Saturday, December 28, 2013

Dark Redemption chapter 27: Interview With a Vampiress

Beneath the gleaming skyscrapers and picturesque facade of the City of Redemption lies another city; a community of dark and ancient magic populated by creatures of the night. Dark Redemption is a shared-world novel based on an online role-playing game by James Crowther.

Strephon MacKenzie, a semi-immortal half-fae, and his acquaintance Cassandra True, a reporter for the Daily Oracle, are enjoying an evening at the Cyba-Netsu, a cyber-club owned by Aoi Kurayami. Cassandra has just discovered that some of the people at the club are vampires.  Meanwhile, Strephon recieves a message from Miss Kurayami.

Strephon sat frowning at Kurayami's avatar on his computer screen for a long time before he decided to accept her message.  He could not shake the feeling that the image of her with the enigmatic sphinx-like smile and the impenetrable dark glasses could see him and read his own thoughts.  Perhaps it could.  He gingerly clicked on the "Accept" button.

Kurayami:  Care for a drink Mr. MacKenzie? Your mortal friend is welcome too of course
 He hesitated, then carefully typed a polite reply.

A few moments later, he saw the crowd on the dance floor part like a mist and the Lady Kurayami striding smoothly to his table.  Instinctively, Strephon almost tried to rise at her arrival.  Unable to do that, he nodded his head in greeting.  "Good evening, Lady Kurayami.  You honor me."

"As do you, Mister Strephon."  She gestured and a passing waiter placed a drink in her hand, just as if he had been on his way to do that very thing.  Perhaps he had.  She sat down next to him.  "You don't seem to be enjoying your drink.  Would you prefer perhaps a rum and Coca-cola?"

"No... that seems to be Miss True's drink of choice."  How did she know that?  She must have been observing him at the party closer than he thought.  "Some tea would be fine, if you please."

Kurayami gestured again and Strephon saw another waiter flit off to the bar.  "We have a mutual association with Mister Aesermann, do we not?"

"We are acquainted," Strephon clarified.  "I have some small connections in the Faerie Court which Lord Melchior feels may be beneficial, but we have not yet formally agreed to a business arrangement.  And yourself?"

Kurayami nodded her head slightly.  Strephon wished he could see her eyes behind those sunglasses.  Were she a mortal, he might try to read her emotions, but as it was he felt no desire to match his will against a vampire, particularly one as powerful as she.  "Melchior possesses a technology which intrigues me," she said.  "I would like to use it; he would like me to distribute it.  A mutually beneficial arrangement, do you not think?"

Strephon tried to keep his face as cool and unimpassioned as hers.  "You say that as if inviting contradiction."

"I like to know what I'm buying.  Mister Aesermann's system is a beautiful black box.  You perform certain actions to the box, and it produces certain results; but as for what the box contains, that is a mystery.  Only Mister Aesermann knows how it works."

"Ah.  If you knew how it worked, you could duplicate it yourself and would not need Melchior."

Kurayami's smile became even more enigmatic.  "Perhaps.  Perhaps not.  But if I could duplicate the technology myself, it would give me some leverage should Mister Aesermann decide to alter our arrangement to my disadvantage."

Strephon shrugged.  "Alas, Lord Melchior has not confided in me.  And even if he did, I fear you and I would have to know each other much better for me to take that liberty."

"But of course.  There is another thing, however, that I would know.  As a rule, the fae do not deal with other races.  As a result, they are a closed book to me.  Another beautiful black box, if you will; but one whose function is not clear.  I am certain that Mister Aesermann has enemies in, as you say, the Unseen Realm.  If I enter into a partnership with him, these enemies could become my own,  I would like to know more about this man I'm dealing with.  Is that something you could honorably divulge?"

"Perhaps..." Strephon said cautiously.  "Unfortunately, I fear it will have to wait for another time."  He saw Cassandra returning to the table, her face pale.

Cassandra glanced uncertainly at Kurayami and leaned close to Strephon.  "Strephon!  We need to get out of here," she whispered.  "I think there are vampires here!"

"Vampires?"  Strephon said raising an eyebrow.  His eyes darted over to Kurayami.

Kurayami's smile spread from sphinx-like to Cheshire Cat.  "Indeed?  My establishment attracts creatures of the night and some of them relish the... unconventional."

Cassandra looked at her in confusion.  "Cassandra, I believe you will remember Miss Aoi Kurayami?  Miss Kurayami, this is my friend, Miss Cassandra True."

"Ah, the reporter.  It is a pleasure." 

Cassandra took her hand and mumbled a greeting, then turned back to Strephon.  "I just saw our waiter bite a girl!"

Kurayami's smile instantly folded into a scornful frown.  "I will have words with him.  My staff's personal life is their own affair, but I will not have them upsetting the customers."

Cassandra simply stared at her and sank into her seat.  At this point the green-haired waiter arrived with a steaming cup of tea and a rum and Coke.  Cassandra numbly took the drink from the waiter and downed it in a single gulp.

NEXT:  Right To Know ?

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Dark Redemption chapter 26: Iced Cappuccinette

Beneath the gleaming skyscrapers and picturesque facade of the City of Redemption lies another city; a community of dark and ancient magic populated by creatures of the night. Dark Redemption is a shared-world novel based on an online role-playing game by James Crowther.

Strephon MacKenzie, a semi-immortal half-fae, has been invited out to dinner by his friend Cassandra True, a reporter for the Daily Oracle. They have gone to the Club Cyba-Netsu, a trendy Internet cafe which Cassandra does not realize is owned by a powerful vampire.

The iced cappuccinette tasted as vile as Strephon thought it would, but he put on a brave face. He had other things to worry about. How many other people at this club were vampires? Would Miss Kurayami be watching him? What sort of arrangement did Melchior have with her?

And What was he going to do with Cassandra?

"I forgot to ask, where were you this afternoon?"

"Oh," Strephon said. "Just running a few errands. Visiting a friend at hospital. Bunbury. Poor old Bunbury." It was the first thing that came to the tip of his tongue and instantly he regretted it.

Cassandra did not seem to notice his crib. "Really? What's wrong with him?"

"Consumption. Terrible thing."

"Poor man." She made appropriately sympathetic sounds. "Curious, though, that you should visit the hospital. I had a dream last night about a hospital."

Strephon experienced a queasy sensation that had nothing to do with the iced cappuccinette. "Not an unpleasant dream, I hope."

Cassandra giggled. "No... not exactly... It was, well... you were in it."

"Ah. Say no more. I suppose I should be flattered." Had he invaded her dreams again last night? Or did she enter his? That they had shared the same dream somehow, Strephon did not doubt. She was trying very hard to avoid looking at his legs.

She was so flustered, in fact, that she tipped over her drink, spilling iced cappuccinette into her lap. She leaped to her feet. "Omigosh! I'm such a klutz!"

"No harm done. Are you all right?"

"Look at me! I'm a mess! Will you excuse me while I run to the ladies' room to clean up?"

Actually, Strephon did not want to leave her alone in this place at all, but he could hardly demand to accompany her into the ladies' room. He smiled weakly. "By all means. Go right ahead."

As he watched her leave the table, he heard a musical chime come from his computer terminal. He turned to it and saw a new window on the screen:
Message from Kurayami -- Accept?
* * * * *
Cassandra blotted the stain on her dress and examined it critically. Great. She'd have to deal with that when she got home. She sighed and dried off her hands.

She opened the door to the ladies' room and saw the green-haired waiter chatting with one of the customers, a goth girl in a black tube top with magenta hair, pierced eyebrows and a long silk scarf around her neck. Cassandra ducked back into the loo. She instinctively guessed that they were having a private moment and wouldn't want to be interrupted. Of course, that didn't stop her from peeking.

"Aren't you hungry, Ricky?" the girl asked putting her arms around the waiter's shoulders.

"Not now, Mori. The Boss doesn't like it during business hours."

"She'll never know. Just a little nip. I really want it... Please...?" The girl loosened her scarf and let it flutter to her feet.

The waiter hesitated; then with a sudden lunge grasped her torso and planted a kiss on the girls neck.

Cassandra gave an involuntary gasp. She guessed that they were going to make out, but the suddenness of his action surprised her. The waiter looked up sharply and saw her. Then he thrust the girl aside and brought a towel to his face. The girl flopped back against the wall, with a blissful expression on her face.

From the girl's neck, Cassandra could see twin trickles of blood.

NEXT:  Interview With a Vampiress

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Dark Redemption chapter 25: Tutorial

Beneath the gleaming skyscrapers and picturesque facade of the City of Redemption lies another city; a community of dark and ancient magic populated by creatures of the night. Dark Redemption is a shared-world novel based on an online role-playing game by James Crowther.

The full moon has risen, but others besides werewolves are out on the town. Strephon MacKenzie, a semi-immortal half-fae living among the humans of the city has made the acquaintence of a reporter named Cassandra True. Cassandra has landed an important scoop, thanks in part to Strephon's help, and to celebrate has invited Strephon out for dinner.

Less than twenty-four hours after resolving never to see Cassandra again, Strephon sat across the table from her, trying to assume a relaxed manner. She wanted to celebrate her good fortune and repay Strephon's kindness by taking him out. A generous impulse should not be scorned.

So Strephon found himself seated in a dim, neon-lit club in front of a sleek laptop computer as Cassandra tried to show him how to create an avatar. "It's really easy," she said. "This way when you talk to other people, you have an image next to the text to represent yourself."

"I generally use my face for that purpose."

The club was called "Cyba-Netsu" and it had a decided computer theme. Cassandra said it was a "cyber-cafe". Each table came equipped with computer terminals and the cover charge included a temporary guest account on the club's server.

"It works like this," Cassandra said. She typed a bit on her terminal and a window opened on Strephon's screen (directly underneath the pop-up ad for hair coloring) containing the image of a puppy and the cryptic letters:

CassE: How R U, Strephon?

"They do require journalists to spell these days, do they not?"

"It's Netspeak, Strephon! That's how everybody IM's."

"But as we're both facing each other at the same table, wouldn't it be more convenient simply to speak to each other?"

"Devon wasn't kidding. You aren't very up on the 21st Century are you."

Strephon scowled. "The staff do not seem to be very attentive."

"Here." Cassandra leaned over to his keyboard, bringing her body disconcertingly close to his. "Just click here where it says "Menu" and that pulls down the... well, it actually is a menu in this case. And double-click to make your order."

Strephon gingerly followed her instructions and at her suggestion ordered an iced cappuccinette.

Cassandra looked at him thoughtfully. "Is he really your cousin?"


"That Devon guy."

Strephon bristled. "Ah. Yes, his mother is one of my eccentric aunts. I have several." He paused. "Did he... say anything to you?

"Not much," Cassandra replied. "He's not at all like you."

"Thank you."

"Except when you're cranky."

"I do not get cranky." He tried to cover his annoyance by fiddling with the trackball on the computer keyboard. He looked up again and saw that she still regarded him with that odd speculative look he was trying to discourage.

"You're not jealous of him, are you?"


"That he can walk and you can't."

"Ah. Yes. Well, I suppose it would be natural. Really, I don't think of it all that much."

Fortunately, a waiter came to the table at that moment with their order; a thin man in a black turtleneck whose pale skin looked blue in the neon lights of the club and whose hair flouresced green. "Enjoy your evening," he said with a smile.

The smile gave Strephon a sudden chill. Undead. Then he remembered what Cassandra told him the night before; that Miss Aoi Kurayami owned a string of cyber-cafes.

She didn't know that Kurayami was a vampire.

NEXT:  Iced Cappuccinette

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Dark Redemption chapter 24: Goldilocks

Beneath the gleaming skyscrapers and picturesque facade of the City of Redemption lies another city; a community of dark and ancient magic populated by creatures of the night. Dark Redemption is a shared-world novel based on an online role-playing game by James Crowther.

Worried about her friend Strephon, reporter Cassandra True has gone to his house to make sure he is all right. When she gets no reply at the door, she climbs in an upper window and finds herself in Strephon's room. Then, a stranger enters...

"Who are you?" Cassandra asked.

"My name is Devon," the man in black replied. "You might say I'm a cousin of Strephon's. No need to ask who you are, although you still haven't said what you're doing rummaging through my cousin's belongings."

"I was looking for Strephon!" Cassandra said hotly.

"Did you expect to find him in his underwear drawer?"

Cassandra blushed. "I've been trying to call him all afternoon and he hasn't answered. I was worried about him."

"As you've probably guessed by now, my cousin is out. I suggested that he buy an cellular phone, but that would be too 21st Century for him. He's not very big on any technology that post-dates the Crystal Palace Exhibition."

Cassandra frowned, but she couldn't puzzle out what he meant by that. "Hey, if you were here all along, why didn't you answer the door?"

"Why don't I make you some tea and you can wait for Strephon in the parlor? He'd never forgive me if I didn't show you hospitality."

Cassandra followed him downstairs to the parlor, her cheeks burning. She found it hard to believe that this neo-goth punk in the pseudo-Matrix shades could be at all related to Strephon, the dignified gentleman with the old-fashioned sideburns and Victorian manners.

Devon did seem to know his way around Strephon's house well enough to make a pot of tea, which argued for his bona fides. Cassandra stirred her cup and sipped it. "Strephon never mentioned you," she said at last. "Do you live here?"

"No, I'm just visiting. You could say I'm from out of town."

"Are you from America?" His accent didn't sound American, but being a foreigner might account for the aura of strangeness the man seemed to possess.

Devon chuckled. "Oh no, much farther than that. Farther than the Moon and nearer than a heartbeat."

"Is that some kind of a riddle?"

"You might say so. Perhaps Strephon will explain it to you someday."

Cassandra found Devon's smug attitude highly annoying, but since she had been technically trespassing, all she could do was drink her tea and wish Strephon would arrive.

Before her tea grew cold, her wish came true. The big oaken front door creaked open and Strephon pushed his chair into the foyer. "Devon!" he said with more than a touch of annoyance. "What are you doing here?"

"Keeping your lady friend company. You really need to set better wards around this place."

Strephon furrowed his brow. "Indeed, I do. You may go now, Devon. The front door, if you please."

This remark also puzzled Cassandra. Did he expect Devon to sprout wings and fly out the window? Devon only smirked and ambled to the door. "Nice talking to you, Miss True," he said, lowering his glasses.

Cassandra stifled a gasp. His eyes were a vivid purple and slit like a cat's! At least that's how they looked for the instant she saw them before he slipped out the door. Designer contact lenses. It had to be.

When Devon had gone, Strephon turned his attention to Cassandra. "What are you doing here?"

She was getting tired of this question. "I wanted to tell you the good news, but when you didn't answer the phone..."

"The phone? How did you get my number?"

"What? Oh, that. You forgot to give it to me. So I called the taxi company and got Tobias's number, and then he gave me his grandmother's number and she gave me yours. Oh, and she told me to give you a message. She said: Don't be a fool. Treat her right. " Cassandra wrinkled her nose curiously. "Who was she talking about?"

Strephon cleared his throat. "My cat, Mrs. Hudson. Grandmama Simms is a great cat lover. Anyway, you were saying?"

"When you didn't answer the phone, I got worried. So I came to make sure you were all right." She felt foolish. What must Strephon think of her?

Strephon said nothing for a long time. "Well, what was the good news?"

"Huh? Omigosh! I completely forgot! I got my byline! My editor liked the story I wrote! Both of them; the profile on Melchior Aesermann and the story about that poor programmer. And that's not all!" She leaned closer to him and said in a confidential tone. "Guess who else liked the story? Simon Knox! He called me up and wants to schedule an interview! Simon Knox wants to hire me! Isn't that incredible?"

Strephon ran his hand along his chin thoughtfully. "Yes, it certainly is."

NEXT:  Tutorial