999999999 Mana - Chapter 44
When I stepped into the auditorium, it felt like the music was not just pounding in my ears, it was trying to tear them apart. I was separated from the big stage with the DJ console, which shimmered with colors and patterns of the most toxic shapes and colors, by a huge dance floor, with bars on both sides.
The inside was packed to capacity, with hundreds of people in strange clothes moving in completely unpredictable ways to wicked percussive beats that slowed the tempo slightly between tracks, only to have the crowd beat the ground with redoubled force after a few seconds.
A huge crowd. Hundreds of people, maybe even more than a thousand.
Combined with the music, the sight put me in a little trance. I froze in place and stared at the crowd, forgetting what I was even doing here.
Soon enough, though, Treplo bumped into my shoulder and brought me back to reality. He leaned into my ear and shouted, trying to interrupt the hum:
– Now,-something out there–Max! – the guy tried, but the sound was so powerful that I wasn’t entirely sure what I was hearing.
– WHAT? – I shouted in his ear.
The codger shook his head. Then he took a step toward the crowd, turned to face me, and yelled even louder:
– “WE’RE LOOKING FOR MAKS! – He pointed his hand behind him, somewhere.
He yelled something else, but it was at this point that the music started pounding particularly hard.
The crowd of people jumping in the dance seemed to suck him in and carry him away. I was alone. I stared stupidly at what was happening, with no idea what direction to go in.
From where I was, it was impossible to understand the location of the smoking room. Obviously, I would have to look for it by experience. After casting one last glance around the crowd, I decided to make my way to the nearest bar. I suppose it would be a lot easier for me to find a chatty drunken mouth from which I could learn everything I needed to know.
Looking at the crowd tearing up the dance floor, I closed my eyes and, bracing myself, sighed. Then I squeezed between the two guys in the dancing mass of people.
At one point I even stopped counting how many times I had been stepped on or elbowed in the ribs. I had to worm my way through very slowly, apologetically pushing the people in front of me. However, many of them did not even notice my movements and just looked in response to another “excuse me, sorry” with an idiotic smile and disinterest. Thanks for that.
The attempts to get to the bar were complicated by the fact that the color music system was insane and now instead of bright colors flying in circles and lines around the room, the dance floor was lit by rapid white flashes, followed by darkness for a fraction of a second. This made it harder to see the right direction, and it gave me the strange illusion of people moving like they were in a low-frame-rate film, jerking.
I moved farther and farther away with no apparent success. At one point I finally thought I could see the outline of a rack behind another group of people in sharp glasses. And then white smoke hissed from beneath the floor. It was so thick that nothing could be seen beyond the nearest couple of people. Soon, however, they were gone, too.
The music was quiet at first, giving my ears a moment’s rest, but then began to pick up the tempo again. I had a bad feeling in my chest, and for a few seconds I looked around in confusion, not knowing where everyone had gone.
However, as soon as the smoke cleared a little, it became clear that my intuition was right. The dance floor split in two, leaving me alone in the middle of it. People were jerking their heads in time with the up-tempo music and holding each other by the shoulders in a slight crouch. It seemed as if they were ready to snap out of their chains.
It wasn’t hard to guess what was going through my head.
Was something wrong? Did someone recognize me?
I could not figure out what was going on. Had I crawled into the jaws of a tiger? Was I going to be slaughtered by the Right as the hated offspring of the Clans? What in the world…
“SLAM! SLAM! SLAM!” – the crowd suddenly yelled, giving me the full meaning of “between the hammer and the anvil.
It made me swear with joy. After all, they weren’t after me.
The bass kicked in and the dancers flew on top of each other, pushing each other and jumping all over the place.
I was in the middle of the hell that was going on, with my body jostling and tossing around like a rag doll. For a moment, my ears were ringing as the back of someone’s bald head flew right into my nose. I floated.
The thought pounded in my head that if I fell carelessly to the floor here, no amount of resurrection would help me. By some miracle, I was able to dodge another flying bully in track shoes, and was lucky to escape the slam to a quieter part of the crowd.
Behind me, the scraping continued.
Sweat poured down my face, grabbing my sides with my hands, I leaned over to catch my breath, and after a minute of loud breaths and exhalations, I squinted and looked up. I couldn’t tell you how relieved I was to see the bar behind which there was a large crowd.
Somehow I squeezed between the people to the counter and bought half a liter of water. Fortunately, I had some cash with me. I took a breath and looked around for a possible “informer.
I did not have to look for a long time. The music died down, and I heard a phrase from a girl standing nearby:
– … Just don’t you dare blurt it out in front of Max, hahaha! – Laughing, she spilled alcohol on the counter in a cardboard cup.
It’s silly to assume that she’s talking about the exact Max I want. But… what the hell?
After tapping her on the shoulder a couple of times, I turned the girl’s attention to myself.
– Can you tell me how to find Max? – I had to yell again, – He’s so bald!
Just in case, I clarified the distinguishing feature of the Max that I know.
The girl looked at me skeptically, from head to toe, and raised an eyebrow.
– You,” and then rolled her eyes dismissively, “will not tell.
And she turned away.
I threw my head back in surprise and shrugged. Okay, maybe we’re not talking about the same people after all.
The bartenders were busy running around behind the bar, so I decided to ask someone else about the location of the smokehouse, only out of the corner of my eye noticing that the same girl was glancing in my direction without making a sign.
It took me some more time to find out the route, mostly because almost everyone I approached ignored me. Eventually I got to the lone guy dancing, and he, without saying anything, just pointed me in the direction of the stairs behind the bar.
I climbed up it and stepped outside. The first thing I was surprised at was that I hadn’t noticed how stuffy it was inside. The fresh air, though riddled with cigarette smoke, hit my nose, giving me a pleasant coolness.
The smoking room was a huge area on the roof of the building, which I began to walk around the perimeter. Apart from a dozen of garbage cans for cigarette butts (in which, it seems, no one hit with cigarette butts), there was nothing else in the place. No, sure, there were crowds of people, but no Max, no Trepla.
But I’m not the one who’s used to dealing with all this crap. Let’s start at the beginning.
I headed downhill. But halfway down, I stopped.
A familiar face appeared in the aisle-that girl from the bar. And she was with three massive hulks, chatting excitedly about something.
I was not particularly eager to pass by the female character who had sent me away. I would have to pretend that I hadn’t noticed her and that nothing had happened. This is rather awkward and unpleasant. So I stopped not far away and waited.
Well, the girl looked… bold, for lack of another word. Pretty face. She looked about twenty-five, short black hair with a white dyed lock of bangs, piercings in her cheeks and under her lips, tunnels in her ears, and of course a bunch of tattoos that were visible because she only wore a long cape over a single black bra. Um, and short shorts, of course. Slender long legs caught my eye.
I got a little carried away, though, and at one point we crossed paths. She immediately frowned and stopped. The three guys next to her noticed this and followed her gaze.
– Is this the dick that was coming on to you, Sarah? – The bigger, bearded one of them said, “What kind of homeless kid is that?
Well, I really don’t look very presentable right now. And I don’t really fit in with them. I look more like some kind of guest worker. So let’s pretend I didn’t hear that.
I looked away and made a disinterested face.
– Hey, kid, come here. – shouted the other one to me, tilting his head to the side.
I cursed. What the hell did they want me for?
-You can read more just search nitro scans at google
– Is there a problem with your hearing? – They wouldn’t let up, despite my best efforts to ignore the incipient conflict.
– Do you need something? – I answered lazily as I looked back at them.
You could see the irritation on their faces. The girl looked indifferent.
– Look at this rascal, he looks like he does not know where he is, – said the bearded one indulgently, and threw away his cigarette, and spat.
– I guess I don’t redeem. – I shrugged.
And indeed: not to the end of the ransom. The codger didn’t explain anything to me.
In general, under different circumstances, I should be much more careful to choose words in unfamiliar surroundings, but now I just wanted to find Max. And I had neither the time nor the energy to flirt with them.
Nor did I want to. Who were they anyway?
One of them was already on his way to me. I don’t know whether he was planning to punch me in the face or just talk to me. But I decided to stop all this nonsense. I unzipped my jacket and showed him my gun holster.
The boogeyman slowed down sharply.
– He’s got a bagpipe! – he yelled to his friends.
I could see the tension in everyone’s eyes. The looks, previously condescending and cocky, had grown wary and serious.
– Great, we all have a bagpipe, so what? – The bearded man who stayed behind nervously sniggered.
Oh, I don’t care! Why don’t you do what’s right, and just forget about me and go about your business?
But they were in no hurry to do so. They continued to stand there, staring at me in suspense. I sighed wearily.
The atmosphere was relieved when the girl sighed, just as tired. She clenched her hands into fists and said more to herself:
– I’ll give guns to the guards so they don’t let just anyone in.
And she walked straight toward me with a steady, confident stride-as if I couldn’t get a gun out of my pocket right now. Sarah, I could tell from their conversation, walked past the still-frozen boogeyman and came right up to me.
Why is she so strong and independent?
– How the fuck did you get in here with a gun anyway? – She asked me.
– My friend took me there.
The girl rolled her eyes.
– Listen to me. I don’t need this here. Get out while you can, sunshine. – She smiled rather nastily.
– I will,” I smiled back politely, and pulled my hood a little lower, too many unnecessary eyes on me right now. You good?
Out of the corner of my eye I noticed the inconspicuous guy from her company leave downstairs. The other two stood at the sides of the girl and slowly, step by step, began to walk around me.
At the same time, the smoking room began to empty very actively, leaving only a few of the most interested onlookers on the roof. I didn’t like that at all.
– I don’t care why you’re here,” she leaned toward me and hissed coldly, “You just get the fuck out of this club now. Either by yourself. Or with our help.
Behind Sara’s back, her friend’s backup showed up. A dozen guys with scary faces filled the roof.
That sucked. To get a gun was to be the first to start a fight. But I wasn’t about to let some gopals shove my face into the ground anymore, either.
I began to consider my options. I could only think of one, as much as it disgusted me.
– So, what have you decided? – Sassy said the girl. Probably thought I was silent because I shit my pants. Yeah.
– I’m so sick of this.
* * *
The girl trembled, covered in goosebumps. A second ago the polite smile on the guy’s face had turned predatory and smug, which made Sara feel uncomfortable.
The guys behind her, though, didn’t catch the change in atmosphere. It was routine for them to chase the troublemakers away. Many of them were beginning to think that this night would be unforgettable, but the news that a young kid with a gun had shown up on the roof quickly dispelled all doubts.
Although Sara, the owner of the “club,” was giving the boy a chance to leave peacefully, each of them felt it wouldn’t end so easily.
All they had to do was say one word, and the boy would be gone. Except the girl abruptly changed her mind about giving any commands.
Grinning, Mark raised his hand up and bared his sleeve, showing off the red patterns.
– “Look, I have a ‘tattoo, too,” Mark took a deep breath, “Sunshine.
“Awakened.” The eyes of everyone in the crowd were fixed on Mark.
Sara was chaotically trying to figure out the best course of action: the awakened can be more dangerous than any weapon, and the way he held himself confidently in front of a crowd of guys no longer seemed like an empty boast.
The girl was spared the need to make a decision by the whistle that sounded. Everyone except Mark, who didn’t even flinch, immediately turned to its source.
– Are we welcoming guests with the whole village, boys? – A voice familiar to Mark came from down the stairs. – I wouldn’t recommend touching it.
Max appeared at the door, escorted by Trepla. He wore the same dark blue joggers and a black jacket with a patch on the shoulder. He spread his arms out to his sides and smiled broadly. The eyes of the frat boys and gawkers in the smoking room were immediately fixed on him.
He merely nodded to Treple, and he stepped forward waving his arms.
– Audience, disperse! There will be no movie! Everybody off the roof!
Soon all the extra ears under Treple’s supervision made their way inside the club with disgruntled faces, leaving only Max, Mark, and for some reason Sarah in the smoking room.
The door slammed shut, letting in the thudding bass from the dance floor. Treplo and a couple of the boogeymen stayed on watch on the other side to make sure no one left would break in.
– Trying to get punched in the face by strangers again?
– No, I’m just surprised you helped this time and didn’t leave me for dead. – Mark indifferently parried.
Max tried not to remember that night. Nikita’s death, the creature’s attack, and then his own impulsive act, which was in fact a scam. Even though the slum leader had learned to get along with his conscience over his rather hard life, to say that that closed door to the vestibule didn’t grate on him was impossible.
It was awkward.
– Who is he!? – he was saved from answering the jerk by a confused Sarah. The tension and sense of danger had subsided, and now she looked more hysterical than threatening.
– Guess. – Max winked at her.
– Um…” she tried to peer into Mark’s face under the hood, but he turned away, and the skinhead rolled his eyes and sighed.
He folded his fingers over his pistol and pointed it defiantly at the girl’s head.
– I’m cool. Bang. – The guy “shot” his fingers, mimicking the video of Mark killing August.
The girl frowned and after a second of realization raised her eyebrows, then looked at the silent hooded figure with a very different look.
– The clan man who killed his whore bride’s lover? I thought he was dead.
Hearing this, Mark didn’t even change his face. On the contrary, it even seemed to amuse him in a twisted sort of way.
Max, on the other hand, hissed.
– Well, wasn’t it? – Sarah smiled haughtily,” It’s obvious to everyone. She was cheating on him with that pooch, and he caught them and spanked them in the heat of jealousy.
The jealous vigilante (in Sara’s version) looked at her phlegmatically, and then just leaned back against the edge of the roof, waiting for the moment when the conversation came closer to the point.
Max, on the other hand, not wanting to stir the subject any further, shook his head.
– You’ve changed a lot since the last time.
– Have I? – Rott smiled ironically.
– Well, I remember how lost you were walking back and forth on the train. Just a kid who lost his mother in the supermarket, and now,” Max laughed nervously to himself, “someone might say that the sight of you makes your hair stand on end. The showdown with the Locke’s had that effect?
– More like death. – Mark’s smile was starting to scare Sarah a little.
– Oh, yeah, you’re kind of dead. Some movie way your Clansmen chose to cover their asses.
Hearing this, the guy under the shift laughed out loud to the surprise of those present. Sarah couldn’t remember the last time she’d seen someone so strange. And considering that the girl owned the biggest club in the slums, that could easily be taken as a compliment of sorts.
Mark shrugged his shoulders.
– Decided to hide me under the coffin lid and overdid it.
No one understood that.
– They’re saying on the news that you killed your father,” Max changed the subject again, “Is that true?
Mark grimaced. For a split second he somehow felt hatred bordering on rage.
The “shift” felt different this time for some reason. No, the former mental clarity remained, but the emotions he hadn’t felt at all before seemed to have found a way to break through the protective layer of skill for a moment. And in the purest and most unclouded form.
– And they also say that I ran away from the hospital, ran naked through the park, scaring visitors, and shat on a monument,” Mark stepped off the edge of the roof and stood up straight, “Does that sound about right? – he looked Max straight in the eyes.
The skinhead hummed and shook his head.
– He took a cigarette out of the pack and was about to put it to his mouth when Mark deftly snatched it out of his hands to Max’s dumbfounded look.
– It’s for that incident with the door,” Mark smiled politely, “Quits.
Max bit his lip and grudgingly pulled out his lighter, then glanced at Sarah, who was looking at Mark with interest.
– I’m sorry, I forgot to offer,” he lit the fire and lit it for Mark, who nodded imperiously.
Rott took a puff and didn’t even cough. Mark smoked half a cigarette in one puff and looked surprised at the butt, which went straight into the nearest trashcan.
The couple looked at him silently with raised eyebrows.
Max came out of his stupor and lit his cigarette.
– So what’s the deal? – He noticed how suspiciously Mark was squinting at the girl and decided to reassure him, – This is Sarah, my sister. It’s okay.
Mark nodded and looked up.
– What are you fighting for? – Separating the word from the word Mark said.
– Excuse me?
– Your movement. Looks like you’ve got a bunch of rabble under your wing, just aimlessly flitting back and forth, for all the good, against all the bad.
– Watch your mouth, will you? A couple of years ago, that “rabble” was on its own, my friend. And I put them together. You may think we’re just barking at those who hold power, but it’s better than barking at each other. – Max snapped.
– And it sure as hell ain’t up to some clan dude to judge us. – Besides, now, for the first time in a long time, thanks to that mess Locke’s kicking up, we’ve got at least a slim chance of influencing the Clans.
– And how are you going to pull that off? – Mark hummed, “You’ll be eaten and not choked.
– I can’t tell you everything. – The skinhead waved, lips pressed together.
– Riots, protests? Mother’s revolutionaries? – Mark looked at Max with a raised eyebrow. It was obvious he had hit the mark. – Good luck with that.
– It works. – The girl tried to say it as convincingly as possible.
– Repeat it to yourself before you go to sleep. Or listen to me and realize that I have the power to make your wet dreams come true. At least to some extent.
– Will the Clansman help the common guys from the slums fight the Clans? Anything else interesting you can tell us? – Sarah crossed her arms across her chest.
– My clan and I are a little at odds. Not surprised, though.
– So, what do you suggest? – Max flicked an unfinished cigarette into the air.
– It’s simple. I need your people to solve my problems. And I’ll help you deal with yours.
– I don’t think you’re grasping the fact that our goals don’t quite add up. I’m not gonna risk my boys for you to play your clan games.
– What, you think I want to climb higher? – Mark shook his head in thought, “No, I don’t think they’d ever let me up there.
– Come on! – Max snorted, “You’re the heir to the clan, aren’t you?
Rott laughed ironically:
– And you think one title is enough to get to the top of the chain? Clans are not much different from your gang. It’s all based on shaky laws. Only the sharks are bigger.
– If you’d told me a month ago that Shorty,” Mark sighed, “was in charge now. How many of your guys would follow him?
Max, frowning, was silent.
– So I have the usual commonplace desires – to make sure I can sleep at night again,” he smiled, “no torture. All my plans are as simple as an axe. To break, not to build.
With these words Mark Rott sighed wearily. A bad fire burned in his eyes.
– Suppose,” Max looked at his sister doubtfully, “But you may have forgotten, but my boys are ordinary people, not awakened. What can they do against clan fighters? You said it yourself, they’ll eat us. I’m not giving them up to be slaughtered.
Hearing this, Mark smiled, and stared at the floor for a moment, silent.
– How many people are there?
– About a thousand.
– And they’re all loyal to you?
– Those who aren’t loyal to me haven’t been able to dance for a long time.
– What if I helped you and your boys become a real ‘clan’ yourself?
Rott looked the shaved-head in the eye. Coldly. Seriously.
– You must realize how crazy that sounds,” the guy’s words sounded to Max as absurd as Shorty’s desire to be a blogger.
– I do. But theoretically?
“Deal with the devil?” – Sarah glared at the hooded clanman. Whoever, this girl was used to trusting her intuition. Otherwise, she would never have taken over this club, not to mention that things would have gone far worse for her brother if she hadn’t always been around. And now her intuition was telling her to go along with it.
The brunette pinched her brother’s hand. He frowned.
– Purely theoretically, in that case, I’d… think about it.
It seemed like the guy in the hood was just waiting for that.
– Okay. – He smiled broadly. – Let’s go.
Sarah and Max glanced at each other and hurried after Mark as he headed downstairs.
The door opened, letting the music out. The trio walked down the steps, passing Treplet and the amps guarding the door. At one point the hooded guy gestured for them to stop, waited for the music to die down, and slowly strode into the crowd of dancers with his fist raised.
Then something strange happened.
As he entered the crowd Mark looked around, filled his lungs with air, and yelled as hard as he could.
It didn’t take long to get the crowd warmed up. In a matter of seconds, the dance floor was an aggressive mess again, hiding Mark, who was drifting off into the middle of the action.
At one point, Max and Sarah lost sight of him altogether. The music started pounding harder and harder, and people were twirling and pushing each other more and more. And when, after a short transition, a powerful bass hit the track, it seemed to them that somewhere among the dancers… there was the sound of a gunshot.