T5A

by AB

Chapter 4

Groves's Inferno

"Knows? Knows wh…?"

"I saw you okay? I saw you kill that guy." Triton snapped turning around, his fists in front of his stomach, with a look of anger, disbelief, pain, and fear.

Andreas remained there, stunned.

"Say something! I saw you kill someone without a care in the world, why should I not go to the police?" Triton's voice broke, a mixture of fear and despair.

"I…we…I mean…" Andreas knew not what to say. He took a deep breath making eye contact.

"I am an immortal, so was that other guy. We can only die, really die, if someone takes our head and with it our power, skill, and knowledge. It is our way, how we survive until the time of the gatherin g." There was silence. Andreas standing, his hands now in his pockets. George still sitting in his armchair, leg crossed over the other one hand resting on his lap the other caressing his chin. And Triton stood still in the middle of the room, shaking, fists by his sides.

"Fine, you want to lie to me, have it your way, then." Triton turned to leave.

"Triton." George called his name, standing up and turning up the volume of the radio, before leaving the remote back on the coffee table. Triton could feel his ear drums complaining from sadden increase in volume.

Triton turned to see George holding a handgun.

As Triton's face distorted in sheer terror George pointed the gun at Andreas, who seemed to have expected this, and pulled the trigger spilling his brains all over his clothes and sofa behind him.

George turned down the volume before standing up as Andreas fell back on the sofa lifeless.

There was an even louder silence than before as Triton's mind raced, should he bolt out while he could? What was going on? Why had George fired and killed Andreas instead of him? Was he next?

Triton did not even register George hiding the gun in the inside pocket of his leather jacket.

A few seconds later, Triton almost whimpering, Andreas came alive with a loud gasp, his head having healed itself. Triton thought he had imagined all of it, yet the blood stains on the sofa remained as evidence of the reality.

"Fuck me, look at all this mess!" Andreas groaned. "That fucking hurt." He complained to George who just shrugged his shoulders. Andreas rolled his eyes before turning his attention to Triton, blanched and sweating.

"Triton, please take a seat you are in no danger from us. Please." Andreas pleaded his friend who just stood there motionless for a moment more.

His breathing calming down he looked around finding a chair as far away from George as possible. Clutching the chair's back and rail he sat down clumsily.

"You must have questions." Andreas stated. "So, please ask me…us any question you may have."

"U…us? You mean…?" Triton stuttered a question after what seemed an eternity of hushed stillness.

"Indeed." George replied as Andreas nodded.

"How many…immortals are there out there?"

"Isn't this the million-dollar question?" Andreas snorted.

"We don't know. No one does." A slight hesitation in George's reply.

"How long has this been going on? How did it start? Are you guys government experiments?" Triton fired a barrage of questions, gaining confidence. His breathing calmed, the sweating stopped.

"No idea, longer than I've been alive. No one I ever met knew and no, you kidding? You think the Greek government could conduct such experiments? In secrecy?" Triton had to chuckle at this.

"So, you go around killing each other? How come no one has found out about you?"

"Well, some do, others like us try and have some semblance of normal life…until someone comes and challenges us." George replied.

"Others like me tend to be nomads, changing places, locations every few…decades." Andreas added.

"Where have you been?" Triton asked him.

"Everywhere, at least once." Said Andreas, vaguely.

"Has no one ever discovered your kind before?" asked Triton, his body language changing.

"Some bodies are found by mortals, some are not." George asserted. "Some immortals have been captured for it, some have been jailed and in elder times they have been hanged, killed or…well decapitated." Triton's eyes bulging out, again. George chuckled. "The medieval ages were friend to no one." He completed.

"Have you ever been arrested? For homicide?"

A pained look on both their faces. "No, but…we are not murderers. We do not kill for pleasure, only survival." Andreas commented. "We do not kill innocents or mortals unless we must, in war."

"Are all immortals like this?" Triton questioned, uncertain.

"No, there are good ones, honourable ones, jackals, opportunists and evil ones like with the rest of the human race." Andreas stated.

"How does one become an immortal?" Triton continued.

"We don't know…" Andreas said, "some humans die and remain dead. Others die and don't remain dead, they come back alive, until and unless you behead them. I do not know why, I am not sure anyone knows."

"How old are you, then?" Andreas sighed at the question he knew was coming.

"I am five hundred and sixty-three years old." George said. "I died on the fall of Constantinople, only I did not remain dead along with my beloved empire which I had served for forty-three years." Triton's jaw slacked as his eyes darted to Andreas' direction.

"Old." Came the one-word reply.

"How old?" Triton pushed.

"Older than you."

"How much older?" Triton did not relent.

"Much."

"Ugh…look I need to think all of this through…" Triton stood up and left leaving them in silence.

The next morning, Andreas was walking to school when something caught the corner of his peripheral vision.

"Hey…" He tried smiling, slowing down.

"Hey…" Triton panted slightly. Andreas followed his nervous gaze to his bag.

"I don't hurt people who are not trying to take my head. Can we talk after school, please?" Andreas asked with a trying smile, shoving the bag behind his shoulders.

"Sure." Triton nodded, relaxing his shoulders and body stance.

They started walking together to their next class.

"Hey!" A younger-looking boy waved at them, running to catch up, backpack on his shoulders, wavy brunette hair getting in front of his eyes with pinkish dotted puffy cheeks and blood red full lips. He was about a head lower than Triton and Andreas, thin with long legs . "You were totally awesome on how you handled those two bullies the other day. How did you learn to move like that?" Andreas looked at him and just shrugged his shoulders.

"He's…weird, don't pay attention to him." Triton rolled his eyes. "I'm Triton, I think I've seen you around some, what's your name?"

The boy smiled turning his attention to Triton and meeting his fist for a knuckle bump. "Nikos and yeah I've been around here since start of school at seven, but I'm twelve and two classes below you, guys. So wanna meet after school? Here's my number and social stuff."

"Ah…c…ool, I guess." Andreas picked up Nikos' mobile phone, not paying attention to Triton's stutter.

"What shall I do with this?" Andreas asked flipping over the mobile back and forth, a perplexed look on his face.

Nikos giggled. "Uhm...use the Android NFC beam to transfer my contact details to your smartphone, silly. What century are you from?"

Andreas' irises dilated for a second before replying. "NFC beam? I'm not good with technology, just use it where and when I must." Triton rolled his eyes grabbing the phone from Andreas' hand.

He pressed his own mobile on the back of Nikos' for a few seconds as a loading bar filled.

"So, we can meet up later?" Nikos enquired, blinking rapidly.

"For sure!" Triton replied before Andreas could. Andreas followed Triton's example bumping knuckles with the younger boy before entering the classroom.

Seven uneventful hours later Ancient Greek class was nearing its end, the final one of the day. "And I have left the best for the end. Here is your homework." The teacher started giving them sheets of paper, their corrected quiz from last time along with the homework for next time. "And as you can all see, you lot and I have a lot of work to do in the coming months because with one or two exceptions, and Andreas you all failed the quiz, horribly."

Andreas covered his face with his hand, not out of shame for himself and his performance in the quiz, but for the teacher's approach in belittling everyone else while raising him above the others, he did not like any sort of lime light. The bell rang shortly after.

They packed their bags and headed for the school's exit. "So, Mr.-no-one-knows-ancient-Greek-other-than-you, seems to like you?" Triton tried to break the awkwardness he was feeling.

"He does, he probably wants to claim my knowledge as his conquest."

"Huh?"

"That he is a good teacher and he taught me. He did not. Or he could be an elitist wanting to "gather" the best students while ignoring the others."

"Or maybe he's just a good person and wanted to encourage you." Triton stated, without waiting for a reply from Andreas.

They walked, in silence away from school and to the park by the sea. Finding an isolated bench, they sat down. Seeing Andreas place his bag on his left side Triton sat on his right.

"Why won't you tell me your age?" Triton asked, not waiting for the awkwardness to pass.

"It freaks people out even more so than finding out I'm an Immortal and makes Immortals want to have my head…more so."

"Why? Why more?" Triton laid his back on the bench, tapping his fingers on his thighs.

Andreas leaned forward resting his upper body on his shoulders, on his knees. He stared at nothing in particular.

"The older the Immortal the stronger the quickening, the more the knowledge gained. The closer one gets to the gathering, and there can be only one."

"How can an Immortal die? Only by having…your head removed?"

Andreas nodded. "Everything else we come back from."

"What if a mortal takes your head?"

"Doesn't matter, mortal or Immortal. Why do you think everyone hated the medieval ages?" Andreas tried laughing at a joke which wasn't a joke.

"So, what would happen if I died, somehow?" Triton's voice had a familiar hope about it, familiar to Andreas.

"You'd remain dead, and you should be glad for that." Andreas stated.

"How do you know? I could be an immortal as well."

"You are not, Immortals have a…sensation you could call it, we can sense other Immortals who are nearby. You are not one."

"But if I'm still mortal, having not di…"

"You'd not be a mortal then and I'd feel you whether you knew of it yet or not." Andreas asserted.

"Okay…" Triton shrugged. "How ab…" Triton cut his sentence short as Andreas' back and head straightened, his eyes darting around searching for something.

"Hello, Andreas." A male voice spoke behind them, full of sarcasm and malice, with Andreas jumping up and spinning around in one swift movement, bag in hand. The change in his eyes was also instantaneous.

With his free hand, he released one of the blades aiming it at the man.

Triton turned his upper body and head around to see a man in his fifties standing there, his hands in front of his belly one on top of the other. He wore a navy-blue suit and a trench coat, it wasn't that cold yet.

"Groves!" Andreas' voice dyed with pain and anger.

Lifting a hand Groves waved the index finger left and right. "tisk,tisk, tisk , there are mortals about, young one." With a mocking tone.

"Oh, he knows." Andreas replied indicating Triton, with his head. A second later he felt a tag on his elbow. Triton was pointing at a direction to his left. Turning his head Andreas saw two joggers approaching.

"What do you want? Come to collect on the agonisingly painful death I owe you?" Asked Andreas, hiding the swords back in his bag.

Groves laughed aloud. "It was glorious was it not? The sky painted red and orange, hundreds of thousands dead in a blink of an eye."

"Just choose time and place." Replied Andreas, his face distorted by seething rage and disgust.

"Under the abandoned bridge, tonight midnight." Groves replied with a smirk. He turned and left.

After a moment's tense silence Triton sat back down on the bench. Two moments later Andreas slumped down as well, his fists still clenched, the skin around the knuckles white.

"Who was he?"

"Someone from my past."

"Oh, come on, what is it with you and being mysterious or downright stubborn to the point of stupid? We are friends, it is obvious despite your stubbornness that you want us to be friends, and I now know about you and your immortality. What's keeping you from telling me?" Triton pushed, frustrated.

Triton gave a deep exhale. "I was a…servant in a Japanese home throughout most of the second world war. In fact, at first, I had been a slave, captured by a Japanese general in China and sent to his house in Japan. I was to be a house slave but the general got injured in battle and was sent back home to recover and take an office job in the Imperial army, no more was he to fight in the front lines. I was in his house from nineteen forty and by the end of the war my captor had become one of the best friends I have ever had. From a slave, I had ascended to a servant and from a servant to a confidant, a friend, and an advisor. Including you and him I have only told five to ten people of who and what I am. Then one day in the blink of an eye…everything ended in fire and death as the Americans dropped the atom bomb in Hiroshima." Andreas took a shaky breath. "As I felt my flesh melt from my bones and my lungs set aflame by the very air I breathed."

"Was that how…how you first died?" Asked, a hesitant Triton.

"No, but it was one of the worst deaths in memory and yet…not nearly as horrifying or as agonising as dying over and over from radiation poisoning until I was out of the blast area." Andreas visibly shuddered at the recounting of it.

"After the war was officially over I made my way to Europe through Korea and the Soviet Union."

"How…or why is that guy…Groves? Involved?"

"I was roaming Western and southern Europe, alone at first then with George and I kept hearing rumours about how an Immortal had been involved or even directed what they were calling the "Manhattan Project." When we learned what the Manhattan Project had been about me and George set out to find out if the rumours were true but Leslie Groves found us first. George had wanted to be the one to fight him but when Groves found out I had been in Japan during the end of the War he challenged me." Andreas paused retrieving a plastic water bottle from his bag, taking a sip.

"We fought for hours until it was clear I was going to win and take his head, to escape with his life he shot me with a hidden pistol and jumped off a window into the Rhine." Andreas concluded.

"Why not take your head if you're out cold from a gunshot?" Triton shrugged his shoulders inquisitively.

"When an Immortal takes the head of another a quickening occurs. Via the quickening all knowledge, skill and memories of the dead Immortal pass on to the victor, but it is a very shocking experience especially if it is an immortal with a few centuries of life behind him or her. A quickening can leave an Immortal exhausted and virtually defenseless for hours. So, if Groves had taken my head, there'd have been nothing to stop George from taking his in return. So, the coward fled instead." Andreas stood up.

"I want to have some fun before nightfall."

"What now? I don't think you mean for us to play video games." Triton tried smiling.

"Well, now we'll have fun, after I'll prepare myself and maybe I'll live and maybe I won't." Replied Andreas digging out his phone from his pocket, his feet moving beneath him.

"Who are you texting?" Triton asked trying to peer into the screen.

"Sophia." Andreas replied without pausing.

A few minutes later Andreas looked up from the mobile screen. "She'll meet us with a friend in the mall, let's go."

"A…a friend?" Triton questioned.

"Yeah, you have a date with a girl, follow me." Andreas stated with a grin.

They walked to the mall and waited for the girls.

"Hey, Sophia." Andreas smiled broad, passing a hand around her shoulders. She smiled back trying to get closer to him.

"Uhm…hi, Triton, I guess." Triton waved to Sophia's friend. She greeted him back.

"What do you want us to do, then?" Andreas asked Sophia, while walking them closer to the multiplex and arcade portion of the mall.

She shrugged. "Dunno…we could play some I guess."

"Sure, but have you seen that latest movie with the vampires and shit?" Andreas asked her.

"No, but I've wanted to." He smiled, taking hold of her hand.

"I can buy us tickets, play some arcades and then watch the movie, yeah?"

"Sure." She beamed.

Andreas and Triton bought them all tickets to the movie. They spent the next hour or so paying games, with Andreas mostly chatting with Sophia.

Half way through the film Andreas stretched his hands above his head, landing them softly around Sophia's shoulders with Sophia biting her lower lip, Andreas could see in the dim light of the projector, and resting her head between his shoulder and his neck, one of her hands going for his free one. A few moments of him whispering to her he lifted her head from her chin before inching his head closer to hers, deliberately, slowly with purpose.

She had time to pull back, to indicate she did not want what was about to happen.

She did not.

His lips met hers, softly for a second before he applied gentle suction for a second, his hands now caressing her cheeks. She placed her hands around his neck reciprocating the kiss before he broke it, resting his forehead on hers he made the slightest of movements to pull back. Like a frenzied animal she pressed on his neck bringing him back close. Their lips touched again, this time he opened his, his tongue probing her teeth.

Her lips, first of doors to her soul, parted giving him access. His invading tongue, controlled in its movements, touched hers and like a skilled violinist he used it to probe her inner mouth, first on the top of her tongue, then on the side with slow deliberate motions. Moaning she broke the kiss to breathe and then assailed his mouth with her tongue, this time exploring his mouth, her movements less skilled yet her warmth and moisture, her closeness excited him regardless.

Her friend was less lucky as an awkward Triton only made hand contact towards the end of the film and remained at that.

They chatted for a while, after the movie's end outside the mall before the girls left.

"You're going to go meet him?" Andreas nodded.

"It is our way, I have been challenged and I have challenged him before today. I must go. There can be only one, after all." Triton sighed.

"At least let me come with you?"

Andreas met his eyes and smiled but shook his head. "No, this is something I have to do alone, besides, should I lose Groves is a sociopath he'd not hesitate to harm you." Andreas left Triton behind and headed for the abandoned bridge.

It was not like Hollywood would portray such a scene, there was no mist, Andreas was calm and there was no music to create suspense. He saw Groves approach and released his blades, letting the bag fall on the ground behind him.

"You have come, after our last encounter I was not sure you'd have the balls to face me again, coward." Andreas taunted him.

"I think this time will go differently, no George around and I have a gun yet again." Groves opened the trench coat taking hold of a longsword in one hand and a 45 colt in the other. Pointing the gun at Andreas he pulled the trigger once then twice.

Andreas groaned twisting around before falling on the ground motionless.

Groves placed the gun back inside the trench coat and paced towards him, grabbed him by his hair pulling his head up whilst at the same time raising his sword hand above his head.

"I'll take your quickening now, boy." He said then his eyes bulged out in silent pain as in one swift movement Andreas stabbed him with both blades, right at his sternum.

Andreas pulled his blades back. "You know what is your downfall? Pride and predictability. Just because I fall to the ground does not mean I have fallen." Andreas stabbed him again before rising to his feet. Groves fell to his knees, his sword clunking on the concrete floor.

Andreas towered over him, "For those who cannot speak for themselves." He spoke in Japanese and beheaded Groves.

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