måndag 28 maj 2007

Talulah Jezebel: Alternate Endings

Det som följer är en what If-berättelse. Den passar inte in Kindred Societys övriga story.

Lights. Bright lights. Fluorescent strip lights was mounted to the ceiling above Talulah Jezebel. She was lying down, on top of something which was very soft. Her chest hurt. She immediately sat up to get a better look at her surroundings. A bed, she was on an unfamiliar bed, some blood, probably her own, had stained the white sheets. There wasn't much of it though. It was a rather large bed, in a rather large room. "So you are awake already? How very...interesting. My name is Stiel. Willhelm Stiel, senior chairman of Bauwalt Developments." The hairs on her neck stood up at the sound of that voice. One of the walls, which she had been sure moments ago had been milky white had disappeared. Instead a couch with a man sitting in it was visible. He was the origin of the voice she had heard. He smiled at her. She did not like his smile. Talulah only looked at him with empty, black eyes. He was tall; she could see that even though he was sitting down. His hair was strawberry blonde, as his beard and her was wearing a suit that she had the distinct feeling had cost a quite a lot of money. Splashed across his face were freckles. He had no eyebrows; but instead he was sporting that small and vicious smile. "But that is not why I am here to talk to you about. I want you to tell me all you know about clan Gangrel in Gothenburg." She gave him a sour look and tried to get a clearer view of what his intentions might be with her soul sight when suddenly there was a horribly bright flash from behind him, which seared her retina painfully. Her hand flew to her eyes by instinct and a small yelp could be heard as an expression of her pain. "Oh, I know all about that. The eye of your clan back in Gothenburg. None of that here. Do you understand?" Another bright flash went of. She hid her face in her hands again. "You are Talulah Jezebel Fritz. I want you to tell me everything." Slowly she let all the colors in the world fade away, let it become mundane, then she returned his gaze. "No." She managed to whisper. "It is not really a matter of choice. You will tell me, and you will tell me soon. We have your friend too. Király." And then she remembered.

The weather was absolutely perfect this evening. But there was like a smell of death in the air already when they got ready to leave. Vanja had called, asking that Király meet her upon her return to Sweden. Basha hadn?t been too happy about Vanja choosing Király above herself, but there really wasn't anything she could do about it. Then Basha said that she wanted to come along, but Király turned her down. Instead he asked Talulah to come, to watch his back.

She was running quickly towards Stiel now, wanting to rend him to pieces, wanting to get out of the room. To find Király. What she found was a wall made out of glass, and that discovery came with the sound of it hitting across her face. She sagged to the floor. Maybe there was a small chuckle coming from her captor, she couldn?t really tell. Something hot was gushing down her face; she felt it and looked at her hand. Nosebleed. She looked up at him again. One of the flashes went off, but it did not hurt as bad now that the world was grey. Looking at him just made things worse. She was so close now, there was only glass between them and when she was sitting on the floor and he on his couch it was such a subservient position. He leaned forward, tiny malevolent pig eyes scrutinizing her. "They sure don?t make them as they used to. Be still." She couldn't move.

Talulah had trailed behind Király, just like he had told her. Close enough for her to see anything that might appear and close enough for him to hear her call out if she did. When they arrived to the end of the road where Király was supposed to meet Vanja there was a large space, covered in gravel. Probably there so that cars would have somewhere to turn around on when they realized they had gotten to the end of the road. In the middle of this area stood Vanja, unmoving. Something was hanging from her head. Instead of crying out to her, Király silently made his way down the slope and crossed the open area. A knot made out of the feeling that something was wrong suddenly started to form in the pit of Talulah's stomach. Something about Vanja just wasn't quite right. This was when Talulah had heard the cars. Engines speeding a long in the night. She heard the sound of their powerful engines. And suddenly an armada of black vans started to pour into the area. Király tried to get Vanja to move, but she did not budge. Instead he took a defending stance by her side. Talulah's hand frantically searched for the cell phone in the right hand pocket of her long leather coat. There it was, and she hit the panic-button which Taylor had explained to her would alert her coterie, the Alliance, that she was in danger, and where she was at the moment. Talulah felt then felt her claws pushing trough the flesh of her fingertips and hardening. These claws that could rend metal. She started to run.
As soon as a van had stopped, its side door was pushed open and people started to come out. They were large men, all of them, and their gear was as black as the cars. They were literally covered in protection gear. And they all went for Király with what to Jezebel was an unfamiliar type of gun. He was surrounded and so he did what Király would always do. He tore into them. This was the moment when Jezebel heard the familiar sound of a helicopter closing in above. The search light appeared above the tree-line and fixed itself on the fight billowing below. She tried to get a look at the helicopter itself, but the light had been to bright and burned her eyes. Then something hit her that stung right through her thick hide. She had been noticed. The man in swat-gear raised his weapon again, but he was dead before he could pull the trigger. She had to get to Király.
The death count was rising around Király. There were bodies everywhere where he had been. He certainly had taken a big chunk out of the arriving troops. Trouble was that there were still more vans coming, stopping by the side of the road and releasing even more people to the fight. Jezebel continued to slowly advance towards his position, he was slowing down and this gripped her with fear. He stopped, just for a millisecond, to gain his bearings in the bright light of the helicopters search light. He had no way of seeing her, enclosed in that cone of bright light. He stood alone and then someone she couldn't see pushed a stake right trough his heart. She thought she saw the shadow of a four armed giant of a man beyond the light. She was riding frenzy now, but not giving in too it however badly she wanted too. Slash left, someone gave a up a painful moan. Slash right, she was getting there, advancing. The helicopter was landing. Whoever had staked Király was clearly heading for it. Jezebel wasn't trying to engage in battle with anyone, and they seemed to be backing away from her now that they've gotten what they came for. She picked up the pace, now that she was able to run. Kept her eyes on the helicopter. A man emerged from it. Strawberry blond, tall, with freckles splashed across his face. His suit was immaculate, so very out of place in this field of death. And his soul, gray, like a slate of rock, like a lead sheet. Then he noticed her and the very faintest of smiles appeared. Gray aura shifted and disappeared and gave room to what really was there. And it was horrible.

Willhelm Stiel looked in confusion at the Gangrel that had been heading straight for him up until a second ago. She had, quite suddenly, tensed up, then kept going for just a moment by the pure momentum of speed built up until that was used up, landing her quite harshly on the ground in front of him. He very carefully prodded her with his shoe, but she didn't move. He then looked towards one of the closest soldiers which had finished loading Király on the helicopter. He nodded towards the girl lying in front of him. "Bringt ihr mit auch." And so she was loaded into the helicopter which made a lift of towards a distant country. When they had gained enough altitude a small object was thrown out of the machine. Talulah Jezebel's cell phone was immediately smashed into lots of tiny pieces as soon as it hit the ground. 

She could not move from her sitting position by the glass. She couldn't turn her head to look at who was entering trough the door to her left, what the origin of that metallic sound was. There were still random flashes? going off so if she tried sneaking a peek into the otherworldliness it would only hurt her eyes again, that bright light. Many hands gripped her, strong, and big hands. She was raised up, then lifted like she was a little toy. One of them moved into her line of sight. It looked just like the one who had staked Király. She twitched. The monster stopped working. He seemed to be eyeballing her, but when she didn?t move further he continued. They were strapping her into something. Her feet was on some kind of plate, and what felt like metal cables were tying her legs to a stable frame. They secured the rest of her in the same way, and the whole time she wasn't able to move. Then they tipped her a backwards a bit and the whole contraption started moving. It must have wheels. In front of her, on the other side of the glass, Stiel stood up, and absentmindedly corrected his tie. He still had a small, almost undetectable smile on his lips. Jagged teeth were visible if one paid enough attention, and Talulah sure was focused.

The door had actually been a part of the glass wall, she just hadn't noticed it before, and now it opened once more to let her through. Even though the monster who was obviously behind her to pushing her along had four hands she was certain she had felt even more and so there must be more of them. It was like some of the things she had seen with the Sabbath. He started speaking again. "I must say, that it was extremely fortunate, a strange twist of fate that I was to run into you." He said with what almost sounded like sincere flattering to his voice as he walked alongside her in her captured state. "Another name on the list to mark of. All in one evenings work. The eye...blinded." They were making way down a corridor with white walls and some kind of marble floor. It was still very bright, lit every few meters with lamps covered in frosted glass. It was actually very tasteful and...modern.
The corridor opened up into some kind of lobby with many doors made out of frosted glass. And so Stiel headed for the one straight ahead. The double doors opened up automatically and they entered.
"Being a seer, you know more than most. Ah, no need to answer that one, rhetorical question." The room had a metallic floor, and white walls. Like everywhere else they had been this room too was very bright. There were people in it. Normal people in lab coats. But what dominated the room was an enormous X made mainly out of metal. A St. Andrew's cross, a crux decussate. But instead of being joined at the middle there was an opening, a rhombus frame of metal bars welded together; and into this the arms in turn were mounted. The massive structure was mounted to the floor with enormous bolts. It seemingly had strenght enough to hold an old Brujah, of that she was sure. They stopped in front of it, and she was turned to face it. The monster who had been pushing her did something behind her and there was a metallic sound, metal on metal. She realised that Stiel had been watching her reaction, and that he was really close now. "You might think that this one is for you. But from those marks we found on you?..I'd say you had more than your fair share of such things." Mentally she cringed at his words. He paused, standing next too her, she felt she could move again, as much as the contraption allowed her too. She turned her neck and looked at him. His continued to look at the Saint Andrew's cross but leaned in closer towards her. "You know. I have the means, the ways to find out what you know anyway." He turned his face towards her. It was blank. "But I believe that would be far too...crude." His blue eyes, it was like they didn't only purvey hunger...they were already eating her. She tried to break away, but they were locked to his in horror. "And now, if Fräulein Talulah here is ready, I think it is time to bring him in." The faint smile returned, he brought his hands together and let her of the hook, return his gaze to the room. She dreaded what was to come.

They hadn't cared about strapping Király into any transporting device. The same kind of monster which had rolled her into the room came, accompanied by another one, carrying him in one set of his four arms. Király still had the stake through him, and his blue tattered jersey had some blood on it where it had come out the other side. She realized what force must have been behind the blow, as he was wearing his bullet-proof vest and it still had gone right through him. What was visible of his olive skin spotted strange wounds, which looked cauterized. His weathered leather coat was missing. A whimper pressed its way between her lips when she saw him. There hadn?t been any bright flashes since they left her cell. She slowly let all the colors of the real world, the world beyond creep back. She just had to know how he was doing. Immediately the souls of the four armed beast lit up. Controlled madness. The kind of devoted love a ghoul feels for it?s master, and something fouler and much darker thrown into the mess. Király was pure anger, riding the frenzy. ?Yes. You look. You look now.? Stiel was almost whispering, but she heard him loud and clear. One of them lifted Király above himself and held him to the cross. He then used one of his free hands to hold the left arm to the Saint Andrew?s Cross. She saw now that the arms of the Saint Andrew?s Cross had grooves into which wood had been fitted. The other four armed ghoul picked up what looked like an enormous nail gun or a bolt gun. She twitched. Stiel stepped into her view again. ?Be still.? Once more she froze up. He then did something very, very odd. He released her right hand and held it in his own, thumb pressed slightly into the palm of her hand. She saw the ripples of pain in Király?s aura as they pressed the trigger once. The nails were like those used when you laid out rail road tracks, and every one of them had a big head shaped like a cross. She felt the pressure from Stiel?s thumb hardening and then her claws pressing out through her fingertips, only on that hand. She hadn?t willed it, but seeing Király in such pain?
?Aw?just like a kitten.? There was a strange tone to Stiel?s voice which she couldn?t identify. He released her hand, and immediately the claws retracted. She felt cold metal locking her wrist to her body again.
They put four nails into each arm and four into each leg and each time the nail hit bone; the ripples in Király?s aura were smaller. He was mastering the pain. It wasn?t new to him. He was Király. This gave her hope.
The whole time they worked on him one of them was holding him up, so that his weight wouldn?t be unevenly distributed. Then they were finished and looked at Stiel who gave a small nod. One of them removed the stake. Király was opening his mouth to say something, but then the one which was holding him suddenly let go which led to his body dropping a few inches. Flesh and bone creaked and his eyes widened, showing a lot of white. She felt her own body mimicking his reaction with the difference that she did actually give a sound. He didn?t need to scream, she knew, she saw exactly what he felt at the moment he felt it.

?Now.? Said Stiel, looking at some papers one of the men in lab-coats had handed him and producing a pair of glasses from a pocket. ?We could start with this Basha. Tell me about Basha, Fräulein Talulah.? Talulah looked at Király. He shook his head and spoke ?Give them nothing.? He was still defiant
She shook hers, mimicking him. ?No.? She twitched. Stiel looked at her. Then turned to one of the men in lab-coats who scurried away. ?How unfortunate. For Király that is. That means Doktor Schmitt gets to work on him.? From the same door that they had entered with Király another man in a lab-coat entered. He looked like he was in his early thirties and was clean shaved, with short brown hair and sporting a pair of thick rimmed glasses from the fifties. Next to him walked a man dressed exactly the same who was pushing a medical steel cart covered with a white linen cloth upon which a diversity of things was laid out, including a powered bone saw. They stopped behind the Saint Andrew?s cross, but she could still see the doctor. The assistant got an extension cable so that they could plug the bone saw in. ?Now.? Stiel said with what sounded like glee. ?Doktor Schmitt here trained with Doktor Mengele in Auschwitz, and later followed him to Mauthausen camp after which he became a free agent so to say. He specialises in pain. Because, as we all know? Stiel nodded to them both, like they were old acquaintances talking about the weather or who was winning the baseball league. ?People like you, Fräulein Talulah, and like you, Herr Király very often have an unusually high threshold to pain.? At the same time the assistant was removing some blue cloth from Király?s back, probably his jersey and pieces of his bullet-proof vest. She didn?t se what tools he used. But she saw Doktor Schmitt picking up a scalpel, and then the assistant lighting what looked like a small welding flame so they could cauterise the wound as they were cutting. There was a smell of burning flesh in the air.

When they were done with this the bone saw started whirring with a high pitched noise in the hand of Doktor Schmitt. Both he and his assistant donned plastic visors. The bone saw it changed pitch as it started cutting into Király and the bone of his back. His body tensed up and he made a grimace, tensing his jaw. Then the smell of vampire blood came. It reminded her of how hungry she really was. The beast stirred when her eyes saw how small spatters of blood hit the metal floor beneath him. Hadn?t it been for the sound of the saw she was certain she would have heard the pit pat of every drop. Suddenly the Doktor hit some large vein or artery and quite a lot of blood sloshed out on the floor. It must have gotten on the blade as well because the doctor and his assistant both got hit over their visors with a splash of blood. Now the assistant got something from Doktor Schmitt which he put into a stainless steel bowl. It was a vertebra split into two parts. Király?s vertebra. Then came another, and another. Three vertebrae. She looked at Király again. He was hanging from the nails in his arms now, looking dead tired, but when he saw her looking he still shook his head. Then he drew back into himself, where she could not reach him. ?Doktor Schmitt, if you would please describe what you are doing? For the audience sake?? The Doktor peeked out from behind the St Andrew's cross so that she could see his face behind the visor. ?Yes Herr Stiel.? He felt pride of his work, and was more than pleased to describe the procedure. ?The edges of the wound is cauterized, but there is still a risk that of immediate re-growth in the area, and so? he picked up what looked like a piece of metallic tubing which was open on one side. ?we fit this titanium around the spinal cord, to keep it open to stimulation.? There was moment of silence as he did what he had just described. ?This generally delays re-growth considerably.?

The assistant pulled the plug that connected the power saw to the extension cable. He then got some kind of generator, or pump, or otherwise complicated item out from under the medical wagon. Until now it had been covered in the no longer pristinely white linen sheet on the cart. He plugged this one into the extension cord instead. ?And here? Doktor Schmitt explained ?Is the so called stimulator.? He removed the visor and adjusted his glasses. ?We could off course have given it a ah, fancier name. What it does is, quite simply, short circuits the ability to block out pain.? He smiled dryly. ?Herr Stiel, if you please?? Doktor Schmitt was holding something that looked like a very thick hypodermic needle connected to the stimulator, obviously meaning for Stiel to take it. ?Will you do me the honor?? She didn?t need to look at Stiel to know that he smiled as he passed her, crossing over to the cross and taking the needle from Doktor Schmitt. ?Now, Fräulein Talulah. I could ask you again about Basha. Or Laiyla Kaun or Orzos kid John Taylor. But I?m not going to do that just now. Because I want to do this.? And then he jabbed the needle straight into Király?s spinal cord.

She still had her soulsight on when this happened. That was a mistake. Not only did Stiel let down his gray lead sheet, exposing the vile, inhabited glow of his corrupted soul. But the sheer force of Király?s pain hit her like the power of a tsunami. She could have closed her eyes, she could have chosen not to receive. But she was pinned to the horror, and the only thing she could do for him was share. She felt claws extending again, arms chafing against metal cable, trying with all her might to break free. Király was screaming, he was actually screaming in a way that she had never heard anyone scream. She could see the pain like a white hot spear, like he himself was partly see through. It the color of searing white hot metal and was going from the removed vertebrae, all the way through his chest, through his vocal cords and throat and exiting through his face. He?d been impaled. All of his body was tensed, short circuited. Then the moment passed. The needle had been withdrawn.
She heard herself growling. Her wrists were smearing the steel cables with blood as they tried to work themselves through. She tried to rock to frame she was tied to, tried to make it fall over, but it seemed anchored to something. Through all of her, vampiric power pulsed and surged. She felt HATE, and she wanted to kill and the object of this desire was standing right there, right in front of her. "Stiel?" she growled.

"Behold." Stiel answered whilst giving the needle back to Doktor Schmitt. ?the Gangrel hero Király. Archon under Madam Guil of clan Toreador. Hero of Gothenburg. Hero of Sweden. Champion and pride of the Camarilla. It really isn?t right, you know, for someone such as yourself to put him through such inconveniences. You being a mere neonate and all that.? She twitched. Stiel nodded to Doktor Schmitt who immediately gave Király another dose. She bit her tongue but forced herself to watch again. The metallic taste filled her mouth, giving some amount of comfort, but only the kind of comfort a Gangrel gets from getting dangerously close to her beast. Now it was whispering to her of all the lovely things they would do to Stiel once they got free. But Stiel seemed to notice this. ?Ah, Talulah, I can see that you are, upset. Can?t have that, can we?? He gave a hand signal to someone behind her. One of the men in lab coats, he had a syringe in his hand with what looked like blood. There was something? moving inside of it. Something that was, in a way, alive. He quickly, and with quite some skill, inserted the hypodermic needle into the side of her neck and injected the content. First, it just made her less on edge. Then she noticed that she couldn?t hear the beast anymore, hear her beast. The whispering had died away as the content of the needle spread its poison through her.

?Too bad we had to resort to that. Now, we will talk again. And for every wrong answer you give me, Herr Király will suffer unpleasantness. And if you refuse to answer. Same thing, I?m afraid.?

Hours. It must have been hours. She told herself it must have been hours. After the first few jabs of the needle pearls of bloody sweat broke on Király?s brow. She herself had started bleeding as usual by then. The wounds on her back opened up and refused to close themselves. The tiny pricks on her forehead also reopened, and the next time the needle hit large droplets of blood formed, swelled and toppled over to run into her eyes. You could very well though she was crying if you looked at her. But Talulah wasn?t. This went on for hours. She told herself that it was hours. Her lips open and closed in murmured prayer. God had a plan, she believed in the plan. There must be a meaning even to this. Always. Always. Holy. Holy. God was with her. God was with them. God was with her. God have mercy.

?Please have mercy.? She was surprised to hear her voice. It was steady now. ?How nice.? Stiel was all smiles now. ?Fräulein has decided to talk to us. At last.? He moved his hand and Doktor Schmitt lowered the needle and took a step away. ?Please. Please.? She implored him. She tried to face her fear, tried to see his soul, what he was thinking, but there was nothing but that grey mass covering what should be there. ?Mercy. No more.? She shifted her black eyed gaze away from him, to the man on the St Andrews cross, to Király. He was coming back now. Returning from whatever hiding place he had found inside himself. She actually waited for him to return completely. She twitched. It was an awful thing that she was going to do, but she needed him there, with her. She wished she could clasp her cross in her hand, but instead she balled her tiny little fist so that her nails cut into the flesh of her palm. Then she extended her claws. They cut right through her hand, burning with aggravated damage as they went. She didn?t deserve better for what she was doing.

?I?ll tell you. I?ll tell you anything I know.? She forced herself not to look away from Király?s face. She needed too see, and accept whatever his judgment would be. To accept Király?s judgment upon her. ?Wonderful. I am so happy that we were able to gain an understanding of each other.? Stiel replied. She couldn?t see his face, as she was concentrating on Király?s. She was reading that he hoped she had some ruse. That she had come up with some clever plan to fool their captor or that she, quite plainly, was lying. He was sending?honor. He thought of Gangrel, and their ancient ways. Of what it meant to be Gangrel. Loyalty.
?Tell me about Basha.? Stiel said. She twitched, and her eyes hurt. It felt like Király?s quiet stare could have burnt a hole right through her. She opened her mouth again, and told all about Basha, even what she had seen in Basha?s soul. He asked about John Taylor from Newcastle. And she told. And the whole time she did not shy away from Király?s darkening gaze. And her soulsight told her even more. He felt she had betrayed them. He felt that she had betrayed their clan. And nothing could be worse than that. Ever. He?hated?her.

She had nothing more to give. There was silence now.
Doktor Schmitt had turned the stimulator of at a wavering of Stiel?s hand and when the sound of the generator died away there was nothing but the sound of an air conditioner somewhere in the other end of the room. She hung from the wire-frame like a used up marionette, putting all her weight on the shackles. She wanted to sleep now, to forget.

It was his voice. Király's voice. She tried to raise her head again, show her clan leader the respect that had grown right into her spine since the day she first met him. But she didn?t have the strength. His voice was still strong, but cracked from the screaming. It had a low a menacing ring to it. It had judgement in it.
"You...are...not...Gangrel. You will never be Gangrel."

A presence next to her. Stiel. He very gently took her face into his hands. Clasping each cheek in his palms. Blue eyes looking deep into her black ones. "There's a good girl. What harsh words he speaks, Archon Király. He's just mad right now. It will pass." He glanced away, back at Király. "Or maybe not."

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