Chapter 1: The Cell
Andre woke on the too small cot. His blurred vision cleared as he peered at the slate gray stone walls that rose high above him. The ultraviolet light that danced at odd intervals and intermittent variances struck the air inches above his prone body. He heard the breathing of others, and he could smell the scents of bear, cat, wolf, fox and an avian of some kind. Under all those odors was the scent of two humans—women. How long have I been here? He thought.
The dark dampness of the cell was comforting. Andre knew he was in trouble, the extent of which was yet to be determined. A sudden pang of hunger made him realize he must have been out for at least three days. All vampires could go for a maximum of three days before the need to feed caused them pain. And he remembered feeding just before his memory went blank.
Hearing a crackle from somewhere overhead, a voice boomed, ricocheting off the walls. “Good evening Mr. Bloodworth. How are you feeling?”
Unsure of how to respond since he was disoriented, he stared stoically into the cavernous space above him. Without warning the ultraviolet light flooded the cot and landed on his bare arms and chest. He felt the sting of it, but being a few centuries old, he didn’t respond to the burning rays like a newbie.
“I don’t know what it is you expect me to do. I do appreciate the light, it will make seeing around this place a little easier,” Andre responded sarcastically, keeping his voice low.
He was hungry and his need to feed made his head pound. If he didn’t get sustenance soon, he wouldn’t be able to stand for the pain he would soon be subjected to, and the ultraviolet light would only make it worse. Andre was old enough that he could fight it off if he were at full strength but, in his weakened condition, he didn’t stand a chance.
He rose gingerly from the cot and took the opportunity to examine his cell. Besides the flimsy bed, there was a small wooden table and chair secured to the floor and cinder block wall. A small mirror, obscured with dirt or some other natural material hung over a dingy ceramic sink. Turning he saw prison bars and as he approached he could feel the electrical current coursing through them. Making sure to stay five feet from the bars, he examined the area outside his cell. There were other cells, and from what he could see, there was an occupant in each one.
He heard the tapping of shoes coming from somewhere down the corridor to his right. While he waited for the owner of those shoes to appear, he took the time to examine the occupant of the cell across from him. He could tell she was human. As she lay on her back, her dark chocolate hair fanned out around her head on the pillow and looked ethereal on a woman of her slim nature. He could see her body outlined in the loose-fitting scrubs they had dressed her in.
The tapping stopped just outside his direct line of vision so that he had to turn his head to view the man. He was dressed in a charcoal gray three-piece suit made of Doupioni silk. His white silk shirt starched stiff was at least one size too small judging by slight ruddy color decorating his face. He wore standard business dress shoes with a high shine. It was clear enough to see a reflection.
This man is obviously prior military. Andre thought.
His face though young looking had lines of age on it. Andre placed this man at about forty-five. His deep-set blue eyes matched the charcoal gray of his suit but not the inky black of his hair. He was slender in the shoulders, and he appeared to be one-dimensional. His suit hid any indication of his real size or body shape. The only evidence that the man had any definition was his solid military style build. His hawkish nose turned up sharply at the tip and made him look like something out of a fairy tale about gnomes or ogres. Andre buried the urge to laugh at the image of Rumpelstiltskin on steroids, which was now stuck in his head.
“We asked how you were doing, you didn’t respond in a manner we liked. Care to amend your response?” Gnome Nose asked in a gruff though quiet voice.
Andre knew this wasn’t the same man whose voice had boomed over the speakers in his cell, so he continued to stare at him. He had learned over the centuries that to respond with heated anger to situations you could not change did no good. It was better to wait and see what his new puppet masters would expect from him. Suddenly, Andre felt a muscle deep, searing pain and found himself staring up at Gnome Nose from the floor.
“That was a 100,000-volt charge. It’s enough to kill a human being on contact. On a vampire, it will cause severe pain and paralysis for about three minutes. Now, over the course of several minutes, if the charge isn’t turned off, it will fry your insides like a microwaved hot dog. So, I’m going to ask you again, do you care to amend your lack of proper response to the question?”
“I didn’t answer the way you wanted because I didn’t know how I was doing. I’m awake, and that gives me pause. I don’t know if I’m doing well this fine evening. I might be able to answer that question when I have some information to base it on,” Andre replied quietly, slowly pushing himself up from the floor.
“Well, I suppose that would be a true statement. If I suddenly woke to find myself displayed like a sideshow attraction and contained in a cell, I might feel the same way. On the table, you’ll find the basic rules of etiquette for our little institution. You might be here for a while, so you’ll want to go over them. We might even give you a little pop quiz later, that is if you don’t go pop first,” Gnome Nose injected with a weak attempt at comedy.
“Now, I will give you a couple of the standards that you won’t find in the rulebook. That jolt you felt comes from a chip we implanted in your brain and the subsequent chips embedded in nerve centers throughout your body. The only places we didn’t plant one was in your heart, for obvious reasons and your—cock. We want you to perform, but not yet.” He paused seeming to give Andre an opportunity to absorb what he said.
“You will be fed twice a day if you’re a good little vampire and don’t piss us off. At least one of those times will be from a fresh supply. If you attack any of the staff during your feeding, we’ll flip the switch, and you’ll be toast. If you refuse to feed thinking that you will expire, think again. You haven’t been vampire long enough to not be able to control your feeding frenzy when fresh blood is available. You’re only two hundred years old, or so I’ve been told.”
Andre had gained a valuable piece of information. Interesting, someone turned me over to this prick. They could only use the family’s tracker, so it someone who knows me. Yet, they lied to him, told him I’m weaker or younger than I really am. He refocused his attention on Gnome Nose.
“The other occupants you see here, are just like you. They have some unique ability that our firm can utilize. They’re in the same boat, and they’ll eliminate you as their competition, just as you would remove them. Now that you have a better understanding of your situation, how are you this fine evening?”
“I’m doing better than I was a few minutes ago or even when I woke. Thank you for asking,” Andre responded politely.
“Good, now your first supply will be delivered via the tube you see to the left of the bed. Do you have any questions?”
“Yes, the woman over there is human. Why is she here?” he asked, genuinely curious.
“She is our experimental factor if you will. You will get to know her intimately soon enough. Anything else?”
“What should I call you? I don’t think it would be polite to address you as ‘hey you.’”
“For now, you may call me Mr. Hamelburg.”
“Thank you. Have a good evening Mr. Hamelburg,” Andre said with a courtly bow and waited for Gnome Nose to walk away before going to get the bag of blood he heard drop into the tube.