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As a small armada of soldiers swarmed out of their vehicles, heading towards the glass doors of the lobby, I could feel the tension beginning to increase within me. After Dashe's sanctuary, Erick's warehouse, and a number of other situations, I had almost gotten used to the formation. I recognized the pattern. And I knew that this could go really bad, really fast.
I reached for Taryn's hand and pulled him a little closer to me. Silently swearing to protect him from whatever may come through those front doors.
Strings turned to the Jeweler, "I'm on your time, boss. What's the plan? You want me to get Cage and his stooges down here to step in and handle this?"
With a calm smile, The Jeweler replied, "Do you think they'll be necessary?" The two of them shared a grin, and waited for the soldiers come flooding into the lobby like a swarm of ants. All dressed in black. All wearing masks, with nothing but their eyes left exposed. But these weren't the kind of expendable humans that were used in the raids I've been a part of. These were vampires. Every last one of them. A vampire hit squad of about 20...maybe a few more.
My heartbeat increased as they marched their way right through our security and straight to the front desk. As my anxiety began to tighten my limbs and my extras prepared themselves for action, The Jeweler looked over at me, and gently put his hand on my arm. Giving me a slow nod and telling me to be steady. I don't know what it was about him, but the look in his eyes was so...comforting, somehow. Even at a time like this.
It helped me to relax some.
One of the soldiers emerged from the center of their tactical positioning and stepped forward towards the desk. He had a dark red star hand painted on his vest. It was right where his heart would be located. Almost as if it was made to be a target for any other vampire that had intentions of finishing him off.
Before he could speak, Strings hopped his little butt up on the desk in front of him, and let one of his yo-yo's drop down from his hand with a bratty smirk. Still chewing away at that gum as though it had just been invented yesterday. "Can I uhhh...maybe help you fellas with something?"
"We've been given direct orders to make a thorough sweep of your facilities in regards to reports of a highly dangerous entity that may have possibly wandered onto the premises." The commanding officer said.
"Ooooh! That sounds important. Hehehe!" Strings said. "But, I'm afraid I'm just gonna say 'no' and send you guys back the way you came. You're more than welcome to make an appointment with our secretary for a later date, however. Why don't you and your band of merry men here try coming back on, I don't know...'Taco Tuesday' or something? It'll be much more convenient for all of us, I'm sure. You wanna bring some zesty guac with you, or...?"
"This isn't a game, son. We're under high order to investigate what's going on here."
"Awwww, you called me 'son'!" Strings said, turning back to us. "He called me 'son'." Then his smile faded slightly as he looked back at the commander. "That's really sweet but...I don't believe I know you, dude. Like...at ALL!"
The Jeweler spoke up, "Under who's authority did you find it necessary to disturb my peaceful sanctuary?"
"Classified? I'm afraid that doesn't answer my question." The Jeweler said.
"You SUCK at this game, dude!" Strings told him. "You're not making any points at all. You're never gonna get him to ask you out to the prom if you don't at least throw a few compliments his way."
"Strings..." The Jeweler merely had to say his name to keep him from antagonizing the situation any further.
Strings suddenly hopped back down from the desk with a loud stomp. "Grrrrr-RUFF!!!" He barked at the commanding officer. "I hope you boys know what you're doing." Then he walked back over to where Taryn and I were standing to fall back, but remain ready in case he was given the order to do anything else. He began to make that aggravating 'whizzing' noise again as he began dropping those yo yo's again. First with his right hand, then with his left. Stretching them out, letting them dangle for a few seconds while the wheels spun, then pulling it back up again. What kind of sick pleasure does he GE out of that, anyway. Strings looked over at us, then downward. "Really? Holding hands? Welcome back to the third grade, ladies and gentlemen."
I didn't bother responding to his stupid remarks. It would have actually been hard for me to believe that Strings could possibly be more irritating than he already was, but something about the tension in the air, the danger approaching us...it was almost as if he fed off of it somehow. I noticed him flexing his fingers, cracking his knuckles, almost antsy to further push all the wrong buttons on the soldiers in the lobby.
The Jeweler asked their commander again, "Specify. Under who's authority are you operating your little late night mission here? I received no previous word from the Elders that any of this would be necessary."
"We've been given Elders' clearance..."
"Not from the Circle Nocturnus, you haven't. And they are the only ones looking over this particular jurisdiction."
The officer sternly told him, "The ones I answer to are not bound by jurisdiction."
"An illegal operation, then?" The Jeweler kept such a calm grace about him the entire time that they were discussing it, but the tension in the room continued to increase. Especially once some of the other soldiers began to step forward. "I was promised, not only by the Elders in charge of Sector 9, but by Lord Zarius himself that I would be able to assist the Elders by giving them information and underground support of the highest caliber...provided that I was allowed to operate with complete autonomy, and without question or interruption. This was our agreement. Those were the rules."
"Due to recent developments, the vampire Elders are changing the rules."
"The rules cannot simply be changed. That defeats the whole purpose of them being 'rules'." The Jeweler stood firm in his stance, his tone of voice getting a bit more 'insulted' as the conversation continued. But the other soldiers seemed to still try to find secretive ways to inch ever closer to the front desk, looking to get access to the elevators.
Something that only made Strings even more restless than before.
I felt Taryn's grip on my hand get stronger, knowing that I may have to fight our way out of this. But the whole time that we were standing there, The Jeweler was constantly giving me secret signals to stand down. It was then that it all made sense to me. Perhaps this wasn't just some random raid of The Jeweler's premises. Perhaps...they were there looking for me.
"We don't mean to offend with our intrusion, sir. It's simply a matter of us following orders." The officer said, and the other soldiers closed in even faster than before.
I felt the energies within me building up to ready themselves for a fight, but The Jeweler turned to me with a gentle gin, and said, "There's no need for that, Justin. The situation is well under control."
I whispered, "I can help."
But he shook his head. "No. You can only complicate things by being involved."
"Justy...I don't like this..." Taryn said, sending me a private message in my mind. "Let's just go, before things get out of hand."
The Jeweler turned to me and said, "Stay where you are. Don't draw attention."
The commanding officer looked at Taryn and I, obviously hearing what was being said between us. He demanded to know, "Who is this? And him too. Where did they come from?"
"I'm afraid that's...classified..." The Jeweler smiled.
"Come here, boy. We're going to give you a specific scan to determine..."
"There will be no scans taken today." The Jeweler told him. "In fact, I'm declaring this little intrusion of yours over. Please leave. This is a place of worship and peaceful meditation. It is not a warzone."
I jumped a little as I heard guns being cocked back, the soldiers now taking aim at us as they proved that they had no intentions, whatsoever, of leaving. Not until their...'scan' or whatever was complete.
"We're only going to ask one more time, sir." The commanding officer said. "Any failure to comply will be seen as a resistance, and a deliberate act of hostility. I suggest you not make this situation any more difficult than it has to be."
The Jeweler laughed to himself. "Strings...can you please demonstrate for our unexpected guests just how uncomplicated this situation really is?"
"Ohhhhhh my GOD! I have been waiting for you to say that! Goodie!" Strings giggled. Then, out of nowhere, he reaches into his mouth to pull out a slimy wad of gum, putting it in Taryn's hand and saying, "Here. Hold this, will ya?"
Taryn was immediately disgusted with the pre-chewed up gum, and cringed as he instantly jerked his hand back and tossed the chunk of soaking wet mush to the ground!
Strings was more than happy to step out from behind the safety of the counter in front of us. His hand raised slightly as one of his yo yo orbs dropped down from his hand again, dangling a half inch from the floor as he moved into position.
The commanding officer immediately told his squad, "We've got hostiles! Deadly force has been authorized!"
Strings smirked. "Seriously? I came all the way down here expecting a party and this is all you brought with you? A bunch of 'red shirts' waiting to get their asses kicked?" There was a silence as they prepared to subdue every last one of us to get into this building. "Red shirts. Ya know...red shirts? What, no Trekkie fans in here? Tsk tsk! Well you guys are in for a treat!"
"Advancing..." The soldiers began pressing forward, and I stepped back with Taryn close behind me. Ready to run for cover if needed. But The Jeweler didn't budge an inch. I was looking for emergency exits and trying to figure how quickly I could get Taryn to the elevator before things got dangerous...but The Jeweler just smiled to him self. A subtle smile, but one that confused me, considering what was going on here.
Strings loudly cracked his knuckles once more, quietly uttering the word, "Showtime..."
Then...faster than even our vampire eyes could follow, he quickly LAUNCHED himself directly at the advancing foot soldiers and began engaging them in ways that they weren't prepared for! It only took a few seconds for confusion to set in, and three of them were on their backs with a harsh spin kick before both of Strings' yo yos were released from the center of his palms. He began rapidly swinging those two silver orbs around him so fast that it was hard to see the actual silver strings attached to them at all! As annoying as his yo yo habit was in the beginning, I now got to see him turn that irritating children's toy into a pair of unequaled lethal weapons that had an entire squad of trained vampire militants tripping over their own feet!
The whizzing sound of the wheels spinning at the end of their strings could be heard at a distance as he moved and rotated his body with a fluid motion that kept the orbs in constant motion. And every time they connected with their intended target, he sent an electric charge down the string to the end, creating a dazzling array of high powered 'sparks' that flashed and lit up the walls of the lobby like little bolts of lightning as the soldiers cried out from the pain of it.
They couldn't even follow him. He was SO fast! I had never seen anything like it before. Not even in darkness. He wrapped the strings around his wrists, his legs, his elbows, his waist...and they never ONCE got tangled! They just kept moving, whipping those hard wheels around him, lashing out in all directions. They couldn't even draw their weapons on him before he was flipping and cartwheeling out of their line of fire. There were a few moments when he brought the yo yos back to his palms, but only for a split second. Then they shot right back out again. What the hell was I watching right now???
With a few quick kicks to the abdomen or the back of the knee, Strings could bring any one of his taller attackers down to his level, and he swiftly made short work of them from there. I was fascinated at how he was able to control the length of the strings themselves. Almost as if they could stretch clear across the room if he willed them to, and yet, the closer the yo yo's end got to his body, the faster they whipped around his arms and waist. His hands and fingers controlling a series of tricks that were never made for a child's plaything. It was almost like a second set of fists for him to use to his advantage. He definitely knew how to move between the soldiers in the squad too! Just to keep them second guessing on whether they should fire on him or not, for fear of hitting one of their own teammates. Human or not...bullets HURT! I'm sure they wanted as many people as possible to press on stay in working order.
The longer I spend time in darkness, the more I see how guns are absolutely useless when it comes to dealing with our kind. The way Strings could dodge and duck and spin and twist his way around gunshots was an art in itself. How the hell did he keep the yo yos going at the same time? I watched him jump up and roll over one of their shoulders, the string wrapping itself around his wrist, and pulling it back towards his chest, where he nearly shot himself in the heart! The strings themselves were just as deadly, if not MORE, than the yo yo wheel's electrified blunt trauma on the ends. They got more tangled up in the chaos than he did. He used those strings to grab them by the arms, the legs, the neck, and he could pull them in for a harsh, high powered, strike to their unprotected center, or simply trip them up from afar. He didn't even have a need to look behind him, really. The weapons had a mind all their own. And the strangest part about it all?
He was SMILING the whole time! He was truly having the time of his life beating the ever-loving shit out of these guys and hearing them cry out in agonizing pain as they fell to the floor, one after another.
I watched the yo yos reach out to a couple of soldiers, rolling towards their feet on the floor, electric sparks popping and crackling loudly as they jumped and high stepped backwards from their approach. "That's it, boys! Left! Left! Left, right, left! Hehehe!" Then he lifted his hand and caused the silver orbs to strike a harsh blow to their chins in unison. I saw his arms weave such an intricate pattern with those strings, every gesture creating the kind of inertia needed to spin his twin instruments even faster and cause more playfully painful damage to anyone around him. And anyone lucky enough to past the whirling wheels and ensnaring strings...of which there were very few...still had his intense martial arts skill to contend with. They didn't stand a chance.
Those whizzing wheels kept them too distracted to even stay balanced, much less focused on their attack. A soldier behind him tried to aim for the back of his head, but Strings shot one of his yo yos backwards to wrap around the soldier's ankle, and he pulled his feet right from under him. he empty gunshot went up in the air, putting a useless hole in the ceiling. String rushed forward, getting down to slide and spin around on his knees, the long strings tripping the two men on either side of him, and he rolled forward to hop back up onto his feet again. As the guy in front of him drew two pistols from his belt, Strings wrapped those yo yo strings around both of his wrists and pulled them tight. Then, after a wink and a smile, He pulled the strings left and right to force the soldier to aim his gun at his own squad members, controlling him like some sort of sadistic puppeteer. With a minimal use of his extra, Strings sent an electric current racing down the metallic strings to the man's wrists, forcing the soldier's muscles to involuntarily contract...and fire on his own team. I don't know how Strings was able to do everything he was doing so efficiently, but three or four more of his targets fell to the floor before they were able to get out of harm's way. This was a 'Hunter's' training. No doubt about it. He was trained for this kind of thing, and he was damn good at it. I saw Strings moved in closer to his puppet, his small, boyish, frame winding around the poor bastard faster than his instincts could follow. He tangled that silver lined string around his throat and stomped down on it to pull him, helplessly, to the hard floor below, all while cartwheeling over to smash another between the eyes with the silver orb he had free. His accuracy was amazing. I have to say that I was impressed.
Ugh! I HATED to give that boy a compliment! Even in my head.
The whole time, Strings taunted the frustrated guards with how much fun he was having! "Hey you! Come get some! Watch out! Careful now! Awww, you fell down! EAT THIS! Hahaha! Really, dude? You SUCK!" He leaned back to let his yo yos strike two more soldiers in their chests, his extra practically turning his weapons into makeshift tazers with every direct hit. And trust me...they were all direct hits.
The team got together and struck out at him with all that they had to give, if for no other reason than to shut him up in an angry display of brute force and frustration. But Strings only reveled in their additional agitation!
"Nope! Not quite! Hey you! Nice try!" He yelled. His lightning fast reflexes allowed him to move himself out of harm's way while still keeping the whirling inertia of his yo yo's in perfect harmony "Unh unh! Sorry! Nope! Try again! Oooh! ALMOST! A little to the left! Ooops, not MY left! YOUR left! Nope...too slow!" He said, constantly banging against them in the most unpredictable, and utterly 'shocking', ways!
"CONTAIN HIM!!!" The commanding officer called out, but there wasn't really much that the others could do against him. Strings was MUCH too slender and agile for them to lay a hand on him!
They all began to double their efforts and rush Strings at once, which caused him to kick into high gear to prevent his attackers from crossing a certain line. But as they started to pile up on him, I saw the commanding officer heading our way, and without even thinking about it, I used my hand to push Taryn further back until he was pressed against the wall, with me standing directly in front of him to shelter my beloved from harm.
My foot moved forward to stomp down to the floor below, taking a firm and balanced stance as my heart rate sped up and I prepared to jump into the fray with just as much ferocity, if not more, than Strings had to offer! My forearms felt an icy chill as a dark collection of shadows began to swirl up around them. The darkness. Those screams. It was an extra filled with horror and pain, but one that I knew I could use to defend the one boy in the world that meant everything to me. If they were unable to handle Strings' boyish game of yo yo frenzy...they CERTAINLY weren't ready for the likes of me. Not when it came to my Taryn.
My fists were clenched tightly enough to turn my knuckles white. My eyes, blazing with a red glow that lit up my cheeks and almost reflected off of the walls surrounding me as I felt my vampire fangs drop down from above...cutting the tender meat of my gums open and forcing me into a primal, bloodthirsty, mindset. I felt the aggression building up inside me. I had almost forgotten how good the anger felt. A 'halo' of energy began to build up and swirl around my head, also at the ready, with an almost limitless array of extra abilities that I knew could solve this problem in a matter of seconds once I unleashed it upon this rag tag squadron of grunts and expendable mutts.
Then...something odd happened...
I could hear The Jeweler's voice in my head. "No, Justin. Relax. Power down. We will take care of you and your sire. Don't reveal yourself now. Not yet. There will plenty of time for that later."
What really disturbed me was the fact that it was Taryn's extra being used to deliver me the secret message. Why was he using my boyfriend's extra? HOW was he using my boyfriend's extra??? what the hell was going on here? And how was he suddenly in my head?
"Justin...I need you to calm down. Alright?" He told me, again. "Let it go. There is no need for you to fight. Not here. Not in this place. You have my word. Relax." I think I was more confused than anything else, but as his eyes met mine, his hand giving me a soft signal to continue hiding my abilities from the soldiers in the lobby, I tried to let the shadows go. It wasn't easy. I was SO pumped up! So ready! The build up of intense energy fed off of my fear, and my anger, and it kept me from thinking about anything other than keeping Taryn safe. I'd slaughter every last one of them if I had to. I could do it. It would be soooo easy...
I felt Taryn's loving arms hug me from behind, and I as the warmth of him connected itself to my body, I almost felt ashamed for the dark thoughts swirling around in my head. No more murder. No more death. I turned to hug him close, his panicked breath breezing across the nape of my neck, and I simple stayed against the wall with him as I allowed Strings to do his job. Although, I have to admit that there was a part of me that was eager for the fight. I mean...keeping Taryn safe was my number one priority of course...but...as I watched Strings make short work of these so-called investigators...I felt myself getting anxious to deliver a little pain myself. I can't say why. Maybe it's just a lingering urge that I have left over from a life of being beaten down and bullied for so long, only to be given the power to change things. Turn the tables and fight back for once. My pulse raced. My eyes changed color. My fangs began to itch as they longed to sink deep into the flesh of anyone who would dare move against me. I hate to say it, but I could almost relate to Strings wanting to jump in and cause some serious damage here. He had the power to do so, right? So why not? They're the ones who came looking for trouble. Make them hurt. Make them PAY!
The sparks Strings was causing got to be so bright in that lobby that it was almost hard to watch without covering your eyes. Strings' yo yo's connected with a ferocity that was clearly incapacitating the soldiers faster than they could regroup. Strings could spin around so fast that the strings would fan out from the centrifugal force, and he could deliver three or four electrified hits before they even felt to the floor, with Strings following the spin down to his knees and whipping the yo yos out to snare the ankles of two men on both sides of him. Tanking them back to his hands and sweeping their feet from under them again.
It was then that I saw the commanding officer heading directly for me and Taryn again, almost as if to see how we'd react to his assault. But Strings quickly shot out one of his orbs over his left shoulder to wrap the line around the commander's neck! "HEY! Are you stepping out early on our little jitterbug? My fifteen minutes aren't up yet, Warhol!" He said, and hurried towards him to complete his total wipe out of the situation. The officer turned to face him. He was fearless in his approach, but he was obviously overconfident about his abilities, as Strings toyed with him even worse than he did the others. With unrivaled accuracy, his silver wheels targeted the big red star over his heart. Not to kill him, but to bang against his armor with a bright array of sparks and a loud 'CLANG' to let the commander know that he could be easily dispatched any time Strings felt like it! One potentially fatal heart strike after another! Every time his metal orbs hit their target, Strings giggled out loud and shouted, "Ooops! Gotchya! Oops! Keep it covered! Ooops! Gotchya again! There we go! Keep trying! OOPS! Hahaha! Step UP, dude!!!" Every flash nearly blinded us, until the commander actually caught one of his yo yo's in mid air with his hand, and held it in his grasp. Strings tugged back on it a few times, and with the brattiest 'pout face' that he could muster, Strings whined, "So RUDE!!!" And with a flick of his fingers, he wrapped the silver lining around the commander's forearm a few times and proceeded to really electrocute him from a distance!
There was nothing that he could do but shiver and shake as the volts of power surged through him, and before he knew what hit him, Strings had flipped towards him to get in close and use his fists to practically break him down to nothing at all, eventually kneeing him in the chin and nearly knocking his vision crooked.
Strings comforted the silver wheel as though it were a pet of his. "Don't you worry. He didn't mean it. He's just some random jerk ass who got lucky. Hehehe!" He whispered.
As the loud moans and groans flood the lobby, I saw another black car pull up outside the lobby windows. This one was a bit different though. Older. I can vaguely remember my mom falling asleep in front of the TV, passing out from one of her drunken stupors. That's what I remember. Her watching black and white TV shows like 'Alfred Hitchcock' and 'The Twilight Zone'. Stuff like 'The Untouchables'. That's what this old black car reminded me of. It struck me as odd. It looked like it was from a whole other era in time, but it had been freshly washed and waxed and polished up as though it had just been purchased yesterday.
"Er...Mr. Jeweler?" I mumbled softly, hoping to call his attention to the vehicle as a man in a black suit got out to open the back door. The Jeweler didn't flinch though. It was almost as if he knew this would happen.
Strings smoothed his hair back and said, "Ah shit! And I was just beginning to work up a sweat. I'm guessing you can take it from here, sir?"
"Indeed. Well done, Strings."
"I know, right? Did you see the guy I clocked in the nuts? TWICE! He's all like 'UGH'! And I'm all like 'You're damn right!' Ha! Good times!" Strings stepped aside as I saw a vampire in a long, brown coat, get out of the back seat of the old car. He was wearing a crisp, black hat and black gloves. The hat obscured his face from view as he casually walked towards the glass doors of the lobby, a personal guard on either side of him.
He paid no attention to the writhing bodies of his own soldiers as he simply stepped over them to approach The Jeweler behind the counter. It was only then that he raised his head slightly and his face came into view. 'Face'...if I could call it that.
It was almost as if someone had taken a bright red, rubber, balloon and pulled it, snug and tight, over their head to disguise themselves. Looking at it, I wasn't even sure how he was able to breather, or see for that matter. The mask was so tightly pressed against his face that his mouth and eye sockets were mere indentations, accentuated with a hint of shadow. Nothing more. And yet he wore it as though there was no mask at all. I found it creepy to see him look towards The Jeweler and smile.
"Mr. Fabian." He nodded.
"Mr. Ruby. I wish I could say that I was surprised to see you."
"Expected as usual, am I?"
The Jeweler gave him a smirk. "Let's just say that I knew our circles would connect again before long."
As Taryn and I tried to secretly take a step backward to put some distance between ourselves and....what this was, the red faced 'Mr. Ruby' turned his head to stare at us. I froze. Everything about him just rubbed me the wrong way. Certain people just set off every primal alarm in your head, and he was one of them. Even from behind a mask...only my father could be so unintentionally menacing.
From the many bodies lying on the floor, one would think the fight was over.
Me? I'm not really sure, just yet.