Friday, December 18, 1992
Many people think of midnight as the Witching Hour, the Devil’s cursed hour, the hour in which the supernatural is most at hand. Daniel of Toronto knows better.
Most of the Sleepers have literally fallen asleep by 3 AM; most of the earliest morning people haven’t awoken before 4 AM. There are fewer minds behind consensual reality to push behind, and in the freedom of the night, far more things that make no noise in the darkness. There were preconditions on the Tremere Prince’s violation of Elysium, and suggestions. Now is within the time Daniel has been given to gather his forces.
His army is not much to look at. Jacob is chewing a large piece of pink bubble gum kind of loudly compared to the still ambiance, though he’s promised not to pop anything. America Anders is armed with a diverse array of weapons save resolve of will. Alex’s absence speaks louder than either; the trigger-happy Hermetic is nowhere to be found, and neither his own Tradition nor cabal knows where he is.
There’s no more time to wait. The vampires have given their word. They don’t know what kind of opposition they’ll face inside—better not to come visibly armed—but there can be no more putting off than Jahan must die.
To say that Daniel was looking forward to this would be a lie. It’s a necessity that must happen, but it is not one he would ever wish upon anyone. The Ecstatic Mage took all the advice he could get with this problem and did what he could to prepare. He’s jacked up on whatever stimulant he could get his hands on, a little too jittery for his own good at the moment, but still maintaining some semblance of control. Everything is just prettier and shinier and higher. An earbud hangs out of one ear and there is a gun tucked in the wasteline of his jeans, under his shirt. “I just want to sneak in and get this done as quickly as possible.” He tells his comrades. “If we can do this without causing him to suffer, that would be awesome.” Damn Alex, he was perfect to just go in and do it but noooooo.
Daniel is a shady character, Flash Anders remarks inwardly as she eyes the doped up teen and the gun he carries. In her own hand, America nervously fiddles with one of her tranq flash grenades. She doesn’t like any of this, she’s not even sure why she’s going along with it. Easing Jahan’s suffering was the best rationalization the soft-hearted jock could come up with.
It took a lot to trick her Mom, betraying her trust to save her life. From that to Hollow Earth, where America Anders ended the life, albeit of a monster, to protect her friends, and the black and white line America knew so well had been blurred into grey.
“Geez Daniel there’s nothing awesome about tonight,” America said with a shake of her head before taking the lead.
“I’m a pretty penguin,” Jacob remarks. The Ravnos has already taken care of what loose ends he can—he can’t make Daniel’s gun disappear, but it looks and feels for all the world like a colostomy bag now, which should greatly discourage further examination. America’s grenades, on the other hand, have turned into a gaudy mass of balloons, the grenade in her hand the string of an inflated red balloon. It’s definitely not going to keep anyone’s eyes off her, but all they need to do is go in, see Jahan, and shoot him.
Since they’re both ready, Jacob knocks on the door himself—vampires are welcome here too. The woman who answers is dark of complexion and middle-aged. “What walks on four feet in the evening, two feet at midnight, and three feet in the morning?” Jacob asks immediately.
“Do you have any idea how late it is?” She asks. “Do you need shelter?”
“Well no, it was just a…well, it would be better for him, is what I meant.” Daniel swallows and gets ready when Jacob knocks at the door. He looks…well, a little strung out. He stares sideways at Jacob, a small smirk coming to his face. Then he looks at the woman who is questioning them. “Late?” He offers. He could tell her the exact time if he wanted to, but late seems like an appropriate enough answer. “Could we?”
America turns and looks back the way they had come, scanning the area while they are held up here. “Ya we need a place to… rest.”
She opens the door further but doesn’t quite move out of their way. “Do you know the rules?” She asks. “This is a free house. We ask that those who seek refuge here forget their hostilities.” She waits for some acknowledgment from them before moving out of their way—there seems to be an unspoken understanding they know exactly what kind of people are within and what hostilities they’re forgetting.
“Because it is late you can rest if you like. Rooming is divided by gender, not by kind or clan. In the morning, if you wish to stay longer, we can talk about how you’ll contribute to the house.” The interior of the Old Man‘s is a large manor leftover from the time of the Underground Railroad. It’s furnished comfortably, although with as many who stay here it must get pretty uncomfortable at most other hours. The one other person they see inside, a man watching TV, has a vampiric look to him, but there are sounds coming from other parts of the house.
Jacob turns his head to the right, staring down a hallway, and wanders two steps in that direction once they’re inside.
Daniel bobs his head. “Thank you.” He says quietly. Because it’s late and being quiet in a quiet house seems smart. He looks toward the man watching TV, though he’s not about to approach him. In fact, he thinks they should just find Jahan, get what they need to do done and then get the hell out of there. He watches Jacob turn, lips pursed but deciding to pursue where he might be going.
The woman makes a sound as two of the three just veer off into the hall. “Where do you think you’re going?” She asks, looking back at the one still standing in front of her. Jacob picks up speed.
America turns herself and reaches out to gently touch their host on the shoulder, guiding her attention away from the others with his lopsided smile. “I really appreciate you taking me in at this time. I’m more than happy to help with chores and such, ma’am, but I wonder if you’ve got something to eat?” she asks with a pat to her tummy. The gal is genuinely hungry.
She doesn’t just magically forget about the two guys going down the hallway, but America does at least monopolize her attention. “And where are they going?” She asks the young woman half-standing in her way. “This is not a funhouse.”
This hallway is much, much longer than it looked on the outside of the house. Jacob turns to the left, out of sight of America and the greeter, and then hesitates, looking straight ahead, at the door at the end of the hallway. Daniel feels the texture of the colostomy bag against his skin begin to change—Jacob’s going to drop the illusion in a moment.
In the meantime, getting out of Jacob’s sight? Somehow he forgot that would make all the glamour on America disappear. Abruptly, America’s magical red balloon becomes a grenade—not like the greeter can tell it’s non-lethal—and her chilish, beautiful array of balloons and accessories become something more appropriate for Rambo. The woman screams. It’s not a terrified scream, judging by her eyes, it’s more a calculated scream to get the attention of as many people in the house as possible. She screams again.
Lost in his own world, Jacob can’t hear the screaming, and even Daniel hears the noise but faintly. What is down the hall commands their attention much more—and for a moment, Daniel sees the flickering apparition of a woman in the corner of his eye, gone before he can identify anything about her besides a light complexion and dark hair.
Jacob opens the door. Jahan is sitting up on his bed in the dark, covers bunched around his waist. “I thought you would come,” He says to the vampire.
Daniel is still following the vampire, though his head does turn when he hears the woman scream. “That’s not good.” He murmurs. Poor America, abandoned by her friends with all her grenades. Daniel does stop for a moment, trying to figure out if he should go forward or back. Forward does win out. He continues following Jacob until he opens a door. He stops out of sight and swallows.
“Woah woah woah!” America exclaims with worry, raising her hands up in peace. Her gaze is drawn to the flash in her hand and she stuffs it into her pocket and shakes her head. “Relax ma’am!” she reiterates, hoping to stall this inevitable monster fest out. “No trouble here, right? I was just protecting myself outside. No fighting here, I know!”
America backs up a step to give the woman her space as she pleads her case.
The vampire saunters over lazily. “Everything will be fine,” He tells the greeter, nodding to America, and she relaxes visibly. She wouldn’t even have screamed had she not drawn the conclusion her two friends might be armed and heading over to cause trouble.
Three women and a man rush up from different parts of the house—one of them, standing a few inches taller than America and much hairier, looks more physically powerful than any of the girls America used to hang out with. They fan out around America.
“It’s okay, it was a misunderstanding,” The vampire says quickly. The woman looks at him, hesitating. “Even if it was, if her friends are under the same misunderstanding they may be armed and in the house.”
Jacob glances from the bed to the door frame. He hesitates, but Jahan speaks. “Hi. I wasn’t expecting you, though. Not really. You might as well come out now.”
“We totally came to have you rejoin the cabal,” Jacob says quickly. “Five without a thumb is four.” Jahan looks querulously at the illusionist.
Daniel? Still hiding around the corner for the moment. He gets in a little closer to listen to the conversation Jacob is trying to initiate. Yup. Not getting involved yet.
America nervously chuckles and shakes her head, “Naw they’re not that sort. You can tell I’m the big guns.” Flash Anders puts on the gun show, flexing her muscles and such despite being in dangerous company.
“Besides, none of my stuff causes any long term harm. My Grandma raised me not to do any harm,” the jock can say honestly.
“Where is the Old Man?” The werewolf asks. Typical for one of them to look to an authority figure.
“Busy,” Says one of the other women. She draws a pair of mirrorshades out of her pocket, and when she slips them on her face, she might as well be cut from the same cloth as Xifeng Lin, despite being white and red-haired. “Why are you here?” She asks, directing the man and woman down the hallway after Daniel and Jacob.
“Most of them are trying to kill me,” Jahan points out. By the way, thanks, Daniel. Jacob may be a bit unsettled by the way Jahan is staring into the air, but he rolls with it. “Will survived the Nephandi. He’s still trying to save the world. But he can’t do that without you and ”/characters/sonia-farooqi" class=“wiki-content-link”>Sonia." Jacob winces. Finding his own voice amongst all the other voices in his head hurts; he’s not sure how long he can hold the conversation in this moment. “You three are all that’s left of the original cabal that I broke.”
“And Sonia’s in the Umbra,” Jahan adds. “Yes,” Jacob answers.
Man, Daniel is getting a little thrill out of this without the drugs. His heart is racing a little as he thinks about the fact that one, that lady was screaming, two, America is still down there, three, he has no idea what’s going on and four, Jacob is just chatting it up with the little crazy-pants in the room. Despite the depravity of the situation, it’s got his heart pounding and his blood running. “This is going to end so badly.” He whispers to himself. Or maybe it won’t. Who knows. Oh wait, isn’t he supposed to know? He’s waiting, for that perfect moment, the one that just feels
right to him. And it’s coming. He thinks. He pulls the gun out of the back of his shirt and gets ready. Safety off, get a little closer to the door. Jacob, keep distracting.
Flash watches two of them head down the hall towards the trouble Daniel and Jacob are about to start. Not good.
The jock turns her gaze to the woman wearing the mirror shades and reaches her hands into her pockets, one hand holding the grenade again. “We needed a safe house after your people chased us down like dogs in the street. Like you always do,” America says, contempt in her voice. She turns her attention to the Vampire and shrugs, “Do you always give refugees the fifth degree? So you’re on her side in here? You work for a technocrat?”
The blonde vampire rolls his eyes. “Don’t be ridiculous,” He tells America. “She’s a refugee here just like you are.” He stands nearly a foot shorter than the werewolf, and vampires are not known for being able to stand up to Garou in physical confrontations. Unintimidated, he looks at the three women with them. “Now go. I’ll take care of this.”
The Woman in Black stands there, staring at her, but the werewolf reluctantly slinks off. The blonde man crosses his arms, irritated, but his attention falls onto the Technocrat, not the door greeter drawing strength from her duty. “I think it would be easiest if you just turned over your weapons,” The Operative suggests.
“Sonia’s okay,” Jahan says slowly. “But I don’t want to go with you. I want you to come with me.” He holds out his hand.
It’s now or never. Especially with Jahan’s line, I want you to come with me. Daniel doesn’t even speak. He just…prays. He prays to whatever force might help him. And he twists into the frame of the door, aiming past it and Jacob as he fires on Jahan. There is a certain grace to his movements, fluid until the shot is fired and it jerks his body.
The recoil is a lot more than Dan is expecting, or maybe the vampire just moved at the wrong moment. The Azerbaijani boy flinches, startled, as Jacob’s unnatural black-red blood splatters across his face, his eyes… into his mouth. He licks his lips reflexively.
Jacob stares down at the hot feeling in his chest, almost not comprehending what just happened.
With his hands in his pockets, America activates the timer on the tranq grenade, cooking it as she shakes her head. “Alright I gue-” Anders capitulates before being interrupted by the gunshot.
The Etherite gasps and pulls her hands out of his pocket. With a shake to activate the sticky reaction, she hands the softly ticking tranq grenade to the Operative and steps towards the hallway.
“Was that a gun?!”
Well, that is definitely not what Daniel intended to do. Damned vampire. He swallows, eyes wide as he stares at Jacob staring at his chest. Well fuck. But he can heal that. Right? Yeah. No worries. Focus on the problem at hand. Center yourself. Steady the hand. Slow everything down and focus entirely on what he needs to do.
Daniel tries again. He points the weapon at Jahan, aims and fires yet again. There is no malice in it, no panic, no hesitation. Just…make this happen fast. Please.
Everyone looks down the hallway. Both of the women begin to move toward the hallway—and the blonde vampire moves like a blur, taking the Woman in Black and slamming her into the floor so hard her eyes roll back into her head.
Jahan is, briefly bewildered, but he knows exactly why someone might want to kill him. He grabs his wrist-mounted handheld and keys in a sequence, before dropping his hand, gasping like a fish. Daniel and Jacob feel a sickening convection, like something pulling toward the center of the room. Paradox, but neither Daniel nor America feel any pile on them.
As Daniel raises his gun again, Jahan leaps down to the ground, barely disentangling himself from his bed sheets in time. He rolls across the floor, the shot going overhead, into the wall where he’d been sitting. Jacob focuses, eyes closed, knitting himself back together with his blood.
Having encountered werewolves before, America Anders doesn’t chance the possibility the hairy guy is on their side or not. She pulls out a sticky grenade. Either she’ll close off a hallway to fence the dog in, or she’ll sticky the beast himself.
Poor Jacob. He just gets to stitch himself up and get over it. Daniel, on the other hand, is not giving up. He moves quickly with Jahan as the boy jumps, trying to predict his movements, to keep on top of what he might do next or where he might move to next. He fires again as soon as he thinks he has the shot.
The werewolf has a bit of a head start down the hallway, but since it’s not as if she knew the others headed to Jahan’s room, not as much as you might think. As America careens over into visibility, her grenade catches the Garou in the back unexpectedly. It explodes into a shower of goop, pinning her to the ground. She screams with disgust and rage. Behind the jock, the vampire lays his hands on the door greeter.
If Daniel or Jacob happens to look back, anything happening beyond the doorway looks strange, as if a rippling, translucent membrane were covering the door. It dims the sounds happening in the hallway, making it very inconspicuous if one doesn’t look right at its faintly orange folds.
Jahan, once again, tries to key in a command, and once again, flinches, his muscles spasming as the force of paradox comes upon him. This time, Daniel’s gun moves almost of its own accord. The Marauder tries to move, too slowly, as the bullet takes him in his off arm. His lips peel back from his teeth.
Jacob finishes regenerating, catching his breath and trying to figure out what’s going on. His eyes flicker toward the door. Is he doing that? There’s something really wrong in this room. He looks up at the bed above Jahan’s own. “There was a people in that,” He mutters. “Where did he go?”
Outside the rippling madness, Flash Anders strides over to where her glued catch lays, pinned and angry. The jock activates another tranq flash and takes care to get close as possible and drop it on the struggling werewolf.
“Hurry up in there!” America calls out.
Let’s focus on the rippling madness after the madman is dead. The Ecstatic mage like that whatever, where-ever it’s coming from. That’s right, gun, you just move on your own. Direct me. Guide me. Lets stop him and stop his suffering before it’s too late. He fires again at Jahan, the words Jacob is speaking registering in the back of his mind. He didn’t even think about the fact that there might be someone else in here with them. It’s not until that fourth shot goes off that Daniel even glances toward the bed. “What do you mean?” He asks the vampire, though his eyes fix back on Jahan.
“There was somebody in the top bunk,” Jacob points out. Nobody looked at the other bunk when they came in, but while the top is empty, the bottom bunk has somebody inside it. Nobody could sleep through something like this but he isn’t moving. Jacob walks over in front of the Marauder and snaps his fingers in front of his face. “Hello? Jahan? Focus. What did you do with your roommates?”
A long, wide, high, very long tongue slides out of the door into the hallway. It rushes down the corridor like a river, washing the stunned werewolf free from her perch, and America too, if she remains standing still.
Jahan isn’t following Jacob, because Daniel just shot him again. He falls, gazing upwards, trying to make sense of what his life has become. He reaches for Cadence’s hand.
“Geezaloo!” Anders yelps, trying to dodge the gross tongue with a dance and a spin reminiscent of her time on the field dodging an oncoming blitz.
“It’s a marauder here Marmaduke, and if you don’t help us end this nonsense this house is going to eat us both!”
Daniel watches the kid fall, wincing as it happens. He takes a tentative step closer, lowering the gun for the moment. He glances at the bed again, worry painted on his features. “Jacob. Can you check the bed?” He asks quietly. He’s still tense and ready to fire again if he has to. He stares for a long moment at Jahan as he attempts to ascertain how much life he’s got left in him. “I’m sorry.” He murmurs. He looks sad and pained.
America encounters some resistance as the tongue almost touches her, pushing her out of the hallway as it lifts up and pulls its contents back into the bedroom.
“I don’t want to go,” Jahan says, enclosing his fingers around Cadence’s. She’s not Death, she can’t simply take him, but he has one foot on the precipice. Jacob hesitates, looking at him uncertainly, gaze going back to the honey-yellow membrane.
The figure in the other bunk throws his sheets off. His naked skin is dark and covered in stars, completely lacking in features like eyes or a mouth. Geometric green lines hover around him in patterns that seem solid but are actually so terribly broken if you look at them too long, like nine irregular halos radiating around his entire body.
“Iron? I am he as you are me,” The Marauder says to Daniel. Cadence feels the force of time pull her away from Jahan, pull her back. The hallway is now empty again. Around the corner, America runs into the blonde vampire. “What’s happening?” He asks insistently. “You didn’t say your Marauder was this powerful.”
“Powerful enough to make me blow up,” Flash explains with basically all the info she has, “but they should have killed him with all those gunshots.”
America turns back towards the hallway and looks to the other doorways, “What’s in the room next door?”
“And we are all together.” Daniel finishes the Beatles quote. There is something…off about this. Very off. Is he hallucinating or is that man literally just a starry blob? He stares around before looking at Jahan once more. “You’ll get to start over.” He whispers as he lifts the gun and fires a final shot at the boy. Then? He starts to back up and take things in again.
The bullet slows down. Its path is very visible as it leaves its gun.
Jahan stands up. His body is pulled back through its motions, the last bullet Dan delivered leaving his chest, his wounds knitting themselves back up.
Their paths cross; Joshua wasn’t fast enough. The second bullet crosses into Jahan’s form, pulled forward, who continues his motions forward (backward) as if he wasn’t just shot. The first bullet backtracks, striking Daniel in the shoulder. It’s not like being shot—the bullet isn’t traveling fast enough for that, or something (Time magick shouldn’t ordinarily affect momentum but Marauder!). The impact is hard enough to leave a bruise and drop his gun, maybe even leave stars in his eyes, but it doesn’t penetrate, dropping to the floor.
Jacob drops down into a crouch, staring at the bullet. Something strange is going on, even by Marauder standards. “Cadence,” He calls out. “What’s wrong with the ghost?” The membrane intensifies on the door, vibrating a brilliant purple.
The temporal deceleration is, for Jahan, a bit too much. So much vulgarity and emotional stress on his already fractured self is enough to propel him over the next edge. From down the hallway, America’s Primal detection equipment informs her Jahan has reached a new level of madness.
And then it dissolves, the vampire staring at it.
America takes a moment to open and close the hand that now lacks her prime detector. Her gaze lifts to the vampire. “We’re gonna need a bigger boat?”
Flash gestures for the blonde blood sucker to follow her as she enters into the room adjacent to the goings on. The landlord should sue, this house was build wonky, or has become so through the sick perversion of Jahan’s madness.
Tearing off 2 corrosive grenades, flash mixes them up and sticks them to points on the wall most likely to bring it down quickly.
“Things must be intense for this to still be going on. We’ll have to act fast. The marauder… he’s a kid,” America Anders explains with reluctance.
“That’s not supposed to…” Daniel watches with wide eyes as time seems to shift around the bullet and then around Jahan. “Oh
shit.” The gun falls from his hand as he’s smacked in the shoulder, thankfully it doesn’t go off. He stumbles backward a few steps and instinctively grabs his arm. He tries to steady himself, eyes still wide, trying to get a better feel for his surroundings. “Jacob…you might wanna get out of here.” There is bad juju at work here, and it’s time to countermagic the crap out of it. Which is totally what he’s going to start doing.
Daniel feels a sharp twist in his perception and ecstasy, feels his own desire for orderly illusion overriding the fragments of Joshua’s will. This is almost too easy—is the Marauder not actively opposing him? “That’s nice Cadence,” Jacob says disinterestedly. He really doesn’t think that’s relevant right now. He looks like he’s about to respond when Jahan speeds past him, aided by Time magic (although, Daniel might observe, not enough to let him move that quickly).
“What is that going to do?” The vampire demands. He’s cautious, maybe even worried, but he’s still standing a room away from TWO Marauders. Not that he knows about the second, but there’s definitely something fucked up going on in there. “Can you not neutralize him direc—” Something bowls into him hard enough to send him staggering into the wall. As calmly as if he weren’t just in motion at all, Jahan stands there, right by America, keying in commands on his wrist-mounted computer.
“Uh.” Jacob says, looking at where Jahan just left. He looks back to Joshua, and then back to Jahan. Then he walks over and stands in the doorway, one leg in the room and one leg out. “Ok any bright suggestions sunshine? Hey, where’s my cat?”
“Crap crap crap!” America shouts. The etherite twists at the waist and draws an electric flash from her waist, dialing it to eleven, and sending the frothing sticky grenade towards her former ally. “What kinda life is this for you, Jahan?! Look what you’re doing to people!”
This is way too easy and part of that strikes him as off. It doesn’t stop him from trying to stop the crazy marauder, though. Or one of them. Daniel watches Jahan leave at the speed he does and while there is some fleeting instinct to go after the boy, he does not. He feels like Joshua may be a bigger problem. “Jacob, go after him!” He speaks a little louder than usual, far-away but with some amount of command in his voice. You know, assuming the vampire will actually listen. “Hurry, get Jahan!” Then all of his attention goes right back on countermagicking Joshua as he focuses his ecstatic energies there.