by Timothy Toner
He watched her. Crossing the street. Stepping up on the curb, her skirt rode up slightly. It made his lips quiver.
He pursued. She carried herself well, a defiant stance. Definitely self defense classes. He liked the challenge. A jangle of keys. She was carrying. Mace. Good, this ought to be fun.
He hunted. A few blocks. He was just another invisible person on the midnight streets, trying to get home before the witching hour. If only she noticed his footsteps falling into rhythm with hers.
An alley appeared. He quickened his pace, ever so slightly. The sound, the difference in sound...distracted her. Time to strike.
One hand grabbed her mouth, cupping away from wayward teeth. The other looped around her waist and pulled. His body dragged her struggling form into the alleyway. The hunt was over. The feasting had begun.
She was quick with the mace, he gave her that. But women are stupid creatures. They hold the can all wrong. Before she can pop the nozzle, he grabs the bottom, clearly accessible, and pulls. It pops right out of her hand. On deft moment later, and chemical irritants baptize her face in torment.
She tries to scream, but he draws the knife. He massages her throat with it, and tells her. No screams. The knife doesn't bite. She doesn't scream.
She's crying now, faintly sobbing, but whether it's from the chemical burns, or from sheer mortal terror, he doesn't know. He doesn't care.
He forces her to the ground, and pounces on her. She struggles, and the knife speaks, scratching her throat. Not a lot. Just enough so that she understands.
He forces her legs open, letting the skirt ride up. She wants to scream, but can't. The steel at her throat is gag enough. No pantyhose. Good.
She's talking, and he wants to thrust. He listens. This might be good.
"Who...who are you? Why ME?"
He laughs, and stares at her tormented face. "Who knows, bitch? Who the fuck knows?"
An echo? Caught on the non-existent wind, it seems to reverberate throughout the causeway. He stops. She freezes. It was real. It scares them both.
Again, not an echo. More distinct, more impatient. WHAT EVIL...
He bolts to his knees. Something wrong... LURKS...IN THE HEARTS OF MEN...?
A pause. He glances about the alley. No one. For all the privacy and darkness the alley offered it was relatively well lit. A full moon illuminated the sky, dissipating shadow. No hiding places.
THE NIGHT KNOWS...
And then a laugh. Hideous and dreadful. Meant for him and him alone. He pisses his pants.
He stands up, ready to face his enemy, the enemy that isn't there.
"Where the f--"
It is as if the wall had caved in on him. He is sprawled back, almost crushed by the force of the blow to his face.
He is bleeding. Bleeding and in pain. And the guy isn't anywhere!
He readies his knife. It doesn't matter. A second strike, just as concussive as the first, rocks his world. The blow to the back of the head makes him see stars. This is gonna be over pretty damn soon.
He turns to run. An animal, almost trapped, darting for freedom. Unaware that the hunter, the true hunter is EVERYWHERE.
A cannon, hand held, resounds through the night, and finds its target in his delicate chest. He watches in crimson glory as his life explodes OUT. Again. And again.
And then it is over. A form stands over him, holding an ancient revolver. It moves from the body to her, where she cowers in fear.
She tries to kick out, and it accepts it. It needs to be close. It stares into her eyes with scarlet seduction and TELLS her. Tells her that it never happened. None of this. None of what would happen. It strokes her cheek, and she glances up, lost. She understands.
It rises. The sirens will come soon, bringing the paladins, those too pure to understand its ways. It smiles, and calls into the air, "Take me, Mother Nox...transport me to your bosom!"
And had she remembered, she would have seem it collapse on himself, and tuck into a ball, as if to shrink to nothing.
But it does not stop there. It lunges up, fire in his eyes, and ivory in his mouth, jagged bits too sharp.
It leaps on the hunter, a jackal to the tiger that stood before, and sips blood from the punchbowl sternum. So much blood. The police would never know.
And then it is gone. Whether it ran or flew or just walked away doesn't matter.
She doesn't remember.
Being born George Cranston was fairly average, but when your favorite hero on the radio was the Night, infamous dark avenger, whose secret identity was Lemont Cranston, it turned wheels in your head. Maybe you had a secret brother (who, of course, was white) who, in reality, was none other than The Night!
The Night was a Two Fisted vigilante that always saw justice dome. He learned a power at a Tibetan monastery that would allow him to instataneously hypnotize people into believing he wasn't there, an effective form of invisibility. The Night could also stare at you with his cold eyes, and discern all the evil you had done in the past. It was George's favorite stories.
Stories for children.
And then George Cranston grew up, but he never forgot. He kept his pulp thrillers and comics, and The Night memorabilia, hoping to give them to his son.
It would seem like it never was going to happen. The doctor said it might have been chemicals at the lab, but who really knew. Finally, he was forty-five, she was forty. And a miracle happened. A boy. A boy who meant so much to him, that there was but one name to give it. Lemont Cranston. The Night.
He indoctrinated his son, cutting his teeth on The Night's latest exploits. Lemont learned fast. From the youngest age that George could remember, Lemont wanted to be a District Attorney, just like his namesake.
And so nothing was too good for Lemont. He was shipped off to Northwestern University, in the suburbs north of Chicago, to become a lawyer.
But Lemont had a secret passion. His love of pulp. He wanted to write "true crime" stories, even though they went out of style decades before. It didn't stop him from writing, though.
He showed it to his "friends." Kids who had grown up in the Green, and made it out with a lot of hard work, and a little bit of luck. They laughed at him. "Man, you don't know crime!"
It was true. He didn't. But he was going to find out. A serial rapist was stalking the North Side, preying on old ladies. They had issued numerous descriptions that seemed to indicate every Black youth was a suspect. It didn't stop Lemont.
He remembered the bar he hand his friends had gone to to shoot pool and hang out. There, he used his powers of deductive reasoning and intuition, and spotted him. Make no mistake, he was the one.
Lemont found him, back at that pool hall, and followed him. He exercised every bit of the training he had culled from the numerous detective manuals he had studied, and shadowed the mark.
And, oddly enough, the mark struck.
Still unseen, Lemont watched as the attacker grabbed an old lady, and dragged her into an alley. Not expecting this, Lemont panicked. But instead of running away, he ran to.
The especially heinous thing about this rapist was that he found great pleasure in carving up his victim's faces with a wicked knife he used. When Lemont rushed the corner, that's what he saw: a woman gasping, a fountain of blood for a face. But no attacker.
He struck. First in the chest, Lemont's heart was severed in twain. He tried to fall, but the attacker kept inserting the blade over and over into his gut.
When he was done, the rapist turned back to his victim, and began anew. Lemont, life oozing from each gaping hole, watched the whole horrible event from eyes that could not close. Death, when it came, was a relief. His last memories were of the rapist, finishing up, and kicking him in the head as he passed.
And then a shadow fell over him...
The rest is blurry. He awoke in his secret base, beneath the brownstone where he lived. He was Lemont Cranston, but it was Lemont Cranston, Dark Avenger, Servant of Mother Nox, the Sheltering Goddess, a Tibetan deity he had discovered in one of his many trips around the world.
Something had happened. His...death?...had somehow imbued him with strange, mystical powers. The power to cloud men's minds, the power to search men's soul for evil intent. But the mantle of this power carried a heavy burden. To be sacred to Nox, he must repulse the sun. But to Lemont, it did not matter. He was a creature of the night, a paladin of his Goddess, ready to defend the darkness from those who would use it for evil. He was The Night.
When the deed was done, and the foe vanquished, whether by cold fists or hot lead, Nox would tranport The Night into a plane of ecstacy, for a job well done. He would awaken a few minutes later, blocks from where he started. Mother Nox was so good.
His armory consisted of a modified Thompson Submachine gun, with the standard 88 round drum feed...with a few custom modifications. The inside was stripped down, and replaced with modern fire technology, the bullets were replaced with hollow tipped shells. His two Colt revolvers were also modified to take a heavier load, and support the dum dum cartridges.
His cape was made of a fireproof weave, with kevlar strips sewn in, for added protection. If his powers did not work, or he preferred to fight a foe head on, he could wildly furl and unfurl the cloak, presenting a mass of cloth that made accurate targeting difficult (+2 difficulty if this is his only action in a round).
Finally, he had any number of high tech wonders, the most useful being a powerful speaker hooked up to a voice activated microphone on his lapel. He can adhere the speaker to a wall, and then make his voice seem to come from the opposite direction that he usually is. Vocal distortions are sufficient to make it truly chilling to hear.
His car is a wonder of "kit" technology. A replica of the 1932 (whoops, need a cool 1932 car...), it has a superior engine, with police band, cellular phone and computer built in, as well as ceramic armor body panels, and shatterproof glass. Top speed is 130 mph. An ECM mounted on the front of the pod assures lack of police involvement.
Currently, The Night is hunting down the criminal scum that ruined his life. He longs for a time when he can put down the mask, and return to the sun, but he knows he can't turn his back on crime.
It was decided that before Max was allowed to age another day, he would be Embraced. The idea did appeal to the writer, and he readied himself.
Now there was a problem. At the time, vampiric immigration was at an all time high. The creation of neonates was highly regulated; one simply could not embrace another...forms had to be filled out ad nauseam, and the final case would come before an impartial judge. In this case, the judge was Hugo, an odious Tremere, who definitely did not like Max Herald and his works. He knew he could not refuse the petition, so he passed the buck. To a Malkavian.
Max's derangement was--interesting, to say the least. He appeared totally normal, except that he could no longer tell the difference between reality and the fantasy he was constantly thinking up. Every moment became an adventure, as he tried to decide whether the lupine roaring down on him was real or not.
He grew tired, and slept often. Each time he would awake, and cause a revival in one of his characters, with him ghostwriting the book. This caused the bucks to flow in steadily.
One day, a few years ago, as he awoke, an idea came to him. He grabbed the phone book, and looked. He had been depressed that perhaps all his work was for naught. He wondered if someone was so loyal, that they would name a child after one of his characters. He searched and searched and...found it. Lemont Cranston, no less! His favorite character! He set out to find more information. Max was more than pleased...
Okay, so he was the wrong race, but nothing was wrong with that. The kid was a Night fanatic. Max read with great pleasure Lemont's "True Crime" stories, and followed him wherever the boy went.
And then the night in the alley...
Maybe Max could have done something to stop it, but it didn't matter now. Lemont was steeping in a pool of his own blood, and the scene called out for pulp justice.
Justifying that he would have done this anyway (waiting only for Lemont to get a little more physically and mentally mature), Max embraced Lemont, and took him to his haven. There he resculpted Lemont's memories to fit his new life. Max used his considerable resources to build all the items that existed only on paper. It took time, especially training Lemont in all his gifts, without him knowing it, but he was ready
Max released Lemont into the world, with strict orders to avoid other Kindred (those with pale intent) at all cost. This he has done rather well.
One problem is that Lemont does not know he is a vampire. He has built his fantasy world around The Night. The way he feeds is that after he kills a crimial, Mr. Brain shuts off, and Lemont goes into a directed feeding frenzy over the corpse. He will then run off, and awaken blocks later, feeling like he was "transported" there.
How has Chicago reacted to The Night? Only one person would care, and that would be the Prince. Such (relatively) open display of power might be alarming, perhaps dangerous, but the benefits far outweigh the risks. Lemont targets only violent individuals for death. Those he leaves alive, he carefully wipes clean except for the name The Night! burning in their mind. Lodin suppresses the papers and the police, and the effect is dramatic. Word of The Night has stayed out of the media, causing a word of mouth rumor mill, in both genteel company and the criminal underworld, one that is easy to deny. When people feel safe, more prey go out at night, making the job of the vampire easier, and less risky. The Night is, in effect, making people feel safer about the night, whether they know he's doing it or not. And it appears to be working. Violent (non-vampiric, of course) crime is vastly down in the areas where The Night patrols.
As for Max, he's as happy as ever. For the first time in his life, he's conquered his derangement, by making the fantasy into reality. And the effect is spreading. A vigilante calling himself the Sandman is operating in New York, where The Sandman once prowled. Of course, one could chalk this up to copycat Malkavianism, but then again, where did the Sandman get an exact replica of all the necessary equipment? Max isn't talking.
Can also use Dominate 3 to make victim's forget the memories of their attack. This can be both good and bad. The hole in their memory, as they wake up, surrounded by police, and a dead body a few feet away, it pretty unnerving. Most psychiatrists chalk it up to post traumatic amnesia, and tell the police not to push it. But as more cases keep popping up...
"My brothers, you do not understand the severity of these findings! We were all so happy and content when the Malkavians were an amusing bunch of slackers, but don't you see what has happened? From the chaos of their scrambled brains, they've pulled out a group psychoses! For the first time in their tortured existence, a pack of Malkavians are working toward a common goal, not stymied by, but defined by their madness! This is our worst fears realized. I shudder to think what the future holds..."
- Elias Brachen, Sabbat Tremere Elder