Gone From Daylight:
Nights Eternal


The two of us moved away from the Raider market and saw a few street performers lining the streets. Small feats of magic, comedy, shell games...it was certainly entertaining. The boy smiled at me as he saw my enjoyment, and I couldn't help but grin bashfully at being caught. I saw a juggler on the side of the hall, flipping a variety of different balls in the air. Some heavy, some light, all different sizes. I watched intently for a moment or two, dazzled by the fact that he could even manage to balance them all. He kept moving his hands faster and faster with flawless speed and coordination, and thrilled his small audience by pretending that he was losing control a few times. The juggler saw my smiling face as we walked past, and without warning, he tossed me one of the small tennis balls he was using. My hand reached out and caught it in mid air, and he grinned at my accomplishment. He silently gave me the signal to toss it back to him, and I did, hoping that it wouldn't through off his rhythm. He caught it, and tossed me another one, then another, then a third. And somehow...through some strange sense of synchronized energy between us, I was able to keep all three balls in the air. It wasn't easy, but I was amazed that I hadn't dropped one. I hear some quiet applause from the crowd around him, and lost my concentration. They fell down around my feet, but I guess the juggler was impressed nonetheless. He gave me a nod and a smile, and went back to his routine as the blond boy and I kept moving.

"That was cool. I didn't know you could juggle." The boy said to me.

"Funny...I didn't know I could juggle either." I smiled to myself, and let him lead the way. I hope that little talent stays with me. I'd love to show that to Taryn when I see him. I can't WAIT to be in his arms again!

"So what's you're name?" He asked me as I walked beside him, still drawn to his highly sensual features with every step.

"Justin." I told him, and he raised an eyebrow with a sly grin. Almost as if he didn't believe me. "What? I'm serious."

After a short pause, a pretty grin slid across his face, and he shrugged his shoulders. "If you say so."

"You don't believe me?"

"Hey, with all that goes on in this place...nobody is hardly ever who they appear to be. It's even less likely that they are who they SAY they are. It's cool though. It's expected."

"But...I'm telling you the truth."

"Sure, you are." He said quickly, and I started to convince him otherwise when I noticed that he was taking a turn out of the main corridor. I stopped walking as I saw him head for a dark narrow path between large walls that rose up 50 feet to the ceiling. Only wide enough for us to walk shoulder to shoulder, and maybe about three feet extra on each side.

"Wait...where are you going?" I asked.

"C'mon, this way. I told you, I know a few shortcuts. This place has alley ways built into it, they're a hell of a lot easier to travel through than these crowded party areas. You're liable to get even more lost than you already are." He said. He saw my hesitation, and wrinkled up his brow. "Hehehe, you can trust me, you know? I'm not gonna make you drink anymore if that's what you're scared of." His light green eyes seemed to brighten with his smile, and his attractive aura seemed to lull me into a trance. My God, he was really stunning! Everytime you looked at him he got more and more beautiful, his skin almost feminine in its softness and blemish free texture. His very appearance was a seduction, and I'm pretty sure that was a major part of the reason that I followed him.

The alleyway was pretty dark, the muffled sounds of the pulsing music pounding on both sides. It was just long enough to see the exit at the other side, maybe a five minute walk from end to end. There were a few flittering light bulbs swinging back and forth, illuminating the litter and old bottles rolling back and forth like forgotten tumbleweeds. Ignored dumpsters and trash cans sitting half empty on the side every couple yards. The further you got towards the middle of the narrow pathway, the more the music faded away into the background. My ears were ringing, but I was happy to be away from that constant rhythm for a bit. I took a few deep breaths, my head still spinning from the drink, but at least my focus was strong enough to keep me walking straight....most of the time.

"The name's Kieran. I was originally just passing through town to see the sites. But I had heard so much about this IceZone place that I just had to drop in and check it out for myself. Now it's like I don't ever wanna leave."

"How long have you been here?"

"Ohh...I'd say about week. Maybe two. Time doesn't really exist in this place. At least not the way you or I think of it."

"I can't imagine being here for that long." He gave me a look. "Sorry, this is just a bit much for me to handle all at once."

"Yeah, I suppose that's understandable." He agreed. "But you're just overwhelmed. This place is so much better when you can escape some of that noise for a little while, don't you think?" He asked me, his eyes connecting with mine, almost making me blush.

"Um...yeah, I suppose. My ears are kinda numb right now. Not to mention that my body has been vibrating on its own for the last hour and a half straight."

"Hehehe, see what I mean? System overload. You've gotta take a break every now and then, clear your head. It helps." He looked closer at my eyes, grinning. "Is your head clear yet, Justin?"

"Do you have ANY idea how much liquor I had to drink in just that one sitting?" I asked.

"I'll take that as a no." He giggled. "Don't worry, it'll wear off eventually. We're only an hour or two away from dawn anyway. Soon your sleep cycle will begin and you'll be good as new so you can do it all over again tomorrow."

"No thank you. I think I'm pretty much done with the alcohol. Why do you vampires drink so damn much?"

"Why does anybody?" He answered quite matter-of-factly. "Besides, for most people it's therapy...just in liquid form." Then he told me, "Watch your step."

"Wha..." I stopped walking just as a giant rat wobbled its titanic frame past me. And when I say giant...I mean GIANT! "Jesus!"

"Yeah, they get pretty big down here. You know, with vampires chewing up food they can't eat, and spitting it out everywhere. These critters get even bigger than this one in some places." The boy looked at me for a moment, and a shy smile crossed his lips. We were standing still, with me leaning against the wall and his hand on my chest. "You have beautiful eyes, you know that?" He reached up a hand to lightly brush my hair back out of my eyes, and I stood up to move away from the wall and step an inch or two backwards from him. "Let me guess...they were blue when you were human, right?" I nodded. "Yeah, I can tell. I love blue eyes. They carry such a sense of perception."

He was making me nervous, and my hormones rose up, making me jittery and uneasy. "We....we should keep going." I said, feeling that hidden 'pull' on my emotions again.

"Of course. We don't wanna miss Maria's last show of the night, would we? Not without good reason, that is." He started walking forward again, and I followed. Thankful to be getting closer to the end of that private alley, and heading towards the public vibe of the club again. We blended in with the current of people again and waded our way through them.

"So...have you seen her before?" I asked.

"Maria? Of course. Hundreds of times. My boyfriend was one of her biggest fans. He was practically an unpaid roadie for her and her band." He smiled. "Her voice really is amazing. She uses her extra to enhance the vocals in such a mesmerizing way, you have to hear it to believe it."

"Yeah. One of my friends was pretty excited about seeing her."

"You brought friends with you, huh? Sweet. That's cool." He said, and we stopped to let a parade of dancers dressed in ancient Egyptian garments pass through the crowd. Then began walking again. "So....these friends of yours...how many are there?"

"How many?" Weird question. "I dunno...ten, twelve. No wait...um...13. Yeah, 13 of them."

"Wow, pretty big tribe of you guys. And they're all gonna be at this Maria concert?"

"No. At least I don't think so. They kinda spread out when we came in."

He looked down at my waist, "No pager?" He asked. "So where are your friends now?"

"I'm not really sure. And I lost my pager somewhere back there. It's all busted up. I didn't know how to use it anyway." I said, and soon felt another wave of dizzyness press down on me as we came to the end of the corridor and found ourselves submerged in vampires on another giant dancefloor.

"No idea, huh?" He asked again, looking around. What the heck was he looking for? I guess he saw my confusion, and he calmed down. "Don't worry, Justin...I'll help you find them. All in due time." He said, and took a hold of my hand to lead me even further through the masses. The contact of his hand to mine was electric, and I felt my heart speed up. I don't think I've really been this...'tempted' since I found Taryn. I couldn't explain it, but he had this effect on me that made it impossible for me to even think straight. It was like an artificial infatuation that took me over in a matter of seconds. It was...confusing. Kieran led me through twists and turns, hallways and ramps, from one party palace to the next. And then...we came to another alley. This one seemed even longer than the last one. Darker. And even through the haze of alcohol, I was sober enough to feel my inner instincts tighten up at the idea of being so 'removed' from the rest of the club. "What's wrong?" He asked.

"More alleys...?"

"Geez, you really are a paranoid one, aren't you?" He walked towards me and away from the entrance to the dark passage, putting a hand on my shoulder. "Look, if taking the short way freaks you out or anything, we can always just try to navigate through the rest of the club. It's no big deal."

I hesitated again, feeling a slight breeze from the alley, and looked back at Kieran as the music pounded its way into my cranium from the speakers overhead. I was hoping that one of the other extras I had picked up from the lot would self activate somehow. Trevor's, or maybe Jenna's, anything that would allow me some warning just in case this heartbreaking teen dream isn't what he says he is. But I got nothing. No signals, no hunches, nothing. All I had to go on was the look in his eyes. Which, to me, looked more than genuine. "Listen, it's alright..." He said. "We'll just go through the Mardi Gras parade and if the floats cut a big enough path it'll only take us about 45 minutes longer."

"No...it's ok. We'll go your way. I don't wanna miss my friends in case they leave." I said.

"Are you sure?" I didn't answer at first. "Justin, you don't have to go if you don't want to."

I looked as far into the alley as my vision would allow, and didn't see any signs of trouble. Just more trash and papers blown by a gentle gust of wind. "I'm fine. It's cool. Let's just go. It's important that I get there fast." I said, and with a nod, we entered another alley. I heard the music get muffled and quiet down to a dull bump behind us as we walked forward. But my mind stayed alert though.

"I really like the alleys in this place. There's no fuss, no noise...and no 'moving walls' either. That gets people lost more than anything in this place. If a fight breaks out on the main floor anywhere, they cut it off from the rest of the club, and you're stuck."

"Believe me, I know. I kinda had a few run ins with that problem myself." I told him.

"Ah, sorry to hear it man. I avoid all of that garbage by taking the back route. No cameras or guards in here either. Not to mention a lot less people traffic. I doubt anybody in the club even keeps track of what goes on in these alleys. You can get some peace of mind in here." He said, kicking a broken beer bottle over to the wall.

"Yeah...I guess..." I said, looking around more as the alley got even darker around us.

"This isn't spooking you out, is it? It's not so bad. We're ok."

"Sorry...I just...I've had a hard night. It's just made me a little jumpy."

"It's alright. As long as it's not little ol' me that's making you nervous." He smiled, and with a glance in his eyes, I felt an even stronger pull on my emotional state. Practically forcing me to reach out and touch him, desiring his kiss. My breathing got a bit more heavy, and I looked away from him. We walked a bit further, and I made sure to look behind us to see if we were still alone. "So...do you have a...'girlfriend', 'boyfriend'...maybe a 'pet monkey'? Hehehe!"

"Hehehe, yeah. A boyfriend." I grinned. "His name's Taryn. He's kinda the one I'm looking for."

"Awww, shit." He blushed.


"Nothing. It's just...you're cute, Justin. I was gonna kinda ask if maybe you wanted to...hang out or somethng. Spend some time together, have a little fun."

"I thought you had a boyfriend." I asked, and he wrinkled his forehead a bit. "You know...?"

"Oh...yeah, he's cool with it. He's um...not doing too well these days. He had a bit of an 'accident' not long ago, it's gonna take forever for him to heal up. I can't stand to see him in pain, that's why I've been wandering around by myself all night."

"What happened to him?"

Kieran's face seemed to harden instantly. It was subtle, but clearly visible. It was as if he was offended that I would even ask. But it only lasted for a split second before the look faded and he regained his charm. "It's a long story. Really. Forget it. My friends and I are taking care of things. I'm just happy to get away for a while. And...now I get a chance to talk to you." He said, a seductive smile warming me from the inside out. "So, is your boyfriend cool with the idea of you maybe...having some fun on the side....or...?"

"No, I'm pretty sure he wouldn't be into that at all." I blushed a little myself, flattered that he'd want me at all, and a little shocked by his openess. But no can do. I'm sure that Taryn would wanna kill me....again.

"Ok, not a problem...just figured I'd ask. You ARE pretty darn cute, though." He giggled, and we walked further into the center of the alley, in the middle between both ends.

"Are we any closer to Maria's performance? We've been walking a while." I asked.

"It's not too far ahead." He assured me. "We can maybe take a detour around the fighting arenas, and it'll take us right to it." I nodded and kept following him. We walked in silence for a few moments, and then he asked me, "So have you seen them?"

"Seen what?"

"The fighting arenas. They're pretty cool, huh? I've seen some really good fighters come out of those places."

"Oh...yeah. I've seen them. They're not really my thing." I told him.

"What? Really? Oh come on, a cutie like you? I'm sure you could rack up a lot of money in this place if you could fight. They'd never see it coming. You can fight, right?"

I took a sideways look at his grin, and said, "Um...a little. But not really."

"Ever do it for money?"

"I don't...I don't fight for money. Not here." I said.

"Well, you don't have to do it here. Maybe you could do it elsewhere. There are arenas all over town actually. It's good hard cash. Some friends of mine participate here and there. It makes us enough money to live comfortably, you know?"

"Cool, I guess."

He was expecting me to say more. I could see him watching me. But I didn't say anything else. So after another short silence, Kieran said, "My boyfriend and some of the others...friends of mine....they usually hang out at this gym on the southside of town, and they see the fighters train there a lot. Excellent bodies. They can be really lickable, those fighters. I thought maybe you've been to one of them. Maybe recently?"

"No, never been..." I said, feeling even more uncomfortable than before. I didn't want to be here. Not in these alleys. Not in the dark with no cameras or security. This didn't feel right.

"The gyms are usually pretty private though, so they're hard to get into, I guess. I've never been to one personally." He said. "How about you? Have you ever been to one?"

"I just told you..I've never been." I said, my pace naturally picking up a bit as the void of that darkness seemed to be creeping up over my shoulders. But my wobbly legs and didn't adapt to my hurried steps all that well.



"You sure?" He asked again, looking me in the eye as he walked quickly by my side.

"I'm sure." I told him. "Listen, we've got to hurry. This is taking too long."

"How about we take another shortcut?"

"No more shortcuts, ok? Let's just...get to the end of this alley and try to push our way through the crowd." I demanded, just wanting to get back out where people could see us.

Kieran looked bewildered, a bit hurt even, and then he nodded. "Um...okay, it's this way." He kept walking, and I suddenly began to wonder if my instincts were just going haywire after all the crazy devices in the place playing with my mind. Kieran didn't resist at all, he just led the way towards the lights and music at the end of the passage.

"I'm sorry." I said softly. "I'm just being weird. Like I said, it's been a rough night."

"It's ok. Really. You don't know me from any other stranger in this place. I was just making conversation is all."

"I know....and I'm sorry. K? I mean it." I pleaded. He turned to look at me, and nodded with a smile.

"Come on. Let's find your friends." Kieran took me to the end of the alley, and I found myself surrounded by what looked like a virtual harem of boys and girls, giving romantic massages and sharing drinks with other vampires and humans alike. But it wasn't like the 'brothel-type' of service that I had experienced in some other areas of the underground club. This was more like...a romantic engagement. Where vampires were set up to experience a preselected time slot full of infatuated glances and whispered conversations. It was like sex for the emotions, where patrons paid money for that beautiful experience...even if it was just for a few hours. I imagine that...if you lived in darkness for an extended period of time, paying for that illusion of love would be more than satisfying. I thought back to what Jenna told me a while ago, about vampires not wanting to spend eternity alone. While I understood the concept, I don't think it really ever sank in. The idea of eternity...actual ETERNITY...without ever being able to share that with someone. To have to hunt in order to survive, with no one's arms to comfort you when you came back home. To have your entire world thrust into darkness, exiled from the sunlit world of mortality, and made to suffer in the coldness of eternal night without a lover's body heat to keep you warm. I suppose if it weren't for Taryn, I would do anything to escape it. I doubt I could keep the darkness from swallowing me alive if it weren't for his love. If it weren't for his light. I've got to find him. I've got to keep him safe.

Just then, as we entered the boundaries of this area, I felt a sudden shock to my system, as if every single extra I had had suddenly been switched off. All except for one...Trevor's. I could feel it, absorbing the warmth of the feelings around me. But everything else had been instantly locked down. Nothing else could resurface. The devices overhead in this area were particularly strong. "Come on, this way." Kieran waved me forward, and he began walking faster. I felt myself getting even more disoriented as we moved further through the area, and with the intoxicants in my system, I found it hard to focus. I rubbed my eyes, and slowed down. "It's not that far away, come on."

"Wait...wait...I don't feel so good..." I mumbled, swaying a bit on my feet.

"Don't worry. We're crossing through Lover's Lane right now. It's sort of a safe place to experiences sweet lovey dovey feelings and all that. The devices overhead in this particular area shut almost every other vampire extra down to absolute zero. It's for the servants' protection. People get emotionally attached, you know? They don't ever wanna leave. The only one's that work are the ones they use to create the romance in their client's mind. The shutdown is a bit mindbending at first, but it won't last. Come on, the quicker we get through it, the better." Kieran moved further ahead of me, and I stumbled to keep up. I tried to speed up, but the room seemed to tilt as I tried to keep my balance.

"Wait up..." I said, the dizzyness increasing.

"We're almost there. Maria's performance can't be that far off now." He called out, and I moved over to join him. "I'm not sure what to look for, but I hear that she's a halflife, like us. A pretty one at that. So hopefully we won't have a bunch of halflife hating vampires wandering around calling us names all night." I stumbled a bit, and he reached out his arm to catch me. "Careful."

It was then, when I touched him, when I felt him touch me...that my only working extra reached out and latched on to him. Trevor's abilities locked themselves on Kieran's desires, and they felt...cold. Extremely cold. And it almost hurt. Like being stabbed in the side with a shard of ice. Out of all the warm and affectionate emotions emanating from that room, only Kieran's were this disturbing. I stood up, disconnecting myself from him and trying to understand what it was I was reading from him. I then looked over his shoulder and saw a half torn poster, advertising the Maria performance, and an arrow pointing in the other direction. "What are you doing?" I asked.

"Come on, right over here. This is the last place we need to go. We're in the home stretch." He looked at me, and even though I knew something was wrong, I could feel that gentle pull on my emotions again. That attraction. That lust. This wasn't me...I wasn't doing this. HE was. "What's the matter?"

"The sign says that Maria's performance is over there." I said. "You're going the wrong way."

"Over there?" He grinned, then he turned around to see the torn poster behind him. "Ohh, THAT! Don't trust that sign. Believe me, I was over there earlier. There was a rumble between two rival gangs not more than an hour ago. They had to use tear gas, it was a HUGE mess! There's no way you're gonna be able to get through that way. Come on, follow me. I'll get you there. I know the way." He said, pointing to another nearby alley...even darker than the other two.

"I thought you didn't know what to look for?" I asked, now standing up straight, Trevor's extra piercing through what could only be a pack of lies.

"I don't. Not really. But it's a big stage surrounded by lots of Maria fans. I'm sure she won't be hard to pick out once we get there."

"I thought you said you and your boyfriend were big fans?"

He paused for a second, his fake smile trying to cover it up. "Hehehe, Justin? Are you getting all paranoid on me again?"

"You told me you had seen her a hundred times. And now you say that you don't even know what she looks like?"

"You're wasting TIME, you know? Hehehe! We're gonna miss the show..." He said, and I felt that pull on my emotions again, this time stronger. It was in his eyes. He was using his eyes against me.

"You lied to me. You've been lying to me the whole time." I said, taking a step back.

"Justin, what are you doing, huh? Don't be silly."

"I don't need your help anymore. I'll find my own way, thanks." I said, backing up from him even more.

It was then that I saw Kieran's eyes darken, and a scowl appeared on his face, as his pupils turned a shade of crimson red. He gritted his teeth and said, "Why don't we keep this friendly while we still can, boy?"

"Stay away from me!" But Kieran quickly stepped in front of me.

"You don't think I'm just gonna let you back out of this NOW, do you...Rage?" He frowned. I tightened up as his true intentions displayed themselves, and his emotions, once ice cold, began to burn like brimstone as his temper rose to the surface. "Move. We've got business to discuss."

"I don't know who you think I am, but I'm not..."

"Did I ASK for your life story??? I said MOVE!" I quickly took a few giant steps back, but he shouted, "BE STILL!!!" And with a bright green flash of his eyes, the emotional blast became so incredibly strong that I couldn't move. My arms wee suddenly locked down at my sides, and my eyes focused forward. "You know...not all of the extras were shut off in this area, Justin. Not mine. It's meant as an emotional enhancement, so the workers here use their gifts to 'perform' better for the public. But me? I've got other plans for mine tonight. It's one of the very FEW vampire abilities that'll work at Lover's Lane. Why do you think I brought you here?" He walked up even closer to me, his hand resting on my hip as he leaned forward to whisper in my ear. Hiding our dispute from the other people in the area. "The 'less than subtle' pull you feel on your emotions? That's me. And thanks to the generous amount of alcohol we put in your system, lowering those nasty inhibitions of yours, it's more potent than you can imagine. I have spent an entire WEEK in this fucking place! Some of my companions have been here even longer! Waiting....hoping that you would be stupid enough to show your face during one of the biggest vampire celebrations in the city. And now...it's time for payback. Let's go."

Kieran stepped away from me, and I felt his extra pulling on me to follow, but I fought to stand still. I wanted to get someone's attention, possibly get some help, but everyone was too involved in their romances to even notice me. They were enthralled, enchanted, blinded to everything else but those few moments of companionship offered to them by the beauties smiling next to them. Kieran saw me struggling and a wicked grin slid across his face. "You wanna do this the hard way, kid? I can make it hurt a lot worse." He said. I tried to move...an arm, a finger, blink an eye...but I was frozen. The attraction was so powerful that he was actually using it as a weapon against me. It began to burn and sting, as though my blood were boiling inside. The more I fought against it, the stronger it got. "I wouldn't keep fighting if I were you, Rage. I can burn out every last one of the fucking pleasure centers in your brain if you want me to, but I guarantee you, it won't be pleasant." I continued to struggle, and he shrugged his shoulders. "Suit yourself." His eyes flared again, the green splendor of them cutting through the blood red shade of a vampire in attack mode. And I felt my head throb and twist as every nerve ending in my skin began to burn and sting all at once. The sensation of being dragged over a field of broken glass.

"AHHH!!!" I yelped, but he mentally forced my mouth closed.

"Keep it up...I've got all night." He sneered. "I said...move."

I took a single step in his direction, which was more of a release from holding back than an actual 'movement' on my part. And that was the only comfort I got from the feeling of needles piercing my flesh in a milion places at once. But when I refused to take the next step, the agony returned. I was unable to stand still, and following Kieran towards that dark alley was my only choice. I was helpless in this place...he made sure of that.

We entered the dark passageway, and Kieran put an angry arm over my shoulder as he mentally pushed and pulled me forward like a puppet. "You know...it takes a true COWARD to attack a group of innocent people, you know that?" He said, his fingernails digging into my shoulder. "My BOYFRIEND and several of my companions were AT that gym when you burst in like a bat out of hell and decided to go apeshit on everybody inside. They weren't even fighters...and you ripped them to pieces."

"I don't know what you're talking about..."

"SHUT UP!!!" He shouted. "At first, I came here to find Soren himself and find out why the people I love and care about suddenly came under fire from some lunatic halflife on a rampage. I was waiting until Soren was away from his bodyguards so my assosciates and I could ask them a couple of 'pressing questions'...preferably with THIS..." He pulled out a long screwdriver that was filed down to a single sharp point at the end, and pointed it at my throat. "...But then...he saw you. Earlier tonight in the club, he stopped you to ask what was going on. I couldn't hear everything, but I'm not an idiot. And I can see that this attack came as just as much of a surprise to him as it was to everybody else. So instead of following my original plan, I decided to ask around. Went to the fighting arenas, caught up on my gossip. It seems most of Soren's fighters were pulled off of the list for tonight's matches. Now Soren may be as far from a human sense of compassion as anyone can get without being the devil himself...but if it's one thing that I DO know about him, it's that he takes his business seriously. And that's not a very 'business-savy' move for him to make. Especially during this celebration. Which caused me to wonder why he would be searching for a little sissy halflife like you." Kieran kept me moving, his face so twisted and angry that it hardly held the charm and grace that I once admired in him. I felt my pulse racing, minor shocks making me twitch with every little spasm of resistance I tried to sneak past him. "I questioned a few of the other fighters around here, and you'd be surprised how talkative they became when it came to your reputation 'Rage'. Very talkative indeed. I got all the details I needed, and after your little display at the Archive...I was sure I had the right asshole." I looked over at him, and saw his fangs drop. "Oh yes, I know about the fight at the archive, Rage. Did you think nobody would notice you fighting in a moshpit full of people? My sources led me right to you. And now here you are...an insect, caught in the spider's web."

"I'm telling you...you're making a mistake!"

"NO! YOU MADE THE MISTAKE!!! You made the mistake of showing your face again! You should have stayed hidden, newblood!" Just as he said it, I saw three more people waiting in that alley for me. The big jock from the party, the blond lady who had confronted me from the house party, and the 'Ronald' boy I was playing the card game with. There were also three or four others that I hadn't seen before. But they were waiting for me...and they were smiling. "You know...my boyfriend is STILL healing after a WEEK'S worth of sleep cycles, Rage. You messed him up pretty good. He may never be the same. But I can do ONE thing to make him feel better...I can bring him your fucking heart on a stick. He requested it personally."

As he marched me forward, and we got further away from the area we were standing in, I felt his energetic grasp on me fade a little bit. It wasn't enough to get away from its pull, but it wasn't as strong as it was before. My legs kept moving, almost on their own, kicking around loose bottles and pieces of trash along the way. I felt as though I had lost control of my body entirely. We were getting closer to the mob in the middle of that alley...with no security, no cameras, no extras...it didn't seem likely that I'd be able to slip out of this one. I cycled through all of my own thoughts, trying to find an extra that would work in this place. Something I could use against them. A brain geyser? Nope, didn't work. Chad's speed? Nope, didn't work. Jun's focus? A little bit, but not enough to be effective. And Jenna's and Trevor's extras didn't really do me any good here. I only knew how to use them to be aware...I didn't know how to use it as an attack.

"It's about time! We were getting bored sitting here!" The big muscled member of their crew was the first to stand up on his feet, and the others slowly crept around him. I had to cycle through my abilities faster. The raiders flash? Didn't work. Dylan's invisibility? DIDN'T WORK!!! "How ya doin' there, sweetheart? You ready to take a few shots at me this time? Huh? I thought you were supposed to be some kind of tough guy? You look PUSSY to me, slaghead!" I could feel Dion's extra working to shut my emotions down as I was dragged closer, which helped a bit with the fear, but I doubt that was going to be much of a weapon either. It did, however, keep me from panicking for the time being. Think, Justin! THINK! We were almost there.

"It's too bad, kid. As cute as you are, you might have made a killing out here in darkness. I hate to end your vampire 'career' so short." Kieran grinned, lewdly licking my ear. Zero's reading ability? Didn't work! Com's shadows, Taryn's messages, Max's strength...nothing was fucking ACTIVE!!! Shit! Shit! What am I doing here??? THINK JUSTIN!!! "Still trying to activate something fancy, aren't ya, cupcake? Sorry. No fancy attacks tonight. No divine powers. Only the defensive extras work this close to Lover's Lane. And only the ones used to enhance their experience there. So struggle all you want, it won't do you any good."

The other vampires in the alley reached into their jackets, and they all had long screwdrivers. About nine inches long, filed down into a single spiked tip. They gripped the handles tightly, now standing face to face with me, staring me right in the eye. The big guy grabbed me by the neck and slammed me hard against the wall, holding me up by my windpipe. Kieran's pull was still sucking me towards him, and with my inability to move from my current position, it felt like it was burning the skin right off of me. Then, he dropped me to the ground, and held me firmly against his chest. He had my arms trapped down at my sides, lifting me off of the ground easily, my featherweight frame was no effort for the hulking man behind me. His bear hug increased as I felt the air being squeezed out of me, and Kieran grinned. "Don't worry...we're not gonna kill ya. Not until we've had a little fun kicking your ass first."

And then...I felt something. Something deep inside of me. My thoughts, still spinning in a desperate attempt to get me out of an almost hopeless situation. And my instincts wrapped themselves around a few chosen images that they had collected recently. Visions of a young boy, providing pleasure to countless others in this club. A boy who could move his body into almost any position easily. Positions that were impossible...even for a boy his age. Why Evan...you ARE a flexible one, aren't you? His extra was fully functional, and as I found it floating in my stream of consciousness...a few others were attached to it. One of them being Dizz's distraction ability. Another...Gyro's pleasure sensations. There seemed to be a few other muddy images in the background, swirling like small chunks of debris in an endless vortex. I didn't recognize their signatures at all. I couldn't even tell who those abilities belonged to. They weren't strong enough for me to use yet, so I must not have been in contact with the original source for long....but they were there. I could feel them. Maybe I have picked up a few tricks since I've been in this club. I wish I knew what they were. I could use them right about now.

I suddenly felt a harsh slap strike me across my face! And everyone was standing around me, screwdrivers in hand, evil eyes focusing on me, ready to attack. And Kieran spoke, "You killed some good friends of mine, you nearly killed the only man I've ever truly loved, and you've brought nothing but pain and misery to a bunch of innocent people that didn't deserve it. You're a coward, Rage. A complete fucking COWARD! And now that you're helpless as a baby, I'm going to poke so many holes in you that your body will collapse from lack of support! Consider this game over, asshole."

I only had one chance, and one chance only. I haven't been much of a religious person, not for a long long time. But just as I was feeling my instincts put a plan in motion, just before making a move...I found myself asking for help. I don't know to who, or to what. I couldn't tell you where I was hoping that silent prayer would go to once it left my conscious thoughts and traveled beyond. Who knows? Maybe it goes nowhere. Maybe I should expect any more help from an almighty being than I did during my father's abuse. But...for a moment....for just a quick moment...it felt so much better to believe. Maybe Dylan had it right. Maybe Dash and Xairen had it right too. Maybe all you need is an ounce of faith...to work your own miracles when you need them. It's been years since I prayed for anything...but right then...it felt like He was with me.

"I hope you don't mind, but we're videotaping this. We're gonna need something to watch during Christmas dinner!" Ronald giggled, and I saw one of the other vampires with a small video camera, grinning wickedly to himself as he focused it on my face. The big guy holding me up off of the ground gave me another tight squeeze, nearly making me choke. My arms and legs hung limply beneath his vice like grip. "Where do we start?" Ronald asked Kieran.

"I say we go for the stomach. Seems painful enough. Just remember not to pierce his heart until we've had time to relieve a little 'stress' first." He replied, and pulled his hand back, ready to stab me in the guts with that pointed edge. I took a deep breath...readying myself for whatever was about to happen. I could feel that sensory pull burn even hotter inside of me, his eye blazing bright green as he held me still. Ok, Justin...this is it...I don't get a second chance at this if I get it wrong. "This is gonna hurt....a LOT!" Kieran winked at me, and I knew it was now or never.

With a quick shift of thought, I used Dizz's extra to shift Kieran's attention to the blond lady from the party, and just as I suspected, his extra's focus went with it. His eyes blazed again, but this time, the pain went directly to her instead, causing her to scream out from the shock of it. I only had a split SECOND! I reached my hand behind me just far enough to use Gyro's extra on the big guy's ribs. The ticklish sensation shot out of my fingertips, and surprised him enough to loosen his grip for a moment. That was all the time I needed to gather as much as Evan's flexibility as I could to contort my shoulders and hips and slide out of his savage bear hug. I lifted my chin on my way down, and he couldn't hold me up. I fell to the ground with a thud, and knew that I didn't have a moment to lose. Kieran shut his extra off, and the element of surprise was swiftly wearing off! Ok, mimic abilities...do your thing!

I leapt to my feet as fast as I could, and made sure to strike out at Kieran first, connecting a few quick blows to his face and pushing him back against the garbage cans behind him. They all charged at me at once, and I became a human tornado, wildly swinging my arms in every direction! My kicks connected with a vengence, and my punches were so fast that they could barely see them coming. I could only catch the momentary gleam of the screwdriver's sparkle before it was lunged forward in my direction! I made sure to keep my eye on those metallic sparkles, scared that one wrong step would send one soaring right through my heart! I didn't look any of them in the eye, just kept my eye on the silver. I blocked and moved and dodged as fast as I could manage, thankfully keeping myself safe in the process. As they became more furious, I had to start throwing their attention in a hundred different directions at once just to keep up. But that distraction only worked in short spurts, and by the time I had evaded one stabbing manuever, three more were headed my way.

Kieran rose to his feet again, and I felt the sting of his emotional pull take hold of me again. My legs froze, and my arms dropped. I watched the big guy swing at me with his huge fist, and even though it hurt like CRAZY to break free of Kieran's spell, I contorted my body and twisted myself backwards to avoid the hit as he hit nothing but air, my hips spinning to follow me and kicking the big moose in the back of his neck as he passed! My body became as rubbery as my bones would allow, and my movements were too unpredictable for them to defend against. Thank GOD I met up with that boy again in the club!

A flurry of kicks and punches came at me from every possible direction, and I could feel my body aching with every movement outside of Kieran's command. I HAD to keep him busy! I cartwheeled my way to where he was standing and fought through the pain to keep him off balance. Without his concentration, his extra wasn't as centralized, and it allowed me to move with more freedom. The others attacked from behind and I had to make sure to remember to keep them at bay as well. I kept my main strikes on Kieran while just trying to keep the others back. And when I finally had the opportunity...I kicked Kieran's legs from under him, sending him to the ground on his side. And then, I stomped down on one of the bottles in the alleyway, and kicked the broken glass into his eyes! I heard him shout out and cover his eyes, trying to rub the shards out of his pupils...and without his eyes, his extra finally released me. And my full fury directed itself at the others. I jumped into the center of their crowd, and I prepared to give them the beating they had come looking for. My strength was returning, my limbs felt loose again, and I gained more control with every second. Most of the bastards didn't even know which way to fall. They pressed harder, trying to force me against the wall, but I moved between them time and time again, and they had to hold back for fear of stabbing each other. What Comicality had taught me about fighting multiple opponents was coming in handy, but I was going to have to push harder this time. This was an entirely different balance. Other factors were being introduced this time around. You can do this Justin, just don't play their game. Play YOUR game...and draw them into it.

I saw a swift flash, and a screwdriver's blade was pushed out towards my stomach. I spun to the side and caught the wrist of the vampire weilding it. I was afraid to let go of him, so instead I held onto it as I began to kick outwards at two of the others. Another screwdriver was positioned to stab me in the chest, and I caught that guy by the wrist as well. Now, with both hands full, I attempted to move and work my way around the alley...continuing my attack on the others. I used the two vampires I was holding as a shield as I spun them back and forth, allowing them to guard me from one direction as my legs kicked out in the other. But more stabs came flying my way, and I wasn't going to be able to keep this up for much longer. I let go of one of the wrists I was holding, and grabbed a screwdriver from the vampire in my grasp. I twisted his arm, flipping him over onto his back, and just as another blade tried to stab me from behind, I was able to lean sideways, using the wall for balance, and kicked the screwdriver from his hand. It flew up into the air, and I roundhoused another vampire to the ground, spinning to catch the falling weapon behind my back. Armed with two blades of my own, I flipped backwards to put some space between us, and then dared them to move forward!

"KILL HIM!!!" Kieran shouted, now almost able to see again. They came at me even harder than before, and as the big guy charged first, I kicked an empty beer bottle under his foot, tripping him up the second he stepped on it. I blocked each flash of silver with a flash of my own, the metal creating small sparks from their many collisions. And then, as Ronald tried to stab me in the face, I dodged to the side and stabbed him right under his arm, feeling the blade of the screwdriver pierce through his flesh without resistance! He screamed out loud, and I got a few more pokes into his side and the fronts of his thighs. He backed away from me immediately, making room for more vampires to make their move. They made motions to hit any part of my body that they could, and I wouldn't let them. I fought harder, and made sure that they didn't touch me! Not ONCE! I felt the screwdriver in my right hand pierce through another vampires forearm, and I delivered two or three swift pokes to the man behind him. The blond lady missed me by a few inches, and I swept her feet, sending her to the ground. Then I kicked her in the stomach, watching her slide back against a nearby dumpster. As the vampires came closer, I kept taking small stabs at them, watching theit shirts turn red with the many holes I was putting in them at the speed of light. I ducked kicks, dodged punches, and took every opportunity I had to pierce them again, almost revelling in their cries.

The big man caught me off guard and kicked me in the back, knocking me off of my feet temporarily. But as the others rushed towards me, I started stabbing at their legs, knees, and ankles, until they were almost terrified to come near me. The blond lady forced her screwdriver forward, and even with both hands full, I was able to catch her arm under my arm, and with a twist, I slammed her against a wall. She let go of her weapon, and I was holding it in my armpit as the others came forward. I dropped the third screwdriver and kicked it into the knee of the biggest guy with them, watching it stick out like a dart. They were stabbing at my FACE now, doing anything to injure me enough to finish the job! I grabbed another wrist and took their screwdriver from them as well. Then kicked behind me to knock another weapon into the air, but this time, I stabbed forward with both screwdrivers, lodging both of them in Ronald's chest, and with my hands empty, I caught the third, and picked up the other one I had dropped. I stabbed them into the shoulders of the big guy, and leaned backwards to retrieve the one's in Ronald's chest to continue fighting. They others fought hard, and my hands began moving so fucking fast that I almost worried that I'd lose control. This was not like me at all. The fighting style was so aggressive, so dirty. After the arena's, the raiders, and Cato's henchmen, I had picked up a much more psychotic combination of moves than what I had known before. And you know what....in this particular case...

....I LIKED IT!!!

I saw more sparks as the screwdrivers clashed in front of my face, and no matter how they attacked me, I just kept getting faster! There were so many flashes of silver now that it was almost blinding. And that's when my instincts upped the ante even further. I stabbed down into a vampire's knee, leaving the screwdriver lodged inside for only a split second while I held two more. Then when I stabbed another one into the lady's back, I retrieved one of the other one's that I had left behind before. My hands became a complete blur, and they were falling all over each other just trying to get a single shot in. I was working with four screwdrivers at once, and as I kicked a fifth one up into the air, my mind switched over to adapt to something 'different'. More effective. I grabbed the other four all at once. I threw two more into the air and began stabbing outward in all directions with the two I had in my hands. By the time the others had fallen, I had thrown those two in the air to catch them, and before I knew it, I was stabbing and juggling the screwdrivers at the same time! Three in the air, two to fight with. Three in the air, two to fight with. Even with them surrounding me, they had NO idea where the next poke was coming from. My arms moved like greased lightning, reaching out in front of me, to the side, behind me, over the shoulder, high attacks, low attacks, always keeping three screwdrivers in the air with ease while keeping my hands full. It all seemed so effortless. My abilities knew just what to do, and my concentration kept them in line. My mind and body....they were acting as one unit, more than ever before. After all I've done in darkness, I can't believe that there was actually a way for me to get BETTER!

The others were bleeding all over, and I was only making it worse. My juggling got more expert, now catching a sixth screwdriver behind my back repeatedly as I needed to move back and forth and fight and juggle simultaneously. And as I suddenly became aware of Kieran's position straightening up on the side of the wall, I saw that he had two streams of blood coming down from his eyes. The glass had been rubbed out completely, and he was back on his feet. He looked at me, a hatred in his gaze that felt as though it could knock down the wall behind me. I didn't wait for him to gain his focus again.

With the blades in the air above me, I watched Kieran, his eyes beginning to heat up to that bright green flare that they had before, and I used them as an illuminated target. I turned around a kicked two of the falling screwdrivers backwards, through his thugs, and aimed for his head. Even though he was able to close his eyes in time, his eyelids didn't provide much protection. The screwdrivers pierced them through, leaving him blind as he shouted out loud enough to rattle the walls themselves.

I hopped back to my feet, using a blade to stab the big guy in the backs of both of his knees, locking them up so he couldn't move, and kicked him back against the wall. The blond lady, I twisted her arm ehind her back, and stabbed a screwdriver straight through her wrist to make sure that it was pinned there permanently. And Ronald caught one right in the navel, and when he slid down to the ground, I put another one through both of his hands. When the others saw that they had lost their advantage, they dropped their weapons and high tailed it out of that alley as fast as their battered and bleeding bodies could take them! "Fuck this man! I didn't sign up for this shit!" They shouted as they ran in the other direction. "Who the hell IS that? What the hell man??? That isn't right!"

And as I stood there, my body releasing its tension, cooling down, returning to a state of calm as my heaving breaths began to slow and become silent, I noticed the groaning bodies at my feet. Crawling on their knees, beaten, defeated. But it didn't help any when it came to proving that I'm not who they say I am. If anything, it's going to make things worse. The more they come after me, the more I have to defend myself. The more I have to defend myself...the more evidence I give them that this newblood halflife named Rage is me. I'm stuck. And I know that anybody else who comes after me isn't going to take the time to rationalize or ask questions either. This is getting way too serious.

I suddenly heard a rattling behind me, and spun around to see a young vampire in the background, trembling. His smile completely gone. And the rattle? His shaky hand, still holding the camcorder. I walked over to him, watching his quivers increase as I got closer. And I gently took the camera down from his horrified eyes. "I need the tape." I said calmly, and without even blinking, he opened up the camera and handed it to me. "Thanks." I looked at his shirt, and on the front of it were the words...

'I came to chew bubblegum, and kick ass. And I'm all out of bubblegum.'

I looked down at the button down shirt the blond lady had given me at the house party, and took it off. "Gimme your shirt." I didn't have to tell him twice. I slipped it over my head, and it sagged comfortably on my shoulders. I looked him in the eye, my face cose to his. I don't think he had blinked since the fight began. "Now then...do YOU know where Maria's performance is?" Without a word, he pointed me in the right direction, and I gave him a grin. "Thanks again." I stepped over the others as they wrestled to get their arms and legs free from what I had done to them. They would be in bad shape for the next few sleep cycles. And Kieran...wow, do vampire eyes even GROW back? Who knows? As I walk past, I imitated the voice of the club's computer. "Sorry for the inconvenience. Please enjoy the rest of your evening."

As I waked out of that alley, I heard Kieran shouting out until his voice cracked. "THIS ISN'T OVER!!! DO YOU HEAR ME?!?!! I'M GONNA FIND YOU, RAGE!!! I'M GONNA FIND YOU, AND SPIKE YOU DOWN, AND RIP YOUR GODDAMN HEART!!! DO YOU HEAR ME?!!?!" Yeah, I heard him. But just like everything else in that alley...it all faded into the music once I reached the main floor again.

My body felt tired and worn out, but it also felt stronger than it ever had before. More self aware. Something was definitely changing in me. Something was building up inside of me, and I couldn't tell if that something was good or bad anymore. Or if good or bad even applied to its make up.

It felt as though my thoughts and my talents were both under my control and beyond my understanding at the same time. That delicate balance that I was trying to maintain was beginning to grow at a rate that I couldn't keep up with mentally. And as thankful as I am for those abilities keeping me ALIVE back there...I wasn't quite sure that I knew how to deal with not knowing what to expect from myself.

I wearily submerged myself in the party again, feeling almost dettached from it entirely. I wandered for a long while, through parties and parades, vampires and humans, circus acts and video games, all united under this sonic boom of music. It was almost like being stranded alone in the desert as far as I was concerned. But I kept moving, following whatever signs I could to see if Maria's headlining stage would be close by. There weren't many. A poster here, a flyer there. Sighhh...I think I'm lost again. I've got to make it there. I've got to...got to find Taryn before dawn. I can't stop now. The dizzying effects of the club buzzed around me, and as the crowd thickened in front of me, I almost didn't have the strength to push my way through. I was crushed back against the wall, and just leaned there for a second, letting my body rest. Just for a little while. It was at that moment, that I heard the sweetest sound in the whole wide world.

"Hey, SUPERMAN!!! Over here!" I looked up to see Gyro standing on top of a table not far from me. As fatigued as I was, I nearly broke my neck, and the necks of a lot of other vampires, trying to clear the distance between me and him! Gyro jumped down from the table as I got close enough to find him, and I wrapped my arms tightly around him! "Where ya been, man? I thought you would have found us a long time ago!"

"It's SOOO damn good to see you, Gyro!" I gushed, kissing him all over his face and holding on for dear life.

"Blecchhh! Hey now! Save some of that for HIM, will ya?" Gyro wiped his face free of my kisses, and I let him go just long enough to turn around. And there he was, even in a crowd of thousands...his beauty separated him from the rest. Taryn. My Taryn. My light in the dark. My salvation from everything. He hadn't seen me just yet, walking back to meet up with Gyro again, and I made my way to intercept him.

Taryn looked up as I got closer, and with watery eyes and a surprised smile, he began to quickly move towards me too. His tears began to drip in small rivers of silver as we reached out for one another. And then...contact. I was instantly wrapped in my lover's embrace once again. It felt like an eternity since the last time. His whole body was shaking. Partially from excitement, partially from his sobs of joy. Neither one of us could speak at first. But then again, it wasn't necessary. Just being able to hold him close, to smell that sweet aroma, and feel his warmth surround me again...it spoke volumes. In a language that words simply weren't built for. I had my angel back, and I wasn't going to let him go. Not ever.

I looked over Taryn's shoulder, my vision a bit watery as well, and saw Bryson standing close by, nodding warmly in my direction. I gently nodded back, and then felt Gyro hug me from behind. His tight boyish grip nearly crushing me. I couldn't help but giggle a little, happy to be surrounded by my 'family' again. And as I felt Xairen's cross on my neck press up against Taryn's chest, I whispered, "Thank you." Whoever it was up there, listening to that prayer, giving me the strength and courage to come home to the ones I love...thank you.

Then, Gyro let me go, and gave me a slightly baffled look. "Dude...what's with the shirt?"