Dead & Dealing

Looking The Part

I had not drawn the blade, I realized mid attack.

It was just as well. A quick and brutal thrust through the heart would eliminate any need for a second strike. It would be just in time before a fang so much as tickled Tux's fur. Just as the tip, or ferrule, of the cane was a hairsbreadth from him, his gaze switched from Tux to me and his free arm moved to catch my cane. Since I was using my vampiric speed that told me was older and more than my match as far as speed was concerned. That roughly the same time the thought I'd better think of something to compensate. Just before the thought that I really should have followed through with my crossbow security device.

Then something intervened, or rather someone.

I saw something blur past me hardly a millisecond before I felt a hand grip my wrist firmly and halt my attack instantly. Simultaneously, I saw a hand gently, but quickly, snatch Tux from the intruder's hand. We both froze and looked to see Kimberly Yamada looking bored and annoyed at the pair of us, ignoring Tux's hissing and screeching.

"Bubba?" Kim said sounding mildly annoyed. "Remember how I said to knock to be polite?"

"Yes'm!" replied the intruder who now had a name. "But I smelled a cat and I'm mighty thirsty."

"Dominick, I take it this creature is important to you?" Kim rolled her eyes at Bubba. "Though I cannot fathom why."

"Yes." I barked. "Now put her down!"

Kim narrowed her eyes at me, no doubt disliking my commanding tone, but released her grip. Tux fell to the floor and took off like a rocket towards my room. Bubba watched with hungry eyes and I quickly rushed to shut the door.

"Kim," I growled. "Is there a reason you're here?"

"Yes."

"Give me a second to get some clothes on."

I didn't bother waiting for her response and reentered the bathroom. I drained the tub and quickly toweled off before throwing on a pair of jeans and a black tank-top. I turned off the radio and emerged barefoot. I walked to the living room and I knew it was going to be a long night.

Kim was comfortably sitting in my recliner running her hands along the hand rests, looking pleased at the quality of the leather. She was wearing a light purple shoulder padded top, fishnet tights, and knee-high black boots. Her hair lacked any clips or barrettes and hung loose to her shoulder, but tucked behind her ear to show off her gold hoop earrings.

Next to her were several large suitcases in a neat pile. I was about to ask when Bubba entered carrying a huge locked trunk. It was an old model made of dark polished wood with bronze metal corners. I noticed three thin silver chains wrapping around it with two chains doing the same length wise and a six padlock on the where the chains met. Bubba must be strong even by vampire standards because he showed no sign of effort as he held it out at arm's length.

I was certain Bubba was the and only Elvis Presley, the supposedly late king of rock and roll. He was husky which made sense since Elvis had put on a few towards the end of his life and he looked to have been turned somewhere in his late thirties or very early forties. I mentally added some color to his pale skin and a few lines. His thick southern accent was spot on from what I'd heard in old film and concert clips.

It would have been easier if he wore any of the clothing he used on stage, like his white eagle motif he wore in '73 from his Aloha from Hawaii broadcast, but it sadly wasn't the case. He wore a red and black Grunge-style flannel shirt over a plain blue t-shirt that growing rapidly in popularity recently, a pair of acid wash denim jeans, and worn black combat boots.

The more I thought about it, the more I was certain that The King was bringing up Kim's luggage like a common bellboy. It would explain the sightings over the years and how millions believed he had not truly died but merely faked his death. Not to mention that they had reopened his autopsy case earlier in the year in Memphis so if this was really him, then it only made sense he got as far as he could. At least in the city people would think he was just an impersonator. Times Square was riddled with them.

"Where is Wilhelmina?" Kim asked suddenly.

"Hi, Dom. Sorry for showing up without calling, bargaining in without knocking, and scaring your pet. This is Bubba." I responded. "No harm done, Kim. Nice to meet you, Bubba. It's been a long time since we last saw each other, Kim. Anything new?"

"What?" Kim blinked.

"Why are you here?" I asked, skipping to the point.

"I require a new home." Kim motioned to the pile of suitcases. "Finding a new nest can be difficult even at best. Seeing as our makers are close allies and my nest extended its hospitality to you, I thought it only fair if your nest did the same for me."

"Uh-huh?" I said skeptically. "And you?"

"Me?" Bubba pointed to himself.

"Planning a comeback tour?"

"Come . . . back . . . tour?" He repeated.

"It was a joke." I told him. "You know because you're obviously El — "

Kim appeared in front of me and covered my mouth with one hand and held me tight against with her free hand on the back of my head.

"Do not call him that." Kim warned. "Yes, he is who you think he is, but his turning was not an easy one. One of us was working in the morgue that night and was a fan. He is not altogether there, mentally. Just call him Bubba. He gets very upset whenever someone calls him by his old name. Do you understand?"

I nodded and she released me.

"So, Bubba, what are you doing on this side of the Mason-Dixon line?"

"Huh?"

"What brings you this far north?" I simplified. "Got bored of Tennessee?"

"Yes'm!" Bubba nodded. "I think I've been here before and I think I remember having fun here too." He licked his lips. "Lots of cats too."

I raised an eyebrow and looked to Kim.

"He likes to wander every now and then." Kim said lazily. "Normally he is passed between the southern kingdoms of Tennessee, Louisiana, and Mississippi. When he does, it sometimes results in a sighting which leads to a slew of rumors and problems." She picked a stack of papers and flipped through them without really looking. "We found him singing at Mulcahy's Open Mic Nite in Wantagh."

"I went there once." I recalled. "I didn't know Mulcahy's was vampire owned."

"It's not." Kim set the stack of papers down. "Does Wilhelmina normally take long hunts?"

"She is not here." I told her.

"I can see that." Kim frowned. "Which is why I asked where she was."

"I mean she's not living here anymore." I explained. "She hasn't since last November."

"What of the rest of the nest?" Kim asked looking surprisingly calm. "Doyle, Adrian, and Regina?"

"They all left before her. Doyle said some old woman noticed he hadn't aged since he moved in and left. Adrian disappeared soon after him without a word. Regina said goodbye and left a few days later."

"But you haven't even reached a decade in age." Kim said sounding confused. "Gift or not you are still far too young to have learned what is nessassary to survive in our world. It is nigh impossible you shall live to see half a century.""

"You know you can tell me the truth." I mocked. "No need to sugarcoat."

"How can you joke about this?" Kim demanded.

"You know what they say." I shrugged. "Dying is easy. Comedy is hard, but seeing as I already died . . ."

"So how long have you been alone?" Kim asked.

"About a year now."

"And you have had no contact with any of your old nestmates? No others of our kind seeking refuge or passing through?"

"No. Just me and Tux." I pointed behind me. "The cat Bubba tried to eat."

"And several boxes of paper and pencils." Kim looked up and seemed to be taken aback for a moment. "Not to mention many cans of paint."

"Not as many as you think." I looked up and asked proudly. "So what do you think?"

I decided on Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel, but not the entire thing and neither was it an exact copy. I drew inspiration from The Creation of Adam. If you are unfamilar with his work, it is the fresco where God is depicted as an elderly white-bearded man wrapped in a swirling cloak while Adam, on the lower left, is completely nude. God's right arm is outstretched to impart the spark of life from his own finger into that of Adam, whose left arm is extended in a pose mirroring God's, a reminder that man is created in the image and likeness of God.

I had only changed two things. One was more significant than the other. First, the "God" character was a young nude woman with long flowing copper colored hair carefully obscuring her nudity. I had more or less stolen from Botticelli's depiction of Aphrodite with some significant alterations. For Adam, I kept him more or less the same since I could not copy Michelangelo's original style. The second thing was the of of the transitional; white backdrop, both God and Adam sat against the night sky as the stars and planet swirled in patterns of white and yellow

"Impressive, but clearly derivative of the early fourteenth century." Kim said flatly. "I was not aware you were an artist."

"I wasn't." I shurgged. "But we all have to find ways to pass time."

"But all of these are not simply drawings." Kim motioned to the proverbial mountain of paper strewn about the room.

"There are a few, but they're in my room. I had to learn draw before I could paint. It started off by copying some of Stan Lee's work and the next thing I knew I had written an entire comic book series." I glanced back at my room for a moment where a fairly large box sat filled with my own version of the Amazing Spiderman. "I still haven't come up with a name. I was toying the idea of Superior Spider-Man or Ultimate Spider-man." I turned back to Kim. "For the most part, it's a mix of finished and unfinished music and songs I've composed along with a few film scripts and some seasons of shows for televisions. A lot of it is unfinished, but I got all the time in the world. It's not like anyone is ever going to see it."

"So you have not left your nest in the entire year since your maker left?" Kim looked as if she wasn't sure if she was impressed or fully of pity. "Not even to hunt?"

"I don't need to hunt anymore." I motioned to refrigerator. "In exchange for dealing with the Shifters and Weres that had discovered her, Sally supplies me with blood from Bellevue." I smiled as I recalled how exactly I did it. "I really wish I could have seen on the look on their face."

"What are you talking about?" Kim demanded.

"Somehow some Weres and Shifter found out Sally, the corner at Bellevue, was a vampire and began harassing her." I shrugged. "Apparently, Matthew's agreement with the Weres of the city included no unprovoked attacks."

"So she calls on you."

"Yes." I sank into a chair. "Luckily for her, I'd been looking for a way to test the Broadway Cast-Offs."

"Broadway Cast-Offs?" Bubba repeated,looking confused. "They second string actors or sumthin'?"

"In Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories, the main character had a group of street urchins, led by an older boy called Wiggins, who he paid a shilling per day with a guinea prize for a vital clue, to collect data for his investigations. I did the same with homeless scattered around the city." I explained. "At first I did it to find my Maker, but I gave up and figured it was a wasted effort. It could be centuries before she decides to return to the city. Originally, they did not extend outside of Manhattan, but now they span the whole city."

"Sounds real complicated." Bubba remarked.

"And how do these Cast-Offs help you against the two natured?" Kim ask

"Sun Tzu wrote that the supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting." I said proudly. "Like Holmes in A Study In Scarlet, they're purely for information gathering. Sally gave me a name of their leader and had them observe for a day or two. This city is full of homeless vagrants who everyone does their best to ignore so they could set up shop across a building and no one would really notice."

"Sun Tzu." Kim said sounding mildly impressed. "One of the few humans who actually had some intelligence. Go on."

"Long story short, one of my Cast-Offs heard one of their leader's children wanted some popular toy set called My Little Pony." I waved a hand dismissively. "From what I remember seeing in commercials in the 80's, they;re just toy horses painted strangely for little girls. Anyway, he heard the leader say they couldn't afford it. Apparently, he's just a janitor at the hospital."

"How is this important?"

"I had Sally purchase the toy and sign her name on the card along with the phrase, The Ductor and I heard you like ponies. Have a happy birthday and many more." I purposely left it was an empty bluff, but neither Kim or the Shifter leader needed to know that.

"Clever." Kim smirked.

"Begin by seizing something which your opponent holds dear; then he will be amenable to your will." I returned the smirk. "I'm starting to think I would gotten along great with him. A day later all the Shifter leader put for a transfer and the Were leaders give Sally a wide berth. In exchange, Sally supplies me with blood and . . ." I paused. "Oh, I forgot about him."

"Excuse me?" Kim asked.

I rushed to the coffee table in front from of her and began sifting through the several stack of papers. Even when using my vampiric speed took a minute. Truth be told, I had been meaning to sort and find a place for them, but I kept getting distracted by my next project. Perhaps I simply did not want to waste precocious moonlight on something so tedious and unimportant which lead to procrastinating and finding excuses to put it off.

"There you are!" I cried as I held up a single page. "I hope you didn't get bored waiting."

"Um, why are ya baby talkin' that paper?" Bubba asked.

"My question exactly." Kim said.

I glanced at the calender and frowned. "It's winter out, right?"

"What?"

"Apparently, I've ignored my calender since April, but night seems to last for a bit like it does during Winter." I switch my gaze between the two for an answer. "Well?"

"It's December fourteenth." Kim said sounding annoyed.

"That means I'll need a coat to blend in." I muttered to myself as I folded the paper and slipped it into my backpocket. "Good thing Barnabé finished it last week. Or was it last month?"

"Have you gone mad?" Kim asked.

"Think I'm giving Bubba a run for his money?" I smirked.

"You makin' fun of me?" Bubba asked.

"No."

"Okay."

I looked to the door and mentally kicked myself. Hanging right where I had left was my greatcoat on the coat rack. Well, actually my original greatcoat that Barnabé fashioned for me was draped over a desk chair in my room. After the incident with Christine, and knowing my strength and speed could only go so far, I had Barnabé make a special coat.

This coat was more of thick duster that was slit up the back to hip level. That was due to the three layers of material. The outer shell was composed of hand stitched black Corinthian leather. The interior was a medium thick layer of tanned and supple rawhide. Between the leather and rawhide was the layer that made the entire coat weigh an inhumane sixty-five pounds. It was layer of chain mail.

I had gotten the idea when I visited a butcher for Tux's dinner. I noticed the butcher, a middle aged Italian man in Astoria, wore a glove out of the dark ages. I asked and he told me that mail is used as protective clothing for butchers against meat-packing equipment. He explained that workers may wear up to eight pounds mail under their white coats and that butchers also commonly wear a single mail glove to protect themselves from self-inflicted injury while cutting meat.

It was not authentic chain mail from the fourteenth century that ran through the coat, but a mix of modern mail that butchers used and the kind scubadivers used to protect against shark attacks.

To my surprise, Barnabé did begrudge me for such a daunting task. In fact, he seemed to relish the challenge. I figured he was bored and enjoyed the change in routine. After all, he made a bespoke suit and greatcoat in a single night without a single mistake. Even with all of his skill, and probably two herds worth of cows in leather alone, it still took him the better part of two months to complete it.

Technically, there was a fourth layer, but that was just the silk lining.

"Hmm." I threw on the coat and rolled my shoulders. "Not a single jingle. Not bad, Barnabé."

"Where are you going?" Kim stood.

"Business meeting." I said nonchalantly as I picked up a multicolored scarf and wrapped it around my neck under the coat and popped the collar. I snatched a black fedora from the coat rack and placed on my head. "Up in Chelsea on West Thirty-Third between Tenth and Eleventh Avenue."

"Chelsea?"

"If you're going to live in the city, you'd better learn the neighborhoods and streets." I picked up sword and sheathed before slipping the whole thing into a secret pocket in the coat that ran along my spine. "For example, if you get lost and need to take a cab just tell him Soho, Broadway and Walker."

"That will not necessary." Kim said. "Not tonight at least. I will be joining you."

"Really?" I paused. "You're not staying?"

"No." She said matter of fact. "I've been hearing how there is always something exciting if one only looks for it."

"You coming too, Bubba?" I asked.

"No." Kim answered for him. "He is too recognizable."

"Alright. Then give me a moment."

I walked to the my room and closed the door behind me. I looked around for Tux and caught the unmistakable scent of fear. I puckered my lips and made a kissing noise. It was the sound I made when I wanted Tux to come out from wherever she was hiding. Normally, she'd be hiding on her own accord and not due to nearly being eaten.

Tux hesitantly stuck her head out from under the bed, cautiously looking for any sign of danger. I knelt and held out my hand all the while making the same noise. It took a moment and some gentle coaxing, but she allowed me to scoop her up and cradle against me. I stood and scratched behind her ears to ease her shivering. I walked out of my room and she began to mew, hiss, and pine when she caught sight of Bubba again. She tried to wriggle free, but I held her tight.

"Kim," I said. "Would you please get the door for me?"

She did without a word and we stepped into the hall. Half a beat later, I heard Bubba lock the deadbolt and hooked the chain. I positioned Tux so I held her with one arm and knocked on the adjacent apartment.

"Hello?" Dr. Sarah Benz said.

"Hello, Sarah." I smiled gently. "Remember me?"

"Sure, I remember you, Dominick." She smiled down at Tux. "Is that who I think it is?"

"This is Tux." I nodded. "I was wondering if you could do me a favor. I'm having a guest over who is allergic. Do you think you could watch her until I come to get tomorrow night?" I smiled sweetly and stared into her eyes. "If you're not too busy."

"Sure thing. Whatever you say." She shook head to clear it and stopped my glamor. "Uh, I mean alright." She took Tux into her arms and scratched behind her ears the way she liked. "Anything I need to know?"

"Just that she's a very picky eater and needy at times." I said. "But I'll take care of the food issue when I pick her up tomorrow night."

"Okay." She smiled.

"Thank you." I tipped my hat with a polite smile.

Sarah closed the door as I turned and Kim followed me to the elevator without a word. She did not say word the entire elevator down. If fact, she kept quiet until I hailed a taxi. I saw that I was correct to don my coat, scarf, and hat. It must have snowed heavily during the day because there was slush made of partially melted snow and salt. Some of shops and deli had multicolored awning with melting snow while those without had employees shoveling in front wearing thick coats and gloves. Little white puffs escaped from mouths and noses whenever a human breathed or spoke.

"Thirty-Third." I told the driver as I slide to the far side so Kim could enter. "Between Tenth and Eleventh."

The driver nodded and took off once Kim closed the door.

"Where are we going?" Kim asked.

"Last Rites." I said. "It's a tattoo parlor."

"Why?"

"Business."

"You purchased a tattoo parlor?"

"No." I explained. "Sally passed along a request from the owner. I told her I would give it a try, but promised nothing."

"What was the request?"

"I'll tell you when we get there."

"Why?"

"I don't want to spoil the surprise."

Kim accepted this and we resumed the rest of ride in silence. I used the time to contemplate a reasonable fee, provided nothing went wrong. Truth be told, even with Ryuu's and Matthew's payment combined with the suitcase that SHE had left me, my funds were starting to dip low. Not so low that i was desperate for another skirmish with the Weres to break out, but significant enough that I had no illusions of sailing around the world in a diamond and ruby encrusted platinum plated yacht. At least not anywhere in the near future, but I did have time on my side.

We reached the corner of West Thirty-Third Street and Tenth Avenue hardly twenty-minutes later. We both exited and I paid the driver along with a nice tip. We silently both walked west towards Eleventh Avenue. We passed a sports bar filled with drunk humans, mostly men, shouting insults and cheering at countless televisions screens. The our noses were assaulted by the smell of fried food upon passing a McDonald's. After passing an alley with homeless person, or something of equal size, rummaging through a dumpster, we stopped in front of Last Rites.

There were large windows on either side of the door each with a bright flashing neon sign. The word Last flashed and buzzed in dark red on the left window a second before Rites did the same. On the door was one of those generic "Come in, We're Open/ Sorry, We're Closed" signs with the parlor's hours posted below.

As we entered, a bell rang. It appeared to be not significant;y different than a barber shop. In fact, I was certain it had been one before it was converted. The chairs were the same kind that were bolted to the ground and rose and fell by working the pedal on the base. There were four in total on either side of the parlor and each sat in front of station with various tools that looked strange to me and large mirriors. Running along permeter of the mirrors were various tattoo designs, many of them associated with death in some form. The entire place smelled faintly of old blood and very strong cleaning chemicals, but I did catch the faint hint of vampire.

A human entered from behind a curtain that separated the parlor from an employee only section in the rear. He looked what I guess was a typical tough ex-con was supposed to look like, on television at any rate. He had a shaved head with stud in his left ear. He was large and very muscular which he boasted by wearing a Metallica T-shirt with the sleeves ripped from it. I also suppose the shirt was to display the tattoos that ran down from his shoulders to his wrists. If I had to guess his ethnicity, I would guess some form of Hispanic, but it was mostly due to his rich tanned skin in the middle of winter.

"Can I help you?" He asked with a deep voice. "Name's Dwayne."

"I'm here to see the owner." I said.

"I am the owner." Dwayne told me.

"The real owner." I corrected. "The nocturnal one."

"No need to guard your words here, brother." said a vampire as emerged from behind the curtain. "Patronage is not doing particularly well this night and my Dwayne knows of our kind."

The vampire, presumably the true owner, was black. He was neither tall nor short and had an average build and brown eye. His black hair had been cut short when he was turned, but it looked thick like he had the very beginnings of an afro. He must had just shaved, like I had, because his skin appeared incredibly smooth. Physically there was nothing separating him from any of the humans in the city. Then again, it could be said the same for me and Kim. He wore a white and black checkered collared shirt tucked into a pair of pressed brown pants with a simple black tie. His shoes were black loafers that matched the an old worn black leather jacket.

"I am John. John Keter."" the vampire inclined his head slightly. "May I ask who are you?"

"Ave, John." I clenched my right fist over where my heart should be before holding it up and out to my right so I formed a right angle with my elbow. "Bonum est extrema faciem ." I motioned to Kim. "Kim est, de nido ."

Kim said nothing, but smiled to herself and I had the feeling she knew what I was doing. It was the same case as it was when I went to meet Matthew for the first time. There was no rule among our kind about one assuming the age of another. Since the Weres had been kind enough to supply me with a back story, that of being an ancient Roman, I thought that I might as well embrace it. All it would take is to speak Latin accurately, which I already could, like pronouncing all my V's like W's and all my C's like hard K's. For example, Ave was pronounced similarly to the English word away. I also had be careful and leave any answers vague and technically true.

"Ah, Sally mentioned you might visit." John inclined his head again. "It is an honor to meet you, Ductor. " He motioned to Dwayne to take my hat and coat. "Am I right to think that you have solved my problem?"

"I might have, but I cannot guarantee any results." Dwayne buckled slightly under the weight of my coat. "Oh, sorry about that."

"No worries." Dwayne assured

"My apologies." John said. "But if my rudimentary grasp of Spanish is any help, you are Kim and are part of the Ductor's nest?"

"Yes." Kim confirmed.

"John, do you have place where we can talk?" I removed slip of paper from my back pocket. "This might take some time."

"Yes. My office is in the back." He turned and walked behind the curtain. "This way."

It was a typical office. There was a desk with an old rolling chair. A metal file cabinet was tucked in the corner. Some boxes sat on top of the cabinet and assumed they were surplus needles or other tools used for tattoos.

"Now please," John cleared the desk of a few papers. "What do you have to show me."

I unfolded the slip of paper and laid it flat on the desk. To those unfamiliar with high school chemistry, or chemistry in general, would just see a bunch of hexagons and half finished hexagons connected by singles either abover or below each other labels with letters and numbers like H2O and CO2. In truth is was a formula. These shapes were called skeleton formulas. It's a short hand way of representing a molecule with ;ines for single bonds, double lines for double bonds. It's assumed that each intersection point of the line segments is a molecule, usually carbon, but you can have structures that are not consisting of carbon atoms, these are called heteroatoms and you represent them by noting the symbol for the atom.

I learned all of this several high school and college level chemistry textbooks. I also learned that when you combined a vampire's acute eyesight and the highest magnification on a common microscope, you could see what professionals saw with millions upon millions of funding.

"Before I go on, I wish to point out that this simply shows promise." I warned. "I cannot guarantee any results."

"I have been attempting to solve this problem for the last century since my maker taught me the techniques from his the people, the Maori." John said. "Any light you can shed will be of great help."

"I do not understand." Kim said. "What problem?"

"Our blood." I pointed to the paper.

"Meaning?"

"A tattoo is nothing more than a decorative scar. Due to the extensive healing that our blood possesses, it's impossible for the ink to enter and stay in the skin. The wound simply heals and pushes the ink to the surface of the skin." I smiled. "At least that was the case until I threw in my two cents."

"Are you insane?!" Kim looked astonished. "If you've discovered how to stop or even hinder our healing, it is a discovery you must never share! Imagine if our enemies — "

"Relax." I told her. "They already know."

"What?!" She hissed low.

"If by our enemies you mean the Weres, then they already know about it and share the same weakness."

"Silver?" John asked.

"Yes." I nodded. "After doing some tests and seeing how our blood reacts to silver under a microscope, silver is the only material that inflicts damage that is noticeably slower when compared to other metals like iron, steel, or gold."

"If you're suggesting simply using a silver needle, it will result in silver poisoning for any vampire." John explained. "That was my first answer. The vampires I tested on were fortunate their makers were still walking the earth."

"Exactly what I thought." I smiled slyly. "But only if the entire needle is composed of silver. A regular needle that only is ten percent silver has no risk of poisoning, but any wounds inflicted by it, like the ones received when getting tattooed, will be slow to heal. Well, slower anyway."

"So that's it?" Kim asked. "Less silver?"

"Oh not at all." I held a finger up. "That's just part one. You still have to deal with our bodies rejecting any foreign substances, like ink. It'll just get pushed out."

"Pushed out?"

"You shoot a human with a gun and their bodies will heal around the bullet if it's not removed. Provided they survive." I motioned to us. "But our bodies' healing is far more aggressive and extensive. The bullet, or any object really, is simply pushed by the healing tissue until it is outside the body."

"What is your suggestion to counteract this?" John asked.

"This!" I pointed to a group of hexagons at the very top of the page. "I won't bore you with a chemistry lesson, but this the chemical make up of vampire blood." I point to the group below the first. "And this is for regular human blood. O negative to be exact. I chose O negative because it is the universal donor and its flexibility could be useful."

"How does this help?" Kim tilted her head the shapes and frowned.

"I sense he is close to revealing." John looked impressed, but lost.

"Our bodies can only accept and process two kinds of blood." I explained. "Human and vampire. However, no vampire can feed upon themselves." I pointed to the third group of hexagons. "Which means anything not either, like ink of any kind, will simply be rejected and expelled." I point to fourth and final group which was combination of the three previous groups. "Based on all that, I hypothesized that the correct mixture of ink, O negative human blood, and the receiving vampire's blood should work."

"How so?" John

"The mixture of human blood and the vampire's own should confuse the body long enough to accept the ink into the skin." I explained. "From there, the body will absorb the blood. However it will be unsure, for the lack of a better word, of what to do about the ink since traces of human blood, which is the body's sustenance, and vampire blood, which the body recognizes as its own, still reside in it." I held up two hands. "It's a paradox. On one hand it's not blood so it must be expelled, but on the other it's blood so it must be allowed to enter." I couldn't help, but smile at my brilliance. "Like Hamlet, To be or not to be. That is the question."

"So because the body is unsure of how to proceed, it will simply ignore the ink and allow it to reside where it is deposited in the skin." John concluded.

"Which is what you desire in the first place." I said.

"Watashi wa sore o shinjiru koto ga dekinai." Kim said to herself.

"I can't guarantee anything." I repeated. "But if you puncture the skin with the needle that is ten percent silver before injecting the ink mixed with the blood directly afterward, it should work."

"This all well and impressive. On paper at least." John looked up from said paper. "But can you test this?"

"That depends." i said.

"On?" John asked.

"How long it takes me to sketch out the designs I want." I winked. "Which won't be long once you hand me a pen and paper."

"One moment." John said. "I do not possess the special needle you claim we require. One made of ten percent silver."

"Oh that." I motioned outside. "I made a few in my nest to get you started. They're in my coat." I removed another slip of paper from a pocket. "This is Sally's number. Call her and tell her you require syringes and vials used to remove blood. Make sure to mention me and I'll send a human to pick them up if she agrees."

"I will do that. Thank you, Ductor." John took the slip of paper. "Excuse me."

"You are aware that you are breaking one of our most followed courtesies." Kim smirked. "The one regarding being honest about your age."

"No, I'm not." I said as I sketched on the back of my formulas. "I haven't lied."

"Care to explain?"

"Think back to every word I've said since we entered." I told her. "Then tell me when I deliberately stated my age that was not up to interpretation?" I waited an entire minute before I said. "See? Nothing! I may young, but I certain there is nothing to be said of assuming incorrectly the age of another."

"No there is not." Kim admitted, but warned. "But John will not be happy in being deceived."

"I'll risk it." I smiled and handed my finished sketch to Kim. "What do you think? I was thinking the top for my right bicep and the other for me left."

"More simplistic than I expected." She laid the paper flat on the desk. "But why those particular designs?"

"Which one?"

Kim pointed to the first design. It was separated into three parts. The first were the letters, LEG which was followed by an X with small dots on either side to separate them from the letters GEM. Below that was a the profile of a majestic and powerful bull. At the very bottom were three simple letter each seperated by a dot, PFD.

"It's the mark of the legion." I corrected. "Well, a legion to be exact."

"Legion?"

"Legio X Gemina." I said. "The Tenth Twin Legion. Levied by Gaius Julius Caesar himself." I pointed to the three letters on the bottom. P. F. D. "That is short for Pia Fidelis Domitiana or faithful and loyal to Domitian."

"I see." She pointed to the second. The one that would go on my left arm. "What is the meaning behind this symbol?"

The second was rather simplistic. It was simply eleventh letter of the Ancient Greek alphabet, Λ , surrounded by a circle.

"The circle is a shield. The symbol inside is a letter called Lambda." I pointed out. "Lambda was used as a shield pattern by the Spartan Army. It stands for Lacedaemon, the name of the region of Sparta. The Spartans that fought at Thermopylae all had this symbol on their shields."

"The mark of the legion on one arm and the letter of Greece on the other." Kim looked unsure. "I do not understand."

"Ignoring the fact it'll make others assume my age without a word from me, it's a personal reminder."

"A reminder for what?"

"To fight on with the might and discipline of the Romans, but think and strategize like the Greeks at Thermopylae." I said. "Separate from each other, brawn and brains can be overwhelmed, but very few things can overcome if both are used together."

"I see." Kim now looked impressed. "I find to hard imagine you were nothing, but a scared scrawny human child when I first laid on eye on you. I'm curious to see what Fate has in store for you."

"Sic parvis magna." I nodded.

"What does that mean?"

"It was the motto of Sir Francis Drake." I said. "It means, greatness from small beginnings ."

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