Don't Look Too Close, You Might Go Blind

Breathing deeply of the damp early evening air, the warrior took his time sorting through the pungent city odors. The acrid smell of engine oil mixed with radiator coolant warred with the sour stink of decaying food.


Hunter mentally crossed another four square block area off his list... then cursed the others for the cowards they were. The second the sun had disappeared below the horizon he had started his search. He understood Quinn not coming out until the light was fully gone, the kid was too young and his skin would have begun to itch and peal in a matter of minutes. But the others... no excuse. Pathetic. Knowing them, they had probably only been out on the search for half an hour now, while he had been out for three times that long. And they were the ones who acted like they cared about the kid!

He scratched at another patch of skin that had begun to redden and peel off. Thanks to an overcast sky heavy with rain clouds and his keeping to shadows, he had been able to get outside the second the sun disappeared below the horizon thanks to the two thousand years he had under his belt. Didn't mean it didn't hurt like a bitch though. Felt like a thousand tiny daggers had been hammering into every inch of him. And he didn't even like the little shit. The kid had humiliated Hunter, made a fool of him. Nobody makes a fool of me! He was going to get the kid back in one piece if only to make him miserable for the rest of eternity.

As he ran the four blocks to where he would do his next search, an unwanted memory slipped past his defences to torment him. He had been just a boy, maybe nine or ten, not yet turned. He had also gone by a different name back then, one he prefered to forget. It was the afternoon before a big dinner celebration for something he had never bothered to pay any attention too. The Atriensis, a freed slave in charge of the day to day running of the household, had asked him to assist in the preparations by shelling a basket of peas. Being a pleasant day and the kitchens hot and crowded, Hunter had taken his basket outside, sat next to the well in the courtyard and set about his task. One thing no one could ever accuse Hunter of, even as a child, was half-assing a job. Even one as simple as shelling peas.

He had been almost three quarters finished when the other boy came bursting out of the stables yelling at that there was a fight just outside. His concentration on his task broken, he became aware of the yelling of a crowd on the other side of the gates.

"Come on! I bet they kill each other!"

"I can't" he said as the other boy skidded to a stop next to him. "The cooks need these and I'm almost finished."

The other boy, whoes name was Aeneas, sneered down at him. "Your afraid again, aren't you? Why else wouldn't you want to see? They have daggers! You have to come!"

He cringed at the reminder of the last time there had been a fight outside their gates and he hadn't gone to watch. The other boys had taunted him mercilessly for months. It wasn't that he was scared, he just didn't see the point in watching two fools beat on each other for some imagined insult or slight. He just didn't care. But he also didn't want the other boys making his life even more miserable than it needed to be.

So he carefully placed the bowl of peas on the ground next to the basket and followed a now grinning Aeneas out the gates and into the crowned street beyond to watch the fight. From the angry words exchanged between the two as they slashed at each other, the fight was indeed because of a stupid slight. The one man hadn't been invited to the other man's dinner party the previous night. So of course he had to kill him. Hunter rolled his eyes. It was all so stupid. Aeneas cheered gleefully and Hunter sighed in relief when the man who had thrown the party plunged his dagger into the slighted mans heart. Good, I can get back to work.

But when he walked back through the gates into the courtyard his stomach dropped to his feet. One of the stable hands was leading a horse back into the stables while the Atriensis held the now empty bowl in his hands.

It wasn't like Aeneas wasn't beaten too, he was. And it wasn't even like Hunter blamed the other boy for not latching the stall of the horse he had been brushing properly. He had made the choice to leave his task. He had let Aeneas goad him into leaving and watching the fight. Lesson learned. Never again would he let someone else talk him into doing something he knew he shouldn't.

At least he thought he had learned the lesson, until John had asked to go outside when Ash had said to take him to his room, and Hunter had taken pity on the kid. Only to be betrayed and humiliated by the little shit!

Coming to a stop he took a few deep breaths to calm his thundering heart. Not from the run but from the emotions that had built inside him as the memory had played out. Closing his eyes, he concentrated on slowing his heart rate, then breathed deeply. The same smell of oil and antifreeze drifted up from the road and parking lot next to him. There was less of the rotting food, but he was close enough to the waterfront now that the briny scent of the ocean was present. And... Yes! It was barely there, but he could smell blood, lots of it.

As his boots thundered down on the pavement he continued to breath deeply as he ran, following the sharp, acidic scent almost to its source. When he was sure he was only a block away he headed for a large warehouse looking building and climbed to the roof.

Staying low he made his way to the other side and peered over the edge. When he saw what was there he knew he was in the right place.

The old water treatment facility, of course! He only allowed a moment to chastize himself for not guessing it right away. Large underground room, water... should have known. His eyes searched the area and spotted a security camera, its blinking red light evidence of its current use. Then he spotted another one, and another. By the time he counted six, all aimed at the supposedly abandoned facility, he new without doubt this was the place.

Hunter flipped open his phone and dialed Ash.

"I found him. He's at the old city water treatment facility down by the docks."

"Positive, the smell of human blood is very strong here. Plus there are active security cameras all around the area."

"The roof of the building one block east... OK."

Shoving his phone into his back pocket again he went to the edge of the roof and looked over just as a taxi sped by. He watched as it stopped on the next block, letting a group of humans out who went into one of the buildings there.

It's still too early he thought to himself. There's too many humans still on the streets to mount a full on attack.

The enemy had chosen well. The entrance to the underground facitily was in the open with no cover to allow an attacking force to sneak up on them. Plus the lights of an all night diner were a reminder of how populated the area was.

Damn it! Hunter looked away in disgust. How the hell are we... His eyes had drifted over to the other side of the roof. What the...!

* * * * * * * * * *


Gideon watched as the most beautiful female he had ever met took something out of the display case and placed it on a plate for Dante. He, Dante and Nat had found the coffee house a couple weeks after arriving in Ascention Bay. They had all agreed the place, called Wired, served the best coffee in the city. And so it had become their regular meeting place.

The others came for the coffee and pastries. Gideon came for Sarah. He was a sucker for red heads, but add to that freckles and a body with soft, womanly curves... yeah, he was a goner from the first second he laid eyes on her. Too bad she was human.

Gid had tried a relationship with a human once before, a few centuries after he had turned. Cecilia. What an idiot I was, to think she would stay with me... He of anyone should know better than to look at a human the way he was looking at Sarah. But...

"Don't go there my man."

"Huh?" Gideon looked up to see Dante back in his seat at the table. "Uh, I don't know what you mean."

Dante looked pointedly back into the coffee shop at Sarah. "Sure you don't."

"I... look, I"m not..." Gid barely began to protest when he saw Acheron and Quinn arrive. Thank you for small mercies. Quinn was scratching furriously at his arms. Poor guy, we did warn him about being outside too early. Gideon felt a surge of pride in the new recruit for knowingly causing himself pain to try and help his roommate. He'll make a good warrior one day, if only he would believe that himself.

"I take it from the grim look on your face you didn't have any more luck than we did?" Dante asked a clearly pissed off Ash.

"None. I was so sure, from Quinn's description, that Bogtown would be the place but..." Gid knew it was never a good sign when their leader looked defeated. And right now, Ash looked like someone had hit him up side of the head with a baseball bat.

"OK well, that's Bogtown and the Industrial Park on the south side crossed off the list. That's something right?" Gid had to suppress a smile at Dante's attempt to make Ash feel better. The Roman really was a good male. "So the next most likely areas... who wants to do which?"

Before anyone could answer D, AC/DC's 'HIghway To Hell' started playing.

"About time" Ash growled as he pulled his phone from his pocket.

"Where the hell are..."

"Are you sure?"

"Where are you."

"Stay there, we're on the way."

"Hunter has found him, at the old city water treatment facility" Ash said as he shoved his phone back into his pocket.

"The WTC... *ugh* Of course!" Gideon felt the shame of not thinking of that right away wash over him. So much for my genius level IQ. And the fact that it was Hunter who found the kid didn't help his ego any.

"So what do we do now?" Quinn asked.

"We need to get our hands on blueprints of the facility" Ash said, clicking over into leader mode. "Gid, you and I will go to the city archives. Dante, Quinn, you meet up with Hunter to look over the situation there and try and figure out the best approach to the facility."

Gid was a little surprised Ash was sending Dante to meet up with Hunter with only Quinn there to play potential referee if the two got into it. The poor kid didn't stand a chance. But what the bossman spoke the bossman got.

Gid took one last look through the window. Sarah was restocking the imported bottle drinks behind the counter. He thought about the last time he had spoken to her. It had only been for a moment as he paid for his cappacino, but he had made her laugh, and the light that had danced in her eyes... Sigh. Get a grip Gid, she's a decent person, why would you ruin her life by getting involved with her? Humans had such an idealized idea of immortality, of how great it would be to live forever. But when that forever included being surrounded by others that you could never have relations with...

With a sigh of regret at what would never be, Gid tore his eyes away and followed Ash out onto the cold, dark street.

* * * * * * * * * *

Etienne sucked in a breath as he recognized the male crouched on the roof of a building a block east of them.

The grey eyed warrior, merde!

Memories flooded back from a few months ago and the last battle they had fought against the Order. Etienne had been doing exactly what he was now, watching security camera feeds on a monitor. Only then he had watched as this male and three others had torn their way through a dozen Rogues and then coldly held Hector down and executed him.

Not that Etienne mourned the loss of Hector, the guy had been a grade A asshole. Only with them a couple years, the ego maniac had strutted around like he ran the show, rather than the pawn he really was.

They were all pawns. He knew that now. Pawns in Mr. White's demented game of revenge against the Order for who knows what slight they gave him in the past. He knew this after Pemberton and the way his Sire had brushed it off as no big deal, just a bump in the road despite almost a year of planning. Etienne would had walked there and then if he didn't need his Sire's blood. Except... did he?

His thoughts turned to the captive. The kid hadn't fed from a Sire or any other of them. He knew it for sure now having gone back and tasted his blood a second time. Mr. White had lied to him. And if he lied about that...

Mr. White had fed and fed from Etienne most of the time. The thought of which in itself made him cringe. It had taken a while, in the beginning, but he had eventually learned how to turn his conscious mind off and just let Mr. White do what he wanted until the feeding was over. But occassionally his Sire had needed to travel alone to other cities on business for long periods of time and Etienne had needed to feed himself. As long as you feed from me again within a new moons turn you'll be fine.

Liar! Anger began to boil in him as he thought of the humans he had fed on, of what he had done... Because of lies!

Movement on the monitor snapped him back to the here and now. The grey eyed warriors angry face filled the monitor for half a second before the feed blinked out. Well, if there was any doubt about him knowing we were here, there isn't now.

Pushing away from the computer he got up and began pacing the grimy, mould infested office. He was so tired of all of this, the hiding, the moving, the lies, the... everything. But what were his options? Stay and do as he was told, knowing the truth? Try to run? He knew that was pointless. One of Mr. Whites talents was to track those he had tasted the blood of. There was no hiding or running from him. Try and defect to the other side? After Pemberton he didn't see them givng him a warm welcome. Besides, as much as he knew Mr. White had been lying to him about some things, he had seen first hand in his own surveilence that there was a definite rift between the Order and the Clans. Which meant there had to be some truth in what he had been told about that. Right?

Etienne sighed heavily as he realized he didn't actually have any options.

"What is he doing?" Mr.White's voice cut through him like a cold blade.

"I... I was just coming to get you. He finally noticed the camera he had missed and smashed it."

To Etienne's surprise his Sire laughed at this news.

"Good! That means he's angry, and angry males make mistakes. He'll have noted the large number of humans near by and the lack of cover for a large force to approach this facility. I know this warrior well. He'll try to rescue the whelp on his own now that he knows we know he's here."

Etienne swallowed hard as Mr. White's excitement washed over him.

"We need to be at our strongest and there is little time."

"Come share of my strength my son. I can feel it, the time is now. By sunrise tomorrow the Order will be in chaos and the world... will be mine to devour."

* * * * * * * * * *

"I'm not seeing a lot of options Gid."

Ash didn't like what he was seeing. There were only three ways into the facility that they could find. One was an air shaft that dropped straight into the middle of the facility. That would have been a good option if it had been wide enough for more than just one of them to fit into at a time, which it wasn't. There was an emergency exit, situated at the end of a hallway that looked to be over two hundred feet long. A couple of men could sit at the end of that and mow them down with ease. Of course there was always the front door, that had security cameras trained on it from every direction and its own hundred foot hallway before taking a blind corner into a massive, wide open central area.

"It does look grim," Gideon said scratching at the back of his neck. "Maybe we could make our own entrance? Dig down above here..." He pointed to a spot above what looked to be a storage room.

"With all the humans in the area? I dont' think so." Ash ground his teeth in frustration. "Damn, they really chose this place well."

"Well... the air shaft gets my vote then. If we jump down one right after the other, rolling away towards these structural supports for cover... I'd give us a fifty-fifty chance."

"Those aren't the kind of odds I like to hear Gid."

"No, but they're the best we've got."

Ash looked at the other warrior. He didn't need to read Gideon's mind to know they were thinking the same thing. This was a suicide mission, but there was no way they were going to just walk away and leave without John.

"Right, air shaft it is..."

Ash quickly flipped open his phone as Cindy Lauper's 'Girls Just Wanna Have Fun' made both of them jump after the quiet of the archives office.

"Yeah D? What's the sitch... what?! Damn him! We're on our way."

"Shit, what now?" Gid asked.

"Hunter is gone. We need to get down there before this whole operation blows up in our faces before its even begun."

As they ran down the deserted streets of the city Ash cursed Hunter in every language he knew, which was quite a few. He knew exactly what the ancient warrior was thinking, and it tore at Ash's heart despite his anger. Hell, Hunter probably didn't even know why he was so determined to save John. Probably thought it was duty or pride. But Ash knew. He knew Hunter's past was clouding his better judgement and making him wreckless and dangerous. Not just to the enemy but everyone else.

As if we needed another wrench thrown into this disaster! Now they needed to not only get to John, but get to him before Hunter did something he would regret.

Ash and Gideon found Dante and Quinn on the roof where Hunter had been.

"Over here," Dante said in way of greeting. He led Ash over to the other side of the roof where a secuity camera lay smashed. "Looks like he missed one."

Shit! Well that explains why he slipped over the edge into stupidsville. Hunter did not take failure well. He no doubt would pin this on John as well.

"Ash," Gid said while scanning the surrounding area. "It's been about an hour since he called. If he saw that camera right after that..."

"I know, I know, everyones screwed. But he could have only seen it right before these two got here, which means there's a chance still."

Ash knew they still had a chance. If John or Hunter were dead he would know. He couldn't see into his friends while they lived, but when they died their entire lives would pour into him. Every thought, emotion, moment... But he wasn't about to let any of them know that. Nobody wanted to know their entire life, every secret, embarrassment, mistake, would be laid bare for someone else to examine when they died. No, this was one talent of Ash's that it was best they didn't know about.

"Dante, fade back to the compound and grab the weapons and equipment we need, including two sniper rifles so we can take out those cameras. They'll know we're here but at least they won't see where we're hitting them from. Quinn, there's an airshaft coming out of the ground about ten yards from the nouth west corner of that building. I need you to get into the building and find the closest exit point to the airshaft. Gid, find the best spot over there to the south for one sniper to take out half the cameras, I'll do the same over there. Any questions?"

He was met with only silence and the determined glint in his warriors eyes. Gods, please don't make this into another Pemberton. I can't go through that again.

"Right, let's do this."