“Who are you?”
Hank watched the tightly wound suit as his question sunk in. This had always been one of his favorite ways to fuck with management. Sure, they would eventually win, after all they owned the goddamn station, but if they wanted to mess with his format, they were going to have to work for it.
“Mr. Trumble, I just explained to you, in detail, exactly who I am and what-”
“I heard what you said,” Hank smiled, the suit was getting flustered. “I’m just wondering who the fuck you think you are, what gives you the idea that I’m gonna water down my show with some hack marketing gimmick? We already have breaking news alerts. Now you want me to do what exactly?”
“As I said, this is a new category, called a WKRP Lightning Report, and it allows us to categorize and better track our listeners interests, and may I remind you you’re not the only one-“
“Oh you can remind me all you want, I know you’ve got your other little monkeys doing whatever you want. You think I give a shit what Stu Beaverman does? These two-bit jockeys coasting on recycled Lewinsky jokes and morning zoo crap don’t mean anything to me.
I’m Hank Trumble, the fucking Night Demon! I keep the lights in this heap of a station on, and the Zima in your fucking fridge!”
The suit straightened up, as they always do eventually. The shock was wearing off, and he was remembering who had the power. It was inevitable.
“Mr. Trumble, I’m afraid the Lightning Reports are not something…” the suit kept going but Hank stopped paying attention. His mind began to slip into the future, later tonight. My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult and Ministry. Together.
Hank had always figured one of the perks of having your own rock/shock radio show would be scoring primo tickets to all the hottest shows. Those call in rewards, promotional events, they seemed to give out tickets like candy, so the host must get the choicest picks right? Wrong.
It had taken Hank all of 3 months to figure out that WKRP was as corporate as it got. That meant no cutting corners, no skimming off the top, no pay-for-play deals. Basically no fun. Hell, he didn’t even have his own parking spot.
Tonight Hank had gotten a side gig filling in for Marty Lennartz, spinning at the Dome Room, and not only were Ministry and My Life going to be there (at the not so subtle suggestion of Hank himself, while the groups were in studio as part of a tour promotion), and he was ready to get crazy. Maybe I should drop that acid I’ve been saving. The green pyramid stuff. We’ll see.
“…contractually, you’ll find you’d be in a somewhat actionable position, were you to-“
“Goddamn man, are you still talking? Give me that!” Hank snatched the manila folder out of the suit’s hands, went into the booth, and shut the door. He took a look at his pre-show notes, promos, and got into character. He was on in 3…2…1…
“Alright you Chicago Hellspawn, it’s the Night Demon back on track with the rest of the ‘Friday Night Metal Fight’ countdown comin’ atcha! We’ve got some ‘Monster Magnet’, we’ve got ‘Dying Fetus’, and of course, we’ve got the cacophony of mayhem that is ‘System of a Down’.
But first, a special WKRP Lightning Report! The Savannah Garden Arboretum has a new owner tonight, as the Metro Council voted to allow the stewardship to transfer to The Weston Group, a small….”
The anarchs of the city of Chicago didn’t have a ‘leader’.
After all, group consensus was that having a leader made the term ‘anarch’ a joke. Those pussies from L.A. could rant all day long about fighting the Sabbat, and kicking out this or that elder, but at the end of the day, wasn’t that MacNeil guy just a prince by another name? All the trappings of being a Camarilla slave, but without the security that came with it.
The Chicago anarchs were no strangers to trouble. Even in the short (by kindred standards) time that Uma had been around, the city seemed to bounce from one catastrophic nightmare to the next. She had cut her teeth in ’68, during the Democratic National Convention, when the Tremere at the time had used it as an excuse to attempt to purge the anarchs in the streets. From then on, whether it was Fred Hampton, Sammy VonHeitzen, or Tamir Rice, Uma had learned that the elders of the Camarilla would use literally any social uprising to tar and feather the anarchs (often the entire Brujah clan regardless of anarch affiliation).
Still, through them all, Uma would be there. Her clan elders giving her the same patronizing fucking speech and looks her parents had given her when she’d packed up her meager belongings to move from the suburbs to the city in the first place, the young wannabee hippie that she had been. And she cared about as much now as she had back then. All the same phrases would leap out like they were part of some reflexive home alarm system. I don’t know what you are trying to prove. If you work within the system you can change things a lot easier. You can’t save the world by going to a protest. Things have always been this way…
All just meant the same thing, as far as Uma was concerned. Cowardice.
She agreed, things had always been this way. Always some power hungry fucks at the top, squeezing the weakest and most defenseless of those at the bottom, and paying those in between to look the other way. And each one of those ‘good people’ who look the other way were helping continue the cycle. Well fuck those people. Uma knew from experience that when a bully is surrounded by a gang of sycophants and enablers, you don’t work with the enablers to try and strategize the best way to change the behavior of the bully.
You look the bully in the eyes, and punch him so hard in the fucking nose that every one of those ‘good people’ enabling him is hit with the spray of blood. Once the bully runs away crying, the sycophants will disperse like rats. And that’s what Uma did best. She punched the shit out of some serious bullies.
Honestly she didn’t know how she had survived through the decades. As the hippies gave way to gonzo, then punk, then underground, then…whatever the fuck was happening now, some sort of post grunge anarchist collective…Uma had always been there to fight for the kindred no one else cared about. Early on, it had been considered suicide. Punching up in human society was dangerous enough, but in the halls of the immortals it was almost assuredly a death sentence. After a while, it seemed that she had developed enough of a reputation to earn respite from the bottom feeders who would have loved to take her out to please their Camarilla masters. Eventually, they had started coming to her. Relying on her. Supporting her.
The anarchs of the city of Chicago didn’t have a ‘leader’, but if they did, Uma Hatch would have been it.
She leaned back against the cold hard brick of the blasted out bottle factory and exhaled smoke from the cigarette she no longer received any physical pleasure from smoking. She was glad that Piper was late. It seemed like she never had any time lately, to just think. To be. She wondered how the really old ones did it.
I guess that’s why the go to the ground every once in a while.
“Got one of those for me baby?”
On instinct, Uma spun around and lashed out with lightning speed, her hand finding nothing but the brick wall behind her, breaking several fingers and causing her to cry out. Turning back around, she found herself looking at the familiar face of a skinny punk with a bright yellow mohawk.
“God DAMN it Piper!” she tried hard not to smile as she forced blood to her hand, mending the wound instantly. She hated it when he did this. “I swear to god if I find the fucking kook who taught you that disappearing trick I am gonna stake him and show him a goddamn sunrise!”
Piper just shrugged, looking the picture of innocence in his shredded blue jeans and sleeveless white shirt.
“Anyway, you’re late,”
“What, you’ve got someplace else to be?” Piper kicked a rock over the hill and into the blocked off street below.
“That depends, how is the mood up there?”
“It’s not great,” Piper stuck his hands in his pockets and started pacing toward the edge of the hill that overlooked Stephens St. which had been closed for almost 2 years now. “DeLeis is pissed. He was pressing for a blood hunt. You can smile all you want, but he’s old power Uma. DeLeis is no joke,”
“DeLeis kidnapped a 4 year old,” Uma snapped back, her blood starting to rise. “then used him as leverage over a newly made caitiff who didn’t know what the hell was going on to try and cover up some political mess he’d made 5 years ago,”
“Who gives a shit? They all do shit like that!”
Uma took a drag and exhaled deeply into the crisp autumn night air, as she looked to the stars. After a moment she deliberately crushed the cigarette underfoot, and turned her head. A smile slowly spread across her face.
“Not in front of me they don’t,”
“Yeah, ok we get it,” Piper sighed, rolling his eyes. “You’re a badass! You’re the Robin Hood of the vampires! Give me a break,” he laughed as he adjusted the studded bracelet on his right wrist. “You help a lot of people, Uma, but these leeches got long memories, and they’re not gonna let this stuff go! Maybe you’d be able to do more good-“
“So can I walk the streets or not?” Uma interrupted.
“-if they would have called that bloodhunt-“
“Bloodhunt? How are they gonna do that without a prince? Chicago hasn’t had a prince in almost 3 years now, who’s going to call this bloodhunt? What did Tyler say?”
Piper lowered his head and smiled. “It’s funny you should ask. Funnier still that you should talk about us not having a prince…” His smile widened as he let the words hang.
“What is this, fucking gossip hour?” Uma grabbed him by the shoulder and spun him around. “Just spit it out! What about Tyler?”
“Alright alright, Jesus, calm down!” Piper’s hands went up in surrender as he stepped back. “So DeLeis calls his sit down right? And of course everyone shows up, I mean after what you did to him-“
“-you know, the stories in the paper. Allegations of-“
“Piper, I remember what I did, what happened with the Primogen?”
“So he’s there ranting about ‘blood for blood’,” Piper took a seat on the pavement, and sat cross legged, leaning back on his arms. “and like you say, no prince, no bloodhunt. DeLeis is reminded of this fact twice, when our own dear Tyler chimes in. ‘Maybe we should actually elect a prince before we start hearing the grievances of every alleged pedophile in the city'”
Uma’s eyes went wide. “Tyler said that?”
“Word for word,” laughed Piper. “DeLeis would’ve shit himself if he weren’t a corpse. So then they start talking about candidates for the position, and guess who Tyler throws out as an option?”
Uma stared blankly. If there were some implied obvious answer here she wasn’t seeing it.
Piper stood up, and lowered his gaze, staring right at her.
“No fucking way,” Uma couldn’t believe what she was hearing. “How? Who would ever go for that?”
“Look Uma, I’m serious when I say I think what you’re doing is fucking suicide. Still, nobody liked the shit with that 4 year old. Nobody. Morality aside, all of those old guys know that fucking with kids and cops can be really bad for business. Not to mention the pull you’ve got with the younger ones. I mean, sure, the assholes you’ve fucked with hate your guts, but you’re not playing the game, so the others don’t find you threatening,”
“Yeah, but that’s just it,” Uma said. “I’m not playing the game. That’s not an accident ya know man? I don’t care about any of the prestige or politics that go on in those meetings. I’d be a terrible Prince!”
“Hey, you’re preaching to the choir,” Piper shrugged. “And honestly, I don’t like it. I mean, Tyler is one of us, but she’s not, you know, one of us. Something smells,” He got up, dusted off his jeans and walked past Uma. “But who the fuck am I? Just the guy delivering the message. So you better go talk to Tyler,”
He walked to the north corner of the building, towards the bike he had somehow silently rode to get here. Before getting on, he turned back to Uma.
“Be careful ok? You might not be popular with some of the elders, but the younger ones love you. Not just our clan either. And that’s not something that happens everyday. You’ve got support in the lower ranks of the Ventrue for fuck’s sake,”
“What are you saying Piper?”
He hopped on his bike, and started it. The engine revved and roared for a moment before he silenced it.
“You’re popular and well respected by a lot of people. And a popular man arouses jealousy in the powerful,” he paused, seemingly waiting for her. “Or woman. Or whatever you are. Look it’s from Dune ok? It still applies!”
The next second both he and the bike had disappeared. Uma was alone again. She thought about lighting another cigarette, but decided against it. After all, she had a meeting with royalty.