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  1. Penumbra (Latin: paenes "almost, nearly" + umbra "shadow") the region in which only a portion of the occulting body is obscuring the light source. An observer in the penumbra experiences a partial eclipse. Ariel slept in. It was a perk of working the night patrol. Her natural biological clock had always been set to late nights and late mornings. Rough on school. Good for cop work. The crazies came out at night. She snapped awake two minutes before the alarm went off. A dream clung to her memory like remnants of cotton candy hanging from a cone, slowly disintegrating. She'd been in a...forest? A jungle? Chasing something. Her father had been at her side. Had they both been naked? Shit, shut up Freud you fucking pervert. Wasn't that kind of dream. It'd been good actually. Fun. Her apartment was a small, serviceable one bedroom in West LA, just a couple of blocks from Santa Monica Boulevard and not far from the highway. Since that was where she worked too, it worked out nice. It had a decent-sized living room/kitchenette combo, separated by a short breakfast bar. She had to keep it very clean, or ants would come. Not roaches, thank God. It wasn't THAT cheap. Shower. Ariel didn't really like showers, usually. She took them dutifully, because the consequences of not taking them was worse. She didn't savor them. It felt too much like rain. She didn't like rain either. Today though, it was different. Today the water woke her skin up when it hit in scalding hot little droplets. Today she imagined she could -feel- the dead skin shuffling off...like an unseen cocoon over and around her, leaving her transformed. She paused in the mirror afterwards as she combed her shoulder-length (and probably in need of another trim) orange hair and looked at herself. That was something else she didn't do often. Really look at herself. She looked the same as yesterday, but she wasn't. These were the bright blue-green eyes of a new person. This was the pert, cute nose and grinning lips of someone who had been one thing, and was now another. A rare moment of vanity...she liked the light pepper dash of freckles on her cheeks and spattered over her shoulders. She liked her body, though mentally resolved to hit the gym after work from now on. She wasn't remotely fat, but she wanted more muscle tone. It would befit someone in her new position. And she wouldn't always have a partner to rely on now so...yeah. A quick butt check, no creeping cellulite yet, and she was getting dressed even as she got stuff out for breakfast. Breakfast sandwich at noon. Fried up some ham. Some eggs. Toasted two bagel halves. Squished it all together so she could get her mouth around it. Was it just her, or was the ham especially succulent today? The eggs richer. The bagel just the right blend of bland and crispy, to provide a perfect platform for the other ingredients. Outside. The sun always shone in LA, but it was gorgeous today. Blue sky. Green trees around her building. Grass watered. God knew there'd be a reckoning someday. You didn't keep a desert watered for a century and not pay a price. Today it was worth it though. Today was special. Today was beautiful. Funny thing. Jogger went by with a dog on a leash. Older guy, not BAD looking, but not her type. Skinny. A bit late in the day for that. It was already getting hot, and by the thick goop of sweat that wetted his tanktop and gave his skin bright highlights, he felt it too. His eyes lingered on Ariel as he approached, and he gave her a friendly smile and nod. Then the dog nearly yanked him off his feet as it lunged at Ariel, barking madly. Dogs. She'd always been okay with dogs. K9 units were widely used in LA, where drugs were such a big thing, and bomb sniffers were used in customs and airports regularly. Ariel hadn't served on a K9 unit, but she passed the kennels every day. This was new. A surprise. The dog was a pretty big one. She didn't know breeds. It had a short snout and a thick trunk and somewhat bandy legs. Dark brown. From how it yanked its owner off balance, it was strong. Jaws looked powerful. They dripped saliva, but not foam. Despite the lunge, it didn't attack. It just stood there in front of her, barking. Weirder, she didn't feel scared. She ought to be, God knew...she'd seen PLENTY of dog attacks in her day. Most were nothing. Some...were not nothing. And those could make you never want to eat meat again. But instead of fear, she felt...impatient. This dog had it all wrong. She wasn't going to attack his alpha. She just wanted to go to work. So as the dog's owner apologized and pulled on the leash and swatted the dog's hind...all of which did squat, Ariel squatted down, looked the dog in the eye, and growled. This was, the front of her brain complained, -exactly- what the K9 guys say NEVER TO DO. It was challenging the dog's dominance. It was inviting a fight. Fuck that though. She was a detective today. Damned if she'd play submissive to a fucking dog. It wasn't a loud growl. She wasn't even sure if she'd shown her teeth. But it worked. The dog visibly shifted gears, and the switch in its tiny brain flipped from 'fight' to 'flight.' One second a stalwart avenger...the next a whimpering puppy, cowering behind its bemused owner's legs. She almost felt sorry for it. Almost. The owner paused in mid-apology as Ariel stood up. He'd pretty clearly never seen his little studmuffin back down like that. Ariel met his eyes with her own, and whatever the dog had seen, he must have too...because he backed up a step, then took off jogging again. Or was it running? Ariel watched, making a mental note to tease the K9 dudes about how their advice sucked horse ass. Insanely she felt her mood lift even more...as if cowing some mongrel was cause for celebration. But it felt good. Invigorating. She wanted to scream, or shout or something. How primal. She got in her car instead. Battered old Honda Civic. Needed a new paint job, but the damn thing was indestructible. It was truly the cockroach of cars. She drove to work. The day was just starting. (To be Continued)
  2. Amber rarely drove. For starters, her truck was not what one called fuel efficient. Built in the 1960's, it was rather the opposite, and big enough that parallel parking was a pain in the ass. She just hoped there was room in Declan's driveway for it, because looking at it right now, there wasn't. After a bit of fancy driving, she managed to get most of the truck into the spot and turned it off. The engine coughed as it died, proof that Amber probably needed to go under the hood and tweak things again. As the last rumbles from the old engine faded into the early morning, Amber grabbed the two coffees and the bag of doughnuts and headed for the front door. This was the first time she'd tested Declan's permission for her to pass into his territory, and she was nervous. Not that she thought he would jump her, but she didn't know that he wouldn't either. So, she'd brought gifts, and hoped he liked sugar and caffiene. With a boldness she didn't feel - in part from nervousness and in part because she was really tired - she walked up his path and knocked on the door.
  3. [the wee hours of 13 Aug 2008] Warning: texting while walking may be hazardous to your footwear. That was, admittedly, not the first thing that ran through Sarah's mind as she sat on the curb of Sunset Boulevard. But it was somewhere around second or third after the wave of anger cleared out. It was really the only excuse she had; a blind man with a broken cane would have found that raised slap of sidewalk, but not her, not tonight. Tapping away at those little keys, eyes glued to text on a tiny screen, the concrete might as well have reached out and grabbed her. And the damage certainly was done. These rugged old army boots had seen her cross the county, the last three states on foot. Slits in the toes told of the countless times that her claws had passed worn leather to tear into something or other. But now, a sole was so loose as to nearly come off in her hand. Fuck! How the hell am I gonna fix this? Rubber bands - scrounged from the soggy newspapers on a half-dozen yards, and now being wrapped carefully around tread and lace hooks - might do for a night or two, but it sure as hell wasn't good for the long haul. Back at the bus station, she knew, there were shiny new boots, part of the incredible bounty that Lucien had bought her over a week earlier. But those were things she was trying to keep in good shape for those few occasions when she'd have to look good; the first time she popped claws, they'd be ruined. In frustration, she grabbed the cellphone from where she'd dropped it in the grass, and typed out her predicament. Not in full, of course; nobody needed to know why there were slits in her boots. What she didn't respect was an actual reply from Crescent_Sun, pointing her toward an all-night repair shop. "Of course," she muttered. "If anyone's gonna know that kind of thing, it's the local vamp." Fifty minutes later, she was bootless in the tiny little waiting area of an honest-to-Luna boot repair shop, the smell of leather rich in the air as the owner worked on her boots in back. To his credit, he hadn't done much more than blink at the slits in the toes; I guess when you run an all-night niche business in L.A., you learn pretty quick not to ask questions. With nothing else to do, she focused on the chatroom. Lucien was running up the Amber flag again, and Sarah sighed with dismay. *I don't like this kind of dodge*, she texted to him privately, and it was true. The previous night, he'd made a show of finding Amber's wallet (non-existant, of course) and wanting to return it to her; now he was at it again. I'm putting an end to this. She knew that the rich boy meant well, but whatever Sarah was, it was something about as honest as her existence would permit. Carefully, she tapped out to the room that it was she, not he, who wanted to find Amber, that Lucien was trying to help, and asking as politely as circumstances permitted for him to stop helping. After a few quick proddings that she turned away as it being a "private matter", the conversation thankfully moved on. Unfortunately, in moving on it went to Declan. Or rather, "Crazy Perault" as some preferred. Lucien decided that this was apparently the perfect time to launch into joke mode at Declan's expense. And to her surprise, Sarah found herself joining a small chorus of protests, standing in defense of the oft-rumored UCLA groundskeeper. She even sent a private note to Lucien, asking him to knock it off. His reply of *How would he ever find out?* came all of about ten seconds before Owns_The_Night revealled himself to be none other than Declan Perault, in what Sarah couldn't help but think of as a cosmic joke on Lucien. With Declan online though, she had more important business to deal with. A quick flurry of messages - working around his gaps away from the keyboard, gaps she was pretty sure involved raging against a punching bag or furniture or something - communicated a number of pertinent bits of info: * That she had a cellphone now; the pre-arranged system of notes on the campus bulletin board was now moot. * That the Topanga Pack wasn't going to give her the time of day. * And that Lucien wasn't herd. Explaining the last took several posts, during which she was pretty sure that the wary werewolf would think that the young vampire had gone around the bend. To her surprise and relief, he seemed to accept her explanation of the underwear model as someone who could twist space and read minds as, if not the most normal thing in the world, at least something believable. And for all I know, maybe wizards are as common as dirt around here, she realized. Maybe he has lunch with them on a daily basis, or uses them to kill fleas, or whatever. As things were hitting a more ameniable tone in chat - Lucien giving up on the Crazy Perault Comedy Hour and something resembling apologies making the rounds - a cleared throat caught her attention; two new soles, bright and shiny, adorned her rugged old boots. For a moment there, alone in the shop with the forty-something owner, Sarah considered taking something more than the boots with her. But her hunt earlier in the night had gone well - very well, actually - and the thought was more habit than intent. Peeling three twenties from the small stack in her wallet, she traded crisp bills for two worn old friends, laced them back up, and left the shop for points yet to be determined. She smiled to herself as the door closed behind her, bells jangling at her passage. It was nice, for a change, to be able to fix things.
  4. The Awakened and his Embraced company slipped trough the front door of the party and made their way to Lucien's car parked out on the front lawn. The sleek profile of the gloss black Lamborghini almost made it blend in too well. Had it not been for her keen night vision and the hiss of the doors automatically opening as they approached (thanks to a button on Lucien's key chain) she may had tripped right onto the hood. The trip to her 'dinner' dates home was like something out of a sci-fi movie, or perhaps Batman. The interior of the vehicle was set with displays for everything one could imagine. Cell phone, video phone, GPS, full satellite radio in full color LCD... the inside apparently cost just as much as the outside. It was hard to blink without feeling like she might break something and then have to pay for it. The black Mastigos-Mobile pulled into the driveway of a large house on campus. It looked recently renovated and sill the scent of paint and fresh wood slipped through the vents off the vehicle's air conditioning. He led her through the house, going in through the side door and passing through the kitchen (spacious, even in the dark) and up the stairs into the first door on the right as they reached the top of the staircase. He flipped the light on and the room was huge. It actually looked like it used to be two separate rooms that Lucien had the dividing wall between them knocked out and the two combined. The first feature to catch Sarah's attention was the monochrome. Everything was white, gray, polished steel, or black. Around the room, one to her left, two on the opposite wall, and one to her right were four glass cases, like those one would see in a museum. Within each was a single guitar standing vertically. Two overstuffed white leather couches faced each other in the enter of the room divided by a black polished stone coffee table. At each end sat a large over stuffed white leather chair. Apparently this was Lucian's study, or den. A place where he came to relax. One final thing to catch her eyes were the three closets, with painted tri-fold doors. "Welcome to my home." He said politely. He seemed to be in more control and more alert since they left the party. "Please, relax, make yourself comfortable."
  5. [night of 11 Aug 2008] "You know, just once I would like to run into a pack that doesn't have their territory at the top of a mountain, in the middle of a desert, in the middle of a forest, or otherwise at least ten miles past the last good road." A bit of griping, Sarah felt, was in order. For three damned nights she had wound her way up into and through a tangle of ravines, ridges, thorn scrub, rock slides and other "charming" features of the Topanga State Park. Sticking to trails had ended when it became apparent that wherever this pack was, it wasn't anywhere near the state-maintained walkways that served as an escape from L.A. for those citizens who still believed that one could indeed walk farther than from door to driveway. Indeed, it was midway through the second night, after a quick hunt that bagged her a doe and a brief respite from her endless hunger, that she looked up and saw the first marker: almost a dozen feet up into a live oak that looked to have stood since long before William Mulholland had worked his aquatecture miracle that allowed a desert town to bloom. Since then, all she had to show for her effort was knowledge of five more markers spaced out over nearly a dozen miles, several rips in her stolen clothes from any number of briars and thorns (one of which she was convinced was still lodged in her thigh somewhere), what she feared might be a loosening sole on her right boot, and a sneaking suspicion that the local denizens were watching her every move and laughing their furry asses off. Tired and frustrated, she clambered up onto a stony outcropping - everything here, it seemed, required clambering of one sort or another - sat down, and tried to think of a plan that wouldn't get her killed (again). Then she saw the view. Despite her foul mood, all thoughts and worries were packed away, forgotten in the moment. Below her, the land rolled away in wilds all the way down to Pacific Palisades. The yellow-green smog that marked the churning heart of Los Angeles was out of sight and downwind to the east; under a starry sky and the silver glow of Luna growing pregnant overhead, the ocean absolutely gleamed, a million tiny sparkles carried by the tide and surf to crash upon the shore. The entire struggle of the past three nights became absolutely worth every bramble and stone, if only for the moment, just for this slice of beauty and wonder. Tranquility was shattered by a shrill and entirely unnatural sound. Shaken from the moment of wonder, Sarah sighed and pulled a slender black thing from an inside jacket pocket. Flipping open the cellphone that Lucien had given her just over a week earlier, she hesitated a moment before spitting out, "What?"
  6. {Tuesday, August 12th} It takes me nine days to run this guy down. Nine days. It isn’t like what I’m looking for is rocket science. All I want is to crack open the files on this laptop I … acquired so that I can read them. And all that those files will do is bring me back to two deaths and a near bone-breaking experience for me. To be honest, it only took seven days to get the contact. I had classes on Tuesday and Thursday and I usually do my homework after class and feeding. Besides that though, I’ve been working on getting a contact in the Hacker field to gets this project of mine going again. I admit that by day four I was wondering if someone had gotten the word out about what I was into and who had died, or more to the matter that anyone had died. Now I have a name. He’s a student on campus that has as slight habit. I take care of some of that need and he does some work for me. Downside for us is that the meet is going to be face to face. I have his stuff and his normal handler won’t handle drugs, so he’s passing me straight on to the source. God I love this work. Not. The problem with the cloak of night is that it doesn’t let you mesh with the physical world. Break into the physical continuity and Bam! - Your part of the visible world. I hate that. Maybe in a hundred years I’ll find away around it. Maybe. Adrian walked up to the door and waited. This was the right dorm, but he needed an access pass, which he didn’t have. Instead he waited. Sure enough, some jock looking guy, oblivious to the world save his one physical talent, came along and threw open the door. Adrian waited around for a few ticks before grabbing it. The jock was already walking down toward the elevators. Adrian followed him in. Antoine LaSalle had just dropped off his friend Gerry. Gerry was pretty good at the Science stuff and Antoine had thought seriously about getting some help this semester. With practice running late, and all those aches and pains, he had just remembered to ask him. He turned around and saw him, this shadowy guy who just popped into existence. Just like that, and the guy seemed to step out of a spider web of shadows … that now no longer existed, but the guy did. Antoine was so freaked by it that he stood by and did nothing as the Shadow Guy followed Gerry into his dorm. I deal with my business with the guy at his door – dumbass. He takes his drugs like a starving jackal, takes my directions with as sneer that says ‘Is that all you want’ and ‘You can’t do that yourself?’ which would kind of negate me needing him now wouldn’t it? He tells me he’ll have it for me tomorrow, but I’ll have to do the file searching myself. He doesn’t know what I want with the laptop and he doesn’t want to know. Now that may make him smarter than me. I head back downstairs mission accomplished. In retrospect, I’m too cocky and I should know better, but this whole Laptop thing has taken so damn long and I’m itching for something better to do. I need to hunt. Okay. I don’t need to hunt, but I want to. I’m out of the elevator and at the door again when I see him. He’s coming on fast. He grabs me and spins me around into the building. I have my Glock out and am about to eviscerate Meat Wall #3 when I see him clearly in the street light. It’s … “Who the fuck are you?” he breaths into my face in that deep drawl of his. “What are you?” he says in a quieter tone, to which I’m grateful. “Hey! Your Antoine LaSalle,” I bring as my witty come back. He presses into my throat with his forearm. It’s supposed to restrict my breathing, but then I don’t breathe anymore. I tap his stomach with my Glock. “Dude, it’s an honor to meet you. I’m so glad I went to your party,” not a total lie, “ and I feel I owe you one.”
  7. Just before midnight, Thursday August 7th She was dressed to kill and she loved that thought. Her hair and dress were the same blood red, and the hair stopped just before the dress did. Heels and hose so aptly named nude finished off the ensemble. Every male eye in the bar, and most of the female ones, lingered over her at least once. All except one. He'd come in like he usually did twenty minutes ago. She'd kept out of sight, stalking him from the shadows in a reverse game of cat and mouse that made her lips twitch and a thrill run up her spine. I can do this. It's time. I found him and I know I'm right. Peter'll be grumpy, then skeptical, then impressed. She grinned. This was going to be so many different kinds of fun. She approached him from behind, coquettishly tapping him on the shoulder. She ran her tongue of her lips and asked, "Buy me a drink?"
  8. [night of 6 Aug 2008] I feel so goddamned stupid.... Staking out the house had made perfect sense. Had continued doing so, in fact, right up until she started doing it. As she spent her third - or was it fourth? - hour leaning up against a tree at the corner of Wyton and Hilgard, staying as close to the shadows as possible and desperately hoping that some passing cop wouldn't decide she was dealing or selling something, it seemed a whole lot less sensible. Then again, the other option - walking up and ringing the bell - didn't sound all that palatable either, given what she knew. Once again, her cold hand ran along coarse bark until it met the bare, grooved wood of the marking she had first noticed nights earlier. Memory of exactly what that mark meant came back to her, and dead or not, she shuddered with the phantom pain. No, walking up and ringing the fucking bell was definitely off the menu. Waiting here at the bounds was 'legal', she knew... and if the owner - who I sure as hell bet is that Declan guy - didn't notice her at the edge of his territory, he would have to be one hell of a piss-poor excuse for a werewolf.
  9. Continued Pre-Season Party "I'm too... far away, hotel room would be much closer, but here... is fine." Jesus. His breath on her ear as he mumbled his desire made her hot, and Amber pulled his hips closer to hers. She should have followed her instincts. She should have listened to that twinge in her gut that told her not to bother with Antoine. He wasn't right at all, not for a real woman. Maybe in a few years he'd be ready for her. Whoever this was - Amber still hadn't gotten his name and she didn't care - was just about perfect. "I should have worn a skirt," she mumbled as she let go of her partner and started to fumble at her buttons. "Damn it!" She'd thought the skirts would be too trampy; she just hadn't realized that they'd be just trampy enough. The thought added new urgency to her movements and she wiggled the tight jeans over her bare ass and hips. The flare of the legs let her kick them off, along with the sandals. Wearing only her flimsy top, she helped him attack his own pants. Her hands brushed over something that was hard - too hard to be flesh, as much as he would have appreciated the compliment. He caught her hand in an automatic reflex to having someone near his gun. Amber froze, glad he'd grabbed her left hand. "You're armed?" she asked, unafraid. He could shoot her, if he felt the need. He'd get one chance to really hurt her, so he'd better make it count. "Kinky."
  10. August 1st, 11:00 am The smell of BBQ and Creole cooking swirled through the air and drifted with the westward wind deep into the campus. Early August meant that most of the people on campus were either involved with sports, were upperclassmen that lived there year round, or freshmen arrived early for the last orientation sessions. Whatever the case was if you were on the east side of campus you could probably smell the food already. As Antoine tasted the jambalaya bins of ice were set out on the lawn and filled with cans of beer and soda. Meanwhile trashcans were filled with ice to cover the kegs within while others were lined with plastic as members of the frat works alcoholic alchemy to produce jungle juice; a mixture that is remarkably cheap to produce and remarkably high in alcohol content. 11:30 am People were already starting to show up for a bite to eat and a couple of drinks during their lunch hour. The real crowd wouldn’t form for another hour or so. Jeff, the frat president, took the responsible job of taking money and stamping those legal to drink. Not that it would stop the underage from getting booze but it waived the frats liability for letting people in without checking first. The guys manning the kegs and the bar would check and make a show of it but in the end it didn’t matter and anybody underage who became over-served would be dealt with swiftly to avoid bringing trouble down on the house. 1:30 pm The party was hopping, out back the pool was in use and coeds were enjoying one of the last stress-free days before classes started up. Antoine handed the ladle over to somebody else and wandered off, drink in hand, to mingle.
  11. I live in a world of darkness. It is the kind of darkness that eats like a cancer at people’s dreams. It’s a darkness that vanquishes hope and devours possibilities until only a pale shade remains waiting for death. It’s a world that’s been home to me long before I lost the Sun and came to fear the flame. It’s crappy to see what it does to people, but no one can change it. Or is that no one will change it? They come across the dinner looking for me. They have that look. You know the one. The look of people that both work two jobs they hate – real back breaking labor too, just so they might have an easier life in some distant future. Those people worn down to the bone, which take all the shit life piles on them, and live in fear of what tomorrow brings. If they have ever had a good day in their lives, they’ve had to share it and it wasn’t 24 hours long. They sit down and they look disappointed in what they see. I imagine they would get up if they had the choice – any choice. They don’t. By the time you get down to me, you’ve run out of options. I’m not even a PI, but a wannabe. My one saving grace is how much I charge. I work for free. No, I don’t really know why. That much brainpower is beyond my limit. Anyway … They start talking about their daughter, what a wonderful person she was. She was going to UCLA and wanted to work on one of the major papers in town. Thing is, she was a graduating freshman and I don’t really think they are the ones to get those kinds of jobs, so I file that away for later. She wasn’t dating – yeah right. Parents never know, especially if they start dating some lowlife like me. She didn’t have a car. She didn’t have any close friends. She didn’t have much of a life – no dating, clubs, extracurricular, nothing. They also tell me the police have no leads and one kind soul in the department has told them the case is going on the back burner forever. That makes sense. The LAPD looks after those who pay the most taxes first and everything else is trickle down criminal economics. No room for a poor out of town kid and one homeless Hispanic boy who got killed – another victim would have been nice to know about, no one outside of her parents to care for the dead, not after the 24 hour news cycle. Stupid me, and I can hear my sire calling me stupid even though he’s half a world away, I take the case. I’ll find out who killed their little girl. They can’t even manage a smile of encouragement. I’m just not the type of guy to inspire confidence. Maybe it would help if I made eye contact more and muttered less. I’ll have to try that some day. “When are you going to start?” the Father asks when I get up to leave. “Right now,” I reply. I want to say back something catchy like ‘I’m burning moonlight’ or something like that, but I don’t. I would probably botch it anyway.
  12. {28th August, 2008} "Hey, Declan!" I stopped, the rake dangling from one hand as I watched Sue approach from across the lawn I'd just finished cleaning. The sun was beating down on the campus, hot brick and asphalt mingling with flowers and grass in a disjointing melody of scent. I upended my rake and shoved it into my carry-bin as I waited for the woman to catch up with me. Her brown eyes searched my face as she drew nearer, her gait slowing as she got within ten feet. As always, she smelled of cigarettes and the vodka she liked to mix with her orange juice during breaks. She also smelled nervous. Most folks wouldn't notice: I do. "Hi Declan." She smiled easily, just like always, until her eyes looked into mine and she got the rabbit look, just like always. Sue's one of the campus security, and somehow always seems to draw the duty of talking to me. Perhaps it's because she's the newbie. Perhaps it's something else. Most people avoid me because of how I make them feel, and that's fine: got nothing to say to them anyway. Some people though, like Sue, seek me out even though I give them the screaming heebie jeebies. Sometimes I wonder about that. Maybe she's looking for a tough guy that'll beat her bloody while they're fooling around, but that's not my kink. Some people are like that, though. I call the look they get the rabbit look, because they sort of freeze and go very still, unable to look away. They're natural prey animals, even if they do walk on two legs. I'd find it funny if it wasn't so goddamn annoying. "Well?" I asked her, to jolt her out of her panic/fantasy/ whatever. She jolted alright; her feet nearly left the ground before she collected her wits. "The boss wants to see you." She said hurriedly before backing away. Fantastic. I wondered what the fat piece of crap that ran the security and maintainance staff wanted from me so bad that he actually wanted me in his small office. Then I considered that his office smelt of urine and sweat. I must have scowled, because Sue turned and walked pretty damn fast away from me. I took my time walking over to the boss's office. I picked up some litter there, a cigarette butt here on my way. Got to keep my range clean, after all. I saw a couple of frat boys smoking on some steps and looked at them as I passed. I looked at them long and hard, and made sure they knew I was doing it. They'd use the bin for those butts, I saw in their faces they would. They were even looking to make sure the bin was nearby. I parked my little trolley outside the grounds offices and walked in. My boss was already sweating up a storm: whatever he wanted to say to me, he thought I wouldn't like it. "Hi Declan. Umm... I'll come straight to the point. We need you to cover this weekend." I couldn't believe it. I just couldn't believe my ears. "Jake's covering this weekend." I pictured throwing my boss through the small window of his office. The land-whale had no idea what a fuck-up this was. "Jake just quit: got a job somewhere else." The fatso moved around behind his desk, as if he somehow knew I was contemplating his whimpers of pain. "Sorry Declan, but you're the next one up for a relief shift." "I booked this weekend off." I stated flatly, a slight growl roughening my voice. "Find someone else." He made what he thought was a placating gesture with his hands. It made me feel like breaking his pudgy fingers. Hot and sweet, the beast started uncoiling in my gut, and I closed my eyes for a moment as I fought back the urge to maim this moron. "There is no-one else, Declan. Sorry, buddy. Look, you can have the following weekend off, and you can take off early too: have that Friday off. How's that?" He looked like he thought it was a sweet deal. It was a sweet deal. I bit back my anger and sighed slightly, shaking my head. "Alright. I'll take care of it." Motherfucking Jake and his new job! I inwardly screamed as I turned and escaped from the funk of the office. Now I'd be stuck on the campus for the weekend. And they'd be having that damned pre-season party!
  13. {I posted this story origonally in Hounds of Zaroff, but it fits so much with the character I've reposted it here.} She was running away. She was fleeing the Monster that had destroyed her life and changed her forever. She tried to cry, but no tears came. She couldn’t sob, because breathing had become so hard. She couldn’t stop running because the Monster was so close. It was on her back. It was inside her. These were not strange new sensations for Wendy, but the came on with ten-thousand fold intensity. She was hungry – starving – but no food she saw was appealing. She was more than afraid, she was terrified, especially from the creature that was pursuing her and taunting her. And then there was the anger. She was angry at every little thing, but now, with her new focus, everything was a murderous rage. The overwhelming sense of hunger made everything worse. She was so ravenous. Wendy had caught a break when she ran into traffic. She had half expected to be killed. Instead, she had been delivered from her tormentor, no matter how temporarily, when It was hit by a car and knocked clear off the road. She had fled the scene in the opposite direction. Now she was lonely, lost, and in her own isolated hell. People were looking at her with guarded fearful looks. The pulled away as if they could instinctually sense her inner turmoil. She wanted to jump on them, rip out there throats and feast on their blood. The very imagery made her run faster down the street. She wouldn’t give into the Monster, not now, not ever. Adrian was roaming the streets looking for some drunk or otherwise unconscious, homeless person. His earlier efforts at hunting ‘cleaner’ prey had born no fruit, so here he was again, sifting through the dregs of the city to find his sustenance. To his credit, he had found someone sleeping quietly and stole a sip from their arm until he was sated. Flush with blood, he was making his way back home when he saw her. She was stumbling and awkward, yet his Beast instantly recognized him as an intruder. He rumbled deep within his chest even as his eyes looked for possible exits and places to hide. When he gazed back at her, their eyes locked and the world seemed to slow down as their beasts struggled for control. “You are one of them,” she said, at the same time he said, “I’m Adrian.” Adrian was trying to reduce the tension and this was as a very tense Kindred. She edged away from him and his beast, sensing an advantage, urged him to leap forward. He didn’t. “What are you doing here?” he managed after a moment. “Keep away from me,” was her response. Adrian was a little shocked. No vampire had ever been afraid of him before. “Okay. Umm … have a nice night then?” Adrian was walking away when she called to him. “Wait … what … what is wrong with me?” Adrian stopped, looking over his shoulder at her. For a moment, he didn’t understand, but when the understanding came, he was both worried and fearful once again. He came back. “You haven’t been Kindred long, have you?” “Kindred? What’s that?” “A Vampire.” Wendy clutched her arms tightly, trying to keep the nightmare at bay. It didn’t work. She remembered the attack on her, the pain, the sense of dying, and then the rebirth … with that terrible hunger. “No,” she whispered to herself. “This can’t be happening to me.” “It is,” he whispered back to her, feeling … a feeling he wasn’t sure about. There was a confused moment of silence. Part of Adrian really wanted to get away. This woman smelled like trouble. He found himself standing there for no explainable reason. Wendy knew she was facing a Monster. Her own Monster recognized it and warred within her to fight it, or flee. She hated at the same time she feared it – in both him and her. Still, he was standing there and maybe he had some answers, maybe even a sliver of salvation. “I want to take it back. I want this whole night to have never happened. Can I do that?” There was a blank expression on his face. “You want to stop being Kindred? I don’t think that’s possible. If there was, my sire … the vampire who made me, would have told me … I think.” She looked crestfallen. “Maybe we can find your sire and ask him or her?” Now she looked terrified. “No … no, I can’t face that thing again. I got away from her once. I can’t face it again. I won’t get away. She will keep me until I am gone and only … this Thing remains.” “Umm … by Thing, you mean the Beast right?” She looked at him and marveled on how calm he seemed to be. “Yes, I think so.” “You get used to it. Its …” he was saying until she interrupted. “I DON’T WANT TO GET USED TO IT!!” she screamed. Adrian all but jumped out of his skin. “I want to be human. Don’t you understand,” she continued. “I don’t want to let the Monster in me win.” “There is no helping it …” “Wendy.” “… Wendy. You learn to deal with it. It gets loose occasionally, but you had better learn how to deal with the really bad things you do while its loose, or you will go mad … or so my sire says. It’s like a nightmare you can’t escape, so you deal with it, or it gains control.” “I’m in a nightmare right now … tonight, and I’m afraid I’m never going to wake up”, she said quietly.
  14. The slithering sounds of the foul flesh upon the sandy ground of the cavern wall alerted the occupants of the nearby chamber that someone approached. The chamber was subterranean and reeked of decaying flesh and fouler odors that are hardly within this writers ability to put into words. A stench emanated from places unseen in the cavern. Perhaps from the center, where the only light source within the shadowy gloom pulsed in a sickly green radiance. It was a volcano like 'cauldron' where the precious essence of the planet had been made vile and fetid. A magma-like resin bubbled up and trickled down the sides from side to side illuminating the cauldron's edges in a sickly phosphorescent green coating. With a 'thud' the corpse of a creature was tossed to the floor. It's features combined the foulest traits of a warthog and a powerful humanoid. "I discovered this in the zoo." A powerfully built arm faded back into the shadows. The voice was rough and deep yet hinted at the owners gender being female. "It appears we have a problem." "What the fuck!?" a nasally voice echoed through the bleak cavern. "Who? Tell me who Cold Winter, tell me so I can feast on their entrails!" The 'man' darted from the shadows and slid in the sand. Clutching the blood stained, gore ridden corpse he held it close like a beloved lost family member. He was wiry and emaciated, thin and tragically in poor health (or so it would appear). He barely had a tooth left in his mouth and the the ones that remained looked to have been filed to jagged points that just wobbled there amongst his disease ridden gums. Sinew cracked and popped as cartilage reshaped and tightened. "I didn't see it, it was already dead when I found it." A foul greenish glow marking the eyes of what lurked in the shadows glared upon the weak little man and his corpse-toy. Her voice was no more human, and almost melodic. "I tracked the scent, whomever it was took special precautions to not be tracked. The Topanga Pack have dared to violate our territory, it is time we took the fight to them!" "Not so fast." A calm deep baritone resounded off the walls. "We are but three, and you have yet to inspect the dead." "I want the man who did this!" The thin man said. "I raised this one since he was a youngin' Boss! It's my right!" Thunderous footsteps echoed though the Locus of Corruption and the thin man found himself hoisted off the ground by a single powerful arm. The black man, his master, was over seven feet tall and built like a man who'd dedicated his life to perfection of the body. "You have only the rights I give you... Roy. Remember you place when speaking to me. Am I clear?" 'Roy' shivered with fear. Gripping the giant's wrists he flailed his feet and prayed for a quick death. Am I clear! the bald man asked again. "I-I'm sorry... Rends the Soul." Urine and feces assaulted the assembled's keen senses. "I-I couldn't hear you over the sound of me shitting myself." Disgusted Rends the Soul cast the putrid man aside and was focused on the corpse before the sound of Roy's tumbling in the sand ever reached his ears. "Look, here." He pointed to the lacerations on the chest. "No Forsaken did this. The wounds are too shallow, vicious though they may be, unless our prey is four feet tall, then the claws are way to small to be Uratha." He knelt and rubbed his thick fingers over the tusks and tongue of the great beast. He sniffed them afterward. "Well?" The woman in the shadows asked. "Vampire." Was all he said. "Impossible." Cold Winter replied. "We've bred these specifically for dealing with such threats. The vampires know better than to enter our territory. No vampire in Los Angeles has the skills to match one of our skull pigs." "Then perhaps," Rends the Soul's eyes met the shimmering green of Cold Winters' "It's logical to assume that the leech is from out of town, and apparently dangerous. You will find him and then report to me." "Very well," she sighed. Hardly pleased with her orders not to engage the blood sucker. "I'll contact you when he is found." There was little more to discuss. Rends the Soul looked to Roy and a low growl filled the area. "Clean this up." He commanded. Roy scurried over on hands and knees whimpering but daring not to say another word.
  15. [around 12:30am, 1 Aug 2008] "Deadsville. Fuck." This wasn't Sarah's first visit to the UCLA campus. Back in the brief happier days of her brief unhappy life, she had taken a train down the coast from UCSF to attend a seminar at the Young Research Library. It was an eerie feeling to stalk past it at night, with both the library and the huge sculpture garden in front of it devoid of the usual throngs of students and faculty. And therein lay the problem. Her tip had been to find the local werewolves in the vicinity of the campus. But with classes still weeks away, the campus was effectively a graveyard. And that was a severe limiter... not only for the hopeful contact, but for the little matter of food. With a sigh, she made her way up to one of the big campus maps. The original plan had been to go hit one of the residence halls on the far side of Marshall Field. With the usual tangle of students, it was far from impossible to blend in long enough to raid a laundry room for something a little more appropriate to a college environment, to grab a quick bite in some darkened corner (or some cute guy's room), and then find a maintenance room in the basement for safety from the blazing sun. But now, she realized, that plan was moot for at least the next couple of weeks. The dorms would be empty at best, locked at worst. In fact, the campus as a whole would be a danger zone; nearly deserted at night, she would stick out like a sore thumb to the security details that trolled the place in the deathly boredom of summer. As she considered her options, she continued gazing at the map, hoping for inspiration. Her eyes came to rest on a faded sticker that had all but become part of the surface on the right side of the map, damaged by countless scrubbings but still faintly legible. Just outside the bounds of the campus itself, across Hilgard Avenue, the nigh-ancient marker denoted "Greek Row". "Hmmm... now that might actually work...." Sarah had never joined a sorority during her brief collegiate career, but the closest thing she had to a friend at UCSF had been in Delta Sigma Beta. Among Kari's many stories had been talk of the massive pre-semester bash that had been held by one of the fraternities, before she had transferred up from L.A. She'd answered Sarah's confused look by explaining that many of the sororities and fraternities started showing up at their respective houses weeks before classes actually kicked off. Ostensibly, it was to prepare for the many Greek-sponsored activities during the first month of the fall semester. In practice, it often turned into a rolling party. Smiling, Sarah muttered, "let's hope they haven't changed traditions," and headed off east toward Greek Row.
  16. I remember dreaming. It wasn’t just a dream, but the dream, the only one that ever really mattered. The only one I can still recall perfectly, the only one in which I was really aware, an active participant in my own subconscious journeys. It’s the only dream I’ve ever had that wasn’t just some bizarre nocturnal fantasy, some strange and phantasmagorical hallucination to be wiped away by the comfortable amnesia of morning’s arrival. No, this dream was special. Not just because of what happened while I dreamed, mind you, but because when I had it? I was dead. How’s that for an attention-grabber? I don’t really expect you to believe me, of course. You’ll raise an eyebrow, or roll your eyes, and think to yourself, “Sure. And there was probably a long tunnel, and a bright light, and everyone you’ve ever known and loved was waiting there for you at the end.” You’ll think about the parties my friends and I have gone to, and wonder what sort of bio-chemical goodies we’ve ingested, and chalk it up to a pretty wicked trip. You’d also be completely, one-hundred and fifty percent wrong. I guess that calling it “a” dream is a little misleading. You see, when I first started having the dream, I thought more or less the same thing you’re probably thinking right now. I assumed that the things I was seeing were just my brain’s way of dealing with the nights we spent partying and passing out on Loki’s couch with the television on. There were a lot of nights like that, honestly, so it made sense at the time. Looking back now, I wish I’d paid more attention to what I saw, taken it a bit more seriously. Maybe things would’ve turned out differently. Hell, you’d think I’d be able to tell now, if it would have changed anything, but I don’t think I’ll ever really know for sure. I’m rambling, I know. Let me get back on track, and when I’m done, then you can tell me I’m crazy. And, trust me. I know you will.
  17. [night of 27 Jul 2008] "Come to Los Angeles. The sun shines bright, the beaches are wide and inviting, and the orange groves stretch as far as the eye can see. There are jobs aplenty and land is cheap. Every working man can have his own house, and inside every house, a happy all-American family. You can have all this, and who knows, you can even be discovered, become a movie star, or at least see one. Life is good in Los Angeles. It's paradise on earth. That's what they tell you anyway, because they're selling an image. They're selling it through movies, radio and television. ...The L.A. cops walk on water, as they keep the city clean of crooks. Yup, you'd think this place was the Garden of Eden. But there's trouble in paradise." ~ Sid, L.A. Confidential Well-worn boots crunched on the gravel surface of a dirt fire road, one of the many that ran through switchbacks and a crazy quilt of junctions up and down tinder-dry hills and steep canyons. As routes went, it was anything but the most direct of paths... but sometimes, there were more important things than directness. Like staying out of the way of anyone watching Route 210 or I-10 or any of the other beaten paths into this hyped-up slice of hell. The thought fluttered through the mind of a person who wasn't exactly a person anymore. Hadn't been, in fact, since she died alongside a road three years and three hundred miles away. A road that, while paved, was every bit if not more desolate and deserted than the steep dirt track that tireless legs climbed now. And I changed for the better. Some part of the creature actually believed the lie, convinced herself that this was somehow better than drawing sweet breath, than feeling the sun on her skin. Every night, she convinced herself once more that this was better than living. To say that she saw the glow before cresting the hilltop would be an understatement; the glow, a sort of sickly yellow-green entity that seemed to waver and flow with a life of its own, had been growing on the horizon for the past two nights. Still, it was nearly bright enough to cast shadows, even here on the north facing of this last in a long series of ridges, well before a final few steps brought her eye to eye with the sprawling mass in all it's wonder. "If this is the City of Angels, I'd hate to see the City of Demons." The words, even murmured low, used the first breath she had drawn that night, just for the purpose if only subconsciously so. But the intent was as strong as if shouted to echo throughout the vast bowl below. Even from up here on the aptly named Mount Disappointment, the belching fumes of countless cars - a toxic stew that had baked under a blistering summer sun for fourteen hours - could be seen as a haze in the sea of neon below. The sheer noise of the place, of engines and horns, millions of radios on hundreds of stations, formed a din that reminded her of sci-fi space novels, how the thrum of a ship's engines was ever present. That's really what this place is. A spaceship. A monstrous spaceship that holds in all the noise and gas and madness of people who have long since lost any real touch with whatever is beyond the hull. My cousin is one of them now, somewhere down there in this beast. She sighed, her second use of long-dead lungs for the night. And in a few more steps, so will I. Hesitating only a moment longer, the late Sarah O'Neally shook her head in resignation and started down the hillside into Los Angeles.
  18. 'Sup peeps? The frat boys of Epsilon Tau Sigma wanted me to invite y'all out for a kegger of epic proportions this Friday (the 1st). Gonna be an all day party, I'm gonng cook up my famous jambalaya and Texas Bill is gonna fire up the smoker early for some proper B-B-Q! Also ... there will be beer. Show up anytime after noon and bring whoever you want, $10 gets you in and covers food and beer. As usual it's free for the ladies! Let's kick off the preseason the right way and get primed for another CHAMPIONSHIP Season!! Post 'em if you got 'em!
  19. 8:00 pm Graham runs the back of a dirt-caked calloused hand across his sweat-stained forehead and sighs, hefting a 20 pound stone into place. He places the final stone on the wall and looks around. Graham stands at the end of a 20 foot long, 4 foot high wall of unworked stone. He shakes his head at the apparent randomness of design in the different stones used. He’d been at this for several hours, but hadn’t seen his boss for the last couple. Graham wanders around the backyard that he had been working in, looking for the cooler with the water and ice in it. When he finds it, he grabs the top water bottle, and begins running the ice-cold bottle around his neck and head. After a couple of minutes of doing that, Graham opens up the bottle and sips from it, slowly. He turns when he hears the scuffing of work boots on dirt, and smiles when he sees it’s his boss. “Mr. Mills, good to see you finally show up. So, what am I to learn today? How to maintain concentration while holding heavy weights? How to look good in a suit? How to boss around mundanes?” His boss just shakes his head, and takes out a small black rectangular box and hands it to Graham. He then takes a small night-light bulb out of a pocket, and places it in the ground, like it was sticking into a socket. “The box is a battery. I want you to be able to place the battery on the ground, and have the bulb light up. And I want it done before midnight. If you do this well, then you can take the weekend off.” Graham sighs to himself, “And I can’t go and get wires from the truck, right? I guess this is one of your magic lessons?” He smiles, and concentrates on the dirt in front of him, trying to get it to assume the properties of copper. His brow slowly begins to bead with sweat, not from the heat, but from the stress he is putting on his mind and the light bulb is still dark.
  20. The following events originally took place during the months of September and early October 2005 I remember the cot being rather uncomfortable. It was not surprise being about a foot and a half shorter than I was tall. Still given the floor or the cot I figured I’d try. Mistake number one; between the uncomfortable cot and the sounds of muffled coughing or people in pain crying out or moaning I couldn’t sleep. In fact if anything it woke me up more. Finally around three am I decided to get a drink and move back to the floor. At least the floor wasn’t too small for me. I sat up slowly. The thing creaked like the squeaky door that dad hadn’t ever gotten around to fixing and I didn’t want to wake Mom or Tricia up. I sat there for a moment and just looked around. In the wake of Katrina and everything chaos had become a part of daily life. Sometime between midnight and three in the morning even chaos takes some time to chill out. I looked around and noticed a nurse or an orderly moving among the sick and injured. He stopped and checked on a patient for a moment and then leaned close as though listening to the person’s heart with his head to his chest. I remember thinking it was odd but then I was tired and cranky so I just shrugged it off and got up to find the can and get a drink. The next morning I found out that that man had died in the night. I guessed that was what the doctor had been doing, determining if the man was ok. I had pushed it out of my mind but the next night I say that same person making rounds again. I couldn’t sleep and so I watched quietly. The next morning that man was found to have died. The process repeated; given the chaos and the living conditions it didn’t trigger anybody else’s suspicions. In the end I watched this man visit five people in a many nights and all five were found dead in the morning. I did some investigating after the third death as well as the fourth and fifth. The autopsies were brief and lax at best in the aftermath given the lack of facilities and funding and the overall surplus of dead. In these cases the people were all injured, people who had been pulled from accidents, or rescued from collapsed buildings or even those who had gotten on the wrong side of looters. Whatever the case all had died from blood loss … in a hospital; makeshift as it was crappy treatment and overcrowding aside something didn’t fit. I remember recalling the various stories from when I was a kid. The voodoo stories of zombies and necromancy and black magic, stories of vampires and other monsters. So on the fifth night I didn’t even bother trying to sleep, not that I had the night before either, but this time I had a plan. I watched and waited. I guess being so damn dark skinned has an advantage, even at seven foot plus in a dark enough room I can hide if I really try. Regardless I watched and waited for that same guy, a guy that I hadn’t seen at the hospital anytime other than late at night. When he was done I waited until I was sure he was gone and then went to check the victim. Not a mark on the woman’s neck to be found when I looked, no surprise there, but what was there were two small drops of blood that ran down her neck into the pillow. To me that screamed vampire loud enough to make me damn near shit myself. Worst part was that after that I started to see everything differently. It was like a switch got flipped or I walked through a one way door. Nothing was the same and nothing has been the same since.
  21. The winter wolf stared at Amber, snow blowing past him. She could feel the cold, but it didn't come from the air - it came from him. "Leave me alone!" she cried, afraid of the wolf. "Just go away." His frosted foot pierced the crusted snow as he walked toward her. We admitted we were powerless over our addiction — that our lives had become unmanageable. Step 1. Get up. Amber opened her eyes as the alarm screamed in her ear, killing the dream of the snow and the wolf. Groaning, she rolled over and slapped off the buzzing annoyance, slapping blindly for a moment before succeeding. In the following silence, she lay still and considered her options. She could get up and get ready for work. Or she could call in and sleep in. If she stayed home, she could get some rest. Her mind strayed toward the other things she could do if she stayed home. With a sigh, Amber pushed herself out of bed and headed to the shower. Goal: Shower and get to work on time. Amber nodded to herself as she stumbled into her bathroom, yawning. Set a small goal, accomplish it and move onto the next. She'd found that it was a good way to get the necessary things done, like work and hygiene. Keep busy, and she didn't have time to think about what she wanted or to think about that bone-deep ache in her body that could only be eased by one thing. She showered and dressed, choosing loose clothing. She'd have to strip out of them at some point tonight, at least once. She forwent the makeup; she had been doing that lately. There didn't seem much point, anymore. All the styling she needed these days was jerking a comb through her hair. She grabbed an energy bar and wolfed it down as she left her dingy apartment. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. Step 2. Stay focused. Amber avoided the elevator; the dealers in her apartment often lurked on them, trying to pressure the riders into buying. She took the fire stairs all the way down, straight to the basement, where she stepped out and turned right. To the left were the laundry rooms; Amber could hear them chugging away loudly as two woman chatted in rapid Spanish. The storage rooms were Amber's goal and she didn't hesitate as she passed the one that was assigned to her room. She never used it anyway; her goal was the empty one at the end of the hall. It wasn't used either, or hadn't been in the entire time that Amber had been checking it. That was because it flooded during LA's three days of rain and always smelled musty. And last, two weeks ago, Amber had replaced the lock and she had the only key. The super might fix it, someday, if he ever was notified and got off his ass ever. Even before she had the door open, she could feel the locus, its energies tickling over her. It was the spiritual equivalent to standing in a doorway, able to go both ways, but not entering the other room. It called to her wolf-half, calling her home. Amber ignored this feeling as she entered the storage area and closed it behind her. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him. Step 3. Remain clear-headed. Amber had brought a small end-table downstairs on a previous trip so that she could stack her clothes on it instead of the floor. She did so now, stripping easily until she stood on the bare, dirty floor. Before she took off her watch, she checked the time; she had an hour before she had to work. It wasn't much time, but Amber was prepared to make the most of it. She drew a deep breath and cleared her head of her concerns and fears. A mirror hung on the wall and Amber gazed into its depths. At first, all she saw was the room and herself; then a haze crept into the mirror, red and cloudy. Amber could feel the other world now, like pressing through thinly woven cotton cloth. She pushed harder against something that wasn't there, that couldn't be seen, until she felt herself push through. Gritting her teeth, she stepped forward into another world. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. Step 4. Kick ass. Her worst fears were confirmed, and Amber embraced her feral half. She didn't wait for the natural change; she didn't have time for that luxury. Instead, she forced the change and her flesh and bones twisted and shifted with sickening speed. Where a human woman had stood, now a monster of the human past stood, a monstrous wolf twice the natural size. Snarling, Amber jumped on the small gathering of spirits. She had no idea what kind they were; most of them didn't look like anything. It didn't really matter what they were, because they were eating on her locus. "<Off!>" she snarled just before her teeth closed on one of the spirits, tearing into it and ripping it off of the locus. The other spirits scattered, terrified of the enraged werewolf in their midst. Only one spirit stood its ground, and Amber understood what had happened: a bigger spirit had talked a bunch of lesser gafflings into stealing from her. "<Mine!>" she snapped as she leapt forward, slamming into the spirit. Her assault knocked the spirit down, but its claws sank into her sides. Amber yelped but she twisted loose of the spirit's grip and bit deeply into it, tasting the essence of the spirit. It wailed in first tongue, crying in pain. And then the other spirits circled back and jumped into the fight. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs. Step 5. Keep going. Amber felt them tear into her flanks; sinking her teeth deeper into the spirit, she dropped onto her left side and pushed with her right, rolling over the spirits and ripping out the chunk of spirit-flesh she was gripping. She rolled over all the way and came back on her feet, dropping her hunk of flesh. She sprung back at the advancing spirit, snapping and clawing at the spirits. It became a blur of bites, claws and pain, as Amber fought blindly and furiously. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character. Step 6. Be realistic. It wasn't a long fight. Amber crouched over the pieces of spirits, panting hoarsely. Her breath wheezed in and out of her lungs as she fought to remain on her feet. She really wanted to lie down, but she didn't. She forced her bones and skin to knit as she crouched; when she didn't hurt so badly, she tipped her wolf-muzzle to the unnatural sky and howled. It was a cry of victory, a primal assurance that all was well here, that a Forsaken was doing her spirit-given duty. But that had been close, Amber admitted to herself as she looked at the remnants of her opponents. I can't do this alone, she thought to herself, finally admitting what had been in the back of her mind. I need help. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings. Step 7. Be smart. Amber, still aching from the fight, did a quick patrol of her area. She'd only claimed the hollow building itself, afraid to venture too deep into the Hisil alone. Sometimes, her pride insisted she could take more, but Amber wasn't sure of that and so she kept it simple. She marked the corners of her domain, pissing and scratching at the substance of the spirit-world. Her duties done, Amber enjoyed her work for a while, sprawling on the ground inside the building. Like most places in the Hisil, the building was hollow inside, an empty frame with nothing inside. In addition, this building didn't even have a roof, which was odd, but that was the Hisil for you. A soft scratching of noise caught her attention, but Amber didn't react. She instead ambled to her feet and pretended to nose about aimlessly. When she was close to the source, she threw herself in that direction, her nose digging under a pile of refuse until her teeth closed around something that wiggled. It squawked in protest as she dragged it out. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all. Step 8. Follow the Oath. Amber released the spirit and pinned it gently under her paw. Her fluency with the spirit's tongue wasn't great, but she was able to ask, "<What you do in my place?>" "<Saw fight! Just watching,>" the spirit said, some kind of insect-ant looking thing. Amber was about to tell it to buzz off, but she restrained herself. The spirit had done no harm, and with effort, she flattened her hackles and lifted her paw. "<Then no harm, little spirit,>" she said, sitting back on her haunches. "<But I must ask you not to stay here.>" "<Can I stay?>" it asked after a moment. "<I can work and guard when you not here.>" Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others. Step 9. Accept help. Amber tilted her wolf-head, considering. She did need help, and while what appeared to be a lesser gaffling wouldn't be much help, it was better than nothing. Slowly, she nodded. "<You may stay and be an ally of mine, if you agree to protect this place and help me guard it.>" The little spirit drew itself up. "<I do!>" It glanced at the locus, glowing softly, a quick, furtive and hopeful look. "<Here,>" Amber said, knowing that hunger for essence had probably driven it to linger and to make the bargain with her. "<Accept a sign of agreement.>" She extended a paw and willing some of her spirit-stuff to form on the tip of her paw. The spirit took it from her eagerly. "<Don't eat from the locus,>" she added. "<It small. I'll get essence when need it.>" Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it. Step 10. Keep clean. Amber was tired by the time she stepped back through the door. She had just enough time to get to work. She tried to hide her limping; soon, she'd be completely healed and then her limping would look weird. She took the stairs slowly, emerging into the lobby. Immediately, her heart sank. "Hey, girl!" Bria called, waving at her. The tall Hispanic woman balanced gracefully on her heels. "Where you been, Amber? How's Melody?" "I've been 'round," Amber said, eyeing the woman, one of Ray's friends. "Melody's with a foster family." Bria and her unknown friend looked uncomfortable. "Oh, uh, hey, we're headed to a party," the other girl said. She was shorter and less attractive than Bria and the awkward shrug she added didn't help. "Rip's brinin' the good stuff." "No thanks," Amber said, moving past them and walking away. "Got work." They protested, but she ignored them, pushing through the door and leaving the building. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His Will for us and the power to carry that out. Step 11. Remember the truth. She thought about that promise, the "good stuff." Amber headed out through the muggy night, automatically glancing at the night sky as she moved. Luna was showing half her face, peaking out through the clouds. Amber's tension faded as she saw her Mother's Face shining over her. I'm trying, she silently told the moon. I'm working hard at it, I swear. I'll find help, and I'll find Melody, and I'll be a good Uratha. I swear. There was no verbal answer, but that's not the way it worked. Content and feeling just a bit stronger, she walked with her head high and her shoulders back. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to addicts, and to practice these principles in all our affairs. Step 12. Keep busy. Her pains were gone by the time she started to do the nightly mop-up. Amber pushed the mop around the service station's worn tile floor, not cleaning dirt as much as pushing it around the room. Still, the job paid the bills and kept her away from the drugs. Kinda. There was a deal going on outside, right in front of the pumps, but Amber ignored it. She wasn't even going to call the cops; they wouldn't come. Once she was back behind the counter's bullet-proof glass, she hit the button to unlock the door again. Sighing, she stretched and leaned against the counter, going over the next steps. Finish her shift, go home and check on the locus again and stay off drugs. Easy as pie, right?
  22. And now here's a juicy bit that'll be sure to make all you ladies close to the UCLA campus rather pleased. That's right, we've been reporting on it for a some time now but E! has finally received confirmation that Lucien Hunt, son of multi-billionaire Mortimer Hunt, will in fact be attending college at the University of California in Los Angeles. That's right, 'Luscious Lucien' was not available for comment, but a spokesperson with Calvin Klein says that he'll still be modeling while attending school. We here at E! wish Lucien the best of luck with his continued education. No word yet on whether his sister will also be attending classes in the fall, we'll keep you posted. Quote:Feel free to add comments, consider this an online story where readers my post their comments.
  23. Mortal Name: Age: Concept: Faction: Group Name: Virtue: Vice: Attributes Mental: Intelligence - ●, Wits - ●, Resolve - ● Physical: Strength - ●, Dexterity - ●, Stamina - ● Social: Presence - ●, Manipulation - ●, Composure - ● Skills Mental Skills (-3): Physical Skills (-1): Social Skills (-1): Other Traits Merits: Willpower: Morality: Health: Initiative: Defense: Speed: Equipment:
  24. This post is to invite discussion of a potential WoD game/fiction section here on the boards. What follows are guidelines Rev and I have drawn up that incorporate flaws we've noticed in other areas, and hopefully still provide enough lee-way for people to enjoy themselves. It's not formatted prettily, but we'll work on that. We're more interested in getting the ideas out and getting feedback. Things will probably be moved around to improve organization. ----------------------------------------------- Consent: Limited. Any attack resulting in no damage, or bashing damage is to be handled between the players. Consent is not revoked in these cases. Use of lethal force is automatically considered a voluntary waiver of consent on the part of the aggressor. It does not, however, remove consent for the victim, who may choose to defend themselves, use diplomacy, run, call the police, etc. If the victim chooses to fight back, so long as lethal force is not used, their consent is not considered waived. It remains the prerogative of a Moderator to determine whether or not a killing strike actually accomplishes that goal. At any time that lethal (or aggravated) damage enters the equation, a Moderator will immediately begin observing the situation. As a side note, attempts to dominate or use mind-control powers on another player are considered "lethal damage" for the purposes of consent and Moderator involvement. Note: Moderators, in their official capacity, are not subject to consent. Any character they may play is still subject to the above guidelines. Example: Lucien, incensed at his friend Morgan's refusal to accept his explanation why the local vampire population is suddenly waging war on their fellow mages, slaps her mid-rant. (Consent is not waived.) She grabs her palette knife and, enraged, stabs him in the shoulder, shouting that he is a traitor. (Consent is waived, lethal damage.) In retaliation, Lucien picks up her easel and viciously beats her to the floor. (Consent is not waived, bashing damage.) Lucien has the option to continue beating her until her brains are so much tapioca, if he so chooses. Why? She used deadly force. This is the World of Darkness, after all. (If, however, Lucien were to pull a gun and shoot her instead of hitting her with the easel, his consent would be considered forfeit, as well, and Morgan would be just as much within her rights to try to retaliate if she survives the gunshot.) A Moderator gets involved at this point, determining whether Morgan is actually beaten to death, or just beaten to the hospital. Moderators: Mods are not considered players in their official capacity, though they may have player characters. They exist as a means for players to request assistance, intervention, or clarification at any time; to resolve and arbitrate conflicts; to reward good roleplaying; to review and audit character sheets and be responsible for character approvals; to punish rules infractions; to further the storylines and streamline combat and drama, and to control canon and player-created NPCs. They are not baby-sitters. Players may ask for the assistance of a Moderator at any time, but by-and-large they should be invisible. NPCs "usurped" by a Moderator may be harmed (physically or otherwise) at the Moderator's discretion. The World of Darkness is not a pretty place, and your little brother Billy might find himself the target of a Black Spiral Dancer if you annoy the wrong people. This is not expected to happen frequently, and any Moderator abusing this privilege will be removed. Absent Moderators: If a Moderator is consistently absent, or if the players feel it is necessary due to lack of involvement, a vote may be called to have a given Moderator replaced. All reasonable attempts will be made to accommodate their real-life responsibilities, emergencies, and other unavoidable issues. Any unplanned/unannounced absence which lasts for more than two weeks (14 days) and results in the inability of the Mod in question to perform their Modly duties will be considered sufficient cause for such a vote. Setting and Mechanics: NWoD rules, OWoD style. The time is present-day, and the place is California. There is an ongoing supernatural war being waged over the free state, resulting in an upsurge of paranormal activity. Suggested starting location: UCLA campus. Mage: Mages are allowed. The Technocracy exists, but Avatars don't. Everything functions as per NWoD rules. Technocrats, Marauders, and Nephandi are not options for player characters. (More on this later.) Vampire: Vampires are allowed. The possibility exists that cults to Cain, Lilith, etc. have risen, but no concrete information regarding the true origin of vampirism (if there is only one origin) will be available. (Special note: Humanity will function as Morality, discussed later. The hierarchy of sins is not a list of hard and fast rules, but a set of guidelines, and feeding from a mortal or defending your territory against hunters is not likely to result in your character needing to roll for a derangement.) Membership in the Sabbat, Belial's Brood, VII, etc. is not available to player characters. Werewolf: Werewolves are allowed, with one major restriction. They must be werewolves. No were-kittens, were-weasels, were-bears, or were-geckos. Black Spiral Dancers and other agents of the Wyrm are not available as player characters. (It is possible that other tribes will become available later, but we're trying to start things off as stylistically simple as possible.) Changeling: Changelings are allowed. There is no change from the core NWoD ruleset for the Lost. As with the other supernaturals, being part of an antagonistic group (True Fae, for example) is not possible for PCs. Mortals: Mortals are, of course, allowed. Mortals may even play "hunters" of supernatural beings. Do not confuse this with the concept of "Hunter: the Reckoning," however. Mortal ghoul-hunters are still just mortals. They are not blessed by God Almighty. What about Wraith/Hunter/Risen/Mummy? Currently, the task of revising each of these groups to fit the NWoD is beyond the scope of our ability or interest. They may exist as plot devices from time to time, but none will be common in the setting. Why can't I play a Nephandi/Black Spiral Dancer/Member of VII? Because, simply, every player character is considered a protagonist in terms of the stories being told, and the games being played. This does not mean that all PCs must cooperate, like each other, or even resist to the urge to stab each other in the back, but they cannot be part of a canon "villain" group. If your character concept/build supports it, these groups may be used to create personal rivals or enemies. Please remember, however, that Moderators may use these against you at any time. NPCs: Any NPC may be controlled by a Moderator at any time. This includes player-created NPCs, and in the World of Darkness, your girlfriend or family or whatever could very well suffer for your actions as a PC. Major (canon) NPCs, and any links to said NPCs, are under the Mods' purview alone. As a PC, you were not sired by Vlad Tepes, you are not the mortal incarnation of the Wyrm, and you are not Luna's great-great-grand-daughter. Players cannot have audience with/go clubbing with/attempt to assassinate/bear the love-child of any canon NPC without express moderator consent and involvement. Humanity/Morality: As stated previously, the listed hierarchies of sins will be considered guidelines, rather than strict rules. Whether or not your character is in violation of his or her ethical standards will depend on how the victim or aggressor is categorized: as an Innocent, or a Combatant. A Moderator will determine whether or not the roll is necessary. Example: Vaughan, the Ventrue Viscount (isn't alliteration fun?) awakens to find a group of mortals breaking into his haven. They've breached his security systems, and when he confronts them, they open fire. If Vaughan elects to kill them, or their deaths result from his efforts to defend himself, he does not suffer any detrimental effects, save for the possibility of being temporarily hacked off about ruining his imported carpet, or the waste of vitae. Why? The mortals were Combatants. There is, in our opinion, nothing morally destitute about a predatory creature of the night defending itself from interlopers. Alternatively, Butch the Brujah Bully decides to start a fight at the local brewery. He provokes a group of drunk frat boys, and summarily tears them all apart. There wasn't even a hint of a threat. The mortals were Innocents. Butch will have to make the check, and potentially suffer a Derangement as a result. To summarize: Fending off violence against your person, fine. Defending your territory/packmates, fine. Removing a known Marauder from existence, fine. Cutting the throat of the campus librarian because you think she might've known too much about your occult studies, not fine. Draining local strippers dry because you consider them the dregs of society, not fine. Rampaging through a crowd to get to your intended target, not fine. I hope the difference is fairly clear. If a situation arises in which it isn't clear, the players may call upon a Moderator to make the distinction. Experience: Will be awarded at a flat rate of 3pts per month. There may be additional bonuses for completed fictions, IC (moderated) chats, or especially productive/entertaining forum threads. In the case of cooperative fictions, "cameo" appearances by a PC will generally not count as sufficient participation to merit a bonus. Moderators have the final say on whether or not a fiction, chat conversation, or forum thread provides additional experience for the participants. If a player would prefer his or her experience to be tracked in a particular way, please notify a Moderator. As long as gains and expenditures are easy to see, we're not going to be picky. Otherwise, they'll be tracked in the character profile itself- not in separate posts. Die Rolls: Where necessary, any dice rolled will be handled by a link-ready site such as Invisible Castle, and the links will be provided in the relevant post. They should not be needed in the overwhelming majority of interactions, save for cases in which the PC is resisting a Moderator/NPC ability, a PC ability, etc. If the participants prefer that the rolls be made privately, they must be done via PM, and a Moderator must be included in the PM conversation. The Forum/Chat Room: It's just a typical local message board. "Cali.Net," or something similar. There are no special invites, and everyone isn't automatically assumed to be supernatural. Anyone can log on. Rating: NC-17. This is the World of Darkness. Sex, drugs, and murder are the least of your worries. Character Creation: Standard. Official White Wolf NWoD publications only. (OWoD storylines and NPCs may be used for the character concept, background, etc., since we prefer that setting to the newer one.) No home-brews. You may currently have 1 active character, and that PC must die or be permanently relegated to the ranks of NPC-dom before you may make another. If your PC has contacts, allies, etc., they must be described individually as NPCs when your character is submitted. The Moderators will want to know who they are, what they're capable of, and what history they have with your character. Each dot must be accounted for with the requisite PCs or NPCs. (Rev's Note: Please don't expect that a character thrown together in a few minutes will be accepted. This is World of Darkness, and we'd prefer a little more depth.) Min-maxing: Don't overdo it. Some of you prefer characters who are heavily skilled in specific areas and weak in areas they consider nonessential- "one trick ponies," if you will. We realize this. Attempts to game the system in excess (to be determined by the Moderators) will fall under the infamous "Dick Rule." (Thank you, Nova.) Concepts and Point Allocations: Will be approved by a Moderator before the character may begin posting. If they don't match up (Your character is a kick-ass martial artist who spends all of his time reading comic books and trolling AOL chatrooms for girls?), be prepared to defend your position. You may be asked to revise the character. Moderator Decisions: May be appealed by speaking with another Moderator, if you believe the decision was egregiously incorrect. Whether the other Moderators uphold the original decision, or overturn it, the result is to be considered final. Please don't assume that this means you should appeal frivolously, because that will also be taken into account when deliberating on your behalf. ----------------------------------------------- Questions, comments, suggestions? I know we're missing things, so if there's anything you can bring up that would help, it'd be appreciated!
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