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World of Darkness: Attrition - Take A Look, It's In A Book...

Kaitlin Vandussen

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Sunday, August 21st

Kaitlin puttered around the house, an ice-pack strapped to her left ankle. It had been two weeks since she had moved in with Oneca, August, and Aradia - and Satan - and she was both relieved and chagrined that the issue of rent hadn't come up yet.

She still had some (dwindling) savings though, so she was able to buy most of her own food and contribute to the household larder. Which she was happy to do, since there wasn't as much meat in their diet as she preferred, and the other girls found out Kaitlin was also actually a pretty decent cook. It didn't stop mentions of her carnivorous appetites, but Kaitlin didn't apologize for them either.

An active girl, Kaitlin spent a lot of time outside - sometimes even looking for a job she could tolerate between idly eying the rich homes in the neighborhood for easy opportunities of wealth equalization actions. She would have been today as well, except she had sprained her ankle yesterday when a loose roof-shingle had slipped out from underfoot.

It wasn't that she couldn't fight against the pain when she had to, but like more freerunners, she was conscientious about exacerbating a minor injury into a more major or long-lasting one. Which didn't mean she wasn't disappointed. She had had the idea of trying to find out where in and around LA MTV's Ultimate Parkour was being filmed and she didn't want to find it while driving her rust-bucket Camry or not being in top condition to show the stars what she could do.

So, instead, Kaitlin wandered around the luxurious house, seeing what she had overlooked before. There were quite a few books on the various shelves and in the study, which made sense, since the other four girls were all in college. She sighed with bitter melancholy. She wasn't all that interested in more years of school, but she was pretty sure her athletic scholarship to UNLV was going to be a lost and she wouldn't be able to afford college otherwise. Not without a serious score, at least.

She cocked her head to the side, a finger tracing the bindings of the books, only now really noticing the titles. These weren't sciency or arty textbooks. They were about the supernatural and occult! Just fiction - of course, they had to be - but maybe they were based on the real thing, from way back when.

Kaitlin glanced over her shoulders, self-consciously making sure nobody was watching her, then pulled the heavy hardcover Encyclopedia of Vampires, Werewolves, and Other Monsters from the shelf. She hobbled over to the couch, flopped down onto the plush cushions with her legs thrown over the side and propped the book on her chest, leafing through the pages, looking for a heading on powers and weaknesses... Gonna need silver. Stupid silver! It gives me a rash.

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"A little light reading, or are you really just that bored?" The voice came from the hallway entrance to living room, where Oneca was bent over and brushing out her hair. Her eyes were at just the right height to have caught the name of the book. She grinned at Kaitlin, "Seriously, that's an okay reference book, but God, it's a bore just to sit down and read."

She finished the last stroke through her hair and then sauntered over to the couch and flopped down next to Kaitlin, peering down at the page she was on. "Ah, lycanthrope," she said with a wolfish grin. "Werewolves. Are you Team Jacob, then? Or do you like Sparkles? Personally I think they should have thrown a Wendigo into the mix. One of those would have eaten the other two twits and probably the twit girl, too. Much better book. And movie. And bonus of no creepy baby-grow-up-to-fuck-werewolf."

At Kaitlin's startled and blank look, Oneca added, "Wendigo are Native American spirits, I forget which tribes, but they're spirits of loneliness and cold. They don't sparkle and they don't 'imprint' or whatever the hell shit that author called it to justify the jilted boy getting a gee-I-really-was-born-yesterday girlfriend to fuck." Oneca didn't have an opinion on Twilight: she had a calling to burn down the author's home. One staved off only by Peter's instance that arson, however untraceable, was somehow morally questionable. Even against Twilight.

"It's not in that book," she said as she pushed herself back up and over to the bookshelf Kaitlin had just been perusing. Without really looking she plucked a slimmer book off the shelf and brought it back over; the title was creatively Spirits and Creatures of the Various Tribes of North America. She opened it up towards the back and tilted the book so Kaitlin could see the article and the picture of a vaguely wolf-shaped, shades of grey, blue, and white, vicious spirit. It really did look like it would have eaten half the cast and then had some of the movie crew for dessert. Oneca grinned, "Friendly fellow, ain't he?"

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Fucking Hell! I hope these things aren't really real too! "Uh, heh, yeah. It looks like what happens when a werewolf and a Death-eater get it on," Kaitlin said, giving Oneca a crooked grin. Hmm, if I'm careful, maybe I can get Oneca give me a start on this stuff... Kaitlin tapped the books on her hands, then nodded around. "You have a lot books like this around - supernatural, occulty-type stuff."

She gave her (very pretty) landlady a shrug and a rueful grin, but Oneca caught an edge to them. "Yeah, I'm bored, but then I got to thinking about - y'know how right now, they have all these Vampire shows and movies? True Blood, Underworld, Vampire Diaries, Blood Ties, shudder, Twilight, Blade, even Supernatural? God, Jason Ackles is funny! And hot! And then there are the older ones too. And it seems whenever you find Vampires, you find werewolves too. Well, I saw all these books and got to wondering where all the myths and legends started, what were the, uh, characteristics of the real vampires and werewolves. Maybe original vampires and werewolves is a better word." She gave the tedious tome a jiggle, her smile turning wry. "This was the first book that had both Vampire and Werewolf in the name."

Kaitlin shuddered and sat up, setting the book on the coffee. "And you're right, if I keep reading this thing much longer, it's gonna put me in a coma, when all I need is a day off my feet. So..." Kaitlin gave Oneca a sunny smile, her eyes bright as she arched her brows and glanced pointedly at the book-lined shelves before turning back to Oneca. "You know a lot about this stuff, right? Maybe you can point me to a book that will help with my idle curiosity? Or..." Kaitlin nibbled on her lower lip. "... if you have the time, you have a captive audience for an off-the-cuff dissertation on Things That Go Bump In The Night."

In the silence before Oneca could answer Kaitlin's request, the wiry and curvy blonde hunched her shoulders and lowered her eyes. "Team Jacob," she muttered sheepishly, looking up at Oneca through her lashes. "He's buff and tanned and shows it off and is just plain yummy. Pattinson looks like a total pasty-faced douche. Not that I have ever seen Twilight or nothing. Just saying, I've seen the commercials and stuff."

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Oneca leaned back and gave a long-suffering sigh. "You're luckier than I am. Remy's dragged me along to those travesties of cinema each time they come out. I don't think he's a fan, I think he just likes making out in movie theaters and he knew damn well I'd be avoiding looking at the screen like it was the Bubonic plague." A grin sneaked onto her face and she glanced over at Kaitlin conspiratorially, "But yeah, the guy that plays Jacob is definitely yummy."

She thought for a moment, drumming her fingers idly along the smooth leather of the couch. "Well, if your interest really is just idle, there's a ton of books out there that pretty much all say the same thing. I think there's even a Supernatural Creatures for Dummies book or something. If you want the anthropological side of things, there's stuff at the library and some of the books here." She shrugged, "Most of that is just as dry as the Encyclopedia there, unless you get the narrative mythology books. Those aren't bad."

"As for a lecture...." Hah! Adrian would kill me, probably literally, and I don't really know much more than the fact that furries and fangs actually exist. "You probably want Professor Morgan. Real smart guy, kinda looks like a hot chick, which can make his classes a bit distracting, but he knows his stuff. He's got like half a dozen degrees or something, and most of them in the anthropology/mythology/interesting parts of history section of the liberal arts and sciences." She tilted her head and regarded her impromptu new roommate with dark, inquisitive eyes, "What prompted your interest? I mean, in those two specifically? Is just TV or do you like something about them?"

The probing was gentle, Kaitlin still seemed jumpy and Oneca didn't want to scare her off by being just a little too believing or knowledgeable right off the bat. On the other hand, Kaitlin had some earmarks of trauma about her and was still here after two weeks, which usually meant A) something bad had happened to her, and B ) it was bad enough that she didn't have any support network from her past that she would or could depend on. It didn't add up to having been supernaturally screwed over in some way just yet; she could have had an abusive boy/girl friend or parent or soemthing, but the interest in the occult books was enough to set Oneca on to actively finding out the girl's story.

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"Just TV," Kaitlin said quickly, but Oneca saw her vivid gold-flecked green eyes tighten as she glanced away. "I mean, Madison, she... Madison..." Kaitlin trailed off, jaw tight, as lost and guilt welled up inside. "She liked all that stuff about vampires and werewolves and... things. I saw the books and... and was just... curious."

"Who's Madison?" Oneca prompted sympathetically, her suspicions tingling as she reached out and kneaded one of Kaitlin's firm shoulders.

"She was my girlfriend - my first and only girlfriend," Kaitlin admitted softly, gaze darting to Oneca in challenge, though considering her welcoming kiss, it was a puzzle why she'd think Oneca would have any issue with her sexuality. Her eyes squeezed shut, stemming the flow of tears that threatened to fall. After a long, held-in breath, she sighed. "She died."

"Oh, I'm so sorry, Kat," Oneca began, but paused, feeling Kaitlin flinch under her hand, pulling away without breaking contact.

"Why? It wasn't your fault," Kaitlin countered sharply, eyes smoldering with anger before they softened into a muted glower once more. "Sorry. Sorry 'bout that. It was.. recent, and I'm still dealing, y'know? It's why I had to leave Vegas. Because of - After... I just couldn't stay."

Kaitlin shrugged, trying to work the tightness out of her back, obviously not wanting to speak of it further. She craned her head around, giving Oneca a weak smile. "Without my athletic scholarship, I can't afford college, so I dunno if talking to this professor is an option. Probably doesn't have time for someone who isn't even a student. But if you can point me in the direction of The Supernatural Creatures For Dummies or something, that would be super, Oneca."

Kaitlin climbed back to her feet, giving her sprained leg a stretch, then nodded in the direction of the driveway. Just thinking about this stuff was getting her anxious, she couldn't seem to stay still. It made her feel vulnerable, as if she had been hamstrung and was just waiting for the finishing blow. She needed to move. "Maybe I'll head out for a bit, give the ankle a bit of a workout and see 'bout picking up my own copy."

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  • 4 weeks later...

Oneca stood as well, glancing down at her pajama's. "Well, if you'll give me a minute, I'll get dressed and come along. And I don't think Professor Morgan'll care if you stop by to talk. He's nice. The quiet, shy intellectual type. I was pretty surprised when he showed up the last party I threw; he's never done that before." She blushed and laughed, "I felt bad, too. I was too drunk at the time to recognize him and sorta thought he was a girl. I only figured out it was him when I saw him around campus a few days ago."

She disappeared to her room, not actually giving Kaitlin a chance to refuse company. She reappeared less than a minute later, dressed in a black sportsbra, skin-tight black work out pants and black sneakers; her long hair was pulled up in a ponytail. Then entire ensemble somehow made her actually look like a woman in her mid-twenties instead of a near underage teenager; the lack of make-up and pretentious sex appeal probably helped, too. She started a brief series of stretches, smiling when Kaitlin joined in.

Once they were outside and had settled into a steady jog, fast enough for exercise but slow enough for Kaitlin's injured ankle, Oneca offered, "Well, there's still student loans and work-study. You could continue to stay with me, like August does; that would take care of most living costs. I know there's scholarships out there for all sorts of stuff, even just for not having enough money even with the loans. My parents are one some philanthropy boards that do need-based scholarships. I could give them a call and see if there's still any money left for this year and get you put on the list early for next year."

She didn't say anything about the dead girlfriend; Kaitlin could bring it up again if she wanted, but Oneca was one to avoid painful conversations herself, so she didn't pry. She nodded at a street sign when they came to a crossroads. "If we go left, there's a Barnes & Noble a little ways down; if we go right, there's a small antique and indie print bookstore I know. It won't have the selection, but the books are much better. You're call." She jogged in place, keeping her muscles loose and her heart rate up as she waited for her new friend to decide.

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Kaitlin looked one way up the street, then down the other, debating. She didn't have a lot of many to her name - in fact, she had very little - but if she was going to learn about vampires and werewolves, she wanted to learn the right things. Plus, there was always the five-finger discount. Kaitlin snagged the bottle of water from her pack and took a sip, then offered it to Oneca as she nodded down the street. "Let's try the indie place."

With that, the young women continued jogging. Even with an injured ankle, Oneca had to admire Kaitlin's smooth stride and economy of motion, breathing steady, the only sign of pain a slight tightness to her jaw. The blonde girl looked over at Oneca, giving her a quick smile, her own, much shorter, pony-tail bobbing, and Oneca realized Kaitlin was holding the pace down to what she could handle.

"I"d like to stay, but I'll pay rent, I swear," Kaitlin said firmly. "I'm looking for a job. As for school... " Her lips twisted in a scowling pout. "UCLA is an amazing school for athletics, but they are also brutal. Had I thought I'd be leaving Vegas when I was a junior, I'd have payed their recruiter more attention, but I was looking at being a Rebel, not a Bruin. Even if they'd be willing to give me an equivalent Scholarship from the one I got from UNLV, it's too late for this year. Maybe, when - if - I go speak to Professor Morgan, I'll swing down by the athletic department and see what can be done."

She chewed on her lip, but there was a fierce determination in her green-gold eyes. "If you want to talk to your 'rents 'bout that scholarship for next year, that'll be awesome of you. I think... I think I'm gonna take a year off, earn some money and find out what I really wanna do. Going to college would be sweet, but I have no intention of paying for it for the rest of my life."

Just then, Oneca pointed out the store and the girls slowed to a walk. Kaitlin peeked in the quaint storefront, seeing a couple of first editions for sale, the glass free of any garish advertisements. Pulling open the green-painted, wood door, a small brass bell tinkled above her.

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  • 2 weeks later...

The inside of the store looked like every Hollywood "antique occult bookstore"; then again, maybe they filmed here. The space was packed with bookshelves, and hardly any two books next to each other seemed to be the same book. The place smelled of old glue, paper, and well oiled leather. An older man smiled and waved at Oneca from behind an honest-to-god push button register, coming around to shake her hand and give Kaitlin a once over. If he had any issues with her modern look and obviously young age, he made no mention of it. Rather, he held out a worn hand with writing callouses and permanent ink stains and introduced himself, "Mister Wellsly, miss. Glad to meet you and welcome to Gutenberg's Library, my passion and love. After my wife, of course." The twinkle in his eye belied the old joke; he motioned to the cramped isles of bookshelve and asked, "Anything I can help you with today, Miss Bahar and Miss....?"

Kaitlin managed to blink out a, "Vandussen, Kaitlin Vandussan."

"Miss Vandussan, yes, very nice to meet you." The man beamed at her, sincere geniality keeping him from slipping over into creepy might-be-a-stalker.

Oneca chuckled and stepped into the slightly awkward moment, "We're looking for books on the supernatural, specifically vampires and werewolves. Have you got anything juicy in since the last time we cleared you out? Something that doesn't involve sparkles or 'imprinting'."

"Hush now, such abominations are never to be spoken of in these walls," the man looked almost fierce in his admonition, but was already leading the two ladies towards one back corner of the store. "You really did clear me out of most everything last month. That lad of yours, Mr. Kenston, he has quite the thing for vampires. Mr. DeSeine also had a list from Mr. Erastes, and I nearly had to close for a day just to restock!" He chuckled, obviously pleased with the brisk business Oneca's friends brought him. "Ah, here we are. A pitiful showing, I'm afraid. Less than two dozen books." He clicked his tongue, "The business just isn't what it used to be. My suppliers are drying up, going over to private collection sales from what I hear." He sniffed with annoyance, "As if those stuffed shirt trust fund children have any idea how to handle books. They're meant to be read, not stuck on some shelf to impress the supposedly intellectually elite, most of whom have never read the books either!"

His expression was storm clouds until he turned back to his two patrons, "Ah, well, an old man does go on. At least with you and yours, Miss Bahar, I know these go to some use. Mr. Kenston especially always has insightful questions to ask and the patience to listen. Now, look about, see if there's anything worth your time, and then come see me at the register. I've been reconciling my books, and I'll forget where I am and have to start over if I'm away much longer."

With that, the eccentric old man trundled back to his desk and ancient button register, leaving Kaitlin with an interesting peek into Oneca's life and the two women alone with a bookshelf dedicated to creatures that weren't supposed to exist.

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