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"First Contact"
Chapter 2
Wikia
Series Guide
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"InFLIRTation"
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"Words of Truth,
Heart of Lies
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Literary Information
Written date September 3, 2012
Series In Pieces
Series Information
Locations Prague Huntik Hotel
New Information
Characters Suits
Dante Vale
Lok Lambert
Sophie Casterwill
Titans Cherit
Solwing
Sabriel (through Holotome)
Redcap
Gareon
Strix
Spells Raypulse
Augerfrost
Honorguard
Touchram
Darksleep
Related Pages
Fan-fiction created by Valkasha.


13th July, Saturday, 12:54

Hradčany

Prague, The Czech Republic

Definitely the most pleasant part of my… SPECIAL missions are the initial operations.

I like to get well-prepared for this kind of jobs, and because after three years of detailed intelligence I have all the knowledge I need, I don't have much work to do; I just need to gather my strength to put my plans into practice. There's no better way to do so than morning visit in the beauty parlour. I simply love being pampered by those perfect Barbie dolls who fawn over me all the time when I am sitting on the professional, leather chair (which doesn't roast my butt even in the worst heat; probably I was created for luxury, only fate forgot about it on my birthday!). By the way, even if I hated it, I'd go there anyway – I can't imagine fighting with the effects of spending last four weeks in the Saudi Arabia on my own. I hope you don't expect me to pluck my eyebrows during a journey across the murderous desert?! And I doubt Vale likes Brezhnev-like type of girls.

Well, the beauticians are paid for something, so I left the makeover of my tattered looks to them. I can't say anything bad, it was worth it! Leaving the salon, I can't stop myself from smiling with satisfaction and touching my hair with content. Yeah, I get rid of them too, because I grew over with fur like a Polish sheepdog. The hags frowned a bit on the earphone I had in my right ear and my refusal to take it out, but they probably saw worse oddities. How many people is addicted, even to the music?

Eventually, the earphone didn't disturb them, as I notice with acclaim after closer examination. I like the feathering, I'll probably let it stay. Though this strand on the forehead tickles my nose a little. I won't brush it behind my ear, because it would ruin the flirty charm of the hairstyle. I couldn't send mysterious stares from behind the artistically unruly lock. I don't know how it will work with more complex movements, but I will try not to hit the walls.

I brush the glossy hair away from my arm nonchalantly, but vigorously enough to let the sunlight glitter in them. Few teenagers turn around to look at me in awe. And that's what I wanted to see! Even if my first victims are only seventeen at most. What can I do? It's due to the season. The streets are full of kids and teenagers celebrating the end of the exams and the holidays knocking to their door with all their crazy enthusiasm – and bumping into me when I try to force my way towards more solitary areas.

I'm glad that I ran away from the crowd before the wave of spontaneous delight took me and washed away closer to the Old Town. I'm heading in the opposite direction, to the neighborhood of the Prague Castle, choosing the most secluded, narrow path. Just in case if I seemed suspicious for anyone.

'Zhalia', a cracking, male voice appears in my ear, 'I hope you're ready. You should be nearby now. We are entering in ten minutes. Don't be late, we would rather not play with them for too long.

'Relax, teddy, I'll be there in a sec', I smile to myself with satisfaction. Nevermind I can't say it out loud because he won't hear it.

I look around to get sure I'm alone and then I take out the earphone, then I throw it onto the sidewalk and crush it with my shoe. Just in case. I would prefer it not to get into the wrong hands. Especially when I'm so close to the region of Huntik agents…

Oh my, I sigh with unduly, with pleasure, feeling the excitement taking over me at mere thought about events awaiting for me. Such an adrenaline! And that's only for playing an actress!

The same day, few minutes earlier

Huntik Foundation Hotel

Hradčany

Prague, The Czech Republic

Dante couldn't say that he was a very picky person. Just the opposite, he adapted easily to most of the situations, ignoring the inconveniences. However, there were also those going too far for him to stand.

And babysitting was one of them.

It didn't help that those kids were both fifteen now and, as it could've seemed, had some sense in their heads. It turned out that it wasn't enough; on the first day of their acquaintance they got him into a mass of troubles. The Organization next to his door, a forcible accommodation in Sophie's mansion, away from his own well-known space, then a quarrel with a fanatic bodyguard and another assault from DeFoe's buddies, which he paid for with a quite large burn on his chest as a result of shielding a damsel in distress, then a night flight to Prague… He couldn't complain about lack of adventures. How come some people always seek a thrill when the others get it even without trying to? He couldn't have even gone to the groceries' not to find a runaway snotnose and his persecutors on his own yard…

Well, but he wasn't a real snotnose… Though Dante had itched to throw him above the wall to the nearest canal for disturbing his daily peace on his calm (at least for three years) territory, something stopped him… that power emanating from the boy, or rather from the amulet, glowing palely through his chest pocket. Vale had known what it meant, and he had had a hunch that he couldn't have ignored it. He wasn't wrong. The boy's surname was Lambert, after all… and he brought him Eathon's journal. When Dante saw it, he was overcome with shock mixed with… yeah, with what? Anxiety? Excitement? Joy? It was hard for him to decipher. He had been holding a priceless course of knowledge… very dangerous in the wrong hands. Not even Lok's, who had been passing it by for so many years. DeFoe's hunt showed that the Organization would go as far as killing a child just to get the notebook. And that was a little bit too much to handle for a private eye, a defender of justice in a sense.

Could he really ignore the secret getting into his hands? It was rather a rhetorical question. He didn't have a choice. He had to act, and quick, because Lok apparently wanted to shift the responsibility on him; he couldn't let it happen, even if he really wanted to. Of course, he would rather not involve Lok into all of this, he preferred working alone… but he couldn't also let the pack of rascal chase Eathon's son. After all, they don't care that Lok 'doesn't want to get involved'; he was already a part of it and any explanations would change that.

Well, probably he could stand the snotnose, in fact he wasn't a big problem – maybe only for himself, constantly tripping over his own legs (too much video games, too less real exercises, as Dante concluded). Although he showed a large-scale helplessness with learning powers, it seemed like he had been meant for summoning Titans, and it was his main asset. The troubles started when his schoolmate appeared. The girl, as it turned out to be, had some experience (at least theoretical) with the Titan world, which she immediately proved, helping them get rid of the Organization. Obviously, Dante appreciated her efficient action, but he didn't really liked the way the teenager spoke with him. Too much familiarity, too less acquaintance… Sophie intrigued him mostly due to her surname, famous in the Seeker world; she herself didn't mean a lot to him. Though the fact that she had invited them to her house really made few things easier – he hadn't had to look for a suitable hideout right away. However, he suspected that he would have to pay for it. He wasn't mistaken. If it only meant searching for Lok's father, he would handle it somehow. Unluckily, he also had to accept the companionship of two over-fervent newbies. The only thing to sugar the pill was the reward Sophie was lavishing him with in exchange for treating them as if they real Seekers. AS IF they were. They had a looong, looong way to it.

Not only Metz, but also Cherit told him to be understanding. The small Titan immediately took a liking to the young boy, probably due to the sentiment for his friendship with Lok's father. Sitting in Lok's bag, he seemed quite content with entertaining him during the flight to Prague. He was also very polite towards Sophie, besides, it was in his personality that he didn't like to hurt anyone. And Metz… When Dante told him through the holotome about his find, the German's sunken eyes brightened strongly. He entreated Dante to get involved into the case with all his heart. It had been a while since he seemed so lively… Looking at him, Vale couldn't refuse. And he really swore to do his best. If it could help Metz somehow…

He shook his head and met the expectant stares of the couple of teenagers. Oh well, so he should act like a teacher now, hm? He wasn't willing to do so. He had the whole plan settled in his head and was sure it would work… that it could work, if only he could do it alone. But with such an uncertain team… All that left him was explaining everything precisely and hoping that they wouldn't screw anything.

'Seekers, we have a mission', he stated officially; it sounded like an intro for a adventure series, after which the appropriate music plays and the action continues for next thirty minutes, but he couldn't do much about it. He wasn't very good at starting speeches; until now, he hadn't had to.

He put the holotome onto the table and raising his hand above the device, he gave the first order:

'Show me the Prague central cemetery.'

'How cool is that?', Lok made a blunder at the sight of the transparent mock-up arising from the open holotome. 'A hologram?'

'Not quite', Sophie interrupted, sitting on the edge of the table and finding an opportunity to boast about her knowledge, unavailable for the boy. 'It's a holoTOME, Lok', she accentuated. 'Seeker groups like the Foundation use them to plan missions, gather information and analyze Titans', she enumerated lightly, playing with the greenish miniature of the cemetery.

Dante thought that for now it would be enough for Lok.

'Based on the information Sophie gathered, our goal is the tomb of the wise man of Prague, Jodis Lore', he continued. A card with a detailed illustration and a inscription appeared above the holotome. Dante caught it and read: 'Mission: Golem of Prague. Reach the Prague central cemetery. Find an access to Jodis Lore's tomb. Gather clues about the Golem.'

The holotome zoomed the gate and three figures standing next to it.

'After dark, we'll enter through here', Dante pointed at the gate which their lookalikes crossed.

'Now that's what I call 'interactive'!', Lok stated in awe. 'I bet you can play killer video games on this thing!'

'Lok…', Sophie rolled her eyes. 'Can't you be serious just for a while?', she lectured him, seeking support in Dante.

Dante furrowed one eyebrow. He started to feel pity for Lok knowing Miss Perfect for so long. To be reproached and pushed around over and over again... Tiresome. He intended to imply subtly that the girl didn't behave much better than her peer, but he was distracted by a short impulse of anxiety – not from his own body, but he certainly felt it. Strange. Maybe it's a punishment for teasing brats.

'If there really is an underground area, it can't be any larger than this', he came back to the topic. 'It's like we will be relying on small and medium-sized Titans, like Solwing and Sabriel.'

He let the holotome present the Titans to introduce their abilities to the youngsters – he knew them by heart and could repeat without stammering along with the reserved female voice:

' Solwing: attack – 1, defense – 1, type – Krono-Titan Scout, size – small, special ability – flight. Sabriel: attack – 3, defense – 2, type – Draco-Titan Warrior, size – average, special ability – unaffected by injury. '

Of course, Solwing! It was him whom Dante sensed! He pricked his ear; it seemed like he heard a hum of quadruple wings outdoors. Good that he left the window open, letting Solwing fly into the room.

'How cool is that?!', Lok beamed while the falcon Titan was circling above the table and finally hung above Dante. He looked at Solwing from under his frowned eyebrows; gray feathers touched his cheek fleetingly when the Titan was making himself comfortable on his shoulder.

'Troubles?', Vale guessed.

Like an answer, the two bird's-eye view images appeared in his mind: an elegant man standing under the tree and the other one walking on the sidewalk against a background of the hotel they were in.

'What if the Organization gets wind of our plan?', Cherit got anxious; he layed both paws on the table and was barely visible above it.

'They already have', Dante announced, thanking Solwing for the information.

'You're kidding!', Lok shouted. 'What'd we do?'

'Relax', Dante said, as collected as before. That's the difference between the professional and the newbie. For him, the news about spies weren't surprising. He suspected that DeFoe wouldn't let them go so easily, that's why he sent Solwing to do the scout. 'This hotel belongs to the Huntik Foundation. We will be safe… for a while', he added honestly not to charm them too much.

Sophie didn't seem as preoccupied as Lok. On the contrary, she smiled with the corner of her mouth.

'Oh, it's not like a few Suits would be any problem for you, right Dante?', she added, squinting her eyes a little and placing her arm on her hip. 'Hey, let me show you my idea', she asked, coming closer and leaning over the holotome. Dante scowled at her. Did she really think that she had enough experience to make him treat her like a partner? Obviously, her knowledge had reached quite an impressive level, but she hadn't survived enough real challenges to talk with his like an equal.

Lok gave her and the man a strange glare.

'Hey, I've got an idea', he mumbled, standing up. 'Why won't we take a break?'

Dante itched to catch him with the lasso not to let the boy leave him alone in the big-headed Casterwill presence. Sadly, the lad left the room too quickly, trying to hide his disappointed face. 'Oh great', Dante rolled his eyes. 'I've got tangled into a love triangle from the teenage harlequin.'

Luckily, his companions were still Cherit and Solwing. The first one didn't have the brightest face as well; perhaps he was worried about Lok's mood. But Sophie was on cloud nine when she could describe her vision of the spectacular action, which, in Dante's opinion, had so many holes and flaws that it resembled a low-budget adventure movie. He didn't say anything, though; to tell the truth, after the first sentence he stopped listening carefully, sinking into his own thoughts, a bit messed by Sophie's chattering. Solwing got infected by his owner's irritation; he shifted from claw to claw, clenching them onto Dante's shoulder.

Suddenly they heard an intense noise. Dante jumped onto his feet, interrupting Sophie, who automatically looked at the bathroom door, where the young Lambert disappeared. Solwing flew to the ceiling; Cherit followed him, ready to rush to Lok's aid, even if the boy only knocked over a closet with towels. It suddenly turned out that the reason of the noise was way more serious - Lok wouldn't have been running away from the closer, but he really dashed into the room, chased by…

Actually, it was hard to compare it to anything normal. It had a huge, thin head with a red crack instead of eyes and unruly hair on the angular skull, small in proportion to its hunched body; a mouth full of teeth and calluses on its back, but the thing that really caught attention were thirty-centimeters-long, thin claws; they appeared to grow out of the thick wrists. If Dante hadn't seen it before, he would have lost his head from shock and fear. But for the top Huntik Foundation agent encountering the Redcap wasn't anything new, so he stood in cold blood.

Right, because the rest panicked immediately. Sophie got paralyzed, staring at the monster chasing Lok and not noticing the one hiding under the closet.

'How did that get into here?!', she shouted a moment before the long claws tightened on her ankle. She fell down screaming.

Dante wanted to help her, but he noticed another ugly jaws coming out from the wardrobe. He kicked its door and pushed it with his back, then he sent Raypulse to Sophie's attacker. The released girl rolled to him and stood up, but Dante couldn't rest on his laurels, because now Lok was in trouble.

'Solwing!', the man shouted over the rumble.

The Titan reacted at once; he dived right before Redcap's eyes and caught its attention, giving Lok enough time to run away. The boy looked around and encouraged by Cherit, he slipped under the smaller table the moment before the reinforcements entered the room. Unluckily, not for them.

'Augerfrost!', the two men in suits shouted, sending two bolts of cold, blue brightness to them. Dante kicked the table, knocking off the holotome. The piece of furniture stopped the missiles, but it broke like a match; and the Suits didn't give up.

Another spell went towards Sophie, but the girl covered herself with the perfect Honorguard (well, it wasn't the best time to show off, but at least she shielded herself!). So what? How long were they going to defend themselves until they would lose their power? The Suits had the advantage over them – they were five against… uhm, also five, but could Lok and Cherit count as fighters, hiding under the table? Damn it, didn't anyone from the Foundation hear that the room upstairs get demolished?! However, if someone was able to help, he would have stopped them at the entrance… The Suits had had to use a trick to get there… So Dante and his team were doomed, surrounded by the enemies, still attacking. If there had only been a chance to confuse them… Dante wondered about using Solwing as a bait, but…

…but suddenly the door exploded.

The same day, 13:12

Huntik Foundation Hotel

Hradčany

Prague, The Czech Republic

Ka-boom!

Enter the dragon!

I just love it!

Alright, I'll give it a break, 'cause I'm starting to act like an overdramatic teenager while I'm here as a distinguished star! So, where is the red carpet? Hm, probably the walk on my Organization colleagues' backs will have to be enough. No wonder I get the leading role if they're acting so pitiful… The small explosion swept them from their feet, but hey, they could get back together finally! For now they're crawling on the floor like cockroaches instead of playing sinister agents! But nevermind, show must go on. But who will I be improvising with?

A quick glance over the room; a blonde wimp and his Titan, small like a mascot, under the table. So that's the typical klutz and his faithful pygmy comrade, both equally useless. Did Klaus really say that the kid was THAT Lambert guy's son? DeFoe must've mistaken something. I wouldn't be surprised, he's a creep, after all.

Who does this Solwing belong to? To the red-haired boutique princess? Who dresses like that for the missions?! Wearing a skirt barely covering her butt, rather petty and unwomanly, though? If the wind blows the material up, the rest will see her panties for sure. Or maybe that's what it's all about… I shouldn't be shocked. I chose my skinny jeans only to accentuate my curves. But I HAVE something to accentuate, cha!

Alright, alright, but where is… Oh, here. The bearded one. Well, so that's the time to compare Klaus' description with reality. Quickly, before I'll start the real performance.

The beard, as I said, is present. Oh crap, I didn't even know that it's possible to shave like that. I expected a Santa Claus-like untidy tangle, but this one here looks like a carefully planned pattern. Maybe he has an algorithm for that? He'd do better shaving here and there and getting rid of it. When he was younger, he looked like an idiot even without it (I know what I say, I saw his picture!), but maybe now it would be good for him. With such a square jaw having a beard is a bit too much.

Dark – haired – that's right. Maybe more like a brown-haired than brunette, especially when he's standing next to the window and the sun is shining onto his head. Very shaggy, to complete the picture. A late hippie or so! Those longish strands falling onto his forehead and cheeks… Have he ever been at barber's?

Maybe, but he didn't get any advice from a stylist, that's for sure. If he did, he wouldn't wear a shit-colored duster… Really, I have never seen such a rubbish. Perhaps it fits Clint Eastwood, old westerns and Alasca, but in the modern Prague it looks… original. OK, I'll put it straight: it sucks. And what does he have a cloak in the summer for?! Additionally, with a sweater beneath it?! I start to doubt everything I heard about Vale's brains… Is it really him I intended to pick up?! Do I have to?!

Well, I don't have a choice anyway. I still act. Maybe without enthusiasm, but professionally like hell. I make a step forward, mark the target.

'Touchram!'

I sweep the Redcaps from my way with the spell – the power of the blow breaks the window into million glass shatters. My little Gareon takes care of the third one. The sneaky Titan jumps into the air and attacks the monster with beams from his eyes, then he lands onto my arm with his gecko-like limbs. I send him a short praise. The boy gets wired as well.

My pals look at me in disbelief, standing stock-still. What, did they think that I'd fluff it?! I have to be convincing, damn it! They could as well, they play the bad guys, they are expected to spread fear! Instead they let Vale surprise them. The guy observes the situation on the battlefield cautiously and finally finds an opening for himself.

'You shouldn't turn your back!', he shouts before his boot lands on the both jaws. Ouch, it must've hurt a lot. But I have to agree, the blow was effective, and, what's more important, it worked.

Instead of admiring Vale's agility, I should rather take care of myself; I hear a gurgle and rattle behind me. Gareon's victim doesn't want to give up yet. I raise my hand to eliminate Redcap, but…

'Cherit, we have to do something!', I hear the boy; so he will finally move his butt instead of playing a movie extra! Let's see what he can do…

'Ay!', the squeaky voice answers him and a stream of blue and purple energy hits the Redcap right into its chest. The Titan howls croakily unless the power tears him apart with a clunk. Wow, it was a real something… and it was done by this pint-sized, human-talking gargoyle? Gareon moves nervously. Little jealous one.

I don't have time to calm him down, because the two other Redcaps charge. Isn't the glass shower enough for them?! Seems like I will have to reveal more of my Titan resources… especially because Vale doesn't take his eyes off me. A good opportunity to impress him.

'I'll stop you!', the redhead shouts, raising her hand to direct a blow, but the man stops her with a short gesture, giving me another glare, as if he wanted to say: Go for it. Do you think I need your permission, honey? Forget it! I know what I have to do and I'm already on my way.

A short swing to gather momentum, the Redcaps are closer and closer… the boy holds his breath, he probably thinks that I'll get pierced by their claws… Watch it, pipsqueak!

I bound deftly and with a pretty jump, I fly above the Suits' Titans, landing softly next to the window. The red one's eyes probably popped out of her head, hm? You won't do such things in a skirt, sweetheart! Wait for it, it's not all… I quickly draw out a right amulet and raise it in front of my eyes.

'Impale, Strix!', I pronounce emphatically.

The amulet releases the energy, which takes the form of two round shapes with proboscises. My helpful worms, which look like a mix of enormous hornets crossed with bloodthirsty mosquitoes, at first fly a bit slowly and lazily just to speed up before the Redcaps' abdomens and cutting them in half like chestnut figurines. Boom – and the Titans are done; they disappear in the golden mist. I observe the glowing flecks, raising my head higher – it came out quite nice.

'Serves you right', I comment firmly; I take care not to let the draft stuff my hair into my mouth. I hate the strands glued to my lip gloss.

For a while, there's only dust falling onto the floor. The Huntik Seekers stare at me without a word. I think so, I must look awesome – a mysterious agent appearing from nowhere and saving the day, standing in the glory, with the enemies under her feet… It would fit some kind of a movie.

If only someone mean didn't spoil it, like now.

'What're you staring at?!', an annoyed male voice breaks the silence.

I hold back any signs of discontent, though a heavy curse would probably relieve me. This dude doesn't have any sense of mood…

'Move already!', Vale insists, standing in the destroyed door and observing us expectantly. 'Sophie!'

'Oh, right!', the girl awakes from the lethargy. She turns away from me, runs for the holotome and presses it to her chest, then leaves the room.

'Lok, Cherit, what's up with you two?!', the man urges the team under the table. 'Come out! And…', he breaks the sentence, looks at me inquiringly.

'Zhalia', I make a short introduction, leaving my triumphal spot and avoiding the burdens on my way gracefully. I call back Strix and Gareon, they are free for now. The scene is cut. Such a pity someone had to screw it up…

He nods his head, ingesting the information. The blond kid passes him by, carrying the gargoyle in his arms. The Titan's eyes are closed, he doesn't move at all.

'Cherit…', the boy utters; his name's Lok, as I remember. 'He's…'

'We'll take care of him later!', Dante hurries him, pushing him behind the door. 'We're making out of here before there'll be more of them! Come on! Down the stairs!'

'And you… both?', the redhead corrects herself. Sophie, I remind myself. I have to be nice for her. If I manage.

'I'll cover the exit', he answers, calling Solwing onto his arm. So it's his possession.

The girl wants to add something, but she is stopped by Vale's strictness. His furrowed brow and tightened jaws show his annoyance clearly. The girl leaves unwillingly.

Dante doesn't move forward, so I have some time to have a closer look at him. Indeed, he's tall; not outstandingly, but he probably reaches the 1.90 meters. I realize that he's pointing at the door (or rather the thing that's left from them) with his open hand.

'You lead', he encourages me; he doesn't frown anymore. 'I'll watch our backs.'

'Actually, I'm also pretty good at it', I state. I can't be too submissive, only natural.

'I noticed', he admits, 'but I prefer traditional solutions: women first.'

Oh, how sweet, really. I'll throw out due to such courtesy… but I don't have a choice now. I thank him with a short nod and use the advantage my position gives me to send him a short, intense glare, after which most men fall for me head over heels.

He's got brown eyes.

And that's all. I don't see anything that could be a symptom of it; of my sight reaching the depth of ego, turning it backwards, changing it completely. Maybe he just masks himself perfectly. I leave him behind and let him play the defender. After all, from this position he can have a better view of my booty!

I run down the stairs, on the landing I bump into Lok. Sophie stands next to him, they both gaze at someone's knocked-down body. The hunk has a 'Security' badge in Czech on his back. I passed him by earlier, trying to get upstairs. And that's me who gave him a blow which swung him from his feet. It's not my fault he resisted so firmly. Apparently, the Darksleep spell my colleagues used didn't work on him.

I sense Dante's presence behind me. He catches his breath to chasten the kids for the delay, but he notices the victim. He forces his way between us (it's not easy, he has broad shoulders), kneels down next to the bodyguard, checks his pulse.

'I've done it already', Sophie barely moves her pale lips. The chick saw someone in that state for the first time or what? 'He's alive. But… there's more of them', she points at the stairs and the floor below.

That's true, there are people lying everywhere side by side. I had to jump over them to get to the upper level. Making their way into the hotel wasn't as easy as my pals thought… They must've had a hard time before they knocked all the workers unconscious.

'We should call the ambulance…', Lok states.

'We don't have time for that', I remind him, pulling him by the sleeve. 'We're running away, remember?'

'But someone can…!', Sophie shouts, facing me and piercing me with a sharp glare. 'They can't be left like that!'

'If we dally here, we'll attract more Suits to the hotel', I explain from the ground floor, 'and it won't help these guys here.'

Dante chimes in and gets up reluctantly.

'Faster we go away, better for all of us', he states with tension. 'Come on.'

'But Dante…!'

'It's also Cherit left…', Lok interrupts her cautiously, looking at the Titan with anxiety.

I know he talks about his state, but I sense another problem.

'We can't go outside with him like that', I notice, peeking into the hall and through the window onto the yard to check if no one takes a walk there. 'Send him back to the amulet to let him regenerate.'

'Cherit doesn't have one', Lok confesses.

What? A Titan without an amulet? It sounds like a mockery… I look at the boy in the way that says: Not the best time for bad jokes.

'A long story', Dante cuts in, running towards us. 'Let's hide him somehow.'

'I left my bag in the room', Lok murmurs with embarrassment. No wonder he's so ashamed, he came out to be a first-class ninny.

Dante doesn't listen to him, he probably noticed the lack of equipment. Or he didn't expect anything else from the youngster. He's in the hall already and rummages through the closet next to the reception desk, right behind the sleeping concierge's back. Finally he comes back with a basket in his hand.

'We're going on a picnic?', I ironize, watching him with amusement. Imagine, a grown-up guy with a Red Riding Hood's basket…

'Everyone will think so', he shrugs.

'I thought you'd just hide him under your cloak', I cross my arms.

'And that would look even stranger', he mumbles, taking Cherit and placing him into the basket, then covering him with a part of the blanket. Right after that Solwing disappears from his arm. 'Now we can show ourselves to people', he announces, tightening the grip on the handle. 'We'll run unless we spot the bystanders. Then we just walk. And smile.'

'Khehehe…', Lok tests such a smile but it looks as if he had a lockjaw.

Dante sighs.

'Forget the smiles.'

And that's when I'm dying to burst into laughter! What a company… I won't say: Fantastic Four, though.

The same day, 13:26

The park in Hradčany

Prague, The Czech Republic

'Oh crap, oh crap…', Lok says repeatedly, lowering his head to his knees and panting hardly. 'Like in Men in Black…'

'Shame they chose the Dark Side of the Force', Dante answers in a murmur, leaving the basket with Cherit on the grass.

'Now we can call the hospital, can't we?', Sophie insists. 'Someone could be injured while falling down. Or fall into a coma.'

'It's not likely', Dante denies. 'The effects of Darksleep fade away after few hours.'

I hope no one saw me twitching. He recognized the spell? Well, well.

'So it's some kind of a power?', Sophie asks with surprise, sitting in the way which makes her underwear invisible.

'Yes. Useful, but harmless', the man assures her. He prefers to stand up in a relaxed pose, with both hands in his pockets. What a contrast with the tension when he urged us to hurry during the runaway. 'I can guarantee that they don't heal it in the normal hospital. If it makes you calm down, I'll send the report to the local Foundation base. They'll delegate Seekers who have some knowledge about such cases. Though I don't think it's necessary.'

'I would be grateful', the girl insists, handing him the holotome. 'Here you go.'

Dante checks if no one saw that, quickly takes the device from her and hides it under his duster. The girl raises her eyebrows in disbelief.

'Let's not display the Seeker technology…', he proposes, drawing out the cellphone. 'Especially in the public…'

He quickly writes a short message. Although his fingers are a bit scratched, as if he was often hurting them, they also seem nimble.

Apart from clattering keys, a muted moan reaches our ears. A small paw sticks out of the basket, drawing the blanket aside. Dante raises his head.

'Hi, old guy', he beams seeing a head with furry ears above the edge of the wickerwork, then he comes back to his text, but now the corner of his mouth is a bit higher. 'I knew you'll pull through.'

'Cherit!', Lok kneels down the Titan's bed. 'You're really alright?', he inquires about it with a mix of relief, surprise and joy.

'Ay', the Titan nods with a light smile. 'I didn't want to scare you. I forgot to tell you that using powers tires me a bit.'

'Next time inform me about such things BEFORE you pass out…', Lok moans, hitting the lawn with his back like a castaway on the lone island.

'The scenery changed', Cherit notices, looking around.

That's true. We covered quite a distance during fifteen minutes, rushing like madmen first through the hotel yard, then the gate and after a short discussion seeking asylum in the nearby park. We didn't slow down unless we saw groups of friends enjoying the weekend and families with small children. We didn't fit any of those categories… but it was proper to act as if we had been, so we finally made a stopover. A sandy alley twists near us and a big oak throws a shadow big enough to cover us all. Besides, it's secluded enough to let Cherit talk with us freely.

'We have nothing to do in the previous one…', Sophie snarls. 'Not much was left from our room when SOMEOENE get rid of it…', she throws me a cold glare.

Cherit's yellow eyes turn to me, as well as the rest's gazes; Lok sits up to see me better. I feel odd with them staring at me this way, I couldn't even escape them, because I have the trunk behind me. But why would I have to run away? Only Sophie looks at me unfriendly. Lok is rather curious, as well as Cherit. Dante stares at his feet, so I don't know what his attitude towards me is. Though his opinion interests me the most.

No one makes a sound. I hear only the wind blowing in the leaves above my head. And a bee humbling; it sits on Cherit's nose before the little one brushes it off sturdily. I won't speak up first. It would mean that I have something to hide… They don't have to know that. I pretend to be relaxed, leaning over the oak and bending my leg.

'So you're Zhalia Moon, the Foundation's new lone wolf?', Vale was the first to break. 'I've heard about you.'

I knew it. He took the bait. Now let's make a good use of it.

'And you're Dante Vale, the Foundation's number one prodigy.' A bit of blandishment, just to stroke his male ego. 'Of course everyone's heard about you…', I add, lowering my voice sensually and throwing him a lingering gaze.

What's so special about his boots that he prefers them over my eyes?!

'So Zhalia… you work for the Foundation?', Lok asks, spoiling the atmosphere… which isn't really suitable for my tricks, anyway.

No, I'm just a cleaning lady. What has your friend just told you, moron?!

'Under contract, just like Dante', I say still calmly and charmingly not to estrange Lok right from the start. He's a male, after all, even if wet behind his ears.

It apparently worked. Lok gives me a friendly smile.

'Thanks for the save', he says gratefully. 'Your powers were amazing. You're even stronger than Sophie!'

The girl gives out an unidentified sound of shock mixed with disgust, throwing him a reproachful glare and then adding another snarl, haughty and offended.

'Errr… d'oh', Lok realizes the gaffe and covers his mouth with his hand.

'I was in town on a mission when I happened to hear about the Organization infiltrating your hotel', I change the topic, as if I was being so nice and saving Lok from troubles. He gives me a thankful smile. He's mine already!

'Ay, you did us good, friend', Cherit admits, raising his tiny thumb. So the male part is all in my pocket…

'I hope you weren't waiting around to be rescued', I add neither playfully nor sarcastically. 'You got lucky. In this world you have to look out for yourself.' An allusion that I was very generous defending their butts.

'We could've managed', Sophie judges firmly. 'At least then we wouldn't have to pay for the windows…', she adds more quietly, but also with more spite.

'It bothers me that the Organization bribes the hotel', Dante interrupts the discussion, sensing the tension coming. 'Could they have a spy in the Huntik Foundation?'

Yeah. You're standing next to her. You'll be sleeping with her soon. And when you'll squeal all your secrets, you'll be killed by her. But I won't tell you that. I don't want to spoil the play for you, giving the ending away.

'Of course they could!', I agree without hesitation. 'Haven't you heard the rumors about the one they call the Professor?'

No, I didn't blow my cover. I was supposed to say so, just to heat the atmosphere a bit. And to check how much they know about him.

'The Professor? Who's that?', Lok wonders. Alright, he's out of the intelligence game. He's not the brains of the group. To tell the truth, nor the muscles, either. He's more like a leading blockhead.

'The leader of The Organization', Dante explains. He probably got used to constant sign of incompetence from his charge. 'Possibly the most dangerous man on Earth.'

Quite vague, but pretty good for the beginning. I couldn't think about something so suitable for an intro and say it in such a gloomy voice. And additionally make a face as if my stomach ulcer had just broken. He did it well. He put them in right mood for the rest of the tale.

'He's one of the world's most powerful Seekers', I continue. 'His collection of amulets and ancient artifact is the largest in history. He manipulates the heads of state as well as his own men with the skill to control minds…'

'So it's like a power?', Lok seeks after the truth. At least he wants to learn something…

'No', Sophie says before anyone can even think about it. 'There's no magic I know that can do that.'

It doesn't mean that it doesn't exist only if you don't know it, Miss Know-It-All… I bit my tongue not to make such a remark.

Lok sighs and lowers his head onto his knees.

'What's wrong, Lok?', Cherit asks with concern.

'A guy like that…', the boy starts slowly, 'must be after the Ancient Amulet of Will. I wonder if he crossed path with my dad…'

They all seem to know what is the matter. I also happen to know; actually, it's not the most secured Huntik secret if the Profesor discovered it a long time ago. It was way more harder to lure Vale out of his hideout than to learn the truth about the missing Lambert or the thing he tried to find… But I have to pretend that it's something new for me. I send Dante a inquiring stare.

'Lok's father is Eathon Lambert', he explains sparingly, with respect. 'I'm sure you've heard about that.'

'Oh, right', I nod. 'Of course, it's a well-known story, and a grievous loss, as well.'

Lok tightens the grip on his knees. Cherit peeks at him with sympathy and flies onto his shoulder, placing his fluffy tail around the boy's neck and wiping Lok's eyes with his wing furtively. Lok hides his face in the Titan's fur, as if unintentionally. What a milksop…

'We're searching for the clues which could help us find him', Dante tries to divert my attention from the boy tactfully. 'The first one lead us here, to Prague. In the evening we're going to the central cemetery. Our goal is…'

'Zhalia isn't interested', Sophie interrupted him roughly, staring at me searchingly. 'You said you've already got a mission, didn't you? We won't bother you with ours.'

'Hm, right', Dante clears his throat, embarrassed. 'I got carried away, forgive me.'

'Actually, I've almost finished it', I state, looking at him invitingly. 'If you need support, I can find some ti…'

'No, thanks', Sophie doesn't let Dante say anything. 'We're a four-man team, there'll be enough hands to work.'

What a little bitch. I purse my lips, then I loosen them again. I can't show them such a grimace. I pretend that it meant nothing to me. I leave the spot next to the trunk and stretch myself nonchalantly, hoping that my undershirt accentuates my flat belly. Then I brush away the strand hanging down my face; it comes back immediately.

'Well, if you change your mind', I smile lightly, nonchalantly, to make it sound like a loose suggestion, 'I'll be nearby. I'll leave you my number', I propose Dante, drawing out a pen. 'Do you have any scrap of paper? Or will I have to stain your hand? The lipstick would be better for that', I add playfully.

'Here', Sophie gives me a tissue. 'This should do the job. You won't have to look for the lipstick', she hisses warningly.

I look her up and down. What's her problem? Do I threaten her position of the single female in the pride? I'm sorry, dear. You'll have to deal with it, because I'm going to stay with you longer.

I take the tissue and write the signs carefully. The ink leaks and blurs a bit, so I make the figures bigger to be clear for him. Then I reach the note out to Dante. When he takes it from me, I make sure that my fingertips brush his hand before I move back. He reads the number under his breath to check if everything is correct. I confirm.

'So bye for now', I bid my farewell. 'Good luck. And see you soon, I hope', the last one is said only to Dante; I make sure to flutter my lashes seductively.

I go away, not waiting for the answer, followed by Sophie's murderous glare. When I'm far enough from them and use Rearview, I see Dante hiding the tissue meticulously in his breast pocket. I'm itching to burst into laughter.

So he'll call. Sooner or later.

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