Acolyte Trials – Part 1
Today was the most important day of their lives so far, and Adrian was sitting on the floor digging through his closet. “Lizzie, where’s my duffle bag?” Adrian yelled as he popped his head out into the hallway.
“How should I know?!” Lizzie replied as she put her own bag on her bed. Adrian noticed she had a stuffed purple elephant in her other hand. He raised an eyebrow at her with a mocking smirk.
She glared at him then kicked her bedroom door closed. Adrian couldn’t help but chuckle as he went back to searching. The Acolyte Trials were today; a test for recruits applying for Acolyte placement. Acolytes are apprentice Vampire Hunters in their secret order. Hunter children are trained as recruits from the age of twelve, and at sixteen can volunteer for Acolyte testing or decide to pursue other roles within the order. Lizzie and Adrian decided together to volunteer when they first entered into training. Their guardian, Lizzie’s adopted father, Colonel John Winston, had encouraged them to seek other avenues of service, but neither relented in their decision. The Hunter law was clear, this was their choice, and Winston was powerless to stop it.
After they had packed for the night ahead, Adrian went out to the garage, throwing his bag in the backseat of the little black sedan they shared. “Do you think they’ll give us fake IDs?” asked a smiling Lizzie as she walked in carrying her red duffle bag.
“If we need them they’ll give them to us.” Adrian grabbed a few water bottles from a case on the shelves near the door and threw them into the back.
“Are we missing anything?” Lizzie took a quick look through her bag.
“We’re good. Let’s get going.” Adrian pushed the button that opened the garage door and sat in the driver’s seat.
“Right.” Lizzie put her duffle in the back with his. She looked around the garage and had to pull the passenger door handle twice before she could open it. She sat down and fumbled with the seatbelt, Adrian watched her with a curious look.
“You okay?” Adrian asked as he pulled the car out of the garage.
“Yeah,” she said with a quick smile. Adrian gave her a small smile of his own and headed across town to orientation.
The shared house for the recruits was a madhouse; the boys were arguing loudly over equipment and tactics and which radio channel they wanted.
“Remind me to thank Dad for letting us live at home.” Lizzie commented and flopped onto an oversized chair in the living room.
“Like he would have let you move out, even if you wanted to,” Adrian chuckled.
“Yes, my virtue and honor wouldn’t allow it,” Lizzie rolled her eyes.
“No, he’d just miss you too much. He knows no one here would touch you.”
“No one wants to date such a tomboy. ‘She’s too butch, smells like sweat, and can’t cook.’ Who’d want that?!” Lizzie snapped at him bitterly. She had a short temper, but this surprised even Adrian.
“That’s not what I meant! Geez, Lizzie.” Adrian turned away from her and sat on the couch. It annoyed him when she was so sensitive.
“Sure you didn’t,” she said sarcastically.
Adrian let out an exasperated sigh, and knew he should just ignore the obvious bait but instead tried to reason with her. “I just meant because of who your dad is. Who’s going to get handsy with the Colonel’s daughter? He’d send them packing off to Siberia if they tried anything with you.”
She didn’t respond but kept glaring at him all the same. Dating wasn’t a part of their lives. As potential Acolytes, they spent all their time training. They were still teenagers though, and the subject came up now and again. Lizzie was the only girl Acolyte recruit in the entire Chicago area, but no one ever talked about Lizzie in that way. She was pretty with her strong lean build that made her look like an olympic gymnast, fair skin, an oval face and those big brown eyes that were so expressive it felt like you were looking right into her mind. It was surprising amongst Hunter culture that she kept her brownish red hair long when applying for Acolyte training, it fell just past her shoulder blades in loose thick waves. She also got along well with the other recruits and was always good for a laugh or prank.
With her father’s intimidating position and the fact that she never showed any particular interest in any of the boys, Lizzie didn’t really come up when the guys were thinking about girls. More often than not it was Lizzie who had to remind them that she wasn’t a guy when they got particularly rowdy or crass. Adrian knew that while they accepted her, Lizzie always felt a little apart from the rest, except for maybe him whom she’d grown up with the past five years. Adrian tried to make her feel included, but it didn’t help.
Captain George called the recruits to order in the living room for orientation. The nervous excitement built to a thick fog in the room. On average only half of the recruits would make Acolyte, but the instructors had high hopes for this group of excellent fighters. Once the room was quiet, Captain George started running over the instructions they already knew. Recruits would be put into pairs and given a patrol area. A Hunter posing as a vampire would be there along with any potential Hunter ‘victims’ based upon a predetermined scenario. The pair must identify the target, isolate him, and once cleared by their instructor, take him out. The Captain also reminded them that during combat, sparring rules applied, and being detained by civilian authorities for any reason, would result in an automatic failure.
The academic studies instructor, Miss Timbers, walked around the room with an old Crown Royal bag filled with small wooden circles inside. Each was painted on one side with a color. Recruits started to compare them. When Lizzie and Adrian looked at theirs, both had blue.
“Well that’s lucky,” Harris, a tall blonde recruit, and one of Adrian’s good friends said with a sarcastic sneer.
“Jealous much?” Lizzie gave a triumphant smile. It had long been thought that Adrian was the best of the bunch, and getting partnered with him was a sure win.
Captain George called out instructor assignments to each team. Lizzie and Adrian were assigned Joshua Mathers; their instructor on covert operations and basic intelligence gathering. He was a great Hunter, but after losing his Acolyte in some kind of accident nearly a decade ago he refused to mentor, but still volunteered as a recruit instructor sometimes.
He handed the pair two fake IDs, showing both as twenty-one year old college seniors. Neither recruit could pass for twenty-one on their own, but Hunter forgeries were impeccable, and would dissuade any authorities. He also gave them a street map with an area outlined in red marker, indicating their patrol. “College district,” Adrian said.
“Cool. I’m driving,” Lizzie said grabbing the lanyard attached to the car keys that were hanging from Adrian’s pocket.
* * *
They had spent the last of the daylight hours casing the area, paying special attention to possible hideouts, before they stopped for an early dinner to discuss their next steps. “Well, we can’t just wander around all night hoping he just falls into our laps.” Lizzie swiped a french fry off Adrian’s plate. Now that her stomach stopped growling she felt she could think out a plan. The college district was prime hunting ground for vampires, but it was a large area and Lizzie knew that if they were going to find their target they needed to narrow their search.
“Most likely one of the bars,” Adrian suggested.
“Right, it’s Friday night and drunk people are easy,” Lizzie gave a little giggle then added, “Easy prey.” She pulled out a tablet computer, and checked a listing of bars in the area. Needs to be popular for a crowd, young pretty things, multiple exits. “What does divey mean?” Lizzie looked up from the listing at Adrian.
“Uh… seedy I think,” he said without much confidence.
Lizzie gave a shrug and pulled up two bars from the list. She handed the tablet to Adrian who looked it over then gave a nod of approval. “Our best bet is to split up and each take a bar. He’ll probably try during peak hours when he’s less likely to raise suspicions,” Lizzie suggested.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea to split up. What if he leaves and we lose him because we’re waiting for each other?” Adrian’s brow was pinched in a deep crease.
“We just check in by phone every hour, besides they’re not too far from each other.” Lizzie pointed to the bars on the map.
“We’re not really dressed to blend in at a bar,” Adrian said pulling at his worn out t-shirt.
“We’ll be fine!” Lizzie didn’t have any female friends, but she felt she had watched enough bad television that she could pull something together.
“I don’t like this idea, let’s run it by Mathers first,” Adrian insisted.
“Fine, we’ll talk to Mathers,” Lizzie said with a huff. “We need to check-in anyway I guess.” She took out her cell phone and dialed Mathers’ number.
“Hello?” he answered casually.
“Hey! It’s us. We haven’t found anything yet, but we think we’ve narrowed it down to two places and we’re each going to stop by one and see what we can find out.” Lizzie did her best to keep her communication over the open line cryptic.
“So divide and conquer? Do you think that’s best?” Mathers responded. Lizzie knew they needed to show confidence as well as good tactics. Lizzie didn’t want him to sense any misgivings either of them had.
“I do sir,” Lizzie said without hesitation. Adrian tried to grab the phone away from her but she stood and took a step away from the table, pulling it out of his reach.
“Lizzie, let me talk to him!” Adrian whispered angrily.
“Borzini agrees with the plan?” Mathers asked, a hint of suspicion in his tone.
“Yes sir,” Lizzie lied. Adrian was always too cautious, a little risk was worth earning a good Acolyte assignment.
“All right then, you have a go.”
“Thank you sir.”
“Reilly, keep your head on a swivel,” he told her sternly.
“Yes sir, we will.” The phone clicked off.
“Well?” Adrian asked.
“The plan’s a go.”
“What?! Is he insane? Partners are supposed to stick together.”
“Hey! We have our orders. Now, we don’t have a lot of time and I need to get to that drug store on Palm.” Lizzie set some money on the table and headed to the car, Adrian squawked at her the whole way.
To Be Continued…