PREVIOUSLY ON V:TM
“This is what we do now as vampires. Send each other dick pics and shop for antique furniture.”
Our real-world night opened with the previous in-game night ending. I am still at Paul’s(Chris), hanging out with Emperor Norton, causing a ruckus to piss off Larry Ellison downstairs. Before Norton leaves, Paul asks him about “Mr. Tails,” the spirit-guide-thing that is a creepy squirrel who attached himself to us after Mr. Tails’s previous “host”–Jim’s Malkavian “Elizabeth”–died at the hands of Marcus in Marin. IRL, we all love Mr. Tails cause he’s creepy and hilarious. I-as-Tom also kinda like Mr. Tails cause he’s actually been marginally useful on occasion. Paul, though, HAAAATES him, thinks he’s a sign of Paul going mad (which probably isn’t entirely incorrect), and wants him gone. He decides to ask Norton about it because Norton is another Malkavian so perhaps he will have some insight on how to get rid of him.
Unfortunately Norton doesn’t. All he can do is speculate as to the cause of the manifestation, saying it could be the work of spirits, demons, or…his voice drops to a hiss…**Sebastian**
Sebastian le Croix is also perhaps more well-known as Oscar Wilde. He *was* the Malkavian Primogen in San Francisco and apparently a long-time enemy of Norton. Last fall (before the Marin time-jump) he tried to trick us into killing Norton for him/having Norton kill us. When neither of those things worked, he sent doods to try and kill us all directly. We overpowered them, then Paul roused us all into making a counter-attack immediately and DIRECTLY on Sebastian, at his home base—Salome, a private club under the SF Yacht Club in the Marina—no more than an hour and a half before dawn. We rolled with it and, with Emperor Norton’s help, succeeded by tossing a lit can of gasoline in Sebastian’s face and burning the club to the ground. No one has seen hide or hair of Sebastian since and the city has largely accepted him as being dead. Norton, though—who reclaimed his title as Malkavian Primogen and became our BFF—has always been skeptical whether or not Sebastian was really killed.
Anyway. For the moment, Paul seems stuck with Mr. Tails, so we all say our goodnights and go home to sleep.
The next night is Wednesday, the night of the Berkeley mission. The Englishman’s lecture is at 8pm, and we’re supposed to gather at the Pyramid before we head over. Even though we had already discussed these plans ahead of time, Jim/Clarence still feels it necessary to take charge and imperiously texts us all, instructing us to meet at HIS house instead, at 6:45.
Paul doesn’t want to go on the Berkeley mission at all, so he ignores Clarence’s calls and texts. He spends the early part of the evening going antique furniture shopping and then picks up a copy of Finding Nemo on Bluray. I *am* planning on coming—mostly because Bell explicitly told me too—but I do not like Clarence’s Ventrue doucheboxing. So I respond to the mass text by sending him a dick pic.
Clarence doesn’t like *that*, so he responds by using his new Summoning ability to call me to him. Immediately.
I get the summons right after I finish dropping off my bullwhip at my leather-guy for the silver-tipped modifications I asked for the day before (and now, thanks to Paul, can actually afford). I know exactly what’s going on, but I can’t ignore it, so, pissed, I roar up Market street to Clarence’s base. A couple befuddled guards and secretaries try and stop me as I storm in, but I brush them off, announcing over my shoulder that Clarence sent me a booty call. I storm into his office, glowering. Clarence is grinning like the cat who ate the canary.
Clarence: “Ah, Tom. So glad you could make it.”
Me: “Right. Yes. Ok so let’s do this.” **starts taking off pants** “You a top or a bottom? And you’d better say bottom cause there’s only one man in this town I’d let top me.”
Un/luckily, Kara/Georgia shows up at that moment, finding me pantsless in the middle of the office with Clarence now glowering at ME.
It’s obvious now that Paul isn’t joining us, so we roll out with just the three of us. I walk out of Clarence’s office, through his building, and get into one of his waiting cars, still pants-less. Clarence calls Bell to narc on Paul not coming with us and we head out.
We cross the bridge with no problems and head up into Berkeley. As we’re making our way up 880, though, a CHP pulls up behind the car and flashes its lights. Clarence instructs the driver to pull over. The officer comes up and says he’s been instructed to take us to the Baron of Berkeley. It’s now getting closer to the 8pm start-time of the lecture, but we can’t exactly say no, so we follow the CHP car as it leads us into town.
Meanwhile, Paul has returned home from his shopping trip. The furniture he bought will be delivered later, so he plops down in front of a TV and starts watching Finding Nemo. In the middle of this he gets a call from Bell. Bell is…not happy that Paul disobeyed his instructions and orders Paul to come in and talk with him. Paul says yeah sure but after his movie is over. Bell then tries to Summon Paul, but Paul is able to resist and goes back to watching the movie.
Sometime later, there’s a knock at the door. Paul opens it and finds a rather stodgy, accountant-looking ghoul standing there. The man says he was sent by Bell to escort Paul to the Pyramid. Paul sighs, finally agrees, but goes and grabs his Bluray disk from the player and puts it in his pocket. He asks the man if Bell has a Bluray player. The man sputters, and rather than waiting for an answer, Paul announces that it’s better to be safe than sorry and instructs the man to bring Paul’s own Bluray player. Paul leaves to head to the Pyramid.
Back in Berkeley, the CHP car leads us to the campus Faculty Club. We go in and see a small contingent of people around the place, most doing their own thing, but in front of us is a small man in tweed and a bowtie, sputtering at us angrily. He is introduced as Baron Leeland, leader of the Berkeley Anarchs (as much as they have a leader). He waves Georgia’s letter in our face and demands to know what we’re on about, storming around the Bay like we own the place, imperious Camarilla fascists, etc etc etc. We say that we’re not looking for trouble, just here for a lecture. He says like hell and tells us to leave ASAP.
Clarence then, in true Ventrue fashion, decides that the best way to respond to accusations of fascist entitlement is to try and mind-control Leeland through Entrancement. The first attempt doesn’t work and Leeland starts to get angrier. I start backing toward the door. The second attempt, a lower-ranked ability called Awe, DOES work, in that it calms everyone the hell down. Leeland agrees to let us stay for the lecture but warns us never to return. We leave and go to the lecture hall across campus.
Paul arrives at the Pyramid and strolls into Bell’s office, followed by the ghoul struggling with the box and cords of the Bluray player. Bell is pissed and launches into one of his patented Come to Jesus talks. He basically puts Paul under house arrest at the Pyramid, ordering him to stay there till the rest of us come back from Berkeley. Paul is fine with it as long as he can set up somewhere and finish watching his movie. (IRL, we are all laughing at Chris, trying to figure out what the hell he’s trying to do, besides piss off Bell and/or Jason. Chris is like, “I *did* cause Bell to spend a blood point for no good reason, and that brings me joy.”)
Paul finishes watching Finding Nemo in some office somewhere, then sends the ghoul out with some cash to bring back a disc of Wall-E.
We get to the lecture hall, sparsely populated with students and other professor-looking people. The Englishman—aka Dr. Everton—is at the front of the room, fiddling with his notes and laptop and preparing to begin. No one accosts us. We sit down in the back of the hall and start listening to the lecture. (IRL, the four of us start cajoling Jason to *ACTUALLY* give the lecture. He claims he hadn’t prepared for that. We’re like, oh please son, we know you have powerpoints of this already somewhere.) Anyway, the body of the lecture is about slaves in the economy and culture of 5th century BCE Athens. During the talk, he keeps mentioning something called Laurium, specifically some incident that occurred there, but he doesn’t go into details on it. When Georgia raises her hand to ask, he looks at us and says if we want to discuss it further we can come up to him after the talk. He also announces during the lecture that as a visiting professor for the classics department, he will be giving a series of lectures for the next few weeks, including one about Carthage. He looks right at me as he says that. I shift in my chair but don’t say anything.
We go up to him after the talk. Students and other professors are milling about, chatting and munching on cookies and cheap coffee. When he has a moment, we introduce ourselves and start asking more about this Laurium. He says it was an area of Greece that was rich in silver mines during antiquity. The mines were later a site of a major slave revolt, but leaves it at that. He blusters on about other topics and tangents in charming British professor fashion and laughs off the subtle hints and references we make to vampires and werewolves as we question him, calling such things nothing more than folktales. The building is closing soon so he invites us back to his house to discuss things further, if we wish. We look at each other and agree to go.
We follow him to a charming craftsman in North Berkeley. We set ourselves down in the living room while he goes and putters around in the kitchen for tea. We exchange informal chitchat back and forth with him until he comes back with a tray of tea.
Tea which is deep, deep red. From the smell, it was steeped in blood.
Clarence and Georgia tense and start to debate with themselves whether or not they should drink it. I figure that if The Englishman wanted us dead or bound or whatever he would have less obvious ways of going about it, so while they dither I grab a cup and start drinking.
We continue talking. NOW, of course, with no one else around, Dr. Everton is more open discussing the vampire connection to the stories he is telling. He says that the Laurium silver mines were controlled by the vampires of Athens, and the true cause for the slave revolt that destroyed the mines was never really discovered, but there’s a lot of suspicion that werewolves were involved because, duh, silver, oh and speaking of werewolves, he has something to show us. He pulls out a bronze statue, about a foot in length, showing a humanoid figure that is obviously a werewolf, but done in a strangely Egyptian style. He says that he received this statue from another vampire, a Gangrel scholar named Beckett, and by “received from him” means “found it in the burning remains of the guy’s house,” cause yeah someone attacked Beckett at his home in England and no one has seen him since. The statue is extra odd because it is a known motif from the werewolves’ world, but usually such figures are done in wood or bone. (“Living things,” I point out. He looks at me and nods.) For it to be made out of bronze is very unusual. We ask him what the figure means, he says it’s most likely a depiction of this guy Ceoris, who is a semi-mythological figure in the werewolf world. What’s notable though is stories of this guy all seem connected to the werewolf ideas of the apocalypse. In their Armageddon, an evil force called the Wrym (that’s us, kinda, lol) rises up and all honorable werewolves are called to fight it.
Dr. Everton laughs as he says this, saying that all cultures throughout time—human and otherwise—have had stories of the apocalypse and as of yet none of them have come true. I speak up and ask if this idea of the werewolf apocalypse is at all connected to this word I’ve been hearing, “Impergium.”
He goes quiet. “Wherever did you hear that?” he asks in a low voice.
I look right back at him. “Around,” I say, and leave it at that. Georgia also pesters me for more information, but I just glare at her.
Dr. Everton sighs and continues. Apparently researching this figurine brought him to the Bay Area because he has reason to believe there may be more of these statues around. Finding and studying them should give more information about where they came from and what they mean. He mentions that there were “others” who knew about this statue and his research, but that there are “fewer now.” He’s also heard that werewolves are on the scent (lol) and are looking around too.
He points out that a lot of powerful interests, both groups and individuals—and he looks pointedly at me when he says “individuals”—seem to all be descending on the Bay right now. He’s not sure what’s going on but it seems to be the right—or wrong, depending on how you look at it—place to be right now. (Me: “LOL it’s like we’re living on a Hellmouth!” Kara: “Dood, we made that joke, like, a month ago.” Me: “…..WELL NOW I GET IT!”) He says that apparently part of the reason for him running around starting shit last fall was because he WANTED to get Theo Bell sent to SF, to help deal with whatever ultra-large shit may or may not be going down. That’s a little sobering to us, since Bell is already a little overwhelmed with all the shit going on—much of it caused by us—and if WORSE things are coming, well….
We eventually finish up our conversation and leave, although as I write this now I realize that Tom was going to ask for a printup of the powerpoints from Dr. Everton’s Carthage talk and I totally forgot about it, dammit! Anyway, we go back to the city without incident.
Paul has been having a quiet evening, alone in the Pyramid with his movies, when suddenly he gets a call on his phone from an unknown number. He doesn’t answer unknown numbers so he ignores it. His phone goes quiet for a few seconds, then beeps to indicate a new voicemail. Paul sighs and listens to it.
What he hears is the voice of a man with a VERY, VERY thick Russian/Eastern European accent, in broken English, telling Paul that he is at Tesseract, he has some of Paul’s people, and if Paul doesn’t come down to Mountain View immediately, alone, then the people will be killed and the building exploded. Unnerved, Paul tries to call the number back. The call answers, Paul tries to talk, but the same voice barks, “One hour!” and hangs up.
Paul goes to Bell, still in his office (which we comment on IRL: For someone who is supposed to be rolling around town kicking ass and issuing receipts for the acquiring of names, Bell’s been spending a lot of time indoors, in the Pyramid. Jason sort of hems and haws and we wonder if there’s a clue in this behavior.) Paul tells Bell that…someone…has just issued a threat to him, his company, and apparently has some of his people hostage, and can he please be excused to go deal with it? Bell glares at him, but lets him go. Paul runs to his Tesla and starts driving down-Peninsula, but calls me along the way.
I’m still on my way back from Berkeley, in the car with Clarence and Georgia, when my phone rings and I answer. Paul asks how quickly I can get to Mountain View. I sputter, say that I’m still in Berkeley, on the field trip he’s playing hookie from, and we still have to report back to Bell, also WTF is going on? Paul barks some stuff at me about Tesseract and hostages and Russians and asks if I can help. I say maybe, what? I don’t even— He then tells me to contact Norton and Sophia to see if they can help. Now I’m really confused, but can’t ask too many questions cause Clarence and Georgia are sitting right there watching me. I say that maybe Paul has been hanging around me for too long because my impulsiveness seems to be rubbing off on him. He snorts, says that it’s up to me whether or not I’ll help him, he’ll see me if he sees me, then hangs up the phone.
We get back to SF. I’m torn. On the one hand, Paul is one of my few almost-friends around so I really do want to help him. On the other hand, I don’t really know what’s going on, but it seems like something I would be woefully underprepared for.
Still, I give it my best shot. I call Norton but he doesn’t answer, and neither does he have a voicemail set up. I try contacting Sophia through my roundabout method. I know she thinks herself clear of her debt to me, but I am careful to specify that I am trying to contact her on behalf of Paul, who needs help. At the last second, I decide to try and tempt her interest a little bit more by including a picture of Dr. Everton’s werewolf statue, saying that if she contacts me I can tell her about this cool statue I found. I complete the message and close the notepad program, but no call or email comes through in response.
I pace around a little bit, then, with a frustrated yell, I get on my bike and start driving down to Tesseract on my own.
Paul arrives at his company campus, where everything seems quiet. There are some cars around in the lots (not unusual for a tech company, even in the middle of the night) but no signs of people anywhere. Unsure of what to do, he parks and heads to his office….
…Where he is greeted by a glowering, hulking man. Human. The man barks at Paul in a thick accent, but it is different than the voice Paul spoke to on the phone. No one else is in the room. He motions for Paul to take a seat and pulls up a video call through the monitor on Paul’s desk.
Another man’s face appears on the screen, although any rational observer would hesitate to call it that. It is a face that is…grotesque, with features looking more like melded putty than skin and bone. The head is elongated, resulting in something somewhere between Coneheads and H.R. Geiger. Dark eyes glare out at Paul under heavy brows. The man speaks, and this time it is clear that this is the same voice from the phone call.
He introduces himself as Alekse Roussimov, perhaps better known as Andre. He reiterates the message from the phone call in the same clipped, accented English, saying that he has Paul’s people, that Paul’s company itself is under threat as well, and if Paul doesn’t come to him, alone, with 50 million dollars, then all of these things are forfeit. Paul nods and asks where he should meet him.
The Shark Tank, Andre says. The San Jose Arena.
(Me: “Oh yay! You can park at Jen’s house!”)
The call drops. Paul is left in his office with the guard, wondering how he’s going to get his hands on 50 million dollars when all the people he would normally rely on to acquire such resources are currently being held hostage.
Meanwhile I show up at Tesseract. Paul comes out of the building with the guard, and after some brief confusion and melodrama, the guard is incapacitated and laid out unconscious in the back of Paul’s car. I immediately demand to know what’s going on, as the details I’ve gotten so far are sketchy. He tells me about his people, the 50 million dollars, the Shark Tank, and that he is to meet this dood Andre and am I down to go with? At Andre’s name my face drops and I take a step back. I tell Paul that Andre is the Archbishop of San Jose, aka leader of the local Sabbat stronghold. Also aka the boss of Alejandro, the guy I beat up a couple times and drew dicks all over and whose death I was at least partly implicit in. I have never met Andre but I have a pretty good hunch he has heard about me and would not be happy to see me and for Paul to be seen with me would not be good or him either. Paul looks frustrated but agrees and asks if I can help him take care of the guard at least.
Me: “I could take him back to the city, to Bell, for interrogation?”
Paul: “No, Bell or someone else would probably just kill him. We need to just get him out of the way down here for awhile. Do you think you could tie him up?”
Me: *gives Paul a Significant Look* “Son. Please.”
Paul: “Ok well do you have any rope?”
Me: “Hell yeah, I got a 50 foot bundle in my saddlebags. Pre-treated hemp. Hand-dyed. Purple.”
(Chris: “Lol, thanks Tor.)
We take the guy to a motel. Paul leaves me there to…tie him up as I wish, in a way that leaves him restrained but not dangerously so, with the hopes that he’ll be found the next morning by a maid or something when he wakes up.
After he leaves me, Paul apparently decides that he’s gonna need to call in some bigger guns, so he pulls out his phone and calls Marcus (Me, IRL: “How do you have Marcus’s number!?!?! **I** don’t even have Marcus’s number!!!” Chris: “He gave it to me when I got released.” Me: “DAMMIT!!!”). The number goes to a generic voicemail box. Paul leaves a quick message summarizing the situation, then gets in his car and heads to the Shark Tank.
Paul arrives at the arena and parks in front of a main entrance, where other cars are collected. Armed guards meet him and lead him inside. They search him, frisk him, and walk him through both a full-size metal detector and use a wand on him. Once they’re satisfied, they lead him into the arena proper.
About 20-30 people are gathered in one of the sections of seating. All are sitting, except one. Andre. He looms over the rest of the crowd, watching Paul approach. He motions for a guard to open one of the doors leading onto the ice and gestures for Paul to walk through it. Paul does, although he falls almost immediately. Andre follows him onto the ice, but he doesn’t fall, due to the fact that his feet are taloned, allowing him to dig into the ice (Kara: “Oh man, they’re gonna have to re-zamboni everything!”).
(Also note that at this point Jim is futzing with his phone, and suddenly plays the intro sequence to “We Will Rock You.” When we look at him, he’s like, “What?? It’s a hockey rink!!!”)
Andre: “Where is money?”
Paul: “I have it. It’s outside.”
Andre: “You bring money.”
Paul: “I will, but…from what I understand, you don’t need the money.”
Paul: “I think that what you want…is me.”
Paul: (hesitates) “You…don’t want me?”
Andre: “*I* do not. *He* does.”
Andre jerks his chin to the side. Paul turns to see another door onto the ice opening and a man walking through it.
“Paaaaaaul Stewart,” he drawls, as oily and as simpering as ever, but this time there is a lilt of maniacal cruelty to his tone. “You have no idea how long I’ve waited for this moment.”
Paul frowns. “Let me guess, about…6 months and some days?”
Yes, although Sebastian is looking good for someone whom we headshotted with a lit can of gasoline, he has obviously recovered and is not. Very. Happy. Andre nods at him and leaves the ice, leaving Paul and Sebastian alone on the rink. They banter for a bit, with Sebastian dropping a lot of phrases like how they’re going to “have some fun” (which, just a guess, will only be fun for one person involved). Sebastian, ever thoughtful, asks about me and my whereabouts. Paul says he’s not sure where I am, probably back in the city (which is true). Sebastian says that if Paul wants his people set free, then Paul will get me here, asap. Paul agrees, but asks to see the people first.
Andre gestures and a handful of people are led onto the ice, bound and gagged. Some of them Paul recognizes, some of them seem to be just random people from the building, including janitors (Me: “And interns! Lol!”) The person that Paul most wants to see, though—his assistant Gates, whom he is very close with—is not there. Paul asks if this is all of them. Sebastian says no, there are more, although fewer now, as some of them put up a bit of a fight, you know how it is.
Meanwhile, I’ve finished tying up the guard at the motel and have returned to the city. I’m worried for Paul, but don’t know what else to do. I’m pacing nervously around my empty apartment when my phone rings with an unknown number.
Marcus: “Tom what in Dis’s name is going on down there??”
Me: “BOSS!! I, uh…ah…Paul got a call from Andre, said he had a bunch of his people hostage, grabbed them from Tesseract, and Paul has to bring money—“
Marcus: “Jupiter’s cock, how did he manage this?! Where are they?”
Me: “The Shark Tank, the, uh, the hockey arena. In San Jose.”
Turns out the arena is the main meeting place for the San Jose Sabbat (on non-game days of course). Marcus pauses, obviously thinking about what to do. First he orders me to stay away, but after a moment, he reconsiders, saying I should arm myself as best and as fast as I can and go to hang around the area, as he might need me…imminently.
I hang up and try to think of where I could get more weapons, FAST, at, like, 3 in the morning. I realize that I can’t, not with still having to make over an hour drive down to San Jose. I decide to just head down there with what I got—my Desert Eagle and a machete—when my phone rings again.
It’s Paul, calling to ALSO ask me to come down to San Jose. However, in a very clever move, rather than voice-calling me, Paul has opened a video call and directed it to use the rear-side camera. He has the phone held up to his ear, but the camera is still pointing out.
Giving me a full view of Sebastian, standing there on the ice.
Paul strikes up a conversation as if nothing is wrong, asking if maybe I want to come down to San Jose to hang out with him? Mind working quickly, I say, suuuuure, maybe, but I might have to…run some errands first. He asks what kind of errands. “Ikea,” I say, and pan my phone around to show him my empty apartment. He says well, just get down there as soon as I can.
After I end that call, I run to my bike.
Back at the arena, Sebastian taunts Paul a little bit more, suggesting that perhaps they should begin without me. But then, heads turn as one of the doors to the arena floor opens again. At first, from where Paul is standing, he can’t see who entered.
Because apparently they’re not tall enough to be seen over the walls of the rink.
“Sorry I’m late,” Marcus’s voice calls out (which is followed *immediately* by Jim activating the intro to “The Final Countdown” on his phone). He climbs up onto one of the bleachers, revealing himself in his favorite Roman-era garb (tunic and whatnot). Most of the people in the arena—who are all likely Sabbat and should know full well who Marcus is since he was apparently present for THE VERY FOUNDING OF THE SECT–start to look nervous. Andre’s eyes are wide and his skin is paler than usual.
Sebastian, though, has no idea who this kid is.
He asks Paul if Marcus is with him. Paul says yes. Sebastian chides Paul for embracing a child, saying he thought Paul considered himself above such a thing.
Paul smiles. “I’m sorry, you misunderstand. What I mean to say is *I* am *his*.”
Sebastian looks more confused. Andre walks over to Marcus and asks what he wants. He says he’s here to see the games, of course, and chides Andre for settling for such poor fare. He walks out onto the ice to join Sebastian and Paul.
Sebastian has decided to ignore his confusion and settles on patronizing anger. “This is my private matter, son,” he spits, “I have business with this man, and I suggest you get off the ice before you slip and get hurt.”
Meanwhile, I arrive in the area, which yeah I know doesn’t make sense in terms of actual time constraints but I don’t know maybe I Celerity-d myself down 101 or something. Anyway… Marcus told me to be ready in the area, so I decide to do a drive-by of the arena to scope out the situation. As I pull up, I see a mass of people running from the arena, pulling gags off their mouths in a general state of fear and panic. I drive closer to check it out and see Paul’s car parked by one of the entrances. I cruise closer to it and get spotted by a couple armed guards lurking around the entrance. They look at me funny, then approach.
“You…Thom?” they ask in heavy accents.
I freeze. “Uhh…no?”
They stare at me for a moment, then suddenly the lead one shouts, “TOMESCU!!” and embraces me in a bear-hug. “You kill werewolf!!” he cries. The other guards cheer and start clapping me on the back, chattering amongst themselves. I grin awkwardly and let them lead me into the building. They guide me *around* their security checkpoints and metal detectors, not even bothering to do a cursory frisk, and lead me to a set of doors going into the arena.
I step through the doors just in time to see Marcus’s reply to Sebastian’s last comment, which is to cough once as six tentacles of pure darkness descend from the ceiling, grab Sebastian, and hoist him into the air by his neck.
END OF NIGHT.
This is a longer-form update so it is closer to being in its final draft but this material is still a placeholder and subject to edits before finalization.