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  1. February 19, 2012 “Out of bed!” The voice snapped through Imriel’s brain, jogging him awake. He was on his feet before his eyes opened, so he was already halfway awake before he saw the time. His mentor and roommate was annoyingly awake, fully dressed and ready to go. He was still wearing his tank top and flannel pants. Whisker liked it a little colder, so he adapted. “Whisker, it’s three in the morning,” he said, realized he’d said it in slurred Japanese, and repeated himself in English. “Yep, and we have work to do,” she informed him. She grabbed his head and he felt something flow through him. Sleepiness fled as she stepped back, grinning. “You might want to call into work now.” -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=- I’m going to lose my fucking job, Imriel sighed as he drove down Foothill Boulevard. This was the third time he’d had to call in since the start of the year, and that wasn’t a good track record. Unfortunately, Seers didn’t wait for convenient times to act out. Whisker pointed at a parking spot on the side of the road and Imriel snagged it. As he parallel parked, she pulled out a tiny spy glass and peered through it. When he shut off his engine, she passed it to him. It looked like a run-down apartment complex of a dozen buildings. The sign out front said it was Last Foundations Retirement Home, but it looked like it had been retired. The building that Whisker pointed out wouldn’t have caught his eye, as it was a dirty, broken-down building in a row of dirty, broken-down buildings. A second look revealed signs that she was right; all of the windows were still in place and the doors was firmly locked rather than just nailed shut or kicked in. According to Whisker’s intel, there was a Seer cell operating in the building. The word was that they had captured supernatural creatures and were running tests on them. This could not be allowed, not just because it allowed others to possibly learn about magic but because it was wrong. It was something his mother would do, and so when he’d learned about it, he’d been as ready as Whisker was to kick some Seer ass. Imriel sighed as he glanced at the dashboard and saw it was now just after four-thirty. Whatever Whisker had done to him had been like a Red Bull, but that didn’t mean he wanted to be up right now. But his mentor had a lead on Seer activity and this time it sounded far more important than the usual Seer bullshit. It sounded like something needed to deal with immediately. Whisker waited until he’d had a good look before she asked, “Did you see the light? On the first floor of that building?” “No,” he admitted, not at all surprised. Whisker’s eyes were much sharper than his. “They painted over the windows, but they didn’t go a perfect job,” she said, her sexy voice serious and smug. She really liked having anything she could hold over the Seers, no matter how trivial. “I can see a spot on one of the buildings.” Her exotically-shaped gray eyes focused on him. “Where’s that friend of yours?” “She’s not my friend,” he said absently, still scanning the building’s black windows. “She’s just another mage I know.” “I wish we had more Arrows,” Whisker sighed. Imriel agreed, but Calypso had been the only one to answer her phone when he’d called around for backup. “I’m going to get some eyes on the inside.” Imriel nodded as she hopped out of the car and slipped over to a shadow. He watched, but only saw her kneeling. A moment later, she returned, looking smug. “A rat’s going to check it out for us. We just have to wait.” Whisker was silent, then asked impatiently, “When will she get here?” “When she gets here,” Imriel replied, used to her impatience. She’d wait, though not happily. And she’d make sure he was unhappy about having to wait, too. “She has the address, and she said she was coming.” -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=- Thad groaned and pulled the pillow over his head as the beast roared again. He was trying to sleep damnit, and he wasn’t sure how he was supposed to do that when that monster was making so much noise. The spell soundproofing the apartment complex kept people outside from hearing the noise, but he could hear it and he needed some god damned rest! “Fucking furry monster!” he snarled as he rolled out of his cot and stormed for the door. The noise was even louder when he opened the door that had once separated the studio apartment from its bathroom. This room mirrored the other bathroom, which had been left intact for their use. The far wall of this bathroom, along with all the facilities, was long gone and emptied to make a storage room. The opening led to another former studio apartment. This one was now a large kitchen and dining room for the six-man team who lived here. Emilio was standing at the butcher’s block, chopping celery. The ingredients for an omelet were arrayed around him. The former Mexican was the best cook and usually pressed into service for cooking. “I haven’t gotten any sleep,” Thad bitched to the older man, stopping to watch him. “No one is,” Emilio said, looking up at Thad through salt-and-pepper hair. “I told her we should kill the hombre-lobo.” Thad winced. “You and everyone else, Milo.” The Biologist was super creepy, and when Emilio had told her to kill the werewolf, she’d just said ‘No’ and no one had said anything else. Just that single no had made his skin crawl. He tried to avoid The Biologist with her staring eyes and face that never, ever showed a single expression. He preferred DeathFire, sorta. The guy had the corniest name ever, but after seeing him make black fire from his hands, Thad had never ever laughed at the name again, even privately. He looked like nothing; just some punk with stringy hair and the tendency to wear ripped t-shirts that had band names on them. All the bands had Deth or Death in the title, so at least DeathFire kept to a theme. He was scary too, but not in the testicle-constricting way that The Biologist was. DeathFire was terrifying because of what Thad had seen him do; he didn’t ever want to see what the Biologist could do. Thad once again wished he’d never answered the ad for a vet tech specialist working with exotic animals. A wealthy employer with a private collection who needed round-the-clock vet techs and were willing to pay were few and far in-between. Only once he’d taken the job did he learn why he’d gotten it: he saw magic without freaking out. DeathFire had shown off his fire-tricks, The Biologist had stared – and then things had gotten weird. He was so not suited for this. He was a vet tech, for fuck’s sake, not a… whatever you called people who looked after fucking werewolves. He’d been watching Emilio prepare breakfast when another roar tore through the kitchen. Scowling, Thad pushed himself off the counter and walked over to one of the industrial fridges in the room. This one was the one for food, he knew, not the other one – that was a mistake you only made once. Reaching inside, he pulled out a raw steak and a beer. “Whatcha doin’?” Emilio asked, watching him. “Bribery,” Thad explained and stomped over to the next door. This door led to a library of sots; the room held bookshelves and the Biologist’s desk. Thad wove through them, crossing through another set of former bathrooms, this one with only support studs left. The autopsy room was next and Thad winced at the smell. A man was on one of the tables, his chest and other parts splayed open. Yvette, a slim, petite black woman, was examining something from the dead man that Thad deliberately didn’t look at as he stalked past. He was supposed to be working on animals, damnit! Yvette glanced up at him as he walked by, her dark skin clashing with the blue hospital coverings she wore. “What’s up, sugar?” she asked, glancing at his hands. “Can’t sleep,” he snarled as he entered the next studio apartment. In this one, both bathrooms had been removed again to make room for six cages. Thad’s steps slowed as he looked at the newest occupants of the cages, freshly arrived last night. Of course, then they’d all been unconscious and blissfully quiet. The first cage on the right held a shivering woman. She was actually more of a girl, younger than he, at twenty-nine, would have been comfortable dating. Even with that discomfort, he admitted that the girl was blonde and gorgeous, with a body that would not stop. She was also high out of her mind, shivering and muttering softly to herself. The first cage on the left held a young man; he was in his early twenties with short black hair and pale green eyes. There was something unsettling about that one, and Thad glanced away. There were two empty cages, then the last cage or the right held the source of the noise. Thad’s lips curled in an angry grimace as he understood the cause of the monster’s outrage. Roman, Yvette’s half-brother, was stabbing at the beast through his bars with dowel rods. The monster was snapping them, but Roman just picked up another. Thad considered shoving Roman against the bars and letting the monster do as he would to him; the bars were too close for the werewolf to get his muzzle through, but he could rend the man with claws. Thad settled for kicking Roman in the backside. That was bad enough; Roman spun and glared down at him. Unlike Yvette, Roman was big and ugly. Yvette had been hired for her medical skills; Roman had been hired because he broke things. “You lookin’ for hurt, Tad?” he grumbled, his voice like rocks grinding. “I’m looking to get some fucking sleep,” he snarled, ignoring Roman getting his name wrong again. “Leave it alone so it’ll calm down.” “It was making noise before I started,” Roman protested. “Stop it,” Thad snapped, “or I’ll tell The Biologist what you’re doing to her experiments. If she wanted you to be riling them up, she’d say so. Now get.” The threat of The Biologist was enough. Roman scowled, but he pushed past Thad, bouncing him off one of the empty cages. “Asshole,” Thad muttered when he was sure that Roman was far enough away he wouldn’t hear. Now alone with the werewolf, Thad tossed the steak between the bars. “Truce?” he asked, then held up the beer. “I’ll give this to you, too, if you agree. I just want some damned sleep.” Lips curled back from teeth as long as Roman’s fingers. “I know you can understand me. Just nod and you get the beer.”
  2. February 13, 2012, 11:30 p.m. “You’re gonna lose your shirt,” August threatened as they cleared the dishes from the late dinner. Her internship had her keeping odd hours, and fitting her workouts around the demands of her last semester was always interesting. “You say that every week, frail,” Declan chided her as he started to run the water for the dishes. “And yet, I always get my fill of the peanuts.” “This time will be different,” the woman insisted, shoving the sleeves of her shirt up her arms. The spaghetti and meatballs were long gone; August tried to make enough for leftovers, but every time they had a post-training dinner, Declan ate every scrap. “Washing or drying?” “Washin’,” he said and plunged his hands into the water. “I made it hot.” “You always make it hot,” August snorted as she grabbed a towel. A second later she blushed, then blushed harder as the werewolf unleashed one of his slow sexy chuckles. “Hey, you wanna get spanked, I have no problem delivering,” he told her, automatically washing the dish in his hands. He rinsed and handed the steaming plate to her, adding, “In poker or anything else.” August flushed again, taking the plate and drying it. “Not this time,” she vowed. “I’m winning tonight.” “Well, better hurry up and get to it then,” Declan said, doubling the speed of his dish-washing. They kept of the light banter as they cleaned the kitchen and wiped the table. Then Declan went to get the cards while August located the peanut tin. When the werewolf came into the kitchen, August was holding the tin and frowning. “We have a problem,” she said. “What’s that?” he asked, about two seconds before he remembered having a craving for nuts a couple of days ago. “No peanuts.” “No, three peanuts,” she said, smirking a little. “You ate all but three? Really? And put the tin back with three peanuts in it?” “I only ate what I wanted,” he defended sheepishly, racking his brain for appropriate stakes. August was thinking, too, but her mind was going somewhere different. “Alright,” she said, then drew a deep breath. “Strip poker it is, then.” She colored at the look he gave her and said faintly, “Unless you have a better idea? I mean, with two people, it’s gonna be a short game…” She rather hoped he didn't think of anything better. Tomorrow was Valentines, and being alone on that day was really pathetic. Sure, she, Oneca, Araida and Kaitlin would go picking up men, but that wasn’t the same. August didn’t want to pick up strange men for meaningless sex. She’d rather have meaningless sex with Declan. Hell, she’d rather have sex with Declan altogether. She knew it. He knew it. Only that little sliver of doubt was holding her back and on the eve of Valentine's Day, it wasn't enough to stop her.
  3. [Late evening, 25 Jan 2012] I have got to be out of my mind. As she looked westward from the edge of her territory, a light and cool wind wafting inland from the coast, Sarah considered once more what she planned to do, how dangerous it was... and yet, how necessary. The land to the west of here belonged to someone else. And try as she may, nobody else came to mind for the advice she badly needed. Had this been territory back home, Sarah would have shifted to her wolf-form and let out a howl of greeting. But this was the middle of suburban Los Angeles, not a half-dozen blocks from UCLA. People noticed a wolf howling in their backyards. Nor should she leave a note on a tree or rock and hope it might be noticed. People took care of their yards here, and stray paper tacked up wouldn't last long. With one last look around, Sarah stepped out of her territory and into that of the werewolf she knew only as Owns-The-Night. Her neighbor. --- Half an hour of sniffing and scouting and furtive glances later, the Dead-Wolf stood before the door of an unassuming and tidy little house on a corner directly across the street from campus. The signs were unmistakable; the scent was strongest here, and there were tell-tale marks on the trees that were as loud a message of "Stay Away!" as anything man had ever made. Unfortunately, staying away would leave her no better off than she'd been these past several months. With no small amount of trepidation, she reached up with a cold, dead hand and knocked on the door of the wolf's den.
  4. August 24th, evening The last arc of the sun lay simmering on the horizon, burning a deep blood red, and staining the city like some kind of profane prophecy. Long shadows stretched out into the crimson light like ghastly claws stretching through pools of blood. Sam sat in her car and fought against the raw nerves that were making her regret getting out of bed that morning. She was clad in black from head to toe, a conceit to stealth that did nothing to help cope with the late day heat. Black boots, leggings, tee-shirt under a black sweatshirt, and a black ball-cap with her hair pulled through the loop in the back. Her car was parked down the street from Brad's bloodsucking leech of a master's home, and she was waiting and watching. Once the sun fell below the horizon, which would be very soon by the way the ember was dripping down toward the sea, the creature would wake and then it and it's blood addled slaves would apparently leave apparently to rob the UCLA business school. Sam intended to shadow them, follow them to hopefully win an opportunity to free Brad from the monster's clutches, if that was even possible. The woman, Bonita, probably deserved it too, or maybe she had at one point; now she was as cruel and evil as her master, but she was at least human. The whole process wasn't an exact science. Hell, it's barely even a plan, Sam grumbled to herself. Night fell. Officially. That just meant that the last burning trace of the sun finally fell below the horizon. In actuality the dark merely took a stronger hold as the last long streamers of direct light evaporated into nothingness. Twilight now clad the city in in dim light that would wane for the next hour or two before full dark finally banished the last of the reflected natural light. In her car, Sam lurked like a living shadow until the barely glowing hands of her watch indicated half past ten. The garage door rolled up and a van backed out. Sam started her own car and followed the van, sparing to thought to the possibility that all three may not be within. Whichever of them drove they drove carefully, never going above the speed limit, never running a light or rolling through a stop sign. It was so conspicuously safe and legal that only somebody unaccustomed to crime would think to drive that way. The drive took nearly forty minutes but finally they breached the campus perimeter. The van stopped, the lights going out immediately. Sam quickly pulled into a spot further down the street and got out of her car. In all black she was a shadow walking in darkness, and she hoped that that would be enough. The three figures got out of the van and started walking, Sam wondered why they didn't drive directly to the business building, but then figured that it would be more conspicuous for a van than for three figures with fully laden backpacks. Whatever they were planning to steal would be small and valuable. That or there was more to the plan that Sam would learn in time. It didn't matter, she'd find out soon enough. She trailed along behind the three, her rubber sole boots making little noise, and her slim, black clad form darting from tree to shrub, to car. Up ahead the two ghouls plodded on with singular purpose, oblivious to their tail. Henrik was a hunter, and man with experience. He had made Sam long ago, almost as soon as they left the haven. He smiled; tonight's meal had come to him. Shadowing Sam [jameson] 9:20 pm: Dex 2 + Stealth (shadowing) 2(3) = 5 dice, just for giggles and drama jameson *rolls* 5d10: 6+4+2+1+3: 16 [jameson] 9:22 pm: Brad 5 dice jameson *rolls* 5d10: 6+5+1+7+3: 22 [jameson] 9:22 pm: Bonita 6 dice jameson *rolls* 6d10: 5+3+4+7+2+7: 28 [jameson] 9:23 pm: lulz [Jeremy] 9:23 pm: lol [jameson] 9:23 pm: Henrik 5 dice jameson *rolls* 5d10: 10+8+8+9+8: 43 jameson *rolls* 1d10: 2: 2 [Jeremy] 9:23 pm: ....your luck run out [jameson] 9:23 pm: ruh-roh [jameson] 9:24 pm: Sam's gonna need some help [Jeremy] 9:24 pm: hmm... [Owns-The-Night] 9:25 pm: The Yard Snake to the rescue!
  5. June, 1992. Somewhere in Montana "He was always striving to attain it. The life that was so swiftly expanding within him, urged him continually toward the wall of light. The life that was within him knew that it was the one way out, the way he was predestined to tread." He didn't like the truck. His uncle had explained that it was necessary. That the machine was no different in essence than a rifle or a stove. But Declan didn't like the truck. It smelled funny, made too much noise, and for a six year-old boy who hadn't even seen or heard of an automobile before his uncle had retrieved it from the old shed and spent yesterday repairing it, the contraption was terrifying. "Don't fret, boy." His uncle told him without real impatience as he glanced sideways to where the dark-haired boy was moodily kicking at the underside of the dash. "You got to get used to riding these things. They make life's journeys a little faster and easier." "Why can't we walk?" Declan didn't quite whine: his uncle was a kind enough man in a rough-hewn way, but didn't tolerate whining. The odd cuff around the back of the head had quickly cured the boy of that. But his question was definitely accusatory. "I don't care how far it is. I want to walk to Livvy. I can walk to any place." "It's Libby, Dec. And yeah, you're a good strong walker. And yeah, we would get there... by evening." His uncle grinned through a short dark beard streaked with grey, pale blue eyes twinkling. "All the shops would have shut, and you and me would be stuck in Libby for the night." He reached over and ruffled the child's hair, prompting a mutinous glower from his nephew's silver eyes. Bob Perault was a little taken aback. Damn, last time I saw anyone with that look, his dad kicked my ass. "Don't you look at me like that, boy." he said, forcing a growl into his voice. "You got to get a lot bigger and whole lot meaner before you can throw looks like that one around, goddamnit." The tone worked, and Declan dropped his gaze and mumbled an apology under his breath. Bob reached out and laid a hand on the kid's shoulder. "Is it that bad, Dec? Look outta the window, kiddo. Ever go this fast before?" His question roused the boy from his sulk, and Declan clambered up on the bench seat and watched the world go past, face pressed to the window as he forgot his gripe in the way children do. The rest of the trip was more harmonious. The kid was a quiet sort anyway. Apart from the occasional question about something he saw, he would just watch the landscape blur past. Bob privately wondered what he'd do on the day that he couldn't face down his nephew. It was coming, sure as snow in winter. Pulling the truck into a parking space outside the store, Bob got out. "You stay with the truck, Dec. It needs watching." Declan's disappointment at being left behind was softened by being given something important to do. He started to get out, but his uncle shook his head. "Stay inside the truck, Dec. Folks around here aren't always friendly. If anyone causes trouble honk the horn, okay?" The large man indicated the horn button, and Declan nodded. "It'll make a big noise, and I'll come running out." Declan nodded again, then watched his uncle walk into the general store. He spent some time watching the street, but Libby was a small town and there was not much to see. After a few minutes, however, a small knot of local children gathered to stare at the beat-up old truck and the pale-eyed boy staring out at them from inside it. Eventually, a group consensus achieved, they approached the truck behind a chubby ten year old wearing an orange t-shirt and faded jeans. "Hey!" The leader, a kid called Joe, said, looking up at the open window that Declan was currently staring out of. He knew how this was supposed to go: harass the new kid, see how they fitted into the pecking order. But this weird-eyed kid didn't answer, he just stared at Joe like some kind of creepy dummy. "Are you a retard or something?" Joe asked, not entirely unkindly. It wasn't nice to pick on retards, after all. "He looks like one." giggled Steve, one of Joe's friends. The strange kid just tilted his head to one side as if considering Steve, then answered in a soft voice. "What's a retard?" Joe blinked and glanced at his friends as though seeking some sort of advice, then looked back at Declan. "Wow. You must be real young to not know that." He said patronisingly. The weirdo frowned at that, looking defiant. "I'm six!" He said with some heat, falling for one of the oldest pieces of bait in the schoolyard fishing compendium. "Oooh! Siiiiix!" Steve giggled again. "Are you a big boy now?" The other kids laughed. Declan felt his teeth clench at that sound, shrill mockery and humor at his expense causing his hands to grip the window's edge harder. "I'm plenty big enough to do lots of things I bet you can't! I can track, and hunt, and one day my uncle will teach me to shoot!" Declan said with anger in his voice now at their continued laughter. "Which is more than you all can do. You stink so bad that you'd scare the game away!" "I don't stink!" Joe stepped up to the truck door, clenching pudgy fists as he looked up into Declan's silver eyes. "You come down here and say that to my face, or are ya chicken?" Declan was torn now; on the one hand, his uncle had told him to stay with the truck and honk the horn in case of trouble. On the other hand this fat boy, with his soft features and smelly breath, was calling him chicken. The inner conflict didn't last long. It couldn't. Something inside him whispered that a challenge had been made, and something in Declan's soul rose to it, teeth bared. He jumped out of the truck window with a little growl, landing on Joe's upturned face and sending them both crashing to the floor. The yelp of pained surprise from Joe stifled the noise of the other kids as Declan rolled and came to his feet in a crouch, not even concerned about the grazes and cuts on his arms and bare legs under the shorts. The older boy struggled to his feet less gracefully, touching one finger gingerly to a bloody lip. He looked at the blood and glared daggers at the unflinching boy crouched before him. "You're DEAD!" With that shrill battlecry ringing in the sleepy main street air, Joe rushed at the wiry kid with his arms outstretched. Growling under his breath, Declan swayed to one side before launching himself at Joe's ample midsection. They went down in a tangle, punching and grappling with each other. Size and experience was on Joe's side, however, and despite the wiry strength and ferocity of his opponent, the older boy gained the upper hand and was soon kneeling on Declan's chest. "Give in?" Joe was sweating and breathing hard from the effort of the fight. Declan's answer to the civilised question was as simple as it was primal. A fist-sized stone, held in a small hand, came up and smacked the larger boy on the side of the head. Crying out in pain, Joe rolled off Declan and tried to get back to his feet, shaking his head to clear it. The watching kids saw the strange boy roll to his feet in one smooth motion, a killing light in his silver eyes as he stalked towards the still-kneeling Joe, taking a firmer grip on his rock. He raised it high, teeth bared in a snarl... Only to have it snatched from him by a large hand. Growling, he whirled on the interloper, only to receive a cuff that sent him sprawling as Bob Perault tossed the rock to one side. "Stay down there, Dec." Though he didn't sound angry there was steel in his uncle's voice, and the boy heeded it and stayed put as Bob helped Joe to his feet and examined the lump on the boy's skull. "You're alright, kid. Get some ice on that and you'll be fine." He told the other kids to get Joe home, then turned and moved over to the prone Declan. Squatting down next to him, he reached out and ruffled the boy's hair. "Let's get you home, boy. You need some lessons on handling your temper in a fight so's you don't kill folks." Declan took the offered hand and was pulled to his feet. "You also need lessons on what "Stay in the truck" means, dammit all ta hell!" His uncle growled at him before walking away. Scuffing his shoes on the ground, Declan followed. Sure as snow in winter, Bob thought as he opened the truck door, a chill running down his spine as he remembered the look in Declan's eyes. I just hope it ain't the death of me.
  6. August 27, 2011 Enough was enough. August was lying on her bed, staring at the ceiling. She had been assessing her life for the last few weeks, and she’d come to one inescapable conclusion: she couldn’t take care of herself. She’d always thought of herself as a survivor. She had survived things that would make others crumble. But honestly, instead of surviving stuff, why didn’t she try to stop it? It was a new concept for her. But it had a certain allure to it. Of course, the question was how. August was pretty sure that she didn’t want to learn this the hard way, by picking fights until she was proficient enough to win them. And learning cost lessons. She’d had free self-defense classes provided by the UCLA cops, but having done that once didn’t infer the ability to kick ass. No, she needed something more, especially since the weirdness that was her life wasn’t slowing down. So where could she get some tips on self defense that wouldn’t actually cost any money? August thought about it for a moment, then rolled over onto her stomach. Her fingers dug into her purse, fishing out her phone. Once she had recovered it from the purse-ian depths, she selected a number and hit talk. “Hey, Dec,” she said in greeting at the hello. “Whatcha doin’ tonight?” Her voice was hopeful, but also a bit shy. She didn’t know if he’d be interested in this; the only way to know was to ask, and she didn’t really what his reaction would be. The uncertainty left her feeling a bit vulnerable and it was clear in her tone.
  7. [september 19th, 2011] "I don't believe it." "I told you. Didn't I tell you? The guy's a fucking animal. Eighty minutes on the heavy bag and he ain't slowed down. And he isn't love-tapping it neither, look at the momentum he's putting on it." "No gloves." said a third voice heavy with grudging admiration. "Not even wraps." "Fast, heavy hands." a woman said in a soft Gaelic brogue, as though evaluating a car. "Balanced mass, too. Look how he dips his right shoulder and raises his left to bring it down into the cross. That's old-school barroom bareknuckle. Whoever taught him to fight didn't do it with gloves on. What did you say he was called, Kieran?" The woman speaking had dark blonde hair and a beach-tan. Currently in a halter-top and shorts, her arms, legs and exposed midriff were all taut with hard muscle. She stood against a far wall, idly talking with her three friends, all of whom bore the same logo on their t-shirts as she did on her halter-top: a green neon hawk's head, beak open in a silent scream, with 'Raptor MMAS' written around the central design. "Perault. First name's Declan, I asked around. Most call him 'Crazy Perault', but not when he can hear 'em. Word is that he's some vet got sectioned out two years back and he's been here ever since, and the guy's like the proverbial fucking honey badger - he just don't care. Rumor has it a dealer pulled a gun on ol' Perault there one month after the V.A. released him, and the man just took the gun off the druggie and beat the everloving shit out of him. Put him in hospital, and a bunch of his pals when they came round a week later looking for payback." The current speaker was the youngest of the four, a freshman at UCLA and obviously the junior of the group. He looked at the woman eagerly. "What do you think, Mary? Was I right, or was I right? This guy's got 'bank' written all over him." "Big deal." said the third speaker, a towering, bulky man with a crooked nose, scars and a bunch of biker tattoos. "So he beat up some crackheads. That shit's different from being in a cage with a real fighter. He's got potential, though." he added as though grudging the words. "Yeah? Well pretty much every Chuck Norris joke told around UCLA has Crazy Perault's name swapped in." Kieran said defensively. "He's a scary son of a bitch. Caused a jock to piss himself with a look. Didn't lay a finger on him, and the tough-guy just folded. So if you think he's no big deal, why don't you go up there and tell him, Rack? I double-dog dare your ass." "I reckon I will, then." Rack said, straightening away from the wall with a smirk. An outstretched hand stopped him as it slapped against his chest, and the big man looked down at Mary. The woman had a speculative look in her eye as she watched the burly, dark-haired figure, sweat soaking his hair to his head, continue to pound on the body bag. "Uh oh. I know that look." said the first speaker, who'd remained quiet till now, in an amused tone. Mary flicked a glance his way and shrugged, her lips curling in a smile as she looked back Perault's way. The man who'd spoken looked at Rack. "Looks like Mad Mary's got her sights locked in." The others chuckled. "Hush, you blatherin' girls." Mary said irritably as she unloaded a short jab into the ribs of the one that'd called her Mad Mary. He 'oofed' and moved away, rubbing at his bruised ribcage. "And I told ye what would happen if you kept on with the 'Mad' monicker, now didn't I?" "Now waitaminute." Rack said, scowling. "You ain't allowed to sleep with a member of the team, Mary. We all discussed that shit. It causes nothin' but ill feeling." "Relax, Rack." Mary reached up and patted his cheek, smiling with a mischievous twinkle in her light brown eyes. "I'm just going to feel him out. And besides..." she added as she started to move away from the others, winking over her shoulder. "He's not a member of the team yet."
  8. September 5, 2011, 1:55 p.m. Holmby Park August walked nervously next to Dec, her anxiousness evident in her stance. She was really glad that Declan had agreed to come and even happier that he’d been able to get the time off. “You sure this won’t get you in trouble?” she asked, more because she needed to talk than needing more assurance. “Nah,” Dec said, looking around more casually then August, but still attentive. “My boss owed me time off.” Something about his smile after that statement made August raise an eyebrow. She was suddenly glad Dec didn’t work for her, for reasons she couldn’t name. “Okay, then.” His grin widened some more at her tone, and he lifted a hand. For a second, August thought that he’d hug her but instead she got another manly pat on the back. However, those thoughts quickly faded when she saw Shane. That wasn’t technically true – she saw the ghost first. Lilly was hard to miss; she floated half a head higher than Shane like some spectral weather balloon. “There,” August said, her voice hoarse. She caught Dec’s arm and subtly pointed. “That dark-haired man on the bench.” She swallowed and glanced up at Declan. “Maybe I should approach alone. Let him know you’re coming. I don’t want to get this started off wrong.”
  9. {Saturday, 13th August, 2011} Adanedhel finished his preparations and sat back on the throw-pillow, looking at the tools spread out before him. Tonight was the night! A full moon, when the gateway between the worlds was at it's narrowest. After tonight, he wouldn't be Evan Nelson anymore. Poor sad Evan, with his greasy hair and coke-bottle-lens glasses, would fall away from the shining truth of his soul like a husk, and only Adanedhel would remain. It had taken so much work. The labour of months, years even, ever since Adanedhel had realised his true identity whilst attending a Lord of the Rings LARP in San Diego. The way his peers had marvelled at his grasp of Qenya, at how melodically and fluidly he had spoken it. He had read them poems he'd crafted in the ancient tongue, and they'd applauded, and the lady playing Galadriel (who'd looked much more lovely and ethereal than the woman who'd played the role in the movies, but Adanedhel still considered Cate Blanchett as very fitting for the role) had kissed him on the cheek and told him he had a truly Elvish soul. An Elvish soul! Of course he did - it made perfect sense now! His whole life had been one of loneliness at best, torment at worst among the brutish, unrefined herd of humanity that had been his lot. His father had called him a faggot for wanting to study poetry and literature, and his mother had just fretted and sighed that her son was a dreamer. Of course he was a dreamer! Who wouldn't want to dream of something better than this inelegant, mundane pigsty. Well, tonight that would be over. No more dreaming. It had taken him a while to find the right rituals, pieced together from fragments of so-called 'Satanic' texts, truths hidden in 'fiction' and even some passages of the Bible! The truth was indeed there to be found, if one but wanted badly enough to perceive it. He picked up the knife and examined it carefully. It was perfect, a shining steel blade with silver Qenya runes etched into the blade near the hilt. It was a reproduction Elven dagger, but the runes were Adanedhel's own addition, signifying transformation and new life from death. He was proud of the work. He set it back onto the cloth roll with the rope and ceremonial robes. Outside in the van was the final component for the ritual - a tormented but pure soul who needed to be released into the grace of the Valar, who would receive her and in the process grant Evan his release from this ugly, frail mortal shell. He'd watched her for weeks. She was a film student, and she was beautiful and good at heart, but tormented. He'd followed her on her visits to her doctor, seen her leave with troubled expressions on her face. He'd watched closely as she seemed to recoil at things that were not there. Poor fragile soul. He knew that he was doing her a kindness, and that she would be better off in the afterlife. Earlier this evening he'd caught her as she'd come out of the doctor's again, taking her by surprise and pressing the chloroformed pad to her face. She'd gone limp almost immediately, and he'd dragged her to the van. Before she woke, he would have to change her into the simple-yet-lovely Elven gown he'd bought for the occasion of her escape from this horrible life. He looked at his clock: a half hour till midnight - time to go. He gathered up his robes, the gown, the rope and the knife, and left his shoddy, shitty little apartment for the last time. It was a full moon, a bright night despite the permanent haze that hung over L.A in late summer. Owns-The-Night was enjoying the night air in one of his favorite lazing-spots, a dense thicket of trees and bushes near the girl's dorm. There were other reasons besides the cover that he liked that spot. He was looking at two of them now. The vargr may not have been a gentleman, but he knew what he liked. Besides, the night was quiet, all the pimps and dealers seemed to be indoors or doing business well away from the campus, so really what better use was there for his time than to watch young women flitting around their dorm rooms naked but for a pair of panties. The freshman drew her curtains, ending the peepshow, and the huge wolf whuffed softly under his breath and flowed to his feet with a grace eerie in an animal so unnaturally large, shaking himself lightly before heading off on another round of his territory. He moved with uncanny silence and stealth, barely seeming to disturb the gloom between the trees as he ghosted past two young lovers walking along a path, holding hands and talking about the movie they'd seen. The humans never had a clue he was there, and beyond the ring of light thrown by the lamps lining the path, silver eyes watched them with a sense of proprietary satisfaction. They could walk aboard safely because of him, and that was worth all the work of the last eighteen months. This campus, and the blocks surrounding it, were his, and he guaranteed safety to the inoffensive and death to the intruder with equal fervor. Vampires, drug dealers - it was all the same to him. No-one fucked with this place unless they wanted a faceful of vargr. That was something to be proud of. He was moving with a steady, ground-eating trot along the western rim of the UCLA campus near the graveyard when the wind shifted, blowing from the west now rather than the north, and carrying a familiar scent to his nostrils. August, and she wasn't far away either. The vargr's head tilted as he considered that. She must be across the street, and that meant she was in the cemetary. What the hell was she doing there at night? Junkies and bums sometimes crashed there, and whilst it wasn't a terrible place to wander and think, it wasn't exactly safe after midnight on a Saturday. With a low puzzled growl in his chest, Owns-The-Night waited for the road to be clear before bounding across, clearing the wall in one leap.
  10. 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.
  11. {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.
  12. Monday, August 1, 2011, Franklin D. Murphy Sculpture Garden, 2:00 p.m. The sun was deliciously warm. August didn't feel warm often; lately, cold had been her enemy, a sign that she was still going crazy. Or perhaps that she was still insane. It was hard to tell if she was actually nuts or still sane and fighting the fall. Wasn't there a rule that if you were worried about being insane you were still sane? Or was that officially wishful thinking? Her therapist would tell her that thoughts like that weren't helping. August was supposed to be helping with her therapy, not questioning her level of insanity. Think pleasant thoughts, she told herself. Keeping her eyes shut, she let the heat act like a balm on soul as well as her body. The stone bench under her was also warm; with the firm heat under her and the golden warmth above her, she was completely at ease. Nearby, someone was turning over the earth; August could smell the scent of disrupted, heated soil. The occasional sound of the worker reached her as well, but she was concentrating on the sounds of the guys playing catch with a Frisbee or of the birds singing. They were very active, their voices pitched in high, nervous chirps. They sounded a little scared. Those are not the kind of thoughts you should be thinking about, she chided herself, but now that she'd noticed the nervous twittering, she couldn't shut it out. As a distraction, she let her mind drift to the final project for her independent study. Though summer classes were technically over, she was still working on her project. Her instructor had let her start late so she had until August 15. She had a couple of weeks, but she needed to start focusing. August had loved to play with light and film; styles like film noir were so interesting to her technically. The play of light and dark had been the focus of her summer project and now she had to submit a video showing her knowledge. But since her 'break' August had found herself woefully short on inspiration. What had once been easy, even exciting, was now a chore. Part of coming to this park was the hope that something would inspire her. Then the warm sun had lulled her into a nap. Just like a cat, she thought with a lazy smile. Carelessly, she shifted on the bench, pulling one knee up as her hands came to rest on her stomach. This was way too relaxing; the warm summer air combined with the lack of Saja-related pressure or school pressure was enough to draw her toward sleep. The Frisbee took care of that. It sailed over the hands of the guy jumping for it and right into August's face. Yelping, she sat up, clapping her hand to the spot over her eye. It was already throbbing but she could tell it was just going to be a bruise and wasn't bleeding. And the shithead who'd missed was laughing at her. August glared at him, as he giggled into his hand and pulled his sun visor low over his eyes. It was nervous laughter but she didn't care. "Hey, wanna get that for me?" "Sure," August said, turning to look over the bushes behind the bench. The Frisbee was on top of the bushes and she shoved through trimmed foliage, grimacing as they raked at her bare legs. She grabbed the offending disk, snatching it up off the plants. She was seconds from hurling it back- What would the Wolf do? As always, that thought made her stop and consider. And she was angry. She'd been having a good day. It wasn't being hit with the Frisbee. It was that he'd laughed at her instead of apologizing. There was a gardener nearby, one of the UCLA's fleet of groundskeepers. August darted over to his cart and grabbed the pruning knife off of it. She started to hack at the plastic disc, but it was too tough to cut in half like she'd wanted. She heard the guy yell and start toward her, and August switched tactics. She began to scratch letters into the disc instead, and by the time the boy snatched it from her she'd managed to get three letters in it: A-S-S. "Bitch!" he snarled when he saw her artwork. His friends weren't too far behind, but August wasn't afraid of any of them. They were all frat kids, over-privileged and rude, and she was still angry. "Try an apology next time," she told them, setting the pruning knife down in the cart. The kid opened his mouth, then looked over her shoulder and paled. "Good luck, bitch," he muttered before turning and fleeing. Frowning, August turned to see what had caused that reaction.
  13. {18th July, 2011} "Hey, Declan!" I stopped working, the rake dangling from one hand as I watched Sue approach from across the lawn I'd just finished cleaning. The sun was playing down through the trees, warm asphalt mingling with flowers and grass in a disjointed melody of scent. I up-ended my rake and shoved it into my carry-bin as I waited for the woman to catch up with me. Her brown eyes searched my face as she drew nearer, her gait slowing as she got within ten feet. As always, she smelled of cigarettes and the vodka she liked to mix with her orange juice during breaks. Most folks wouldn't notice - I do. She also smelled nervous. Most folks wouldn't notice. I do. "Hi Declan." She smiled uneasily, just like always, until her eyes looked into mine and she got the rabbit look, just like always. Sue's one of the campus security crew, and somehow always seems to draw the duty of talking to me. Perhaps it's because she's the newbie. Perhaps it's something else. Most people avoid me because of how I make them feel, and that's fine: got nothing to say to them anyway. Some people though, like Sue, seek me out even though I give them the screaming heebie-jeebies. Something about me gets them crazy horny even though they want to run away. I call the look they get 'the rabbit look', because they sort of freeze and go very still, unable to look away. They're natural prey animals, even if they do walk on two legs. I'd find it funny if it wasn't so goddamn annoying. She'd be a fun screw, for certain. She radiates that heated vibe that practically slaps me around the face with the message "Fuck me now." But I ain't looking for trouble. Sue's a divorcee with kids, and I ain't lookin' to be Daddy Wolf right now. And damned if I want to get slapped with the inevitable 'harassment' suit when she realises that little fact. "Well?" I asked her, to jolt her out of her panic/fantasy/whatever. She jolted alright; her feet nearly left the ground before she collected her wits. I can tell she's soaking under her navy-blue pants and smirk a little, making her blush. "The boss wants to see you." She said hurriedly, swaying a little towards me like she wants to say, or do, something else before backing away and practically running away, she was walking so fast. Off to diddle herself in the ladies room again, as though I don't know. Fantastic. I wondered what the fat piece of crap that ran the security and maintainance staff wanted from me so bad that he actually wanted me in his small office. Then I considered that his office smelt of urine and sweat. I took my time walking over to the boss's office. I picked up some litter there, a cigarette butt here on my way. It's not much, as jobs go, but it's easy enough that I can concentrate on other shit while going through the motions. I saw a couple of frat boys smoking on some steps and looked at them as I passed. I looked at them long and hard, and made sure they knew I was doing it. They'd use the bin for those butts, I saw in their faces they would. They were even looking to make sure the bin was nearby. I parked my little trolley outside the grounds offices and walked in. My boss was already sweating up a storm: whatever he wanted to say to me, he thought I wouldn't like it. "Hi Declan. Umm... I'll come straight to the point. We need you to cover this weekend." I couldn't believe it. I just couldn't believe my ears. "Jake's covering this weekend." I pictured throwing my boss through the small window of his office. The land-whale had no idea what a fuck-up this was. "Jake just quit: got a job somewhere else." Fatso moved around behind his desk, as if he somehow knew I was contemplating his whimpers of pain. "Sorry Declan, but you're the next one up for a relief shift." "I booked this weekend off." I stated flatly, a slight growl roughening my voice. "Find someone else." He made what he thought was a placating gesture with his hands. It made me feel like breaking his pudgy fingers. Hot and sweet, the beast started uncoiling in my gut, and I closed my eyes for a moment as I fought back the urge to crush his skull like an egg between my jaws. Eugene Farquad was a fat shit who smelled of stale semen, liquor-sweat and fear, but he didn't deserve to die. Barely. "There is no-one else, Declan. Sorry, buddy. Look, you can have the following weekend off, and you can take off early too: have that Friday off. How's that?" He looked like he thought it was a sweet deal. It was a sweet deal. I bit back my anger and sighed slightly, shaking my head. "Alright. I'll deal with it." Motherfucking Jake and his new job! I inwardly screamed as I turned and escaped from the funk of the office. Now I'd be stuck on the campus for the weekend.
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