Chapter 12 The Challenge

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Hank woke up to the sight of a dark-skinned, hungry-looking vampire trying to shake him awake. He became conscious enough to recognize the face floating above him was the face of Isingoma.

"What is it, Ising...uh," he tried to pronounce the foreign name in his half asleep stupor.

"Isingoma? No, I am Kato. I have been instructed to wake you. Ishan has been challenged. You must come," he shouted as he continued to shake Hank.

"All right, all right. I'm waking up. Why is it so urgent to wake me up?" he asked, looking over the vampire that looked identical to Isingoma. Judging by his sense of manners, he was obviously not him.

"So, uh, Kato, is it?"

"Yes."

"Okay. Kato, are you and Isingo-whats-it twins then?"

"You figured that out all on your own, did you?" Kato asked.

Before Hank could give him a dirty look or a snide reply, Kato picked him up from the bed and set him down on his feet.

"Ishan's leadership has been challenged because of you," Kato said, grabbing Hank by the arm and pulling him toward the open doorway.

"Why me? What did I do?" Hank asked as they entered the hallway.

"By protecting you, Ishan is taking great risks. He is risking his leadership, his life, and with what you know, he is now also risking all of us, especially the ancestors," Kato said as he led Hank down the silver corridor. "Since Ishan is being challenged because of you, you are at risk now as well. As part of his Challenge, Ishan must protect you. It is our way that if one of our kind is willing to risk another of his own for the likes of one of you," Kato said with contempt, "then he must be challenged and willing to protect your life and his own. In Ishan's case, protecting his life also means protecting his place as leader of the council. If he should lose and the one who challenged him takes his blood, then they will take his place. If that happens, Peter would then offer your blood to the ancestors as a sign of loyalty."

As Kato said this, Hank thought of Toby and began to struggle while still being held by Kato's arm.

"You have no choice, human. You must come with me," Kato said as he held steadfast to Hank's arm.

Hank tried again to struggle, but Kato's arm was locked on him like a steel vise. He dragged Hank by the arm until they came to the main laboratory. The lab was completely empty. He walked across the silent lab until he came to an out-of-place-looking elevator door. He typed in a code on a number pad in a blur, his fingers moving too fast to even darken the glowing buttons. The elevator door opened and Kato pushed Hank in hard and blocked the doorway in a flash. It was hardly needed as Hank was lying on the floor with the wind knocked out of him.

He lay on the floor gasping for air as Kato stood facing the closed elevator doors whistling an unfamiliar tune. A sharp pain in Hank's chest told him he was on the verge of pulling in some oxygen right as the elevator made a "ding" sound. The doors opened to reveal the inside of a parking garage. Hank sucked in a large gush of air right before Kato picked him up like a sack of potatoes. Then, Kato burst forward in a speed faster than Hank had ever endured before. He could hear a fast movement of feet hitting concrete at the rate of machine gun rounds. He tried to watch where they were going, but could only see a dull gray blur for a few seconds. It became a dark mass with streaks of white Hank assumed were either the stars or the lights of the city. Just as soon as he could see the darkness, he felt a strong wind and the feeling of falling.

When Kato landed, Hank heard a loud crack and felt himself slip slightly. Then, he sensed painful stings as several chunks of something hard burst into his legs like shrapnel. The next thing he knew, he could only feel wind and the feeling of unreal momentum. He tried to breathe but found it nearly impossible. After a few seconds, he felt himself slipping from reality. A few more seconds and he went unconscious.

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