"I suppose it was too much to hope that you wouldn't find this."

Mitchell spun around to face the doorway of the room where he had discovered the huddled human prisoners and found himself face to face with Herrick. The older vampire bore a rueful smile of resignation as he took in the scene. The calm, careless tone of Herrick's voice only served to intensify Mitchell's outrage and anger at what he'd just found.

"'No one gets left behind', eh? Would you mind explaining this to me?"

On some level he was aware that he was in a very dangerous position here – sorely outnumbered and on the wrong side of this particular battle – and yet he couldn't keep the furious accusation from his tone.

"Everyone has their part to play," Herrick acknowledged with a slow nod as he took several measured steps nearer to Mitchell, revealing a couple of other vampires who followed him into the room. "No one ever said everyone's part would be exactly the same."

"And what part would you say that these poor people are supposed to play?" Mitchell demanded, his voice trembling with indignant rage. "What, they're just your… your ready and available food supply?"

Herrick shrugged carelessly, his blue eyes glittering with malicious amusement as he replied. "We've got to eat, Mitchell. We couldn't turn everyone. If we all were vampires, well – life wouldn't be any fun for anyone anymore, now, would it?" His cruel smile faded into a more serious expression as he regarded Mitchell thoughtfully and added, "I never said everyone's part was a pleasant one."

The two large vampires flanking Herrick moved out to the sides, effectively blocking any escape from the room. Warning bells began to sound in the back of Mitchell's mind, breaking through the anger to alert him to the fact that the helpless humans whom he was championing might not be the only ones in danger at the moment. Herrick noticed his wary glance toward the other vamps and let out a heavy sigh, his voice soft and resigned when he spoke again.

"I had hoped that you might have played a better part in all of this, Mitchell. Really… I'm disappointed."

Mitchell swallowed hard as he took an instinctive step backward, his dark eyes darting warily between the two vampires, watching for any sign of impending attack. He was still worried about these sickly, weak humans, and didn't want to leave them there at the mercy of the other vampires; but he also knew that there was no way he could help them if he became a victim himself.

"There's no reason for this to get ugly." He kept his voice calm and even, trying not to betray any fear as he turned his cautious gaze on Herrick again. "If this is what you want to do, I know better than to think I can stop you – but I don't want to be a part of it. So I'll just be on my way…"

"No, I'm sorry, Mitchell," Herrick sighed, "but you won't. You think you can just hop in and out of this as if it was a child's game? It doesn't work that way." He paused before clarifying in a tone of genuine regret. "I can't simply let you walk out of here. What kind of a message would that send to the others? You're either in or out, Mitchell…"

He held up a halting hand as Mitchell opened his mouth to speak.

"… and I'm not asking you which. You've already made that quite clear."

As if in response to some unspoken signal from their employer, the vampire muscle suddenly goes into action, closing in on Mitchell from both sides at once. Mitchell tried to fight them off, extending his fangs and attacking with his fists as well – but it really wasn't much of a fight. Within minutes they had his hands pinned behind his back, and one strong arm wrapped around his throat, effectively preventing him from struggling any further.

"What?" Mitchell snarled in disgust and defiance, trying in vain to pull free of his captors. "I don't want to help you murder innocent people, so you're going to have me killed now?"

"I'm sorry about this, Mitchell," Herrick repeated, starting toward the door, calling over his shoulder as his employees dragged Mitchell along in his wake. "But you haven't left me much of a choice. Although I'm not going to have you killed," he amended matter-of-factly, turning to meet Mitchell's eyes for a moment as he led the way down the hall to a room a few doors down. "When that time comes, you've at least earned the right to have me do it myself."

They paused outside the door while Herrick unlocked it, then dragged Mitchell inside. He immediately noticed that it was empty, unfurnished, except for a thin mat placed beneath a set of iron shackles that was fastened to the wall. Mitchell tried uselessly to free himself of the grasp of his captors as they led him across the room, forced him down onto his knees on the mat and fastened his wrists into the shackles.

"Now, you'd do well to make this easier on yourself, Mitchell – and don't struggle. I've got a lot to do in the next few days, and I don't have time to deal with you now, so it seems you've got a bit of time to kill." A cold smile graced Herrick's lips as he stopped near the doorway, followed by his henchmen. "If you keep quiet and don't draw attention to yourself, you should be all right until then – but I can make no guarantees." He shared a wink of malicious amusement with his men as he added, "I won't be around to keep the others in line… and once word gets out of your immense failure, Mitchell… there won't be self-respecting vampire in Bristol who won't want to get a piece of you."