I felt my feet dig DEEPLY into the floor, my body ready to defend me at all costs. But this time my senses were open and aware of everything around me. Everything. This wasn't like the other times at all, this was different. It was as if my instincts had developed a whole new understanding of what fighting was...and it was ready like never before!

I heard a sound coming from the right, and saw the redhead guy run for another car to toss! Then the one on the left charged right for me! I was aware of both positions, and leapt into action! My body ran towards the large man barreling towards me, and sprang off of the floor to let my feet land on his shoulders, allowing me to step down on him and flip over to safety. But the second my feet touched the ground, I saw a huge dark shape speeding towards me out of the corner of my eye! I dodged the flying car by diving to the left, and sprung back to my feet as soon as I could get my bearings again! The Jamaican man jumped up onto the hood of the car next to me, his massive weight denting it like it was plastic. I quickly tried to sweep his feet from under him. However, my leg hitting his muscular stump was like kicking a fucking brick WALL! He didn't budge, and my leg basically bounced off of him painfully! He reached down with one of his giant hands and grabbed a hold of my shirt, lifting me off of my feet! And then he threw me halfway across the parking lot! I could feel my body twisting in mid air, and I was able to spin down to the ground and land on my feet. Luckily for me, because another automobile was tossed at me the second I touched down. I spun to the side and watched as the car crashed up against the wall behind me! FUCK, that was close!!!

"I thought this boy was gonna be a CHALLENGE!!! Hahaha! He's barely any fun at all!" The red haired guy bellowed.

"Easy money!" The other one answered.

"Don't worry...I'm just getting warmed up, asshole!" I said, my eyes washing over with a dark blood red glow as my most savage reflexes kicked into a higher focus. "You should have just walked away when you had the chance!"

"Get a load of this pussy blond boy!" I heard the Jamaican tear the door off of the car behind him. My senses spun me around, and I was able to catch sight of him as he sent the car door spinning flat my way. This time, I was able to jump towards him, actually stepping on the airborn car door on the way, to propell myself right at him! And when my kick landed this time, it did some damage! I knocked him back a few steps, and went to work on his stomach with both fists as my punches got stronger and stronger. I didn't even know where it was coming from, but it was actually working!

"Tricky little fucker!" The other one shouted, and ran at me from behind. Divide and attack, divide and attack.....concentrate on the space between them. I tried remembering what I was taught, and it was becoming more clear by the second. As the man behind me ran up, I grabbed the Jamaican by the neck and spun around him, my legs sticking to the wall and holding him steady with a headlock. His friend ran right into his chest, and I sprung from the wall just in time to jump to safety. I rolled to my feet, and watched as the two bruisers shook their heads straight again.

Just then, one of the lot security guards ran up to our level to see what the heck was happening up here! He was an older guy, skinny, completely innocent in all this. It distracted me when I saw him. "What the HELL is this???" He said, seeing the car wrecks around him.

"GET DOWN!!!" I shouted, but his reflexes were human, and nowhere near as fast as ours. I saw them hurl a large Buick in the guards direction, and I knew he wouldn't be able to move in time! Dammit!!! Focus on an 'end point'! 'END POINT'! With all the speed I could muster from that short distance, I thought about a stopping point just out of range from the car's path of destruction, and SHOT out towards the guard! It was disorienting moving at that speed, and I had covered so much ground so fast that when I reached out I had missed the guard completely! He was still standing there! SHIT! No time to think now! I let my instincts take over, and I sped towards him again, this time using some of Jun's focus to keep my eye on him! I grabbed him by the shoulders and forced him out of the way of the car only seconds before it crushed him under its murderous weight! The car continued to roll forward, and I wasn't quite able to stop in time. I rammed my shoulder directly into a wall, and both the guard and I fell to the ground in agony! AHHH!!! Dizz was right....walls are painful!

"Thank you, son!" The guard said.

"Just go! GO!" I shouted, holding my shoulder and trying to get back to my feet. I turned my head, and felt a kick land right in the middle of my chest! It knocked me over the hood of a car and I landed on the ground between two vehicles. I rubbed the sore spot on my chest, but as I looked under the car, I saw a pair of feet running swiftly in my direction. Rolling over, I saw another pair running towards me from the opposite direction! They were going to crush me between the cars!

Without a second's hesitation, I jumped straight up in the air as they impacted the cars from both sides and smashed them together into a twisted mess in the middle! My legs spread out to both sides, and I landed in the splits on the bent up roof of both cars, then rolled forward a few times over the hood to land on my feet in front of them. The red head came at me, his huge fist raised, and I did what I could to throw his focus off to the side and cause him to miss me by a few inches. And then felt an electric current lash out of my hand to push him back against the opposite wall! I hardly had a chance to analyze what I was doing, but it was all happening as fast as I could think it. It was actually WORKING this time! EVERYTHING was coming together at once!

I felt a fist the size of a ham grab me by the throat, and the Jamaican lifted me off of the ground by the neck! His fingers began to squeeze until I couldn't breathe anymore! My feet weren't even touching the floor, and I couldn't get any leverage on him. I began to punch his arm, my legs swinging wildly to kick him in his face and chest. But it wasn't doing any good. It was as if he couldn't feel any pain at ALL! It only annoyed him more, and he slammed me hard against one of the concrete walls...his fingers tightening even more! My feet couldn't touch ground, and my face was turning purple. In the distance I could see his partner rising to his feet again, and I knew that I had to do something FAST!

"Be creative with your last words, boy!" He said, his hand ready to crush my throat with a final squeeze! I tried kneeing him across the bridge of his nose, and let my arm reach down to try to reach his ribs! But to no avail. However, my mind reading ability seemed to nudge me towards the right course of action all of the sudden...and with a quick thought, I reached down and gently rubbed him under the arm. In that instant, Gyro's pleasure extra came surging out of my fingertips and tickled him just enough to get his arm to jerk and let me go. I dropped to the floor just as his friend came over to help finish me off, and I gasped for air!

The Jamaican's foot came down to stomp on my back, but I rolled out of the way. Then, just as the redhead got close enough, I reached out a hand to touch his leg. A combination of Michael's minor posession mixed with just the right 'suggestion' placed with Taryn's extra, caused his fist to lunge outward and hit his partner in the face! It worked better than last time. Just right the right combination, and I was able to get my suggestions through. I rolled over to touch the Jamaican's foot next and used the same technique to force him to strike back! As long as they were close enough for me to touch, I could get them to fight one another, one punch at a time. I went back and forth between them to get them to pummel each other while I tried to get my breath back and dodge at the same time! It wasn't long before they caught on to my trick though.

They stopped listening to my suggestions, and were going to turn on me any second. I threw their focus off of me for a swift second so that I could move around them and blank out so they couldn't see me. I stood perfectly still as they tried to search the room around me. I was gasping and huffing, trying to catch my breath, and both men got quiet, listening for my heavy breathing. I just needed to rest for a second! JUST a second! I was attempting to hold my breath, but I was too worked up to do it. The redhead was moving closer to me, and when I took a step back to avoid him, his attention caught a blurry hold on me standing there. "THERE you are, sissy boy!" He said, swinging in my direction, even though he couldn't see me fully. I ducked, coming out of hiding, and fought back with everything that I had.

I jumped back onto one of the cars, but he reached down and turned it over, tossing me to the ground. I sprung back up to my feet, just to see the Jamaican man kick a car from behind and send it barreling at me! I ran towards the wall with the car chasing rapidly behind me, and I prayed that I could get this to work on the first time! Transfer my idea of gravity....transfer it! You've only got one chance to get this right, Justin!

My feet got to the wall, and I felt a shift in my center, allowing me to run up the side of the wall to avoid the speeding car before it rammed me in the BACK! The wall shook violently under my feet, and I moved further up to avoid them. "Oh no, kid! You ain't getting out of here, that easy!" The redhead shouted, ripping the front tire off of a car, and sending it sailing right for me! I jumped from the wall, feeling my gravity change again and landing with both feet on the ceiling of the lot. "Come DOWN here and fight, ya SISSY!" Another tire was swung in my direction, and as I moved, I saw the Jamaican pick up a small hatchback and push it up towards me at the ceiling! As though he were using a shoe to squash a cockroach. I fell to the floor near his feet while he was still holding the car over his head. It was then that my brain geyser 'halo' built up around my head, and I forced it directly at his legs! The second it hit him, he fell backwards, and the vehicle landed right on top of him! He must have been a little more than winded, because he remained pinned for the time being.

My senses alerted me to another object coming my way, and I fell to the floor, rolling under the car to avoid getting smashed. But THIS time, when I stopped, I felt my eyes begin to burn brightly, and with a single blinding 'FLASH'...the redhead shouted and covered his eyes as though the retinas had been burned out! Another blast of energy from my thoughts knocked him up against a concrete column hard enough to make it crack, and he fell to his knees. He began swinging blindly in every direction, his screams more from anger than pain.

It was then that I heard sirens in the background. LOTS of them! It sounded like half of the Chi-Town police force was on its way, and that meant trouble! I stood up, the Jamaican pinned under a car, the redhead shouting curse words and swinging at air...and made my way around them to go down the ramp. Did I....did I just WIN this battle? As much as I felt in control of everything that I was doing at the time...I wasn't really given a chance to let any of my actions really sink in. It was just...'happening' so naturally. As though I had known how to control these things all along. Everything worked just like it was supposed to. For the first time, I felt like my body actually listened to me.

I can't say for sure.....but I think I just became a BADASS!

"Thanks fellas...this was fun." I said, ready to make my getaway. "Oh...and by the way...the next time I catch either one of you attempting to hurt me or my boyfriend, I'll kill you! Keep it in mind." I said, and walked out of the garage, right past the police as they charged in to handle the situation.

My adrenaline was still running hot, nearly burning the insides of my veins as I tried to wind down from the attack. My senses were ablaze with all of the new information it had been putting to use in the last few minutes, and I could literally feel my body settling into a whole new format as my mind adapted to my new abilities. The more I used them, the more my body adjusted to handle them. There would be no turning back now. None.

I made my way out to the park, my eyes searching the dark spots for Taryn, and foud him sitting on the ground, leaning against a tree. "Taryn?" But he didn't answer. He was just sitting there, staring off into space, not even blinking. As I got closer, I saw two rivers of tears flowing from his eyes. "Taryn???" I said louder, and got no response. What happened? What the hell was going on here??? "Omigod....Taryn! Taryn, wake up baby! Baby, wake up now, come on!" I got down on my knees in front of him, trying to look him in the eyes, but he seemed to look right through me. I took his face into my hands and lightly smacked him on the cheeks, trying to get him to come back, but he wouldn't. He COULDN'T! "Taryn PLEASE!!!"

He was barely breathing, locked into some kind of trance that he couldn't wake from, and I shook him violently in an attempt to snap him out of it. I sat back on the ground in front of him, and tried to push my way into his thoughts to see what was wrong. And that's where I saw it....that flaw....that awful 'padlock' I had put on his mental process. Whatever I had done with Dion's emotional extra, I had evidently sent it to Taryn with a bit too much force. In my hurry to get him to leave, I had given him a full blast, and he was trapped inside. It took every bit of concentration that I could muster to pull it back. I closed my eyes and mentally forced myself to take it back into myself before it did any permanent damage. It had been increasing its strength by the minute ever since he had run out of that parking garage...and it was a lot to try and manage all at once. But I couldn't hurt him. Not Taryn. He's the only thing that gave my life some value, and I won't lose him. I won't let him go.

"GASP!!!" With a sharp intake of air, Taryn suddenly shot forward, and his eyes poured over with tears. He had been stuck in that mindstate almost the entire time, and had basically been trying to fight his way out of it since it had taken a hold of him. Watching from a distance, scared for my safety, crying and screaming for me to be ok. Once his body and mind had recovered somewhat, he lunged forward and hugged me tightly around the neck! "Oh God....Oh God...you're alright!"

"I'm sorry, Taryn! I didn't mean to force it so strongly....I...."

"Force what?" He said, confused. Then he let go of me. "You...you did that to me? You locked me down emotionally?"

"I needed you to run. I just...I wanted you to be safe." I said, and he sat there looking...almost hurt. There was a moment of silence between us, and suddenly he violently pushed me over.

"Don't you EVER do that to me again!!!" He shouted. I didn't know if he was kidding or not. But judging by the look on his face, I think he was quite serious.

"I did it for you..." I said.

"Don't do me any fucking favors! Justy, you could've been KILLED!!! And I would have been stuck here until daylight!"

"I'm sorry..." I said weakly.

He sat back against the tree, his lip pouted out a bit, more concerned than angry. Neither one of us said anything for a few minutes. He stared at his shoes, his knees pulled up to his chest as he sat before me, and he looked so upset. SO upset. I felt extremely bad for putting him in danger. But I didn't know what else to do. I couldn't let anything happen to him. I couldn't. I didn't know what I was doing. It was an emergency, I didn't have time to think about much of anything.

"I can't believe you used your extras on me, Justin. On me?" He said.

"I said I was sorry." I whined back. "If either one of those guys had hurt you, I'd never forgive myself."

"Well how the hell do you think I feel?"

"I can HANDLE them, Taryn. YOU can't." But that comment only seemed to make him look at me with even more frustration. He looked almost hurt.

"You just...you shouldn't have done it." He said, and he stood up to his feet to walk away. I got up quickly to join him, but he didn't seem to want the company.

"What was I supposed to do?" I asked, walking behind him.

"I don't know, Mr. Mimic. Why don't you tell me?"

"That's so not fair, Taryn!"

He swiftly turned around and stopped walking. "Not FAIR? Are you kidding me?" He said. "So is this what you're going to turn into? Huh? Somebody who can just use his powers against his friends to get whatever he wants?"

"No....Taryn, that's not it at all."

"Just because you're better than me, it doesn't mean you can use me!" He said, and we both stared at each other in silence. His eyes softened a bit, and then he turned around to keep walking. "Nevermind..."

"Wait...you think I'm 'better' than you?"

"Just FORGET about it."

"Taryn....baby...I'm not better than you. I'm not better than ANYBODY. I don't know ANYTHING!" I said.

"Whatever. Can we just drop this please?" He replied, rolling his eyes.

"Are you hearing me?" I reached out, putting my hand over his heart. "I did what I did to protect you, Taryn. Not to just 'showoff' or use you or ANY of that. I am SO confused right now, none of this makes any sense, and I'm dealing with it the best that I can. You're the only thing in all of this darkness that makes any of this even remotely SANE for me." Taryn closed his eyes, but I brushed his cheek, hoping he would listen. "My whole world...revolves around you, and how I feel about you. I'd give all of this up tomorrow if it meant losing you. In my whole life...you're the only thing that has ever brought me any kind of of true comfort with who I am. If anything...you're lightyears ahead of me, Taryn."

He sounded like the emotion was caught in his throat, and he fought to speak clearly. "I'm trying so hard to walk this path with you, Justin...but I don't know how. Everything you've done, everything you ARE is so far beyond me that I...I don't feel like I 'fit' anymore. I'm just....I'm holding you back and I can't keep up anymore."

"You ARE walking this path with me, Taryn. Because no matter where I go, I'm carrying you in my heart with me. Always." I gave him a slow kiss on his forehead, and he hugged me around the waist. "I'm sooo sorry, ok? I'm really...really...sorry."

"Don't you EVER use your abilities against me again, Justin. Do you hear me?" Taryn sobbed softly into my chest. I nodded, placing a kiss on his forehead. "Promise me?"

"I won't. Promise." We hugged in that park until our hearts had somehow found a way to beat in sync with one another again. It was a short difference in frequency, but my boyfriend and I could always get it back in perfect harmony with a single kiss. No matter what the issue.

I heard a noise, and my attention was drawn back to the wrecked parking lot in the distance. I watched as some of the police cars pulled away from the lot, and a few fire trucks and ambulances arrived in their place. There was no sign of the redhead or the Jamaican, and I had to assume that they had somehow found a way to fix themselves up and flee the scene before the cops arrived. They were certainly a duo of misfits that I did NOT want to run into again. They've come after me, and they put my boyfriend's life in danger. This can't keep happening. I've got to find out how to get this 'Rage' kid to show himself and keep these assassins from bringing me anymore grief. Tonight. My luck is beginning to run out. "What are you going to do now?" Taryn asked.

"I'm going to go see an old friend. And he's gonna help me, whether he likes it or not." I said. "Come on. You're coming with me."

Taryn and I slid under the turnstyle, passed a sleeping attendant, and hopped on the Northbound red line train. I had no problem remembering where to go. Nor did I have any trouble finding the large abandoned house once we got off the train and took a rather extended walk into the small suburban area. I needed to find him, the one person who might have enough insight to guide me towards finding this 'Rage' and getting HIS evil deeds off of MY record. Even if he is crazy...he just might be able to give me the clues I need to figure out what's going on. We walked up to the gate of the old house, and Taryn gave me a strange look as he saw the rundown look of the building. "What is this place?"

"This is where we're going. Hopefully, I can find some answers about what's going on." I took his cheeks in my gentle hands and kissed him softly on the lips. "And then we'll be safe, you and me. Ok?" I started to walk through the gate and up to the front door.

"Um....do you think we can just 'walk up and knock' like this?" He asked.

"Trust me, Taryn.....he already knows we're here."

I didn't even need to knock. The doors of the old place opened up as soon as Taryn and I walked up the front steps. Two large guards were waiting for us, and stepped aside to let us pass through to the other side. As I walked in, I noticed more humans than usual in the darkly lit entrance, blue light bulbs shining dimly as the many humans moved around to position themselves strategically for my intrusion. Even though I was there with the best of intentions, they had their defenses swirled around any quick moves I may have been able make....if the opportunity presented itself. I could feel a high level of aggression in that room, and was curious as to why there was such a need for this much more security. Something must be wrong. I looked up to the top of the staircase to see someone already punching my name into their boss. And they quickly received a reply. "Zero will see you now." One of the men said. "He is pleased you brought the boy, but he must remain here." The guard said, referring to Taryn.

"I understand." I said. I turned to Taryn and gave him a kiss on the lips. "I won't be long. Ok?" He nodded reluctantly, bt he knew that this was something I had to do. I waved as I disappeared into the dark corridor. I made my way down the stairs, and then down the long hallway ahead of me. Zero...was waiting.

The large stone door rolled aside to let me enter the room, and closed behind me as soon as I was inside. The room seemed even darker than normal, its thick black carpeting covering the walls, ceiling, and floor like a gelatinous coat of wet paint. The room itself smelled dusty, and damp...like the stench of an old mop on a heated summer day. It wasn't as neatly kept as it was before. It looked slightly disheveled from the last time that I had been there. I was nervous, but knew that I had to make contact with the vampire that dwelled here. Hoping that he might be able to help me find out who this faceless enemy is at last. "Zero?" I called out, my voice shattering the silence around me. I scanned the room and couldn't feel his presence at all. Not even with my senses reaching out to find him. "Where are you?"

There was no answer. No movement in the thick black stillness of the room. It was illuminated only by the faded light coming from the surrounding giant fish tanks. In fact, except for the slow motion patterns of decorative underwater plantlife, the room itself seemed perfectly still...empty. But I knew better. Zero's not the type of vampire to be out roaming the streets, or ever leaving this room, for that matter. "Right you are, my boy." Came a calm voice from behind me. Reading my every thought as though it was written on the walls in black marker for him to easily pick and choose what he wanted to see. "You are a much more complete entity than you were when we last met, young mimic." I turned towards a dark corner where it seemed the words were coming from, but the shadows kept him camouflaged. "I trust your advancing crossover has brought you some rather 'interesting' results."

I still couldn't make him out in the darkness, but his voice gave me an idea of which way to look. "I'm sorry that I came unannounced. I needed to see you."

"For a vampire like myself....there is no such thing as...'unannounced'." He replied, still hidden. Only a faint outline giving him some shape. "So 'that' is Taryn?" Zero said, looking up at the ceiling as though he could smell Taryn's scent right through the floor. He closed his eyes, revelling in the sensation. "He's absolutely beautiful, Justin. And he truly loves you. That's a rare find these days. Especially in OUR world, where people aren't so much looking for 'love' as they are searching for an escape from a life of lonliness. Naturally...they're not the same concept." Zero closed his eyes again, and inhaled deeply. "Even now, he's thinking about you. Worrying about you. I cannot remember the last time I felt a love so pure. So complete. His thoughts revolve so tightly around your well being that I wonder how he keeps any for his own. I can see why the love bands on your arms are so flawless in their presentation. He'd be willing to sacrifice everything for your safety."

"So would I. I love him, Zero. With everything I have to give."

"Yes....of course. But in the end of all things...I pray you will be able to make the right decision. Afterall...love and loss, are eternally bound."

My forehead wrinkled, and a cold surge went through me when he said that. "What is that supposed to mean?" But Zero simply stood there, his breathing letting out a sigh through his grin.

"What is 'prophecy', other than a series of educated guesses made on a possible chain reaction of events? Hmm?" Zero was seriously out of whack. As always. "Your destiny is determined by your ability and willingness to break that chain." His eyes let off a soft glow, but it didn't last long. "But you're not here to talk shop, are you?" Zero took a few steps closer, and I could see the glistening shine of his fangs through his smile. "So....it seems that the fates have thrown quite a monkey wrench into the natural order of things this time. Haven't they, Justin?" Even while I was looking directly at him...I still couldn't sense anything. No emotion, no movement, no presence at all. I could SEE it, but I couldn't detect it. It was like he was a ghost, barely holding any grip on this plane of existence. I watched as Zero's darkened silhouette finally began to move again, walking in front of one of his wall to ceiling fish tanks. Allowing me to see him fully at last in shadow, no doubt sensing how distracted I was by the fact that I couldn't see him before. Something was different about his face. Odd. He almost seemed to hide it from me as he moved around the room. And as always...his little waterbound companions swam to form a loyal, but eerie, golden shadow behind him. "I must admit, that after all my years in darkness, I am, for the first time...quite 'surprised'."

"Surprised how?" I said, but his mind wandered away from my questioning.

"You know...I envy these creatures, Justin." He said, looking at the fish, waving his hand and watching them follow his movements. "Imagine what the world must look like to them....incredible." He turned to me, his eyes a dull colorless slab of concrete. "They forget, you see? Three seconds from now, they won't remember what just happened here. They won't even remember their own existence or how they got to where they are. Their past choices are constantly erasing themselves, twenty-eight thousand, eight hundred times a day. A fresh start. A new life lived with no previous flaws included. Their very definition of time must be so unique. They are immersed in oblivion. They have no real personal laws to govern them. Not like you and I." He said, now turning towards me. "We are captives of our own perception...forced to live eternally as a sum of our choices. Some good, some bad. Some building us up with our attributes, some tearing us down with our flaws. Over an extended period of time, those narrow walls close in more urgently, and we find ourselves unable to start fresh again. The more we experience in this life...the harder it becomes to forget that which caused us pain in the past. The unjust experiences that...define our own personal level of 'caution' in life. How beautiful it must be, to live as a child again...untainted by the many horrors of this world."

"Zero.....I don't have time for this. I need you to 'focus' for a few minutes, ok? This is important."

He turned to me, his smile widening into an evil grin. "So is this." I could see that his face had changed since my last visit. There were veins, red and engorged with blood, looking like cracks in paint as they fanned out in a crimson web across his face. "Our young warrior has grown into SUCH a fine specimen since his second feeding. All of your trials and tribulations seem to be falling into place quite nicely. By your third feeding, I assume, you will begin leaving your mark as one of the great vampires of our time." He said. "You are still a tad impatient though. Rushing blindly towards a future that you can neither predict...nor prepare for."

"Zero, please...I'm in trouble. Really big trouble. And I need your help. There's some vampire out there who...."

"He won't show himself, Justin. Not just yet." He said. "He is waiting. While he may have been eager at first...he has recently slowed down his pace. I can't exactly explain why, but I believe that he is closing in on his search. Not just for the one he seeks, but for 'himself' as well. However...I don't believe he will find the same shining diamond of a soul as you did once he begins to look inward." He told me. "In fact, I trust he will find something....much more dangerous."

I stepped closer to him. "You know why I'm here, then?"

"Of course I do. But the true question is...what 'meaning' will your visit have by the time we are finished here tonight? Exactly how will this conversation affect the pattern of the falling dominoes behind you? Or ahead of you?" His eyes came into a higher focus, and a slight grin parted his lips. "You are searching for the one they call, 'Rage'. And I believe he is almost ready to emerge from the shadows." He walked passed me to sit down. Patting me lightly on the shoulder. "He has been quite the 'topic' as of late, hasn't he? He's been busy running his devious little errands around town...hoping to flush out his target with the information he receives. Tsk tsk tsk...so much anger for such a young boy. His situation bears a certain resemblance to your own crossover. I take it, other vampires have gotten you two....confused." He smirked.

"Yes. I need your help, Zero. Please. I HAVE to find him."

"And then....?" He grinned, and I found myself unable to answer him. Actually, to be totally honest, I hadn't thought of that. What exactly had I planned to do once I found him? Anyone who could rip into a room full of innocent people the way he did, surely wouldn't have much trouble giving me the same treatment. With all of the abilities at my disposal, I wasn't sure how much good they'd do when pitted against a vampire so deadly. I think the pause before finding the words to reply, helped to let Zero know that I was completely lost on how to approach this whole idea. "You've chosen to throw yourself into the middle of a very dangerous game, Justin. Without any knowledge of the rules, and no clue as to the possible outcome. This is not a sudden passionate lashing out at a high school bully...this quest of yours may carry very heavy consequences indeed. Such dangerous creatures cannot be dealt with lightly."

"Well, I have to do SOMETHING! People think that I'M Rage! I'm getting attacked in the streets! Tonight they almost hurt Taryn! If I don't find him and at least get him to SHOW himself so I can clear my name, I won't be safe anywhere." I said. "How do I know he won't come after me next?"

"This vampire you seek...he is not looking for you. Quite the contrary. I doubt he even knows of your existence. If he did, you would have been dead by now. No....this entity is looking for something else. But that does not mean that your paths won't cross some time in the very near future." Zero turned around slowly, that horrific stare sinking into my soul, accompanied by the tilted smile of insanity. "Circles....they always end at their own beginning." He said to himself. "Much like you, Rage has lived quite a miserable existence as a human being. He has grown up with many horrors of his own. However...while you took your pain inside and allowed it to depress you to the brink of suicide...Rage has a much different blueprint as to how to stop his own suffering."


"He has turned it outward, exploding in a tantrum of great misery for all who surround him. He is searching for someone to 'blame' for the difficulties in his life. However, the more he hurts others, the more he hurts himself, and the only way to battle that self inflicted pain is with more anger. This will continue until he feels he has sufficiently rid himself of his own self hatred. But something tells me he won't. He can't. He is imprisoned by a feeling of utter worthlessness so deep that no manner of love or acceptance can free him from it."

"But why is he hurting US? Why is he attacking random vampires in the streets? How can he do that? I mean....doesn't he feel SOMETHING?" I asked.

"What Rage lacks, my friend, is empathy. That lost ability to somehow sympathize with the pain and suffering of others. In order for him to 'feel', he would have to be able trancend beyond his own pain in order to see that agony in someone else. But he isn't able to do that anymore. His bad experiences with the people he loved and trusted have poisoned his ability to achieve that level of compassion any longer. The pain has gotten to be so great inside of himself that he no longer cares how much someone else may be hurting. It's made him selfish, proud, jealous....to him...his only comfirmation of right and wrong comes from 'consequence'. And with his abilities being so strong in our world, those consequences are either very small, or nonexistant." He said, reaching up a hand slowly to rub his eyes at the bridge of his nose, as if in pain of some sort. "You, Justin, have lived in pain almost your entire life. The abuse, the rejection, the self pity...they are not-so-distant memories in your rapidly evolving mind. Therefore you REMEMBER...you know how that agony, that lonliness, feels. You've lived through every helpless, heartbreaking moment of it, and so you have a point of reference when it comes to the suffering of those around you. You reach out to spare them what you yourself went through in those dark times...those moments when you thought nobody was there for you." Zero stood up again, his face seeming to pulse and throb as the veins spread out further right in front of my eyes. Still, he continued. "But for Rage...who has had no choice but to 'numb' himself from the soul destroying pain of his life, who has been dodging and deflecting the misery, holding it in without an outlet...his concept of suffering is very different indeed. A tortured soul of his magnitude has no such consideration for the pain of others. He sees those in pain as 'weak', unable to dismiss the circumstances of their life as he was able to do. With a low image of self, Rage may even be offended that someone could be beneath him. Disgusted that someone could claim to know pain when they haven't been through the terrible things that he's been through. So his anger grows."

"What about the rest? The ones who AREN'T in pain?"

"He hates them as well. For the ones who live without immense pain, they're an even BIGGER target for Rage's unmerciful wrath. And his hatred of their position causes him to push them down even further. To hurt them until they have gotten a taste of what it is like to live in constant misery themselves."

"But why?"

"Why not? Why should your life be any better than his? Why should YOU have friends? Fall in love? Live happily ever after? By not exposing you to the darkness of his own tortured life, he would be...'letting you off the hook'. Sacrificing his OWN percentage of a happy existence just so you could live twice as happily as anything he could ever hope for. He can't allow that. He'd murder the whole world if he thought it would justify the emotional hell he's lived with for so long." Zero stepped forward, and I saw him holding the side of his head, as though he were plagued by migraine headaches. He paused for a moment, and then straightened up again. "As a society, we are convinced that we can dodge the pain life throws our way if we're smart enough. That we are all trying to live as 'good people' and don't deserve to be hurt as long as we make an honest effort to help those around us. But life doesn't work like that." He said. "No...deep down in the very core of our being...all we want is for that awful messenger of misery to pass by our house and knock at the door of our neighbor. So that we can point the finger and pity them instead of having them pity us. We are creatures that are eagerly willing to continuously sacrifice the happiness of others in order to guarantee our own. And we are thankful for every moment of pain that we were able to evade, even if it means having it land at someone elses feet." He grinned. "Rage understands this better than anyone. He's TIRED of having that hateful spirit, that foul insulting messenger, knocking at HIS door while passing up everyone elses house. He's tired of being hurt time and time again by those who have shown him no sympathy at all. Not even out of pity. He's SEEN the greed, the selfishness, the lies, the betrayal...and he's been witness to the instant rewards given to the people who have hurt him most without regretting a single moment of their deception. He's given up the hope that things will ever get better for him, and so he's decided to take action. Instead of trying to avoid that loathing sense of self disgust, he has now come to embrace it. To burn it as fuel. The feelings of anguish that he has brought with him into darkness have created an incredibly strong extra in him that he is just now learning to effectively guide and control. His earlier attacks were just a warm up excercise...he is beginning to perfect his craft, maybe even enjoy it. If he learns how to properly channel his extra...then things will become a lot harder for both species, I'm afraid."

"Wait....I don't...I don't get it. This is gonna get worse?" I said. His thought patterns were so 'off', and he was pacing slowly, his headaches getting worse. "Are you ok?"

"Do you realize what happened to the last mimic, born into darkness...all those years ago?" He said, throwing me off of the subject.

"I heard....that he was murdered."

"Murdered....yes. But I guarantee you that he was quite insane. The known files and scriptures that most vampires have on the mimic legend are quite incomplete. Many of them hidden or buried in fantastic tales of vampire folklore. Others, tucked away where hopefully no one would ever find them again. I...on the other hand...have full access. Thanks to the permanently absorbed thoughts of a powerful vampire assassin named Versai."

"He gave you his memories?"

"He was dying. Mortally wounded after a task he was sent on sometime after the second world war. He was the last of a hit squad sent after the last mimic, and he wanted the accurate story to be told. Sometimes...I can still feel his essence swimming around inside me." I didn't quite know what to say, so I remained silent and did my best to listen. But I was confused. What did any of this have to do with me OR with Rage? Why was he telling me this now? Just then, he gently clutched his chest, and a few 'wet' coughs came barreling out of him. I could see some mucous drip out of his mouth, and he wiped it away with his hand. Zero wasn't looking well at all, and he was beginning to worry me. "Versai did what needed to be done. There was no other way. This other young mimic began much like you. Experienced great developments early in his crossover, began to absorb all of the extras and abilities of the people around him, began gaining strength and potency once starting regular feeding cycles. Many were looking forward to guiding him on how to help us reach the Vampire Dawn. He was to enlighten us all. But as time went on, his mind began to deteriorate. His ego grew to be bigger than his sense of humanity, and as he became more and more unbeatable, his morals and values began to twist and distort themselves into something much more psychotic."

"So...that's why they killed him, right? He was misusing his powers?"

"It had to be done, Justin. He was becoming more godlike by the day. The power that he possessed was too much for him to handle. But it wasn't because he started off with any kind of 'evil' intentions. In fact, he was a nice young man at the age of 23. Much like yourself, really. Polite, a bit bashful, scared of himself and what he was capable of. But something had changed once his abilities took hold of him. Something had 'resurfaced' from all of those memories he had been suppressing for so long. He had brought into his crossover a great many regrets, many problems, and many despairing emotions, from his human life. Unfnished plagues on his mind that he swallowed whole and never dealt with properly. That's what caused the defect in his crossover. The more powerful he became, the more those leftover emotions began to eat away at him from the inside. Thoughts of hope, faith, patience, humanity...they gave way to thoughts of intense jealousy, hate, pride, and revenge. His path began with many of the same signals as your own, and many of the same signals as the one you are looking for." Zero walked closer, and then stood behind me with his hands on my shoulders. I could feel a chill from his fingers, even through the fabric of my shirt. "The destructive wave of murders he committed were experimental at first. Almost as if he wanted to see how efficiently his abilities would work against unknown opponents. But as he became more confident in his actions, the incidents spread like wildfire."

"But why was HE hurting people? What does anyone have to gain from that?" I asked him, still confused as to how someone can find any satisfaction in punching the person next to them.

"He 'hated' them, Justin. He hated everyone. Vampires and humans alike. Like Rage, he too felt cheated out of his opportunity to truly be accepted and loved by much of anyone. Not his parents, not his friends, not a lover, not even his own sire...he was completely alone. Even those he had come to trust over time had betrayed and abandoned him in the end. And because of that, he was intent on making the rest of them pay for leaving him out of a game that he wasn't allowed to play." Zero walked back towards the fish tanks, and I was a bit more comfortable knowing we had some space between us again. Besides...even though I needed his help, he's still a bit 'unstable' upstairs, to say the least. Even more now than he was before.

"So what happened?"

"Once the murders had reached their peak, the Elders had to take swift action against him. He had to be destroyed, and quickly before he was able to get any stronger and do more damage. An entire squad of 27 highly skilled hunters were deployed to deal with the threat. And even then, it was a bloodbath. We lost many good warriors that day. The last five hunters, out of a team of 27, fought with the mimic tooth and nail throughout the night. In an open area, outside by the beach. The hunters battled the vampire until dawn, and had to sacrifice their lives, holding him there, until the sun destroyed him once and for all. It was the only way to stop him. Only one of them returned. Versai. The last living vampire to know the truth about the mimic and the destruction of his mind as his powers grew out of control."

"Is that.....is that gonna happen to ME? Am I....gonna 'lose it' at some point?"

"You are not a 'fish', Justin. You do not 'forget' your past mistakes and afflictions as easily as they do. Therefore, in the long run, your outcome will depend on how much you are able to battle your own demons, your past choices, your old regrets. Your future lies in your search for a possible way to be better." He simply turned his back to me and stared at the tank in front of him. "The last mimic lived in darkness for a period of three years. In that short amount of time, he became the largest threat that our kind has ever had to face. And yet....he was allowed to live for three years. Do you know why?"

"No....not at all."

"Because not every vampire believes in the same prophecy, Justin. One prophecy tells us that a mimic is destined to be born into our world. Someone with the heart and the compassion to accept the gifts he's been given, and use them wisely. Someone who will finally lead us all peacefully into the nexus...into the Vampire Dawn." Zero turned to face me again. "However, there is another prophecy. A much darker vision of the future. One in which a mimic has been brought upon this Earth as an angel of darkness. An insane creature with the power to set the heavens ablaze and bring death to everything that he touches. In this second prophecy, the mimic is a hateful creature, living its entire existence in anger for the wrongs that have been a part of its human life. A vampire who feels 'justified' in punishing everyone around him, just to relieve the pressure of dealing with his pain on his own." He said. "As you can see, there is a rather large difference between the two. The opposing views of this prophecy have kept us all at a standstill for centuries. Never quite knowing which one would come true. Our last experience with a vampire mimic, however.....has naturally soured a lot of minds on the brighter outlook."

"That's why nobody wanted me to tell anyone about what I could do. They'd think I was here to hurt them. So they'd hurt me first."

"Some....yes." Zero came close, and I could see his face pulsing and bulging right in front of my eyes. It almost looked like it was ready to split in two. What the hell was happening to him? "Rage is not a Mimic like you are, but his extra may cause a lot of vampires to believe that he is the one delivered to us in the prophecy. That is what threatens your safety most of all. His self hatred acts as a swirling vortex, similar to that of a blackhole. It is a mirror, a reflection of the pain and suffering that any of the vampires he's faced have gone through. He absorbs that pain and makes it his own, taking their thoughts, their fears....even their extras, with it. He grows stronger with every vampire he's been tapped into through combat. That is why the incidents continue. He's training himself to be better. The more fear and regret his victims possess in their heart, the more he feeds on them...through battle he is awarded their most personal secrets. When word of this hits the top, those in control will compare those notes to the rumors of a Mimic in this areabeing born into darkness...and you will find yourself with nowhere to hide. The Elders won't allow that kind of destruction to happen in our world again. And if they find you before they find Rage, your chances of survival are none."

"How do I find him, Zero?" I asked, hoping he could keep his mind still for just a FEW minutes. "How can I find Rage?"

"Don't worry, Justin. Soon...HE....will find you." He grinned mischeviously. But then, I saw the veins in his head pulse out of control. One of the veins burst, and a short squirt of blood came gushing out of it. He covered it with his hand, falling to one knee. I walked over to help him, and he thrust his hand up to stop me before I was able to reach him. "NO! KEEP AWAY!!!" He shouted painfully. "Don't touch me. Already, you will be asorbing pieces of me just by being in the room."

"Zero, what's HAPPENING to you???" I said worried. Unable to help.

"It...it appears that my time is almost up, Justin." He said, a strange grin crossing his lips, even through the pain. "Since....since your last visit, I have been reviewing the circles. Circle after circle, loop after loop...And in all my experience, I have never seen fate weave such an intricate pattern into its grand design. Such precision." He said. "Through examining this concept, I found myself locked into a new conflicting pattern of thought. I think...I may have wandered too close to the answer."

"I...I don't understand!" I said, wishing I could do SOMETHING! "What answer???"

"THE answer...." He winked at me, his eyes expressing such a level of...'finality'. "The circles get smaller...so small....and then they expand in an explosion. And then...then...when the mind isn't ready to accept it...they....AAAHHHHH!!!" He shrieked as I saw a large tumor grow from the side of his head. Looking as though it was going to burst like a balloon...and then shrinking back to nothing again. He was out of breath, and bleeding from the nose. "My thought.....processes have exceeded even me, it seems. They are growing to dangerous levels now. To think....to dream...it has become to much understanding for my body to handle. I've absorbed too much. I believe...my mind has adopted as much information as it can hold." He sat down in his chair of black velvet, and relaxed, as the tremors in his mind ceased. "I don't....I don't suppose we'll meet again, Mimic. I feel....my own path....reaching its end, I'm afraid."

"Tell me what I can do to help you."

He looked up at me, his eyes almost glimmering with a sense of....admiration. "Find the Dawn, Justin. Complete the transformation that I could not. You have the ability. You have the heart. I know you do. I feel it in your very presence. Find it. Find it...and bring its golden message to the whole world."

"I don't know HOW!"

"You will, Justin...you will." He said, coughing up a small splash of blood into his hand. It was then that the large door rolled back automatically, and I figured that this was my cue to leave. "Just remember...the path you are currently on is not going to get you there. You fear your past, and your past has made you fear your future. Therefore...you are stuck in the middle, afraid to adapt, afraid to change, afraid to look back or move forward. But despite all of the horrible ordeals you've suffered through in your lifetime....they don't define you, boy. They don't control you. The abuse and the heartache you experienced has built you a very strong foundation indeed...on which you can construct the answer to finding the dream of your choice." He said, coughing some more. He really looked bad, as though he were withering away in front of me. My presence must only be making it worse for him. I could tell that he didn't have long to go. He smiled again, albeit a sickly one. "You're thoughts, Justin...have been a beautiful addition to my collection. Hehehe, these meetings between you and I...I will miss them greatly. And I am sorry that I will not be here to see the wonderful things that you do with your gift. Nor will I be able to see you as the strong and noble vampire you have the ability to become. But...if it makes you feel any better...." He turned slightly, to look at me more directly, "...I've had faith in you...from the first time you came knocking on my door. You were blessed with an amazing gift...'cough'...long before your crossover, boy."

"Zero?" I got him to lift his head, his eyes puddling blood on the sides. He was fading so fast. I shouldn't be here. I should leave. It must be painful to have me in the same room with him after all that I have gathered from other vampires since we last met. So, I simply, nodded silently, and softly told him, "....Thank you, Zero. For everything."

He nodded back cheerfully, another trickle of blood running over his lips from his nostrils. "Remember to 'forget', Mimic. Don't act on the dark emotions of the person you used to be. Trust in the powerful vampire...that you are now. You can break the chain events of the prophecy by simply believing that you can. Look deep inside yourself...and realize that your choices don't have to be based on the evasion of pain. Don't allow your past to control your thoughts and actions. It will ultimately save you.....in the end."

And with that, I heard his bones begin to pop a little, his skin blistering, and I began to back out of his presence. Perhaps for the last time. He was sitting in that black velvet chair, slumped over to the side, his head still pulsating with his every thought. I felt sorry for him. So sorry for him. I knew he could tell what I was thinking...I could see him smile in response. And as two small lines of blood red tears fell from his eyes....Zero gave me one last wink, before slowly turning himself away from me in his seat. Facing the fish tanks in the dark...alone. Knowing deep down, that someone, a stranger as I may be, was going to truly miss him once he was gone. And yet...fully aware that his faithful fish compaions, who have followed his every step in that dark circular room, would be there until the very end. To watch him die...only to forget him...three seconds later.

I watched the large stone door roll back, like the sealing of an old tomb, and I was left to follow the blue lights back to the surface. I slowly walked out to greet Taryn, and he gave me a hug around the neck. "Was your friend able to help you?" He asked, and I didn't answer at first. I just held him there...held him tight, and looked up at the guards around us. Who were evidently expecting his condition to become more critical. They remained stone faced, but I could feel their emotions, and I knew Zero would be in good company. Until the end.

"Let's go." I whispered, and the bodyguards stepped aside to let us leave. What will they do....when they realize their master is gone?

I explained to Taryn what had basically happened in that room as he cuddled next to me on the train ride home. He didn't say much though, allowing me some moments of silence to try to get my head straight. It always took some time to understandif Zero's ramblings had really helped me out or not. What bothered me more than anything though, was what Zero had said to me. About...love and loss being eternally bound. Zero maybe a raving lunatic by every definition of the word...but every word he speaks has some kind of meaning. Even when I don't understand what that meaning is. Thinking about, I held Taryn tightly against me, and kissed his forehead. I can't ever lose my love. I won't let it happen. Not ever. I'd burn down the whole damn city if I had to. The WORLD, if neccessary. But Taryn and I are going to live forever. BOTH of us! TOGETHER! Until time itself winds down and ceases to exist. And then a day more. There isn't a single person, man OR vampire, strong enough to stop us from spending the rest of eternity in each other's arms. I'll see to that.

Once we got back to the lot, Taryn made sure to fix my hair a bit and smooth out my clothes so that it wasn't TOO obvious that I was fighting for my life earlier, and we entered through the front gate. Our mood had lifted considerably, and as soon as we got there, Doc sped over to ask me how my training with his extra went. "Easy. Piece of cake." I said, Taryn and I exchanging a smile.

"Yeah, yeah, piece of cake! But it gets harder, ya know?" He grinned. "Just wait until you get to the difficult 'mental aerobics' stuff. THEN we'll see how 'piece of cake' it is..."

"Doc, Jun's looking for you." Bryson said as he came over to our little group.

"Sure thing! You hurry up and get Taryn's extra down pat, ok? I'm next! Don't let anybody butt in front of me, k? Later boys." And he wheeled off in Jun's direction. I think it was the most excited that I've seen him since I had been there. Bryson looked us over for a moment, as though he'd be able to physically 'see' what I had learned or hadn't learned that night.

"I certainly hope everything went well tonight?"

"Yep." I said.

"No problems?" He asked.

"No problems. Not at all." I answered, wondering if this was one of those 'neccessary evils' he was going to let me get away with, or if he had no idea what had happened.

"Yeah, Justin's a wiz at this stuff. He always was." Taryn answered.

"I had a good teacher." I kissed him on the lips. "Cute too."

"You guys were gone an awfully long time." Bryson added.

"I just want to get it right. It's kinda tricky." I told him.

Bryson was silent for a quick moment, and I almost thought he was onto us. Maybe I had a scar somewhere, or maybe there was a tear in my shirt. But he then said, "Well...Taryn hasn't been able to practice with it too much himself. Maybe you two can learn together." Thank goodness. He didn't know. "Alright then. I'll give it a few more days of practice, and then I want you to start training with Doc. Alright? Don't worry, Justin...we're gonna make sure you don't get too mixed up." He said, and we thanked him, getting ready to go back to our trailer for the evening. But as soon as we got a bit further away, Bryson called out to me. "Oh Justin...one more thing..." We turned around, and Bryson smirked a bit. "...If that slight bruising around your throat doesn't heal completely by tomorrow...come see me. I'll take care of it." What? WHAT bruising? You couldn't even SEE anything! How did he know I had been fighting tonight? Dammit...I guess he DOES know more than he lets on. I blushed a bit at trying to pull one over on him, nodded, and started walking again.

We got to the trailer when I felt a certain pleasant sensation wash over me. I stopped Taryn and smiled to myself. "Omigod..." I grinned.

"What? What is it?" He asked.

"Shhhh! Wait...wait..." I tried to get an exact location on where the feeling was coming from, and once I had it, I took Taryn by the hand. "Come here! Hurry up!" I whispered. We trotted over to a part of the lot that was just out of sight from the main clearing. We had to be careful, and climbed up on top of a few cars to see over them. And there they were. Dion and Dylan...hidden away in some small corner, standing toe to toe...kissing softly while holding each other close. It was like watching the blossoming of a flower, seeing them move in slow motion as their pulses raced against one another. There was a slight smacking noise, and they tried to control their breathing so as not to be too loud. But they had gotten so lost in each other's embrace that I doubt it really mattered anymore. Dylan's soft wiry arms were draped up over Dion's broad shoulders, clasping tenderly behind his neck. And Dion's hands were pulling Dylan closer to him, firmly gripping the slender snake like frame of his small waistline. His hands moving in small circles, traveling ever so carefully below his belt...and resting his fingertips on the gentle rise of Dylan's round globes. It was a sight to behold. So much emotion from such a delicate connection.

"Whoah....I can't believe it..." Taryn whispered softly.

"Wait...check this out..." I said, and with a little thought, I reached out with Jenna and Trevor's extras simultaneously. It didn't seem hard at all to mix the two. My mind was rapidly adapting to what it had learned before, and adjusting my thought patterns to match. I was able to copycat that emotion from them. Feeling what they felt, knowing what they desired most from each other, and then I transmited that powerful feeling of first love to Taryn as I held his hand. I saw him smile, and close his eyes blissfully as the sensation washed over us. We experienced that kiss as they did, and the feeling was just as I had remembered it. That night when Taryn and I shared our first kiss on that overpass. The joy. The excitement. The trembling fear. Ladies and gentlemen...welcome to love.

Just then, I saw Dylan open his eyes, and he caught us watching them. He jumped back from that kiss as though it burned him, and Dion quickly turned to see what was up. I was still 'connected' to them emotionally, and the jolt caught both Taryn and I off guard. Our eyes popped open and the shock of it all flooded our system at the same time. Taryn and I had been caught, no doubt about it. So we might as well go with it. Taryn, now recovered from the sudden surprise, stood up on the heap and started to applaud their performance, and I got up to join him. "What? Are you guys peeping tom's now?" Dion giggled, and Dylan's blush colored his face as he delicately hid his face behind Dion's shoulder. Embarrassed, but playfully so.

"So does this mean it's official now?" I asked, and they looked at each other for a moment...before nodding. "YES!"

"That doesn't mean you can WATCH though!" Dion reminded us, and I saw him gently kiss Dylan on the lips again before patting him on the butt as he went back to the lot. Dion walked over to us, blushing, his bright eyes sparkling. "He's going to grab some stuff from his car...and um...move it into my place for a while." He smiled bashfully.

"Good. I'm glad." Taryn said. "Now all that's left is long hot hours of virginal sex. Over and over again, until you're both out for the night."

"Let's not get too excited there, bud. I don't know if Dylan's ready for all THAT, just yet." He giggled.

"Yes he is." I said proudly. "He really...REALLY...is."

"What would make you think that?"

"Trevor's extra. He's thinking about it right now. Wanna feel it? I can send it to you if you want."

"Ahh! No! NO, Justin! I don't wanna hear this!" Dion covered his ears and laughed outloud.

"Aww, come on!" I pleaded, but he kept walking.

"I'm not listening! La la la! None of my business!" And with that, he was gone. Taryn and I were practically tickled pink with the idea of those two getting it on. But our divine interference was officially at its end, I guess. Where they went from here, was all up to them. I have to admit, I've never seen a cuter couple.