Chapter 1: Don’t Fuck With Tom’s Bike

I wake up at home, that first night, to the sound of my phone ringing. I check the caller ID.  It’s an occasional-contact of mine from the clubs. Human. I groan. They know better than to call me unsolicited, or at least they should. I don’t like risking forming relationships. At least, not anymore. I ignore the call and go back to trying to sleep.

My phone rings again. This time, it’s another vampire calling: the local Brujah Primogen, a guy named Daunte. In reality he’s just about as douchey as you would expect with a name like that, but I still run jobs for him sometimes. Also he is my Primogen, so I decide I should probably take this call.

Unsurprisingly, he tells me he has a job for me. A drug deal. He’s got a shipment coming in  through some guys in Bayshore and needs me to do a pickup. He can pay me a few grand for my trouble. I’ve been short on work lately and a few grand will go a long way in funding me and my rent-controlled apartment, so I accept. I grab my usual gear–black shirt, black jeans, heavy leather motorcycle jacket, a couple guns, and my trusty 10-foot bullwhip–and head out. I live in SOMA, in a decent-sized studio loft, the same place I’ve lived for the 30 years I’ve been in this city (both before and after becoming a vampire). I head out to my bike, a late-80s Harley that I restored myself. Even though it’s SOMA and thus prone to crackheads what will steal your spark plugs to make pipes out of (true story), I park my bike on the street right in front of my building (because, as Jason points out, “No one fucks with your bike.”) I roll out to the meeting place Daunte gave me.

I meet my contacts–two large black guys, human–at an abandoned church at the edge of Bayshore. They show me the goods–a bunch of blocks of heroin–but I can tell that they’ve been cut with some sort of cheap filler. I call Daunte, say the shipment is no good, and he urges me to get more information out of them about where the fuck the real stuff is. I pull some intimidation tricks on them and they say that they don’t know anything, they just got the shit from this guy, Alejandro. If I want to complain I should take it up with him. Daunte says he would love to come meet this Alejandro with me and has me set up a meeting with him through these guys, set for later that evening at the Costco in Colma (“Great,” I say, “I can get some shopping done at Trader Joe’s next door.”)

I am on my way out of Bayshore, heading to the nearest onramp to 280-south, when a giant ball of flame erupts from a cement factory a few blocks away from me.

#

Unbeknownst to me-as-Tom, the drama at the cement factory started much earlier in the evening when Chris’s character, Paul Stewart, Toreador, was called there by his Primogen, a man named John Edmundson. Paul is a very young vampire, very naive about the supernatural world, but what he lacks in vampire clout he makes up in real world power. He is the founder/owner/president/CEO/etc of Tesseract Inc, a major global telecommunications company. Paul is a visionary leader and is very passionate about his company (think SteveJobs!Vampire) and has tried to not let becoming a vampire slow him down. Still, when his Primogen calls him out for help he has no choice but to answer. Paul meets Edmundson at the factory, gets a lot of information that basically says, “Shit’s been weird around here I want you to check it out.” Edmundson sends Paul back downtown to pick up a Nosferatu contact, telling him to bring her back here so they can investigate the factory together.

The Nosferatu he is meeting is named Elsa, Kara’s character. Not much is known about Elsa except that she’s in good with the Nosferatu Primogen, Karl Sutro (brother of Adolph Sutro, one of the important figures in the city’s real-life early history) When the car comes to get her, though, she is suspicious and shy. She sends one of her ghouls to meet Paul in the car instead and follows along through the sewers.

The last player character is Jim’s character, Isaac. He is a high-ranking Tremere of relatively low-generation. Unfortunately we cannot remember exactly why he was sent to the cement factory but it’s likely that the Tremere Primogen, Maximilian Von Strauss, sent him because Max has many plans and plots in the works and likely wants more information about whatever has been going on there.

Since going through the sewers is much slower than travel by car (although one could probably argue it’s still faster than MUNI), Elsa arrives at the factory well after Paul’s car, but finds the car empty and no one around. She lurks through the shadows, searching, and turns a corner just in time to see a figure walking between the buildings. As he passes the shadows where Elsa is hiding, she steps forward to confront him.

“Hey! Who are you?” she asks, apparently trying the direct approach.

He stops and turns toward her. His clothes are well-made, tailored in classic cuts. He regards her quietly for a few moments.

“If I might offer you a word of advice, my dear?” he says. His voice is British-accented, an obviously educated upper-class type. He leans in toward her, lowering his voice. “…Run. Run from here, and do not look back.”

He turns and continues walking. Elsa hesitates, perplexed, but before she can call out to him again, the factory explodes behind her.

Elsa is knocked to the ground. She climbs to her feet just in time to see a man stagger out of the building some feet head of her. The Englishman turns and approaches him. As their paths cross, the Englishman pulls out a thin sword and in one swoop decapitates other man. He then calmly sheaths his sword and continues walking toward a waiting car.

After Elsa gets over her shock, her first thought is concern for the ghoul she sent in her place. She pull herself together and sets out to find her. Around the back of the building, though, she finds Paul and his entourage. Everyone is unconscious; a few may not even be that. Paul is unconscious by virtue of being staked. Elsa’s ghoul is there too, alive but obviously injured. Elsa’s mind races in shock and confusion, trying to decide what to do. The urgency escalates as she hears multiple breeds of siren rapidly approaching. She tries to grab her ghoul and escape into the sewers, but comes up against some early-arriving cops. She panics, shoots one of the cops in the face (a soon-to-be recurring theme in this game), and basically escalates things into a bunch of chasing and drama. Once she finally extradites herself from the whole shitshow, she escapes back into the sewers, but not before texting Karl with the message, “We have a war on our hands.”

Meanwhile, Isaac has arrived on the scene and is lurking around. He also comes across Paul’s unconscious body. He has never met Paul in person but recognizes him as the local tech magnate he is. Being the shifty-ass Tremere that he is, he immediately sees the advantage of the situation and picks up Paul’s body to bring back to the local Tremere clan stronghold, the Chantry. Unfortunately, he also soon runs into cops and other human authorities crawling all over the place. He leads them on a chase through the local neighborhoods, eventually trying to hide in the apartment of a crack-dealer. He tries to pull some mind-control shit to get into the apartment quietly, but it doesn’t go well. Shots are fired. Fortunately, even though Isaac is struggling to haul Paul’s undead-weight, he is able to take out the crack-dealer and his cronies. Unfortunately, the new round of shots has alerted the police to his location. They storm up to the building and pound at the door. Isaac’s last hope is to “play possum;” he collapses on the floor, next to the bodies of Paul and the crack-dealers, for all intents and purposes appearing to be just another dead body. The cops burst in, find a slew of bodies, then call an ambulance to bag them up and bring them to the morgue at General Hospital.

(IRL, I start to panic. See, the reason Paul has been staked is because Chris wasn’t able to play with us that night, so this was a convenient way to move him around without his input. But if Paul is brought to G-Ho as “a dead body,” his “normal” identity–as the public leader of Tesseract–is going to be seriously jeopardized. He’ll be identified instantly and widely-reported as being dead, basically ruining the character concept Chris had created IN ONLY OUR SECOND NIGHT OF PLAYING. Jim laughs hysterically as I scream at him to FIX IT FIX IT FIX IT FIX IT!)

#

Now, me-as-Tom doesn’t know about any of this. When the factory exploded, I took a short detour to check things out. I parked a few blocks away and observed things until the authorities started showing up, but I didn’t see anything unusual (I mean, besides the burning building.) I continued back to 280 to head to Costco.

But as I start merging onto the freeway, my bike starts sputtering oddly. I pull over to the shoulder and check things out. I discover that my spark plugs, all of the spark plugs, have become loose. I’ve never seen anything like it. Perplexed, I tighten them all down, then continue on my way.

I arrive at the Colma Costco. I don’t see anyone in the lot so I cruise around, looking for signs of Daunte or this Alejandro guy. I circle around to the back side by the tire center and finally see another car. It’s Daunte’s car, parked akimbo in the middle of the aisle, doors open. No one is around. I stop about 30 yards away, still sitting on my bike as the engine idles. Something about the situation is obviously fishy. Instead of going over to check out the car, I decide to try and call Daunte.

As the call goes through, I hear a tinny echo of a ringing phone. It’s coming from the abandoned car. No one answers. I consider moving closer to check things out when…something…looms up behind the car. It’s dark, outside the streetlights, so all I see is some sort of misshapen shape swelling in the darkness. Part of the figure reaches forward and I hear a metallic crunch as something akin to enormous claws dig into the roof of the car.

My jaw drops. The phone in my hand is still ringing, and just then bounces to voicemail. I hear Daunte’s voice advising one to leave a message and then the beep. In a daze, I hold the phone up to my ear.

“Heeeeeeey, Daunte, so….Yeah, I seem to be having some weird bike trouble, don’t know what’s up, but imma have to miss the meeting, I’ll call you later.”

With that, I rev up the bike and roar out of there as fast as I can.

At this point in my unnatural life, I have been a vampire for about 20 years. My sire pretty much embraced me then dumped me, leaving me to figure out vampire society on my own.  Luckily, two decades of schmoozing around the city–and even making some brief forays into Camarilla higher-society–has allowed me to collect enough information to get by. But I have no fucking idea what the fuck that was all about. Luckily, tonight is Elysium. I really hate the pomp, politics, and pageantry of the thing, but I can think of no better place to ask around for someone who might know what’s going on. 

I head downtown, toward the Hyatt Regency at Embarcadero Center.

Traffic looks bad on 280, likely do to the fallout from the factory explosion, so I exit at Cesar Chavez to take Potrero across the Mission. Just as I merge, an ambulance screams past, obviously headed toward G-Ho. I decide to try and make up some time by drafting in its wake.

Inside the ambulance, of course, are the body-bags containing Isaac and Paul. Isaac realizes that being dragged into the hospital would make an already-bad situation infinitely worse so tries a last-ditch effort to escape. He tears himself out of his bag and tries to mind-control the EMTs. In the confusion, the driver starts to swerve, loses control, and crashes into some other cars in an intersection a few blocks from the hospital.

Unfortunately, I had been following too close to the ambulance. When it swerved, I couldn’t get out of the way fast enough. The front end of my bike gets clipped by the bumper, mashing my front fender and sending me skidding into a slide.

Once the ambulance stops, Isaac kicks open the back door. He grabs Paul’s body–still in the body bag–and jumps out of the vehicle.

Meanwhile I am extraditing myself from underneath my own vehicle. I am unhurt, but my bike is less fortunate. Not only the fender but the headlamp are smashed and most of the paint job is scratched along the whole length of the bike. Furious, I look up just in time to see a man jump out of the ambulance carrying a body bag, then stride over to a nearby stopped car. 

Isaac leans into the car, mind controls the driver, then climbs in and directs the driver to speed off.

I am angry, but I’m able to think clearly enough to recognize that this whole thing reeks of fellow vampire drama. One of the EMTs climbs out of the ambulance, looking around for Isaac, and I duck in to distract him so he doesn’t see the other car speeding away from the scene of the crash. I then grab my bike–beat up but still drivable–and roar off after the other car.

I follow it across town till it pulls up in front of a posh building in Russian Hill. I’ve been around long enough to recognize that this building is the Tremere stronghold, the Chantry, but in 20 years I haven’t had many direct dealings with the Tremere so I don’t know much beyond that. Besides, my mind is currently occupied with other things at the time.

Isaac gets out of the car, hauling the body bag over his shoulder, and sends the driver on her way. I pull up nearby and storm up to him. I say that look, I don’t know whats going on, frankly I don’t really care, but his little escape attempt wrecked my bike, and despite that I still saw fit to cover his ass from a possible Masquerade Violation, so if he chips in something toward the repair then we’ll call it square.

He glares at me, then wordlessly tries to Dominate me and make me GTFO.

It doesn’t work, but I still recognize what he did. I stumble back, then advance forward, asking who the hell he thinks he is–

He tries again with a different level of Dominate. This one sticks, but I am able to resist. The fucker still hasn’t actually verbally acknowledged me, and that level of class douchery is pissing me off more than the actual attacks. I decide to leave, but before I do I’m gonna make a point. I pull out my whip and crack it across his face. He still struggling with the body bag and can’t dodge, so the crack cuts a deep gash across his face. I throw up some bro-arms at him, then get on my bike and roar away.

(IRL, Jason is yelling: “IT’S ONLY THE SECOND NIGHT OF GAMEPLAY AND WE HAVE PVP ALREADY!?!?!?”)

Fuming, I make my way back across the city. There’s still some time till Elysium so I decide to run some errands and drop the bike off at the shop before it starts.

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