The girl seemed to be barely holding together; just skin and bones. However, in these fashion-sensitive times, these pitiful females were the epitome of beauty. David surpressed a inward feeling of revulsion. These mortals were too concerned on how they looked on the outside, not that Depaul wasn't, but the people inside were far more interesting than their skin.

            He brushed off the soot from his coat and stepped into the shadows. His target never noticed him watching her. She shuddered instinctively, feeling the chill of the night, and perhaps the primal fear of the darkness. It was late summer on Avalon, and with the pollution controls growing lax around the capital, it seemed to get colder every year.

            The young adult passed into an alleyway. David followed quietly, calmly, as he felt the hunger coming to him. He could feel the pulse of the lady's blood. Depaul could almost taste it. His mind reached out to hers. Ah, yes. Her apartment was nearby. I can wait.

            The vampire paused before the glare of the street lamp hit him. The woman walked across the street to a run-down apartment building, with old, dingy posters covering the first floor of the building. He realized he was near the university district; of course, no sensible person with money would live in a hovel like that. College students, on the other hand, were a different breed of person.

            Once the lady disappeared inside, David made his way across the street. He remembered those carefree days in Cape Town. The sun was warm and he wasted his money as if it were candy. He had learned so much since then. Depaul shook off the memory; it wasn't good to live in the past.

            He went inside and up the stairs to the address written like fire across her thoughts. Reaching the young lady's door, he placed his hand upon it, feeling her presence inside... and no one else. Excellent. The door was unlocked; it came open with an easy push. The lady was simply standing in front of the badly laquered furniture, amidst a flurry of posters, decorating the apartment. As she put down her second earring, she flipped around, her long brunette hair tossing as her face flushed with surprise. "Who are you?"

            "Don't worry, child," David replied, staring deep into her eyes, "I'm here to spare you from the night."

            "Why..." was all she murmured before his will was indelibly pressed upon her own.

            "Don't ask. Just let it happen." Depaul whispered, closing the door behind him, and walking toward the lady. "Not that you had much choice."

            Approaching her beautiful face, tastefully applied makeup hiding her flaws, but she was truly an artist. Kissing her on the cheek, David could taste her skin, the softness of it all, with the smell of vanilla coming from her neck. His head swivelled down to her pulsing jugular and he could contain himself no longer. Plunging his fangs into her, she uttered a singular pant, as the shock of the initial puncture hit her. Then her whimpers fell into moans of passion as her lifeblood poured into his mouth. The vampire was _so_ thirsty and her fresh, youthful blood refreshed his body and soul.

            He made sure not to kill her, and with a single lick, the holes in her neck disappeared. She'd sleep for a day or so; maybe she'd be sick for the week, but she'd live. It would be a pity to let such a beautiful woman die for no reason but to fill his belly. He took her limp frame by the waist and lifted her to her bedroom. Tucking her in neatly, Depaul curved the outside of her breast with his hands, remembering Alexandra, and of the many nights he had spent by her side. However, she was dead, he knew that, over two hundred years ago before he embraced the night.

            The front door opened in the background and another female voice called out, "Marya! Are you home?"

            Ah, David checked his watch, there was always time for seconds.


            Depaul made it into the orbital shuttle before the sun rose over the capital city. Cornelius sat in the seat beside him, looking over the Avalon World-Times, keeping one eye over the crowd. The ship pulsed off with barely a shudder. David took the sports section from beside the werewolf while his companion devoured the latest headlines. The vampire looked outside, comforted by seeing nothing but the blackness of space, safe from the garish rays of the sun. He glanced at the paper and cringed. Vitek United beat Stratfordshire AGAIN in football... oops, soccer, he reminded himself. They called it soccer now. Heathens.

            Finally, he looked over at Scipio and asked, "Have the arrangements all been made."

            "Yes. They all know the plan."

            "Excellent. This may really save us in the end."

            "I don't know, sir."

            Depaul raised an eyebrow. "Why not?"

            "Smugglers will get caught. Can we trust them?"

            "Do you see another alternative?" David asked. Cornelius shook his head and sighed. "Then we have no choice. Hopefully, it'll pass by word of mouth, and we'll be able to spread the risk."

            "If they talk?"

            "We have our own contacts for that. We know how to handle the BDE." The Bureau of Drug Enforcement was about as effective as a screen door on a spaceship. With their budgets cut several times by the Senate, they tended to concentrate their efforts on planetary customs. For extra operations, they depended on Earth Fleet, but since they better things to do, they seldom lent ships for such small crimes.

            Cornelius was somewhere in the local news. Werecat gets stuck in tree or some other nonsense. Depaul looked at him and said, "When we get home, I need you to get in touch with your friends. Grishan comes to mind."

            Now Scipio raised an eyebrow. Colonel Nikoli Grishan, commander of the 2nd TI Division, 5th Legion, was one of their best contacts. His unit was permenantly placed on Proxima although there was really no need. The place was about as active as an asthmatic turtle. However, it was silly to use him too much; might draw attention to him that might compromise them. "Are you sure?"

            "Do you know who else would have the necessary access? He'll know where that... merchandise left from."

            Cornelius simply nodded and went back to his paper. A few minutes later, the shuttle finally reached the orbital station. Catching a flight from here to Proxima Centauri shouldn't be too difficult, he thought. A few days and they'd be home again. Home to rain, soot, and boredom. David was already missing Avalon. Oh well, he thought, at least they wouldn't stay long.


            Back home; what a funny term. They had only been on Proxima 3 for... what, fifty years at most? Where he had grown up had been destroyed by the Bug asteroid, as well as much of Earth; they had only really been rebuilding there recently, most of it still agricultural and wasteland. "Home at present" seemed to be a better term. Here is where his mentor, his friend, his undead father "lived." Wherever he was, there was home.

            Leonardo sat behind his desk as always, putting away some sort of file; for years, he was sure there was something his sire was hiding from him. In the end, it turned to be just part of his business that he didn't want to burned David with. However, tonight seemed different. This time, he actually looked concerned, instead of that glossy boredom... blaise it was called.

            His sire stared at him, cupping his chin between his thumb and forefinger, as his left hand scratched the other wrist. Something was _definately_ wrong. "On the day when the moon runs as blood and the sun rises black in the sky, that is the day of the Damned, when Caine's children will rise again." Leonardo was fond of quoting scripture, even if no one knew where he found it.

            "We still live in the darkness, Leo."

            "Only the shadows, my child. There is more than us who dwells in darkness." His sire leaned forward. "Has the situation on Avalon been dealt with?"

            "The Cialt Brotherhood refuses to deal in our merchandise anymore. However, I have made several contacts which should solve our problem. In the first year, we may lose a million credits, but after that, we should expect a marked growth in our income."

            "Really? And how do you expect to accomplish that?"

            "Easy. We go around the drug lords; deal directly to the smugglers."

            Leonardo smiled. "Risky, David."

            "But much more profitable than dealing with the Cialt."

            "Hmph." his sire shrugged, but he seemed to be enjoying upping the ante. The game got boring if it stayed the same for too long. "Anything else?"

            Depaul took out the BLAM and handed the shiny disk to him. "The brotherhood's complete financial records... well, as much as the data pirate could get before the ICE caught up." Leonardo studied the small piece of plastic as others might examine a fine painting. His sire was very much a man of the past. "It tells an interesting tale, including why the Cialt decided to back out of such a lucrative deal."

            "Well, should I see it for myself, or are you going to tell me?"

            "Guns, Leo. They're running guns through the Tech Infantry to somewhere. And their smuggler is one Deidre Macoure."

            His sire didn't seem surprised. "Emme Macoure? Really?"

            "I think she could be the key to gaining more profit than we have EVER seen before."

            "Just be cautious. She was once Sabbat. The Jyhad doesn't concern us."

            Jyhad. Leonardo seldom used that word and he never explained what it meant. It was time to get some answers. "The Jyhad?"           

            "Those damn Black Hand. Them and their antedeluvians fight an endless war against those vampires who will not bow to them. We Giovanni have survived because we haven't taken sides. They can't make me choose, because I no longer care about my continued existance; if I die the final death, I die. But I fear for you, David, because you cling to this life so fully. Avoid both the antedeluvians' lackeys and their opponents the Sabbat. We have no need for their war. Avoid them."

            "Of course."

            "Very well. Caine read the signs in the darkening sky and said nothing. I only hope I've warned you before the coming flood." He rubbed his neck to take the weariness out of it. "Find this Deidre but be careful. Avoid the deluge of blood."

            "I will, Leo." With those words, David turned and walked out of the office.


            He didn't catch up with Cornelius before he left for New Paris. With a change of clothes, an added mustache, and a deep French accent he became Jason Monk. "Charlie" came with him. He had done so well before that he thought he might be a good man to have a long with him. If he panned out, he might be a good replacement for Cornelius, because whether he liked it or not, eventually he would die. Charlie was a regular mortal... he might make an excellent ghoul.

            Both dressed in suits, they made their way to the sleepy system of New Paris. The planets were built like suburbs; clean, beautiful, but dead in spirit. A quick lookover of the main planet's local news quickly found Macoure's footprint. A vicious killing in one of the main towns; rare on these docile protected systems close to the capital. Hell, they tended to imprison people for jaywalking or having the wrong species of grass on your lawn. These were anal people; the last thing they wanted was blood on their hands.

            The question coming to his mind was where did she go next. Luckily, a quick call back to Proxima answered that. In front of a public phone booth, Cornelius appeared on the other end. David smiled, "Hello old friend. What did you find out?"

            "My friend said that if there was anywhere to get it," one didn't mention "guns" on the net channels, no one knew which channels that Internal Security monitored, "it would have to be in Phoenix. No one would notice if something disappeared from there."

            David pondered that for a moment. Hmmm, Phoenix system, largest military base in the Federation, hard to get into, but the easiest place to store large amounts of munitions. It was almost a straight line from Avalon to New Paris to Phoenix. If one followed that line, it lead straight for the frontier and the Frontier Worlds Territory. However, it made no sense. Why would the Tech Infantry supply guns to the Colonial Marines? Many people were sure that the Fed would eventually make a move and conquer those rebellious human colonies. Still, after fifteen years of peace, the Grand Council did nothing about their break-off systems.

            "Thanks. But you couldn't get a destination?"

            "Not their concern. Must be handled by our brother." Cialt would be the only one who would know for certain.

            If you followed the straight line, it would lead to either the Sarma or Kalintos systems. However, when did smugglers travel in straight lines? It was about as much as could be expected. "Doesn't matter. Discom." David replied, shutting off the vidphone.

            Charlie looked a bit puzzled. "Where to now, boss?"

            "I figure we've got to take a..." Depual didn't finish his sentence, as out of a alleyway, a dark figure appeared. He was close and getting closer. Charlie drew his gun with lightning reflexes, but the man simply waved his hand, and his hired gun flew into the wall. David didn't make a move.

            The man was Latino, dressed completely in black, and standing before him as he looked over both him and Charlie. After kicking his henchman a couple times, he reached down and picked up his gun.

            Finally Depual got over the initial shock and managed to face his opponent. "Who are you?" he asked in his French accent.

            "Your friend..." he replied, looking over the gun with more interest than he had for David, "...or your enemy. That's for you to decide."

            "I don't understand."

            "You will." the man in black answered, putting away the gun in his jacket. "There's a war going on, if you didn't know, and the ante has just gone up. Your sire wasn't very receptive to our requests, but then again, those Italians never were. However, you look like a more sensible person. I'm sure you can see an opportunity coming a mile away."


            "To join us. To become a god among these mortals instead of bargaining and hiding from them. To finally have _true_ power."

            "Who is 'us?'"

            The man outstretched his hand toward him. Through his pale skin, veins of black poured into his limb and the skin around grew darker. Finally, the telltale spikes of vicissitude popped out of his skin, and his hand turned completely black.


                                    END OF EPISODE ONE


Experience --


Orders: 4 x 5 points = 20 points

Good Planning: +5 points


Total: 25 experience points.


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Text Copyright © 2000 by Marcus Johnston.  All Rights Reserved.