Pennyblood

Tegan

Hopeful Monster
Sophie frowned at the sight of Astrid drinking by herself in a lounge chair at the edge of the lobby.

There were seven of them, wards of the Royal Opera House, groomed to entertain North London. Astrid had no idea what strings her sponsor had pulled to ensure her a place in the chorus. Her presence in the Company was an abnormality.

In the darkness of their shared room was where they unveiled their cherished fears in hushed tones, always keeping one ear trained on the door, should Madame Swann come skulking by. Sophie let slip that a well-dressed man had heard her singing for food in the streets. He plucked her up without a word and took her to the Opera House. She was eight years old.


“Come on, dance with us for once,”
her eyes were heavy-lidded, almost dreamy, her breath smelled of Carmot. Something stirred at the edge of her memory. She had heard it somewhere before.

“Whose eye are you trying to catch Sophie?”
Astrid allowed herself to be led through the crowd.

The two girls brushed past George in their hurry, the redhead, the one in blue, gave him a small wave of apology, leaving the scent of poppies in her wake before she was pulled into the larger section of the lobby. There, a band played and the Spouses and performers danced together.


She imagined she was dancing among a twirling promenade of bejeweled pastries. She envisioned the vampire lords biting into them, their wounds oozing strawberry jam.
Astrid shook her head, freeing her brain of the cogitative champagne bubbles. She needed a new plan. Getting into one of the Factories was proving too difficult. They had come close to catching her the other night.


She spotted the familiar figure of the captain conversing with the Judge at the edge of the dance floor. She’d lost sight of Sophie in the decadent swirl. She was dancing close to a young man in red.

“Is this all right?”

“He wants me to dance with the others,”
he whispered, his dark eyes flashing petulantly.

Her movements were an unfamiliar, clumsy imitation of theirs. She exerted too much life into her limbs, so that they moved without grace. Her face was flushed. Her eyes had narrowed with laughter. She seemed more concerned with enjoying the dance than performing the steps correctly.

She knew she would have to charm and seduce the Norlon Angels if she was ever going to get inside the Factories. She’d spent the last month observing, learning the rules of this strange game between the humans and the vampires, so that she would know how to artfully break them. They were opulent, perfect to the point of vulgarity. The Angels would pardon any sin except the sin of dullness. Like children, they only wished to be amused, intrigued, delighted. And she would give it to them.

Her clear eyes drank in the brief glimpse of the Captain helping the Judge drink from a flute.

Astrid was surprised by Sophie, suddenly before her again, taking her by the hands and spinning her. Above them, the massive clock struck midnight.

“Happy Birthday.”
She was twenty years old, now. How did she know?

By the grin on Sophie’s face, the knots forming in her stomach, the way she kept spinning faster and faster. . .

It was time for Astrid Mercier to make her debut.

Her shoe slipped from her foot and sent her flying.

By the shape of the O Sophie’s mouth had formed.

By the sound of a few muffled gasps.

Astrid knew her trajectory had been accurate. She was falling straight for the Judge.

She was not surprised when the captain quickly filled the space between them, catching her firmly by the shoulders. But it did not stop the startled gasp that escaped her lips.
 
A

Alarice

Guest
Clawing. Groping. Kicking. Struggling. Even the threat Quincy made fell on deaf ears. For a moment she was stolen back in time to a night where she was being dragged away. Voices ... so many voices--They were going to take her away. They had dragged her from bed. No, she couldn't go. She didn't want to go!

"A-Arthuria? What are you doing here?"

Fight! Run! They wouldn't take her! Her mother and her father were yelling now. Yelling at the strangers, demanding answers. Her mother was screaming. Why was she screaming? Blood ... Was that blood?!

"Arthuria! Clam down you'll hurt yourself at this rate! What are you doing in my house? I've told you to knock haven't I!?"

Arthuria suddenly stopped and blinked! "Ma'am ... Miss ... Maxine ...?" She was disoriented, confused. She rubbed her temple. "I did not knock? I--I am hungry. My apologies." She lowered her head.
 

LadyHarpy

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Maxine let out a small sigh as Arthuria finally calmed down. The poor girl never did handle force well, she always seemed to be in a completely different place when people tried to hold onto her. She pet Arthuria's head gently and smiled as she started to push the girl toward the kitchen door.

"It's alright sweets, Let's go get you fed and warmed up, alright? You don't live in a very warm place do you, you're as cold as snow!" She said gently as she turned and looked to Lars, Quincy and the doctor. "I'll be back in a moment gents, once I have her eating we can go sit in the parlor and...well, figure a few things out."
 

Spammy

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As Maxine stepped in and led Arthuria away, Quincy made good on his earlier statement and holstered his pistol, pulling his coat around his waist to hide the weapon, as if he'd never drawn it. A pretty enough girl, he decided, but pretty insane. Probably none to safe to hang around, never know when those types might snap.

With that situation taken care of, he walked back over to the doctor, giving the machine gun a once-over. Seemed too ornate to him, more of a shelf-piece than something someone would actually use to fight with. Holy symbols on a gun seemed terribly ironic to him.

"Well, if it was tampered with at the docks, then I'd like to hire whatever gunsmith could modify and engrave this hardware between unloading and delivery. I don't follow European gunmakers as much, but I'm fairly sure there's no double-magazined gun on the market right now."

"In fact..." On a whim, Quincy picked the gun up, holding it delicately as he began to closely study the engravings of the gun, slowly turning the weapon around in his hands as he looked for any mark of the manufacturer or modifier. "I'm wondering if someone put their signature on this, might could lead us to them."
 

Asmodeus

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As Maxine led Arthuria into the kitchen, they were greeted by the flavoursome steam of cooking vegetables. The pot was bubbling away nicely and the lid rattling. Maxine could already hear the young girl's stomach rumble.

Sitting her at the chopping table, Maxine continued over and lifted the lid away, turning down the heat as she selected the best ladle.

But then her hand froze as she realised the noise had not ceased.

There was still rattling. And there was still the hiss of steam.

She heard Arthuria gasp and, turning, followed her gaze to the back door, which she had left open this morning. And there, coming across the back courtyard between the flapping lines of hanging sheets, a figure moved with autonomous purpose.

It raised its leg with a pneumatic hiss and stepped up over the threshold, hands extending towards Arthuria. And from the base of its skull a jet of steam plunged the kitchen into further mist.

And through that gloom it came.


* * * * *

Outside, the two workmen who had delivered the crate headed down the alley towards the wagon, already fishing out cigarettes to light. They were simple folk and more interested in their next meal than the intrigues of tampered cargo. As long as the customers paid, there would be no questions from them.

"What took yer so long?" barked the driver, who had been hovering nervously by the wagon ever since the others went inside.

The first of the workmen waved a hand dismissively and lit his cigarette.

"Get a fackin move on!" the driver ordered, "We's got deliveries in Lambeth. I ain't payin' ya to stand around!"

The second workman took a drag and opened his mouth to retort, but the words stalled on his lips. He sensed it a moment before it happened. There was a sudden clatter of horse hooves, like thunder striking, and then he and his colleague were thrown aside. They stumbled against the alley walls as a huge and coal-black horse tore between them, the creature's breath like some infernal screech.

It thundered down the alley and every step echoed like snapping bones. All they heard amid the din was the driver's scream and the slight whisper of flashing steel.

By the time they had got up again, their faces went white with horror

The massive horse reared, with steam belching from its nostrils, and atop it the cloaked and headless figure thrust its sword and skewered the fallen head of the driver. Snatching up its prize, the horseman stuffed it into his bag and left the body to spray arterial blood across the wagon side.

The two workmen looked at each other, then turned and fled in abject terror.
 
A

Alarice

Guest
"Thank you, Miss Maxine ..." Arthuria said quietly as she sat down at the table. With the excitement behind her, now she could sit, relax, and think straight. It was most perplexing when she blacked out like that. Disturbing how it only happened when strange men touched her. Or so she'd been told. It warranted experimentation on at a later date.

Maxine turned to the pot on the stove and her gaze drifted over the kitchen, the table, across the doorway, to the hanging sheets outside, to the creature walking toward her ... She sat frozen and wide-eyed, except for the gasp that caused Maxine to turn. But she suddenly fell backwards in her chair as the creature's fog filled the kitchen and promptly kicked the table with more force than any math hermit should possess at it!
 

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Maxine quickly made her way over to the stove as soon as Arthuria sat down at the table and quickly shut off the fire so the pot would stop hissing and boiling. She paused a moment as she realized that the sound had not stopped, in fact it was coming from a completely different direction. She turned toward the door and gasped when she say the strange figure, the ladle in her hand falling to the floor with a loud clang. It was almost at the door and with a small burst of speed she rushed over and closed it, locking it up tight. She then turned to Arthuria and helped her up once again, pushing her back out into the hallway.

"Sorry love, you'll have to eat later." She said softly as she pushed the young girl through the door.
 
A

Alarice

Guest
The table didn't reach Maxine as it skidded to the door stopping within an inch. It did, however, force her to go around. Arthuria scrambled to her feet and did as she was told. Now that she wasn't looking at the creature, some ounce of calm and self-control had returned to her. Once she was in the hallway, she staggered outside. Unfortunately for her, she happened to go out a door that led to where Quincy and Pennyblood had left the wagon. It was quiet as she approached, intending to return to her basement and chalk this up as a failure.

Must go. Must go. What a waste but it cannot be helped. Return later. Return when it is quiet. Mm ... Quiet. Now, so quiet ...
 

Spammy

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Quincy looked from one direction to the other as he heard the commotion on either side of him, watching Arthuria stumble past, looking somewhat startled. Well, more startled than usual.

In a half second his gun was filling his palm, the only remaining question being which to investigate first. It sounded like noises were already coming from the kitchen, which took some amount of precedence over those outside. Both hands closed around the grip of his revolver, holding it with a solid grip as he advanced towards that door, stopping with his body hidden behind the frame before turning into the door, filling it and raising his gun.

He wasn't sure what he was looking at. It was shaped like a man, but it moved and sounded mechanical, steam escaping from it at times, fogging the room. Even though the fog, it was still a fairly simple target.

One thumb went to the hammer of his revolver and smoothly pulled it back, the gun letting out a satisfying click as it was cocked, a clear message even if the thing couldn't understand verbal communication. Good Business was a double-action revolver, but when time was not an issue it was always more accurate to manually cock the gun.
 

Asmodeus

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Across the kitchen a low groan rose from atrophied lungs. The steam-powered creature lumbered at Quincy with heavy arms outstretched, and as it moved pistons pulled its face into a tormented grimace.

It was all the incentive he needed.

Quincy fired and the shot sent the monster reeling. Any normal man would have been blown back into the garden, but this creature was robust - a fusion of metal plates, pneumatics and necrotic flesh. It stumbled then advanced again, its seven foot shadow coming over the man.

He fired again.

The second shot knocked the creature into the oven and sent the cooking pots tumbling. It crashed down as vegetable water scalded its flesh and utensils dropped onto its head, and with another groan, shrill and piteous, it slumped against the oven.






Back in the drawing room, Doctor Pennyblood turned to rush into the street after Arthuria. "No, child! Don't go out th--" But his shout was cut short as a massive figure lurched between him and the fleeing girl. The black horse reared up with a deafening squeal and it front hooves caught Pennyblood's jaw and knocked him back. The man was thown amidst the packing crates and Lars and Maxine recoiled as the Horseman entered the house.

The horse clomped into the drawing room, barely squeezing through the door and throwing its rider around like a ragdoll. They saw now that the Horseman was attached to the mount, soldered into his saddle, and likewise the longsword was welded to his gauntlet. Between steam pistons and pneumatic joints pale flesh was twitching, and through the stump of its neck came gargling as the old lungs tried to make noise. The horseman swung its blade wildly, cleaving the light fightings, knocking paintings from the wall and toppling lampshades.

With Quincy in the kitchen, Arthuria fled and Pennyblood unconscious... it was down to Lars and Maxine to deal with this intruder.



* * * * * *​





Meanwhile, in North London, at the St Paul's Opera House, the captain of the guard moved Astrid away from the Judge. He had one hand planted on her shoulder with a vice-like grip, and one had to wonder if it was through concern for his master, or concern for the foolish girl who had caught his master's eye.

"Too much dancing for one night, Miss," he said to her, with not a hint of expression.


"Sss...s'alright, Captain,"
came the Judge's voice from behind them and Astrid's saw the captain stiffen.

He leant close to her and whispered. "Walk away,"

But then the Judge spoke again, and in seconds the masked man was pushing between them. "No... no... will speak..."

The captain's eyes closed - a gesture of despair, and he was forced to step away. He had tried... he had done his best to spare the girl. But now his master was upon her and she would go the way of all his other obsessions. As the captain retreated the eyes of the Judge's plague mask bore into Astrid, as they had on the stage before. He removed his top hat and thick matted hair, the colour of rotting wood, could not hide the scar tissue around his hairline. She couldn’t tell if he was smiling. She couldn’t tell anything. Light stirred across the sharp beak of the metal mask as he cocked his head and passed a flute of champagne towards her.

"I won't tell..."

With a wheezing sniff, he inhaled her perfume. "Orchids, yes? I won't tell..."





Far behind them, as the guests resumed their chatter, Astrid's dropped shoe was scooped from the floor. Louchard tossed it one hand, considering it as he sipped his champagne. He was watching the interaction of the Judge and Astrid and smiling. "Well well, George," he remarked to the shadow hanging over his shoulder. "It seems we're not the only naughty little scamps at this party."

The vampire's gaze drifted to the captain of the guard who, having given up on trying to get the girl away from the Judge, was now relaying orders to the other soldiers stationed around the room. "And if our predictions are correct, the tasty captain is, at this very moment, sending his monsters after our Southern darlings."

He slipped Astrid's shoe into the pocket of his purple coat then sipped some more champagne. "Quincy and Maxine had better be perky."
 

LadyHarpy

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Maxine was about to go after Arthuria but the girl was too fast for her. Before she could attempt to get to the door she her a loud crash and before she knew it a horseman burst into the hall. It was a miracle that she was able to get out of the way, and the same to Lars as well, the damned thing nearly ran them over. It took a bit for her to notice but it seemed that the horse was in more control than the rider, the poor fool being shaken about like a dusty old carpet.

As the horseman destroyed her drawing room she bolted up her staircase with as much speed as she could muster. She opened one of her closed doors and entered a rather interesting room. The wall was decorated with firearms of all kinds, both large and small. With a hasty grab and a grunt of effort she pulled a large shotgun off the wall and heavy bullets meant to make some serious damage. She stomped back down the stairs and aimed her gun into the drawing room, pointing the barrel at the horse without a second thought and firing into one of it's legs, reloading quickly and placing another bullet in its chest.
 

Spammy

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Quincy slowly walked towards... the thing after it stopped moving, slumped against the kitchen equipment. His gun never wavered from being aimed at the thing's forehead. For a long moment he stood over it, trying to understand what it was, his mind struggling to understand this mix of flesh and metal in the shape of a man.

For good measure, he dropped his aim down to where the thing's heart would be -providing it had a heart- and fired again, watching the thing's chest rock under the impact of the bullet. He didn't see the bullet ricochet, so hopefully something vital was now bullet-ridden and useless.

His gut was no longer in a nervous knot, but that was only because he knew his worst suspicions were confirmed and this day had gone about as wrong as it could possibly go.

He only sighed as he heard the commotion coming from the living room, not wanting to have to deal with it, knew that it was just another part of this day going downhill. He slowly began to walk towards the kitchen door, thinking of how he could get out of this. He had a friend in the import department, and kept the shipment manifests of his legal transactions. If he could survive, he could prove that the incriminating items were not part of his order. If he survived. And if someone would listen, the leeches seemed to have adopted a kill first, ask questions later policy.
 

Childish Grumpino

"...before turning the gun on himself."
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[size=+1]“They were selected carefully, over many almost-as-capable rivals,” I reply to Louchard’s musing absently, watching as the Judge stalks his latest prey. I can scarcely contain my revulsion for the masked figure; I may be a monster in the form of a man, but he is something different altogether. “I am certain they will survive the ordeal. Call it a baptism by fire, if you would.” A dry smile crosses my lips for a moment, like a fleeting breeze in a stagnant summer.

Louchard and I drift through the circles of the undying elite, exchanging pleasantries and sharing our thoughts upon the spectacle we have all just watched. I force my face into a smile, through sheer willpower do I make my hand shake those belonging to my fellow ‘kindred’, all the while hiding my disgust and loathing for them.

Parasites and leeches, all of them. Their reckoning is at hand; it comes like a shadow in the night, unseen by all until it is far too late.

For far too long am I forced to keep up this façade of compatriotism and friendliness, but finally Louchard and I are able to drift away from the crowd. I sigh with audible relief as soon as we are out of ear-shot. “If one more disgusting sycophant asks me what I thought of the production, I will send him to his final death before he has finished his sentence…” I hiss as we move for the foyer doors, but my companion cuts me off before I can conclude my rant.

“Relax, my dear George,” Louchard soothes, placing a hand on my shoulder, “We have played our parts well; they suspect nothing.” With a sigh, I nod.
“I know, I know. You’re aware of how I feel about such… gatherings however.” His hand strokes my cheek.
“Yes I am, my dear. I think I can continue walking the tight-rope of social intricacies here; you should perhaps go and check upon our unsuspecting puppets, to ensure their strings have not yet snapped?” He grins broadly as I nod.
“Indeed. Best to ensure the captain’s minions do not rough them up too much. We do need them in one piece for this plan of ours.”

Louchard leans in and plants a careful kiss on the side of my neck, whispering into my ear,
“Then fly, my raven. Do what you do best.”

With a whirl of his cape he is gone again, back into the throng of bickering undead socialites. Another smile crosses my lips as I move for the carriage. Atop the driver’s seat is Pewsley, decked out in extravagant clothing for the occasion. Louchard insists on playing the part well, after all.
“Where to, m’lord?” Pewsley asks in his brisk, butler-esque voice as I climb into the carriage.
“South London, as fast as the roads permit,” I order, and without a word Pewsley guides the gilded steam-carriage into action. He is an unwavering servant; all blood thralls are, and though it pains me at times to keep one even I must acknowledge their uses.

I change rapidly in the carriage, removing the finery for more practical garments and topping off my new clothing with a long opera-cloak and a wide-brimmed top hat, all the better for hiding my face in the gloom of the night.

Let my partner play at courtly politics; I will ensure the business end of our scheme runs smoothly.[/size]
 

Asmodeus

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Doctor Pennyblood pulled himself up on the drawing room table and straightened his hat. His other hand was clutching his jaw, where the horse's hooves had clipped him, but his bandaged face spoke little of the pain he was in. "I take it, Miss Brewer, that these are not your ordinary customers?"

Maxine was at the foot of the stairs with her shotgun, watching the toppled horse as it breathed shallow, rasping breaths. The creature was dying and the rider pinned upon its back convulsed as it grabbed at the walls and furniture. Pennyblood crept closer and came into a crouch. "Fascinating. It looks like..." He grabbed the rider's wrist with both hands and was almost flung against the wall for doing so. Wrestling with the flailing limb, the Doctor managed to pull of the riding glove before he was pushed away. A pale hand was revealed, the nails long rotted and the skin being eaten away by maggots and decay.

"By jove, it's a Migrant..."

"There's another one in the kitchen," came Quincy's voice as he stepped back into the room from the hallway.

"Steam-animated zombie corpses," the Doctor mused as he watched the writhing horseman. "Part dynamised to retain primary neural function. Truly sophisticated - the work of a well-funded and ill-intentioned mind. I wonder how they tracked us? The animal instincts of the pre-hybridised Migrant would engender only the simplest of predatory agendas and not..."

His ramble was cut short by noise from the main street. Voices were shouting orders, boots were clomping and whistles were being blown.

"The Home Guard approaches, my friends. And for my own part, I do not find our present situation flattering."

"Agreed," Quincy added.

Maxine nodded, hopped over the dying horse and took her 'presents' from the crate. When she was ready they slipped out into the alleyway and back to the cart, where it took each of them a measure of will to look away from the decapitated body of the cart driver. The poor man had been left with the discarded blade, and his blood was now seeping into the cobbles. There was nothing more they could do for him. It would be too dangerous to make a getaway by carriage, so instead Quincy and Pennyblood retrieved their own special items before following Maxine further into the backstreets.

The air was heavy with the shouts of the Home Guard. From the sound of it an entire platoon was descending on Maxine's property - far too many for a simple call-out. The soldiers had clearly been prepared. As the three fugitives slipped through the alleys they caught glimpses of police patrols and militiamen rushing to the scene, along with curious urchins and gossiping housemaids. This was quite the news of the morning.

Luckily, most of them were moving in the opposite direction. Perhaps the soldiers had spotted Arthuria and were giving chase. In her terror the girl may have doomed herself to capture, but at least she had brought the other three time.

No doubt their sketches would be in the papers tomorrow.


* * * * *​


It was a little past 11 when the door of Doctor Pennyblood's Baker Street house was opened and the three of them hurried inside. Moving through the porch, Pennyblood removed his hat and gloves, then pulled off his mask to reveal his slicked-back hair and hawk-like features. There was a slight bruise on his jaw, but his energy had not been sapped.

"A brief respite, my friends. Make yourselves at home. There's brandy in the study, and I'll be with you shortly."

The hallway was a gauntlet of dark oak and mahogany pieces. There were a dozen grandfather clocks here that set a continual beat and were punctuated by loo tables bearing random keepsakes – an old radio, a broken lamp, a miniature rocking horse. The place was more like a museum than a residence, which was perhaps fitting for the amount of time Pennyblood spent here. He led them as far as the study before striding up the stairs whilst muttering to himself. A fat, ginger cat skittered out of his way and dashed into the kitchen.

The Doctor’s study was the best-kept room in the house, meticulously cleaned, sometimes by the Professor himself. Books bound in red leather were protected by oak and latticed glass, and the best of the rosewood sofas had been placed here. A mirrored chiffonier contained the Professor’s alcohol supply and over the mantelpiece a sepia map of Old London was framed behind polished glass. The Professor had endeavoured to lend an explorer’s theme to this room, complete with globes and Greek statuettes. There was even a telescope and tripod in the corner.

Old, austere and temptingly secretive. The room was the Pennyblood's best reflection.

 

LadyHarpy

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Maxine marched into the Doctor's home in a bit of a daze, her chest heaving as she tried to catch her breath from running. Her heels clicked as she wandered into the study, taking a seat as soon as she could. Her face had gone a little pale as the truth of the situation hit her. At that moment her house was probably being swarmed by the Home Guard, her furniture tossed about and her precious gun collection being taken down and shipped off to some warehouse. She at least was able to keep her duel pistols and the new toy she received, but they could not make up for the many more that she lost.

With a broken sigh she sat back in her chair, slouching a bit as she removed her glasses and rubbed her eyes tiredly, obviously going through more emotions that either of the men. She looked around at the study after a moment, trying to keep her mind busy so her feelings wouldn't make her a sobbing mess. The room had an adventurous feeling to it, but was also comforting, possibly for the fact that it was the safest place for them to be at the moment, out of site of wandering eyes.
 

Spammy

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Quincy took the moment of calm to replace the spent bullets in the cylinder of Good Business with fresh ones, dropping the casings into a coat pocket. To leave a trace as incriminating as that would be the height of foolishness right now. The measured expression on his face was not an indicator of his thoughts at the moment, though.

He didn't like this. Of all the things he didn't like about this day, being at the Doctor's house was one of them. With the number of shouts he heard converging on the house as they left, there was some measure of organization to their opponents. and if they were organized and connected to High London, he had little doubt that they would be coming here.

He glanced at Maxine, her pale expression, felt a pang of sympathy. But that sympathy was pushed back by the almost familiarity with this situation. He had never been the target of a raid or arrest, made sure to always toe the line and keep his North London contacts well paid and cared for. But only a fool would smuggle arms, legal and not, into London without some kind of plan in case things went south.

"I can't say I want to stop here," Quincy said to Maxine as he crossed the room, stopping by the stairs, "If there's a paper in North London connecting the Doctor to this address, it's not safe. I'm not getting too comfortable."

"Doctor, when you're ready, I'd like to discuss our short term plans." He called to the upstairs of the house, before pacing shortly across the living room, mentally reviewing the names and addresses he had memorized in case the police moved against him.
 
L

Luna

Guest
Cassia tried to keep calm. She was still in shock and at this point close to tears. All of her friends back at home thought her parents' decision was genius, that it was an honor. It's not an honor, she thought, it's a death sentence. I might as well die. That is no way of life. She looked up at the hazy sky and saw that the moon has risen. Her newest concern was this character that she has heard of. He haunted the streets of her neighborhood and her home. The dark streets was the hunting ground of this murderer or a dark hero to those who oppose the Dead Deal. She hoped with all her heart, that she would make it to the boarding house that her friends were talking about where the lower people tend to stay. Cassia didn't care anymore, as long as she wasn't sent to wherever those traitors go she would be happy.


There was a crash further down the street and Cassia clung to the wall. Slowly crawling her way towards what looked like the boarding house she was hoping to be welcomed in, there was another crash and she flinched slightly. She reached in her bag and clasped her hand around the handle of one of the ten knives she took from her father.

"Well, hurry up!" Said a deep voice. She held her breath and ducked into a shadow. A man walked backwards into the street. He was tall with a dark trench coat and a wide brimmed top hat. "If you find something, I better be the first to know. That woman has a whole collection of fire arms, she can't have gone too far. I am tired of these games!" The man turned towards Cassia and her eyes widened in fear. Seeing her, the man stormed over to her. She was frozen in fear as the man quickly closed the gap between them. In seconds he was towering over her, giving her a steely look. He grabbed her wrist and pulled her. Cassia's muscles was finally jerked back into gear as she dug her heels into the ground. "What are you doing here, girl?"

Cassia cleared her throat and pulled her wrist out of the man's grasp. "I am here because I was told to come here." She lied. Her heart was racing and it was hard not to turn away and run. The man looked her up and down, sizing her as he responded, "Well, this is a scene of a crime. You are no longer permitted here. Leave."

She huffed and walked around the man. Not even a word of care. Is this man thick? Has he not heard of this Jack the Ripper? Young girl out in the night and all he can say is that she isn't permitted into a scene of crime. She stormed down the street, her heels clicking the stones. After a few minutes, Cassia quickly dug in her bag and took out a crumpled sheet of paper. "There was a professor--no a doctor, I think," she rambled, thinking out loud. "Dear God, I can hardly read this. Who wrote this--oh never mind that. This is my last connection to this Brewer woman, I can't be seen on the streets. My parents will be telling the Northerners that I've gone."

Cassia looked back down on the crumpled sheet of paper, then looked down at the road ahead of her. This was her last chance. It was either to find a way to hide from the Vampires or to succumb to them. She will do anything in her power to stay away from those leeches. This doctor who lives on Baker street should send her on the right path. He must know who this Brewer woman is or else she will be lost. She put the paper back into her bag and started her way.

As she walked down, the only light she received is from the moon and the low lighting of the lamps. It was starting to get colder and it was starting to seep through her clothes. She now regretted not taking a coat. The street was quiet until she heard the soft sounds of hooves, getting louder and louder.
 
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Asmodeus

Gazorpazorpdeus
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"Nonsense, my dear Quincy," the Doctor cried as he hopped back down the stairs. "It is the very faculty of long-term planning that makes us human."

The man had removed his mask to reveal the sharp, hawk-like features of Doctor Randolph Hoffman. His lids were half-closed as always, but the eyes had a ruthless wit to them and a sparkle of adventure. "Let us examine the evidence," he declared as he paced the study between Quincy and Maxine. "Three people, of no great renown, receive gifts from a mysterious benefactor. The first: a trifold compressed magmatite together with phosphorus reactant enclosed in grenade form. The second: a bandolier of silver-tipped bullets matching the calliber of Mr Quincy's personalised armaments. The third: a consignment of contraband garlic together with a machine-operated rifle customised for Miss Brewer's physique."

He took a pipe from his desk, striking a match to light the tobacco. There were a few thoughtful puffs before he continued. "It goes without saying that these gifts have one end in mind - namely the perpetration of that ultimate heresy - the murder of vampires. Now..."

He strode to the map of Old London that hung on the study wall, prodding his pipe against the place where Maxine's boarding house was. "...Not half an hour after receiving these gifts, we are beset by steam-powered dynamised automatons - a work of biotechnic genius that could only have originated from North London."

He prodded the top of the map, where the upper class now resided. "From this we draw one of two elementary conclusions. Either we were victims of a setup, which I doubt given our slim dealings with the aristocracy. Or... those mechanical fiends were not hunting us, but rather... our benefactor."

There was a nervous cough at the study door as a young boy shuffled in, carrying a bundle of equipment. The boy was dirty and pale-looking, under-nourished and twitchy. With small grunts and gasps, he dropped a number of backpacks on the floor - leather satchels tailored to be worn around the shoulders. Each had been stuffed with supplies of bread and cured meats, along with dried fruit and apples. On top of this the boy bundled some rope, compasses, oil lamps and winter coats. "I fink that's it, Professor."

"Excellent, Ripley, my boy." Pennyblood moved over and slapped the boy hard on the back. "Did you pack my utility belt?"

"Er.. yeah... like you said."

Quincy raised an eyebrow, "Going somewhere, Doctor?"

Pennyblood smiled and handed the man a backpack. "Yes we are." Then he carried the third backpack to Maxine. "The Judge would have no reason to send his troops into South London, given that the Home Guard and the Migrant threat have kept the people contained for more than decade. It therefore stands to reason that the only thing that would concern him is a conspiracy within his own borders - namely a threat from inside North London itself."

Leaving Maxine frowning as she held the backpack, Pennyblood moved to his drinks cabinet and unlocked it. "Our benefactor, whoever he is, no doubt resides in North London and had access to the Canary Wharf shipping yards where our cargo was delivered. If we are to clear our names and unravel this mystery, it is to North London that we must go."

"That's ridiculous," said Maxine, "The bridges between North and South London are not only closed off but swarming with Migrants!"

Pennyblood turned, holding a perfume spray bottle that he had taken from the drinks cabinet. "That is why, Miss Brewer, we must do as the Romans do."

He sprayed her suddenly, dousing the woman in a red mist of odd smelling perfume. He then did the same to Quincy before he could dodge. As the room filled with musk he waved the bottle. "Epideictic pheremone, extracted directly from the ovarian glands of the Thames Heron. My studies have revealed that it inhibits the libidal predation of dormant Migrants."

Ripley grinned at Quincy and Maxine through the smoke. "Zombie repellant!"

"That kitchen floor won't scrub itself, boy."

Ripley stopped smiling and left the room with his head lowered.

"We cross London Bridge," Pennyblood declared as he puffed his pipe by the window, "We get to the airship yard. And we find out exactly who it is who's got the Mayor of London so hot and bothered."
 

Childish Grumpino

"...before turning the gun on himself."
DONATING MEMBER
Invitation Status
[size=+1]The carriage thunders through the sanguine night, towards the home of Louchard and I's chosen few.

I sit in silence in the back, staring out of the window towards the skyline of London. One can see the damage that has been done to the city of my birth, the remains of the Migrant invasion. The burnt-out buildings that still haven't been replaced, the abandoned suburbs and wastelands where once there was gardens.

London is as much one of the undead now as I am, preserved and kept to a semblance of life by forces unnatural.

I will find a way to put it out of it's misery soon enough.

We pass into South London, and the painful truth of what my home has become grows even more apparent. The streets are dead and lifeless; they have lost what they once had in life. When the Migrants came London died; it was the vampires who made it into this... mockery. Sighing, I close the blinds and pick up the mouthpiece to speak to Pewsley.
“Take me to the residence of Madame Maxine, Pewsley.”
“Very good, m'lord,” comes the quick reply, and I feel the carriage begin to move around corners and turns towards my destination.

Within five minutes, the carriage comes to a stop. A little earlier than I had anticipated, actually; how odd. Then Pewsley's voice echoes through the carriage.
“Pardon my intrusion, m'lord, but I think it prudent that you take a look at this.” Frowning, I climb out of the carriage and immediately realise what my driver is referring to.

Camberwell Road swarms with soldiers of the Home Guard, and more still around the home of Maxine. With a disgruntled sigh I look up to Pewsley and mutter,
“Let us move on, Pewsley. We should not tarry here.”
“OI, HANG ON!” a voice yells, and one of the soldiers comes running over, “WHAT THE 'ELL ARE YOU DOIN' 'ERE?!” I turn to face the man, and he catches the smile I flash him, clearly noting the fangs going by the widening of his eyes. “My apologies, sir!” he stammers, “I didn' know tha'--”
“It's quite alright, my good man,” I interrupt, turning on my charm, “I was simply passing through here on the way to a social occasion and noticed the Home Guard's activity here. What, may I ask, is going on here?”

Th soldier relaxes and smiles, revealing a mouth of missing or squint teeth.
“Got a tip-off that there were rebels and traitors operatin' out of this 'ere building, so we did!” he says, with a certain amount of pride, “Managed to catch one of the bastards, too!” Inwardly I curse, but my face spreads to a smile,
“I am glad to hear the Home Guard is keeping this city safe. Best I be on my way; I would not want to hinder your investigation.” As I climb back into the carriage, the soldier calls “'Ave a good night, sir!” I resist the urge to strangle him and close the door, giving him a polite nod from inside the cabin.

“Pewsley, take me to the residence of Doctor Pennyblood. I imagine that is where any of the escapees would have headed.” I hear an acknowledgement from my driver and settle back into my seat. One of our pieces may have been captured. Most aggravating; though they know nothing of Louchard and myself those we have selected where the best-suited for the task. Still, there are other candidates.

Just a few minutes pass; we have not moved far from Camberwell Road when my eyes fall upon a lone woman, moving down the street. One of the fugitives, maybe? I order Pewsley to stop the carriage just in front of her, and clamber out into the rain.
“Young miss, might I offer you a ride in such weather?” I call out, my voice all charm and friendliness, “These streets are hardly safe for a lady alone at night!”[/size]
 
L

Luna

Guest
Deep in thought, Cassia tuned out the sound of hooves hitting the streets as she continued on her way. The writing on the crumpled piece of paper was near ineligible and she was sure the directions were incorrect. But desperate, she continued anyway. Her head was filled with a million thoughts all at the same time and the thought process only came to a halt when a carriage stopped abruptly in front of her. A man's voice emerged from the carriage in a charming and friendly way.

"Young miss, might I offer you a ride in such weather? These streets are hardly safe for a lady alone at night!" She looked up and it took a moment for her to remember where she was.

"Oh!" she muttered and looked around. "That's right I was heading to..." She rambled on then looked at the man. "Well, never mind that." She said louder. "A ride? No thank you, I'm not fit to ride in such a luxury. But might I ask you where the professor--no sorry--Doctor lives? I got rubbish directions from a drunk man and I need to find my way there straight away..." Cassia slowly stopped as she realized that she was giving information to a complete stranger. Apparently her parents have taught her nothing. Her mind was starting to calculate her way out of the situation. It was dark and it was certainly dangerous. For all she knows that can be Jack the Ripper himself!

"No, no..." she started muttering once more. She felt odd looks from the man's horseman, but waved it away. "I need those directions. They'll find me in no time. I was lucky they didn't tip them off already. There is no chance that I am being turned into those blood banks." There was a slight breeze and it chilled her to the bone.
"And this bloody weather doesn't help either!" She shouted at the sky. Cassia lowered her head back to the stranger. "My apologies, sir, but I'll be on my way." She gave a wry smile and walked around the carriage.

But before she was out of ear-shot, she seemed to say a few things a bit too loudly. "Bloody northerners, leeches. My bloody parents, I hope they rot in hell." She then spat at the ground. It wasn't very lady-like, but at the moment, Cassia was very temperamental.