Vampire: The Masquerade is owned by White Wolf Publishing. My use is in no way meant to challenge their copyrights. This piece is not intended for any profit on the part of the writer, nor is it meant to detract from the commercial viability of the aforementioned copyright.
Thomas Gibson and Ace Books own Neuromancer and other related works. My borrowing of words or technological concepts that may appear in Thomas Gibson's work is in no way meant to challenge the aforementioned copyrights. This story has cyberpunk elements, and that means Gibson, the father and grandmaster of the genre, should be cited. In no way have I knowingly borrowed characters, locations, or events from Gibson's work (not all of which I have yet read). Any similarity to the Shadowrun RPG is also the product of the fact that I'm writing in the cyberpunk genre. (There's also the fact that Shadowrun basically ripped off Neuromancer as the basis of its game system, too.)
Any similarity to any events or persons, either real or fictional, is coincidental and unintended.
Author's Notes: For those who read the WoD fics I've written (posted in the Kindred: The Embraced or the White Wolf sections), this is something a bit different. This is actually part of the same AU I created in those other stories, but as I've taken the action 100 years into the future, it's possible to read this without having read anything else I've ever written in this fandom. Those who've read the other stuff may notice little things here and there that they find interesting (especially later on), but no first-time readers will miss anything important. This is intended to work as a stand-alone.
I am also, quite obviously, ignoring any and all attempts by White Wolf to close out the Old World of Darkness with Gehenna/The Apocalypse. For the purposes of this story, life (and unlife) on Earth continued on with different tragic and destructive consequences. Bear in mind that while this is based on the original (or the old, as White Wolf says, since that makes it sound passé and helps sell the new books) World of Darkness, the old order has been so thoroughly shattered that fans of V:tR should be able to follow along without getting lost. Clan affiliation is basically irrelevant, as are any affiliations the individuals had during the old regime (whether it was based on V:tM or V:tR).
Also, in the interest of classifying this as part of a given genre, I would call this gothic cyberpunk.
Author's Note of Warning: I promise that this story will not be updated frequently. There are many reasons for this, but the main one is that I plan this to be the last of the White Wolf/World of Darkness stories I will ever write. That means it has to be the biggest and best of them – more characters, more plot, more back-story, more of everything that makes the fandom so much fun. Feel free to fire away with comments and criticisms, as I always pay attention to my readers and some of your concerns may help make this story far better.
From the Ashes of the Old World
Thursday, December 31, 2099 – 11:00
"If the whole human race lay in one grave, the epitaph on its headstone might well be: 'It seemed a good idea at the time.' " - Dame Rebecca West
Joey Shigeta took a long drag off of his cigarette as he stared into the night sky at the fireworks heralding the arrival of a new century. He was surprised to find himself taking stock of the past hundred years, wondering if things would be better or worse in the future. He certainly hoped his life would improve in the coming century, but he was old enough to know well that hoping for something was the surest path to disappointment. He had found it far preferable to disengage from life a slight bit and wait to see what happened; being assertive had certainly gotten enough people killed over the years, and he had no desire to join any of them just yet.
The thunderous report of mortars echoed off of the buildings in downtown Wilmington, many of which were not only still standing but also amazingly intact. And after all that's happened, the mortals still come out here and celebrate, as if the next hundred years will improve their lot any. He chased philosophical musings from his mind as he savored the show, trying to decide exactly how long it had been since he had seen a fireworks display.
Joey finally glanced at his watch – 11:11. He made a quick wish as he flicked his cigarette away, bouncing it off a long-unused chimney that now served as a nesting place for birds during the warmer months of the year. The diminutive half-Japanese man was an under-whelming physical presence at a thin five and a half feet tall, but he compensated for his lack of stature with an eye-catching wardrobe and considered style. His black suit was custom-tailored and cut to hide his body armor, pistols, and knives, and the wild red streaks in his otherwise jet-black hair gave a young, punkish appearance he spent years developing, striving to keep potential employers slightly off-guard. He enjoyed the fact that his attire did not match the rest of him; he felt it made him more memorable without ever attracting too much undue attention. And attention is the last thing I want when I'm in a crowd, he reminded himself, focusing on the charade he engaged in whenever he was walking into the midst of mortals. The first step, as always, was lighting another cigarette. It was effective camouflage. Stay memorable in a one-on-one, but remain able to disappear instantly in a crowd.
Joey found that after spending decades not bothering to breathe unless he needed to draw breath to speak, it was hard to go through the motions just for show. But the show was increasingly important, as many of his kind had found out. Thinking about the cigarette in his hand kept him thinking about breathing, and that made him seem more human and less like the vampire he actually was. Of course, he also had a couple of other uncommon advantages for one of his kind – he had retained a good deal of the color in his skin after the change, seeming not to have paled at all over his one and a quarter century as one of the kindred; and he also was able to eat human food. Without those advantages, as slight as they were, he doubted he would have survived for as long as he had.
He walked out onto the street, marked by water-filled potholes, and noted that the air had the distinct smell of humanity; the Colonel had certainly achieved his goal of having the residents of Wilmington come out for the celebration. The hour and a half long rain delay had not even seemed to dampen any spirits. With the fireworks done, however, the kindred was able to make out the almost imperceptible yellow glimmer to the north, the dull, hazy afterglow emanating from the crater that used to be Philadelphia. The city was growing quiet, the breeze was becoming increasingly bitter, and he was running late – the century celebration was a welcome distraction, but things were quickly falling into a familiar pattern.
"Hey, aren't you a little young to be out this late?" a large man asked as he stepped out from an alley and directly into Shigeta's path. The kindred cursed himself for carelessly letting his mind wander when he should have known reapers would be out in force after a large, post-dusk event.
Looks like I'm going to end up being even later than I thought, he decided. "Fuck off," Joey said curtly, even as he noticed the sound of two other pairs of footsteps approaching behind him. Just as he was about to smile at the prospect of three to one odds, two more men stepped out in front of him, both of them far larger than the first to appear from the alley. "I'm not in the mood."
"Neither am I, actually," the first man commented with a faux sob. "But you see, my grandma needs an operation."
"And you figure my kidneys are a match?" Joey asked sarcastically, wondering if he should explain the chances of a mixed-heritage Asian having organs that would not be rejected by a Caucasian body. Can't imagine any of my organs are gonna bring him the price he thinks he'll get. Then again, my assorted bits and pieces were well and truly atrophied beyond use about a hundred years ago, anyway, so what's the point?
"Actually, we were kinda figuring on your heart," one of the big men responded, his voice a deep bass that Shigeta thought would make a great singing voice. Rather than ponder the reaper's chances of being the post-apocalyptic world's Barry White, Joey concentrated on flowing his vampire vitae into his extremities. His speed, coordination, and stamina increased in a heartbeat, and all without the telltale twitch that betrayed the activation of cybernetic reflexes in the mortals. As he expected, that twitch did not appear in any of his attackers.
"I'm in a bit of a hurry," Joey said apologetically, "and I would hate to get blood on my suit. I don't suppose there's any chance we could maybe postpone this until tomorrow night, is there? I promise I'll come back."
Foregoing a witty retort that would have taken another hour to occur to him, one of the large men – the one without the singing voice, Joey was relieved to see – lowered his shoulder and lunged at him, intending to drive the small vampire into the brick wall of the adjacent building. Shigeta met the bull rush with a kick to the man's head, stopping him dead in his tracks and snapping his head back as the huge body crumpled to the sidewalk. The man immediately started screaming about how he could not feel his arms or legs, but Joey ignored his attacker's panic as he drew a kukri knife that had been hidden in a sheath placed cleverly in the small of his back. Three quick swipes with the weapon – a gift from an old friend – and the fallen man was joined by an arm from the talkative man, and a leg from the man with the Barry White voice. Joey whirled to face the two attackers behind him, his face devoid of any expression as he stared them down, increasingly disinterested in whether or not they would force him to disembowel them before continuing on to his appointment.
"I suggest you take your paralyzed friend and have him harvested," Joey muttered, wiping some blood splatter from his cheek. "Then use the money to have your other friends' limbs grafted back on. Most important, stay the hell away from me in the future. Like I said, I'm in a bit of a hurry. I don't have time for this bullshit." The final two attackers backed off a step and remained completely passive as the kindred walked away into the night, hurrying his pace as he took another glance at his watch. 11:33. He would definitely make it to the Speakeasy in time, but he doubted that he would have a chance to shoot the bull with the other patrons. Still, if being delayed an hour and a half was the price of seeing the first firework display in over fifty years, he was willing to make that sacrifice. It had been too long since a simple celebration; it reminded him of the old days, and the old days were something that appealed to him a little more with every passing night.
To be continued………………………………