An interesting thing happened in the intervening week. As Jason said, there was a very real possibility–almost a probability–that this would be a TPK. Breaking into a Methusula’s den, killing his men, and shooting him in the face is a difficult thing to spin any other way. Everyone else was simultaneously irritated and amused, that my–or, rather, Tom’s–antics had gotten so far out of control that he got us all killed. As the truth set in, though, I realized something else:
I didn’t want Tom to die.
At first, it was for shallow reasons. He was fun and snarky and I loved using him to come up with hilarious come-backs while metaphorically punching all the things. “Well,” Jason advised, “If you don’t want him to die, you’d better come up with some very good reasons for Marcus not to.” So I sat down and started thinking about it.
And that’s when the rest of Tom poured into my head. Until this point, he was just a sketchy vehicle for bits of action and comedy, but suddenly him as a character materialized. I realized the full depth of his backstory, how he ran away from home when his abusive father drove him out, but how he still feels guilty for the sister he left behind. I saw details of his life in 1980’s San Francisco, watching as the AIDS epidemic erupted around him. I understood better why he became a vampire when he did, and I realized it’s horrible consequences, as he accidentally spread the disease to his still-human boyfriend, Rob, and had to watch helplessly as he sickened and died in front of him. I saw his classic-rock vinyl collection in his SOMA loft apartment, and how he secretly enjoys Lady Gaga as well but refuses to admit it and succumb to the stereotype. I started barraging Jason with emails on all these ideas, and the more I wrote the more they came to me.
Finally the next week rolled around, and we sat down to see what became of us. Marcus unstaked us one by one, lecturing and delivering judgement. At some point, someone asked how long we had been captured in torpor. “Six or seven months,” Marcus/Jason said.
“Oh my god,” I muttered in growing shock. “…I probably lost my apartment!”
Elsa/Kara turned to me. “We are probably about to die, right now, and you are worried about your apartment?”
I/Tom leveled a withering glance at her, then uttered the words that set this entire project in motion: “IT WAS RENT CONTROLLED!!!!”
After that, Marcus doled out his sentences. He knew about “Elizabeth’s” rampage through the Marina, killing the family of three, and when she simply stared at him in a vacant Malkavian way, he executed her, as one would put down a dangerous dog (marking the death of Jim character #2).
Elsa also did not fare well. Their discussion turned philosophical, veering into the area of, “Do the ends justifying the means?” which she openly supported and Marcus apparently did not, since he executed her as well.
Paul was a trickier prospect, since morally he seemed on Marcus’s level, but Marcus revealed he knew about Tesseract and the solar technology project, and railed at how dangerous an idea it was, how it could eliminate all of vampire-kind in one fell swoop. Paul stared back evenly and said that yes, that was kind of part of the point. Instead of executing Paul, though, Marcus staked him again, to figure out how to deal with him later.
When it came my turn, though, things were different. I was sullen and frustrated, but in my interrogation it became clear that I was just a patsy used by this Slayer guy, and everyone else who sent me on this damn quest. Not only that, but Marcus seemed interested in my (newly-written) tragic backstory, having been driven out from home and embraced by a sire who abandoned me to figure things out on my own. And, patsy or not, it was clear that I was willful, and strong, and perhaps just balanced enough between brave and stupid to be useful.
So Marcus said he would release me…if I agreed to work for him.
It was either that or death so I begrudgingly agreed. Marcus gave me a vial of blood, his blood, binding me to him and preventing me from pulling shit. He ordered me to go back to the city to spy on the various bullshit shenanigans going on there, which apparently had gotten worse in the last seven months. He told me to report back to him via Aitor, his lieutenant–the older man we first met in the bunker–and released me.
I looked around. “Where’s my whip?” The whip which, I had decided, was a hand-made present from my dead boyfriend, Rob. Marcus gestured for Aitor to hand it over.
I strapped it to my belt, then hesitated. “Could I have my gun back too?”
Marcus’s eyes narrowed. “…No.”
And with that, I was set loose, in the middle of the dark, werewolf-ridden woods of Marin, left to hitch-hike my way back to SF on my own, with absolutely nothing whatsoever left to my name except a secret brand on its surface: traitor.