The air was thick and stale and smoky. For one long moment, she couldn't help wondering if it would be necessary to breathe to complete this mission. She shook the errant thought aside and turned to her partner. "You okay?"
Her companion turned kohl-rimmed dark eyes on her. "This is probably the most idiotic thing I've let you talk me into yet, shachou."
She nodded slightly, twisting a glitter-streaked lock of pale yellow hair around her finger, recreating one of the ringlets she'd attempted to smooth out. "I know, Maki."
"Tatically speaking, we're in a horrible position."
The Oriental sighed loudly. "If I didn't know that Ken wasn't ready and Michael didn't need to be in the field anymore..." A slendar hand raked through white hair streaked dark for the night, and Maki sighed again. "The things I do for you, shachou."
"I know." She wrapped her leather-encased hand around her partner's and squeezed lightly. "Thank you."
"They're going to be after us like gaigen after sushi."
"Hopefully it won't be that bad."
The look on Maki's face clearly stated the Oriental's thoughts on the likelihood of that, but the subject was dropped. "Let's get this over with, shachou."
"We're on a mission, Maki," she retorted mildly, not releasing the other's hand. "Call me Dara."
"I'm not helping them mess up your head anymore, Claudia."
She grinned lightly and stepped away from her partner as they stepped the rest of the way into the club - and opened her mind up. #You there, Michael?#
A familiar voice came from the receiver she'd placed in her ear. "I'm here, Dara."
#What do we have in here?#
"Give me a second." There was silence for a long moment. "You've got about twenty humans, mostly vampire freaks. Everyone else is a vamp. Varying levels, but mostly flunkies and Lesser Masters."
#Great.# The sarcasm was heavy even in her own mind. #And our target?#
"Marcellus is... across the room, on the other side of the dance floor, talking to a Lesser Master. There are two or three flunkies there - I'm guessing they're bodyguards, - a revanent on a leash, and a human, vamp freak by the way her thoughts are going. Huh? Oh, I'm a little telepathic, Ken. I can pick up people's thoughts if I try really hard or get really upset."
She laughed softly to herself, giving the man who had moved up against her a hard shove. #Did we forget to mention that to him?#
"Claudia... you knew good and well that he didn't know about this."
The voice that spoke into the mic wasn't Michael's this time. "You just wanted to freak me out, didn't you? Just like with the powers thing."
"She said, of course." Michael had the microphone again. "Look, be careful in there. I've got a bad feeling about this mission, and Ken was just saying a few minutes ago that something didn't seem right here."
#We'll be careful. Just keep us in the clear.# She slid her mind away from Michael's and started to slide her way across the dance floor, through the mass of writhing bodies, allowing as few of them to touch her as possible - and breaking hands at the occasional grope.
Then suddenly she and everyone else froze as shivers ran up their spines. Someone was testing power levels in the area. There was only one High Master here to do that.
"Dara! He's scenting power levels! Marcellus is -!"
#I bloody know!#
With agonizing slowness, all eyes turned to where she stood in the middle of the dance floor and where Maki had been circling around it. As time began to speed up, she made a grab for her gun. Stakes would be a waste of time in a crowd this size, stated the logical part of her brain that wasn't starting to freak out, the part was refusing to notice the bloodlust glazing over the eyes of the crowd.
As her hand closed on the flesh-warmed metal of the weapon, a cold hand gripped and squeezed her shoulder; she felt things giving that should not be doing so. Mostly, though, it was her fragile control on her temper that was giving. She spun a half step backwards and rammed her other arm behind her; its elbow connected solidly with the solar plexus of the tall man behind her. The blow at least staggered the vampire holding her long enough for her to bring a spiked boot heel down into her captor's foot, allowing her to slip free from him. A quick overview told her that her right arm was all but useless to her for now, and she knew her aim was nowhere near as accurate left-handed. She pulled the gun and shot down the chandelier, though; it might just buy her a long enough distraction to regroup, she thought to herself as she fought her way through the panicking crowd.
Nails - more like talons - raked across the skin of her already injured arm, digging deep furrows into her flesh. A short scream escaped her throat before she forced herself to cut it off.
A warm arm slipped around her shoulder, pulling her into the shadows away from the dance floor and against a warm body. "Are you okay, shachou?" a familiar alto voice asked, worry just barely apparent in it.
She forced herself to ignore the wish to just cling to her partner. She'd thought she'd long since broken herself of such silly and weak impluses. Instead, she took a step back, remaining in the shadows, holding her injured arm against her chest, and examined her partner. The light blue shirt was ripped in a few places, but the slices didn't reveal any threatning wounds.
Belatedly she realized Maki was still speaking. "What is it?" she asked softly.
"You... seem to be hurt pretty badly." The Oriental was choosing words carefully, maybe not wanting to upset her. "Maybe we should abort the mission."
And that was what she needed to get going again. "We can't abort." She turned and studied the chaos behind her. "Marcellus is heading upstairs. It's crazy enough out there that likely no one will even notice us."
Maki sighed melodramatically. "Or they'll be on us like candy."
"Dara?" Michael's voice asked softly in her ear. "What's going on in there? I heard a gunshot, and everyone's thoughts are a jumble."
#Just a small problem, Michael. We're pushing on with the mission now. We're heading upstairs after Marcellus. Full silence till then, okay?#
#I said, full silence till then. You okay, Michael?#
"Yeah, fine. Got it. Just... be careful."
She didn't respond to that, instead fishing out a katana-length stake from inside her overjacket. "Still have the crossbow, Maki?" she questionned softly.
"Of course." The look in those dark eyes clearly called her a fool for considering otherwise. Her partner reached on the back of the torn shirt and produced the weapon, thumbing the switch that allowed the arms to pop out. "We're going after Marcellus anyway, eh?"
"We can't let him know about us," she answered simply.
Maki nodded simply to this, and with that as the agreement between them, they headed through the crowd and ran up the same staircase their prey had taken just moments before.
"This should be the set for some cheesy horror movie," Maki muttered darkly behind her. Smirking to herself, she couldn't help silently agreeing. The hallway the staircase led to was lit at regular intervals by candles held high above the floor by brass candleholders. However, those regular intervals held large gaps between them, and large parts of the hall were dark. Regardless of this and the potential danger it could present, they rushed on anyways, past empty room after empty room after empty room.
And then there was one door left. Out of unspoken understanding, they took up positions on opposite sides of the door. She looked up just a bit to meet her partner's dark eyes and silently ticked down a countdown from three on her fingers. Just as she was lowering the "one" finger, the door swung open on its own.
Out of the corner of their eyes, they allowed their gazes to meet. In her partner's eyes, she saw the twins for her own worries and fears about just what lay beyond that doorway. Then at a slight shrug from her partner, the decision was made, and as one, they rounded the corner into the room - and froze.
29 November 2001
And here's the newest chapter, and finally one from a point-of-view OTHER than Ken's! >^_^< Is this a good thing or a bad thing? You tell me. Next chapter sooner rather than later, I hope.