Curiosity take place sometime between the events of A Pocket Full of Spells and The Seduction of Honey.
A Braeden Wolf Short Story
Raven twitched forward the hood of her jacket, pulling it over her red tresses so that her face was lost in the shadows. All that could be seen were only a pair of green eyes that glowed with a faint inner light. It wasn’t for reasons of weather that she did so. Despite it being dull and dreary, grey and gloomy, the rain that had threatened all day had yet to eventuate.
She did so more for the risk, scant though it may have been, that the sun might make a brief appearance. She hadn’t survived as long as she had only to be ashed by a freak emergence of the sun.
For a vamp the day was as near as perfect as could be hoped for; as long as precautions were taken, such as heavy clothing that covered up the skin. There were days that even the most devout child of the night wished to go out in daylight hours, to mingle with the mortal races.
The risk that day was minimal, and worth it though. Ahead, Raven could spot, making his way through the crowds of pedestrians that walked the busy street, the tall figure of the man she was following, a man walking with the fluid, easy motions of one augmented, whether that be by cybernetic, biogenetic or arcane means. Or possible all of them. It could have been all with this man; he was more dangerous than he appeared. Raven had seen him go toe to toe with a Nephilim and survive, and take on a gang juiced up on drugs and magic. Hell, he had even clashed with her and lived. That bespoke some skill.
The shopping strip that they were walking through was in one of the rougher parts of the city. Neon signs flickered fitfully away, spruiking a variety of wares, from guns to girls, electronics to erotica and more besides. Loud sounds were everywhere, from the tight crowds of pedestrians to strident music and advertising. Sires wailed off in the distance.
Those around her were of a variety of people; tall, pale Aos Sí, clannish Trolls, gangers in their garish colours, working girls hawking for marks, warlocks and more. She could see ahead a pair of wild eyed Humanists locked in debate with a trio of the Altered, those who had radically augmented their bodies through body sculpting and modifications so as to be near unrecognisable. One had anthropomorphised himself as a dog, and the other two had the looks of those who had adapted themselves to some cult show; Raven wasn’t exactly sure as to which.
The Humanists, with their hatred of any forms of body augments, saw the Altered as utter anathema to all that they believed, that the body had to be kept pure and uncorrupted by the taint of technology.
A heavily armoured Urban Patrol Vehicle sat parked by the side of the road, and four bluebirds stood keeping an eye on proceedings, ready to wade in if needed. Clad in armoured vests and visored helms, each was armed with sidearms and shotguns, while a pintle mounted automatic weapon was attached to the UPV just in case things got out of hand.
“You sure about this?” the woman at Raven’s side, Zoe, asked as they pushed by a man sporting a bulky cybernetic arm which had a black matte finish. Zoe stood taller than Raven; there were few who didn’t. And, unlike Raven, she was pure human.
Zoe. Raven had passed through life – or unlife as it was – unconcerned by much. That was until Zoe had turned up. It had been unexpected, whirlwind, passionate and, to Raven’s surprise, not fleeting like usual. And therein lay the rub.
Zoe would continue to age, to wither and in time die. It was not something Raven had had to think about for some time, and the prospect of that happening was one she found hard to bear. The other option was one almost as untenable; Raven knew well the downside of being a vamp, and making Zoe could have unseen consequences. It changed a person, and in so doing it would change their relationship.
That concern would have to wait. The dilemma didn’t need solving right then and there; in the meantime they had a man to follow.
“He turned us down, Zo. Us. Both. Together.” Raven shook her head. It took a lot to stir up her emotions anymore, mostly dead as they were, like she was, and to be rebuffed as they had been slightly miffed her.
“He is trouble, that one,” Zoe said.
He was more than trouble; he was dangerous. There was an almost delicious chill about what they were doing. The man they were following hunted her kind down and burned them, a hard drinking, hard living vigilante who slew vamps and demons, but there was something else about him that made him stand out, something she couldn’t quite get a hand around.
It was that thrill of danger that she had come to crave, a need to remind herself through it that she was not completely dead inside. As the years passed, it became harder to obtain, and so the thrills had to become more dangerous or extreme to trigger an emotional response.
A surge in the crowd pushed up against them, and in that moment she lost sight of the man they were following. Cursing, she pushed forward, forcing her way through, her slight frame of no hindrance given the strength her vampiric heritage gave her, trying to locate him again.
He had gone.
She stopped, looking around, her heightened vampiric senses at work, keen sight and hearing and smell.
Up ahead, between a shop selling cheap electronics and a tattoo parlour that also offered acupuncture, there was a small alleyway. Raven hurried towards it, taking a look down its length. There were dingy doorways down it, leading to small shops, as well as streetwalker talking with a prospective client. At the far end a tall figure was exiting.
Raven headed down the alley, with Zoe in tow.
When she stepped out of the alley at the other end, into a small, dark and dirty cul-de-sac, she realised at once that a mistake had been made.
There came the slow, deliberate click of a gun being cocked. From the shadows the tall man stepped forward, aiming a rather large calibre handgun at her head. While it wouldn’t kill her, unless he was packing specialised rounds, it would still hurt a lot and incapacitate her long enough for him to have his way with her. Much as that was what she wanted, his idea of foreplay would involve a stake and flames.
His rugged, almost brooding face with its unshaven scruff was serious in looks, and up close his pale eyes could be seen to be artificial, a decent cybernetic facsimile of the real things. His dark hair was short cut and unkempt.
She caught the scent of gunpowder lingering about him, while the left sleeve of his jacket had been scored by a bullet strike. He had been in a fight, and recently at that.
“Why are you following me?” he asked quietly, looking from Raven to Zoe. After a moment he grunted, and said, “You.”
Raven cautiously pulled back the hood of her coat. “Us.”
The gun didn’t waver, though for a second she thought she caught a smile touching his face. “You haven’t answered the question.”
“Curiosity, I guess,” Raven replied. “I wanted to see what kind of man would turn this down,” she said, running her hands down her body and then motioned to Zoe, who shyly waved her fingers.
“Extreme inquisitiveness terminated the feline’s existence.”
“Curiosity killed the cat,” he said. Finally, the gun lowered. “It is best not to follow me if you know what is good for you, Blue” he warned her, sliding the gun into a shoulder holster beneath his jacket. “It isn’t safe. Just some friendly advice.” With that he turned, and walked back up the alley.
Zoe let out a breath as he disappeared from sight. “I thought we were in trouble there for a moment.”
Raven laughed. “He wasn’t going to shoot us,” she replied.
“How can you be sure?”
“If he thought we were a threat, he would have shot us first and asked questions later. Now I am more intrigued than ever about what he is up too.”
Zoe shook her head. “You are crazy, hon.”
“It’ll be worth it in the end, I promise.”
She would have to give him his space, for a few days, but that would not stop her solving the mystery that was Braeden Wolf some day.