The first thing Taryn did when he approached the bar where we were sitting, was hug me around the neck from behind and kiss me on the cheek. His warmth and flexibility was such a contrast to the frozen body I was sleeping next to less than a half hour before. "Hey, baby." He smiled, his eyes glazed over as he smiled sensually at me.

"Morning." I leaned up to taste his lips briefly, and felt him gently bite down on my bottom lip, and hold it in his teeth a moment before letting go. We giggled softly at one another, and it made me wish that I had been in the bunk with him when he first opened my eyes tonight. He could be so incredibly cute when he was sexually playful like this. "Taryn, you remember Jarrod, right? From the sanctuary?"

Taryn turned with a shy grin, "Yeah, I think so. We didn't actually meet though." He shook Jarrod's hand. "Hi."

"It's good to meet you, Taryn. I have heard nothing but good things about you."

He blushed. "Has my Justy been blabbing about me again?"

"No, I didn't grill him for any details. Let's just say that the sanctuary has eyes and ears all over the place. Nobody stays a mystery over there for very long." Jarrod told him. "Care to join us?"

"Sure." Taryn moved around to sit on my lap with a grin, and took a hold of my hand, so happy to be with me. His feather weight frame on my leg was such a pleasant pressure, and from the look in his eyes, he was feeling a bit friskier than usual tonight. "I had a dream about you today." He said, giving me another sensual kiss on the lips, and looking me in the eye as though he were ready to wisk me off somewhere for some 'alone' time.

"Really?" I smiled back, and Taryn seemed to squirm with even more anticipation at the sight of my grin.

"Mmmm, yeah. I did."


"And....I wanna finish what I started in there." He giggled softly. It's funny, but even after all the turmoil we've been through, all the rough times we've faced in the last five or six months we've been together...his smile was just as genuine as it was the first time I saw it. His heart never hardened, his spirit never grew weary. It was as though his humanity was burning just as bright today as it did before he crossed over into this world. I wonder what he must have been like....back when he was human. He must have been magnificent.

Bryson walked up a few minutes later, holding a blanket in his hand. "Have either one of you seen Jun?" He asked, a worried look on his face.

"No, not at all." Taryn replied.

"Justin?" He asked again, but I shook my head. "Shit. The compartments don't have locks on them. He must have been sleepwalking again. He could be anywhere in this place. He's not answering his IceZone pager, so I don't think he's fully come out of the sleep yet. I'm gonna check some of the nearby sectors and see if he's close by."

"Do you need us to help?" I asked.

"No, you two just stay right here and keep and eye on the bunks in case he comes back." Bryson was quick to take off, and I saw him send Jenna and Gyro off in different directions to seek him out. However, getting Michael and Trevor out of their bunk proved to be a bit difficult. And Dion and Dylan were so busy trying to get in some last minute kisses that they could hardly get dressed again.

"You have a friend that sleepwalks?" Jarrod asked.

And Taryn answered, "Yeah, he's got an extra that gives him this deep 'focus', you know? And sometimes the trance leaks into his sleep cycle. It's hard to keep him still during the day."

"Bummer." Jarrod then directed his attention back on me as I saw the party getting thicker and heavier by the second, almost reaching half he intensity that it had just before we went to sleep. I was randomly searching the room...checking out all of the bizzare characters around us, when Jarrod called my name. "You still awake over there, Justin? Or are you sleepwalking too?"

"Huh?" I felt Taryn lean forward to kiss me delicately on the lips and they both instantly had my attention again. "Sorry."

"I'd ask if you saw something strange, but that's a pretty useless question in this place."

"Well, I just..." I laughed at myself. "...That guy over there looks just like Tupac. The one sitting over by the Elvis impersonator."

Jarrod and Taryn took a look, and Jarrod giggled. "That's because that is Tupac. And that other guy is no impersonator." I laughed at first, but looking at Jarrod's face as he raised his eyebrows slightly...I think he was serious. "Celebrities don't just fall off of the face of the Earth, you know? And the media is really BAD when it comes to explaining stuff like that."

"So wait, that's really them? Get outta here!" He didn't say anything, just smiled. "Shut up, I'm not buying it."

"Any minute, Tupac is going to order a glass of Hennessy and Alize, and the King there is a bit more unpredictable with his liquor selection, but whatever it is, he's gonna tell the bartender to leave the bottle."


"Oh, is HE here too? He owes me a couple of bucks." Jarrod grinned, and waited for a second to see the look on my face. "Ok, that last one was a joke. But in all reality, you'd be surprised who you see in a vampire haven this size. Just last night I saw Michael Jackson by the arcade. You know, the real one from 'Thriller', before he got that light skinned pedophile dude to be his double in the public eye? Very cool. Although a little bitter that his double did so much damage to his name. But what can you do?" He shrugged. "The original Paul McCartney is down here somewhere too. Now, the guy he got to be HIS double? Now that was an almost near perfect match."

"Suuuuuure..." I laughed.

"You know, rumor is that an elder offered Frank Sinatra the gift of darkness before he passed and he turned it down. They say he told them..." He gave his best Frankie impersonation, "...Sorry, baby. You should have gotten to me while my 'bird' was still working."

"Ok, I think I've heard just about enough outta you for one night." I giggled, and stopped him before he got any further into it. Jarrod never did come clean about whether or not he was joking, but I have to admit, almost anything seems possible in darkness.

Taryn hugged himself up against me with a smile, and playfully rubbed his nose back and forth against my cheek. He was certainly extra frisky this evening. But it kept me smiling, that's for sure. Then, just as a wave of emotion surged through me, one of the empty chairs at the table suddenly began to slowly slide away from the table. Seemingly all by itself. All three of us looked at it, and then checked under the table to see what had happened, but there was nothing there. I shrugged, and so did Jarrod. Odd. "Parlor trick?" He asked us.

"Not mine." I confessed.

Taryn giggled, "Don't look at me."

"Alright then....the place is haunted. Go figure." Jarrod replied.

"Would it surprise you?" I said.

"No, not really...." At that moment, the chair moved even more, backing away until it was almost a full five feet away. "Okaaaay....that's just a little bit creepy." He got up and pushed the chair back in, giving us both a look, as if to tell us to quit fooling around. Whatever it was...I didn't do it. At least...I don't think I did.

"Listen, I'll be right back. I'm gonna grab my other notebook and keep it on me just in case I can find out any more info about you know what. Might as well have it ready to go now that everybody is waking up." Jarrod got his stuff and left us at the table, while Taryn and I shared another slow kiss with a smile. There was so much untapped passion in that boy. And when he was feeling naughty? Oh wow. It was like his candied charms had no way to contain it. It oozed out of him uncontrollably, and the look alone would seduce you into almost anything. That's why I trembled so when I felt his tongue playfully run across my lips, before he giggled and puled back some to tease me even more. I could never get enough of those sweet lips of his, and I was almost ready to join him back in our compartment for some evening fun. Especially when I felt him start a slow circular grind on my lap. He really was an expert at making me crazy.

I looked back over to the bunks for a moment, seriously considering it, feeling my hardness swelling beneath Taryn's soft warm posterior. And I hugged him tight against me, rubbing my face against his shoulder. I saw Max finally climbing out of his compartment and trying to wake Kid up by roughly shaking him and forcing him to stand on his feet. Kid's hair was ruffled into this storm of complete chaos, and he looked like he'd fall flat on his face if Max wasn't holding him up. A few slow movements behind the curtain where Trevor was sleeping let me know that Michael's jolly rancher surprise worked out great for him. I'm sure that Trevor was 'thanking' him well. Seems the family was pretty much all awake.

After an entire night of being gone, Taryn and I saw Rain approaching us from around the corner. Looking around her and half expecting Bryson to jump out of nowhere and read her the riot act as usual for disappearing on us again. "Don't worry, he's out looking for Jun." Taryn told her.

"Wandered off again, huh?" She asked, and we nodded. "Ah well, I should be thankful for the distraction. I don't have to worry about 'Daddy' being pissed at me."

"Where'd you go?"

"Not far. Another habitation sector a bit East of here, by the roller rink. No offense, but I just didn't feel like being a part of the 'Brady Bunch', last night." She said. Then, after sitting down and giving us a look, her frown became a bit more evident. "Well you two look awfully cozy tonight."

"Hehehe...sorry..." Taryn got down off of my lap and sat next to me instead. But he was quick to take a hold of my hand again, just to keep the intimate contact. I missed him already.

"Did you know that this place has a section that they built just for us 'halflifes'? Have you seen it? It's disgusting!" She grunted.

"Disgusting, how?" I asked.

"It looks like a great big Britney Spears video come to life. Shopping malls and NSync posters and high school lockers....pretty much every teenage cliche known to man and then some. They treat us all like we can't think or exist past bubblegum and cotton candy, it's insulting."

"Were there any hotties around there?" Taryn smiled.

"Sighhh....plenty." She admitted. Wow, it was one of those special moments where the girl showed an actual hint of a weakness. It took me surprise to see Rain almost acting like a...a....girl. "But whatever. I don't need some pretty Ken doll who never wanted to leave high school. I want something a bit more substantial."

"Like Bryson?" I barely got the wrds out of my mouth before Taryn elbowed me in the side. And Rain gave me a disgusted look.

"That's just not funny at all, Justin." She looked away from us both, trying to shake the bad taste from her mouth for even thinking it. Or at least...that was what she wanted us to think. Then she changed the subject completely. "These lights are driving me crazy. How much longer do we have in this place anyway?"

"A couple of long hours probably." Taryn told her.

"Good. I'll be glad to get back to the lot. We've been in here, like, forever. Ugh! This place is just a little bit too 'busy' for my tastes. I don't see how anyone could stand to stay here for a minute longer."

At that moment, Gyro came skipping over towards us and gave his sister a big excited kiss on the cheek. Isn't this place AWESOME! Omigod! I don't EVER wanna leave!!! Whoah, check that out over there! I'll be right back!" And he raced off into the crowd again.

Rain had the strangest look on her face. "We are SO not from the same gene pool." She mumbled.

"I thought he was supposed to be out looking for Jun?" I said, but Bryson and some of the others were already wading through the crowd in our direction with Jun right behind them.

"Found him." Dion was holding back a smile, as Jun had evidently gotten himself a 'makeover' while he was out wandering around. He had a bunch of bead necklaces around his neck, multi colored bracelets on his wrists, white powder on his face, eye shadow, and deep purple lipstick. Taryn and I couldn't help but laugh at the sight of him.

"Why, aren't YOU the prettiest little Geisha girl I ever did see!" Max teased, and Jun gave him the finger. Even Kid giggled a bit to himself in silence, which was a rarity indeed.

He looked so uncomfortable all dolled up like that, trying to wipe everything off with his hands to no avail. "You know, you would think a sleeping vampire would command some kinda 'respct' in this place." He pouted.

"We found him waking up to a bunch of supposed 'beauty experts' not far from here. They certainly seemd to like you a lot more when you were highly suggestive, Jun." Dion snickered.

"Whatever. Just help me reclaim some of my mahood and wash this crap off of my face, huh?"

We saw a flash, and Gyro was standing next to someone with a camera, taking a polarid of Jun to save for later. "Aw, that's awesome! Thanks man!" Gyro put the pic in his pocket, and Jun sulked his way away from us as he an Dion went to find some place to wash up.

At that moment, Bryson looked down to see Rain sitting with us, being a part of the family again, and she sorta rolled her eyes in preparation for a scolding. But Bryson didn't do it this time. In fact, his face was pretty emotionless. I would have guessed that he was more hurt than anything else, and Bryson does not let us know when he was hurt. So he shut it off, tried to look normal, and just gave her this weird nod. As if to say, 'glad to see you safe'. I don't think she was expecting that. In fact...I think she was kinda disappointed that she didn't get a rise out of him this time. All arguments aside, I don't think I've ever seen a more awkward moment between them.

I noticed Dylan helping Doc back into his chair, and immediately started searching for his new boyfriend in the crowd. Almost desperately. He stood on his tiptoes, trying to see over the crowd, climbed half way up the ladder to see if he could get a better view, and looked a bit worried when he didn't see Dion right away. It was so cute. He was like a five year old looking for a lost puppy in the park. You should have seen the joy on his face when he caught Dion and a much 'un-prettier' Jun coming out of one of the side corridors. He jumped down, and even though he had been uncontrollably eager to find him just a few seconds ago, he stood in place and waited anxiously for Dion to come to him first. Dylan's timid expression trying to hold back his smile as he quaked in his dreamboy's approaching presence. By the time Dion was able to reach him and greet him with a kiss on the cheek, Dylan had turned so red that I expeced him to pass out from it. They must have had a really good night.

"Geez..." Jarrod exclaimed as he came back to sit down next to us. "...The machinery in this place is so strong it's disorienting. I know the devices are supposed to cancel certain extras and all, but do they really have to come down so hard with it? I could barely get to my bunk and back without falling over."

"I didn't think it was so bad." Taryn said. Maybe his wasn't as harshly affected by the devices as some of the more aggressive extras were.

"It is for me. It's even worse in some areas. There's no way to escape it, these things are everywhere. There's no way to get a break from the nausea when they really turn the juice up o these things."

"Actually, if you wanted to, you could probably hit the alleys and relax for a bit." I said.

"The alleys? Those filthy runways where all the trash and stuff is?" Jarrod asked.

"Hehehe, it might not be the cleanest place in the world, but it's a break from the suppression. I don't think the technology even reaches in that far." Jarrod gave me a questioning look, and immediately took out his notebook to write that down.

"Hmmmm. So the alleys are like safe zones, huh?"

" guess so. They're more like shortcuts between party sectors." I felt as though I was being pressured, suddenly being put on the spot as he wrote down everything I said word for word. "The music is pretty quiet in there too, and no cameras. No security, no moving walls...private, you know?"

"Uh-huh...." He recorded it all as fast as his hand would allow. Keeping every journalistic detail as clear as possible. "And you're sure about all this, right?"

"Oh believe me...I'm sure." I told him, remembering my run in with Kieran and his goons last night. Just then, the chair at the side of the table rocked a little bit, and began to slide backwards again. All by itself. Except, this time, there was another chair opposite of it, that began to slide out in the other direction as well. What the hell was causing that freakiness? I scooted back and looked under the table again, but saw nothing. It's gotta be a party gimmick or something. It's just gotta be. Whatever. It's not worth thinking about.

"There's another one. They are seriously everywhere in this place. Even worse than last night." Bryson said, looking out at the crowd of people passing by our area. Taryn and I looked out to try to see what he was talking about, and saw a man who was partially covered in golden armor. He was huge, and had a long dark red visor where his eyes should be. He looked so heavy that I was surprised the ground didn't shake when he walked.

"What is that?" I asked.

"A Hunter. There's a bunch of them. They're swarming all over the place. Especially in these few sectors. I don't think I've ever seen this many of them in one place in my entire life." Bryson replied. "They've gotta be looking for something. They don't usually cluster like this."

"Actually, I've kinda noticed that too." Jarrod added.

I looked around to examine the area around us, and noticed another vampire not far from us. A strong, slim man, with long black dreadlocks that had metallic hooks on the ends. They almost looked like scorpion tails. And he was wearing black sunglasses. "Maybe they're just here to have fun like we are." I said, hopefully.

"I doubt it. I'm sure Hunters have way too many enemies out there in darkness to just 'hang out' where vampires congregate this heavily. They wouldn't be here if they weren't sent." Bryson told me.

"As long as they're not clustering around me, I'm ok." Jarrod grinned.

"Why?" Jenna asked him.

"Because Hunters have orders to terminate any vampire that even LOOKS like he's standing between them and their target, that's why. I don't intend to be that guy who ends up as some justifiable homicide in their report."

"Did they really expect to find anyone in this place?" I asked, my eyes still looking around, just in case.

Jarrod shrugged his shoulders. "Not sure. Who knows? But I've counted at least three or four of them since we've been sitting here."

"What kind of nonsense could cause that kind of response?" "It's that halflife psychopath. He's gotten the Elders all worked up over nothing. That's why Hunters are being dispatched to this part of town. "

"Psychopath? What psychopath?" Bryson asked. No, no, no! I definitely don't need Jarrod to get into this right now!

"That 'Rage' kid. The one tearing shit up all over town." Jarrod said, and paused as Bryson gave him a confused look. "Don't tell me you haven't heard about this." The others looked on in silence. But just hearing the name 'Rage' caused Taryn to grip my hand a little bit tighter under the table. I glanced over at him, and his eyes caught mine. They reflected his worry in their deep emerald green color, as well as the sting of being victim to another 'secret'. He remembered the cuts that I came home with after the skateboarders attacked me in the downtown area. He remembered the grunts that attacked us in the multilevel parking lot. He knew that 'Rage' meant just as much trouble for me as it did for him. And as I looked up at Jenna, I realized that she knew it too. I was in danger. "You folks seriously need to get in on what's going on in the city." Jarrod told them, and reached into his pocket to pull out some business cards. "Here. Now don't lose these."

"What's this?" Bryson examined the card for a sec, and put it in his pocket.

"It's the low frequency number for my radio station. Check it out, give it a listen, it'll help you stay up to date on what's going on in darkness. K? Tell your friends."

"Isn't that....forbidden?"

"Forbidden, necessary, legal, all depends on whether or not you get caught, you know?" Jarrod grinned.

I attempted to calm Taryn's nerves slightly by giving his hand a firm and confident squeeze. As if to silently tell him that it was gonna be ok. I made sure to look him directly in the eye, hoping that he'd believe me. But as I saw his concern outweigh his faith, I felt the grip on my hand loosen, and his attention gravitated towards Jarrod instead.

"So...they're searching for 'Rage' now?" Taryn asked him. I didn't want him to ask. I didn't want Jarrod to answer. Not just because I knew that it would make them worry more than was necessary...but it was beginning to worry me as well. "What happens when they find him?"

"What always happens when Hunters find what they're looking for. Kill first...ask questions later."

I tried to reach for Taryn's hand under the table again, but he shrugged away from me, determined to find out more. "So the Elders are certain that they've found the right person? I mean, there wouldn't be any mistakes?"

"There's still some hazy half ass investigations still lingering here and there. But they let a few 'dogs' off the chain in the meantime."

Taryn looked at me again, getting his answer. Was he angry with me? I couldn't tell. Maybe he just wanted me to be safe. Maybe he was sad that he didn't know how to help me. Maybe he was hurt that I didn't tell him that there might be some very serious people out there who wanted me dead. It's not like I was really HIDING it, I just....

And suddenly...a strange sensation came to me. Almost like having a butterfly land on your shoulder. My attention was instantly divided, and I turned my head to look at the party around us. We were being watched.

My eyes swiftly scanned the room for anything that might be odd or out of the ordinary. Someone who moved differently, someone who walked differently, or seemed somehow separated from the rest of the festivities. And at first I didn't see anything. But then, my eyes landed on a lady wearing a black veil over her face, all the way on the other side of the room. There must have been 200 people between us, and that thin black cloth obscured her face completely. But...I could feel her eyes on us. She was sitting still, sipping a glass of water, with a red cape draped over her shoulders. My eyes stayed on her for a moment, until I felt Taryn's delicate fingers reach out for me again. I turned back to the conversation and took his hand in mine. My eyes pleaded with his to forgive me if I had done anything wrong. He wanted to protect me, I wanted to protect him, our entire worlds were slowly falling out of balance. And the building pressure of what could happen to us both if we weren't careful was beginning to be a very heavy load to carry on our young shoulders.

There it was again. Another sensation. There were two of them now. At two completely different corners of the room. And then a a completely different corner. I looked back over my shoulder, and saw the lady with the black veil again. She was still looking calm, still sipping out of the same glass, still pretending not to notice us. But she was sitting a different table this time. A table that was a bit closer than the last one. Bryson and Jenna talked to Jarrod about his radio broadcasts, and Gyro was squeezing his way back through the partying crowd to try to get to our table again. But I couldn't take my mind off of the three strange vampires in the room who seemed to have such an interest in our little group. Or maybe...just an interest in me. One of them had a mask over his face that looked like one of those smiling 'comedy/tragedy' masks from the theater, painted bright silver, and he had some weird mechanical devices built into his shoulders...with hoses that ran down to his fingertips. The third essence was a large man wearing a black helmet, and he had what looked like a rotating cannon on both arms. Everytime I looked at one of them, their eyes would glide away from me, as if to casually avoid my stare. All three of them were watching, no doubt about it.

Their signatures were all similar. In a room full of vampires, they were almost identical in their presence. But if they were 'together', why were they so spread out in the same room? Unless it was a strategic manuever. I reached out with my senses as the danger became a bit more apparent, and located the three of them at different points in the room. And just as I locked onto their location....they moved. Not one at a time...but all at once. A perfectly synchronized switch, that moved them a little bit closer to our table. I jumped a bit with a gasp, and looked around me again. I saw them all sitting at new tables, still pretending to be minding their own business, just waiting for the opportunity to coordinate their next move. We were being systematically 'boxed in'.

"Drinks!" Said the bartender, coming over to us and placing down an entire tray of shot glasses in front of us.

"We didn't order any drinks." Bryson told him.

"These come from Miss 'Maria' herself. She was very specific in her directions. Enough drinks for the entire table, and this note for the blond haired newblood." He said, reaching into his pocket to hand me a sealed envelope. "Enjoy." The bartender left us just as Gyro was skipping his way tot he table.

"She brought us DRINKS??? MARIA?!?!? Omigod! You DID meet her, didn't you? Awww, no fair! I'll take two!" Gyro whined all in one breath, already anxous to return to his previously drunken state from the night before.

Everyone pretty much shrugged their shoulders and took a glass. But I couldn't shake the sensation of having those eyes focused on me and my friends. In fact, it was getting more intense. "What's it say?" Jenna asked me, hinting at the note.

I opened the envelope, and there was a handwritten note from Maria inside. It said, "This was the only way to get a message to you without arousing suspicion. Be careful, and get to an unmarked sanctuary as soon as possible. They are watching you." Then, after her signature, the note ended with, "If you believe in love...then I believe in you. Be safe."

Everyone did their shots except for me, and when they put their glasses down, they looked at me. "You're a little slow on the draw there, kiddo." Jarrod grinned.

"I'll pick up his slack for him!" Gyro shouted, and quickly gulped down a third shot without flinching.

My hands spread out on the table, and my breathing changed. My heart began to beat faster, and I suddenly felt the three vampires change positions again. Moving even closer now. As the feelings took me over, the sensation seemed to grow even stronger. It covered the entire room until I could sense the movements and patterns of every single person in the sector. My eyes focused on the table top as I began to pant and puff with anxiety.

"Justin....honey, are you ok?" Taryn asked. My hands balled up into fists, crumbling Maria's secret message to me, and the sensation got stronger. A mellow panic began to flood into my system, and it was so overwhelming that I could hardly move. What was happening to me. I had never felt anything like this before.

"Hey! Knock it off, asshole!!!" Came a voice from a few tables away. It looked like a vampire had gotten overly frisky with someone else's girlfriend, and she was pushing him off. "Don't touch me!"

"C'mon, babe! I'm not asking you to stay with me! Just come play for a little bit, huh? Don't be such a bitch!" The other vampire said, and they began to struggle a bit with one another.

"Justin?" Bryson asked.

I was finally able to peel my eyes away from the table top, and looked up into Bryson's eyes. "Something's wrong." I said.

"Wrong? What do you mean wrong?"

"This isn't right. We've got to go." I told him, feeling the three vampires make an even faster motion as they closed in on our location.

"Go? Where are we going?" Jarrod asked.

My feet were planted firmly on the ground beneath me, but my focus was all over the place. In all directions at once.

"Get your damn hands off of my girl! What the fuck do you think you're doing?" The girl's boyfriend had shown up with some of his friends, and immediately intervened in the harrassment.

"Take a hike, dumbass. This has nothing to do with you."

"If you put your hands on my girl again, I'll show you EXACTLY what this has to do with me!" The argument began to escalate, and I felt his friends tense up, ready to throw down if necessary.

"Justin! Look at me! What are you feeling right now?" Bryson said, taking my face into his hands and looking me directly in the eye.

"We're...being....followed." I said between gasps. My lungs were filling with short bursts of air, and I felt my arms and legs begin to shake. I couldn't understand why. I've never felt anything like this before. I was almost out of control. "They're....watching!"

"Who's watching? Justin???"

The lights flickered for a bit, and that's when I suddenly felt this heavy pressure increasing inside of me. This alien sensation of 'swelling' in my chest. I was almost full enough to burst at the moment, and my eyes felt like they wanted to roll back in my head.

"Thank goodness!" Jarrod sighed. "They're finally giving us a break with the sensors already." The suppression of all the vampire extras was being turned off, allowing us the freedom to use them again. But while the others felt relaxed from the lack of restriction...I felt even more panicked than before. Something inside of me had changed. And now that all of my extras were available to me again......

...There were a LOT of abilities inside me that weren't there before. A LOT!

"Do you know who the hell you're talking to???" The boyfriend told the guy at the table.

And he replied, "Do you now who YOU are talking too? Huh?" The vampire reached in his pocket. "Look, I'll pay you five hundred dollars to just walk away and leave the girl with me, ok? What do you say?"

The boyfriend laughed. "Can you believe this son of a bitch?" He took the wad of money, and threw it back in the man's face.

"Heh heh...that, my friend, was a mistake." He said, and suddenly there was a lot of movement around them, as the man's bodyguards surrounded the conflict.

And at that moment...the three vampires that I was watching before, made a rather LARGE movement in our direction. They were now no more than 30 feet away from us. Tightening their hold on our position. Making it so we couldn't head towards any available exit. Where we couldn't run from one of them without running right into the other two. Their manuevers were so well coordinated, so smooth, so flawless.....and they were almost close enough to strike.

"We have to go! And we have to go NOW!" I said, trying to gain some control over the trance I was in.

"GO? Aww...we've got HOURS left, Superman! Drink more! It'll calm you down!" Gyro giggled.

"You don't understand! This is SERIOUS!!! We've gotta get out of this sector! Out of this club entirely! We're not safe!" I said.

"Justin...take a breath, and tell me what's going on..." Bryson asked, but I felt the vampires move again, and suddenly jumped up to a standing position!

"NO!!!! WE'VE GOTTA LEAVE NOW!!!!" I screamed, and suddenly, as though it had come out of me all at once, all of the shot glasses on the table shattered at once in an explosion of panic. I could barely stand. My mind was dizzy with the amount of thoughts spinning around in my head. It was too much. I had been overloaded beyond belief. Engorged on thousands of random extras that dug deeply into my soul and refused to let go. My breathing was ragged and I could hardly see straight.

"Justin!" Taryn got up from the table and ran over to hold me, but I put my arm out to keep him away.

"I....I....don't understand. I don't know what's wrong with me...." I panted, and with a sudden jolt, I somehow caused all of the chairs at the table to shoot out in different directions and fall over. Jarrod jumped up just in time to keep from being tossed to the floor. "...Bryson....I think they know..." I told him.

"Think they know?"

I looked him in the eye on my own, and confessed, "I think they know what I am." He seemed to understand the message that time. "And they're coming for me."

Bryson was surprised, and shocked at first...but his duty to his family suddenly took over, and I saw his eyes harden at once as his leadership took over. "Gyro....go find your sister. Tell her we're leaving. NOW!"

"What? Bryson...." Gyro said confused.

"NOW, Gyro! We don't have much time!" Bryson snapped. "Jenna, I need you to get to Dylan and Dion, tell them it's an emergency! Find Doc, tell him to get those pagers working, and get Max, Kid, Michael, and Trevor, back together and ready to go as fast as you possibly can, ok? We're leaving!" Bryson turned back and asked me, "Where are they? Can you feel them?"

"They're everywhere, Bryson! I can feel them all around us!" I said, the hysteria working its way up my spine as I tried to calm it down. My emotions began to spin out of control, and I did all I could to keep them as well balanced as I could.

"How much time do we have?"

"I don't know!" Tears began to well up in my eyes, and my body started to tremble from the abundance of extras being absorbed into it from every angle. I reached out for Taryn and I pulled him close, keeping him right next to me in case anything should happen to him. The fear was increasing more and more by the second, and it leapt up into my throat when I felt the vampires sychronize another movement! "They're COMING!"

"Alright, I'm going to the bunks to get our stuff! Follow me, we'll lose ourselves in the crowd." ryson said, and began pushing his way towards the sleeping compartments.

"Is either one of you gonna tell me what's going on here?" Jarrod asked, confused.

"We're being hunted, Jarrod. All of us. We need to get out of here, and we need to get out of here NOW! I suggest you come with us!" I told him.

He was confused beyond belief, but he could see from the frightening look in my eyes that I was dead serious. So he got up and said, "Lead the way."

"Justin!!!" I saw little Gyro jumping up to see us over the shoulders of the thick crowd of vampires between us. Thankfully, Rain was with him. "We'll meet you over by the main hallway!" He said, and tried to move through the masses by cutting his own path.

Even as my head was spinning with the full realization of how many extras I was harboring at the moment, I gripped Taryn's hand, and forced my way through the crowd as well. With Jarrod right behind us, we began to make some leeway. And that's when all hell broke loose.

"I've had enough of this! Show this gutter trash what we do to guys who put their hands on my girl!" The boyfriend said to his friends, and suddenly a fist fight erupted between his friends and the multiple body guards surrounding them. There was pushing, shoving, broken bottles, and just as things got really bad, the crowd around them began to react. There were screams and turned over tables as the masses transformed into a swirling stampede. A mosh pit that pushed in on us from all sides, making it harder to worm our way through them.

I grabbed Taryn's hand even tighter, pulling him along as the crowd mashed in onus from all sides. And it was then that I felt the original three vampires moving much more frantically. They were swiftly repositioning themselves to cut off our escape, and if I didn't get by soon, they'd have us cut off again. I divided my energy between pushing forward, and holding a firm grip on Taryn's hand so as not to lose him. But we were hardly moving at all. In fact, as things got more hectic, and the chain reaction washed over the room, the stampeding crowd began to actually push us BACK!

I was losing my grip, and the crowd was forcing us back even harder, the current was too strong to fight against. Suddenly, with a big shove, I was knocked back against the wall, and Taryn's fingers slipped away from me. I watched in horror as he was instantly swallowed up by the frenzied crowd. "TARYN!!!!"

"JUSTIN!!!" He shouted back, but his cries were enveloped in the hysteria.

I used all of my might to push my way off of that damn wall, and tried to locate him again, but there was no sight of him. Where is he??? Where is my Taryn???

I began to shove and punch and kick my way through the crowd, using every last bit of energy and rage that I had to fight my way through! I had never felt so incredibly powerful, and was surprised to see a few bodies flying away from me with just a single blow. But there was no time to analyze my actions right now. I won't let him go! I won't let them hurt him! Not my Taryn! I fought my way through what felt like a hundred people before I caught sight of Jarrod huddling up under a table with Taryn by his side. Thank God!!! I moved over to them as quickly as possible, and flipped the table up to grab a hold of them and pul them back up to their feet so we could head towards the main hallway again. The mass had gotten so thick that you could hardly breathe, but we had to make it. We had to.

"Thanks Jarrod!" I shouted. "I owe you one!"

"Actually, you owe me TWO! But I'll let the Kinko's thing slide! But only because it was entertaining to watch!" He joked, and moved forward with Taryn between us to start forging our way forward again.

The screaming got louder, and the fight raged out of control as more and more people jumped into it. Furniture and liquor bottles flying every which way while we tried to duck down and avoid getting creamed by loose debris. And it was then that I noticed the three vampires I was tracking before had stopped moving, unable to get through. It only took a few seconds of them being separated from their target before they completely did away with the subtleties...and they took aim!

It was like the entire universe had stopped for a moment. And everything went dead silent, as my focus was directed towards the vampire with the spinning cannons on each arm. I heard the clicks as they loaded up, and heard the whirring motor as the barrels began to spin around his wrists. And with a sudden burst, a hail of gunfire leapt out of the rotating machinery and cut through the crowd! They weren't actual bullets, they were more like razor sharp discs, the size of a dime. And the ammunition ripped through the innocent crowd to mow down everyone in the way! I watched bodies fall to the floor in pain as he cut a path through them mercilessly, just to reach us. I didn't have a chance to think! I simply dived backwards and pushed Taryn and Jarrod down to the floor to keep the bullets from slicing right through them! We rolled up under the bar, and got back up to our feet.

"HUNTERS!!!" Vampires all around us were swept away in an uncontrollable wave of chaos, and there was NO way that we'd be able to get through this mess now!

I stood on top of the bar, and looked out to see Bryson and the others searching for us in the crowd. I gave him the signal to stay where he was, and prepared myself to figure a way out of this. But before I could hop down, the man in the silver smiling mask seemed to suddenly elevate himself above the crowd. His arms legs had mechanically grown longer, stretching to three times their original length! His long limbs stepped over the crowd and was coming our way fast! I hopped down from the bar and grabbed my friends again. "Let's move!!!" I shouted, but by the time we had gotten two or three steps forward, the man in the silver mask sprayed the top of the crowd with a fury of flames. It was like a cloud of fire that swept back and forth overhead, burning even more innocent victims in an attempt to get to us. Between the flames and the gunfire, we didn't stand a chance.

My mind was racing, and it looked like the whole club was being ripped apart as the two hunters brought the fury of armaggeddon down on our heads. The only thing keeping me sane was the duty of keeping the love of my life safe. And, as if the thought itself had triggered the extra, some kind of forceful energy shot out in front of me, and pushed a giant path through all of the running vampires in front of us! They literally parted like the Red Sea right before my eyes, the concussive blast pushing them to either side effortlessly. I don't know how I did it...but I knew that it would only be a few seconds before the path closed itself off again. So we charged forward! Bullets whizzed by my head, and the heat of the flames was bearing down on the back of my neck. But we kept running. However, before the three of us could reach the main hallway, the lady with the black veil jumped in front of us and blocked our way.

The crowd of vampires closed in around us, and she struck out without hesitation. My arms swiftly jumped into action to protect me and kept her from getting a shot in. She was DAMN fast, and it was exhausting to even try to keep up with her. I had gotten lucky fighting a hunter once, but I doubt that I could do it again. I battled it out with the female assassin, but her kicks were so blindingly quick, that I found myself taking a lot of damage. And just as I began to push her back a step or two, she moved around me and shoved me forward...leaving Taryn and Jarrod wide open!

I turned around, and saw her head straight for them. My heart stopped at that moment. Everything shut down, and I thought about my supposed destiny, and the unavoidable prophecy chasing me every step of the way. And the concept of Taryn being murdered right in front of me simply would not compute. I wouldn't accept it. My heart couldn't bear it. And as I saw this heartless bitch step towards him, as if in slow motion, a fury rose up in me that defied the vampire gods themselves...and in an instant, I was on my feet.

It might have all happened in a matter of seconds, but it was almost like she was standing still as I practically blurred myself right in front of her, and caught her by the wrist. Even through the veil, I could see her surprise. Who did she think she was fucking with? I'm not exactly sure who sent her and her goons after me...but I hope she's ready to deal with the consequences! Because laying a hand on my boyfriend was going to be her LAST mistake!

By pushing my fist forward, I delivered a punch hard enough to shatter her ribcage like glass! I felt her gasp for air as her chest was compressed 2 inches at least, and she was forced backwards into the crowd. But as soon as she hit the floor, her eyes began to glow from behind the veil, and her body started to repair itself almost instantly. We'd only have a few seconds to move.

"Go!!! Go!!" I yelled, and we jumped over her to head out of the sector.

I heard the rotating whir of the gun barrels again, and the cannons blasted away in our direction. We were splashed with blood as the behemoth moved his way through the crowd, pumping ammo into everyone in his way. The third hunter took the high ground, expertly walking on stilt like limbs, and we had to duck down under the crowd to avoid the blazes of his heated breath. "What the hell do they want with you???" Jarrod shouted.

"I don't know, but you're not safe as long as you're with me! Ok? I need you guys to get out of here! Go straight for the main hall, and DON'T look back! Got it?" I said, and Jarrod nodded. But Taryn's eyes betrayed him. And I knew that he wasn't going to leave me here to die alone. "Taryn...PLEASE! Ok? I'm gonna meet you over there with the others! I PROMISE you! Just go!"

The struggle inside of him was tearing him apart inside, but as a tear rolled down his cheek, he nodded as well, and got up on his feet again. "I love you!" He said.

"I love you too!" I kissed him quickly, and then turned to see the lady in the black veil stand up on her feet again. "GO!!!"

She loosened herself up a bit, and then adopted a new fighting stance. Arms spread, low to the ground, her cape draped over her shoulders. And before I had a chance to react, she made a few swift motions that caused her cape to lash out in my direction. I felt a sharp sting as my face was sliced by the razor sharp fibers hidden in the material, and felt a warm trickle of blood run down my cheek as she stood ready for round two.

She moved around more, and the sharp edge of the cape moved and swirled all around me, slicing and cutting into me with each graceful movement of her arms and legs. The fibers cut through my skin like warm butter, and despite my expert dodging, she turned my shirt to rags in a matter of seconds! I backed up quickly, hoping to hide behind some of the other vampires around me, but she had no problem ripping into them either. I just kept moving back, blood now running down my arms and legs, as well as a small river of blood running down from my face into the collar of my shirt. I moved to put as many random people in between us as possible, hoping to navigate safely long enough to catch a break. I tried to concentrate hard enough to use Rain's extra to heal myself, but it wasn't as easy this time. I had accumulated so many hidden abilities that trying to pick just one and use it to any effect was like trying to find a lucky penny on a football field of tall grass. I mentally scrolled past a variety of unknown extras, trying to find something familiar, when I felt a fireball hit me directly in the chest, knocking me backwards! I rolled over and patted the flames out of my clothes, crawling down on my knees to hide for a few moments longer. But I felt a hand lift me up by the back of my neck, as the man with the gun barrels found me. He threw me against the wall, and I watched as the cannons began to spin, ready to let go right in my face!

Suddenly, a loud gun shot hit him right in the shoulder from across the room. He turned around, and I looked over his shoulder to see Elvis and Tupac both shooting two pistols a piece at any vampire causing a disturbance in their club! It was a strangely hardcore sight that nearly made me forget what the hell I was doing! As the gun wielding hunter swivelled around to spray the room, I made my get away. I heard the familiar sound of the siren, and saw the flashing yellow lights as the impenetrable walls began to come down from the ceiling to cut off this part of the Ice Zone from all the others. SHIT! I can't lose them again! I'll NEVER be able to find them if I lost them now!

I pushed my way towards the main hall, and had almost made it when my body automatically reacted to the feeling of a bladed cape cutting through the air beside me. I leaned way backwards, almost falling off my feet, as I tried to keep her from decapitating me! We traded a few more blows, but she was way too good for me to keep up with. What the hell was the matter with me??? Was she really that good, or was my mind just too confused to act right? My focus was all over the place, and I could hardly keep my mind still while fighting for my life. Another slice cut me across my chest. Another one cut the top of my thigh. Another struck the side of my neck. She kept the fabric swirling around her so violently that I would cut myself just trying to get a punch in! Luckily, I saw Dion and Jun suddenly jump into the crowd and rush in to retrieve me!

Dion was able to land a kick in the lady's back while Jun gave a few rapid punches to her side. With a spin her cape spread out in all directions and we all had to flip backwards to keep from being sliced in half. I was seriously getting my ass kicked on my own, but with the three of us side by side, I at least had a chance. We all attacked at once, and were still barely able to get past her.

I saw the shine of that silver smiling face approaching from behind, and yelled out to Jun, "Watch it!" Just as a cloud of fire stretched out in his direction. He was able to move out of the way while I charged directly for him. He saw me coming, and took a large step backwards, charging up for another blast. Just as his mouth turned red, and he had taken a deep enough breath, a wall of fire shot out to stop me. Running top speed, I slid under the flames and under a nearby table, kicking it up into his chest, knocking him backwards and falling off of his stilt like legs to crash onto the bar behind him! I heard the whir of the gun barrels behind me, and didn't even have time to look. My body began to spin and dodge all on its own as a symphony of sliver gunshots tore up the scene around me. I manuevered my way around to kick a chair towards him, and his gunfire shattered it to splinters before it reached him. All while Dion and Jun were taking heavy damage from the witch in the red cape. I had to face it....this wasn't a fight that I could ever hope to win.

The sirens were still blaring, and the walls were more than halfway down. We only had a minute until we were locked in completely. So I dodged bullets and fireballs on the way back to Jun and Dion, grabbing onto them both. They saw the lowering wall, and knew what to do. The three of us kicked out towards the woman in the cape with a fury, high, low, middle, constantly changing it up to keep her moving backwards. And when we finally got an opening, we all spun to the side to push our way towards the wall. We took a running start, and slid under the wall at the last possible moment, leaving the hunters inside. Bryson was waiting on us with the rest of the crew. Outside of the area, I felt the machinery around us working to suppress my extras again, cancelling most of them out. It was the only thing that kept my head from spinning.

Taryn ran over to me instantly, hugging me around the neck. "Omigod!"

"It's ok, hon....I'm ok." I told him.

"Where are the others?" Dion asked, as Dylan came to stand by his side and give him a hug.

"Max, Kid, Michael, and Trevor, went to take Doc towards the front entrance. They got a head start, I suggest we follow them." Bryson answered.

"How exactly do you manage to make enemies like this everywhere you go?" Rain asked me.

"You're bleeding, Superman! Superman doesn't bleed!" Gyro looked almost confused with the concept of me being less than invinceable.

"Where are they, Jenna?" Bryson asked as she tracked the rest of us on the pager.

"They're heading in the right direction. If we took the north sectors straight up ahead and kept on that course without running into any walls, we should hit the exit in about a half hour." She answered.

"Deal, let's move." Bryson saw Taryn and I sharing a kiss, and put a hand on my shoulder. "Justin...look at me. Are you alright?" He asked, his fatherly eyes staring into mine as he tried to visually see how much damage was done.

"Yeah..." I nodded.

"You did good in there." He said sincerly, and then was ready to go. "Alright, stick close and stay with us. If we get split up, you meet us on the first monorail platform."

"Where's Jarrod?" I asked him.

"He went the other way. He said he'd catch up to us at the front gate, but he had to grab his research." Bryson told us. Then he got a count to make sure the rest of us were accounted for and we all hurried our way down the hall.

We stayed along the wall, racing past thousands of partying vampires as we tried to escape the danger persuing us. But before we were too far away, I heard the siren again, and the walls that had come down to cut off that section of the Ice Zone...began to go back up again. Bryson and Jenna turned to see it as well.

"What the hell? I thought they were supposed to keep the area locked up!" I said. But Bryson knew better.

"Those are hunters...they come direct from the Elders. No one's allowed to interfere." He said. "Keep moving. Keep going. Come on." We all pushed forward, and kept going.

Taryn and I kept looing back behind us, and knew that they'd be chasing us again soon. In front of us, I noticed Dion clutching tightly to Dylan, keeping him close to the wall. Dylan was silent, saving his breath for the quick pace that we were moving at. But I saw that protective nature take Dion over completely, and Dylan couldn't have been any safer than he was in his new lover's arms.

We passed through a heavily packed dance floor, the Ice Zone's underground roller coaster zooming by overhead, and our group was getting further and further apart, but kept on course. We couldn't be too far from the exit. The others would be waiting, and we could go home. Home! The concept of returning to an abandoned car lot had never been more alluring than it was at that moment. But as the party raged harder and harder as we got towards the miraculously busy entrance that we saw when we first came in, it became harder and harder for us to keep up. The music pumped hard enough to shake the walls, and the dancing patrons jumped up and down in unison, an endless ocean of resistance. It was all glow sticks and strobelights, hindering us every step of the way, until we could hardly see Bryson ahead of us anymore. We wouldn't be able to keep up for much longer. The pushing and shoving was already beginning to force us against the wall again without letting up. " your messages work in here?" I asked him.

"I think so. Yeah."

"Send Bryson a mental message to tell him that we're right behind him, ok?" I said, but the second the words left my mouth, I saw that silver face rise up out of the crowd beside of us! The legs extending to full length, as he stood over fourteen feet tall, and fired up his reserves as he prepared to strike again with that heated inferno of his! He was searching the crowd, as though he was tracking something. I don't think he had spotted us yet, but at that altitude, it wouldn't be long! "Shit! Come on, this way!!!" I said, pulling Taryn deeper into the crowd and off our original course. We were all alone.

"Where are we going?" Taryn asked.

"We might be able to find another way around this mess without being seen. If we can get to the alleys, they might not be able to track us."

Taryn held my hand the whole time, putting his faith in me. God help me if I led him in the wrong direction. I could feel his tension tightening up inside of me. I could feel the alarm rising to new levels as he started to doubt our ability to get out of this safely. But I didn't entertain his frightened thoughts. I just had to keep going and pray for the best. So we moved further and further into the center of the dancefloor, surrounded by thousands of gyrating bodies, lost in an orgy of music and movement. And then...standing in front of us from a distance of 20 feet....I saw the veiled lady waiting patiently for us to run right into her. She stood firm, but remained still. I froze at first, not knowing if she was going to attack or not, but then quickly took Taryn by the arm to hurry and go back the way we came. However, the gunman was waiting there for us as well, blocking our movement from behind. And before I even tried a third way, I saw the flamethrower towering above the crowd, confidently covering our position in a complete checkmate. They had us trapped on all sides, but neither one of them made a move. In fact, they looked like they were still searching the crowd as if they didn't even see us. What were they waiting for? They didn't have any problem cutting down a room full of innocent vampires before. Why not now?

"What are they doing?" Taryn asked.

"I don't know. They're not moving on us."

We were quiet for a moment, not knowing where we should move to...when Taryn discovered something. "Justin...look." He pointed to some of the faces in the crowd around us, and I tried to see what he was getting at. I looked to the left, then the right, and all around the dancefloor. "Safeguards..." Taryn said.

We were surrounded by humans. 'Protected' humans with safeguard marks on their necks. Hundreds of them had come into the Ice Zone and had begun their partying experience right here in this crowd. That's why the Hunters didn't suddenly go wild and fire into the crowd. They couldn't risk hitting some of their priceless 'investments' in here. I take it that the Elders are itchy when it comes to certain casualties. "They can't hit us in here." I said. "Loss of life is one thing. Loss of profit is another."

"We can't just stay here." Taryn told me.

"No...but we can make it to the exit if we stay submerged in the safeguard crowd long enough to keep us surrounded and move to another area."

"Justin! Look!" Taryn and I both saw Jarrod off to the far side of the room, standing at the end of an abandoned alleyway. He was waving us over frantically, trying to get our attention. "Maybe he found a shortcut to the entrance!"

"God, I hope so. Come on, stay right here with me." I started to move us towards the alley, but the assassins seemed to be right on us. In fact, they seemed to be trying to beat us to the alley entrance, already in motion before we even started moving ourselves. Taryn and I picked up the pace, and pushed our way through the human crowd, trying to reach the entrance first while the dancing crowd kept the hunters at a safe distance. Jarrod moved back into the dark corridor, and we made it just as the Hunters were beginning to close in on us. Jarrod had his bag of research slung over his shoulder and started running down the alley as soon as he saw us leave the dancefloor. The lack of extra suppression in the alleys caused my dizziness to come back to me with a vengence, but I kept moving regardless. My arms and legs were cut pretty badly, my shirt was hanging off of me in shreds, and the gash on my face was still bleeding a little from the wound. But, despite my injuries, it was my body trying to adjust to this foreign energy inside of me that was truly keeping me disoriented. I had never felt so alien before. My body was possessed with thousands of different spirits and energies all at once, and I could hardly balance myself as I tried to push them far enough down to walk straight. I shouldn't have come here. I should have continued to lay low until the Rage situation blew over. I only hope that I can keep Taryn safe. That's all I ask for....just let my Taryn get home safe.

We went deep into the alley, the music fading away into the background, and Jarrod finally began to slow down. We were out of breath, and he said, "Jesus kid...I have never, and I mean EVER, seen a newblood go toe to toe with a Hunter like that and walk away from it! You really ARE something special, aren't you?" He asked.

"I'm sorry if I got you involved in this Jarrod." I told him.

"Hey, after the entertainment you provided me tonight, youhave nothing to apologize for. Believe me." He said. "Listen, if we take this passage all the way to the end, and then take a right, it'll lead us to a hidden staircase that will take you right back to the main platform. After that, getting out is easy." He said. "I suggest you guys head to some other sanctuary on the outskirts of town until things calm down a little bit. Hopefully, after a couple of weeks, the Elders will call off the hit and...."

But Jarrod never got to finish his sentence. We saw a body fall from way up high on the top of the alley's walls. It landed on its feet in a puddle of water, the splash alerting us to its presence. And as I looked forward, I saw the fourth Hunter. The man with the long black dreadlocks, with scorpion hooks on the end. He raised his dark sunglasses up to look directly at us from the other end of the alley, and we took off running down a side corridor. We ran top speed to escape, but Jarrod was way ahead of us. I could have pushed myself to keep up, but I had to hold on to Taryn. Taryn was soooo tired. I could hear it in his breathing, the fatigue showing in his face as he tried to keep up with me dragging him behind me. But we had to keep moving. We HAD to. And just as I thought Taryn and Jarrod were about to give out, the dark figure appeared right in front of us. And with a whip of his hair, his metal hooks slashed Jarrod across the face and knocked him backwards onto the ground.

"JARROD!!!" I shouted, but it was too late! The man stood over him, walking slowly forward, scanning him. What's this? What's he doing??? "Taryn, stay here!"

"Justin, NO!" He begged.

"I've gotta get him!" I said, and left Taryn by a dumpster as I tried to reach my friend.

The Hunter looked down at Jarrod, examined him from every angle, and then drew a long metal shiv from his side. Jarrod looked up in horror, breathing hard, tears running down his cheeks....but it was no use. The game was over, and the Hunters had won. Before I could reach them...the Hunter raised the shiv, and without a hint of mercy, he stabbed it down towards his prey...piercing Jarrod's heart with a single blow! The metal blade shot out of his backside, and Jarrod screamed as the painful spike penetrated his life giving organ, ending his vampire existence in seconds!

"NOOOOOOO!!!!!" I shouted....but it had been done. Nothing I could do would be able to save him now. The heart had been damaged beyond repair...and as Jarrod held onto the blade, sniffling and crying in pain and horror...I saw the light fade from his eyes...and he passed out. The blood poured from his wounds by the pint, and when he woke up...there would only be starvation to look forward to. A long...painful...starvation.

The Hunter withdrew his shiv from Jarrod's heart, and let him fall lifelessly to the ground. He then wiped the blood off of the blade, and put the weapon back at his side. I felt tears running hot down my cheeks as I saw my friend laying good as dead as far as vampires were concerned. And when the Hunter looked back up at me...he gave me a crooked smile, and in a flash, he was gone.

What did I feel? Was it anger? Definitely. Helplessness? Indeed. Sadness? Without a doubt. But more than anything...I found myself numb. I walked forward slowly...approaching the unconscious body of a good friend in darkness. And I felt Taryn run up to join me at my side again.

I looked down at the body, blood spilling out of his chest and his back simultaneously. And I almost felt sick. I should have kept up with him. I should have helped him. The body was twitching slightly...the fingers and toes still spasming from the excessive damage done to him. And Taryn hugged me close as I witnessed the rest of his bodily blood reserves wasting away on the dirty alley floor beneath us. After a long moment of silence, I whispered, "He saved my life once, Taryn. He saved YOUR life tonight. He friend." I sobbed quietly. "Why did they kill him? Why?"

It was a that moment that I thought back to Dash's sanctuary, and the conflict we met up with that night. I remembered what Jarrod said to me the day after I tangled with that first Hunter in their hallways.

"You made one heck of an impression with the way you fight. I'm kinda sorry I missed out on it, I wish I could have been here to see you in action."

And Dash told me....

"Actually...this assassin was here for someone, but I don't think it was our friend, Justin, here."

They weren't there for me at the sanctuary. The Hunters weren't here for me tonight either. They were here for Jarrod. They were after him the entire time...I just happened to get in the way. Twice.

Jarrod's voice seemed to ring in my ears, echoes haunting me with his every word.

"Trouble? For speaking the truth? Nah, not exactly. I've gotten some choice words from a few pissed off Elders who told me to cease and desist...."

"Forbidden, necessary, legal, all depends on whether or not you get caught, you know?"

"Hehehe, can't stop the media, baby!"

And I took a step back as the pool of blood spread out to touch the tip of my shoe. "This is all my fault."

" You didn't know." Taryn aid, holding me around the waist.

"I told him about these alleys...I told him that he'd be safe here..."


"I could have warned him. I could have saved him. I could have done SOMETHING!!!"

" couldn't, baby." Taryn pleaded. "You couldn't." I felt myself almost collapse into Taryn's arms as I got weak from the rush of emotion.

"They killed him over a radio program, Taryn. A stupid fucking radio program!" And if they would send out ruthless hitmen like that just for a radio dj breaking the Elders' rules....

What are they gonna do when they find out about ME?