"Twilight, please. Can't you see this boy needs our help?" Dash answered, and was telling his helpers to get Gyro some medical attention before she could protest much more.
"I need to talk to you." She demanded, and she and Dash walked around the corner for what was going to be a very heated discussion. On her part anyway. Something about Dash's spirit didn't really give way to feelings of anger all that much. He just didn't seem the type.
The three of us carried Gyro to the room that I was staying in, and laid him out on the cot. "Are you sure these people can help him?" Dion asked.
"Definitely." I said. "It's what they do."
"When we get back, we'll tell Bryson that he's staying out with some ravers until tomorrow. It'll keep him from panicking...at least for a little while. And we'll stop upstairs to get cleaned up and all before we sneak back into the lot." Dion brushed away a few colored strands of hair away from Gyro's sleeping face. "Stupid boy. You know how much we worry about you."
Jun winced from a pain in his side, "Rain is on one of her little excursions right now. She probably won't be back for a few days. Hopefully, her little brother here will be all healed up and ready to confirm our story by then."
"Are you afraid she'll tell Bryson?"
"Ha! No, I'm afraid she WON'T tell Bryson. Chances are she'll wait for us to be alone and take us out herself!" This from someone who has just taken on a literal one man army on a shakey fire escape. Then again, I'd be lying if I said the possibility Rain's fury didn't scare the shit out of me too. Gyro would occassionally tremble a bit in his sleep and I watched as his legs tensed up and caused him to convulse slightly as he reacted to the toxins in his system. We all took a second to look at each other, knowing that he'd be ok eventually.
Dion let out a sigh of relief. "Ok then. Let's go."
They began to head for the door, but Taryn turned around and saw that...I wasn't following them. "Justin?" Everyone stopped, looking back at me. But...I couldn't go. Not yet. Not until I knew what was wrong with me. I was...DANGEROUS. To all of them. And I loved them much too much to put their lives in peril over something I couldn't understand. And certainly couldn't control. Especially after what I had done to Cato tonight. The damage I had done, out of 'self defense'. Imagine if I had been angry, if I had the time to truly get my emotions involved. I did the right thing, running away from the lot the other night. I don't think I could bear hurting them again.
"I'm not coming."
"What do you mean you're not coming?" Taryn asked, always concerned about me.
"Taryn...I love you. God knows I do. But right now...I need to stay here. I need some answers. Or at least...find out what questions I should be asking." I said it, but I could see Taryn's heart breaking right in front of my eyes.
"I'm staying here with you, then."
"If YOU'RE staying here, then I'm staying with you. End of story." He said.
"If you stay here, and I stay here, and Gyro and Rain both go missing, Bryson is going to spaz out. He'll have everyone scouring every city block until we're all home safe. And I can't come back to that place. Not now." Taryn was going to say something else to convince me, but I lifted his chin to kiss him before he got the chance. "I know you want to help. And I promise you, you will. You HAVE." I kissed him again and he hugged me tight. "We'll continue our conversation later. We pinky promised, remember?"
"Yeah...I remember." And he held onto me for as long as he could before Dion and Jun headed out. "I'll come see you tomorrow."
"You better." I answered.
Before walking out of the door, Dion turned to me to nod gracefully. "You know where 'home' is, when you're ready. Right?" Home...the word itself sounded so complete. The friendliness and warmth in his noble gaze made me feel good inside. Dion could always do that, with such little effort. There was just this silent 'understanding' that passed between us. One where I said I was sorry, and he accepted it wholeheartedly. Some of the greatest and most meaningful conversations ever shared...don't need a single spoken word. Dion gave me a warm grin, and left to join the others. My family. I've never had a group of people mean so much to me.
An hour or so went by before I really moved again from that spot on the floor next to the cot. Gyro stayed asleep, only occassionally stirring once every fifteen minutes or so. The medics in the place had given him a shot or two, and had wrapped his head in cool damp cloths to keep his temperature down a bit. They told me that they'd be starting leech treatment the following day while he slept, and that would get a great deal of the drugs out of his system. The only downside was that he was going to be pretty damn hungry when he woke up. He'd have to feed again in a week's time once the treatment was over. I suppose it's better than the alternative though.
"Knock knock..." Dash peeked around my doorway, and he came in to see how Gyro was doing. "He seems to be healing already. I think he'll be just fine."
"Here's hoping." I said softly. Dash could instantly tell something was wrong. He crossed his legs and plopped right down on the floor next to me, sitting Indian style with a hand on my leg.
"So how about you?" He asked. "How are YOU feeling?"
"I dunno...ok, I guess."
"If you have to guess, then that's a no." I shrugged my shoulders and didn't offer very much else in the way of chit chat, but he was beyond patient with me. I guess he always had been.
"I've had some tough decisions to make recently. It's been tiring to even think about it all the time." I saw Dash looking at me, listening to every word, and stopped myself. "I'm sorry. You don't need to hear about all of this. I'm sure you get pounded with sad stories all the time."
"If so, then one more won't hurt." He said.
"Don't you...don't you ever get tired of hearing it though?"
"Well, I'll admit to being a bit weary from time to time. Even some of my assistants say that my smile doesn't shine as brightly as it used to. Then again, my interactions with people have become a lot more cryptic, it's not that lighthearted fun stuff that it used to be. So yeah, I suppose that there are moments when I want to run screaming in the other direction and just share a smile with somebody instead. I suppose it's just one of the natural side effects of letting the horrors of the world into your life. I think you truly begin to see how much...pain is out there. And how very little you can do to stop it." Dash stared off into space for a moment or two. "It can make you so very brittle emotionally, to have so many people put their lives in your hands. Especially with problems this severe." Then he looked back at me. "But I cherish every single moment of it, Justin. And I won't turn my back on them. I won't turn my back on you. Ok?" I think Dash wanted to help, but was also aware of the fact that I wasn't really up for talking about it. I'm baffled as to how he can keep it all straight in his head. I would have been insane if someone needed me that badly every single day. If I had to be perfect and flawless in every possible way in order to help them. Knowing that my slip ups, my mistakes, could cost them more than I was willing to deal with. I guess a part of me didn't want to talk about my problems, and another part of me didn't want him to have to add it to the pile. So I kept quiet and left it alone. Dash, quite honorably, changed the subject. "So that was your boyfriend? The Taryn boy?"
"Um...yeah. He is."
"He's cute. And you two make a cute couple." He smiled. "I noticed the band on your arm when you first got here. It's still showing pretty strong on you. That means it's genuine. That means it's 'real'. It's a special thing to meet someone like that." Then Dash rolled up his sleeve, and on the smooth surface of his skin, I saw that he had a band of his own. Almost the same, but the design was slightly different.
"You've got one too???" I said, seeing another bond for the first time since my crossover.
"Yep, sure do. I share it with a very special person in my life. He means everything to me."
"Where is he? Is he here?"
"Well...no. It's a bit more complicated than that. I feel him in my heart all the time, but...we don't get to see each other all that often." His smile dimmed a little bit, but stayed present. I think more for my sake than his. "It's a very long story..."
"This place was built on very long stories." I said, quoting Xairen's words. "I've got all eternity to listen. Besides...it'll help me avoid some of my own stories for a while." I said. "So what's his name?"
"Hamish. His name is Hamish." He didn't try to hide the fact that his face lit up ten times over when he said the name. "It seems like just yesterday that I saw him. He was beautiful. I can remember every detail, every line, as though it just happened five minutes ago. I haven't counted a single year since we've been together. I don't have to. There's just time together, and time apart. That's all that matters now."
"So...where is he?" I asked.
"Overseas. Far far away overseas." He looked over at me, and then stretched out his legs to get more comfortable. "We met in a sanctuary, much like this one. Laying low, staying out of trouble...he was one of the human helpers on staff there at the time. We talked, we laughed...it was so easy to fall for him. My mind and my heart and my body all pointed in the same direction and just...click...it happened." Dash's expression changed slightly, to one of slight discomfort. "But the sanctuary didn't last. It was raided by hunters a few months later. The carnage was unimaginable. They had no conscience at all, and cut as many vampires down as they could get their hands on. It was awful. Hamish and I made it out alive, as did most others. But the sanctuary itself was burned to the ground. Just like many other sanctuaries before it, I suppose."
"And Hamish had to go away?"
"Not really. But he plays a very important part in not letting things like that happen over and over again. When too many vampires congregate in one area, they collectively give out a signal. It's almost like a mental beacon of sorts. Not even Frog can mask it for long, it's deeper than technology. They can detect the signal, and they'll find us. So we have to keep our populations down as much as possible, to avoid a total wipeout."
"How do you do that?"
"Well, a lot of vampires just need a temporary hostel. Someplace to get off the streets and lay low for a while. But for more serious matters...those of us who can never again be seen on the surface...we provide them transportation to other parts of the country, sometimes the world. Plces where they might be safe." Dash said. "There's a community of people out there who help those who can't escape their demons, to find a way out. Hamish aids a small resistance of rebels, smuggling vampires from one place to another. Once a vampire makes the Hunter List...it's more dangerous for them to stay still than it is for them to keep moving. They need more than the shelter that I can provide them with here."
"What are 'Hunters', Dash? Why do they want to hurt us?"
"They don't 'want' to hurt us, Justin. They're ordered to..." Just as he said it, one of Dash's nurses came in and asked for his assistance with one of the children on the other side of the compound. "I'll tell you more about...well...everything, later. Ok? I'll send someone in with another cot for you to sleep on since your friend seems to have gotten so comfortable here." He smiled.
"Are you coming back? I really need some answers here, and I'm running out of places to look." I said. He made no promises, but told me that he'd be there the next evening after Bible study if I needed him. And he was gone...leaving me alone with my thoughts once again. Dwelling in the confusion that my world is perpetually lost in. It was maybe four hours until dawn, and since Gyro wasn't going to be much company tonight, I figured I'd explore the place a little bit more. The next hour was spent watching everyone wind down for the night, until the rooms became dead quiet. The children had a bit more energy, but they were hardly running around like the were
Walking the long hallways of the old sanctuary, I became aware of a gentle disturbance in the silence around me. It was almost inaudible, but there was definitely a feeling of movement coming from around the next corner. I followed the sensation until I came to a small room with a sandy floor. Inside of the room, was Twilight, and she was practicing. She was always practicing.
I looked on without saying a word. She was blindfolded, and guiding her movements slowly with grace and precision, perfecting her fighting techniques to a level that went beyond being human. Then again, I guess she would have to. She never stopped pushing.
"It's not polite to stare." She said suddenly. I was caught.
"You heard me?"
"I sensed you. The air around me feels more 'full' when someone else is in the room." She said, and stood at attention as she removed her blindfold. Her ice blue eyes came into view, the beauty of their glow only conrasted by the serious scowl on her face. "How is your friend?"
"Better. I think he'll make it through just fine. He'll be good as new soon."
"Good. We don't need extra occupants right now. His very presence here jepordizes our safety." She said, and walked over to grab a towel to wipe the small beads of sweat from her brow.
"Gee...don't be too friendly or anything." I said sarcastically. "I thought this was supposed to be a sanctuary for those in need."
"It IS. But what it is NOT is a boarding home or a soup kitchen for you to bring in whatever drugged up friends you happen to run across in the street." She tossed the towel into the corner, and put her watch back on.
"Gyro is NOT some 'drugged up' stranger! He's my friend. He needs help, and you guys are equipped to give it to him. I brought him here because I THOUGHT I could trust you..."
"Make no mistake, Justin. I couldn't give a rat's ass about you OR your friend! I do security! THAT'S my job! And anything that creates a conflict between me and my ability to DO that job is to be dealt with immediately. You are putting all of us at risk by bringing your friend here under such circumstances, and if it were up to me, you'd BOTH be out on the streets!"
I could feel the hostility boiling in her mannerisms, and I began to feel a twinge of it myself while looking at her eye to eye. "Well Dash seems to like having us here just fine." I replied, expecting a confrontation. But something happened to her. Her mood changed. Instantly. Her focus shifted away from me completely without warning. Similar to an attack dog that had suddenly heard a strange noise from outside. I started to speak to ask her what was wrong, but she put up a hand to silence me before the words could even leave my mouth. "Shhhhhh....." She whispered. I could almost see her wheels turning, her senses on high alert, reaching out as far as her humanity would allow. She didn't move, she didn't even breathe, and her eyes moved slowly from one end of the room to another.
"What is it?" I whispered softly.
"The meter on my watch...it moved." She said.
I looked down at it, and it was waving, only slightly, but she took notice of it right away. "What does that mean?"
"It means someone is using a low level transmission to communicate." Twilight became more tense as the needle on her watch slightly jumped again, and I could feel her digging in to the very ground beneath her with her feet. Preparing herself. "Someone is whispering into a receiver...and they've gotten inside somehow." She looked up at the ceiling above us. "We've got 'visitors'."
She then pushed me aside as she quickly finished drying the sweat from her face with her sleeve, and walked over to grab her fighting sticks from the corner of the room. I watched as she began getting ready, gearing up for one hell of a fight from the looks of it. I was left standing there, confused, wondering what the hell was going on here. "Wait a minute. Wait...what's happening here?"
"Go! Now! Find Dash and make sure that the children are safe."
She gave me a stern look as she pulled on a pair of black leather gloves, and a black mask to cover her face. "HIDE!" She moved swiftly out of the room like a soldier, and I had no choice but to follow her out, turning in the opposite direction once I reached the hallway. It was strange, I couldn't sense ANYTHING. Nothing at all. That damn 'Frog' machine was suddenly put on high and dulling my internal radar so much that I was completely lost as to what was going on. How a 'human' could detect trouble before I could, I'll never know. But I suppose that's Twilight's job. And I'll be damned if she isn't good at it.
I moved quickly through the dimly lit hallways, and happened to run into Dash as I was running out of places to search for him. "Dash! Dude...Twilight told me to find you..."
"Yes, I know. I saw the signs." He said. "It's too late to avoid a confrontation now. They've already breached the outer perimeter. They'll be here any minute." It was then that I could hear the footsteps of people right above my head. The ceiling began to drip particles of dust down on us as the footsteps got harder and more urgent. We were being 'invaded'...and there was nothing we could do about it. The gig was up. Dash turned to me with an urgent look in his eyes. "Find your friend, take him to one of the more secure rooms and keep him safe. Do NOT come out of that room no matter what! Do you understand?"
I nodded, but was startled by the sudden sounds of gunfire upstairs. The shots rang out and echoed through the halls of the underground lair. The footsteps got closer, now charging further downstairs, and a loud banging began to thunder throughout the sanctuary as they tried to force their way in. Whatever it was on the other side of that door, they were not going to be held back for much longer! "Dash..." I said. But he merely pushed me in the direction of Gyro's room.
"GO!!!" He shouted, and he ran forward towards the wall. Then, without saying a word, he put his back to the wall and I watched as a secret compartment swallowed him up by spinning him safely to the other side. It happened so fast that it took a second or two for my mind to adjust to what had happened. It was a neat trick.
A few loud crashes got my attention, and I had to get out of there. I ran back into the room where Gyro was laid out, and he seemed to have rolled out of the cot and found a somewhat more comfortable spot on the floor underneath it during his few brief moments of consciousness. I covered him up from head to toe with blankets, as though it would act as some kind of protection from the enemy trying to force its way inside the compound. Gyro wasn't awake, but he was still shivering slightly as the drugs in his system attempted to take over his young body and finish him off. If he hadn't been a vampire, he would have been dead by now. All I could do was stay with him and pet his soft hair gently as he fought off the deadly poisons inside of him. Poor kid, he's got a hard time ahead of him while this stuff works its way out.
I heard another loud ruckus in the distance. And what sounded like a small army of people came rushing into the hallways of our fortress. That noise was quickly followed by the shouts and screams of the inhabitants of our little world down here. Mostly the young ones. I wasn't sure who the intruders were, or why they were here...but there was no doubt about it....they were coming this way!
I got up to my feet, more out of fear than anything else, leaving Gyro on the floor, and remianed perfectly still. I listened for the footsteps, trying to find out where they were going. And it wasn't long before I started creeping forward towards the doorway of my darkened room to see what was happening. I tried not to make a sound, but I forced myself to keep moving. I could hear a struggle in the rooms above and around me. Fighting, grunts, shattered furniture, and an occassional gunshot. Dash's team of well trained monks were definitely doing what they did best, but I began to wonder how effective they could possibly be against whatever it was upstairs. I peeked outside of my door, and could see a few men through the dust and rubble in the hallway. Athletically built, soldiers in their own right, and moving in some kind of strategic formation through the maze-like area. They were dressed in all black uniforms, and hurriedly went charging through the halls in their search. In the dark, their outfits were barely visible, except for bright green neon visors that they wore over their eyes. Possibly to help them see in the dark. And if they needed that apparatus to see, that meant that they had to be human.
I ducked behind the doorway as they ran past, and I could hear more fighting going on up ahead. The shit was really hitting the fan in this place, and while there may have only been 15 or 20 of them, there were enough intruders there to do some real damage if something wasn't done to fix the problem soon. Looking back at Gyro on the floor, I wondered if it would be ok to leave him there. Just for a moment. He was helpless, completely passed out and unable to fend for himself. If anything were to happen to him, I'd never forgive myself. And if RAIN ever found out, she'd wipe me out of existnce for SURE! My conflicts kept me still and silent for the time being. But I knew that something had to be done, and despite my secrets...I knew that I could help.
Just then, a few of the young boys I had seen earlier ran past my room screaming, as they were being chased by the men in black. That's when I saw another small hole in the wall open up instantly...and Dash grabbed the two boys, pulling them into the wall with him. He disappeared with them just as quickly as he had arrived, and the two men couldn't get behind the wall to get at him. Dash must have had an entire network of secret passages behind the walls, and he was using the entrances and exits so swiftly that I doubt anyone would be able to react before he was gone again!
The men raised their machine guns and began shooting at the wall with the hope of breaking through. The symphony of gunfire drowned out the shouting of the sanctuary's residents, still frantically running back and forth in the halls. I had to cover my sensitive ears to keep from going deaf. The men stopped shooting and tried kicking the secret door in, but to no avail. The wall stood just as solid as it had before. The two men were so involved with their persuit, that they didn't notice a small hatch open up over their heads. That's when I saw Twilight quickly drop down from the ceiling onto both of the attacking enemies in the hallway, catching them by surprise! The two men fought valiantly, but Twilight was MUCH too fast for them, and she rendered them completely unconscious in a matter of seconds! The way she moved, her speed, her strength...it had to be seen to be believed. Those fighting sticks of hers had practically crippled them with the first few blows. The rest was easy after that. It was an honor to watch her work.
Twilight made sure that they were out for the count, and then moved her way over to me. "They're scouts!"
"They're here searching for something. Or for someone!" She said, and then heard another noise from around the corner. "Get back in your room! Stay there!" She shouted, and ran down the hall to confront the enemy head on. Twilight put a hand on the scout's shoulder and seemed to practically run up the side of the wall as she flipped over and brought him down hard to the floor below! As she moved out of sight, I was able to catch a glimpse of her fast moving shadow as she began going toe to toe with anyone that stood in her way. There were some flashes of light against the wall as the ment tried to fire off rounds in her direction. They didn't get much of a chance. She was on them before they could aim the barrel. And the ones that took the time to aim, never got to pull that trigger. They were no match for her, I could see that as she put all of her hours of training to use with brutal precision. It was then....that I felt it again.
My arms began to twitch, my legs, my senses heightened themselves to such an intense level that the hair on my arms stood straight out on its end. My body was 'readying' itself without a single command. I could feel my shoulders drop, my stomach tighten, my body was stretching itself out for combat. It worried me, my mind still full of images from the last time that I let my instincts take over. I could still feel the sickening connection between my fist and Taryn's face. The sensation that I felt when I struck out at Dion, Max, Jenna....my friends. My 'family'. It brought me back to that moment in the classroom when I unleashed all of my fury onto the boy who had pushed me soooo very far. I didn't want to do it. I didn't want to lose that control again. I went back into my room and leaned against the wall, hoping and praying that I could keep my composure. My body tensed up even more as the noises got louder, and the fighting outside my room got more fierce. The monks were holding off the guards with all they could give, but the soldiers pressed on. I could hear it, I could 'feel' it. I had to clench my fists to keep from doing something I was going to regret. SHIT!!! What do I do? What do I DO???
My mind kept telling me that I couldn't get involved. I SHOULDN'T! I had to keep this under wraps. I was already in big trouble for exposing my abilities and not laying low like Comicality told me to. Shit...for all I knew....these scouts were sent here to find...ME!!! I can't keep fighting out in the open like this. I'm putting everyone I know and love in danger by doing so. And I can't leave Gyro here by himself either. I'll just...I'll just stay here. Just like Dash and Twilight instructed. They know what they're doing. They're TRAINED for this kind of thing. They know this place better than anybody, it will be ok.
That's just what my mind was telling me. But my heart, as always, had other plans...and my mimic abilities were siding with it. My knuckles popped, and the energy built up in my limbs like a caffeine rush. It felt like a blast of 'anger', rage even, but without the emotion attached. It was purely physical. The kind of sudden uncontrollable impulse that causes you to strike someone after they had crossed that line that you weren't expecting them to. My eyes were struggling to turn a dark shade of blood red, and I could feel the crimson blush taking over my vision as my fangs fought to be freed from their prison. NO! NO DAMMIT!!! Stay calm! Don't do it! DON'T!!!
I stayed hidden as I heard a small crowd of screaming children run past my door in terror! And Kyra was one of them. They came spilling into my room to hide from the war in the hallway, and as they passed me, they grabbed at my hips and tugged at my shirt...standing behind me with the hope that I could give them some protection from the monsters attacking the place that they had been calling home for so long. "Don't let them get us!" They shouted. "I wanna go home!" They cried. "I'm SCARED!" They shrieked. They were just KIDS! My fists unclenched themselves, and my instincts burned hot in my veins. I didn't think I could hold it much longer.
The noises outside got louder, the crashes more explosive, and the soldier like footsteps rumbled closer. The boys and girls crowded around behind me tightly, even Kyra, showing the first sign of true fear that I had seen on her face since I had been there. And I looked up just in time to see one of the intruders enter through the doorway of the room. I used my outspread arms to keep the kids behind me, and gave another quick glance to Gyro on the floor in the corner. This was it, it was fight or flee. And I was NOT about to let these kids be hurt! I felt my body energize itself to full potency as I let go and allowed it to prepare itself to strike.
"Search the rooms! EVERY LAST ONE OF THEM!" Came another voice from outside, and the man moved forward. His arm reached out for my shoulder. It was a definite mistake.
My body reacted the second he touched me. His outstretched arm was broken immediately as I grabed him by the wrist and used my other hand to strike at his elbow! He screamed out loud, and my leg raised to deliver three quick kicks to his ribs and chest. Then, with one strong forward kick, I sent him flying back out of the room and against the wall! The room fell silent, and when I looked back the kids were standing there wide eyed like they had just met Santa Claus. "Don't move, ok? Stay in here where it's safe." They didn't answer, instead backing up from me and lining themselves against the wall next to Gyro. "Watch my friend for me. I'll be back for him." They nodded in unison, and I walked out into the hallway to face whatever was coming my way. I hope Comicality taught me enough to get through this.