Heartland Orphans

Shadows Gather

Sybil towels off after using the shelter’s showers. In the hall she hears Karen Capra talking with Rhonda, one of the new volunteers. The director complains about the damage done by a new drug hitting the street. This “Flashblood” is causing a rash of overdoses among the local homeless population. One of her regulars just died at the other shelter she runs.

Sybil steps out into the hall and asks Capra about the drug. She explains it’s an opiate, supposedly created from the blood of people who overdosed on heroine. The Gangrel says she’ll look into it for her and hurries off.

A half hour later she reaches the other clinic. A van from the morgue is already loading up the woman’s body. As the technicians fill out some final paperwork, Sybil slips up next to the corpse and quickly cuts the body.

Quickly walking away, she sniffs the blood on her knife using supernaturally enhanced senses. Heroine suffuses the blood as does something else foreign: Vitae from another vampire!

Meanwhile Alex rises and begins his evening routine: checking his messages, dressing, and puttering around his large empty house. As he gathers his mail, he discovers crippled tabby mewling weakly on his porch. Matted with blood, its front left leg ends in a gory stump.

Alex glances around but nothing moves in the shadows that surround his property. No trail of blood leads to his door. The doctor grabs a blanket and carefully moves the maimed animal into his house. The cat cries quietly. Grabbing his old medical bag, he cleans up the blood and stitches up the wound as best he can. The savage and brutish bites seem less canine than human as if someone tried to chew this cat to death. Not for the first time he thinks of David.

Alex places the cat on the ground next to a dish of water. Then he heads outside.

He scans the large dark yard. A few crickets chirp under the distant glow of the street lights. He sniffs but no blood decorates his elegant stone path. A chill creeps into the late spring night.

Wracking his brain of who to consult on this strange happening he comes up with nothing. He goes back inside. The cat has lapsed into a fragile slumber but some of the water has vanished as well. The doctor grabs his keys and drives to the local store to get it some food.

At the supermarket, Alex surveys the wide selection of food options before grabbing a can featuring a sleek tabby off the upper shelf. A man interrupts him, inquiring if he has a cat. The stranger seems oddly friendly and Alex senses something familiar about this pale man. Guessing he is faced with another of his kind Alex asks who he is.

After a moment’s hesitation the man says his name is Jim. He also reveals he knows David. Alex asks if he’s seen him around.. “Tell him to call me if you see him again,” Alex tells Jim.

Alex pays for the cat food and returns home. He puts the food on a dish and feeds the weakened animal. Then he cuts himself and drips some his precious blood into the cat’s eager mouth. Looking notably healthier the beast slips back to sleep.

Across town, Sybil uses one of the university computers to surf the internet. On the school’s forums she discovers that Flashblood is becoming one of the hot new drugs to try. She leans back and considers who might be pushing the stuff. After tossing out an idea that the Ordo Dracul are solidifying their control of the university, she decides to interrogate a low level pusher for one of the Invictus’s gangs.

She finds Tommy at his usual spot on the street corner. The bottom rung dealer for the Street Rats finishes selling some pills to a nervous looking man as she dons her ski mask and makes her move. As Tommy counts his money, Sybil grabs him and slams him against a fence.

She demands to know about the Flashblood but he only knows that it’s the new thing they are selling. He fumbles for a piece but she disarms him and twists his arm behind his back. Pocketing the revolver, she tells him to let his gang know to stop dealing in the parks. Cowed he agrees and bites off a reflexive retort.

She lets him go and slips off to a nearby pawn shop. Flush with enough money for a trip to Starbucks, she starts to leave before noticing some weird graffiti on the side of the shop. Seven black silhouettes stand there, reminding her of similar displays elsewhere in town she’s seen recently.

Back at the house, Alex decides to look around some more for signs of where this cat came from. While wandering in his large yard, he spies something move in front of the lights on the distant street. He hurries over as a light flickers and dies. As it comes back on, he spies David standing there. He call him over but his friend just stands there and motions him over.

Alex looks around the street for anyone else nearby and when he looks back David is gone. The wet ground where he stood shows no trace of print of his presence. Realizing he needs help, Alex calls his sire Rudolph.

The old man listens to his story but doesn’t offer much help except to say he will deal with David if he sees him. The tone suggests a finality to his promise.

As he hangs up, Alex’s phone rings. Sybil orders him to warn his people to stay off her turf. Confused, Alex asks for an explanation. She tells him about the drugs and the deaths. He says he’ll look into it and arranges to meet her at a coffee shop in an hour.

After considering calling the local head, Big Eddie, Alex opts to call his soldier and gang runner Mr. Black. The Nosferatu picks up quickly and quickly warms to the doctor. Black invites him over to discuss getting involved in the drug trade, explaining he sees possibilities for a man with a licence to prescribe drugs. Alex agrees to see him later.

Alex and Sybil meet up at a late night Starbucks on campus and discuss their various interesting happenings. As they do so they both become aware of a woman watching them intently. Sybil recognizes her as the corpse she cut earlier in the night.

Alex waves the woman over. She smiles and thanks him by name. She explains she saw David at the cemetery and gave him the message Alex told her. David didn’t have a phone she says sadly. He was busy helping the Witch with some blood sorcery, she explains. She apologizes to Alex for the delay in delivering the message, saying she had to change.

As Alex tries to work out how he knows this strange woman, Sybil stares at her attempting to figure out where this seeming vampire came from. She asks the woman, who calls herself Jane, about her family and past. Jane alludes to siblings and how they came to Champaign-Urbana to retrieve something of theirs. When Sybil asks how she did find them, she says she was just lucky.

Sybil presses her on her creator, trying to determine the nature of this vampire’s sire. Jane becomes a bit tearful, explaining that she is gone. “The Twins say she is dead but the Witch doesn’t believe them.”

Alex tries to get to open up about what her siblings are seeking. Jane clams up and he feels a rush of power wash over him for a moment.

At an impasse, they decide to meet with Black and deal with the drug problem. Along the way they drive past the cemetery. From the car they don’t see anything.

They find Black at an abandoned office building in downtown Champaign. The muscle at the door shows them in. Despite his dark gray skin and sharp white teeth, Black manages to put on a comforting smile for them. He particularly tries to convince Alex to help him in his operation. The doctor seems agreeable but has questions about this new drug. Black reveals that he has been putting his own blood into the mixture but only for its addictive properties. He also tries convince them not to tell anyone else about this project.

Meanwhile Sybil keeps an eye on Jane. The dead woman seems entranced by the pair of men and disinterested in everything else.

Black takes Alex into the back and introduces him to his chemist Kevin. Alex ignores the man’s poor hygiene and noxious smell and begins to work out how to make the drug less deadly. Black meanwhile strokes his bushy beard and smiles.

Then Sybil hears high pitched cry, well out of range of hearing for normal humans. Jane perks up, staring in the direction of the sound. She excuses herself and leaves. Sybil follows her as she follows the screeches east to a busy road. Unable to cross quickly, Jane lifts her head to the sky and a liquid black thing escapes through her mouth. It flies on, leaving a lifeless body behind.

Sybil checks the body, now just a corpse and already rotting.

She heads back intercepting Alex as he leaves Black’s hideout. Suddenly he sways as sensations of pain and confusion roll over him. He feels Rudolph, his sire, cry out for what seems like a final time.

Alex and Sybil head to Rudolph’s house on the east edge of town. The building is locked up but a few lights remain on inside. Alex lets them in and they search for the elder monster.

They discover Rudolph scattered across the living room floor. Three limbs lie crumbled to ash on the carpet while a hacksaw sits lodged halfway through his neck. His remaining arm still grips the handle.

Alex examines the wounds, which are clearly self inflicted. Rudolph lies in torpor, inches from death. Sybil checks the windows and doors. All remain locked, though the chimney flue is open. With more questions than answers, they place Rudolph in the trunk of Alex’s car and drive off.

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