Chapter XXII: Old FriendsI walked over as Nines and Jack stopped talking, arms spread wide.
'Jaaaaack', I drawled happily. It was good to see him again. He laughed, slapping my back.
'Well Jack', I said in a mournful tone. 'Unfortunately, I didn't get to do that much sightseeing.'
I sighed, thinking back to The Asylum, to Tung, to not even my email being free of LaCroix's demands. 'You have no idea, man. No fucking idea.'
Jack clicked his tongue in sympathy.
'Just you', I grinned. 'Although it seems I owe Nines once again.' I looked over at Nines who leaned against the wall, ostensibly lost in his own thoughts, although I saw his ears prick up at mention of his name.
'Yeah, so it seems. Why's he taken such an interest, to risk his own neck twice, for little old me?'
'I dunno', I muttered. 'Anything. A little backstory.'
I chuckled. 'You hardly seem the teaching type, Jack. So where do you fit in all this?'
That was the truth. I looked around, at the boarded up windows, the threadbare carpet, the cheap and peeling wallpaper. Compared it to the opulence of LaCroix's headquarters. I raised an eyebrow. 'So how do you win, then?'
'So Nines is in charge here then?'
Figures. My own personal saviour was used to social injustices...maybe his protection was just what Jack said it was. Looking out for the little guy. Talking of protection...
'So, what about the Sabbat? Should I be terrified, hiding under every bush?'
The imagery was...vivid...but Jack found it easy to put the smile back on my face. His pugilistic take on things was startlingly accurate.
'So why don't they just stay the hell out of eachother's way? There don't seem to be that many of us, otherwise someone would have noticed. The world's a big place afterall.'
'I saw that warehouse Jack. Something big was going on there. So why'd LaCroix send me in when he's got that nine-foot-powerhouse by his side?'
I'd largely figured that out for myself, but external confirmation just hammered in how thinly the thread attaching me to this new life was. I was just a pawn, like my mysterious emailer had said. Should the hand decide to sacrifice me, I doubted I'd be sorely missed by the Camarilla. But in that case...
'So why let me live? What purpose did that serve?'
'You don't sound too fond of him', I responded flippantly. For once, Jack was no longer all smiles. He leaned forward, pointing a finger.
Jack had a way with words. Confident, brash, with a 'I won't take shit from anyone' attitude to round it all off. He also didn't seem like the type to run off carrying tales.
'Jack, LaCroix has ordered me off to the Elizabeth Dane.'
Jack blinked, then flicked his eyes to the side, pressing a finger to his lips slightly. In a low tone, he seriously responded.
'Is that right, kid. Now listen close. The Sarcophagus...Did LaCroix mention the Sarcophagus?'
I scratched my cheek, feeling the same irritation I had felt when LaCroix had impatiently outlined his interest.
'Not that much, and I don't know how much of that to trust. Why, what do you know?'
LaCroix was sending me out for a fucking relic?
'I don't get it Jack, why do we care about a napping grandad vamp?'
'LaCroix wants him to wake up to a buffet?'
Again with the Apocalypse?
'C'mon Jack, not you too, I figured you'd be too smart for all this crap, there's no such thing as the apocalypse, right?'
I winked at Jack, shrugging impudently. 'Well, if I do, I'll let him know where you're hanging out.' Jack grinned, giving the thumbs up.
'Good luck, kid. I'm not gonna pretend I know all the shit going down, but I know somethin' doesn't feel right.'
I clasped Jack's hand. With Jack in the background, I didn't feel quite as isolated as I did. Nice knowing the friends you had were badasses who could back you up if necessary. Speaking of which...I closed my eyes, testing my nerve, before I turned.
'Nines Rodriguez', I said. 'Seems like I owe you big-time.'
No? For 'just a guy', you sure like to talk.
'So lay it on me, Nines.'
This sounded a lot like the Tremere Pyramid. Either way, the guys at the top call all the shots, and us 'worthless' beings at the bottom get to do the dying.
'So, LaCroix's who we've got to worry about then.'
Nines grimaced, making a dismissive gesture with his hand.
Was he really this idealistic? Or did he want to turn the pyramid upside down, with himself at the top?
'And you're the right alternative?', I asked cooly.
'You're telling me the Camarilla are new in town?' How does this work, with what the asian vampire said?
'So, where's that leave you Nines? Prince of the Anarchs?'
Nines seemed angry, but perhaps that was his passion, his idealism. I didn't feel the same air of conceited faux-interest in Nines that I'd felt in LaCroix. He believed what he said, believed in what he said. I could see what Tung meant when he said that more people were switching allegiances due to Nines' charisma on a daily basis. Especially when compared to the 'charisma' of LaCroix.
'Point taken, sorry. So listen Nines, what can I do to keep my back covered?'
Exactly how I feel...why kill when I don't have to...just the common sense parts of the Camarilla line, without the hierarchical bullshit.
Yet inside, I could feel the Beast inside raging at the mention of blood, it's voice crooning to me, cajoling me, begging me, roaring at me. I swayed slightly as Nines continued.
'Heh, less said about that the better. You know how to fight. Got any tips?'
'Fair enough, I'll keep that in mind. You'll know how I do by my resemblance to raw meat next time we meet.'
Nines smiled, that same smile he had after picking me up after my earlier beating.
'Listen newbie, we all do what we've gotta do. Just stay alive long enough to find out what that is in your case. Now beat it.'
I headed back down the stairs, deciding to follow the leads on the plaguebearers. I thought back to what Jack had said, what Nines had said. Problem was, what Nines was saying was making a lot more sense than everything LaCroix wasn't.
Do I side with my blood, or my beliefs? What is a pawn to do?