1. Due to issues with external spam filters, QQ is currently unable to send any mail to Microsoft E-mail addresses. This includes any account at live.com, hotmail.com or msn.com. Signing up to the forum with one of these addresses will result in your verification E-mail never arriving. For best results, please use a different E-mail provider for your QQ address.
    Dismiss Notice
  2. For prospective new members, a word of warning: don't use common names like Dennis, Simon, or Kenny if you decide to create an account. Spammers have used them all before you and gotten those names flagged in the anti-spam databases. Your account registration will be rejected because of it.
    Dismiss Notice
  3. Since it has happened MULTIPLE times now, I want to be very clear about this. You do not get to abandon an account and create a new one. You do not get to pass an account to someone else and create a new one. If you do so anyway, you will be banned for creating sockpuppets.
    Dismiss Notice
  4. If you wish to change your username, please ask via conversation to tehelgee instead of asking via my profile. I'd like to not clutter it up with such requests.
    Dismiss Notice
  5. Due to the actions of particularly persistent spammers and trolls, we will be banning disposable email addresses from today onward.
    Dismiss Notice
  6. We have added another rule, please check the Rules post for more information.
    Dismiss Notice
  7. Due to some issues with Freenode, the QQ IRC Channel is moving. See here for more information.
    Dismiss Notice

Duelist's Short Works

Discussion in 'Creative Writing' started by Duelist925, Jan 24, 2019.

Loading...
  1. Duelist925

    Duelist925 Making the rounds.

    Joined:
    Jun 11, 2018
    Messages:
    44
    Likes Received:
    487
    Just some short snips and bits. Starting off just porting over what I already have from Spacebattles, and will update with any new snips or short bits as they come up. Expect both original work and fanfiction, and mostly Worm fanfiction, at least to start.

    ___

    Synopsis!
    Worm:
    Grandmother - After the locker incident, Taylor Hebert's grandmother comes to visit her in the hospital. The Terrible Trio proceed to find out exactly why abusing the granddaughter of a living fairy tale is a phenomenally bad idea.

    Alchemyst - Taylor triggers with the power of alchemy. That's about it, I haven't put much more thought into it than this one snip.

    Countess - Something from beyond this realm touched Taylor Heberts soul in that locker. On countless worlds, it was a multi-dimensional world-parasite. In this one, it was something much older, and much more hungry. My take on a Vampire!Taylor.

    Brilliant! - Jelly Baby, anyone?

    Original Work:

    Frost Shorts - Jacqueline Frost is a private investigator who's clientele are often literal blood-drinkers. No, not lawyers, though she works for them too--vampires, I'm talking about vampires, witches, the fae. Urban fantasy, written entirely because I love the Dresden Files.
     
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2019
    Mujaki likes this.
  2. Threadmarks: Grandmother 1.0
    Duelist925

    Duelist925 Making the rounds.

    Joined:
    Jun 11, 2018
    Messages:
    44
    Likes Received:
    487
    Tags: Worm, Folklore

    Grandmother


    An old woman stared at the girl in the hospital bed, surrounded by beeping, whirring machines. She observed the twitches that assailed the girl, lips pursed with displeasure. “How long?” Her voice was rough as gravel. It well matched the rest of her. A figure bent and stooped over, clutching a thick cane in one hand, weathered and worn as a mountain top.

    A middle aged, somewhat balding man answered her quietly, his own eyes locked on the girl as well.“Doctor’s say it could be another day before she wakes up. Maybe longer. She’s responding to the anti--”

    “Not that, foolish boy. How long have you allowed her to be tormented?” The scornful tone lay under her words like nails. Daniel Hebert’s gaze didn’t turn away from his daughter, but his tone took on the measured tread of withheld frustration.

    “I don’t know. I didn’t know it was happening. I didn’t—I wasn’t—after Anne died--”

    A snort. “You fell to pieces after you lost your heart. I taught you better than to let some spring-born bitch steal it, but you never listen to your mother, do you?”

    “You know thats not—no. Not having this argument with you again.” A growl touched his tone, and the old woman chuckled quietly to herself. “...Is there...is there anything you can do for her?” He continued, quieter.

    She stared at the girl. A smile spread her lips. Light glinted off sharp points. “I can take revenge.” She said, a whisper of silk behind the gravel.

    He shook his head, running a hand over his hair. “Not that, I mean—I mean for her. To help her get...to help heal her.”

    Another snort. “Your spring dryad never teach you the arts of healing? Too busy frolicking, wanton little slattern she--”

    “Mother! Can you?” He barked at her, and she turned, narrowing her eyes at him. He stared right back, unmoving.

    “...Were she not my blood, I’d have her heart to spite you for that tone, whelp.” She said, voice even. “But she is...and so I will. Leave.” The crone hobbled over to sit beside the girl, running a hair over her hair. “Return after sun is born in three days. Not before. She’ll be awake.” She didn’t look up, staring intently at the prone figure. Daniel said nothing, just looked at her for a few long moments, before turning, and letting the door close softly behind him.

    “Oh, совёнок .” she whispered. “What foulness I will weave in your name...”

    ___​


    The first thing she was aware of was a voice, rough as gravel, singing a quiet song in a strange language. A hand on her hair, slowly stroking. She felt...she hurt, but there was a distance to the pain, body and mind. Her eyes, almost unwillingly, slid open, and she blinked at the sight before her.

    A face lined with valleys carved by too many years to count. Eyes half closed, mismatched brown and blue. Wild, bushy hair, barely tied back. A wide gash of a mouth, teeth barely hinted it and yet still too sharp, and a startlingly red tongue.

    Still half-asleep, Taylor managed to speak in a trembling, halting tone. “Baba?”

    The hand on her hair stilled as those narrowed eyes slid a bit more open, and the lips quirked up on one side. “Finally awake, lazy bird? Slug abed for six days while your poor Baba tried to sing you back. Such an ungrateful thing you are.” With the gravelly voice it was hard to tell, but Taylor knew her grandmother well enough to find the concern and relief buried beneath the mild rebuke.

    “Thank you for singing for me...” She said quietly, eyes sliding down. She ached—she ached all over, ached enough that the gnarled, age-spotted fingers grabbing her chin caused her to wince. Her gaze was dragged back up to meet her grandmothers scowl.

    “None of that. None of my blood will cast their eyes like a servant. Are you so weak, so broken from letting to those пизда’s beat you down that you won’t look your Baba in the eye? Pathetic.”

    Taylor fought it, fought as hard as she could, but she couldn’t stop the tears, the hiccuping sob that escaped. The scowl softened, disappearing with a sigh as the hand gripping her chin slid around her shoulders instead, pulling her up into a half-armed hug. She curled against the old woman’s shoulder and wept as her grandmother made soothing noises.

    “Ah...ah. I’m sorry, girl. Betrayal is a harsh poison indeed, that so small a sting should wound you so. I should pluck the fey-touched brat’s eyes out, sew her tongue to her foot...” She sighed again, clucking quietly. “Cry, child, cry. No shame in crying for your old Baba. I’ll make it better.”

    After a time, when the sobs had turned to the occasional hiccup, she gently pushed the girl back onto her pillow. Taylor sniffed, nearly looking away again, but caught herself, and brought her red eyes up to meet her grandmothers. “I didn’t think we’d see you this year.” She saw the old woman once or twice a year, if that, and nearly always in the middle of fall or winter. The last time had been just before the christmas after her mom’s wreck. She’d clumped into the house, bullied her father into setting up the tree, and taught Taylor—somewhat at knife point—how to clean and dress the goose she’d brought for dinner.

    The old crone offered her a thin liped smile. “You’re my granddaughter. I’m a conniving old bitch, but I’ll no more abandon you when you’re in need than I would my own liver, girl.” She stood, leaning over to press a kiss Taylors forehead. “Now, rest. I know you want nothing but to listen to me tell lies, but I’ve no time to coddle you, совёнок . Baba has errands to run, and people to hunt.” She snorted as her granddaughter looked away with a sad little noise. “That’s a habit I’ll break you of, child, and break you hard if I have to. But...fine. You want some bit of me to stay?” She pulled a hand bag from the folds of her clothing, fishing in it for a moment, before pulling out a bit of metal, tied with leather. A pendant?

    Taylor took it as it was lowered into her grasp, staring at it curiously. “What is it?” She asked, and her grandmother clucked her tongue.

    “What does it look like, fool girl? A pendant. A charm. Thrice cursed to return all harm.” She smiled her disturbingly pointy smile, and tousled Taylor’s hair. “Wear it, and none should dare lay a finger on you. No worries, lazy bird. Baba will return, so long as you don’t die before the sun does.”

    “Al...alright, Baba.” Taylor said quietly, staring at the pendant. “I—thank you.”

    The old crone chuckled, her cane clunking against the floor with every other step. “Save your thanks for later. We've still much to talk of, when you're not so fragile. Your father will be here soon, so I must leave—I’ve no interest in watching you both blubber like newborns.” She clumped out the door, while Taylor traced the contours of the odd little pendant.

    A bit of leather thong, wrapped around the center of a chunk of iron. Such a curious shape. A fang, or...a tooth.

    An iron tooth.

    ___​

    Just a little idea I had, some unholy crossbreed spawned from the "Kratos is Taylors Grandfather" fic, and "Taylor has to deal with magic and Unseelie Fae" fic's I'd read recently.

    ___​

    Originally from the Wormverse ideas/recs/etc thread
     
    Lenderman, Darik29, Harpy81 and 2 others like this.
  3. Threadmarks: Grandmother 1.1
    Duelist925

    Duelist925 Making the rounds.

    Joined:
    Jun 11, 2018
    Messages:
    44
    Likes Received:
    487
    Tags: Worm, Folklore

    Grandmother


    Alex was feeling the itch. The burn and ache that told him he was coming off of whatever poison he’d snorted or smoked or stuck in a vein. The burn that told him he was going to start to remember. He had reasons for living on the streets, for joining up with Skid’s crew, and they were reasons he didn’t want to remember. He knew that much at least.

    The ache was bad enough, but not wanting to remember—not wanting to wake up crying—made him desperate, and there wasn’t much he wouldn’t do when he was desperate. A few others were starting to get the twitches again, so it wasn’t too hard to talk one into heading out to grab a few purses. Jason was a rough one, but smash and grab was safer and easier than trying to lift wallets alone.

    Even when their normal territory was bare, it was easy to justify ranging out, heading into ABB territory. Easy to duck into an alleyway after they’d spotted an old woman with a giant purse. Easy target. Easy.


    It was supposed to be easy.


    Glass crunched under their feet as they approached the old woman. She was hunched over, leaning on a thick cane, slowly stumping her way through the trash strewn alley.

    The granny turned as they approached, narrowing her eyes at them. “Not wise to cross a dragons land without tribute. Even a pretender.” Her voice was low and sounded like she’d sandpapered her throat. Alex said nothing, just clutching the handle of the old kitchen knife he had stuffed through his belt. His companion chucked a mostly empty bottle of vodka at the woman in response—his aim was off enough that it just shattered on the ground a few feet in front of her.

    “Fuck off! Merchant’s gonna run this shit.” Alex’s partner snarled, brandishing a rust stained switchblade. “Gimme yer’ shit, or bleed bitch!” He swiped at the air with the knife. Alex just stared, feeling the hair on the back of his head stand up. Even to his burned out brain, this wasn’t right. She didn’t seem impressed by the knife or scared by two men larger than her.

    “I knew a drunkard once.” She said, still too calm. “Who liked to drink a skin of wine with each meal, and stagger home after spending his wages at the tavern.”

    “Bitch, shut the fuck up! Gimme your purse before I gut you!” Jason bellowed.

    She sighed, as if irritated, and thrust her purse at him. Alex hung back, watching, his breath catching as Jason snatched the purse and sneered at her as he fumbled with the purses odd, old-styled clasp. “Better hope you got money bitch.” He slurred, struggling to figure out how to unwind a bit of leather from a button. Alex was too busy listening to his heart trying to hammer its way out of his chest.

    She was looking at him.

    She was looking at him.

    “One day his stumbling, drunken gait caused him to stray from the path.” She continued. Her voice echoed strangely in the alley. She clutched the smooth top of her cane, a chilly breeze whipping her shawl and hair a bit. “He wandered into the tall grass near the road, skin of wine in his hand. A pity...”

    Her eyes sank into her skull. Dark shadows covered them. There was a disturbing cracking sound as the bend in her spine became more pronounced, hunching her over.

    “A pity the grass hid so much. Hid the rabbit’s hole. Hid the sharp rocks. His foot was caught, and he fell, dashing his eyes out on the razor edged stones.”

    Jason managed to open the purse, and chose to search it in the quickest manner possible—dumping everything out. Something shiny caught Jason’s attention as it fell from the purse, rolling to a stop at the old woman’s foot. Alex’s knife clanged onto the concrete as his companion leered at her and took a step forward, bending towards the object.

    His foot hit a pothole. The other shot out, slipping on a sodden hunk of cardboard. He didn’t have the coordination to catch himself, reflexes slowed by long abuse of alcohol, among less savory intoxicants. He just had enough time for his eyes to widen, and half a curse to escape him, before his face slammed into the ground.

    Right where he’d smashed the bottle of vodka.

    Alex would have to add Jason’s screams to the things he didn’t want to remember. He grabbed Jason’s arm and half-dragged him out of the alley, eyes locked on the old crone the entire time.

    ___

    “Tch. Ungrateful little bastards. Didn’t even wait for the moral to old Baba’s story.” The old woman snorted to herself. She bent, grabbing her purse, and the odd object that had fallen from it.

    She held it up to the sun, as if examining it for damage. Amazingly enough, there wasn’t a scratch on it. “And you—what do you think you’re doing? You’re late.” She spat, sneering at the thing. Odd that it hadn’t been damaged, falling to concrete as it had. You’d expect an egg to break from something like that. Then again, it did gleam oddly, silver at it’s core...

    She shook her head. “Be here tomorrow, or I’ll come find you. Blood calls.” And she stowed the egg back in her purse, and returned to examining the alley, nostrils flaring.

    “Ahh...old Baba smells things.” She muttered. “A rat thinks itself a cat. Warm shadows.” She snorted, nostrils flaring as she clumped along the alley. Once, twice, thrice, from one end to another. “Mmmm. Fear and horror, a brace of years aged. Like old piss.” She spat to the side. “Pathetic. Betrayal birthed on such petty cruelty?” A sneer curled her lips as she made her way out of the alley, scowling at any who crossed her path. At every street corner she stopped, beak of a nose thrust into the air, sniffing, before she picked a direction.

    Finally, she found herself in a park, and a crooked smile let the sunlight glint off her teeth. A turn, and she saw a re-purposed oil rig out in the bay. A turn, and she stared over a suburban sprawl. A turn, and her eyes fell on an ugly school squatting between three tiny kingdoms the gangs had carved out.

    “Blood calls to blood.” She growled. From her bag she pulled a beat up spiral bound notebook. She flicked through it dispassionately, scanning a few pages here and there. They were all the same, really. Harsh words, humiliations, and low blows. A thousand tiny knives, aimed at her grand daughter.

    “Blood calls...” She ripped a page out and stowed the rest of the journal of cruelty back in her bag. She jabbed her thumb against a tooth, and smeared a line of blood across the page, hissing something under her breath. A beetle trundling along the bark of a tree near her fell away, stone dead before it hit the ground.

    She ripped off a third of the page and spat on it. It burst into flame, burning to ash in a second. She threw it into the air, watching it spiral along a breeze towards the bay.

    A turn widdershins. A third of the page, hissed at and burned. Ash flying towards the school.

    A turn. She glared at the sprawl, lips curled in a silent curse. The ash fair flew towards the gathering clouds, ready to rain down.

    “Petty cruelty birthed this tale. Right and fair that petty cruelty begins it’s end.” The sneer curled into a foul smile as Baba Yaga leaned on her stick, watching the rainclouds gather.


    ___

    A bit of a continuation. Not sure I;m entirely happy with it, but eh. Better flawed and out than always working towards perfection.

    ___
    Originally from the Wormverse ideas/recs/etc thread
     
  4. Threadmarks: Grandmother 1.2
    Duelist925

    Duelist925 Making the rounds.

    Joined:
    Jun 11, 2018
    Messages:
    44
    Likes Received:
    487
    Tags: Worm, Folklore

    Grandmother

    Madison grinned to herself as she finished packing her bag. A night with her favorite secret was exactly what she was looking forward to. Blowing up zombie heads and getting buzzed off cheap beer was amazingly cathartic after a week of pretending to be little miss socialite. Her mental prep for gaming until the sun came up was derailed, however...

    “MADISON ELAINE CLEMENTS! GET DOWN HERE NOW!”

    Madison was not used to be yelled at. She had always been able to smile and giggle her way out of any situation that might’ve resulted in yelling, always two steps ahead with her bimbo act, and a shield to hide behind if it didn’t work.

    So her mothers roar was a surprise to her. She made her way down the stairs, eyes wide, only to see her mother standing at the head of the dining room table, and her father pacing behind her, jaw clenched so tight she thought she could hear teeth cracking.

    Her mother held up carefully placed a phone down next to a plastic bag. Her phone. Wait, her phone? But she—when had she seen it last? She’d been using it just after school…

    Her thoughts were cut short by her mothers cold, curt tone.

    “Hey, Mads, you still up for this tonight? Parents won’t bitch about you coming?” she said, staring down at the phones screen.

    Madison’s eyes widened. Her mother was reading her texts! “Those are priva--” Her jaw clicked shut from the sheer anger in her mothers glare.

    “No, no, they won’t even know I’m out. Emma will cover for me, we can hang all night.” She continued. “Awesome. You got the stuff, right?” She looked up, one hand resting on the bag, before finishing, “Yeah! You got the goods?”

    Madison wanted to say something. Anything. But her mother dumping the bags contents on the table shut her up again.

    Something black and lacy. A roll of condoms. A baggy of something green.

    She’d never seen any of it before.

    “T-thats not mine!” She yelped, jumping when her mothers hand hit the table.

    “Madison Clements, if you lie to me again, you will not like the consequences. I found these outside your bedroom window! Who is this boy you're texting?! What were you going to do tonight? Who the hell is ‘xX_Void_Cowboy_Xx’?!”

    Madison shook her head in denial. “I’m not lying! I, I was, I was just gonna hang out with a...with a boy.” Her voice fell slightly as she finished the sentence and saw her fathers jaw visibly tighten.

    Her mother shook her head, a look of disgust on her face. “We figured that much out.” She hissed, venom in her tone. “You’re grounded. Until you tell us exactly what was going on and with who, you are grounded. Go to your room. And you won’t be seeing this for awhile.” She plucked the phone off the table, tucking it into her own pocket. “I am so disappointed in you.”

    Tears blurred her vision. “I—I’m not, I...” She trailed off, biting back a sob as she ran back up stairs.


    ___

    Emma was not having a pleasant day. A week without Hebert had been nice at first, but it had quickly gotten boring without her favorite target. It had seemed simple to her—Hebert was gone, so find the next weakest worm to pick on. Veder had seemed like an obvious choice, but Madison had nixed it, saying it was too easy, and Sophia didn’t seem to care. So she’d gone after a few other girls. Had to prove she wasn’t weak.

    That...had not worked out as well as she’d hoped.

    “Miss Barnes? I need to speak with you.” Mr. Johnson was giving her a Look. The kind of Look he normally reserved for people like Greg Veder when he’d done something particularly stupid.

    “Yes Mr. Johnson?”

    He leaned against his desk, arms crossed. “I’ve heard from a few concerned students that you’ve been spreading rumors about your fellow classmates. Discussing a girl's home life?”

    Emma repressed a sigh. Some little bitch had squealed. “I really don’t know what to say. You know I’m not the type to gossip.” She said guilelessly, giving him that same innocent smile.

    He...didn’t seem to be buying it. “I’m sure.” He said dryly. “However, it’s something I have to look into when I have half a dozen students who are all quite angry at the treatment their friend is supposedly getting. I will be looking into this further, Miss Barnes. You’re dismissed.”

    Emma seethed internally. Turns out, spreading rumors about some girl turning tricks didn’t work well when she was friends with the debate team.

    Target two had somehow fared worse.

    Sophia glared at her, clutching her face. Her nose was very visibly broken and bleeding. “Did you have to pick a fucking cripple to fuck with? Blackwell is throwing that zero tolerance bullshit at me! I’m gonna miss the next track-meet Em!” She grabbed a wad of paper towels and stuffed them against her nose. “Pick a better target next time! Fuck!” She snarled before stomping off, not giving Emma a chance to defend herself.

    How the hell was she supposed to know?! The girl had looked like a mouse. Skinny, brown haired, never speaking, the perfect target! How the hell was she supposed the know the girl was mute? Hell, being mute hadn’t stopped her from headbutting Sophia. And, judging by the looks the skinheads were giving them, she had connections or some shit.

    Target three had started off so well.

    Some new girl. No friends yet, not any important ones anyway. Just transferred in. Too Asian to be empire, not Asian enough to be ABB, and too clean looking to be a junkie. A perfect target.

    Head down, trapped in the corner. Her favorite tactic. She grinned, turning to Madison. “Did you hear? The ABB is stepping up...recruitment, if you know what I mean.” She saw the girl flinch, and Madison took her cue.

    “Good thing some girls are just too stupid to be taken.” Madison said happily. “Or just too slutty! I mean, why pay when you can just, ya’know.” She mimed a thrusting motion with a laugh.

    Emma could hear the girls breath hitch, coming faster. “I know, right? What kind of freak would that be? Almost as bad as a junkie, but even the Merchants have standards.”

    The broken sounding sob was music to her ears. She didn’t even mind being shoved aside as the girl ran away, just laughing as she knocked a teachers aide to the ground. The shower was paper was perfect.

    Of course, being called into the office after was something she thought might happen, so when her name crackled over the loud speaked a day later she painted her best smile on and made her way to the principals office. She didn’t let her confusion show as she was instead directed to a conference room.

    Seeing her father there made her heart skip a beat. The look on his face as he stared at the two people opposite him made it skip another. He had the pursed lips and narrowed eyes he only got when talking about the lawyers who had beaten him.

    “Miss Barnes? Take a seat please.” Principal Blackwell sat at the head of the table, looking distinctly annoyed. She sat beside her father, studying the pair opposite them. A man and a woman in business suits and matching severe expressions. He was white, tall, with brown hair. The woman beside him was asian, with a slender build and looked vaguely familiar to her. She couldn’t place it though. Both glanced at her with expressions of distaste and contempt.

    “What...what’s this about?” Emma asked, not liking the quaver in her voice.

    “Miss Asano and Mr. Smith came to me with some complaints.” Blackwell said, her tone carefully neutral.

    Emma’s eyes widened a fraction as the woman interrupted. “Mrs. Asano, actually. I only kept my last name for legal reasons.” Her hand fell onto the mans, squeezing it slightly, and they traded thin smiles.

    Asano. Smith. She glanced at her father, who nodded very slightly. He’d talked about them before. He was a divorce lawyer, but you didn’t handle cases anywhere near Boston without hearing about Asano, Smith, & Abrams.

    “To get right to the point.” The man said. “Yesterday, our daughter came home in tears because of the actions of one of her classmates. Actions that pushed her into a mental and emotional breakdown, and quite likely undid months of therapy.” He leaned over the table slightly, fixing Emma with a cold glare. “I do not take jokes and insinuations about the trauma my daughter went through lightly.”

    Her mouth was dry as a desert. “T-trauma? I dont—I--”

    Her father was strangely silent. She’d expected him to say something by now, but he just stared straight ahead, that forced-calm expression on his face.

    “Yesterday, when you cornered her and sparked off a panic attack with your comments about ABB...recruitment.” The disgust was evident in his voice, but this finally sparked her father into saying something. Though not what she expected.

    “Emma had no way of knowing about your daughters past.” He said stiffly. “This was nothing but teasing gone out of ha--”

    The woman spoke then. “Teasing? Yes, because insinuating my daughter is too much of a slut to be kidnapped and prostituted again is teasing.”

    Emma bit back a gasp. Again? The girl had—she’d actually--

    Her father tried again, after a breath. “Awful comments, of course. But you have no proof my--”

    This time it was Principal Blackwell that interrupted.

    “Several students have come forward, actually, and a teachers aide. I know you want to protect your daughter, Mr. Barnes, but this fits in well with reports of her behavior recently. This isn’t the first girl she’s made insinuations of this sort about, and there are rumors of her instigating fights. I find it troubling that a girl with her record is descending to this sort of behavior, but I’m afraid this isn’t a court for you to prove her innocence. This is simply a discussion of just what her punishment will entail. And if she’ll continue to be a Winslow student.”

    Emma shrank in her seat under the combined glares of the two people across from her. She didn’t think she’d be getting away this time.

    ___

    Sophia was still nursing her nose when she was called into Miss Militia's office. Having to explain that she’d gotten into a fight at school already had the busy body breathing down her back. She wasn’t looking forward to yet another lecture about “proper ward behavior”.

    She sat opposite the older cape, giving her a sullen look. “What is it this time?”

    Miss Militia looked at her almost sadly for a moment. Disappointed? Sophia suppressed the urge to gag. Like she cared what anyone thought of her.

    Militia sighed, and reached into a desk drawer. “Last night, a young man was admitted to Brockton Bay General Hospital, with a...curious injury. Seems he was caught in a gang scuffle. But they weren’t responsible for his injury.” What she withdrew made Sophia’s lungs freeze.

    Miss Militia set a crossbow bolt on her desk. Broad-head. Kind you could buy anywhere that sold hunting supplies. It had an evidence tag on it.

    Sophia’s eyes flicked from it to Militia’s face a few times. “You—I don’t use those anymore! You know I don’t.”

    Again with that shitty sad, disappointed look. “Please stop.” She said quietly. “There were sightings of you in the area. Patrolling alone is already a violation of your probation, but one we have...turned a blind eye to. A mistake on our part. On my part. We found your stash. Another dozen bolts like this, and a burner phone. And thats not even discussing what was on the phone.”

    She leaned back in her chair, giving the seething teen an appraising look. “Return to your quarters. You are confined to the base until further notice. You will be arrested if you leave.” The last was said in a flat, clinical tone. “Tomorrow, we will be discussing your transgressions with Director Piggot, and going over exactly how your probation is going to be changed to reflect this. Now get out of my sight.”


    ___​


    The man who stepped into the bar was old. Not the kind of old that hunched the spine, confined one to a chair, and stripped them of their strength, no. He was a man who looked like the winds of time had scoured him down to bone and whipcord sinew, with just barely enough skin left to cover it all, and a few tattered wisps of hair clinging to head and chin. More than a few scars decorated what skin was visible under his worn looking clothing. A nose hooked down from between too wide, ever glaring eyes, and an expression that of someone sucking on a lemon, waiting for it to become sweet, finished off the look.

    Sunken eyes scanned the place, taking in just how many of the men there had shaved heads. How many bore eagle tattoos, or had a pair of eights somewhere on their skin or clothing. He made his way to the bar itself, nodding to the man behind it.

    “Need something to feel alive. Get the blood pumping.” His voice was rough, like he’d just smoked a half dozen cigars and washed the taste out with grain alcohol. The man behind the bar barely held back from rolling his eyes, and poured a shot of something vaguely amber colored. The old man downed it and smiled, showing off gleaming white teeth. “Not bad. Like paint-thinner mixed with horse piss. Leave the bottle.”

    The bartender had been doing this job for a good decade and a half. In that time, he’d gained a few instincts for dealing with people. Knowing who was safe to deny service to was important in a city with as many capes as this. He only hesitated for a moment before setting the bottle of rot-gut on the bartop. It was maybe a third full. Something about the old vulture made him uneasy. He went back to polishing glasses with a dirty rag, wondering if he should call the special number some of his more...esoteric clients had left with him.

    The old man took a long pull from the bottle before thumping it against the bartop and letting out a belch.

    “Ahh, nice.” He turned, grinning wide as he saw how many were looking at him. “I have a question for you boys.” He said, lifting the bottle to his lips again. A sip, and he continued. “Are any of you Nazis? I do love Nazis.”

    A few had turned away, dismissing him as some crank. A few more were giving him their attention, wondering if he was a new recruit or something. The man sitting nearest to him at the bar gave him an appraising look, and answered. “Not something you hear every day. You really like Nazis? What if there were some here?” No one seemed to notice the little breeze making litter skitter around the floor.

    Koschei looked at the man. The head of an eagle poked out from under his shirt collar. He was shaved bald, and the jacket slung on the bartop next to him had a giant eighty-eight stitched to the back of it.

    “Oh, I’d have some fun with them is all. See, my favorite thing about Nazi’s is watching the inbred cowards run away while dripping their own blood and piss.” He could feel his heart pumping, and allowed himself a broad grin at the expression of shock turning to dark anger on the mans face. He took a moment to savor the anticipation, before slamming the butt of the whiskey bottle into the mans face. There was a crunch as his nose broke, and another as the bottle was brought down again, shattering his teeth.

    And Koschei broke into howling laughter as violence erupted around him.

    ___
    This was quite fun to write. Coming up with some somewhat poetic bits of justice for each of the Trio. Sophia was the easiest, of course, while Emma and Mads were a bit harder. Still, I hope it works out.

    Heh...all this from Baba only burning one page of Taylors journal too.

    ___​


    Originally from the Wormverse ideas/recs/etc thread
     
  5. Threadmarks: Alchemyst
    Duelist925

    Duelist925 Making the rounds.

    Joined:
    Jun 11, 2018
    Messages:
    44
    Likes Received:
    487
    Tags: Worm, alchemy

    Alchemyst

    The silence that descended into the cramped basement was so thick, you could have cut it into slices and sold it at a carnival.

    Armsmaster stared at the jar--a knockoff store brand mason jar, purchased in a pack of ten for twelve dollars and thirty two cents after taxes, his HUD helpfully displayed for him--and the strange...substance with it. It sloshed and whirled within the confines of the glass despite no outside force acting on it. One moment it moved as it was liquid, and the jar was being spun. The next, it dissolved into foamy bubbles. They burst into a sussuration of fine particles that whirled chaotically. All while emitting a glow that was almost orange, but had some quality he simply couldn't place that made the simple hue simply not suffice as a description.

    "I'm sorry, but what did you call this...substance again, Miss Hebert?" He asked. The various sensors within his suit were trying to study it, and were giving him the artificial equivalents of shrugged shoulders. They couldn't make head nor tails of it.

    The girl looked up from where she was showing Miss Millitia a tiny clockwork beetle and smiled. "Oh! Phlogiston! It took me forever to figure out how to distill it. Needed to treat the purified sulphur with boiling quicksilver, and then run that through a careful three step drip process, alternating betwee--" She cut herself off with a blush. "Oh, uh. Sorry. I--Dad says I tend to go off like that when people

    Armsmaster just nodded, ignoring the little smile he knew Militia was sending his way. "Common Tinker problem. Think nothing of it. So...Phlogiston." He said, glancing from it down a row of bottles like it. The next held something that superficially resembled a gas, in that it floated at the top of the half-empty jar, though it moved quite a bit more like an oily liquid. Dark blue, edging towards black at the center. "And this is...you called it Aether?"

    Taylor's grin widened. "Yeah! It took me awhile to build a beetle that could fly high enough to collect some, but it has some amazing properties! I haven't been able to test it with phlogiston yet, that stuffs too volatile, but it makes an excellent mediator when combined with essence of sulphur, even allowing it to bond with purified frost-rime! I didn't even think that was possible! It's a very important step in the Great Work, I think!" She even pronounced the capitol letters. Before he could ask just what said "Great Work" was, she went on. "And that's not even getting into it's uses in containing the imponderable fluid I've been working on, or how useful it's been in balancing my humours!"


    ___
    A little bunny that wouldn't go away. I just had the idea of "What if Taylor triggered as an Alchemist, but not the anime? But maybe a little anime?" while reading about phlogiston.

    This is physically painful for him, as she's spouting off about theories that were discredited before he was even born, and yet, she has impossible materials in her basement, distilled with a childs chemistry set, some quick and dirty home-blown glass piping, and a lot of coffee mugs.

    I'm half tempted to try out Taylor going full anime!Alchemy, FMA style. I wonder if you could make a philosophers stone out of a singular Entity?

    ___
    Originally from the Wormverse ideas/recs/etc thread
    This is one I'd like to put some more thought into, and actually plot something out. Alchemy is fun to research, and I can fudge in a lot of disproven oldschool scientific ideas.
     
  6. Duelist925

    Duelist925 Making the rounds.

    Joined:
    Jun 11, 2018
    Messages:
    44
    Likes Received:
    487
    Tags: Worm, wibbly wobbly

    Brilliant!


    Armsmaster and Miss Militia had seen more than a few reactions when someone opened a door and came face to face with them. Starstruck awe, fear, hostility...bad pick up lines, on more than one occasion.

    It was rare for someone to open the door and just sigh and beckon them in. That was exactly what Danny Hebert did though.

    “Come in, come in. I should have expected this, really. How did you figure it out?” he asked, leading them into the kitchen. He poured himself a cup of coffee, and after a glance at the both of them, poured a second, handing it off to Miss Militia.

    She was the one who answered. “There are a few ways to identify pararhumans. Mostly via use of their powers, but with Tinkers, we tend to look for odd purchases, people visiting junk yards, and power fluctuations.” She sipped the coffee before looking startled. “I—this is perfect.” She stared at it, taking in the dark brew. Not too much cream, a hint of bittterness to cut the sweet, it was exactly how she made it for herself.

    “Yeah. I know it is. First thing she made.” Danny said wryly, taking a sip of his own. If he noticed the way Armsmaster frowned, he didn’t say anything. “Been drinking it for a few weeks now, so I figure its safe enough.” He said as the armored man moved to inspect the, seemingly perfectly normal, coffeemaker. “So, you were saying about how you find Tinkers?”

    Militia stared at her coffee for a moment before sighing and taking another sip. It was hardly the strangest thing a Tinker had ever made. “Well, purchasing habits tend to be the first red flag. Someone buying fifteen old cellphones, or visiting a scrapyard a half dozen times in a week is either a very dedicated hobbyist, or...” she shrugged.

    Armsmaster chimed in then, eyes still locked on the coffee maker. “Energy spikes are another common indicator. Many new tinkers undestimate the power requirements for their projects. However, most involve excess power being drawn in. Mister Hebert, can you explain why your house is suddenly pumping so much power into the local grid?”

    Before the home owner could answer, they were interrupted by a very loud sound, rather like if someone had taken a peacocks cry, mixed it with the squeal of a rusty hinge, and run the whole thing through a synthesizer. And then turned the volume up to eleven. Both Protectorate hero’s tensed, relaxing when Danny just sat there, blaise.

    “You’re about to meet the reason, actually. That was her alarm.” He said with a yawn.

    “Alarm?” Armsmaster eyed the relaxed man.

    He just nodded. “Yep. Reminding her to eat every now and then. We were supposed to go out tonight, but somehow, I think that won’t be happening.” he eyed the two of them with a frown. “Guess I can order in. You two want anything?”

    Militia and Armsmaster exchanged looks. This...blaise attitude was not at all what they were used to when it came to dealing with the parents of young parahumans.

    There was a clattering from the other room, and a girl came skidding into view. “Five minutes! Five minutes, I promise, I just—what?!” She stopped, gawking at the figured in her homes kitchen.

    Militia judged the girl to be about fifteen, albeit a tall fifteen. She was all limbs, gangly, and bean pole slender, with a slash of a mouth that was currently hanging open in shock.

    “W-wha—Your armor is amazing!” She abruptly gasped. Armsmaster quite abruptly had her full attention. “Oh, this is lovely! Absolutely marvelous, so many little gidgets and widgets and fidgets all whirring and purring together so efficiently! What are you using to keep your hal- magnets, of course it’s magnets, magnets are a bit rubbish but that alloy, I know that alloy, it’s non-magnetic, how do- eject-able ferrous inserts, of course, and you can reshape this bit and that bit to form a rudimentary friction sheathe! Brilliant!” She was a whirling dervish as she moved around him a half dozen times in half as many seconds.

    The girl never seemed to stop talking long enough to draw breath. A constant babbling whirling, poking and prodding at one of the premier tinkers in the world. Miss Militia watched it happen with a grin hidden under her american flag bandana, wondering when her partner would snap. It wasn’t until young miss Hebert grabbed Armsmasters head and stuck her face up against his that she got her wish though.

    “Oh, lovely lovely lovely! What are these, what are these, what are, thermal imaging, a half dozen high def cameras, oh is that an interactive HUD you have programmed, oh, oh, oh, internet! That’s brilliant that is, are you recording this, can I get a copy, oh, oh, I have to--” She was cut off when Armsmasters gauntleted hands closed around her wrists, and he, slowly but firmly, pushed her away.

    “Miss Hebert. I understand that seeing another Tinkers work can be exciting. However, you must learn to curb your impulses.”

    She had the grace to look a bit sheepish. “Ah...sorry. You can ask dad, I tend to go off a lot, it’s just that I have so much in my head all the time. Thats not even getting into how fascinating I find everything now, and how interesting you and—OH! That, you!” She turned abruptly, taking a step towards Miss Militia. “Can you do the thing? You know, your thing, the green that goes shooty bang and then green again?”

    Militia blinked, a bit taken aback by the abrupt shift as the girls hyperactive attention was drawn to her. “You..want to see a demonstration of my power?” She asked.

    “Yes! Oh yes, I have to see it, I need to know if it’s actual energy to matter transformation, because if it is that’s huge, absolutely huge, I’d love to study you, it, not you, I mean it, sorry, I’m doing the thing again aren’t I, I, shutting up.” She stopped in place, and Miss Militia couldn’t quite be sure that the girl wasn’t vibrating.

    Wordlessly, she called up her weapon. The baton at her hip swirled in a miasma of green before forming into a revolver. She had to bite back a giggle at the girls excited squeak, letting her power form into a knife, a flintlock pistol, and then a rifle, before it returned to her hip, back in baton form.

    “Oh, I so have to get you under my sonic!” Taylor gushed, running both hands through her hair. Judging by it’s state, Miss Militia was quite sure this was a common thing for her. The girl whirled, looking beseechingly at her father. “Dad, can I show them my workshop? I know we were going to go out tonight, but, but, Armsmaster, Miss Militia, I need to show, I mean, I suppose they could come with us and we could talk, maybe, that would be a bit awkward, I mean can you even eat in costume, I suppose Armsmaster could, but that bandana doesn’t--”

    “Taylor.” Her fathers tone had the girl’s teeth clicking shut, her expression chagrinned. Danny shook his head with a fond smile. “It’s fine. I’ll order pizza for everyone. Take them down to your shop, we can go out tomorrow.” He chuckled, before nodding to Miss Militia. “If she starts going off like that, just say her name. It seems to snap her out about as well as anything else. What do you want on your pizza?”

    “You don’t need to feed us, Mr. Hebert. We--”

    She was interrupted by a raised hand. “You’re going to be in my home for, judging by the last time Taylor dragged me down into what used to be my basement, at least a few hours. The least I can do is feed you. If you don’t tell me what you want, I’ll just order an extra cheese and a supreme.”

    She nodded. “If you insist. Mushroom and olives, please.” He nodded, and again at Armsmasters grunt of “Cheese”, before turning to Taylor, who was already fidgeting vaguely towards the basement door.

    “I, pizza, hum, pizza, bread, sauce, cheese, pineapple please! Pineapple, anchovies, onions, as many different cheeses as they have, see if they can add some pickles, used to hate pickles, love’em now, do you know why that is?”

    Miss Militia had never been dragged away without actually being dragged before, but this certainly had the same feeling.

    “I mean, I know powers alter human physiology, but how can they alter someones taste buds so specifically that I absolutely adore jelly beans but think regular beans are rubbish, oh, and that, my speech patterns have definitely changed, I never used to say rubbish, or a lot of other little things, do you...”

    She did her best to tune it out for the time being, giving Armsmaster a long suffering look she’d perfected during those times she’d had to listen to him or Kid Win try to explain their inventions.

    She was definitely a Tinker.

    ___​


    Taylor Hebert had never seen a man so strangely dressed before, at least not outside of the TV. He wasn’t wearing a mask, and he didn’t look like any of the hero’s she’d seen there, or any of the ones in her cartoons, and her mother’s grip on her hand tightened slightly as he approached them.

    “Hello! I’m here on important business. Here are my credentials.” He said, flashing both of them an important looking piece of paper. Her mothers grip loosened slightly as he went on. “Now, can either of you tell me if you’ve seen anything strange around? Very important, strange things, they tend to stick out.” He had a cheerful grin on his face, and when her mother shook her head, the grin faded just a bit. Taylor didn’t like that, so she raised her hand. Her left one. Her right one was busy being held.

    “I saw Legend last week. He was on the TV and turned into pretty lights!” She said, grinning as she saw his smile widen again. “And Miss Alexandria was there too!”

    “Really? A woman who can fly, and a man who can turn into a laser? Now that is strange.” He said with mock seriousness, he broke into a smile again with a soft look down at her, and nodding to her mother. “Welp, sorry to have bothered you, but I must be going now, more strange things to look at and for, and I have some string I have to find. Well, a bit of string. Well, five bits of string. And a lizard. It’s complicated. Ta!” He turned on his heel, and set off at a brisk pace. He didn’t seem to notice something falling out of his pocket.

    Taylor pulled away from her mother to pick it up. “Mister! You dropped a thing!” She called, but when she looked up again, she just saw the tail end of his coat whipping out of view as he turned down an alley. By the time she and her mother had reached the alley, he had disappeared.

    “It’s ok sweetie. You can give it back next time we see him.” Her mother said, petting her head and smiling down at her.

    Taylor smiled and nodded, before looking down at what she’d picked up. It had an odd weight to it, though she could pick it up easily. With a childs exaggerated shrug, she tucked the featureless little blue box into her pocket.

    ___​


    I'm bad at titles. Couldn't think of any for this, but that might be because I wrote it out of frustration with the other two snips occupying my muse at the moment. If you have any title suggestions, I welcome them!

    I hope the crossover is obvious.
     
  7. Threadmarks: Countes 1.0
    Duelist925

    Duelist925 Making the rounds.

    Joined:
    Jun 11, 2018
    Messages:
    44
    Likes Received:
    487
    Tags:Worm, Vampire, sort of crossover?

    Countess
    1.0


    It waited in the space between worlds, studying the myriad minds below it, searching for one it could touch. One it could use. To learn. To refine itself. To become better. Something caught it’s attention, the various senses it used, and it reached down, spiraling--

    ~Well aren’t you an odd little thing. I’ve not met your kind before, which is a true rarity.~
    It felt something touch it from a direction it could not perceive. Something it had no knowledge of. It--

    ~Oh, do stop struggling so. I’m only curious. Just a taste should...~
    It felt something it had no concept of. Cold? Pain? Warmth being drawn away, being taken by--

    ~How horrid you are! Squalid piece of something truly monstrous. And what caught your attention...oh. How strange. She’s so...small. Weak. But she clings to life. It’s been so long since I...~
    It was growing weaker. It had to warn--

    ~No.~
    There was a sensation, of being wrenched away, towards the unknowable direction.

    ~Little thing, little putrescence. Thank you. It’s been so long since I shared myself. Thank you for waking me. Now come! Join me for a dance? It’s only fair, as I intend on taking your intended for my own.~
    It was small. Such vastness within it, but so limited. It did not know emotions, beyond a need to improve. And yet, as it was torn from what it had been, subsumed, drowned, some spark twinged, and it felt...something.

    Fear, perhaps.


    =[]=

    “Please. Oh god, please help me. Anyone.”

    I sobbed quietly when no one answered. Again. My skin burned in a hundred places. It was so hot. Some part of me whispered ‘fever’, a dozen deep scratches pouring infections into my blood. My heart pounded in my ears, and my lungs trembled with the need for air.


    ~Pathetic, aren’t you. But there’s something. That worm wanted you for some reason. How curious...can you tell me why? What’s special about you?~

    “I dont. I can’t. Please, I can’t breathe.” It was stifling inside the locker. Air could barely move, with the bottom grate covered by garbage, leaving only the top to admit fresh air. It wasn’t enough to banish the stench of rotten blood. It was barely enough to keep me concious.


    ~Betrayal. Despair. Loss. Oh, you would be a delicious way to break my fast, little girl.~

    I kicked and screamed for what felt like hours. Maybe it had been. The only thing to mark the passage of time were the bursts of noise between classes. I thought there’d been three. Maybe four. It had been so long.

    Noise. People. I beat my fist against the metal, and it barely made a sound. My head throbbed, my vision swimming. Everything hurt. No one helped me. No one noticed.


    ~How strange. So long since I woke and saw such petty cruelty. I could help you. Should I? I still cannot see what the worm sought within you. A pathetic soul, a pathetic girl, and yet there is something. Something just past my reach...~

    “Please. I dont.” A broken sob. I leaned forward, slumping against the door, hoping for fresh air. I felt things scurrying over my skin, biting me, and couldn’t even brush them away.


    ~Tell me, child...no. Show me. Show me what the maggot wanted. It would touch you, violate you to grant you power. I, at least, will ask before I taint your soul. Tell me, what do you want?~

    “I don’t wanna die.”

    My eyes burned as I mumbled the most pathetic last words in history. I couldn’t tell if it was the tears or the sweat pouring down into them. My head throbbed. My lung burned. Everything was swimming, going grey. I tasted copper and salt on my tongue.


    ~As you wish, dear child.~

    -|-

    My eyes snapped open and I sat up with a gasp. The gasp turned into a gagging sound as I turned and proceeded to puke up what felt like a gallon of disgusting smelling sludge.

    It wasn’t until after I’d emptied my body of liquid that I realized just how wrong everything was. I was sitting on a cold metal table, fluorescent lighting humming down at me. One wall was lined with small metal doors. It was cold. It didn’t bother me, but I was aware of how chilled it was in the room.

    And I was naked. I stared down at myself, too shocked by what I saw to feel enough humiliation or shame to matter.

    A Y shaped line of stitches ran up my torso. I raised a trembling hand, running them over the bits of string holding me closed. Holding my insides in. I’d seen scars like this before, on every single police drama I’d ever watched. An autopsy scar?

    The sound of a door and a voice caught my attention. I looked up just as a woman walked in, phone pressed to her ear. She stopped mid sentence, mouth open when she saw me.

    She’d had a turkey and pastrami sandwich for lunch. She wore too much perfume. She left to get a snack. I could smell the chocolate. I could smell so much on her, from across the room. I could smell something rich, something I wanted, something--

    “Please help me.” I said.

    She ran out of the room screaming.

    I...well, I guess could understand that response.

    ___

    Something that's been in my "ideas" folder for awhile. Fleshed it out a bit, and working on some more plot for it. Have the next bit sort of sussed out. For the record, inspired by my lingering love of Queen of Blood, the recent VtM crossover, Delirium, and re-watching a few of my favorite fight scenes from Hellsing Ultimate, to give you some idea of what her power set will be.
     
  8. Threadmarks: Countess 1.1
    Duelist925

    Duelist925 Making the rounds.

    Joined:
    Jun 11, 2018
    Messages:
    44
    Likes Received:
    487
    Tags: Worm, vampires, sort of crossover?

    Countess
    1.1


    I wasn’t sure how long I sat there, just staring at the stitches keeping my torso closed. Part of me knew I should have been screaming, or crying, or something, but I just stared, trying to process the surreal sight. Eventually I had to move, and slid myself off the side of the metal table. I immediately grabbed said table as my legs threatened to buckle, and I became aware of how empty I felt. Like a stiff breeze would knock me over. Or unconscious. I felt like I hadn’t eaten in weeks, hadn’t drunk anything in days. My vision swam, and, quite abruptly, I was on the ground, leaning against the table, breathing hard.

    ~What barbarism. What foul alchemy. To steal from you such a precious thing...~
    Something was wrong. Inside me. I pressed a hand against my stomach, feeling the stitches. They felt so coarse. It was so cold in the room, the lights so bright. I tried to pull myself up with the table, and I felt disturbingly light.

    Something was wrong. Something was...was gone. I stared up at the lights for a long moment, before I smelled something. It smelled….Good. It smelled right.

    I managed to pull myself upright and staggered off, one hand on my stomach. Something stung, and I could feel a pulling sensation, but it wasn’t important. The smell was important.

    I don’t know how I managed to get the door open. It was a massive slab of a thing, but it wasn’t much harder than the stuck back door at home. Outside was a short hallway. The light to the left stung my eyes, but I didn’t need to go that way. The smell was coming from the right.

    I don’t know how many times I fell over and wound up crawling. I remember hearing noises. Maybe I was hallucinating. But eventually, after another door, the source of that smell was in front of me.

    I needed it. I needed mine back. I needed what they took from me.

    It tasted so good. The plastic tore, and the rich copper filled my mouth. I barely chewed, stuffing it down my throat. It was like water after the hottest day of summer. A steak dinner after days without food. Stolen candy. And every bite made the terrible emptiness go away a bit more.

    And there was so much. I took back mine, and the rest of the scraps they cast aside. So much. Mine. I felt so full, content drowsiness starting to fill me. I struggled to keep my eyes open as I sank my teeth into the las--

    A noise behind me. Something crushed under a boot. I turned, its mine they won’t take it from me--

    Blue armor. I knew that symbol. I’d worn it for years. I—I said something. I think. I think I said something before the light hurt my eyes too much to keep them open.

    I was going to be ok. I was safe. A hero was here.


    =[]=

    Armsmaster had mentally groused when he'd received the call. It would be far from the first "zombie" that had been reported, and would not be the last. He spent a decent portion of the drive wondering if whoever had called it in would have stuck around to see the fruits of their little prank, or if he'd find some strung out junkie...

    Those thoughts died when he saw a grown man come running out of the funeral home, screaming, to join the small crowd staring at the front door.

    They all seemed to relax a bit when his bike came to a stop before them. None had any useful information beyond the basics that they'd seen a corpse shambling around the place. One gave him her password when prompted. He'd have access to their records, at least.

    Inside was an interesting tale. A generic lobby, and medical back-of-house. He noted a steel door half-torn off it's hinges, and triggered the record function of his helmet. A bit of black sludge on the floor caught his eyes. A drop here, a drop there, leading in a line. Near each splatter of whatever it was were bits of cotton and newspaper, stained by the same foul smelling substance. He didn't touch it--he'd have a team out for a full investigation after he was was done.

    Whatever this was, it wasn't hard to follow. Not just the trail--the walls were dented here and there. As if someone had stumbled and fallen against them. He glanced down to get a decent image of a spiderweb of cracks in the floor, pattered as though someone had fallen to their knees, and hard.

    The viscera trail got worse after that. More of that foul substance. More paper. More cotton. Until he reached a door that had been shattered--he could barely make out the "Hazardous Waste" sign.

    Armsmaster surveyed the scene before him carefully. His visor fed him a steady stream of information, keeping him abreast of every inch of the room that could be seen. His eyes, though, were locked on the girl sitting next to an overturned medical waste bin.

    The sensors built into his helmet were extremely precise. She had no body heat, registering as the same ambient temperature as the room. There was no sign of breathing, and her skin was somewhere between pallid grey and simply pale. And her torso had been cut open in the classic Y shape all autopsies used, and was only being held closed by stitches.

    Mostly closed. The bottom few inches of the stitches had been torn open, and ragged cotton and paper were hanging limply from the resulting hole. It matched the viscera stained trail he’d followed to this room.

    If she hadn’t been sitting there, tearing apart a half rotted human heart, he’d have said with quite a bit of certainty that she was dead.

    He tensed as she turned, a guttural noise escaped her, some awful bubbling growl. Her lips were curled back, showing a mess of teeth that were visibly lengthening as her jaw stretched open. His hands tightened on his halberd at the sight of her teeth, the red staining the lower half of her face. He didn’t relax when she abruptly went loose, staring at him with abruptly human eyes.

    “A-armsmaster?” He noted the slight slur to her speech, the lack of focus in her eyes and started a mental catalogue. Master effect? Corpse based Mastery wasn’t unknown, but it was rare. Biotinkers creation, perhaps. Or…

    He flicked his eyes, setting a facial recognition program to sift through through data he’d already pulled from the buildings computer records. He had a name in under a second.

    “Miss Hebert. Do you know where you are?” He asked. He was tense, ready to act the moment she moved in even the least hostile way. He was not, however, going to attack without some reason. Not until he had a better idea of exactly what the situation was at least.

    “I-I don’t feel...I feel better, but I’m tired. I think...I need to lay down for a bit longer.” She slur got progressively worse as she spoke. Her eyes didn't close. She just...dropped, like a puppet with it's strings cut. Or a corpse.

    Armsmaster stared at her for a moment, before flipping his halberd around and spraying her with containment foam. A tap to the side of his helmet, and he spoke.

    “Console. I need a pickup. Full hazmat and hazard situation gear for the retrieval. This situation is...complicated.”

    ___

    I'm not wholly happy with how this turned out, but I was tired of nitpicking over it. Still, hope you enjoy it, and I welcome any feedback!

    edit: Also, I need to learn more about how threadmarks work.
     
  9. Threadmarks: Countess 1.2
    Duelist925

    Duelist925 Making the rounds.

    Joined:
    Jun 11, 2018
    Messages:
    44
    Likes Received:
    487
    Tags: Worm, vampire, sort of crossover?

    Countess
    1.2


    Emily Pigot was not having a good day. To be perfectly fair, she could count of the number of ‘good’ days she’d had in Brockton Bay on a lepers hand and have fingers left over. Still, today was marginally worse than most. It was, after all, not every day that corpses started walking around.

    Though it truly distressed her that “the dead walking” still wasn’t too far outside the PRT’s wheelhouse to have it’s own code.

    Her office was spartan, with a lone potted plant trying desperately to ease its harsh nature sitting in one corner. A single picture hung on each wall to break up the monotony. It was an office that well matches the nature of the woman who spent so much time within it.

    Despite her rotund stature, she still had an implacable, steely aura around her, a hardness to the eyes that spoke of her experience.

    Armsmaster stood before her desk. Assault was leaning against the wall next to the door, while Miss Militia studied the file Emily had just finished. Of the three, Assault looked the most at east. Miss Militia looked intently over the information given to her, while Armsmaster was ramrod straight and statue-like.

    “Armsmaster. Report. I want to know what happened, and your thoughts.” Director Piggot said in a rough, coarse voice.

    The tinker nodded before speaking. “At approximately 1400 hours, the Brockton Bay Police Department referred a call to Protectorate dispatch. They had received a call of a moving corpse. I was dispatched to investigate.” Piggot nodded, staring at him as he spoke in that vaguely annoying monotone he sometimes adopted. Well over ninety nine percent of ‘zombie’ calls were pranks of some sort of other, but there were enough truly horrific powers out there that they couldn’t afford to treat them as anything less than serious.

    Director Piggot had read reports of the parahuman codenamed ‘Wendigo’. She knew exactly why they always investigated these calls.

    “I arrived at the ‘Last Repose’ funeral home ten minutes later. By that point, all employees had fled the building. Most had gathered across the street. I extracted what information I could from them before entering the building.”

    Piggot interrupted. “Why didn’t you wait for backup to arrive?”

    Armsmaster didn’t visibly react to her brusque tone. He very nearly never did. “What little information the employees could provide, and considering the possible causes for a situation like this, I deemed it necessary to secure the scene as quickly as possible. My backup was Velocity, and his ETA was less than three minutes.”

    She nodded, accepting the reasoning for the time being. “Continue.”

    “The first sign of parahuman activity I found was a steel door that had been torn open. The locking mechanism had been ripped from the wall, and it hung from one hinge. A trail of what was later identified as embalming fluid mixed with rotten blood, and scraps of newspaper and cotton, led from the room.” Armsmaster said.

    Miss Militi interrupted sounding a touch confused. “Cotton? Newspaper?”

    And it was, oddly enough, Assault who answered the unspoken question. “Funeral homes stuff bodies full of all kinds of stuff to help them look fresh and un-rotted for a viewing.” When everyone just stared blankly at him, his tone took on a defensive quality. “What? I know things. You don’t think I know things?”

    Piggot wished desperately that Battery was there to smack him. “Armsmaster?” She said, fighting the urge to sigh.

    “Ah...yes. I began to record, and followed the trail. There were other signs of abnormal activity—dents in the walls, cracks on the floor here and there. Not specific acts of destruction, something closer to what a fresh Brute might cause, stumbling around. It led to the room they stored medical waste in before it could be disposed of.”

    “And inside, you found Miss Hebert.” Piggot growled. “Or something resembling her. Eating rotten human flesh.”

    Armsmaster nodded. “Yes. When I entered the room, she was ripping apart a human heart and swallowing chunks of it. Later investigation showed she had consumed one full set of human organs, as well as four additional hearts, and two livers.”

    The feeling in the room wasn’t necessarily one of horror, but it wasn’t far removed. Disgust was evident on what facial features were visible. Armsmaster went on after a moment.

    “Initially, I thought she was hostile. When I entered the room, she made a noise best described as a growl, and bared her teeth. They did not resemble normal human dentistry, as each was visibly sharpening itself. This lasted only a moment, however. She recognized me by appearance. After stating she ‘felt better, but was tired’, all movement ceased, and she came to resemble an ordinary corpse.”

    “At which time, you had her brought to The Rig.” Piggot said with a scowl.

    Armsmaster nodded. “The body is currently being held for observation in the secure medical facility there.”

    Piggot nodded and brought both hands to her temples for a moment. “Right. So, any idea what we’re dealing with? I’ve checked with Boston, and they have no reports of Blasto acting any differently, and last reports of the Nine have them somewhere out west of here. Are we dealing with a new Master specializing in corpses? A bio-tinker? The worst trigger event possible? What?

    “Why one set of organs?” Everyone look at Assault as he jumped in again, and he was visibly resisting the urge to roll his eyes. “What? The report stated she ate one set of organs, and then a few more hearts. A set implies they came from one person. Hell, why did a funeral home have so many organs on hand?”

    There was a rustling as Miss Militia flipped through the reports pages. It was quite thorough, as were all of Armsmaters reports. “ ‘Last Repose’ is one of the few funeral homes in the city with the facilities to properly dispose of human remains. They had received several that morning meant for cremation. And….” She trailed off, tilting her head slightly. “According to this, one body had to have all internal organs removed due to tissue degradation. So...they rotted.” She looked up, expression somewhere between revulsion and confusion. “They were her own, according to the records Armsmaster included. She ate her own organs.”

    Piggot ran a meaty hand over her face. “None of this answers the question of what exactly we have on our hands.”

    Armsmaster pulled the digital file up on his HUD. “Taylor Hebert was pronounced dead at at 6:32 AM, January 4th. Official cause of death is listed as septic shock due to blood-borne infection. Her body was released into the custody of her father later that day, and he had her sent to the funeral home.

    “So she was taken there on the fourth...but today’s the twelfth. She there for over a week?” Assault asked, sounding a touch incredulous.

    Armsmaster was frowning. More so than usual, at any rate, and Piggot was quite used to seeing him frown. “That’s...” He trailed off for a moment.

    “What is it?” Piggot snapped.

    “There’s no listed cause of infection.” He said slowly. “Doctors could not ascertain any reason why her blood had become toxic.” He hesitated again, prompting a glare from Piggot.

    “The Brocton Bay Police Department opened an investigation into Winslow January the 3rd. We don’t have access to the details, as it wasn’t deemed a parahuman issue, but--”

    “Why do I care about a random investigation into a school known for gang recruitment?” Piggot asked tiredly, fearing she knew the answer already.

    “Taylor Hebert was a student at Winslow.” Armsmaster confirmed.

    Piggot was quiet for a moment, before letting out a long, slow breath. “Right. Someone talk to Shadow Stalker, and figure out what the hell is going on at that school. Armsmaster, get the details of that investigation. If it’s related, I want to know. And talk to whoever autopsied that girl. There is a lack of information here, and we still need to contact her next of kin. Now, I’m late for my dialysis. Dismissed.”


    - - -

    Danny sat on his couch, staring at nothing. The tv was on, but his eyes weren’t on the shifting lights, the sounds doing nothing to distract him from his thoughts. He knew, on some level, that he stank of cheap booze and old sweat. He hadn’t showered in days, and likely wouldn’t until the weekend.

    Saturday. He just had to make it to Saturday. He brought a bottle to his lips, only managing to swallow half the liquid that slopped out. He thought of his desk drawer, and what was in it. His gaze drifted, listlessly, to the window and the red-stained sunset. He thought of Taylor, ignoring the knife twisting in his lungs as he did.

    Saturday, she’d be with her mother. He just had to make it to then. After the ceremony, it would be over.


    ___

    Any feedback would be appreciated. This feels a bit too much like an info dump, but I'm unsure of how to improve it.
     
    Darik29, Harpy81 and Mujaki like this.
  10. Threadmarks: Countess 1.3
    Duelist925

    Duelist925 Making the rounds.

    Joined:
    Jun 11, 2018
    Messages:
    44
    Likes Received:
    487
    Tags: Worm, vampires, sort of crossover?

    Countess
    1.3


    “It’s three AM. Why are you still awake?”

    Armsmaster jerked around with a glare that softened when he saw who had interrupted his Tinkering. “Miss Militia.” He said stiffly. “Any reason you chose not to knock?”

    She shot him a look as she stepped in, tugging her flag bandana down. “I did. Three times. Figured you’d either passed out at the bench again, or needed someone to drag you out of whatever funk you were in.”

    The Tinker processed this and sagged slightly in his seat, rubbing the bridge of his nose. “Just...doing some Tinkering to wind down after yesterday. Didn’t realize it was so late.”

    Militia quirked an eyebrow, glancing at the energy bar wrappers filling the rooms trashcan, before shaking her head. “Dealing with that...yeah, I can see why. Any word on the police investigation?”

    Armsmaster scowled and nodded to a printed out sheaf of papers on the desk opposite his workbench. “Dragon had to step in, but yes. Some interdepartmental issues. They claim they sent requests for parahuman assistance with the case, but I can’t find any record of it in our system. Regardless, what they found is...troubling.”

    Hannah took a seat. “Talk to me Colin. What’s going on? What happened?”

    He gently pushed his project to one side before turning and leaning back against the workbench. “Taylor Hebert, age 15. Found dead in her locker on January 3rd after a concerned student reported a prank gone wrong to a janitor. First day back from winter break, and someone had locked her in for the entire school day after having filled it with, for some reason, open but unused feminine hygiene products. The initial thought was that she’d aspirated her own vomit, and choked to death.”

    Hannah took in his scowl and nodded slowly. “Guessing that’s not all?”

    “No. It isn’t.” He growled. “Forensics disagreed. The autopsy showed sepsis due to extreme blood infection to be the cause of death. And testing the locker itself showed that it had been, at one point, absolutely crawling with insects and human waste. And yet, there was no sign of either when the locker was opened.”

    “Human waste...wait, someone locked that poor girl in there with used...” She shook her head. “Thats revolting. But if thats the case, where did it all go?”

    Armsmaster pursed his lips. “Two theories. The first is that whatever unknown master or biotinker reanimated the girl's body used the waste as part of the process. No idea why only menstrual waste and insects would be used, but not the vomit the girl was covered in.”

    “Reanimated?” Miss Militia said, a touch delicately.

    Armsmaster nodded. “As far as any of my sensors can tell, it’s a corpse. It shows absolutely no metabolic activity of any kind that I can detect. I ordered Brute restraints for it anyway.” He remembered the looks the retrieval team had given him for that. For a corpse. “But I have it on camera, Hannah, have it moving, talking--”

    He cut himself off with another scowl before running a hand over his head. “Her.” He said quieter. “I have her on camera.”

    Miss Militia nodded. “So...you think she’s a Case 13, then.” She said.

    He nodded. “Second theory. She died, or came close enough that we can’t tell the difference, triggering in the process. I can’t know for certain until after we’ve had her vetted through M/S protocol.” A tired looking grimace there.

    “What is it?” Hannah asked.

    “Only other asset to be used for that is sitting in a PRT cell on-shore. There was an altercation when the girl's father was retrieved.”

    Before Hannah could inquire further, the front of Armsmaster’s helmet blinked twice. He pulled it on quickly, answering the call.

    “Armsmaster.” A moments pause. “Understood. I’ll be there in two minutes. Do not enter the room under any circumstances.” he barked before tapping the side of his helmet and starting to pull on his simpler “on base” armor.

    “She’s awake.” he answered Miss Militia’s unasked question. She pulled her flag bandanna up and followed him out of the room.

    One minute and thirty seconds alter, they were making their way down the hallway towards one of the Rig's secure medical rooms.

    They shared a look when they heard gunfire and began to run as a girl’s screaming echoed in the hall.


    =[]=

    ~Night has fallen child, and there is so much to do.~
    Waking up was like swimming through molasses. I became aware of everything but sight first, at first. People were walking around—above, below, to either side. Someone, a woman, was pounding the side of a vending machine. I tried to sit up, and felt some resistance, like a heavy blanket. My mouth felt dry. The noise I made when I tried to say something was an awful rasping croak.

    I was so thirsty.

    The smells hit me next, and the sheer intensity almost knocked me unconscious again. I could smell everything. There was a man outside, he stank of bad deodorant and fear. Above me, a woman who smelled of fresh sweat and--

    The corner. Metal. Plastic. What I needed was inside.

    Everything was strangely dim when I opened my eyes, feeling my tongue shift behind my teeth as I stared at the mini-fridge in the corner. More resistance as I clumsily rolled myself out of bed. I couldn’t use my hands, my arms, they were wrapped around my body and I could not move them, but it didn’t matter, I needed what was in that fridge. I had to have it. I was so thirsty.

    ~Of course you are, child. Plucked from your bed too soon, and treated so ghastly? It's no wonder.~
    I managed to sort of shuffle and crawl my way to it, ramming my shoulder against it until it fell over and the door burst open. Plastic bags spilled out. I couldn’t use my hands, so I took one in my mouth and just bit down. Dull copper flooded over my tongue and I drank greedily, gulping down the cold liquid. A shake of my head to throw the first bag away, and a second burst between my teeth. I could feel some of the liquid inside dripping down my chin, onto the floor, and leaned down again, not wanting to waste a drop. My tongue extended, carefully lapping up the spilled nectar. It was perfect. Exactly what I needed.

    ~It will do, until you find something fresher.~
    I heard the door open and smelled someone wet themselves. Not a pleasant scent, the mix of fear and urine.

    Then someone shot me in the back.

    ~Well, that was rude...~
    Two slammed into my back like sledgehammer blows, a third tore a chunk out of the side of my neck, and the last lodged itself in my leg.

    The door slammed shut as I screamed and thrashed. Bags of blood burst as my head slammed into them, before something noxious encased me. I struggled as it hardened, trapping me.

    Being cocooned did not help my mental state at all It was like the locker again. Dark. Confined. I could smell blood and piss and whatever this filth imprisoning me was, I--

    I don’t know how long I was trapped there, howling, screaming, begging. It wasn’t as long as when I was in the locker. Eventually the foam softened, dissolving in a chemical rain followed by a brief burst of water to wash everything down a drain in the center of the room. I lay where I was, curled up and shaking, sucking in gasps of air that did nothing to calm me. I could feel my heart thudding in my chest.

    An intercom crackled, and I flinched, curling up tighter, trying to move my arms. They were bound in some straight jacket…

    “Can you hear me?”

    It was a mans voice. I managed to nod and gasp out a “Yes!”

    “Good. I need to ask you some questions. Do you think you can answer them?”

    I shuddered, sucking in another gasp of air. “Please, what’s going on? I dont—I don’t know, I was in my locker then, then on a table and here, and, and someone shot me, oh god.” I flinched as a wave of pain rolled through my neck. “Oh god, they shot me. Please help me!”

    “Three questions and I will have medical aid rendered. What is your full name?”

    I bit back a sob as my neck throbbed. I could smell so much blood. “T-taylor Anne Hebert!”

    “Do you know where you are?”

    ~Far from where you should be, child. Far from where you need be.~
    “No. I—I don’t know, I just, I remember the locker. Some, some place, I was cut open, I, I, please...”

    I shuddered, feeling the cold fluid on the ground and my face growing tacky, tracks of warmth cutting through it from my eyes.

    “Will you attack anyone if the door is opened?”

    What? Why would—did they think I was dangerous? I was, someone shot me! How--

    “N-no. No, I won’t, I promise. Please help me. Please. I wanna go home. I want my dad.” I broke down crying, unable to stop the broken sobs. “Please help me...please...I just want to go home.”

    A moments silence, filled by my tears, before the door opened.

    I was brought to another room, and something applied to my neck. It didn’t stop hurting, didn’t stop throbbing, but the warmth stopped pulsing from it. And then I was left there, feeling...feeling...I needed to be somewhere else.

    I don’t know how long it was before Armsmaster sat across from me.


    =[]=


    Armsmaster cleared the footage from his visor and glanced to where Private Thomas Trigger—yes, really—was cuffed on the floor. “What part of ‘do not enter the room under any circumstances’ did you not understand?” He growled, before shaking his head. “Take him to M/S confinement for the time being.” He ordered, glancing at the door. “And someone get the foam solvent pumping.”

    Miss Militia set about organizing the personnel that had responded and keeping things organized. He stood there, scowling at the door for the nearly forty five minutes it took for the room full of foam to dissolve, tapping into the rooms internal camera feed once they were active and clear again.

    The girl was curled up next to the destroyed fridge, visibly shaking. Blood leaked sluggishly from a wound on her neck, and another on her leg. Most of her face was covered in it, but he couldn't tell if that was from the burst bloodbags or not. The Brute restraints had prevented further injury. He tapped into the intercom system.

    “Can you hear me?” He tried to pitch his voice to be calming, but he was never good at this. Still, they needed some confirmation that she wasn’t some mindless minion.

    “Yes!”

    He noted the rapid breathing, filing it away for future testing.

    “Good. I need to ask you some questions. Do you think you can answer them?”

    The panicked babbling that followed did a lot of convince him, but he had to be sure. Or as sure as he could be without a full M/S question and answer session. He ignored the pained look Miss Militia gave him. She knew as well as he why they had to take this precaution.

    “Three questions.” He said. “And I will have medical aid rendered. What is your full name?”

    He noted the way the blood oozing from her neck was...well, oozing, not pumping out. Not standard human response. She gave the correct answer.

    “Do you know where you are?” If she had any knowledge of her travel while seemingly dead, it might point to master influence. Or some sort of healing coma….

    “No! I-I don’t know, I just, I remember the locker. Some, some place, I was cut open, I. I, please...”

    He hated having to listen to her cry like that, but...the rules existed for a reason. He knew of several of them.

    “Will you attack anyone if the door is opened?” He asked, zooming the camera in on her face. No biometric data to work with, but facial features might give him some indication if she was lying, or under control...

    The naked fear and motion on her face were enough to convince him. If she was being controlled, or some tinker-creation, it would take more than this to verify.

    He nodded to three fully kitted out PRT troops and keyed the door to open. They entered and applied a basic pressure bandage to both wounds before the girl was taken to an interrogation room.

    He hoped she’d be able to forgive him for all this.


    -|-

    Half an hour of crunching numbers and arguing with personnel later, Armsmaster sat opposite the girl. Miss Militia was watching from outside through one way glass rated to take a hit from a Brute 6.

    She hadn’t moved since she’d been sat at the table, just slumped over it. She looked like a corpse, albeit one bleeding from the eyes. She only roused when he sat down opposite her. It was like night and day. Her chest started to rise and fall, and she gained those little motions every human has. A twitch here, a flinch there.

    “Whats going on?” She asked, her voice rough and hoarse. “I—I don’t know where I am, or—I shouldn’t be here. Please, can I go home?” She sounded like an exhausted, vulnerable teenage girl.

    She should have been in agony. A part of him felt like the worst kind of monster to have not given a girl who’d been shot better medical aid, but she wasn’t just a girl. The obvious physical differences aside, she didn’t bleed right, nor did she move like someone who’d been shot. It was almost as if she’d forgotten about the wounds entirely.

    “Miss Hebert. I have sent in a request for Panacea of New Wave to render medical aid to you.” he said, observing the way she flinched, favoring her neck and injured leg. “We have every intention of returning you to your home in a timely manner, but there are some things we must discuss first.”

    She nodded once, slowly. “Ok. Ok. I just—I just want to g-go.” she shuddered. “What do you need to know? About the l-locker?”

    He shook his head. “No, though that does factor into what we need to discuss. Miss Hebert? We believe you have gained parahuman abilities. Do you know what a ‘trigger event’ is?” He asked, as delicately as he could. Her timid head-shake confirmed what he’d feared. “A trigger event is when a person is brought to their lowest point, the worst day of their lives. If they have the potential to become a parahuman, that is when their powers will manifest.” He said. “We believe the locker--"

    She was staring at him now, mouth open. The fangs on display were not pleasant to look at. “W-what? That—no, thats not, you think I’m, I’m a cape?” she interrupted, obviously agitated. “Because, because of those bitches I, you think I have powers? I can’t—that--” She shuddered. “Not the locker. Not that, please, not, not, please...” she trailed off to a whisper.

    Gently, he gestured towards the one way glass. “Miss Hebert, there were...physical changes.” Hannah shook her head, but triggered the glass anyway. An electrical current altered very slightly, and what had been opaque became, to those inside at least, a perfect mirror.

    She watched the girl stare at her reflection, transfixed. Her jaw worked, the tip of a startlingly red tongue caressing the fangs lining her mouth.

    And then everything went to hell.

    “No. No. Nonono. No No no, not, no, I’m not, I can’t be--” She was breathing like someone who had just run a marathon, deep, panting gasps.

    “Miss Hebert, please calm down.” Armsmaster tried, at least, half standing, hands raised to try and ease the obvious panic attack.

    She was out of her seat, backing away. “No, no, I can’t be, be t-that, it, no.” She shook her head wildly. “I’m not, I’m not, I’m, I’m...I’m...not...finished. I have to go back.”

    She went completely still for a moment, her eyes going distant. Miss Militia dove to the side not a moment too late.

    When she hit the glass, it held, though cracks spider-webbed about a foot from one corner. The glass held.

    The reinforced concrete holding it in did not. Half the window burst out, and the slender figure inside managed to force her way through, scrambling to her feet and settling into a clumsy, loping run down the hall. She was around a corner before Hannah could bring her power to bear.

    The girl left an easy trail to follow, even if she was too fast for anyone on base to keep up. Broken doors, people shouldered aside, holes in some of the weaker walls, culminating in an external window.

    That glass was only rated for Brute 2. She had gone through it like it was nothing. Seemingly to fall into the bay waters below.


    -|-

    Two hours of searching later—two completely fruitless hours of as much manpower as the PRT could muster searching the bay and the lining the quickest routes from the shore to Taylor Hebert's home—Armsmaster did something he rarely let himself really indulge in, outside of Tinkering.

    He acted on a hunch. An errant thought that made little logical sense. But when was there anything about powers that made logical sense?

    He tapped the side of his helmet as he approached the doors to Winslow High. They had been almost torn off by whatever had broken in to the school. Armsmaster had an idea of what it had been. Who it had been.

    “Armsmaster. I believe I have a lead. Dispatch personnel to Winslow.” he said.

    “Militia. I’m on my way, be there as quick as I can. Wait for--”

    “Negative, Miss Militia. Your too far out. I need to get this placed locked down before the early birds start showing up.” He tapped his comms again to cut off her protest, and activated his helmets camera.

    Halberd in hand, he stepped inside, broken glass crunching under his feet. It didn’t take him too long to find her. He just had to follow the trail of vaguely pink-tinged water.

    She was on the second floor. On her knees in front of a bank of lockers, staring at one. It stuck out from the others on either side by several inches, sitting almost crooked.

    “Miss Hebert.”

    She didn’t respond, still staring. He could see her eyes, despite the pre-dawn gloom. They were glowing a dull red.

    “Miss Hebert, please confirm if you can understand me.” He tried again.

    “This is where it happened.”

    He shouldn’t have been able to hear her. The breathy whisper should not have echoed the way it did.

    “Miss Hebert--”

    “This is where I died.”

    She raised a hand, and only then did he realized her restraints had come loose. She pressed a hand to the front of it and flinched back with a gasp, starting to tremble. “No. No, please, I don’t want this. Please.” Scarlet ran from her eyes as she cringed away from the locker. “Please...”

    Armsmaster took a step forward. “Miss—Taylor. Please, look at me.” He tried, even as his fingers twitched on his halberd's handle, readying the net launcher.

    She looked at him, just as a wash of brighter light began to filter into the hallway as the sun peeked over the horizon. She let out a terrified, pained scream as her skin flashed to an unhealthy shade of pink.

    The door to the locker burst open, startling Armsmaster, and Taylor leaped into it’s metal confines. The door slammed shut behind her.

    After a long moment’s wait staring at the crooked locker, Armsmaster turned his comms back on.

    “MS code Echo Echo Blue Seven Three Fox. Unknown parahuman found, current search is ended. Converge on Winslow.”

    He began to switch between individual channels, giving orders, while still staring at the locker.

    He didn’t think he was going to be getting much sleep for a while. He had too many questions that needed answering.

    ___​

    This is about the longest chapter I've written in ever, so, fun!

    Shoutout to Mujaki for a ton of help with this one!

    Hope people dig it!
     
  11. Threadmarks: Frost Short 01: Frost Bite
    Duelist925

    Duelist925 Making the rounds.

    Joined:
    Jun 11, 2018
    Messages:
    44
    Likes Received:
    487
    Tags: Original, Urban Fantasy

    Frost Bite


    I was in the middle of cleaning my gun when the vampire walked in.

    The door to my office reads “Jacqueline Frost: Investigator”. I’ve been a private eye for a few years, so it’s not too unusual for people to just walk in.

    “Can I help you?” I asked, folding the cloth over the pieces waiting to be inspected, oiled, and put back together. She flashed me a careful smile as she sat down, tucking a stray strand of hair away. Her hair was a deep auburn not unlike my own, and her skin, though not as pale as you might expect, looked light against my middling tan. She wore a black jacket that she shrugged off as she sat, revealing a tank top and a pair of worn looking jeans, along with heels that brought her up to my height.

    “I hope so.” She said. She had just a trace of an accent, something from Eastern Europe. “My name is Vidalia.” She didn’t offer a last name, and I didn’t press. For some of the not-quite-human crowd, it could be a touchy subject. Names have power to some. She hesitated, biting the corner of one lip. “I truly do not know where to begin, but I believe my employer has intentions towards me.”

    My hands were laced together in my lap as I leaned back in my chair, studying her. Her makeup was extremely well done. I could barely notice it despite the way it aged her. She’d pass for her twenties to most people. “That sounds like it may be more of a matter for the police, Miss Vidalia.” I said calmly, out of habit more than anything else. She was a vampire, after all, so she technically didn’t exist. And even if she could get past that, if her employer could intimidate her the police likely wouldn’t be able to do anything. “If you are being harassed—“

    She held up a hand, shaking her head. “No, no, not…well, not just that.” Vidalia sighed. “I work for a club in the city.” She said slowly. “You know what I am, yes?”

    I nodded. Most people couldn’t tell the difference between a human and something that looked human at a glance, but I could. I’d always been able to. Still, she’d be able to fool the cops easily enough, if it came to that. Something felt off about her though. That hinky feeling at the back of my mind.

    “Does it bother you?” Her voice was quieter then, testing.

    “Not really.” I shrugged. “People are people, Underhill or Over.” That little bit of slang always kind of intrigued me. Anything not entirely human was part of ‘Underhill’, the magical, mystical, or just plain weird community.

    She gave me an appraising look before nodding. “I am sorry about this.” She murmured.

    Before I could respond she locked eyes with me, and they were the most important things in the room. I stared into them, and I was a teenager again, and she was the first boy who’d ever touched me. The first girl I’d ever kissed. The first time I’d had sex. The first time I’d ever had good sex. I could hear her whispering, but it wasn’t important. Only her eyes were important. I needed her.

    My coat was slung over my chair behind me. The right side swayed slightly, a weight in one of its pockets. Then that weight was gone and in my hand. The sound of a hammer being drawn back seemed to echo in the abruptly silent room.

    “Turn it off. Now.” I said, and my voice was much, much calmer than I felt inside. My guts were twisted into knots of need, and I ached for her in the worst ways.

    And then, just as suddenly, I didn’t. She was staring into the barrel of a snub-nosed .38 revolver. A gift I’d been given. Custom modified to fit my hand perfectly, among other tweaks. I let out a long, slow breath. “Do you have a single good reason for trying to mind-fuck me just now?” I said evenly.

    “I…thought you were cleaning your gun. I can smell the oil.” She whispered.

    “I own more than one gun.” I said. “Answer the question.”

    She held up one hand, slowly. “I am sorry. Please. I will not—I—” She shuddered and closed her eyes. “Please. My employer, he is Strigoi Viu, a witch. He has powers. I could not-I had to make sure you would not succumb. I do not wish to put anyone into danger.”

    I stared at her for a long moment of silence, before I slowly lowered the hammer and set the gun aside. The .38 stayed under my hand though. After that little show, I would not be taking undue risks. “I see.” I said, voice crisp. “Tell me, then. What, exactly, do you want from me Vidalia?”

    She opened her golden eyes and did not meet mine. “I had hoped you could look into him. Investigate. I know he has other women. But he also has a wife. If I had pictures of him with these other women, I could bargain.” She reached into her purse, and my fingers twitching around my gun. “I can pay. There is a retainer. Five hundred dollars, plus your hourly fee and expense.”

    I slid the envelope closer and flicked it open, glancing down.

    “Please. It is not just me. I have friends there. We are afraid of him, and there are not many who will work Underhill.” She said, so soft it was almost a whisper. “Please, Miss Frost.”

    Another long second of silence. I slid the envelope into a pocket. “Alright. Fifty dollars an hour. Plus expenses.” She let out a relieved sigh, before I continued in a harder tone. “Don’t pull anything like that again. Try, and I walk off the case. After I’m finished with you.” She nodded rapidly, and I ignored the little bit of me that twinged when I saw pink tears welling in her eyes. Damn my bleeding heart.

    “Thank you. Thank you. I do not have much more time right now. Here—can we meet tomorrow night?” She took out a pen and scribbled an address. “There is a diner near the club. We can meet there.”

    She stood and turned to walk out, and that sense of wrongness jumped into my brain again. There was something behind that mask. I looked her over and called out before she reached the door. “Vidalia?” She turned, a questioning look on her face. “How old are you?”

    She looked surprised before giving me a sad smile. “I am forty-nine, Miss Frost. But that is not what you meant, is it?” She asked gently.

    I looked her up and down again. “How old were you?”

    “Sixteen.” And with that, she left.

    I glanced at the address for a moment before tossing it into the trash, and flipped the cloth back over to continue cleaning.


    -|-

    There was, indeed, a little diner at the address she’d written down, the only one on the street. Downtown Tulsa normally had more of a nightlife, but I didn’t see any signs of a club nearby—no neon, no long lines hoping to get past the scrutiny of a bouncer, and I didn’t hear or feel the throb of heavy music. So, wherever this place was, it either had excellent sound proofing or wasn’t quite what I thought.

    I arrived at the diner just before sundown. An older woman took my order for coffee and after it arrived I let the black beverage warm my hands from the winter chill. A long, charcoal grey trench coat with too many pockets usually did wonders against the cold, but the wind had picked up and frozen my fingers into icicles between car and diner. The coat might be cliché, but I liked it.

    The door jangled open and a chill breeze played with my ponytail for a few seconds. Vidalia sat across from me in the booth, wearing a similar outfit to before. The same old lady came by, and I was a touch surprised to hear the vampire order a coffee.

    I shot her a curious look and she gave me a small smile. “I cannot take nourishment from it, but I can still taste it.” She answered the unspoken question.

    It set my mug down, fingers laced around it, and fixed her with a mild stare for a few seconds. “So. I need some more information if I’m going to continue with this.” I said, keeping my voice level.

    I was still rather annoyed by the attempted mind whammy, and I think she picked up on that considering how she suddenly seemed to find the tabletop extremely interesting.

    “You said your boss has intentions towards you. What did you mean?” I asked.

    She hesitated before answering. “He owns more clubs. Some are of a…particular nature.” I was fairly sure if she had been capable of it, she’d have been blushing. She began tearing open sugar packets and dumping them into her drink, one after another.

    “Strip clubs?” I asked bluntly. She nodded once, still studying the tabletop and defiling her coffee. “And he wants you to work for one?”

    She hesitated again before looking up. “I think so, but that is not all.” She was rather quiet as she continued. “I told you he was Strigoi. A sorcerer, a witch. He is very charismatic when he chooses to be. Some of the girls who worked with me have gone to these other clubs, and some stop working at mine. I fear not all do so fully of their own will.”

    That made my eyebrow start climbing. “The more you tell me, the more I think you really should contact the police, Miss Vidalia.” I kept my voice gentle. “That kind of coercion is…” I trailed off at the look on her face.

    She smiled at me the way you smile at a child who’s asked a particularly naïve or stupid question.

    “The police will not care, Miss Frost. This is an Underhill matter. We do not exist.” She said, managing to hide most of the bitterness from her voice. “And even if I do get one of the few who does believe and care—what then? They investigate. My employer becomes aware, and if I am lucky, I lose my job. If I am not, I disappear. I do not think I will be lucky, Miss Frost.”

    I heaved an internal sigh and pursed my lips. “I can see your point, I suppose.” Anything to do with the supernatural was tricky at best in official circles. No one wanted to admit the weird shit existed, and few would risk the ridicule of trying. Who believes in vampires, after all? My fingers drummed on the tabletop for a moment as I considered. “Alright, fine. You said you wanted me to take pictures. Elaborate? I need at least a name and a description.”

    “Thank you.” She closed her eyes for a moment before continuing. “His name is Andrei Capreanu.”

    That took me by surprise. “You’re giving me his real name?” From what little I knew of magic users he wouldn’t like that. True names had a power to them. It made me wonder what kind of hold he had on her.

    She tilted her head to one side. “I do not smell the sange magii on you.” Whatever language she’d dipped into I didn’t understand, but ‘magii’ seemed rather obvious. Did not know vampires could smell magic. That was an odd one. Strong, fast, and some weird magic of their own, sure. Still, hardly the weirdest new thing I’d ever come across. I just nodded for her to continue.

    She tapped her fingers on the table top for a few seconds as she continued. “He is short and wide. Stocky? Very hairy, like a tiny bear. He likes to dress up, and wear too much jewelry.” She glanced up at me. “You can come to the club tonight. I work there tonight. I know he is meeting one of his girls—you can follow him and take pictures. He lives close to the club.”

    I nodded, sipping my now tepid coffee. Seemed like a solid enough plan. “And you’ll use these pictures to bargain or blackmail him?” I asked.

    She smiled and gave a single nod. “It will help bring me out from under his thumb.” She said. “He has too many puppets as it is. This way, I can have some small leverage against him.” Her smile grew. “He will not want to risk his reputation. He is vain like that. What others think of him matters greatly.”

    I tilted my head and gave her what I liked to think was a piercing look. “What does he have on you?” I asked, blunt as an axe. “I know your average sorcerer can be pretty damn dangerous, but what does he have that has you so scared?”

    She was silent for a long second. “My blood.” She said, finally, barely a whisper. “He wears it in an amulet. It binds me to him, and protects him. I cannot harm him, and he-” She cut herself off and stared into her coffee. “Blood magic is very powerful. Very dangerous. Especially to one such as me.”

    I didn’t have much to add to that. I didn’t know a lot about blood magic, but I knew it was bad news. People who used it were not the kind of people you wanted angry at you. We sat there in silence until the coffee was gone.


    -|-

    We left the dinner and she led me down the street. The wind caught the edges of my coat, but it did its job as well as could be expected. We stopped at the entry to an alleyway and she gestured down it. “The entrance is there, for customers at least. It would be best if we were not seen together.” I glanced down the alleyway and indeed, I could see the glow of a small neon sign.

    As she started to step away I stared at her, trying to see past the makeup and the heels. Sixteen.

    “How did you become—” I bit my tongue to stop talking. She looked a touch shocked as she turned to look at me. I didn’t know as much as I’d like about her kind, but I knew that was one hell of a heavy question. Why in the nine hells would I ask something like that.

    There was a long and, for me at least, exceedingly awkward silence before she answered. “My husband. After I was sold to him.” Though she was quiet, I didn’t have any problems hearing her. We stared at each other before I gave a stiff nod and made my way to the entrance.

    There, I had to stifle an immediate groan. A small and surprisingly tasteful looking little neon sign over a set of concrete stairs read “Nightlife”. So this Capreanu guy wasn’t just a scumbag. He was a scumbag who thought he was funny.

    Down the stairs, I was greeted by a stout wooden door with a push-plate. Past that, a short hallway leading to a set of double doors. On one side a girl sat behind a counter, and I could see the ‘a customer has appeared’ fake smile slide across her face as she slid her phone under the counter. “Hello Ma’am. May I take your coat?” Her gaze traveled up and she added, “And your…hat?”

    I decided I did not like the tone she used to refer to my hat. I like my hat.

    “No thanks. A bit chilly.” I said, continuing into the club, shrugging my coat off as I did. I liked my coat. I hooked it over one arm as the door swung shut behind me.

    The club was definitely not what I expected. There was no raucous thumping beat, no massive dance floor. Honestly, it looked more like I’d stepped into an old speakeasy.

    A long bar took up one wall, a few people behind it filling drinks or polishing glasses. One near corner looked like it had been turned into a de-factor smoker’s area judging by the haze filling the air. Opposite them at the far end a band was setting up on stage, and in the middle was…well, everything else. There were couches set around coffee tables, booths lining one wall, and tables littered the area. Most of it was clad in thick shag carpeting—the only place I could see that wasn’t was an area in front of the stage that could’ve made a decent little dance floor if the tables were moved off of it.

    Frankly, it was almost a scene straight out of a Bogart film.

    I found a seat far enough from the smokers to keep from hacking up a lung. I don’t deal with it well at all. The chair I sat in was plusher than my bed, and a kid who didn’t look old enough to drink himself showed up within a few seconds to take my order.

    I glanced around and gave a mental shrug. Might as well go all out. I ordered an old fashioned, and he had it back to me shortly.

    I took a sip and almost choked. Not because it was bad, mind you—it may have been the best bit of alcohol to ever slide across my tongue. I stared hard at it and took another sip. Smoke with a hint of bitter orange that burned like a pleasantly smoldering coal down my throat.

    Thank the gods I could claim this on expense.

    I set to people watching for a bit. At the bar a woman with entirely too pointy ears was flirting with man who had vines tattooed across his bald head. He was human, as far as I could tell. Sitting closer to the smokers section was a pixie. Tiny thing lit up a cigar that looked bigger than her arm. A vampire sitting nearby wrinkled her nose and moved further down the couch she was sitting on.

    I glanced back towards the stage. A little commotion there as the band finished tuning their instruments. A man wearing a rather ridiculous hat was showing off, tossing a ball of fire from hand to hand, at least until a server with a stern expression spoke to him. He put it out with a flick of his fingers, sulking as the woman he’d been trying to chat up moved on.

    A figure moved up on stage and the ambient noise of the place dropped as conversations stilled and people started paying attention.

    Vidalia stood on stage as the lights dimmed except for a single spotlight highlighting her. The vampire girl wore a sleek black thing that looked like the modern equivalent of a flapper’s outfit. It was hung over with bits of lace that swayed with every step, and hints of green glinted as she moved. Her hair was loose, flowing behind her as she moved up to the microphone, not quite touching it with a gloved hand as the band started a slow littler number.

    Her lips parted, and the place went nearly silent as she started to sing.


    I almost bit my tongue closing my mouth. I hadn’t heard that song since I was a kid, but damn if she didn’t do it justice. Her singing voice wasn’t as smoky as my drink, but not by much.

    It took until the end of the song before I could pull my eyes away from the stage, and a quick glance around showed I wasn’t the only one who’d been fascinated. Most everyone’s attention was kept on her as she slid into a second song. It gave me ample time to try and find Mr. Capreanu at least.

    Several songs passed with little luck on my part. Either she’d been wrong and he wasn’t in the club tonight, or he was hidden from my vantage point.

    Her set wound down and she leaned in closer to the mic, her fangs glinting under the spotlight. “I do hope all you lovelies are having a wonderful time tonight. I know I sure am. And to whichever darling one of you was thoughtful enough to make sure little old me wouldn’t get too thirsty up here…” She reached down, deftly plucking an Old Fashioned from a passing server. She smiled and took a long sip before she looked out, staring directly into my eyes.

    “This one goes out to you.” And she tossed her hair to one side as the music started up again.


    My mouth was abruptly dry. Reaching for my own drink, a bit of movement grabbed my eye.

    I took a sip, studying the little scene to my right. A short man was talking to one of a pair of women at a table. He was squat and stocky, with broad shoulders and a barrel chest. A stomach strained the rather nice suit he wore, and he bore the bristle of a man who couldn’t grow a proper beard but still didn’t shave enough. Rings glittered on every other finger and a pendant hung around his neck. One of the women looked bored and annoyed. The other was smiling, laughing, and coyly batting her eyes at him. She didn’t have the half glazed or sloppy look of someone who’d had too much to drink either.

    I glanced between the two women. No coats. No purses. If she wanted to leave, he’d probably take her out the front door, past coat-check.

    I waved to a passing waiter for the check. A moment later he returned, empty handed. “It has been taken care of, Madam.” Judging by the ears, he was fae. Or at least partly. I raised an eyebrow but he offered no explanation, just a smile. I could worry about it later.

    Outside I jogged to my car and changed clothes, swapping into a cheesy t-shirt and a heavy jacket before the wind could turn my bones to ice and tossed my hat on top of the coat. I may like the look, but it’s distinctive. A woman in a parka sitting on her phone? Not quite as much, and people tend to remember the coat and hat more than my face. I patted my waist, ensuring my glock was hidden out of sight. Between that and my .38 as backup, I felt about as safe as could be this time of night.

    A quick trip later, and I was parked just a short ways from the entrance to “Nightlife”.


    -|-

    I had my phone in hand when Capreanu stepped out of the alleyway, the girl he’d been talking with hanging off one arm.

    The interior of a car at night is pretty dark, even with a phone-screen lighting it up. Dark enough to hide a camera at least. The pair passed under a street-light. His arm was around her waist, and was just starting to get a little handsy. Click. It’s amazing how much money people spend for pictures. One of my first cases had been resolved with an afternoon with a magazine at a little diner, photographing a restaurant owner’s wife and brother.

    She leaned up and kissed him, and he responded by grabbing her ass and squeezing like he was checking for ripeness. Click. Sometimes I wondered if taking these kinds of pics would turn me cynical about the whole thing. Cheating, backstabbing. Lots of looks at the little evils people perpetrated against one another.

    They stumbled into another little alley, pawing at one another. I’d stopped being shocked by some peoples taste in partners a while ago, but still, I had to wonder. She was a cute girl, and he looked old enough to be her father. Or her creepy uncle. Click. I couldn’t see much of them, but my camera had a nice lens that had cost entirely too much that could. Glancing down at the camera screen I frowned and looked back at the alley where they were still--

    I was taken out of that thought by a tap on the passenger side window. A teenage boy was holding himself, wearing little more than a t-shirt, and tapping again. Jesus, he looked like he was about to fall apart.

    I rolled the window down, eyes wide. “Hey, can I help you? You ok kid?”

    He leaned in my window, and his face rippled as bristles washed over and he aged about two decades.

    “Do not move. Keep your hands where I can see them.” He spoke without an accent, but his voice was hard and clipped. He held a short length of wood with one hand. It tapered slightly, and a line of runes glowed the sullen red-orange of a burned down fire.

    I stared at it and did my best to keep from throwing up as I nodded. Slowly.

    “Step out of the car. Do not make any sudden moves.” He ordered.

    I opened the door, moving as carefully as I could, and stepped out. Camera in one hand, phone in the other, both half raised.

    He stepped around, keeping the wand on me the entire time. Closer, he definitely looked like a small bear, like Vidalia had described. Hairy, wide, and very dangerous. His clothes looked like they cost more than my car, though he had ugly taste in jewelry. Big, bulky rings. The pendant caught my eye. It glittered in a strange way in the night lights, gleaming silvery red.

    I stayed very still as he moved in, heart thudding in my chest. He looked me over once with narrowed eyes.

    “Who are you? What are you doing watching me? Taking pictures?” he growled at me, and the image of him as a tiny bear took on a very different meaning to me.

    “My name is Frost. I’m a PI.” I answered. There weren’t a lot of answers to ‘Why were you taking pictures of me?’ that would sound reasonable, and I did not want to piss off the man glaring at me right then by telling an obvious lie. Why the fuck had I taken this case.

    He grunted and stepped closer, grabbing my camera. A quick look and he tossed it to the ground, stomping on it once. “Who hired you? Why?” he asked in that same growl as he snatched my phone, stuffing it into his vest.

    I must have hesitated too long before answering, because he slammed the back of his hand into my face. There was surprising power in that compact little frame—I bounced off my car, feeling like I’d been hit by a meat coated bat. I looked up, one hand against the side of my face—one of his rings had cut my cheek, judging by the warm wetness—and he gestured with the wand.

    “Fine. Don’t talk. Walk.” He gestured again. I managed to stumble to my feet then, still half in shock and head ringing from the blow.

    He pushed me into the alley I’d seen him and the girl stumble into. She was unconscious, judging by the fog of her breath, and slumped against a dumpster. Down a set of stairs. I heard him mutter something, and the door at their base slid open smoothly.

    In a movie, I’d probably have some way to disarm him, or I’d have set up backup, or I’d be figuring out a plan right then to get out of there.

    In reality, the only thing running through my mind was a litany of terrified swears.

    A short hallway, featureless except for a pair of doors on either side, was past the door. He muttered another strange word, and the wall at the far end opened. A hidden door. Because of course.

    We stepped into a low ceiling room. There were no lamps or electric lights, just faintly glowing crystals set into concrete walls. The middle of the floor was carved into a series of channels that formed a labyrinth pattern. It was mirrored on the ceiling, the only difference being a drain sitting at the center of the floor. A sick chill ran through my stomach as I saw the rust colored stains that covered it.

    A half dozen bleeding animal skins were affixed to each of the walls, and as I passed one it turned its head to look at me with empty eye sockets. A pile of various skulls sat in one corner, and I tried to believe that the one on top was a monkey’s despite its size. The most incongruous thing I could see was an anatomy poster on the far wall, and it made me gut clench.

    He stepped further into the room when the door closed—there was no obvious way to open it—and moved to the far wall. He paid me no attention beyond a sneer sent my way as I huddled to one side. A peg board had a bunch of strange tools that I’d never seen the like of before, and the sight of them only deepened the pit in my stomach as he set the wand aside, and shrugged out of his jacket, starting to roll his sleeves up.

    I shuddered. Shit. Shit. Damnit to hell. I had to find a way out. I had to call the cops or something. I had to—

    I shifted from foot to foot, and felt the weight at my hip. My eyes went wide. He hadn’t frisked me.

    I didn’t think or take the time to settle into a proper stance, just ripped the glock out and started to fire. The first two went wide—that I was shaking from adrenaline and fear is probably my best excuse. He whirled and roared something I didn’t understand before slashing his hand between us. A wave of forced lashed out, slamming me into the wall and fouling another shot.

    He rushed at me, dodging around the labyrinth pattern on the floor. He was fast—faster than he looked. Faster than he should be. Fast enough to make me waste another bullet.

    Then his meaty hand was around my throat and I was slammed up against the wall, before being yanked back and slammed against it again and held there this time. It was like a vice around my throat. I squeezed the trigger even as I felt him pin my arm down with his other hand, and clawed at his face and throat with my free hand, trying to get a hold of anything important. Like an eye.

    “You dare?! You dare, in my house?!” He threw me aside, ripping my hand from his neck. My head bounced off stone, and stars burst in my eyes. The glock went clattering over the stone, too far to reach. “Stupid bitch. What can you do without your gun?”

    I should have said something witty, but I settled for a gasped out, half frantic, “Fuck you!” before I yanked the .38 from my ankle and fired.

    I missed. Of course I fucking missed. I was half concussed, catching up on lost breath, and jazzed on adrenaline. So, despite aiming for his chest, my shot went wide. He barked out a laugh and took a step towards me, spitting a word that physically hurt to hear, and my gun clicked empty. I stared at it in confusion, only to look up as the sorcerer dropped a handful of bullets on the ground. The bullets that had just been in my gun. Of fucking course. I hate magic.

    The laughter stopped when I held up my left hand, and let his amulet fall to the end of its broken chain. His eyes went wide, hand flying to where it should have hung. Amazing what you can miss during a fight. He opened his mouth. I don’t know if he was going to threaten or beg. I dropped it to the floor and brought the butt of my gun down on it before he could say anything. It shattered with single tinkling note.

    He froze where he was, staring at the little silver-red shards. He managed to whisper, “No! No, no, no…” as he stumbled towards me, terror writ across his face.

    The door opened then as I tried to drag myself upright. A wave of dizziness kept me from doing more than propping myself up though.

    Vidalia walked in, still wearing that beautiful dress. She had an almost serene smile curling her lips.

    He backed away. She walked slowly, hips swaying as her heels clicked on the floor. “Hello, husband.” She said in perfectly unaccented English. He was babbling something in another language. I couldn’t understand it. She reached up and pressed a finger to his lips. “Shhh. Shh. It will be over soon.” She leaned in closer. “Do you remember that line, dear husband?”

    I don’t know if the blows to the head were the cause, but Capreanu was shaking like a leaf. “Please.” I understood that much, at least. My vision was definitely swimming.

    “Please? Oh, dear husband. Dear Andrei. You should know better.” She kissed his bristly cheek. “My little friend cut my strings. You have no power over me.”

    He raised his hands, fingers twisting as he tried to gather his magic. Vidalia grabbed each hand in one of her own and squeezed without any apparent effort. I heard a dozen crunching snaps as tiny bones were crushed, and he screamed piteously. Vidalia’s gentle smile widened, lips parting, to show off teeth that were all very sharp.

    She lunged forward and sank her teeth into his throat. His screams were cut off by a wet gurgle, and she guided him to the floor, her neck twitching every few seconds, as the sounds of sucking and slurping echoed in the chamber, and blood pooled down into the labyrinth cut into the floor.

    I think it’s a rather merciful that I passed out right about then.


    -|-

    When I woke up I was rather astonished to find I did not have a headache. I was in a soft bed and warmth fell across my face. Still caught in that little place between sleep and wakefulness, I was a little put out when that warmth disappeared.

    A soft voice murmured, “Thank you Vadim.” As someone left. The voice was what pushed fully awake, like ice-water down my spine. I opened my eyes as the memories of what had happened crystalized in my mind.

    Vidalia sat beside the bed. A small glass full of red liquid sat on the nightstand between us.

    She smiled at me, dressed again in jeans and a tank top. “You have slept the day away. I suppose you have questions?”

    I fixed her with a blank stare as I sat up. I was wearing my t-shirt and slacks. No weapons. I tried to keep my heartrate from speeding up. I failed, but at least I tried.

    “I have a few.” I finally managed.

    She must have heard something in my voice. She held up a hand as she spoke. “Do not worry. You are safe. You have nothing to fear from me or my people. I have never lied to you, Miss Frost, and I do not intend to start now.”

    I kept that flat stare up. “Really? Considering what I saw last night—“

    She cut me off with a raised brow. “Yes. And? What of it?” I didn’t answer beyond narrowing my eyes. “Do you know how to open the door to his little laboratory? I do not think so. As it is quite soundproof, I assure you no one heard the fight between the two of you. Will you go to the police with your story?” She took up the glass of liquid, taking a sip. “I do not think they will believe you. Andrei Capreanu was a businessman to the outside world.” She shook her head. “As far as the police are concerned, my husband committed suicide last night after I confronted him with proof of his infidelity. Cut his wrists and bled out in the bathtub. The detectives found his note. I will inherit his properties, once they have confirmed he was under no coercion when he died. Which they will.”

    I couldn’t see any real faults in her logic. Didn’t mean I liked it. “What was this then? Really?” I asked, blunt as a hammer. “I’m not a fan of being kept in the dark, and you seemed to have given me just enough info to do your dirty work.”

    She sighed. “My husband was a monster. He was Stregoi Viu. He was a sorcerer of blood, and he used vampire blood to keep himself young.” She smiled a bitter smile. “He was over sixty when I was given to him, you know? He was a monster, and he needed to be dealt with.”

    She stood then, stretching like a cat before she plucked the glass of red fluid up and took a sip. “I suppose you can go to the police with your story. It may cause problems for me. But I do not think so.”

    She smiled at me again, and I was suddenly aware that she was being very careful to not flash her fangs at me. Had been since she’d walked into my office. She offered me the glass, prompting a startled look. “It’s called a ‘Raspberry Darlin.’” She said in explanation. I took the glass, and a sip later proved her right. A slight sour beer tang, and the light fizz of raspberries.

    “Your belongings are just outside, as well as payment. I took the liberty of having your car brought here as well, and if you ever wish to return, you have free reign of my club.”

    She turned to leave, stopping at the doorway and looking back. I met her eyes, trying to put my thoughts in order as I processed everything she’d said.

    “I did not lie to you. Not once, though I may not have told the whole of the truth. My husband was a monster, and we were all afraid of him. You have helped a great many people.”

    I managed to find my voice again. “So, was this all according to some plan of yours?” I asked quietly. I did not enjoy being a pawn.

    She shook her head with a small smile. “Not at all, Miss Frost. I did not expect this in the slightest. You performed well past my expectations.” The vampire studied me for a moment. “I thought to blackmail Andrei with some photos. Threaten his reputation. Perhaps, in the long run, end his control over me, but…well. You jumped right to the end, didn’t you?”

    I couldn’t really say why, but I believed her.

    She graced me with another sad little smile. “Don’t worry too much about your involvement with this. It is…simply how things are taken care of, Underhill.” She inclined her head to me. “I have a club to see to, but I bid you a good night, Miss Frost. I hope we meet again.”




    Here's one of my original things from a few years back. I have a few short stories with this character, and they should all be up within the next few days. Lemme know what you liked!

    Edit: Thank you to Mujaki for convincing me to finally go ahead and start posting these!
     
    Mujaki likes this.
  12. Threadmarks: Frost Short 02: Everyone's A Critic
    Duelist925

    Duelist925 Making the rounds.

    Joined:
    Jun 11, 2018
    Messages:
    44
    Likes Received:
    487
    Tags: Original, Urban Fantasy

    Everyone’s A Critic


    As a PI you wind up asking a lot of questions of your clients. What do you want? Why do you want it? When do you need it? When am I getting paid? Those sorts of things. Of course, there are a few less common questions you might ask.

    As I stood in the middle of what had been an exhibit of contemporary art that someone had gone through like a wrecking ball, one of those questions came to the forefront of my mind.

    “Officer McKenzie, why am I here?” I asked, keeping my tone civil despite my annoyance. It was five in the morning. If this didn’t have the hallmarks of a “Police Consultant” paycheck, I’d have been far less accommodating, considering how little sleep I was running on.

    I’m Frost. Jacqueline Frost, Private Investigator, and my life is weird as hell.

    McKenzie was a big man, standing somewhere around six and a half feet tall, which put him a good head over my own height, with the build of a serious gym addict. He had a well-trimmed beard covering the lower half of his face and skin about as dark as good coffee. Gods above and below I wanted coffee. It was too damned early.

    He offered a friendly smile, baring gleamingly white teeth. “Rumor says you work with weird stuff more often now, Jackie.” He said.

    I slowly raised an eyebrow with an equally slow nod. “And you think this is weird? My money’s on a really opinionated art critic.” It was true, I’d taken a few cases with the supernatural crowd in the past. It helped that I had a bit of a gift—I knew what something was when I looked at them.

    Instead of answering he turned and gestured. I followed his finger, looking up to a high window—one that had been busted inward. A series of gouges and furrows in the wall arced down toward the floor.

    “…Huh.” I said eloquently. “I see.”

    He nodded. “Yeah. Up top wants answers, but…” he trailed off with a shrug, giving me a pointed look. No one really believed in the weird stuff, even with how out in the open it was, unless you were shoved into it enough times.

    I was one of the few people that dealt with the weird on a regular basis. Well. At least I’d be getting paid. “Let me take a look around for a bit? I can hit up my contacts tonight, see what I can drum up, but the more info I have to start, the better.”

    McKenzie nodded and slid a little memo book from his pocket. “Officially, no clue what happened, probably get marked down as vandalism. Unofficially, we have about two seconds of blurry, bad security camera footage. Whatever it was, it was big, hairy, and had nasty teeth and claws.”

    That narrowed it down to one of a dozen different things that go bump in the night.

    I wandered around the wreckage for a few minutes, careful not to step on or knock anything around. I was not interested in annoying the forensics team. There were a few exhibits that had been destroyed. A tumble of roughhewn stones that might have been a small shrine. A pile of fabric that looked hand woven, probably a blanket. Pottery shards, too many to count. Torn leather and beads scattered around. What looked like a buffalo hide stretched in a rack looked almost chewed on in places.

    A piece hanging from a wall caught my eye. A leather vest, with some truly exceptional beadwork adorning it. It looked old. Something had been splashed across it in a wide slash, drying into a coating of black crud.

    “Like that one?” A tech said as he stepped over a pile of rubble, carefully taking photos. “Supposed to be one of the centerpieces. Perp didn’t destroy it for some reason.”

    “Really? Looks like he messed it up anyway.” I said, glancing at the greasy black smear.

    “What, the stain? That’s how it’s supposed to look. Actually ticked some people off.” He looked up at it. “It’s an authentic bit of Cherokee work, over a century old.”

    That just confused me more. “Why would someone destroy an artifact like that?”

    He shrugged. “Protest art maybe.” Well, it was a better explanation that I could come up with.

    I went home and a bit of time with Google gave some more info on the exhibit that’d been smashed up though. About half of it was work by James Cornsilk, a Cherokee artist, with a half dozen artists from different tribes contributing the rest. I typed up a few notes before going back to bed. Not a lot I could do until my sources woke up, and most of them weren’t too fond of daylight.


    -|-

    A lot of people are surprised by how much of the PI game involves just sitting around watching tv. I only had so many sources in the supernatural community, and none who could promise the kind of turnaround that’d be useful. Fortunately, McKenzie got me access to the museums security footage. The next several days were just me in my office listening to bad cartoons on my laptop while watching fuzzy camera footage, and I actually managed to find that oh so rare of commodities: a clue. More than that, a suspect.

    I narrowed my eyes as I saw the same face for the sixth time. I’d been through a week’s worth of security footage at this point, and he’d been in almost every single one. He came in near the museum’s closing time, like clockwork, and spent just a bit too long staring at the one part of the exhibit that hadn’t been destroyed. He was dressed like a janitor. Maybe I’d get lucky and find out he worked for the museum itself.

    I took a few screenshots of the best views of his face I could find. If nothing else, I could turn it over to McKenzie as proof I was earning my pay, even if I didn’t know what tied a janitor to the big hairy thing McKenzie had talked about yet.

    Now that I had something resembling a lead, I turned my attention to the other important factor—the art.

    I hit a wall there pretty fast. While I could find some info on the guy, most of it was criticism or praise for his art. There seemed to be a pretty even split between those calling him a destructive hack and those who thought he was the next Picasso, going by a cursory glance. Still, nothing to indicate why his art had survived the destruction. Unfortunately, there was remarkably little about potential enemies, possible ties to the supernatural community, or even anyone he’d mildly pissed off. This was looking like a dead end.

    A new article flashed across my screen. The break in and destruction had made the news. I grinned when I read through it.

    The primary artist of the exhibit, James Cornsilk, has returned to Tulsa to inspect what remains of his exhibit to see of anything can be salvaged. “


    -|-

    It’s amazing how far the words, “I’m working with the police” and an official bit of paper can get you. I’d already gotten to speak with an employee who’d confirmed my mystery man was a janitor named William who worked the night shift at the museum. Now, I sat in the main lobby of the exhibit, waiting for the artist to arrive so I could, hopefully, get a few answers.

    In the past few days, the place had been mostly cleaned. Spilled sand swept up, smashed stone moved elsewhere, with only a few broken pieces remaining to see if they could be repaired.

    “Sorry to keep you waiting. I understand you’re consulting with the police about what happened here?” I looked up and saw James Cornsilk. And beyond him, wearing his janitor’s uniform, was the same man I’d seen a half dozen times in security footage. And just by looking at him, I knew exactly what William was: A werewolf.

    Oh fuck me.

    I tried not to stare at the man holding the mop and smiled at the artist. He was relatively short, and gave an overall impression of ‘round’. “James, yes? I need to discuss some details of the case with you. I’d prefer a more private setting.” He was getting closer. “Preferably now.”

    I moved around, trying to herd the man towards an exit—any exit—but a deep voice rang out.

    “James. James Cornsilk.” He had no accent, but there was an undercurrent to his voice, a low thrum that made the hair on the back of my neck stand on end and had my hind brain telling me, very firmly, to start running and find a convenient tree to climb.

    James did not seem to realize the danger he was in. He turned, friendly smile on his face. “Can I he-”

    He moved fast. He blurred, and before my gun cleared the holster he had the artist against the wall by his throat. He didn’t look around as I cocked the hammer. “Unless you’re loaded with silver, that things just gonna annoy me girl.” He said, sounding far calmer than I’d expected from an angry werewolf.

    I kept my gun trained on him anyway. “Let him go William. I don’t know why you smashed his shit up, but this won’t end well if he-”

    “Shut up. I’m not going to kill him.” He barked, still staring at James face.

    James’s eyes were wide, and they grew wider as the man holding him changed. There was a visceral sound of bones cracking, reshaping themselves as his spine visibly lengthened, and his fingers twisted into claws. I watched his skin split, raw red muscle visible before thick shaggy fur sprouted, and there was a truly disgusting crunch as his jaw snapped and thrust out into a snout. The artist looked like someone who’d just seen the boogeyman, and I couldn’t blame him.

    Despite the obvious terror, James managed to speak. “What do you want?” he asked. “You destroyed my exhibit? Why?”

    William turned and threw the human. James thudded against the ground and slid across the floor, coming to rest under the old vest he had ruined.

    “That’s why.” The wolf-man snarled. That he could still speak told me he hadn’t fully transformed, though his voice sounded like he was gargling gravel. His shirt had split open from his transformation, and it fell off in tatters as he stalked towards the artist. “Why? Why did you destroy it?”

    James struggled up to his feet, looking up in confusion. “Why do you care?” he asked, bewildered. I had to fight the urge to wince. Just answer the question! Don’t argue with the angry monster!

    The wolf moved again, grabbing James by his shoulders and slamming up beside the oil stained, bead-worked leather. “Because it’s mine. Because my wife made it, before it was taken from me by the one who made me this. So tell me why.”

    “What? That—that thing’s over a century and a half old.” James protested.

    “Yes. I am. Now answer me.”

    James looked to one side at the vest and despite being held up by a monster, he managed to look sad and angry at the same time. “I had to make them listen.” He tried to shrug. It didn’t work very well. “I had to—this happens. Every day. I just came from a protest, old artifacts paved over or burned for pipelines and roads, and no one is listening or talking about it. So I destroyed one, and made them listen.”

    For a moment, watching the werewolves’ shoulders heave, I thought he had just signed his own death warrant.

    Instead, William turned and almost casually threw James aside. He was going to be one giant mass of bruises when this was over. The werewolf took the framed vest down, staring at it as he cradled the thing with surprising tenderness. “Find a better way to make them listen.” He said, tucking the thing, frame and all, under one arm. He turned and studied us with disturbingly intelligent golden eyes.

    My mouth sometimes moves without my brain’s input. This was one of those times. “Why didn’t you kill him? Or me?”

    He bared his teeth in a feral smile. “You don’t get to my age killing everyone who pisses you off, girl.”

    He turned and leapt, clearing an easy twelve feet vertically, clawing his way to the window he’d used the first time here. He ripped the temporary covering off and crawled out.

    I stared up, sighing, before I holstered my gun. Fat lot of good I’d done.


    -|-

    I sat at home with a drink that may have contained more alcohol than strictly necessary. The case was closed. Vandalism from an unknown person angered by the artist’s treatment of Cherokee artifacts. Not enough info to continue. James was back in South Dakota, continuing his protest.

    At least I’d gotten paid for my time.




    The second "Jacqueline Frost" story. Not my favorite of the ones I wrote--all of these were for a couple of writing classes I was taking--but I think it's ok. The baseline for this one was using a theme from an artist you were a fan of, and I chose Ai Weiwei, as I find his art fascinating. This is nowhere near his level, but I tried to look at a similar idea or two. If you have the time, I highly recomend you look him up. I'll include some of my favorite videos about him!


    Poetry Makes Nothing Happen: Thoughts on Ai Weiwei from the Indianapolis Museum of Art

    The Case for Ai Weiwei

    Ai Weiwei - Sunflower Seeds
     
    Mujaki likes this.
  13. Threadmarks: Frost Short 03: Foxhunt
    Duelist925

    Duelist925 Making the rounds.

    Joined:
    Jun 11, 2018
    Messages:
    44
    Likes Received:
    487
    Tags: Original, urban fantasy

    Foxhunt


    Today I sat opposite one Marcus Green. He was a slim black man of medium height and the business casual attire he wore sat well on him. A pair of black rimmed glasses complemented his neatly trimmed facial hair. Overall, he gave the impression of exactly what he was—a confident, well to do businessman. Marcus Green owned at least five very well off local businesses, not counting the various chain restaurants he had a hand in.

    “Thank you for meeting me today Ms. Frost.” He had a deep, rich voice.

    I nodded and offered a smile. “Of course Mr. Green. I understand you have need of my services?” There were few other reasons I could think of behind the email I had received some days ago, unless he simply had an extremely odd idea of how to ask a girl out.

    “Yes.” He hesitated then, and I had to bite back a sigh when I saw the look on his face. I could quote what he was about to say word for word. “My apologies, it is something I am still coming to terms with. I have reason to believe my wife has-” he stopped short. “That is to say she has been seen…” he trailed off.

    He seemed almost grateful when I held up a hand to forestall him continuing. “No need to go on, Mr. Green, I believe I understand. You believe she is stepping outside of your relationship, so to speak, and contacted me hoping I would be able to find proof that she is. Or, hopefully, to exonerate her?” I kept my tone calm and professional. People could react in the oddest ways if I expressed sympathy, or if I seemed too cold or too warm regarding such a delicate matter.

    He nodded and let loose a resigned sigh. “Yes, exactly.” He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. “Your name came highly recommended, given this…situation.”

    That was news to me. “May I ask from who? While I’ve certainly taken on cases like this before,” They accounted for a decent chunk of my rent money some months, depressingly enough, “I can’t say it’s something I’ve built a reputation on.”

    He gave me a smile that was, to his credit, only moderately strained. “Your name came up during a conversation with a potential business partner. She spoke highly of your skills, and made it clear that you did very well regarding situations that were, shall we say, out of the ordinary.”

    He pulled a photo from his breast pocket, regarding it for a moment with an impassive expression before setting it on the table in front of me.

    The picture was of a young Asian woman smiling at the camera. Something seemed off about it, something almost like a heat-wave shimmer on the surface. I glanced up at Marcus with a raised eyebrow and he responded with a nod.

    I wore a pendant of a simple stone with a water worn hole in the center, an irregular ring of rock, on a bit of braided leather. A charm to help pierce illusions, and one that helped me focus my particular gift. I held it, rubbing it slightly with my thumb, and the heat shimmer melted away.

    “This is Chun-hwa, my wife.” He said quietly when he saw my eyes widen. A pair of red fox’s ears poking out from the womans hair, and her eyes were shaped in a subtly different manner. “She is a kitsune.”

    I looked back up with a raised eyebrow. Well. This had just gotten a bit more interesting.

    I think I surprised Marcus when I settled on a nod and held up the photo. “Can I keep this? It’ll be useful.” I tucked the picture away when he nodded his assent.

    The rest of the meeting went about as usual for these kind of things, mystical fox spirit revelation notwithstanding. I asked about her hobbies and where she liked to let her hair down. Turns out she loved to dance. He promised to send me a list of possible contacts if he could think of any.

    I prepared to leave as the meeting wrapped up, and he leaned forward, fingers laced together on the tabletop. “Miss Frost, I’ve known Chun-hwa for almost twenty years, and we have been together for fifteen of those. We have had our issues, but I thought we had worked past them already. Chun-hwa trusted me with her secret, with what she is, over a decade ago.” He said. “I do not break this trust easily. I would ask that you be subtle about your investigation. If this does turn out to be nothing, then I will have enough egg on my face.” He fixed me with a serious stare. “I’ve loved this woman for years, Miss Frost. Please, find the truth for me.”

    There wasn’t a lot you could say to something like that. I nodded and gave him the same promise I give each of my clients.


    -|-

    In my line of work it pays to be on good terms with bouncers and doormen, and I had enough good will that more than a few would tip me off, if given proper financial incentive. I’d spread a bit of cash and Chun-hwa’s picture around, and lucked out big-time.

    A week later I was sitting at the bar of a rather popular nightclub downtown, taking pictures of Chun-hwa as she flirted. I’d caught more than a few entirely human cheaters there, both before and after half of my cases had started to include the weirder side of the world.

    It had been a relief to get the tip-off so soon. These kinds of cases can get incredibly boring if they drag out long enough. Unfortunately, I didn’t catch anything concrete on film that night. My little digital camera got several pics of her talking and laughing with various men, but beyond her hand lingering on an arm for a bit too long, nothing hard enough to bring to Mr. Green.

    I’d spent the intervening week alternating research about kitsune with taking pictures of a man’s business partner having lunch with his wife. Something had seemed vaguely off about Chun-hwa. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but something about seeing her in person had the hair on the back of my neck stand up. I chalked it up to having almost been eaten by a werewolf not too long before.

    Tonight seemed to be shaping up better though. Same club, and this time she was going all out. I’d seen her dancing with one particular guy, in that style of dance that was a bare few bits of fabric away from being an all-out mating display, and he was not shy about where his hands roamed while the music was pounding.

    It was a bit odd to watch her up close. Unlike the picture, I didn’t need to use the seeing stone. I simply knew what she was. As she danced, stomped, or gyrated, I would see the flicker of an ear, or the swish of a bushy red tail, and every time she laughed or smiled, her teeth seemed entirely too sharp to be human. It can be odd to see things others don’t, but it’s what I do.

    The less than modest behavior was showing no signs of stopping while they were taking a break and relaxing at a table. She was on his lap, and my camera began to click away as they started making out like a pair of teenagers. I even managed a shot of her leading him out the door by the hand. By the time I made it outside they had disappeared.


    -|-

    He took it surprisingly well. I’ve had clients do everything from burst into tears to punch new holes in my office walls, but he looked over the pictures with a neutral expression. His only comment as he flipped through them the first time was a flat, “I see.” When he had finished the third look through he set them aside and pressed a fist against his mouth, breathing hard for a few moments. “Twelve years of marriage. She-“ His voice hitched, and I busied myself with my computer to give him a few moments to compose himself.

    Finally, he cleared his throat and curled his fingers together, leaning on my desk. “Thank you for your time, Miss Frost. I trust you have the bill ready?” Amazingly polite, considering what I’d just confirmed for him. I nodded and placed it in front of him.

    “I’m going to include an extra sum in recognition of your promptness and professionalism in light of the uniqueness of the situation.” He said quietly as he scribbled out the numbers.

    “Thank you sir, but that isn’t necessary. I’m used to dealing with strange things. All things considered, it didn’t affect the case at all.” I said.

    He set the check in front of me. “Regardless, I value good service. Please accept it.” He studied me for a moment before he flipped the checkbook open again. “I would take it as a personal favor if you would be with me when I confronted her about this, as a witness to prevent any…accusations. I would hire an off duty police officer, but considering her special circumstances, I would prefer someone more used to that side of things.”

    I fixed a polite smile to my face. This was not the first time I’d had this request, and it was something I turned down as a rule. Never a good idea. “I’m sorry, but that is something I’m simply not comfort-” He set the second check in front of me, and the number of zero’s cut me off.

    “Money is no object to me at this time, Miss Frost.” he said simply. I looked at the check, and greed warred with the memory of the one and only other time I’d ever agreed to this. Greed, and the knowledge that I wouldn’t be worrying about rent for some time.


    -|-

    A week later I sat outside a greasy looking hotel, of the variety that has rates for either the night or the hour. I’d gotten the tip off from a bouncer and made my way there in time to see her leaving with a mans hand planted firmly on her ass, and tailed them to this place before making a short phone call. A few minutes later, Marcus stepped out of a taxi to join me.

    The kid manning the counter was easy enough. I slid Chun-hwa’s picture over to him. “You sell this woman a room?”

    He didn’t even glance down just giving me a patently fake smile. “Can’t discuss any customer information without a—“

    Marcus placed a trio of hundred-dollar bills on the counter, staring at the boy.

    “….Yeah, like, I dunno. Thirty minutes? Some guy with her. Uh. Oh, uh, 404.” He said after a moments thoughtful look at the money.

    “Got a spare key?” I asked.

    “I dunno, we’re really not supposed to-” He shut up when Marcus laid another hundred and a fifty on top of the first. He looked up, eyes wide. I could practically see him deciding that this was way above his pay grade. He pocketed the money and tossed me a key. “Just, like, give it back when you’re done. Please.”

    We made our way up in silence. Marcus kept fidgeting with the cuffs of his suit.

    I knew what I was expecting behind the door, and I wasn’t looking forward to it. The floor was mostly quiet, if you discounted squeaking bedsprings and the occasional indelicate noise that leaked through thin walls. The hallway in front of room 404 was quiet though. I unlocked the door without any noise, bracing myself for being on the sidelines of an unpleasant conflict.

    Marcus let out a strangled noise when the door swung open, his eyes bugging out. I imagine my own eyes were much the same.

    On a cheap bed, stripped down to the mattress, were a nude man and woman. I could see three tails sprouting from the base of the woman spine, fox ears twitching in the air. She wore a single ornament in her hair, shaped like a leaf. I almost thought I could see the outline of a fourth tail, a wavering translucent image. It was rather hard to concentrate on, considering the tableau before us.

    Chun-Hwa was not engaged in the oldest traditions of man and maid.

    She’d torn a ragged hole in his side and had her face shove into it. The previous silence as gone, filling with the sounds of slurping and chewing. As we watched, she pulled back, worrying her head from side to side like a dog with a bone, and ripped out a large organ. I think it was his liver. Her mouth, liberally stained with blood, opened impossibly wide and she gulped twice, swallowing it whole. I could see the lump in her throat for a short few seconds.

    It was then that she saw us. Her eyes widened. “Marcus?” She squeaked. I saw a dozen emotions flicker across her face. “Oh no-no, no, this isn’t-I can-” She sounded agitated, afraid. Honestly, she really did sound like she’s just been caught cheating, and was afraid of losing him.

    She moved, one arm raised towards Marcus. He stepped back, shaking his head slowly. She let out a defeated whimper, before her eyes fastened on me, and I saw the sorrow turn to rage. “You did this…” She growled. Her mouth opened, too wide again, and she let out a disturbing hissing yip and leapt off the bed at me.

    I carry a Glock 19. It cleared my hip and I put two rounds in her with strangely muted retorts before she landed. She reacted like I’d thrown darts at her, barely wincing, before lashing out. I twisted to the side, and her fingers—now tipped with inch long claws—ripped through my coat as I stumbled back. She raced past me into the hallway and I tried to follow.

    Outside Marcus was still up against the wall, wide eyed. “She was eating him.” He said, and his voice was curiously emotionless. Shock, maybe. Gods knew I was shocked as hell.

    “We need to leave.” He said. I nodded, checking my gun and going through a tally of what I was carrying. The Glock. A snub-nosed S&W 327 on my ankle. I wished I was carrying a shotgun.

    You almost get killed by weird shit as much as I have, and you might get a bit paranoid about confronting one too. Don’t judge me.

    I glanced down the hall, struck again by the silence in this section, and the lack of reaction to two gunshots from anyone else. I stepped a few feet to the left, and I immediately heard bedsprings and moans. I made a face and shook my head. “C’mon.” Magic can be annoying sometimes, though at least whatever she’d done had kept people from panicking.

    I slipped the clip out of my gun and slapped in a fresh one. Custom made hollowpoints, filled with either sear salt or iron shavings. I had no idea if they were something a kitsune was weak to, but there were enough things on the supernatural side of the spectrum that disliked one or the other that I thought they were a good investment.

    We took the elevator down. It stopped on the second floor, a woman wearing a bathrobe and holding an ice bucket stopping short when she saw it was occupied. I was keeping my gun handy, but discrete—no need to make anyone panic.

    “Oh, which way are you going? I needed some ice…” she trailed off as she noticed me staring at her. Her hair wasn’t right. It didn’t hang right. Her robe was twitching strangely. I touched the stone hanging from my neck and she was abruptly an inch shorter, and I saw the tip of an ear that was not human poke through her hair. She grinned, showing off sharp teeth as she narrowed her eyes at me. Marcus stepped back against the wall as she dropped the illusion entirely. Chun-hwa.

    My gun was in her face an instant later. “Don’t move.” I snapped.

    She laughed. “Catch me, and I’ll let you live.” She turned and ran, throwing the robe off as she did. I crushed down the sick feeling when I saw the rust red stains on the inside of it, focusing on chasing after her.

    I should have been more careful. She turned a corner and was gone by the time I got there. I looked around, trying to catch my breath as I made my way down it slowly. I don’t know how I didn’t see her—maybe she used another illusion to blend in, but she hit me hard from the side, throwing me against the wall. I felt a sharp pain, and glanced down at five clear puncture marks.

    She laughed again, flexing her clawed fingers while she stood crouched before me, her red-stained mouth spread in a broad grin. “I’m going to make you suffer.” She said in a low growl.

    I shot her twice. She smirked as I raised the gun, thinking it would no more affect her than my standard ammo had. To my immense satisfaction, and no little relief, the smirk disappeared when the mixture of salt and iron hit her between chest and shoulder, the sound as muffled as it had been upstairs. She staggered back, clutching her new wound, and hissed at me before turning and running again. She flung the leaf shaped hair ornament behind her as she ran, opening a door seemingly at random and disappearing into it. I staggered after her and yanked the door open, staring at the insides of a closet. There was nowhere for her to hide.

    A scream brought me around and I raced back toward the elevator. I could see Marcus backing away from the fox.

    “Please. Please, I love you. I had to, to feed, I had to. I know I promised, and I tried, tried to stop it, tried to ignore it, but you don’t know what it’s is like. Marcus, please try to understand. You have to believe me. We’ve been together for years.” She sounded like she was crying. I can’t imagine the lashing tails or the blood stains were helping her case though.

    I crept up as quietly as I could, but Marcus’ eyes went wide as he saw me and she turned with a hiss and tried to rush me.

    I managed to get my gun up before she got close and fired again. She fell back with a scream as the salt and iron punched into her bare chest, and I was readying a second shot when she simply vanished.

    The hair ornament she’d thrown at me before fell to the ground.

    I stared at it for a long moment. Marcus picked it up, turning it over in his hands. I think it was the way he looked at it that made everything click. The sorrow. The disappointment.

    I swapped back to my regular ammo as we made our way to the little alcove that held the elevator.

    “So. Was the ‘kitsune’ line yours or hers?” I asked, keeping my voice as calm and casual as I could, despite my growing anger. He opened his mouth, but my gun in his face stopped him cold. “Please don’t lie to me again, Mr. Green. I saw the way you reacted to that scene upstairs. I heard what she said to you. This was never about her cheating on you.”

    He closed his mouth into a tight line. “Well. I suppose this is what I get for hiring a competent detective.” He said.

    I gave him my own thin smile. “Let me be abundantly clear about something Mr. Green. You tried to fuck me over. Don’t contact me again. There will be consequences if you do, and I assure you, my friends are scarier than yours.” The elevator door opened, and I stepped back. “Goodbye, Mr. Green.”

    I watched him get on the elevator, trying to stare me down the whole time, before I made my way to the stairs and left as fast as I could.


    -|-

    A week later, and I was sitting in a nightclub owned by a vampire, reading the newspaper and enjoying a rather nice whiskey. Night Life was one of the premier hot spots for the supernatural crowd, and I’d done enough favors for the owner that she’d given me an unlimited bar tab.

    The story hadn’t made the papers. The place was too cheap to have cameras, so I got off lucky there. Never a good idea to have your name connected to that many bodies.

    Kumiho. The word had come up while I’d been looking at various websites full of lore. The name should’ve been what tipped me off. Kumiho are like kitsune, but kitsune are Japanese. Chun-hwa is a Korean name, and the Korean’s have much different tales of their mystical fox creatures. Kitsune are mischievous bastards at times, but Kumiho…

    Well. They eat people.

    I didn’t look up from my paper as someone settled onto the stool next to mine. “Something troubling you, detectiv meu minunat?

    Vidalia owned Night Life. She was a friend, of sorts, with an annoying habit of teasing me in her native language.

    I tossed the paper on the bar top and took another sip of my drink. “Nothing to speak of. You have another case for me?”

    The headline was some new political scandal. Off to one side, half hidden under the fold, bold print declared, “Local Businessman Missing. Foul Play Suspected.”

    Sometimes I hate my job. At least his checks cleared.



    The third of these that I wrote, and my personal favorite of them. I don't have much else to add, really, this one was spawned entirely when I was reading an old SCP article about a kumiho.
     
    Mujaki likes this.
  14. Threadmarks: Frost 04: Memories
    Duelist925

    Duelist925 Making the rounds.

    Joined:
    Jun 11, 2018
    Messages:
    44
    Likes Received:
    487
    Tags: Original, Urban Fantasy

    Memories


    I could taste blood when I woke up. I was laying on something cold and hard that smelled like vomit, and my head was throbbing like someone had taken a bat to it. I just lay there for a while, slowly becoming aware of my surroundings.

    It was cold. That might have been because I was naked. I shifted, and felt something dig into my wrist as concrete rasped against my hip. I was in handcuffs. Slowly, I managed to sit up and open my eyes, and immediately regretted it. The light was a harsh stab to my eyes. That pain joined the pounding in my skull.

    After a moment, I tried again, with slightly better results. I was sitting in what looked like a storage room. Junk in every corner, a big shelving unit to one side. A puddle of vomit lay near where my head had been. There were no windows, just a few flickering fluorescent lights hanging from the ceiling. Someone had taken my clothes. The side of my face felt sticky.

    I sat there for a while, hoping the pounding in my head would go away. I didn’t try to stand—the way I felt, I’d be lucky if I just fell over. I lost track of time. It could’ve been an hour before the door opened.

    I looked up, doing my best to keep my face blank as four people stepped in. I know what something was when I looked at it, no matter how human it might’ve looked, or otherwise. I just know. A short, stooped figure stepped in first, wearing a dark green pea-coat, toting a pump-action shotgun. He had the discolored pallor of a days old corpse. Ghoul. Behind him came a pair of teens, twins, their skins a much cleaner pale. Vampires. Weren’t shy about flashing fang. They wore dirty jeans and t-shirts, splashed liberally with rusty stains. Last of all came a tall man with impeccable hair and a tailored suit. Human. The air around him roiled with power. Sorcerer.

    “Ah. She’s awake.” The human said. His eyes swept from my hair down to my feet, taking in every unclothed inch. It made my skin crawl. I didn’t let him see me blush or cringe away. I just sat there. He quirked an eyebrow and smiled. “No quips? No one liners before you make your daring escape? Have the movies lied to me? Or perhaps you just know your place.” He stepped closer, his hands behind his back. “Do you know why you are here, Ms. Frost?” I slowly shook my head. His smile widened, though his eyes were cold. “Perhaps this will refresh your memory. My name is Emillian. Emillian Capreanu.”

    That brought me back. A year ago, I’d been hired by a vampire to take pictures of her husband, a scumbag by the name of Andrei Capreanu, with other girls so she could blackmail him. Andrei had been a blood mage. After catching me, I’d managed to remove what protected him from his wife. She’d proceeded to eat him in front of me.

    “I’m not the—“ My voice was a rough croak, and it was cut off when he slapped me. My head snapped to the side and my vision dimmed for a second. Felt like someone had jammed an icicle into the base of my skull.

    “Lie to me again, and I will let my associate sate his appetite. Jasper? Where would you start?” He said, almost politely.

    The ghoul spoke up, staring at me hungrily. “Fingers, prolly. Don’t need’em to talk, does she?” Ghoul’s weren’t picky about their meals. They could eat just about anything, but they had a taste for human flesh. Most that indulged would just raid a morgue. Some preferred their meat warmer.

    “No. No she doesn’t.” The sorcerer grabbed my hair and shoved my head against the wall. It exploded in a fresh wave of pain, and I felt my stomach heave. Thankfully, I didn’t throw up again. “Perhaps you did not pull the trigger, but it is by your hand that the leech was able to overcome him. You are as responsible for his death as she. You are going to die, Ms. Frost.”

    He stepped back and fixed me with a cold smile. “The only choice you have is whether it will be quick or not.” He gestured to the ghoul, Jasper. “I need to know where the leech, Vidalia, rests during the day. Somewhere in the bar? Elsewhere? We know she doesn’t sleep in your home. So. You will give me this info. If you do so willingly, then you will be shot in the head, and your body afforded some small decencies. If not…”

    Jasper smiled, showing off a mouthful of crooked yellow fangs as Emillian continued. “If you are obstinate, then you will be beaten. If you are still stubborn, out of some misplaced loyalty, you will be tortured until you give me the information I require, and then you will be killed in the slowest, most painful manner I can indulge in. And once you are dead, Jasper will feast on your corpse, before I have what’s left displayed in the leech’s little club. Do not test me, Ms. Frost.” He said it with a calm clinical air, as if he’d done it before. “If you try to escape, we’ll skip straight to the torture. I doubt you can get past two vampires, a ghoul, and myself.”

    I stared up at him, eyes wide as he explained what was going to happen to me. My heart was going too fast. He took in my panic and smirked. “I see Ms. Frost has a lot to think about. Let’s give her a few hours to consider her options.” He turned to leave, and seemed to think of something. “Oh, and Frost—if you think one of my pets might turn on me, the way Andrei’s whore did?” He snapped his fingers and both the vampires looked up with one motion, like birds. “They are far better tamed than your leech.” He reached out, tousling the hair of the nearest twin. She stood stock still, neither flinching away nor pressing into the touch.

    The door shut with a distinct click, and I was left alone.

    I fell to my side and starting to shake. I was going to die. There was no way I could get out of this. I had no weapons, no clothes, no phone. My stomach heaved, and I threw up until it was empty, sobbing. I don’t know how long I lay there, just trying to breathe, trying to get ahold of myself, but it was too long.

    I had to get out. I had to escape. I didn’t know where Vidalia slept during the day, and I had no idea why he would think I did. So, my options were escape, or be tortured to death. I struggled back upright, forcing myself to breathe evenly. Slowly inhaling, slowly exhaling, until my heart stopped running a marathon.

    Step one. Handcuffs. I tested them, seeing how loose they were, but no luck—I couldn’t slip a hand through. I worked them down, whispering a thanks to my dad, wherever he was now, for making me take gymnastics as a kid. I managed to work the cuffs past my ass and my curled legs, bringing my hands in front of me where I could get a look at them. I swore as viciously as I could. They were good ones. I jerked my wrists apart a few times anyway, hoping for some sign of weakness, but there was no give. Nothing. OK. Maybe I could find something else. I pushed myself to my feet and started to search through the place. I didn’t want to break my thumb to get free.

    I found a lot of junk, a lot of nothing. Engine parts, hole filled tarps, and a bunch of half rotted wood. I’d have given my left arm for a paperclip. Handcuffs are easy to pick, but there was nothing I could use for it. Finally, back behind yet another tarp, I found a scrap piece of rebar, and the mangled remains of a beer can.

    It took a bit of doing, but I managed to tear the can apart until I had a mostly flat sheet of metal. I folded and twisted and folded until I thought it would do as a makeshift shim. I started on my left hand, working the metal under the ratcheting teeth. I bit my lip as I felt the jagged edges cut into my skin. I ignored it. A little pain now was nothing compared to what was coming for me.

    I ignored the blood and kept working the metal until I heard a small click. I let go slowly, and carefully squeezed the cuffs until I heard a second—and then it swung free. I snatched my wrist away, rubbing at it gingerly and letting out a shuddering breath. The cut wasn’t as bad as it looked. I glanced at my other wrist and left it for the time being. My hands were free—I could deal with a bracelet. I checked the door. Of course it was locked.

    I settled into a corner and examined the rebar I’d found. I’d prefer a gun. Even a shitty gun, but this was what I had. It was nine or ten inches long, and had been cut off at an angle, so there was a blunt looking point. I stared at it. This was all I had.

    I pressed the tip against the floor and put my weight behind it as I started to rub it along the rough concrete. Hopefully I could grind it a bit sharper. I had to keep myself occupied. If I stopped to think about it, I was going to break down again, and I couldn’t afford that. I had to keep it together.

    I ground the tip against the floor, ignoring the growing little puddle of blood under me. The cut on my wrist was worse than I’d thought, but there was nothing I could do. I just kept sharpening. I had to get out. Had to hope I could find a way. Had to forget it was impossible.

    I don’t know how long I sat there sharpening that thing, but after too long of trying not to think I heard the door click. I snapped my head up as it opened and the ghoul came in. “You ready to talk yet, girlie, or do I get a taste-” he stared dumbly at the far wall where I’d been where he left. I came at him from the side, and he stared, stunned for a split second. I slammed into him and tried to stab him as we fell. He opened his mouth, and I shoved my left arm into it. Couldn’t let him call for help. It bit down and I bit back a scream. I stabbed the rebar down where his neck met his shoulder. His teeth sawed into my arm as he jerked. I ripped the rebar free and brought it down again, and again, stabbing him over and over. He tried to grab my wrist, shotgun lost in the melee, but I wrenched it free and brought the hunk of metal down one more time, driving it through his eye. He convulsed twice, biting a chunk out of my arm, and then lay still.

    I stared down at the ghoul for a moment before I leaned over and heaved. My stomach was empty, so I just wound up spitting bile. I was shaking when I pulled myself off of him and looked out into the hall.

    It was empty. The hallway was short, turning to the left at the far end. No one else was there. Guess he’d been sent to check on me. And I’d killed him.

    I’d killed him. I’d never killed before.

    I was still nude. I stripped the coat off him. It smelled like the ghoul, like sour milk and stale meat, but it would cover me. I was covered in ghoul blood. It was cold and clung to my skin. It wouldn’t come off, sticking like syrup. The coat went on, and I wrapped his belt around my waist to keep it from flaring open. I felt a bit better.

    The gun was a Remington 870. Twelve gauge with a pistol grip and an extended mag tube. A quick check told me I had eight rounds, and he wasn’t carrying any spares in his coat. Buckshot. I looked down and yanked the rebar out of the ghouls skull, tucking it into the belt at my back. I might need it.

    I was bleeding, half naked, and I had eight shells to take out two vampires and a sorcerer, but I was out of that room. The ghoul was dead.

    I made my way down the hallway. There were very few doors along the way. The first few were open. More storage rooms filled with junk.

    Past a turn, the hallway kept on. More doors now. I kept going, breaking into something a bit faster. I had to get out, had to leave. I wanted to see the sun.

    Then my luck ran out.

    Most of these doors were closed. There was one that was open. Inside was a girl, laid out on a folding table. She wore fishnets, a torn tube top, fuck-me boots, and a jacket that didn’t hide the needle marks on the insides of her arms. Her eyes were open and glassy, drool slipping from her slack mouth. The sorcerer’s pet vampires were feeding on her—one had its fangs sunk into her wrist, while the other was lapping at a deep cut in one of her breasts. The two looked up, red staining their chins, as I appeared in the doorway. A three-way staring contest ensued before the one nearest me let out a feral sounding screech and rushed me.

    I shot her in the face and pumped another shell into the chamber. Vampires are fast, fast enough to be a blur to human eyes, but speed doesn’t help when you rush straight at a gun. Her eyes and nose disappeared in a spray of gore out the back of her head. The sound echoed like thunder as the second one leapt over the table with a sobbing cry, going for my throat. I managed to get my arm up and screamed as her fangs tore through the coat’s sleeve and into the same flesh the ghoul had ripped up. The barrel of the shotgun found her stomach, and I pulled the trigger, somehow managing not to lose the gun to the recoil. She fell back, a new hole in her gut. I racked another shell, and her knee disappeared. She screamed as she fell, still trying to drag herself towards me, and I pulled the trigger again. Her skull did very little to stop the buckshot.

    I stared at two more bodies I’d made. I tried to ignore them, looking to the hooker.

    She was breathing, but her wrist was pumping blood like a fountain. I couldn’t help her. She giggled under her breath.

    I set off down the hallway again. My foot slipped and I stumbled, almost sending me to the floor. I looked back, and saw a trail of blood. I was bleeding worse than I’d thought. The new bite couldn’t be helping things. It had torn the sleeve open. I could see pink under the blood. A glimpse of white. Raw meat.

    I tried to wrap the sleeve tighter around the wound but it wouldn’t stay put. I gave up on it after a dozen feet or so. I could make it. I just had to get outside. I turned a corner and I could see a door. Fading sunlight poured in through a wire-glass window. I wanted to cry at the sight of it.

    “You arrogant little bitch,” hissed a voice in my ear. I jerked to the side and blasted a hole in the wall as my heart lurched. I flinched as it spoke again. “You think those were my only pets? I have more, elsewhere. Everywhere.” I turned and ran, feet hammering against the ground. I was so close.

    The sorcerer appeared out of nothing in front of me and raised his hands. Power sparked around them. I skidded to a stop and brought the Remington up, putting a shell right through his chest. He exploded in a flash of smoke, and two more appeared between me and the doorway. I gambled and shot the one on the right. It was the wrong choice. I was panicking. He exploded with a laugh, and two more appeared in front.

    “You think you can escape me? The leech caught Andrei by surprise. You think you can kill a sorcerer of the sange magii with a gun?” The voice came from behind me. I turned slowly, fighting back the urge to cry. I was so close.

    The hallway was full of Emillian. They were illusions. They had to be. Some were laughing. Some were crooking their fingers, acid green light flickering between fingers, unfelt wind billowing his hair, fire dancing around his head.

    “You will scream until every breath tastes like blood, and it will not end. You will be violated in every way I can think. You will beg me to let you die, and when I’m through, I’ll have you turned into another of my pets.”

    I stared out over the crowd and narrowed my eyes. I knew what someone was when I looked at them. I always did. I knew a vampire, a ghoul, a fae, a witch, on sight. I was not going to let a glorified magical hologram end my life.

    I don’t know how I didn’t see it before. The air was wrong. I took aim and pulled the trigger on my last shell. Emillian Capreanu fell out of thin air as buckshot punched a hole into his side, obliterating at least one of his kidneys, along with a decent chunk of intestine. People are surprisingly compact, with everything in us.

    He screamed, clutching at the ragged hole. Sparks flashed around his fingers, but I guess it was hard to concentrate on magic while gut shot. I stepped closer. He was still alive. I was out of bullets. He’d threatened to torture me, so he could kill Vidalia. Kidnapped me, stripped me, and left me in terror.

    The pistol grip caved his teeth in the first time I brought it down. He was still breathing. I brought it down again. And again. And again. I hammered it against his face, over and over, until it looked like nothing but twitching meat. The Remington fell out of my hands as I stared down at him. I had to be sure. I pulled the rebar from my belt. It sank into what was left easily.

    The sun was mostly gone when I stepped outside. There was just a bare sliver of it visible, and even that was mostly hidden by buildings. It was freezing cold. I was downtown. Still in Tulsa. Just a few blocks away from somewhere safe. I started walking.

    There weren’t too many people on the street, but the ones that were avoided me like the plague. No pants, no shoes, wearing an oversized coat, and dripping blood. I’m lucky I didn’t see any cops on the way.

    Nightlife didn’t open until eight in the evening. I didn’t know what time it was, but it had to be before seven.

    The door to the club itself was unlocked. I don’t know if it was always like that, or I’d gotten lucky. I just pushed it open and stepped inside. One of the bartenders, polishing glasses behind the massive expanse of wood, looked up, and whatever he was going to say died on his lips when he saw me. His jaw worked a few times before he turned and disappeared into the staff entrance at a run.

    I sat at the bar. My arm was still bleeding. My feet hurt. I think I stepped on glass on the way there. The back of my head still throbbed. My ears were ringing. I hoped they had some medical supplies. Pants. A shirt. A place I could shower. I wanted to shower so badly. I wanted hot water pounding against my skin until I was pink and raw. I put my hands on the bar and they were shaking. I put them in my lap so I wouldn’t have to look at them. I was so tired.

    The door swung open again and Vidalia stepped out. “Frost? Andrew said you-- Care în numele-“ She stopped short, staring at me with wide eyes. She never looked like that. “You’re covered in blood. What happened? Are you ok? Who—are you bleeding, are you hurt?” She stepped out from around the bar and I let my eyes follow her.

    I didn’t know what I was feeling. I wanted to take a shower.

    “Why aren’t you saying anything?” She asked quietly as she neared. “Jacqueline, please. Tell me what happened. Who did this?” She was close enough that I could smell her. Cinnamon and clove. She reached out to touch my shoulder. I flinched away from her. My arm throbbed.

    “Water. Please.” I could barely hear myself. My voice was a harsh rasp.

    I drank what she gave me before staring into the glass. My voice was flat and empty now. “I was kidnapped. Held in a building nearby. Andrei’s brother. I killed them.” I didn’t look up. I didn’t want to see her eyes. I could feel them. “I need to take a shower. Can you loan me some clothes?”

    “Jacqueline, you need medical attention. Your arm-” She touched my shoulder and I jerked away, stumbling off the barstool. I sucked in air in harsh pants, staggering back.

    “Don’t touch me! Don’t.” I clutched the empty glass, cradling my aching arm with the good one. I leaned against the bar to steady myself and looked down at the carpet. “I just need a shower. Some clothes. Someplace to take a nap. Please. That’s all.”

    She spoke slowly. “Ok. Whatever you want. I have a guest room you can use, some spare clothes. You can take a shower, as long as you let me have someone look at your arm before you go to sleep.”

    I jerked my head in a nod. “Fine.”

    The bathroom was big, with a tub that could fit three people. Vidalia closed the door, leaving me alone. I turned the lock after a moment. The coat fell to the tile with a wet sound. I stepped into the tub. The water sluiced over me, pink puddling between my feet. I twist the knob to make it hotter. Steam filled the air. I wanted to scrub, but I was so tired. The water was still pink. I swayed and sat down, wrapping my good arm around my legs. My other arm was pink. Pale pink and white. I could hear someone calling my name, trying the door. I ignored the sound of wood cracking and closed my eyes.


    The last Frost story I have already written, and probably the darkest. There's more I'd like to do with this one, the aftermath mostly, and delving a bit more into some of the worldbuilding I have behind the scenes.
     
    curseofimmortality and Mujaki like this.
  15. Threadmarks: I Am Taylor's Painful Revenge
    Duelist925

    Duelist925 Making the rounds.

    Joined:
    Jun 11, 2018
    Messages:
    44
    Likes Received:
    487
    Gods, I haven't posted anything in way too long. Still, hope you enjoy this! The base idea popped into my head and I had to get it down. Also, warning at the top:
    Blood, self harm






    I Am Taylor's Painful Revenge

    _ _ _

    The sky was a dull grey, threatening sleet. Some new artist had spray painted a chinese dragon arched over the schools front doors, and another had painted a hundred swords impaling it. A janitor was calmly applying a layer of beige over the combative collaboration, letting the wall match the straggling remnants of grass that pockmarked the school's grounds. Fifty feet or so behind him a girl “subtly” sniffed something out of a paper bag before falling on her ass, ignoring the looks she was getting.

    It was a normal day at school. When the school in question is Winslow, anyway.

    I skirted past the girl, ignoring the few glances I got from pale skinned assholes who usually lacked hair or had an “88” displayed somewhere, or the fewer looks I got from the asian boys sporting red and green or a dragon symbol somewhere on their person. I wasn’t exactly either’s demographic. Too white for the ABB to recruit, not pretty enough for anything else they might want me for, and I’d start building pipe bombs before I ever threw in with the Empire. I suppose the Merchants were an option, but too many nights cleaning up after one of Dad’s benders had left me biased against mind altering substances.

    Sophia greeted me with a sneer as I walked past, notebook in hand. A tall, athletic black girl, and the most physically abusive of my torturer’s. She’d taken to camping out across from my locker ever since I got back from the hospital. The only reason she didn’t shove me or trip me were the three or four skin-heads watching the scene from a little ways down the hallway. How fucked up was that? The only reason I wasn’t assaulted was because fucking Nazi’s might object to a black girl beating on a white one, and then that was only if they didn’t assume I was Jewish. Still, the threat of them watching was enough to stay Sophia’s hand, so all I got was a hiss of, “See you later, Hebert,” as I made my way to my first class of the day.

    I was so fucking sick of it.

    I hadn’t even been back a week before the Trio started pulling the same shit as before. It wasn’t enough that I’d almost died from blood poisoning, it wasn’t enough that I’d spent a week in a psych ward after a mental breakdown, it wasn’t enough that they’d ruined my life. No. They needed to keep going. They needed to keep pushing. They needed to make it worse. And I knew, as soon as Sophia tripped me and laughed, as soon as Madison had simpered at Gladly while glue soaked into my new textbook, as soon as Emma had so gleefully told me that “the break was over”, I knew.

    It was never going to end. Not if I didn’t end it. Today? I was ending it. If the school wanted to ignore me, fine. I’d make them listen. I’d make them do something. They couldn’t ignore me after today. They couldn’t sweep it under the rug anymore.

    I clutched my notebook to my chest, keeping a white knuckled grip on it all day. I couldn’t lose it. It was the key. It was what was going to free me. What was going to damn them all. They were going to burn.

    The day passed far too slowly for my liking. My first two classes were pain free, thankfully, and I managed to keep my notebook safe from Madison in World Issues. Pretty porcelain doll that she was, she didn’t have the physical power to leave bruises, or the knowledge Emma had to flay my emotions and salt the wounds, but she was a queen of a thousand papercuts. The best she managed today was a handful of tacks on my desk. I ignored the pain and stared straight ahead.

    At least I didn’t share any classes with Emma until after lunch, and by then, it would be over. I was never going to see her again after today.

    I’d mostly ignored Gladly blathering on about capes, too focused on my notebook. I just had to make it to lunch. Then I could put everything into motion. Just need to make it a few more minutes--

    The lunch bell rang, and everyone began to file out, promptly erasing Gladly from their minds as he tried to assign some reading. I took a few extra minutes to put my things away--it was slow doing it one handed, but I was unwilling to let my notebook go for fear of it “accidentally” going missing or winding up soaked in soda. I had to be prepared, and the notebook was vital. Bag slung over my shoulder I left, but barely made it two steps out the door before something swept my feet out from under me. My notebook flew into the air as I hit the ground, landing next to a set of running shoes as familiar laughter erupted around me.

    “God, Taylor, you’re so clumsy.” Madison tittered. Same excuse she’d given Gladly about the glue yesterday. “Look, you even dropped your lunch!”

    I heard paper crumple as it was stomped. There went my turkey and swiss on rye.

    “What’s this?” Sophia sneered, snatching my notebook up before I could grab it again. “Trying to make up for all that homework you lost? Don’t worry, we’ll…”

    Her voice had dropped the mocking tone as she flipped it open and scanned a random page. I stood slowly, eyes narrowed. I’d spent hours copying a sort of “best of” collection of the shit they’d done to me over the past year into it the night before. I tried to snatch the notebook back with a snarled, “Give it back!” but she was too fast, jerking it away before I could even get close.

    “Em, Mads. Watch the door.” She growled, and I wondered what she was reading. Was it about her? Her mouth tight with fury, she grabbed me by the front of my shirt and dragged me back into the empty classroom. The click of the door locking made my heart jump. This was going to hurt.

    Sophia dragged me across the room, ignoring my ineffectual flailing. I didn’t slow her down in the slightest, only managing to knock Gladly’s phone off his desk. She slammed me up against the far wall and considering Winslow’s walls were mostly made of concrete with a thin veneer of paint, it hurt.

    “What? You think you’re gonna go waving this bullshit in front of Blackwells nose? Huh?” Sophia let me go long enough to grab my notebook in both hands, ripping it in half in a display of strength. “Even if I let you, you think anyone’s going to believe your punk ass? You’re nothing, Hebert.” She snarled, punctuating her points by slamming her fist into the wall next to my head. “A fucking worm. We can do whatever the fuck we want to you, and there’s not a god damn thing anyone can do to stop it.” Another thud as she punched the wall again. “And I’m gonna make sure you understand that.” She was trying to be threatening.

    Any other time, any other person, it probably would’ve worked. Sophia was strong and she knew how to throw a punch. I could see the muscles playing under her skin, and where the skin had split over her knuckles, and I honestly could not help but smile at the display.

    She didn’t like that.

    “The fuck are you--I’m gonna wipe that fucking look off your face Hebert!” she snarled, shaking her fist in my face.

    “You are so fucking stupid.” I whispered gleefully. She stared at me for a split second, seemingly shocked that I actually insulted her like that. It was just enough time for me to snap my head forward. I didn’t heatbutt her in the face, as much as I wanted to--no, I slammed my mouth against her fist instead. It wasn’t a real hit, but I still felt my teeth hit her knuckles, hopefully hard enough to leave a gash. It’d be nice, but not the main reason I’d done it.

    “What the fuck?!” She had taken a step back as she blurted that out, leaving me an opening. I threw myself to the side. I did absolutely nothing to ease my fall. I threw every single thing I’d learned about how to fall safely out of my head. I let gravity take hold of my and bash my body against a desk. The thing was ancient, held together by rust, paint, and prayer more than anything else. The top shattered, the whole thing collapsing. I felt a jagged chunk of wood gouge into my bicep while part of the metal structure ripped a ragged hole in my shirt.

    “That hurt.” I whispered, groaning as I sat up. Louder, I gasped out, “Why would you do th--” before I punched myself in the face. Once, twice, a third time, until my lower lip split. Not enough. “No, please stop!” I half stood and jerked to the side, letting gravity do the work again as I slammed the side of my face down against the radiator. Damn things never actually worked, but try sitting on one and you’ll cook your ass.

    I felt something crack inside of my mouth and spat out half a tooth and some blood as I stood. These pants were going to be ruined.

    “What the fuck do you think your doing?!” Sophia screamed.

    “Oh god, please don--” I cut myself off with another punch before reaching up and grabbing the back of my head. I stumbled forward and used the handhold for some extra leverage as I hammered my face against Glady’s desk. My nose crunched on the second blow, pain exploding from the third. By the fifth it was pointed in entirely the wrong direction, and I’d shattered another tooth. I think I left a piece of one embedded in the wood.

    I pulled myself back up, ripping out a handful of hair that I let drop, and gasped out, “Pleash...no moooore…” through a mouthful of blood. Grabbing my own shirt, I practically skipped backward and threw myself against the wall, the back of my head shattering the window. Glass rained down, and I could feel slivers and chunks of it stuck in my scalp. I didn’t avoid it as I crawled forward, letting it sink into my hands. I left a trail of blood that looked like I’d been dragged through it.

    Sophie hadn’t moved too far from where she’d been when I’d started this little song and dance, next to Gladly’s desk. She was just standing there in shock, mouth hanging open as she watched me beat myself worse than she ever had. I could hear voices outside the door. Not much time left. Needed to finish this.

    “Please...please stop I’ll d-do whatever you want.” I sobbed as I approached her on hands and knees, taking a second to slam my head against Gladly’s desk. It was throbbing already, but ensuring I was concussed was important. My nose was broken, and badly. I could feel cartilage grinding against bone as I pushed myself shakily to my knees in front of her, coughing out a few shards of tooth and a large splatter of blood. Most of it wound up on her pants, but some dripped down to soak into my shirt. It worked nicely with the gash I’d gotten from splintering the desk.

    I didn’t have to fake the tears pouring from my eyes, or the blood oozing from...so many places. A quick shake of my head was enough to splatter drops of blood all over her front.

    Once I’d pushed myself up, I grabbed my left pointer and middle fingers, sobbing as I did. “No, please, please not that, I’ll do whatever you wa--”

    The scream when I snapped both back with a sickening crack was very real, as was the second when I squeezed and twisted them. The angles they stuck out at were sickening when I let go of them. I reached up, grabbing Sophia’s hand as the door shook in its frame, shoving it into my hair. It drove a few shards of glass deeper, more blood dripping from my head wounds, smearing her hands with it. Sophia tried to jerk away from me as the door burst open.

    I could feel my eye starting to swell up and close as she did, my head thumping against Gladly’s desk again. I could hear gasps from out in the hall as a crowd attracted by my screams got a glimpse of what was going on. Of our most perfect moment together.

    The security guard had his taser in hand, staring at the scene before him with a calm disgust.

    “Oh thank god. Don’t let her hurt me anymore.” I whimpered as I sagged in place, crying quietly. From my position I could just barely see the little red light blinking where Gladly’s phone had fallen.

    ___

    I don't even know if this is a Powered Taylor, but if it is:
    QA Expressed as a Social Manipulator Thinker. Has some combat applications, but primarily based off of social engineering with enhanced effectiveness on Capes, and some moderate extrapolation ability. Nowhere near Tattletales power to cold read someone though. The more she knows someone/something/a situation, the better she can work with it, either in planning or on the fly. And yes this was blatantly inspired by a scene from a particular movie.
     
Loading...