moved away and let Gildan come close. He peered down at her and asked, “Are you comfortable?”

She looked up, her eyes shimmering with terror and choked out, “Please. Please let me go.”

“I’ll take that as a yes. Now, as you know, we’re conducting some experiments today. All we want is for you to use your demon eye ability. You are a demon eye, yes?”

“Yes.” Tears spilled down her bloody cheeks. “But I-I can’t use it. It’s not working. Please. Just-”

Gildan interrupted her with a low noise. He scribbled a few notes, then waved Philip over. “See if you can prompt her?”

Philip tugged his daggers out and started by prodding her. She tried to get away but, with the restraints, she couldn’t. Her silent tears turned into gulping sobs, and though Gildan was unaffected, one of the other scientists looked uncomfortable. When Philips prodding became stabbing, and her cries turned to screams, the other vampire flinched and finally stammered, “Can’t we…we gag her, or…or something?”

Gildan rolled his eyes. “If you insist, Lionel, be my guest.”

The vampire with a conscience stepped away. “No! No, it’s…It’s not my job. Have your…uh, tormenter do it.”

Philip scoffed. Gagging her would defeat the purpose. How would they know if she’d had a vision if she couldn’t tell them? But it wasn’t his problem. He took the handkerchief Gildan impatiently handed him, and shoved it in the girl’s mouth. She tried to bite him, but he gagged her hard enough to force her mouth open again.

“You’ll have to…to tie something over it or she’ll just spit it out,” their pseudo concerned vampire said.

If he was really concerned for her, he’d try to save her, not just shut her up.  Obviously the screams were what made him feel bad, and if they were gone…Then he can pretend it’s fine. Pathetic.

When the gag was tied in place, Philip was ordered back to it. He yawned as he cut off her toes one by one. How much longer would this go on for? He was feeling peckish – he’d rushed his breakfast because Beldren had irritated him – and he’d spent the last three days doing this to other vampires. He was used to having to do some fighting or torture in the field, but not day after day. There was travel time in between, something to break it up. This was just getting repetitive.

And boring.

The vampiress started thrashing worse than before, her head flopping side to side, and then, she went suddenly still, like the dead. Philip stopped to see her eyelids fluttering and her face slack. Had she passed out? She couldn’t be dead. Not mutilation, or even extreme shock or pain could end their life. It took destroying the heart to kill a vampire.

And her heart-

The thought dropped away when her eyes popped open. Her back arched, and she strained, her back arching and her mouth worked, the words muffled. Gildan motioned Philip to remove the gag, and he complied, pulling his hand back from her mouth quickly, lest she bite him.

Instead, she managed to grab his sleeve with her good hand. Her head snapped towards him and she shouted, “Death! Death in the brick house!”

Philip pulled free just as she broke her stump arm lose. She waved it wildly, as if pointing to one of them, while shrieking, “Death! Ripped open! So much blood!”

Her tirade fell away as Gildan jammed the handkerchief back in her mouth. “We have none of us long to wait for Death. Least of all you.” He stepped back, wiping his hands on his white coat. “Finish her, Executioner. We’ve learned what we wanted.”

She bucked on the bed, swinging her free arm in an erratic pattern. Philip ducked past the limb and jammed his dagger through her heart. Her body drew tight, arched, frozen. Then, as he ripped the blade free, she went slack.

Dead.

Philip plucked the makeshift gag from her mouth and used the handkerchief to wipe his weapons. When they were clean enough, he left the scientists to their clean up, and headed for the sink. He met Gidan there, not washing his hands, but watching the water swirl down the drain just the same.

“You don’t mind if I actually use it?” Philip asked.

“No, no.” Gildan stepped to the side, still focused on the water. Finally he snapped out of it and gave a thin smile, an expression that made him look like a snake. “At this juncture I believe we can say demon eyes’ abilities are not supplemented by physical stress. Though she got the death part of her future right, one can hardly call this a brick house.”

Philip rinsed the soap bubbles off, trying to decide if he cared enough to comment. He didn’t, but… “Unless that isn’t her future. A demon eye can see the future of others, sometimes better than their own.”

Gildan rubbed his chin. “Interesting. Yes. Yes. It could be, I suppose. But it seems a stretch. Perhaps we should try another experiment?”

Philip shut off the water and dried his hands. “You’ll have to find a new subject.”

“Oh, it’s no trouble. One of your kind will supply it, I’m sure. She’s been very good at finding them so far.”

Philip bit back a smile. Yes, Senya would be efficient at it.

“I believe we’re done for today,” Gildan added as an afterthought. “Tomorrow?”

Philip nodded, but didn’t bother to agree. He didn’t need to. It wasn’t as if he had a choice.

Back in the sci-fi hallway, he ignored the horrified looks of the guards. He knew what he must look like, flecked in hours old blood, his hair matted. He wondered what scenarios they imagined for it, what scenario he’d have come up with if he was them.

I’d probably assume the Executioner had been killing an army of vampires.

It was a pity that wasn’t the truth. It would have bene more interesting, at least.

**

In his den, Philip showered, changed, and sent his dirty clothes to the laundry. Then he headed for the café. Another off time, he was left with the same luck as before: no one to sit with. He drank his blood, paid his bill, and headed home again. He had a couple of hours until sunrise and thanks to modern cable there was now programming on TV all night long. Not necessarily quality programming, but it was something to watch all the same.

Though he didn’t like to admit it, even to himself, the vampiress’ pronouncement had unsettled him. Death in the brick house. What brick house? And whose death? Not hers, but was it someone close to her? Or was it one of them?

I can’t imagine why the scientists would be anywhere except the citadel. But me…

He went out on assignments, infiltrated dens, fought other vampires. And it was his sleeve she’d hung on to.

Only because she couldn’t reach the others.

Though he told himself that, he lay in bed after the sun was up, staring through the gloomy darkness. Finally, he closed his eyes and reached for the future – his future. He saw flashes, snatches, but no brick house, and no death.

She was just babbling, he assured himself. Unless she can see farther ahead than I can.

Which, with her young age was impossible.

Just babbling.

**

The next evening, Philip woke, dressed, and headed for the café. Inside, he saw Bren. With messy brown hair, his slender frame was draped in a long black coat, and a silver medallion hung around his neck, marking him as a fellow Executioner.

One who’s more agreeable than Beldren.

“Hello!”

Bren glanced up from his glass and his book. “Oh, hello.” He checked his watch and frowned. “I don’t have long until I have to go.”

“Assignment?” Philip asked as he slid into the empty chair.

“Yes. Malick is sending mw to gather intel. Maine, of all places. This time of year the roads will be a nightmare.”

“You could fly.”

“I could, but…” Bren shrugged and closed the book.  “The guards will drive. If anything happens it’ll be on them.”

“True enough.”

“So how’s your suspension going?” Bren asked with a smirk. Philip stiffened, ready to let him have it, when the other held up his hand. “I bet you’re tired of hearing that, aren’t you? Shame you can’t tell them the truth.”

Philip relaxed a little. So, Senya had told him.

“How is the work going?”

“Honestly?” Philip poked Bren’s glass and glared towards the waiter. “It’s boring. The first day was slightly interesting, but after that…”

“I can’t imagine what good you’re being there does,” Bren agreed. “You’re not scientifically minded.”

“I wouldn’t say that. I have the capacity for it, if I wanted to.”

“Really? I thought erotic sciences were more your speed.” Bren chuckled. “There’s no shame in it. The goons in the lab give me the creeps.”

“They’re all right, I suppose. I just don’t understand what the point of these experiments is. I know what they want to learn, but I don’t know why. Does it matter if stress increases a vampire’s powers momentarily?”

“Of course it does,” Bren said. “You’ve seen it. I’ve seen it. When we fight them, when they fight us. A vampire is always harder to take down if he feels threatened. There are…chemicals or something. I don’t know.”

“Adrenaline, you mean? I thought they’d determined we didn’t have those anymore?”

“I don’t know. You’re the one with the scientists. Anyway, I don’t see that it matters. You’d be more use out on assignment than stuck here in the basement.”

Philip couldn’t argue with that.

**

Bren left, and Philip headed down to the lab. He stopped in the elevator to see what the day would bring. A few quick flashes showed Gildan, his face tight and his eyes angry. There was the stained cement floor. A vampire was hunched in a corner…

Same old, same old. Though it might be interesting to find out what Gildan would be so mad about.

Philip made his way to the lab and eventually back to the observation room. They hadn’t caught a new demon eye yet, so today’s experiment was a puppet master.

Finally, someone who might be a challenge.

They sent one of the scientists in first, to act nonthreatening and get a baseline for the young man’s abilities. Hunkered down in the corner of the room, their specimen wasn’t interested in attacking his captor, only asking why he was there.

Boring.

When they sent Philip in, he held onto his nonviolence – until the daggers came out. At the sight of the blades, his whole body went rigid, and then the fear slowly turned to anger.

“What in the hell is this? I haven’t done anything wrong.”

“Yes you did,” Philip said, moving closer. “You were in the wrong place at the wrong place and let Senya capture you. If you wanted to live, you should have killed her.”

Philip lunged, slashing with his weapon, but the stroke didn’t fall. Instead he found himself frozen paralyzed against his will.

“Why are you doing this?” the young vampire shouted.

Philip met his eyes, and for the first time took stock of his age. He was older than the others had been. Thirty years? Fifty? Maybe more. And he was strong.

This might not be as boring as I thought.

Philip concentrated on moving his arm. But their specimen wasn’t just a paralyzer, he was a puppet master, and he forced Philip’s feet to shuffle backwards. When there was space between them, Philip felt the draw on his fingers, as the other tried to make his fingers let go of the dagger.

Oh no, you don’t.

Philip tightened his hold, squeezing with all his strength. He saw his opponent’s brow furrow, and took advantage of that concentration to move his leg, then his left arm. He just needed to wait a moment and…

And then he sprung. In his surprise, the other vampire’s control flickered, and Philip managed a swipe with the dagger, one that cut through his opponent’s ear and sliced his cheek.

Philip hopped away ready to try again, when he noticed movement from the corner of his eye. He glanced back to the window where Gildan stood, no longer observing, but instead waving his arms at a guard dressed in black.

Philip didn’t have time to find out what was going on before the kid clamped down on him again, using his power to force his back against the wall. Philip glanced to the window again, looking for permission from Gildan to fight, but the scientist was still ignoring him.

“God dammit.”

Philip ripped free of the influence to go after the kid, but he didn’t reach him before he was stopped again. He wrestled with his own body, pushing away the kid’s influence. He managed to get another swipe in, this one across his upper arm, severing both his shirt and flesh.

And then Gildan’s furious voice came over the loudspeaker, “Executioner, return to the observation room.”

Philip looked back and forth between the angry Gildan and their specimen. The kid was crouched down, hair in his face, his chest heaving with the effort he’d been expending.

But I’m wearing him down…

Not that it mattered. Fighting him didn’t matter. It was just an experiment, anyway.

The door buzzed. Philip made a show of sheathing his dagger. “All right. I’m coming.” He gave the kid a half nod, a sort of mock salute, then headed out. It looked like he was about to find out what Gildan was angry about in his vision.

He pushed through the door of the observation room, but before he could ask what was going on, Gildan snapped, “We’re going to see Malick.”

Philip bit back a snicker. If he thought yelling at Malick was a good idea…No, let him. This is bound to be amusing.

Philip followed the furious scientist out of the lab and through the black and red corridor, until they reached the doors of Malick’s chambers. Before they could knock, Malick’s voice thundered from inside, “Enter!”

Philip flinched at the tone, like a roaring ocean mixed with an avalanche. To Gildan’s credit, the scientist didn’t hesitate, but flung the door wide and marched in. They were barely through the antechamber, into the main room, when he snapped out, “Sir, we’ve been ordered-”

Malick stood in the middle of the room, dressed in a suit and tie, his white hair clipped short and his beard neatly trimmed. It gave him the appearance of a slick modern business man, different w=from his usual god-like persona.

Despite the different style, he was his usual omnipotent self. “I know.”

Gildan came to a stop and fixed Malick with a daring glare. “And?”

“And you will disregard that order.”

Gildan’s anger melted into a snake-like smile. “Good. Good, good. We were in the middle of a specimen-”

Philip didn’t need to turn around to know that Celandine was behind him. He could feel her, the strength of her years, less than Malick’s, yet enough to crush a vampire if she chose.

Her voice rang through the room, like a cold, clear bell, “You will do no such thing.”

Gildan spun around, open mouthed, while Malick chuckled. “Ah, so you would enter my chamber uninvited?”

“When you leave the door open, and issue orders you are not authorized to give, then yes.” Celandine seemed to float past them, her long green dress trailing the floor as she moved to stand before Malick. He long dark hair was bound around her head, and her artfully shaped face was pale and cold, like winter dawn after the snow.

Malick laughed, a rich sound that made Philip think of deep green forests. “I seek no permission from you, or the rest of the council.”

“And yet you must have it to conduct these…experiments, as you call them. Though torture is the more appropriate name.”

So the high council had found out about the laboratory.

Celandine sniffed. “The high council is aware of everything. We merely gave Malick a few days, hoping he would end the travesty himself.”

Philip shrank back a step. Of course. She was a whisperer and dream stealer. She could hear all of their thoughts.

Malick’s voice echoed in his head, As can I.

This was why he disliked the ancients.

“Is knowledge a travesty?” Malick asked. “I understanding something to fear?”

“It is not the knowledge that is the issue, Malick, but the means by which you gain it. They cannot be allowed to mutilate and murder innocents.”

“Innocents?” Malick chortled. “What vampire is innocent? Do we not kill to feed, to live? Can any man who takes a life be called innocent?”

“They have committed no crimes under our laws.”

“And if they have?” Malick asked.

Her voice rose sharply, “Then they still may not be experimented upon. This ends now, Malick. The council has voted and passed the decree.”

“And if it doesn’t?”

Philip’s instincts said for him to run, run fast and far. Get away from the ancients before their disagreement turned to violence. But duty held him there. He hadn’t been dismissed, and angering them might be worse. At the moment he might be collateral damage, but if he made them angry…

Celandine drew herself up. “We will report you to the True Council in Munich.”

“Is that supposed to frighten me? They have a laboratory of their own, and their experiments are far more…imaginative.”

“The council has spoken. End this now, and keep some of your research, or we will vote to have the entire lab disassembled. You will lose all of your plans.”

Philip cringed. There was no way Malick would bow to her, or to the rest of the high council. There was no way he’d agree to discontinue-

The ancient master laughed. “As you wish, Celandine. The experiments you so object to will end.”

Gildan gaped, but before he could make an ass of himself, Malick glanced to him. “You will handle the specimens, and discontinue your current work.”

Though not a mind reader, Philip sensed Gildan’s coming argument. He thought about letting the scientist go, but a spark of compassion caused him to grab the vampire’s arm and drag him for the door, leaving behind a trail of “Yes, Master.”

In the hallway, Gildan jerked loose, brushing at his coat sleeve as if he’d been contaminated. “What do you think you’re doing?”

Philip instantly regretted saving him. “I have more important things to do than watch Malick and Celandine kill you. Speaking of which, I’m going to get to them.”

He strode down the corridor, leaving Gildan to shout after him, “Wait! You have to deal with the specimens!”

“Deal with them yourself,” Philip called, without looking back.

He could hear Gildan sputtering all the way to the elevators. Inside, he waited until the doors shut to lean back against the wall and close his eyes. He concentrated on the rest of his day, looking for what would happen now. He saw a few quick flashes; the café, a call from the office, a new assignment…

A brick house.

The last vision was too fast for him to be sure of, wrapped in the mist of the far future.

Or of my imagination.

That was what it had to be, he assured himself. Just a bored mind, looking for something exciting.

 

**

picture: Jay

topic: Lisa

  1. bride of Frankenstein 2. hair raising 3. monster mash 4. vamp 5. monster mama 6. monster’s girlfriend 7. gonna sue the hairdresser 8. bad trip to the beauty parlor 9. next big hairstyle 10. shocking
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About Joleene Naylor

An independent author, freelance artist, and photographer for fun who loves anime, music, and writing. Check out my vampire series Amaranthine at http://JoleeneNaylor.com or drop me a line at Joleene@JoleeneNaylor.com

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