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The pure savagery of my attacks were beginning to have their effect on the soldiers on the offensive. I could feel it in their very positioning. Their steps began to get shaky. Their breaths shorter, as their 'fight' responses were quickly turning to 'flight' responses. They had never seen anything like me before. They had no idea what they were up against. And that caused a dark thought to pass through my psychotic mind...
I could be exposed. The hiding from those looking to harm me and the people around me would no longer be an option. It may be necessary for me to finish this. Perhaps...it would be in my best interest...
...If NO ONE left here alive.
The muscles in my arms and legs were no longer straining. The energy flowing within was infinite. The powers at my disposal were as divine as my alter ego told me they would be. I had forgotten about protecting Taryn. I had forgotten about retreating from the scene. I had forgotten about the possible Hunter that was on his way. None of that mattered. I am not a little boy anymore. I am the vampire mimic. The chosen one. And any blasphemous peasant attempting to question my absolute power had to be punished.
They ALL had to be punished!
I smiled wickedly as more men fell to the ground before me. I relished in their growing fear. That helplessness. How loyal are they to the ones that employ them? What will that loyalty be worth when they're sent into medical care, attempting to regain the use of their legs? Loyalty is for the strongest ruler. They've chosen their masters poorly.
Many of them tried to find a way to get behind me, but I was too fast for them. I had no blind spots for them to exploit. Some attempted to strike from a distance...but there was no place that I couldn't reach them. Nothing to stop me from reaching out like the hand of the Almighty Himself and snatch them down to the unforgiving concrete below. My claws began to shred them to pieces, two by two. Send me MORE!!! Let them watch! I am reborn!
Their growing fear only made me stronger. The Beasts imprint on me absorbed it all, growling with a primal need for blood. And deep inside, my mercy and forgiveness looked on in horror at what I was making of these poor saps as they fought to complete their hopeless mission. I could feel the warmth of their blood splashing across my face. And as I used my tongue to lick it off of my lips, the bittersweet tang of their life essence aroused my senses and made me crave a more potent doseage. But then, in all of my arrogance, in the midst of my uncontrollable wrath...I felt a sensation that caught me by surprise. Quite unexpected, it was.
I thought, perhaps, that it was my senses playing a trick on me. A memory, a lingering trace of something that I had taken into myself by accident. But as the feeling grew more intense, I could feel it latching on to me somehow. Seeking me out. A presence that I hadn't felt in quite some time.
Don't ask me how I knew, but there was no mistaking that dark aura of anti-light surrounding him. Alec was alive, and he found me. Something 'happened' to us during our battle at the hospital. Through Alec's intense suffering and my own, the Beast had found an inexhaustible source of pain and power in us both. The creature's black imprint on me was strong, but Rage had taken quite a bit from me during the conflict. Pulling it into that empty void in his heart. Using it. Unlike me, Alec would place no restrictions on the brutality of the Beast. None. It was a darkness that existed within the both of us. Linking us. Making us one. By setting the Beast free...I was practically sending up a red flare to tell Alec exactly where we were.
'We'. Taryn. Oh God....Taryn...
A sobering moment. I found myself becoming slightly aware again as I felt my hand grab a soldier by the back of the neck and force his head through the elevated windshield of a nearby truck. Out of control. I am responding to chaos. No. NO! I can stop this! I can pull it back!
It was hard, but I began to slow myself down. I fought hard to draw back my fists and control my footing. The Best shrieked in anger, overriding my mental commands and pushing forward to strike again. I felt myself holding on with all the power I could, but the fury was burning so hot within me that I couldn't restrain myself enough to stop. I forced my arms together, crossing them over my stomach and almost doubling over as I tried to keep from doing any more damage. But instead of retreating, the soldiers saw this as a weakness. An opportunity to strike. And I knew that they would only fire the Beast up even more.
"NO!!!" I screamed in a deep, distorted, voice. "STAY AWAY!!!!" They wouldn't listen. And as they began to attack again, I held my breath and had to hold back as much as I could. I had to grab my own wrist with my other hand to keep from taking one of the soldier's head clean off of his shoulder. The shadows surrounding me became a turbulent storm of pure darkness, lashing out to rip and tear at everything within its reach, spinning me around in circles as I tried to keep my balance. I heard the screams. I felt the cold icy grip of the terror within. And despite my protests, the shadows were winning.
I was looking for ways to keep my enemies at bay while pushing the flood of emotion down into the pit of my stomach, but it wasn't working. The act of trying to contain the eruption was only creating more pressure. More anger. More hatred. More POWER! Why isn't it working???? WHY??? I angrily grabbed two soldiers on either side of me, smashing them all together and tossing them to the side like rag dolls. WHY WON'T MY BODY LISTEN TO ME??? WHAT DO I HAVE TO DO TO REGAIN MY CONTROL??? ARRRGGHHHHH!!!!
I was infuriated. Trying to fight the anger with more anger of my own. Trying to force my instincts to obey me. But my frustration had only become fuel for the fire.
And it was then that I began to think back to something that Comicality once told me in that graveyard oh so long ago...
"Lose the anger Justin. It won't help you in any fight that really matters."
I remembered that day in my high school classroom, feeling that weight bearing down on me. That pressure building up within me. I remembered the explosion of emotional turmoil and jumping on that other boy to release everything that I had been holding inside until I was ready to snap. And even though the violence was wrong...the freedom of the act itself was unbelievably surreal. Freedom. Escape. Release.
The shadows were using my anger and my pain against me...and at last, I think I understood.
I dug my heels into the ground beneath me, aimed my crimson red gaze up towards the night sky...and clenched my fists tightly to brace myself.
And then...as Becca would have put it...
With a loud scream, I released a brain geyser blast that rivaled any other that I had ever experienced before! The walls of all the surrounding buildings began to rattle and quake from the force of it. Metal twisted, brick began to crack and shatter, sending down debris to cover the alley. Every streetlight was shattered, throwing us all into near pitch black darkness, and the bodies of soldiers that lie at my feet were pushed away from me...forced out in all four directions.
It only lasted a moment, but the evil inside of me was suddenly taken aback by what had just happened. The shadows began to shrink away in confusion, and I looked down at both of my hands as I found myself in total control again. It WORKED! The release...it actually WORKED!
Then I noticed the few remaining soldiers regrouping to move in on me as fast as they could. "Uhhh....not good..." I said to myself, and quickly found myself surrounded. "We don't have to do this. I...I can explain..." Yeah. I didn't think they were going to go for that either.
I put my hands up, but this time, only in defense. I kept my thoughts connected to my every action, refusing to let the automatic reflexes take over. Com told me to think...then fight. I only hope that I'm fast enough when doing it this way.
There was so much going on that I could barely keep the soldiers in my peripheral vision. But I dodged and ducked as quickly as I possibly could. I didn't strike back. Not once. I side-stepped them, moved around them, ducked their kicks and swinging nightsticks, occasionally pushing them back to keep them off of me, but that was it. I threw their focus off of me just long enough to 'phase out' with Dylan's extra, but I wasn't able to stand still long enough for it to work for any length of time. I used short bursts of air to push a few of them back, but more crept up from behind. I felt them taking hold of my arms and legs...they were all over me. And without much thought at all...I crossed my ankles below. What was it that Erick did inside the warehouse? I must have mimicked something from him, because my body began to suddenly spin in circles so fast that I was blinded by the blur of it. The soldiers were instantly flung off of me, but I was so dizzy that I fell over myself and had to cup a hand over my mouth to keep from being nauseous.
Okaaaaay....maybe I should practice that one a bit more before I use it again.
I felt someone dragging me back by the leg, and I spun to sweep his feet from under him to get loose. I grabbed a few arms and pushed the soldiers into one another until they were too confused to advance any further. One got a minor electric shock, another a slight burn, but I made sure to go easy. I recognized a foul stench in the air and felt my palms dripping with the disgusting sludge that I once sprayed Jun with back at the lot. Harmless enough...I think. I let them have it, hosing them down and watching them cough and sputter as they fell all over each other trying to avoid the attack. I saw two guns drawn, and created a patch of ice on the ground beneath me to run and slide underneath one of the trucks on the dock to the other side. I was able to fend for myself well enough, and this time, my mind was clear. I knew what I was doing. The power was truly 'mine', and mine alone.
Eventually, there were only three enemies left. But I knew that I had already taken too long. My number one priority right now was escape. Nothing else mattered. Sorry fellas...
I continued to pull punches, but I mad the strikes hard and fast enough to render them unconscious with a maximum of three blows each. They had to go down. I had no other choice.
There was a moment of silence. Stillness.
I was catching my breath, appalled as I looked around me at all of the damage I had done. The concrete stained with blood. The whole area cloaked in darkness. I couldn't step in any direction without hearing the crunch of broken brick and shards of glass and metal. Bullet shell casings and discarded weapons. And the bodies. So many bodies. It was the first time that I truly had to admit...that maybe these...Elders were right. I am dangerous.
Only my love and concern for Taryn was able to shake me out of my moment of shame. Instantly, I went to look for him. "Taryn? Taryn...where are you? I need you to move so I can find you. Taryn?" I suddenly felt something grab me tightly from behind, and I was prepared to defend myself...but then softened up as I realized that it was Taryn.
"Justin!" He sobbed quietly, holding on for dear life. I was able to turn around, and I embraced him so tenderly. Allowing his gentle tears to fall as I thanked the stars for giving me the strength to keep him safe. I kissed the top of his head, hugging him tight...but I knew we only had seconds to spare before we would have to fight all over again.
"Are you ok? Are you hurt?" I asked.
"They didn't find me." He sniffled. "But, Justin...I don't think I can walk."
Taryn was standing, but on shaky legs. Stinging, burning, pain...that sure to get worse if he pushed himself any harder. We couldn't stand still long enough for me to use any of Rain's or Bryson's healing tricks to do much good. So I thought about it for a moment, and said, "I've got an idea. Here, just hold onto my shoulders." I turned around for him to get on my back.
"Justin...there's no way you can carry me all the way back to the lot on your back."
"Maybe not. But Max can." I said, and used what little frustration I had left from the Beast to trigger as much of Max's extra as I could. My arms and legs got stronger, I took a deep breath, and I lifted Taryn up off of the ground to carry him to safety. "Hold on tight, k?"
The rest of the second wave was trying to burst through the door to get to the docks, but I would be long gone when they got there. What disturbed me most, though...was the shadow of a lone figure standing on the rooftop of the warehouse as I began to run off into the darkness.
He didn't stand like a human did. Or even another vampire. Something was much more threatening about his very presence. And as I gazed upon his silhouette, I watched him step closer to the edge, illuminated by a bright shaft of moonlight...and when our eyes met, and he gave me that familiar crooked smile....I recognized him instantly. I don't think I'll ever forget that face. The man with the long black dreadlocks with metallic hooks on the ends. Like scorpion tails. And black sunglasses.
My mind flashed back to that alley in the IceZone club...of Jarrod on the ground, helpless, crying...pleading for his life. And the metal shiv of this Hunter piercing and destroying his heart right in front of me. I remember the screams. I remember the blood. Was he there...for us?
He didn't pursue us as I ran off. But I know he saw me. Maybe even recognized me. But it was that smile that let me know that our paths hadn't crossed for the last time. Not by a long shot.
I carried Taryn for as long as I could, and it was further than I would have expected normally. But my anger was gone, and Max's extra began to run out of steam rather quickly after that. Not to mention that Taryn's constant bouncing on my shoulders was beginning to tire out his arms and become painful for him as well. So I found a small park nearby, and carefully set him down on a bench so he could stretch out and catch his breath. Fatigued, I fell to one knee, and tried to move closer to him as he coughed and winced through the suffering in his legs. Taryn put on a brave face, but I could feel his agony. We shared it as one. The muscles kept tightening and I ran my fingers through his hair lightly to hopefully bring him some comfort. He bit his bottom lip slightly as he whimpered from the misery of it all, but even through the golden glow of his teary eyes, Taryn managed to flash me a hint of that angelic smile. The smile I had come to cherish. The smile I fell in love with.
"We can rest here for a while. And then I promise to get you home. K?" I said, leaning over to give him a sweet kiss on his lips.
"There's no way Bryson is going to let us just hobble past him, looking like this." He chuckled.
"If you've got a better plan, I'm all ears. I'd like to say that he might have gone to bed before we get there, but we both know he'll be waiting on us." I saw Taryn close his eyes for a moment and stifle a quiet wail as the muscles in his calves pinched a few nerves. I immediately moved my hands down and took off both of his shoes, rubbing both legs softly. Kneading the cramped muscle, massaging the tightened knots. I tried to use a bit Gyro's extra to see if I could ease the pain for him, but somehow I think that only made things worse. So I stopped. Instead, I moved up to sit on the bench and move Taryn's feet into my lap. It would take some time, I was sure of it. But I wasn't in any hurry.
"I'm sorry, Justin. I think it's a little better now. We can try walking again if you..."
"Shhhh...just lay back. I'm not going anywhere, ok? Relax." I said quietly, and Taryn eased back down into a laying position. I took my time to rub the bottoms of his feet, and his ankles, and back up towards the knee before working my way down again. After a few minutes, Taryn stopped squirming as much and I felt the muscles soften, the tension unravel. The next time I looked up at him, he had a tiny grin on his face and the beginnings of a bashful blush. "Hehehe, what?"
"Nothing." He said. "It's just...under different circumstances, I think a guy could get used to a pampered treatment like this."
"There I go...spoiling you again." I smirked.
We were quiet for a second or two, exchanging a few playful glances between us. It's funny how he can still tickle me with the way he tugs on my heartstrings. Expected, yet unexpected. Both fun and sexy, even after what we had been through earlier. He gave me an admirable look, and he tilted his head to the side. "So...you're pretty much unbeatable, aren't you?"
"Heh...well, I don't know about that."
"I've never seen anybody fight the way you do." He said.
"Maybe...they didn't have something as special to fight for...like I do." I smiled at him, and Taryn sat up on the bench, lightly pulling his foot away and softly caressing the side of my face.
"Every time I think I've found enough love to power the whole city of Chicago for a decade straight...you find some way to give me just a little bit more." Taryn leaned forward, and our lips made a tender, intimate, connection. "Hehehe, my big, strong, warrior."
I giggled. "My damsel in distress." We kissed again, and Taryn swung his leg over to turn and sit beside me, head on my shoulder, as we enjoyed a soft breeze, and the glory of the stars above. He was safe. My love....my light...was safe.
It might have been another half hour or so before Taryn was able to put his shoes back on and stand again. I would have happily waited another hour or so until he was fully able to put weight on his legs again without any pain, but he insisted. It was almost as if he felt 'guilty' for having me stay there to take care of him. I could never fully understand why he always insisted on being so independent, but I suppose he had his reasons. So we left the park, and I allowed him to drape an arm over my shoulder for support. He pretended not to need the extra assistance, but I could feel by the amount of weight he put on me that he appreciated it.
It was almost 4:30 in the morning already. The time could pass so quickly sometimes when we were together. Staring into those magic eyes of his, it was like my awareness had no use for any concept of time at all. What would be the point? How would I compare one moment to the next...when moments with my angel where the only ones that mattered?
It was Taryn's idea, initially, to simply wait out the approaching dawn, and try to sneak back in to the lot at the last minute before Bryson and the others had a chance to take a good look at us. We weren't too horribly scarred and scratched up...but it was enough for Bryson to know that we had run into trouble tonight. At least with another sleep cycle, two at the most, we'd be patched up enough to pass him by without having to hide our faces. We went out to the old church and found ourselves a late night shower. The warm water soothed me, but I was disturbed to see the darkness of the water going down the drain at my feet. Washing off the blood of my attackers. I tried to mentally distract myself from the sight of it, but it haunted me regardless.
I saw Taryn move forward to let the spray wash over his face, and he reached for the soap to lather up again. Sometimes, I just couldn't help but to stare. He had such an unblemished beauty about him. From head to toe. When your eyes lingered on the soft pale surface of his skin, so smooth, so fresh...it was almost like you could taste him.
Taryn saw me looking just as my eyes traveled down between his legs...and with a boyish grin, he said, "Unh unh..." And he turned his back to me.
It made me laugh. His smallish, shapely bottom was pointed right at me, the pert globes glistening with the warm water from the nozzle, and I said, "Hehehe, you are SADLY mistaken if you think you're punishing me by letting me see you from this angle!"
"Who said anything about 'punishment'?" He said over his shoulder. He always knew how to tantalize me. It worked every time.
We finished up our shower, but had to put our same clothes back on. turned my shirt inside out to cover up some of the bloodstains that I couldn't wash out in the church basement sink. I rang it out as best as I could, but it was still extremely damp, cold and clammy, as I slipped it back over my head. It was, quite possibly, the most uncomfortable feeling in the world, but I guess it was necessary. It would only be for a little while longer, anyway. Taryn and I went to the roof of the old abandoned building, just outside of the lot, and waited for the others to start turning in for the night. The air up there was crisp, the wet shirt making my nipples so hard that they hurt with every gust of wind. I simply couldn't wait to peel it off of me and snuggle up under a blanket or something.
Taryn noticed that I was being quiet after a few moments of looking towards the lot over the edge of the roof. I could see the others slowing down, not wanting to get into anything major when they knew that the big sleep would be coming for them soon. Bryson was already doing a silent roll call in his head to make sure everyone was accounted for. And then...there was Dion. Sitting on top of his stack of cars...staring out at the softly brightening horizon. I didn't need any special vampire abilities to feel his pain. He was so still. Only one hand moved, and that was to rhythmically pet Napolean at his side. No affection was included in the gesture. I don't think either one of them was getting much out of it. But Dion continued to do it anyway. Taryn put a hand on my shoulder...and as always, he was curious as to what was going through my troubled mind.
"You know...Comicality told me that I would be different. He said that there were great things in store for me. For all of us." I turned to look Taryn in the eye, and said, "He made it seem like it was sooooo easy for him to have faith in me. I think he truly believes that I actually have some idea of what I'm doing out here."
"Maybe you know more than you think you do." Taryn said. "It's much easier to find what others are hiding from us...than it is to find what we're hiding from ourselves."
"But...I just don't understand how to do whatever it is I'm supposed to do, Taryn. I mean...I'm no 'prophet'. I'm no 'messiah'. All I know is that I'm supposed to be finding and delivering this great message to the whole world and it's supposed to be so magnificent, sooooo universal...that it can create change in us all. Forever." Looking back out at the lot, feeling my shoulders slump over slightly, I said, "But I don't know if I have the faintest clue of how to do that. I'm so worried that I'm going to do it wrong. That I'll say the wrong thing or follow the wrong path...and that everyone else will suffer for it. They'll hate me. They'll hate me for not being what they need me to be."
Taryn leaned over the edge with me, and gave me a gentle kiss on the cheek. "Then maybe you need to stop worrying about whether or not people will like what you have to say. Maybe, instead of worrying whether or not you'll be good enough...you can just go out there and give them what you've got." He took a hold of my hand, and he said, "I don't know the scriptures and their lessons as well as some of the others...but I've read quite a few. And whatever this big revelation of yours is all about, I'm sure it's not going to have anything to do with you being flawless or short of perfection. Justin, for whatever reason...this sacred 'prophecy' of our kind chose you. And that means that you already possess all the knowledge, all the courage, and all the heart, that you need to bring it to fruition. You don't have to chase it. You just have to believe."
I wanted to have faith. I wanted to wrap myself up in the very idea of it all and finally let this insecurity and inner torment go. But I couldn't. I wouldn't. After a lifetime of being told how small, how worthless, how insignificant I was...even after all I've seen and done during my life in darkness...it was difficult to break the pattern. What am I doing out here? How do I break the pattern? And what happens if I just take Taryn...go some place where no one will ever find us...and walk away from this horrendous burden once and for all?
Thinking about a few things, looking back at Dion sitting on top of that stack of cars....thinking back on Jarrod's murder at the IceZone...I made a decision. It was going to be a risk, but it was something that I felt had to be done before it was too late.
"Taryn...I'm so sorry if I put you in harms way tonight." I said.
"Awww, no, Justy. That wasn't your fault. That had nothing to do with you..."
"But it did, Taryn. It did. And I may be confused about a lot of things right now, but one thing that I know for sure is that if anything ever happened to you...anything at all..." I felt a lump in my throat. "...I couldn't go on. I can't breathe without you. I have to protect you. I have to keep you safe."
Taryn said, "I'm ok, Justin. I'm not going anywhere. I'm right here. Nothing is going to happen to me..."
"I have to be SURE!" I insisted.
"And that's why I'm going to go out tomorrow night...and I'm going to find The Jeweler." I said.
Taryn's look changed in an instant. "Wait...what do you mean?"
"As far as I know, he's the only one with any clue as to what it is that I'm supposed to do. He's the only one who can help me remain stable."
"We don't know that yet. Justin, we need to give Doc time to use the decription codes that Erick gave us to find out what his motives are."
"We may not have time for that, Taryn." I said.
"Justin, you heard what they said. You have to lay low for a little while. Especially after tonight. Running out to meet someone you don't even know is not only dangerous, it's suicide."
"Don't you get it? They said that this Jeweler guy is 'searching' for me. If he really believes that I'm the chosen one then he's not going to stop looking. He'll scan this city from one end to the other, night after night, until he gets what he wants." I said. "If the Jeweler or the Elders or whoever can find a couple of expert tech wizards like Erick and Fallen in some abandoned warehouse on the outskirts of town, how long will it be until he finds his way into Doc's computer? Or Pan's? How long will it be before he comes looking for me at the lot? I'll be putting everyone in danger if I hesitate for much longer. And I won't do that. Not again. Not after Dylan."
"Justin, Dylan's death had NOTHING to do with you! It had nothing to do with any of us. Justin, please..." He pleaded.
I held Taryn by the shoulders, speaking as calmly as I could. "I know that you're worried. I know that. But if this guy is hailing me to be the most important discovery in recent vampire history...then it;'s safe to assume that he's not going to do anything to hurt me, right? He may even be able to teach me what I need to know to get through this. But I have to go. I have to find him...before he finds me first."
Sharing the same sentiment that I was only moments ago...Taryn wanted soooo badly to believe. But the one thing that I've learned about darkness...sometimes it keeps you from seeing what may be right in front of your face. And every step has to be one of caution.
All I know is...if the Jeweler or the Elders don't come looking for me soon...'Rage' will. And I had better be ready.