Gone From Daylight 07 - Renegade

Chapter 2

I took  a stance, and with a slow, deep breath...I felt my entire body relax. My limbs became loose, but ready. My mind cleared itself entirely, and I found my center deep in the pit of my stomach. It was like having everything balance out perfectly in a single instant. Kid or no kid, he's NOT gonna make an 'easy win' out of me!

With a boyish smile...he attacked again!

I watched his short blond mop fly up and swing around as his slim frame spun low to kick my legs out from under me, but my legs moved all by themselves, jumping backwards and leaving him swinging in mid air. I think it caught him by surprise, but it wasn't long before he was back to work, trying to get in another shot. His legs began moving in a violent whirlwind, testing every possible opening that I had on my body, and as I felt my mimic ability kick in, it became easier and easier to almost block every strike. I can't explain it, but it was like my body was learning. The harder he fought, the more it absorbed every move, adopting his moves into it's own repetoire and blocking it at the same time. This time, it was different. I could literally FEEL my mind and body becoming 'full', almost engorged, on the skill that he was using on me. He picked up the pace, balancing on one leg while his other one was wildly flailing in my direction. He aimed a few shots at my head, some at my stomach, some at my legs, then he would alternate between all of them at once! But my body captured every movement, and gained more momentum as he swung mercilessly at me.

For the first minute or so, I was able to block almost every kick, only getting tagged by one or two here or there. Lucky shots, mostly. Then, I could block ALL of his attacks. Then, I could simply dodge half of them with ease and block the rest as he tired himself out. But I soon began to feel a strange power build up in my arms, and my fists clenched up on their own. It seems that my body has learned what it needs to know now...and it's ready to strike back! As the boy lunged towards me, I felt my arm reach out, closed fist, and connect with a thud to the kid's chest, knocking him back a full five feet! It surprised the hell out of me, and I looked down at my fist in amazement as it held it's outstretched pose for everyone to see! The kid was holding his chest in pain, and struggled to get to his feet. He WASN'T happy!

The whole crowd had gotten dead silent for a moment, trying to somehow figure out what the hell had just happened. Much like I was. Then, as I looked out and saw Dion and Gyro standing among them, EVERYONE jumped up and shouted louder than anything I've ever heard before in my life!!! Cheering...for ME! I looked out and Gyro was practically turning backflips in the bleachers, screaming at the top of his lungs and grinning from ear to ear. Wow...I can DO this! I can REALLY DO this! Just then, I felt a kick land square in the middle of my back, and the kid actually stepped up on one of my knees to jump kick me in the face! I flew back, landing on my ass, and sprung back to my feet just in time for him to catch me with a roundhouse kick to my jaw! The room began to spin as I fell back to the canvas again. Dammit! Gotta stay focused! I flipped back up to my feet, but he was pressing me much harder now, not wanting to give me a chance to breathe. He was good, DAMN good...but as I kept up with him physically, his emotions became clear to me. He was anxious, stiff, desperate. I could feel it...he was losing and he didn't know how to handle it. His thoughts swirled up in a huge jumble and he was trying so hard to think of a way to take me out of the match quickly before he ran out of ideas, that he wasn't thinking clearly. I could feel his exhaustion, the numbness of his muscles as he pushed harder and harder to get the advantage. His confidence was dwindling fast, and his speed was lacking now that his body had used up all of it's energy. There was no doubt about it...this kid was going down.

I caught him by the ankle as he kicked at me, and spun him to the floor. He jumped up, only to have me catch it again, same leg, and toss him up against the glass at the edge of the ring. Huffing and puffing, he got up slowly, and swung at me with everything he had. It was at that moment that I felt my leg swing around, spinning me with it fast enough to almost snap my own neck, and connect a harsh kick directly to his midsection, just below his ribs. Sparrow flew backwards and ended up landing on his face almost ten feet from where he was standing a second ago. The people went absolutely WILD! It was then that I walked over to my opponent, made sure he was looking me in the eye, and said, "I'm gonna knock you out now, and take the winnings home wih me, ok? Just letting you know."

I could feel the anger blaze through him at that moment, and it's exactly what I wanted. He quickly pushed me off of him, ran towards me as fast as he could....and with a simple motion and a flick of the wrist, I boosted him up over my shoulders and sent him flying back down to the ground. He stood up, but my body was already in motion. I delivered a combination of punches and kicks that struck him at every unguarded part of his body. His arms were to slow to block, his feet to slow to move back...and with a sequence of hard hitting blows...I sent the little brat spinning to the mat! Once he had felt the impact, he was too tired, too sore, to go on. Sparrow raised his hand to the ref...and forfeited the match. "And the winner is....'RENEGADE'!!!" The announcer shouted, and I was swallowed whole by a loud sonic boom of cheers from all around me! The walls themselves seemed to be rattling from the noise! I won! I WON!!!!

I stepped out of the ring, 'dazed' at what I had just pulled off, and saw Dion and Gyro crashing towards me at the speed of light to greet me! Gyro was practically jumping over people's shoulders to reach me, and he leaped up into my arms shouting in my ear! "DUDE...that was fucking SOLAR, man!!!"

"Damn boy! I think we've got ourselves a champion here!" Dion shouted, both excited and extremely relieved that it turned out so well. Gyro was still holding on tight to my neck and jumping up and down, letting that pure and carefree 13 year old come bursting out of him unrestricted. I was still shaking inside, not sure whether to believe that any of this was really happening or not! I looked up into the audience and saw a lot of people giving me nods and applause, some of the gamblers were frantically talking to their assistants and number runners...pointing me out and gahering some info to remember me for the next fight. Instant celebrity, from zero to sixty, in just ONE fight!

"Omigod...I can't believe I just did that!" I screamed.

"YOU DID! YOU DID! YOU WERE AWESOME!!!" Gyro and I looked over as they helped Sparrow out of the ring.

"Shit...I hope he's alright. I was trying to go kinda easy..."

"Fuck him! I've seen Sparrow fight plenty of times, he's an asshole!"

"So what? He's like eleven years old for goodness sakes! It's not exactly something I plan to add to my 'I'm so proud' memory box." I said.

"Eleven years old? What, are you kidding me? He's like 30-something! He crossed over back in like 1971!" Gyro assured me. "Don't trust your eyes, man. Not ever. Not in THIS world. You cleaned his clock pretty good!"

"So what's the cash pot look like?" Dion was searching the board for the right number.

"Well, you see that over there are the odds for Justin and the odds against him. Then you've got the amount of gamblers that betted on Sparrow..." He broke down the whole confusing scoreboard for us, and then told us, "So Justin's pot is right there at the bottom. That's what he's made so far."

"Eighty Five dollars? I made eighty five dollars in less than ten minutes?" I asked.

"Damn RIGHT you did, 'Renegade'!" Gyro said, still bouncing around with endless excitement. "We're already more than half way there dude! Sixty five more bucks and we break even! Maybe we can even go OVER!"

"You think I can make that in the next fight?" I asked, now feeling my confidence getting pumped up in the center of my chest!

"NEXT fight?" Dion said, "Justin, we're already out of the hole. Tomorrow night we can send Kid and Dylan out to pickpocket the rest. It's a misdemeanor at best, and Kid is so adorable when he frowns up, that if anybody catches him lifting their wallet they'll end up buying him a free dinner someplace and driving him home. You don't have to keep fighting."

"Dion, DUDE, c'mon! Were you watching the same fight I was? This kid has got skills like you wouldn't believe! We can make a fucking fortune here tonight if you let him keep going!" Gyro couldn't keep from hugging me. "Can't you see it??? He's, like, unbeatable!"

"He's right, Dion. Once everything clicked for me, it was easy. Hardly a bruise on me. We can make the whole payback in just one night and I can come back with enough money for everybody at the lot." I said.

"And just what are you going to tell them when they ask where you got it from?"

"I'll...say..." I started, but got interrupted.

"Hey kid! If you're gonna keep rockin', we need you to give us the nod." Said one of the refs on the side, calling me back to the ring.

I gave Dion a wanting look, and it didn't look like it was doing any good. "Dion.....just...one or two more fights. That's IT! I just...I wanna pay my way. After all you guys did for me, the least I could do is pay for the blood it took to get me fixed up." Hopefully, that'll get some kind of positive reaction from him.

It was then that I saw Dion close his eyes in frustration, and whisper, "Goddammit, Justin!" BINGO!

"THANKS DION! I'll be fine, you'll see!"

"Yeah! You'll see!" Gyro repeated, rubbing my shoulders and walking me back over to sign up for another match. We waded through some more people, and I noticed a lot of them were looking at me, watching me with different eyes. There was so much going on around me at once, that my mind reading ability turned itself on automatically through the excitement. I involuntarily began sifting through everyone in the room. The crowd, to me, got even LOUDER....with people talking outloud with one voice, and in their heads with ten or twenty other voices...EACH! It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, absorbing all these thoughts at once. Although it did make it kinda hard to concentrate. They were 'studying' me, analyzing me from head to toe. To see if one of my bruises was ailing me more than it should. If I walked with a limp, if I was right or left handed, if any bones had been broken in the last fight...I was being scanned something awful. Like a racehorse before entering the gate. Anything to give them an advanced warning on how to bet on the next battle. It was a weird feeling, being the chicken in a cockfight.

Gyro set me up for another round, and he started telling me what was going on. "Ok, the good thing is...you won. And that's awesome. But the thing is...it looked too easy for you. I mean, everybody was watching you kick the snot out of Sparrow, and believe me when I say that he's no wimp. But play around a little bit more next time. Don't let them know how good you are so fast. You've gotta...you know...put on a 'show' for the crowd."

"A show?"

"Yeah. Don't make yourself look like such an easy bet. Give 'em a little bit of doubt, keep 'em guessing. That way you still got some people wagering against you, which in turn will get people to wager FOR you to beat the odds, and in the scheme of things it's eventually going to get you more money per win. That's kinda how things work down here. It's all a system."

"Soooo....you want me to tone it down. Is that what you're saying?" I said, looking at him sideways.

"Either that, or you fight another TWENTY matches instead of 4 or 5...and I don't think you're gonna be able to stretch Dion's sensibilities much further than you already have tonight."

He had a point. "I'll do what I can."

Just then, I felt a presence behind me, almost cold as it approached. I turned around and saw a getleman in a suit...maybe about 25 years old I guess...but young looking for his age. "Renegade, is it?" He said, and he extended a hand to me.

I'm not sure why my hand was so reluctant to shake his, but I did it anyway. "Yeah, that's me."

The cold increased inside of me as he gave me a firm handshake. "My name is Soren. I am one of the major promoters of this arena. I must say that I am extremely impressed with your debut here. If I may ask, where did you learn to fight like that?"

My mind went blank for a moment, and I told him, "I started when I was young. Next door neighbor taught me." Something told me that he knew I wasn't being honest, but I wasn't about to tell him the truth.

"I see." He said with a grin. "Well, I will definitely be watching your progress here in the future, young 'Renegade'." And he then walked away to join some of his colleagues in one of the overhead balconies.

"You're a popular man tonight, Justin! Even the big wigs are sniffing around you now! I KNEW you'd be kick ass in this place!" Gyro threw an arm over my shoulder as he said, "Man...if you can do this well in HERE, imagine what you could do in the fighting rings in the IceZone, dude! You can win BIG money in that place! I'm talking enough to set us all up in like a...HOUSE or something!"

"A house?" I giggled.

"Don't laugh too loud man, I've heard stories. It can be done. Tv, working showers, heat, complete escape from daylight...paradise! You know?"

"Hehehe, why don't we work on getting the 150 dollars first, huh?" Gyro laughed with me as he led me back to the ring side, but I think he was actually being serious. There is a wild imagination on this boy.

"Next match...'Renegade' versus 'Thunder'!!!" Came the announcement, and I was right back in the ring for another round. But this wasn't an 11 year old boy this time. Not by a LONG shot! This guy was huge! He was bigger than my DAD, for Christ sake! With a goat tee and a chest that was as wide as the span of my shoulders. My mouth dropped, and I quickly turned my head down to the floor, hoping he didn't see the disbelief in my eyes. Okaaaaay....this isn't the same game that I was playig a minute ago.

Then...it came to me. Not so much like a sound or a warning...more like a gentle mental tap on the shoulder. A sensation that caused me to look back up into that balcony again, and I saw this 'Soren' character smiling back down at me. He was drinking a glass of champagne and nodded slghtly as though to toast me. I think the son of a bitch set me up for this! Just to see how badly I'd get beat up this time! Looking up at the betting wagers on the scoreboard, I noticed that I had a few more people on my side this time, but not many. Not that I blame them....this guy looked like he could tear me apart without much effort at all. I wanted time to standstill for a while, to not hear the ring of that bell, to get just a few more seconds to breathe. But time didn't stop. It didn't even slow down. And when I heard the signal...I saw this large hulk of a vampire come charging at me full speed!

Feeling my body contort and twist the way it needed to, I was luckily able to spin out of the way. He stopped his charge, and turned to start swinging those giant fists at me. The knuckles looked as though they were attached to frozen turkeys as they breezed violently past my face. Please oh PLEASE don't let one of those punches connect! They look like they would hurt an awful lot! My leg shot out to the side, and I cringed as my foot struck him dead in the chest, pushing him backwards, but not off his feet. I could have sworn that my ankle nearly broke, just coming into contact with the slab of concrete that was his chest. I hobbled for a quick second, and he took the opportunity to grab me by the neck and lift me off of the ground. The tight grip of his fingers cut off 90 percent of my air supply, and he looked me dead in the eye before slamming me down hard at his feet! I rolled over to get some distance between us, and felt my leg twist and spin around to sweep him to the canvas...but wasn't successful. My leg connected with his, but instead of being knocked off balance...his leg stood perfectly still, taking the hit and doing more damage to ME than it did to him. It was like kicking a deeply rooted oak tree. Ok, this wasn't turning out to be such a good idea. I'm starting to wish I had taken Dion's advice and left with what little money I had.

The man grabbed a handful of my hair, pulling me up to my feet. My fists became a blur, striking repeatedly at his stomach, his sides, his chest, his head...but none of it did any good. NOTHING was penetrating that muscled block of physical matter! He barely felt a tickle as he laughed at me! With one kick, he knocked me halfway across the entire ring, and my whole body ached with the impact. I skidded on the canvas, and at first didn't even have the energy to get up. But as I heard 'Thunder' raise his arms up and gather more cheers from the crowd, that same level of instant 'understanding' surged through my muscles, and I stood again. I hope whatever my body is learning...it's learning it fast. I don't think I can take another hit like that. I saw Thunder turn to look at me, snarling at the fact that I was standing, and beckoned me to come for more of a beating.

However...my feet didn't move. He beckoned again, "C'mon ya little faggot! You want more!" He shouted, but my feet didn't move! Instead, all of my muscles relaxed, and I stood perfectly still. I got worried, wondering if my mimic ability had somehow turned itself off or something. I mean...there were a lot of minds to read in here. What if the confusion causes everything to shut down, or cut in and cut out before I have a chance to try to control it? I didn't know if my body was waiting for me or I was waiting for it...but if I didn't move soon, Thunder was gonna kill me where I stand! He began to get closer, and I felt myself start to shake inside, terrified. Without my body doing all the work, I wasn't going to be much of a challenge for ANYBODY! MOVE, DAMN YOU!!! MOVE!!!

But my body remained still, and the closer my opponent, soon to be executioner, got to me...the more relaxed I got. This is wrong! This is backwards! What the hell is it that I'm supposed to be doing here? Thunder was now close enough to breath down on me from above. His breath smelling of stale old bar pretzels and cheap ice brewed beer. My mind was scared shitless, but my body was so loose that I felt as though the wind could pass through it. Then....he swung at me. That giant Christmas Ham of a fist came right at me and landed right at the top of my chest, just below my collarbone. I had expected to feel the pain in mid air as I soared backwards into the audience....but, just as before, my feet didn't not move. Instead, my body just sorta....folded. It loosely absorbed the power of his blow, almost feeling as though my muscles were twisting themselves up around his fist. And then I felt the energy he directed at me, explode right back at him as my chest puffed itself outward and pushed his hand off of me. My body went back to it's relaxed state, and I felt no pain whatsoever.

We both paused for a quick moment, wondering how I was still standing. But he was swift to snap out of it and start swinging again. I hardly felt my muscles tense up at all the entire time. My physical form became as wiry and malleable as warm butter, moving in and out of his attacks easily without breaking a sweat. And whenever a punch DID land somewhere on my body, I was so loose that it was like he was swinging at a silk curtain. My motions would allow his punches to roll off of me or they'd absorb the blow before it had the opportunity to have any kind of real impact on me. No matter HOW much power he put behind it, it was all in vain. I think I'm beginning to like this!

My mind and abilities mellowed themselves out, even more efficently than they had before. Once my body found out how to counter and block the attacks, once it created a defense to protect itself...it began creating ways to fight back all by itself! The big oaf was strong, but he was slow in comparison to what I could do. Extremely so. It felt like my awareness had somehow picked up the pace, my reflexes tripled, and it was as if he was moving in slow motion, allowing me to strike two or three times before he even got his arm fully extended to hit me. His skin was still as hard as rock, but all of his most vulnerable spots became an open book to me. The eyes, the mouth, the center of his throat, the ears...all soft spots. No matter what kind of weights he was lifting, those targets were exploitable for ANYONE to take advantage of. The fight continued, and I persistently started to wear him down, striking just the right spots, causing him pain and making his defenses break down little by little as fatigue began to set in. He fought with more fury than before, and even more targets became available to me. He'd kick forward at me, and my leg would shoot out underneath his to kick him in the soft spot behind the knee. His punches would miss me by inches, and I'd strike him in the wrist, or the elbow, or the shoulder. Every joint was a weapon to me, and I could tell that he wasn't going to last much longer. Then....without warning, I instinctively caught one of his fists with both arms, and spun around to pin it behind him. I suddenly felt my muscles tense and lift up abruptly...brutally breaking the arm in three places! Oh God! I did NOT mean to do that! You cannot imagine what a sickening feeling it is...breaking someone's arm with your bare hands. You actually feel the snap as the vibration is sent through your fingertips. You hear the scream of the other person, their brains trying to calculate the amount of damage that has just been done to them. You feel the arm go loose in your hands, and the muscles quiver and spasm as you look down to see the limb bent in the most unnatural way. It's a disgusting sensation.

Thunder fell forward, tears running out of his eyes as he attempted to painfully move his broken arm into a position where he could at least hold it in agony. A bone splinter was poking out through his skin, squirting blood and turning the canvas purple beneath him. "OMIGOD! I'm SORRY!" I shouted. "I didn't mean...."

"And the winner is....'Renegade'!!!" The announcer pulled me back away from him to raise my arm in victory, but I couldn't help but feel bad. I didn't want to break his arm. It just happened all by itself. By the time I was even aware of what I was doing, it was already in action. Standing there in the ring, looking out at a bloodthirsty audience, I noticed a small light in one of the balconies. A lighter. Soren lit up a cigar and looked back down at me, his gremlin like smile even wider than before, and he gave me yet another nod. Standing up to give me applause along with all of the people sitting around him. At that point, I KNEW he had set me up! He either wanted me to fail...or he was testing to see just how good I really was. Our eyes met from across the entire arena, and he turned to retreat back into one of the dark corners behind him.

"Good job, kid." The ref told me, and he let me come down from the ring. Thunder left on his own two feet, but nursing a freshly broken arm and looking a lot worse for wear than I did. I stepped down to find Gyro and Dion again so I could see how much money I had earned and how much longer I had to fight. But walking around the back of the ring, I was approached by five men wearing all black. Even their contacts were completely black, making their eyes look almost nonexistant. They were subtle in their approach, but determined to 'intercept' me.

The one in the middle of the other four, an Asian boy about 18 years old with medium length jet black hair, spoke first. "An impressive match." His face had a stoic, emotionless look on it, and the other four were even more stone faced in their silence.

"Yeah...thanks." I said, not knowing what to make of them.

"Our promoter, Soren, would like you to join him in the lounge. He would very much like to speak to you about your aparent...talents here." He replied.

I paused for a second, looking them over. "I'm sorry. But I have to meet up with my friends. Maybe some other time..." I started to walk past them, but the one in the middle put his arm up to stop me, his refusal to let me pass making me even more apprehensive.

"I assure you...it will take only a few moments of your time....'Renegade'." He said, sternly. He looked me directly in the eye, reading my facial expressions. I could feel his 'colleagues' tension increase drastically. Their emotions hardened somehow, as though they were...ready. The Asian boy in the middle, however, was unaffected. There was no tension at all.

"I take it this is more of a 'mandatory' invitation?" I asked.

"It is....his request." The man said, and gracefully stepped aside to show me the way.

"A couple minutes can't hurt, huh?" I followed his lead, and the others began to relax a bit more as we walked through a maze of tunnels to get to the lounge area. It was more like a basement that had been jazzed up into something much more than it was meant for. But it was elegant in it's appearance. It gave you a feeling of importance to even be allowed inside. There were lights that danced around the blacklit walls, drinks of every color and flavor being served in exoctic glasses that were made more for design than function, and a gathering of men and women that defined the very nature of beauty. Looking more like ACTORS hired to play the part of normal people, rather than actual people themselves. The ambience was completed with this mellow groove cyber-lounge music that was pumped comfortably through the room itself. It was a harsh contrast from the outrageous mania of the crowd outside. The moment I entered the room, I was presented with a cocktail and guided to the giant sofa in the back. A sofa where this 'Soren' character was sitting, surounded by a group of supermodel girls from ages 15 to 25. From the confidence he exuded in the center of that couch....this was obviously his party.

"Renegade...we meet again." He said with a grin.

"I don't think I had much of a choice." I answered. That comment only made him smile even more.

"This is my right hand man, Natpea. I'm sure that he had no intentions of being rude. He was just being...efficent."

I looked over and saw that this nocturnally dressed Asian boy,'Natpea', hadn't taken his eyes off of me since he had met me at the ring side. The funny thing was, that even though I was trying to read some kind of emotion from him, all sense of tension was absent from his presence. It was as if he had this unshakable sense of confidence that he could effortlessly beat me to the floor if he had to, and he had no conflicts about it whatsoever. But the other goons with him, they were different. I could sense their stress, their clenched fists, wondering if they would be ready in case anything were to happen. My mind was already telling me to strike out at them first if anything went wrong.

"You had something you wanted to talk to me about, Soren?" I asked, trying to cut this short before I got myself into trouble.

"Straight to the point. I like that." He took another puff of of his cigar and then set it down on the edge of an ashtray on the table in front of him. "I have been promoting some of the biggest fighters here in this arena and various others for many many years now, Renegade. Um...do you have a name for me to call you?"

"It's.....it's Justin."

"Yes, Justin. Got it. Anyway, Justin, out of all of the fighters I've been through and the mysterious abilities that they possess...I must admit that I have never once come accross a level of ability that is as potent as yours is. It's unpredictable, exact, strategic, beautiful in form and style...I've never seen anything like it." He took a sip of his drink, "Not only that, but you seem to have a deceptive quality about you that I'm sure could bring in the big bucks as well as a plethora of new business to this arena in particular."

"I'm not...I'm not sure I understand."

"I want you to fight for me, Justin." He said. "Here at first, until you make a name for yourself. It won't take long, a few months, maybe. A few WEEKS if you keep fighting like you did tonight. But eventually we can venture out to arenas all over the country. You can compete with the best in the business...and get very rich doing it."

"I don't think so..." But Soren made sure to finish his 'pitch' before I said anything more.

"I want you to look over there against that far wall, Justin. Do you see the young man standing there surrounded by the young boy models? That is Darkwolf, he's one of the finest fighters in this arena. He started off a lot like you did. Not too far into his crossover, a bit lost as to what to do with the next hundred years of his life. He entered his first fight to get money for a shabby hotel room so he could spend one night with a young prostitute that he had mistakenly fallen for. It was the limit of his expectations at that time." I saw him against the wall. He was maybe 17 years old, or at least that's how old he was when he crossed over. Short brown hair, sweet smile that he seemed to flash consistently as he sipped a cocktail and his admirers swarmed around him, trying to just be close enough to touch him, to talk to him. He was an inch or so shorter than me, but his arms and legs were built like a fighter's limbs, slim but firm. "But when I saw him fight that night, I noticed a spark. This young man could do so much more. So I called him down, made him an offer, and now look. He's ranked number one in 12 different arenas all over the country. He has more money than he knows what to do with. And when he goes home tonight, he can take any one of those boy models with him, all he has to do is choose one. Or...maybe he'll choose two. He has before. He likes them young. Believe me when I say his smile is quite genuine." Soren stood up and walked over to put a hand on my shoulder. "I see that same spark in you, Justin. Shining even brighter than his. I can take you so far over the top that even the fighters at the IceZone arena will tremble when they here your name."

"Listen..I really have to go. My friends are waiting.." Soren kept circling me, turning me to look at this and that, pushing me with all the glitter and gold he could offer me. At the same time, he kept a firm hold on my shoulder, to keep me from backing away or trying to leave. I needed to get out of here. I'm not looking to make a career out of breaking arms and beating up 11 year olds.

"Money, Justin. All the money your pockets can hold and beyond. Cars, a house, fame, sex...you get dirty for a few hours a night, and in return you get to live like a movie star for the next hundred years! PICTURE it with me....see the possibilities." But I wasn't buying what he was selling, and gently pulled myself out of his grasp.

"Thanks....but no thanks." I felt that tension rise up in his guards again, the air became thick with their emotions. Natpea...still the only calm one among them. "I gotta go." I turned to leave and Natpea abruptly stood in my way, his blackened eyes staring a hole through me as he waited for the order. ANY order.

But I looked back at Soren, and saw him give a brief silent nod to let me go. It was only then, that Natpea and his henchmen stepped aside. "My card..." He said, and Soren handed me a small round disc with his number and contact info etched into it. "I certainly hope you will reconsider."

Looking around me, I was in no position to challenge anyone. So I left it at, "Yeah...maybe." It was evidently better than saying no.

"Maybe, indeed." Soren grinned as he took another sip of his drink. "I'm sure we'll be in touch again soon...Renegade." It was the last words I heard as I walked calmly, but quickly, out of that lounge. Afraid that if I looked back, he'd change his mind about being so polite.