We arrive at Alejandro’s hideout, an unassuming corner store in a rundown backwater of South San Jose. We spread out to investigate, but there’s no-one in the store, so getting in is easy. A bunch of us fan out, searching for back-rooms or whatever, when suddenly we notice something: the store has products on the shelves, but they’re surprisingly dusty, and almost everything I pick up is year’s expired or out-of-date.
Meanwhile, while most of us are poking around inside, Carlos decides to be Carlos about things and climbs up to the roof. Scrabbling around up there, he is beset by the Assamite, Isabella, who has apparently been following us down in secret. She relays new instructions, ordered by Max:
Carlos has to help her kill Georgia.
Carlos agrees readily, irritated by all these distractions, and she disappears into the darkness. He hears people moving around in the rooms below him (which are above the corner store we’re in). He finds an area above an empty room, slices a gap through the ceiling with his Protean claws, then crouches there, talons extended, patiently waiting, like a polar bear on the ice waiting for a seal.
Downstairs, we find a lead: there’s no back rooms, but there is a trap door, hidden behind the counter. We pry it up and find a black pit with a ladder descending into it. The ladder is streaked with blood, some of it fresh. I pull away at the sight, fighting waves of panic.
See, my experience in Marin has sobered me. For the first time in two decades of being a vampire, I’m starting to get the sense of what’s really out there, and it’s a lot more than douchey goths hanging around a hotel bar. For all my bravado, Alejandro’s giant monster form–“Coscto Monster”–terrifies me, and who knows what else could be down there. I find myself wishing for that dragonsbreath shotgun again and make a mental note to track more down, if I survive this.
Suddenly, in the midst of all this discussion, Mr. Tails wheedling voice appears in my mind, “Are we going down there?”
“Maybe,” I mutter, glancing at the others to make sure they don’t hear me.
“I think we should go down there! It looks like fuuuuuuuun!”
Well, shit, if I didn’t have reservations about the pit before…. “Is there anything else you think we should do?”
There’s a pause, then, “…Duuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck!” he whispers cheerily.
I hesitate, then hit the floor, milliseconds before a shotgun blast erupts upstairs.
Upstairs, Carlos’s prey have discovered him, but duck out of the way of his claws before he can take their heads off. They fire a shotgun, miss, then fuckery ensues.
Everyone looks to the stairs, except for Doc, who looks at me curiously. I get sheepishly back to my feet, which is good, because moments later Carlos’s battle spills down to us. The guys are all humans–ghouls, perhaps–so we quickly kill them or drive them all off.
We reconvene around the pit. The time has now come to make our decisions, and if I had a living heart, it would be pounding. As the largest guy, the obvious strategy is for me to head down first, but I hesitate.
Doc, though, scowls at me, and makes some comment about courage or whatever that I barely hear through my anxiety. His face, though, is clear, so I nod, steel myself, and descend, with everyone else following along after.