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  1. The young Vampire stood over the girl, watching her with hungry eyes. Her arms were restrained with cushioned straps. She lay in the grasp of a drug-induced slumber. Her nightmares were filled with dark creatures that fed upon her hopes and dreams, as well as her blood. Her prisoners told lies to her parents. Their eyes were filled with a hunger for the pleasures of her young flesh. They lick up tears as they sponged away the evidence of their violation. The taint of this place ate away at her and must have felt her mind slipping away. They told him this and more. They told him the reasons, their reasons, for doing this to her. This was one of their many experiments that delved into the nature of the human mind that was the foundation of every vampire's existence. If you understood the fractures that could develop in the mind, you could better combat the Beast. If you understand how the mind evolved under incredible stress, you could find a road to self-enlightenment. They told him this. They told him it was true. They told him that they were better than he was because they were farther down the Dragon's Road. The enjoyment they took in their tortures meant nothing. Adrian couldn't believe any of this, no matter how seductive it appeared at the time of night like this. The Hunger whispered to him. The hunger for approval was the lash upon his back. The knowledge he sought fed the weakness in him to accept this as Holy Writ. The fear of failing and the punishments that were to follow pushed him to the precipice. It was a lie. Adrian knew it was a lie. These people were f**king EVIL. "Well Slave, it is her time. Feed upon her deeply. Take her to that point were Life hangs by a thread. You have been there with her before. Now take the next step. Drink further ... drink and understand." Adrian hovered over her, not knowing what to say. It would be so easy to drink. Hell, he was hungry. She would not be missed. She was a ward of the State, with no family. No one would come looking for her. His fellows among the Dragon would hold him in higher esteem. Adrian looked down at his chosen victim. The girl's face faded. It became Her face, the unknown kindred who had shared her last moments with him. That faded into Sam's face, with that sparkle in her eye that came when things came together. Then it was Sarah's face when she faced that impossible uphill battle against all this world had felt like dumping on her. Finally, it was Oneca's face, right at that moment she had chosen to trust him. 'No one makes you do evil. You choose to do evil.' "No." "What?", his instructor queried. "What is wrong with the girl? Do you see some undetected flaw?" "No. This is wrong." "Wrong how?" "The only thing I have learned here is what not to do with my existence," he said barely above a whisper. "Adrian ... Adrian," she cooed. "All knowledge comes at a price. Evolution is painful. You can't hold anything to be sacred to shed the mortal form and ascend." "I'm not going to do it this way." He continued looking down at the girl, even as his instructor laid her hand upon his shoulder and patted it lightly. "Her life is nothing compared to one of us. Her only purpose in this life is to be a lesson for one of us. You must experience death to know what reaching for life is like." Adrian pulled away. "Who get's to decide that? What makes one life any more, or less, valuable than another? When did we steal that right?" She only smiled. "There is no place for me here. I'm going home." "You can leave, Adrian Moss, but escaping is another matter. You have a lesson to learn and I'm going to teach it to you. Blood flows into is as Life flows into Death. It is a lesson no one escapes." Not knowing what to think, the Mekhet turned and hurried away. In his room he found his luggage, packed up, and headed for the door. On the desk sat his journal, his record of his journey down the Coil of Blood to date. In it were all the horrid lessons he had learned here. He grabbed it up angrily, hating himself for clinging to any bit of the past few months of his unlife. His car sprang to life, seemingly urging him away from this tragic place. 'I'm going home. I'll find another way. I swear it, and I'll do it without this place.' His home was a welcome sight after so long away at another's haven. Gwen had kept the place up wonderfully. It was very late. He let himself in and stopped in the doorway. It smelled of bleach and ... blood, the one scent no vampire could forget, or mistake. 'Gwen?' "Gwen, I'm home. Come on honey." No answer. "Gwen?" he called plaintively. Nothing but the crickets. Adrian ran up the stairs to their bedroom, two at a time. No heartbeat, quiet snoring, or shuffling of the sheets. He didn't even have the comfort of his own heart pounding in his chest. Adrian spun around in a panic, initially missing the note atop the bed's rumpled sheets. He looked around helplessly, afraid and feeling oddly abandoned. He sat down and the note's crumpling sound woke him from his fugue. Dearest Adrian, Death is the deepest lesson I can impart upon you. You would not grasp it, so I have thrust it upon you. Your Gwen is dead. Her body has been dealt with and you should not be bothered with her again. We are the Arbitrator of events, not only it's victims. When you are worthy of that lesson, you may be allowed to return. Tabitha, Scholar of Hunger When you go over the litany of the things you might miss when you become one of the kindred, rarely does the inability to shed tears come up. It really should. Tearless, Adrian sobbed into the heels of his hands and shook with grief.
  2. Go to the space port, find the ship in the attached image, and help the owner sort out his mechanical issues. It was an easy enough task, what the engineers called a ‘good-will milk run’. The station lent out its crews to private citizens, usually for a fee but sometimes just to make friends. The staff never knew which was which; they got paid the same regardless. There it is, Tejah thought to herself and angled toward the ship. As she approached, she slowed down to take a long look at the outside of the ship. She liked what she saw – all sleek lines and angles. Nodding, she walked up to the hatch of Twilight’s End and knocked on the door.
  3. So, since we started the rumors over, I figured we should start the shared NPC's thread over again as well. From what I recall before, the general idea was that these NPC's are up for whatever Mods want to do with them, as well as for other players to interact/use them with a courteous request to the original creating player before permanently changing the PC. Have at, guys! (Reposted from before the reboot) The Dark Flame Chantry so far (including PC Oneca Bahaar): Peter Erastes The founder of the Dark Flame Chantry, Peter is a Greek expatriate that inherited his wealth as a teenager when his parents were killed during a riot in Cairo while they were vacationing. Charming and benevolently manipulative, Peter rules the chantry through kindness and money. In his public life, Peter is a mildly eccentric philanthropist and socialite in LA. Any one making serious inquiries into the mortal occult circles in LA will probably come across his name at least once or twice. Remy DeSeine Peter's lover and a small time drug dealer, Remy DeSeine's main interaction with the Chantry is as a kind of house-mom. Despite his vices, Remy takes the safety and well-being of the Chantry's members quite seriously. Although Remy has no 'active' powers, he can usually tell if others are more or less than normal. He is intensely charismatic and nearly as guileless as Peter is manipulative. Remy is known in the more elite and thrill-seeking circles of LA for his 'specials', drugs with unusual kickers and low side effects. Erica Monare Erica Monare is perhaps the oldest chantry member that isn't one of the three founders. So far as the Chantry has been able to determine she has no psychic gifts beyond a drastically slowed aging: although she appears in her early twenties, she claims to be near fifty years old. Erica's involvement with the Chantry is mostly just idle curiosity on her part and friendship on Peter's. Outside of the Chantry she keeps a low profile and works as an independent editor for novelists. Alexander Kenston The Chantry's resident genius, Alex was taken in first by Yolanda and then by Peter. His mother disappeared last year and Alex has been searching for her since. Although he himself posses no supernatural gifts he has been warmly welcomed into the Chantry as part of their adopted family. He is blonde man in his mid to late teens, often deferential to those around him, and has a soft spot for anyone in trouble, especially women. Yolanda Lisler Yolanda is a librarian in middle of her doctoral thesis at UCLA as well as the Dark Flame Chantry's resident empath. A woman of mixed European and Asian descent in her late twenties, Yolanda has something of a 'mommy' complex to most of the Chantry members and any 'strays' that cross her path. She is a formidable woman and will defend the Chantry members or anyone else she has taken under wing with a steely resolve.
  4. Two days until the Dedication Ceremony on the Moon Base and the space above the base is crowded with ships coming and going. Shuttles constantly fly between ships and the base and the few small ships that are able to land at the current landing pad have to move quickly to make way for other ships. The technicians are busy painting the larger landing pad so it will be ready for the Base opening.
  5. July 26th, 2011, Las Vegas Giggling, the two athletic girls hopped the back fence of the luxurious residence, fleeing the yard-party they had crashed and raced across the rolling, moonlit expanse of the Las Vegas Country Club. After several dozen yards with no signs of pursuit, they slowed to easy saunter, holding hands, excitedly going over the loot they had swiped and hid in their purses and the celebrities they had seen at the party. A moment later, they stopped, falling into a passionate embrace, soft lips pressing against soft lips, tongues entangling. They were young and beautiful and in lust, the night was late and pregnant with potential, and the neon jewel that was Vegas beckoned, home and playground both. The heat of the day dimmed with the setting of the sun and the night was their domain to roam, their favourite time to wander the city. They were free and wild with youth and though there were dangers sharing the dark with them, they scoffed at them, secure in the immortality of adolescence. Life was an adventure and though they both knew some for whom it had ended, surely it wouldn't for them. Kaitlin sighed as the kissed ended and they continued on their way, slipping through the trees bordering the backs of the fine residences lining the golf course, basking in the night noises of the city that never sleeps. Through her lowered lashes, Kaitlin eyed the girl walking at her side. Madison was a few inches taller than her, willowy as a model and with a face that belonged on fashion magazines. Two months ago, they had gone to prom together, and before that, Madison had spent the semester chasing her. Kaitlin's cheeks reddened in remembrance, but her grin widened and she gave Madison's hand a squeeze. She might still have been embarrassed to discover the sapphic desires residing within her, but she certainly didn't regret them or the fun she had with Madison. Cock is fun but she knows damn well how to get me off better than any guy I've ever been with... "So, what now, love?" Madison asked, blue eyes gleaming and dark beneath the stars, auburn hair dark and glistening under moonlight. "We can hit a club, but..." with a graceful twist of her wrist, she glanced at her watch, "... there's only a hour 'til close. I don't wanna head home before dawn, but I'm sure we can find someplace to have some... fun..." The throatiness of her voice and her hand on her ass gave no doubt to what she meant. Kaitlin was in full agreement, heart pounding with too much excitement to return home for the night, despite the presence of a comfortable for them to tumble in. Not that finding a bed was onerous when there was always the possibility of some short-term squatting. And there were other benefits too... "You're on, babe," Kaitlin agreed, green-gold eyes brightening as she noticed the open window of a house she had been keeping an eye on for a few days. It didn't seem like the residents of the fine home had been there for the last several days. Surely they wouldn't mind someone borrowing a bed for a few hours, and they could suffer the lost of a few small items, right? Kaitlin pointed out the means of access with her chin, a wide grin on her face and a rising thrill beneath her breast. "I've had my eye on this place for a few days, Madison. Betcha ya they have a bed they aren't using. And maybe a few things they wouldn't mind losing so we have a bit more spending cash on our trip to LA?" "Well, I did want to stroll Rodeo Drive..." Madison teased. She tilted her head down and gave Kaitlin a kiss, a thumb and forefinger tweaking a firm and perky breast. With her girlfriend distracted with the sensation, Madison chuckled and darted away. "Last one to the house has to take the loot to Greasy Pete the Pawn." Kaitlin blinked, then snorted. "It's on!" With her long legs and headstart, Madison was at the tall wall surrounding the house before Kaitlin was halfway there, but the blond girl was the stronger and more athletic of the two. By the time Madison dropped down the other side, Kristin had reached that wall and was hardly slowed by its height. With momentum and her hands, Kaitlin hauled herself up and launched herself off the top of the wall, coming down in a wall and flowing to her feet... ahead of Madison. "You took the wall to slow, Maddy," Kaitlin opined, slapping the back door of the house with a smile. "But you're getting better." Madison scowled, but stuck her tongue out at her. "You've been freerunning longer than me. But I'll catch you yet." Both girls paused, waiting and listening for any sound from within the house. After five minutes, Madison nodded, indicating it was clear. Kaitlin leapt onto the railing of the deck, then made a short wall-run to boost herself to the roof of the of the breakfast nook. She gave Madison a hand up, then staying low, both padded to the open window. It would be tight, but they should fit. Kaitlin peeked in, and finding it clear, gave Madison a thumbs up, then pulled out a folding knife and flicked it open. With a pair of quick cuts, she cut an 'L' into the screen then slipped inside. A moment later, Madison followed suit. The girls shared a grin then proceeded to explore the empty house.
  6. Personal Information: Public Identity: Wakiki Izumi Shadow Name: Imriel Nicknames: Wakki Real Name: same a public Identity Occupation: Adamantine Arrow, Programmer and rap artist Legal Status: Japanese Citizen, currently on a work VISA, living in Los Angeles Marital Status: Umarried Known Relatives: Izumi Nashi (mother), Izumi Seiko (sister), Livy Jenings (half-sister) Deceased Relatives: Izumi Saito (paternal aunt), Izumi Harou (father) Physical Traits: Weight: 155 lbs Height: 5’ 10”” Apparent age: mid-twenties Gender: Male Ethnic Background: Japanese Eye Color: brown Hair Color: black Handedness: Left Age: 25 History: In Japan, the nail that sticks up gets hammered down. But for a household of mages, even life in Tokyo was a little more freeform. Wakiki grew up a Sleepwalker in a family of mages. He and later his sister, Seiko, were groomed for service to mages, particularly by their mother, Nashi. She was a Mastigos of the Silver Ladder while his father was an Obrimos Arrow and both were members of a Aoi Sagi Cabal and Tokyo’s consilium, the Shin-en Yakei Consilium. Wakiki and his sister’s childhood were full of secrets and wonder – and some pain, as well. They were the children of a woman who could read minds with ease, and hiding things from her became a fine art. Their mother was actually pleased when they could trick her – those times she found out about it at all. Both children were taught different things by their parents. Harou tried to instill a belief in higher powers with the children, taught them to work hard and be spiritually upright, but Nashi instructed them in less honorable things. She taught them, from an early age, how to dissemble and lie, how to talk people into doing things for them and how to socialize with others. Seiko was skilled, but Wakiki surpassed her at those talents. It was easy for the young man to charm people into giving him what he wanted. Wakiki was a focused child; he had no need to daydream about his life and future. He knew what it would be; he’d get a useful degree and go to work for the consilium. He had no other thoughts; the mission of his parents overshadowed everything in his life – in their lives, as well. Deep inside, he wanted more, though. He couldn’t have named that desire, until the day he heard Public Enemy’s Fight the Power. Something about the song called to him, and the young man listened to more and more anti-establishment music. That gradually morphed into minor rebellions against authority – talking back at school and silently questioning his life. It wasn’t full-on rebellion yet. As a teen, he was vaguely aware that something was wrong with his parents’ relationship. They fought a lot, particularly for two people who could wield the power of the cosmos. He caught hints of an affair, which he tried to ignore. It was their business, and they would work it out. It was a very Japanese response to a problem: ignore it until it went away. He was more preoccupied with his life; doing well in school so that he could go to the college of his choice. He was also starting to dabble in making music – writing lyrics and starting to practice with mixing songs. Despite having parents who were Awakened, Wakiki wasn’t sure if he would ever Awaken himself. It did happen, but not always. His parents always emphasized that there was a hope that it could happen but not to plan on it. Because of that uncertainty, he went to college, getting a degree in computer programming. A streak of his individuality surfaced in his minor in music and his continued work on his music. His life seemed bound for normalcy – as normal as it got for a man bound to be a Sleepwalker retainer for friends of his parents – until the night he won a rap contest. It was a minor affair; far from the down-and-dirty rap battles common in the US where audiences were the judges, this was an open mic in a club with a Japanese celebrity as a judge. Still, it gave him the thought that he might actually be good at this. At that point, his focus shifted from making a safe life for himself and whatever family he might build to making a career with this music. He continued to work as a programmer, to make a living and please his parents, but it was no longer his goal. He hadn’t told anyone about it yet, but he knew that there would come a time when it would be obvious and he’d have to openly rebel. He was figuring out how to do that when his parents’ drama spilled over into his life. Harou and Nashi had met while battling a monster from the Abyss, fallen in love and married. The rumors of an affair were correct, but what Wakiki had never known was that there had been a child born of the affair. He’d also not known that his mother had found out by picking it out of his father’s head. The dual shattering of marital trust had quickly poisoned the relationship. The obvious option was divorce, but his parents refused that due to the public shame it would cause the family. They remained together in bitter silence, never letting their cabal or the local Consilium see their issues. Only Wakiki and his sister Seiko were aware of the silent cold war. By the time Wakiki was twenty-two, they were still in that status quo. The status quo was disrupted violently. Wakiki and Seiko had, at their mother’s insistence, gone to a music festival in Okinawa. It was a good weekend; Wakiki made some friends while there, including an Amercian couple, David and Rebecca. They worked for a record label, a folk song label, but they had friends in the industry. Wakiki felt that this was the closest he’d come to getting signed, so he was happy to make friends. Seiko liked them too. It was the last happy time the two would share. The siblings returned to Tokyo to find their father and most of the Consilium dead, and the Seers in control. As they prepared to flee, their mother found them. Nashi revealed her years of lies to the two, explaining that she was and always had been a Seer of the Throne. As her children, there was a place for them in the new magical landscape of Tokyo. Wakiki immediately rejected his mother’s proposal, but Seiko was laden with guilt and fear. She took their mother’s offer. For being her son, Wakiki was given seven hours to flee the city. Wakiki went, got on the train to Nigata. He had friends from college living there. Lying on their couch, racked by grief and rage, he started down the path of being a Seeker. Torn by the fevered dreams of Awakening, Wakiki walked the Path of Nightmares, and returned in the morning a Mastigos. Wakiki knew no one who could help him in Nigata; the local consilium, if one existed, had no ties to the Tokyo one. He gathered his few belongings and moved on again, to Oita, where a Consilium dwelt, eager to find friends and allies. His welcome there wasn’t warm. By now, the story of his mother’s betrayal was known to mages around the world. The only surviving member of the Shin-en Yakei Consilium had given damning witness, including the news that Seiko had been seen at her mother’s side, serving the Seers. It was immediately suspected that Wakiki was in collusion with Seers and playing a long game of betrayal. Though they weren’t going to condemn him out of hand, their doubts meant that he’d have no aid here. Wakiki contacted Dave and Rebecca, reaching out to his last friends. Arrangements were made for him to come visit them in the US. They lived in Seattle and Wakiki was able to visit for two weeks. He found a job; his fresh computer degree made him attractive to a small start-up company that was creating anti-virus software. Wakiki settled in and worked for a time, living comfortably enough that he began to DJ on the side. He was serious enough about it to buy his own equipment, starting a small side-business and working on his music. At the same time, he was making overtures to the local consilium. The well had already been poisoned here, too – Kenpachi Okami, a Thyrsus Arrow, was a resident and he made sure that everyone knew about the betrayer’s son. There were a few people willing to give him a chance, including Whisker, a Thyrsus Arrow. Whisker was petite with big blue eyes, a shapeshifter who liked to transform into cats. There was a definite sexual chemistry between the two, but they resisted doing anything because Whisker was grooming him for the Arrows. Although unsure at first, Wakiki quickly warmed to the idea of stepping into his father’s shoes. The shadow of his mother loomed over him and few in the Arrow trusted him. It took all of Whiskers’s influence to get Wakiki the right to call himself an Arrow. To gain the order’s trust further (ooc: to gain status in the order), he needed to prove himself. Meanwhile, Wakiki had been searching for a shadow name. He’d been using about Mentok for now; it hadn’t earned him much respect, but he’d had the importance of shadow names drilled into him from the beginning of his life. He’d been very circumspect about calling his parents by their shadow names around other mages. So he wanted to choose his final name with care. The name he finally settled on was Imriel, taken from a book series about a young man. Wakiki had felt a connection to the protagonist; he also had a mother who had betrayed her people. And like Imriel, Wakiki struggled with the urgings to manipulate and control people. Wakiki undertook another project during his last year in Seattle. Twisting the strands of Fate, in which he had limited skill, he dug up the information on his father’s lover. It took him quite a bit of time, but he persisted and in the Fall of 2010, he took a trip to San Francisco, intent on meeting his half-sister. He was a few weeks too late. Livy had disappeared at the start of the semester from UCLA; her mother was frantic. Wakiki left with a new mission: to find Olivia. He started hunting for a job in LA. Given the economy, it was spring before he got one, but he managed to land one as a programmer for a web-based property management software provider. His move was completed by the end of April. His search hasn’t gone well but he has remained hopeful. Someone or something knows what happened to his half-sister. He’ll find them and make them talk; he’ll find his sister or her ending, and make sure she’s safe or at peace.
  7. August 23rd The morning was already warm, indicating that the way would be another hot one. Sam knew she would be driving around for a while so she dressed light, shorts, a tank top, and sandals, with her hair pulled into a ponytail to keep it up off her neck. A light shirt would complete the outfit and hide her weapon while she was out and about, but was slung over a chair at the moment. She stood before the mirror and wished that the shorts weren't so tight, mostly because that would mean that she'd have lost some more weight since she last wore them. She turned, and looked at her rear, "It could be worse." She sighed, "Could be better too." The gardener liked what he saw. Sam, alone in her room, blushed. "Damnit, maybe I do need to get laid." She frowned and then kicked off the sandals and pulls some ankle socks on and laced up her Chuck Taylors. They were better by far for walking, or running, than the slip on sandals were. She padded out of her room, and found the TV on in the living room, colorful cartoons spraying out a prismatic gout of colors that would have given any mortal man a seizure. They were fine for kids though. Timmy sat cross legged on the floor, plastic superhero figures clutched in his hands, his pajamas still twisted around his body from sleep. "Hi mom!" he said without looking from the TV. Sam smiled and walked over to him, "Morning sweetie, what do you want for breakfast?" She kissed him on the top of his bed-head tousled hair. "Chocolate frosted sugar bombs!" "Timmy," Sam said moving to the kitchen, ignoring the request for the sugar laden cereal his father let him eat. "Do you want Cheerios or Frosted Flakes?" She rephrased her inquery, to avoid argument. "They're GRRREAT!!" Timmy piped from the living room floor. "Frosted flakes it is," Sam pulled out the Cheerios too, she didn't care for the flakes. A couple of bowls came out of the dishwasher, followed by spoons and shortly she called, "OK, come on, you don't want them to get soggy." "EEWW!" Tim came barreling in from the other room and leaped into his chair. A horrifying array of sounds soon followed that had Sam shaking her head, "Tim, slow down, chew with your mouth closed. Sheesh." "OK!" he replied around a mouthful of cereal. Sam hung her head, defeated. At seven years old manners were no match for the power of a hungry young boy. "Close enough." A little while later the sound of a key in the lock was followed by the nanny. "Morning Sally, care for some cereal?" "Morning Sam, no thanks I grabbed a bagel." Sally was twenty five, and while she could be called cute, few would call her beautiful, but that made little difference because she was a fantastic nanny. "Hi Sally!" Timmy said, a little milk dribbling down his chin as he did. "Good morning Timmy. Don't talk with your mouth full please." Tim swallowed, "OK, sorry." Sam suppressed a slight scowl, sometimes she was worried Sally was more a mother to Tim than she was. She finished her breakfast over idle chatter with Sally and then prepared to go. "I don't expect to be late today, but if that changes I'll call," she told the other woman. "OK, Timmy come and give me a hug before I go." Sam crouched down and Timmy came running at her nearly bowling her over as he threw his arms around her. "Love you, honey, be good for Sally." "Love you mommy ... Can we get pizza tonight?" Timmy was shameless when it came to pizza. "Sure, but only if you're good. I'll see you tonight." She kissed him again, in the cheek, which he tolerated with only a little squirming before racing off to play. Sam went down to her car and readied for her morning. Lots of driving, probably covering ground more than once, and with a little luck she would find the subject of her search by lunchtime. She propped Brad's photo on the dashboard in front of the steering wheel, removed the locket from her neck, and started off into traffic. Delving for Brad Spending a WP 4/6 [jameson] 7:39 pm: Wits 3 + Occult 2 + 1 psychic powers specialty = 6 dice jameson *rolls* 6d10: 1+3+9+6+6+6: 31 jameson *rolls* 6d10: 4+4+1+1+7+1: 18 jameson *rolls* 6d10: 10+9+10+1+10+9: 49 jameson *rolls* 3d10: 6+4+3: 13 jameson *rolls* 6d10: 7+5+5+1+2+3: 23 jameson *rolls* 6d10: 4+10+5+8+2+5: 34 jameson *rolls* 1d10: 10: 10 jameson *rolls* 1d10: 9: 9 [jameson] 7:40 pm: that's 10 [jameson] 7:40 pm: 2.5 hours
  8. August 22, 2011 Life is what happens when you’re making plans. August really hated that saying, especially now that she was its effects in full force. She’d made a lot of plans to get her degree and get a job, then her insanity had started. August had gamely made plans to accommodate that, then she’d gotten dragged into a cemetery and nearly knifed by some guy. Aside from the trauma and all the accompanying issues from the attack itself, she’d then had a medical bill dropped into her lap for her ambulance ride and emergency room visit. “Cocksuckers!” she snapped as she stared at the letter and attached bill. Outrage and helpless anger flooded her and she tore the bill up instinctively. Throwing it on the floor, she flopped onto her bed, blinking back angry tears. It’d be fine. She’d be fine. She wanted to believe that, more than anything. But it was damned hard to feel anything other than kicked while she was down. “Fuck,” she snarled, pissed beyond reason and irrationally hurt that they’d bill her for getting attacked. “Fuck!” Pushing to her feet, she grabbed her last forty dollars out of her hiding hole – her emergency funds that she kept for the end of the semester, when she ran out of money. This money had to buy enough food to feed her until her loans paid out. Fortunately, she wasn’t eating a lot, and she could snitch some food from Oneca’s food, if she needed. The green-eyed girl winced as she remembered the last time she’d done that: Saja had given her a knowing, cool look the next time they’d met. Satan hadn’t said anything; she didn’t need to. August had gotten the message. It was a short walk down to campus, where August caught the bus. Her bus pass was one thing she kept up, paying months in advance to ensure she wouldn’t become completely dependent on Oneca. It bothered her to rely on her roommate so much, even if Oneca didn’t care. Plus, this shopping was better done on her own. The walk and the ride gave her time to calm down. There were probably victim advocacy groups that would help her pay her bills. She just needed to find them and jump through their hoops. It seemed like so much work, and August pressed the side of her head to the bus window, feeling the creep of despair. Should she even bother? At this rate, she was just going to end up in the crazy farm, so what did a few missed bills here and there matter? Her stop was reached and August piled off with everyone else. Like part of the herd, she ambled into the store, breathing a sigh of relief when the air-conditioning closed in around her. Grabbing a basket – a cart was just going to depress her over how little she had in it – she headed for the pasta aisle. They should have plenty of Top Ramen there. Yay, August sighed to herself, even as she accepted her lot in life.
  9. Name: Samantha Berkley Spaid Nicknames: "Sam" Spaid Age: 33 Race: White Height: 5' 3" Weight: mind your business Concept: Psychic Private Eye Faction: none Group Name: none Virtue: Justice Vice: Wrath Appearance: A short brunette with green eyes, Sam has a petite figure which is best described as slim. While working she maintains a plain appearance as an aide to her work. Attractive women get noticed, plain woman in plain clothes can trail a target that much easier and draw much less unwanted interest. Sam is 33 yrs old and carries some worry lines as any mother is wont to do; with her hair done up and flattering clothing she is considered quite pretty, though by the standards of the area she is hardly attractive as most locals would use it. Background: Samantha Spaid, wanted little more than to become a police detective. Her career was going well until her personal life fell apart. At twenty-four she found herself pregnant with her first child. The pregnancy and resulting maternity leave pushed her to the back of the queue for new detectives. After she returned to work she found that having a child at home changed her outlook, further she struggled with returning to her pre-pregnancy physical condition. When she found her husband cheating on her with her supervisor the bottom fell out. The divorce tore her apart and, dejected, she left the LAPD behind. After a year she finally was able to get her life under control and secured her PI's license rather than return to police work. For nearly three years she has been scrapping to get by with what little she made as a PI and with the help of her father, a retired policeman himself. Recently a mysterious young man (Adrian) has been paying her well to keep him on the books as a partner in order to help him gain his own PI's license. The money has allowed Sam to hire a nanny to watch her son Tim when she works, and to get ahead of her creditors. Though she still barely scrapes by on her PI's income she can at least afford to raise her son in a stable and loving environment. Sam has always had a reliable sense of intuition. Her "gut" was often able to point her toward clues or logic leaps that others missed. Three years her intuition gave way to full blown psychic power. Sam found that with a little effort and an open mind she was able to see past events, view remote locations, and that with enough time she could find anything she put her mind to locating. Flashes of precognative visions, and auras started to begin a year later and as she began to start doubting her own sanity a White Rabbit came along and, without meaning to, pulled her her down the rabbit hole. The vampire Adrian used Sam to get his PI's licence, and she used him to give her son a better life by taking his money. Had things ended there it would have been fine, but this strange man who never ate, was always cold, and avoided sun like it would burn proved an enticing enigma to Sam. When the evidence piled up and could no longer be ignored Sam began to suspect there was more going on than she could see. In the end her help investigating a murder, a favor to Adrian for his help on a prior case, proved the final doorway into the dark corners of the night. During the past two years Sam has managed to stay sane (no mean feat) as she embraced her psychic gifts, and confronted the reality of the supernatural. She is well known in the private investigations community as somebody who has the uncanny ability to find nearly anything, and to crack difficult cases. Her relationship with the police has actually grown as she has been instrumental in solving a few murders (when hired by the victims' families), as well as for assisting with other cases directly for the LAPD. When it comes to missing persons she is the go to consultant. Morality: Sam tries to do the right thing, but in a city like L.A. corruption, graft, and, occasionally, the limits of the system prevent the right thing from happening. Years ago when she was a junior detective assisting on an investigation and lead detective, knowing that they did not have the evidence needed to convict the primary suspect in a rape, planted evidence in the man's home. Sam knew it was wrong, but felt the risk was worth getting the rapist off the streets. That was the first time, but not the last, that she participated in planting evidence with the goal to ensure that a criminal ended up in jail regardless of the actual evidence. Justice needed to be served, even if it needed some help. Years later, working as a PI, Sam was trailing a man whose wife was worried that he was cheating on her. She found that the man was a mob enforcer and his current job was apparently to kill a businessman who was delinquent on his debts. The businessman was on his knees, a gun in his mouth, when Samantha confronted the pair. The enforcer laughed, saying that his boss would ensure that he would not go to jail for the crime, going so far as to imply that Sam and her family would be killed as well if she tried to testify. Then he shot the businessman dead. He dropped his gun, and taunted her to call the cops, "I'll be out in 24 hours ..." Consumed by fear and anger she shot him dead. The courts ruled it self defense, he had a gun, freshly fired, a dead body at his feet. She was justified they said. Relationships: Sam's father Richard, is retired from the force, but he still maintains friendships with many of the police and regularly plays golf with them. Sam gets along well with her father and has been thankful that he has been around to be a shoulder for her to lean on during the past few years. Sam's son Tim is a normal seven year old. He misses his mommy when she is away for work and is ecstatic when she comes home every day. Like Sam he has dark brown hair, and bright inquisitive eyes. Tim's father George is a deadbeat, he routinely holds out on child support but pays up before any legal action can be taken, the result has been that Sam cannot rely on him to help her raise Tim. When they speak its bound to end in an argument within minutes unless there is a legal mediator there to prevent it. George has one weekend a month with Tim and he seems to do nothing but spoil the young boy in an attempt to further make Samantha's life miserable. Foreshadowing: Samantha's seems to be continuing to develop along what could best be described as "psychic sensitive/detector". She has occasional glimpses of auras surrounding people and, on a small handful of occasions, has sworn she could hear people's thoughts. Aura Reading, Mind Reading, are both within her grasp in the future. Active powers (i.e. non sensory) are still beyond her grasp, but may become possible.
  10. The children in the day care have been taught a short dance number. Their costumes are ready and they are going through a few last rehearsals before getting dressed for their performance. The various musicians, dancers, and other performers are warming up, tuning, or running through last minute sound checks for their parts of the festivities.
  11. (Sometime after Late-Night Consolations.) It was leaves, dry and sere, and not snow that drifted down from above to carpet the forest floor, but the last stanza of Frost's poem kept repeating through Autumn's mind as she jogged down the winding animal paths. Her feet pounded the earthen track at a steady pace, the same easy rhythm from her earlier run. When she'd met Lucia, and Ahvia, and Rosa. And... that freak who'd made them all think she was a dog. Looking back on it, it wasn't possible. People didn't turn into dogs; that's not how magic worked. Magic was subtle, more or less coincidental, and basically completely indistinguishable from the normal course of events. If not for the marks on her palm, she'd just assume she dreamed it all, but those were real enough. There had to be some other explanation. 'Sorcery' didn't exist, and therefore what happened had to be chalked up to some other cause; the fact that she had no idea what that other cause might be was irrelevant. Any number of things might've rendered her, or all of them, susceptible to suggestion or hallucination. Unhappily, she remembered that someone had told her once that crazy is contagious. Could an entire campus of students, and maybe even staff, go nuts? she wondered. History was filled with accounts of ergot poisoning, chemical tests, and so forth, so it wasn't entirely out of the realm of possibility. Her brain began meandering down grim and abstract paths even as her feet carried her down more literal ones- at least until a rumbling, throaty roar split the silence of the moonlit night. Startled, and with all grace abandoning her, she stumbled to a noisy, leaf-crunching halt and whipped her head in the direction of the sound. It might have been a mountain lion, but it sounded as if it came from the school grounds, not farther out in the wilderness. Panting softly, Autumn tried to calm the pounding of her heart as she peered through the half-light of the forest and listened for the tell-tale sound of movement.
  12. So I hinted that we should do this, but I've decided to do it myself. Mods, if this is a problem, please let me know. The idea for this thread to submit random plot ideas that you have. People then use them to create stories. I've included some notes from the OOC thread about this specific part of the discussion. Now, here are my offerings: I took Dave's list and tried to come up with something for each. It was hard at first, and I think I got better as I went. Regardless, they are all here for everyone to enjoy. Were-Critters – Someone of the shifting bent has an eye on your territory, but who? They’re being cunning and careful and it’s more than one feral or Uratha pack can handle. Vampires – There is a man who is rising to prominence in the city. He seems to have uncannily good luck, until he crosses one of the PCs. Now, inquiries into his background are turning up supernatural backers – of the fanged variety. Mages – An underground, secret hollow has been found on the UCLA campus. A small shadow cold-war has broken out between two cabals, vying for power over the spot. Demons – Someone close to one of the PCs has started to hear odd things when alone in their house. The group shows up prepared to deal with a malicious ghost – only to learn it’s something more. Hunters – Someone has been targeted by a group of hunters – only problem is that they’re not supernatural at all. A friend to the PCs is going to get hurt if something is done. And why are the hunters making such a gross error? Spirits – Spirit activity is on the rise, and they are overflowing even in the Twilight. It is as if Los Angeles were a locus, allowing every spirit in the area to cross the Gauntlet. Who and what is responsible for this, and why are they doing it? Mortal Crazies – A group of survivalist nuts has holed up in the hills around Los Angeles have gotten their hands on a small arsenal. When one or more of the PCs are captured by this group while hiking, escape without revealing their true natures becomes a fight. Cults – The cultists need material components (read: some part of their body that they can’t live without) from a specific type of creature – and they’ve targeted a PC for it. Evil Artifacts – It is the weapon of ultimate power, a vehicle of pure destruction. The problem is that it can only be operated by the members of a specific bloodline. The bigger problem is that a member of that line has it – and has been given reason to use it by one of the supernatural powers. Bizarre Rituals – The ocean contains a tremendous amount of energy. Not only the life within, but the fury of her storms and the kinetic relentlessness of her waves are all exceptionally powerful. Now someone is going to leash that massive power to restored their beloved child back to life. The consequences to nature, the world and even the realms of the dead are unimaginable. Ghosts – The ghosts are all gone. After one particularly terrible storm, the mediums and Sin-Eaters of the city woke up to an eerie, supernatural silence. The geists of the Bound are still there, but there are no answers. While some beleaguered mediums are happy, most of those who deal with the dead know this to be a Problem.
  13. Swan's fingers - hard and strong through years of swordwork - kneaded his neck and shoulders, easing the tension Sean had built up with everything that had happened to him since walking through the Door. Whether it was because he needed this, or it was a pretty, naked woman doing it, or even the greater sensitivity of his female skin, it felt immensely good and a moan escaped his lips and he didn't even care how girlish it sounded. Well, not much. He also began feeling another girlish sensation and this one wasn't as pleasant. His own weight was pressing down on his breasts, flattening them against the mattress and though it didn't hurt, the tightness on the sensitive, female protrusions grew from rather pleasant to irritating, knotting his back to Swan's annoyance. "Here, give me a sec, Swan, layin' like isn't workin,'" Sean said, levering himself up with an arm, then stuffing some pillows under his abdomen, right below his breasts. When he lay down again, he sighed, finding the pressure relieved to an acceptable degree with his breasts resting in a shallow trough between the pillows. "That's better." Swan agreed. As soon as she had worked out a knot and new one had formed. Now, Sean was resting limp and relaxed, enabling her fingers to work deep. For a moment, she sat back, her weight rocking across Sean's hips, and flicked the hair out of her eyes as she hungrily admired 'him.' Though lacking the sheer muscular bulk he had as a male, Sean still radiated the same vigorous strength, his curvaceous figure overlayed with a strong, sleekly athletic physique that only added to his allure. Beneath the surprisingly smooth and soft skin of his back, rolled graceful muscle hard as iron in a captivating dance of dichotomy. With his arms above his head, Swan could see the outer curves of his full breasts edging beyond the width of his chest. Sean was in no way a delicate flower, yet there was no denying he was an exceptional, and undeniably female, beauty. And it was that potential of being both male and female that heightened her attraction for Sean, beyond all that he had already done for her. In one person, she could find her notions of pleasurable romance and a valid mate both fulfilled. And from what she had seen and learned of the young man, a woman interested in both his male and female selves would appeal to him. She just had to ensure that if Sean found a way to return to his male self, he would still have an interest in experiencing his female flesh once more. She certainly did. "Yes, it is much better," Swan murmured with a wide grin, leaning low over his back, fingers inching up his neck and through the silky luxuriance of his short, black hair. When her lips brushed the nape of his neck, he shivered. "Too far?" "No," Sean said after a moment, though she could feel his heart-rate increase. Her hands moved back down, flowing across Sean's strong, shapely shoulders, then down his back towards the narrowness of his trim waist and back up again. With each pass, her fingers reached further and further around his ribs, until she was grazing the outsides of round flesh both soft and resilient. She felt Sean freeze, back rising slightly as his lungs filled with an inward gasp. "Too far?" "...No...." Sean claimed hesitantly, the male pride of not wanting to be the one claiming they were going too far for comfort warring with the heady (and confusing) sensations running through his altogether too female flesh. What if he end up enjoying it too much? Did that make him a girl, in fact as well as in body? "I will stop whenever you ask, Sean." "Keep... keep going." Swan smiled even more. Not wanting to turn that hesitant 'no' into an embarrassed 'yes,' she relented her 'frontal' assault. She deftly turned around, her thighs lightly squeezing his flaring hips as she began kneading the remarkable length of his impressive legs. By sun-up, she intended to give Sean a reason to explore the further delights possible between women.
  14. April 2, 2011 Dusk was setting over Holmby park when Jeremy hopped through the grass in Primal Raven form. Sometimes, it was just good to hide in plain sight and munch on bugs. Saved a fortune on groceries, certainly. An anthill he pecked at, finding an easy and healthy source of fast food. The breeze rippled through his feathers and he cawed in happiness. The little things are always worth it when you appreciate them. Suddenly, the ground started shifting beneath him, and he flapped upwards into the air, surprised. Looking downward, he found more reason for surprise there. The decay stench and dirt was palpable. Did I just land on one of those? Just my luck.
  15. The first part of searching out Brad over the next couple days had been the easiest part. He was in last year's UCLA yearbook, not much having changed between one year and the next. And the yearbook was simple as pie for Jeremy to acquire, so he had a picture of sorts to send off to his contacts on the mean streets with little rewards for those who honestly had seen something of him during the past two weeks. Except now, he had to wade through rumors and fuzzy memories, plus one or two he could tell tried to lie to Noctis the conman anyway. Idiots, wilting under Jeremy glare and cawing anger. It didn't help them that Jeremy smelled the drug stashes and placed anonymous calls to the police that ensured the discovery of said stashes. The two could think about their mistakes in jail. Finally, small-time thief Joey Degaldo had something of interest, not much, but a solid lead. "Yeah, I definitely saw that guy two weeks ago." That had been honestly placed around the time Brad had vanished, a day after the con-work by Jeremy. "Had a nice haul that day off the wallets, wanted to celebrate at the Amphora that night. I remember, because well... it was the other guy he was talking to outside the bar. Strange one, all pale and that freaky occult-looking charm or something around his neck. Saw them talking, went inside. Didn't see 'em again." Jeremy left after giving Joey another haul's worth of dough, and turned over the pieces in his head as he came back to the Amphora. Pale man, occult charm on the night possibly last scene. No... a vampire? More leeches involved could be bad, no offense to Sarah intended. Well, the next step had been to visit the Amphora, grab a light martini, and rolling the rich flavors around like a banquet while chatting with the bartender. When he mentioned the 'person who recommended this place', but 'couldn't place the guy's name', "It's on the tip of my tongue..." "Jackson," the barkeep said. "Regular, but odd guy, never finishes his drink all the way. Doesn't talk much, but... said his charm was Druidic. Guess he likes that shit, heck, my sister..." So in that way, Jeremy had a name, description and the possibility of a vampire status. Not bad, perhaps this Jackson would be more familiar to Joey or others of his ilk.... In a good mood, he ordered another martini. This one would be shaken. Detective work, spy work, close enough, right? 'OOC [Jeremy]: Contacts: Street Criminals roll Ok, Manipulation 3 + Socialize 2 + Street Specialty 1 + Bribe Bonus 1 - Information Obscure 3 [Jeremy]: *rolls* 4d10: 3+4+2+8 1 sux [Jeremy] 8:59 am: Manipulation 3 + Socialize 2 Jeremy *rolls* 5d10: 6+2+10+5+8 Jeremy *rolls* 1d10: 2 2 sux
  16. Once outside, the crisp cold air wrapped snugly around Renata as she stumbled away from the little houses. Tiny glass prisms of snow fell one by one from above. It never occurred to her how beautiful the scene was though. She was alone in the cold, and saw only how dark it was. Away from the Chiderean...city? Camp? Settlement?...the snow wasn't cleared, and it got deeper. After a few minutes of high-stepping, Renata came to rest against the gnarly bole of a tree that arched menacingly over her head. In the gloom it looked like skeletal fingers raised high just before the killing blow. Renata didn't notice them though. Her breath was coming in ragged, hitching gasps that sent plumes of vapor spreading into the night in front of her. She had to lean forward...not from exhaustion, but from the physical pain of brutally repressing her natural reaction to a loss she felt echoing through her very bones. The loss of love. Of Mari. She wanted to cry in the same way that a man dying of dehydration wanted some water. She fought herself tooth and nail, trying to hold it back. But water started drooling from the corners of her eyes. Renata scrubbed it away, furious at herself for the lapse. But then another. And another. Finally she knew she couldn't hold it anymore, and let go. The feeling of letting go was terrifying. There was a horrible sense of abdication, like how one might imagine allowing oneself to defecate into their pants might feel. Not physically, but emotionally...a sense of being lessened. Cheapened. Degraded. And then the tears came, and with the the hoarse, wracking, miserable sobs. For the first time in her life since...well, since her first real rejection, Renata really cried. It was an avalanche, a flood, and the catharsis it brought wasn't cleansing, it was like a dam that had held Hell back had burst, showering her in the spiritual equivalent of feces and maggotty meat, and of course...fire. goddamnit, what did I THINK was going to happen?1 was she supposed to just magically fall into my arms?! I had the perfect chance...wide open shot...and I couldn't even throw the ball. now she's back with HIM and why not? why would she choose me? she's a normal, healthy girl. and she's gorgeous...she should have a gorgeous 'mate.' Renata got to her feet unsteadily, holding a tree trunk for balance as she went. The bark under her fingers was hard and deeply grooved, and it dug at her fingers with sharp edges giving her a physical pain that couldn't quite drown out the scourging within. I hate them! I hate Ravi...I hate Mari...I hate all of them! I hate...I hate... Wind raised up and howled through bare branches, picking up speed and bringing a sudden chill with it. "Faaaatimaaaaa." Renata stopped her pounding of the tree trunk. A shiver went down her spine that had nothing to do with the plunging thermometer mercury. In fact, she realized, it was getting tangibly cooler; the cold of winter descending into something that felt like it should only exist in the vacuum of space. "Fatima." It was the wind, she realized. That hollow 'voice.' It was just wind blowing through...except it wasn't right. She could still hear the wind too. The voice and the wind at the same time. "Who's there?" she whispered. It was stupid, it was cliche...if you had to ask who was there, then it was pretty obvious that it was no one good. But the words came out of her anyway, as fearful and dread-laden as in any iteration of a numbered series of terrible slasher flicks. "Who are you?" A puff of breeze gusted over her, and terror clenched in her gut as she realized what it was. Not a breeze. A breath. It was right behind her! Renata didn't scream and run, or collapse and plead. She spun around and drove a fist straight forward, aiming for the spot that breath had originated. But at the exact same instant she threw her punch, something impacted her own face as well. Meanwhile her own attack met nothing but air. There was nothing but air THERE. No tall, hulking maniac. No renegade Amazon out to avenge her dead cousin. No monster. Nothing. The howl of the wind got louder though, and the trees outside that little clearing started to sway and nod between one another. Snow and branches and leaves came up off the ground to create a thick, opaque wall that surrounded Renata and the clearing. It was like being in the eye of a big tornado that wasn't moving. Worse than that though...worse than being trapped with some kind of fucked up invisible thing...was the feeling of it. Even when it wasn't 'speaking' in the wind, she could feel thick waves of contempt boiling from it. Disgust. Loathing. Hatred. All directed at her. It even knew her name. Her real name. What the hell WAS it? She shook off the momentary daze from the blow and darted away from the tree she'd been leaning against. Stay mobile. Force it to come after her. Maybe she'd be able to see it move or something. She twisted around, trying to watch every direction at once."Where are you?!" she finally yelled. "Fatima." Behind her again! This time she ducked low and kicked out in a sweep, hoping to avoid its counterpunch. But it must have been substantially faster than her, because something struck her thigh, then lashed over to her other knee, knocking her down hard enough to roll her. Renata wasn't done yet though. Instinctively she figured if it had hit her like that, then it had to be there. She rolled up back onto her feet as fast as she'd been knocked over and charged the spot it had to be in. An invisible fist hit her in the belly, hard even as her own appendages flailed in the air harmlessly. Renata was forced back, the air coming out of her lungs in a forced 'wuff!' Doggedly she backed up more, hoping it would come after her...a wish apparently granted when Renata suddenly jumped forward and threw what she hoped would be a surprise punch. But the surprise was all hers when she jumped right into IT'S blow, knocking her backwards with enough force that she slammed into a tree trunk behind her. The back of Renata's head hit hard and she collapsed to the ground, semiconscious and aching all over. This was it, she realized dully. She was going to die. A stupid, pointless death for a stupid, pointless life. The tragedy of her life wasn't that she was going to die young and alone and in pain. It was that she'd been born at all. She'd managed to get to seventeen with no real friends. Hardly any real skills or accomplishments. And she'd lost the one she loved to...to a freakish man-panther who killed people and ate them. Maybe this was for the best. When something twined around her, and lifted her into the air, Renata didn't struggle. She waited. Oh, she was afraid. Her stomach churned and her heart beat a staccato rhythm like a bird's. But she hurt too much to fight anymore. Her body ached. Her spirit itself was exhausted. And deep down, the hate this creature had for her seemed like just a shadow of what she felt towards herself. "Have you come to die?" Its voice on the wind again, screaming across her face and rocketing around the outside of the clearing into the tornado beyond. Renata opened her eyes. Was it...asking permission? She saw her predicament too. She was floating in midair, about ten feet off the ground, supported by nothing physical. And while she couldn't move her arms, or do much besides wriggle and kick, she couldn't actually feel anything in contact with her. There was no texture to the thing, no solidity. It was like a magnetic field...it could stop you from moving, but there wasn't really anything there. "What are you?" she demanded wearily. "Do whatever you're going to do and stop...toying with me!" "Have you come to die?" Jesus, how do you answer a question like that? Renata wasn't suicidal. She'd never looked at a weapon and considered using it on herself. Her sometimes morbid curiosity had sometimes wondered what it would be like to die...but that wasn't the same. But then again, it wasn't asking if she wanted to die. It was asking if she'd come to die. Come here. So Renata thought back to when she'd come here. Running from Mari. Running from the sickeningly certain knowledge that Mari was deeply in love with Ravi. But that was just the surface. Like a giant zit, the whole situation was swollen with nastiness that lurked just below. "Are you going to kill me?" she asked. "Are you?" Renata shook her head. "Why do you hate me so much?" "Because you are weak when you should be strong. Because you are slow when you need speed..." Her eyes widened in shock. She knew that litany. She knew it. And only one other person did. "...you are dull when you could be cunning, and..." She finished for the thing, "...I'm blind when I have to see. I'm my own worst enemy." Her body tingled unpleasantly. Her brain felt like it was moving inside her skull. Any second she'd wake up, because that had to be what this was. But she knew it wasn't. The man who had taught her to fight had begun his lessons with that mantra. He'd been a hard man, uncompromising and eager to criticize, while compliments were given rarely and grudgingly. ...in any conflict, your opponent is not who you're fighting, he'd said. You are your own worst enemy, always. You are weak when you should be strong. You are slow when you need speed. You are dull when you could be cunning, and you are blind when you have to see. Only by fighting yourself and your limitations can you win a conflict. Whether that conflict is hand to hand combat, or a boardroom debate, or an argument over leaving the toilet lid up. She'd never told anyone else about her afterschool training. Not because it was scandalous or in any way shameful or embarrassing, but because if she'd told people, then they'd know not to mess with her. And she'd wanted them to provoke her. She'd wanted to fight them. Hurt them. Break them and see them cry the tears that she denied herself. There was a sensation growing in the pit of Renata's stomach, similar to the one she got on a roller coaster as the cars came to the crest of a great big hill. Or watching the fuse of a huge firework light and start to race back along the line. Something big was coming, and nothing could stop it now. Memories were flowing in the back of her mind, things she'd trained herself not to think about. Giant sections of her life that were cordoned off, but had the answers that she needed now. Because she didn't want to die. She didn't want to die, and she had to understand why this thing hated her so much. No! Fatima, stop it! That was her mother. She'd finally cornered Renata in her bedroom one day and had something that had started out as a good mother-daughter heart to heart, but that then had turned ugly when Renata had told her one last bit of information. You're young, Fatima. It's normal for girls to be...confused sometimes when they're growing up. That doesn't mean... But Renata had insisted. She hadn't been confused. Not about her own feelings. Oh, she was confused about the OTHER girl's feelings, but not about her own. And her mother had gone very still, with a tight, pinched look to her lips...the expression she wore when someone had insulted her personally, or blasphemed. Listen to me, she'd said, listen very carefully. What you are describing is an abomination in the eyes of the Lord. You're young. Impressionable. You spend too much time watching television and movies where they try to make all this seem 'cool' and 'acceptable.' I'm going to speak with your father about this. Don't worry, Fatima, I don't blame YOU. This isn't you. The Devil is all around us, all the time, whispering in our ears...and you just need to learn how to stop listening to him. She'd been in tears by the end, and had leaned over to kiss Renata's forehead...but despite this seeming kindness, the message had been clear. You are an abomination. You are not acceptable. You are the Devil. And it had all been over a girl. A girl at the private academy she'd been attending. A girl named Charlotte. Just thinking of the name brought her face into Renata's mind; toe-curlingly beautiful, with clear blue eyes and full lips giving her an angel's face framed by curls of golden-blonde hair. She'd been everything Renata hadn't been. Adventuresome where she'd been cautious, social where she was reclusive, gorgeous where she was dumpy, popular versus her own lack of existence. They'd first met, if one didn't count Ren stalking her, in the band room during lunch. Renata was strumming a few ideas for melodies she'd had on the old guitar the school had for practice. That's pretty, she'd said. Renata, startled, looked up and instantly colored. She'd stammered something that could have been speaking in tongues for all of its garbled nonsense. Charlotte just grinned and came over to sit down nearby. Go on, keep playing. So Ren had played a couple of tunes from pop songs that she'd taught herself. That got some giggles out of Charlotte, which emboldened Renata to try improvising something. She'd closed her eyes and imagined Charlotte's face, and started playing. The melody that emerged was rather startlingly pleasant to hear, if a bit sad. It evoked a mood of distance; of yearning. It briefly surged into something happier, something joyful like the sun breaking through clouds...then returned to the far off wistfulness, but with a subtle strain of new hope evident in a slightly different chord. That was awesome, Charlotte had whispered, and Ren opened her eyes...so into the music that she'd actually forgotten the other girl was there. Charlotte had left her chair and was sitting right next to her now, close enough to touch. Their eyes had locked, and Renata felt herself leaning towards her...trapped by some kind of gravitational field. It's about you, she'd said softly. Then the bell had rung, and both girls snapped out of it. Seeya! chirped Charlotte as she scampered off. Sick with a combination of glee and awe and the kicking-of-oneself-for-missing-a-golden-opportunity that only teenagers in love can feel, Renata had replaced the guitar in its case and hurried out as well. Just a week later, Renata and Charlotte were 'an item,' in Renata's mind at least. They'd kissed. They held hands when it was not overly inappropriate. Most everyone just assumed they were friends. Renata noticed that Charlotte never introduced her to her 'inner circle' of popular kids...but at the time she'd been rather grateful. She didn't like them, and knew they didn't like her. Why would she want an introduction? Charlotte was always the initiator. What she wanted, they did. Renata accomodated her desires with puppyish eagerness to please. When they finally slept together, it was because Charlotte, embarrassed but eager to experiment, wanted to. After that first night, it was all Renata could think about. She had fantasies of marrying Charlotte, of using her family's money to research baby-science so she could have her babies. She wanted a family, and a life where she got to sleep, naked, with Charlotte every night. And spend each day with her too...possibly still naked, that could be worked out on a day by day basis. And then the other shoe dropped. Renata had timidly approached Charlotte while she was talking to her popular friends...normally she wouldn't have, but Char hadn't responded to her passed note in class where Ren had invited her to meet her family over the break...and Ren needed to know if she was coming so she could make the arrangements. Um, when you have a second, I need to ask you something, Renata had mumbled, avoiding eye contact with the Alpha Teens that Charlotte pretended to belong among. Charlotte looked at her, eyes narrow for a second, then bright and wide and beaming. Guys, I'll be right back. When they'd gotten a safe distance away, she'd rounded on Renata. What IS it, she'd demanded. I'm sorry, Renata had assured her, trying to smooth things over. I just wanted to see if you wanted to come to my place over the break. Mom's a great cook and you two would get along and...I just thought you should meet....everyone... Fatima, Charlotte had said, arms folded. Why would I want to meet your family? The bluntness of the question had surprised Renata. She just stared, wide eyed, which Charlotte took as an invitation to continue. What is this? You think we're engaged now or something? You want me to meet the in-laws to be? No, Renata assured her hastily. But...we are together so, I don't know. Maybe we should meet each other's parents? Oh my God, Charlotte replied, full of scorn. We're together? Really? The world started to constrict around Renata...it was actually shrinking. She was having trouble breathing. But we...you and me...we... We had some fun, insisted Charlotte. Some laughs. You were kind of cute with the guitar and all, and I was sort of curious to see what it would be like. And now I know. So...I guess we're done now. But. Fatima, explained Charlotte...and while she was speaking more gently now, it only seemed to hurt worse. I'm sorry. I didn't know you'd get all...clingy. I thought we were the same, we just wanted to see how it was. But all the time now, you're calling me and following me around and people are starting to ask... Hey, Charlotte, someone else called, everything all right? Charlotte's eyes widened for a moment, and Renata could see, actually SEE the instant where the other girl made her choice. She pushed Renata back and said loudly, Fatima, for the last time, I'm not a lesbian! If you ever try to hit on me again, I'll report you to the office! Then she was walking away, to her friends, and Renata could hear her starting to go on about how the lovelorn little dyke just wouldn't leave her alone... Renata twisted where she hung in the air, at the mercy of a monstrous thing that could not be defeated. The memory of Charlotte's betrayal hurt worse than the beating she'd gotten. Worse than anything. It filled her with hate, and pain until she could only scream it out into the night. But even then, she was still clicking inexorably along the roller coaster, starting to go over now, could stop it. The dots in her memory were connecting themselves and revealing a pattern. This was her answer, and she was terrified of what it would mean in the end. You are your own worst enemy. She'd been born the youngest, by far, to a family of pushy alpha-personalities. Father a right-wing politician who believed hardball was the only game worth playing. Mother an authoritarian who ruled the household with the Bible in one hand and a ruler in the other. Starved for attention and approval, she'd always measured herself by how they reacted to her. You are weak when you should be strong. In school, she'd applied the same equation to her peers, but got an inexplicably different result. Other kids were unpredictable, their reactions to her all over the board. Frightened by this, and unwilling to take risks, she withdrew socially into the safety of iconoclastic observation. When she understood them, she would try again, she rationalized. You are slow when you need speed. Charlotte had broken that wall, by giving her not just the approval and love she'd needed for so long, as well as something even more valuable. A model to emulate. Charlotte was everything Fatima wasn't, but wanted to be. Growing close to her let Fatima watch her, learn from her. You are dull when you could be cunning. She'd always believed that Charlotte's betrayal had shattered her, but now, thinking back clearly, she realized that it hadn't changed ANYTHING. She'd still tried to be like Charlotte, because it was all she had. But afterwards what 'being like Charlotte' meant was different. Charlotte hated Fatima, so she'd ceased to be Fatima. She'd thrown out her old clothes and things, and bought new ones. She'd stopped going by her first name and adoped her middle name 'Renata' as her new nom de plume. Renata was strong, and didn't take shit from anyone, like Charlotte. She was fast on her feet, quick to take offense and had a lightning jab. She was clever, witty, street-smart. She wasn't like Fatima. Fatima was a joke. Everyone hated Fatima. You are blind when you have to see. Even Renata. No one hated Fatima more than Renata. And just like that, she knew. It was as if a light suddenly clicked on, shining down from above...an imitation of what Mari had become briefly. A light that showed everything as it truly was, without any lie or self-deception that could endure its touch. For just an instant, Fatima saw exactly who she was, and what was happening, and what she was doing and why. All her relationships were laid bare, all her memories stripped of anything but truth. And in response, she did the only thing a sane person COULD do on the event of seeing themselves truly. She began to laugh. Not hysterical, desperate laughter, or giggles and snorts, but the full-lung laughter of someone who was told a really good joke a long time ago, and only just now got it. The laugh of someone who has years of laughing to catch up on, and intends to get started right now. Her feet touched the ground gently, and she wasn't surprised to see that the snow in the clearing was gone...melted away. She was warm too, pleasantly so, even though winter still held the rest of the world in its icy clutches. The tornado was gone, though its legacy of snapped branches and broken trees still described a perfect circle around the clearing. She looked up at one of the trees, at a large branch. It moved, waving like a hand. She grinned and waved back...then winced and rubbed her face where she'd hit herself. That brought another laugh to her lips and she shook her head at herself as she started back to the houses. She'd asked her teacher what happened when you fought yourself and won. If you were no longer your own worst enemy, what were you? His response had always annoyed her because of what it implied and eventually she'd stopped going to see him. Ready to learn.
  17. Monday August 22nd From Tuna Canyon Sam drove toward the city, her phone cradled on her shoulder as she called her client. "Hi, August, it's Sam." "Hi Sam, how are things going?" August sounded a little stressed. "Good, well, OK. Listen I was hoping you had a little time, I'd like to stop by and get that photo of Brad. I want to be able to show it around while I talk to people." "Umm, sure. When?" "I'm up in Malibu, so maybe an hour or so? Where should I meet you?" "Do you know the Trader Joe's on Glendon Ave?" Sam replied in the affermative. "There's a sub place next door, Jersey Mike's. I'll meet you there." "That sounds perfect, I could use some lunch anyways. See you soon." Sam hung up and turned out onto the PCH headed east toward LA proper. The drive took about forty minutes and parking another ten but thankfully she was able to locate a space between the campus and the sub shop. Sam walked into Jersey Mike's Subs her stomach already starting to rumble; breakfast had been a hasty half bagel and that was nearly six hours ago. She quickly got into line, ordered a turkey wrap, despite really wanting a Big Kahuna Cheese-steak, and a bottle of water that proved foolishly expensive. "Three bucks for a water," she muttered as she sat down, irritated. She took a bite out of the wrap and was glad it tasted good, settling for a low fat, no cheese, diet option was good for her waistline, but bad for her tastebuds. What I wouldn't do for a good piece of pie.
  18. August 11 Sam was surprised by the knock on the door of her office. She was filling out billing slips for a couple of clients on an otherwise slow day to get ahead. With no pending cases Sam had even considered taking tomorrow off spend time with her son. Looking up she called, "Come in, the door's open." Sweeping the papers into a pile she laid them into a drawer as the door opened. "Good afternoon Miss Spaid," Mr. Smythe said as he walked into the room, his former drawl reduced to only a hint of an accent. Sam guessed he really was from the South, but played it up further when it suited. Sam's eyes narrowed. "Mr. Smythe, how can I help you?" She managed to keep the edge out of her voice, disguising it with a pleasantly bland concern. In the two weeks since she'd located Mr. Smythe's son for him she'd caught somebody tailing her twice, and been told by one of her contacts that a man fitting the description of the man's son had been asking about her with some of the less routine channels. Whomever these men were they had been doing their homework. She smirked, "Perhaps I can help you locate your lost accent this time around?" Smythe chuckled, a sound like dry reeds shifting against each other. He sat down, his thin frame folding into the chair in a way that made Sam think of a preying mantis; she shivered despite the warmth. "Miss Spaid I'm going to stop playing games, because I know that you've spent some of your time locating myself and my son, and that you are aware of our inquiries about you. We needed they help of an appropriately skilled detective, and I believe you, fit that bill." Sam's expression soured, "You'd have been better off trying to lie to me Mr. Smythe, I don't like people snooping around my life." Smythe spread his hands in a placating gesture, "I am sorry for the ... duplicitous nature of our initial encounter. I had heard that no detective in Los Angles could find things better, or faster, than you could. You proved truth to the rumor, most impressively given how little information there was to go on." "I know my city," Sam replied "And I expect that there is more to it. My ... sources have indicated to me that this is rather par for the course for you. Some might call your record and your skills, supernatural in scope." Smythe seemed to be hinting at something strongly, and Sam was worried that she knew exactly what it was. "Regardless of your methodology Miss Spaid, I have a job for you, if you will take it, and I think if you hear me out you will." Sam scowled, "Then you'd better get on with it before I decide to kick you out and file a restraining order." Smythe quirked an eyebrow, "I'll keep it short then. I need your help tracking down a monster."
  19. If it’d been the middle of the day, with the beautiful California sun shining down on it, Finn had a feeling that there still wouldn’t be much to say about the Leo Carrillo State Park, other than that it was a state park, and one that allowed camping with tents (as opposed to a lot of the beach-side campgrounds around here, which only ever seemed to allow RVs for some damned reason). But it wasn’t the middle of the day and the sun – Californian or otherwise – seemed like a distant memory at the moment; it was the nighttime, and a long ways into it, too. And right now there was something distinctly otherworldy about the park – and not in the vague way that humans used the word to describe anything that didn’t fit into their limited, and usually self-centered view of what ‘the world’ was, or that they simply couldn’t explain. When Finn used the word ‘otherworldly’ to describe the Leo Carrillo State Park, he meant it in precisely the sense that there was something about – or at least somewhere within – the place that was quite literally not of this world. Leo Carrillo State Park was just a little place, nestled inside of a small, narrow valley that sat comfortably in between low, scrub-covered hills along the foothills of the Santa Monica Mountains. It sat landward of the Pacific Coast Highway, but it connected, via a tunnel underneath the highway, with a fairly nice beach (which was the real attraction for Finn). The place had been the brainchild of, no surprise, a guy named Leo Carrillo who’d been semi-famous at one point, back around the dawn of Hollywood, for playing ‘Pancho’ on some old television show called The Cisco Kid. And yeah, that really was about all one could say about the place from a mundane perspective. But from an otherworldly or supernatural perspective, however, it was obvious to Finn that there was significantly more going on here. It made sense, really. A tiny, out-of-the-way park, miles from any sizeable center of urban development, lots of people passing through, relaxing, having fun, building memories, and then moving on. It was the kind of place that slowly built up its own kind of energy, a sense of weighted expectation that even mundane mortals might pick up on. Clusters of trees and scraggly bushes often seemed to conceal more than just the landscape beyond them, while the low scrub-covered hills crowding in on three sides seemed to be watching from above and it almost felt like something was waiting beyond each twist or turn of the paths that snaked throughout the campground. There was a sense of things and events that were always just out of one’s sight, or that one had only just missed, or that would happen soon, if one could simply wait in that spot long enough. If a person did wait, and waited long enough, they might imagine they could hear voices on the wind, mingled with the sibilant rustling of sun-parched leaves, whispering half-heard remnants of stories never told, in a language as old as time. Finn knew that this feeling or presence would be there, if only as a barely-noticeable prickling in the back of a normal man’s mind, even in the daytime. But it was the middle of the night, with a full moon in the sky, and there is nothing blacker nor deeper than a shadow cast by mother Luna. A shadow cast by the sun conceals little – and that reluctantly – but even the smallest of moon shadows is capable of concealing all the mysteries of Nature within its bottomless depths, and stories untold are amongst the least of these. So Finn was only mildly caught off guard when, upon passing through the shadows cast by a stand of trees and stepping into the outer edge of a semicircle formed by the simple (actually rather unimpressive) outdoor amphitheater that sat in the campground’s backmost corner, he suddenly found himself within the Spirit Realm. There had been no warning, nor had there been any effort or desire on his part. One minute he’d been walking through some very dark, but nonetheless mundane shadows, and the next minute he’d stepped fully in the realm of spirits. Having spent much of his life – both as a human child and as one of the Xa’aidlatha – on a sparsely inhabited island far away from the intruding presence of human civilization, and living as he now did in the border realm where land met sea, life met death, and spirit met flesh, Finn had experienced this before, if only rarely. A Verge. Probably not a permanent one, but one of the ones that came and went, depending on times or events. Finn did not pretend to know how or why such things came into being, he just knew that they did and that, in his experience at least, it never happened without a reason. Whereas the amphitheater and its surroundings had been swathed in midnight darkness in the ‘real world’ (Finn was less and less sure that that term was in any way an accurate description of the place), here it was roughly illuminated by a large bonfire that burned just in front of the theater’s tiny stage – a stage so small it was barely more than a raised podium. The fire in front of it crackled and burned with a brightness and a vitality that didn’t exist in flames outside of the Spirit Realm and the shadows it sent flickering across the aged and weathered benches surrounding the theater’s stage surged and pulsed with a life all their own. Finn looked again, and saw that here, in the Shadow, the platform wasn’t made of cut and painted wood, nailed together with machined nails from some factory, but was made of sticks, logs, and mud and looked like something one might find in a recreation of an Indian village from back in the 1800’s – if any of the Pacific coast Indian tribes had been into building stages. Finn looked a third time, and this time he saw the spirit seated upon the stage itself. The spirit looked like a man, who seemed ‘aged’ without seeming to be any certain age in particular – he might’ve been fifty and he might’ve been one hundred – or, more likely, neither, seeing as how he wasn’t even a man in the first place. For convenience’s sake, Finn decided he would refer to him as one anyway. The ‘man’ looked decidedly Native American, but Finn didn’t pretend to know enough about any of the local tribes to try and posit a guess as to which one he was supposed to belong to. He had long, thick hair, mostly black but with a hint of salt mixed in with the pepper, which was divided down the middle and braided into two braids on either side of his head. Over clothes that looked like they might belong to any time after about 1880 or so (old boots, faded jeans, and an equally faded dark button-up collared shirt), he had on a blanket whose color was as indeterminate as its owner’s true age and was frayed and worn around the edges. A hand-rolled cigarette was in his mouth and a knowing smile on his face as he watched Finn approach. “Wind-Dancer”, the man said and nodded at Finn in greeting, “You, Finn of the Xa’aidlatha.” “Alath”, returned Finn with a polite (if wary) smile. “You”, he began, attempting to duplicate the spirit’s archaic greeting protocols, but then he faltered and finished somewhat lamely, “… I don’t know your name.” The strange spirit chuckled easily and blew ephemeral smoke from his ephemeral cigarette. “Just th’way I like it, sonny”, he said. Finn gave him a friendly enough smile, but he stopped his approach and watched the ‘man’ with frank wariness now. It wasn’t the first time that a spirit had known Finn’s name without him telling it, but that wasn’t what was making the big Haida feral nervous. Spirits generally didn’t look all that human, unless they’d breached somehow or another and were riding some poor mortal, but this spirit was still inside the Shadow and he didn’t just look a little human, he looked almost perfectly human. If Finn hadn’t already noticed that his eyes glimmered with a light that came from somewhere other than the fire, moon, or stars, or that the shadows under his blanket moved independently of the flickering firelight, Finn could almost believe that he was human. The feral Wind-dancer noted with some amusement that he was made more uneasy by the sight of a normal-seeming human inside a Verge than he would have been by the appearance of an obvious spirit. The spirit chuckled at him again, seeing his discomfort, and pointed at himself while saying, “You can call me Hides-in-His-Story, if it’ll make ya feel better, little brother.” Finn gave the ‘man’ a half-smile and a little nod, saying, “Yeah, I guess it would, thanks.” He hesitated for only another instant and then approached the spirit deliberately and sat down across from him. “Hides-in-His-Story, it is an honor”, Finn said, using some of his patchy First Tongue to add an extra element of respect to his greeting. It was always a good idea to be polite to the spirits. Grandmother had taught him that early on, and the lesson – thankfully – had stuck. “So”, Hides-in-His-Story asked, “what brings ya here to my campfire on such a fine evening, little Finn of the People Who Guard the Boundaries of the Worlds?” Hides-in-His-Story was speaking only in Uremehir now, and Finn was a little surprised at how easily he could follow him so far (his First Tongue really was a little rough). “Just passing through, actually”, answered Finn (also using Uremehir, though he didn’t immediately realize it), “on my way to the City of the Angels in the mortal world.” “Oh?” Hides-in-His-Story clucked his tongue in disappointment, his strange eyes shimmering as he regarded Finn. “Too bad”, he said and took another drag on his hand-rolled cigarette, “s’pose that means ya won’t have time t’stay and listen ta any stories, eh?” “That what you do”, asked Finn, “tell stories?” “Might be”, answered Hides-in-His-Story, and the shadows under his cloak shook like trees in the wind. “But if’n I do, little changer”, he went on, “there’ll be a price t’pay at the end.” “Price?”, Finn asked, one brow arched high, and with an edge in his voice. “Sure’n there’s a price”, the aged spirit answered mildly, puffing smoke from his nostrils as he did so. “They all gotta pay, so it’s only fair t’ask the same o’ you, sonny.” “They?”, asked Finn. The old spirit only smiled wryly and stuck his chin out towards the rows of benches lining the darkness out beyond the fire. As Finn’s hyper-acute eyes strove to peer into the otherworldly darkness that gathered beyond the flames, that same fire surged briefly, illuminating everything from the little stage to the backmost bleacher, and in that brief moment he saw them all. At some point since he’d sat down next to the old man (or spirit, or whatever), the benches around the stage had filled up with other spirits – and these ones had the decency to look like spirits, at least – but Finn had missed it entirely until Hides-in-His-Story had pointed them out. This bothered Finn. There were mostly bird spirits filling the benches, from what Finn could see, but also a fair number of coyotes, serpents, and lizards, along with the odd assortment of other animal spirits. But there were also other, stranger forms scattered here and there. Tree spirits, desert spirits, a few mountain spirits – who always made the Oceanborn feral just a bit uncomfortable, for some reason – and something that Finn took to be a spirit of the Road, or perhaps of hitchhiking. And three hirdab – scorpion spirits. This bothered Finn even more. He looked back at the old spirit and the spirit looked back at him with eyes that glimmered with their own subtle light and a smile filled with too-large teeth. “C’mon”, Hides-in-His-Story said in an almost-whisper, “stay awhile.”
  20. August 22, morning "Come on Chuck, you can't be serious. No information at all? A con artist swindling people with cheap trinket jewelry and you guys know nothing?" Sam wasn't sure if he was feeding her a load of shit, or if a guy using methods so sloppy really had somehow gone under the radar. "Listen, Samantha," he said, almost apologetically. "We have no information, nothing at all, if this guy exists he's new in town or keeps a really low profile. Probably the former if he's as clumsy as you suggest." Sam sighed and pinched her nose, "I'm looking at the ring my client said he conned her friend into buying, it's garbage, I don't know how he managed to pull a con with something that a child wouldn't fancy, but however he did it, it wasn't clumsy." Sam had to admit that anybody who could pawn off the little trinket on her desk as a valuable piece of jewelry had to be pretty skilled. She just couldn't figure out why they would make the evidence of their crime so painfully obvious. "Well, then he keeps a low profile. Sorry I can't help you out more but I can't tell you what I don't know." "It's OK, thanks Chuck, I owe you a beer." "I'll take dinner and a movie instead, my treat," he said, almost hopefully. Sam smiled, into the phone, "Sorry, you know I don't date cops." "Yeah, yeah, I get it. Anytime you change your mind Sam, just call me." "Sure, Chuck. And thanks for the information, or lack thereof. Bye." Sam flipped her phone closed and cursed softly. She'd called around to a handful of guys she knew had their eyes and ears open on the streets and none of them knew anything. In an hour's work of calls she'd verified only the possibility that this man was either new to the city or kept a low profile. The former seemed most likely based on the evidence at hand. There was little point in making more phone calls, she needed to get her feet to the street and pound pavement. She opened her desk and pulled out a lockbox that opened with a combination and a small key. Inside was several hundred dollars in ten and twenty dollar bills, with a few fifties and hundreds; graft money. She grabbed three hundred, and then locked the box and returned it to the deck, locking it as well. She knew the places to go, the people who's palms could be greased for information. She checked her weapon, and then locked up and left, getting into her car to make the rounds to the dive bars and street hustlers were the right money got you information with little questions asked. An hour turned to two, and two turned into four; the morning shifted to afternoon as she made her rounds. The later in the day it got the smaller the wad of extra bills in the pocket of her jeans got, and for all her efforts the list of facts about this Jeremy character was as short as it had been in the morning. Frustrated Sam pulled her car up to the curb and got out, slamming the door a little harder than was needed. The little car rocked slightly as Sam looked up the street. A man, slight and thin, was standing at a small folding table, with various odds and ends displayed upon it, ostensibly for sale. Sam fingered the last forty bucks she had in her pocket, wincing at the thinness of the bundle of bills. Expenses were paid by the client, but even with her rates reduced her fees would tax August and her friends to the limits of their modest student incomes. She approached Ricky casually, at a strolling pace, no need to spook the twitchy little snitch. He watched her with dark shifting eyes, glancing all around to make sure she was alone; that they were alone. "Hey Sam, sexy as always. Pretty lady like you need some pretty jewelry?" "Flattery will get you nowhere Ricky," Sam said with a smile. Flattery might not get him anywhere but Sam didn't mind being called sexy or pretty ever. "Besides I already have some crappy jewelry, I was hoping you could tell me who made it." Sam produced the ring from he pocket, the sixty dollars was rolled up inside the loop of the ring. He took it and before she could blink the money was gone, palmed off and away. He studied the cheap ring for a moment and then looked at Sam, and then the ring again. "My friend said that her man bought that from a guy named Jeremy. Apparently he was pretty slick, got good cash for that trinket. My friend's boyfriend went missing and I'm trying to track this Jeremy guys down to ask him some questions." Ricky handed the ring back and rolled his shoulders, looking this way and that, before he spoke. "You ain't heard it from me right?" "Ricky, how long have I known you? You ever catch heat off me?" Sam scowled, "Let me rephrase that you little perv, you ever get in trouble because of me?" "No," he sounded almost sullen, he probably resented being called a perv despite it being entirely true. "Look for him in Tuna Canyon Park.... southwest of the Topangas. He hangs there, looks for marks." Sam smiled brightly, Finally! "Thanks Ricky, I owe you a little something extra next time!" She was already headed toward her car, the cheap ring clutched in her hand tightly; things were looking up. "You always say that Sam!" Ricky called. As he watched her go he leered, "Sorry to see you leave, but always happy to watch you go girl." A little info. First roll: Manipulation + Persuasion = 6 dice -2 (scarce info.) Police contacts Second Roll: Manipulation + Persuasion = 6 dice -2 (scarce info.) Underworld contacts 4d10.hitsopen(8,10)=0, 4d10.hitsopen(8,10)=1
  21. Quote: "I'd rather be surfing..." Background: Alexander Hoya grew up in the small town of Skidegate, one of only a few on the Haida Gwaii islands (formerly known as the Queen Charlotte islands). His father, Jack Hoya, was a craftsman by trade and his mother had died giving birth to him. As he grew, Alex learned from his father how to shape and build canoes, kayaks, and pretty much anything else that was made out of wood and designed to float. Alex took to the art quickly and enjoyed it, but his real passion was always the open ocean and the wild outdoors – and there was plenty of both in and around the Haida Gwaii. And so Alex's childhood was spent running through the wilds of the woods that dominated the island he called home, or paddling across the bays and inlets that surrounded his island, but always in his heart was an urge to paddle further and farther out, onto the open ocean. For some reason, for as long as he could remember, Alex felt that he belonged out there, out in the water. The land beneath his feet seemed solid enough, but he only ever felt really real – really at peace – when he was in the water. As he grew older, Alex began to range further into the wild terrain of the Haida Gwaii, and even further out into the wild waters that led, eventually, to the open ocean of the Pacific. It was during these later trips that he first began to have close encounters with the sgaana – killer whales – and from the first such meeting the connection between the young boy and the giant predators in the waters underneath him was immediate and readily apparent. Also, as he grew older, he began to more and more frequently witness strange and difficult (sometimes impossible) to explain creatures and events as he wandered in the wilds away from the homes of men. In the forests he would often see strange and often frightening forms watching him from afar, and once he encountered a strange old crone living along a deserted beach; she seemed to mean him no harm and even read his fortune, but she also seemed to know more about him than she should have and told Alex that she had more to tell him 'when he was ready' and would be waiting for him there on that beach when the day came. Out on the water he loved, Alex's encounters with the mysterious were even stranger, and he often worried that he was hallucinating, so strange and, at times, terrifying were the things he saw down in the waters beneath his canoe or kayak. At times the things he saw were enough to frighten him away from the ocean for a time, but always the longing in his heart would eventually draw him back. When Alex was sixteen his drive to explore the ocean's vastness finally outreached itself and he found himself caught in a severe storm with nothing but his canoe to keep him from the churning, and now very ominous-seeming waters below. During the two or three years leading up to this, Alex had become more and more difficult to control, and would sometimes disappear for days at a time. His father and the other villagers began to warn in increasingly strong terms against going so far afield and venturing so far out into the open waters in just a small boat, but the headstrong youth would not heed them, and indeed, at times he seemed absolutely uncontrollable – wild even. But now Alex was caught in a storm that was bigger and stronger and more heedless than he would ever be, and it seemed that he would finally pay the price for his hubris. Of course he lost of control of his boat and was hurled into waves and the water, but what happened to him after that is not something that Alex can adequately describe even now. What he remembers is being found and rescued by killer whales, but instead of taking him back to the surface they took him further down into the ocean depths, eventually reaching what seemed to be a village – like those his people used to live in before the Europeans came – that sat at the bottom of the ocean. There the sgaana treated him like a guest of honor, introducing him to their chief and holding an old-fashioned potlatch festival in his honor, along with dancing and feasting and the telling of old stories. Finally, they asked him if he was ready to join them and become one of The People, to which the young man emphatically answered 'YES!'. And so they awarded him with his very own dorsal fin to wear and, putting it on, he became like one of the sgaana, a killer whale. Then he and all the killer whales swam out of the village to begin their hunt; they tracked down and killed a great whale and feasted on it, and it was good, and Alex felt more alive and more free than he had ever felt in his entire life… That's what Alex Hoya remembers, when he tries to think back on that night. All he can really say for certain, though, was that he woke up naked and alone, floating in the tide of a far beach the day after the storm sank his boat, with blood and whale blubber still clinging in bits and gobbets to his face and hands. After a brief (and very traumatic) period of discovering what he now was, Alex began to slowly make his way back towards civilization. If there ever was a 'magical village beneath the waves', where a tribe of killer whales go to feast and dance and entertain foolish boys who paddle out into storms, Alex has never found it or seen any sign or hint of it since then. What Alex did find when he finally made his way back to Skidegate, was that his father had ventured out into the storm after him in his own, larger fishing boat and had drowned after the storm capsized it the same way it had capsized Alex's boat. Alex was still struggling to come to terms with what had happened to him, so learning what had happened to his father nearly sent him over the edge. Reeling with guilt at having caused his own father's death (even if unintentionally) and overcome with remorse at his loss, Alex found himself cast adrift. He hung on and stuck around long enough to attend his father's funeral, but as soon as that was over he ran away before the civil workers could come and haul him off to some orphanage or place him in foster care. Alex wandered from port to port and truck stop to truck stop, introducing himself only as "Finn" (after the fin that the orcas in his vision had given him to make him one of them). Eventually the teenager managed to make it all the way out to Hawaii. Hawaii was, in many ways, ideal for a young Oceanborn Feral struggling to figure things out without any parents or mentors to turn to for help. Civilization was always ready to hand on any of the islands, but so was the wide open ocean, and it was easy for 'Finn' to slip away and give in to his 'wild side' for a time, learning how to be what he now was out among the waves; swimming, playing, hunting and killing – often alongside other, mundane orcas with whom he now found he had a greater connection than he'd ever had before. Back on land, amongst 'regular' humanity, Finn had little trouble finding work. He was surprised and very pleased to discover that the 'alaia' – the original wooden surf boards that ancient Hawaiians used before European or American colonists ever showed up – was making a comeback amongst the surfing community, and that his skills in wood water crafting were perfectly suited towards the wooden boards. Soon, building the boards turned into using them as Finn took up surfing himself, and after a while the young man was almost always either near, on, or in the water. For the next few years Finn managed to find a measure of happiness and, even more importantly, peace in the life that he'd built for himself on the islands of Hawaii, but he'd known in his heart almost from the moment he'd arrived there that he couldn't stay forever. And so, with a certain amount of regret, Finn left the Hawaiian Islands. For a time he traveled through Indonesia, hitting some of the best surf spots in the world, but he could only ignore the urging in his heart for so long, and eventually he gave in and followed that urging, which took him back home. The other villagers in Skidegate were both surprised and happy to see Alex 'back from the dead', but the young man had changed so much that he found he no longer had much of a connection to the town he'd grown up in. He was the only son of an only son, his mother was long since dead, and after travelling through so much of the world, the tiny harbor town really didn't seem to have much to offer or people that he could connect with. The villagers, meanwhile, found that 'little Alex' had quite grown up, and that he had become a strange and imposing figure who was, if anything, even wilder than he'd been as a child – there was just something disturbingly other about him now. Finn wound up spending the majority of his time in his primal form as a killer whale, swimming the bays and inlets surrounding the Haida Gwaii. It took more than two months before he finally stumbled across that lonely stretch of sand he'd found as a boy so many years before where the strange old crone had been waiting for him and had read his future. A part of him wasn't even surprised to find that she was there waiting for him still, all these years later. This time the old woman introduced herself to him as 'Grandmother', claiming that this was because Finn was actually her grandson. 'Grandmother' went on to explain to him that she was the mother of his own mother, whom he'd never gotten a chance to know. Far more amazingly, she revealed to him that, while his own mother had been as 'normal' as everyone else Finn had ever known, Grandmother was like him. It seemed that the Changing Gift had skipped a generation, she said, adding that it sometimes did so. For more than three years Grandmother taught her grandson a great deal – things about the history of their people (or at least what she claimed was their history – it wasn't like there was anyone else around to dispute or correct her if she were wrong or not telling the truth), amazing things about his own nature that he would never have guessed otherwise, and perhaps most importantly, about the mysterious Spirit Realms that border our own. Grandmother had explained to Finn about how it had always been the duty of the Xa'aidlatha* (as she called 'their people') to watch over and protect the border between the realms of flesh and spirit, just as they watched over the border between the ocean depths and the surface world that abutted them, and so it was vitally important that he embraced that portion of his heritage and learn to interact with that strange and ominous world. Finn will never forget the first time his Grandmother helped him cross the Gauntlet – he still has nightmares about it sometimes, actually. Through his training he learned much about maintaining a balance between the Spirit Realm and the physical world he'd grown up in – and about maintaining a balance within himself as well. His Grandmother also taught him the importance of cultivating the environment – in both worlds – rather than simply 'managing' problems as and when they arose. He learned more than he really wanted to about the word 'chiminage'. And, finally, Finn also learned about the uratha – or at least, he learned how much they disapproved of 'interlopers' like he and his Grandmother 'interfering' in their business. Fortunately, the wolf-blooded did not have much of a presence on the Haida Gwaii and knew that they couldn't adequately watch over the entirety of the islands themselves, and Grandmother had been living and operating in the area for longer than most of them had been alive, so she and Finn were grudgingly accepted. Also, as Grandmother was keen to remind him (and the werewolves, when they would listen), the Xa'aidlatha had been operating amongst the Haida Gwaii for at least as long as the Uratha had been, and their domain was the waves and the sea where the wolves couldn't go anyway, so there was no reason for disagreements between them. Though the Spirit Realm was strange enough, stranger still – and more disturbing – were his occasional brushes with the dead. Finn has always seemed to be a magnet for the otherworldly and the unnatural, but even for him ghosts are something out of the ordinary. Even so, he's had a few encounters with them and one of them has left its mark on him, literally. The ghost of a young woman from Skidegate who had recently disappeared began to appear to Finn whenever he was in town, and though he at first tried to ignore her (he's no more comfortable around ghosts than most 'normal' people), the woman would not leave him be. When he finally gave in and started paying heed to her gestures and attempts at communication it led to him discovering where her body had been left. He got the local police involved at that point and they quickly determined that she'd been raped and then murdered, but there were no further leads forthcoming and the woman's spirit wasn't showing any signs of leaving Finn alone. More problematically for Finn, he was now under suspicion after mysteriously finding the woman's body "by chance" (he couldn't exactly tell the police that her ghost had showed him where to find the body). As it was, the townspeople of Skidegate had found him to be increasingly strange and disturbing since his return, so he honestly seemed like the likeliest candidate for the murderer to most anyway. Now just as eager to clear his name as he was to be rid of the disconcerting presence of the ghost, Finn continued to investigate the killing on his own and, with the spirit's help, managed to track down her killer, who turned out to be one of the town's most respected members. Though Finn had no doubts that this man was the killer, he had no proof. Hoping to provoke the man into a confession, he lured him out to the ravine where he'd found the young woman's body and there confronted him about what he had done. Far from confessing, the man instead became angry, and then violent. The two men fought briefly before the ghost appeared, manifesting not only to Finn but also to the man who had raped and murdered her as well. She rushed at him with a horrifying expression on her ghastly face as a blood-curdling and otherworldly scream poured out of her. In his terror as he scrambled to get away from the ghost of the woman he'd murdered, the man stumbled and fell into the same ravine that he'd dumped her body in, breaking his neck on the way down. Seeing her killer's unmoving body lying at the bottom of the ravine that she herself had been left to die in seemed to satisfy the woman's vengeful spirit, and she began to discorporate as Finn watched. Before she vanished for good, however, the ghost silently reached out and placed her ephemeral hand against Finn's chest, just over the heart. After she'd vanished, Finn found that a handprint remained where she had touched him, almost like a tattoo, and it remains there to this day and shows no signs of fading. While Finn was glad that the woman had found some measure of peace (or at least had her vengeance) and wasn't all that heart-broken over the death of her rapist-killer, he knew immediately that he was now even worse off than he had been before. The police already suspected him in the woman's death and now there was a second body tied to him. Wasting no time, he stopped briefly by his place in town to gather up what few possessions he still had (and would actually need on the road), and then made his way back out to the remote beach where his Grandmother lived. He explained the situation to her there and, though she would be sad to see him go, she agreed that her grandson would need to leave immediately, and so Finn once again left home for the open road (or ocean, as the case might be). Though he misses his Grandmother – and even his hometown of Skidegate, filled as it was with people who never quite understood him – at the same time he is privately pleased to be wandering again, as it seems that being continually on the move is in his blood. Since leaving the Haida Gwaii Finn has slowly worked his way down through British Columbia, into Washington and Oregon, and finally into California. He stopped for a time in Seattle, building back up his meager savings and supplies, before once again going on the road. He's recently arrived in Los Angeles, and his funds and supplies are once again running low, meaning he'll probably need to hunker down for a bit, find a job, and save up some more cash before he moves on. How long he'll hang around the City of Angels remains to be seen – maybe just a few weeks, maybe much longer. Who knows? Maybe he'll like it here. *- "Xa'aidlatha: This is a made-up (by me) First Tongue word that's supposed to mean "The People of the Boundary of the World". It's based off of a word from the Native American Haida language, "Xhaaydla", which means something along the lines of either "worlds" or "place between worlds" (I'm not entirely clear on this point). Anyway, it's understood in the original language that "worlds" here refers to the sea and sky, specifically the "border" where the two meet – or in other words, the horizon. I thought it was a fitting name for Feral orcas who, as aquatic mammals, are creatures that are neither entirely of the sea nor of the land, and who are only really at home at that place where sea and sky meet. Appearance: At 6'6" and 264 lbs., Finn is a very big man and certainly qualifies for the description, "tall, dark, and handsome" (or just 'hawt', as all the girlz like to call it these days), if not quite in the old-fashioned sense that was perhaps once intended, what with both of his arms, all the way up to the shoulders, being covered in thick, bold tattoo sleeves made up of various tribal designs. Finn also has what appears to be a tattoo of a hand print done in unusually black and glossy ink on his left pectoral, right over the heart. He avoids discussing the meaning behind this tattoo if at all possible (and will resort to "lies of omission" if it can't be avoided). Even as good-looking as he is, what really stands out about Finn isn't his height or his looks, but the sheer intensity of his presence that is, at times, simply overwhelming for many people. The man gives off a notable sense of wildness and the 'other', and there is a literal, if subtle scent as well as a 'feel' (for lack of a better word) about him that reminds most of the open ocean. Meanwhile, his expressive brown eyes seem to stare right through a person with a gaze that virtually defines the word 'piercing', making many on whom that gaze falls feel that he can see more about them than they might like. And then there's the fact that while he has one of the most open and friendly grins most people ever get to see, there's something that's just unmistakably predatorial about it. Finn's primal form is that of an enormous killer whale over 35 feet in length and weighing more than 11 tons, with a dorsal fin that stands as tall as he does in human form. Aside from being enormous even for an orca, his eyes also radiate a sense of calculating intelligence that goes beyond even the not-inconsiderable intelligence that most mundane orcas display. Very unusually – and somewhat unfortunately for Finn – his 'tattoo' of a handprint (actually a ghostly mark left behind where the spirit of a dead woman touched him as she went to her final rest – or perhaps judgment) does not fade as normal tattoos do when he undergoes the Change. The print remains even when in his animal or throwback form, and can be clearly seen against the white underbelly of his orca body. In his 'Throwback' form, Finn transforms into enormous man-like creature with the gleaming black skin and patches of brilliant white that his killer whale kin are so famous for. In this guise he stands almost ten feet in height and weighs over one thousand pounds. His face becomes broad and round, with an equally broad (and most often smiling or grinning) mouth, and a broad nose with wide-flared nostrils. His lips, nostrils, and eyebrows take on a brilliant blood-red hue while the bridge of his nose and his forehead turns a deep dark blue color. The result closely resembles the killer whale masks used by Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest in their ritual dances and ceremonies. Though his smile is usually friendly enough, it's also filled with the sharp teeth of the ocean's deadliest predator and this, combined with his enormous size and an appearance that seems like something out of a shamanistic vision, is enough to provoke the Delusion in almost any mortal. Personality: Finn has the intense personality and dangerous aura that one might expect from a Feral whose Breed happens to be the world's largest and most successful apex predator of the past 10,000 years or so - and it can be positively room-filling when he needs it to be – but he is also surprisingly laid back and lacks the often domineering and hyper-aggressive demeanor possessed by most other Feral predators. This is absolutely due more to his Breed than to his personality though, as Finn is actually somewhat unusual amongst his kind (or what's left of them at any rate), being more aggressive and more of a loner than is typical for one of the whale-kin – though this isn't surprising given his calling as a Wind-Dancer. Unusually aggressive or not, Finn can't escape what he is, and killer whales – despite their fearsome name – are not known for their aggressiveness, even if they are known for being arguably the most sophisticated, efficient, and effective pack hunters on the planet. Orcas have a matriarchal society and, moreover, it is always a given that the oldest female present is in charge of her pod and that there are never any challenges from younger females, and certainly never any challenges from any adult males. So, needless to say, as an orca-blooded Feral male, Finn generally lacks the desire to – as he would put it – posture, strut, and generally behave like a bully, all in an effort to prove to everyone watching that he somehow deserves to be the asshole in charge. If at all possible, he'd rather let some other asshole take the job, support the guy in that role if he can, and try not to laugh out loud – or too hard at least – at all of his no-doubt-very-impressive posturing. True to his Breed, Finn is also highly social and unfailingly supportive and trusting of anyone he calls a friend, to the extent that some would call it naivety or foolishness. He will readily share anything he has to give with those who seem to be in need, even when he has little enough to give, and will do so without a second thought (and he has been taken advantage of because of this on more than one occasion). On the other hand, those who do betray that trust leave him feeling deeply hurt, and the ability of a killer whale to enact its vengeance upon those who've wronged it is the stuff of myth and legend – literally. As vengeful as he can be towards those who wrong him, those who are stupid enough to wrong his friends are the ones who truly experience his full wrath. Such unfortunates would have done well to remember that one of the lesser-known names for a killer whale is 'the smiling assassin', and still another is 'the grinning killer'. Name: Finn ("just Finn") Real Name: Alexander Hoya Concept: Shape-shifting Surfer Species: Orca Accord: Wind-dancer Virtue: Charity (compassion) Vice: Pride (ego) Height: 6'6" Weight: 264 lbs. Hair: black Eyes: dark brown Age: 24 Attributes Mental: Intelligence: 2, Wits: 3, Resolve: 2 Physical: Strength: 4/8/11, Dexterity: 2, Stamina: 3/7/8 Social: Presence: 3, Manipulation: 2/1/1, Composure: 3 Skills Mental: Crafts (wood water crafts): 2, Investigation: 1, Occult: 1 Physical: Athletics: 3, Brawl: 3, Drive: 1, Stealth (moving through water): 2, Survival (hunting): 2 Social: Animal Ken: 1, Empathy: 2, Expression (singing): 1, Intimidation: 1, Persuasion: 1, Streetwise: 1 Merits Direction Sense - 1 Feral Heart – 6 (+2 dots) Language (First Tongue) - 1 Pleasing Aura - 3 Quick Healer - 4 Striking Presence - 2 Nahual: Oceanborn Feral Heart: 3 Harmony: 7 Respect: 3 -Insight 3 Willpower: 5 Health: 8/15/24 Initiative: 5 Defense: 2 Speed: 11/15/21 Size: 5/8/16 Favors & Aspects Favors: Aquatic Echolocation Fang & Claw (Bite) 3 (L) Size 15 Limbless (-1) Aspects: Darksight (1) [Can see in the dark, reduced penalties in poor visibility conditions, and gains +2 to Stealth rolls in the dark] Extraordinary Specimen (1) [+1 Str and Size in Primal Form] Keen Sense (hearing; 2) [+2 on Perception rolls and distance-related penalties reduced by up to 3 in all forms] Shadow Bond (3) [Can Sidestep and cross the Gauntlet] Weather Skin (1) [immune to extreme weather conditions] Tell (-1) [What appears to be a tattoo of a handprint is visible on his chest in all forms] CREATION LOG ATTRIBUTES Mental: Intelligence: 0, Wits: 2, Resolve: 1 Physical: Strength: 3, Dexterity: 0, Stamina: 2 Social: Presence: 2, Manipulation: 0, Composure: 2 SKILLS Mental: Crafts: 2, Investigation: 1, Occult: 1 Physical: Athletics: 3, Brawl: 3, Drive: 1, Stealth: 2, Survival: 2 Social: Animal Ken: 1, Empathy: 2, Expression: 1, Intimidation: 1, Persuasion: 1, Streetwise: 1 SPECIALTIES: Crafts (wood water crafts), Stealth (moving through water), Expression (singing), Bonus from Accord: Survival (hunting) MERITS Direction Sense – 1, Feral Heart – 6 BEGINNING FAVORS Aquatic Echolocation Fang & Claw (Bite) 3 (L) Size 15 Limbless (-1) ASPECTS Darksight (1) Extraordinary Specimen (1) Keen Sense (hearing; 2) Shadow Bond (3) Tell (-1) Weather Skin (1) Experience: 50/50: 10 points spent on Dexterity 2. 10 points spent on Intelligence 2. 10 points spent on Manipulation 2. 6 points spent on Pleasing Aura merit. 8 points spent on Quick Healer merit. 4 points spent on Striking Presence merit (2 dots). 2 points spent on Language merit. Xa'aidlatha: Wolves of the sea Breed Favors: Aquatic, Echolocation, Fang and Claw (Bite) 3 (L), Limbless (-1), Size (15) Breed Bonus: Orcas, like dolphins, can ram opponents, inflicting an additional three bashing damage (this is, in fact, one of their favored hunting techniques). Throwback: Strength + 4, Stamina + 4, Manipulation -3, Size + 3, Health + 7, Speed + 4 (species factor 5), + 1 to perception rolls, Fang & Claw Favor (Bite) Primal Beast: Strength + 6, Stamina + 5, Manipulation -4, Size +10, Health + 15, Speed + 9 (species factor 8), + 3 to perception rolls.
  22. {Wednesday, 10th August, 2011} Some nights thought Declan, as he ran down Cornstock Avenue, I dunno why I try to be nice! Of course, nice was a relative term. What Dec meant by nice, in the case of John-Henry DeWitt, date-rape-drug dealer to the morally maladjusted of the UCLA students, was forgoing his usual approach of 'chew face off, negotiate later' and simply going for the word to the wise attitude. Collaring the little shit and slapping him around the face a few times, he'd told John-Henry in no uncertain terms that if he was seen on UCLA campus once more, he'd be peddling his pills and solutions in the ICU, and having to use sign language to conduct his transactions. He'd done this from behind the dealer, and hadn't let him catch a glimpse of his face... until when he pushed John-Henry away with an injunction to move his fat ass, the fucker had turned, seen the silver eyes, and recognition had dawned. "I know you!" he'd shouted, half fearful and half triumphant. "You that psycho vet that put Ray-Ray in the hospital last year." Made bold by distance and his discovery, DeWitt had puffed himself up. "Look atchu, all playin' Batman and shit. Me and my homies c'n play TOO, fucker. We'll be seein' you around." First mistake John-Henry had made was trying to make a quick buck dealing his shit to other sleazes on UCLA, despite his other low-rent dealer buddies telling him that the place was bad luck for their kind. His second mistake was turning around and seeing Dec's face. His third mistake, and this was the doozy, was threatening a vargr. Now Dec didn't particularly care if John-Henry and his fucknut buddies wanted to come after him, but it would be inconvenient to be the victim of a drive-by or a knifing and having to explain why the holes healed up. Plus, of course, there was no way he'd let his enemies have the initiative in any struggle. One of the roles he'd played as a light infantryman was to skirmish, to eliminate enemy intelligence gathering and leave them blind. Letting DeWitt run back to his buddies with a lead on who'd been stepping on their profit margins was a bad move and gave them the wherewithal to act and put Dec on the defensive. So Dec came to two conclusions, the first one being that reasoning with bottom-feeders was a waste of his time. The second was that John-Henry had signed his death warrant. As Dec started to walk after him, DeWitt realised his peril. It was 3 am on a Wednesday night, he wasn't carrying anything more menacing than a switchblade, and some nutjob ex-Green Beret or whatever was stalking after him, not saying a word, but his lowered head and steady gait spoke volumes. John-Henry turned and ran for his car. Slamming up against the side of it in his haste, puffing and panting, he fumbled his keys out of his pocket, only to squeal in fear as a strong hand grabbed his shoulder and he was slammed up against the side of his Ford, considerably harder this time. "Leggo me! Leggo me man! Leggo me!" he yelled. Declan cuffed him around the ear and took the keys, throwing them into the nearby storm drain. Then he grabbed the squealing man, distaste obvious on his features as he gripped him around the throat and squeezed. "Shut up." he growled. "You're walking tonight, Johnny-boy. Better yet, you're running. I'm going to give you a thirty second head start, but there's conditions. You run up that way." Dec point at the nearest road away from UCLA, Cornstock Avenue. "You stay on the road or sidewalks. If you head for someone's door, I'll kill you. If you try to use a phone, I'll kill you. If you yell or holler, I'll kill you. You keep running until I say stop. If I catch up to you, I'll kill you. Got that?" he asked, then shook the man by his throat. "I said, you got that?" DeWitt nodded, and Dec let him go. Snuffling and coughing, the overweight dealer started to run, unaware of whether the terrifying man with the gleaming eyes was behind him or not. After a minute of jogging, he looked over his shoulder. Dec was about ten paces behind him, moving at a simple trot, and looking right at him. John-Henry moaned and sped up. The psycho behind him likewise increased his pace, matching speeds exactly. John-Henry knew this because when he looked back again, silver-eyes was exactly ten paces behind him still. And he was grinning. "The fuck, man. What's wrong wit' you!?" John moaned aloud. His lungs were starting to burn, the product of too much weed and nicotine and not enough exercise. "I'd save my breath in your shoes, Johnny." came that deep-ass voice from behind him. The fucker didn't even sound winded. "We've barely gone any distance, and you're already startin' to punk out on me. Oh, and I'm nine paces behind you now. Every time you look back, I close the distance. Call it incentive to watch where you're going." DeWitt moaned again, but shut up and concentrated on his running, on the slap of his shoes on the sidewalk. He tried to tell if nutso was gaining on him, but couldn't hear the other guy at all. Not even his breathing. Was he still there? Five minutes passed as his legs protested and his breath came in gasps, and there was still no sound of the other guy. He looked back. The fucking dude was behind him, alright, jogging along like he could do this all damned day. He was also barefooted, a detail DeWitt had missed before. Of more immediate importance, though, was that he looked right at John-Henry's terrified eyes and closed the distance another pace, his grin wider. "Oh shit..." John-Henry muttered under his breath as he tried to coax more speed out of his legs. "Ohshitohshit." Amazingly, fear seemed to lend him a little more strength, and he surged forwards. "Nice. But pace yourself." came the voice from behind him. "We've got a long way to go, you and me. We're goin' the distance." "f'k y'rself." John-Henry gasped, then shut up and concentrated on running. One foot before the other, his heartbeat in his ears. Time passed, they passed turnoffs, the road curving south towards Holmby Park. It was a long, neverending nightmare, the occasional lights of a house, indicating that someone there was awake, nothing more than a cruel torment. The occasional car passed, taking the two for joggers out late, and John-Henry didn't dare try to flag one down. He still couldn't hear the crazy guy behind him, but he was there. DeWitt knew it. And if he looked around, then the dude would be only seven paces behind him. Fuck that. His legs gave out and he tripped, falling at the junction of South Beverley and Cornstock. Too breathless to scream, he panted and wheezed in fear as he scrabbled to his feet, heedless of the damage to his clothes and skin. "I'm still runnin'... still runnin'!" he gasped, expecting to feel steely fingers around his throat any moment. "Relax." came the guy's voice. "You've done good, John-Henry. Real good." DeWitt turned. The dude was still looking fresh as a daisy and regarding him with an amused smile. "You fucker!" John-Henry spat. "You.." he gasped for breath. "You sick fuck. What the fuck was that running for, huh?!" He wheezed, trying to get his breath back. "Whoa, there." the man looked taken aback, raising both hands. "I thought you'd be happy we made it. I know I am." "Made it... where?" "To the park. I'm lifting some restrictions, Johnny-boy. As a present to you." As he spoke, Declan peeled off his faded sweatshirt. Bent over double as he was, John-Henry didn't see this, nor did he see Dec shuck the sweatpants and, balling both up, shove them in a mailbox. When he did look up again, though, his eyes nearly bugged out. "What the fuck?!" he exclaimed as he saw the naked man. "You plannin' on raping me now, you sick fuckin' perv?!" "Rape's your thing, Johnny-boy. Yours and those little shits you peddle to." Declan said breezily, swinging his arms back and forth. "But we are going to do some more runnin'. Don't worry, it won't be for long. The good news is..." he grinned, grinned wide, and this time there seemed to be way too many teeth for the mouth containing them. John-Henry gasped and stepped back. "..You can scream now, if you want to." Declan said with a growling laugh, and Changed. His mind flooded with primitive terror of what he was seeing, John-Henry turned and fled from the massive, horse-sized wolf, uncaring of the shit and urine running down inside the legs of his jeans as he tore with terror-renewed strength across the road and into the park, gasping, weak screams trailing behind him.
  23. Going to go ahead and start up an OOC thread. We're into the third chapter - those who come into the game at a later point can find earlier OOC discussions in the world concept thread: New Game: The Darkness of Space [
  24. August 17, 2011 “So that’s it,” Javier said, his thin face made longer with worry. “No one’s seen Brad in two weeks.” “Wow,” Marley said, her eyes wide. “Seriously. Nothing?” “We had a date last Friday, which he missed,” August told them. That raised a few eyebrows. Brad’s interest in her had been well-known throughout the School of Film. “That’s when I started to think that he wasn’t just laying low after that stupid bastard conned him.” “He was looking for him,” Gabe told the table somberly. “Who?” Marley asked. “The con-artist.” Javier was the one who answered, though Marley was looking at Gabe. “He told Gabe and I that he’d gotten a lead on the guy. Someone named ‘Jackson’ was going to sell him information on the guy.” “You let him go alone?” August asked, her cheeks flushing as she turned a dire eye on the two men. “There was no ‘let’, August,” Gabe told her, his brown eyes somber. The Asian American looked as upset as she felt. “We tried to talk him out of it, but he was determined to get his money back.” Javier crossed his arms and snorted, his wide, dark nostrils flaring as he stated, “Get his pride back. That’s what was messing with him.” “There’s only one thing to do,” Steph said. She was Gabe’s half-sister, and the resemblance was clear despite her white father’s genetic influence. “We have to take this to the cops.” “Devon already called the cops, and filed a missing persons report.” Javier didn’t look mollified as he spoke. “Seriously,” Marley grumbled, “Devon’s just his roommate. He doesn’t care about Brad. He’s probably glad he doesn’t have to share the remote anymore.” “Is this something we want to get involved in?” Gabe asked uneasily. “Yeah. Brad’s our friend. Let’s take what we know to the police,” August said. She rose and the others stood with her, pleased that someone was pushing them to action. -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=- Campus security was great for crimes on campus, but no one knew whether the crime had happened on campus. So they went to the West Los Angeles Community Police Station. The group of five had to wait for almost an hour before a detective from the Missing Persons Unit could see them. Their first look was promising; an older man, thick but not fat, with cool, calculating eyes. He introduced himself as Detective Robinson. The five gave their information to him; he wrote it all down and then said, “Thank you for the information. We’ll keep looking for your friend.” “Wait, is that all?” August asked, her brow furrowing. After their trek, it didn’t seem right that it should end with a five minute conversation. “Yes, ma’am. We’ll continue to look for your friend, but I’ll be honest – there are a lot of missing persons,” Detective Robinson told them. “We’re doing everything we can. If you’re not satisfied, you should hire a private investigator.” That seemed to deflate most of them, but August asked, “Do you know a good one?” “I know lots of good ones, and some affordable ones,” Robinson said, cracking a grin for the first time. “Lemme give you a few names.”
  25. In two days the base Dedication Ceremony will be taking place. For a few of the residents of the Moon Base, the hustle and bustle around them doesn't affect their lives. These few have nothing to do but take their leisure. While not all of the base recreation facilities are open, there is always something to be doing.
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