If Tula were to recount this day, she would have said it was just like any other. She got up, had breakfast, chatted with Rafael, and then had a completely ordinary shift counting ballots at town hall. Her co-worker Jeffery then gave her a lift home and drove off once she was safely in front of her apartment building.
It was all perfectly routine until she found herself drawn to a woman standing just on the edge of the apartment complex. Her glowing eyes indicate vampirism, but there's nothing else overtly remarkable about her. This is why when Tula's body fills with cold fear, she doesn't run, but is confused. Nothing has ever made her feel scared before.
"Yes, come closer dear," the woman says with a frighteningly wide smile. Her huge eyes are roaming and unfocused, flitting about and never quite making eye contact.
"Look, if you want money, I don't have any-,"
The woman cuts her off with an unhinged laugh. If the situation weren't so bizarre, Tula might think the woman is doing her best impression of a cartoon villain.
"Money? I have far more than enough of that. No, no, little bird, that's not what I'm after."
"A parrot, of course! You may not share the same plumage, but you know the saying; "Birds of a feather". Though when Pablo told me of his little, unassuming niece, I didn't expect you to really be this dull."
It finally dawns on Tula who this woman is, "You must be from the organisation Beau used to work for."
The woman's face contorts with rage, "Merrick! That lying little scoundrel! Should've gutted him when I had the chance. But he's clever! Got away, made some deals..." her fingers twitch by her sides.
"You met my uncle?" Tula changes the subject, "I didn't know his organisation was related to yours."
The woman tsks, "You didn't do any research on the family business? I was told that you're smart. Parrots, always tricky! Can never tell when they really know something or when they're just repeating what they're told. No matter! Come now, little bird, we must go to your new...perch." She takes Tula by the wrist and roughly tugs her along. Tula knows this woman could snap her arm like a twig if she wanted, but she isn't using her full strength. Tula manages to dig in her heels and slow them down.
"What? Where are we going?"
"Ask too many questions and you'll be riding in the trunk!" the woman snaps. Before Tula can say anything else, the woman's fingers are on Tula's shoulder, pressing down with inhuman strength. A sharp jolt of pain passes through her body before she falls, completely limp.
When she regains consciousness, a blindfold is roughly ripped off her face. Tula blinks, disoriented, as she takes in her surroundings. A plain, grey garage greets her. There is no furniture except for a heavy, metal table and some dingy patio chairs. Instinctively, Tula looks for the nearest exit, only to see a firmly locked garage car door.
"Finally awake! Ready to sing me a tune?" the vampire woman greets her.
Tula glances behind her and sees a man, also with glowing eyes. Another vampire.
"Oh, don't pay any attention to Michael," the woman says, redirecting Tula's attention, "He's just...hired help. I could take care of any foolish attempts at exiting this conversation, but Michael's way is... neater."
Tula meets the woman's eyes, unflinching and unafraid. It obviously disturbs her to have her authority challenged, and she raises an eyebrow. Young humans are normally easily cowed! All of her previous recruits were shaking in their boots by now, bargaining with her and begging her for their lives! She pouts. She rather likes that part.
"There won't be any need for that. Just tell me what you want," Tula replies calmly.
"Well, I could tell you, but there's a much easier way." She nods to Michael.
Before Tula has any idea what's happening, Michael has already lifted her to her feet locked in a crushing embrace. His jacket is dripping wet with rain and the cold causes Tula to shiver.
To any outsider, this might just look like an intimate moment. Michael's nose is almost touching Tula's, his hands are cradling her face. He looks almost loving in his touch, his fingers seeming to caress instead of crush.
But Tula is paralysed. She pushes Michael's arm with her right hand ineffectually, trying to escape the hot burrowing pain in her skull.
Stop fighting, a male voice fills her head, you're making this much harder than it needs to be.
Tula doesn't respond, desperately trying to find a way to flee. There must be a way out from this.
The woman's eyes go wide with astonishment when Tula screams and her eyes fly open. Michael is obviously bewildered, his balance being compromised enough that Tula is able to push him away from her.
"What the hell was that!?" Tula's question is one of pure surprise, her expression dazed but not fearful. The woman frowns; why can't this woman be terrified? It's not like she's making it hard! The nerve.
"Michael, take care of this!" the woman has no patience to speak verbally.
Michael quickly regains his wits. In a flash he's on Tula's other side. He instantaneously exploits their eye contact, a blinding light emanating from his eyes and soon emitting from Tula's as well.
This is far less painful but more invasive and numbing than whatever he was doing earlier. Tula can't even think as he probes her mind, finding the information he wants.
Only moments later, Tula is released.
"She's clean," Michael informs the woman.
"Good. Excellent work, Michael."
Michael allows himself to bask in his employer's praise. He's the very best at what he does. Why else would he have been hired by this organisation? He's particularly proud of this one, it seems. Her mind was difficult to infiltrate- moreso than the average human's- but in the end he extracted what was needed.
Tula mentally quickly regains her composure, but gracelessly tumbles into her chair. Noticing the woman's unbridled glee at her demeanor finally giving away, Tula decides to play into it. She hunkers down, her gaze meek and hesitant. The woman smiles.
"I'm glad to see Michael's gentle touch hasn't made you too flighty," the woman says, smirking at Michael. "Well, was that little weasel Merrick right? Will she bring more volunteers for our... unique needs?" she telepaths to Michael.
"Yes. If she puts in the necessary effort, she shouldn't have much trouble helping us," Michael replies. His tone seems unimpressed; after all, he's seen many gifted con artists in his time here.
"You need to watch her carefully. She can be as deceitful as she is charming," he adds, frowning as he thinks of her ability to escape his telepathy. In his personal opinion, this alone makes her too dangerous to hire, but he knows Morrigan is in need of Tula's services. She wouldn't listen to his stronger reservations. He's surprised that she listens to him at all.
"W-what do you want?" Tula makes her voice quiver. Glancing between them, she wonders why they're staring at each other so intensely.
The woman's eyes snap to Tula's, who immediately looks away. Her smirk becomes wicked in its intensity.
"Your help, of course. You're good at what you do, yes? Convincing others to do what you want?"
Tula laughs, unable to contain herself, "Convincing? What I do is...more subtle. I don't so much persuade people as I do...make them realize that all along what they wanted was what I want."
"I see. Well, your talent has not gone unnoticed. Work for us and we won't drain you dry of every single drop of plasma in your veins. Once we can trust you not to mess up your tasks, you'll the find the monetary award quite a bit higher than your ballot counting."
She looks at Michael, now looking bored, "Well, is there anything else for this meeting?"
"The initiation ritual," he patiently reminds her.
Her eyes light up, "That's right! There's a little custom we have here for... new members of our little family."
Tula raises an eyebrow. Another test?
Michael pulls her roughly out of her chair, standing her up in front of Morrigan.
"It's been a while since I've fed from a bird..."
Before Tula can react, Morrigan's fangs are deep in her neck. The pain is not as bad as she expected, but the sensation of her blood being sucked out is definitely uncomfortable. She reflexively pulls at Morrigan's arm, but her grip is solid and unflappable.
Morrigan pulls away, smirking and grinning triumphantly.
"Welcome to the club."