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In Which Plans are Executed (Some Fail, and Some Do Not)

In Which Plans are Executed (Some Fail, and Some do not) It was early in the morning, and the sun was just beginning to cut through the dirt-smeared glass of the van. Victor sat on the floor, working a coil of wire through his fingers. Abigail had left a few minutes prior, and he had elected to stay behind once again. A new problem had arisen in the wiring of this new robot, and he wouldn’t be able to concentrate on anything else until he fixed it. This was just busywork, really, just biding his time until they could get back to their new lab, and his project. This sojourn had set him back, he’d probably need to replace all of the organic parts. It was all even more important now, to work out all the kinks so that if Abigail’s plan with this other piece of Truth failed... well. He jumped as a sudden banging came from the door, and reached a hand towards the gun laying in the corner. Abigail never would have let him stay behind without it, though he wasn’t really sure if he’d even be able to hit anything with it. In the end, he didn’t pick it up, just wiped some grease from his cheek and straightened up, glancing out the window. Outside, a vaguely familiar woman smiled and waved, dark lipstick making her smile seem very large. Who was she? Oh, right, she was the other one of Raz’s favorites. He’d seen her in the box the one time Abigail had convinced him to go with her to the arena. Cautiously, he opened the door a crack. “Uh, yes?” he asked, eyes darting around nervously. “Wanna buy some girl scout cookies?” “Wha—?” “Kidding,” she said. “God, you’re all such tight-asses around here.” “You’re, uh—” he faltered on her name. “Kei,” she said. “Wheeler and dealer extraordinaire. May I enter your humble, er, workshop? Abode? Both?” Victor hesitated. “Why are you here?” “Ah, one of the paranoid ones, hm? Some people just aren’t cut out for the outlaw crowd, lemme tell ya. Got caught up with the wrong people, hm? Well don’t worry, I ain’t here to fuck anything up. I just wanna talk, got some information you might wanna hear.” “And you’re just going to tell me this information?” he raised an eyebrow. She laughed. “No, of course not. You see, I consider myself a sort of ‘Miracle Worker.’ I can give you anything you want, you’ve just gotta give me something in return.” He didn’t say anything for a minute. Kei sighed. “It’s about your little project.” Victor opened the door. She clambered into the back, suddenly all business. She could have just as well been in an executive board room for all the pomp. “Now,” she began. “You’re lucky that I need this, so I’ll let you off easy. Normally I’d deal for something more... damaging. So I’ll tell you all about your project and just what it is you’re missing. But in exchange,” she continued over him as he opened his mouth. “I need some information of my own from you... something about the arena...” ~~ o ~~ When she was done with Victor, Kei went to wake up Doug. “It’s happening,” she told him. “Tonight,” and was pleased to see madness spark in his eyes. ~~ o ~~ Cindy was surprised that there weren’t more guards around the arena. One would think that Raz wouldn’t want anyone sneaking down to see “the unnaturals” as he was fond of calling them. Cindy could agree with him on one thing at least. Some of them—if only the more animal of their number—could be extremely dangerous. Plus, did he really expect her to not to try to get in? Like really. But she found the place empty as she snuck up—perhaps too cautiously—to the elevator built into the arena’s side. She’d watched Raz use it just yesterday to go downstairs, and the only thing that she knew of that could be down there was weirdo jail. Cindy was lucky she herself wasn’t down there with the rest of them. Well, now it seemed she would be anyway. Cindy pulled the lever and felt her stomach drop along with the lift, clunking in time with her rapid heartbeat. She wasn’t sure what she was going to see down there, what he had done to Marcell, but... she had to see him. She had to tell him that things were happening soon. Not a lot of light spread form the tiny hole left by the elevator, and Cindy squinted, hesitating to step out of the shaft of day above her. But her eyes would never adjust like this, so she stepped off the plywood and onto the dirt floor. Immediately, all of the soft grunts and breathing and other animal noises stopped, and Cindy felt many eyes turn her way in the dark. Slowly, cages were becoming visible at the corners of her vision, filled with every sort of thing that filled the pages of her grimoire. The smell of blood and shit was in the air. Cindy searched through the dank prison slowly, afraid of frightening some poor creature and having it make too much noise. A whimper from the corner drew her eye. Once of the cages in the back appeared human-sized, and as Cindy took a few steps forward, she saw someone staring at her through the bars. “H-hello?” she asked. “You’re... not one of the guards,” the figure winced, shuffling closer, and Cindy began to make out long, frizzy hair and dark features. “Who are you?” “I’m not... one of them,” Cindy said. “I don’t want to hurt you, I’m...” she looked back and forth across the room to make sure they were really unwatched. “I’m one of you.” She snapped her fingers, and allowed a small lick of flame to appear on the end of her first digit. The woman blinked at the sight, nearly seeming to slink away from the bloom. “Well, how in the hell did you get on that side of the bars?” she asked. “My boyfriend and I were captured, and I was able to hide my, uh, nature, I guess.” The woman’s eyes narrowed. “Boyfriend? You don’t mean the vampire, do you?” “Lucius?” Cindy took a step forward. “Yes. Where is he?” “Honey,” she shook her head, “I don’t think that’s such a good idea.” Cindy’s stomach dropped. “What are they doing to him?” “They’re starving him. He’s not really....” she paused, considering, “human right now. I don’t think you wanna see him like that.” But she did. More than anything. She wanted to touch him and kiss him and tell him that it would be alright. But she also knew that he wouldn’t want her to see him like that. Cindy was about to thank her and turn around, when she heard something that made her blood freeze. “Ruby?” asked a voice, sickeningly familiar and yet nearly that of a stranger. “Who’re you talking to?” It drawled out its words so differently than the somwhat clipped manner that she was used to. It sounded like a person in the midst of a high fever. “No one,” the woman, Ruby, insisted. “Go back to sleep. You need it.” “There’s someone there I know I can... smell it. Its so familiar... is... is that... Cindy?” It was him. He sounded so tired and sick, but it was him. “Yes,” she took a step forward, into the light of a crack in the wall. “Idiot,” Ruby clicked her tongue. “Come closer,” he said. “Let me see you.”

Cindy took a small, tentative step towards the cell past Ruby’s, where he leaned forward against the bars. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Ruby shaking her head. “I’ve missed you so much, Cindy,” he continued, as she drew even nearer. “The thought of you is the only thing that’s been keeping me sane down here. I need to touch you, smell you...” At this point, she was near enough that he could grab her hand. “Ahh, I can feel it. Pulsing beneath your skin. Cindy, I’m so thirsty, please, let me just—” She pulled away just before he tried to sink his teeth into the flesh of her wrist. “No!” he nearly shouted, sounding desperate. “Come back, come back. You don’t know the hunger. It’s going to kill me. I need your blood I need it.” Cindy shook her head. “This isn’t you,” she said. “If I let you bite me, you’re going to be an angsty bastard about it later." She tried to keep her face as blank and calm as possible, but inside she was trying so hard not to cry. If he was himself, she would have gladly given him her blood without question. But this wasn’t him, right now he had seemingly regressed, almost childlike, and she knew that if he was in control of his faculties he would not want her to see him like this. Marcell grasped the air weakly, trying to grab onto her again. “Please, please,” he whispered. “You will have the sweetest blood I’ve ever tasted, I know it.” “No,” she told him. “But I’m going to get you out of here soon, I promise.” She began to back away, quickly, so that he wouldn’t see her cry. “Don’t go, please don’t go.” “I’ll be back soon. Hold on just a little longer.” When she couldn’t bare to look at him anymore, she turned and sped off through the dark, holding her breath until she reached the light above. Cindy plopped down against the rough exterior of the arena. She felt like she was going to barf. If she’d had to see anymore of his desperate face, she knew she would have given in. She had no issue with it. But she also knew that deep down, that was the last thing that he wanted to do. Plus, then she’d have to deal with his shit later. All she could do was wait for Kei to come through. She didn’t know how she was going to get him out of there without bodily injury, but once she did, they’d be home free. She didn’t want to rely on Kei; she was a shady motherfucker. But right now, she was all she had. ~~ o ~~ Ruby winced quietly to herself. Her wounds were still healing, and itched like a real bitch—sorry mom. Over in the corner, Lucius was howling like some sort of animal. He wasn’t going to hold out much longer. But she couldn’t take him with her, not now that he was so weak. In this state he was a danger to himself. But that girl Cindy. She wasn’t as dumb as she looked. And she truly looked like she wanted to help him. Maybe Ruby and the girl could help each other... tonight. ~~ o ~~ There was something in the air. Cindy could feel it, even though she didn’t quite know what it was. Something was buzzing around the audience that was gathering in the arena, excitement, of course, but something else was hidden in there as well, like they could sense that something was different tonight. It was especially prevalent in the box. Sitting between Abigail and Kei, Cindy could feel the two of them practically buzzing with something that seemed an awful lot like anticipation. The only person immune to the feeling was Raz, who hummed slightly to himself as he waited for the arena to fill. He seemed a little unsure of when to start today, as there was a natural hush to the crowd. But eventually, it seemed as if everyone was in and settled and Raz took the microphone and began to speak. Cindy didn’t bother to listen anymore. He said basically the same thing every night, and it had become increasingly apparent that he actually knew nothing about the real Truth. So she took this time to steel herself for the bloodbath that was to come. Would they drag Marcell up from the depths and make him commit the things he feared above all else? Teeth clenched, her breathing became faster, but she froze as Kei leaned over to her, grinning. “You ready to kill two birds with one stone?” It was happening. Cindy didn’t even know what it was, but it was happening. Whatever Kei had planned was about to go down, and Cindy was not prepared. She was about to ask Kei to elaborate, but Raz had to pick just that moment to end his speech and the arena fell silent. All eyes were focused on the metal platform that was now rising in the center of the arena, Doug’s white hair nearly blinding against the spotlights. “Ladies and gentlemen,” he drawled into the mic, “tonight we are here to witness, as always, the delicate balance of skill and beauty, and horrifying blood and guts. But this time...” and here he paused for effect. He had a strange look in his eyes, Cindy saw, as he turned in her direction. The other times she had seen him, the other days even, in the arena, Doug’s eyes had always had a dull sheen to them, like something bad was lurking there. But today, he possessed a manic glow that unnerved her. He seemed excited, nearly impatient. Cindy didn’t have time to wonder what for, because just then he continued to speak. “This time, there’s a third element to the madness: brains. For tonight, we will see before us a battle of wits.” Surprisingly, even Raz looked confused. “What the hell’s he blabbering on about?” he scratched his head. “In this corner:” Surprisingly, Doug gestured to himself, and no one emerged from under the arena, “a wronged man driven insane for no reason whatsoever. And in this corner...” now he snapped his fingers, and the platform began to rise again, up and up, and then forward, until it bounced to a halt, its cables straining, right in front of the box. “...Is the bitch that did it to him.” Doug was aiming a gun at Abigail’s face, an unnaturally large smile stretching out his features. Abigail herself hadn’t even flinched, as if she fully expected this. Nearly growling, Doug leaned closer to her as she began to chuckle. “What’s so funny?” he asked. She didn’t respond, just laughed harder. “What’s. So. FUNNY?” he shouted at her again, but still, she didn’t say a word. Doug grabbed her by the shoulder, and when she still just kept screeching in delight, he held the gun to her head. “Shut up, you bitch. Shut up shut up shut—” The gun went off. Doug looked a little surprised himself, though whether it was because he’d actually pulled the trigger or because the gun simply clicked in his hand, it was hard to tell. “What?” he stuttered out. Abigail cackled. “You thought it was loaded. You actually thought it was loaded oh my goodness! You deluded fool. You stole this from my van, didn’t you? Tell me this: why would I keep a loaded gun out in the open like that?” “I—” Doug glanced over in confusion, past Cindy and over to Kei. While all this was going on, Raz had been silently panicking, and now he was finally able to stutter out: “Guards! Guards!” “Don’t bother,” Kei spoke up. “They’re currently taking the train to sleepy-time junction.” “Oh, Kei,” Abigail grinned. “You don’t know how helpful you’ve been. You’re just making this too easy for me. Yoink!” She grabbed the chain from around Raz’s neck and pulled, the Truth now firmly in her hands. “And with that, I bid you all adieu. It’s been fun to outsmart you, Doug. I’m so very excited for round two.” She ran, and as if some magical spell had been broken, everyone began to move all at once. Doug chased after Abigail, Raz uselessly called for his guards, the rest of the arena floundered in confusion, and Kei leaned over to Cindy: “This is your chance.” “What?” Cindy blinked, almost unable to hear her. “Go get your boytoy. It’s now or never.” Of course! With all of the remaining guards—if there were any—distracted by regaining order and chasing down Abigail, now was the time to rescue Marcell and get the hell out of here. The loss of the Truth was regrettable, but who really knew? Maybe Doug would catch up to Abigail, and the problem would take care of itself. Okay, she didn’t really believe that, but Cindy didn’t have time to worry about that now. So with a singular nod of thanks to Kei, Cindy ran. No time to take the elevator, she vaulted over the box’s railing and onto the bleachers below. Pushing through the hectic crowd, she landed with a thump on the compact dirt of the arena floor, but didn’t even stop. The gaping maw of the below awaited her, and Cindy skittered down the incline and into the prison. It wasn’t until that moment that she stopped to consider just how she was planning on getting a blood-starved vampire out without being killed in the process herself, but as it turned out, she didn’t have to. Someone else was already down there. Cindy’s eyes adjusted to the gloom just in time to see a cavalcade of black mist slither through one of the small windows and coalesce into a person just outside of Ruby’s cell. “What took you so long?” she asked the figure, huffing slightly. “I’ve been down here for weeks.” “It took me that long to track you down.” The figure was female, and possessed a heavy accent. “This place is in the middle of nowhere.” Ruby smiled, but the expression fell away as she froze, then sniffed the air. “What is it?” “Looks like your timing is impeccable as always.” She turned to Cindy. “Hey you, uh, Sammy, was it? What’s going on up there?” The other woman flinched as Cindy’s presence was made known, but Ruby waved her down. “Nah, it’s alright, she’s cool. Her boyfriend’s that vampire over there. Figured we could take her with us.” “It’s Cindy,” she stepped forward. “And I wouldn’t be able to explain that chaos if I tried.” Looking over her, eyes narrowed, the other woman seemed to appraise her. She was a vampire, probably, what with the mist and all, and a powerful one at that. There was that air about her, of something powerful. Now Cindy finally understood what Marcell had been trying to describe to her in that car ride that seemed a world away now. “You’re a witch, aren’t you?” she asked, and Cindy nodded, deciding not to question how she knew. “I suppose you may come with us. For now.” “I’m not leaving without him,” Cindy gestured to Marcell’s cage. “Don’t be stupid,” Ruby growled. “He’ll bite your head off the instant he’s out of that cage.” “I won’t just leave him here,” Cindy put her foot down. “You don’t know what he means to me.” The other vampire scoffed. “Non, you don’t know what he means to me.” Cindy raised an eyebrow. “I know exactly who he is,” the vampire smiled. “That is Lucius Marcell, correct? I would never just leave him here. I owe him my life, after all.” Freezing, Cindy’s head wouldn’t allow her to think it. But the woman responded anyway. “He is the one who turned me.” Sensing the silent pause that was about to ensue, Ruby quickly interrupted. “This chaos isn’t going to last forever, people.” “You’re right,” the vampire nodded. “Cindy, please come with us. I promise you we will return for him.” Cindy sighed, looked over at Marcell’s cage, where he was huddled in a ball. “At least let me say goodbye.” “We have many people to free,” the vampire consented, before turning back to Ruby’s cage and simply wrenching the bars apart. Meanwhile, Cindy wrapped her hands around the bars of Marcell’s cage. He was facing away from her, whimpering quietly to himself. She’d never seen him... weak like this, and Cindy realized in that moment that she’d been using him to hide her own weakness. Well, now it was her turn to be strong. “I’m coming back for you. I promise.” “Cindy...” he mumbled, almost in his sleep. “I love you.” “I love you too.” With a sigh, Cindy turned back to the vampire. “Alright,” she said. “I’m ready. Thank you for having me.” She nodded, and Ruby put a hand on Cindy’s shoulder. Together, the three women headed off into the early dawn.

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