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Preying on the Predators

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"I am...the Avenger." Jack shook his head, his furrowed black eyebrows just visible behind his matte-black hockey mask. "No, that's not quite it." It was the last night, or maybe the first night. He'd spent weeks putting this costume together, assembling a "super-suit" from the materials affordable to a man who couldn't exactly go out and hold down a regular job. Black hockey mask over black ski mask for the face, heavy black motorcycle gloves on his hands, black combat boots and short black cape, with the rest of him in black combat fatigues. He was certainly very distinctive, and days of practice had gotten him almost used to moving and walking in the outfit, much less seeing it in the mirror.

Concentrating, Jack drew on the inner reserves of deception he'd cultivated for the last three years (or, if he was honest with himself, even longer), changing his voice to match the persona expressed by his menacing appearance. "I am...the Avenger," he hissed, his voice a low, purring growl of pure menace, and then he laughed an evil laugh that anyone would be proud of. He did his breathing exercises a few times, practicing making his shoulders and chest rise and fall underneath the heavy clothes that fortunately would not make him sweat, and then finally concluded he was ready.

Proceeding out of the cheap furnished rental by the window, Avenger drifted up the side of the decaying old brick hotel to the rooftop, where his heavy boots crunched against the shingled roof in a way that would have been deeply concerning if not for his faith in his own abilities to avoid a crash. From here he had a great view of the Fens, for all that it was a decidedly less-than-inspiring sight. But then again, that was why he'd picked the Fens to make his debut; the people from his regular life tended to avoid the Fens as being beneath their notice. If he stayed away from the Theater District and parts of the South Side (not to mention, of course, Lantern Hill, where no one like him in their right mind went), he'd do just fine.

"And maybe get a bite to eat while I'm at it," he muttered to himself, using Jack's voice rather than the Avenger's with no one else around. His double masks meant that no one could see his mouth when he was hungry; a definite advantage to this elaborate get-up. Drifting from rooftop to rooftop through the cluster of low-hanging bars and adult theaters scattered around his base of operations, Avenger went on the hunt for criminals. It was the Fens, fortunately, and it wasn't long before he found exactly what he was looking for.

The thug was young and probably high; he thought nothing of standing over the drunk he'd just rolled in the dark alley off 70th Street, counting the bills in the wallet with a smile on his face and all the time in the world. Avenger indulged himself on this one; drifting in for a perfect landing behind the mugger and tapping him on the shoulder. "Hey, bub." The fight was fast and hard, Avenger methodically beating the other guy into unconsciousness with several massively powerful blows. "Tell your friends that crime's been...AVENGED!" he spat, just before landing one last blow that knocked the mugger cold.

There was blood in the air, just enough to make it hard to think. Jack patted the mugger down, relieved to find a lead sap and several other wallets to go with the one in his hand. With the money removed and in Avenger's utility belt, Jack made use of the cell phone tucked away in his target's belt to call the police, letting them know that he'd just seen a brutal beating at the corner of 70th and Moore, making sure a car was on its way before hanging up and crushing the phone in his fist. With that done, Jack dragged the mugger deep into the shadows of the alley, checking again to verify that the guy was out before pulling up his masks and sinking his fangs into the unconscious man's neck.

Some thirty minutes later, a full, satisfied Avenger watched from the shadows as the police arrived, giving first aid to both the criminal and his victim alike. The drunk, from the look of him a slumming college kid, would get the help he needed...while the mugger, left tied by his own belt from the burnt-out lightpost overhead, the credit cards and personal items he'd stolen shoved into his pants, would get treatment for his bruises and broken bones that would also deal with his sudden, inexplicable anemia. And I made two hundred bucks! he thought happily, not bad at all!

The best part was, the night was still very young. A smile on his face behind his masks, Avenger headed off for further adventure, indulging himself in horseplay by leaping from narrow rooftop to narrow rooftop like he was a little kid watching Archer on television again. It was a lousy neighborhood, but he'd just done his part to make it a little better. It was a good life.

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The sirens whirred as Lullaby stepped out of the shack she was commandeering as a home. The poor, starved girl was weeping, again. It was the countless amount of sirens she had heard today, and she was sick of Sirens. Her suit told her to not weep over such petty things, as mankind was destined to fight, but she wanted peace and harmony which, she knew, was going to take all of her lifetime.

"So, miss Zallaro, going to investigate?" asked her dress.

"I don't want to see more bodies" moaned Lullaby, grabbing her black hold all.

Minutes later, she was strolling down a dark Alleyway and sat down, leafing through the tiny amount of cash she possessed. It was barely enough, and Lullaby shuddered as she realised she was going to have to dance to drunk, fat gangsters who didn't deserve the entertainment, just to even survive two nights.

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Two hundred dollars, all right! I can afford that XBox now, and maybe some good games to go with it. If I get a couple of those a night, I'll be able to stop doing favors for people and start living on my own money. Though Jack didn't make his money from blood tithes and drug dealing the way some vampires did, the fact remained that very few undead made their money from 'legitimate' sources. He was coming back on his previous circuit when he saw the woman in the alley, bending down and counting a wad of bills that was a lot smaller than his own.

Aw, geez. Why on Earth had he looked down just at that particular moment? Another few minutes, thought the allegedly hard-hearted vigilante, and he'd have been on his way with money in his pocket. He thought for only a moment before vaulting down from the rooftop to the alley below, not bothering to be particularly stealthy in his descent. If the woman below saw her rescuer, who was he to take that from her? He tossed a neatly tied roll of hundreds in ones and fives on the ground, waiting to see if he'd been spotted.

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Lullaby jumped in shock, not noticing the man as he dropped a load of bills near her.

"W...what? Is it raining money?" Lullaby wondered out loud, looking around to try and find and find her savior.

"Pl...please come down. I can't hurt anybody..." she yelled, before murmuring "I won't hurt anybody..." She sat back down, cuddling her legs, wondering if it was the time to don her costume.

"If he is above me, maybe the Dress can do a better job at finding him..." Lullaby murmured to herself.

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Huh. Okay, maybe the lady down below was crazy. Jack knew to stay away from crazy; you never knew when 'crazy' meant 'psychic.' And encountering a psychic, especially tonight, would be bad. But he'd always had a soft spot for hard luck cases, and if she couldn't see him..."Money's yours,," he hissed down from the shelter of the roof above. "Buy yourself something nice."

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Lullaby looked up sharply.

"W...who are you? My names Zallaro! I'm a songstress and trainee dancer! Please, hello?" Lullaby begged.

"Please? Please!?"

Lullaby looked all around her, trying to find the source of the voice.

"Do I really have to don my dress? I really don't want to, but I might have to" Lullaby giggled to herself, unzipping a black hold all but concealing the contents.

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"Name's Avenger." Avenger's voice is growl and purr all at once, rising from the dark shadows of the roof. Jack's been practicing it for weeks, taking advantage of the recent showing of _Raven Begins_ on Channel 4. This time, he lets her see him; a black on black shadow against the dark night above, with only the gleam of his eyes visible in the glow of the light below. "Go get some hot food, Zallaro. It's too cold to be out."

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Zallaro huddled tightly, gently taking the notes.

"T...this is a bit much for me, Mr Avenger. I do...don't know if I really can spend your money on something big and nice. I..erm....I..." Stuttered Zallaro. She flushed, terrified of Avenger and his deep, dark, voice of horrible doom.

"C...can I quickly change? It sounds odd, I know, but....erm....I am more confident in my dress. Maybe I can put on a private show for Mr Avenger only?" Lullaby offered, gently lifting out her Dancing costume with a gloved hand.

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The figure above doesn't reply at first, though the gleam of his eyes fade as he moves back a half-step into darkness. It's human contact, Jack thinks, real human contact. So what if she might be crazy? Giving her some money, letting her do her thing if that's what she wants...those are good things. And I'm a good man. But if she strips down and starts coming up here, I am getting _out_. "No charity, huh? Do it." he assents.

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Zallaro smiles as she whips off the glove and touches the dancing dress. Seconds letter, her hand was enveloped by a black liquid, which was slowly slithering up her hand and onto her body. She sighed in peace as the black liquid took over her body. Her green eyes closed, and suddenly her blue eyes opened.

Lullaby smiled as the black liquid merged into new clothing. Her figure was more rounded and curvy, her lips more fuller with shiny red lipgloss, her breasts larger. She wore four inch heels, stockings and suspenders up to the abdomen where she wore shiny spandex. Going up, she wore a dinner jacket over a plain white shirt and a black bow tie. She span a top hat in her fingers, smiling.

"Sorry, might seem....a bit strange, but trust me, nobody complains. Well, not yet anyway" giggled Lullaby.

"Gabriellor, a pleasure to meet you sir" Gabriellor giggled, offering a slim, gloved hand out into the darkness.

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Jack took a step towards the sudden vision of loveliness, his teeth lengthening a little behind his mask. She's beautiful! The urges he feels at the sight of this gorgeous young thing are masculine and predatory all at once, even with blood freshly in him. If they were in a club, or anywhere else for that matter, he'd be on that like white on rice. But.

Avenger wouldn't do it. Avenger wouldn't stay here and dally with this sweet young thing. Besides, Jack remembered what had happened the last time he'd let a mysteriously beautiful young lady take control of the evening. "Pleasure's all mine, honey. But I think you'd better deal with that, first." He nods his head behind the young lady, even though his heart isn't really in it. When her back is turned, he takes this opportunity to vanish down a ventilation duct into the tenement row house beneath them.

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Lullaby blinked.

"Hello? Are you here sir?" Gabriellor called out. It had been some time since he had replied. She shrugged, smiled and slowly dissolved.

Zallora stood, shivering, holding the dancing suit that had infused her with Gabriellor. She stowed it quickly in her bag and slipped the hold all over her shoulder. With a sigh of defeat, she shuffled from the alleyway and into the open.

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Jack continues his patrol of the Fens over the next couple of nights, all but disappearing from vampire society for the next couple of days. He's careful in his patrols, keeping to shadows and preventing individual crimes, blocking rapes and muggings while he does his best to observe the movements and habits of his prey: criminals. He lets himself be seen a few times by the locals, and is observed a few times when he gets a little sloppy.

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Lullaby shudders as she quietly examines the money. She notices an increase in the amount of people injured or hurt, although she doesn't know who does it or why they are hurt. She gently shrugged to herself, she had enough problems as it is. So, she keeps on walking. That is, until she walks headlong, literally, into a mugger.

The mugger grins a fiendish grin as he draws a gleaming pistol and presses it at her head.

"Money" he grunted, holding a hand out.

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Hellbound stalked the city streets feeling like a sucker; walking was for chumps. Watching the street shadows at his feet change in rhythm with each passing street lamp, he kept his hands stuffed into pockets filled with nothing but ragged lint and aging dust. Someone had worn the hell out of his jeans before he bought them, and he wasn't exactly taking life easy on the torn garment. He was going to have to hit the D.A.V. here again soon, his wardrobe was looking as lean as his wallet.

He wished that he had a ride, at least so that he could lose himself in a wild charge across the city, but it'd been made clear to him what would happen if he was caught stealing bikes again. They'd figure out a way to throw his toned butt into some meta-slammer and, knowing his luck, he'd end up with solitary confinement for the next ten-to-twenty years. Not even a chance to watch other chumps get shanked in the showers.

How much more boring could life get?

The young man paused in the act of kicking at some discarded can when something managed to creep its way into his awareness. Pausing in mid-swing, it took him a moment to realize what it'd been. The alley he'd just passed... was that a mugging he'd just seen? 'Pretty sure that it was...

Hellbound took the time to back up and step into the opening of the alley. He propped his lean frame against one brick wall and took in the scene. Some hot pair of legs was being held up by a piece of dreck with a gun. Nice action. The night might have a bit of fun to it after all.

Hellbound had once picked up a silver matchbox at flea market a long time ago, and he produced the antiquated device from a jacket pocket. His presence was then annoucned by a match being struck against its side and put to a cheap, slim cigar.

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Lullaby jumps, along with the mugger. He spins around, a wild look on his eyes as he realised his potential earnings have just doubled. He raised his pistol.

"Mate. Money and maybe I'll go easy on the girl" he chuckled, holding the gun up to Hellbound. Lullaby seemed to be extremely terrified, trembling and almost collapsing in nerves. She wasn't a fighter, that much was obvious to everybody who walked past.

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"Heheheh..." Hellbound chuckled as he stared down the mugger's weapon. The ragged ruffian didn't seem too concerned with the weapon being pointed in his direction.

"You're gonna get money from me?" He asked. "Yeah, good luck with that."

Indeed, the down-on-his-luck hero didn't appear to have much money at the moment. Given that his clothes were obviously well worn and pretty much used up before he'd even picked them out of some Salvation Army bargain bin, he wasn't one of those rich-brat street saviors.

He watched the skirt react to the mugger's show and relaxed a bit more. From the way she was dressed, Hellbound assumed she was probably another cape. The last thing he wanted to do was step in on another hero's action, he knew that he'd be ticked if someone did it to him.

But either the girl was one flippin' fantastic actress or she was genuinely freaked. Either way, it looked like she was prepared to let him have a little fun with the guy.

"Nah, I'm just here to watch how things go down back here. See, there's already no way 'yer getting out of here without a trip to the hospital. The only thing we need to figure out is whether you'll just be in there for a concussion, or if I let someone there take that gun out of your keister during your visit. That's gonna kind of depend on what you do with her, though, won't it?

"I gotta admit, it's been months since I've done a full-metal colostomy for a guy. Hope I remember when to stop shoving this time..."

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