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RPG Shinigami Dance

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[FONT="Tahoma"][CENTER][B]Dead To The World[/B][/CENTER]
Vampires! Phaidra could see no reason why any of them would lie but? she shook her head a bit. It still made no sense. Why would the Council lie about something like that? Why would they send Reapers in unprepared to deal with vampires? Their whole purpose was to maintain the balance of life, not carelessly throw it away like that. It just didn?t add up, she couldn?t see a reason to keep something like that under wraps.

Wouldn?t it be better to deal with the problem before it got out of hand like it had in the past with the war? The whole thing was leaving her with far too many questions that she had no answer to. She looked to Sarvel who looked back, her tail twitching ever so slightly. Phaidra recognized that slight narrowing of her eyes even in her fox form. Sarvel didn?t like it either. Phaidra didn?t even realize that she had been clasping her hands together tightly until Chris spoke.

?[B]There?s no need to be so nervous[/B].?

With a start Phaidra looked up into Chris? understanding gaze. ?[B]We won't take any unnecessary risks. If we can?t get enough information to know what we are facing then we?ll simply leave.[/B]?

Phaidra nodded. ?[B]I just don?t understand why the Council would have sent you into something that was a death trap. Wouldn?t it be better to ask about it instead of trying to find out ourselves?[/B]?

Phaidra felt awkward when the others just stared at her like she was missing something blatantly obvious. ?[B]Well wouldn?t it?[/B]? She finally asked when no one said anything.

Nathan?s gaze was serious, ?[B]Don?t you think it would have been better if the Council told you that vampires still exist in the first place?[/B]?

It took Phaidra a moment to see what he was getting at, but when she did, she felt rather foolish. ?[B]If they were going to inform people, they would have already done so instead of letting us think they are gone.[/B]? She sighed. ?[B]I still don?t understand.[/B]?

?[B]That?s why we?re going.[/B]? Nathan said simply before turning back to what he had been discussing with Lucia.

?[B]Right,[/B]? Phaidra shifted a bit before continuing. ?[B]You were telling me about your familiar earlier and I was wondering...[/B]?

She looked from Chris to the birds, ?[B]What?s your name?[/B]?

The question had barely been spoken when Phaidra and Sarvel were hit by an odd sensation as if they were being bathed in a warm summer breeze just as a cloud passed over the sun. [I]Hunh? [/I]Confused Phaidra glanced at Sarvel who looked equally as confused. How in the world could it feel like a warm summer breeze inside Nathan?s apartment at night?

?[B]That?s my familiar?s name.[/B]? Chris chuckled lightly at their baffled expressions. ?[B]Communication is done in sensory input and images instead of words.[/B]?

?[B]Oh![/B]? Phaidra was relieved. ?[B]That was kind of startling. I couldn?t figure out how I was getting that kind of impression inside at night no less.[/B]?

?[B]You get use to it after a while.[/B]? Chris leaned forward slightly. ?[B]That reminds me, you do know that elementals have the ability to sense vampire?s right?[/B]?

Sarvel sat up. ?[B]What are you talking about?[/B]? This was news to her. No one had ever told her that she should be able to tell when vampires were around. [I]Did she mean?? [/I]

?[B]During the war elementals served as trackers because of their ability to sense vampires.[/B]? Chris leaned back into the seat. ?[B]It would be like finding a different type of sick spot, one that moves.[/B]?

?[B]Would it be like dead spots that move[/B]?? Sarvel?s ears slicked down against her head.

?[B]That?s one way to describe it. Vampires do give off an aura of one who has cheated death.[/B]?

?[B]So that?s what those irritating dead spots are,[/B]? Sarvel growled.

Phaidra rested her right hand lightly on Sarvel?s back. ?[B]She?s been complaining to me about sensing dead spots that move since we came to Earth. I?m sure you understand how elementals feel the need to set things right so it?s been nagging at her to go and fix them ever since we arrived.[/B]?

Chris nodded. ?[B]It would be best if you did not do that on your own though. Taking care of vampires isn?t as simple as sending a human on their way.[/B]? She looked directly at Sarvel. ?[B]I know it feels odd, but what you are sensing is perfectly normal for vampires. I recommend that for now you use that sensitivity to avoid them.[/B]?

?[B]Very well, for now I will do as you advise.[/B]? Sarvel replied after thinking about it for a moment. [/FONT]

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[COLOR="RoyalBlue"][FONT="Lucida Sans Unicode"][CENTER][SIZE="3"][B]In Flight Movie?[/B][/SIZE][/CENTER]
The group had not left immediately for where the vampires had been situated. It was one thing to arrange a meeting and yet another to find a time where all of them could take off and visit a location several states over from their current assignment. Dealing with the Count had been far simpler as it hadn?t been all that far from the city but this was easily several hours away, even with Ruby and Nall doing the flying so they had to wait a few days before they could leave.

They were evenly split with Nathan, Chris and Isen riding on Nall while Phaidra, Sarvel, Alex and Lucia were riding on Ruby. Lucia might have enjoyed the scenery more if she hadn?t been feeling irritated with Nathan. She knew she shouldn?t let it bother her - but to see him using the communicator for watching a movie during their flight - just had her wanting to grind her teeth in frustration. It certainly didn?t hurt anything but it still annoyed her just the same.

The occasional sound of laughter could be heard from the other group who had positioned themselves so they could see what was on the tiny screen of the communicator Nathan was holding. Her group, other than the soft sound of Alex talking with Phaidra and Sarvel, was quiet. Nathan pocketed the device once they were getting close though and for a brief moment Lucia wondered if she should have just let them watch something when Alex asked instead of glaring at him.

The location of the vampires looked like nothing more than a harmless mountain resort. Nestled back up in the Colorado Rockies away from some of the larger cities and yet close enough for convenient access. It was just below the tree lines of a smaller valley that was barely large enough for the large mansion and surrounding amenities. There was only one road leading in from the south and it was barred by gates that were guarded by humans.

The group came into land to the north, just far enough away to be out of sensing range for any vampires. It was close enough that they could see that even if the vampires were gone, someone was still using the place. Their feet had barely touched the ground when with a nod Chris went to the right and Isen to the left, both of them appearing to melt into the shadows of the trees as night was just beginning to fall.

They had already discussed the basics of what they were going to do before they had arrived. While the two scouted a bit Lucia would see if she could hack into any computer systems if they had any. She ignored Phaidra and Sarvel who were doing something to look for magical traces and focused on scanning for a connection that she could tap into, a moment later and she smiled.

?[B]You found an entrance I take it?[/B]? Alex though keeping an eye out had also been watching what she was doing.

?[B]Surveillance systems, I?m hacking into it right now.[/B]?

Several minutes later Alex frowned, ?[B]That?s taking you a while. Is their security better than the military?s?[/B]?

Lucia shook her head. ?[B]No, it didn?t matter if the military knew someone had hacked into their systems so I didn?t bother to mask the entry. If we are going to do more than just gather information here, it would be better if they didn?t?ah, there we go.[/B]? She tuned him out and focused on what she was doing instead.

Alex walked over to where Nathan was standing between two trees looking down into the valley studying it. The two just stared in silence for a while.

[B]?If we do go in there does that mean?[/B]? Alex started to say.

?[B]Yes.[/B]? Nathan answered without bothering to turn around.

He moved forward until he was standing on the other side of the tree to the left of Nathan, studying the resort as if trying to see it as Nathan did. Surprisingly the place was well lit. The Count?s location had been shrouded in darkness. Did that mean that the vampires were gone? He turned at the sound of Lucia coming up to join them.

?[B]I got a map of the facility as well as a list of those who have access to the security system.[/B]? She told the others. ?[B]I would have to spend more time watching it to determine just how many there are, but so far I?ve seen just over twenty different people there. I can?t tell if they are vampires or not though.[/B]?

?[B]I can feel ten moving dead spots down there.[/B]? Sarvel stated in a matter-of-fact tone as she and Phaidra also joined them in looking down from among the trees.

?[B]Although there are traces of magic in the area, there are no active wards that I could detect.[/B]? Phaidra smiled nervously. ?[B]Though that doesn?t mean there aren?t any that are shielded. It would take a much more intensive look to determine that and doing so could be picked up by another magic user.[/B]?

Nathan glanced briefly at Phaidra and nodded before turning his attention back to the resort, still saying nothing.

?[B]There?s another thing you?ll want to know. There are caves behind the main building going back into the mountains, but there was no map of them in the system. However, one of the security cameras watches the entrance.[/B]? Lucia forwarded the feed to Nathan.

?[B]There is some sort of Cavern underneath the main building too.[/B]? Sarvel asserted.

?[B]Oh? Is it connected to the caves?[/B]? Nathan asked without looking up from the screen of his own communicator.

?[B]Let me check.[/B]? Sarvel said even as she started to streak past the group to get closer.

Without even taking his eyes off the screen Nathan?s left hand shot out snagging Sarvel?s tail as she attempted to go around him.

Sarvel gave out an undignified squawk when Nathan?s gentle yet firm grasp brought her to a sudden halt. She glared at him when he finally let go and she floated back over to sit next to Phaidra, her tail twitching in irritation.

?[B]Teamwork Sarvel,[/B]? Nathan reminded her gently when he finally turned to look at her. ?[B]Not working together is what got the others in Chris?s team killed. Don?t try to go off on your own like that.[/B]?

Sarvel looked down at the ground, her fur flattening down against her body as did her ears. ?[B]I?m sorry.[/B]? She said apologetically. ?[B]I didn?t mean to.[/B]?

?[B]I know.[/B]? Nathan turned his attention back to the city and the feed of the surveillance system. ?[B]Once Chris and Isen finish scouting we?ll decide what to do next.[/B]?[/FONT][/COLOR]

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[COLOR="Indigo"][CENTER][B]Questing Souls[/B][/CENTER]
[SIZE="1"]If there was one thing Gavrie never got tired of, it was surprising those he was training. The wide-eyed look of dawning comprehension was always fun to watch. He enjoyed seeing that process, even if it was but a glimmer of the true potential one had for fighting. It was a shame that for whatever reason the Council had decided they no longer needed those skills. It never stopped him from making sure those few who could learn more in the short time he had with them did.

What he was going to do next was something he hadn’t done in quite a while and that was teach the pair about battle tactics. If Adrian had understood that concept at all, it was likely that he would not have done as he did, blindly charge right into the Count’s trap. He would have known to gather more information first, but that was hardly his fault and even that was no guarantee that things would go well. It wasn’t that his actions were so wrong but rather the reasoning behind it was flawed.

He waited patiently until Karl and Adrian were completely caught up in training before turning to Astera with a wry smile. “[B]Well now Astera, I think it’s about time that we started your training.[/B]” His grin broadened when she turned to look at him, an expression of bewilderment on her tiny face.

“[B]Me?[/B]” Her voice rose a bit, “[B]But I can’t fight like…[/B]”

“[B]Who said anything about fighting?[/B]” Gavrie let that sink in a bit. “[B]Eventually you will be learning how to better use your defensive magic to work in sync with Adrian, but there is no reason why you can’t learn about battle tactics and strategy until we're ready to start that training.[/B]”

“[B]Besides, it will serve the dual purpose of…[/B]” Gavrie paused to smirk a bit at the sound of Adrian cursing as he was once again sent head over heels by Karl to slam into one of the posts surrounding the training area. “[B]Teaching him to not let what you are doing or thinking distract him from fighting.[/B]”

“[B]I guess so.[/B]” Astera said hesitantly after cringing when Adrian cursed colorfully again as he scrambled back to his feet.

“[B]I know so.[/B]” Gavrie assured her. “[B]Not only will it help him learn to have more than one thought in his head, but he’ll also learn what I'm teaching you at the same time on account of your bond.[/B]”

“[B]Well true, it’s just that…[/B]” Astera hesitated and Gavrie just laughed at her expression.

“[B]I already know how much it annoys him Astera,[/B]” He said sternly when she gave him an indignant look. “[B]This is to benefit both of you. Now, let’s get started.[/B]”

So they had sent [I]him[/I] out to help deal with the vampires in the area. Gavrie snorted in disgust. The damn war had been going on far too long on account of their carelessness in not realizing the blight that had been springing up right under their very own noses. The war, if measured by time as the Shinigami understood it, was short. If one looked at it through human eyes or that of many of the creatures that inhabited the Earth then it was more than a life time.

It had been raging for around thirty five years if he remembered how humans kept track of time correctly. They needed to put an end to it and soon. Many of the other species that inhabited the Earth were in danger of extinction. Not just from the war but from the vampires who sought to subjugate and control the other races for their own ends. In a way it was their fault for not correcting the imbalance in the first place.

“[B]Why do you care fool?[/B]” He said to himself as he finally made his way back to where the others were. Gavrie had not meant to be gone so long, but long walks were often the only thing that really helped to clear his mind. He would be leaving soon since he had been reassigned, but not before they moved to take care of a wave of advancing vampires in the area.

He wasn’t interested in doing those kinds of assignments anymore, but he wouldn’t refuse the order either. He supposed he should at least be glad he’d be around for the next skirmish to look out for as many of his kind as he could. So many of them were far from ready though giving them that time was not a luxury they could truly afford.

“[B]There you are![/B]” Kevin grabbed him by the shoulder the moment he was back at their makeshift camp. “[B]The vampires are on the move, everyone has already left to go and deal with them.[/B]”

“[B]I see.[/B]” Gavrie pulled his mind back to where it should be only to realize that Kevin was right; those who would be fighting were indeed on their way out. If he hadn’t been so wrapped up in his own thoughts, he would have sensed it sooner. He swore as the two of them moved swiftly to catch up with the others.

“[B]You know,[/B]” Kevin said casually. “[B]He was looking for you since you’ve been running the show ever since Jake was killed.[/B]”

“[B]Too bad.[/B]” Gavrie said flatly and then with a mental twist he called his scythe to land snugly in his right hand. The sounds of fighting could be heard echoing through the trees and moments later the pair flew out from among the trees. The small army of Reapers were sprawled out among the clearing, facing a force of what had to be at least a thousand vampires.

The sight before them was one of controlled chaos as the forces following the newcomer fought to hold back the advancing group of vampires. Foremost in the fray was none other than the man in blue himself as a flash of blue here and there caught Gavrie's attention. It looked like he was fighting alongside a werecat as well. [I]Interesting.[/I]

He paused at the spectacle as he watched him in motion. The man was impossibly quick and utterly lethal, nothing like the others he had worked with. That had been Jake’s problem, sure the guy had known strategy and tactics, but his actual fighting skills had been pathetic. Gavrie and the others had not been quick enough to save him when he had been overrun by a group of vampires. He shook his head and with a sigh began to move to join the uneven battle.

Gavrie had known that they were outnumbered but seeing it in person put things in a whole new light. The sounds of dying and fighting even from where he was located were deafening and he took a deep breath to steady himself. Movement from the right brought him to a halt as he turned to look and with a start he realized what he was seeing. A small party of vampires were moving in swiftly for a hit and run tactic. [I]If there are more of them… [/I]

“[B]Damn![/B]” He grabbed Kevin who had stopped to see what he was doing and pulled him close. “[B]Go and warn them, there are probably more hit and run groups like this one.[/B]”

It was a common tactic and the same one that had gotten Jake. The vampires would take advantage of their greater numbers to do quick hit and runs, sailing in to literally focus on one or two Shinigami and then flee immediately.

“[B]What are you going to…?[/B]” Kevin pulled free. “[B]No Gavrie, there are twenty of them, that’s too many for you to fight alone.[/B]”

Gavrie ran his staff through his fingers in a half twirl, bringing his dual spiritual blades into play at the end of the swing. “[B]I’m not so easily dealt with, now go![/B]” He shoved Kevin in the direction of the main party and then called forth one of his other tricks. It was not without risk but it would be more than enough keep him intact for a pass or two before he would retreat to the main group as well.

With a feral grin he made straight for the vampires, not bothering to hide his approach. To their credit they only hesitated briefly at the sight of the lone Reaper charging them before changing their direction to meet him head on.[I] Perfect. [/I]He was less than ten feet from the foremost vampires when with a tiny gesture with his right hand he released the technique.

The closest vampires were shoved aside by an unseen force and then before the others could realize what he had done, he ran between them. Their tiny hesitation upon seeing their comrades shoved aside gave him the opening he needed to whirl the staff above his head in a lethal arch as he lowered it a tad to neatly take off the heads of the closest two before whirling in place to smartly take off the heads of another two.

Gavrie didn’t wait for them to come to him as he turned around again upon clearing the group who was attempting to move to counter him. With a smirk he raised his left hand and sent a wave of purifying fire racing towards them, they scattered to avoid the flames as Gavrie used the moment to prepare for his next move.

He switched hands with the scythe effortlessly in order to gesture again with his right hand, knocking the vampires rushing him over. With a grimace he then turned to focus on a few coming at him from the left. [I]Just a few more and then… [/I]A glancing blow slammed into him, barely deflected by the technique he was using and the force of it sent him reeling backwards, but not before he ran his scythe through one of the vampires in front of him.

With a jerk he yanked it free and turned swiftly, the point of the blade running along the ground until he brought it up swiftly in an arch that took off the head of the vampire who was behind him. Another glancing blow on the right this time sent him sprawling and he rolled with it coming up just in time to shove the other end of his scythe through the chest of the vampire moving to impale him.

[I]Seven down…[/I] he thought even as he rushed the closest two, grinning widely at their surprised look when he unveiled yet another trick to take both of them out at the same time. With another laugh he back flipped out of range and whirled to head for the main group at top speed. He could feel the remaining eleven hot on his trail, their rage over how he had made it look easy almost palatable. It was going to be a long battle.

“[B]There you are! I’ve been looking all over for you[/B]!”

Gavrie looked up from where he was lying on the ground staring at the sky. With a groan he got up. “[B]Can’t you see I was resting?[/B]”

“[B]You can save that for later.[/B]” Kevin scowled at him. “[B]For a while there I thought they had gotten you.[/B]”

“[B]I told you it would take more than a small group like that to do me in.[/B]” Gavrie grinned.

Kevin’s right eyebrow shot up, “[B]And I suppose you just let them get you a bit so they’d feel better about dying.[/B]” He looked pointedly at the slash marks that were running across Gavrie’s chest and arms.

“[B]Naturally.[/B]” Gavrie said dryly.

Kevin shook his head, “[B]Well never mind that, at least you made it out in one piece. Though you still need to go and give that guy a report before you head out for your next assignment.[/B]”

“[B]Actually,[/B]” Gavrie grasped Kevin’s left shoulder. “[B]I’d prefer it if you took care of that. I’m in no mood to talk to anyone and you can tell him everything he needs to know.[/B]”


“[B]Take care of yourself Kevin, I expect you to tell me all about your exploits when this damn war is over with.[/B]” He let go and turned and walked off into the trees without bothering to look back.[/SIZE][/COLOR]

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[CENTER][B]You Won?t See Me Coming[/B][/CENTER]
Alex wasn?t surprised when the others returned and the discussion starting swaying in favor of actually taking care of the vampires, or rather in favor of getting in there to get more information. That was his first instinct, to deal with them, once he got over the desire to run that is. Training or not, he still felt uneasy at the idea of facing any vampires. He was learning a lot from Nathan, but he knew he was far from being able to fight like he could. Alex hadn?t realized that he had sighed a bit until Nall spoke.

?[B]It?s not like you?ll be alone this time you know.[/B]? His voice was only loud enough to carry to Alex from where he was sitting on his left shoulder.

?[B]I know Nall; I can?t help but feel like I?m not ready though.[/B]?

Nall snorted. ?[B]The only way to know if you are is to try. Besides I?m sure Nathan wouldn?t agree to the idea if he really felt like it was too dangerous.[/B]?

Alex nodded. ?[B]True, I don?t see him as the type to take unnecessary risks.[/B]?

?[B]Exactly, so quit worrying over it and just do your best.[/B]? He batted Alex with his paw before turning his attention back to what the group was doing.

?[B]Fine,[/B]? Lucia was saying. [B]?If we?re going to go in there then give me a minute to record some of the footage for the surveillance system. That way I can insert a program that will loop the recording showing that there is no one there. They won?t even realize that the feed isn?t live anymore.[/B]?

?[B]You can do that for all of them?[/B]? Phaidra was leaning over and looking at what Lucia was up to with her device.

?[B]Yes.[/B]? Lucia replied without bothering to look up at her. She was too busy focusing on what she was doing in order to subvert the system. [B]?It?s not exactly the most advanced means of keeping watch of the grounds.[/B]?

?[B]What do you mean?[/B]?

?[B]Human technology is primitive,[/B]? Lucia answered her. ?[B]What else would I mean?[/B]?

?[B]Oh? right.[/B]? Though it was obvious that Phaidra didn?t completely understand Lucia and Alex just chuckled a bit to himself at the thought. He didn?t get Lucia or human technology either. He had no need to, though now he was wondering if perhaps he should have learned more. What Lucia had in mind would be handy for misleading them.

Alex couldn?t help but think that it wouldn?t stop the vampires from actually being able to sense them. He was pretty sure that Sarvel?s ability to tell where they were was better, but at the same time he was still picking up on some of them. Only when they were closer to where they were hiding though and he certainly hoped they couldn?t sense his presence. He was certain that Nathan probably knew if they were too close or not. Yet another thing he needed to talk to him about. [I]I wonder if there is a way to hide your own aura.[/I]

?[B]You?re going to suggest the front gate aren?t you?[/B]? Isen?s expression was calm.

Nathan grinned, ?[B]Of course, the obvious route is more fun.[/B]?

?[B]For you perhaps,[/B]? Chris folded her arms. ?[B]You better not be thinking of making me the diversion for this.[/B]?

Nathan shook his head. ?[B]They might recognize you and miss [I]?people person? [/I]here would just glare at them.[/B]? He grinned even more when Lucia paused briefly to stare flatly at him before going back to what she was doing.

?[B]I was thinking that Phaidra would be perfect.[/B]?

?[B]Me?[/B]? Phaidra squeaked nervously. ?[B]What kind of diversion are we talking about here anyway?[/B]?

?[B]Someone needs to approach the gate so their attention will be elsewhere.[/B]? Nathan explained patiently. ?[B]Chris and Alex will take care of the two guards and the rest of us will be close by.[/B]?

?[B]Okay.[/B]? She answered hesitantly after thinking about it for a moment. ?[B]What if they want to know why I?m here though?[/B]?

?[B]Wing it.[/B]?

?[B]The program is ready,[/B]? Lucia looked up. ?[B]The longer it?s running, the sooner they will realize something is wrong. It would be best if we get into position before I start it.[/B]?

?[B]Right, let?s get going then.[/B]?

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"So I just . . . walk up to the guards and talk to them?"

Nathan and Phaidra strode down the dirt road leading to the resort's front gate, tiny puffs of dust rising with every strike of their shoes. Sarvel the fox floated to Phaidra's left, quiet since the violation of one of her tails earlier. Nathan hoped he hadn't permanently scared the little thing.

"Something like that, yeah," he replied encouragingly. He knew the fox's owner was scared, or at least a little trepidatious, at the prospect of handling such an exposed role fresh out of her homeworld. He at least had been afforded almost four centuries to build up his confidence before being tossed into the frayâ??and he hadn't started with covert missions, either.

"It shouldn't be a problem, really," he went on. "Just talk to them. You'll be fine. Sarvel should probably stay out of sight, though," he added thoughtfully. "Painted foxes might make people suspect something. Especially bejeweled ones." He gestured at the Elemental's markings and decorative trinkets.

Sarvel sniffed. "Silly humans." The remark made Nathan grin.

Phaidra wasn't convinced.

"Won't they suspect something anyway?" she asked.

"Well, yeah, but that's mostly because they won't be used to dealing with people on foot, or in the dead of night," explained Nathan. "But that can work to our advantage.

"See, if you just walk up and ask to be let through, they'll most likely turn you away. It's their job. But if you keep talking, and make up some ridiculous story that you think no one in their right mind would believe, they're liable to hesitate and make sure it isn't true because no one in their right mind would make it up. They'll think they have to check and make certain it isn't, and that's the diversion Alex and Chris will need to get behind them and get rid of them.

"It's a principle I've used many times before: people will believe a lie, especially a strange lie, because they're afraid it might be true. And the more you act like it's true, the likelier they are to worry that it really is."

He stopped and faced her.

"And don't worry about anything going wrong. I'll be nearby the whole time, and if I think you're in trouble you can't get out of then I'll step in and do something." Privately, he figured it would have to be something utterly ludicrous, but he didn't think it would come to that. Phaidra looked like a woman who had been used to giving as well as getting orders, so he felt she was completely capable of assuming the attitude required to cow the guards into confusion.

He clapped her shoulder.

"I'm going to step off the road now," he told her, "but I won't be far." He grinned again. "Knock 'em dead."

With that, he glided past the shinigami mage and melted into the shadows.

Phaidra briefly wondered how that was possible with the garish outfit he wore.
Edited by Allamorph

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[FONT="Tahoma"][B][CENTER]Irreversible Taint[/CENTER][/B]
?[B]Just walk up and talk to them?[/B]? Phaidra muttered to herself. ?[B]About what though?[/B]?

She let her feet continue taking her up the road to where the gate was located, the sharp scent of pine filled the air and the twinkle of stars could be seen even with the lights from the resort shining brightly into the night.

A few minutes later and she was close enough to realize that though the two guards were clearly human, there was something odd about their spiritual auras. It was as if sensing when their time to die was clouded by murky waters. She could still determine it, but not without probing deeper. Phaidra knew that vampires considered human blood a source of energy. Was this what happened to humans when fed upon by vampires? Did it somehow taint their auras? It was a known means of turning a human into a vampire after all.[I] Interesting.[/I]

The gate area was lit up by two small posts with a light at the top, one on each side. The left side housing what appeared to be a small building with a window where cars could pull up alongside it. It was placed far enough from the actual gate for cars to pull up before the gate proper. It had its own light shining down on the spot where someone would stop to talk to the guards. Phaidra stepped into the light and made straight for the building as if expected.

She was less than ten feet away when the door to the small building opened and the two guards in question came out to confront her. Instead of stopping Phaidra veered directly towards them and smiled warmly.

?[B]That?s very polite of you to come out to help me.[/B]? Her smile widened a bit at their confused looks. ?[B]I don?t suppose you have something I could have to drink? I?m a bit tired and worn out from all the walking.[/B]?

Phaidra waited patiently for the two guards to respond, coming to a halt when she was about five feet away from the two men.

?[B]You need to leave.[/B]? One of them finally said.

?[B]Why? I can?t supervise the preparation of the party buffet if I go back home.[/B]? She placed her right hand on her hip and scowled just a tiny bit. ?[B]If the party has been canceled, don?t think you can just send me away and get out of paying the cancellation fee. My services aren?t free after all.[/B]?

?[B]Look lady, no one has a party in the middle of the night and no one said anything about more staff being hired so beat it.[/B]?

She placed her other hand on her hip and leaned forward a tiny bit, grinning inside at their odd expressions as they got even more confused when she didn?t do as told. ?[B]Now you look here young man. I was hired to help out with a special party and I didn?t drive all the way out here for you to send me back home. The only one who can do that is the owner of the resort who hired me.[/B]?

She snorted lightly. ?[B]I don?t take orders from you.[/B]?

?[B]Wait, what car? If you have a car, why are you here on foot?[/B]?

Phaidra rolled her eyes, ?[B]I would have thought that was evident. It broke down obviously. So I walked the rest of the way since it?s closer than heading back to the city. Why else would I be arriving so late?[/B]?

She sighed dramatically to cover her own surprise at realizing Alex and Chris had already gotten close to jumping the two without her noticing. [I]I wonder how they did that.[/I] She shoved the thought aside.

?[B]Look, how hard can it be to just give the main building a ring and let them know I?m here? You don?t want to get in trouble for turning away an expected guest do you?[/B]? She stared at the two and cleared her throat when they didn?t answer. ?[B]Well?[/B]?

?[B]Fine, you stay here though.[/B]?

Phaidra smiled sweetly, ?[B]I can do that.[/B]?

The first guard turned to head for the building only to take one step backwards in surprise when coming face to face with Alex. Before he could react Alex slammed him with a swift uppercut to the jaw that sent the guard flying to land on his back. To her utter shock, Chris, after knocking the guard to the ground by hitting him on the back of the neck, killed the man before moving to finish off the other one that Alex had knocked out.

?[B]What the hell did you do that for?[/B]? She objected heatedly. ?[B]I thought we came to deal with the vampires not kill the humans![/B]?

?[B]They were tainted.[/B]? Chris said unremorsefully. ?[B]You don?t leave something like that behind unless you enjoy getting stabbed in the back when you least expect it.[/B]?

?[B]But...[/B]? She started to object and then nearly jumped out of her skin when Nathan placed his right hand on her left shoulder. She hadn?t even felt him come up behind her.

?[B]We can discuss this later, now is not the time.[/B]? He removed his hand after Phaidra finally nodded.

There was no point in making a fuss about it now. The others knew far more about vampires and humans who were associated with them than she did. Lucia?s program was running, they didn?t have the time to discuss it then. She was going to demand an answer later though. She nodded grimly to Sarvel who as if sensing she was upset floated over to land on her right shoulder and nuzzle her cheek before hopping off to land on the ground next to her.

The others had already joined them and as soon as Alex and Chris had moved the bodies of the two humans into the building, they went through the gates and up the road to enter the resort. Phaidra wished she had known that they were going to actually kill the humans. The others didn?t seem all that concerned by it, but it bothered her. [/FONT]

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[COLOR="RoyalBlue"][FONT="Lucida Sans Unicode"][B][CENTER][SIZE="3"]Ask Me If I Care[/SIZE][/CENTER][/B]
Lucia wondered briefly if someone should say something to Phaidra since it was clear that she was upset by Chris?s actions. Though like all thoughts along that line, it was quickly forgotten and she focused instead on paying attention to their surroundings and they entered the main building of the resort. She was using her communicator to follow the surveillance feed since she was still tapped into it. Lucia assumed that Nathan was doing the same as he led them through the building without hesitation.

It did not bother her when Nathan and Chris along with Alex dealt with another two humans who crossed their path. She could tell that something was off about them though and she did like she always did. She got scans of the two. Lucia kept her scanner set to obtain scans automatically but she still checked to make sure it had done so. Once they were done dealing with the vampires she would review the data.

It took them less than ten minutes to get to the outside of the main security room for the facility. Lucia was wondering what Nathan had in mind when he motioned for the group to come closer.

?[B]We need a different kind of diversion for this[/B].? He looked directly at Lucia. ?[B]We don?t want them setting off the alarm if we can avoid it.[/B]?

Lucia nodded. ?[B]I can handle that.[/B]? She knew just what to do to get their attention long enough to keep them from being able to raise the alarm. This was one area she was familiar with, working with humans in regards to computers.

?[B]Good, all you need to do is get their attention for a few minutes so Chris and Alex can get in there without them noticing.[/B]?

The two looked at Nathan and then with a brief nod the pair separated and went different directions, ghosting through the walls as they moved into position.

?[B]We?ll be close by should you need us.[/B]? Nathan told her.

Lucia nodded and then with a mental twist she changed to her less formal clothing before moving down the hallway to the doors leading to the security. There was a small touch pad to the side of the door and she pressed the button for attention immediately.

?[B]Who the hell are you?[/B]? A male?s voice blurted over the tiny speaker.

?[B]I?m here for your surprise inspection.[/B]? Lucia stated firmly.

?[B]There aren?t any inspections planned.[/B]? The door opened to reveal a tall muscular human. ?[B]And you sure as hell aren?t one of the staff[/B].? He looked her up and down and grinned. ?[B]But hey, I?m willing to overlook that little detail if you?re looking for some fun.[/B]?

Lucia scowled and ignored the jibe. [B]?If you knew about the inspection, it wouldn?t be a surprise would it?[/B]?

She folded her arms across her chest and frowned. ?[B]You?ve already failed the first part by opening the door without asking for a security code. You didn?t bother to verify if I should even be here with your superiors either.[/B]?

?[B]Cute lady, real cute,[/B]? he leered. ?[B]So tell me, which one of the guys sent you up here?[/B]? He laughed. ?[B]And don?t play stupid either.[/B]?

His expression hardened as the other guy got up and joined him a look of amusement on his face. ?[B]We don?t have ?surprise? inspections in this place so your little game won?t work.[/B]?

?[B]It?s not a game.[/B]? Lucia started to respond and then fell silent when the two grunted in surprise when Alex and Chris took them out from behind. She ignored them as they dragged the bodies into a small adjoining room. A moment later Nathan, Phaidra, Sarvel and Isen joined them in the small security room.

?[B]What do you want to do next?[/B]? Lucia asked Nathan once Chris and Alex had returned.

?[B]I want you to stay here.[/B]?

Lucia raised an eyebrow. ?[B]Oh? Why?[/B]?

?[B]You can guide everyone more efficiently from here. Alex and I will check out the caverns below this place while everyone else clears out the rest of the resort.[/B]? Nathan explained.

?[B]True. Doing that from here would be simpler.[/B]? Lucia thought about it and then nodded. ?[B]Alright, I can do that.[/B]?

?[B]Nall,[/B]? Nathan addressed the dragon who was sitting on Alex?s shoulder. ?[B]I?d like you to stay with Ruby and Lucia if you don?t mind.[/B]?

Nall shook his head, ?[B]No I don?t mind.[/B]? He flew over and landed on the counter, Ruby joining him a moment later.

?[B]Alright, everyone ready?[/B]? Nathan asked the group. Isen gave him a flat stare before finally nodding in agreement. Something that Nathan just grinned at in return.

?[B]Lock the doors once were gone.[/B]? He told Lucia, ?[B]That should give you more than enough time to clear out should anyone come.[/B]?

Lucia nodded and then waited patiently for the two groups to file out of the room before she closed and sealed the door. She wasted no time, taking a seat immediately at the security console. It took her no time at all to log into the system directly and then establish a direct link with both parties.

She still wasn?t happy with actually dealing with the vampires, especially after what happened last time. But at least this time, she was doing something she actually knew how to do. Hopefully, it would be more than enough to give them the advantage they would need to deal with the vampires. [/FONT][/COLOR]

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[FONT="Tahoma"][B][CENTER]Bye Bye[/CENTER][/B]
It was easier with Lucia guiding them though the buildings. Between her input and Sarvel?s ability to sense where the vampires were, things had gone efficiently. Well as effortlessly as one could expect with both Isen and Chris just casually taking out any and all humans that they encountered. She knew she shouldn?t let it bother her, but it still did.

?[B]You know what happens to a human who is fed on by vampires?[/B]? Isen asked softly as the group moved down the hallway.

Phaidra looked over to see if she was serious and then looked away. ?[B]I?ve studied history. It can eventually lead to them being turned into a vampire.[/B]?

?[B]It?s more than that. Long before the change happens; they become very servile and are easily influenced by any suggestion that is put forth by the vampire that fed on them.[/B]?

Phaidra sighed. ?[B]I know I?ve heard that too.[/B]?

?[B]I don?t think you fully understand just how serious a problem it is.[/B]? Isen sighed softly. ?[B]You can?t reason with someone once they?ve been infected by a vampire. No matter what you say, they won?t ever get it.?[/B]

?[B]You can?t turn them back?[/B]?

?[B]In the middle of a battle or a situation like this?[/B]? Isen?s eyebrow shot up. ?[B]Don?t be silly. That?s how you end up dead.[/B]?

Phaidra started to reply and hushed when Isen raised her hand, motioning for silence. She looked to Chris who merely nodded back and moved forward to open the door leading into the next room.

?[B]Keep back and just provide extra help if we need it.[/B]? Isen whispered to Phaidra and Sarvel.

Just provide extra help? Phaidra nodded and followed along. She wasn?t sure what to expect when the two opened the door, but outright rushing the startled vampires was not it. The two were almost halfway across the small reception room before the vampires responded in kind.

[I]Their aura is off![/I] The thought flashed through her mind at the same moment she called forth her own pole shaped scythe. The circular crystal near the top end changed from a soft gold to a deep burnished red as Phaidra halted just inside the door and started tracing symbols in the air to form an arcane circle on the floor for her spell.

The sounds of the other two fighting felt unnaturally loud. Phaidra could feel her heart starting to race.[I] Focus on the spell. Don?t let that distract? Shit![/I] Her breathe caught in her throat when she realized that the third one was rushing her in an attempt to stop her spell casting.

?[B]Phaidra![/B]? Sarvel yelled as she faltered back a step.

The circle started forming on the floor in what seemed like slow motion to Phaidra. Sarvel moved until she was between her and the approaching vampire, her fur standing on end as she growled fiercely. She stepped forward, her right paw forward and green light formed in a small circle around her.

An odd rumbling sound could be heard and the ground trembled slightly. What looked like a thin semi-transparent wall of green light shot up from the floor between the vampire and Sarvel. The startled vampire slammed into the wall and staggered backwards.

The circle was finished. Phaidra stepped forward and drew on the power quickly; putting everything she had into it. She traced the last symbol in the air and then formed the ball of fire in front of her. Quickly she sent it sailing through the air towards the vampire who was still recovering from slamming into the barrier Sarvel had erected.

Without turning around, Sarvel dropped the barrier right before the fire would have hit. The massive ball of fire slammed into the vampire, sending them flying through the air to land on their back. Phaidra had already formed and launched another one before they even hit the floor. The vampire gave off a startled scream as it hit and then there was a deadly silence as the flames tore through him, turning his body into ashes.

Phaidra looked around to see that the other two were done and watching her and Sarvel finish the last vampire in the room. She took a deep breath and let it out before dissolving the arcane circle. She could feel herself shaking and she planted the end of her scythe on the floor and leaned on it while she waited for the feeling to pass.

If Isen and Chris had seen her hesitate, they didn?t say anything about it, at least not immediately. They just waited patiently for her to gain her composure back before moving on to finish sweeping the rest of the resort.

?[B]By the way,[/B]? Isen said as they left the room. ?[B]You both did just fine for your first time.[/B]?


?[B]It?s normal to hesitate if you?ve never fought a real battle before.[/B]? Chris added. ?[B]What?s important is getting over it and acting anyway.[/B]?

?[B]I see.[/B]? So they had seen her freeze up.

?[B]I?m serious,[/B]? Chris said kindly. ?[B]It?s perfectly normal.[/B]? She waited until Phaidra nodded before moving on.[/FONT]

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[CENTER][B]Dance of the Living Dead[/B][/CENTER]
Though it was different this time, it still felt odd to be deliberately splitting up. All sorts of what ifs were running through Alex?s mind as he followed close behind Nathan who was getting directions from Lucia.[I] What if one of the vampires knew magic like the Count had? What if??[/I] He crushed that line of thinking and focused on what he could sense instead. There was little to be gained by worrying over things he could not change. He needed to trust what Nathan had said about them having an advantage on account of knowing more about what they were getting into.

Alex didn?t really care for dealing with the humans as well and yet at the same time, if Nathan and Chris thought it was necessary, then it would be better to trust their advice and sort it out later. Something about them had felt off and he wondered if that was a result of them having been fed upon. Alex just dealt with any human they encountered and kept his mouth shut. He made a mental note to ask Nathan about it when they were done dealing with the vampires though.

?[B]There are four of them in the room where the passage leading to the lower caverns is located. I?ll contact you again once you?ve dealt with them.[/B]? Alex was surprised to realize that an image of Lucia or rather transmission of her was on the little screen. He hadn?t realized that the devices were capable of that kind of communication. [I]Interesting. [/I]

?[B]Right.[/B]? Nathan responded shortly before turning the screen off and then tucking the little device into his clothing.

Alex didn?t need Nathan or anyone to say anything; he could already tell that the four waiting in the room were vampires. He looked to Nathan who was standing at ease.

?[B]Just follow my lead.[/B]? Nathan said with a grin before heading for the door at the end of the hallway.

Alex nodded and followed along as Nathan actually opened the door and strode into the room as if he was expected. He seemed to be ignoring the vampires lounging on the dual sofas of what appeared to be a study as he made for the next door. [I]What the hell? [/I]It was a tossup as to who was the most surprised by his actions, Alex or the four vampires who cursed as they scrambled to their feet and moved to block their path. Alex tensed and stopped, his hands coming up in a defensive posture.

The first vampire started to say something but was interrupted when Nathan spoke up. It was clear to Alex that Nathan?s unperturbed stance was confusing the vampires. Alex knew what they were supposed to be doing and even he was confused.[I] What is he doing?[/I]

Nathan stopped and looked directly at the closest vampire as if seeing him for the first time. ?[B]Oh? Hi there. Nice night isn?t it?[/B]?

Before any of them could respond to that odd statement Nathan?s right hand suddenly shot forward with blinding speed into the throat of the closest vampire, tearing right through it. For one horrified moment everyone just stared at one another as Nathan pulled his hand free and the vampire collapsed in a heap on the floor.

A howl of rage erupted from the remaining three as they rushed Nathan. He sidestepped to the right as he pulled free his scythe to block the blows of the closest two. The third vampire rushed through the spot where Nathan had just been to attack Alex instead.

Alex braced himself for it and then blocked the swing heading for his chest. The vampire?s fist slammed into his left arm and then pulled back a bit as he swung with his other arm to hit up higher. Alex caught his left wrist instead. He stepped backwards pulling sharply before letting go, causing the vampire to stumble a bit. Before the vampire could recover he stepped forward, bringing his left arm up to drive his elbow into the vampire?s throat.

He reeled backwards, clutching at his throat as he coughed. Out of the corner of his eye Alex could see Nathan dealing with the other two vampires. One was picking himself up off the floor while the other had an odd expression on his face as Alex saw Nathan literally gut the one standing by bringing his scythe up in a wicked arch that ripped him open from the navel up.

Alex tuned out the scream of pain that ended in a gurgle as Nathan then ran a tiny concentrated burst of the purifying flames into the vampire?s chest where the soul sac was probably located. A second later the vampire collapsed. Alex delivered several more blows with his fists to the one he was fighting, sending the vampire reeling even more. He moved to follow up with a kick to send the vampire flying but missed when the guy managed to barely dodge it and instead land a blow on his right side that caused him stumble a bit.

He didn?t get to see how Nathan dealt with the third vampire; he was too busy fighting the one he was dealing with. A moment later and he got the opening he needed to end the fight. The vampire launched a punch that was just a tad too hard. Alex slipped under it and brought his hands up to slam them into the vampire?s chest. At the same time he focused his energy like Nathan had taught him. Sending it forward to burn a hole straight through the vampire?s chest.

Alex pulled free as the vampire staggered back a step before falling to the floor. The aura that he had become accustomed to sensing, that sense of having cheated death faded. He knew even as he turned to see what Nathan was doing that the fight was over. He hadn?t thought about it before, but now he could see a use for being able to sense vampires better. There would be no mistake about knowing if you had dealt with them, or if someone you were working with had done so.

Nathan was already opening up the door that lead to a set of stairs heading down beneath the resort. He had a half grin of amusement on his face as he looked briefly to make sure Alex was following along before he started down the stairs.

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[COLOR="RoyalBlue"][FONT="Lucida Sans Unicode"][CENTER][SIZE="3"][B]I Had A Dream [/B][/SIZE][/CENTER]
Unless they encountered something unexpected, dealing with the humans and vampires at the resort was pretty much a done deal. Lucia could see it all going down from her position inside the main security room for the resort. So far, everything was running smoothly. Both groups were dealing with the humans and vampires quickly and efficiently. Nathan?s manner of walking calmly up to the vampires before ripping one of their throats out had been a little startling though. He had moved so quickly that on the screen for the security system, it was nearly impossible to see.

Lucia took a moment to start one of her programs so it would download all of the files in the system. If all went well the program would be finished before the two groups were. It would depend on what Nathan and Alex found in the caverns under the facility. Once they took the door heading down, she no longer had a visual for them. The security did not include that area. Her communicator?s scans told her they were there but that was it. She would have to rely on Nathan to gather the information with his scanner.

She sighed a bit since part of her wished she was going there herself to get the data. Though if there were more vampires, she?d rather let Nathan be the one to deal with them. He was far more qualified than she was to deal with them. Ruby was watching the monitors while Nall was watching everything that she did. By the way his ears were twitching she figured it was only a matter of time before he started asking questions. She was not wrong.

?[B]I didn?t know you could do that kind of stuff with your communicator Lucia.[/B]?

Lucia snorted slightly and didn?t say anything. She had pointed that out to the stupid Council, the benefits of her research, but they hadn?t given a damn.

?[B]How come you decided to become a Reaper instead of doing research?[/B]?

Lucia stiffened involuntarily, saying nothing. She wasn?t going to explain [I]that[/I] to Nall. She hadn?t [I]chosen[/I] to become a reaper, that choice had been [I]forced[/I] on her.

?[B]Shut up Nall.[/B]? Ruby growled at him.

Nall jerked back in surprise. ?[B]What the hell was that for?[/B]? He snapped at Ruby. ?[B]I was just asking her a question![/B]?

Ruby swatted him with her paw. ?[B]And I just told you to shut up dummy. You can ask questions [I]after[/I] we?re done here.[/B]?

Nall glared at her. ?[B]Don?t change the subject Ruby. It?s not like I?m interfering with what Lucia is doing.[/B]?

Ruby stood up on the counter, arching her back. ?[B]And I?m telling you to stuff it stupid![/B]?

?[B]Knock it off you two.[/B]? Lucia snapped, causing both of them to hunch down and flatten their ears to their heads. ?[B]Now is not the time for it so we?ll discuss this later.[/B]?

?[B]Okay,[/B]? Nall replied and then moved so he was sitting on the other side of Lucia, away from Ruby. ?[B]It?s not like you?ll tell me anyway, you never do.[/B]?

?[B]Nall.[/B]? Lucia said warningly.

?[B]It?s true,[/B]? Nall asserted before he turned his attention back to the monitors. He glared at Ruby a bit and then settled back down.

Ruby huffed a bit and then she too settled back down, pointedly ignoring Nall.

[I]I really need to do something about that.[/I] Lucia thought. [I]Having disagreements or questions come up during a deal like this isn?t a good idea.[/I] Though she wasn?t sure what she should do, if anything, primarily because she didn?t want to discuss it with anyone at all.

Lucia sighed and went back to focusing on what the others were doing instead, putting it out of mind. She couldn't quite shake the feeling of irritation the question had brought forth though.[/FONT][/COLOR]

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As I Moved On

The smell of flash-fried flesh lingering in Nathan's nostrils gave him a moment's pause while he descended the stairs beyond the anteroom he and Alex had just finished cleansing. His moves that time had been a little smoother than before at the mansion; a few months of brushing up while he'd trained the kid had helped him remember and resolidify his footwork, which had made the latest scuffle all the easier. It also helped that, again, most of the vampires hadn't been very well trained in close quarters combat, and that Nathan had caught them off guard, with no time to prepare their thoughts.

The smooth polish of the stairwell's walls gradually gave way to craggy rock, and moments later the two reapers stood facing a conspicuous steel door, with no visible means of entry. Alex waited while Nathan studied the door and quickly reached for a natural-looking rock outcropping next to it, leaning his weight on the surface.

Nothing happened.

Chuckling, Nathan grasped the outcropping and lifted it up, revealing a keypad and a card-reader.

"Well," he said, "that ends that idea."

"So we can't get in?" Alex asked.

Nathan raised an eyebrow at him and smirked, then drifted through the rock to the door's left and was gone. Alex hurriedly followed suit.

When he made it through the stone, the first thing he noticed was Nathan standing in the center of the room, turning in a slow circle, his left hand in his trouser pocket.

The second was a skeleton next to him. Alex jumped.

The room was circular, the only exit towards the other side of the room; apparently they had passed through more earth than Alex had thought, because the steel door was not visible in the room. Around the room's perimeter iron rings had been driven into the stone, and each ring had a pair of chain-linked manacles passed through it. From the manacles dangled deceased humans in various stages of decay; the few who appeared to have died most recently possessed frozen expressions of horror or great pain.

"Lucia," Nathan was saying into his crystal, "are you getting all of this?"

"Yes, but I have no theories on what might be at work here."

"That's fine. We'll probably pick up something as we keep going."

Nathan looked down at his equipment for a moment, then gave Alex a questioning glance.

"Are you okay, kid?" he asked.

Alex shook himself. 'Yeah, sure," he replied. "I ... it just seemed familiar, is all." He waved his hand in the air. "I saw something similar to this back in the Count's mansion, so I was startled for a second."

Nathan's eyes narrowed briefly.

"Right," he said abruptly, his tone hushed, "so here we want to go unnoticed for as long as possible, so if anyone's down here they'll show us what's going on. Stay in the shadows, or in the rock if necessary. Height is an advantage; float if you can do so without attracting attention. If you think someone's seen you, kill them right there, as fast as possible, and get their body out of sight. Don't wait for my lead if you don't think there's time.

"And remember, don't summon your scythe."

Alex nodded his understanding; and with a last glance around the room, Nathan led the way out.
Edited by Allamorph

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[COLOR="Indigo"][SIZE="1"][CENTER][SIZE="2"][B]Interlude In Time[/B][/SIZE] [/CENTER]
Astera found humans rather annoying at times, fascinating but still aggravating. Many of them were so smart and yet so incredibly dumb at times. She knew she shouldn?t be poking around human towns, but her curiosity got the better of her at times. Okay, if she was honest with herself?[I] all the time[/I]. The others just didn?t understand why she wanted to know more about them, or rather they refused to see.

So though most of them looked at her with disapproval for what they saw as reckless behavior, she didn?t let it stop her from spending weeks at a time away from her home. It wasn?t as dangerous as they made it out to be after all. Only children were an issue since unlike most human adults, they could see fairies easily. But since most adults could not, they never believed their kids when they told them about seeing her.

?[B]I wish you wouldn?t do this Astera,[/B]? the fairy blocking her path was sitting on a tree branch, his arms folded across his chest. He had been waiting for her. Like most fairies, he was dressed in the simplest of tunics and pants in shades of green and brown, his feet were bare and unlike Astera, his brown hair was cut short.

Astera came to a halt, fluttering in the air just before him. ?[B]Oh come on Jay, aren?t you tired of this argument already?[/B]? She folded her arms across her chest and returned his stare with a steely one of her own.

?[B]Why don?t you come with me and see things for yourself?[/B]? She suggested. ?[B]How can you blindly believe everything the others say about humans of you don?t bother to go and see for yourself if it?s true or not?[/B]?

?[B]I don?t need to go with you; I?ve seen what they do.[/B]? Jay stood up on the branch he was sitting on. ?[B]I was hoping you?d quit being so foolish. One of these days you?re going to get into trouble.[/B]? Jay sighed. ?[B]You?re going to end up getting kicked out of the community you know.[/B]?

Astera shrugged. ?[B]So what if I do. Hanging around in the forest all the time is boring as hell. The world is changing Jay, we can?t just keep running and hoping there will be a place to run to. We need to understand the humans, they?re changing dramatically.[/B]?

?[B]Goodbye Astera.[/B]? Jay ended the conversation as he moved to go around her and then head through the trees towards where the others were living.

?[B]Fine![/B]? Astera yelled at his back as he disappeared among the trees. ?[B]Damn stupid idiots hiding their heads in the sand.[/B]? She grumbled as she took off towards one of the human towns.

The others refused to see that the world was changing drastically. Humans were becoming smarter and far cleverer with their technology as they called it. It had been easy to simply take advantage of their size and defensive magic to stay hidden, but she and a few others felt that before long, they would no longer be able to do so.

Astera sighed and then put the thought out of mind. It wasn?t like she was looking for a solution after all; she just liked seeing all the weird things the humans came up with. Well most of them she did, the things they made that were for killing other humans? those she did [I]not[/I] like. That part confused her, their silly need to fight over petty material things. [/SIZE][/COLOR]

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I Would Love To

Isen was beginning to get aggravated.

In all honesty, the werecat would rather have been hunting by herself. â??Seek and destroyâ?? to her meant hit hard, hit fast, and switch to the next target. That type of rapid striking was her strong point; she excelled at ensuring that all the little random variables that might screw up an otherwise well-planned mission were eliminated, prowling just inside the edge of the shadows until the perfect moment for the kill and slipping instantly back.

Partnering wasnâ??t a problem for her, but only with people she knew and could trust to take an opening if she created one. Isen relied almost wholly on unspoken communication, looks and gestures that meant her ally was thinking the same as she and trusted her to know exactly what to do. Christine was one of those people. A look at her before they entered a room and Isen instantly knew how many were inside, how many were threats and what kind of threat they were, and where each person was; and she could provide the same if she had the line of sight and not Christine.

But Nathan had ordered Lucia to coordinate everything from the main security station, and so Isen was forced to move almost at a crawl as Phaidra constantly checked back in with Lucia over her phone. Clearing a room would excite Isenâ??s blood and hone her senses, only for them to be cooled and dulled by the inevitable talk-session. It was sheer luck that the noise hadnâ??t alerted half the resort by now.

Isen was almost ecstatic when she heard Phaidra say that the upcoming room was the last one to be cleared. One more stop and the annoying task would be finished. The rest of them could stay in the building, but Isen had no intent to do the same; she was heading down as soon as the opportunity arose. Hopefully her Reaperâ??s search would be interesting.

The next room was a sequestered office, accessible by only one door. Isen instantly darted to the side opposite the handle, leaving Christine flanking the other side. A nod from the werecat, and Chris aimed a backwards kick at the door, smashing the lock and throwing the door wide open. Diving forward, Isen rolled into the room, her draw splitting in half the surprised Renfield assisting her master with some late-night paperwork. The second vampire, on the other side of the room, had better reflexes and managed to take half a lunge forward before Christine impaled his chest with a backhanded stab; Isen was already risen and mid-swing for the vampiress behind the metal desk.

A second later, the womanâ??s head was rolling across the floor towards Phaidraâ??s feet, the floor and the papers on her desk gruesomely stained. Isen didnâ??t care; she certainly wouldnâ??t be reading them. Instead, she eyed the half-open safe in the corner.

â??Ask Lucia if we should take this thingâ??s contents,â? she said without looking at Phaidra.

Frowning, Phaidra did as she was asked. The obviously terse response deepened her expression.

â??She says that there shouldnâ??t be anything worthwhile above ground that wouldnâ??t be in the database. She said sheâ??s downloading everything she can into her crystal, so we shouldnâ??t need it.â?

â??Sheâ??s probably right,â? said Chris, thumbing through the bloody pages on the desk. â??These are all general accounting files. Nothing of any value.â?

â??Lucia says sheâ??s certain that if itâ??s not in the database, itâ??s almost certainly underground,â? added Phaidra.

Isen said nothing, but sheathed her sword and knelt by the safe to get a better view inside. Perhaps Lucia was right, she thought, but then again, if an important object looked valueless, it was sometimes safer in a less secure location. A thief after money might not care about a placard or a PDAâ??or a half-open manila envelope which contained more papers.

Isen drew it out and stood.

â??Weâ??re taking this,â? she told the others. She thrust the envelope at Phaidra. â??Hold onto it until we return to Lucia.â?

Phaidra took the envelope but didnâ??t move.

â??Why?â? she asked.

Isen gave her a long, thoughtful look.

â??Because,â? she answered. â??Letâ??s go. Weâ??re wasting time.â?
Edited by Allamorph

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[CENTER][B]As I Softly Go[/B][/CENTER]
Alex was wondering how the other group was faring. He could tell that there were still more vampires in the area, but he couldn?t pinpoint their exact location to determine if they were in the caverns or in the upper area of the resort. He just knew there were at least three of them, possibly four.

It seemed unreal for them to have gotten so far without raising a single alarm, until he realized that Lucia probably disabled the security systems. If he knew how, that was what he would have done. He didn?t see anything like that in the corridor that Nathan was heading down though, no cameras, no surveillance devices.

After a few minutes they came to a branch in the corridor. Nathan paused and looked each way. He motioned to the left and waited for Alex to nod in response before heading down the path to the right. Alex took off down the other corridor, opting to float instead of walking. He followed it for a while until it came to what looked like a small storage area and yet another door leading further into the mountain on the other side of the room.

There was a small path leading through the room where the shelves coming out from the walls ended. It made seeing if anyone was down among the rows between the shelves impossible to see, without actually stepping forward and looking down each one that is.

Alex was thinking of ghosting through the stone on the outer edge of the room when a young vampire stepped out into the path leading toward where he was at the entrance to the room. He was carrying a box and not paying attention since the vampire was being careful to avoid hitting anything with it.

Alex moved to ghost into the closest wall, but upon centering himself among the end if the shelves the vampire looked up and saw him. His eyes widened in surprise and then before Alex could move, he tossed the box and its contents in his direction before turning to flee.
Shit![/I] He couldn?t let him raise the alarm. Alex took after the vampire, reaching out with his right hand to snag an object off of the shelves and hurl it as hard as he could at the back of the fleeing vampire. The heavy bottle slammed into the back of the vamps head, causing him to stumble slightly.

Alex didn?t hesitate. Before the vampire could fully turnaround to respond he rushed him and hit him hard on the back with both palms, sending concentrated waves of the blue fire racing through the vampire's chest. The vampire gave off a startled shriek as he feebly grasped at the gaping hole in his chest before he collapsed.

With a sigh of relief, Alex checked the area quickly to see if there was anyone else. There was no one. He dragged the body down to the end of one of the paths between the shelves. Then he took several large boxes off of some of them to stack in front of the body, hiding it from from anyone passing by. Alex then used the purifying flames to clean up traces of blood from the floor where the vampire had collapsed. Once he finished with that he picked up the contents of the box the vampire had thrown at him.

He put the items back on the shelves and then spent another moment to glance through what was in the room. He made sure nothing else was lying about to indicate there had been a struggle before he left. A clipboard fastened to the wall caught his attention and after looking at it, he took what looked like a list of the supplies in the room. He put the clipboard back on the hook on the wall next to the door.

Alex glanced through the papers briefly, it looked like a list of chemicals, though for what purpose he didn?t know. He carefully folded the papers and stuffed them into his tunic. He could give them to Lucia once they were done. He closed the door behind him and followed the corridor as it wove further underground. It came to another circular room though this one was empty.

To the left was another door. Across the room directly in front of him was another path that looked like it headed back the direction he had just come from. Sure enough, a moment later Nathan entered the circular room from that direction.

?[B]How many did you deal with?[/B]? He said softly, looking directly at Alex?s tunic.

Alex looked down and sure enough, a tiny bit of blood was on his shirt. ?[B]Only one, he was retrieving chemical supplies from a storage room.[/B]?

Nathan?s eyes narrowed slightly and he nodded before turning to open the door leading into what looked like some sort of lab. He moved without hesitation into the room to start looking at things. Alex hesitated, something felt off around the door, though since he couldn?t see anyone, Alex figured it had to be more vampires up in the resort area.

He watched Nathan for a moment and then turned his attention to something that looked familiar. He had seen the medieval torture chamber in the Count?s mansion, but at the time, he thought it had been part of the illusion their minds had been trapped in.

However, some of the same smaller devices were here as well; along with body parts that most likely came from the dead humans they had seen when they first entered this place. There was no illusion or trap this time, so did that mean what he saw at the Mansion hadn?t been an illusion either?

Alex grimaced with distaste. Why in the world were the vampires torturing and doing things to humans? Careful to avoid touching anything, he moved to get a closer look at some of the stuff sitting on shelves near the door to the lab.

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Titanic Vandalism

On learning that there was an underground cavern being used by the vampires at the resort, Nathan had immediately suspected a laboratory containing equipment for drug production and refinement. He had encountered similar situations in the past; drug running was an easy and tried method for drawing in excess funds, money which a mountainside resort could launder with little trouble. Such a location would have been perfect for sending inexperienced Reapers to their deaths, the guise of keeping vampires in check and disrupting their support lines providing the perfect excuseâ??although the possible motives for such an act still escaped him.

Heâ??d been right about the laboratory, but designed for drugs it was not. This one wasnâ??t designed to handle distillation of anything, much less refinement, and there were far too many physical experimentation devices present for his original theory to hold. From the materials on the tables and shelves, Nathan deduced that the vampires had been using humans and human parts for tests of some sort, and he felt the distinct sensation of residual magic, specifically on a crude level.

The presence of this equipment would have made him uneasy anyway, but Alexâ??s comment about seeing a similar set-up, as well as definite torture chambers, made Nathan wonder how connected the two incidents really were.

Disturbed, he moved closer to the nearest table, on which rested a pan of scalpels and bloody water, a small device which held a large section of human skin stretched taut between its four prongs, and a succession of beakers and vials containing various colored liquids. A few of the beakers gave off the same feeling of magic residue that he had felt hanging in the air when heâ??d entered.


Musing, he held his hand a few inches over a beaker containing a dark orange liquid. He stilled his thoughts and slowed his breathing, and after a second a series of peculiar sensations rushed up his arm. His hand spasmed briefly at the shock.

The crystal was in his other hand immediately.

â??Lucia,â? he said, â??where are the others?â?

â??They just got back. Everyoneâ??s been cleared out of the upper section. Isen brought something she said you or I might want to look at, and Iâ??m almost done downloading anything encrypted from their servers.â?

Nathan concentrated on keeping his arm steady. â??Good. Could you put Phaidra on for me? I have something to ask her.â?

â??She can hear you,â? came the monotone reply.

â??Good,â? Nathan repeated. â??Phaidra, youâ??ve been studying magic for a long time. Do you think you could recognize a particular spell or incantation if I described the residual sensations to you?â?

â??I think so. Itâ??d be easier if I could get a sample of it, though.â?

â??Yes, I think so too, but Iâ??m not certain you really want to be down here right now. Iâ??ll try and grab something, though. For now, just listen closely....â?

Nathan conversed with Phaidra for a few minutes, he translating his sensations into words and she asking him to feel for this thing or push there with a small bit of that magic. He complied each time and relayed the results back to her; during an attempt to get a specific reaction out of the liquid, the beaker abruptly shattered. Nathan instinctively dodged, but a small drop of the fluid managed to splosh onto the corner of his blazer. Nathan gave the stain a peculiar look.

â??Nathan, are you all right?! What happened?â?

Nathan pondered the situation for a moment.

â??It blew up,â? he said at last.

â??It did?â?

â??Kaplowie,â? confirmed the shinigami. â??Orange stuff gone everywhere.â?

â??Oh. Well are there other beakers?â?

â??Yes,â? Nathan said, â??but I think Iâ??d rather not make any more explode. Itâ??s kinda messy.â? He looked at his blazer again. â??Are those bleach pens any good?â?


â??Nevermind. For now I thinkâ??â?

A shout from the doorway drew his attention. His head snapped around just as five vampires burst into the room, throwing Alex backwards into a table. Nathan saw the boyâ??s scythe forming in his hands.


Leaping over the table, he wrested the scythe from the boyâ??s grip, batting one vampire away with a quick sweep of the staff. He shoved the edge of the blade to the right and into the gut of a second, spinning to the side, his follow-through plunging the scytheâ??s point deep into a third. An arced sweep sent the corpse hurtling into the charging fourth. His left hand whipped the entire weapon behind him, catching the fifth mid-jump; Nathan slammed the vampireâ??s body into the ground and fired two quick flaming darts into the chest of the vampire heâ??d just sent sprawling.

With a deep breath, Nathan walked over to Alex, who had paused in the act of disengaging himself from the upset table and its flotsam.

â??Reflex,â? Nathan said simply. He grinned. â??Weâ??ll train you out of that.â?

As he retrieved his weapon from the blue man, Alex noticed burn marks on Nathanâ??s palms.

â??Are you okay?â? he asked.

â??Hunh?â? Nathan glanced at his hands. â??Oh. No, I wasnâ??t using my scythe. Didnâ??t they teach you about that?â?

Alex shook his head.

â??Oh,â? said Nathan. He picked up a small phial and filled it with some bluish liquid from an intact beaker. â??Well, you know each Reaperâ??s scythe is specific to them, right? In tune with their energies?â? When Alex nodded, he continued. â??If I use another Reaperâ??s scythe to free a soul, the energies donâ??t match exactly, and it can hurt if I donâ??t prepare properly.â? He flexed his burned palms. â??Nothing serious, though.

â??I think weâ??re done here,â? he decided, pocketing the phial. â??Letâ??s get out of this place. Itâ??s starting to raise my hackles.â?

He hoped he didnâ??t look as disturbed as he felt. Nathan felt a long conversation with his sister in his future.
Edited by Allamorph

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[COLOR="Indigo"][SIZE="1"][CENTER][SIZE="2"][B]Startling Revelation[/B][/SIZE][/CENTER]
Astera had fumed for nearly the entire trip to the town she had been visiting. Sometimes she wondered why she even bothered to return when all the others did was lecture her on how her behavior was reckless. If she could carry a simple silk blanket with her then she really didn?t need to return unless she wanted the comfort of a more elaborate home in the trees. She snorted to herself as the town in question came into view.

Fairies had been spending thousands of years staying in the shadows. Most were content to simply live out their lives in the peaceful surroundings of the forests they inhabited. Conflicts like the war between the Vampires and the Shinigami that had happened so long ago were ignored. They simply kept out of the way since doing so was easy.

The Shinigami knew about them of course, but unlike the Vampires who had been so intent on subjecting others, the Reapers did not bother races that did not need their assistance. The Vampires hadn?t really been aware of their existence since it was easy for a fairy to hide themselves from someone if they wished. Only the most powerful of Vampires could sense them and some of the other races that used magic. Their answer back then had been to keep a good amount of distance between any conflicts.

Astera sighed, humans were starting to spread though and last time she had visited the town there had been talk of war. She hadn?t even made it to the outskirts of the town when it became obvious that there was trouble. Men in strange uniforms were patrolling the streets and there was an air of tension. What had happened in the few weeks she had been gone?

The easiest way to find out would be to ask one of the children that knew her. Clarrisa would be the best one to ask, she was old enough to understand what was going on and yet not too old to see fairies. That was the only drawback about getting to know any children. Once they got older and their spiritual energy started to diminish, they couldn?t see her. She could use her magic, but she rarely did. It was better to let them just grow up and move on. They wouldn?t live as long as she did.

She thought for a moment about where to look for her and then took off up above the town to head for the fields. If she remembered correctly she would be tending some of the farm animals the humans kept. A few minutes later, she saw her sitting under a tree. Her lunch spread out on the ground before her.

?[B]Clarissa![/B]? She shouted when she was almost there.

The small brown-haired teenager looked up and smiled at Astera and then frowned. ?[B]What are you doing here?[/B]?

Astera halted, hovering just in front of Clarissa, ?[B]What do you mean? I came to ask you what?s going on with all the strangely dressed humans in your town.[/B]?

?[B]We?re at war Astera. There?s an approaching army heading our way. You need to tell the others since I think it?s close to where you live.[/B]? Her frown deepened. ?[B]The people you saw are here to help evacuate the town.[/B]?

?[B]Wait,[/B]? Astera held up her hand in front of her. ?[B]Are you sure they are close to where I live?[/B]?

Clarissa nodded, ?[B]You said you lived south of here and that?s where the fighting started a few days ago.?[/B]

Astera pulled back, her eyes widening in surprise. ?[B]A few days ago?[/B]? Her voice rose. ?[B]It was quiet when I left about a week ago.[/B]?

?[B]That?s what I hear my mom saying.[/B]? Clarissa shrugged.

Astera bit her lower lip and then made up her mind. ?[B]Okay, I?m going to go and check then. I?ll see you later.[/B]?

?[B]Okay, be careful Astera.[/B]?

She nodded and took off, flying back the way she had come as fast as she could. Why hadn?t Jay said anything about humans being in the area? Had he even known? It was possible that he hadn?t. With their clever inventions, humans could get around pretty quickly if they really wanted to.

She put it out of mind as she traveled; only stopping to rest in brief intervals before taking off again. She convinced herself that Clarissa had been mistaken only to have that belief shattered when unfamiliar noises assaulted her ears.

Astera didn?t know a lot about the strange devices the humans used to cause harm to one another, but she had heard them before. She came to the top of a small hill overlooking one of the fields in the area where she lived. The view below her was a total disaster.

Humans in strange uniforms were fighting among themselves, the sounds of explosions and shots mingled with screams of pain was deafening. But even worse was the realization that the grove of trees where her home should have been had been burned to the ground.

?[B]You stupid humans![/B]? She screeched before taking off into the chaos below her. ?[B]Stop fighting you idiots![/B]? It made no difference though, they couldn?t see her. The only ones who could were the Shinigami in the area. Though it was clear that they were focusing on their job instead of noticing one little fairy flitting about.

She managed just fine at first since she could simply use her own grasp of magic to affect the human?s and even the Shinigami?s perception of time, slowing them down and allowing her to easily slip between them. But the area being affected was massive and though the fighting seemed to be coming to an end, she was becoming tired from the prolonged use of her defensive magic.

Astera had reached the point where it was obvious her home and belongings were gone, along with all of her friends. She had found no traces of their essence so it was likely that they had just fled the area. She turned to look for the best way to clear the area when she realized a split second too late that one of the Reapers dealing with the dying humans had two scythes.

She cursed as she dodged out of the way and then shrieked when the weight of a falling human sent her sprawling to land on her back. She barely had time to register that they were going to land on her before the breath was knocked out of her when their body landed on her, pinning her underneath. [/SIZE][/COLOR]

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[COLOR="RoyalBlue"][FONT="Lucida Sans Unicode"][CENTER][SIZE="3"][B]It's Just An Illusion...[/B][/SIZE][/CENTER]
The trip back from where the resort was located had been uneventful. Nathan had been his usual seemingly unconcerned self and Lucia now had quite a bit of information that would require sorting. Everything had gone well and the vampires along with the tainted humans had been dealt with.

Something that Alex had said during the trip was bugging Lucia and now that they had been back for a few days; the two of them were going to the mansion where the Count had been situated to check it out.

She was almost to the mansion when she felt Alex and Nall?s aura as they also approached, right on time too. Lucia came to a landing in front of the main door. Unless someone was capable of hiding their presence, there was no one there. Alex landed next to her and Ruby.

?[B]Are you sure you want to take a look? It wasn?t pretty you know.[/B]?

Lucia snorted. She doubted it was worse than what Nathan had done to one of the vampires in that chamber where the trap had been sprung. Perhaps once they were done checking out the basement she?d go back and clean up what hadn?t decomposed yet. It would be interesting to see Alex?s reaction to [I]that[/I] little mess.

?[B]I?m positive, if there?s any connection between the two incidents, we need to know about it.[/B]?

?[B]Uh Lucia,[/B]? Alex asked as they entered the empty mansion. ?[B]Why didn?t you check the basement the first time you came back?[/B]?

?[B]I did, but not directly since my scans indicated there was nothing down there.[/B]?

The sound of their footsteps echoing through the dark hallways was seemed unnaturally loud to Lucia as Alex made straight for the doors leading down.

?[B]Just how good is your crystal at picking up signs of life?[/B]? Alex asked as he and Nall went through the door first and started down the stairs.

?[B]It would have told me if there were recently deceased vampires or humans in the basement, since it did not, I saw no point in checking it out.[/B]?

She followed him into the chamber he had talked about, but the place was barren, there was nothing there, not even the devices he had told her about. She looked at him, her eyebrow raised questioningly.

?[B]I don?t understand,[/B]? Alex was staring at the room in surprise. ?[B]After what I saw at the other place, I thought perhaps what I saw here was real too.[/B]? He took off through the other doors leading further in.

?[B]Do you think it was part of that trap?[/B]? Ruby asked.

Lucia started walking through the room, her crystal in her hand. A moment later she frowned. ?[B]No, someone has been here since then. There are signs of equipment being moved and there is an odd energy reading that wasn?t here before.[/B]?

?[B]What kind of energy?[/B]?

?[B]I?m not sure, the program doesn?t recognize it. It could be magic of some kind.[/B]? She looked up as Alex came back into the room.

?[B]The skeletons are gone,[/B]? Alex winced slightly, ?[B]I guess it was that trap the Count used on us. Sorry about that Lucia, I really thought there might have been a connection.[/B]?

?[B]I?m not so sure,[/B]? Lucia disagreed. ?[B]My scans indicate that someone has been in here since we left. There are indications that equipment was moved out of this room, and I?m picking up a very faint trace of an unidentified energy reading as well.[/B]?

?[B]You think someone came and got rid of what they were up to?[/B]?

Lucia nodded, ?[B]That?s a possibility.[/B]? She turned to head back up. ?[B]Let?s check the rest of the place to see if the vampires' remains have been dealt with in a similar fashion.[/B]?

It didn?t take them long, but the rest of the mansion was the same. All of the vampires? remains were gone. In places where there had been a mess, she was picking up the same odd energy trace. The ribbons of flesh had been dealt with and even the blood splatters cleaned up.

If not for the odd energy trace or the fact that she had scanned it in person the same day it had happened, she wouldn?t have known that anything had ever happened in the mansion. It was as if no one had ever lived there.

The thing that made it odd was she was pretty certain the humans couldn?t have done the job without leaving obvious traces that she would have picked up. Had other vampires done it? They were capable of using magic and that could explain the odd energy reading.

As her and the others headed back towards the city, she made a note to forward everything she found to Nathan. [/FONT][/COLOR]

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Phaidra wasn?t sure what if anything should be done about their encounter with the vampires at the resort in the Rockies that they had visited a few days ago. She still found it hard to believe that she had actually killed a vampire with magic. In spite of all the studying that she had done for the past millennia, she had honestly never expected to actually [I]use[/I] it.

The war with the vampires had been over for thousands of years. Magical studies were just that, studies. Other than practical uses like the ward she had set up for Lucia and Ruby, most students of the arts never did anything with what they learned. For many, it was nothing more than a hobby; only a handful took it as seriously as she did.

There just wasn?t a need for the offensive magic?s so other than to learn the basics, most never bothered to do as she had. It was probably why the school had been willing to fund her research on Earth. No one was interested in leaving home and becoming a Reaper in order to study magic further.

She had always wondered why no one wanted to learn more. Whether or not one would eventually use it or not didn?t really matter to her, much like cooking, it was just satisfying to explore all the little ins and outs of magic. It was amazing what you could learn by careful study and application.

?[B]Have you decided if you?ll inform the school about what happened?[/B]? Sarvel was lying on the hardwood floors in the first level of their new home. She looked like a cat with the way she was sprawled to catch the warm sunlight pouring in.

?[B]I?m not sure,[/B]? Phaidra answered her. She moved over go get a better view out the main windows. ?[B]I'm kind of confused. We?ve been taught that vampires are gone and yet other Shinigami are being sent to deal with places like that resort we went to.[/B]?

She sat down on the floor next to Sarvel, ?[B]I don?t know, perhaps I should just forget about it.[/B]?

?[B]Well it wasn?t an assignment so technically you don?t have to report it.[/B]? Sarvel shrugged. ?[B]Maybe we should ask Nathan about it, he seemed to know a lot about vampires.[/B]?

?[B]I?d be surprised if he didn?t, he was around during the war after all.[/B]? She sighed, ?[B]Anyway, I think I?m going to take up the offer to work with that group that does catering.[/B]?

Sarvel snorted. ?[B]I can?t believe you kept that card the Realtor gave you. That?s not why we?re here after all.[/B]?

?[B]So? I like cooking. I want to try out new stuff and getting involved with a group that caters to parties will be a good way to learn new recipes that you can?t find in a book.[/B]?

Phaidra looked down at the sound of her cell phone chiming. She reached into her pocket at pulled it out. There was a message for her, puzzled she opened it up. She already had her schedule for the next couple of weeks. [I]I wonder who.. Oh.[/I] It was from Nathan.

?[B]Who?s it from?[/B]?

She read through it and then showed the message to Sarvel.
[QUOTE][FONT=Book Antiqua][COLOR=Blue]Hey, Phaidra!

Listen, I've got a little something I need a hand with. Magic kind of stuff, you know? I've got some experience with magic, but I only use a little every now and then, and it's been a long time since I've done any studying.

I had an idea the other day, and I'd really like to know if it'd be doable. If you wouldn't mind giving me a hand, let me know and tell me when a good time to meet would be.



P.S.: That dump cake from the meeting was amazing! What the blazes did you put in it go make that warm sweet taste under the filling?[/COLOR][/FONT][/QUOTE]
"[B]I wonder what he wants.[/B]" Sarvel's ears twitched. "[B]Some experiment?[/B]"

"[B]Hmmm.[/B]" Phaidra tapped her right fingers on the floor for a moment. "[B]Why don't we find out? We can ask about vampires too.[/B]" She started typing a reply to his message.
[quote][FONT="Arial"]Hi Nathan,

I actually have some questions for you about vampires so I'd love to get together to discuss both matters. I will be home this evening between six to ten and tomorrow evening too.

If that doesn't work, I will have the same time off next Monday and Tuesday. Feel free to just stop by on whichever day works best.


P.S. I'm glad to hear you liked the dump cake. I've included an attachment with the recipe for it. [/FONT] [/quote]
Phaidra checked it briefly and then sent the response. "[B]There.[/B]" She stood up after pocketing the cell phone. "[B]Lets go and finish the pies we were making earlier.[/B]"

Sarvel stretched and then got up to follow Phaidra up the stairs into the upper area of their home. "[B]Is there any shrimp left?[/B]" She asked wistfully.

"[B]No, you ate it all.[/B]" She laughed at Sarvel's expression. "[B]I thought you'd say that so I picked up some more on the way home.[/B]"

"[B]Thank you.[/B]"

Phaidra just smiled.[/FONT]

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[COLOR="Indigo"][SIZE="1"][CENTER][B][SIZE="2"]Ruled by Secrecy [/SIZE][/B][/CENTER]
Adrian was kind of keeping track of time and at the same time he was not. The routine was almost always the same. The morning would be spent going over recently learned material while adding any new as Karl saw fit. After a short break, the afternoon would then be spent in full out sparring. In addition to that, Karl was slowly introducing the use of only one scythe.

One means of using it was something that Adrian had never thought of before. It required using more spiritual energy, even though summoning one?s scythe wasn?t that difficult. But learning to use unarmed combat and pull out the scythe only for certain finishing moves was taking time to get use to.

His instinct was to simply hang onto it instead of using it skewer a target, and simply allow it to return to its resting place until the next move where it would be handy came up. Sometimes Karl even had him using it like a makeshift spear.

Then, once he was too exhausted to do anything else, Karl would tell him and Astera to shove off and rest. Depending on how tired he was, they?d either wander off for long walks in the surrounding country side or he?d make use of the small bedroom that was his to sleep for a few hours.

Adrian was waking up from one of those moments when he realized that Astera, though sleeping, was not on her usual silk blankets to the side of his pillow on the bed. Puzzled, he took a moment to clean up and then go and find her. She wasn?t far, the bond told him that much. But since she was sleeping, he couldn?t see where she actually was.

It didn?t take him long to find her. Astera was leaning up against Karl. They were on one of the chairs on the front veranda. Karl was sprawled out on his stomach, his head resting between his front paws. Only a tiny twitch of his ears indicated that he had noticed Adrian?s presence.

It took Adrian a moment to realize that he was actually purring. He blinked in surprise and then turned to go and find Gavrie instead of waking Astera up. [I]Since when did?[/I] he came up short when the door opened and Gavrie stepped out.

?[B]There you are,[/B]? he glanced at Karl and Astera briefly before turning back to address Adrian. ?[B]I need to run an errand to the capitol and you?re coming with me.[/B]?

Adrian?s eyebrow shot up. ?[B]An errand?[/B]?

?[B]Yes,[/B]? he grabbed Adrian?s arm when he turned to wake Astera. ?[B]The distance between here and the capitol isn?t that far. Let her sleep.[/B]?

Adrian nodded. What he said was true. If compared to human measurements, it wasn?t more than twenty of their miles. He looked over to the pair, but other than Karl stretching a little, it was clear that Astera was not going to wake up any time soon. Her breathing was slow and steady.

?[B]So,[/B]? Adrian said once they were out of earshot. ?[B]What is this errand that you need to do?[/B]?[/SIZE][/COLOR]

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Gerry Miles was surprised when Nathan asked for a booth instead of his bar stool.

â??What, donâ??t feel like talking to me tonight?â? he had asked jokingly. Nathan had grinned.

â??No, Iâ??m actually meeting someone tonight, a lady friend of mine, and sitting at the bar....â?

â??...yeah,â? Gerry had nodded. â??Bad form.â?

The booth Nathan chose was along the wall farthest from the bandstand, but away from the corner so the rest of the dive was still visible. Nathan didnâ??t want his guest feeling claustrophobic on her first visit. He expected she might feel a little odd about being asked to leave her fox behind, and he felt sitting in a dark corner might not do well for first impressions.

He waited there until she arrived, shooing Eileen playfully away when she came for his order; the waitress had apparently been instructed by Tiffany to give Nathan a hard time, and learning he had a date only encouraged her. Gerry managed to hustle her away before Phaidra arrived, and settled down a great deal afterwards.

Nathan didnâ??t touch the reason for the meeting until after the two had been served their food.

â??Iâ??ve been thinking,â? he said, scooting a fry through his puddle of ketchup. â??Iâ??ve had an idea bouncing around for a few weeks now about a possible spell, and I wanted your take on it.â?

â??Really,â? said Phaidra. â??What kind of spell?â?

Nathan popped the entire fry into his mouth.

â??Itâ??d be shield-magic at the core,â? he told her, â??but I want it to do some specific things for me when it gets hit.â?

â??Like what?â?

â??Well, Iâ??d want the circle itself to be the shield, so you could summon it right in front of you if necessary....â?

Phaidra looked startled. â??Wait,â? she said. â??Just what kind of attacks will this shield be designed for?â?

Nathan told her.

â??What?â? she exclaimed. Nathan shushed her quickly.

â??Itâ??s a training thing I want to use,â? he said. â??Kind of like target practice. In fact, Iâ??d also like it if the shield deactivated after getting hit.â?

â??Oh. Okay,â? Phaidra mused. â??Well, I know Sarvel is very good with shields, but I donâ??t know if she can come up with what you want.â? She gave Nathan a steady look. â??Maybe if I studied how one of Sarvelâ??s shields reacts to . . . what you want it for, then I can study it and try to modify the design for you.â?

â??You donâ??t mind doing that for me?â?

â??No, not at all. I just wonder,â? she said, adjusting her glasses, â??what youâ??ll be using it for. I mean, thatâ??s a very strange thing to want to protect against.â?

â??I thought youâ??d say that,â? Nathan replied. â??And youâ??ll find out eventually. But itâ??d be best to get the basics down first, and weâ??ll keep adding stuff as we go.â? He chuckled. â??Thatâ??s how we used to dream up stuff back in the war. Someone would get an idea during a battle, and someone else would tweak it just a hair, and before you know it we had aerial divisions and magic users who could . . . well, you probably already know about that.â?

Phaidra smiled.

â??So Eileen told me that you usually sit over there at the bar,â? she said, switching the topic.

â??Did she?â?

The mage nodded. â??She said you like the corner on the left.â? Phaidraâ??s brow knitted. â??Why? Itâ??s so dark there.â?

Nathan shrugged. â??I blend in over there.â? He aimed his fork at her plate. â??Finish your salad; itâ??s good for you.â?

Phaidra gave him a blank look.


Precious Time

â??So you have more news from your familiar, you said?â?

â??Please,â? Victor admonished, swirling his wine gently around in its glass. â??Donâ??t call him tsat. Even in jest. It iss very rude; and betsides, you know we canâ??t have tsem. It iss impossible.â?

â??It is easier than â??shinigami informantâ??, you know.â?

â??True.â? The vampire took a slow, careful sip and leaned back in his chair, crossing his legs. â??He hass been keeping track of tse progress on tseir project, which you know already.â?

â??Yes. I remember you telling me what they were looking for.â?

â??In general, or spetssifically?â?


â??Ah, of coursse.â? Victor sighed.

â??Tsey found it.â?

His companion leaned forward suddenly. â??Which one? If they get their hands on....â? The person trailed off at Victorâ??s upraised hand.

â??Which one do you tsink?â? he asked. â??Believe me, no one undertstands tse implicastions of tse news more tsan I. It wass inevitable tsat tsey would discover tseir goal sintse tse first moment tsey tsought to look for it. Tsat alone wass worrissome enough, but I had tsintserely hoped tsat tsey would find tseir tsecond task too difficult. Tse atscentsion of Kellan to tse Countsil hass kept meâ??â??holding my breatssâ??, is it?â??for many years.â?

â??And you know we havenâ??t been able to do anything to oppose it directly for just that long.â?

â??Forgive me if I take little comfort in tsat knowledge, mon amie.â? Victor sipped again. â??Tsis is very good wine. I must tell Gaston he hass made an excellent decision.â?

â??Your cookâ??s name is Gaston.â?

â??You find tsat amusing?â? inquired the vampire.

â??I was under the impression that Gaston was a very cliché name for a Frenchman.â?

Victor sighed again. â??Tsat is unfortunate, espetsially for Gaston, who wass given hiss name at birtss. It iss a real name, after all.â?

â??Of course. Iâ??m sorry.â? The companion cleared their throat. â??So now that the Council has found their quarry, what do we do? What can we do?â?

â??To be honesst, I am untscertain,â? the vampire replied. â??All I can tsink of iss to try and putssh a little harder wherever we can. I woud ratsser not run hasstily into forcing ourtselves into tse open, but I am not tscertain how much more time we can have, or how much we can afford to tspend waiting and sstill be tsure of tsuccess.â?

â??Yes. But it also requires even more precise maneuvering; if we push faster, we can afford no mistakes, no slips through gaps.â?

Victor nodded. â??Agreed,â? he said. â??But for tsat we canâ??no, we musst count on our players to act ass in tse right ways.â?

The companion leaned back. â??I think that wonâ??t be a problem....â?
Edited by Allamorph

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[SIZE="1"][COLOR="Indigo"][CENTER][B][SIZE="2"]In The Garden[/SIZE][/B][/CENTER]
It wasn?t often that Adrian got a chance to take a break; Gavrie was far more demanding than Karl when it came to training. Now that he had been working with both at the same time, he was finding himself in the position of almost needing to sleep, though at first he had needed it. He fought it like he always did, sitting on the grassy hill overlooking the small home, until he gave in a little and laid on his back, his hands under his head as he gazed at the clear sky.

Adrian had at one time bothered to learn the difference in how time flowed between their world and Earth, but being eternal, he had not bothered to retain the information. He didn?t need it. The difference wasn?t all that profound anyway so it was more of an observation than anything else. With just over seven years of working with Gavrie, Karl and other aspects of training that had been tossed his way, it wasn?t long enough time wise to matter.

Gavrie and Karl had certainly tossed a lot of surprises his way though. He knew he?d never forget the day when he had been feeling a little smug for finally reaching the point where he could keep up with Karl. That had been embarrassing since Gavrie had graced him with a mysterious smile and took over.

Three years spent getting to where he could finally keep up with Karl and yet Gavrie had him flat on his back in less than a minute. Karl had pounded the basics along with the need to be patient into him but that had only been the beginning. Once Gavrie had taken over, the real work had begun. He then spent the next four years learning a combination of techniques in addition to more strategy and sparring.

So had Astera, though what she had learned was radically different than what he had been taught. The hardest part had been some of the things Gavrie had done to teach the two how to function regardless of what was going on with the other - even now - Adrian shuddered slightly and put it out of mind.

At least some of the trips to the capitol and to Earth had been interesting. Well other than the first time, when Gavrie had dragged him along for one of his trips to pick up some tea. He snorted at the memory, separating him and Astera over tea of all things. He sighed and closed his eyes and drifted.

[B][I]-Gavrie is looking for you.-[/I][/B] Adrian opened his eyes to see that Astera had somehow managed to sneak up on him in the fields without him noticing.

[B][I]-How did you..?-[/I][/B] He shook his head and with a groan sat up, [B][I]-What does he want? Our break time isn?t over yet.- [/I][/B]He gave her a puzzled look. [B][I]?Why did you come out here instead of simply telling me?-[/I][/B]

[B][I]-You were trancing and fell asleep.-[/I][/B] Astera smirked. [B][I]?So I came to get you.-[/I][/B]

Adrian got up with another groan. [B][I]?Fine, lets go see what he wants.-[/I][/B]

Astera just took her usual spot on his left shoulder and said nothing.

?[B]So what did you want?[/B]?

Gavrie, along with Karl was sitting on the front veranda. ?[B]We have another errand to run.[/B]?

?[B]Already? You just got more tea last week.[/B]?

Karl hopped down off of Gavrie shoulders, ?[B]Stop your whining and let?s get going already.[/B]?

?[B]It?s simple,[/B]? Gavrie said as he stood up. ?[B]You?re done; we?re taking you back to Earth.[/B]?

?[B]I thought you said it would take at least a decade,[/B]? Adrian pointed out as he followed Gavrie and Karl down the road leading to the capitol.

?[B]Did I?[/B]? Gavrie scratched the back of his neck with his right hand and favored Adrian with an innocent look.

Adrian glared at him. ?[B]Yes you did.[/B]?

Gavrie let his hand fall back down to his side. ?[B][I]Ooooh[/I] - that.[/B]? He grinned. ?[B]I lied.[/B]?

Adrian grimaced, ?[B]You?re such an asshole.[/B]?

?[B]So, why did both of you decide to come with us? It's not like I needed help to find my way through the gate.[/B]? Adrian stared at Karl who along with Gavrie was making himself comfortable in the living room of his apartment. Like always he ignored Adrian in favor of getting comfortable.

Karl had opted to stretch out lazily across half of the cushions instead of on Gavrie?s shoulders like he usually did. That was one drawback to having white furniture; any shedding on Karl?s part would be easily noticeable.

Not that Adrian minded, but Karl?s continued habit of barely giving him the time of day outside of training was irritating. His looked to Gavrie who was sitting next to Karl for an answer.

?[B]I came for this.[/B]? Gavrie pulled a piece of folded paper out of his tunic and tossed it to Adrian. ?[B]You know who to give it to.[/B]?

"[B]Well yes, but you can give it to him yourself.[/B]"

When Gavrie didn't answer, Adrian sighed and tucked the piece of paper into his tunic. He glanced at Astera when she flew out of the room and into one of the other ones, busily checking their place over. They had been gone for a while, but Gavrie had seen to making sure someone was hired a couple of times a year to clean things up. Even the blood stains from the fight with the vampires? had been taken care of.

Adrian had briefly thought about moving to a new location when they first arrived and then dismissed the idea. Someone like Victor would find out where he was staying anyway so doing so would be pointless. Plus he[I] liked[/I] the apartment and selling it was something he didn?t want to be bothered with. He certainly wouldn?t be caught off guard like that again. Though now he knew better than to pull any stupid stunts like he had before.

He looked to Gavrie and Karl who were blissfully unaware that he was still hoping for some kind of answer. Adrian sighed inwardly and took a seat in the chair facing the sofa. He was sure they were just toying with him. Seven years of training had definitely told him one thing, if either one of them didn?t want to discuss something, they wouldn?t.

?[B]So,[/B]? He drew the word out. ?[B]Anything else I need to know?[/B]?

Gavrie grinned. ?[B]Nope, just let them know you?re available for work again.[/B]? He stood up. ?[B]I?ll probably drop in every now and then to check on the two of you.[/B]?

Karl stretched lazily before hopping off the sofa, ?[B]Just don?t be an idiot and forget everything you learned the moment we walk out the door.[/B]?

Adrian chose to ignore the jab.

?[B]Awww, leaving already?[/B]? Astera pouted slightly upon coming back into the room.

?[B]Yes. Take care Astera,[/B]? Gavrie nodded to Adrian and then the two left, ghosting through the walls without saying another word.

Adrian waited until they were out of range and then pulled the paper out again. He decided to deliver it [I]before[/I] requesting his work schedule. He stared at it for a while and then pulled out his cell phone and sent a message to see when someone would be free for him to drop it off.

Then, since he couldn?t read it even if he wanted to, he tucked it back into place and started checking his place over while he waited for a reply. [/COLOR][/SIZE]

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[CENTER][B]Can't Take Me Home[/B][/CENTER]
[I]So he?s back.[/I][I] I wonder what he learned while he was gone. [/I]Not that he expected Adrian to have changed; he imagined that his habit of ignoring him would still be the same. Still, it was something he would like to see if he ever got the chance. He looked up at the tall building that was his destination and strolled through the automatic doors that opened upon his approach.

Alex was oblivious to the stares he was getting as he got into the elevator to head for one of the top floors. Patrick may have asked him to join him for lunch at one of the more expensive restaurants overlooking the city, but he saw no reason to bother with acquiring more expensive clothing. The plain brown trousers and green tunic he preferred were more comfortable anyway.

The smartly dressed usher, other than to narrow his eyes slightly, escorted him to where Patrick was waiting at one of the tables up against the far window. He wasn?t dressed any better than Alex, though the black pants and blue tunic was of a much nicer fabric. He waited for Alex to take a seat.

?[B]So what did you want?[/B]? Alex asked. In the past seven years, Patrick had rarely bothered to contact him over anything. The only ones who ever bothered to stop by were Terry and Fiero, though that was usually to pester Nall.

?[B]Oh nothing really,[/B]? Patrick was wearing one of his usual half grins. ?[B]I just realized that I?ve been neglecting you since I got here.[/B]?

Alex shrugged, ?[B]I wouldn?t say that, you haven?t been here that long after all. Besides, now that Adrian is back, doesn?t that mean you?ll be heading back to the other side?[/B]?

?[B]No.[/B]" Patrick shook his head. ?[B]I won?t have assignments anymore, but I decided to take some time off.[/B]?

Alex?s eyebrow shot up. ?[B]Time off. Since when did we get time off?[/B]?

?[B]When you?ve served as long as I have, whenever you want.[/B]? He explained.

?[B]Well no one bothered to tell me that.[/B]?

?[B]That?s because they assign enough reapers in an area that you already have plenty of time between assignments.[/B]? He sighed slightly and looked out at the city. ?[B]It wasn?t always like that you know. We use to have to cover a huge area with no help.[/B]?

He looked back at Alex. ?[B]People would serve on Earth for a while and get burned out. So to cut down on the number of reapers who outright quit, they started allowing vacations and slowly increasing the number of Shingami serving in a given area.[/B]?

?[B]Is that why you started teaching?[/B]?

Patrick nodded, ?[B]I didn?t want others to be stuck like I was, working non-stop without any rest or assistance.[/B]? He leaned back. ?[B]A city this size, in my day, would have had two reapers keeping track of it instead of the six who are here now.[/B]?

[I]Only two?[/I] Alex glanced to the left; the view of the city was clear with the sun shining brightly. He found it hard to imagine. He wasn?t terribly busy but if had just been him and someone else that would have made training with someone like Nathan very difficult to do.

?[B]I had no idea,[/B]? he finally said. ?[B]So how long will you be staying around then?[/B]?

?[B]I haven?t decided yet.[/B]? He waited until Alex looked back. ?[B]Anyway, what about yourself. What have you been up to?[/B]?

Alex just stared at him for a moment as he wondered just what to say. [I]He asked me to come here for this? [/I]Movement caught his eye as one of the servers for the restaurant came over to take their order. For some reason he still didn?t feel like talking to him about Nathan training him.[I] I?ll find something else to talk about[/I] he thought as he glanced at the menu.

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[COLOR="RoyalBlue"][FONT="Lucida Sans Unicode"][CENTER][B][SIZE="3"]Unknown Melody[/SIZE][/B][/CENTER]
Lucia didn?t realize that she was actually humming to herself while she worked in her lab. It had taken close to three years to get things set up how she wanted. It would have been put together much sooner if she hadn?t been required to work. But what she got wasn?t near enough to cover the equipment she had purchased, or to handle the power requirements. That had required setting up something she had created using her technology.

Once the search for information to track who was involved in the incident at the resort in Colorado had begun in earnest, she had immediately noticed attempts to trace any requests for information that she sent out. She had no desire to trust in the ward placed by Phaidra to keep out any serious attempts to locate her. A little research in the other direction had lead to sifting through standard investigation techniques.

It had taken very little for her alter things to make it harder for someone to actually find her. She had even taken the precaution of building something using the crystal material to convert the spiritual energy, that powered her communicator, into something that could power most of her equipment. It hadn?t been too hard, to expand the initial concept and put it to practical use.

Searches like hers required processing power and an increase in using such energy would show up in the records the humans kept. She had done the same for her access of the Internet, limiting how much was on the records by hacking into other?s systems and using their connection to aide in her searches.

?[B]What song are you humming?[/B]?

Lucia sat up straight with a jerk, her current search momentarily forgotten. ?[B]What are you talking about Ruby?[/B]?

?[B]You?ve been humming for the past half hour.[/B]?

?[B]What?[/B]? Lucia stared at her. ?[B]I have not[/B].?

Ruby snorted, ?[B]have too,[/B]? she mocked.

Lucia opened her mouth to reply and then changed her mind. Ruby had that look in her eyes that she got when she was feeling mischievous. [I]Was I really humming?[/I]

?[B]You promised me we?d go out for dinner tonight.[/B]?

?[B]I?[/B]? Lucia gave her a hard look since she had done no such thing. Still a break probably wouldn?t hurt anything.

?[B]Alright. Let me get this sent to Nathan first and we?ll head out.[/B]?

It didn?t take her long since most of what she had found recently was just a few tidbits to add onto what they already knew. Tracking down who had been sending supplies to that resort in Colorado, among other things, was very tedious. She kept running into dead end after dead end. Whoever was involved was very good at hiding, though that just made it all the more exciting. It was almost as much fun as her own research was, working until you put the pieces together.

It only took her a few minutes to transfer what she had gotten to her communicator before forwarding it to Nathan. She was standing up to leave when a prompt came up on the screen, indicating a file she had been after had just been retrieved.

?[B]Lucia! Don?t you dare![/B]? Ruby scolded when she opened it automatically.

?[B]I?m just going to glance?[/B]?

[I]Hello, what do we have here?[/I]

She sat back down. The message in question wasn?t much of anything but her program when decoding the encryption had produced something a bit odd. What the hell was code snippets that could have only come from Reaper technology doing in a message sent on Earth?

"[B]Lucia![/B]" Ruby snapped.

"[B]Alright! Alright![/B]" She stood back up. She wouldn't get much done if Ruby was yelling at her all evening. She waited for Ruby to land on her right shoulder before heading out.[/FONT][/COLOR]

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[FONT="Tahoma"][CENTER][SIZE="3"][B]Lazy Days[/B][/SIZE][/CENTER]
Phaidra finished with her writing before closing the thick book and putting it back in its drawer in her desk. She would have preferred to use one of the recorders that she was accustomed to from her studies, but that kind of technology was not allowed to cross over to Earth. It took her longer to carefully write things out and then apply the necessary seal so that only she could read it. It also had a ward on it that would keep humans from being able to see it at all. Another reaper could actually see the book, but it would appear empty to them. Only she could undo the seal.

She had a separate one for the research she was helping Nathan with. That was just utterly fascinating to her, getting it to actually work and then moving on to the next logical step. She hadn?t bothered to send any of that back to the faculty of the school she had been training at before coming to Earth. The actual concept was Nathan?s and therefore, publishing rights on the research would require his permission. There was also the fact that they weren?t quite finished tweaking the process, though in her opinion, it was pretty close to being finished.

Then, once she had added a few notes to that one she put it away in favor of using the computer she had bought. Both she and Sarvel had no assignments for the rest of the day so Phaidra was planning on putting her time to good use. Within moments of her turning the device on, Sarvel looked up from her position of lying in a spot of sunlight pouring in from the window to the study. She stretched as she got up and wandered over to hop up onto the desk.

?[B]Don?t you think one was enough?[/B]? She asked Phaidra who was opening up a document.

?[B]I never said I?d actually publish it.[/B]? She pointed out.

?[B]You said that last time too.[/B]? Sarvel took a moment to get comfortable. ?[B]We don?t need the money or the attention.[/B]?

?[B]What attention?[/B]? Phaidra folded her arms across her chest. ?[B]No one cares about a cookbook.[/B]? She tilted her head to the side ever so slightly and frowned. ?[B]You were the one complaining about the calls I got wanting to know more about what I did for catering.[/B]?

Sarvel snorted. ?[B]Just admit it, you wanted to do it.[/B]?

?[B]Fine, so long as you admit you wanted me to get more fish recipes.[/B]?

Sarvel narrowed her eyes and then sighed. ?[B]Fair enough.[/B]? She got up and hopped off the desk to wander back to her patch of sunlight. ?[B]I still think it?s a waste of time.[/B]?

?[B]No more than taking time to visit the forests and streams after a storm.[/B]?

Sarvel stiffened and then lowered her head. ?[B]You?re right, I?m sorry.[/B]? She looked back at Phaidra. ?[B]I forget that you find that kind of thing relaxing.[/B]?

Phaidra smiled. ?[B]I know.[/B]?

She watched for a few moments while Sarvel settle back down before she went back to working on writing up another one of her recipes. [/FONT]

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[FONT="Arial"][CENTER][B][U]Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For[/U][/B][/CENTER][/FONT]

[SIZE="1"][align=justify]A massive yawn overtook the blue shinigami sitting on a park bench. His mouth gaped; his neck stretched backwards, and he shook his head from side to side in an effort to keep himself conscious.

[B]?Oooh-wah!?[/B] he finished, closing his jaw with a snap. Nathan blinked quite hard several times, then rubbed his eyes.

Not that he was tired. ?Bored as hell? would be more the truth, he might say. Three or four wonderfully-placed assignments had interfered with his weekly magic session with Phaidra, and his young disciple was getting to the point where solo training was threatening to become a drudge. At the very least he now had a new trick to add to his techniques, maybe two, but they were easily mastered, and now all he had to do with his time was experiment with variations on them and take souls.

Holding his right hand in front of him, Nathan murmured a quick string of words under his breath, and blue light etched an eight-inch circle on the air in front of it. The center of the symbol was a tiny circle containing a single glyph, with a larger circle bounding it. Inscribed in the larger circle was a triangle, and less visibly a trisected hexagon, giving the illusion of a cube. Three small circular bulges were inlayed on the circle?s perimeter, exactly opposite the triangle?s sides. Outside that was another ring containing a continuous loop of text in the shinigami language; various symbols were echoed outside of that ring, building a further three rings to complete the image.

Nathan touched the tips of his first two fingers to the center glyph. At the contact, each ring spun in a separate direction, and the circle disappeared. Nathan glanced at his fingers, opened his hand, and repeated the process several more times.

Since the raid on the Colorado cell that had produced a startling amount of information, progress on finding and tracing the various connections had been slow, and barely anything had been learned about who was controlling the setup. The purpose for the bizarre experiments was less muddy?something to do with the spiritual side of humans, though Nathan was loathe to reveal what he and Chris suspected?but since there were so many individual research stations, getting any hard information to tie together was almost impossible.

In seven years, the group had only managed to turn up anything significant about three or four times a year, if that. Between Gavrie?s snooping and Chris?s remaining contacts, the group had been supplied with a constant source of abandoned hideouts and moderately active cells to explore and raid, but because the entity backing the research was so well-organized, the most that the shinigami had accomplished was a thinning of the vampires? numbers.

While his right hand was occupied, Nathan drew out his cell phone with his left and flipped it open, cycling through his messages to reread Lucia?s latest transmission. Seemed the last few forays had given her a better idea of how the individual cells were connected, and she was close to something definite.

Nathan sighed. It was about time, in his opinion. He was still far from having to try to kill any vampires who crossed his path; getting closer to the source might mean a decent challenge soon.

A presence landed a few meters away from Nathan. He felt it and recognized Adrian, but didn?t look up, continuing his exercises with the circle and pocketing his phone. He waited until Adrian had approached to speak.

[B]?So, the master not want to have this one intercepted??[/B]

[B]?I guess not,?[/B] said Adrian. [B] ?You want it now??[/B]

[B]?Sure, yeah.?[/B]

The paper was exchanged, and Adrian waited while Nathan flipped it open. A quick pass of his hand brought forth the message; the blue shinigami scanned the paper, blinked, and read it again.

[B]?Something interesting??[/B] Adrian asked.

[B]?...hunh,?[/B] said Nathan. He banished the message with another wave and motioned for Adrian to sit. [B]?Possibly,?[/B] he answered while the other complied. [B]?Something to look forward to, at least.?[/B]

[B]?It?s a raid, isn?t it??[/B]

[B]?Probably.?[/B] Nathan turned to his comrade. [B]?So, how?s the training been?oh hi, Astera.?[/B]

The blue-haired faeirie crossed her arms. [B]?Don?t tell me you didn?t notice me,?[/B] she said crossly.

Nathan assumed the expression of a deer in headlights. He darted his eyes to Adrian, then back to the faerie.

[B]?All right,?[/B] he said. [B] ?I won?t.?[/B]

Adrian rolled his eyes.

[B]?You?d have to ask Gavrie for a decent answer,?[/B] he told Nathan. [B] ?I know I?m better, and I feel stronger, but I don?t know what he was looking for or if I ever got there. He did teach me a few new tricks, though.?[/B]

[B]?Oh, that?s good,? [/B]said Nathan. [B] ?So you feel like if you faced that Count guy now, instead of before, you?d have done better??[/B]

[B]?Maybe. That spell he cast on us probably would have knocked out a few of my new abilities, too, but I can fight a lot better than before, so up close, who knows??[/B]

Nathan nodded. [B] ?Good, good. Seems like you got the necessary parts taken care of.?[/B] He stretched lazily. [B] ?So,? [/B]he went on, [B]?bet you?re looking forward to some down time.?[/B]

[B]?A little.? [/B] Adrian let out a small chuckle with the statement. [B] ?Seven years and no days off takes its toll on you.?[/B]

[B]?I can imagine. But,?[/B] Nathan grinned, [B]?we?ve gotta make sure you stay in form.?[/B] He folded his hands behind his head. [B]?So you?re getting a new sparring partner.?[/B]

[B]?Oh really??[/B]

[B]?Yeah,?[/B] said Nathan. [B]?But Alex is running late....?[/B]

Adrian started. [B]?What?!?[/B]

[B]?It's not like him,?[/B] murmured Nathan.[/align][/SIZE]

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