Act One
Jewels in the Parking Lot

March wasn't supposed to have sixty degree weather-especially March in Northwest Indiana, a place so close to the snow belt that it probably should've been a part of it. Formed by the dip in Lake Michigan and thus sandwiched in-between a freezing lake and freezing weather, the temperatures should've been…well, freezing. But it wasn't. It was warm, beautifully warm, and the days seemed to have lengthened gloriously to compensate. But when the weather turned violent, it turned VERY violent… It was an omen of a sort, but not on the mind of a certain Jen Daseler, third year college student, as she headed down U.S. 30. Instead, she was wondering if Barnes and Noble would finally have that book. "They should've shipped it by now," came a voice from beside her, belonging to Brittany Kubacki, a first year college student (different colleges, unfortunatly) and her best friend. "Isn't that what Amazon said?" Jen shrugged in reply, and Britt turned back to staring out the window, watching the world go by. A grin teased her mouth. "It's so nice to see the inside of a car again," she sighed. Jen grinned in return. "Just be glad you don't have a five hour drive ahead of you," she replied. "I'm sorry, Jen, I know how much it must suck for you, but..." She shrugged. "I never get a chance to drive." "Isn't it expensive?" "Nope, not with a handy bus ticket!" she grinned, pulling it from her pocket. Something else glittered along with it, but she tucked it back into her jacket so quickly that Jen didn't see it. However, the flash of light turned her thoughts to her own little pocketed surprise. She wondered briefly if they could come up with some idea as to what is was and that was another reason for going to B&N. It was a perfect research spot for two people trying not to be overly suspicious. Their talk turned to other things as they pulled into the parking lot, and after five minutes of trolling for a space (with some mild cursing on Britt's part), they managed to find one in the back. Jen did her usual skillful parking job, and the two of them walked happily through the warm air, conversation barely lagging. As such, they did not notice the three sets of eyes that lay on them, taking in their every move. And if they had, it would've made no difference. The two headed to the back first, and to their disappointment, the nice old lady in the back said it wasn't in yet, though she offered to check it out through the computer. Once again, the search was rather inconclusive-it didn't even point out when the next book would be out, though Jen seemed to know. A little discouraged, the pair wandered into sci-fi, Britt avididly looking for her favorite authors while Jen skimmed here and there, listening with a small grin as her friend exclaimed with happiness or despair. "Still holds true!" she heard her call out. 'They NEVER have the third book," Her voice trailed off, followed by the soft rustling of someone looking for something-and it was then that Jen reached into her pocket and peeked at the tiny, glittering piece. It winked at her in the light, and she let out a small sigh, relieved that it was still there. She wasn't sure why she'd feel so darn bad if she lost it, but…she put it back in her pocket, and then quietly moved out of the sci-fi section, heading towards reference. On the other side of the barrier, Britt thumbed obliviously through the books, never noticing that Jen had gone. Moments later, though, she straightened and reached into her own pocket, fumbling through the various crap until her fingers closed on the cool, metallic piece. Pulling it out, she looked it over, then sighed and dropped it back in, returning to thumbing through the books. In reference, Jen was immediately frustrated by her choice of books. Maybe I should check out…nature, or gems…or whatever…she thought, thumbing the piece in her pocket. But where would I find that? I should go ask…and I can't be away too long…we can't be out TOO late… Thus her thoughts ran as she wandered about the shelves, checking book titles. She came across a couple that looked good, but they referenced only stones, not metals; she already had an idea to one, but she really needed to know the other. Unlike stones, metals could be toxic if held to the skin…and Lord knows I don't need THAT on top of everything, she thought quietly. This is too weird as it is… Finally, though, she picked up a book that would cover everything-Elements and Minerals, by Sou Saiheitei-and began to look around for someplace quiet to sit down and see what she could find. The couches in the corner of the store by the registers looked good, and she wound her way over there, and to her surprise, found it rather empty. Settling in, she opened her book, snuck out the slightly cool object, and juggled it while flipping pages to see what she could find. Three minutes later, Britt showed up-holding a couple of her own books, a small sparkling thing in her hand… The two looked at each other for a long moment, and then Britt broke into an embarrassed grin. "Well…" she said. "You have one, too?" Jen asked. The girl nodded. "Ummm…if you have something that looks like this…" She knelt down by the comfy chair where the girl sat, books plopping to the ground, and held up what had been in her hand. Jen stared at the perhaps inch or so length piece of metal. It was a sort of charred black color, finely ridged with small, ornamental designs, and a sinuous, curled shape that flipped back around to nearly touch itself. She looked over it once, twice, before her eye caught the dark, flat gemstone which gleamed dully from the center, roughly set in the metal, a rough character melting on and then off to the eye, appearing and then vanishing away. She hesitantly picked it up, turning it carefully in the light so the metal gleamed at her, deep blue glints winking at her in the lights. She then handed it back, reached down, and produced her own, holding it out for her friend. Britt took it, then scurried around to sit in front of Jen. Holding the two objects before them for mental comparison, she studied the piece Jen had given her. It was roughly the same length as the one she had, but of a dull silvery color that seemed to draw light to it rather than reflect it. A bright purple gem was set about midway up the horn shaped piece, and below it in a brushed on scrawl some characters were written. She ran her finger over the piece, yet didn't feel a thing in the metal; it seemed as if they had been formed within the metal instead of punched onto it. She rolled it in her hand, and a soft golden glint rippled along its surface, giving her pause. "That's amethyst, isn't it?" she said, giving it back to Jen. "That's what I thought, but I wanted to check…and quickly," Jen replied, taking back the piece and looking at the time. Britt nodded. "I think I have sapphire, but I'm not too sure…how did you get yours?" Jen paused, and her eyes seemed to mist a little in the memory of it. "I had gone out to meet someone at the mall…" she began. Jen waited with her arms crossed in front of DreamQuest, checking her watch again. Adam had said he would be there that night, but she was beginning to doubt his word. She was bored, and tense, and tired-she had been up late on the computer last night, when they had made these plans. For the fifteenth time, she cursed herself for ever agreeing to this. Turning to go inside the store-He can find me inside if he shows up-she got partway through the doorway when all of a sudden, someone thudded against her body, sending her back outside and nearly taking her off her feet. "WATCH YOUR…" she began, then stopped as a tiny old man looked up at her. His face was rather normal for an older person, but his eyes were an intense, dark color, almost purple, shining with a bright spark of life. "My pardons, Lady," he said with a tiny bow. "I did not mean to bump into you so…will you accept my apologies?" "Uhh…yea, of course," she replied quickly, unsure of what to make of him-or the chills that were parading up and down her spine. "Ahh, the Lady seems unsure…well, perhaps a token of my sincereity, then?" He waved his hands in front of his face, then curled them into fists-and when he opened his right hand, within it lay a beautiful piece of metal studded with a lovely central jewel. Fascinated, she reached over and picked it up, staring at it in awe. "What is this?" she asked softly. "It's so…beautiful." The old man grinned, then said, "It matches its owner." Then, before Jen could spit out anymore questions, he gave a little hop and disappeared into the crowd. She started to follow, but there was a sudden mass of people-and she lost complete sight of him. Turning back, she stared at the metal in her hand, and without knowing why, gave a soft, low, melancholy sigh. It was then that Adam showed up, and the piece of metal vanished into her pocket with no words about it. She would show him later maybe…but not in this crowded mall… "You never showed him, did you?" Britt said softly. "No, I never did-I've looked at it, but you're the only one I've actually felt…safe…enough…" She paused, unsure as to why she was straining for words. "I know," Britt replied. "I've never pulled it out for anyone else-which is weird, considering where I got it…" Britt took a seat on the rough stone ledge and counted days until her Spring Break. It was Wednesday, first period done-yea!-and second period in forty-five minutes. There was a quiz, she remembered with a wince as she searched for her vice and lighter… "Excuse me, do you have a smoke?" She looked up, and before her was an older man, quite short, with eyes of a lively dark blue that gleamed with secrets. She smiled at him without knowing why, and wordlessly handed one of her last cigarettes to him. "Thank you," he replied, hands going to his pockets. "Hrm…do you have a light?" "Hold on a moment, I should be able to get one…" "Oh no, I can always ask him-no need to bother!" he replied, gesturing vaguely at one of the other nearby people. "But if you don't mind, would you hold this for me?" Quick as a blink, he held a small piece of metal in his hands, blackened, with a dark, flat jewel roughed into its surface. "Sure," she replied, taking it. "But really, there's no…" "Bye!" he called out, moving off towards the other people. "See ya later!" "But your…" "Don't worry about it!" She sat back, looking at the piece, twirling the cool, engraved stone in her fingers. She shivered suddenly, shudders flooding her body, a sensation of coolness seeping into her body. One more shiver and it was gone, but it left her feeling oddly torn…she shook it off quickly, pocketed the piece, and stood up without lighting up. She needed to go to class, do her Spanish… "Did you get it done?" Jen asked lightly. "Well…not really," she replied with a sheepish grin. "My mind wandered too much." There was a quiet moment of silence, and then Britt reached for one of the books. "Come on," she said, "we need to find out what these are." Jen nodded, and then opened her compendium, holding the metal in her hand as she flipped pages. Britt hummed quietly to herself as she checked her own book, object glinting quietly from her knee. Neither noticed, but the stones suddenly developed a soft glow to them, barely distinguishable in the bright flourescent lights. And outside, three sets of heads raised, and two of these nodded to each other. The other leaned against the pillar, and lit up a cigarette, waiting patiently for the moment when all would come to pass. For all would come to pass so very soon… Inside, simultaneously, the two girls looked up and said, "Got it." Britt giggled. "You first, oh adult one," she said, playing off the fact that this was Jen's 21st birthday. Jen smiled back, then gestured to the book. "It's platinum," she said. "I think. I can't account for the gold cast, but it's not silver…it's too heavy." "And the stone is amethyst…hrm, amethyst and platinum…a very pretty combination," Britt replied, rocking back to close her eyes a little. "Any luck with yours?" "I'm still betting its sapphire-the color is too dark for much else, and it has too much of a gem look for beryl or jet…I suppose we could set it on fire to find out, but I'm not willing to risk it." "What?" Jen asked, eyes widening. "Jet is related to coal, so it burns," she replied, holding up her book. "I got distracted by that little tidbit." Jen grinned, then looked at her watch. "Ahh! We have to get back to my house before my parents decide to kill me." Britt looked at her watch, then grinned. "As if they'll be up." "No sense in risking it," she replied, then rose. Together, the two of them stacked their books, then placed their stones in various pockets and got up to leave. Pausing only briefly to admire the bookmarks, they made their way towards the exit-and a chill swept over both of them. Jen stopped, and Britt did as well. "Feel that?" she asked. The dark haired girl nodded. "I did…this isn't good, Jen…I feel eyes…" "Dark, evil eyes," Jen whispered, and at Britt's puzzled glance, simply said, "Let's just go home." The girl nodded quickly, then proceeded first, holding the doors open for Jen as they passed. The chill they both felt abated slightly, and they were warmed by the warm night air outside. They paused before crossing, and Britt looked up. "There's so many!" she whispered. "Has anyone ever been to them all?" "No," Jen replied, humoring her. "I want to be the first one to see them all," the girl whispered in reply, then grinned brightly. "And on that note…" "Ladies, do you have a light?" Both turned where they were to see a dark cloaked man emerge from the pillar. He wasn't wearing a cloak seriously-in fact, there seemed to a smear of khaki color in there somewhere-but the aura he projected clothed him in deep black. Pale hands held the thin, bright stick of a cigarette, which gestured out at them as if to say, "Will you?" Jen stepped away, but Britt began to dig in her pockets by reflex. Jen gave her a dark look, but the girl was too busy in her tattered coat, muttering softly to herself as hands searched up and inside the torn pockets for such a light. The dark man regarded them with some humor, cigarette still patiently extended, eyes twinkling within his shadowed coat. Jen met these for a moment, and they seemed to flash a lovely purple at her; unsure, she turned away, looking out onto the parking lot-and screamed. She hadn't meant to. She was used to some strange things; sci-fi and recently anime had prepared her for that, aside from her own pharmacy training. But she had never before seen the parking lot FLOW towards her. Immediately Britt's head snapped around, and she let out a loud gasp as well. The man with the cigarette glanced too, and gave a low, quiet laugh in reply. It made Britt want to hit him; she whirled as if to say something dark to him. But Jen put an hand on her arm, even as the rush of blackness from the parking lot crept closer, a low, dark gurgling rumbling from its depths, as two dark sets of jewel lit eyes appeared within it…she stayed her friend's voice and movements, for a sudden, delicious warmth had filled her at the sound. "Jen…" Britt said quietly. "She's so much more sensitive when it counts, isn't she?" the dark man said as the cigarette in his hand began to give off a deep green light. "But you ladies should've known not to show off the pieces so much-as I should have told you. But I was carelessly happy to even find you, to feel the acceptance…oh well." "Oh well WHAT?" Britt asked, voice dark. The blackness in the parking lot shrieked, causing their eyes to flick to the cresting wave of darkness, lit by a red jewel light and its deep green counterpart. It seemed to pause for a moment, and in that time, the pale green light of the cigarette strobed out, brightening to enclose the three of them and stave off the darkness. "Time to go home," the man said simply, dropping the cancer stick. He paused, grinned at the wave, and said quietly, "Na na nuh na na, I found them first." Then his foot crushed the smoke, and the light exploded about them, flashing into both girls with a soft, warm hiss. There was a sucking sound like a vacuum cleaner being turned on, soon covered by an enraged shriek from the flowing parking lot. The jewel lights went absolutely crazy, bouncing about like mad rubber balls, and the dark man gave a wonderful, high, whimsical laugh-just as the three faded away within the green. It all last only five seconds, and was barely registered by anyone around them, for they did not have the eyes that could see the happenings about them. The flowing parking lot crashed down in front of the cement sidewalk, and for minutes ebbed and flowed like a dark asphalt tide. Finally, it dried and hardened, forming the same blacktop that had been there but a half-hour before. It left with it two figures, one in crimson, one in a gaudy teal green, both of their eyes fading from a jeweled light into regular hazel and brown irises. The first looked to the second, and ennunciated the only word which seemed to define their experiences: "Shit." The second nodded. "She's going to be pissed." "How could we expect interference?" "How could we NOT? But now they've gone back…shit!" The ground liquified and then solidified quickly about the two, an expression of their anger and frustration. "Which means…" "Which means we need to haul ass." The second sighed. "Tonight?" The first smiled, a curve that was both flirtatious and dangerous. "No…not if you insist…" "I insist," the second replied, smiling back. "I SO insist…"