All of us stepped forward, seeing late night construction trucks and workers moving to clear out the debris in the area. Beeping and loud engines ripped through the night air as we approached, and were quickly stopped by one of the workers.
"Whoah...hold on there, kids, this area is off limits. You guys can cross over at the next street, under the viaduct. That's the detour." He said.
I studied the area closely, feeling Alec's pain as his motions and chaotic frenzy became more obvious to my sixth senses and beyond.
Dion asked the man, "What happened here?"
"Who knows? Place was old. Abandoned. A little bit of pressure and the whole house of cards came down. It happens." The worker said, but I knew different.
"This looks like like a LOT more than a 'little bit of pressure'." Rain said.
"Hey, the city says clean it up, we clean it up. That's all they pay me for." The worker said. "You youngsters skiddadle. This ain't no peep show."
Rain watched him walk away from us, shouting orders at a few of his men. "Did that bloated sewer rat just tell us to 'skiddadle'? What is it about 'teenagers' that adults find so alluring when it comes to disrespecting the hell out of us? He's probably, like...two years older than me. Tops."
The man made sure that we weren't going to walk through their construction site by telling the others to keep an 'eye' on us. Then they went back to bulldozing what was left of the old structure. A fire hose was being used to keep the dust from polluting the air too badly, but a few plumes of dust shot up into the air anyway, nearly choking us from a distance.
Taryn could see me examining the ground, and even though I was too far away from the actual house...he could clearly see that I was on to something. "Was it him, Justin?" He asked.
"Yeah. No doubt about it. Alec was here." I said, feeling a shiver go through me. This was a bit too close to home for my tastes.
"Is Tim alright?" Jenna asked.
"I can't really tell for sure. But I think he was able to escape. Him and his boyfriend, John, seem to have traces of movement after the initial conflict was over. Char and Becca made it out too. They were definitely injured...but alive." I said. But the strange thing was, I was seriously picking up a weird signal from all of this. Something 'extra' that I hadn't really felt from Rage's exploits before. I tried to heighten the sensitivity of my search, and there was this strange...'vibration' happening all around the damaged area. It confused me at first, but I tried to string the events together with what little information I had.
And for a moment, I thought I felt something 'additional' behind us. Specifically behind Dion. Maybe I was just being super sensitive at the moment, as I didn't see anything...but it was there. If only briefly. And then..it was gone.
Jeremy was beginning to get impatient. "You know, we obviously wasted a lot of time and energy coming out here tonight. Anybody living in THAT dump is either long gone, or dead by now. So can we just...go find ourselves a 'party' somewhere, and chill out?"
"There's something different this time. Something that wasn't here before. Alec was using an extra that he never really used before...but..it feels so 'familiar' to me." I said.
Taryn seemed worried, and took a hold of my hand. "God...I hope Tim is alright."
"I take it 'Mr. Cute But Deadly' strikes again?" Jeremy said. "That kid is in serious need of a freakin' hobby."
Rain bumped Jeremy's shoulder on purpose, as if to tell him to watch it, as she went over to comfort Taryn with a hug. "What the hell did Tim ever do to him?"
"Nothing. He was searching for me." I said as I felt Trevor's extra seek out his desires and motivations for this attack. It was faint and it was hard to read...but it was still there. I could feel it. "How is he tracking me down? How is it that he's able to figure out all of the places I've been?"
Dion said, "Maybe you left a hidden signature behind. Something you weren't aware of."
Jenna chipped in with, "Could it be that he's going back over all of your left over markings? Some kind of...emotional trail of breadcrumbs?"
"Maybe, but how would he be able to trace it back this far?" I said. "I haven't seen Tim in months."
And that's when Jeremy said, "He certainly has an extensive shitlist, doesn't he? The kid doesn't fuck around. No wonder this place looks like my blood bank. This little bastard is demolishing everything he touches."
Something clicked for me at that moment, and with a little bit of an extra push in the right direction, I began to scan the area some more with a different approach. That's when things began to make sense. "Jeremy...when Rage came by your blood shack...did you fight him?"
All eyes turned to Jeremy in an instant, and he took a couple of steps backward. "Wait...wait a minute...I know damn WELL, you're not gonna accuse ME of having anything to do with this shit?"
"I'm not accusing you, Jeremy. I just need to know..."
"Because I didn't tell him a goddamn thing! He didn't give me a chance to! That kid completely came out of freakin' NOWHERE and ruined my business! I didn't even know what the fuck he was TALKING about at first! As far as I knew he was after 'pretty boy' Justin here and his boy toy! I didn't even KNOW this 'Tim' person..." Jeremy quickly swirled up with his defenses, but he still hadn't answered my question. And that's when I got scared of the answer.
"Jeremy...please tell me..." I asked. "...Did you 'fight' him?"
"Well...yeah. If by 'fight', you mean 'desperately tried to keep him from kicking my ass', then yes...we fought." Jeremy said, and the pieces began to come together. "Why?"
Jenna must have felt the change in my emotions, because she locked onto it immediately. "Oh my god..."
"What's going on?" Rain asked.
"He's following me. He's tracking my vibration."
Jeremy looked confused. "Wait, what? Vibration? What do you mean?"
"When I was at Bernie's club, I could see the 'imprint' he left behind. I could map out the events from his signature alone. It wouldn't be enough to track him down 'outside' of the club, but I could easily see where he had already been. And what he had done."
"So you're saying...he's using that on you. Like some kind of bloodhound." Rain said.
Dion said, "But you said it yourself, Justin...seeing the signature isn't enough to track you down outside of the initial conflict."
"No...it's not. Not unless he had combined it with another extra along the way. Making it stronger. More precise." I said, my wheels spinning as I saw more traces of violence in the wreckage around me. "At the club, remember what I told you? About his...'style' changing from person to person? Like...fighting them had allowed him to absorb their pain..and he took their extras and abilities with it."
Taryn seemed to catch on. "He's been looking for better ways to hunt you down. He's been fine tuning himself."
"Jeremy...you said that you could feel my vibration with your extra, right? That it was unique, and that everybody's was different. I think that's why Alec came to seek you out, specifically. Attacking you gave him the power to lock onto my vibration with your extra. He's been aggressively trying to locate me ever since. He's learning. And fast."
Jeremy stepped back a bit more. "What are you talking about? That's crazy. We fought for like...five minutes. That's hardly enough time to take my extra from me."
I looked back at the ruins through the construction trucks, and tried to replay the scene in my mind from the clues he left behind. I could see 'Rage' coming to Tim's front door...he knew the knock somehow. Possibly a stolen memory from me or any one of the many vampires he's battled since his power reached maturity. I could see him forcing his way inside, attacking Tim and all the other vampires in the building. Pain. Suffering. And a fury that could not be stopped. Absorbing all the energy he could as the dark void inside of him began to spin almost out of control. He was getting stronger with every step. SO much stronger than the last time I had gone up against him. I could only pray that I had learned a few extra tricks myself since then.
"He's building an extra strong enough to find me." I said. "Combining a bit of your extra, Jeremy...with a bit of Tim's...a bit of Becca's, a bit of Char's...he's piecing them all together. I don't know how far along he is, but you all know things about me personally. And you all have senses that can see the unseen. He's using that to gather strength."
"But how did he even know that you were ever here?" Dion asked.
"I don't know. Somehow I left some kind of footprint behind. Something he's able to pick up on that I can't figure out. It has to be SOMETHING....but what?"
That's when Jeremy spoke up. "The vibration...it lingers."
"It lingers. It gets really really weak once you're not in that area anymore, but...if he knows where to look, and he uses my extra well enough to intensify the left over traces...he could probably sense your vibes MONTHS after you've already gone. But he would have to be pretty damn efficient with it to do that. I doubt anybody could use my extra better than I could."
Thinking back to what I learned from sparring with Jazz and Dizz back in the warehouse, I told him, "He could...if that dark vacuum of his granted him access to the memories and miseries that caused that to be your extra in the first place."
"This doesn't sound good at all." Jenna said. "If he could do that, then he could find you anywhere. Why is he waiting?"
"I don't know. He's been trying, but...for some reason he can't lock in all the way." I told her.
Taryn had gotten quiet. And I noticed him sort of inching away from the rest of us, Rain included, as though he was the cause of all this. I looked over in his direction, and he lowered his head, his soft reddish brown locks closing in to hide his face...and his sorrowful green eyes as they began to glow with the beginning of tears. I reached out to him, and took him into my arms. "It's not your fault, baby. None of this is your fault."
And as I hugged him close, Jeremy's eyes opened wide. "Son of a bitch. THAT'S what's missing! That's his blind spot!"
Taryn and I looked at Jeremy, puzzled. "Blind spot? What blind spot?"
"Your vibration...it changes whenever you and Taryn are together. Remember what I said? It's like you're an entirely different person when you two are sharing the vibration together. He only knows how to track you when you're alone. Otherwise, he can't see a damn thing." Jeremy said. "If he's searching for your solitary vibration, then he can only go to places where you two were apart."
Dion thought about it, and said, "You did come to Tim's alone. And you were alone at Jeremy's blood bank a few times."
"And at the club with Gyro, and at Bernie's." Jenna added.
"But...but I wasn't alone. There were other people there." I said.
Jeremy told me, "Yes, but you weren't with TARYN. Somehow you were 'emotionally detached long enough for your signature to return to normal. That must be what he's looking for."
I tried to think of all the places I had been without him. And wondered who else I had put in danger with my presence alone. Where would Rage go next? Who would he hurt to get to me? I thought about Diva at the fountain, and Zero's habitat, Dash's sanctuary, the places I had gone to feed...I might have put EVERYONE in harm's way!
"So...he can find me whenever I'm alone?"
"Well, it doesn't really work like that. Not right away, anyway. I don't know for sure. Like I said, you and Taryn are pretty damn 'lovey dovey' most of the time, and I've never felt such a change in the vibrational pattern like I do with you two. So that vibe might linger on you both for a while, even when you're apart. It might be just enough to confuse the kid At least for the time being, while he's still figuring things out." Jeremy said. "But the key is the emotional involvement. As long as you keep Taryn close and in your thoughts, you might be able to slow him down. It's only during times when you're apart, both physically and emotionally, that the vibe begins to fade and return to normal."
"Oh God...." Taryn whispered, and I felt a wave of horror wash over me as his feelings bonded themselves to mine. "...The lot...."
"What? What's he talking about?" Jeremy asked.
The realization hit me like a bolt of lightning. "Taryn and I....we were apart at the lot. We've been apart for over a week now..." I said with a trembling voice, and Rain seemed to turn pale as she realized what that might mean. "Jeremy...can he track us there?"
"I...I don't know..."
"JEREMY!!! You've got to tell us! CAN HE TRACK US BACK TO THE LOT????" I shouted.
"I DON'T KNOW!!!" He shouted back. "Look...this is all very...strange! Ok? I don't know what the hell is happening here, but..."
"Just tell us if it's at all...POSSIBLE." Dion asked, now worrying himself, but attempting to calm the rest of us down with his mellow tone.
Jeremy took a deep breath. "Sighhh...it's highly unlikely. Alright? I mean...all you two DO is think about each other. It's sickeningly affectionate." Then he looked back at Dion. "But...is it possible that Justin might have...given off some kind of solitary vibration in the last week or so while they were apart? Something this 'Rage' or 'Alec' or whatever you wanna call him could pick up on and follow back to the source..yeah. It's a possibility. A SMALL one...but with the combination of these other extras he's picking up...I don't know what he's capable of."
"I've gotta know for sure." I said, and turned my attention back to the house. I got as close as I could without the construction workers being alerted and forcing us out of the area...and I stretched out both of my hands...hoping to pick up every faint signal that I possibly could. It was difficult, with so much going on around me. The noise of the trucks alone was throwing me off course. But with Jun's focus, I was able to tune a lot of the background noise out. I pushed and pushed...mentally trying to get a lead on what he might be doing next. If he finds the lot...we're ALL in danger.
Then...again...another hint of an extra signal among us. A phantom energy that vanished the second I turned my head to look for it. Nothing. Gone. It was beginning to worry me, because my senses haven't lied to me yet. Even with the confusion of figuring out how they're supposed to work properly. I could have pressed harder, but time was of the essence, and I had to find out Rage's plan before it was too late.
Jenna came over to stand at my side. "Are you getting anything?"
"Nothing but what's already here. Same images, same details. But I can't get them to go forward to figure out where he's headed next. They can only go backwards. What about you?"
Jenna attempted to reach out with her empathic senses, but a flood of tears came to her eyes the second she tapped into the energies left behind. "Oh my god, Justin....he's in sooooo much pain. I've never felt anything like it before." She said, wiping her cheeks. "It's almost as if the rage is the only thing that keeps him from collapsing in on himself. As if the anger keeps the suffering from eating him alive." I was thankful that Jenna said it just above a whisper. I would have hated to have had Taryn overhear that part. He already blames himself for soooo much of Alec's outrage.
"Jeremy?" I asked, and he walked over to join us.
"Say...I wanted to use your extra locate someone ahead of time? Get an idea of where they might show up next? How would I do that?"
"Hehehe, well now THAT is a nifty little parlor trick that I haven't learned yet." Jeremy said. "But if you're just talking about making an educated guess, I suppose there are ways to manipulate the connection between one vibration and another."
"Well...I suppose if you could entice him into putting out a strong enough emotional signal, you could find out where he was at any given moment. But I don't see how that's gonna do you much good right now." He said.
"Have you ever used it to track someone down to a place BEFORE they actually showed up there? Were you ever able to get a lead on their destination." I asked.
"A few times I've gotten lucky, sure. Mostly for deadbeats who didn't wanna pay for their blood. I used it on YOU, as a matter of fact, when I sent 'Tiny' to pick you and your friends up at the bar that night. But that was a shot in the dark. You just happened to be predictable." Jeremy told us.
"So how did you do it? Tell me." I said, and Jeremy gave me a confused look.
"Ummmm...ok, are you mental? Do you SEE what he did to this building, or am I imagining all of this? Do you know what the son of a bitch did to my business? This 'Rage' or 'Alec' or whatever you wanna call him is out for some SERIOUS blood! And now you're telling me you wanna use MY extra to actually FIND the crazy fuck? Unh unh, no way! You can count me out, blondie. The way I see it, the more I stay out of his way, the better"
"Jeremy...if you don't help me find HIM before he finds US, he's gonna show up right at our front gate! And the NEXT time you two square off, I'm sure he's not gonna have much reason to leave you alive. Do you get my meaning?" I told him, and Jeremy looked as though he was going to remain stubborn about getting involved any deeper than he already was. "Jeremy, please? Help us. You're a blood dealer, I KNOW you've got to have ways of tracking people down. It's your business. It's what you do. I know you're not the kind of guy that would let some delinquent vampire go without paying off his debts. So...if you've got a way to help me find him, then please...tell me how!"
Jeremy sighed for a second or two, his arms folded. But after a minute of all of us staring at him, he rolled his eyes and said, "You ask an awful lot for somebody who's not giving up any ass, you know that?" He said. "Look, I'm not THAT exact with my extra...but toying around with it a few times...I found little ways to sort...'reflect' it back to the source."
"Reflect it?" Jenna asked. "What do you mean?"
"Well, if the output of emotion is strong enough, the vibration leaves a powerful imprint. It's hard as hell to do, but if I mirror that imprint with the current one the target is putting out...sometimes it leaves a trail between them. Like an invisible 'umbilical cord' between the incident and the source. You can at least get an idea of what direction he's headed." He said. "But we'd have to get him to put out a pretty powerful emotion for it to work."
"How do you go about doing that?" Dion asked.
Jeremy fidgeted a bit, seeming a little uncomfortable. "Look, in my line of work...if a target tries to skip out on a payment, they tend to go underground. They hide out. Churches, vampire sanctuaries, they leave town..they go some place where they think I can't find them. So the only way for me to get to them is to lure them out in the open, and get them to leave me a signal I can follow. Then I can trace the vibration and get my payment. But it's gotta be...significant."
He seemed to be cutting something out. I could feel it.
Jenna asked him, "What kind of significant vibration do you need?"
"It can be anything really. Extreme joy, extreme anger, sexual arousal...but more often than not, 'pain' is the most effective, and it leaves the clearest trail because it last for so much longer than the others." Jeremy saw the look on my face, and decided to come clean about his 'methods'. "Usually...when I need to locate a target and predict the next move...the idea is to apply enough 'pressure' to get the desired result. It's the only way to get him to come out of the shadows. And if Rage knows what I know..."
"What are you saying?" Rain asked him.
"...Well, typically...the strategy is to take someone you care about...and hurt them until you step into the light. Maybe even 'murder' them. It's the only way a strong enough signal can be achieved. I wouldn't be surprised if Rage tried to use that exact same tactic to get you to show yourself." I saw Jeremy slightly shrug away in a moment of shame, his answer making him look more like a 'gangster' than a 'businessman'. Jenna and Rain both stared at him in disbelief, silently begging the question of what Jeremy's done in the past...and how many times he's put this 'method' of his into effect. "Don't look at me like that." He grumbled. "Hey! I do what I have to do to survive out here!Got me? Some of us and curling up in the backseat of a Volvo in some abandoned junkyard at the ass end of town I can't let a single ONE of these fuckers run out on me. That kinda rumor spreads fast, and to all the wrong people. I get my hands dirty sometimes, sure. But if word ever got out that I was soft on my customers, I'd have every 'tweak' and 'spice head' creeping into my bedroom window every night with a metal shiv in their hand. Blood dealing's not a pretty business, but screw it....it's not a pretty world either."
Trying to regain Jeremy's focus, I put a hand on his shoulder, and reached out with my other hand towards the house. "Ok...I think I can see what you're saying. So...show me how."
"What? What are you talking about?"
"Show me how to do what you do. With Jenna's help and some of Trevor's extra, I might be able to pinpoint his location and predict his next move."
Jeremy scoffed at me. "Hehehe, what? Get outta here."
"You said you would help us."
"Listen, junior...even if I DID have enough to work with here, which I doubt that I do...I doubt that we just have a couple of years handy for me to teach you how to use my extra and train you on how to fine tune it to that degree. Much less learn Trevor's on top of it. There's not enough time in the world to make that happen."
Dion gave Jeremy a serious look, and told him, "Justin won't need it. Trust me." And we all remained silent as Jeremy looked at me, almost in disbelief. "He's got your extra already. Don't ask questions, just believe me when I say it's true."
He was skeptical. Jeremy always was. But soon gave me the most unintentionally wicked smirk that I had ever seen. "My, my, my...you ARE a 'special' one, aren't you? We will definitely discuss this, in DETAIL...later." He stepped up beside me, and said, "What level are you at? What do you feel?"
"What do I feel?" I asked him. "Nothing much....just...a jumble of sensations."
"Hmmm...ok, you're picking up too much. What you wanna do...is zero in on one pattern. Just one. Like this..." Jeremy put his hand on my chest, and I felt this gentle flutter of energy run through his palm. "...You feel it?"
"Ok, now reach out...and do what I'm doing...but lock on to Rage's signature instead of your own. Be careful with it. You don't wanna strengthen it too much, or we'll have a minor earthquake on our hands. Seek it out...recognize it...then slowly bring it to a boiling point. You'll know it's him when you feel it." Jeremy kept his hand on my chest, trying to get me to feel a physical vibration the whole time so I'd know what I was looking for. And as I got used to the sensation, my mind was able to use the extra as my own...and my fingers began to tremble slightly. "There you go....that's it. You got a lock on him?"
My hand started to shake as well, and it was almost as if I could feel Alec's presence...right there in my fingertips. "Yeah...yeah, I think I got him."
"Ok...now what you wanna do, is gently turn up the juice on the vibration. DON'T force it! Think of it like turning up the volume on a car radio. You're not trying to blow your eardrums out...you just want to set it to a loud enough volume for you to get a clear delivery. Alright?" Jeremy took his hand from my chest and stepped back from me. I put both hands out, and swept the area...looking for the strongest signal I could find.
I could almost feel the heat generated by the anger within him. The vibration was so 'personal'...there was no mistaking it once I knew what it was. I began to gradually strengthen it on my own, and I must have gone too fast at first, because I felt my arms jerk violently, and this shockwave tremor of pain ran up to both of my shoulders. I gasped and winced in pain from the impact of it.
"Oooh, not good, rookie." Jeremy said, rushing back over to help me. "Take it EASY, or you'll break both of your arms before 'psycho teen' gets the chance to do it himself." He put his hand back on my chest. "You feel how I'm doing it? Just a little bit at the time. Juuuust a little increase. Gotta go slow."
I tried it again, and did what he said...but despite the traces of his presence that he left behind, I don't think it was strong enough to 'mirror' the signal like he said. "I've got him...but I can't find out where the source is NOW."
Jeremy shrugged his shoulders. "Ah well. I told you, it's not an exact science, kid. You'll have to find another way."
"Wait..." Jenna said. "...Maybe I can help. Justin...focus on me instead." She said, prepared to open herself up to the pain and horror she felt from Alec's imprint before.
"Jenna? Are you sure?" Dion asked. And she nodded.
"Ummm...yeahhhhh, you know, she's really too pretty to be doing this with an amateur." Jeremy warned. "I mean, no offense, Justin...but too much juice and your sweet little angel here is gonna pop like a water balloon."
Jenna was unphased by the warning, and instead tapped herself back into the suffering she felt earlier. Her abilities not only recreated Alec's emotional state, but she began to intensify it all on her own, making it strong enough for me to see clear as day.
It worried me a bit to be trying something like this on her when I still had no real idea what the hell I was doing...but it was the only way to get this to work. Jenna began to draw in all the left over emotion that she could, and her eyes began to instantly overflow with tears, her beautiful face scrunched up as she attempted to step into the shoes of someone so bitter. It was hurting her. I could tell. The emotional distress it was causing her must have been unbearable. I doubt even Rain would have been able to handle it.
I focused on her as much as I could, while she fought to not only copy Alec's emotional state...but bring it to a high enough level that I'd be able to use against him. It began to change her. She felt his hatred. She experienced his inner suffering. And it was turning her very spirit cold right in front of my eyes...her lips turned up in a snarl as she stared back at me with crimson eyes.
"Justin...?" Dion said, worrying now that Jenna was beginning to morph into a mind state that was beyond her control. "Justin, be quick about this"
"Justin!" Rain shouted.
"I'm TRYING! If I push too hard, I'll hurt her!"
"Justin's right! He'll do less damage finishing the scan than he would breaking the link." Jeremy said. "Go on, kid. Concentrate. Find the signature, and reflect it back to the source. It'll tell you where he's heading. You can do it."
I did as I was told, and found what I was looking for. But it was then that I saw Jenna turn her attention to Taryn...and the amount of utter FURY that poured out of her was enough to frighten us all. I saw her fangs spike down from her gums, and it took every last bit of her energy to not charge Taryn full speed and rip him to pieces.
Desperately, I tried to work my way around Jeremy's extra, and I think I had a strong enough hold on it to do what was needed. "Ok! Now what???" I said, and Jeremy guided me on what to do next.
"Alright...now Rage is going to be giving out a 'current' emotional signal...it should match the one you're holding onto right now. It won't be faded. What you want to do is match the two...and witness the space between them. That should give you the 'aura line'." He said. "It's like...folding a piece of paper. You make one end...meet the other. So that they touch. Do you understand?"
Jenna began to growl, her tears out of control, her fists balled up so tightly that her fingernails began to draw blood from her palms. But just before Taryn's presence caused her to unleash the building wrath inside of her, I found Alec's current imprint, and matched them like Jeremy said. And there was a definite 'line' between them. A line that was getting longer as he was moving away from Tim's house and traveling in the other direction.
I applied a bit of Trevor's extra to see if I could lock onto his intentions. Where was he headed. What did he want. I was glad that he seemed to be going in the opposite direction from the lot, which means the rest of my 'family' was safe. But as Trevor's abilities kicked in...and Alec's position became more clear...I found myself feeling sick to my stomach.
In an instant, I was tossed out of the connection, and fell backwards to the ground with a thud. The link was broken, and Dion RUSHED over to catch Jenna before she fell. He held her tight in his arms while she fought and screamed for him to let her go. The anger and hatred had all but consumed her to the point of nearly scratching Dion's eyes out. He literally had to use his ability to shut down his own emotions entirely in the hopes that she would absorb that as well...and calm down herself.
Taryn hurried to my side, and Jeremy watched me with a certain degree of fascination. But when I got back on my feet...I was too scared to move. Too scared to even think. "Justy...what happened? What did you see?"
"Alec..." I said, my mind unwilling to accept what was going on.
"Did it work? Did you get a lock on his location?" Jeremy asked, and once Jenna was emotionally stable enough, Dion helped her back to her feet as well. All eyes were on me...and I didn't know how to speak.
"What is it? What's the matter? Talk to me." Taryn repeated.
"I saw....where Alec was headed." I said, my lips almost numb from the admission of it. "He's headed towards...the hospital..." I told them "He's going after Richie..............."