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A Bloodstained Shadow Over Brockton Bay

Discussion in 'Creative Writing' started by Charles Flynn, Mar 22, 2021.

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  1. Threadmarks: Chapter One
    Charles Flynn

    Charles Flynn I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    My voice has gone hoarse, inside the locker.

    I screamed, at first. Begged someone, anyone, to help me.

    Nobody answered, and now, my voice is gone.

    I feel the filth around me, the bugs crawling about in it. The awful, never-ending heat.

    I wait in silence. A beetle skitters down my back, and I realize, with a start, that I’m dying.

    I’m going to die here. This locker is going to be my grave, these bugs my only company in my final moments.

    I should rage, or weep, but my fury ran its course within the first hour. My despair ran out a few hours after that, and now… Now I’m drifting. A bug crawls over my eye, and I try to wave at him.

    It doesn’t work out. My hand is wedged between the wall and some someone’s rotting lunch.

    I should be disgusted. I’m not. Just… empty.

    I find myself pondering if dying is like this for everyone. It’s not so bad, really. Almost peaceful.

    And then, I hear footsteps from outside.

    The janitor, maybe?

    I don’t say anything. I can’t move, anymore. Too tired.

    The footsteps stop outside my locker. Then, there’s a crunching noise, and a tearing of metal, and suddenly, I’m moving, carried along in the cascade of garbage and tampons into the hallway.

    Oh. Someone saved me. That’s neat.

    A rough hand grabs me and drags me out of the rubbish by the scruff of my neck, and I finally look at my savior through bleary eyes.

    He’s tall, and gaunt, and his skin is pale as a corpse. His hair is exquisitely combed, and as black as his suit. Yellow eyes look me up and down, and his thin lips curl up into a sneer.

    “You are disgusting,” he says, propping me up against the wall. “But I suppose you’ll have to do.”

    I start to drift off, my vision becoming blurry, before he frowns at me and looks me straight in the eyes. “Listen.”

    I feel more awake, then, and I pay more attention to what he’s saying.

    “Taylor Hebert. I have had my eye on you for some time,” the pale man says, looking me in the eye. “You are dying. Normally, that would be an unavoidable fact of life, but I have need of an extremely skilled agent with an unbreakable spirit. Since I couldn’t find one, you will have to suffice. There are two choices available to you at the moment: Join me, and live in glory, or refuse my generous offer, and die here, alone and unmourned.”

    I… I don’t want to die. I don’t understand half of what he’s saying, but… if there’s a chance that I could live…

    Answer me,” he says, looking my in the eye once more.

    “Yes,” I say, my voice a raspy whisper.

    He blinks. “I… will take that as you accepting my offer. Very well.”

    What comes next is… hazy.

    I feel a bite on my neck, and something sweet on my lips, and then…

    I sleep.

    ---​

    I awaken in a coffin. A literal, honest-to-god coffin.

    “Child,” the pale man says from the couch he’s sitting on, not even looking up from his copy of the New York Times. “You are awake.”

    I… I don’t know what- I…

    I start sobbing. It takes me a moment to realize that no tears are falling.

    He actually looks up at the sound of my sobs, before sighing and looking back down at his paper. “Disappointing. Very well. I will permit you five minutes to resolve this display of weakness of your own accord.”

    I… I stop. I pull myself together. I push the roiling, burning pain, the fear, and the confusion back into its cage. “Who are you?”

    “Your sire. You have not earned the privilege of my name, and as such, you will refer to me as Master.”

    I stare at him in confusion, taking in my surroundings, and realizing that I was just kidnapped after I already nearly died in my own locker.

    I… I feel numb. Hollow. Like nothing even matters anymore.

    He looks at me. “Come.”

    I’m walking over to him before I even realize that my feet are moving. He gestures to a chair opposite the couch. “Sit.”

    I sit.

    The room is silent for a moment. Then, he breaks that silence. “Taylor Hebert is dead.”

    I startle at that. “But I-“

    “She died, as far as anyone is aware, when Winslow High School’s night janitor decided to burn the school to the ground, with himself inside. I made sure to leave an appropriately similar corpse at the scene of your locker in order to allay suspicions.”

    I stare at him in shock.

    “As far as anyone else is concerned, you are dead, and have been for the last month.” He turns the page in the paper. “Your funeral was rather nice, if you must know. Good turnout, passable food at the wake. Your father’s incessant weeping and thousand-yard stare were a bit irritating, though.”

    “Dad-“

    “Will never see you again,” the man says, in a tone that brooks no disobedience. “You will sever all ties to your old life, or else they will be severed for you.”

    I feel anger return to me, and I stand up. “You think I’m just going to roll over and take that? He’s my dad, and I don’t know what sort of operation you’re running here, but-“

    He flicks open a lighter, and suddenly, the sight of the fire, wicked, all-consuming fire, is my entire world. I HAVE TO RUN! HAVE TO GET AWAY!

    He flicks it shut, and I come to my senses. He raises an eyebrow at me.

    I gingerly climb down from the top of the bookshelf I vaulted myself onto, as he looks at me.

    “As I have told you. Your life is over. You are no longer human,” he says, piercing me with his gaze. “I have raised you up, exalted you. You are no longer one of the myriad sheep that stampede about from banality to banality, beneath the light of the sun. I have made you superior, made you my own child, the blood of Cain.”

    “What?”

    He sighs. “You are a vampire.“ He furrows his brow in distaste. “If we must be vulgar about it.”

    “That’s impossible,” I say, because, really, it’s-

    There’s blur of movement, and suddenly, I feel a sharp pain in my chest.

    I look down at the stake through my heart, as he turns the page in his paper.

    “My apologies. I rather thought that I should save time, and empirically prove your nature.”

    I can’t move. I can see, I can feel, but my entire body is locked up.

    I fall, flat on my face, unable to move.

    After a few minutes of me staring at the floorboards, I hear him close his paper and get up.

    “I believe that’s long enough.” He walks over and pulls out the stake.

    Suddenly, I can move again.

    “Was that sufficient proof of your nature, child?” he asks.

    “Yes…”

    “Yes, what?” he repeats, in a dangerous tone of voice.

    “Yes, Master,” I say, feeling numb. It’s real. The hole in my chest begins to close, and suddenly, I feel… hungry. It’s real. I’m dead. I’m a vampire.

    “Very well. You will abide by my training, and obey my orders, and in time, we will wrest the city of Brockton Bay away from the superpowered buffoons in their pajamas, and into the hands of its rightful masters.” His eyes darken, and the shadows begin to dance in the corners of the room. “Welcome, Taylor Hebert, to the Sabbat.”
     
  2. Sage Hidden Bear

    Sage Hidden Bear Not too sore, are you?

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    Looks legit. On watch.
     
    HS1468 and Charles Flynn like this.
  3. Scholar of Time

    Scholar of Time Master of Lurking

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    A shovelhead with delusions of grandeur, but one that hasn't ripped her flesh off for grotesqueries and that waited until she was as broken as possible?

    Calling Lasombra, right now.

    EDIT: I feel both stupid and vindicated - I just saw the tags.
     
  4. Simonbob

    Simonbob Really? You don't say.

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    Huh.

    Vampire is full of Sires getting killed by their Childer. The Sabat is worse still.

    Eh. Killing this dick is fine.
     
  5. Threadmarks: Chapter Two
    Charles Flynn

    Charles Flynn I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    And so, my new unlife began.

    The nights that followed my death were slow enough. My sire taught me my weaknesses, and how to be a vampire. How to feed, and how to use the blood boiling within my veins to command the shadows. How to use my inhuman strength to crush all that stood against me. How to bend the wills of humans will little more than eye contact and a word.

    And, of course, there were the occasional bouts of what he called “moral instruction” which I privately referred to as “how to be an asshole lessons.” Never out loud, because outside of the ABB gangbangers he brought in for me to feed on, I never saw a soul besides him.

    Today, however, thing change.

    “Taylor,” he says, as I rise from my torpor. “Get your coat. We have a meeting to attend.”

    I comply, and follow him out of the squat, concrete house in the middle of the docks, and into the car.

    We drive for about an hour, until he pulls into a driveway, somewhere out in rural Massachusetts.

    “I believe this is the address,” he says, peering down at the map he brought along, having stubbornly refused my suggestions of using a GPS. “All right, out of the car.” He affixes me with a look. “You will remain silent unless spoken to, and not embarrass me in any way, is that understood?”

    I nod.

    He leads the way into the cabin and hangs his coat on a hook by the door. “Am I the last one to arrive?”

    “Yes,” one of the people at the table, a woman with red, feral eyes and teeth like a shark’s says. “It’s just us now. Unless we’re waiting on another member of the pack. You’re the one who organized this, you’d know better than me.”

    My master takes the last seat.

    While he does so, I take the opportunity to stare at the three people waiting for us. The woman was strange enough, but the other two seated at the table are equally bizarre. One of them looks feral and monstrous, a bald head, pointed ears, and dirty, rat-like teeth. The other is perhaps the most beautiful man I’ve ever seen but seems barely cognizant of his surroundings, to absorbed in carving a woodcut image of an eviscerated corpse into the table.

    “Paul,” My master nods to the ugly one. “Is Joseph…”

    “He’s still mostly all there in the head,” Paul says, nodding at the man carving things into the table. “But you know how he gets when he sees something to catch his fancy.”

    “Wiglaf,” the woman says. “Is there anyone else? You’re the one who organized this, if anyone would know, it’s you.” She blinks and looks at me. “And who’s the new kid?”

    “Yes, everyone who I invited is here,” Master Wiglaf says. “And the ‘new kid’ as you so eloquently put it, is my childe, Taylor. As she is one of the only five Kindred on the planet right now, I decided to invite her to observe our counsel.”

    “So… the world-hopping ritual…” the woman asks.

    “Was a complete and resounding success, Anna-Marie. While it did not convey all of our packmates to this new world, it did nonetheless carry us away.”

    Everyone in the room is looking at him. Even Joseph has abandoned his carvings to pay attention to my master’s speech.

    “This new world has no other Kindred in it. While the assorted ‘capes’ may pose some threat, they can be brought to heel. The Endbringers may prove a slight problem, but one that can be worked around,” he looks between them beginning to smile. “And WE HAVE ESCAPED GEHENNA!”

    The Sabbat cheers.

    “No more will we fear the hunters. No more will we fear our elders! A soft, vulnerable world lies ready for the taking, FREE OF THE LOOMING THREAT OF THE APOCALYPSE!” he rises, grinning ear to ear, arms wide. “This world is ours! Ours alone! All we have to do is take it!”

    Anna Marie rises to her feet, howling with glee. “Where shall we go first, brother?”

    “We shall begin with Brockton Bay,” my master says, after the cheers have died down a bit. “We shall subvert it from the shadows. The heroes and villains alike will fall before us, until finally, our will rules supreme over the city! We shall raise up a second Enoch, where Kindred stand in their proper place, above the rabble of humanity!”

    The cheers start up again, as I watch, silently horrified, and realize exactly what I signed up for with my Faustian bargain.

    “And from Brockton Bay, we shall rule the world!” my master crows, proud and haughty and triumphant. “Our centuries of labor have borne fruit! WE SHALL REIGN SUPREME IN THIS NEW WORLD, AS THE GODS WE ARE!”

    Oh God. Oh God no.

    “But for now…” my master says teasingly, prompting everyone to quiet down. “We should celebrate our reunion.”

    “How so?” Anna Marie asks.

    “I chose this particular region as our headquarters for a reason when I was rebuilding my financial assets. Our neighbors out here are spaced out quit far and few between. Most of them are farmers, with nice, healthy families, plenty of livestock, and of course, only a landline to call for help with,” my master says, his wicked grin becoming contagious. “So, my friends. Fancy a drink?”

    ---

    The following car ride is uncomfortable. Master and Ann Marie are up in the front, while I’m sandwiched between Paul and Joseph in the back seat. Joseph is mostly off in his own head, but after a few minutes, Paul tries to make conversation.

    “So,” Paul says, looking at me. “New fledgling, huh?”

    “Yeah,” I say, not really sure how to make conversation under the circumstances. Social isolation and bullying didn’t really prepare me for making conversation with a member of what I’m beginning to realize is the vampiric answer to the Slaughterhouse Nine, while en route to a brutal murder.

    “That’s cool,” he says, almost seeming nostalgic. “I remember my fledgling days. This going to be your first murder party?”

    “Yes,” I squeak out, feeling sick to my stomach.

    “You want my advice, you should probably try and get your first kill in,” he says, friendly as can be. “The first time’s always hard. I still remember mine. But you’re going to have to kill someone sooner or later, and trust me, you do not want to freeze up in the field. So, like, you don’t have to be totally into it, but try to take advantage of the party. It’s a safe environment, well, I mean, for you, and not the poor saps we’re killing. You should take advantage of that. Get outside your comfort zone a little. Pop your murder cherry.”

    I furiously blush.

    “I’ll think about it,” I finally say, and he doesn’t push the matter any further. And so ends what was the most painfully awkward conversation of my entire life, on multiple levels.

    “Joseph,” my master says. “In which house would we be most likely to cause a Trigger Event?”

    Joseph looks up from where he was doodling on the window in crayon. “’neath bloodred shingles, the hook will land, and the whale will make a merry catch.”

    “Thank you, Joseph,” my Master says.

    “Trigger Event?” Anna-Marie repeats, curious.

    “The mechanism by which the ‘parahumans’ of this world gain their powers,” he explains. “When the humans of this world are placed under sufficient psychological stress, they manifest superhuman abilities. I rather thought that we should try to get a look at the process. Who knows? We might get a proper ghoul out of this, and what better ghoul than one with powers all his own?”

    “So, you’re telling me that, in this world, we can get ghouls with unique powers if we traumatize them enough?” Anna-Marie asks.

    “Essentially.”

    “Score!”

    Paul actually looks a bit troubled at that.

    ---

    “All right,” my master says. We’re sitting in the car, on the driveway of a farmhouse with red shingles. “Taylor, stick with me. Everyone else, do as you please. Just remember, no witnesses, and no calls for help.”

    And then we’re out of the car and heading for the farmhouse. Joseph splits off towards the barn, while Paul vanishes once I take my eyes off him.

    My Master kicks down the door, and Anna-Marie follows him inside.

    I don’t follow them in. I hear a scream, and a gunshot, and the tearing of flesh.

    I could run. Just… run away. Until the sun rose, and I died before I became like him.

    “You should probably go inside,” Paul says.

    I jump.

    “Whoa, sorry, didn’t mean to scare you,” he says, his nightmarish mien seeming almost comical as he rubs the back of his head in embarrassment. “Just… Look. Wiglaf’s a bit of a control freak. He’ll want you to help him with… whatever he’s planning. But, once that’s over, we can just hang out in the car, you know? Maybe play some music on the radio. You won’t have to take part in this beyond that.”

    I blink. “I thought that this was your kind of thing.”

    “Well, I mean, the killing and the vandalism is cool by me, but…” he shrugs. “I don’t really like playing mind games with people. Reminds me a bit too much of some stuff from when I was in high school. So, you want to join me in the car once Wiglaf’s done reenacting the plot of Saw or whatever?”

    I… I nod. “Sure.” Then, I turn back to the house. Best to get this over with.

    I step through the splintered doorframe, and follow the trail of destruction up the stairs to the second floor, gingerly stepping around two exsanguinated corpses, a man and a woman, the mangled remains of a shotgun still firmly clenched in the man’s hand.

    My master nods as I join him. He’s sitting in a rocking chair, flipping through the pages of a family phot album with his bloodstained hands. “Child. So good of you to join us. You will take the child on the right and execute him if I command it. It is time for you to break yourself free of your ridiculous moral objections to killing.”

    “I-“

    “Fine. I will deal with it myself. Simply watch and remain silent.”

    I… I look him in the eye. He’s measuring me. Judging me. And if he finds me wanting…

    I can’t die here. I need to live. I need to live so I can kill him.

    I watch, and wait, as Anna Marie, her hands shaped into claws, leads out three boys, the oldest of whom is thirteen as most.

    “Matthew, Luke, and John,” my master says warmly. “It’s so very good to see you boys. I’ve already heard quite a great deal about you.”

    “Y-you have?” the oldest, who I think is Matthew, says, stepping between my master and his younger brothers.

    “Why, yes! Why did you think that we came here and killed your parents?” my master says, smiling. “We heard quite a bit about you, and I decided that we simply had to have one of you join us!”

    “I…” Matthew freezes up, then looks at Anna-Marie’s claws. “I- alright, we’ll join you!”

    “No, you misunderstand, Matthew,” my master says, still smiling. “We want one of you to join us.” He closes the photo album, and then gets up, making his way past Matthew, and putting his hand on the shoulder of the boy in the middle, a round-faced blond child with glasses, and maybe ten years of age. “Now, Luke, I need you to be very brave for me, okay?”

    Luke nods, his face pale.

    “I need you to decide which of your brothers will live.”

    The youngest starts crying, as Luke freezes up.

    “Luke, look at me!” Matthew shouts. He’s crying now, too, but he clenches his jaw and keeps talking. “Pick John.”

    “NO!” John shouts. “I don’t want to-“

    “It’s my job to look after-“

    “I CAN’T!” Luke screams, tears running down his face. “I can’t.”

    “Ah!” my master says, a smile playing across his face. “I see!” And then he starts laughing. “You pass!”

    Luke’s tears stop, and he looks up at my master with hope dawning on his face. “I do?”

    “You do!” my master says jovially, before turning to Anna-Marie. “Kill them both.”

    With a flick of her claws, she slits both Matthew and John open, their innards spraying onto Luke.

    “I knew you had it in you, kid!” my master says, slapping him on the back as Luke stares in silent horror at his dying brothers. “I’m so proud!”

    “I… you said I passed!” Luke shouts.

    “Yeah! Your entrance exam! You passed with flying colors!”

    “What, no, I-“

    “When it came down to it, you chose to sacrifice both your brothers, just so you could stay alive!” my master says, as I watch on in silent horror. “You really are one of us.”

    Luke screams.

    DESTINATION.

    TRAJECTORY.

    AGREEMENT.

    And then he collapses, unconscious.

    “Well, then,” my master says, dropping the cheerful affect entirely. “I would say we have our successful proof of concept. Anna-Marie, hold him steady while I addict him to the blood. Taylor, you’re free to go. I hope you’ve learned something from all this.”

    I walk out to the car and get in before I start crying. Paul puts his hand on my shoulder, and I sob in the silence.

    He’s a monster.

    And, a traitorous voice whispers in my mind, how many centuries will it take before you become just like him?
     
  6. Threadmarks: Chapter Three
    Charles Flynn

    Charles Flynn I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    My master and I returned to our haven once the… “murder party” is over. Paul gave me his number and told me to call if I ever needed a hand.

    The next evening, I awaken to find my Master waiting for me to rise.

    “Taylor.” He gives me a nod of acknowledgement. “I do believe that I have taught you a great deal.”

    He seems to be looking for an answer, so I give him one. “Yes, my master.”

    “Now that I have taught you the path to power, the question presents itself: What do you plan to do with it?” Oh, joy, it’s another morality lesson. “Besides betraying and diablerizing me, of course?”

    “I-“ My brain then catches up to the last part of what he said. “I- I would never, my lord!” Shit, can he read my thoughts? Is that a thing vampires can do?

    “Oh, relax, I’m not going to kill you,” my master says. “Every other vampire I’ve ever sired has tried to diablerize me. I’d be a fool if I didn’t expect it by this point. In any case, you are and will continue to be a valuable agent, at least until you inevitably betray me. I see no reason to jeopardize our working relationship over something as petty as you wanting to kill me.”

    I blink. “You’re not upset about that?”

    “Why would I be? I diablerized my sire. Turnabout is fair play so far as I’m concerned.”

    “But… If I win, you’ll die.”

    “Well, first off, you won’t win. I am over a millennium your senior, and I have used every last second of my unspeakably long life to improve myself and advance my plans. If, after all that time and effort, I should lose to a months-old fledgling?” He laughs. “I think I should prefer diablerization to living with the shame of such a loss. And regardless, if that should happen, you will have proven yourself strong enough to match a vampire eons your senior, months, or perhaps years, after your Embrace. I can think of no one who would be worthier to succeed me.”

    I… I don’t even know how to respond to that.

    “But regardless, thanks to me, you have power. This begs the question: What will you do with it?”

    “I’ll…” I stop. I wanted to be a superhero, when I was younger. I wanted to make the world a better place. Do I still want to?

    Yes. Even if the bullying, and my Embrace might have made things harder on that front, I still want to help people, and make this city a better place. “I’ll be a hero.”

    He looks at me for a moment, and then bursts out laughing. “An excellent jest, childe! Truly, I haven’t laughed like this in years! If I had not Embraced you, you might have had a promising future as a comedian!”

    “I’m serious!” I snap.

    He hits me with a furious backhand that makes my teeth rattle, sending me straight to the floor.

    Disgusting,” he says with a snarl. “I had truly thought better of you than that. You would be so ungrateful as to waste the power I have given you so? To throw it all away as nothing more than another guard dog of the city, chasing your own tail at the behest of insects unfit to lick your boots as the world crumbles about you?”

    “I care about this city!” I snap. “And I want to make it better!”

    “THEN DO SO!” He roars. “Grow strong and take this city for your own. If the law is weak, make your own! If the people wither, command them! Guide them to your future, to enact your vision! And if criminals dare raise their hands against you, CUT THEM DOWN! That is the true way of a Lasombra! Your power is absolute, and so must be your control! If you wish to better the lives of the livestock, to make this city clean, then do so. But no childe of mine will ever end up as just another ponce in tights.”

    I look up at him, and then I say what’s been in my heart since that first night. “I’m going to kill you. And then I’m going to fix my city and use your powers for good.”

    He snorts. “In time, dear childe, I believe that you will discover the truth, as I once did: There is no good and evil. Only power, and those afraid to seek it.”

    I look at him in confusion. “Isn’t that from Harry Potter?”

    He cocks an eyebrow. “Some philosopher native to your dimension, I presume?”

    Oh my God. “Yeah, something like that.”

    “Hm. Are his writings popular?”

    “You could say that,” I tell him, desperately struggling to keep a straight face.

    “Well, I suppose great minds do think alike, after all.” He shakes his head. “In any case, I have taught you a great deal, would you not agree?”

    “Yes, my Master.” Time to set aside my plans of rebellion for the moment, and play along with him.

    “Normally, Sabbat fledglings are not permitted nearly so much direct instruction as I have given you, you know. Simply tossed out into the fray and let the luck of the draw decide whether they should rise in station within the Sabbat.” He looks at me over his steepled fingers. “I do not believe that the tradition of the trial by fire should be neglected, regardless of your unique circumstances, or the effort I have put into training you.”

    “I see.”

    “Of course you do. I picked you in no small part thanks to your intellect, after all. Are you familiar with the local circumstances? Particularly as it regards the parahuman infestation?”

    “Yes, sir.”

    “Splendid. Recite what you know.”

    “There are three gangs in Brockton Bay. The Empire 88, Neo-Nazis that are led by a ferrokinetic named Kaiser, who have the most capes of any gang. The Azn Bad Boys, led by Lung, who is… Lung. And the Merchants, a band of junkies led by Skidmark.”

    “You neglected to make mention of Coil or Faultline,” my master says. “But I suppose your knowledge, while rudimentary, is sufficient for the task at hand. As you are aware, parahumans, while quite useful if blood bonded and taught to serve their proper masters, are naturally destructive, quarrelsome sorts, whose continued presence is detrimental to conducting the affairs of any proper society.” Translation: They might object to vampires trying to conquer the world, and I’m kind of butt-hurt that they get to have superpowers and a tan. “Their very presence brings destruction, and from my observations, I can safely say that, if they were left without being brought to heel, they would lead to the breakdown of any human society.” He snorts. “Although that can be attributed as much to the inherent follies of democracy as the children in tights running about and setting things on fire.”

    I nod politely, and silently pray that this doesn’t become one of his rants.

    “Thus, for the good of mortals, vampires, and even those poor, misbegotten parahumans, cursed with powers they lack the intelligence or competence to use properly, we must bring the parahumans into their proper place in society as our… servants. Those who cannot be incorporated must be killed.”

    I’m not even surprised by this point. Every time he opens his mouth, these nights, I'm always bracing myself for the next big dramatic pronouncement of our inevitable rule.

    “This brings me to your initiation ritual. The task you must complete in order to win full-fledged status as a member of the New Black Hand of the Sabbat.” He looks me dead in the eye. "While you may reach out to my packmates to attempt to secure their aid in this task, know that I will not aid you in any way, nor may you shelter beneath my roof."

    “By the end of this week, you will kill Kaiser, or die trying."
     
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2021
  7. Tumultuous_Anxiety

    Tumultuous_Anxiety It's sucking out your insides, don't make it weird

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    Hey just wanted to say that this fic is really neat! I look forward to more, so keep at it, it is really good!
     
  8. shakeval

    shakeval Versed in the lewd.

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    Frankly I doubt it would be all that hard to kill kaiser if stealth is employed, don't wear any metal, scent him out, follow him home and snap his neck while he sleeps. . . . .you're a vampire, you don't follow the unwritten rules.
     
  9. Threadmarks: Chapter Four
    Charles Flynn

    Charles Flynn I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    It took me a while to find a payphone, after my master kicked me out of his haven so that I might “better prove my merit.”

    So, here I am, staring at the phone. I check the number on the card Paul handed to me after the murder party.

    Well, monstrous looks or not, he was easily the friendliest of my sire’s packmates. And the only one who left me with any means to contact him, and a standing invitation to call if I needed help. Still… I’m not sure I trust him. He might act friendly to me, but he’s a member of the Sabbat. No one who calls themselves a Sabbat vampire can really be called a good person.

    Well, except for me, obviously.

    Still, he’s the only helping hand I have to take, and I’m going to need a place to stay during the day. So, taking a deep breath, (not that I need to breath anymore, but it’s a good habit to stay in, since I still need air to talk) I pull the phone off its cradle, dial in the number Paul gave me, and then feed my money into the coin slot.

    Paul answers on the second ring. “Hello, you’ve reached Paul Atwood. If this is a telemarketer, then be warned: I have a specific set of skills which makes me a nightmare for people like you. If you propose to waste my valuable time with your bullshit, then know this: I will hunt for you. I will find you. And I will kill you, slowly and painfully, in ways you never even knew were possible. But you will. Believe you me, you will.”

    I take a moment to find my voice, because holy shit, and then speak up. “Hey Paul, this is Taylor. We met at that party. I was wondering if I could stay at your place for a little while. My landlord kicked me out until I can do a job for him, and-“

    “Oh, Taylor!” he says, suddenly jovial. “Say no more. Su casa es mi casa, sister! Where are you calling from, you want me to give you a lift?”

    “Well, if you’re willing,” I say, before rattling off the address.

    “Well I’ll be right over, Taylor,” he says, before pausing. “Um, just in advance, there’s another mutual friend crashing at my place, and he’s a bit… unable to take care of himself, so if you could help me, that would be a huge favor.”

    “I’d be happy to,” I assure him warmly, not exactly sure what he means, but, to be honest, it sounds like a worthy cause.

    “Great, I’ll be right on over.”

    ---​

    The SUV’s windows are tinted, probably to keep anyone from seeing the driver. Said driver turns to me as he pulls to a stop in front of a red light.

    “So,” Paul says, drumming his talon-like fingers on the wheel. “Who’re you supposed to kill?”

    “How did you-“

    “Look, the Sabbat is an oligarchy, not a monarchy. Wiglaf doesn’t control who’s part of the Black Hand. He ran your trial by us, and we okayed it.”

    “Oh. I suppose that makes sense.” I fall silent for a few moments, trying to decide if I should tell him. “Kaiser. He wants me to kill Kaiser.”

    “The Nazi?” Paul whistles as the light turns green and the car once more goes into motion. “Hell of a way to get your feet wet. I’ll give you what help I can, even if I can’t go with you. You know how to shoot a gun? Throw a punch? Use a sword or a bat?”

    “Uh, no,” I say. “He says that guns are for weaklings, actually.”

    “Well, yeah, of course he does,” Paul says with a laugh. “Wiglaf’s old as hell! Like, Early Middle Ages old. As far as I know, he’s still irritated about the Kine inventing gunpowder. Trust me, Wiglaf’s smart, sure, but he doesn’t know everything.”

    I blink. “Well, then, how old are you?” I hadn’t really considered how old my master might be. How old I might become. Now, though, I’m beginning to wonder.

    “Eighty-eight years old,” he replies without hesitation. “I got Embraced during the 50s.” He pulls into a parking garage, parks the car, and then turns to look at me. “And the funny thing is, I’m actually the youngest pack member. I’ll be second youngest if you make the cut. So, trust me, I get what it’s like, being the new kid on the block.”

    I look away. “Well, thanks.”

    There’s something fundamentally depressing about the fact that the vampiric death cult bent on taking over the world is still friendlier and more inclusive than Winslow.

    “Hey, it’s the least I could do. Maybe the next time we’re entertaining a Black Hand candidate, we can show ‘em the ropes together,” he says with a genuine smile.

    “I think I’d like that.”

    “So, um, we’re going to get out and go on foot, I’ll Obfuscate to look normal, so nobody notices all of, well, this,” he gestures at his twisted, inhuman countenance. “That way, they won’t be able to track us to my lair from my car.”

    “Who’s ‘they’?” I ask.

    “The authorities. Trust me, going around in the age of cell phones looking like I do, you learn pretty fast how to get by surveillance unseen, or else you end up dusted by some hunter who just figured out social media.” He drums his hands on the wheel. “Okay, you know what I said about I already had a friend over when we talked on the phone?”

    “Yes?”

    “That was code for… um, well, I’m Malk-sitting this week, so Joseph is staying with me. While you’re staying over, I’m going to need you to help me wrangle him.”

    “Malk-sitting?”

    “Well, you know how Malkavians are, and…” he sees the look on my face and stops. “You... don’t know how Malkavians are.”

    “I don’t even know what a Malkavian is.”

    “Okay, well, fuck. So, Wiglaf didn’t tell you about the clans.” He seems to think for a moment. “Did he tell you how to Embrace Kine?”

    “No.”

    “How about ghouls, did he tell you about ghouls?”

    “No.”

    “Did he tell you where vampires come from?”

    “No.”

    “God dammit, Wiglaf.” Paul pinches the bridge of his nose, and sighs. “Alright, so, the clans are kind of like the various vampire species. You’re a Lasombra, which means you don’t cast a shadow or show up in recordings, you’ve got super strength, you can do weird shadowy shit, and you can fuck with people’s minds. I’m a Nosferatu, which is why I’m ugly as sin. It also lets me to cool stuff like talking to animals, benching trucks, or turning invisible.” He looks over at me. “You get all of this?”

    “Yeah.”

    “Good. Honestly, Wiglaf should have told you all of this, but he’s not all that great a teacher. Now, a Malkavian, like Joseph, is insane. They can pull off disappearing acts, see things they shouldn’t, and, of course, infect other people with their insanity.”

    “That’s-“

    “Absolutely terrifying, yeah. It’s why we need to have someone keep an eye on Joseph. If we don’t, well…” Paul’s seems to be staring at some faraway place for a moment, before snapping back to the present. “We don’t need a third maternity ward massacre.”

    Third?”

    “Be very glad you weren’t there for the first two,” Paul says with a sigh. “Now, if at any point, what he’s saying starts to make sense to you, leave the conversation and take a minute to recenter your head. His mastery of the Dementation Discipline is so strong that he does it automatically. If you don’t get out of there, well… Trust me, you will wake up the next night covered in blood and with no idea of what just happened, aside from a crippling sense of regret.”

    “Why haven’t you killed him?” I ask, utterly horrified.

    “Because I can’t. And trust me, I’ve tried. Never anything direct, because he’s strong enough to rip me to shreds if I tried anything obvious, but he has a remarkable gift for surviving what should have been a successful Uriah Gambit.” He shakes his head. “Now enough gabbing. Let’s get walking already.”

    ---​

    Paul’s Haven is nothing special. Just a warehouse with a sturdy concrete basement.

    It’s when we enter that I see Joseph. He’s sitting on the concrete floor in front of an old TV, watching what I think is a Teletubbies marathon.

    He turns to look at us, his face drawn in manic, furious intensity. “Paulinus.”

    “Yeah, Joseph?”

    “He has spoken to me once more.”

    Paul swears under his breath, and then forces a grin. “Well, what does the J-man want us to do tonight?”

    “Jesus has spoken to me, His holy words of love pouring forth from the fractals within the insipid babble of these televised abominations!” Joseph’s face lights up. “We must do His holy work, once more! We must journey to Brockton General, and find the one known as Panacea, that by my good counsel she might tread the righteous path once more!”

    “So… you don’t want to slaughter newborns?”

    “No. While the Lord loves all children, and desires that their pure souls should be dispatched to dwell with him in love for all eternity, doing so is secondary to my primary mission. There is a great potential for good in that girl, and an even greater potential for evil. Dire visions spur me forward. She must be redeemed, her soul purified, and her burdens lifted, and then killed, that her soul may shed her mortal shell and dwell in Heaven with Jesus forevermore!”

    “Well, that’s an… idea,” Paul says, his smile growing even more pained. “But don’t you remember? We all agreed to hold off on killing until Taylor finished her initiation and killed Kaiser.”

    Joseph rises to his feet, and then marches towards me, seizing me by the shoulders. “Is this true?”

    “I mean, yes?” I say, really, really, hoping that he’s not going to just kill me flat-out.

    And then he sinks to his knees before me. “Please, child, I must beg you to reconsider.”

    “What?”

    “To kill a man is no great infraction for such damned beasts as we. We are forever barred from God’s grace, damned to live in this unclean material plane, shadows in the night. But this man, this Kaiser, is not yet forsaken, although he strays from Jesus' love and walks the path of sin! He may grow, and find redemption, and the promise of Heaven! To kill him now would be to forever damn his soul to Hell, and that is a terrible thing indeed. Please, reconsider, so we might guide him out of sin, and into virtue!”

    And in that moment, I understand Joseph, in a way that Paul could never convey to me. He doesn’t kill out of some mad lust for violence. He kills because he thinks he's helping people. He kills because he believes, with all his heart, that by killing good people he is sending them somewhere better.

    And I can use that to manipulate him.

    “But Joseph, doesn’t leaving Kaiser alive simply damn more souls?” I ask. “After all, by preaching his creed of hatred, and drawing many to his cause, he corrupts the people of this city. So long as he stands, so shall the Empire Eighty-Eight, and they shall hold all the harder on to their sins if their false idol stands.” I bow my head. “To send his soul to Hell is, ultimately, the necessary evil to which we damned beasts must resort in order to enforce God’s will, is it not?”

    Joseph draws back. “You speak painful truths, my lady. I must meditate upon your words, and commune with my Lord Christ through the Televised Tubbies.”

    And then, when Joseph is off watching Teletubbies again, Paul turns to me.

    “So, want to learn how to shoot a gun?”

    “Sure,” I say, because after the night I've had, why the Hell not?
     
  10. Sage Hidden Bear

    Sage Hidden Bear Not too sore, are you?

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    This got me good man. I laughed so fkn hard. Well done sir. That's prime level insanity.
     
  11. Threadmarks: Chapter Five
    Charles Flynn

    Charles Flynn I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    The night embraces me as I move through the city, leaping from rooftop to rooftop with my Potence-enhanced legs.

    Tonight is the night. And Joseph told me everything I need to know.

    ---​

    It was my third night in Paul’s Haven.

    I had just returned from a hunt when Joseph approached me.

    “Taylor.”

    “Yes, Joseph?” I asked, wary. The Malkavian was as unhinged as they came, even if he was unfailingly polite. So far, I hadn’t seen much of him. He’d virtually disappeared since my first talk with him, brooding in front of the TV and watching Teletubbies.

    “God has spoken,” he says with a degree of finality. “You will kill Kaiser, and defend God’s chosen people.”

    “I, um… that’s kind of him?” I try.

    “It is not a kindness. He has commanded you to damn a man’s soul to the Pit, and that is a heavy burden indeed. You shall be His Sword, bringing righteous vengeance upon those that have earned His wrath,” Joseph says, his tone grim as he looks me straight in the eye. “I do not envy you this dreadful responsibility, though I will aid you as I may whilst you wreak the vengeance of the Lord. The one known as Kaiser’s true name is Maximillian Anders. He is the CEO of Medhall. Tomorrow night, he will be working late…”

    He told me everything. Kaiser’s entire schedule tomorrow night. The floor plan of Medhall. He even told me about Kaiser’s turnip allergy, and the precise mechanics of how his powers worked (although I didn’t really understand much of the last part.)

    And then, while I was staring at him slack-jawed, he politely asked if I wanted him to repeat it.

    ---​

    Right, time to consult the Clipboard of FateTM.

    Okay, according to the schedule Joseph gave me, Kaiser is going to be heading downstairs to react to the crisis at Brockton General two minutes and forty-five seconds from now.

    I get myself into position, and, calling upon my Obteneration, flood the alley outside the stairwell in impenetrable shadows.

    Then, I start the timer.

    It beeps exactly when Joseph said it would, as the door leading into the alley swings open and Kaiser, in full armor, emerges.

    “What-“

    “Max Anders,” I say, unseen within the depths of the darkness I’ve created, even as I seize hold of the shadows within Kaiser’s own armor. “I find your lack of tolerance… disturbing.”
    Blades lash out, but he can’t see me through the darkness. And so, Kaiser dies. Strangled to death by the darkness in a filthy back alley.

    That was… I blink.

    That was actually easy! No wonder the others have kept Joseph around for so long. Thanks to him, I knew literally everything that was going to happen!

    And thanks to him, I know that no one will come upon Kaiser’s body down here for two more hours. Which means that I can quit the scene without anyone even knowing that I exist.

    I just successfully got away with murder!

    …I just successfully got away with murder.

    I… I look down at Kaiser’s now-cooling corpse. He was a terrible person. But I killed him. I killed him.

    But… I guess Joseph’s right. It had to be done. Why else would I not feel guilty about killing him in the slightest?

    I growl and kick his corpse. He was a parasite, glutting himself on the life of this city. I’m glad he’s dead.

    Now then, time to return to Paul’s Haven and wait for my master to recall me to his side.

    I make my way back up to the rooftops and look out over the city. My city.

    That’s when I see Armsmaster, roaring down a street on his motorbike, driving downtown like the devil was on his heels.

    I blink. Huh. I guess there must have been some kind of supervillain incident.

    Then, I pull out the Clipboard, as a thought strikes me. Yes, there it is. “At 9:05:32 PM, Kaiser will leave his office and change into his costume, to lead the Empire’s response to the crisis at Brockton General…”

    I suppose that must be what Armsmaster is responding to.

    I blink. Wait. I have powers, too! I could maybe… possibly… do something?

    It would probably piss my sire off to no end.

    Okay, definitely going there to help out!

    I spring from rooftop to rooftop, before I stop and consult the Clipboard again. I definitely remember Joseph saying something else about Brockton General, too. I can’t find anything describing what the crisis at Brockton General is.

    Still, I know he said something about it. What was it….

    ---​

    I stood at Paul’s side, staring at the pale-skinned madman.

    “Jesus has spoken to me, His holy words of love pouring forth from the fractals within the insipid babble of these televised abominations!” Joseph’s face lit up as he spoke of his divine revelation. “We must do His holy work, once more! We must journey to Brockton General, and find the one known as Panacea, that by my good counsel she might tread the righteous path once more!”

    “So… you don’t want to slaughter newborns?” Pail asked, sounding relieved.

    “No. While the Lord loves all children, and desires that their pure souls dwell with him in love for all eternity, doing so is secondary to my primary mission. There is a great potential for good in that girl, and an even greater potential for evil. Dire visions spur me forward. She must be redeemed, her soul purified, and her burdens lifted, and then killed, that her soul may shed her mortal shell and dwell in Heaven with Jesus forevermore!”

    “Well, that’s an… idea,” Paul said, his smile growing even more pained. “But don’t you remember? We all agreed to hold off on killing until Taylor finished her initiation and killed Kaiser.”


    ---​

    I turn, slowly, back towards the alleyway I killed Kaiser in, and then towards the clipboard in my hand, in which Joseph had painstakingly documented the future, down to the last second.

    Then, my heart sinking in my chest, I turn back towards Brockton General.

    “Fuck.”

    I jump to the next rooftop, racing as fast as I can towards Brockton General.

    “OhfuckohfuckohfuckOHFUCK!” I scream as I jump from roof to roof.

    Joseph is going to kill Panacea. And it’s all my fault.
     
  12. Sage Hidden Bear

    Sage Hidden Bear Not too sore, are you?

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    Well that was interesting. I didn't expect that pull. Well done sir.
     
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  13. Charles Flynn

    Charles Flynn I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    Thank you! No one ever expects the Malkavian to be the mastermind. In spite of the fact that they're uniquely well-suited for the role.

    Next up, Interlude: Panacea.
     
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  14. Threadmarks: Interlude: Panacea
    Charles Flynn

    Charles Flynn I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    I make my way through the halls of Brockton General. I’ve already been in here working nonstop since I came from school, a full six hours ago.

    “Who’s next?” I ask my attendant nurse.

    And then I blink.

    “Robert Wiley, the next room over,” the man who is most definitely not my usual attendant nurse says without consulting his clipboard. He looks more like a Sunday School teacher than a doctor. He’s broad-shouldered and sturdy, with swarthy skin that seems… strangely pale. His black hair is curly, and he has a bit of a five o’clock shadow. I’d peg him as Middle Eastern if it wasn’t for the strange paleness of his flesh. And under his white lab coat, he’s wearing a white T-shirt marked with a black cross. “Car accident. He’s suffering from extreme internal bleeding and has shards of metal lodged in his abdomen. He’ll die thirteen minutes from now if you don’t intervene.”

    I focus. People need my help; I shouldn’t waste time questioning personnel changes.

    I enter the indicated room, and begin healing my newest patient, suppressing the urge to make any sort of improvements. While I do so, my new handler watches me with a perfectly normal intensity, as if staring at something unseen. But then, doesn’t everyone?

    Then, he leads me on to the next room, and the next, and the next.

    My handler keeps on watching me, which makes sense. I’m a superhero who’s saving lives, after all.

    “What’s your name?” I ask, as we’re making our way to the third room since he replaced my usual attendant.

    “Josephus of Cana,” he says completely straight-faced.

    “Seriously?” I look at him askance. “Don’t you have a middle or last name?”

    Something about him seems… off. And it’s been bothering me for the past twenty minutes, in spite of his seeming normality. I’m probably being paranoid, but still, I should probably try to figure out just what about him is setting me on edge.

    “I do,” Josephus says, stone faced. “I also have a middle name, of.”

    “Of what?” I ask. I cure my next patient’s near-fatal case of HIV on autopilot as I ponder the mystery of my newest shadow.

    After I’m done telling the patient about how much he should be eating during his recovery, Josephus deigns to give me an answer. “My middle name is Of.”

    I snicker. “Seriously?”

    “I’m a serious fellow by preference, I’m afraid,” he says with a self-deprecating smile. “I’m in a serious line of work, after all.”

    “And that would be?” I ask, as we make our way to the next patient. The lab coat is covering his arms, and he’s wearing surgical gloves over his hands. Long pants, too. I’d have to touch his face to get a glimpse of his biology, and lay my paranoia to rest. Why am I doing this, though? It’s an invasion of privacy and it goes against my own code. It’s almost as if something is manipulating my mind to make me more suspicious of Josephus than is normal.

    Wait, what would be a normal level of suspicion? And how would I know how suspicious I should be of Josephus? That…

    “Panacea?” Josephus asks. “Are you well?”

    I blink.

    “We’re at the next patient’s room, and you’ve just been staring at me.”

    “Oh,” I say, feeling appropriately sheepish. “I’m sorry about that.”

    I try not to blush in embarrassment, extremely thankful for the scarf covering my face. I launch into healing my next patient, even as I wonder, what the Hell I was thinking? I was so close to intentionally breaking one of my rules and violating the privacy of someone whose worst sin thus far has been possibly being a creepy fanboy!

    And, I think, as I give the new patient his post-healing dietary instructions, now that he noticed me staring at him, he’s probably going to think that I have a crush on him. Ew.

    Well, let’s just hope that he doesn’t try and reciprocate whatever interest he thinks I’m showing in him. Turning people down without explaining that I’m not into men, and that I only have eyes for Vicky is always awkward.

    But maybe I should try explaining that. Homosexuality isn’t that big a deal these days, thanks to that wonderful Legend fellow, and getting defensive over the way God made me is just silly. I should be free to love who I want to love, no matter what the hate-mongers and the insecure might say.

    Yeah. Being gay isn’t that big a deal, sure, but most people would probably look at me askance if they found out I want to fuck my own sister. Vicky included.

    Wait, Vicky is my sister? I have an incestuous crush on my sister?

    Obviously, I’ve been in love with her since I was-



    Hold on.

    That was a weird thing for me to think, all of a sudden. Especially since I already know that I’m in love with Vicky. Why… exactly… would those words come up in my head, especially since-

    “Panacea.” My train of thought derails as I look at Josephus, startled. “Are you feeling alright? We’re at the patient’s room.”

    Oh, God, while I’ve been staring off into space and thinking about how I want to know my sister, people’s lives were in danger!

    I enter the patient’s room, and begin trying to make up for lost time, feeling terrible while I do so.

    Carol’s right about me. I really am a villain in the making.

    Once the healing is done, we head back out into the hallway, en route to my next patient.

    “Er, Ms. Dallon,” Josephus says awkwardly, not looking directly at me. “I can’t help but notice that you keep staring at me, and-“

    “I-I’m not!” I stammer out, just wishing I could curl up and die in a hole. Oh, God, he thinks I’m interested in him, and it’s only because I was thinking about violating his privacy and breaking my own rules, because I’m a terrible, terrible person who’s going to turn into the next Nilbog, and people probably died because I couldn’t stop thinking about my horrible, horrible crush on my own sister, and-

    Maybe I’m being too hard on myself. I don’t think he hates me.

    “It’s fine, Ms. Dallon,” he says, and he smiles. “I’m flattered by the attention. All the same, I’m a man of God, sworn to celibacy, and as such…”

    “Could we… not talk about that?” I beg, focusing back in on the conversation. We’re walking. I should think about that, and not how I’m the absolute worst. Yeah, walking feels like a safe subject for thought.

    “Very well.”

    “So, you’re a priest?” I ask, not wanting to get lost in my thoughts, even as my previous curiosity reignites inside me.

    “Of a sort. I try not to define myself behind a title,” he shrugs. “I simply try my best to provide comfort to those that have lost their way and guide them back onto a more righteous path. To fix what’s broken and help send people onto their way into the Kingdom of Heaven.”

    “So, you administer last rites,” I summarize.

    “Yes, I suppose I do,” he says, humming a melody I don’t quite recognize. “Although there’s been a reduced demand for those of late, almost entirely thanks to you.”

    “Yeah,” I say, bracing myself for another empty ‘thank you.’ Well, of course he’d thank me! I’ve saved people’s lives! That’s something to be proud of.

    “Mostly, I see people off when they die,” he says. “But, well, sometimes, I notice that somebody’s hurting, and I try to help them feel better. Because nobody should have to suffer, or become so twisted that they can’t feel joy from making the world a better place.”

    “What?” I ask. How did he know? He probably doesn’t, though. He might just be speaking generally.

    “Well, people feel good when they do good,” he says, as if it’s the most natural thing in the world. “I’ve always thought of it as God’s way of telling the righteous that they’re on the right track.”

    “An awfully simplistic way of thinking of things, isn’t it?”

    “Well, yes,” he shrugs, and then almost seems to look at me, or through me, at something else. “The ways of the Devil are many. He beguiles with pleasure, making people delight in their own self destruction, and in hurting others. I utterly hate that. People shouldn’t be rewarded, or feel better for violence and hurting people. They should fulfil their purpose.

    “Which is?” I ask, feeling… something. Almost like some sort of force is passing through me, and into some one or something else.

    To help their fellow thinking creatures, no matter their shape and size,” Josephus says with a smile. “Isn’t that just so much better than fighting?

    “I guess?” I feel, all at once, like a weight on my temple just lightened, as if I’ve recovered from a headache I didn’t even know I was having.

    “That’s great!” he says, all smiles once more. There was something wrong about what just happened, even though I can’t really put my finger on it.

    “So, um, where is my next patient?” I ask.

    “Oh, right, yes!” he says. “This way, this way. We’re just in the nick of time.”

    “Ames?” I turn, and there’s Vicky, sweet, wonderful Vicky, floating towards me down the corridor. “What are you doing here? You haven’t been answering your calls, and the desk attendant told me you gave your attendant the slip an hour ago! You worried the hell out of me!”

    I blink, and then feel for my phone. It’s gone. I probably dropped it a while back. But how would I do that? It’s inside one of the deepest pockets in my robe! And…

    I look at Josephus, who looks back at me, resigned.

    “Vicky, drop him, he’s a Master!”

    My sister doesn’t even hesitate. She punches him through a wall.

    “Did he do anything? Are you okay?” she picks me up, and looks me over, her beautiful, beautiful face filled with concern.

    “I’m fine. Better even, now that you’re here,” I say, smiling, Even though she doesn’t feel the same way about you, and would probably be disturbed if she knew about your incredibly unhealthy incestuous crush on her. I blanche. “Vicky, he’s still-“

    There are spiders and other unpleasant insects crawling all over you, and attempting to crawl into your womanhood to eat your eggs,” Josephus says, stepping out through the broken wall. “I recommend Raid.

    Vicky screams, flying and tearing at her clothing as Josephus stalks towards me.

    I pull the nearest fire alarm, just before he pins me to the wall with inhuman speed.

    “I tried to save your soul the easy way,” he says, sounding more irritating than angry. “I tried to be gentle. Hard way it is.

    He’s inside my mind, and-

    ---​

    I am at a nice table, in a field beneath the clear blue sky. There is tea.

    I look at the me across the table from me.

    “Who are you?” One of me asks.

    “I’m the old Amy,” the other me says. I’m not sure which one I am.

    “And I’m the new Amy,” the first says.

    They turn to me as one. “Which one are you?”

    I sip my tea. And then I shoot Old Amy in the head. Her red blood and gray brains pour out from the wound, and I realize at once that she is the tea, and she always was. I drink deep of my mug, and consume her, that she might enrich me, and never live again.

    “You killed me,” New Amy says.

    “She was me too.” I say, as I drink my sweet, delicious brain tea. “And I was miserable when I was her. Will I be miserable as you too?”

    “I don’t think so,” New Amy says after a moment. “I’m a much better person than she was. I don’t need those rules to want to do the right thing, or want to help people.”

    I finish my tea, and the world dissolves.

    ---

    I wake up to find Victoria, dear sweet Victoria, and, oh, am I in the hospital? I smile, and joy wells up within my heart. SO MANY PEOPLE TO HELP! Oh, I can HARDLY WAIT!

    Amy? Are you all right?

    “Never better.” And then I laugh. And laugh. And laugh.

    I think that this is going to be a very good day indeed.
     
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2021
  15. Aurora Raven

    Aurora Raven Corvids are cool

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    So, Josephus ”killed” the old, depressed, and ticking timebomb Amy.

    Neat.

    New one is kinda manic, but probably still an improvement to be honest.
     
  16. bluepencil

    bluepencil Gas monies plz

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    So. Vampamy?

    Amelpire?

    Chosen Pandead?


    [edit]
    Ah. So she still lives.

    Ameliacious!
     
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2021
  17. Ragura

    Ragura Versed in the lewd.

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    Why is New Army giving me serious Franken Fran vibes?

    Great chapter! :D
     
  18. Threadmarks: Chapter Six
    Charles Flynn

    Charles Flynn I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    I dial Paul on the burner phone he gave me (over my objections) as I jump from roof to roof.

    “Hello?”

    “Hey, Paul, this is Taylor. This conversation is private, right?”

    “I mean, it’s a burner, so, more or less.”

    “Good. Where is Joseph right now?” I jump over an intersection, and roll as I land on the opposite side.

    “He’s in front of… the … TV… oh, motherFUCKER!

    “I just killed Kaiser thanks to intel he gave me. I think he’s going after Panacea.”

    “Oh, shit. He’s going to bring down so much heat on our asses!” Paul pauses. “Where is he?”

    “Brockton General Hospital. I’m almost there.”

    “Get him out, I’ll drive and pick you up.”

    I hang up and stow my phone in my pocket as Brockton General comes into view.

    The blocky building is surrounded by police, who’ve cordoned off the building while patients and staff are evacuating. Armsmaster is in front, wading through the crowd, talking to the police officers who’ve already showed up, attempting to coordinate a response, I think.

    An idea springs into my head, and I call Paul again. “Hey, just giving you advanced notice: I’m going to go in with the heroes, pass myself off as another parahuman.”

    “Fine. Just, whatever you do, don’t tip them off that we’re vampires. Once they know that much, they’ll both know that we’re their natural predators, and they’ll know our greatest weakness. And once humans realize they aren’t on top of the food chain, they tend to act to correct that.”

    “Our greatest weakness?” I ask, amused.

    “Remember that thing about how we burn alive in the sun? And we have to sleep during the day?” he asks, irritated. “We might be stronger than them, but they can be active at any hour of the day, and they currently outnumber us six billion to five. No amount of Disciplines or minions will save you from a hunter that knows where you sleep.”

    “Okay! I’ll do my best to keep them from finding out.” I… really hadn’t thought about that. No wonder my master doesn’t want to rule openly.

    I hang up, and stow my phone in my pocket, shaken. Before now, I hadn’t realized how helpless I really was, how powerless I would be if someone came after me during the day.

    Paul is right, Armsmaster and the Protectorate can’t be allowed to find out.

    I jump down and make my way towards Armsmaster.

    “Hey, what’s going on?”

    He turns towards me, and away from the police officer he was talking to. “There is an active Parahuman in the building. Ma’am, please continue to evacuate the area in a calm and orderly fashion. Professionals are handling the situation.”

    “I’m a hero!” I say. “My name’s Lasombra!” I wince internally. I just said the first hero name that came to me. “How can I help?”

    He looks straight at me. “You have powers?”

    “Yes.”

    He turns away. “Console, be advised: I have encountered a new independent called Lasombra, who has volunteered her aid. Given the volatile nature of the situation, and the fact that Panacea’s life might hang in the balance, I am inclined to enter the building as soon as possible, with Lasombra as backup.”

    “Wait, what? I- This is my first night out!” I mean, I actually do need to get inside the hospital, but this is a team-up with Armsmaster we’re talking about! My dead heart is not ready for this!

    “There’s a madman with powers loose in a hospital. Panacea and Glory Girl are both already inside, and the maternity ward hasn’t been evacuated yet,” he looks me in the eye, dead serious. “I don’t care how green you are. Right now is the time for action. We’re going in to scout the interior, aid anyone who hasn’t evacuated yet, and, most importantly, keep the intruder pinned down until backup arrives. Now, can you do that?

    “I- I- Yes.”

    “Good.” He turns back towards the policeman he was talking to before. “Establish a cordon. PRT forces and other Protectorate heroes are en route, but until they get here, your job is to make sure that nobody leaves the scene. We don’t know what the killer looks like, and we don’t want them to escape from here. Letting them slip through our fingers would set a bad precedent. Understood?”

    The officer nods, and starts barking orders at the other patrolmen that are showing up.

    “Lasombra, you’re with me.”

    I nod, and follow.

    “What abilities do you possess, besides your Stranger power?” he asks, as we make our way towards the hospital.

    I blink. “Stranger power?”

    “You didn’t know?” he looks back towards me, or at least in my general direction. “I can’t see you. I can hear you, and I can triangulate where your voice is coming from through my suit’s auditory sensors, but I can’t see you on any of my suit’s cameras.”

    “I... um, didn’t know about that, actually. I can control the shadows, and I’m really strong,” I tell him, deciding to omit my knowledge of the Dominate Discipline. “Not showing up on cameras is new to me.”

    “Alright, then. Stay with me, then. Together we might be able to keep the intruder from escaping.”

    I realize, with a sinking feeling, that I can’t let Joseph get captured. The PRT would discover far too much for comfort.

    I’m going to have to stab him in the back if I don’t want to be outed as a vampire, and most likely killed.

    I shake my head. No, no, it might not come to that. Best not to focus on the worst-case scenario.

    We make our way towards the maternity ward at a brisk pace, with Armsmaster leading the way.

    “Console, we haven’t seen any stragglers so far,” Armsmaster says, hand at the side of his helmet. “Approaching the maternity ward now.”

    The doors to the ward have been kicked open, and as we enter, I hear a woman humming something.

    We enter the incubation chamber, and look upon a charnel house. Every incubator has been split open. And every newborn occupant is dead, their dried blood dotting the walls.

    There’s a woman in white robes, the hem coated in blood. She’s the one who’s been humming, as she makes her way between the damaged incubators, sticking her hand inside, and then moving on. Her back is towards us.

    “Panacea?” Armsmaster asks, raising his halberd. “Why haven’t you evacuated?”

    Oh, hello Armsmaster!” Panacea says cheerfully, as she makes her way to the next broken incubator and sticks her hand inside. “It’s great to see you again! I’m just collecting biomass! Josephus already passed through and killed everyone he deemed virtuous, so if I didn’t take advantage of the situation, they’d just burn them, or bury them in the ground, and let all this perfectly good biomass go to waste!” She nods at someone unseen. “Yes, Shaper! Humans really are a silly bunch! That’s why they need our help, though, isn’t it?

    I take a nervous step back, even as Armsmaster adopts a fighting stance. “Console, we’ve found Panacea. I believe she’s been Mastered somehow.”

    No, no, no, no, not Mastered, enlightened!” she says cheerfully. “Both me and Shaper! Can you imagine, before Josephus brought us closer together, I didn’t even know that my partner existed? Oh, but what am I talking about! You’re not in contact with yours right now either!” She pauses, tilting her head to one side as she reaches the last incubator. I notice, after she sticks her hand in it, some sort of bulge making its way up her arm. “No, Shaper, we can’t give them wings, that would just be silly. And inefficient.” She pauses. “Well, I suppose it could work if we did it like that, but I’m not sure they want any.” She turns. “Armsmaster, would you like any wings?

    Armsmaster flinches, and I gasp. Her face… Her face…

    Oh, do you like what I’ve done with it?” she asks cheerfully, as she strikes a pose. “I know it’s a bit experimental, but Shaper made an excellent point! Why bother with keeping myself human-looking when I’d be a much better helper with some simple modifications? For instance, the extra eyes see in different portions of the light spectrum than the standard, and…

    “Panacea!” Armsmaster snaps, hand gripping his halberd even tighter. “Amy. I don’t know what your assailant did to you, but you’re… you’re not well. I need you to tell me what’s going on. Who did this to you? Where is Glory Girl?”

    Oh, Vicky?” Panacea says, her grotesquerie of a face furrowing in what I’m guessing is sadness from her tone. “She should be on her way back to the house, now.

    “What?” Armsmaster asks. “Why would she leave the site of a parahuman attack on civilians?”

    It was very hard to make her leave, you know,” Panacea says cheerfully, seeming to tune Armsmaster out. “I had to fiddle with her brain quite a bit. I loved her a great deal, you see. And she wanted me to stop helping people, to go back to being Old Amy, weak and miserable and lazy. I can’t be Old Amy again. I shot her in the head and drank her tea. So, I made Vicky forget I ever existed, and made sure she’d never come near me again! That way she can go and be happy with Dean, and she won’t tempt me away from my true calling!

    “Panacea,” Armsmaster says, his voice firm. “Stand down. You’re sick, and you need help.”

    I’m not sick at all, Armsmaster!” Panacea says, smiling with both of her mouths. “I’ve never felt better in my entire life! But a whole lot of other people are hurting, and I have to help them!

    “Then I have no choice but to bring you in by force.”

    Something erupts out of her chest and hits Armsmaster like a cannonball, bowling him off his feet.

    Now then,” she says, gliding towards me without appearing to move her legs in the slightest. “While Armsmaster’s busy fighting off that honey badger, why don’t we talk about you?”

    “What did he do to you?” I ask, as I stare at her in horror. I knew who Panacea was. Who didn’t? But to think that Josephus could twist her into this… thing

    You’re at room temperature,” she says, still gliding towards me. “Just like Josephus. Which means, of course, that you share his… anomaly.

    “I… don’t know what you’re talking about,” I lie.

    Oh, don’t worry, Armsmaster can’t hear us, he’s too busy with the honey badger,” she says, with a smile too horrific to be in any way reassuring. “It’s just us girls here. So, tell me, what’s your secret? The pale skin, the still, silent heart, the fangs?” Her face lights up. “You’re a vampire, aren’t you?

    “No, I-“

    Oof, desperate to keep a secret!” she says, her head beginning to… unwind. “Tell you what. I’ll keep your secret, but only if you let me take a sample of that miraculous blood of yours.

    “I… don’t have a choice, do I?” I say, lowering my hands.

    No, but your surrender is still sweet of you,” she says, as a lamprey-like mouth sinks its fangs into my neck, and my entire world becomes pain.

    I scream, as she wraps herself around me and drinks deeply of my blood.

    And then, it’s over, and stagger as she releases me.

    Oh, most excellent!” she says, wiping a dribble of my blood off of the lip of her feeding mouth. “Well, I’m off now. Experiments to conduct, people to heal.

    The honey badger melts and flows up into her arm at a touch and presses her hand against Armsmaster’s mauled and mutilated chin. “Oh, you poor dear. I’m sorry I hurt you. Here, let me make it all better!” Then, once she’s finished healing him, she heads for the door. “Good luck with Josephus!

    It takes a few minutes before Armsmaster gets back up to his feet.

    “Do we go after her?’ I asks him, as I keep my hand over the slowly-healing bite wound on my neck.

    “I should hope not,” Joseph’s voice says over the intercom. “After all, you’d have to leave little old me without anyone to tangle with! And who knows what I’d do then.”

    Armsmaster blinks. “Nurse’s station. Front desk.” And then he’s off, smashing through the walls like they’re made of plaster.

    “You see, Colin, I’ve established a little game. If you want to… wait, no, WHAT IS HE DOING?”

    I race after Armsmaster as he charge towards what I can only assume to be Joseph’s position like a raging bull, letting nothing stand in his way.

    “Play the game, or else I’ll shoot my hostage!” Joseph shout as Armsmaster closes in.

    “False.” Armsmaster says, not even hesitating.

    “Wait, I-!”

    And then, Armsmaster closes in, bursting through the wall and into the lobby, where Joseph stands behind the receptionist’s desk, looking panicked.

    “Monster,” Armsmaster says, his facemask descending to seal off his chin. “I don’t know who you are. I don’t know what blatant insanity drove you to do this. But I am giving you this one chance: Come quietly. Or come in pieces.” He turns to me. “Lasombra. Stay back. Don’t let him get past you. No matter what, this monster won’t escape, do you hear me?”

    “Yes, Sir!” I say automatically.

    “Oh, Colin, Colin, I do the work of the Lord!” Jospeh says, desperately trying to retake control of the situation. “For did not Jesus say- HOLY SHIT, LET ME FINISH!”

    Armsmaster doesn’t let him finish. Instead, he lunges towards the mad vampire and stabs at him with his halberd. “In pieces it is.”

    The edge of his halberd begins to roar, and- Oh my God. HE MADE HIS HALBERD A CHAINSAW?

    “What kind of lunatic are you?” Joseph asks, dancing back out of range. “What kind of madman makes something like that?”

    “This kind,” Armsmaster says without hesitation as charges Joseph, halberd at the ready, lunging in for a killing stroke.

    “No matter,” Joseph says, deflecting the halberd with a lightning-fast punch. “A master of stealth and infiltration I may be, but my knowledge is broad, and I am well versed in the arts of the Damned.”

    And so, it begins, with Joseph dancing around and deflecting Armsmaster’s blows as the Protectorate’s one and only leader advances on him, forcing him to take the defensive. And Joseph is pushed back, losing ground in the face of an inexorable juggernaut of skillful spearwork and steely determination.

    “ENOUGH!” Joseph bellows. “YOU ARE A DUCK! A PACIFIST duck, at that.

    “That statement…” Armsmaster says, lunging in once more. “Is FALSE!”

    “You resisted my Dementation?” Joseph asks, as his back hits the wall and he grabs the halberd by its shaft, just below the whirring blade. “WHAT ARE YOU? HOW ARE YOU THIS STRONG?”

    “I’m Armsmaster of the Protectorate East-Northeast. And I became this strong because, every second of every day, I’ve spent it training, honing my body and my tech to the absolute pinnacle in order to better fight monsters like you!” Armsmaster shouts, as the halberd’s head inches slowly towards Joseph’s face. “Incineration Mode: Engage!”

    And at that, the halberd’s head bursts into flames, inches from Joseph’s face. “OH, THAT IS JUST BULLSHIT!”

    The doors to the lobby slam open, and I recognize Assault and Battery as they burst in and Battery tackles Joseph off of Armsmaster, while Assault helps the PRT ENE commander back up to his feet..

    I blink, because something seems slightly off about that statement.

    “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” Joseph yells, as he gets back up to his feet, flaming halberd in hand. “I HAD HIM!”

    “Yeah, and, bore he might be, but we’re kind of attached to the guy,” Assault says, before turning to Armsmaster. “You okay, boss?”

    “Just dandy, now that you’re here, my friend and faithful subordinate,” Armsmaster says, dusting himself off. “I would have probably died if you hadn’t come in to save me. Oh, and by the way, I’ve always loved all those immature jokes you make, and you should definitely make them more often. Also, I absolutely loved that time you pranked me in my own lab. You should do that again.”

    “What are you-“ Joseph freezes, his face going slack in horror. “No. NO, NO, NO, NO!”

    “I told you that you should’ve waited for the rest of the team, Sir,” Dauntless says. “Facing an unknown threat single-handedly like this was reckless.”

    “You were right, Dauntless,” Armsmaster says with a beatific smile. “I should’ve waited, and let you join me. You really are a better hero than me.” He chuckles. “I guess I really am getting old. Maybe it’s time I retired, passed the reins over to the younger generation.”

    “YOU CANNOT POSSIBLY BELIEVE THAT THAT’S ME!” Joseph bellows. “I’M ARMSMASTER, YOU IDIOTS! YOU’RE GOING TO LET HIM GET AWAY!”

    “Ignore the lunatic’s mad babbling, my friends!” Armsmaster says. “He has some sort of Master power that makes you believe wat he says, or that he is who he pretends to be, no matter how ridiculous the things he says are, or how absurdly out of character he acts! And on that note, I totally have sex with my halberd!”

    “YOU BASTARD! I’LL KILL YOU, YOU HEAR ME? I’LL KILL YOU!”

    “Not while we’re here, scum,” Miss Militia says, firing a bright green Desert Eagle twice, directly into Joseph’s center of mass. “You okay to keep on fighting, Armsmaster?”

    “No, I’m afraid not, my trusty second-in-command, who’s actually a far better leader than me,” Armsmaster says, falling to his knees. “That handsome genius of a man, absolutely destroyed me in our brief but decisive battle. He is by far my superior in melee combat, and I was a fool to engage him on my own, especially when I’m just so much weaker than the rest of you.”

    Joseph gives a wordless scream of rage, and lunges towards Armsmaster, only to be pushed back by the combined might of the Protectorate.

    “Go on ahead, Boss,” Miss Militia says, firing into Joseph’s chest while struggles to rise. “We’ll take it from here.”

    “Much obliged,” Armsmaster says. “Lasombra? Could you help me walk to the medical tent?”

    “O-Oh, sure!” I say, still faced with that nagging suspicion that something isn’t quite right.

    He puts an arm over my shoulder, and I help him out. He leads me out, though the crowd, and towards a familiar pickup truck.

    “Alright, you two, come on! It’s time to go!” Paul shouts.

    “But- Armsmaster is right here!” I point out.

    “No, he really isn’t,” Joseph says, ceasing to lean on me. “And we should definitely go, before they realize that I tricked them.” He shoots me an amused glance. “Why so shocked? I thought you’d be glad I escaped. We are on the same side, after all.”

    “Yeah,” I say, crestfallen, as I get in the car. “I guess we are.”

    “Now then, let’s get going!” Joseph shouts, as he gets in the passenger seat. “We have a busy night ahead of us.”

    “What are you talking about?” I snap. “Wasn’t that massacre back there enough for you?”

    “Hardly,” Joseph says, cracking his knuckles. “You started the job when you killed Kaiser. Now? Now we finish destroying the Empire Eighty-Eight”
     
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2021
  19. Panzaro

    Panzaro Getting out there.

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    I gotta admit, for a moment there Armsmaster, you were super cool.
     
  20. Ragura

    Ragura Versed in the lewd.

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    Joseph's scenes are the BEST! :D And this really feels like a TTRPG group :)
     
  21. Aurora Raven

    Aurora Raven Corvids are cool

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    I love every character in this.

    Armsmaster, Josephus, all of them.

    Also, is Josephus the "Wandering Jew"?
     
    HS1468, Ragura and Charles Flynn like this.
  22. Charles Flynn

    Charles Flynn I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    He might be. He's both the oldest vampire in their pack, and the one that's the least forthcoming about his past.

    He also occasionally rants about the Romans and their frankly ridiculous tax rates, but nobody's sure if that's because he lived through them, or because he's a Malkavian.
     
  23. Threadmarks: Chapter Seven
    Charles Flynn

    Charles Flynn I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    “How?” I ask, staring at Joseph. “I mean, killing Kaiser is one thing, but the entire Empire Eighty-Eight?”

    “All right, give me your phone.”

    “What?”

    “Do you want to kick Nazi ass or not? Because the first step towards denazifying Brockton Bay is you giving me your phone,” Joseph says, completely serious.

    “Just give him the phone, Taylor,” Paul says, resigned. “He’s already on one of his manic kicks, we’re going to get dragged into his schemes no matter what we do.”

    I give him a look. “Aren’t you supposed to be keeping him in check?”

    “I’ve been supposed to be keeping him in check for over twenty years, Taylor. I know how this ends.”

    “Yes, and it ends with you giving me your phone while Paulinus drives us to these addresses!” Joseph says, slapping a list scribbled on a torn piece of paper onto the dashboard. There’s a bloodstain on the upper right corner. “We’ve got some Nazis to hunt down!”

    “I… This is insane!” I say, addressing my arguments towards Paul. “He just killed everyone in Brockton General’s maternity ward!”

    “Not everyone,” Joseph says. “Quite a few of the adults there were a bit too sinful for me to kill, so I gave them a stern talking-to once I’d finished sending their children to Heaven. I really do hope they reform, so I can ensure that they are reunited with their progeny in the arms of God.”

    I point at Joseph angrily. “See? That is the kind of stuff you’d see from the Slaughterhouse Nine! Every parahuman in the city is going to be after us, and you want to keep following this lunatic’s plans?”

    “And what’s your idea, Taylor?” Paul asks.

    “What?”

    “You want to use this power to help people. Don’t bother trying to deny it. But the gangs are entrenched in this city. If you want to change Brockton Bay for the better, and make everything end up all smiling children and puppies skipping happily in the sunshine under a rainbow, which, by the way, you won’t ever actually be able to do because you’re a fucking vampire, you’re going to have to find a way to bring life back into the Bay,” Paul says, adopting the demeanor of a lecturer. “That means revitalizing the economy. And that can’t be done yet, because the gangs are there, they formed and came to power because Brockton turned into a shithole, and they’re going to keep Brockton a shithole.”

    I laugh. “Do you really think that I haven’t heard this before? Mas- Wiglaf has given me that speech a thousand times. The solution he presents is always the same: eliminate or suborn all the gangs, and then assume control from the shadows, in order to revitalize the economy.”

    “It won’t work,” Joseph interrupts. “He underestimates parahumans, and just humans in general, just a tad too much. So did I, before I met my fiancé, and then nearly got my head split open by Colin. It’s why I held off from killing Amelia. We can’t just rely on the Disciplines and powers of Vampirism we’ve been so comfortable using for the many centuries we’ve lived. We need to learn to incorporate the secrets of this new world, so that we may grow and adapt to the wonders and horrors it holds.”

    I blink in surprise, while Paul seizes on my disorientation. “See? This is why we need Joseph, and why I’m going with his ideas, and not yours. Sure, he’s bugfuck insane, I mean, I have absolutely no idea what’s goes on in that head to jump from, ‘I am a good Christian who acts in accordance with the commandments of God’ to ‘I must murder all the babies for JESUS,’ and I quite frankly don’t want to know…”

    “I keep telling you, Paulinus, in order to save their souls…”

    “No, Joseph!” Paul shouts. “Look, I don’t want to know why you do it, because it’ll either be some complete babbling lunacy that wrecks my faith in humanity, or it might actually make perfect sense, and then I’ll probably turn into a baby-murdering psychopath, and frankly, I’m not interested in either outcome.”

    “So, the guy you’re afraid will turn you into a baby-murdering psychopath is a better choice to follow than me because…?” I prompt questioningly, shooting Paul a Look.

    “Because he knows things. More than Wiglaf. More than me! More than you! And he has a plan. Sure he’s insane, but his plan is guaranteed to be efficient, and bypass most of the roadblocks we’d encounter otherwise,” Paul says. “For instance, how do you plan on dealing with the gangs? If you take out one, the other two will lunge into action, and then there’ll be a gang war on our hands. And how do you plan on taking down entire gangs swiftly and efficiently, with limited collateral damage?”

    “I don’t…” Fuck. That’s actually a good point.

    “You and me? We’re blind. Firing shots in the dark. But Joseph knows where he’s going. And he has a plan.”

    I sigh, and then I hand Joseph my phone.

    “Oh, splendid!” he says, before dialing in a number I don’t recognize. “Brad. This is James.”

    I do a double take. Joseph’s voice… He sounds nothing like himself. His voice drops a register, picking up a thick German accent. He continues. “I wish I was bringing better news. Kaiser is dead.”

    He pauses for a moment. “I don’t know who did it! But the PRT,” he sighs. “I’ve been reaching out to the rest of the family. You were the only one that picked up the phone. Someone’s picking up off. You need to go to ground, until whoever’s behind this shows their hand. Get rid of your phone, get Cricket and Stormtiger, and hide, at least until we figure out who’s behind this. I’ll join you once I’ve- MOTHER OF GOD!” He swear in German. “Brad, listen to me, it’s Coil! He’s-“ And then he smashes my phone in his hand.

    “What the hell was that?” I ask, completely flummoxed.

    “Me getting Hookwolf out of the way,” Joseph says calmly. “Now then, time to deal with Krieg. Paul, I’m going to need to borrow a shovel.”

    ---

    “Hello, Mr. Fleischer, we’re here to represent the Church of Shovelology,” Joseph says to the man that opens the door. “Would care to wait a moment to hear the good news?”

    “I’m very sorry,” the man I am rapidly realizing is actually Krieg says. “I’m not actually interested.”

    “It’s fine, and might I say that’s a very lovely dog you have?” Joseph asks, looking behind Krieg.

    “What dog?” Krieg asks, turning to look.

    Joseph brains him with a shovel, and then turns to me and Paul. “All right, help me stuff him in the sack!”

    ---​

    I sit in quiet irritation, well aware that the row of seats behind me is filled to the brim with unconscious, hogtied Nazis.

    They all fell for it. Meet them at the door, get them to turn around, and then brain them with the shovel.

    “I told you he had a plan,” Paul says from behind the wheel.

    “Yes, yes, no need to rub it in. I guess he is fairly good at getting things done.”

    We’re in the car, waiting for Joseph to come back. He told us to wait here in the car while he dealt with the last address on his list, up in the apartment building somewhere.

    “I don’t get it though, why is he going up there alone?” I ask.

    “Because he did not wish to burden your conscience with what had to be done,” Joseph says, as I realize, all of a sudden, that he is in the passenger seat, even though I didn’t even notice him opening the door.

    “Where’s the target?” Paul asks.

    “Dead. Too dangerous to leave alive.”

    “What?” I screech.

    “Must have been a pretty dangerous Nazi, if you killed her outright,” Paul says, as we pull out of the parking lot.

    “Not a Nazi,” Joseph says, almost looking… sad. “Just a mere tattletale, that knew too much, and might have revealed the truth of this night's dark deeds, or even our own damned nature. But the hour grows late, or perhaps early. We must away, and ensure that our goose-stepping guests are safely secured within our lair, before the sun may rise.”

    And we drive on, as I brood in silence. Monsters, all of us, fleeing the shadow of the rising sun.
     
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2021
  24. Aurora Raven

    Aurora Raven Corvids are cool

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    RIP Lisa.

    Malkavian Lisa would have been pretty funny though.
     
  25. Charles Flynn

    Charles Flynn I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    True. But Lisa is fundamentally dangerous, especially to vampires. If she continued to work for Coil's organization, every vampire in the Sabbat would have woken up one day with a stake through their chests and the sun on their faces. If she'd been blood-bound and locked up in a basement somewhere, she'd have found a way out. And if she was Embraced...

    You just saw what using Dementation on a Shard and its bound Parahuman did to Panacea.

    Who knows what would happen if you Embraced one?
     
  26. Ragura

    Ragura Versed in the lewd.

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    :D I can really imagine them shovelheading the E88 roster as a Quentin Tarantino montage!

    Probably less, all things considered. Dementation is a memetic hazard that can hit the shard via the brain. Best comparison is Jack Slash, who hits the brain via the shard. Embrace means the human is clinically dead, which might cause their shard to abandon them.

    Things get interesting if the shard stays and you diablerize the parahuman - is the connection soul-deep enough to steal the shard as well? Would the personality backup in the shard (if it makes one) cause a Butcher situation? Would a vampire used to voices in their head even notice? Would a successful suppression of the voice cause the shard to abandon the vampire?
    In game mechanics, Shard Connection would make a good secondary Humanity meter (Parahumanity?), but it only really takes major hits during Embrace (reconnection upon resurrection or not?) and Diablerie (Butchery or not?).

    And then there are of course the power interactions. Would Grue's power get stronger if he went Lasombra? Jack Slash's if he went Malkavian? Or would it simply be a one-two punch from both sources?
     
  27. Threadmarks: Chapter Eight
    Charles Flynn

    Charles Flynn I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    We get back to the Haven, and I waste no time in using Dominate to ensure that our kidnapped capes will in no way try to call for help, attack us, or escape in any way from the chalk circles we drew on the ground around them.

    And then we go to our coffins for the day.

    When I awaken, Joseph is standing before my coffin.

    “What do you want, lunatic?”

    “Your sire has summoned us to meet with him!” Joseph says, cheerful as can be. “Oh, and he wants us to bring Purity with us.”

    “Why?”

    “Apparently he has some designs on her,” Joseph says with a shrug. “In any case, we should get going soon.”

    “Alright, fine.” I get up and make my way towards the holding pen.

    It’s on the ground floor of the warehouse, away from the coffins in the basement. Each of the capes we kidnapped is imprisoned inside a chalk circle about five feet in diameter, and under a fairly complicated Dominate suggestion I implanted in order to restrict them from escaping. They can’t attempt to contact anyone outside the warehouse. They can’t raise their voices. They can’t attempt to attack the three of us or act against us. And they cannot leave their own circle or attempt to smudge or damage their circle in any way.

    “Who are you?” Rune asks, sounding as if she really wishes she could raise her voice right now. “What do you want from us?”

    I pause, a thought occurring to me. My blood is running a bit low right now, and I could definitely use a top-up. I look Rune over. She is helpless right now. Mine for the taking.

    I check my watch, and then walk towards Rune, calling upon my Obteneration to create a cloud of darkness around the two of us, so as not to reveal to them my nature.

    “Wait, please, I’m sorry if I made you angry, please don’t-“ Rune babbles, as she stumbles about in the darkness. I seize her with my Potence-enhanced arms, and silence her with a bite. My fangs sink deep into her soft, defenseless neck, and I drink her intoxicatingly exotic blood, so much more… filling than any mere gangbanger’s. Her scream dies off, replaced by a soft moan.

    I make sure to mind my feeding, and lick closed the bite marks on her neck once I’ve drunk my fill. It was a light feeding. She’ll be lightheaded for a little while, with no further consequences.

    I dispel the cloud of darkness and make my way towards Purity. The other E88 captives are all riled up, now, asking what I did to Rune or just cussing me out. Unfortunately for them, they still can’t raise their voices, so it all blends together into a sort of strongly worded babble.

    I ignore the vermin as I look Purity over.

    She looks haggard, with blood matting her hair from where the shovel hit her. She was in striped white and grey pajamas when we kidnapped her, and they’re absolutely filthy, now. She’s clearly one of the ones that have had to heed the call of nature while trapped here, judging by the filth in the furthest corner of the circle away from her.

    I actually pay attention to what she’s saying. “-please, I have a daughter, I have to get back to her, I don’t know how long she’s been alone in the apartment without me! She could starve!”

    That… For a second, my heart is moved. And then I remind myself that she’s a Nazi, and a mass murderer, who knowingly destroyed entire tenements full of people just because those people were minorities.

    Sleep,” I command her, and she obeys, keeling over straightaway. I pick her up and toss her onto my shoulder in a fireman’s carry before I head for the door.

    Then I see Joseph, walking from circle to circle and leaving buckets with the occupants.

    “What are you doing?”

    “Feeding them, and giving them their toilets,” he says, as he sets a bucket in Rune’s circle. She doesn’t respond to it, clearly still out of it from my bite.

    “Why?”

    “Because they’re probably starving, and quite thirsty.”

    “And why do we care? They’re freaking Nazis.” I mean, Nazis aren’t people. That’s why me killing Kaiser didn’t technically count.

    “They’re still people, Taylor. Capable of atonement and a return to God’s love. They might have sinned greatly, but there is still the capacity for redemption within them,” Joseph says, without a hint of irony. “And besides, we kidnapped them and are holding them all hostage in a warehouse black site while we decide whether to kill or enslave them. The least we can do is be hospitable.”

    He drops the next food bucket in Victor’s circle, the occupant of which appears to be having a panic attack.

    “Fine.” I roll my eyes. “I’ll be waiting in the car. Come and find me with Paul once you’re done feeding your pet gangsters.”

    “Oh, Paul won’t be joining us,” Joseph says cheerfully, dropping a bucket into Crusader’s circle, as the Nazi inside calls him racial slurs in as close to a yell as he can manage.

    “What? Why?”

    “Well, someone has to keep an eye on my ‘pet gangsters’ as you so artfully called them,” he says, tossing his last bucket into Krieg’s circle before turning to look at the captive Nazis. “Now Paul will be looking after you until I get back. You’ll know him when you see him, and if you don’t see him, he’s probably waqtching you invisibly. Now remember to have fun and behave yourselves until I get back.”

    We’re making our way towards the car when a thought occurs to me. “Wait, if Paul isn’t coming with us, then who’s going to drive?”

    “Me!” Joseph says, grinning like the cat that just got the canary.

    For some reason, I have a terrible feeling about this.

    ---​

    “OH MY GOD!” I scream, as Joseph swerves over the double yellow lines and onto the left side of the road, weaving between the cars as he drives head on through the oncoming traffic. “WRONG SIDE OF THE ROAD! WRONG SIDE OF THE ROAD!”

    My fingers sink into the dashboard as Joseph expertly weaves under the belly of an eighteen-wheeler. “I’m aware.”

    “THEN STAY ON THE RIGHT!” I scream at him.

    “I can’t. I’m using Obfuscation to make the car invisible right now, so we’ll just get rammed if we stop for the red lights or stay in our lane. I can hardly avoid collisions if they’re coming at me from behind, after all.”

    “THEN STOP OBFUSCATING!” I yell.

    “I can’t. I’m currently in violation of numerous traffic laws,” he comes on a red light and makes a left so wide he nearly hits a pedestrian on the sidewalk. “Besides, I’m a wanted criminal thanks to modern society’s overbearing obsession with materiality. If I show my face, then the PRT will be upon us in a flash.”

    “Gee. What a shock. I mean, why can’t they just accept that Jesus told you to murder all those babies and give you a pass?” I ask, my tone dripping with sarcasm.

    “Exactly! I blame the Enlightenment, personally. Everyone got so obsessed with science, and their material existence that they forgot about the spiritual. Plus the Technocracy got started, and they’re just a bunch of absolutely dreadful boors.”

    “Please stop yelling,” Purity says sleepily from the back seat.

    STAY OUT OF THIS!” I snap, looking her in the eyes. Best to make sure she doesn’t make a run for it, after all now that she’s outside her circle.

    “But I- TRUCK. TRUCK!” her eyes widen and she points desperately ahead.

    “I see it,” Joseph says blithely, swerving out of the way of the pickup truck rushing towards us without even looking at the road.

    “Oh, Heavenly Father, please,” Purity says quietly, clasping her hands in prayer. “I know I haven’t exactly been a very good person, but I’m trying to change. Please don’t let me die here with these lunatics.”

    “I’m sure he still loves you, Kayden,” Joseph assures her as he drifts through another red light.

    “Hey, don’t you dare lump me in with this lunatic,” I say testily.

    You hit me with a shovel,” Kayden says incredulously. “And then you Mastered me into staying inside a circle for hours without giving me food, or water, or even a bucket to do my business in. I had to shit on the floor, in full view of everybody!”

    I blink, trying to remember. Oh, yeah, I guess she was one of the people I personally shovel-bashed. “I’d argue that there’s a world of difference between someone who kidnaps Nazis and someone who murders newborns en masse because he thinks Jesus tells him to.”

    She goes still. “Where is my daughter?” She’s glowing, now, and while it doesn’t burn, it’s extremely uncomfortable. Her hands glow like she’s preparing to blast us, which should be impossible under the orders I’ve given her, but I’m not sure I’m comfortable risking it.

    “Wiglaf, the guy we’re meeting, is holding her hostage,” Joseph says as he pulls into a stop, and then, with no seeming effort, completely changes his appearance.

    What?” Kayden asks, her glow fading, and naked terror on her face.

    “He was actually planning on using her to force you into becoming his bodyguard, before we kidnapped you and royally screwed up his plans,” Joseph says. “So, yeah, he’s probably going to try for that now. I hope you’re not opposed to a new line of work.”

    “If it’s any comfort, he’s my boss too,” I say as I lead Kayden out of the car.

    “What is he like?” she asks, her eyes dull, like she has no more fear to give.

    “Um….”

    ---​

    “YOU WORTHLESS MALCONTENT!” my master screams, greeting me with a fist when I enter the room. “DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA HOW THOROUGHLY YOU DERAILED MY PLANS?”

    “But… I wasn’t the one who did that!” I protest, massaging my broken nose as I lie on the floor before him.

    “I’m well aware that it was Joseph,” he says, folding his arms behind his back. “I simply needed to vent my anger. You were an adequate punching bag, I suppose.”

    I glare at him as I get to my feet, and Joseph and Kayden enter the room.

    “Kayden Anders,” my master says in greeting, smirking confidently. “I have wished to meet you for quite some time.”

    She glares at him. And then she blasts him in the gut, prompting an agonized scream and sending him hurtling into the wall. “WHERE IS MY DAUGHTER YOU BASTARD?”

    I don’t move an inch to help him. Neither does Joseph.

    Leaving my sire out of the “do not harm” command was a risk. But it’s paying off in spades.

    “Anna-Marie!” my master yelps, as Purity stalks towards him, her hands glowing and ready to fire off a second blast of concentrated sunlight. “Break her thumbs!”

    I hear two tiny snaps from the cell phone on the table, followed by the wailing of a baby.

    “Aster?” Kayden asks, real fear in her voice. “Leave her alone!”

    “If I die, she dies,” my master says, rising up to his feet and putting out the burning hole in his side by slapping it with a towel. “And every time you disobey me, little Aster will find herself in need of a new cast. Now then, who’s ready to be a good little parahuman?”

    Kayden bows her head, defeated. “Fine.”

    “Very good,” he says, walking up to her and wrapping his fingers around her hair. “Now, then,” he drags her down until she’s face to face with the wound in his side, where scorched flesh is giving way to oozing blood. “You’ve made quite the mess. Lick it clean.”

    She hesitates, but then sticks out her tongue as her baby wails over the phone behind her, tentatively licking up a drop of blood, before shuddering, and returning to the task with even greater eagerness, moaning as she gorges herself on my master’s blood.

    “Enough, pet,” he says pulling her away by her hair, and then tilting her head back so she’s forced to look him in the eyes. “Now, then, go on up to your room, yes? Wait for me to instruct you further, that’s a good pet.”

    She complies silently, her eyes glassy.

    Once she’s gone, he turns to us.

    “Joseph. My dearest, oldest friend,” he says, reaching for the remote and turning on the television on the wall behind him. “Would you care to explain this?”

    Sure enough, it’s one of the major news networks, reporting on the Hospital Incident.

    “Not really, I but I don’t think I have a choice in the matter,” Joseph says with a resigned shrug.

    “YOU ARE ON THE NATIONAL NEWS!” my master bellows. “Because you apparently decided not only to murder a maternity ward’s worth of infants, but also to Embrace the nation’s premiere healer, but not, mind you, as a Malkavian, as very supernatural laws which govern our undead nature would dictate. No, no, you’re far too much of an absolute pain in my cold, dead, ass for that. You just had to go the extra mile, and Embrace Panacea as a FUCKING TZIMISCE, in defiance of the laws of KINE, KINDRED, and GOD alike!” To emphasize the point, he points at the screen, at the graphic the anchor is showing of whatever the hell Panacea turned herself into, apparently captured from security cam footage.

    “Okay, the resemblance is uncanny, and I see where you’d get the idea, but you’ve got it wrong, Wiglaf!” Joseph says. “I didn’t Embrace her at all. I used Dementation on both her and her power.”

    “What?”

    “You’ve misread this whole situation, Wiglaf. We need to set up a plan, and accelerate Project Nightbringer,” Joseph says, dead serious. “We’ll need to rule openly for what’s to come.”

    “Very well. We will summon a conclave of the Black Hand. To prepare for what is to come,” my master glances at me. “And to welcome our newest member.”
     
    Last edited: Apr 10, 2021
  28. Aurora Raven

    Aurora Raven Corvids are cool

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    I suppose Gold Morning sounds even more sinister for vampires.
     
  29. Krein

    Krein Fer all the lewds

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    ...This chapter was from Taylor's PoV, right? Because suddenly the person did not feel like her at all.

    Also,

    I must've missed that tidbit of a corebook over the years, but how do Embrace someone as a specific clan? Isn't it always the Sire's clan?
     
    Charles Flynn and Ragura like this.
  30. Charles Flynn

    Charles Flynn I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    It is from her POV. But she's been shedding points of Humanity recently. One of the downsides of the Sabbat is they don't tend to properly explain what your Beast is and how to fight it.

    And you don't Embrace someone as a specific clan outside of your own. Which is why Wiglaf was so absolutely pissed when he thought Joseph had Embraced Panacea as a Tzimisce: As far as Wiglaf was aware, Joseph didn't just break the laws of common sense and courtesy to one's packmates, he broke the freaking laws of vampire physics.
     
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