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World of Darkness: Attrition - Culture Club: Westwood[FIN]

Adrian Moss

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"What's on the agenda tonight boss?"

Adrian looked over to Jordan. She was actually using the Nordic he'd gotten her, giving her more staying power than the average bear, or average Bel Air wife for that matter.

"I need to pay homage to my boss tonight. Every month or so we get together and hash the shit, see what needs to get done, or who needs to take care of something. The usual mobbed-up stuff," he responded.

"Well, watch your back, okay?"

He nodded to her. Personally, he owed no more favors and even had a tiny bit of cred right now, but he understood that all of that could change at a moment's notice. Being on top of the situation had its advantages, but it also meant no one had a vested interest in seeing him remain in existence.

"I'll keep three eyes open, Jordan. I promise." Two eyes forward and one in the back of the head. That had become one of their inside jokes.

"Should I stay up?" her voice tinged with hope. It would have been easy to say 'No'. It would be just as likely for her to ignore him. Adrian compromised.

"How about you stay up until two? I should be back by then, but if I'm not, I'm likely to be coming in real late."

Jordan gave a playful shrug of the shoulders, "Wheel in the Sky."

Adrian nodded. "Understood."

He walked to the door, hand outstretched behind him. Though he couldn't see it, he could hear the keys jangle as Jordan set herself up and took her shot. He felt out the passage of the keys through the air, and with only minimal effort, caught them in his hand. It was a portion of their parting ritual that he really liked.

He walked out the door and took a look at the cars. It looked like a Jaguar night.

"Night Adrian. Wake the Dead."

"Night Jordan. Lock the door."

She stood in the doorway watching Adrian walk to the Jag. She always waited for him to pull out of the drive before shutting the door. Already, the glass storm door separated them, but every time she felt that desire to run to him and hide somewhere in his care - to not let him too far out of her sight. In a way she knew it was silly. Jordan knew what had happened to his previous servitor, Gwen. She knew that he was keeping her away from others of his kind for that very reason. Still ... as the engine noise faded into the night, she shut and locked the door.

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Mary Miller was ready to greet her Coterie in their usual place. It was 'her' hospital, and also the safest location for the group to meet, though she knew that Robert Venier would want to change that. When she had first come here, she had been wary of the Daeva, but that worry had become a carefully guarded contempt. The cult leader was barely above a parasite. That imagery made her smile, her tongue slipping between and around her fangs. As the Ventrue wanted to advance herself, she knew others would have to fall by the wayside.

Her eventual goal, as it was all true Invictus, was to end up in charge. For her, that meant eventually accumulating enough power to sideline Jorge. She didn't want to kill the seasoned campaigner, but she was absolutely sure he wasn't the one to be in command. Jorge had the respect, but didn't know how to use it. He sat back and waited for other coterie leaders to summon him. She had visions of where she wanted to be in twenty years, and it didn't involve being part of a second-rate group with uninspired leadership. Respect had to be earned, then used. Jorge didn't understand that, so he had to be forced aside.

Her only real rival for that leadership wasn't Jorge, but the other Daeva of the group, Francesca Lopez. She had a savvy for manipulating people that was truly worrisome. She also had ambition in spades. That had led to their current alliance against Jorge. Francesca was equally upset with Jorge's lack of leadership, and they had both come to the conclusion that they need each other for either one of them to have a chance at the top spot. Of course Mary understood that being useful also made you dangerous. Having her be less competent would have been nice, but less competent would have equaled less useful. One had to make compromises on one's way up.

The final member in so many ways was Adrian Moss. Next to Jorge, he was the best combatant, which was a shock to Mary initially. He was a Mekhet for God's sake (Catholic backgrounds were such a bitch to break). She would have thought one of the Daeva's would have stepped up their game, but they were too focused on the social aspects of the undead. Adrian, street rat that he was, was their main gun. Jorge entrusted him with the Coteries business than anyone else. It wasn't that he was a favorite, or at least not so she could tell, but because he had marketable skills. He could kill people - the final arbitrator of power. He also had some access to a level of wealth not yet determined. What she did know was that the vampire trusted her and occasionally used her services as a Blood Bank. He never fed on any patients, though she had offered the fresher blood more than once. Mary marked him as useful to her goals.

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Robert was the first to arrive. That was usual. He was the one most in control of his surroundings so feeding was never a problem. He had no problem finding an endless throng of willing donors begging for his caress, his Kiss. It was a heady mixture of contempt and God-hood. As he despised his flock for being such sheep, he secretly relished the sheer power of having people willing to kill, or die, at his command. The only problem was that now he had to wait with that insipid poseur, Mary Miller.

Seriously, why would anyone named Mary Miller not want to change their name to anything better. He chuckled when he came up with a most appropriate name. Somehow, Candy Striper Divine. Mary gave him a look he really didn't care for. She was doing that more and more of late. Maybe he would have to put her in her place soon. Anyway, the stripper name fitted her whorish personality. She certainly whored out her ability to provide stale blood to every Tom, Dick, and Fang who throw a shadow on her door. The funniest part was that she actually thought she was important to anyone but herself.

Francesca would be coming soon. She was a fellow Daeva, and shared her contacts with the larger clan outside his unfortunately limited world. He was sure he could make use of her, expend her if necessary, and replace her when the time came. Like Mary 'Candy Striper' Miller, she had an inflated sense of her own importance. From time to time he was forced to remind her that he was the elder Daeva in the group. This was his and Jorge's coterie. They had brought all the others in. They could both get rid of the younger vampires and replace them like so many building blocks. Francesca's only real problem was her ambition and one day he would have to put a stop to that.

Jorge was the leader, the kind of hands-off one that let each of the coteries members. Robert liked that, even if he secretly pitied the Gangrel. The kindred had built nothing in the nearly fifty years before he met Robert. In all real respects, this was really his coterie, though reminding Jorge of this would have only upset the older vampire. Besides, the Invictus accorded him some level of respect by dint of age. Robert rarely found this upsetting, because the age-thing worked so much in his favor now that he was getting older. Letting Jorge call and chair the meetings was a small price to pay for having the others to kick around.

Now Adrian was a vampire that knew his role. He did what he was told, kept out of everyone else's business and could be counted on to earn Robert's and Jorge's points with the other Invictus. If he had been smarter, Adrian would have counted as a Smart Weapon. That earned Robert another chuckle and another dirty look from Mary. Adrian never looked at Robert that way. He was always respectful, as he should be. When the time came, Robert was counting on Adrian to do a proper level of house-cleaning. He even considered letting the younger Mekhet live. Maybe.

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Francesca walked into the room like she owned it. It didn't have own it, she had to act like she owned it, and owning was half the battle. Robert was here, the suck-up. He thought he was the Kingmaker here, but he was a shadow puppet. He was so drunk in his power trip over his gangs of useless hangs-on and drug users. It sickened her. When the time came, she would deal with him personally. What disgusted her the most about her 'elder' was his total conceit. He didn't try. He never brought new people in. He never busted his hump going to other kindred functions to make sure that everyone knew about the Westwood Coterie. Sure, Jorge was known to the bigger movers and shakers, but it was she who brought the rank and file into the know. She wasn't going to waste her time supporting Robert's bloated sense of self-importance. She wanted to lead.

Miller (she never called her Mary), on the other hand, was a team player. She was a dangerous team player, but the shared an ambition to turn this coterie around and make it something much better than it was. She could market Miller's services, and Miller delivered every time. The two had a good favors racket going on and that was just the beginning. Better yet, Miller's Disciplines complemented hers so well. They could exert all kinds of influence over humans, and the rare vampire. What mattered most was the fact that Miller listened to her. She didn't always obey every request, but she could be reasoned with. Francesca didn't need a drone (right now), she needed a partner and Miller fitted the bill nicely. When they were done fixing things, she even considered letting Miller lead.

Jorge would be coming soon, and Jorge was the main reason Robert was still alive. That was the first of two problems she had with the old Vampire. Letting a useless parasite like Robert remain in the coterie was inciting a cold rot within the group. Vampirism was all about survival of the fittest. Maybe not physical domination; she had no desire to fight Jorge, but the will to dominate and control. That led to her second problem with Jorge; he unwillingness to lead effectively. He was the local Invictus version of an errand boy. He had no conception how hard it was to sell the coterie with Jorge at the helm. Why would any Invictus go through her for favors when they could go to an Invictus they knew and get that person to make Jorge jump. That was infuriating. That had to change.

To that end, Francesca had been slowly cultivating Adrian Moss. He was the second most dangerous kindred in the group. He had the enviable combination of being not too bright and being dangerous. What made the deal even sweeter was that she had a good idea about his connections with the Ordo Dracul. He was their little errand-bitch as well, which made him pre-disposed to being her little bitch as well. If that wasn't good enough, he had come to her with a precious little bit of information a few months ago. He had warned her off any contact with UCLA campus. She hadn't been able to wiggle out the specifics, but she knew that he knew what had been happening to those kindred over the past year who had been hunting the campus. The fact that he had warned her vehemently was also kind of sweet. Pity about his ghoul though.

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Jorge felt a tinge of irritation as he came in. Adrian wasn't there yet, and he usually wanted to be the last one in. He always felt the need to keep an eye on his fellow vampires. He wasn't a big fan of the term kindred. It lied about the relationship between leeches. Trust wasn't big on his agenda.

Mary looked over at him as he came in. She was always nervous, but about what he was never certain. She was a bit young, so angling for his slot wasn't too likely. He had killed his share of rivals before. It was how he had earned his stripes in the Invictus after all. He was also not too reliant on his age. He hadn't been around when the last Prince of Los Angeles had gone down, but he knew a few who had. That had been a different world, and one he had devoted much of his unlife to seeing return. Mary Miller was part of that. He need a steady blood supply at his back. She qualified for that post and did her job well. For that, he let her live in Westwood.

Robert was the first one he acknowledged. It was Robert's due, being the second in age. Too bad there wasn't a more immediate reason to give him respect. Robert rested on his laurels, and that nest was getting thin. Everyone else worked hard to make the Westwood Coterie work. Robert ... existed. In ten years, he hadn't moved, and the only change was the order of those who serviced him. In their time together, Jorge had two talks with him about it. Both went nowhere. Robert didn't see the problem, treated others with little respect, while reaping in the bounty of those beneath him. Jorge was far from a libertine, but he knew that the Invictus moved only when the lowest orders marched. It was the dual nature of the Master-Servant relationship. If things didn't change, Robert might have to go, a sacrifice to Jorge's vision.

Francesca met his gaze evenly, which spoke in equal parts for her courage and arrogance. The first was something he could respect, and the second didn't matter. Francesca was an 'earner'. She brought in favors and contacts. She was out there doing the kind of social networking that he despised, and did it well. He kept feelers out there to check up on her. So far, she had proven useful, and not overtly disloyal. Whatever her personal ambitions, she kept them in check. When he requested, and he always requested instead of ordered, she delivered. When she requested, and she always did so submissively, he either delivered, or explained why he couldn't. He made it clear that his goals and ambitions came first. Her respect and understanding weren't necessary.

Jorge stood behind his seat, scanning the other seated figures. Even as the first twinges of annoyance rose, Adrian entered. In one fluid motion, the young Mekhet bowed and seated himself. Jorge gave the smallest of answering nods - a gentle rebuke, then took his seat. Adrian was the one he considered the most loyal. Adrian never made excuses, never flinched away from an unpleasant tasks, and always showed respect. He even showed the proper respect to Robert, who he clearly despised. Okay, maybe it wasn't clear to Robert, but that was Roberts problem unless Adrian stepped out of line. The one downside to Adrian was that he was too much the good little soldier. He did whatever the others asked him to do as well. Mary wasn't much of a problem. They rarely had need for a gunslinger. Francesca wanted things, though. Sometimes that included a use of force, and that was Jorge's job. One day he would have to fix that, but not now.

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Adrian had tried to make it before Jorge, but somehow a few minutes with Jordan had meant more. Now he felt a little different. Now he had to shoot the Old Man a look that said 'I'm sorry,' without looking weak or disrespectful. It was a tough combination he wasn't sure he had pulled off until Jorge sat down and began the meeting. His attention stayed on Jorge - Mister Jorge actually - were it belonged. No matter what the others think, the Gangrel was their leader. He was the oldest. He was the toughest. He was the one the other leaders gave their respect too. Adrian had a feeling the others didn't grasp that. Added to that, Jorge was the toughest kindred he knew. Jorge could fight, take a pounding, and keep coming. What mattered more than status to Adrian was the very real fact that Jorge could kill him. Adrian respected that.

Robert was the next to speak, as was his due. Robert was the second oldest and the second to join the coterie. Beyond that ... well, he was second. Adrian had little contact with Robert. He understood that Mary and Francesca didn't deal with him much easier. Jorge ... well, Jorge did what he wanted and could demand what he wanted from Robert. That didn't elevate Robert in his eyes. Everyone had to have a use to get by. That was the Rule of the Street, and seemed to be the Rule of the Undead as well. Robert wasn't playing by the rules, and that implied major suckage down the line. The thing that baffled Adrian the most was how someone could miss something so obvious to someone has dim as himself.

Francesca was responding to something Jorge had said. Part of Jorge's program for tonight demanded something of her and she wanted clarification. That sounded off to Adrian. Francesca tended to run as free and wild as necessary. Limiting herself with precise instructions was out of character. When Robert grimaced, it made sense. The two Daeva hated each other. Scratch that. Robert picked at Francesca and she hated him. She, in a moment of friendship, had confided as much. She had called Robert a bloated slug, which translated to Adrian as 'not long for this world.' He wasn't sure how he felt about that. In the abstract, Adrian knew what mattered to him was how Jorge saw the incident. How the younger vampire felt didn't matter. He would do what he was told. That is how you grew up to be the oldest vampire in the room.

Mary Miller was taking the meeting in, the way she always did. She had talked to Adrian from time to time. She had a guarded fashion to the way she talked, but that didn't bother him much. He had no desire to peek at the cards she held so close to her vest. When she asked for something, he delivered. If had ever needed something, he was sure she would return in kind. They got along, didn't ask much, and kept to their own affairs. In total, she was the perfect coterie mate for Adrian. Mary looked to him and gave a small smile. It seemed an attempt at friendship, but emotion didn't come easy to her face. Adrian gave a nod back, just in case it was.

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Jorge returned to the streets. He still had time to feed, which was good. His coterie was functioning, his goals were advancing, and he was one tiny step closer to forcing order out of the chaos that was his city. As he walked out of the streetlights into the darkness, he took a second to look back at the meeting. Robert had barely controlled his attention. He seemed more interested in sniping at Francesca. Francesca rubbed her importance in Roberts face. Mary listened, noted, and said nothing. Adrian ... he would be contacted by Francesca if needed. The youngest of them had paid attention and that had been enough.

Francesca walked into the night feeling great. Now she was in her element. She made notes of which kindred to contact first and who she would want to network with. All she had to do was drop Jorge's name and more doors would open. Francesca was also pleased that Jorge was finally getting out in front of a problem. They would be seen as leading the way, and garner the respect and reputation that went with it. Her place in the greater hierarchy of the Invictus was going up.

Robert came out knowing he'd wasted a night. Jorge was going off on one of his kicks about 'touching base' with junior members of other factions. The leader felt a storm was brewing and eyes on the ground were needed. Robert wished he had been consulted on the matter first. Why waste precious favors on what might well be other people's problems. After this proved to be a fiasco, Robert would make sure he would point it out to Jorge too.

Mary sat back as the last one left. The meeting had been informative. Trouble was coming. Trouble meant a greater need for blood so she would put out the needed orders. Few would note the increased losses to the stockpiles. Her man could handle that. What Mary had to consider was how to most profit from this influx of kindred needing her favor. Much of that would be taken by Jorge. As her boss it was his due, she was forced to admit. What she could do was express her utility to the community. What she could do was up her own status, because she couldn't rely on anyone else to lift her up. Francesca would rise, Robert was falling, and the rest were station keeping.

Adrian made his way out of the Veterans Hospital to the Parking Deck. His special pass was good for the rest of the year. Mary would see to it if he needed a replacement. It was her domain, so she set the rules for their relationship. Francesca had made it clear she would be calling on him soon. Jorge had also told him to get ready for trouble. All he wanted to do was get in a feeding before going home. Jorge said that trouble was coming and they better get prepared. That first meant ensuring his guns were ready and his ammo laid in. The rest could wait.

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Jordan lay asleep on the sofa, the TV turned to FX. The was some pre-Halloween horror flick on, which he was happy she wasn't watching. He sat down next to her quietly, not wishing to wake her before he was ready to send her to bed. What he worried about was how much time he was going to be away from her. He had promised her some 'Family Nights'. Since he had never had, nor had the reason to want, Family Nights, he wanted to keep this promise to her. She needed some kind of family. He was a poor substitute, but knew he was better than nothing. Adrian made a mental note to set aside sometime soon for an outing somewhere nice - maybe a roller rink, or skate park.

He woke her lightly.

"Time to go to bed, Kiddo."

Jordan stirred. She was a deep sleeper, but woke up quickly.

"There's going to be trouble," she said upon awakening.

"What makes you say that?" Adrian brushed the hair out of her eyes, only to see worry there.

"You didn't put your sword back in the closet, the guns under your bed are loaded, and you've put an extra $5000 in my account."

He didn't bother denying it. She was too smart for him by half. It had ceased being annoying, but had become a source of certain pride. He would hatch his plots and she would point out the holes for him. It was a learning lesson for him.

"Yes, there's going to be trouble. Some enemies of some of my friends have gotten antsy. No, they've gotten downright hostile. They tried to kill some vampires over a week ago, me among them. My side has yet to decide how to react. That could include me going out and killing some kindred. I'm sorry about that. Not because they don't deserve it - they most likely do - but because it will keep me away from you. I've come to enjoy our movie nights. I owe you a bit of stability."

Jordan looked at him quizzically.

"A, you say the dumbest things sometime. Sweet, yet dumb."

She sat up before continuing.

"I know you don't want to run off. You've got a job. You need to do it, and I understand."

She squeezed his arm to reassure him, a reversed gesture that didn't escape Adrian. Here was the child comforting the adult. It served them both well, this role-reversal. Jordan needed the sense of control. Adrian needed to be needed.

"Okay," he said. "If I have to go out, I'll try to kill them quickly."

That turned her grin into a toothy smile,

"You are such the Psycho. Be careful, kill the SOB's, and get me tickets to Twilight: Breaking Dawn."

Adrian looked wounded, really wounded.

"Let me get this straight", he started, "you want me to get you a tickets to a movie about vampires with super-powers whose sole weakness is that they glitter in full sunlight?"

Jordan nodded, enjoying watching her 'Protector' squirm.

"Please. Why aren't those guys ruling the World? They catch speeding cars, jump one hundred feet, and climb surfaces faster than I can blink. God, they make me sick!"

"Ha! You've got Fang-envy. I knew it."

"And now your are taunting me," he responded with a knowing nod. He received a innocent, doe-eyed look, which only sealed the deal. Adrian chuckled.

"You are doing this so you can stay up longer. It's not happening Kiddo."

Jordan stood up and shrugged. "Okay, you got me. I'll go quietly."

Adrian stood up and motioned her to move ahead. He followed her back to her bedroom, tucked her in, and turned off the light.

"I'll always be there for you, Jordan."

"I'll always have your back, A."

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