12-12-1999

Standard Disclaimers Apply

 

Pyractomena Borealis Part V

 

"Mr. Maxwell, how kind of you to accept our invitation." the vampire said, smiling pleasantly.

Tony let go of me like I was suddenly red-hot. I wasn't expecting it and barely managed to save myself from falling over with an undignified little stumble that turned into an even bigger undignified stumble because the room must have drunk too much beer since it was tilted at a pretty strange angle. The only thing that saved me from even more embarrassment was Wufei catching me and holding me up like good ol' Tony had been doing. I gave myself a calming minute so my head would stop trying to come apart at the seams before I finally looked up to take another good look at the situation. The vampire was still smiling politely at me, his expression betraying absolutely nothing. Tony and Angelo were now standing on either side of him in classic bodyguard poses. They were both trying to cross their arms, but their own muscles were getting in the way. Kind of sad. Angelo was openly smirking at me, his little pointy teeth hanging half out of his mouth. Well gee, it was nice to know that someone was having a good time. I glared at him and refused to be embarrassed; it's a fact of life that the only way someone can embarrass you is if you feel ashamed, and as Heero is fond of telling everyone, I have no shame.

"Nice invitation." I muttered at the vampire, now that I was composed enough to actually talk. He raised one of his bright yellow eyebrows at me. He wasn't used to sarcasm, I guess. I pointedly, if gently, ran my hand through my bangs, which were stiff with dried blood that flaked off onto my fingers, then raised my eyebrow right back at him just in case he hadn't gotten the hint. "Normally, people call or send a card."

The vampire twitched, or at least I think he did. The change in expression happened so quickly that I could have been imagining it. "I must apologize for that." he said. "I gave strict orders that you were not to be harmed, but it seems that my servant became a little over zealous."

"Just a little." I heard Wufei mutter.

The vampire continued on smoothly like he hadn't even heard Wu. "His insubordination will be dealt with, have no doubt on that. He is already most apologetic for his mistake. If you like, you may ask him yourself."

It seemed he was expecting an answer, so I gave him what he wanted. There didn't seem to be a need to piss him off. Playing along sounded like a good idea until I could figure out what the hell was going on. "Where is he?"

"Right behind you."

I automatically looked back, my free hand (the one that wasn't hanging onto Wufei's shoulders for dear life) reaching for the gun that I didn't have any more. There wasn't anything behind us, though, just the big chest. I glanced quickly back at the vampire. He hadn't moved at all, and he just kept smiling that same smile, which brought me back to the chest. The big, huge almost, wooden chest that had iron strapping on it and looked like it could withstand a fall off of the top of the Eiffel Tower. The chest that was definitely big enough to put a person in, if you broke some bones so they could bend appropriately to fit into it. It seemed really familiar.

I turned back to the vampire again. He was smiling more now, so that the tips of his fangs were peeping out, looking kind of like a little kid that was showing off his favorite toy. But what kind of toys would vampires have? I suddenly realized where I'd seen something like that chest before.

A while back, Heero and I had spent a couple weeks at a boarding school in England. The history class I was in had gone on a museum trip, and I'd gotten bored with what we were looking with and wandered off to check out some of the other parts of the museum. I'd ended up in the medieval section, right in the middle of a room full of torture devices. There'd been one, a big chest with iron strapping on it, that had spikes all on the inside of it, like it was a miniature, portable iron maiden. Oh shit.

The vampire must have seen my eyes get a little wider, because his smile broadened. "If you like," he said, "I can release my hold on him and allow him to scream. Or if you don't believe me, you may open the chest and look for yourself."

"Thank you for the offer," I said quickly, "but I'm ok. I believe you." I was pissed with the vampire that threw me against the wall, by grace of the fact that I'm not terribly fond of people that make me bleed, but I wasn't that pissed. I would never be that pissed. Yeah, if I had the chance, I'd shoot the vampire on the principle of the thing, but that was different. Dead was dead. It was clean. Not torture.

And suddenly, I was very impressed. All it took was a threatening piece of furniture and a relatively friendly question, and I was mentally chasing my own tail. Why bother with blood and ungraceful nastiness when you had your audience's imagination working for you? This new vampire was good. Very good. I'd thought that I'd had the score after I'd tangled with Kalin, but it was very obvious that he'd been small fry--very stupid, unsubtle small fry. I was playing with the big boys now.

"Alright." I said. "I give. I'm impressed. Now, who are you and what the hell do you want?"

Angelo started turning a nice shade of boiled lobster red and took a step forward, but he stopped the instant the vampire raised his hand. The vampire suddenly lost all expression like someone had just flipped the smile switch off. "Mr. Maxwell, I have been very, almost overly polite up until this point because I am interested in keeping relations open and friendly at this time. Do not expect my courtesy to extend into the future if you are rude to me. That would be a mistake on your part, and probably your last."

I shrugged non-commitally. Pissing the vampire off more didn't seem like a good idea, but at the same time, apologizing didn't seem too smart either. Something that I didn't quite understand was happening. The vampire was annoyed at me, yeah, but he and Angelo and Tony were watching me with an intensity that had nothing to do with anger. I had a funny feeling that I was in some kind of dominance contest and I was being tested. Failure didn't sound like a good option. I'd been avoiding looking the vampire in the eye up until now, mostly because I still wasn't totally sure about the immunity thing...looking the guy in the eye would probably at least put me on something close to equal footing. So I took a deep breath, braced myself, and looked him right in the eye.

They were just eyes. Thank you God. Nice eyes, yeah, a real sharp, bright blue, but there was no power in them that I could feel. It was all good.

If the vampire was surprised, he didn't show it. Instead, he just sat back after a moment, and looked away. I knew that he was trying to stare down Wufei now. Good luck to him. "My name," he said after another pause, "is Johannes. I was the Master of Berlin, but I have left my home city on the behest of those higher than me, to come here."

"That's nice." I said.

Johannes raised his eyebrows, but didn't comment. I decided not to push him too much further unless he gave me a good reason to. "Six months ago, a Master named Kalin was sent here." he said.

When he didn't continue, I nodded. It was obviously audience participation time.

"You killed him." Johannes said. It was a statement, not a question.

I didn't see any reason to deny it. "Yeah."

Johannes folded his hands neatly in front of him on the desk. His fingers were very slender and white, the skin perfect. "Kalin was a weak fool." he said. "No one cares that you killed him. I certainly don't. However, I have been sent here to complete the job that he so thoroughly botched."

I shrugged.

"Let's not beat around the bush, Mr. Maxwell. I want the Master of Tokyo."

I shrugged again. "That's nice." I said.

Johannes looked annoyed. "Don't be coy, Mr. Maxwell."

"You want to kill the Master of Tokyo. That's fine. That's great." I said, spreading my hands and letting a bit of my bewilderment show for effect. "What do you want me to do about it?"

Johannes leaned forward. "I want to know where he is."

I opened my mouth to say something, but Wufei beat me to the punch. "What makes you think that we know?" he said.

"It is well known that Kalin was sent here for. You killed him. It is a logical conclusion that you must be working for the Master of Tokyo."

"Woah, there, big guy." I said quickly, grabbing the conversation right back from Wufei. "I think your logic needs a little work."

"Oh?"

"Yeah. The thing is, I don't work for vampires." I smiled. "I kill them. So there's no way I could be associating with this Master of Tokyo guy, because if he's a vampire, it would be my obligation to..." I let my smile get bigger, "...cap his ass."

Johannes smiled politely. "You have a way with words, Mr. Maxwell."

I grinned at him. "Thanks, I try."

"It's a pity that I don't believe you."

"Yeah it is." I shrugged, "Because what I'm saying is true. I don't work for vampires."

Johannes stood--wait, stood wasn't the word for it--seemed to just flow out of his chair. It was too graceful to describe it any other way. "That is a pity as well then, Mr. Maxwell." He walked slowly toward Wufei and I. We stood our ground. Barely. I could feel tension singing through Wufei's muscles; he really wanted to get the hell out of there, but then again, so did I. There was no way for us to escape, though. He stopped in front of us, leaning in so close that his nose was almost touching mine, and his eyes were boring into me. I might be immune to their power, but the sheer force of personality behind them was pretty damn intimidating. "It would be a mistake not to work together on this, you see." he said very quietly. His breath smelled like peppermint, but there was the dull, earthy undertone of old blood lurking underneath the sweetness.

"Really." I said, as nonchalantly as possible considering the fact that there was a vampire literally in my face.

"The fact that the Master of Tokyo is a threat to both humans and vampires is immaterial at this time, Mr. Maxwell, though it is something that you should keep in mind. You have a larger threat facing you instead."

"Which is...?" I asked.

"Me." Johannes said, very pleasantly. "And you'll notice that while I am not as large of a threat as the Master of Tokyo, he is not here. I am."

Before I had a chance to say anything else, all the hair on my arms suddenly stood on end as a wave of cool, electric energy rushed over me. My eyes widened. My initial impression had told me that Johannes shouldn't have this much power. I had a sinking suspicion that I was wrong.

"How old am I, Mr. Maxwell?"

More energy crashed into me. I was surprised that my braid wasn't standing straight out from my body. "Shit..." I whispered.

"How old am I?" he asked again.

"You're eight hundred years old." I said, "Maybe older."

Johannes smiled; I could feel it. "When the printing press made its first bible[1], I was there, Mr. Maxwell. I was the first to touch the pages."

"You must not have been a vampire, then." I said.

"In that, you are correct," he said, "I was still a good Christian man. I am no longer bound by that, however."

For just a moment, I thought that there was a flicker of sadness in Johannes' eyes before I managed to regain my mental feet. "What do you want?" I asked quietly.

"I already told you, Mr. Maxwell. I want the Master of Tokyo."

"I'd give him to you if I could, but I've never even met the guy. You should believe me." I said.

Johannes stepped back, and I could suddenly breathe a lot more easily. "If you do not know where he is now, you will, very soon." The vampire turned and walked back to his desk, where he sat down between Tony and Angelo again. "You have one week."

"What?" Wufei asked, very sharply. I was busy fighting off an attack of the heebie-jeebies, which was why he beat me to the punch.

"You have one week to provide me with the location of the Master of Tokyo, or I will kill you and you friends, as well as level the school that you are currently attending." Johannes smiled pleasantly, as if he were inviting me out for a game of bingo instead of threatening to kill me and a lot of other people.

I tried to play it cool, even though I was on the verge of a panic attack. This guy wasn't Kalin; I could tell that he wasn't stupid. I could also tell that he didn't believe in making idle threats. The enemy was back, and he was at least as smart as me and a hell of a lot older. We were screwed. "Don't you think that's kind of...overkill? I mean, threatening to kill off me and the guys is one thing, but going after civilians is considered to be very uncool these days."

"I think, Mr. Maxwell, that you are hardly one to preach about overkill."

Ouch. He had me there.

Johannes continued, "All in all, I prefer to think of it as ample motivation. I will complete the mission that I have been set here for. Failure is not an option for me in this matter, and thus, failure will not be an option for you."

Great. And now he was beginning to sound like Heero. I was starting to feel very worried. "Can we go now?" I asked. The street doesn't raise morons; I knew that I was outclassed and I needed to beat a strategic retreat until I had a chance to regroup.

"Yes, you may leave." Johannes said, leaning back in his chair. Wufei started backing us up toward the door; neither of us wanted to leave our backs vulnerable to the ghoul squad. "Oh, and Mr. Maxwell?"

We kept backing away as nonchalantly as possible. "Yeah?" I said.

"If you attempt to harm or destroy me, I will kill you and your friends, and I will level your school."

"That's nice." The walls suddenly felt like they were getting very close. Damnit, now was not the time for an attack of claustrophobia.

"Just so that we know where we stand." Wufei stopped; we'd reached the door. Johannes just continued to smile at us. "Angelo, please, show them the door."

Wufei was still attempting to open the door. For some weird reason, he seemed to be having a problem with it. Angelo started walking toward us, and I decided that I'd had enough intimidation for one day. "Did it ever occur to you, Johannes, that even though it's a bad idea for me to piss you off, it wouldn't be smart of you to piss me off? People that get on my case don't have a good survival record."

Johannes leaned forward. "Really. That's nice to know."

The coppery scent of fresh blood wafted by me. I knew where it was coming from...I knew it, but I didn't want to look. God, I didn't want to look.

I looked anyway.

There was blood seeping out of the bottom of the chest, creeping slowly across the floor and soaking into the carpet like some kind of blob monster from an old B horror movie. There was a soft sound, just at the edge of my hearing...oh god, it was a sound of pain, someone whimpering because they didn't have a voice left to scream with. There was a loud thump, and I jerked and almost lost my grip on Wufei's shoulders. I jerked my gaze toward the source of the sound--Johannes' desk. The vampire hadn't moved at all--he might as well have been a statue--but Tony was on his knees, his hands clenched into fists, a look of need so intense that is was almost pain on his face. Slowly, he began to crawl toward the spreading puddle of blood on his hands and knees, like he was some kind of animal. Johannes and Angelo didn't make any move to stop him; hell, Angelo looked like he was about ready to follow suit. I couldn't look away, no matter how much I wanted to, as Angelo crawled closer and closer to the blood, and the whimpering sounded more loudly in my ears with each passing moment.

Angelo reached out on huge, shaking hand, and dipped his fingers in the blood, bringing them toward his mouth like he was going to suck them off...

There was a loud crash as Wufei yanked the door open, and he jerked me through. The whimpering turned into screaming as soon as we crossed the threshold out into the hall, and there was more screaming, except it was a sound that no human throat could hope to produce, and laughter.

Wufei and I booked it for the door at the opposite end of the basement as fast as we could. We didn't stop running until we were back at the school.

 

 

[1]The Gutenberg Bible, which was the first bible to be made using the first printing press. It was completed on or around August 15, 1456 in the town of Mainz, Germany.

 

--
Katsu no Miko (ICQ me! 13773131)
Wufei no Seishi
Keeper of Duo's Angst
Duo's Grand Inquisitor and Head Torturer
Keeper of Duo's Stake, Mallet, and Browning .40 Hi-Power III
AND: Keeper of Ad's Sanity! (*snicker* What sanity?)

"Erst wenn die Wolken schlafen gehen/kann man uns am Himmel sehen/
wir haben Angst und sind allein.../Gott weiss ich wil kein Engel sein..."
(~Ramms+ein~)