Anger Isn't Interesting
Jane had been working the Virginia section of the Appalachian Trail for over two hours when she came across a pair of male hikers headed north. They stared at her in confusion - a stunning young female alone in the mountains without a pack - and then offered assistance. Jane thought about eating them just to piss Owen off. Eventually she settled for a boring conversation in which she reassured the men hers was a short day-hike from a nearby farm. She broke contact and continued south.
A peculiar feature of vampires was that they required no exercise to maintain strength - just blood. Jane had chosen to go hiking simply to test Owen. Was she really free to come and go as she pleased, or would her new master use Alice and Bella to compel her to remain in place? Jane hadn't told him where she was going. She had simply walked out the door and headed west. But no one in the agency lobby had stopped her, or even questioned her. She could keep walking and never look back.
There were the satellite passes, of course. Jane knew their schedule, however, and could take cover before they came in range. She also wore a thermal-shield hoodie that masked her infrared signature, and she moved beneath a bare, hardwood canopy. It dawned on Jane that she really was alone. No one knew where she was. Not even Lucy.
She ached for Alec. He should be here with her. It was his fault she was alone. Why had he been in the catacomb when Owen bombed it? Why couldn't Owen have waited? How could Aro have been so stupid? The humiliation of serving her brother's murderer crushed her. She thought about retracing her steps and torturing the two hikers. The only thing preventing her was the knowledge that Owen was daring her to do exactly that. To show him that she was beyond redeeming, beyond helping. To show that she wasn't worth the effort.
In frustration Jane tracked a bear, ripped it from a tree branch, and bit savagely into its throat. She gagged on the blood and spit it out, disgusted. How could the Cullens live on such garbage? The hikers came to mind again. She threw the carcass aside and ran from the trail, fearful of what she might do.
She hated Owen Wheeler - for killing Alec, for binding Jane to himself, for making her think. And now he had taken into his service the two vampires she hated most in the world. The prospect of making Bella suffer mollified Jane a bit, but it wasn't enough to take away the sting of living and working with three individuals she yearned to slay. Laser Bella, pain Alice, chop Owen. It would be so easy. Too easy. Owen had given her so much power. Why? Why had he entrusted her with the ability to ruin everything?
She pondered breaking the Platers out of their prison, starting her own coven, making Owen's fears a reality. But then the training would cease. She would never discover why she existed. How infuriating it was! Owen had done this - stripped away everything, made her conflicted, compelled her to look inside herself. She hated that Owen's strategy was working, that he was succeeding in forcing her into an existential crisis. Even this random hike was probably part of his infernal plan: step 27 on the path to teleological awakening.
He made her so angry! Which brought up one of his pet sound bites: "Anger isn't interesting." What did that mean? What were Owen's real goals? He had made no effort to switch her to an animal diet. He was content to let her drink donated blood. His goal for Bella was that she care about humans. Why wasn't that his goal for Jane? Owen wanted Jane to be interesting. On his personal scale was interesting an easier goal to reach than compassionate? Maybe he was just using Jane, keeping her as the heavy so Alice and Bella didn't have to get their hands dirty.
Jane paused and leaned against an oak tree. Why didn't she just kill Owen? He had gotten Bella away from Carlisle's coven - though not away from Alice. Why was Jane so afraid of Lucy? Why did she like Lucy so much?
Jane grabbed the tree and screamed. This was exactly what Owen wanted - Jane questioning everything. But why? He didn't know what the end result would be. He couldn't. He was feeling his way, blind, uncertain. Aro had never taken such risks. Training Jane was dangerous. She might use that training in unpleasant ways. And the maddening thing was that Owen knew this. He knew it, and he trained Jane anyway.
Owen killed Alec. Lucy loves me. Alice will be leader, not me. He's torturing me with Bella's presence. He's torturing me with his presence. There's nothing he'd hate more than being turned. What does Owen want? I could break George out so easily. Why did he kill Alec? I need you, Alec. I miss being a slave to Chelsea. I hate myself for missing my slavery.
Jane collapsed in the dirt, wishing she could cry.
Alec, Alec, what is happening to me?
Jane nudged Peter and Charlotte toward the Plate during the early hours of January 5. Capturing the couple had proved exceedingly difficult, and would have been impossible without Alice. But after much persuasion their friend had convinced them to surrender without a fight. That didn't mean they liked it, however. Alice walked close to Jane, protecting her, while Bella and Lucy followed ten feet behind. A werewolf strode on either side of the party, guarding their flanks.
The extra security seemed warranted. The prisoners in the VDF had seen Jane come and go frequently, but for many this was their first look at Alice and Bella - and none had seen Lucy. Reactions would be unpredictable, and as the number of prisoners grew a mass escape attempt became increasingly likely. Jane had accordingly dressed in full combat kit, and had required Alice and Bella to do the same. Lucy, on the other hand, wore nothing but a pair of running shorts. Jane wondered if Lucy wanted everyone to get a good whiff of her, or if she was simply flaunting that she preferred fighting naked.
Jane halted fifteen meters from the plate, ordering her captives to cover the remaining distance on their own. They gave Jane nasty looks but did what they were told. No one on the plate seemed happy to see Peter and Charlotte. Their addition increased the prisoner count to seventeen. The plate was getting crowded.
But everyone was interested in Jane's companions, especially Lucy and the werewolves. They pushed as close to the edge of the plate as they dared, sniffing the air in fascination. George spoke for them. "Shape-shifters, Jane?" he asked.
"Natural enemies of vampires, these Quileutes," she answered. "Owen's in love with the things. They get paid more than I do."
"Doing the white man's bidding," George taunted. The wolves growled, but stayed where they were. "You look ridiculous in that getup, Jane. What's the point?"
Jane stroked the armor on her chest and neck. "You're thinking of steel, George." She took off her helmet and lobbed it through the air. George caught it, puzzled. "Try," Jane challenged.
George attempted bending the helmet, found to his surprise he was unable to do so. He set it on the tungsten-carbide plate and began hammering it with his fist. It cracked on the fourth blow.
"Composites," Jane explained, demanding the pieces back. Bella produced a fresh helmet from a large sack she was carrying, which Jane took and quickly strapped into place.
"I broke it," George noted.
"How often have you scored four unanswered hits?" Jane asked. "Armor's been useless for centuries, but it's catching up. You're behind the times, George."
"She doesn't seem to care for it," he noted, gesturing to Lucy.
"She's her own creature," Jane granted. "I've seen her feed. It's a...sobering experience."
Jane could see the questions churning in George's mind. Who was Lucy? What was Lucy? Jane enjoyed his discomfort and frustration for as long as she dared, then drew her sidearm and aimed it at one of the scruffier-looking prisoners. "Winkler," she declared, "video surveillance from the last month shows you've been causing the most fights." She pulled the trigger.
The prisoner could have dodged the round, but he was dumb enough to stand there and let it hit, just to prove that bullets couldn't hurt him. The phosphorous exploded in a white puff, causing a flare to ignite from Winkler's chest. He fell to the ground screaming, flames digging into his lifeless heart. The other prisoners scattered as Winkler combusted.
"We burn so readily," Jane mused, keeping her gun pointed at the incredulous captives. "Our vampiric tissues must contain an oxidizing agent of some sort. If that's the case, that means once we start burning there's no way to put it out."
Only George had remained unmoved. "You've been learning chemistry," he commented dryly.
"I've been learning a lot of things," she replied, taking the bag from Bella and casting it onto the plate. "Tracking beacons," she added. "Each prisoner gets one on his ankle."
George pulled one out and examined it. "These are easy to break," he observed.
"Of course," Jane said. "We are preparing a second stage of incarceration for those with six months good behavior. A hunting preserve in Wyoming. It's still a restricted area, but it's hundreds of square miles. Enough room for everyone. Unless you misbehave," she added, pointing to Winkler's remains already blowing away on the night breeze.
"You'll never be able to contain us in such a large space," George noted. "Hell, I've already figured out how to break out of here. Anything that blocks light should block these lasers - fog, dust, smoke. They can be circumvented under the right circumstances."
"Indeed," Jane agreed. "So why haven't you tried?"
"Because it's a test. Can I make myself stay, even when I realize I no longer have to?"
Jane nodded. "You're learning, too. Do you want to meet him?"
"I want to understand him."
"Join the crowd. He's driven by conflicting fears: afraid we'll become extinct, afraid we'll keep eating people, afraid his short and long term goals conflict, afraid of all the powerful people who will try to become vampires if they learn about us, afraid we will destroy modern civilization, afraid we won't figure out a solution."
"I don't see how imprisoning us accomplishes anything," George objected. "Killing us, yes. But containing us? It's certainly not going to help him keep our existence secret. And it foments within us a desire to strike at humanity."
"I realize it's counterintuitive," Jane acknowledged. "I just keep coming back to his weakness: he's not smart enough to figure it all out, and he knows it. I think in the end that's why he does everything. He can't think of a solution, so he's trying to make us think of one for him. That may be why he's pulling us together. He's trying to put us under so much stress that we change. Adapt. Grow. Something. Somehow we get to the point where we do for him what he can't do for himself."
"You told me once he wants science fiction to win. I don't see how we can make that happen."
"I don't think that's quite what he's after. Bella suggested developing a means of turning us back into humans, but he didn't seem interested. He's a vampire hunter, but the extermination of our species does't appear to be his goal. He's the strangest man I've ever met." She turned to leave.
"You know," George called after her, "to a lot of us you're just a bad version of the Volturi."
Jane turned back for a moment. "Not Volturi," she corrected. "Queens."
George sneered. "Well that makes sense. Your king's the weakest piece on the board."
"And the most important," she added, and led her escorts away.
"In seeking the purpose of humanity," Owen began, "we start at the two extremes."
Jane shifted in her chair, glanced to her right. From the look on Lucy's face she could tell the woman had already heard this lecture. It wasn't even 8pm yet. That meant Lucy had just woken up. Jane wondered what the shadow-feeder actually wanted to be doing right now. Did she like sleeping with Owen? Did she wish Owen loved her?
"The traditional Christian answer," Owen continued, "is that man's chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. We exist that we might relate to our Creator. Think martyrs and John Bunyan. At the other end of the spectrum is philosophic naturalism: man has no purpose, and can't have a purpose. We are a cosmic accident, sacks of chemical reactions brought together by random, undirected processes. Life should be spent stimulating the pleasure centers of our brains. Think YOLO and Kesha."
Jane had nothing to say to this. Owen changed approaches. "Imagine it this way," he suggested. "Is math invented or discovered? I don't mean symbols, or methods of solving problems. I mean the underlying concepts. Has two plus two always equaled four, and man simply discovered this truth? Or did we invent addition and impose it on the world? Likewise do we invent our purpose? Or do we merely discover it?"
Has Lucy found her purpose? Jane wondered. She seemed focused, certainly, but a person could pursue an object as a way of avoiding hard questions. Why didn't Lucy or Owen ever answer the questions they put to her? Did they think truth existed, or were they just trying to get her to reason? But why teach her to reason if there was no truth to discover?
"What do you want to be when you grow up?"
"Excuse me?" Jane asked, startled from her reverie.
"What do you want to be when you grow up?" Owen pressed.
Jane felt at a loss. This was not a question she had been asked as a child. Certainly no one had asked her since. She would never grow up. She couldn't grow up.
"What do you...?"
"I kill vampires," Jane said. "That's what I do. That's all I want to do."
"Do you feel satisfied when you kill vampires?"
"I feel...less stressed," she tried to explain.
"That's not what I'm asking," Owen said. "When you kill vampires, do you feel like you're doing what you're meant to do?"
"Do you?" Jane shot back.
Owen recoiled as if Jane had slapped him in the face.
"Tell me," he demanded, "what did Alec want to be when he grew up?"
"Alive," Jane retorted, activating her power and striking Owen with everything she had.
She had pained Owen briefly on the night they had first met. This time Jane did a much more thorough job of it. She made the impudent human grovel and scream, foam at the mouth and soil his clothes. During it all Jane studied Lucy, waiting for her to intervene. But as in Vienna ten months ago, Lucy did nothing. She just sat there, seeming neither pleased nor displeased, waiting for Jane to finish.
Owen passed out. Jane stopped. It took the man several minutes to regain consciousness. He rolled onto his hands and knees and made eye contact with his torturer. "You're such a bitch, Jane," he gasped. Then he crawled through the door and vanished.
Jane smelled the mess on the floor, the noxious combination of sweat, blood, and vomit representing the only pleasure still present in her life. "Why doesn't it affect him?" she pleaded. "Why doesn't he care?"
"You can be in so much pain that more doesn't matter," Lucy said.
Jane felt like she was suffocating - a bizarre, long-forgotten sensation. "Why isn't he trying more with me?" she begged. "Why doesn't he try to make me...not a sadist? Why doesn't he make me eat animals? Does he think I'm damaged goods? That I can't do what they do?"
"No one's stopping you," Lucy observed.
Jane ran from the building and entered the adjacent woods. She claimed a deer, tore its head off, and devoured the bitterly bland blood. She heard Lucy approach. Lucy and her cruel, beating heart.
"Aro should have let me burn," Jane said. "It would have been better. What am I now? I'm nothing."
Lucy knelt beside her. "Cancer was killing me. I refused to die. I don't know if you're nothing. But I know that's what I am." She shifted in the leaves, glanced at the stars. "I think that's part of why he keeps us alive. To torture us with being undead."
"He said he only hates happy vampires."
"Oh, he doesn't hate us. He hates himself. The mystery of him is that he doesn't just care about humans. He cares about us, too. When we suffer, he suffers. That's why he makes us suffer. It's a way of hurting himself."
Jane wiped the blood from her mouth and shook her head. "Your boyfriend's got issues," she said.