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Halifax: Bojan Petrov

April 27, 2008

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It's raining and cold in Halifax by the time your flight lands. The spring apparently hasn't quite caught up to Nova Scotia and you grimly observe a hail advisory on one of the myriad of screens out by luggage.

You stand and watch life within the airport bustle around you with surreal detachment as you scan for Roske in the sea of faces. Given past experiences, you can expect him to be anywhere from one hour to five days late. Not spotting him, you sit down, flipping through a few advertisements for inexpensive lodging and doing a quick inventory check: one change of clothing; one passport; three forms of identification under names not your own; two 2" unsharpened dowel rods that can easily be rendered into stakes; C$7,826.74 in cash stuffed into a large zip-loc; one notepad, barely held together with tape; one mystical Kuei-Jin-manufactured, fear-inducing baton covered in Chinese characters; one creased black and white photo of three children from 1959.

You slump into your seat a little, skimming your notebook and checking to make certain the contact information you have is right. It always helps to double check. Your thoughts are a little disorganized.

Five flights in three days, always trying to keep ahead of the goddamn sun.

You spot Roske at 1:27 AM, a scant fifty seven minutes after you'd intended to meet up with him. He's wearing a pair of trendy looking shades that you're fairly certain were purchased from a vendor a little ways from the security checkpoint. You vaguely recall mentioning to him sometime back that the eye patch was a little conspicuous.

He mutters something about bad traffic and something about problems back in Quebec, both of which you decide it's best not to press for details about. Neither of you speak as he leads you through the parking garage to what you assume is a recently acquired Volkswagon Jetta. The forty-eight minute search that lands you at a Motel 6 near Quinspool passes almost as silently.

A few details are grudgingly discussed, and Liz occasionally punctuates the silence with plaintive chirps from her travel cage until Roske fumbles about to find and unpack for her a single packet of vacuum-sealed Starfish tuna.

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Once the two of you are set up, Roske hands you back your assorted not-safe-for-airports weaponry, and business is finally outlined.

The Prince is named LaFayette. Ventrue. Neither of you managed to catch his first name. You can guess he's not liable to appreciate the Sixth Tradition being breached, but what Prince really does? Grabbing the nettle and breaching the Fifth right off the bat is probably your safest bet.

Evans and his enigmatic lady in black should be getting here tomorrow out of Veradero, according to sources you both think you can trust. This naturally is contingent on several things: that the Nosferatu in Lisboa was actually buying your story and that his buddy in Ottawa actually exists; that the Setite in Morocco genuinely didn't know who you were and was interested in just your money; that neither you nor Roske horribly fucked innumerable things up in innumerable places; and that Ash actually had your best interests at heart to begin with in this mess.

Assuming all that, they'll be in town just long enough to pay their respects, feed, and get out by the night after, and then you don't have any word, trustworthy or not, as to where their next destination is.

The plan then, assuming that all else is legit, is stupidly simple. Summon him. Kill him. Disappear. Steps two and three naturally have the potential to get complex, and you mull out some approaches with Roske, given his uncanny knack for both killing and disappearances.

He convinces you to stage the event at the Neptune Theatre... sometime around four in the morning. While the location's far more liable to draw attention from a mortal perspective, he has what he thinks is a reliable head's up that the now largely defunct Elysium is technically under the Domain of an eccentric Toreador recluse - one who happens to be out of town.

Roske explains that this unique sort of situation works to your advantage, in that Evans is less likely to be paranoid going into a known Kindred stronghold rather than going into an abandoned warehouse somewhere. As it's not technically under LaFayette's immediate control, there will likely be some reluctance to send the Sheriff and company in immediately following a disturbance, at least not without some consultation. This means that you're much more likely to have to evade a few mortal security guards or police rather than fend off a small deputized coterie, and that's a remarkably easy affair if you're willing to play a little bit fast and lose with the Masquerade.

"We are already breaking two traditions, we might as well go for the big one. Keep running until you're clear. You will end up taking a few bullets. The worst they ought suspect is that you are some lunatic on PCP. If you are quick and if you are quiet, nobody will notice what has happened until we are gone."

You can imagine that something better might turn up eventually, but it sounds like a good enough plan for the current window of opportunity. You're very tired. You don't know how much longer you'd have to wait to get this close again.

Roske tells you he can run lookout (and to some extent backup) from the roof of a shop on Agyle Street, mentioning casually his mastery of the arts of not being seen. You nod in affirmation and tell him you trust him to do what's best.

He flashes one of his rare smiles at these words and begins his now familiar nightly ritual of cleaning and checking his guns, silently unpacking the parts of a rifle (You have no clue as to the make) and beginning to run a cloth through the barrel.

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You collapse into a dreamless sleep and awaken to find that the majority of the next night is spent waiting, with Roske leaving early to "make arrangements." Five hours or so drift by as you sharpen the two dowel rods, watch half of a Lifetime movie, and occasionally make Liz chase the cord of the blinds. Mostly, though, you think: about what you're about to do; about what you're going to say when it happens.

Roske returns at 1:12 AM with a girl on each arm. Gigi and Cassidy, as you soon find out. Words and bills are exchanged as he nods Cassidy over to you, telling her not to be shy, and you're suddenly face to face with a bubblegum pink haired waif with too much mascara on. She giggles as she fumbles to unbutton your shirt. As things progress, you can hear Gigi make a pleased squeak from across the room. She's apparently discovered Liz.

You've fed like this for too long now to feel awkward about it. You hear Roske go through the typical routine. "So ladies. Willing to try something a little novel? There's a hundred extra in it for each of you." Pause. Nods. More giggling as Cassidy also notices Liz. "Don't worry. We're clean." You stare at the tattoo on Cassidy's shoulder the whole time, only half thinking about what you're doing. It's a seahorse.

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You both arrive at the Neptune an hour later, satiated and prepared as best you can be. The breakin is stupidly easy. Roske wishes you luck as he leaves to set up on the roof across the street.

You should have plenty of time to get the layout of the place before you Summon him. You pace around the atrium once or twice, taking note of entrances and exits, before checking out the auditorium and stage proper. Something seems off as you look out over the aisles, and a dull sense of dread flares up in the back of your mind. Even before you hear the clatter of movement, you can tell you're not alone.

"She wouldn't have wanted this, you know."

He's been waiting.

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You don't know why or how, but he's been waiting. You stumble over your thoughts, panic starting to set in as you search in the darkness for where his voice is coming from. Don't listen to what he says. Don't listen if he's in your head. Don't let go once you have him. Don't give in to frenzy. Don't look into his eyes... Don't... Goddammit, Roske... God fucking dammit!

"I'm being honest. She'd probably be rather upset to see either of us dying. I think she made that fairly clear, all things considered."

You still can't find him. His voice is irritatingly nonchalant.

"You know... I hope I made things clear back when I told you I wasn't stupid, Petrov. I'm not."

He pauses.

"I'm also not unreasonable."

You grip the crowbar you're holding rather tightly. Still can't find him. You start to pace.

"You see, Petrov, I don't think killing me really gives you much of anything you want. At this point, you should have considered that as I've preempted you, I'm likely able to get out word of your attempt... or I will be should I so choose. To that end, it should be plain that my death will earn you your own."

You hear what might pass for a sigh.

"I suppose you've weighed out that risk, though, naturally. Otherwise you wouldn't be here. But really, for all that sacrifice, even if you succeed, what does it all gain you? She's just as dead as before, and I'll tell you now I'm unlikely to give you much in dying that will bring you satisfaction. I'm not really the sort to plead or apologize or cry or make maudlin overwrought statements, if that's what you're looking for."

Images flash unbidden through your mind. Pale skin. Pale lips still smiling in a confused sort of surprise. They're flecked with cast off blood from the shot. There's a scent of smoke in the air. The pain must have caused her to tear up, ever so slightly... she certainly wasn't the sort of woman to weep.

You know he's inside now. He speaks aloud again.

"And then again, I've no specific grudge against you when it comes down to it, even though I suppose I could at this point. Chicago was a little frustrating. But... no ...anyway, from an objective standpoint, well... your grievance with me is based largely on a blood bond. I hear they pass with time."

Her hair lies disheveled as her body lies there inert and the streetlights flicker by one by one by one. Her lips move unconsciously as the open wrist is placed to them, sighing sharply as if she's having an unpleasant dream.

"Think on that."

"You'll feel differently about all of this in a few decades, if you're willing to let this cool on your end. I certainly won't pursue you. I have my own affairs to tend to. You and I are young, really, in the scheme of things."

There's an uneasy silence before he continues, and you begin to wonder why he doesn't just do his talking in your brain. He sounds a little quieter when he picks up.

"She honestly wouldn't have wanted this. I'd know better than you..."

Her eyes are cloudy and unmoving as one, two, threefour five bullets hit home. Her expression never changes as the gunfire whips her neck back.

"When it came down to it, I think she even understood on some level."

Her voice breaks, whispering things not quite audible as the flame consumes her body. Her features crumble to ash.

"She didn't even struggle."

A shadow, darker than the rest in this place, steps out somewhere in the distance, and you lunge, unthinking, speeding down toward the stage. There's a muffled thud of a gunshot as your body is blown backwards, and you feel something inside you shatter and slacken for an instant in shock before the pain brings you back into focus and back into the run. Don't give in to frenzy. Somehow you connect with him, tumble to the floor, and have him by the throat for the briefest of moments before the second shot hits.

"No calling it off now, I suppose. Pity."

In spite of his calm, you get the impression he didn't expect you to get this close. He manages to twist partially out from beneath you, a writhing mass of smoky arms pulling or pushing you away. You still barely have him by the wrist somehow, and you tighten your grip as he tries to jerk himself free. Bones dislocate and shatter as you hear the sort of sound escape his lips that would be a gasp if it was made by somebody who still breathed. He brings the gun back around with his good hand.

He fires again, rips his hand away, maiming it in the process, and ducks behind the next row of seats. You pursue, weapon in hand, only half realizing that the bullet only grazed your temple. Without warning, things go dark and cold in all directions.

"You knew it was a trap of sorts, didn't you?"

You honestly aren't certain for a moment whether the voice in your head belongs to you or him.

Another shot. It misses this time. You reflexively stab into the direction you think it came from as cold and alien tendrils grab you back. Dammit. Something lashes out at you, trying to push you away as you blindly grab for the gun. Another shot. Another miss. Something in your shoulder grinds against the bullet. It hurts like goddamn hell. There's a taste of blood in your mouth. Dammit. You're close. Another shot. It hits you in the gut like a hammer, hurtling you backwards into empty space as you finally find him again and pull him down with you. Dammit... Don't let go once you have him. Don't let go once you have him... DammitDammitDammitRoskeDammit... There's a crash as you both land and God-knows-what breaks beneath you. With your free arm, you stretch out into the darkness, grasping... reaching for something to pull yourself up with. Your fingers are numb.

A jumble of discordant sound, wood, and string falls onto you both. You think you've just broken a fairly largish piano.

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It continues from there. Shot after shot empties into you, as you try to disarm him, clumsily crushing him as best you can in the process. You get the impression he's picked up another gun somewhere. Everywhere there's the smell blood and smoke. Your head is swimming as you lose your grip on him again.

The fight dissolves into a blur. Gunfire. Shadows. Blood. He gets away and you get him back once, maybe twice... maybe even more. Time doesn't seem to pass. One by one, you force the bullets out of your back, re-knitting the holes in your skin and muscle. The Beast is closer and closer to the surface. You eventually think you've lost him for good.

And then there's a barrel on the back of your head.

Dammit.

"She wouldn't have wanted it this way either. Sorry."

You're wounded and staggering, and you shouldn't be able to stop it, especially not with him in your head, but something in you acts before doubt or despair can set in. You're out of the way before you realize it, and you don't know or understand how, but your teeth are at his throat, and your arms are on his.

He chokes as you bite down, impotently trying to maneuver another shot. You have him. Motherfucker. You fucking have him. He frenzies feebly at you as the blood drains out of him - the wisps of shroud and shadow dissipating as he loses conscious control of them. Your vision clears to reveal a pathetic bestial lump of a man trying fruitlessly to bite at you. His other wrist snaps as the gun finally clatters to the floor.

You consider saying something but don't. You hit him instead.

You can't tell if he knows what's happening, but it doesn't stop you at this point. Over and over and over again, you beat him, until his face is an unrecognizable mass of blood and bone. Your knuckles have shredded and broken from the effort by the time you decide to end it. You're pretty certain he's torpid.

You stand up haltingly, vaguely recalling that beheading him was going to have to be somewhat improvised. You notice the free piano wire and decide it's probably best to stake him first. Just to be safe.

Before you finish things, however, something else attracts your attention. From somewhere behind Evans' crumpled form you see a pair of tiny, deliberate, black eyes staring back into your own, attached to the face and form of a short and frail-looking woman.

You wonder how long Amelia has been watching this.

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You think you recall speaking to her once before back in Chicago. It's rather awkward to meet her again like this. With a politeness not quite fitting for the situation, she explains succinctly that she wishes you to cease what you're doing. Her voice is quiet.

The exchange is fairly doomed from that point on. She tries being rational at first, explaining what Evans means to her in terms of survival, explaining that by killing him you're killing her eventually. She explains that the Les Amies Noir will find her if she's alone and that when it happens it will be worse than what's about to happen here - worse than whatever happened to anyone you knew before. She tells you that she wants to live.

She parrots part of what Evans told you before. She tells you that his death won't bring her or anyone else back, that Pascheck will hunt you like a dog... Unlike Evans, though, she tells you that you have her sympathy. You don't think it's a lie.

"Sofia died too. I know he's not a good man."

In the end you aren't swayed. You've gone too far to be swayed at this point. Once she realizes this, things get decidedly uglier.

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She's not the combatant Evans was... not by a long shot. The second battle goes by faster than the first, and it's not one you relish at all. There's something pitiable to it, and the details smudge together and distort when you try to look back on it. You can half-remember that you weren't trying to hurt her.

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A sound like an animal caught in a snare escapes her throat as you snap it. Evans doesn't react when it happens - not that you have any reason to expect him to in the state he's in.

He doesn't react when you behead him, either.

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It's hard to make sense of it after it's done. It's hard to make sense of anything. You know at some point that you have to run. You know Evans was right about something that he'd said before. Dammit Roske.

You aren't in good enough shape to put up much of a struggle when they reach you, although you remember making it hard for them. They still get a piece of wood in you pretty fast. Somewhere in the distance, you hear a warbling shriek, like a child throwing a tantrum.

Dawn overtakes you as your thoughts drift toward whether or not it was worth it.

You hope it was.

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He won! He even was winning it fair! Why are all of you like this!?

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