((OOC - a couple things before we get started: (1) This is in no way connected to our current mission, plot, or story. For the new folks, the [BELOW] tag is something we've been trying out to give players the chance to write off-duty/non-mission-related posts in order to flesh out their character, build descriptions of the ship, etc. (2) This JP is one that Justin and I have been working on for about 2 months now as a special Halloween treat for you all. We hope you enjoy it! (3) It uses the old format, but as we haven't formally adopted the new one until Friday, I pray your indulgence. Now, please enjoy PART ONE!!))
((USS Eagle, Deck 3 - outside room 332, Quentin Collins’ room [stardate 239610.31 - Quentin's birthday]))
::Kayla paced in front of Quentin’s door in what she felt was a very impractical dress. She couldn’t figure out why she was so nervous. She’d been preparing this surprise for her friend for weeks now, and was SURE everything was perfect. She knew the details were just right - that had to be priority one. Quentin would know if anything was out of place. Of course he would be too considerate to say if anything was wrong, but she knew, given how much of a classic horror buff he was, that if anything was off … well, she’d done a ridiculous amount of research in preparing this surprise, so everything was as good as it could possibly be.::
::She came to a stop, still facing down the corridor toward her own quarters. Charlie had Katya over tonight for a sleep-over, so by now they’d probably be giggling about … something. It wasn’t too late for Kayla back out. She could just contact Quen and say she was tired. Or that she wanted to keep an eye on the girls. Or … something. oO Coward. Oo Turning, she faced the door. With a shaking hand, she pressed the intercom button. The answer came almost immediately.::
Collins: Come in!
::Entering the room, Kayla saw Collins dressed in a 3-piece suit from late 19th Century western Europe. The stark black contrasted nicely with the starched, high-collared shirt he wore under his vest.::
::Quentin Collins was all about an occasion to dress, but he usually liked to know the reason that way he could keep an eye on the social horizon as it were. The whole thing reminded him of one of Mother’s themed costumed affairs, but there was no way Kay could know about those horrors. As she entered, he was fussing with his sleeve cuffs.::
Collins: Hey, are you sure about these costumes? I mean, you look fine, but I feel like I’m being strangled by a very weak person right now.
Drex: ::chuckling:: Yes, they’re a must. I don’t know what YOU’RE complaining about. You’re not wearing a bodice.
Collins: ::He opened his mouth to say something, but closed it into a tight smile.:: Touche. Fair enough. So what’s this all about?
::A mischievous smile pulled at the corners of Kayla’s painted lips. For some reason it made Quentin the fun kind of nervous.::
Drex: You’ll see. I’m not ruining your birthday surprise by telling you what it is before you’ve even opened it!
::The look on his face was priceless. She almost laughed out loud, but was enjoying the feeling of having the upper hand, so she fought the urge.::
Drex: What? Did you think I didn’t know? What kind of department head do you take me for, Mister Collins?
::To say his birthday was a sore subject with him would have been the understatement of the century and it would take twice as long to get into it fully with her. But now he was free and in open waters, as it were. What was to stop him from finally taking it back. He pulled down his suddenly very comfortable topcoat. And snapped up to look at his friend.::
Collins: Ok, Chief. Lead the way.
((Deck 6 - Holodeck 1))
::The pair had drawn some raised eyebrows on their trek down to the holodeck, but no one had actually asked about their odd choices of off-duty attire. Now they stood in the familiar setting of yellow grid on black.::
Collins: You know I am. Kay, what IS this?
Drex: ::ignoring her friend’s question:: Computer, load program “Drexula” and hold visuals at time index 0.01.
::The change was nearly instantaneous. The grid vanished from the walls, floor, and ceiling, changing to a scene completely different. That much typical in the holodeck. Kayla’s special touches to this program however, was a strange hum. It was everywhere yet nowhere but in their ears.::
::It felt like a light crackling for a second between Quentin’s ears. He worked his jaw a second and felt instant relief. It was like diving a bit too quickly, but the steady hum still buzzed through his mind pleasantly.::
Collins: What’s that hum?
Drex: It’s binaural tones. Back in the early 21st Century, there was something of a craze with them. The science behind them is essentially that they can alter the listener's brainwaves. I wanted this particular simulation to be more … immersive than others. Don’t worry too much though, you shouldn’t even notice the sounds after about two or three minutes.
::Quentin just stared, now starting to get the less fun kind of nervous. But the Chief seemed to have everything well in hand. Kayla was pleased that he seemed to appreciate the extra effort this took. Realistically, the setting and plot were simple enough. Syncing the binaural stimulus was the real tricky part.::
::Now that the binaural shock had passed, it was time to begin. They looked around at their surroundings. They were in a small village or hamlet nestled in a rather austere but lovely range of sharp mountains. Kayla knew them to be the Carpathians, but now was not the time to play the tour guide. A man whose face was so weathered it masked his age with great alacrity walked briskly up to them. His billowing pant legs, tucked into the tops of his tall boots, made a swishing sound with each step. As he drew closer, he stretched out a leathery hand in stiff but genial greeting.::
Popescu: Welcome! You must be the visitors I was told of. I am Popescu Alexandru.
Drex: ::whispering to Collins:: Surname first. You should say hi first. Patriarchy, and all that.
::Quentin shuffled awkwardly up to the man, still trying to drink in all the details of their new setting. It was painfully familiar, but he couldn’t quite place it yet. He would get there eventually, but first he had to get through this interaction first.::
Collins: Oh, aye. The name is Collins from up London way and this is my...secretary Miss Drex. Assigned by the firm, you know how it is. But she does good work! Well, her knees are going but STILL!
::He winked over in Kayla’s direction, relishing the sudden pointed scowl she wore. She may have put all this amazing time and effort into this whole charade, but that wasn’t going to stop him having a BIT of fun with her.::
Popescu: Good, good! Yes, I run the inn right up the road, I received word three days ago there would be two visitors. Tell me, what brings you to our quiet village?
::Kayla stepped up to deliver her line, all but shoving Quentin out of the way to do so.::
Drex: We have been invited by the local count has invited us to the castle for the weekend.
::Alexandru’s face turned ash gray so fast, Kayla thought for a second it could have been a glitch in the program. When he crossed himself though, she knew everything was still working properly.::
::Quentin [...]ed an eyebrow at the sudden display of ancient superstition. Excitement started to rise in his throat. He had a sneaking suspicion as to where they were now. He felt stupid he didn’t get it sooner.::
Propescu: M-may I ask … forgive me, but … why would you go to the castle?
Drex: It’s old, we’re curious, and vampires are just a superstition? What more reason do we need?
::Propescu Alexandru crossed himself again at the word “vampire,” and muttered something under his breath the program didn’t bother interpreting. Kay shot him a look again, telegraphing his cue. He beamed and stepped back onto “center stage” through the packed mud of the old way street. Clearing his throat to speak, he tried to do his best impression of his dad. All business.::
Collins: We have been invited by the Count as potential investors in a looming property deal, good sir. We haven’t the time to faff about with ancient superstitions. Please, sir, my associate and I are weary, if you won’t cart us to the Castle, surely you can provide us rooms for the night. We have coin to pay.
::He shrugged a bit toward Kayla, assuming if she took the time to detail all this, surely she gave them some kind of walking around money.::
Propescu: I regret that I have no rooms for to offer you on this evening.
Drex: ::noticing his English grew worse with his agitation:: I thought … didn’t you just say you’d been told before that guests would be coming, and that you had made preparations?
Propescu: ::looking mildly ascanse at being called out by a woman:: That was a mistake of my own. It has just returned to my mind that those rooms were taken by two other visitors - doubtless the ones about which I was alerted. My deepest apologies.
::Kayla looked at Quentin with a not entirely affected look of annoyance, but shrugged. She’d built in several layers of adaptive programming in this programming. The characters would respond not only to direct stimuli, but to stimuli generated by interactions resulting from the responses of less visible interactions. Right now, it seemed that this innkeeper, with all his words of welcome, was longer interested in playing host - however temporary - to those that had been summoned by the count.::
Drex: Well then, is there a carriage or cart we can hire to take us to the castle early?
Propescu: That may be difficult to arrange, but I will talk to some associates of mine to see what can be done for you. Please take in the sights of our village while you wait.
::Quentin huffed, leaning a bit more into the character he was playing with in the early moments of their holo-adventure. The Chief looked like she was having fun too, but he couldn’t help but notice a ripple of annoyance through her face. Was the program not giving up narrative like it should be? That innkeeper certainly turned about weirdly after she mentioned The Count. But that was all part of the fun for Quentin. He knew for sure (mostly maybe) where they were now. Now the real fun of testing the boundaries of the narrative could start.::
Collins: Good DAY, sir.
::He turned away from the now trembling man and finally allowed himself to absorb the rest of the details of their surroundings::
::The scenery was indeed extremely picturesque. The thatched-roof buildings that lined the streets bore brightly-colored shingle signs advertising a variety of services. A butcher, cobbler, hooper, blacksmith, and several others were among those that lined the main, cobblestone road. Off this way, there were smaller buildings, doubtless the homes of the tradesmen and women that ran these businesses. Though modest, the hamlet appeared to be comfortably prosperous. Nestled between two large mountains, Kayla supposed they were sheltered from the worst of inclement weather conditions. The flora of the immediate region boasted delicate but hardy greenery, mostly short and scrubby. Looking further, around the cluster of buildings, Kayla noted that there were no old growth trees near the town, even though the lower rises of the surrounding mountains were carpeted by trees so ancient they bore heavy mantles of lichen and thick mosses. It was almost as though the people of this township were beating back the very landscape, and were content insofar that this waged war against nature was successful. It gave Kayla a momentary chill, but having no reason or inclination to dwell on such speculation, she brushed it aside as a thought bright on by the strange start to their adventure.::
Drex: Well, it looks like we have a little time before we leave here. What are you in the mood for? Shopping? Sightseeing?
::He turned an instant about face toward his friend with a huge smile on his face. He held out his hands to her.::
Collins: I just have one question. And I really need you to be honest with me.
Drex: Always. What’s your question?
Collins: Is this Dracula? Did you make me a whole Dracula thing?
::Kayla looked at Quentin somewhat coyly.::
Drex: I’m not saying it’s not, but at the same time … not exactly? It’s based on the book, but I’ve set this some time before Jonathan Harker’s visit. In other words, we’re us - visiting the count per his invitation. ::suddenly nervous that she’d spoiled the present:: Does that sound ok?
::Quentin instinctively clasped her hands and started to, for lack of a better term, freak the eff out, bouncing on the balls of his feet still with his friend’s hands comfortably clasped in his own. His whole history with gifts was horribly spotty, but this? This was…::
Collins: This is everything, Kayla truly. Thank you thank you thank you. Also I’m sorry if I got mud on your dress.
Drex: ::laughing:: No, the dress is fine. I’m so glad you like the program, but it’s only just started! Wait till you see … wait, no. You’ll see.
::He unlatched her hands and started to whirl around the village. The detailing of the whole thing was almost intoxicating. Once Quentin found his bearings he started to try and take in the finer details. He spied a few of the more homely structures occupied, faint fires burning behind the curtains. But as he started to look at them, and the peeking occupants found therein, they snapped the curtains back shut as if trying to ward them away.
Quentin thought it was a nice touch.::
Collins: I’m guessing it isn’t just Propescu that’s scared…
::Almost as if on cue, a wicked crack of lightning split the darkness of the sky, casting a pallid shadow over the village momentarily. Quentin’s skin goose-pimpled instantly and another grin split his lips.::
::The jangle of tack and the clopping of horses’ hooves announced to Kayla and Quentin that their ride had arrived. Turning, Kayla caught her first glimpse of the driver. He wore a billowing rough (but immaculately white) linen shirt, laced up the front instead of buttons for closures. On his legs he wore deerskin trousers tucked into his tall boots, and atop his head sat a very wide-brimmed hat. All-in-all, she assessed him to be an experienced and capable coachman.::
::When the cart stopped only about a dozen feet from where the pair of scientists stood, the pair of horses motionless - eyeing the strangers, the coachman leapt nimbly from his seat, somehow missing the several mud puddles in the road. He had covered the distance in a trice, greeting them and offering his assistance.::
Coachman: Welcome. My old friend Propescu tell me you are in need of transport to the castle. We must go quickly or not at all. I will not journey after nightfall.
Drex: Why’s that?
Coachman: There are wolves in the area … and worse.
::A beat passed while he considered the “worse,” but he did not elaborate. Instead, he shook himself and asked after any luggage they had and needed his help with. As neither Kayla nor Quentin had any, they were helped aboard the carriage, and the coachman whipped the horses into a brisk trot. In what felt like seconds, the tiny town was little more than a barely-distinguishable smudge in the otherwise unbroken landscape - impossible to spot unless you knew where to look.::
Drex: ::to the coachman:: How far is it to the castle?
Coachman: Approximately 4 hours’ at a gentle pace for the horses. Today we go a bit faster. I do not wish to be travelling late, though tonight I think it may be safer than other nights.
Drex: Why’s that?
::It took the driver a full minute to respond to this. Kayla wasn’t sure if he was trying to formulate a response, overcoming the language barrier, or hiding something. When he finally spoke, it did nothing to assuage these fears.::
Coachman: The dangers will be preoccupied.
::Quentin almost blanched at the comment. At first he was completely delighted by the off putting old-world detailing of the simulation. The mysticism, the ritual of it. It was some of the same things that drew him to his hometown’s lore.
But then the odder instances started to bug him. And in the sort of anxiety inducing way, not into the “solve this puzzle” sort of way. In the time it took them to hitch up to this coach and travel a ways, Quentin Collins decided he was going to start taking this seriously. Not that he wasn’t before mind you, since this was a dear and thoughtful gift from an even dearer and even more thoughtful friend.
But even she seemed like something was off. And when the two of them worked a problem, the cosmos itself would reveal its secrets. He shifted across to Kayla’s seat, finally able to see the Coachman a bit. Raising his voice above the thundering hooves of the horses, he started prodding.::
Collins: What could possibly preoccupy danger?
Coachman: I’m afraid I do not understand.
Collins: You said they would be preoccupied, what could occupy dangers? Something even more dangerous perhaps?
::a Sudden icy burst of wind shot through the carriage windows, catching Quentin right through the arms, where his topcoat sleeve met his vest. It chilled him to the bone, so much so he automatically tightened his leather gloves at the wrist. An ancient physical tic from back in Maine.
Gazing out of the window at the rushing, seemingly endless woods whizzing past them along the path. He blinked against the biting wind. The dark seemed to...blink back. Dozens of blazing red eyes bared themselves through the woods. He blinked again and they remained. He felt his throat start to dry.::
Collins: Kay...did you program this?
Drex: Sort of?
::She wasn’t trying to be cryptic. It was the truth. She’d only programmed the parameters and constraints of the characters and environment of the simulation. After that, she let the AI drive the particulars. Not wanting to betray her own unease to Quentin, she shrugged in what she hoped was a nonchalant way.::
Drex: I’m sure it’ll be fine. The safety protocols are in place.
::Still, the binaural tones (now completely forgotten consciously and no longer recognized by either of them) continued entwining their way into the minds of both Kayla and Quentin. The chill blast through the carriage window was accompanied by a shift in tone. The shift in tone was accompanied by a sensation deep in the most primitive corners of Kayla’s mind. There was a predator nearby, and her very survival depended on her staying alert.::
((timeskip - 2 hours later))
::The carriage came to a fairly abrupt halt in front of the massive, iron-banded, oaken-timber double doors as though the horses were loathe to stop moving. Even at a halt, they stamped their hooves and champed their bits, anxious to be moving away. The coachman leapt from his perch almost before the carriage had stopped moving, and was now holding the door open. It was less a gesture of civility than it was an unspoken plea for a quick exit. The two obliged, though something in them said it was the opposite direction they ought to be moving - back toward the town.::
Coachman: ::driving away as soon as he was back in the seat:: Fare well. I will say a prayer for you both.
::Before they could answer, the coach had rattled away at a gallop, and was now out of the reach of their voices.::
Drex: Well that was ominous.
::Quentin gave a snorting guffaw at Kayla’s stating of the obvious. He pulled his topcoat tighter around them as more wind howled through the trees and cobblestones of door stop they now stood upon. The stones looked impossibly old, matching the immaculately shone wood of the doors, which somehow looked older still. Quentin’s mind flashed quickly to The Old House, tucked away in the rising vines and brambles of the Collins Estate. That house scared him then and this one scared him now.
Gooseflesh pimpled on the back of his neck. As if someone...or something was watching them.::
Collins: Oh REALLY? Whatever gave you that idea? Now what?
Drex: ::shrugging:: Shall we knock?
::It was of course, rhetorical. Kayla steeled her resolve fighting down the irrational urge to run after the carriage, and knocked three times loudly on the front door. They waited for an answer for a full minute before knocking again. Still no answer. Quentin tried then, pounding on the door as the fear of what it would mean to be locked out in the open at night settled into Kayla’s heart, chilling her to the bone.::
::As the sun sank below the crest of the western mountain ridge, the pair heard a heavy scraping sound from within - as though a great bolt were being drawn. Following that was the groaning creak of the massive hinges were brought into service. The ground around them was suddenly flooded with quavering yellow light from a candelabra held in the left hand of the tall man who had opened the door. The light was such a welcome sight to Kayla that she rushed forward toward it as though she were a moth.::
???: Good evening. I apologize for the delay. My … staff is otherwise detained. I am your host. Please do enter my home.
::Quentin carefully followed Kayla and their new host into the cavernous hall. It looked to be the height of opulence, if the whole hall wasn’t covered in thick, milky cobwebs. Quentin almost had to step around them as to not be tangled in them. Their host seemed to float through them with ease though, still holding aloft the ornate golden candelabra. As the light bathed them all, he got a closer look at the man’s clothing. Which was a perfectly put together old style tuxedo, adorned with a lavish, possibly silken cape clasped with a heavy jeweled clasp.
But there was something about his eyes. Though his demeanor seemed warm and inviting, his eyes reflected...none of that. Instead they looked empty, vacuous...hungry almost. Quentin tried to shake away the feeling, clearing his throat and finally speaking.::
Collins: T-Thank you for your hospitality…
???: It is my pleasure, I assure you. You have no doubt ascertained that I am the lord of this house. I am Dracula. ::not hesitating:: Please, my friends, leave any baggage you may have here, and it will be attended to. You must be hungry after your journey?
::In response to this suggestion, Kayla’s stomach made a sound somewhere between a cranky weasel and an annoyed stock investor. She looked briefly to Collins, then to their host.::
Drex: I am actually.
Dracula: Then let us not waste another moment. You will I pray, forgive me for not dining with you, but I have supped already, having business to attend to this evening.
::The elegant man led them to a long room off the main foyer (if in fact it could be called that - the proportions put some cathedrals to shame), where a banquet table lay waiting for them. Two places were lavishly set with covered dishes. These, their host lifted by his own hand, revealing a sumptuous feast of roasted meats, root vegetables, and a steaming soup that looked deeper and richer than anything Kayla had ever eaten. Her stomach gave another excited “gruggle” at the sight of it all.::
Dracula: ::beckoning with a long-fingered hand for them to take the prepared seats:: Please come and eat to your hearts’ content. I will return when you have finished and show you to your rooms.
::And with that, the Count swept from the room, leaving Kayla and Quentin to the meal before them. She was famished, but Kayla hesitated, looking at her friend. Her conscious mind knew she was in the holodeck - that none of this was real, but the primitive parts of her brain were screaming at her. Some yet unforeseen danger or threat lurked within these walls. It couldn’t be the food though, right?::
Drex: What do you think? Shall we eat?
::Quentin gave a hearty exhale of breath and picked up a yeasty and somehow still warm roll from the sumptuous spread.::
Collins: I suppose we have to, right?
::Even though his mind told him that the only thing he was holding was a lovingly created patch of photons, the warmth and smell wafting off of it told another, more vivid story. It was almost intoxicating. He was about to give up the ghost and take a bite when he saw something else even more intoxicating. In an entirely different way.
In the darkness of a room housed in the balcony above he saw three sets of gleaming, dreamy eyes. One a deep blue. The other a warm hazel. The last a glittering emerald. He started to open his mouth to speak, but he was...moving somehow. Floating almost, just above the dusty stonework of the flooring. As he got closer (though through no real will of his own), more and more smells replaced the musty odor of the main hall. Lilac, jazmine, and rosemary. He didn’t even notice when he crossed the threshold into the darkened room.
He started to turn, seeing Kayla still standing a level below. He opened his mouth to speak but the door slammed shut before he could. Six strong hands then grabbed him roughly, pulling him into the void.::
::Kayla panicked. Quentin had just been … abducted? Captured? At any rate, she didn’t like to think what those three had ultimately in mind for her friend. She scanned the table in a fevered attempt to find something that could be used as a weapon.
::Grabbing a long, thin-bladed carving knife, she sprang from the table and sprinted in the direction her friend had been dragged.::
::Her voice broke as she called out over and over. There was no sound for what seemed to her an eternity, but which was in reality, merely five seconds. At the far end of the dimly-lit hallway, Kayla heard the soft click of an old door latch catching. Without thinking, she turned and ran, gathering up her skirts as she went so she wouldn’t trip.
::When she reached the door, she grabbed at the handle. It was either stuck or locked. She banged on the heavy door with the butt of the knife, screaming for the door to be opened. She stopped abruptly though, when is swung smoothly on its hinge.
::What was even more alarming was the room she now saw. It was completely empty. She took one tentative step into the dark and drafty room. The gauzy curtains swayed gently in the draft from the partially opened window. This was the only movement in the room. Other than the dark, undulating fabric, the room seemed to resent her mobility.
::Thoughts of her friends peril tried to push their way into her mind, but Kayla was powerless to look away from the curtains … the Count. Had he been standing by the window the whole time? She didn’t remember seeing him when she first opened the door to the room.::
Dracula: I trust you … dined well?
Drex: ::dreamily:: Quite well. Thank you.
::The count moved smoothly - so smoothly in fact, it could have been called a glide - toward the young blonde woman.::
Dracula: That is good. It would not do to have you … malnourished.
Drex: ::Her head swimming:: You’re too kind.
::A yell from somewhere else in the castle snapped Kayla back to herself as effectively as a bucket of ice water. Before her still stood the striking form of her host, but now she was aware of the immediacy of the danger. She struck out with the knife still in her hand, but hit nothing but air. Smoke? Where the Count had been an instant before was now an already-dissipating cloud of black smoke. Kayla didn’t need to think twice. She turned on her heel and ran toward the sound of Collins’ voice.::
::Quentin wasn’t sure how much time had passed. An hour? A day? A week? There was only the women and the sickly sweet taste of their lips upon his. Though he was dragged into the darkness, soon the antechamber was bathed in an amber-gris glow. A glow that had eliminated from the lit braziers that lined the stone walls. The smell of fresh earth also cut through the intoxicating scents of the women.
But it didn’t jibe the visuals of the chamber, which suggested that they were at least a few stories up. At least that’s what the gleaming moonbeams and pockmarked starry sky provided in evidence. As soon as he started to think about it, however, more lips were on his again, tossing his mind back down the dark well of passion. One that he assumed had been paved over long ago. The women seemed to speak with one voice, vibrating through his mind like a psychic drawl.::
The Brides: Do you desire, Quentin Collins?
::He was momentarily stunned. He hadn’t spoken to them. Hell, he barely had a chance to speak. But his voice was parched with the earthy smell. Lips chapped with...repeated contact.::
Collins: I...w-what’s happening?
::He was turned again, peering directly into the eyes of the amber haired woman, who seemed to be their...leader? Or at least the center of the triumvirate.::
The Brides: Do you ache, Quentin Collins?
::Sudden cold bit through his now lessened layers. Somehow his topcoat and cravat had been shed and now his sleeves hung open, as well as his vest. He tried to button it back but it appeared that the buttons had been torn away. How? And Why?::
Collins: I can’t….why can’t I feel my hands?
::He looked down, his fingertips were starting to turn blue and as sort of streaky liquid dripped from one...drip drip dropping...onto the stone floor. Which was at least twelve feet above him. He was free-floating, hands still exploring his body lewdly and in a way that made him increasingly uncomfortable.::
The Brides: We can make you feel, Quentin Collins. Feel everything and nothing. Far more than the seer you pine for.
Collins: What are you-
::He finally blinked hard and saw the liquid for what it actually was. Blood. HIS blood. Dripping from various punctures from around his arm...and neck...and chest. He looked up again and finally saw the women for what they really were. Monsters, with fangs bared, swimming amid gauzey, dusty nightclothes.
Someone was screaming and Quentin thought it might have been him, but he couldn’t be sure. His head swam with the bloodloss and his sudden, hard drop to the stones below. The now hissing women whirled in mid-air about to bare down on him. Had it not been for the sudden entrance of the equally harried Kayla Drex, they would have surely swept him up again. She turned a confused eye to the floating women and back to him.::
Drex: WHAT THE F-
Collins: I DON’T KNOW!
::He quickly snatched one of the braziers off the wall and started to wield it drunkenly at the still advancing women.::
Collins: I t-think I’ve had enough fun for one night, haven’t you?
Drex: ::holding the carving knife out toward the three “women”:: Absolutely. Let’s get the heck out of here.
::They backed out of the room. It didn’t appear as though the women had followed - at least not as far as Kayla could see. There was no one chasing them through the halls of Castle Dracula, but each and every door they passed (and there were many in the ancient house) blew open as if some unseen pursuer was in an adjoining hall, and repeatedly wrenched door after door open, hoping to be just one step ahead.::
::Kayla and Quentin at last, in a flop sweat and both panting hard, gained the open air of the main foyer. This place, with its grand sweeping staircase had seemed so grand and rich. Now it felt cold, abandoned, dangerous - a trap now seen. Carefully but swift as hares, the duo raced down the stairs. Kayla felt certain more than once she was going to tread on her damnable period-accurate skirts and break her neck falling down the hewn stone staircase. Thankfully, she and Quentin reached the floor level, and flew to the foreboding oak doors.::
Drex: ::panting:: Help me open the door. It’s too heavy for just one of us to open.
::Collins positioned himself in a way that allowed Kayla to grab hold of the wrought iron handle while he pulled against the frame. He gave a quick three-count, and they pulled. For an instant that felt like a lifetime, the door did not budge. Kayla’s heart sank, but then soared when the oaken barrier yielded to their efforts. They widened the opening just large enough for them to slip through, and ran with all their might.::
::She never could say afterwards what compelled her to look back as they ran, but what she saw would haunt her dreams for some time to come. The Count, robed in a black travelling cloak came after them. In her haste, she couldn’t be certain, but at the moment she would have sworn he was … FLYING. His bat-like shape moved smoothly and swiftly toward them, narrowing the distance between him and the two humans.::
::Kayla’s foot was suddenly soaked, and she felt her ankle roll as the ridiculously impractical shoes she wore slipped on the river rock. She cried out in pain, but the primary thought in her mind was that her foot was wet.::
Drex: Quen! We’re in a stream!
Collins: ::pulling up short:: What? Yeah, I guess so. Let’s go!
Drex: I can’t run, Quen, my ankle. We have to get to the other side of the stream.
Collins: Why the stream?
::Then the penny dropped. In his terror, he had forgotten everything he’d known about vampire lore. They had to stop and count small items thrown in their path. They had no reflections. THEY COULDN’T CROSS RUNNING WATER!::
Collins: Kay, you’re a genius!
Drex: Stow that, sailor; help me get across!
::He jerked back to his senses and draped one of Kayla’s arms over his shoulders. He helped (half-carried) her to the far side of the stream, where they collapsed, feeling safe for the first time in what felt like years. On the far side of the water, they saw the shape of Dracula darting upstream and down, looking for a way to cross … but he was trapped. They truly were safe - at least for a while.::
Collins: You bloody genius, Kay.
Drex: … Oh for crying out LOUD!
Collins: ::confused:: What? What’d I say?
Drex: I’m no genius! I’m a freaking MORON!
Collins: What are you talking about?
Drex: I just remembered something else.
::Collins just looked at her, waiting for the revelation.::
Drex: Computer, end program.
::The countryside vanished, to be replaced by the yellow grid on sterile black.::
Drex: We were in the holodeck the whole time. ::blushing:: Maybe I overdid it a bit with the binaural waves. I was completely sure it was all real.
Collins: … me too
Drex: I won’t tell anybody if you don’t?
Drex: Happy birthday, Quen. Now can you help me get to sickbay? I think I sprained my ankle in these ridiculous boots.
((OOC - Thanks for reading! We really hope you enjoyed it. Happy Halloween, everyone!))
Lt Kayla Drex
CSO, USS Eagle
~ and ~
LT jg. QUENTIN COLLINS III
U.S.S. EAGLE NCC-74659