"Tickets?" He said, and this was the last checkpoint where we'd have to show them. This place was certainly secure. There's no way in HELL anyone could get through undetected! Jesus, it's taken us three hours plus just to get this far since leaving the lot. "Two evening pass, correct?" He asked, and we all backed up to let Gyro answer the questions.
"Yeah. Tonight and tomorrow night." He answered, and the giant man nodded and tore the tickets in half.
"How many guests, total?"
"Ummmm....." Gyro took a head count of us all, "...Fourteen in all."
"Ok. Line up against the wall for inspection. We'll be searching you one at a time." We did as he instructed and he beckoned each of us to step up one at a time as he patted us down and grabbed us in any places that he thought we might be hiding something. I might have actually enjoyed it if he were a little prettier in the face. The whole time that he searched us, he talked to us about the rules of the club. No fighting, no stealing, no vandalism, no weapons....they seemed to have a very strict policy on keeping everything in line. But judging from the sheer number of people, and the size of the guys guarding the place...I can assume that there have been a great number of 'incidents' that would require this level of security. I'm sure of it.
Jun and Jenna were up before me, and as he was checking them out, I heard him ask them for their extras. Their extras! I got extremely nervous when I heard that. What do I say when he asks me for mine? I can't just say, I'm a mimic, and not expect some kind of...um...weird reaction. "Extra?" He asked Jun.
"Enhanced focus, deep meditative state."
"You're good. Go on ahead." He let Jun pass. "You? Extra?" He asked Jenna.
"Empath." She answered softly.
"Ok...go ahead. Next." It was my turn...and I began to tremble. I could already feel my brain freezing up on me. He patted me down and checked my pockets. "You're clean. Extra?" He asked, and I stood there like a deer in headlights. Wondering if he'd be able to tell if I lied to him. Arrgh! Just make something up, Justin, Jesus! "Extra?" He said, looking me in the eye and terrifying me even more.
"Brain geyser." Bryson answered for me, putting his hand on my shoulder. "It's new." I grinned weakly, hoping the big bouncer would buy that.
"Brain geyser, huh?" He paused, looking me up and down for a moment. "I like that. Sounds pretty unique."
"Dude...you have NO idea." I said, and hurried past him before he decided to ask anymore questions.
It took a little bit longer than I thought it would to check us all out, but once he was finished 'molesting' us, he let us go. We walked further into the hall, and were met by yet another obstacle. There were two 7 foot tall bald twins waiting for us, their skin pale and chalky white. And while the shape of their head and faces made them look male, they were wearing long black leather dresses, and seemed completely androgynous in every way. The black eyeshadow and lipstick didn't help. Each time you thought you had their sex figured out, you'd find some random detail that told you you were wrong. They had multiple piercings in their faces as well. Their noses, ears, lips, cheeks, eyebrows...all decorated with small hoop earrings. You had to gaze at them, even if you tried not to. They spoke in hisses and whispers, that for some reason, we could hear as clear as day. There must have been some low level of telepathy involved or something. "Here you go, you guys will be needing these." They handed us these small detectors that looked sorta like an Ipod or something, with little screens that showed a bunch of dots that I guess were supposed to represent us. "These devices are set to your specific channel, and it will help you to keep track of one another once you become seperated inside the club."
Bryson spoke up, "We plan to stick together in here. I doubt we'll stray too far from each other."
The twins shared a secret smile with one another, and gave us a sly smile. "Riiiiight. Well, why don't you hold onto them just in case." They said, and we each took one. "Alright kids, right this way."
They walked with us, guiding us towards the final door. The actual 'entrance' to the IceZone underground club! But first, a rundown of everything that we could expect from this place. The twins spoke. "Be aware that any and all conflicts are to be solved peacefully once inside. If these conflicts cannot be solved peacefully, there are specifically marked designated areas where you may settle said dispute. Any unauthorized fighting inside the club will be met with swift and brutal retaliation, and possible ejection from the club. Unauthorized feeding or hunting of any human donors inside the club is unacceptable. Any human bearing a mark that is preyed upon by any one of you is considered a serious crime, and will be dealt with accordingly in tune with the laws of the Elders. Further actions may be taken by relatives of the inconvenienced human party, and may result in your execution." What?!?!?! Did he just fucking say EXECUTION?!?!? "Many of your practiced extras will cease to work once you enter the main hall. Due to the rapidly changing frequencies of our equipment, this may cause you to experience slight disorientation and dizzyness in certain areas of the club. If this occurs, simply move yourself to a 'free zone' area of the facility, and you will be able to use some of your extras as normal." They were leading us closer to the door, and the music was getting louder with each step. "There is to be no communication whatsoever with parties outside of the IceZone club once you are inside. That means no cellphones, no laptops, no mental messages, no omens, no handheld communicators, no broadcasts, no cameras. All sensors inside the club have been turned on and operate at different frequencies. This means that your specific extras may or may not work, depending on what area you are currently standing in and what frequencies have been used to cancel that ability. If, at any time during your stay here, you feel the need to feed, there are blood bars set up every 500 feet for your convenience. However, spice is not allowed, and will not be tolerated. Do I make myself clear?" He was going so fast, it was hard to asorb it all at once. But we nodded anyway. Basically, the message was 'be good or else', and we could do that.
We finally reached the end of the hall, which ended in a huge iron double door. The greatest party on Earth was JUST on the other side of that barricade, and we knew it. It was like going to see the Wizard of Oz or something...like the yellow brick road had finally reached its end and we were going to get our rewards for the long journey. The twins walked us to the door, and stood in front of us, looking us over briefly one last time. "Optrix, please?" They said.
"What?" I asked.
"Your specially made contacts for your eyes, Justin. They don't allow any in the club." Gyro whispered, and we all had to take our contacts out. Our glowing retinas being freed from their 'disguise', the twins put their hands on the doors and prepared to open them up for us.
"We hope you have a wonderful time this evening. Things are a little slow right now, but they'll pick up in the next hour or so." They said, and opened the doors. The slow anticipation of them being opened wide enough was eating me alive. And if you thought the music on the platforms was thunderous....it was NOTHING in comparison. "Remember the rules, party safe, and most importantly...have the time of your lives." We all stepped through the doors, and found ourselves on a balcony high above the partygoing public beneath us. As we crept closer inside, all of our jaws began to drop in pure amazement. I couldn't even comprehend what I was seeing from our point of view. We were at least fifty feet above this humongous dancefloor, looking out into a cyberpunks BIGGEST dream! We approached the edge of the railing, frozen in our tracks, letting our fingers tightly grip the handrail. As the frenzied and miraculous sight before us begins to devour our senses whole.....we can hear the twins behind us say...."Here you stand, fellas. Welcome........"
"...Welcome to the IceZone!"
It was an ORGASMIC rush of emotion that boiled over from every pore in our bodies! The entire place was alive with what looked like an entire continent's worth of people all jumping and dancing in unison like liquid! I felt like I couldn't even BREATHE, I was so overwhelmed! It was MAGNIFICENT!!! Imagine a party so huge, so un-fucking-believably AWESOME...that it managed to involve the whole WORLD in its wake!!! Take that, and multiply it by infinity! There were no words available to me to describe it. Beneath us, there were literally THOUSANDS of vampires clustered together in a gigantic gyrating mosh pit that was completely unreal! There were lasers shooting overhead, and rotating columns of speakers the size of 18-wheeler trucks lining the walls! There were explosions of light and glitter, flashes, explosions, smoke machines, strobelights...complete insanity for as far as the eye could see in every direction! And from where we were standing, we could see for what looked like an underground MILE! There were skateboarding ramps in the distance, with hundreds of skaterboys doing tricks that only vampires could pull off. There were shops and supersized video screens playing music videos of every kind, from every era of entertainment! There were ravers and dancers battling it out with glow sticks and neon jewelry, angel wings and lollipops, teddy bears and 'Hello Kitty' backpacks! I saw Kid tug hard at Max's shirt, almost hard enough to pull it right off of him in his excitement. It got Max's attention, and he attempted to see what Kid was so amped about. We looked to the left of us, and there was an arcade...no...like a HUNDRED arcades...piled up in a giant pyramid of platforms! There had to be about EIGHT floors worth of video games, every arcade game known to man was there, and a few that weren't! The entire arcade sparkled and twinkled with all the splendor of downtown Las Vegas, and Kid was so overjoyed he looked like he was about to wet his pants! I don't think I've ever seen such an uncensored display of happiness done without saying a sigle word before. There were DJs, live bands, huge slides, a larger than life working merry go round painted completely black on all sides, and a small ROLLER COASTER that was suspended sideways against the walls! It whizzed by us overhead and we instinctively ducked as its screaming passengers laughed and sped by us at the highest speed possible. There were humongous fish tanks, and tiger cages, and strippers both male and female! It took a LONG time for my mind to even absorb what I was seeing right now! This place was truly Heaven on Earth!
"Oh....my...dear...God..." Bryson said, and I saw the most awe inspired looks on the faces of the rest of my vampire family. We literally had to be told by one of the guards to move along and clear the platform. If it wasn't for him, we might have stood there and watched the party all night. My heart was racing, and I held Taryn's hand tightly as we walked over to this automated lift that took us all down to the main floor. Gyro was already shaking and jumping and bouncing with every beat of the music, and I felt Doc grab a hold of my shirt as though I was his only anchor to this reality.
"This is a little more than I expected..." Doc said with his eyes still bugged out.
"Me too...but I LOVE it!" I shouted, unable to control the volume of my voice at this point. Taryn could feel my excitement, and he stepped into my embrace to place a hard kiss on my lips. I could see the sparkle of the flashing lights as they danced in his lovely green eyes, mixed with the champion glow of our species. We smiled at one another as our adrenaline began to pump out of control. We were never going to forget this night. Never.
The lift finally reached its destination, and sent us out like lost guppies into an ocean of sharks. The music was alive, and it was everywhere. The light grabed a hold of you, and it was so strong that the glow of it was nearly a solid. We all walked along in a big group, and tried to stay against the wall until we could get to an opening big enough to all talk to each other again. Gyro was right, this place had everything. Every type of liquor, every type of drug, every type of sex, or entertainment, or pleasure enhancing method that the world has ever had a name for. Looking towards some of the booths to the left of me, I saw older gentlemen, humans, getting lapdances from various vampires of all kinds. Some of them large breasted women with the perfect female shape, moving their hips in a way that looked almost impossible for the human body to accomplish. Others had 'different' tastes however. And I saw plenty of men who had boys that were as young as 12, shirtless and wearing skimpy bikini briefs, sitting on their laps and grinding away as though they had been doing it for years. Maybe they had. Who would know. They'd be 12 forever.
We saw streamers and jumping columns of water fly over our heads every few minutes, and if you walked far enough in any direction, you could find yourself entering into a whole other party zone, different from the one you were currently standing in. The music and the vibe would change from techno to disco, from disco to funk, from funk to hip hop, from hip hop to 80's new wave, from new wave to metal, and then back to the pulse of techno rave. No matter what you liked, it was there, and they had spared no expense in making it more than anything you could have ever dreamed. I saw performers in painted faces, and clowns, and magicians...and an entire band that was playing instruments while walking through the crowd on 7 foot tall stilts made of gold! There were rollerbladers and acrobats, and party flyers being handed out by the bag full by promoters and businessmen. I could see a big open area not far from us where almost one hundred tables were set up for prophets, fortune tellers, and tarot readers to operate their business for any vampire that came looking for answers. It was amazing.
But it was then...in the back of my mind...that I heard it. "Rage!!!" It was like a whisper, an urgent gasp. I turned to see who was thinking it, and I briefly caught a glimpse of a vampire with glowing silver eyes...before he vanished right in front of me. Scared out of his mind. When I looked back at the fortune tables, every last prophet in the area all turned their eyes to focus on me at once in the middle of their readings. Did they know? When they locked their eyes on me, was it 'Rage' they saw? Or...did they see the fabled mimic of the prophecy walking amongst them. It was hard to tell. Many of them looked confused, almost doubtful. But there were a chosen few, who let a knowing grin cross their lips, and they nodded respectfully as I walked past them.
"You ok?" Dion asked me, noticing that my attention had waivered a bit.
"Yeah...I'm fine." I said, and kept walking.
We soon found ourselves entering the main hall once we got past the psychics' divining area, and already, I could feel the effects of the 'extra-cancelling' equipment working overtime. It was a little bit confusing at first. It was like a restrictive pressure on my mind. Numbing me from being able to read anything, even when I tried. But to be honest, it was more of a 'freedom' than anything else. It made this place a little less noisy, not having to worry about the thoughts of the ones around me. It felt like I could drop that burden entirey, and just....enjoy myself.
The place seemed to go on forever, and every inch of it was packed with vampires dressed in the most elaborate freak-chic party wear that I have ever seen. There were SO many hotties in that place that it was ridiculous! HUNDREDS of them, boys, girls, all ages. With multi colored hair and bodies to DIE for. Most of them were half naked...but if they had decided to go completely nude, I doubt anyone in this crazy club would stop them. As we kept walking, the party seemed to swell before our very eyes. I had vendors flashing lights and blowing whistles to get my attention, I had people shoving bottled water in my face, some teenagers were running around with glow in the dark markers writing on everybody's shirt with special vampire symbols and glyphs...things were too wild for you to comprehend all at once. Soon, we had folks covering us with beads, slipping them over our necks and having fabulous drag queens kiss us on the cheek, marking us with their heavily painted on glitter lipstick. It made me giggle to see Max pushing them away, avoiding kisses as though their lips were dipped in poison.
"Hey cutie, you wanna date?" I heard from beside me, and I looked down to see a boy that MIGHT have been 11 years old, tops. A mop of bleached white hair down to his glitter covered cheeks, thin red lips, and thick blue and purple mascara around his light blue eyes. He was hungrily sucking on a lollipop, but tossed it away to talk 'business'.
"Um, no thanks."
"Aw come on, babe. You look like you want it. And I got it. Hot...sweet...and tight enough to grip ya like a fist." Was this kid for real? It was the STRANGEST thing I had ever seen. His voice hadn't even changed yet. "C'mon, let's find ourselves a quiet corner and I'll give your bone pony a ride. Twenty bucks. I'm MAD flexible, baby! I'll make it so good you won't wanna go home. Whaddya say? You can use me any way you wanna, I heal up really good, really fast." I looked at Taryn with a smile, unable to believe what I was seeing here. We kept walking forward, but the little boy was walking right beside us the whole time, every word a flawless sales pitch. He'd get a couple of steps ahead of us, and rub the front of his pants as though he was just itching to take them off. And he'd walk backwards in front of us, batting his lashes and talking a mile a minute, almost forcing us to buy.
"No, I've gotta boyfriend, thanks."
"You've got two? That's cool. I've got no problem with 'double headers'. I'll tell you what, blondie, I'll make ya a deal, cause you're so damn cute. Two for twenty five, you and your sweetheart here, same time. Huh? C'mon, you can't beat that. The other blond boys my age in this joint charge double what I'm givin' ya here! Twenty five dollars, I'll take you both on. One in front, one in back. I'll lock you both in tight like rotissiree chicken, I'll give it to you soooo good, baby!" I'll give him this, he was definitely an aggressive salesman.
Taryn evidently knew what to say to get him to move on. "We don't have any MONEY, kid!" He said, finally.
"Whoah, that there is the magic sentence. Abort, abort." He said with a charming smile. "Well, if you come across some cash while you're in here, you come see me. Ok? The name's Evan. That's E-V-A-N...ask about me." He said, and briskly moved over to Max. "What about you big guy? You look like you can give a good rough fuck. You feel like giving this bad boy a spanking tonight?"
"BEAT IT, brat! I'm straight!" Max shouted out, giving the boy a gentle shove. Just enough to get him out of the way. But the boy was hardly affected.
"Straight? No such thing. Give me a try, I'll change your mind, big stud. I'll make you a believer. A doughnut's still a doughnut as long as it's gotta hole, right?"
"Yeah, well I like my doughnuts without a long-john in the front. You get me?"
"Aw, big man, you're breaking my heart!" Kid stepped in front of Evan and claimed Max as his own by hugging him around the waist, helping to push the other boy's greedy hands away. But just as Max was about to get really annoyed, there was another guy standing on the side. A human, about 35 years old from the looks of it, waving some money around.
"Hey kid! What can I get for a 50 spot?" The man asked.
"Fitty? Damn baby, I'll make ya numb from the waist DOWN for a fitty!" And suddenly, without a second look, he walked away from us to join his new 'client'. And without so much as a goodbye, hehehe.
"Can you BELIEVE this place dude?" I asked Dion.
"Not hardly. I'm still trying to take it all in. And we've hardly explored much of anything yet."
"There's so much here." Jenna added. "How are we supposed to see it all in just two nights?"
"I don't know about YOU guys, but I'm ready to give it my best shot!" Gyro squealed, his eyes aglow with all the wonderment of a newborn puppy.
As we traveled along the wall, something cught my attention out of the corner of my eye. It didn't even look real to me at first. It looked more like some kind of weird wax statue or something, but sure enough it was moving all on its own. They ALL were.
They were sitting up on slightly raised pedestals of stone that were about 3 feet off of the floor. Nestled in the center of a large copper dish, from the looks of it. I couldn't believe my eyes. They were...supposedly human....but...unlike any human I had ever seen before. They had been grossly 'fattened up', to almost 7 or 8 hundred pounds each! They sat like giant blobs of gelatin atop the small pedestals, and didn't seem to have any idea of where they were or what was going on. The rolls of flesh folded over each other in layers, and they appeared almost boneless in their slow uncoordinated motions. There were masks on their faces, which looked more like thick veils of sack cloth held on with red straps and wiring, a single hole cut for the mouth only. There were maybe five of them total in this particular area of the club, and they didn't speak. They hardly moved except for a small jerk here and there. And it was then that I saw the tubing. Underneath them, there were thin invisible tubes that led out in various directions. I saw a seductive female vampire casually walk up to one of the tubes, and put it in her mouth. The act had me captivated. There was no way that I could turn away now. I watched as the monsterous half human blob spasmed a bit in response. I couldn't tell if it was actual PAIN, or if it was just an involuntary reaction by a creature that, for some reason, didn't seem to know any better. I kept my eyes glued on the female vampire now, and saw the clear tube suddenly turn red. DARK red...almost purple. And she began to feed off of the fluids rushing through it. The behemoth just sat there, having its essence drained, untile the vampire had had her fill, and dropped the tubing back down at the side of the pedestal. She wiped her mouth of the few drips of blood that was leftover with a napkin, and walked away...going back to her elegant party as though nothing had happened at all. Again...the effortless precision of all this struck a nerve in me. I didn't know whether to be disgusted, or in awe, of their ease in dealing with all of this. It seems that vampire technology has evolved over time to deal with their lifestyle...just like mankind has for theirs.
"Try to stay together with us, Justin. Don't get lost." Bryson reminded me. But my eyes were fixated on the creature in front of me. I felt...a sad sense of pity for it.
"What is this?" I asked. "What's going on with this thing here?"
It was then that Doc rolled up beside me. "They're Hemoslugs. I've read about these things before, but I've never seen them out in the open like this. It's rare that you ever even see a picture." He stared at the creatures in wonderment, looking as though he wanted to reach out and touch them.
"Hemoslugs?" Jun asked.
"Ahhh...so that's what Jeremy was so worried about." I said, thinking back to the las time I had seen him at our local hangout. The memory of it was so crystal clear in my mind, and seemed to become even more vivid the closer Doc's wheelchair was to me. "He said that his blood business was suffering because of these things. Something about the West coast mob bringing these things in as a source of living blood and making tons of money."
"You mean....like 'livestock'?" Jenna seemed disgusted by the idea.
Doc answered. "Exactly. But from what I heard, they hadn't produced a strong enough growth hormone to create them fast enough to be marketable. It looks to me like they're getting better at it though." He wheeled himself closer, just as another vampire walked up, and poked a pointy ended metal straw into the creature's side. He fed hungrily for a few second's worth of slurping, and then pulled it out. Walking off to the nearest bar to get a drink to wash it down. "This one still seems pretty new. Fresh off of the farm, I'd say."
"My God..." Dion said under is breath, holding Dylan close to his side.
"Is it gonna die?" Jun asked.
"Eventually, yes. But it's only been tapped recently. So it should have a pretty long shelflife." Doc was talking about it so scientifically, like it was just a slab of meat, and I looked over at him to see how he can look at another human being so...'clinically'. He stared back at me, and must have been able to see the concern in my eyes. "You can't save them once they've been fattened up for consumption, Justin. You know that, right? They use special hormone treatments to produce an excess of bloodflow. Probably twice the normal amount, if not more. If these hemoslugs aren't milked every few days, they become extremely ill and die. There's no saving them now." He turned back to look at the blob before him, its eyes hidden behind that cloth strapped to its face. "I really can't believe they've been allowed to display their cash crop in the open. Very odd."
I swallowed hard, and had a sickening thought hit me. "Is this....what happens to the humans on the train?" My mind wrapped itself around young Jordan and his father, being happily whisked away to the mysterious 'Platform B'...where they'd be ambushed, and transformed into one of these....'things'.
"No, not at all. Hemoslugs are produced from birth for this particular purpose. They can't walk, or talk, or even really understand where they are" Doc told me. "The people on the train are different though. And they are QUITE safe indeed. Trust me."
"What do you mean?"
Gyro finally kept up his end of the bargain by telling me about the humans that were allowed inside. Not that he took his eyes off of the party. Nor did the smile dim on his face. "They're protected."
"'Protected'? Protected how?"
"Look around you, Justin. This whole damn place is free! It's all been paid for. By HUMAN financers! Isn't that GREAT???" Gyro shouted, his hips wiggling with the music as he winked at a set of pretty twin girls walking by.
I was confused. "Wait...I don't get it. Why would humans pay for all this?"
"To save their own ass." It was the first time I had really heard Trevor speak since we entered the doors. "All of the humans in here, the ones on the platform, the ones on the train...they're all rich. Unbelievably rich. Those little 'marks' you saw on them? That's our sign telling us 'don't touch'. Just in case one of our kind decides to make a midnight snack out of them." He said. "They get to use their money to 'buy' their way off of the donor's list. And that money goes to funding whatever our species needs down here in places like this."
"Wait....you can buy protection? From US?" I asked.
"Yep. Whether it's a family member, friend, business associate...whoever you want protected,if you've got enough dough...you can make sure that they never end up dead in a heap of garbage in some dark Chicago alley."
"Well...what happens to the rest of them?"
Trevor gave me a momentary look. "The same thing that happens with pretty much every other human society on the planet. The rich get all the breaks.....and the poor and working class are left to fend for themselves." I stood silent for a moment, another 'dirty' feeling creeping up over the back of my shoulders from thinking about it. How cold our kind could be...and how quick the human race was to catch up to us.
"They just...let them die and get 'fed' on?"
"Why not? What does the non-consumer really offer to the rest of society? The faster they're wiped out, the better. Less support they have to pay for with their taxes."
Doc said, "I don't know how much it costs to protect just one person for a six month period, but I know that it varies with age. And I know that it takes a lot of diplomatic negotiation with both the government AND the Elders."
"Well, it must cost a considerable amount to support a club like this alone. I mean...just look at this place. It must cost a fortune just to power this one area we're standing in." Dion added.
"Oh the prices are up there. Believe me. Astronomical in some cases." Doc rolled away from the hemoslug he had been examining so carefully, and sat at Bryson's side. "And if you don't pay, you don't get protection. That's that."
"It's really too bad." Rain said calmly. "The rich taste better." Trevor and Max both looked at her and exchanged a wicked smile.
"So...." I had to ask. "...What happens if one of us accidentally kills a marked human?"
Trevor and Michael, acting in unison as if by natural instinct, both pointed their index fingers to the edge of their necks, and slowly dragged them across to the other side. My eyes opened wide, and Trevor gave me a wicked grin. "That's when the Elders send a 'visitor' your way, to make up for the lost income. Unless, of course...the family wants to torture you to death slowly instead."
"They can DO that?"
"Trust me, Justin....people with the kind of money it takes to buy protection don't give a fuck about ANY of us. They don't care about the poor, they don't care about the hemoslugs, they don't care about the hunting...all they care about is living outside of society's little ant farm. Watching us play against one another while they sit back in an easy chair and sniff cocaine off of some bimbo's synthetic breasts."
"Sounds like a party to me!" Gyro grinned. "C'mon, you guys! You're depressing the shit out of me! Don't you wanna drink, or dance, or something??? This is the IceZone!!! Let's PARTY!!!"
But before the words even left Gyro's mouth, he was suddenly shoved forward towards me. I was able to hold out my arms and catch him just in time, but the entire crowd seemd to be crushing up against us. Despite trying to hold our ground, we were all pushed up against the wall with the flood of people crashing all around us. I heard loud noises and screams coming from in front of us, and could barely see what was going on. But it appears that a huge brawl had broken out somewhere near the bar. Fists were thrown, kicks were delivered, and it looked as though 10 vampires or more were all clawing at each other's throats! Eyes glowing red, fangs dropped, and everything! People were fleeing the scene as fast as they could, and it was then that I heard a loud siren sound over our heads. It was loud enough to be heard over the already head pounding music, and massive yellow lights began to spin on the walls. I looked up to see a thick metal wall lowering itself from the ceiling. It seemed impenetrable, and I watched as many vampires ran to get underneath it and out of that particular room before the cold black slab hit the ground. There were two other walls also coming down on other sides of the area, creating a giant cage for the fighting vampires inside. It got lower, and lower, and lower still...with vampires rolling underneath at the last second to escape. Until, finally, it connected to the floor with a thud and closed off the 'problem area' from the rest of the party completely. Then...a calm female computerized voice cheerfully announced, "We're sorry for the inconvenience. Security officers are being brought in to handle the situation. Please enjoy the rest of your evening." More noises boomed from inside the closed off area, sounding like a full blown WAR was taking place inside! It lasted for a few minutes, with shouts and screams emanating from behind the walls, mixed in with the crashes of broken tables and chairs. It made you cringe to even imagine what was going on inside.
Small computer screens on our side of the metallic prison door were instantly illuminated, and a friendly digitized lady with a gentle English accent appeared in the center of each screen. "Here at the IceZone, we desire a safe and fun experience for all our guests. However, occassionally problems arise, and must be dealt with in a swift and effective manner." The lady said.
"Dude, come here. You gotta check this out." Jun moved closer to the screens, beckoning us to follow. We all gathered around as a rough schematic of the club was brought up on the screen for us.
"During such unfortunate conflicts, the problematic area will be sealed off from the rest of the club. Security officers will be sent into the room through special access tunnels in the floor. They are there, quite simply, to settle the dispute. The IceZone contains over fifteen hundred moving walls and doors, allowing us to monitor and control the threat, and possible expansion, of violence anywhere inside the club. The doors are made of a black titanium alloy, seventeen inches thick. Bullet proof, bomb proof, impervious to over 750 thousand known defensive vampire extras from around the globe. Once the doors are lowered...there is no escape." The screen showed us computerized dramatizations of everything, including the door lowering to block off the room. It was like the educational videos you see in school, or the demonstrations stewardesses give before a flight. "If you become locked into a problematic area, please adhere to the following protective measures." A digital recreation of a fight was created on screen, and the other vampires were shown backing up and lining the walls of the room. "While security officers work to resolve the problem, you should line up as close to the titanium walls as possible, with your heads back, feet together, and your palms directed flat against the surface. This is important, as any sudden movements or use of an extra will be considered a possible threat, and our security officers may react accordingly. Take deep breaths, and try to remain calm until the situation has been taken care of. Once approved, doors on an alternate side of the room will re-open, and you will all be returned to the club where you can reconnect with whatever parties you came in with."
"This place is so unbelievable." Taryn said, as we all looked on with amazement. The noises inside began to quiet down a bit more, and I assumed that the situation was almost 'taken care of', as the computer said.
"We want you to ENJOY your time here at the IceZone. So please return to your activities, and we will be releasing your friends and family as quickly and safely as possible." The lady on the screen gave a warm smile, and then, after a slight pause, the message began to repeat itself all over again from the beginning.
"DAMMIT!!!" I heard some guy shout not far from us. He kicked the metal barricade in anger, and a worker from the club went to talk to him. "NO! Don't give me that bullshit! I will NOT calm down! My DRINKS are in there! My GIRLFRIEND is in there! She didn't even have anything to DO with this rumble, she just happened to be in the room! Open this door!"
But the guard was trying to be as 'diplomatic' and polite as he could about the whole thing. "Please sir, remain calm. Our security squad is working to bring this little altercation to an end. We apologize for the inconvenience, and another exit will be opened to another part of the club shortly."
"Another part of the CLUB?!?! Why can't you open THIS door! How am I supposed to find my girl again in all this craziness???"
"When the situation has been dealt with, and the alternate door has been opened, all guests will be released. At which time you can use the IceZone pager given to you at the front gate to locate your missing party."
"I don't HAVE the fucking pager!!! SHE'S got BOTH of the pagers in her purse!!!" He screamed.
"I'm sorry sir, there's nothing else we can do to help you." The guard told him.
"It's gonna take me DAYS to find her in here..."
"Enjoy the rest of your stay sir." And the guard left the man to deal with his temper tantrum all on his own.
"FUCK!!!!!" He shouted, kicking the door again. And he stormed away from the wall cursing to himself and kicking over a nearby trashcan. He marched right up to us, I guess we were in his way. He rudely pushed his way between Dylan and Dion, and roughly bumped into Michael. But he made a mistake when he put his hands on Taryn. "What the fuck are YOU looking at??? Huh? Fucking worthless piece of halflife trash!" He yelled, shoving Taryn back against the wall.
The reaction in me was instantaneous. My fist curled, my eyes focused...I could feel the hairs on the back of my neck bristle up and stand at attention. My body wanted to leap forward without thinking, it wanted to strike on instinct. I could have ripped his throat out with nothing more than a brief dismissal of my 'social grace'. But I used some self control this time. I didn't let the situation dictate my behavior like I usually do. Instead, I stepped forward so as to warn him. My eyes glared right through him, and I was ready to smack the SHIT out of him if he took a single step towards my boyfriend again. "Don't touch him again." I growled through gritted teeth.
"What did you say? You little shit?" He approached me, looking me dead in the face. But I didn't budge. Bryson's protective instincts brought him to stand right by my side, and he was just as ready to jump on this guy as I was. Maybe even moreso. We ALL were.
Gyro said, "Trust me...you don't want that kinda problem with US, jackass!"
He sneered at me, his breath ripe with stale beer and cigarette smoke, and I knew that I could have broken every bone in his body if I wanted to. With no effort. But I held myself steady. He wasn't going to get this ass whipping unless he ASKED me for it. He was so close that our noses were mere inches apart, and he let a smirk appear on his face, "Tell me...what do you call ten halflife's with their hearts ripped out?" I didn't answer, so he answered for me. "A great start. Get it?"
"Not funny." I told him.
"No? Ah well...maybe I should save that joke for somebody who's balls have dropped, huh?" He straightened up, and walked past Taryn and I with a slightly drunken stagger. He bumped his shoulder into Gyro on his way out. "Don't wet any beds while you're here, babycakes."
"Fuck you! Get a tan!" Gyro shouted back. The guy shoved some more people aside as he was walking, but didn't give them half the trouble he gave us. Maybe because they were older. Bryson and the rest of us all let our guards down as the tension skated out with the jerk on his way out. "Can you believe that guy? What an asshole!"
"Are you ok?" I asked Taryn, who merely nodded, and answered me with an angel's kiss on my lips.
"Let's keep moving. I don't want to be here in case they choose to open this door to carry out the bad element." Bryson told us. "Stay together, and hold onto those pagers. Got it?"
Wading through the club wasn't really difficult, but just as we thought that walking in a straight line would bring us to a 'wall' of some sort, the club just seemed to get bigger and bigger without end. It was growing, and some places were so big that it was amazing to find it still packed from wall to wall with people. I mean, how many vampires does it take to fill up a room like that? Gyro was constantly snatching free drinks off of the trays of whatever cocktails or waiters that were walking by us, already indulging himself fast and furiously. Dion and Dylan shared a drink, as Dylan only wanted a few sips. Hehehe, he was so delicate...he could probably only TAKE a couple sips before he was tipsy and giggling. And people were handing me so many flyers and brochures that my pockets were full to capacity. Vampire parties, vampire blood dealers, vampire businesses, vampire coupons, vampire support groups, vampire therapists, vampire fight trainers, vampire religions...it was insane. We saw a boy about 17 years old standing on a pedestal in the center of a large crowd, throwing his pamphlets into the audience while he spoke. They seemed entranced by him, and I looked on to see what was up. He had some sort of amplifier attached to his throat with a collar so everyone around could hear him.
"We are looking for volunteers! Any and all ages! We need you to join The Long Dark Foundation! We are collecting new vampire scriptures from all around the world! Scriptures being written right here, right now! Help us to acquire them all!" He turned to me as he saw that he had my attention. "What about you, kid? You must have some learned experience to write about. A new age is coming. All the psychics have seen it. Ancient prophecies are being fulfilled as we speak. It's an exciting time. What part will you play in our brave new existence?"
He handed me a flyer, and I silently put it in my pocket with a nod. But I was also suddenly filled with a sense of dread. A new age is coming. Vampire scriptures are being written. Prophecies being fulfilled. What does that mean? Do those things have anything to do with...me? If the psychics can see it, predict it, then it made me wonder if I was simply living out some pre-scheduled destiny one step at a time. If maybe, everything I was struggling so hard to fight against, was just some meaningless task that the fates had already scripted and laid out for mea long time ago. What about Krista from the sanctuary? The picture she drew of me fighting in the rain? Wasn't that my battle with the Raiders at the lot? How could a little girl have forseen it in such detail if it wasn't already set into motion? Even Comicality, during our first meeting, said that I would find him. Said that I would be born out of love. If all of this is strategically set to go a certain way...then exactly what am I even doing here? And does it make any difference? Maybe I should find the rest of the 'script' before it's too late.
"WATCH IT, halflife! Jesus!" Said some lady as I accidentally bumped her arm. It's not like I did it on purpose! The frequencies of the machines used to block extras were still making me a bit dizzy.
"We don't have any 'playgrounds' in here, you know? Why don't you go to the arcade or something?" She wiped the little bit of dribble off of the side of her glassand moved back through the crowd. I was getting so TIRED of this! What the hell was HER problem?
"Get used to it, Justin." Dion told me. "Everybody that crosses over isn't our age. We catch a lot of flak for that." We all started to walk forward again, entering a hallway full of sparkling lights.
"But why do they hate us so much? What did WE do?"
"Who knows? They're being stupid, that's all. They look at us, becoming vampires so young, and they act like we threw our lives away. Like anybody under the age of 18 is too stupid to know what he or she wants, like we don't have the emotional stability to 'handle' something like crossing over into their world." Dion said, and as we walked, I became aware of some noticeable looks from the crowd. Some of them were indifferent, some of them downright nasty. We were being seen as somewhat of an intrusion. And it wasn't cool at all. "The thers figure that, because we crossed over in our teens, that we couldn't possibly have any true concept of life, or love, or anything. So us 'halflifes' pretty much get knocked around."
"If you ask me, they're just JEALOUS!" Trevor frowned. "The older ones are soooo scared we're gonna get the chance to feel and experience something at a younger age than they did. So worried that we're gonna mature faster and actually find our own way without their 'help'. They're mad at us because we get to stay teenagers forever. It's not ALWAYS a picnic! I hope they realize that." He said, walking in front of us, giving them the same dirty looks that they were giving us. "They never want us to be any better than what we are right now. They're constantly trying to 'slow us down'. For WHAT? Think about it...they completely shut us out of their adult world for most of our lives. We can't do anything until we're 18, some stuff we can't so until we're 21. We're cut off from their entire experience. And yet they have the audacity to sit on their pedestal and tell us we don't know anything. That our dreams are silly, that our puppy loves are meaningless, that our problems are trivial. They treat us like we're disobedient PETS or something. And thenthey go off and make the same mistakes, have the same bad relationships, get involved in the same troubles, and have the same insecurities that WE do, just on a larger scale. I mean, what's the difference between a high school bully and that boss at the office with an ego trip? It must be nice to live with that kind hipocrisy."
Jenna leaned over to me with a smile. "Don't mind him. Despite the CLEARLY visible meanstreak in his personality, Trevor grew up with some very strict parents. He's got issues."
"Shut up, Jenna. I don't have issues, I have a 'point of view'. Besides, I'm older than THAT bitch was by at least two years!" He pouted, but only briefly. Afterall, Trevor never showed a weakness for more than a second or two. But Michael noticed it, I'm sure. Not because I could feel it, but because I could see it on his face. He wanted to hold out and punish Trevor for as long as he could, I'm sure, but seeing that hint of vulnerability in him seemed to bring a pinch of that jealous undying love back for him. Perhaps I had their relationship misunderstood. There really was a spark of something there. It was different from what Taryn and I had, but my mistake was thinking that it was 'lesser'.
Another siren went off in the distance behind us, and just as before, there was a big surge of people in the crowd, some shouting and running, and another set of thick moving walls began their decent to the floor. "Geez...I guess fights are pretty common here, huh?"
Bryson answered, "Close to a million people, adrenaline rushes at an all time high, pack them into tight spaces.....add sex, drugs, and alcohol. Yeah, that's definitely the recipe for a slightly more hostile environment."
"Ahhhh, Maria! Maria!" Gyro sighed, hugging a giant wall sized poster of his favorite vampire songstress. "I can't WAIT to see her!"
Bryson saw this and looked back at me, "And then, of course, we have guys like Gyro."
"Point taken." I said.
"There's a museum! Awww man, we've GOTTA go!" Doc shouted anxiously, his thirst for knowledge practically pulling him towards it.
"Dude, there's scantily clad women, all the liquor we can drink, and a ten story arcade...and you want to go to a museum?" Gyro whined, itching to dive into something slighly more wicked.
"Sounds good to me." Taryn replied, and that was all the coaxing I needed. Dion and Dylan followed, Trevor followed Jenna, Michael followed Trevor, Kid followed Max...the chain reaction led us all through the crowd to check out this place. Gyro only stood still for a moment in protest before Rain roughly pinched his arm and dragged him in behind us. So much for freedom of choice.