The Underground Revised Proudly Presents...
Janus, it was said, was the Greek God of beginnings and endings. The month of January, in fact, had been named after him because it ended one year and began another. After all, every new beginning came from some other beginning's end ... or something like that.
Janus Finkel had been born on January First, 2078, signaling the end of one era and the beginning of another. His parents had thought it a foregone conclusion to name him Janus.
That wasn't the only reason he was glad his parents were dead, but it was the most relevant one for now, the dawning hours of the year 2100. It was his twenty-second birthday, and as he staggered home from a New Year's party, he was more than a little surprised he was still conscious. He'd served as VJ Daywalker, the party's video jockey (and in fact, he'd legally changed his name to VJ Daywalker the first chance he'd got), but he never considered his job work so much as play; it just happened to pay the bills. And score him free drinks. And introduce him to women.
More than once, he'd considered celebrating his birthday on a different day or month altogether, but if his career as a veejay had taught him anything, it was that the best parties were on New Year's.
"Hhaaaappy Biiirrthdaay toooo meeeee," he slurred, singing the song in some off-key tune that might or might not have been the traditional "Happy Birthday" song. He supported himself against a wall as he walked, unwilling to trust his own balance after six shots of a "Diablo" mixed drink. He was glad he lived so close to the night club; he could stand walking one block toward home, but two blocks or more would have been pushing it.
Once inside his apartment complex, he took the stairs to the floor he was pretty sure held his abode. But in his state, all the floors and rooms tended to look alike, which had led to some awkward moments in the past. Still, he was almost positive he was on the right floor, and that his apartment was in sight. He paused to get his bearings, then took three steps toward it. As he began to take a fourth, a very large sword sailed end-over-end through the air, almost decapitating him in the process. The sword struck the wall handle-first and clattered to the floor.
VJ Daywalker had never sobered up so fast in his life.
Adrenaline blasted through his system, making him more aware of his surroundings. He discovered that, yes, he was on the right floor and in sight of his apartment, but more importantly there were three people fighting in the hallway in front of him.
There were two guys and a girl: one guy was huge and muscular, and carried a battle axe that looked like it weighed at least as much as its owner. The other guy looked Asian, wore reddish samurai armor, and carried a short sword that looked like a smaller version of the sword that had almost beheaded Daywalker. And the woman was dressed head-to-foot in a vinyl bodysuit that accentuated her curves and contrasted her two handheld knives connected by a length of silvery wire. Muscle Man and Bondage Woman were apparently teaming up against Samurai Guy, who seemed to be holding his own against them.
Amazed at what he was seeing, Daywalker gaped at the violent spectacle playing out before him. This was much better than any VR movie or holovid. This even beat his frequent jaunts into C-space. This was an actual fight to the death, a dance of blades and bodies that, as far as he could tell, wasn't choreographed in the slightest.
Samurai Guy continued pitting his shortsword against Bondage Woman's knives, raising it and lowering it and shifting its position to intercept her stabbing motions. They even managed to score a few slices to each others' arms, though neither seemed to be slowed down in the slightest.
Muscle Man approached them, circling the fray to find a spot to insinuate himself. He readied his battle axe, his gaze fixed on the red-armored Asian as if mentally planning the exact method he was going to use to split Samurai Guy in half. Then he tensed, glancing around at his surroundings.
Muscle Man spotted Daywalker, who breathed, "aw, shock...."
It could have been the veejay's imagination, but when the big man bared his teeth, he revealed scary predator fangs. Daywalker froze in place, too terrified to move as the executioner strode away from the fight and toward his corner of the hall, looking like a T-Rex who'd just spotted his next meal.
Muscle Man drew back with his axe, then with a primal roar he hurled it at Daywalker, the heavy weapon slicing the air as it traveled in a horizontal path far faster than a battle axe should have moved.
Daywalker's gaze never left the spectacle, even when everything in his body demanded that his shut his eyes and brace himself for whatever dance party awaited him in the afterlife. Thus, he didn't miss the sudden reddish blur of movement that intercepted the flying axe and threw it back to its sender. However, it did take several long seconds to register that Samurai Guy had just zipped in front of the axe, grabbed it, pivoted around, and swung the axe back to the executioner all in a split-second of movement.
He would be impressed later; right now Daywalker was too busy pissing himself.
The Muscle Man manage to dive out of the way of the spinning axe, but Bondage Woman wasn't so lucky. The weapon's momentum carried it right through her, cleaving her neatly in two at the chest area. The axe's blade buried itself into the far wall with a thunderous racket that seemed to shake the building. Both parts of the woman fell to the floor started to combust, turning to ash for no reason that Daywalker could see.
Muscle Man watched the woman incinerate, shaking with mounting rage as he rose to his feet. His heavy breaths hissed through his gritted teeth like steam from an old-school locomotive. He faced Samurai Guy, letting out an articulate roar, while his opponent readied his shortsword. There was about to be hell to pay in three ... two....
The two warriors charged each other, with the larger man batting the shortsword out of the smaller one's hand. Muscle Man swung a fist that connected with Samurai Guy's jaw, sending the armored Asian airborne. He leaped after the smaller man and slammed him against a far wall, grabbing the smaller man by the throat and raining sledgehammer punches onto the latter's head and shoulders.
Strangely, Daywalker noticed Samurai Guy was looking right at him. Or rather ... at the Japanese sword next to him; Daywalker had forgotten it was there.
He tore his gaze away from the violence and gazed at the sword. It was beautifully crafted, with an ornate handle and hand-guard, and a long shiny that looked like it could cut someone open just by being stared at. Daywalker had seen swords like this in martial arts vids, but never up close and in person. It was quite possibly the sexiest thing he'd seen since his last threesome.
Picking it up with shaky hands, he studied its weight, finding it to be heavier than it looked but easy to hold. Somehow it seemed to exude more raw power than most black-market guns he'd seen. He had to get himself a sword like that, and he briefly considered running off with it while the two warriors were busy.
Remembering why he'd picked up the sword in the first place, though, he glanced up at them to see if Samurai Guy was still alive. Against all odds, he was, and he was raining as many close-quarter punches and kicks onto Muscle Man as he could manage.
Steeling himself, Daywalker slowly crept toward the combatants. Once he got close, he took a deep breath, lifted the sword as high as he could, prepared to bring it down in a slicing arc--
--and saw stars when Muscle Man unexpectedly backhanded him. Daywalker reeled backward, letting go of the sword and watching in amazement as it was snatched in midair. His back hit the floor, and he felt helpless as the executioner plunged the sword into Samurai Guy's chest.
Wait, cancel that. Samurai Guy had managed to clap his hands together, trapping the blade between his hands to hold it in place less than an inch from his heart.
Both warriors grunted with effort as the contest of strength continued for what seemed like an eternity. Muscle Man's superior musculature seemed to grant him an advantage, but Samurai Guy was apparently holding his own just fine. Then, with a mighty shout, it was over -- Muscle Man plunged the sword through the Samurai Guy's chest and deep into the wall, for real this time.
"No!" Daywalker shouted. He didn't know these people from Adam (whoever he was), but the Samurai Guy had saved his life, and the video jockey did not want that debt to go unpaid. For some reason.
But he wasn't sure what he could possibly do ... until his hand brushed his jacket pocket and he realized he still had the same gun he'd been carrying since he'd moved into the neighborhood. He'd been so caught up in the violent spectacle he'd completely forgotten he had it. So he removed the pistol from his jacket pocket, and clicked the safety off.
Muscle Man watched him. "You really think you can kill me with that thing? I am a vampire, boy. I am immortal."
Daywalker shot him between the eyes.
Muscle Man's head lolled back, but he kept his footing. He let go of Samurai Guy and stumbled forward, holding his forehead as the gunshot wound singed and smoldered. He reached for Daywalker with clumsy hands, apparently having lost quite a bit of his coordination.
But Daywalker's attention wasn't on the executioner at that moment. It was on Samurai Guy, who carefully pulled the long sword out of the wall and out of his chest. "Immortal? No, just hard to kill," the swordsman commented, beheading the larger man and driving his sword through his heart in one complex, fluid motion. "Like me."
The impaled executioner burst into flame from the inside out, turning to ash from within his own body armor. His head followed suit as it rolled past Daywalker, lending proof to the 'vampire' claim.
After a while, Samurai Guy removed his sword, shook the ashes from the blade, and sheathed it. "Thank you," he spoke.
Daywalker's gaze was fixed on the swordsman's chest wound, which quickly closed itself and left an ugly scar. "For...?"
"For returning my katana, and for helping me turn the tide against him." He bowed in a traditional Asian manner.
"Who the hell are you?" Daywalker asked as he watched the scar become marginally less ugly with each passing moment.
"I am Blade," he replied as he picked up the discarded shortsword and sheathed that as well. "I am a vampire hunter. The piles of ash on the floor once answered to Guillotine and Garrote."
"You should be dead right now! He shockin' stabbed you right through the heart!"
"He impaled me through the center of my chest, not my heart. I guided the tip so that it would miss my heart completely."
"You should still be dead!"
Blade took a deep, sad breath. "I know, but I am not. I am also a vampire." He flashed a glimpse of fang.
Aw, shock. "You just said you hunted them...." Daywalker trailed off. "I'm gonna die now, right? You're gonna bite me."
"Not at all. Dawn is coming, and I require shelter." Blade looked over to a window as the night sky began to show the faintest rays of sunlight. "You live here, correct?"
"But you're ... you're a vampire...."
"Not by choice. They took something very dear to me, so I strive to put an end to their kind."
"But you're still a vampire."
"Which is why I will need a human to assist me."
"You ... you want me to help you?"
"You seemed willing to help me a moment ago."
"That was before I knew you're a vampire."
"I will not drink your blood. I refuse to. But I need rest and meditation in order to recover from my injuries and to keep my blood-thirst at bay. I mean you no harm."
Daywalker just stared at him.
"What's your name?"
"Daywalker. I'm a veejay at the local clubs."
"'Daywalker'." The vampire smiled. "That's perfect."
"Uh, no, that's irony. I'm not a day person at all. I only see daylight under protest."
"Nonetheless, the sun is rising."
Daywalker let out a breath. "Okay, fine. Fine. But only if you show me how to do those sweet moves with the swords."
Blade smiled as the two of them walked to Daywalker's door. "You have a deal, my friend."
"By the way, what's that on your breath? Smells like beef jerky."
"It's chewing gum. Would you like a piece?"