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World of Darkness: Attrition - Study Group - Chapter One [Randy Edison][Mature][FIN]

Adrian Moss

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The practice was simple. They pick seven students out of the hat (they probably had a computer do it) and assign them a study group. This, in theory, stops the 'smart' students from congregating together, leaving the less capable to fend for themselves. That was the theory. The reality was somewhat different.

See, in Edison's experience, there was a reason smart people hung out together. They had something in common. They shared a wheel - a means of having their ideas understood by those around them. Sure, you could talk Plato to a dumb kid. It didn't make him stop being dumb. What it did do was make the smart kid waste his time. Dumb = dumb; smart = smart. Someone in the University of California System didn't get this - thus the study group.

So, Edison stood outside the Elemental Modern Chinese with six other students, trying to put their schedules together. No one wanted to say anything.

"Fine," Randy grumbled. "I'm Randy. Since our exams are going to be on Thursdays, how about we try something on Wednesday afternoon, or early evening."

They looked up their schedules on their PDA/iPhones/ect.

"I have a lab Wednesday evening - 6 til 9 ... ah ... Randy," said the all American red-head.

"Drop it," the 'Jock-type' joked.

"Do you have a conflict with Wednesday after noon ...," Randy started to question.

The guy looked only a little worried. Randy didn't look all that intimidating. He just looked off; off enough that the guy didn't want to make an example of him.


"Do you have a problem with Wednesday, James?" the Marine continued.

"Nah ... , whatever," James said then walked away. Not being the obvious alpha male, he didn't care to hang around.

"Wait!" called out the Asian girl in the group. "We haven't decided on the time yet."

James walked away, back stiff.

"Let him go," said the groups token geek. "I bet he only took the course to be with some girl. He'll probably try to glom on to her group."

"Either way, not our problem," stated Randy. "How does four o'clock work for everyone?"

They all looked at their schedules.

"I have a class at three," said the Asian chick, "but I can make it if it's close."

"Everyone else good?" Randy asked. He got nodding heads.

"Fine. Next thing is place. Anyone have an idea?"

The second girl raised her hand, "Oh! We can use my dorm's common room. Would that work for everyone?" She sounded so excited, hyper-like. They all stood around expectantly. No one said 'Nay' so the motion carried.

"Fine," Randy couldn't help but sigh. He wasn't herding cats, he was herding gerbils. "We should introduce ourselves, otherwise ... we ended up pointing and waving. Trust me, that sucks."

Goth girl finally did something. She chuckles, but she also managed to say thing.

"I'm Am ... Shadow." The other three girls, and Geek Boy all rolled their eyes. She kept her eyes on Edison. He stared back. He didn't care if she wanted to call herself Princess Dandelion, it was her call. Randy had heard names that made less sense.

No one seemed to want to go next, so Randy intervened. "I'm Randy Edison." He pointed to the Asian chick. "You're next."

"Ah ... I'm Mikio Ka-Sun. Freshman. Asian Languages." She looked totally embarrassed.

"Korean," Randy said with the intension of relaxing her. "I served with a Korean-American from around here. That's how I know the name."

"You served?" asked the redhead.

Randy cut that conversation by pointing to the next person in the circle. "You," he said, pointing to the geek. Geek Boy became Trent Kassum, All-American Redhead became Abigail, Hyper Girl became Monica, and the Quiet One became Laura. By the look of the situation, four girls to two guys, Trent most have thought he was going to get laid.

'Yeah, if only life worked like that. Dupe thinks MTV is life. Reality isn't like that.'

"We are done here. Everyone get the date and time for the rende ... study group." With that said, Randy turned and walked away. He knew eyes were following him. That was not his problem, they were children for God's Sake.

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"So, what was it like."

It was the inevitable question, once they realized you were a vet. The first one to broach the subject this time was Abbie/All-American Red-head. She meant well, he hoped.

"It's not something you can explain easily," Randy began.

"because I'm a bad-ass mother-fucker," Trent sniped under his breath.

Women. It always had to be women, wanting them, and not letting the other guy have them - even if the other guy really didn't want them. Randy could have let it slide, but not this time.

"Trent, it's like trying to describe freeway driving to a Kalahari bushman. There is simply no point of reference."

Awkward pause.

"Anyway, most of the time you're scared. You walk around the countryside, looking for insurgents, trying to avoid IED's, and hearing in your briefings that everything's okay. Sometimes you help the locals. You know, helping out with health care, distributing toothbrushes and tooth paste, and helping them rebuild canals and dykes."

"You never take your eyes off your weapon, no matter what you're doing. You always try to keep two buddies in LOS - that's line of sight. You learn to judge distance and proximity to RPG's, Heavy machine guns, small arms fire, and mortars."

"Did you ever get shot at?" That was Mikio.

"Mikio, I was Force Recon. If I wasn't at Main Base, I took regular fire - maybe three or four days a week. It was our job - our battalion - to go out into Taliban controlled areas and attrition them out. That means we go out on foot, or by Hummer, and patrol various villages in our sector, flushing out Taliban. Sometimes they run, and sometimes they fight. If they run, they are no longer our problem at that moment. If they fight, we kill them. If they are too many for us, our patrol could be as small as ten men - remember, it's our job to lure them out, to act as bait - anyway, if there were too many, we called in airstrikes and artillery."

"Did you kill anyone," (Monica) came right along with "How many people have you killed?" (Shadow).

Looking to Monica, "Yes."

Turning his full gaze on Shadow, "Forty-seven. Seventeen with malice. Thirty probables."

Seeing the confusing on Shadow's and everyone else's face, for that matter, Randy elaborated.

"A probable is you do an after the fire-fight search and find a body. You figure the entry wound, follow the trajectory, figure out who was in that position, and you know - probably - who killed him. With malice is when you take careful aim at somebody and kill them. There is no doubt who did the killing. Snipers are all about killing with malice. I wasn't a sniper, but I've snuck on my share of Taliban."

"You killed them in cold blood," Mikio interjected, her face pale and frightened.

"Marines are NOT cops, Mikio. When we know who the bad guy is, we kill them. If they surrender, good for them. I've never shot a man who surrendered, or was trying to surrender, but if you have your gun pointing at my buddies, or some civilian, I send you on to the next life."

"And no, I have never hesitated. No, I've never regretted any one of my kills, and No, I've not lost one night of sleep about it. Death is inevitable. If you pick up a gun, it will come for you sooner, than later. That's my experience anyway."

The group was hushed. Surprisingly, it was Trent who spoke next.

"How long were you in? I mean, how long were you over there," he added quietly.

"I was in for eight years. I did four combat tours. One in Iraq and three in Afghanistan."

Monica gasped, but tried to hide it. Caught in the act, she spoke, "That means, you're like, twenty-six? Man, you're old!"

'Thank you, Hyper-girl.'

Shadow chuckled, Trent waited on Randy's reaction, while Mikio and Abbie glared at Monica. Randy snorted and smiled.

"Yeah, okay. I'm old. I've answered your questions. Now can we get down to the assignment?"

All the students approached that with relief. A Chinese language assignment was something they could sink their teeth into. For the minds fresh out of high school, the learning came easy. For Randy, it was harder. Randy's advantage was his greater resolve to learn. All in all, they were nearly on the same page. When Randy stumbled, he was pleased to see that one or more of his study-mates would come to his rescue. The odds of him getting through this semester had increased.

The group broke up and everyone went their separate ways. Randy went to the bathroom. When he came out, Shadow was waiting for him, trying to look cool, seductive, and Goth all at the same time. She was trying too hard.

"So, have you ever had someone die right in front of you? I bet you have, right? What was it like to see the light go out in their eyes? You know, like when the Darkness descended on their Souls? What was it like? I need to know."

In a quiet, far away voice, Randy answered, "No, you don't. You don't want to know what's on the other side."

Randy grew angrier, grasping her upper arm and pulling her closer, so he didn't have to scream.

"A woman died in my arms four days ago. FOUR days ago."

He shook her.

"Death comes for us all. There's nothing pretty or seductive about it. It is Death. I can't describe it in any way that would make sense to you. Snap the fuck out of it. Every minute of your God-damn life is precious, so don't waste them. In the end, the last person you lay down with is yourself," he growled at her.

Shadow looked afraid. Randy wasn't ... special, but he was intense. He let go of her. No one seemed to have noticed, seeing as how he had kept his voice down. The arm would most likely carry a bruise, but neither one cared.

The Death mage stalked down the corridor and the Goth watched him go. She couldn't heed his warning. He was some flame whose radiance was so cold, it burned. She was the moth, or that's how she saw things. No, she knew this wasn't over.

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Randy sat on the mat in his dorm room. His roommate had shown up just enough to trick Mom and Dad that he was studying hard and not wasting their money. The next day his skanky girlfriend came by and helped him pack up and he hadn't seen or heard from them since. He had moved to her place to play in 'their' band, yadda, yadda, yadda. Short version, he was wasting his parent's money, he was nailing this girl they knew nothing about, and, having heard him play that first night, he was wasting his damn life. Punk.

The Magus felt the coolness of the pre-dawn room on his bare flesh. All he was wearing were boxers. His legs were crossed, lotus style as he formed the ritual in his mind. His scouring was underway, freeing mana that he had depleted with his morning Rotes. It was still dark outside, of course. Daylight was not the best time to feel the pull of Stygia. Darkest night before the dawn was the chosen time for him.

Along life in the military had taught him the value of time. Up at 4:30am, perform the usual rituals, then go for a forty-five minute jog around campus. A quick shower, breakfast at the Dining Hall, and then classes or research. School work was nice, but his real purpose was that of a Mysterium Magus.

Someone knocked on his door. Randy opened one eye. He looked to the door (locked) and then to the clock.

'4:43am ... what the? Who could be knocking at the door at this hour.'

The Moros rose as gracefully as he could, but the ritual routinely left his joints and tendons tender and less responsive. His reaction time was the price he paid for mana. Pain sucked, but running dry was worse. Randy could live with pain. He padded quietly to his pillow and drew forth a knife. He looked out the eyehole and saw ... her.

'What the fuck does she want?' he thought. Randy moved his knife to his left hand and put the arm behind his back. He quickly unlocked the door, opened it, and glared at the distrubance.

Shadow looked surprised, then she noticed how little he was wearing. She was speechless. With a sigh, Randy took her by her up arm with his right hand and drug her into his room. He spun her over to the unoccupied bed and she bounced lightly as she fell on to it. He always kept those eyes on her. She didn't seem to able to handle his direct, forceful manner. Somehow, everything she thought she would say to control the situation fled her mind.

Randy looked angry. He also looked ... covered with tattoos all over his torso, back and front. It was made up of symbols and lines of alien origin. It was like no ink she had ever seen. It seemed ... vibrant and alive and sinister all at the same time. The glint of the knife caught her attention, chilling her and exciting her at the same time. Then Randy locked the door.

"What do you want?" he asked her, his voice seething with menace.

She could only stare. It wasn't as if any single part of him was overly frightening. Here, alone is his room, the knife, the locked door, and the anger written over his face combined to give him a sinister, necromantic appeal. Shadow had always sought out magic, the darker the better. She was so busy breaking out of her shell that she had built around her in high school, so ignored the danger Randy represented until ...

Randy was staring down at her, more annoyed than anything else. His schedule was in jeopardy. 'Whatever this girl had to say, she had better say it quick,' he thought.

"Well, make it quick," he growled.

She nodded, but failed to speak. Randy felt the anger slowly rise. Right before he could further badger her, she finally got some words out.

"I know ... you go jogging at o'dark thirty. I saw you yesterday. I just wanted to ..."

"You aren't dressed for running."

Shadow gulped. "I just wanted to talk to you," the young Goth gasped out.

'Talk? Damn it.' Randy was getting angrier. He moved closer, towering over her. His eyes burned with an inner fire and Shadow gulped in near terror.

"Out," he growled. "Get out."

"No, don't," she all but shouted to Randy. She reached up and grabbed hold of his arm, pulling herself half way up, and much closer to his chest. She felt him growl inside, a deep ominous thing.

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Shadow had on a red T-shirt covered with a black mesh sleeveless one. Her black faux-leather jacket was already falling off her shoulders. She had black leggings going down to mid-calf, a belt made of linked tin demon skulls (more for decoration than any real utility), and worn, black calf-boots with most of the buckles half-done.

Randy had on boxers and was evidently excited.

Shadow realized she had a hold on Randy's arm, but was unsure to hang on, or let it go. Neither action seemed all that wise. In her case, Shadow withdrew her hand. She fell back onto the bed, legs askew. Her lower lip trembled and her eyes began to water. Suddenly she was afraid, really afraid. It was a totally new kind of fear. It was way past her previous experience of horror 'shock' films. It was way past sneaking out late at age fourteen to go to a party, or going alone to a graveyard at midnight. Shadow could feel her heart thundering in her chest.

Randy's first urge was to slap the stupid bitch. Only when he saw the hopelessness, the tears, in her eyes did he realize the power he had over her. Something else stirred in him, something dark and frightening. He remained above her for a moment. Shadow sniffled. Randy reached down and wrapped a hand around her left knee. He pulled the knee up and with his other hand, took the boot off.

Shadow knew what was happening. Inside her head, she was screaming. She wanted to lash out. She wanted to pull up with her free leg and push him away. She wanted ... to not be here. She did nothing. Tears began to run down her face.

The other boot came off and fell like a bombshell to the ground. Randy didn't hear it, though Shadow flinched. The Magus leaned in now. He put one knee on the bed then put his hands on either side of her waist. His fingers roughly reached into her leggings, grasped her underwear too, and then he yanked down with brutal force. Shadow gasped from the pain and the violation.

"please," she wimpered.

Randy pulled his boxers down and shook them free. He leaned back in again, this time pinning her beneath his greater weight. There was no kissing, no words of anger or endearment. He stared down at her, that angry light pinning her down.

"please", she begged again.

He positioned himself then began to press in. There was resistance.

"please ... no."

Randy pushed in, met resistance, then began pumping in. Shadow turned her head to the wall and began crying openly. It became easier, smoother, and he kept going.

"Look at me," he whispered to her. Shadow looked up at her Destroyer. That terrible aura pulled her in like a moth to a flame. Something was slowly building inside her too. She hated it as much as she hated this, but her body was betraying her. Clumsily her hands came up and she rested her palms against his chest. She felt his heart pounding to match her own. She didn't know if that made things better or worse.

A groan escaped her and she bit down on her lower lip to stifle another. Her hands began roaming around his chest and shoulders. She groaned again, louder, and hated herself even more. Everything she thought she was had disintegrated into her being a dirty whore. They pain was almost gone now, her nipples were being rubbed raw against her bra, they were so hard. The thought that this was all her fault crept in and began eating away at her sense of self.

"No," she whispered. Randy ignored her. "Let ... let me help ..."

The man didn't stop his assault but shifted his weight onto one arm and pulled the other one back, essentially doing a one-armed push-up over her. Shadow saw her opening. She could push him aside and bolt for the door ... and open the bolt ... and he would kill her. She suddenly discovered the urge to scream. Help would come for her, right? Just then, he plunged into a particularly vulnerable point and she gasped in pleasure. Now she really hated herself.

Her arms roamed freely over his chest, shoulders, and arms. Her legs slowly wrapped themselves around his hips. The position did different things for her. There was a pressure building up in her spine. He lungs began laboring, as her heart hammered away. Shadow felt flush. She began to feel a tingling in her stomach. She had never felt such a powerful wave when she had pleasured herself. She took a great inhaled breath ... then her mind exploded.

As wave after wave washed over her, Randy felt the contractions. This sent him over the edge as well. When he was spent, he pulled out. Shadow's arms and legs had already released their hold and now hung uselessly. The Magus stood up and looked down at her.

'Great. A virgin,' he thought. This was the last thing he needed. The fire in his eyes was still there, so she turned away, trying to hide her shattered vulnerability. That fear disgusted him. He put his boxers back on then went over to his bed to put his jogging suit.

Randy walked over to the door, unlocked it and prepared to leave. Turning to Shadow, he said in a level voice, "Don't be here when I get back."

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Randy backed in the door and so much of the tension that had bled out on the run came back. She was still on the bed. She had dressed herself, but sat in the corner of the room on the bed. Her eyes were puffed out and red from some serious crying. Her eyes regarded him with fear. The knife he had left on the table was still there.

"Okay?" he said evenly. He was still somewhat tense, but his anger had subsided.

She didn't answer, just stared.

He tried a different tact. "Why are you still here?"

"Were could I go? You ... you raped me. Why?" she said she said on the verge of tears once more.

Randy walked into the room and began stripping down until he was naked. Turning to her, "I really don't know. Sometimes I get angry. You don't need to know why. You wouldn't understand. Let's just say that Death and I are old friends, but it's on his terms, not mine."

That apparently wasn't what she expected. In fact, what she expected to hear was that it was her fault - for him to blame her as much as she condemned herself. Now she wasn't even sure she could hate him. She was stumbling for an anchor to her beaten and battered identity. She had always been a rebel ... that didn't really rebel. She hadn't been Goth enough for the Goth's in her High School. They called her a poser. She thought she had found something in Randy. She had thought Randy could give her something ... real. He was the most real person she had ever met in her eighteen years.

Now she had her real, and she had nothing. Part of her wished Randy would pick up that knife she had been staring at for an hour and slit her throat. She had been too terrified to do it herself. Now all she wanted to do was get away. Why wasn't she leaving.

"Strip down," Randy said casually, the same way he might ask to see her Chinese Language notes. Shadow froze. Her heartbeat hammered in her ears and she felt as if she was going to puke, or pass out.

"You need a shower. So do I. If we get this done now, we can get it out of the way before my suite mates wake up. They never get up before seven anyway."

Could it be so simple? Randy made not threatening moves toward her. He seemed so calm. For a moment Shadow wondered if this had really happened. She prayed it hadn't happened, but the blood on the mattress cover slapped her back to reality.

The ex-soldier shrugged. "If you want, when I've finished my shower, I'll take you out to breakfast." That said, Randy swung his towel over his shoulder and headed for the door that led to the bathroom separating the two sides of the suite.


Randy stopped and looked back to Shadow. Shadow began slowly stripping herself out of her over-mesh and shirt.

"please turn away." Randy turned away and gave her space. Shadow looked over at the knife again. Instead of reaching for it, she took of her shirts. Her bra came next, then her boots, pants, and underwear. She was totally naked.

"you can turn around."

Randy turned around and assessed her with those eyes. Shadow expected just about anything except what he said, and the way he said it.

"You're beautiful. You really are." And he meant it.

She stared at him in disbelief. Part of her wanted to attack him with her fists and nails. She wanted to rip off that face and pop in those eyes. She wanted to leave him a red ruin. She wanted to ... not make him unhappy. Shadow covered herself up and walked to his side. Randy handed her his towel and took out another one. He opened the door and let her go in first.

The shower was a stall that was more than big enough for one, but a tight fit for two. Shadow looked over shoulder at Randy then stepped into the stall. He followed her and shut the door. The cold water was electrifying as it hit their flesh. Randy was used to it, but Shadow wasn't. Instinctively she clutched the warm body next to her and used it to shield herself. Only after she had done it did she recoil in horror. She wondered about what madness had brought her into this stall with this Monster. Randy didn't seem to notice as he was adjusting the water. Shadows found herself leaning back into Randy's heat. Inside she screamed, but her body went in the other direction.

The shower was like that for both of them. Randy was the technician, making sure Shadow had the wash cloth, shampoo, and soap. His hands never touched anything except her hands. He never looked at her for any reason (she could see) except to makes sure she was okay. She left the shower totally conflicted, if physically clean. Now the soreness began to make itself known. He had changed her forever. He had taken something from her ... and she didn't know what to make of that.

She took his deodorant without thinking. He turned away as she dressed. She couldn't help but admire his body as he dressed. Her eyes also kept wandering back to the knife. Nothing happened. Instead she found herself walking across campus with him. They talked about class, about their study group, and finally about their families. It was so surreal for Shadow. She was telling this man, her rapist, things about herself that she had never told anyone, not even her Face book page.

They ate and chatted. In a detached way, she began to really like Randy. He saved lives. He had lived. He had seen some really horrible things and come out somewhat sane. He missed his sister (though he wouldn't go into why), and hated his father. She hated her father too, and her sister who was so perfect, and her younger brother, the jock. Randy didn't know his Mother and Shadow didn't understand hers, the timid housewife. He had many friends around the globe that killed people, and she ... had ... only him. When she told him that, he stared at her for a long moment, his eyes burning once again. Shadow recoiled in fear.

"Fine," was all he said, as if he was making some great concession to all of existence. That pretty much ended the conversation. They put up their trays together and walked out of the Dining Hall. As they separated, him to his first class and Shadow to go back to her dorm room and annoyingly perky roommate, Randy said,

"Come to my room tomorrow at 5 sharp," he told her. Shadow flinched, but he continued, "We are going to go running, so dress appropriately."

She stood stock still and watched Randy depart, walking straight and with purpose. She didn't know what to do. She looked around. She could scream. It wasn't too late. She stood there doing nothing, and when you have nothing left, you tend to go on automatic.

At 5am the next morning, Shadow found herself at his door. She felt crazy and in a daze. She was terrified. She knocked on the door then looked around so that no one could see what she had in her hoody's pocket.

Randy opened the door and looked at her. He noticed her hands inside her hoody and noticed her arms shaking.

"Are you going to knife me, or are you here to sweat?" in that maddeningly matter of fact way he had. There was no fear.

Shadow saw herself snatching the knife out and slamming it again and again into his chest. In reality, she meekly took the knife out and handed it to Randy. He placed it without preamble on the bookshelf were his knife had been. It was gone now. That done, Randy stepped out and closed the door.

"We'll keep a slow pace today. You'll feel like you're dying, but that passes, if you keep doing this."

They headed down the stairwell. As they walked out together into the cool autumn air, he spoke as if to the stars.

"You're going to do this because ..." He left it unspoken. "So I won't hate you as much.'

Shadow nodded, understanding and not understanding at the same time.

"Don't change me," she responded with a squeak.

That made him smile. She couldn't remember seeing that before.

"Death is what it is. It changes everything. If you embrace that, it makes more Goth than any of those posers. Walk with me and you walk with Death, I can guarantee it."

Randy started his morning run. Shadow followed.

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