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Taryn and I found two small chairs behind us, and we sat down with a slightly uneasy feeling. Except for the glow and occasional flicker of the monitors behind our host, the room was so very dark. Large, iron walkways hung over our heads, stairs leading to the basement level. The buzz of mechanical contraptions, lightly humming in unison. And then there was Erick...
Even while silhouetted in darkness, his boyish beauty was evident. A playful beauty, void of arrogance or pretense. Natural, with the hint of wickedness behind his smile. Dark hair and eyes, slim and slender build. I didn't realize that I was staring until Taryn gave me a nudge.
Erick leaned forward, the slight squeak in his chair piercing the silence. "Let me start off by saying that everything that happens here tonight...never happened here tonight. Understood? Trust me, it's just as much for your benefit as it is mine." He said. "You must be Justin. I'd say that I've heard a lot about you, but I haven't. Doc's never been one to keep secrets from me." He looked over to my right and said, "And who are you?"
I spoke up and told him, "This is Taryn..."
"His boyfriend, Taryn." He added, attempting, too late, to hide the touch of envy in his voice.
Erick merely nodded with a smile, and spun back around to focus a majority of his computer monitors on the underground audio frequencies that Doc sent him from the Jeweler's private communications. The room lit up as filtered voice and wavelength patterns began to ripple and vibrate with every spoken word. Erick had somehow separated all of the voices, put them on a frequency of their own, and was having the spoken words translated into text. I couldn't understand a word of it,but he seemed to be tuning into the conversations just fine.
He turned back to face us again. "Do you two know what you are looking at right now?"
"Um...no. Not really." I replied.
"You are looking at one of the biggest finds in vampire history as far as we average night walkers are concerned. I mean, this is like finding out that Clark Kent is Superman. I still can't believe that I'm seeing this with my own eyes." Erick took a few of the audio tracks and expanded them on the screen to his right. "Listen to it. Do you hear that?" Taryn and I listened, but we still couldn't understand it. "It retained its beauty. The language...after all these centuries...it's like fine poetry." Erick rolled closer to us with an excited smirk. "Where on Earth did you find this???"
"I don't know. Friend of a friend of a...'friend', I guess?" I kept my mouth shut. The last thing I need is more exposure.
"Well, I hope your friend of a friend of a friend is well protected. Because if any of the Elders were to get wind of this, they'd send their top soldiers to murder us all." I know what Pan and Doc told me before, about them finding vampires actually speaking verzpertillio, but I thought they were putting me on. Imagine my surprise when I actually got to hear it for myself. Oh God! It was unbelievable!"
Taryn and I heard a few noises as we saw Fallen doing some rearranging of random items in the darkness around us. He was keeping his eye on a separate laptop that looked like it was built into a Titanium briefcase. And every once in a while, an alarm would beep, he'd press a few buttons, and then go back to whatever he was doing again.
Erick typed in a few more passwords into his system, and his eager smile got even wider than before. "However, once I actually started trying to translate the actual texts, I found myself having a great deal of trouble with certain parts. Huge blank spaces that we couldn't figure out. I couldn't figure out why. Fallen built that translator program all on his own. There were tons of ancient scriptures that it was able to crack with no problem. That's when I discovered the REAL beauty of it all."
"What was that?" Taryn asked.
"Well...what you and your friends have found here isn't just the ghost of an old dead language. What you found was the modernized version of a language that never died to begin with." He said. I was still a bit confused, and he seemed shocked that we didn't get it right away. "What I'm saying is...the reason that the translator didn't work is because it was built off of the original language of the shadows. The iluminirae version of ancient verzpertillio. But they're not speaking the original language of the shadows. This is new. It's evolved. That means that there are vampires who have been passing it down in secret for thousands of years, and it continued to grow." Erick scooted up closer to the largest screen in the center to point out certain details. "The first thing that I noted was that these messages mentioned times of day, and actual dates of the year. But the script is clearly verzpertillio."
"What's so weird about that?" I asked.
"Well, when back when verzpertillio was supposedly still a functional language...there was no sense of mechanical time. No clocks, no watches, no twelve month calendars with the baby kittens on them. There was night and day, Winter and Spring...crop seasons, high and low tides, moon gazing and star alignments, maybe...but there was no 12 O'clock. There was no January 15th. They didn't exist." He said. "It took a great deal of calculations on my part, but I was able to make sense of it. Words come and go, and in between they can change meaning at the drop of a hat. But numbers are always the same. Probability factors for letter usage and phrase analysis, I was able to figure out what some of these new words were. And what I found blew my mind! Look...there are addresses, they mention airplanes and flight numbers, internet sources, cell phone numbers, blood banks inside the city limits...these are all NEW things! And that means that the language is still as much in use today as it was back when it first grew out of its original Latin roots."
I told him, "I'm not really following you. I mean...is this good news? Or bad news?"
"Oh...er...um...I don't know. That's the part I'm still trying to figure out." Erick said, a little pout on his lips.
"You can't read it?"
"Oh, I can read it, believe me. I just...doesn't seem to make a whole lot of sense." He told me.
Fallen spoke up as he shut of another alarm in his briefcase laptop. "It makes perfect sense to me. Erick here just doesn't want to believe it."
"What does he mean?" I asked.
Erick's faced wrinkled up a bit as he looked in on a few of the hidden conversations online again. "It's silliness. I keep looking for some kind of sensible chit chat, but all they do is babble on and on about the 'chosen one'. That whole vampire Mimic thingy where he returns to us and brings enlightenment and peace or whatever. It's all just a bunch of hooey."
"Some people believe it's true, dude." Fallen responded.
"That's what you said about the whole 'Comicality' legend, remember? And was HE real? No." Fallen stuck his tongue, but Erick didn't pay it much attention. "I don't know if you guys would be able to gather much meaning out of all this mess. From what I can tell, this Jeweler guy is some kind of philosophical weeny who wants to talk vampire hoopla with his friends. Prophecy and meditation and old vampire dogma. It doesn't really give me much of anything concrete or scientific to work with at all."
A bit worried about what I might hear, especially since I had Taryn standing right there next to me, I stammered to say, "Can....can you tell me what it says?"
Erick shrugged his shoulders and said, "Sure. Um...well, take this passage right here. I think he quoted it out of somewhere or something. It says,
"Sects?" Taryn asked.
"Sects, covens, tribes...keepers of ancient vampire folklore and tradition. Like...vampiric religion. Some interesting ideas, but they're mostly just fairy tales. It seems awfully odd that they would risk being targeted for execution for something like this. I mean, they could have swapped tall tales in any language. Why verzpertillio?" Erick asked. "They certainly seem to talk about you an awful lot though. Oh...and you see this?" He said pointing to a small yellow beacon on the screen. "Luckily, Doc's laptop is encrypted with something that Pan gave him to stay off the radar, because this Jeweler guy is trying to locate you in a major way. Doc's protection won't last forever. You may want to handle this before he comes looking for you on foot."
"Dammit!" Fallen grunted. "Erick, we've got an issue here."
"What is it?"
"Your defense systems...the pitbulls are already inside."
Erick said, "But...that's impossible." Switching his screens again, Erick typed in a few commands, and tried to rapidly protect his system from being invaded. It looked like the decryption codes were coming from a bunch of different places at once. "Why you crafty little beavers. You actually found a way in." With a small stylus, Erick took a pad in hand and began writing out a few complicated math problems, sending them into the computer. "There. They'll have to solve those before they get a chance to start tinkering around with my system again. They must really want access. I've never had them do that before." Taryn and I looked a bit worried, but Erick put us at ease. "It's fine. We deal with this sort of thing all the time. Don't we, Fallen?"
Another alarm went off on his laptop. This one was louder and a bit more urgent than the other ones. "Not like this!" Fallen answered, now scooting up a chair and sitting down to his laptop to help. "Something's wrong. They are really banging hard at our backdoor right now. We must have tripped something. Some kind of secretly bugged frequency."
Erick seemed bewildered. "But....but...the math...?"
"They're solving all of the problems. At record speed." Fallen said. "They must have a savant on their side."
"A savant?" I asked.
"Sometimes the Elders crossover someone at genius level. A higher brain functioning extra, or an autistic, that specialize in cracking codes and solving problems like this. The thing is...it's only used in extreme cases."
"How extreme?" I asked.
"Oh...you know...like the difference between a rent-a-cop giving you a jay walking ticket and...James Bond, licensed to kill everybody in the room, shit." Fallen seemed a bit shaken, and everything that he did to conceal our location was blocked and countered. "This is serious, Erick. I don't know if my firewalls can keep them from sneaking in."
With a wrinkled brow, Erick spun back around in his chair, and cracked his knuckles as he prepared all of the screens and keyboards before him. "A bunch of wise guys, huh? Ok, then. Let's dance...."
Taryn and I watched in silence as the two boys waged a digital war against the very people we were hiding from. Fallen began putting up blockades at every turn, redirecting their search to places all over the globe and attempting to plant viruses into their feed whenever he saw a split second opportunity. Erick's hands were frantically busy, switching back and forth between keyboards, opening up new windows, closing down old ones before they could be traced. He switched back to his pad, writing out problems that were more and more complex....lines and numbers and equations that seemed to go on forever. Some of them word problems...typed out in a variety of different languages to throw them off. But whatever 'savant' the intruders had on their side...he was burning through them in no time flat.
Fallen was slamming his fingers on those keys as fast as he could, but he couldn't keep up. "Erick...."
"Seriously, dude....this doesn't look good..."
"I KNOW!" Erick said again. I saw a grid of all of the programs that were trying to zero in on us. They were like little worms, eating their way to the core of an apple. Erick went from screen to screen, worm to worm, putting a block in their way. "First!" He said with every barricade. "First! Annnnnd...FIRST!"
"We've got decoys!" Fallen shouted, and I saw the electronic worms on the screen triple in number. "I can't stop them all! They are WAY too fast!"
"Meanies!" Erick said. "First, first, first, first....ugh!" He looked over at Fallen to give him a nod. "They're not playing fair. I think we should shut it down."
"I'm on it." I saw them both get up and start packing their bags in a hurry.
"Umm...what's going on?" I asked, taking Taryn by the hand and holding him close as my adrenaline began to rush.
As a bunch of different sirens and alarms began to go off simultaneously, Fallen told us, "You hear that sound? That's the 'let's get the fuck outta here' bell! Because if the Elders lock onto this location...ummm...we'd better not be here."
Erick asked, "What's the response time for hit squads in this area?"
"Two, maybe three, minutes. Maybe less." Fallen told him. They were both moving around us so fast that I suddenly became short of breath. They were erasing files and smashing equipment, they really meant business. "Come on, Erick....we don't have a lot of time..."
"I'm going as fast as I can."
Taryn began to tremble at my side, "Justin, let's just go. Let's get out of here."
"Wait..." I said. "Erick? The messages you saw...are you sure there wasn't anything 'dangerous' about them? Nothing at all?"
"Little busy here, Justin." He said, still scrambling to get his stuff.
"You've been studying it all this time. Just...I need to know what to expect. Please."
Erick's eyes met mine for a moment, and he said, "From what little I got...they think you're a god. An angel of light. They're convinced that you're the chosen one. Dangerous, not dangerous...I guess it depends on how serious they are about their beliefs. It's a short walk from believer to fanatic. I don't really know if I can tell you much more than that yet. I just figured out the linguistic evolution, now I've got to tap into the mythology to figure out what the heezy they're talking about. But as soon as I find another safe place to set up, I'll contact you again."
"How many more files do you have to shut down?" Fallen called out.
"We're not gonna make it!"
"It wouldn't be a good idea to leave these traces behind Fallen! They will lead them right back to us!" Erick called back.
Taryn clung tightly to my arm. "Justin?"
"Right. Let's go." I said.
But before I could even get two steps away, Fallen warned us, "Umm...I wouldn't just walk out the front door like that. NOT good."
"Is there another way out of here?" I asked.
"I wouldn't go out the back way either. They'll be closing in on us from all sides." Fallen said.
"They? Who are they?"
"They...are the people who come bearing some pretty nasty gifts if you go looking at stuff you're not supposed to. The Elders are more of a Mafia than a government. So when they get here, it would be best if we were long gone." Fallen turned back, "Erick?"
"Fourteen to go..." He said.
The tension began to build up within me, and my breathing became short. No....not now. Please, not now.
Erick was working hard to clear all of the records of what they had been working on, and Fallen was desperately shoving tools and exposed hard drives into bags. It was then that I felt a surge of energy rising up inside of me. The hairs on Taryn's arm stood up as the electricity passed from my hand to his. He looked at me to see what was going on, but as hard as I tried to contain it, the anxiety of making a hasty escape from this place and protect Taryn at the same time was too much for me to bear.
Soon...little blue and red sparks started to flicker around me...and with a burst much larger than the small episodes I had around Doc's laptop...it shot our in all directions and every electronic device in the room suddenly glitched and shut down. Every screen went black, the systems wiped clean. Erick and Fallen stopped what they were doing and stared at the screens in disbelief.
"Erick....?" Fallen asked. "...Did you do that?"
".....No." Erick answered. They were both so shocked that they forgot we were in the middle of an escape.
"Do you think they finished the trace?"
"I don't know..."
Just then, I heard the loud crash of breaking windows coming from overhead. I saw, what looked like, an entire army of soldiers dressed in all black fatigues with gas masks on their faces. They poured in from every corner, and were already making their way down to our level. Jesus Christ, they got there fast!
I put Taryn behind me, keeping him close. But Fallen and Erick had obviously done this before. With the flick of a few switches, the two boys brought down a series of chain link fences, blocking all of the metallic stairs leading down into the basement. It was only seconds later that the soldiers began to cut their way through. They bought us another 30 seconds, I doubt it would be much more. Erick tossed Fallen a giant duffel bag full of their notes and equipment and told him, "I'll hold 'em off! Get outta here! You know where to find me later!"
"Right! See you then!" Fallen turned to us, "C'mon! I know a quick way to get to the loading dock from here! Follow me!"
"What about Erick?" I asked, already hurrying behind him with Taryn in tow.
Before he could answer me, the fences were kicked open, and the vampire pitbulls were practically climbing over the railings like an angry horde of army ants.
As they dropped down, closing in on Erick from all sides, I saw his eyes glowing bright red...his fangs dropping down from his gums as he slowly crossed his arms over his chest.
"Get down on your knees! Do it! NOW!!!" The soldiers shouted. Erick knew better. We all did. There were no arrests to be made here, tonight. We were all as good as dead.
"They're not gonna have too good a time." Fallen said.
Taryn and I watched as Erick stepped one foot over the other, crossing his ankles. And suddenly, he began to spin his body around like a top. It was so fast that he became a complete blur to everyone around him. The soldiers warned him to 'power down', but he just kept spinning.
Taryn and I exchange a look, and I asked Fallen, "That's his extra? He...um...he spins around really fast?"
"Yep. He spins around....really fast." He answered.
"That's it." Fallen replied, and just as Erick hit his top speed, he grabbed Taryn and I by the hand and said, "Um...I'd duck, if I were you?"
Before the words left my mouth, a FLURRY of razor sharp shuriken exloded from the center of Erick's spinning and flew out in all directions. Sparks flew from every metallic object they hit, and Taryn and I dove behind a nearby cabinet to keep from being cut to shreds!
The soldiers surrounding him were being pelted mercilessly by the shrapnel. They didn't stand a chance.
The others responded by drawing their pistols and firing off as many shots as they could, but Erick was actually moving fast enough to spin out of the way. Bullets couldn't touch him. And as soon as he figured out where the shot was coming from, the soldier became his next target. I had never seen anything like it. Even during his dizzying display of circles, his aim was immaculate. He could almost curve the path of the shuriken to glide sideways and hit its target from around the corner. And yet, for those that got anywhere near him, he could stop on a dime, and fight them, hand to hand. It was as if he had a whole martial art developed for his extra alone. Always moving, always spinning and rolling to one side or another. One soldier put his hand on Erick's shoulder from behind, and he spun so quickly that it broke his arm! Erick kicked him back a few steps, and a few bladed stars found their way into his face!
Taryn and I were so amazed that Fallen had to remind us to keep moving. "I know it's quite a show, folks! But unless you want this to be our final curtain, I suggest we take advantage of the few moments he's given us! Let's MOVE!"
"COVER THE EXITS!!!" Shouted their commander, and I saw even more soldiers flood their way throughout the dark warehouse. Trying to cut off our route of escape.
Taryn and I had trouble keeping up with Fallen. He was moving SO fast! Suddenly, two soldiers appeared in front of us, and I watched Fallen swiftly move into action to disarm them both. Another one was coming up behind me, and I saw Taryn move to push him up against the wall to protect me. I delivered a few blows to disable him, but the others were catching up to us fast. It was better for us to keep running than it was to stay and fight. We'd be overwhelmed in a matter of seconds if we gave them time to strategize and position themselves around us.
As we kept rushing forward, a strange feeling swept over me. Like a bright light in my mind, blinding me from the inside. So bright that it almost hurt. I watched Fallen run up and blindly turn around a dark corner...and he suddenly took two bullets to the head, and one directly in the heart! Killing him instantly!
But....once I saw it, the light in my mind faded. And I noticed that all three of us were still running. Fallen wasn't dead. He hadn't reached that part of the 'circle' yet.
I saw him approaching the dark corner ahead. "WAIT!!!" I shouted, and without thinking, I used Chad's speed to blaze forward and yank him back around the corner...just as the three fatal shots missed him by just a few inches!
Breathing hard, Fallen said, "Ok...I think I owe you one!"
"Stay here..." I said. At my command, a dark halo surrounded my head, and after a few short breaths, I charged out into the middle of the corridor, my feet leaving the ground and taking to the wall as the soldiers did their best to get a fix on me. Jun's focus allowed me to steady myself long enough to aim, and with a scream...the brain geyser energy burst forth and sent them flying backwards like leaves in a high wind.
More soldiers came up on my right side, and I reached out a hand towards the fallen enemies down the hall, absorbing their pain and suffering from the blast, and converting it to Comicality's shadow energy, and raising my other hand to deliver a blow to the other soldiers heading our way.
Fallen's eyes gazed at me with awe. "You're just full of tricks tonight, aren't you?"
I grabbed Taryn, who's eyes had already gone red, his fangs lowered and ready to do whatever he could to make sure we made it out of there alive. As my fangs unsheathed themselves, I took a brief look at Taryn, and found the demon in him eerily beautiful. I leaned forward to give him a quick kiss on the lips, and we continued towards the loading dock.
As we reached the end of the long hallway, we heard bullets ricocheting off of the walls. I pushed Taryn's head down, and Fallen kicked the door open. We spilled out onto the dock, and I turned around to hold the door closed. Fallen hopped down to the driveway, a large open space with a few 18 wheeler cargo carriers on either side of us. I felt the sudden impact of the soldiers crashing up against the other side of the door. They forced it open for a moment, but as Max's strength kicked in and began to increase, I found myself able to push it shut again. I was strong, but I didn't think I'd be able to hold it shut for much longer. "If you've got a plan, Fallen...you'd better get it working fast!" Another sudden jolt slammed against the other side of the door, causing my back and arms to ache as I fought even harder to keep them from coming through.
I saw a few black figures drop down from above. They must have come from the rooftop! I shouted out to tell Fallen to watch his back, and within seconds, he had a fight on his hands. I wanted to help him, but it was taking everything that I had just to keep the door closed. It was then that I saw Taryn moving to jump in with Fallen...and the horror that ran through me was immeasurable. The thought of him being hurt, of one of these intruders getting a lucky shot....it created a change in me.
As I felt the soldiers pushing on the back of the door....pushing....pushing...PUSHING...Max's anger extra keeping me strong, further enhanced by using Jenna's empathic ability to draw from the soldier's anger as well to make me even stronger...I felt the cold, icy, of shadows surrounding my arms. My hands began to tremble with rage. A guttural growl escaped my lips, and I tapped into the source of madness that I had been holding back for as long as I could.
Without warning, the soldiers hit the door with a battering ram, and it knocked me forward, nearly blowing the door off its hinges. Stunned, I tried to get back up on my feet. Before we knew it, they were all over the three of us, and we began to scrap with them as best we could.
Fallen was a good fighter, but he was taking some serious damage. Taryn was able to get some hits in, but he's not a fighter. My focus was more concentrated on keeping him safe than the soldiers themselves. I was easily taking on three or four soldiers at a time, but they just kept coming. However, it was death from above that helped to even things out a little. A hail of shuriken rained down on the soldiers, and Erick jumped in to join us. The four of us held our own at first, but I saw two of the soldiers drag Taryn away from the center of our little circle of protection. Taryn fought and screamed, but they held his arms down, and two more soldiers came to grab his legs.
There were just so MANY of them! I instantly tried to run to Taryn's rescue, but the pitbull squad had already figured out that they needed to put most of their energy on me alone. I couldn't take a step forward without them jumping all over me. I flashed my eyes at two of them, blinding them instantly. I put my hand on another, and froze his bulletproof vest to his chest, striking out to shatter it into a million pieces. I wrapped acid webs around the throat of another, having it burn his flesh in agony. But no matter what I did, I couldn't get close enough to reach Taryn.
They began to kick and beat him on top of the loading dock, and I had to think fast!
I wasn't quite sure if it was going to work, but I had to try....
I had been so close to Taryn for so long, that using his telepathy extra came easy. Except this time...I didn't send him a mental message made of words. This time, I sent him the muscle memory and fighting techniques that I had learned myself. I saw his position, and had to think about how I could get out of it. The message was sent, and I saw Taryn's eyes open wide as his body reacted to the extra input.
His slim frame twisted around and broke the soldiers' hold on him, then moving to elbow the two behind him in the stomach, and delivering a vicious jumping spin kick to knock the others to the floor!
Even Taryn, himself, was surprised at what had just happened. He looked at his hands, and then down at me. We shared a nod and kept fighting. I wasn't able to have Taryn retain the fighting knowledge for more than a few seconds at a time, but as long as I kept my eyes on him, I was able to send him message after message, his stances and fighting styles changing as needed. I suppose playing all those fighting games growing up came in handy after all.
I still had to fight off an entire army on my own, but I kept a mental link with Taryn, feeding him moves to fend off everyone who came his way. I busted a few heads, Taryn busted a few heads, back and forth...trying to concentrate on both wasn't easy, but soon Taryn and I just fell in sync, and we battled the whole damn army together as one!
Erick spun from one end of that loading dock to the other, knocking soldiers down four or five at a time! And at one point, I saw Fallen target five soldiers in a cluster, and spread his fingers out in front of them. They all stopped dead in their tracks, their bodies feeling weightless, as if they were lost in an endless freefall. The sensation increased to sickening levels...and suddenly, Fallen quickly slammed his fist shut, and a shockwave shot through them with a fury! Bones broke like toothpicks as the impact hit them hard from within. It was as if they had been thrown from the top of building and hit the ground at full velocity.
I was stepping over unconscious bodies now, piled up in every corner, and I jumped up onto the dock to stand with Taryn, back to back, while we tried to catch our breath.
"Are you ok?" I asked.
"Yeah. I'm fine." He said. "A quiet, danger free, evening, huh? Just coming to talk?"
"Ugh! I hate it when Bryson is right!" I said.
I wasn't sure how many more soldiers are coming, but something tells me that this whole conflict is just foreplay. Pitbulls are one thing...but we're going to be in serious trouble if they get Hunters involved.
After my last few run ins with Hunters...I don't look forward to seeing another one. We're getting out of here. ALL of us. I can promise you that!