After we had settled into our rooms, and made our way to the club, it was pushing midnight local time. As a group, however, we all didn’t seem particularly affected by the late hour, since we had spent so much time sleeping on the plane ride. Raymond suggested that we create a contingency plan, in the case that we might become separated. I hailed that as an equally good idea, so as we walked towards the center of the city, we decided that if we were to get separated, or something ill were to happen, we would try to get each others attention in the most subtle way possible: telepathy.
We were quiet, after that, for a few blocks. Suddenly, I noticed that Kenneth, ever curious, was in step to my left, as Silas had dropped back and seemed to be in an animated discussion with Raymond and Benji. Kenneth seemed to be mulling over something, which is rare considering the mouth I had come to understand he had; I took the opportunity that he had provided to take a long glimpse of his profile. Kenneth had a bit of a ‘bad-boy’ mysterious vibe going on, complete with the ‘devil-may-care’ attitude, an honest to God vintage leather biker jacket and surprisingly chic ear piercings. His sandy hair, thoughtful green eyes, and permanent stubble on a strong jaw did nothing to detract from his look, either. Thinking back, I recalled that his time with the VIB was unfortunately short, because he had been dishonorably discharged for attacking one of his peers at an official VIB function that was held in honor of one of the higher officials. Of course, the Bureau had certainly changed and expanded after I had relinquished control in 1947, and didn’t even heed my voiced concerns when I had discovered the only reason he had attacked his colleague was because said colleague had taunted, and ultimately defamed, Kenneth James’s partner, Benjamin Wallace. After witnessing that fiasco, I slammed the VIB for condoning hate-speech and bigotry, and officially broke off ties with them. I then went on, a few years later, to create Manchuria, which was basically a private investigative service, mainly concerned with odd occurrences having to do with vampires around the globe. When I did finally put Manchuria together, Kenneth was the first person I called, and, by default, Benji as well. Because of that, not only was Kenneth loyal, but he was also a fantastic friend.
Kenneth’s voice broke me from my reverie. “Should we be afraid of Tantalus?”
I snapped my head around to catch his face, and looked at him, squinting. Slowly, though, my eyes wandered their way back to looking at the grey asphalt, as I pondered the question myself. SHOULD we be afraid of Tantalus? The first time I had even heard of the entity was in 1785. Some…person had accosted Silas while he was downtown, and managed to not only outrun him, but outmaneuver and overpower him, as well. Silas said the stranger, whose extra seemed to have been identity concealment, dragged him into an obscure alley, subdued him, and shoved a scrap of paper with the word ‘Tantalus’ written on it, into his palm. I remember he ran all the way home and collapsed into my arms, blubbering incoherently about some Greek myth. I tried to get him to try to remember who it was that had accosted him, but he couldn’t. He said he remembered seeing the man’s face, but in the memory, there is just a blur where the face should be. From that point on, there were a few more encounters with Tantalus agents, like in Spain in 1898, or Seattle in 1972, but the organization had been relatively quiet.
Even as I asked the question “Why?” to Kenneth, he and I both already knew why he’d asked in the first place; it was what I had been afraid of this whole time: that this whole excursion, from Washington to Ankara, was nothing but a long, elaborate trap. I knew full well that Caras was not to be trusted; but in my arrogance, I trusted him anyway. And with favorable results. But even though I might have had fears that there was malicious intent behind whoever was commandeering Caras, the favorable results in the past led me to believe that Caras working with Tantalus was an absurd notion.
I sighed. “Look, I don’t think that I’m too crazy to believe that Caras, as obscure as he may seem, had any affiliation with Tantalus, in any way. Why would he seem to risk so much in order to give us such valuable information? Information that could potentially do considerable damage to an entity like Tantalus?” I looked up and into Kenneth’s eyes. They didn’t share my optimism. “That might seem arrogant of me, but that’s how it feels to me.”
Kenneth eyed me, levelly. Whispering, he said, “And if you’re wrong? What happens to Silas? Huh? What about Benji?”
My eyes found their way to the pavement again. I found myself whispering, too. “You know, you would think that being a vampire for nearly 250 years would wise a person up. But I continually have to suppress brash, simplistic urges to solve problems with a 17 year old’s instincts. Perhaps I…perhaps I acted too quickly on this.”
Kenneth was diplomatic in his response. “Perhaps you did…perhaps you didn’t.” He snorted. “We’re too far in, now, as it is.” He regarded me coolly, and for the first time in as long as I can remember, his withering look made me physically shrink away. “But I’ll tell you this: if this mission turns out to be the catalyst for Benji’s death, the blood will be forever on your hands.”
“I assure you, that won’t be the case,” I said wanly.
The group in the back, their conversation apparently over, caught up with us just as we were walking into the ‘entertainment’ district of Ankara. The bright neon signs nearly blinded me, and more than one hooker I had to wrench myself away from, much to the others’ amusement. The crowd was getting quite dense as we neared our destination; we then realised that the club Faraway Girl was the most popular in the city.
“Well, shit,” Kenneth pretty much summed it up as we saw the amount of people stream into the club. “I’m already starting to choke on fabricated smoke.” Silas, always good natured, rolled his eyes and grabbed my hand, pulling me into the club as if I hadn’t wanted to. Which…well, I hadn’t.
“C’mon,” he said. “We’ll find Caras somewhere.”
The search was tiring and tedious. It’s not like we could just ask around and give ourselves away by announcing if anyone knew a secret vampire underlo—
“Where’s Silas?” I yelled to Raymond over the din about an hour later, who was next to me on the upper level, overlooking the mosh pit. The strobe lights were beginning to give me a headache, and I was quickly running out of patience. Raymond, who was of natural middle eastern decent, looked over at me.
“He went to ask around about Caras.” When I visibly paled, Raymond started to sound panicked. “What?!”
“He went to ASK? How stupid can that kid be?!”
“Well, he went with Ben! They should be fine. Let’s go find Ken.”
We made our way down the steps, and onto the dance floor. Clubs were never really my thing, anyway, so all this gyrating and shit really started to get on my nerves. I shoved my way through the thick, sweaty crowd and made my way to the bar, where I found Ken, with his back to me. Looking behind me to see if Raymond had followed, when I noticed he had, I resumed my quest for Ken’s attention.
Suddenly, Ken whipped around, face flushed and nostrils flared. He grabbed me by the front of my shirt and violently pushed me back until I could feel the cold embrace of a cement pillar at my back. Surprised, I yelped as Raymond shouted in alarm and rushed to my aide.
“What the hell, Ken?!” Ray shouted, grabbing Ken’s shoulder. Ken snapped his head around and sent out a mild mind blast, pushing Raymond roughly away. Raymond fell on his ass and looked back up at Ken, dazed. I gulped as Ken turned slowly and focused his sights on me.
“You know,” he said, in a deathly cold voice I had never heard him use before, “For being nearly 250 years old, you’re right. You’re still a fucking punk kid at heart, aren’t you?”
I was breathing sporadically out of my nose, trying to take in air. “W-what?” I heard myself stutter.
“What happened to our PLAN? Huh? Why did you let your little bitch split us up?” The fire in my eyes were dangerously apparent at that comment, but it didn’t faze Ken. “Silas split us up, and now I can’t find Ben, and he’s not answering in here,” he said as he tapped on his temple.
I shoved Ken back hard, which he allowed. My frightened breathing had now turned into angry, shallow breaths. My fists clenched and unclenched at my sides. “I’ll let that one side this time, James. Call my baby that again and I’ll show you how well my extra can work.” I set my jaw, and sent him such a severe look that his ‘righteously’ angry features faltered for a second. “And for your information, we didn’t know that Silas had taken it upon himself to ASK AROUND about Caras, that idiot.”
Ken’s anger was replaced, slightly, with a look of confusion. “But Ben?”
“Raymond said that Ben and Silas had gone off together,” I said, pointing to Raymond who was meekly standing behind Ken. Ken faced him in a flash.
“Which one told you that?!”
Raymond looked like a deer in headlights. “Uhhhh…both of them? I don’t really remember—” he blushed “—I was kinda talking to someone.”
Now it was Ken and I’s turn to be angry at Raymond. “You what?!” We screeched together. Ken growled and turned back to me.
“I don’t have fucking time for this,” he said, eyes smoldering. “Yet again, your little street bastard got us all in trouble.” I was angry, sure, and I would have let that one slide as well, but he just HAD to say what he said next: “Why you even picked him up is beyond me. You should have just let him rot.”
At first, I didn’t think I had heard him right. I shook my head, and my eyes widened. But then I noticed the ashen look on Raymond’s face and Ken had paused cautiously. I think Ken physically winced as my eyes narrowed, and I set my jaw. “What?” I said it so quietly that Ken shouldn’t have been able to hear it, but he knew what I said anyway. “What did you just say about Silas?”
“Shit!” He breathed. After nearly 300 years of honing my ability, I could do some pretty amazing tricks with my time dilation extra. One of these tricks were to freeze the mind, thus throwing the poor victim into a thought limbo of sorts. Not only was it scary as fuck, but painful and totally disorienting too. The small part of my brain that wasn’t bent on totally destroying Ken, fortunately still had some semblance of control, so I did it as mildly as I could.
But I still did it.
I widened my eyes, focused, and raised my hands for the snap. Using both hands I had found made my extra apply faster. Ken jerked his head down and looked at my hands, now panicked, knowing what I was going to do. His eyes flew between me and what I assumed was an ashen Raymond, and I could tell he was about to use his mind blast. So I stopped him.
There was no screaming, no thrashing. Ken just froze where his stood, his eyelids drooped, his mouth agape. I vaguely heard Raymond in the background asking what I had just done, but I shot him a look that shut him up fast.
Then, around 15 seconds later, I snapped my fingers again, and Ken suddenly slumped to the ground, dazed and disoriented.
I quickly kneeled down next to him. I knew Raymond’s extra was pain evasion, so I beckoned him over. “Heal him up,” I demanded, all business. “Even with your help he’s gonna be dazed for at least 10 minutes. Keep his legs above his head. I’m fucking done; I’m gonna go search for Silas and Ben.”
Raymond nodded in fright, and quickly bent down to touch and now writhing Ken. I arose, still smoldering, and strode purposefully toward the back of the complex. The smoke was everywhere, and the music was starting to wear on me.
I thought initially that freezing time would alert every vampire in the area. But I was too tired to look for them with all this commotion; I had — earlier on — figured how to freeze everything except Silas, because I knew his signature so well. I didn’t know Ben’s though, so he’d have to be frozen along with everyone else. Since Ken and Raymond were in the same room as me, I opted to spare them as well.
I focused on them, and them snapped my fingers to freeze time. Suddenly, the smoke froze, so did the music and the writhing bodies. Along with it came a silence so silent that it kinda freaked me out.
“What happened?” Raymond yelled out across the complex. His voice reverberated in an odd way. I was about to answer when I saw something move quickly in my peripheral vision. I snapped my head in that direction, but it moved again. I snapped my head forward and I immediately recoiled in fright.
In front of me stood a man with no face, with the word Tantalus scrawled on his forehead in black marker.
He seemed to beckon me forward.