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119 Hanging Ou

    The room remains quiet as Sam, Eden, the cubs, and I make our way to a spot at a table directly in the center of the cafeteria between a large group of researchers. The tables are long stainless steel tables with bench seating. The cafeteria itself is large; I would say big enough to seat around two-hundred people. From what I can tell, the actual food is somewhere in the back of the room behind another door. I assume if you go in there, the source of the delicious smell will become apparent relatively quickly. However, I'm more interested in all these people, and newly discovered facilities.

    I don't particularly care to have them explain why so many of them lingered down here despite what was happening upstairs; I'm sure it's as dull as, "We were scared" or something. Some of them do have collars, though, so I can only assume even the new faces are aware of what's happened. In fact, I'm certain of it, because they look more afraid than anyone.

    Taking a seat, I prop my scythe next to me and pull the cub in my arms close. Surprisingly, I think everyone is so focused on us that they haven't even noticed the blatant bear cubs.

    Abruptly, my arm is bumped by Sam's elbow. "Hey, Eira. Aponi is asking where we are."

    "Well, if she wants to know, go ahead and inform her," I respond with annoyance, "Just tell her to tie up Dr. Wright if she's planning on coming here." As I am about to turn away, I am suddenly hit with a brilliant idea. "Actually, tell her to tie him up and bring him with her!"

    Sam squints his eyes. "I can tell you're planning something ridiculous." He grins and raises a fist. "And if it's not murder related, I'm totally in!"

    I ignore Sam's clear suggestion of a fist bump, leaving him hanging. However, Eden unexpectedly reaches over and delivers unto him his desired fist bump. The two nod at one another, causing me to roll my eyes.

    Meanwhile, having overheard our conversation, everyone avoids eye contact. Therefore, I attempt to jump-start the conversations, "So! How is everything? If I'm right, I don't recognize some of you. Been hiding down here the whole time, have we?"

    A few of them nod awkwardly in acknowledgment, while some bite their tongues. One of the bear's cubs climbs to the top of my head and makes a half bark-like noise to seemingly make it apparent that he is upset with the weird, heavy silence surrounding it. His bark appears to actually work as everyone's attention turns toward the cub instead.

    "Is that a baby bear?" a woman mutters to herself.

    "That it is!" I shout back.

    She shivers, not realizing I would be able to hear her. Her gaze slowly lowers from the cub on the top of my head until our eyes meet.

    "Scoot over." I shove Sam sliding him further down the bench seating. "Come sit," I say, patting the warm bench next to me, "I'll let you pet him."

    Smiling, she raises a hand and waves. "N-no, no, I couldn't do that."

    "Oh, I insist! Come on, hurry!"

    She hesitates, but when I flash her a wide fangy smile, she stands and slowly scuffles over. A bit shakily, she takes a seat next to me and smiles rigidly. I can hear a bit of whispering from the researchers at the various tables.

    'It seems they are getting at least slightly more lively.'

    Reaching upwards, I lift the cub, who kicks and coos fiercely after being removed from his perch on my head. I place him on the table and scratch the soft fur behind his ears. He resists at first, but eventually, his legs become weak as he drops flat onto his stomach.

    "Do you know what kind of bear it is?" I ask the woman.

    "...Brown bear?"

    "Nope! It's a grizzly cub. I still haven't given them names, though. Still waiting for a name that suits each of them perfectly, y'know?"

    She nods, forcing out a nervous word, "I-interesting."

    "Eira." I purse my lips and look toward Eden. "I thought we came here to get food."

    "That's right! You and Sam go find us something to eat."

    "Yeah, but I think I might be thirsty too. I'm fairly certain whatever they serve here won't satisfy that."

    "Oh? Well, then get something that will mix well. I think I have a way for us to get something to drink..." I glance at the woman's warm skin and then back to Eden. "Maybe we can even use it as a sauce!"

    Eden nods and then questions the room in a soft voice, "Can someone help me find something to eat?"

    A young man answers practically instantly, "I'll show you!" he yells. Realizing he inadvertently screamed his response, he coughs. "I-I mean, I will show you... I mean, if ya want me to."

    Eden stares at him with a blank expression. A drop of sweat slowly runs down the side of his face. She shrugs, stands, and walks off toward the back of the room without a word. The young man almost trips over himself, seeking to walk as close to her as possible.

    Sam laughs, scanning the room until his eyes fall onto a woman with an above-average chest.

    'This idiot is about to make a fool of himself...' I make myself a little more comfortable. 'Let's watch!'

    Sam tightens his muscles and bends his arm in an effort to make his biceps seem more prominent.

    "Yep," he says with a grunt, "Maybe, someone can help me find something to eat also?"

    The big-chested woman looks away.

    Sam changes his pose, acting as if he is scratching the top of his head, but really he is just flexing even harder. "Anyone?" he says in a strained voice, a vein nearly popping out of his neck.

    Just as I am wondering if he'll keep trying, a slim arm slips around Sam's own. "I'll help you, dear."

    My gaze turns farther to the side, where I discover an elderly lady with a wrinkly smile. Sam stares at her, and I think she's staring back, but her face is so wrinkly I have difficulty seeing her eyes clearly.

    Sam's mouth opens and closes as the elderly lady tugs at his arm. "Come on, dear. Those muscles of yours can do more than just look good, right?"

    "...S-sure. I guess."

    Sam stands, his gaze peering longingly into the void. Together they shuffle off in the direction Eden, and the young man went. Their pace is so sluggish I find it believable that Eden will return before he even makes it to the kitchen.

    With a chuckle, I turn back toward the woman whose eyes betray her as I catch her turning away from the cub.

    "You don't have to look away. Petting him is the reason I asked you to come over here in the first place!"

    I flip the cub on its belly and continue scratching it. Gently, I slide the cub across the smooth metal table nearer to the woman. One of the cub's back legs kicks in ecstasy while I sit silently. Using my eyes, I glance between her and the cub indicating she should get on with it.

    She lifts her quivering hand while attempting to hide her fear with a plastered on smile. When her hand is within a few inches, I dramatically gasp.

    "Geh!" the woman reels and releases a small, high-pitched squeak.

    "I forgot to tell you to be careful around his claws! They might accidentally scratch you if you aren't careful!"

    'In fact, I actually foresee him doing just that.'

    "O-okay."

    Again she approaches with a hand that I would now say is trembling rather than quivering. However, when her hand meets the cub's soft belly, a genuine smile spreads from the corner of her lips. The cub, still trapped in pure bliss, doesn't even seem to notice there are now two hands upon him. With their brother getting so much attention, the cub in my arms starts to get fussy as well, so I scratch under its chin.

    "So!" I shout, causing her to freeze up. "Anyone have anything they wish to inform me of regarding my facility?"

    The room goes silent once more with the words 'my facility.' Just then, the door from the stairwell swings open, and I recognize the people who enter immediately-Aponi, Carl, Akemi, and the group of recently transformed vampires. Aponi seems mostly normal, but the others all seem a bit wobbly with streaks of recently consumed blood near the corners of their mouth.

    'They must have found some blood bags somewhere in the medical ward. How unfortunate I missed their first experience!'

    Despite this, I still get a laugh as Carl's pants are completely soaked with blood, indicating his bag presumably burst.

    All of them immediately notice an odd atmosphere and silence about the room. They scan the cafeteria before their eyes land on me. At first, looks of realization flash across their faces before their expressions shift to ones of confusion. Except for Carl and Akemi, they just refuse to look directly at me.

    'The others are probably just confused by the sense of familiarity inherent between all Blood Race.'

    "Hello, new brothers and sisters. How were your first meals?" I wave, like a parent embarrassing their children as they drop them off at school. "I urge all of you to drink from an actual person soon! Then if you wish, you can go back to drinking from bags."

    Sensing the atmosphere of the room, Aponi lets out a heavy sigh. "Eira, are you bullying people again?"

    I grin and run my gaze across every single person in the room. "Well, perhaps. I'm still a little bitter about all the Mind Magic on the way in after all," I respond with a laugh; though, my eyes are not laughing, that Mind Magic was not funny.

    Seeing most people avert their gaze or look toward the ground, I return my attention to Aponi.

    She walks over and takes Eden's seat; she whispers, "Dr. Wright is still out cold. I left him in the stairwell if you want him. Moreover, you should probably stop picking on people if you want them to work for you."

    'I've been very polite! I even let this woman put her human hand on one of my bears! How much nicer could I be!?'

    I counter her outrageous assumption, "I'm not picking on anyone! They are the ones who are all too afraid to speak to me!"

    "Can't imagine why they would be afraid to speak to you."

    My offended gaze moves to the researchers only to find none of them are paying me much mind, but instead, they stare at their newly transformed coworkers.

    "Their eyes are red."

    "A-and their skin is pretty pale, isn't it?"

    "Did Akemi, and Carl of all people, always look so... hot?"

    Conversations such as these hang over the room.

    Raising my hand, I address their curiosity, "Now, now, everyone! All of this will be clarified soon." Suddenly, Eden exits the kitchen, walking back with the young man in tow. I continue, "In, hmmm, let's see... six or so hours, we're all going to meet here."

    Eden sets a steak in front of me, staring at Aponi. "You're in my spot."

    "Relax, you can have it." Aponi stands. "I'm going to go get some food as well; I'll catch up on whatever she's planning when I come back."

    "Actually, before you do that, place Dr. Wright on one of the tables over there." I motion toward an empty table in the corner of the room.

    ���Fine, but after that, I'm eating, taking a shower, and then a nap."

    Nodding, my attention returns to the woman scratching the cub's belly. She seems to be distracted by our conversation and her hand now simply sits on the soft scruff beneath his neck. I smirk and stop scratching. The cub's leg stops kicking, and he glances around the room with confused and half-closed eyes, wondering why I stopped. Raising his head, he notices that a strange woman is resting a hand on his neck. A low growl escapes his throat, and he claws at the woman's wrist.

    "Ah!" she yelps.

    The cub turns over and runs back to me. "Oh, no! Sorry! Let me see your hand!" I say.

    I grab her wrist, stopping the bleeding. However, I close her palm around one of my fingers. "Grit your teeth, and don't say anything," I whisper to her, gripping her wrist tighter.

    Bringing her hand close to the steak, I extend my claw just a little and pull my finger from her grasp. She suppresses a yelp as a tear leaks from one eye. Blood starts to escape from the base of her closed hand, running over the steak.

    "Alright, everyone!" I pull everyone's attention to me and lower her hand even more, so it is just above the steak. This makes it seem as if I am just holding her wrist. Sure it is odd, but no one notices that blood is flowing from her palm and onto the steak. I clear my throat, "As I said earlier, we're all going to meet here in six or so hours."

    Suddenly, Sam walks out, princess-carrying the elderly lady. The elderly lady holds two plates of food stacked high. "Oh, yeah? What're we going to do in six hours?"

    The door to the stairwell opens, revealing Aponi pushing a chair with an unconscious Dr. Wright. "We're going to have a trial for the despicable Dr. Wright! Together we will learn all his secrets and see that 'justice' prevails for everyone in this room!"
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