Here begins the point at which the blog was officially born and the writeups began evolving into their current, highly-narrated and dialogue-annotated form.
This night was another relatively short night, as we spent time early in the evening doing dinner and a present exchange. The highlight of the presents was a full, hard-copy, hard-back bound copy of the 20th Anniversary VTM Corebook, which the four of us chipped in on to get Jason. He was very surprised and immediately started flipping through the book (which he had never seen in hard-copy before) and started noticing things that he had never really picked up on while searching through the PDF copies. But no worries, I’m *suuuure* he won’t find something hideously dramatic and horrible that he will promptly use against us, or anything.
My part of the night’s narration was rather limited. I spent most of the evening sulking around Marcus’s car and going on a booze-cruise with Norton. But more on that later. Jason decided to progress by going in increasing order from least-to-most-fucked, so we started with Georgia.
After her meeting with the Nosferatu, Abelard, Georgia exits the sewers back in the vicinity of Coit Tower (side note: no.) She needs to get back to the Chantry but doesn’t want to send for a car because of the questions that will inevitably come up. As has been previously established, she can’t drive for shit herself, so she pulls up our favorite ride-share service on her phone and summons a car from them.
At 3 in the morning, usually only the most die-hard-slash-weirdest drivers are still working. The guy who pulls up to get her is definitely a little of both. A white guy, tall, fairly skinny, dressed all in black, and wearing sunglasses. (Me: “Is he a Blues Brother?” Jason: “He *looks* like a Blues Brother.”) None of this seems to bother Georgia, though. She gets in the front seat (cause that’s what you do with ride-share services) and then, cause she’s feeling a combination of hungry and bored, she decides to try and flirt with him.
(Kara: *rolls to flirt* “…Urg! Simple fail.”
Jim: “Lol, maybe he’s gay.”
Jason: “…He is now.”)
Luckily, the driver saves Georgia further embarrassment by striking up a conversation, in a deep grumbly voice.
Driver: “I see you’re headed to Russian Hill.”
Georgia: “Uh, yes…”
Driver: “Straaaange place, Russian Hill. See a lot of weird people around there.”
Georgia: “Weird…how? Like in funny costumes, or no costumes at all?”
Driver: “Oh these people don’t need costumes. They stand out even without. …Course you don’t need to worry ’bout them, do you?”
Georgia: “…Not sure I see your point…”
Driver: “You don’t got the look of someone afraid to be out at three in the morning alone.”
Georgia: “…I don’t?”
Driver: “Not in the slightest. I can tell.”
Georgia: “Interesting… How is it that you’re so perceptive?”
Driver: “Lifetime of observations.”
Georgia watches the man warily as he drives. He is silent for a few moments, then speaks up again.
Driver: “I’ve seen a lot of strange people around here, they all ask to be dropped off at Russian Hill.”
Georgia: “Hm. No strange people asking to be dropped off in other parts of the city?”
Driver: “Ooh, sometimes. Not tonight.”
Georgia: “You…mean there’s a specific gathering tonight in Russian Hill?”
Driver: “I didn’t say that. I just said that I see people sometimes.”
Georgia: “I see. …This must be an interesting line of work.”
Driver: *silent for a few moments) “It has its benefits.”
The car pulls over and stops. Georgia can see that they are in fact in Russian Hill, but about four blocks from the Chantry. Definitely not the address she put into the app when she summoned the car. The driver sits quietly.
Georgia: “Is there a reason we pulled over to this spot?”
Driver: “…We’re at your destination.”
Georgia: *looks around* “Are we?”
Driver: *turns to regard her, eyes hidden behind the dark sunglasses* “…We are.”
Georgia looks at him, then slides out of the car. He leans over slightly before she closes the door.
Driver: “You have a good evening.”
Georgia: *hesitantly* “You…too….”
Driver: “Just be careful. Weeeeird people out tonight.”
Georgia closes the door. He drives off, leaving her standing bemused on the sidewalk. After a few moments, she turns and walks toward the chantry. As she walks, though, she notices something on the night air, a subtle smell. It is very faint, but to her its unmistakable.
Blood. Lots of it. Somewhere nearby.
The breeze is coming in steady off the bay to the north-west. She follows the scent up the breeze to a mansion on a cul-de-sac, looming and dark, no lights on anywhere. She investigates the grounds. As well as the scent of blood on the air, she can now hear a strange machinery sound droning from somewhere. There’s no windows on the ground floor, though, and she can’t jump the fence into the back yard.
Finally, creepiness wins out over curiosity. She’s like, fuck this noise, and leaves to go home.
We rejoin Clarence, who has currently gone all dances-with-werewolves and is being dragged through an inter-dimensional space without light or sound. Without warning, reality rips back into being around him. He is thrown out onto a cold beach with dense, gravelly sand. There’s just enough moonlight to make out the features of the hills and cliffs around him. He identifies their location as Rodeo Lagoon, in the Marin Headlands. Although it is practically a stones-throw from the city, even on the best of days it is another world entirely.
And this is definitely not the best of days.
(Sidebar: IRL I lived at Fort Cronkhite in Rodeo Lagoon when I worked for the GGRO after college, so every time we go to the headlands in-game I get super excited and very specific about location and geography.)
Clarence turns to find not just one but five werewolves, all in their behemoth werewolf forms, looming over him. Clarence stares back and quietly adjusts his suit. One walks up to him, sniffs him, growls, then shifts down into human form. The man–a stocky, middle-aged, Latino man–growls at Clarence again.
Clarence: “…What do you wish to know?”
Werewolf: “Let’s talk about…Spiral Dancers. Spill what you know, suckhead, or we’ll spill you.”
(Everyone in the room: “Ooooooooo, snap!”)
Clarence adjusts his suit again then talks. He tells the werewolf about the raid on Alejandro’s den in San Jose, where Clarence got his hand on some terabytes worth of Sabbat data. He and his people were still struggling with decrypting the data but they were able to get some info pertaining to someone called “The Dancer.” The werewolf insists on a name. Clarence wracks his brain and throws out the first one to come to mind, “Charley.” He says he’s not sure, though, and can get them the file if they want.
Werewolf: “We already have the file.”
Clarence: “Then why am I here?”
Werewolf: “Because you didn’t stop there, you started doing…searches.”
Clarence: “I wanted to know why people were breaking into my building.”
Werewolf: “The Dancer didn’t break into your building, suckhead, we did. What is your interest in The Dancer?”
Clarence: “To…find out more about it so I can protect myself.”
Werewolf: *scoffs* “The Dancer isn’t here for you.”
Clarence: “Then…to figure out what it’s target is.”
Werewolf: “You’re looking at it.”
Clarence: “…Oh. I see.”
There’s a few tense moments as the werewolves grumble amongst themselves.
Werewolf: “Dancers like to work with suckheads. Maybe we stake you out in the sun, see what shows up.”
Clarence: “There was one vampire who mentioned Spiral Dancers to me specifically….”
Werewolf: *sneers* “Oh really? Which one was that?”
Clarence: “Corwin Everton.”
The werewolf goes still. “…Everton’s here?”
Clarence nods. “Berkeley. I just heard him give a talk earlier tonight (out of game editorializing: CRAAAAP our nights go on SOOO LOOONG).”
The werewolves look at each other. “You can take us to Everton?”
Clarence shrugs. “I can take you to where he was.”
The human-form speaker walks up to Clarence, leans in close. “You do anything else,” he growls, “anything…I’ll eat your guts. Raw.”
(Kara: “Awww, honey you made friends with werewolves now too!”)
Clarence also brings up Everton’s discussion about Ceoris and shows a picture of the statue. This makes the werewolves even more antsy and they insist on going to him right away. They take Clarence to a car. Two more werewolves shift down to human form and join the speaker. The three of them pile into the car with Clarence. The car pulls out of the beach parking lot and winds through the darkness, heading to 101.
At one point, Clarence turns to the speaker-werewolf. “Do you have a name?”
The werewolf turns to regard him. “I do…but you ain’t gonna hear it.”
We can only assume that the rest of the ride to Berkeley was spent in silence.
Meanwhile, it’s business as usual with Team Marcus, as Paul and I are still being lectured by our favorite inhumanly-deadly nine-year-old. We’re still in his car, heading away from the Shark Tank.
The drive and the lecturing must be doing Paul some good cause out of nowhere he pulls out some big-boy pants and starts making plans. He needs to get to Tesseract to organize and rally his people and do some damage control on both the front- and back-end of things. He drops a note to Sophia to let her know that he is OK but is on the warpath and if she wants to help he would appreciate it. He turns to me and imperiously tells me to find Norton and work with him to track Sebastian. Paul wants Sebastian’s fangs or his head or SOMETHING to use as a symbol to bring back to San Jose and show the Sabbat–and the rest of vampire society–that you do not. fuck. with Paul’s people. Across from us, Marcus smiles and nods very slightly in approval.
As Paul absorbs himself with texting and emails, I turn to Marcus. “Boss, what’s…what’s going on with Elysium tomorrow night?”
Marcus looks at me, expressionless. “Is Bell still here?”
“As far as I know.”
“Is he still planning on being there?”
“As far as I know…”
“Then consider what happens tomorrow an object lesson,” he barks. “You Americans have your way of dealing with things, I have my own.”
I shift uncomfortably in my seat. I really can’t blame Marcus for his anger and his need for vengeance. This is obviously who he is, what he is, and though I might not fully understand it yet I am coming to accept it.
But at the same time, I’m concerned about what Everton said, about bad things coming, and how he specifically thought Bell should be here to help deal with it.
Moreover, despite Bell yelling at me, and quietly threatening me with his shotgun, and tearing through my carefully-constructed subterfuges like tissue paper (or, you know what, we’re not gonna mince words here; it’s probably BECAUSE OF all these things)…I like the guy. He’s one of the very few vampires in the city I actually respect (and the fact that Tom has a crush on him has basically moved from a running aside-joke into actual game-canon at this point). Under different circumstances, I would have been more than happy to throw my lot in with him, if he would have it.
But I didn’t. I chose Marcus. Even after he gave me an out by erasing the blood bond. My side was chosen earlier that evening when, after Marcus’s call, I picked up and ran to the South Bay of my own free will.
There was no question of going back. I had no idea what Marcus would do to traitors, but without question it would make everything else I had seen from him so far look like child’s play.
Still, my conscience urged me to make at least a cursory case for Bell:
“Everton did say that he brought Bell to the area because he thought we needed him, to deal with…whatever the shit is going on–”
“Everton has his own agenda. I have mine.” Marcus’s glare pierces the gloom of the car. “If he’s not going to consult with me on his actions he cannot expect me to abide by them. If he wants Bell here he is welcome to invite me to find a reason to keep him. But that was before Bell did what he did. He will be punished, and will answer for a number of things, on the morrow.”
Silence in the car. Paul is still buried in his phone, studiously avoiding being roped into the conversation. Marcus watches me. The thought crosses my mind that I could try to call Bell to warn him. Even an oblique hint might put him on his guard and give him more of a fighting chance. But somehow, my gut tells me that Marcus would know, or would find out. Hell even thinking about it might be dangerous.
I realize that my options basically boil down to this: if Bell dies, I will be sad. But if I betray Marcus, I will be dead.
I finally break the silence. “Is there anything you need of me?” I ask softly.
Marcus regards me for a few moments before responding. “Not that I can think of. Some things…must be done personally.”
After a few more tense moments I decide to try and lighten the mood, bringing up some ideas I have for the Boat Job that may or may not go down in two weeks’ game-time (which, at this rate, might happen in mid-2015 real-world time, fuck….). His mind is obviously way too occupied with Bell, though, because the conversation drifts back to Elysium tomorrow.
“Some things must be done,” Marcus reiterates, looking out the window. “If you live long enough as a vampire you will learn this. All of you.”
I nod absently. “I’m…still real sorry about what happened,” I mutter.
Marcus continues to stare out the window, but his posture softens ever so slightly. “So am I….” Another soft moment passes, then he visibly pulls himself straighter in the seat. “But, it is not Roman to sit around and mope, it is Roman to take…corrections. Bell may be a Justicar but there are higher writs than his Camarilla.”
I weigh that statement, perplexed. “Such…as….?”
Marcus turns back to me, a hint of a wry smile on his face. “Come tomorrow and find out.”
We finally arrive at Tesseract. Before Paul gets out, Marcus warns him that the Monomanse will protect him from Andre and other Sabbat agents over the coming weeks, but Sebastian is not in the Sabbat. Since he is a crazy fucker he probably is going to try and take revenge himself, but since he isn’t a dumb crazy fucker he may have already made plans ahead of time that he can act upon at any moment. I leave with Marcus to go back to the city and find Norton to help track down Sebastian. Paul goes into his buildings to talk to his people and run some damage control.
Unbeknownst to Marcus or myself, Paul also has an appointment this morning that he is looking forward to keep.
The first thing that Paul–ever the pragmatist–does after getting into his office is call his head of HR, even though its 4am. She takes the call, of course, because whatever the company president is calling about at 4am it’s probably something a bit more important than adjusting the rates on the company flex accounts. As Paul gives her the watered-down account of the attack and kidnapping, though, it becomes obvious she wasn’t expecting that sort of thing either. They start discussing strategies for handling personnel needs, the media, the police, and even damage control if there’s a run on the stock in the European markets (cause apparently she’s the greatest head of HR ever, no wonder she works for Paul).
Paul hangs up and moves to leave his office when a voice calls out, “Doesn’t this make things a little more complicated?”
Paul turns in time to see Sophia step out of a shadow in the corner of the room. “What makes things more complicated?” he asks, completely unfazed by her sudden appearance.
“You being alive.”
Paul raises an eyebrow. “That makes everything more complicated.”
She asks what happened, he gives her a quick summary of Sebastian orchestrating the attack and kidnapping of his people.
Sophia: “I thought Sebastian was dead.”
Paul: “Yeah, we thought so too.”
Sophia: “Wow. He must be pissed.”
Paul says that he’s working to beef up his security to protect his people and plan for an “unusually vigorous showing” to cow the Sabbat and anyone else who might try and attack him or his people in the future. Sophia raises an eyebrow and asks how.
Paul checks the time and says that if she comes with him to his appointment with his engineers, he’ll show her.
Paul and Sophia head down to a special private lab in a secured part of the building. Even at this early hour, the lights are on and its humming with the activity of young engineers. Everyone in the room jumps when Paul walks in, claps his hands, and asks what’s going on. They look at Sophia (who, recall, looks about 16) behind him. Paul says don’t worry about her, she’s a consultant here to observe, it’s ok, she’s disclosed.
The engineers shrug and start discussing technical details of the experiment with Paul. In essence, the equipment in the lab is hooked up via the highest grade fiberoptic cable that Tesseract owns to a facility in Denver.
A facility where dawn will be hitting within the next half an hour.
Paul smiles and sits down to wait.
Georgia has gotten back to the Chantry, mind full of the things she’s learned in the past evening. She needs to talk about it all with someone, preferably a high-ranking someone, but obvs isn’t going to talk to Max cause it’s highly likely he’s wrapped up in this shit. Her next best bet is Dr. Everton. His loyalties are still unknown but he at least seems willing to trade information. She pulls out his card and dials him.
He answers right away, once again effusing British politeness and manners. She takes a moment to advise him on the Prince’s plans to summon him to Elysium tomorrow (“Just wanted to…extend the invitation in case Clarence hasn’t contacted you yet”) then launches into deeper topics.
The name Edmonton comes up, that being John Edmonton, the previous Toreador Primogen, heretofore notable since he was last seen when Dr. Everton himself beheaded him outside a burning cement factory the previous fall. Dr. Everton mentions that Edmonton had also been interested in the same mysteries surrounding the werewolf statue but Dr. Everton was concerned that Edmonton’s interests weren’t, quote, “properly scholastic.” Dr. Everton contacted Edmonton about collaborating on the research, but when Edmonton refused, Dr. Everton was forced to, quote, “make an example.” Dr. Everton also mentions Alejandro, saying that he had been interested in the statue as well and at one point tried to steal it from Dr. Everton. Once again, Everton was forced to deliver a lesson.
Georgia asks if any Tremere had tried to contact him regarding the statue. Everton sighs and apologizes, saying that he has been “disinclined” to speak with any Tremere on the matter before this. (Jim: “Cause we can be dicks!!”) The rogue gargoyle comes up, Everton tsking and saying what a tragic case all the gargoyles seem to be, it’s not surprising that some are finally striking back. He implies that this gargoyle specifically was one of the leaders of the early gargoyle revolts, and the fact that he has remained independent for so long is very impressive, considering that gargoyles are especially susceptible to mind-control and other such devices, a control-mechanism that was built into them specifically (Me: “LOL, like the lysine contingency.”) Everton himself has been wondering how this gargoyle is fitting into the various agencies and elements at work in the city at the moment.
Everton suddenly stops mid sentence. Before Georgia can prompt him to go on, he says, “Would you excuse me for just a moment? I think I hear someone at the door. I do apologize, it will be just a moment I’m sure….” He puts the phone down, leaving the call active. Georgia hears muffled steps as he walks across the room. There’s silence on the line for many tense moments. She hears some distant thumps and the sound of glass breaking. After another tense silence, the phone erupts in a horrible, twisted, unearthly howling.
Some minute earlier, Clarence and the car full of werewolves pull up in front of Dr. Everton’s (assumingly rented) house in North Berkeley. It’s on an idyllic street filled with charming craftsman houses. Unsurprisingly, everything is quiet.
Before they get out, Clarence speaks up, saying that Everton has been…an enemy to many in the city and if in the course of things it so happens that he was…dispatched, Clarence would be very appreciative, especially if it didn’t look like werewolves had done it. The werewolves growl at him, asking why they should care if he was appreciative. Clarence says maybe he could help them out more in the future. For example, maybe if Everton isn’t there then Clarence could summon him to a specific location instead. The leader leans forward, says he doesn’t really care about any of Clarence’s plans or machinations, and that if Everton is as cooperative as Clarence is being then maybe he’ll live, and if not…
He shrugs, then bares his teeth in a smile that is obviously not one. “No one fucks with the Talons and gets away with it.”
The leader nods at the other two werewolves. They get out of the car and approach the house, disappearing behind some landscaping. Everything is quiet for a few minutes, then the night erupts with a piercing, horrific scream unlike anything Clarence has ever heard before (Jason: “It sounds like a dog being run over by a steamroller”). The werewolf leader barks at Clarence to stay in the car then jumps out, running into the shadows by the house. He emerges a few moments later, working with one of the other werewolves to support the third.
The third werewolf is…horrifically mangled, streaked with blood, skin ripped and oozing like he’s been doused with acid, or something like it, looking something like Two-Face (Chris: “Tommy-Lee Jones or Aaron Ekhart?” Jason: “Tommy-Lee Jones.” Chris: “Ooo, that’s much more terrifying.”) He’s writhing in pain and the other two werewolves are barely able to restrain him. Before they can get to the car, the injured werewolf twists out of their grip and collapses to the ground. Clarence watches in silence as one of the other werewolves kneels over him, hands on the injured man’s chest, chanting some sort of rite. After a few moments, both werewolves stop and step back. The injured body between them twists and reverts to the form of a wolf, a regular wolf. The body is still.
The two men stare at the body for a few moments in shock and disbelief. One of them tenses, then turns and strides to the car. He wrenches the door open. “What was that? What the FUCK was THAT!?!?!” He grabs Clarence by the throat and pulls him out of the car.
Clarence holds up his hands. “I don’t know what happened! This is where he brought me, so this is where I brought you! I did what you asked me to do!”
The werewolf growls. “Fuck this, I’m killing him–”
“Wait,” the leader barks. He strides forward, pointing a finger at Clarence. “You said something about you being able to…Summon him?”
Clarence gives a terse nod. “He can willfully disobey it, but I can try.”
The leader turns to the other. “Get the burners.” The other man walks to the trunk of the car. The leader turns back to Clarence. “Bring him here,” he growls. “Bring him here or we’ll have your throat.”
(At this moment IRL we take a short intermission to dispel the tension by talking about baby giraffes.)
Clarence sighs. “Very well,” he says, and focuses on the Summon.
(Jim rolls dice, spending willpower for an auto success. On a difficulty of five, he ends up with…eight successes.
Jason: “Holy shit!”
Me: “Homeboy’s coming.”
Jason: “Homeboy’s coming now!“)
Nothing happens right away. The second werewolf has returned from the trunk of the car carrying two full-on military-surplus-looking flame-throwers, backpacks and everything. He helps the leader werewolf into his pack and busies himself with lighting the pilot lights. “Don’t you fucking move,” the leader growls at Clarence, and takes the keys out of the car. They turn to walk toward the house.
Clarence quietly climbs back into the car and closes the door. All the doors. He hunkers down in the seat but can still peer through the bottom of the window.
The werewolves are approaching the house cautiously. Suddenly, a blur dashes out from the shadows near the house, passing right by them. The leader werewolf spins, yelling that his gas-line is cut. The second werewolf yells and launches a column of flame after the blur.
Unfortunately, hunkering down in the car doesn’t protect Clarence from his instinctive panic at the sight of fire. He Rotshrieks, bursts out the far door, and tears off into the night in uncontrollable fear. Behind him he hears more yelling, then explosions. He doesn’t stop till he’s clear across town, on the other side of campus. He slows to a stop. He can no longer hear explosions, but he can hear the sirens of seemingly every firetruck in town heading north.
Back at Tesseract, Paul and Sophia are waiting in the lab when Sophia’s phone buzzes. She glances at it and curses softly.
Sophia: “No, just…guests not behaving themselves.”
Paul: “Ah. Yeah, I’ve…been that problem before….”
Sophia: “It should be fine, there are three of them.”
Before Paul can question further, one of the techs speaks up and says they’re ready to run the test. Paul claps his hands excitedly and stands up.
They dim the lights in the room and flip on the machinery in the center of the lab. There’s whirring and the sound of processors ticking over, and then…nothing.
Paul frowns. “Demo’s not going well, boys.”
The engineers (who, note, ALSO INCLUDE WOMEN :|) are scrambling over the machinery. “Sorry, sir, it’s just, we’ve never tested this before. I mean, not over this distance. Stand by….” More concerned muttering and technical babble. Paul and Sophia exchange a look.
Finally the engineers stand back, ready to try again. They boot up the system.
This time, there is light.
A small circle of it, dim, but clear in the darkened room. Its shining out of the fiber terminus onto the wall across from it. Relieved sighs whisper through the room.
“This it?” Paul asks, walking slowly toward it.
“Yes sir. Fresh Denver sunshine. 100% pure.”
Unseen by anyone in the room, Paul’s face breaks into a slow grin. “Fantastic.”
The engineers form into a huddle to go over readings and compare notes. For Paul, though, the real experiment is yet to happen.
He reaches toward the spot of light, slowly, carefully. He opens his palm, then quickly waves it through the beam, like someone trying to cut their hand through a flame.
Paul frowns. He takes another step closer and runs his hand through again, this time much slower. Again nothing happens. Paul realizes, though, that for all intents and purposes, sunlight is shining on his skin again, and starts to smile.
The smile is short-lived, as moments later his hand erupts into flame.
Paul immediately Rotshriek-panics. He runs screaming from the room, crashing into machinery as he goes. Everyone in the room turns and stares as he bolts down the hall, shrieking the whole way. He only stops once he exits the building, coming to a halt in the parking lot. He holds up his hand and looks at it. It’s no longer aflame, but the skin is charred black and slightly smoking.
Never has anyone been more happy to light their hand on fire.
Georgia is still on hold with the Englishman. Or, rather, she has been listening to a series of odd sounds, crashes, and disembodied yells for minutes. Finally it dies down and she hears sirens, but no one comes to pick up the phone. The call eventually drops.
Bemused, she considers her next step. Since she appears to be a woman of networking rather than direct action, she makes another phone call. She calls Paul, but the line goes to voicemail. She leaves a message saying they should speak soon.
Meanwhile I’m still chilling in Marcus’s car. He instructed his driver to take us back to the city, but since there’s some time to kill till then I decide to get a move on contacting Norton.
I call him. The call picks up right away.
Me: “…Your Eminence?”
Norton: “YEEESSS?? Who commands my attention!??”
I hold the phone away from my ear. The call isn’t on speaker but, as per usual, Norton’s voice is loud enough that it might as well be. Across from me, Marcus raises an eyebrow. “Gods, it’s like talking to Nero….” he mutters under his breath.
I cautiously bring the phone closer to my mouth, careful to keep the speaker-end away from my ear.
Me: “It’s, uh, Tom, sir–”
Norton: “MR. LYTTON!!!!”
Me: “How, uh, how’s your evening?”
Norton: “MY EVENING is SUPERLATIVE!!!”
Me: “Ahh. Uh, I’m afraid I may have to change that….”
He sputters epithets against vagabonds defaming the name of our fair city for a few minutes, but through the yelling I am able to communicate that Sebastian is alive, and piiiissed, and gunning for Paul and myself, and probably gunning for him soon too.
Norton: “WHERE DOES HE RESIIIIIIIIIIIDE????”
Me: “We’re not sure! I was hoping you might have some information that might give us leads–”
Norton: “This…VILE MADNESS!!! I shall seek him WHEREVER HE SHALL HIDE!!11!!1”
Me: “And…where do you think that might be?”
Norton: “A snake will go to ground when cornered…I shall TURN OVER ROCKS!!”
“Lol, like Alcatraz….” I mutter under my breath.
Or at least, I thought under my breath….
Norton: “….Have you such intelligence??”
Me: (freezing, dread creeping up on me) “Oh, no, you said rocks, so I thought it was funny, you know, THE Rock and all–”
Norton: “…TO ALCATRAZ THEN!!!”
Me: “What?? No!! Dammit!!!”
Norton: “I SHALL MEET YOU ON THE SHORE, TOMORROW EVE!!!”
Me: “What, no–”
Norton: “WE SHALL GO TOGETHER AND LAY HIM LOW!!1!!1!!@!2@@”
Me: (jaw hanging open) “….”
Norton: “TOMORROW, SEVEN PM!!! We shall meet and then Sebastian will RUE THE DAY!!!”
Me: (desperately trying to yell over him) “SIR tomorrow is Elysium and I have other pla–”
Norton: “Elysium can wait!! Sebastian must fall!!! I will see to it if I must SINK THAT INFERNAL ISLAND TO THE GROUND!!”
I’m so caught up in shock that the irony of his last statement doesn’t even occur to me. He announces once more that he will see me on the docks, tomorrow, seven pm, then hangs up.
I stare at the phone for a second, then slowly look up at Marcus across from me. He is watching me, expressionless, arms folded, but after a moment he raises his hands and starts slow. clapping. me. I sigh and put my phone away.
“Sooner or later you were going to learn what it’s like dealing with Malkavians,” he comments, smiling wryly once again.
“No I know. This eccentricity has worked out for us in the past, so…we’ll see. I don’t have a problem with him, really.”
“Good, but believe it or not plenty of people have a problem with him,” he comments darkly. “In the Camarilla, one gets to be Primogen over the bodies of one’s opponents. That seems to be the only rule.”
I nod. “Yes, well, we do seem to be…blessed with an abundance of Malkavian primogens at the moment. Like two queens in a colony.”
“And what happens then?” Marcus prompts.
I look out the window. “Well sometimes one of them leaves, but sometimes…they fight till one dies.”
We arrive back in the city. It’s late so I ask to be dropped off directly at home so I can just go to bed. Before I go, I tell Marcus I’ll try and pick him up a souvenir from Alcatraz. He rolls his eyes and the car drives off.
(Sidenote: at this point I insist that from now on we pronounce Alcatraz in the elongated intonation used by Eddie Izzard when he says the name repeatedly during the intro to Dressed to Kill.)
Paul returns to the lab. Sophia is gone, but the engineers are all still there, pouring over readings. The room goes silent when he walks in. He explains away his burned hand by saying he’s been…learning magic tricks for his niece and had some flashpaper still up his sleeve, it must have caught fire from the equipment, no no don’t worry about it, it will be fine. He then says that everyone in the room is getting a million dollar bonus, immediately.
He walks to a clear space in the center of the room. Everyone present drifts to a semi-circle around him.
“Remember this morning,” he says, pacing slowly across the space. “This day will stay with you the rest of your lives. This day is the day you have all changed the world. The work you have done will be remembered not just for a year, or a decade, but for hundreds of years.”
Everyone in the room looks stunned. Mumurs drift through the crowd, mentioning ideas for this technology. Streetlights, photovoltaic cell charging, underground farms. Pure sunlight piped practically cheaply anywhere on the planet, at any time. The industrial applications are nearly limitless. No wonder Paul is so excited.
None of them suspect that the changes Paul is hoping for, is implying in his speech, are in reality nearly unimaginable to any of them.
Paul turns to one of the lead techs. “I want this technology deployed immediately.”
The man trades a look with some of the others. “Where, sir?”
“Everywhere.” A moment of silence as the room ponders the enormity of this task. “But…as a demo,” Paul continues, “Let’s see if we can wire up the Shark Tank. The arena.”
The room mutters, raising questions about permits and licenses. Paul says those will be acquired. The lead tech says he’ll talk to his people right away.
“Good,” Paul smiles. “I’m sure I don’t have to remind you to be discrete about it.”
Everyone in the room shares a knowing glance. “Don’t worry, sir,” the tech says, “Ellison won’t hear about this.”
(At this point, we have all generated consensus that Larry Ellison, chief of Oracle, is present in this world, but against all odds has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING magical or paranormal about him or his company. He’s just an asshole that everyone–mundane and otherwise–hates and avoids. And you know you’re in a bad way when not even the Tremere want anything to do with you.)
Paul throws himself into discussing the current limits of the technology and the calculations and trade-offs necessary to illuminate the entire San Jose Arena.
Back in Berkeley, dawn is fast approaching. Clarence decides to go back to Everton’s house, carefully. When he gets to the area, he sees fleets of firetrucks and other service vehicles surrounding a property that looks like it’s been hit by a meteor. Ash and debris are piled up on the lot and spilling out to the surrounding area. Clarence pokes around and finds the charred remains of what looks like a wolf. There’s no sign of Everton or the other werewolves.
The place is crawling with mortal authorities and the sky is getting brighter. Clarence calls his security people back in the city, but there’s no way they can send anyone to reach him in time. He leaves to find shelter and ends up running to a flea-bag motel on University Avenue. He’s getting more and more exhausted as the light increases. He stumbles into the main office and asks for a room. The attendant first thinks he’s on drugs and tries to kick him out, then sees his nice suit and concedes to rent a room. Unfortunately, due to some bad rolls and Jason being a sadistic motherfucker, the guy is the slowest and MOST. CHATTY. motel owner ever and takes his damn sweet time counting the money, talking about the continental breakfast, futzing with his keys, and double checking the number of the room. Clarence grits his teeth and is soon bracing against the walls to keep himself upright. Finally he grabs the key from the guy’s hand, says he’ll find his own way, and stumbles off. He gets to the room and closes and locks the door with the Do Not Disturb sign on the outside. He closes every blind and every drape, then goes to lock himself in the bathroom. Sleep finally hits him as he stumbles and collapses into the bathtub.
Paul wakes up the next day in his house in Portola Valley, where of course he went to spend the night after leaving Tesseract. He receives a message from Georgia asking to meet with him sometime tonight, before Elysium. He tries to get ahold of some of his key people who were kidnapped but still haven’t checked in with him yet–Gates his personal assistant, and Klaus his head of security–but neither of them answer. He then checks in with me:
Paul: “So what’s the plan?”
Me: “Urg, well apparently I got roped into going on a cruise to Alcatraz with Norton to look for Sebastian.”
Paul: “Hmm. You think this is a lead or some of his Malkavian eccentricity?”
I see that its quarter of seven so we agree to check in next at Elysium later that night. I hang up. Paul sits in his house to think about his next move, while trying not to think about the fact that he is getting very, very, very hungry. (In stats, he is down to two blood points out of ten, but he has been refusing to actively feed on anyone living.) He can get some “free” blood at Elysium later, but will have to work to keep his shit together until then.
Clarence wakes up in his shitty motel room…in a pool of water. A deep pool of water. Actually, the bathtub, overflowing with water, onto the floor and through the rest of the room. Apparantly when he was stumbling to the bathroom the morning before, he grabbed some sheets to take with him. When he crashed into the tub, the sheets caught on the faucet and turned it on while simultaneously clogging the drain. The water had been running continuously all day, ruining the cheap vinyl floor, the shitty motel carpet….
….and his very, very expensive suit.
He looks at himself in the mirror, glowering at the suit. “Fuck it,” he grumbles, “I have six more.”
He piles all the soggy linens in the middle of the room, reports it to the maid as a leaking pipe, then checks out.
Paul calls Georgia back and agrees to meet with her, but says it’ll have to be at his place in Portola cause right now he’s too hungry to risk leaving the house. Georgia then gets called into Max’s office where he shows her footage of Everton’s house on fire and yells about dead werewolves found at the scene. He assumes she was involved but she disavows any knowledge. She points out that two other vampires were at Everton’s house earlier that night–one being Clarence and the other being myself–so perhaps one of them was involved (which, of course, one of us was). Max ruminates on this. They discuss possible motives then decide to contact one of us to get some more information, and perhaps bring in for more…direct questioning.
Unfortunately, they contact the one who wasn’t involved.
I’m making my way down to the docks when my phone buzzes with a text. I glance at it, grumble, then shoot off a reply.
Georgia: Heeeeeey, how’s it going?
Me: What do you want.
Georgia: How was your evening last night?
Me: Good. Yours?
Georgia: Good. Quiet. Little chilly. Yours wasn’t too warm was it?
Me: As a matter of fact it wasn’t. Spent much of the evening on ice.
My car approaches pier 41. I tab through my phone to settle the fare through the Sidecar app, then get out. As I walk, Georgia texts me again.
Georgia: Where are you right now?
Me: (frowns suspiciously) Why do you want to know?
Georgia: I want to talk about some things before Elysium.
Me: (rolls eyes) I got some errands I need to do but I definitely plan on being there if you want to talk later.
There’s a pause, then my phone rings with an actual call. Of course it’s Georgia. I ignore it.
Back in Max’s office, Georgia is resigned that I’m blowing her off, but Max is far more concerned. He points out that if neither I nor Clarence show up at Elysium, then Georgia will be the only one there who was at Everton’s house the night it apparently got attacked by werewolves and burned down, and the Prince will come breathing down her neck for answers, whether or not her head is still attached to it at the time. Georgia blows off his concerns and is like whatever, I’m innocent, I do what I want. Also she points out she was home by midnight, well before the attack supposedly happened.
Max eventually relents as well. “All right. I’m just concerned the Prince will think this is a coverup on the part of the Chantry. We can have the watch gargoyles vouch for your alibi, but the Prince also knows we can make the gargoyles say whatever we want.”
Georgia shrugs. “Well, I can attempt to reason with him, but, you know…he’s Ventrue…”
“He’s Ventrue and he’s been embarrassed repeatedly over the course of the last few months.”
“Maybe if he wasn’t so incompetent that wouldn’t continue to happen,” Georgia mutters under her breath. (Me: “LOL, I’m glad to see Tom’s rubbing off on everyone!”)
(We then spin off on a short narrative imagining a scenario where our Prince is actually being played by another noob player in some other, parallel tabletop game, where he’s currently beside himself with panic at the fact that he keeps getting ripped apart and no one in the city will listen to him or do what he says.)
Georgia is about to leave but remembers what Paul said about being really low on blood. She turns to Max. “So…with Elysium rumored to be…heated…tonight, do we have any spare blood packs around that I can bring in case things go down?”
Max smiles knowingly. “Don’t worry. We’ve taken precautions in case Everton tries to show up. Nothing will happen at Elysium tonight.”
(The room erupts in laughter.)
I meet Norton on the docks at 7. We board one of the Blue and Gold ferries by walking up to the gangplank and having Norton Demontate the attendant into thinking he’s a fish. He dives off the pier and Norton marches onto the boat. I follow after pausing to toss a life-ring overboard.
(Incidentally, Jason tries to maneuver things to get Georgia to come with us, but Kara dodges the lead and heads down the Peninsula to meet Paul instead. Once Norton and I are under sail, Jason then tries to get Jim to intercept with us because Clarence is in the process of taking a boat back across the bay from Berkeley (cause he’s too scared to cross the bridge). Unforunately, Jim gets some good rolls and dodges that too. Jason pulls me into the off-stage room at this point, ostensibly to do a private scene, but in reality he storms around cursing and venting about everyone else dodging his leads all night, especially Kara who has officially dodged three by that point. I stand there quietly and am like, lol, bitch I go where I’m told.
Jason tries to come up with a remedial plan, muttering to himself. Suddenly he stops and grins, with a look in his eye that I literally take a step away from. He says he knows what he’s going to do to Kara…. I raise an eyebrow and we re-enter the main room. Jason announces that Norton and I continue to Alcatraz without incident and then he turns his attention elsewhere:)
Georgia arrives at Paul’s place in Portola Valley. He’s out in the garden watering his plants. Sometime during her dance with the GM, she was able to secure some blood packets. They help, though Paul is still pretty hungry. Georgia starts asking him about “the events of last fall,” since one of her reasons for being in the city seems to involve investigating the death of four NPC Tremere (which, unbeknownst to her, happened not far away from Paul’s house) and ex-PC Isaac (which, unbeknownst to her, happened about five feet from where she is currently standing). Georgia admits that she is working for larger interests and, despite appearances, is not directly under the control of Max on most issues. Paul tells her the actual details of the events: how we tracked Alejandro, I killed a werewolf, we accidentally swept Sophia up in our escape, how Isaac tried to take over, and how Paul and I set Sophia free to kill Isaac for us. Oh, yeah, and by the way, Max and Isaac had also abducted Paul and tried to blood bond him. As a result, Paul is not fond of Max. They chat more about other topics for awhile, trading important information. They start to form a bond of…if not friendship, then at least an alliance.
Eventually they prepare to leave for Elysium. As they turn to leave the garden, Georgia notices a figure moving through the darkness next to the house. Humanoid. She points it out to Paul. They move closer to investigate.
Georgia sees an adult, but slight, figure pressed against the wall, dressed in black, face obscured by a hood. The figure is using Obfuscate, but she’s been able to penetrate it. Georgia cautiously walks toward it.
Suddenly the figure acts. It pulls a dagger from a sleeve, throws it at Georgia, and bolts, all in one movement. Georgia tries to dodge but the knife hits her in the shoulder. She tries to point out the figure to Paul, but her words slur and she stumbles and crashes to the ground.
(Kara: “Fucking Assamites! Fucking assassins! GODDAMIT MAX!!!”)
The figure dashes off into the night.
Paul rushes over to check on Georgia. She’s now unconscious, in torpor. He pulls out the knife, noting the sticky coating of poison on the blade, then picks her up and carries her to the car. He pries open the passenger door, bends down to maneuver her into the seat, but stops as he feels the press of another knife against his throat.
“Put down the Tremere,” a female voice whispers in his ear. Slowly, he puts Georgia down on the ground next to the car. “Now, drive away,” the voice commands.
He stands, keeping his hands visible. “Who are you?” he asks, not turning around.
“That doesn’t matter.”
(Kara: *grumbling* “It’s the same fucking assassin as last time!”
Jason: *grinning* “Yes, it IS the same fucking assassin as last time.”
Kara: “Is this cause I didn’t get on the boat?”
Jason: “No, this was going to happen anyway, but not getting on the boat accelerated it.”)
Though he’s still not facing the woman, Paul pops Awe to try to lend more authority to his words. “What do you want with her?”
“She is my quarry,” the voice hisses. The knife–a large hunting knife–appears in his view again, hovering near his throat.
He doesn’t flinch. “Why?”
The woman hesitates. “…It was pledged. She dies. Tonight.”
Paul considers this. “Someone sent you.”
For the briefest moment, the knife quivers. “Someone always sends the Assamites,” she says.
“And who would want to take out the Tremere?”
“Who wouldn’t?” she says wryly. “Leave us, Toreador, this doesn’t concern you.”
Paul slips out of Confused-Vampire-Neonate mode and into Skilled-Silicon-Valley-Leader-and-Magnate mode. “I’m afraid if she doesn’t accompany me, her absence will be noted quickly.”
“That’s my problem.”
“I think it would be simpler for you if you let this be someone else’s problem.”
The knife presses fractionally harder. “If she lives, I have failed. If I fail, I cannot return.” For a brief moment, her voice quavers like her knife.
Paul clasps his hands. “Let’s think creatively,” he says, as if addressing an engineering team. “There’s another way out.”
“What way? Some…Toreador nonsense?” The voice gets more insistent. “Leave, now, before I take a second victim.”
(Jason: “Do you see why Assamites are so feared?”
Kara: “I see why I should have gotten on the boat.”)
“What if we find a middle ground?” Paul insists. “You can come with us. You will be tracking her and keeping tabs on me. Your quarry won’t escape you–”
“My quarry is at my feet,” the woman hisses. “Why would I let her go? Why would I let myself fail, and risk….” She trails off.
“You wouldn’t be, you’d just be seeing…where things went. Getting a sense of the big picture.”
The knife presses hard again. “There is no bigger picture, there’s only the job.”
“There’s always a bigger picture,” Paul says reassuringly.
The assassin pauses, still dangerously tense. “Trickery,” she mutters. “I know trickery, but this…is some kind of Toreador mind-magic.” She grabs his neck and pulls him close. “Her death was ordered. I will not disobey him,” she hisses.
“And it doesn’t concern you that her death will set off more investigations?” Paul says, still calm.
“…Perhaps my services will be more needed then.”
“Perhaps, or perhaps you will become someone else’s quarry.”
Her grip tightens. “If that is the way, then that is the way,” she says, though the quaver is back in her voice.
He shrugs under her grip. “So why not learn a little bit more first?”
“There’s nothing to learn, there’s only survival,” she hisses. “You can’t understand. A Toreador of the Camarilla, with penthouse lofts and a country estate. Go back to your city and play your violins as it burns around you.”
(Me: “That’s the second Nero reference we’ve had tonight….”)
Paul lapses into silence. Neither he nor the Assamite move. Slowly, the knife drifts away from his neck. “What is the Tremere to you?” she says finally.
Paul glances down at Georgia. “She’s someone who, as far as I can tell, hasn’t done anything to upset me. But killing her would upset my interests.”
“Why should I care about other’s happiness? I doubt the whole Camarilla will go to war with the Assamites over the death of one Tremere.”
“No, but they might go to war over the death of me.”
The Assamite scoffs. “And who are you? The Prince of California?”
Paul turns around, very slowly, to face her. A young woman’s face stares from under the hood, caucasian with blonde hair and striking blue eyes. He looks deep into those eyes and takes a step forward. “I…am Paul Stewart,” he says, casting Entrancement.
She gasps and steps back, but he continues, “Paul Stewart, Child of the Sun, holder of the destiny of not just California, but all of these United States, and the world. If you derail me you stand against not just me, and her, but fate itself.” He takes another step toward her. “Others have tried, ignorant of this. They are no longer here.”
She stares at him, knife shaking in her hand.
“Now trust me,” he continues in a low voice, “when I say it’s in your best interests to consider this contract very carefully. Her part in this fate is not finished yet, and until it is finished, terrible things will happen if it is interrupted.”
“Lies,” she gasps, “Camarilla always lie–”
“I don’t have time to lie anymore,” Paul barks. “In two weeks’ time, many of the current powers…won’t be around anymore, including probably the power that hired you. You would do better to align yourself with…the coming powers.”
The Assamite looks down at Georgia, then back up at Paul. Fear flickers across her face for a brief moment, and in the next she’s gone.
Paul immediately moves to rouse Georgia from the torpor by dropping some of his blood in her mouth. This works, but the bad news that no one realizes till the very last minute is that this basically constitutes the beginning of a blood bond.
And the Tremere are extremely susceptible to blood bonds. But the ramifications of this do not get dealt with until the following week.