October 29, 2009

The internet is full of predators.

A lot had happened before I woke up that night. When I opened the door to my room I nearly ran right into Nobody. He looked panicked, which is an emotion I've never actually seen him display openly, though I've caught it once or twice in his aura.

“The monkey has the sword!”

I nearly choked. Thankfully, my face was guarded. The only thing he saw was my perplexed expression before I shoved a hand into his chest, passed him and went to find Giovanni. I believed him for a moment, but as I made my way to the lab I came up with 18 different reasons why he was probably bullshitting me. When I stepped into the lab and saw Gio sitting calmly trying to force a very large needle and thread through werewolf hide my theory was confirmed. Gio didn’t look up from his work.

“What did he tell you this time? The monkey had the sword?”

I picked up the chalk board eraser and threw it at Nobody. He just grinned at me. I really can’t stand that guy.

“Don’t worry, we gave the sword to the Aegis Kai Doru.”
That wasn’t exactly what I wanted to hear, either. “Why the fuck did you do that?”
Seriously, having to sleep while they don’t have too really is terrible. I have no way of keeping them from doing stupid shit.

“Look, They can probably protect it from that fucking monkey better than we can. Did you have any better ideas?”
I just scowled at him. I didn’t. But that didn’t mean I had to like it.

“The crystal has been dealt with too.”
“Please tell me you didn’t give THAT to them too.”
Gio sounded offended. “Of course not! I’m not stupid.”
I gave him a look that suggested I thought otherwise.

“Nadi’s brother Alexi came and made it go away. He like, folded it in on itself.. or something.. mage shit.”
I felt relieved. “Good. I don’t care to have that thing around. It fucked me up.” But that was only partially true. I was insanely curious about that thing. I knew it was better off this way, but I couldn’t help but feel disappointed I hadn’t been able to figure out anything else about it. I guess I could still research the event. And the Harmonium. Both were probably less likely to kill me.
“Apparently it was some sort of ship, bigger on the inside than on the outside, you know?”
“Like Dr. Who..?”
“Well, yeah actually. Only more of a prison than a transport vessel. You watched Dr. Who?” I ignored the question. He didn't even look up.

“Hey boss!” Rebecca and Nadi walked in from the sitting room. Seemed like everyone had been waiting on me to wake up.

I pulled up a stool as they explained what had happened earlier in the day.

The had gone to see Sammy for breakfast and told him that Rowan was sniffing around and could possibly start digging into family business when she finds out that Louie was making deals with a rogue Santore. Apparently he hadn’t reacted well… which was understandable.

Which reminded me...I glanced at Nobody. “Did you tell Gio?”
“About what? The werewolves? Of course.”

Gio nodded affirmation and continued. They had then gone to talk to Bella about the problem with the Pure pack we had attacked. Sammy had gotten to her first. Gio had told her that we could prove that no one had the photos of Nico dealing with Louie until after we knew about Louie’s death. I hoped Martindale could come up with something, because I had no clue how to prove that. As far as I knew there hadn’t been any security cameras in the diner where Martindale had given them the photos. And I normally noticed shit like that.

Then Giovanni’s phone rang. Speak of the devil.

“Martindale.. I have a problem” Gio said quickly.
“I know.”
“Who have you been talking too?” Gio asked, surprised.
“I don’t need to talk to anyone to see that you have problems Giovanni.”
Gio laughed. “Yeah yeah...Anyway...there is a certain vampire that may start nosing around the family business. We need to prove that we got those photos from you after Louie had already died.”
“What like, certified mail or somethin’?”
“If you think that’s enough to convince this certain vampire, sure.”
“Tell you what. There’s a hot-dog stand at the corner of Monroe and Clark. Tell the guy that Chris said he has a package for you. He’ll say, ‘The red crow flies at midnight.’ In response, you need to say, ‘Just give me the fucking package.’ You’ll need to sign for it. And look, if this is the vampire I think it is, you’ll need to be absolutely convinced that this is true, that you really did get these photos after Louie was dead, when you give her the proof.”
“Well that shouldn’t be too hard, because it’s true.” Gio said.
“Right, but the proof will be a lie. So you gotta believe it completely, or else you’re fucked.”
“Hopefully only one of us will have to be dealing with her anyway, so only one of us will have to deal with that. Thanks.” And he hung up.
Gio gave me a significant look and I frowned at him. "What?" He said, "You're the vampire."
"And you're an ass. Why should I do it?"
"Hey, it's your family now too.. and I hate vampire politics." I just rolled my eyes and gave an annoyed look to his back as he left.

He went to go retrieve the package while the others stayed and filled me in on the rest of the evening. Bella had warned them to not go out alone, and not go near parks. And not to let the Architects of Steel know Gio was involved. Apparently they didn’t get along well with the Santores. They had sent a note to them. We had had a lot of practice in cryptic ass notes. We had received enough of them. The note read:

Little Red Riding Hood was going to bring newspapers to her sick uncle. She was late, and her uncle was worried.

She was being chased by not one, but three big bad wolves. They had come to finish the job.

Luckily, she was rescued by lumberjacks. Who delivered her safely home to her worried uncle.

But two of the big bad wolves got away, and are going back to get the rest of their big bad family.

I thought it appropriate. It gave the Architects an idea of the gravity of the situation, pointed them to Volkas for more details (and we knew Volkas wouldn’t sell us out) and kept our names out of it.

When Gio got back he had a receipt with him. A certified mail receipt. I took it from him and put it somewhere safe and really hoped that was enough to satisfy Rowan. It seemed ridiculous, but we didn’t have any better ideas.

Once we finished with catch-up, Gio pulled the black book Nadi had gotten from her weird metaphysical library out of the locked box it had been in and set it on the work table. He was the only one who could read it. He took a deep breath and opened the book, and we watched intently as he read through the pages.

He started to sweat, and began to wince in pain ever few seconds until finally he pulled back and slammed the book closed. His breathing was labored, and his breath smelled like brimstone. Creepy.

“That… that is a prison for someone’s soul. Someone is in their own personal hell. In that book. And it tried to eat me.”

Nadi responded, “A personal hell? Is that something someone besides a demon could do? Like a mage maybe?”

Gio looked at her incredulously. “I don’t know… you tell me. You’re the resident death mage.”
She looked thoughtful but didn’t respond.

Gio started muttering to himself, having a conversation that we could only hear half of. We all just assumed that he was talking to the demon he was making the homunculus for... one of the few times I actually gave someone the benefit of the doubt. I had no room to judge, sometimes I heard someone talking in my head in Latin. And that happened BEFORE we met Traveler.

Nadi had an idea. “Its possible there is something in the book we could understand. We haven’t gone through the whole thing yet.”

I agreed. “We can take turns going through the pages, switch off whenever the written gets too us too much.”

Nobody took a step back, “Don’t look at me. You guys do it. That shit is scary.”

I scowled at him. “Why doesn’t it surprise me that you would be afraid of books?”
“Fucking damn right I am!”
I just glared. “You’re such a fucking pussy.”

Nadi took the book and started scanning through pages. She got through about 15 before passing it off to me. I started where she left off. Nobody just watched, letting us do all the painful shit.

God it hurt. The words swirled and writhed in a way that just felt wrong. It resounded in my head with sickening thumps. I got through another 15 pages before the headache became too much and my vision started to darken. When I slid the book back to Nadi, she took one look at the page and winced, putting a hand to her forehead. She already looked like she'd taken a beating, and we'd just started. When I saw blood start dripping from her nose and I pulled the book back, steeled myself, and got through another 5 pages. In the mean time, I heard Nadi sigh, and noticed her nose had stopped bleeding and she no longer looked like hammered hell. I wasn’t so lucky.

We went through this back and forth until we got to page 50, when we finally found something interesting. Pages 50 and 51 were the very middle of the book and across these two pages was a symbol. It was the same symbol that Volkas had told us was on the walls in Ray’s house, beneath several layers of paint. The symbol for the magelin spirit.

Nadi and I finished going through the book, but there was nothing else of note. At the end she looked up at Nobody.

“My nose stopped bleeding..That was you?”
He nodded.
He smirked, more at me than at her. “No problem.”

Fucking Faery asshole.

Nadi took the book and walked into the computer room. She sat down at her laptop and started looking up things online. I leaned over her shoulder to watch. Everyone else stood behind us, except Rebecca, who had wandered of into the sitting room.

Eventually, after a good 1/2 hour of fruitless searching, Nadi got to a site that was nothing but a JPEG image of the symbol we found in the book. The web address was http://maastr.aac.org. It was an oddity.

“Let me try something.” I said, putting hand on the back of her seat. Nadi regarded me a moment, then let me have her chair. I ran an IP trace on the site, along with a few other tricks

“All I can tell is that its based out of Denmark… give me a sec to look at the site information..looks like it was updated yesterday, but as far as I can tell nothing was actually changed. It just updates itself daily...” Everyone looked at me oddly. Apparently it was a little surprising to them that I knew my way around computers…

I smirked. “Everyone has to have hobbies…”

I tried to bring up the code for the site but it was encrypted… rather impressively so. I worked for a few minutes on it; it had been awhile since I had tried to crack anything like this. I was a bit rusty. I had had other things on my plate recently. The group just watched intently as I made a several series of rapid keystrokes.

A few more keystrokes and I smirked again, “I just about…” as I spoke I hit the last key...

...And I was cut off mid-sentence as a taloned hand burst out through the laptop monitor, shattering it to pieces and grabbing me by the head. Unexpected, to say the least. I didn't even have time to react.

Gio lunged forward, wrapped his arms around my waist and yanked me backward. “Oh no you don’t!” The talons dug deep furrows in my scalp as Gio pulled me from the things grasp. I winced and untangled myself from Gio as fast as I could, giving him a quick nod of thanks.

But the thing seemed more concerned with crawling out then it did with pulling me in. Huge arms with three fingered hands crawled from the monitor. Each to finger ended in a cruel looking talon. It had small arms sprouting from bigger arms. One claw went for Nadi only seconds after it had grabbed me. It hit her invisible shield and stopped, then its talons extended themselves through the barrier and caught her on the shoulder.

Everyone reacted. Nobody’s spear was in his hand faster than anyone could track. He slashed at the thing, biting deep into one of the arms. The spirit didn’t so much as flinch.

Nadi immediately began playing cats cradle with her strings, like she always does when the shit hits the fan. Giovanni stood there and began to grow larger. I already had my combat knife in my hand, pumped blood through my muscles and slammed it into the creatures arm. The thing was TOUGH. It had taken all of my strength just to drive the knife home. Blood that was so red it was nearly purple welled up from the wound, coating my knife. All of us felt its revolting glee as the blooded blossomed up through its carapace. It was glad it was bleeding. That can’t ever be good…

A smaller arm erupted from right above the spot Nobody had slashed it and raked its claws across his chest, we heard him grunt in pain as he raised the spear for another blow. He slashed, and missed, and his eyes widened as he felt the spear slip from his grasp and fly towards Nadi.

Thank God for fast reflexes. She stood there, doing her weird hand motions and looked up just in time to see the wicked blade coming at her head. She threw herself to the side and the spear lodged itself deep in the stone wall, thrumming on impact. It had been so close that strands of her hair floated to the ground, severed by the passing blade.

Gio yelled at me (his voice deeper and more resonating now) and I threw myself to the left as his shotgun roared in my ears. We saw pieces of carapace fly off, but the creature kept coming. I went at it again with my knife, and screamed at it as the knife sank home. “What the FUCK do you want?!”

We heard its voice slide through our minds, full of a slithering and uncomfortable desire. “Everything..” Then an arm shot out and huge talons went right through Nobody's torso. Time seemed to freeze for a second. The creature yanked itself free in a wash of gore.

He fell to the ground in what seemed like slow motion. Nobody clutched his stomach, intestines trying to spill out all over the floor. He bled everywhere. The scent hit me like a sledgehammer, so I fought not to look at him. It’s not as hard as it sounds when there’s a big fucking monster coming for your through a laptop screen. Survival first, food second. It also helped that I could smell other things. The attack had probably perforated his intestines. I screamed for Rebecca to get the Collector. We desperately needed reinforcements. The thing was bleeding profusely, but not slowing down. Nobody managed not to lose consciousness, or die. He fumbled weakly at his pockets and pulling out a small fruit. He shoved it in his mouth and started scooting slowly to the exit, leaving a wide trail of blood in his wake.

We were fucked. This thing just seemed to get stronger the more we hurt it. It kept coming. We had blasted the shit out of it and it wouldn’t stop. It had been in the room for less than 3 minutes, and it had already nearly killed one of us. Maybe if it hadn't just skewered Nobody we'd feel like we had more of a chance. Its ugly head finally came through, after what seemed like miles of deadly claws, misshaped and disgusting. Its mouth was a circular maw with thousands of razor sharp teeth. The thing was ugly as sin, and HUGE.

Nadi looked at me as she did more of her hand motions, and I felt a familiar effect come over me. But it didn’t matter. Someone yelled something about the book, I don't know who it was.. it may have even been me. It was the only idea we had. Gio grabbed it and opened it to the middle pages, and shoved the symbol in its face. I think we were all ready to run if it didn’t work. The creature’s eyes widened and it froze. Those 2 seconds felt like a lifetime, the creature staring with eyes suddenly filled with surprise and rage..and a little bit of fear. It immediately retreated back into the ruined computer. It yanked its arms in so quickly it looked like it had been sucked back in by a vortex.

I stared at the screen, then turned to look at Gio. He was still in his demon form, larger than normal, black wings folded against his back. He was breathing heavily. There was someone standing behind him.

Joseph Traveler stood there, regarding first us, then the screen, then the book.

“You shouldn’t be involving yourself with that book. It is beyond your scope. It keeps screaming at me…” We looked at him, the question obvious. He smiled. “I did nothing. I believe your new friend left because of him.”

He pointed to the doorway, and there was Sammy. He was shirtless, and huge. His gray hair shaggy and falling down his back, his hands seemed more claw like, eyes yellow and wolfish. He had brands across his chest that made intricate patterns. He held a knife that was over two feet long and gleamed like silver. At his belt were five small crystals. Three of them were cracked down the middle. His rage was palpable.

His voice sounded more like a growl. “Out.”

Joseph and I went and lifted Nobody, who was barely conscious, and we all filed out of them room, the door closing heavily behind us.

Maury was standing outside. He did not look at all perturbed, more interested than anything else. He regarded Nobody. “Should I send for the chirurgeon?” I nodded. Maury turned to look at Gio. “It is not often that I allow the Lupines into my domain, but he claimed a right of blood. Is this true?”

Gio nodded. “Yes, he is my uncle.”

Maury nodded and walked out of the room, returning to his sealed library chambers.

I half expected him to kick us out, but then again, I suppose we make interesting house guests…

I went to Nobody and starting doing what I could. I had Rebecca retrieve my medical kit from my room, and went to work sewing him back together. I’m not sure what was more difficult, the surgery, or trying not to focus on all the blood… I had used a lot in that fight, even as short as it was.

I spoke to Joseph as I worked on Nobody. “What WAS that thing?”

He stood on the other side of the room watching us. “It wants many things, but it does not need anything. It wants, and wants.. and once it gets what it wants, it doesn’t want it anymore…” We thought about that a moment. Joseph watched us, then offered another piece of advice.

"Be careful. The internet is a dangerous place. It is full of predators." We stared dumbly at him a moment, and then erupted into peels of laughter. I can't remember the last time I laughed so hard. It was a release of all the nervous energy, fear, and anger caused by the unexpected encounter.
He had a serious expression on his face, but the glint of humor in his eyes was unmistakable. And with that he walked out, shutting the steel door behind him.

Fantastic. A wealth of information. That meant I got to talk to the pissed off werewolf once he was done. That sure is my idea of a good time.

Luciano showed up not long after and set to work on Nobody. I played nurse for him as he used my kit to make more progress on Nobody than I could’ve done. He made it seem easy. Of course, he didn’t have to pause every 30 seconds to focus on not licking blood off his fingers.

Gio retreated back into his lab. Nobody was thoroughly unconscious. Luciano left to retrieve more supplies. I was hooking up a bag a saline for him when Sammy came back out. He looked more normal now. A fit looking man in his 60s with close cropped hair and a lot of scars.

I turned and met his gaze, “What the fuck happened?” I asked, determing to get answers.
…and he stared at me. Hard.
Okay… no more questions then… He stared and stared, and I could see the rage in his eyes. I met his gaze. I allowed my eyes to drop for a moment, but only a moment, because the attack WAS my fault after all. He stared at me for a full 2 minutes, then reached down and unsheathed that giant knife and pointed it at my throat. His arm was shaking with barely contained fury.

I fought hard not to let the fear show. I was sure I was about to get torn to shreds. And I knew Sammy wouldn’t be as easy to dispatch as the Pure pack had been. I was fucked. But I damn sure wasn’t going to show it.

He spoke, and his voice was also shaking with suppressed fury. “Who are you.”

“Harper O’shea.”

I could hear his teeth grinding. The knife point got closer to my throat. I didn’t dare move. I was afraid it might set him off. I kept my face and posture as still and neutral as I could manage.

“Whose blood... runs through your veins.” He demanded.

If I had any blood in my face it would've all drained away. Fucking SHIT. Until that moment I thought he was pissed that I had inadvertently brought the spirit out. This was worse. Much, much worse.

I stared at him and said nothing, calculating my chance of getting out of there in one piece. I didn't like my odds.

“WHOSE BLOOD?!” He roared it at me as well as if he was in his war form. And it was just as intimidating.

“Ours.” Giovanni answered, he was standing in the doorway to his lab, watching us.

The two remaining stones on Sammy's belt cracked down the middle with audible pops. I thought it sounded like what Sammy was about to do to every bone in my body. I didn’t dare move. He finally tore his eyes away from me, which was a relief. I could only watch his imagination tear me apart in so many different ways before I started to wish I could still shit myself.

He was breathing hard. He could hardly squeeze the words out past all the 'pissed off'.“We... will discus this later. In the meantime, you should go confess.”

And he stormed out of the room. And I mean STORMED.

I grabbed the closest chair and sagged into it, holding my head in my hands (I could feel my scalp shift a little from the wounds). “This is bad. This is very very bad." I sat there for a few minutes cursing profusely to myself. I could feel Gio watching me.
"Giovanni, should I be expecting your family to be gunning for me now?” I said without looking up.
“My family is gunning for everyone.”
I glanced up and glared at him. I did not need his smart mouth right now. “You know what I mean.”
“Fan-fucking-tastic. Goddamn it.” I slammed my fist into the wall.

I had the majority of the vampires in Chicago ordered to kill me on site, a pack of Pure who wanted revenge, and now a huge pack of Forsaken werewolves who would probably love to tear into me. Sooner or later I’m not going to be able to set foot ANYwhere without getting my ass handed to me by one group or another. This was not shaping up to be a good trip. This was bad, and I was worried. I worked hard not to have a nervous breakdown.

“But apparently I need to go talk to my Uncle the bishop tomorrow. So, we’ll see how that goes.”
“Let me know what you find out.”
“Trust me, you probably won’t want to know.”
I stood and stalked over to him with no small amount of anger. Anger was better than fear. I got up in his face. “Gio, I just brought a major spirit into Maury’s place, got all of us injured, if not almost dead, right after getting my head wailed on by a demonic diary, then had my life rather seriously threatened by one of your family members who just so happens to be a very fucking scary werewolf. If I don’t get SOME sort of useful information about of any of this, I might just lose my shit. And I swear to GOD Giovanni, you will not like it.”

Gio was about to respond when Nadi interrupted.
“I’m going to go talk to Volkas. He may be able to help.”
That should have made me feel better, but it didn't. It was, however, better than sitting down here feeling sorry for myself. I had spent 23 years learning just how effective THAT was. “Can I tag along?”
She nodded.
I had to get answers. And more so, I needed to do something to keep my mind off the consequences of tonight, that may be just down the road.

I glanced over my shoulder at Gio on our way out. It wasn't really him I was pissed with. "Thanks, Gio." He responded with a derisive smirk. "Don't mention it." This is why I don't make it a habit to be polite to these people.

I texted Giuseppe from the car.


From: H
To: G

The Family knows.


He didn’t respond.
That worried me more than anything else that had happened tonight.

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