1/2/2014

When we left off last time, I found myself burdened with a wealth of info-dump that I got from my phone conversation with Sophia. My goal for this week was to dole out these points sparingly, hopefully to leverage some more rep and street-cred.

Not surprisingly, that didn’t really go as planned.

#

As people start leaving the conclave, I pull Bell aside. I tell him that I just talked to my girl (after the whole Aitor thing I am VERY VERY careful about not using her name around him) and reiterated that she very much does NOT want to meet with him. I emphasize my point by mentioning that she even mentioned calling in some of her “friends” to meet with him instead and I talked her down off of it. However, she DOES seem to be willing to play ball and trade information, so if he’ll just back off and let her do her thing.

On that note, some of the information she’s shared this time includes the fact that Beckett, this English Gangrel guy who originally had Everton’s werewolf statue and whose name keeps coming up everywhere, is apparently alive. Not only that, he’s here, in the Bay Area. The Talons have him and brought him with them, ostensibly to identify something that they’re looking for, whenever they find it. I don’t know where he is but I do know he is under heavy guard. Bell gets very Bell-like and immediately MANDATES that Beckett WILL be found, we MUST have more information from him, etc. Yeah ok great I’ll just add him to my list of “People Who Could Be Absolutely Anywhere Whom I Need To Rescue” and get right on that.

Before I leave, I try a name drop, mostly to see how he’ll react. I mention that Sophia can hook me up with this guy Siegfried who lives up at Sutro Tower. He’s a weird guy, apparently, but might have a lot more information to give. Bell is like sure, fine, whatever, and after a few more small points of discussion he leaves. I am a little surprised Bell didn’t react more to the name drop. Either he doesn’t particularly care about Sigfried (unlikely, considering how Bell wants to collect approximately all the information all the time) or he doesn’t know what he is. A detail I don’t feel particularly strongly about bringing up, even as Bell brushes past me and stalks down the hall.

Siegfried is a mage.

#

Paul and Clarence meet to chat and discover they have a mutual interest: security. Paul wants to beef up security to protect his people from Sebastian and Andre, and Clarence wants to beef up security to protect his ass from werewolves. They exchange information they have or have been able to find about private security firms who might be able to help with their supernatural issues, although it seems that Clarence’s problem is the thornier one.

Speaking of thorny problems, the dagger! Clarence brings it to Max to figure out what to do with it. They decide that since it seems able to paralyze Marcus, it’s a useful thing to have around for when/if they recapture him (like a “time-out” knife or something, lol). Clarence leaves it in Max’s possession, which I’m sure won’t come back to haunt us at all.

#

On my way home, back across town, I swing by a corner store for a quick errand. I pick up a couple packages of grass-fed tri-tip steaks (because yes, in San Francisco, you can find grass-fed meats at any hour, even 4 in the morning). I bring them home and throw them in the shitty, stained cube-fridge that came with my apartment (currently still the only piece of furniture in the room, but hopefully that will be remedied if Clarence delivers my stuff from storage). I have plans for that meat for tomorrow, but right now I’m going to bed.

#

Paul heads home but finally gets a call-back from Gates, his personal assistant who was captured in the Andre raid. This is the first he’s heard from her since then. He is relieved, but she sounds exhausted, confused, and scared.

(Me: “Awww, go comfort her!”
Chris: “What?”
Me: “…I totally ship Paul/Gates.”
All the boys: “….Oh god….”
Kara: “It’s cool, I ship Georgia/Max!”
Jason: “I will ship you all to fucking China….”

It’s also worth nothing that the next day, I brought up this event with my coworker, Alyc:

Me: “What stage of RPG obsession is it when you start shipping your in-game characters?”
Alyc: “The APPROPRIATE stage!!”)

Anyway. Paul says he needs her help to manage things in the aftermath (it’s worth clarifying at this point that Gates is aware of Paul’s…nature…but doesn’t really understand it. In the two or three years he has been a vampire, she has been viewing the condition as some sort of strange disease, rather than something supernatural. Also she is not a ghoul. …Yet….) but she should take whatever time she needs to bring herself back to working condition. Gates is justifiably concerned about the safety of everyone at the company. Paul doesn’t tell he explicitly about the Monomanse, but he does say that after the next week, either no one would again try to go after them, or there would be no reason for anyone to go after them at all.

Oh also apparently Paul’s people have secured a source of clean butcher’s blood for him so he can stop stumbling around half-starved and shotgunning half the bar at Elysium all the time.

Georgia crashes at the Chantry, naturally. Paul goes to his house in Portola for the night because during his discussions with Clarence, he offered to have Clarence stay in the penthouse in SOMA (since it apparently clears the “slumming it” threshold for him. Ass.) Unfortunately, because Clarence is a Ventrue DOUCHE, the first thing he does is get a COPY of Paul’s keys.

ASS.

#

The next evening dawns. Or sets, rather. It’s Friday, so my plan is to get some chores out of the way then get my ass over to Berkeley to see if Everton is going to be giving his second symposium talk. Bell gave me permission the night before, since if we can find Everton that would be a huge step toward untangling some of all this shit. Also the talk is supposed to be about Carthage and, as a Brujah, I don’t want to miss that shit.

I first want to try an experiment. I get up and open my windows, pulling back my hard-won curtains all the way. I grab one of the steaks from the fridge, lay it on top, and drag the fridge so that it is visible from the windows. Then I go to my window, stick my head out, and look up.

Nothing, at least at the moment. There are some wisps of fog coming through the buildings so I can’t see the night sky clearly, let alone pick out any circling bird shapes. I don’t have time to waste so I leave the setup as it is and go to head out.

When I open my front door, though, I find an envelope taped to it. I figure it must be in regards to my stuff that Clarence is supposed to have delivered to me. I tear it open and pull out the single folded sheet inside.

Turns out it is:

photo-2
(Yeah, apparently Jim had been planning this joke all week, even going so far as to research the actual storage rates AND the “after-hours delivery fee.” Everyone else knew about it. They all laughed at my shocked face as I stared at the paper.)

Unbeknownst to Clarence, I do have the money to pay the fee and get my shit out of hock, but I also need that money to buy more guns (since, as of this moment, I have literally no weapons at all).

I stare at the invoice for a minute or so. “Fuck it, I’ll deal with this later,” I finally mumble. I toss the invoice on top of the fridge next to the steak and leave.

#

Paul meets with his people at Tesseract for more damage control, including his head of HR (we have a brief gender-war about her. Kara and I have been viewing her as female, but Jason and Chris keep lapsing into a default male-pronoun. We get into a rabbit-season-duck-season “He’s a man!” “She’s a woman!” back and forth until Jason finally declares, “He USED to be a woman!!!” Kara and I are like “WE LIKE THAT BETTER!!!” and the situation is resolved.) Anyway, Paul’s transgendered HR head has set up a press conference to finally make a statement about what happened.

Luckily, grand speeches are what Paul was made for.

Paul enters the company press-conference room. There is a small crowd of reporters and cameras. All are silent as he approaches the podium. He launches into his speech without any preamble.

“No doubt some of you have heard, two nights ago Tesseract was infiltrated by terrorists. In the course of the incident, some 15 of our employees were abducted and held hostage. Some of them…did not make it back. This is a terrible tragedy and I cannot express deeply enough how  hurt I am that such a thing would occur.” He pauses wistfully. “Naturally, our concerns go out to our Tesseract family and any family members of the employees. We are offering free grief counseling as well as all other assistance as appropriate for the situation.”

Paul looks straight into the nearest camera. His eyes narrow and his voice takes on a harder edge. “In the future, we will be substantially increasing our security force so this sort of thing doesn’t happen again. I want to reiterate how…offensive and awful this occurrence this was. At Tesseract we pride ourselves with making products responsibly, products that bring joy and make the world a better place.” He hesitates, anger dancing momentarily just under the surface before he reins it back in. “And that anyone would even think to do this is profoundly disturbing.”

The room explodes with questions. The story has been that it was a group of luddite ecoterrorists, so most of the questions relate to that angle. Some people also bring up the point that Paul was missing for six months, which he deftly avoids. Someone asks whether it might have been an inside job, ominously pointing out that surely they would have required assistance from someone to bypass company security. Paul denies it, though the question obviously unsettles him.

Towards the end of the conference, someone brings up a novel question: “Mr. Stewart, is there any indication that this was some sort of corporate attack from Oracle?”

Paul sighs. “Despite the well-known rivalry between Larry Ellison and myself, there is no evidence to suggest that Oracle was involved in any way.”

(Nor will it ever be. Because, as we have decided, the entire World of Darkness in the SF Bay Area has tacitly agreed that whatever happens, Larry Ellison is never to become involved in any way, or even told what’s going on. The vampires (Camarilla AND Sabbat), the werewolves, the mages–hell even the DEMONS–every. single. supernatural force is united in the fact that they don’t want Ellison invited to the party, in any capacity.)

#

Georgia wakes up at the Chantry to the sound of a text on her phone. It’s from Abelard, saying he found something and they need to meet. She begs an excuse to leave the Chantry and heads to Coit Tower.

Abelard is there and is none too pleased. Apparently despite the Nosferatu’s best precautions, someone else got grabbed the night before. This time, though, they got security footage of the kidnapping, down near Pier 39. He pulls it up on his phone. It’s grainy and low-frame rate, but it’s enough to show one of their neonate vampires trying to sneak up on a drunk guy, then getting grabbed himself by another pair of figures. He pulls up a similar video, apparently taken nearby, showing two figures carrying a big bundle of sail cloth down the ramp into the harbor. There’s nothing specifically incriminating about that, but the coincidence is too suspicious to be ignored. More to the point, the slip they were seen heading toward was rented by a small boat owned by a company called Bay City Tours. The company is apparently a dummy company and the boat has not been seen since.

This is obviously very little information to go on, but Abelard can’t help but point out that the Tremere have “a facility” out in the bay on Alcatraz, and it’s unlikely a small boat like that would have been able to make it much further than that. He very much wants Georgia to investigate this lead further.

#

There are a lot of things I need to do at the moment. I’m still beat up pretty bad, but I’m also hungry, so I can’t start healing the damage just yet, but I’d need to get to my herd to get my blood back up. I also have no weapons and would like to make a run to City Arms to buy a new collection (this time with more shotgun). Unfortunately, though, I have precious time before I need to leave for Berkeley, so I make do with focusing on my most important errand: getting a new phone.

I head to the Verizon store nearest my apartment. My budget is tight so I’m looking for a mid-range smart phone, but the smarmy bro of a floor salesman helping me immediately tries to upsell me. I roll my eyes. I don’t got time for this shit.

(I consider casting Awe, but as I said I can’t spare the blood. But then I remember that I have a full second dot in presence, giving me Dreadgaze, which is free. I keep forgetting I have it and until now haven’t used it at all. I declare excitedly that I want to try it.

I do a five dice roll–down one from my ag damage–and receive…five successes.)

The salesman screams in bloodcurdling terror, turns, and bolts toward the nearest exit, which happens to be through the plate-glass windows of the store. He stumbles into the street, bleeding and screaming, and is hit by a car. People run out, there’s more yelling and chaos, an ambulance is called. He’s alive, but very injured, and gets carted off to G-Ho.

All I can do is stare in shock, both in- and out-of-game.

I turn to another salesman standing dumbfounded near me in the store. His name tag indicates he’s a manager. “Um,” I say, “He was helping me before he…left. He’ll still get the commission on my sale, right?”

The manager nods, still unable to speak.

“Ok. Then I will take the most expensive phone you have in the store, please.”

#

Paul also wants to talk to Everton, and conveniently enough calls me just then.

Paul: “Tom! Have you been able to contact Everton?”
Me: “No, but I’m going to go over to Berkeley to try to talk to him tonight.”
Paul: “I’ll go too.”
Me: “Ok, come pick me up.”
Paul: “Fine, where are you?”
Me: “Just follow the sirens.”
Paul: “….What happened.”
Me: “Nothing, you’ll see when you get here.”

Paul comes to get me. His Tesla is still in the care of the Sabbat, so he brings his two-seater Mercedes sport coupe. I pile in and we head to I-80 east.

During the ride, I pass some of my information off to Paul: that Beckett is alive, that she can connect us with Siegfried the Mage, a brief checklist of the werewolf forces currently operating in the city. I also mention that I have finally told Sophia about Marcus and that I have been working for him. Apparently Sophia knows of him, is a little scared of him, and says that most other werewolves are too (which explains why he’s able to hang around in Marin unmolested). She didn’t give me much info as to why, but knowing that I am (even unwittingly) connected to Marcus seems to aggravate her, so I mention it to Paul so that he can avoid telling her that he works for Marcus too, just in case.

Paul suspects that I am holding info back and presses me for more. I sigh and drop more info, including that the reason most of these werewolf groups are hanging around is because of some prophecy spat out by the Gaian werewolves that live in Golden Gate Park, surrounding something called “The Perfect Metis,” which is like some sort of Arthurian messiah who will rise up and lead the werewolves to battle in the end of days. The usual shit. A metis, incidentally, is like a weird hybrid werewolf. They’re often shunned by their clans, if not killed outright. Sophia herself apparently seems to be one of them.

At this point I am rapidly running out of my careful collection of Secret True Facts. I clam up and sulk for the rest of the ride.

As we get off the bridge, though, a police car comes up on us and starts flashing its lights, indicating we should follow. It leads us not toward Berkeley, but south, toward Oakland. It pulls off 880 at one of the first exits, leading toward the docks.

We follow it to an industrial tarmac piled with shipping containers. A group of people are standing in the center of an open area. It’s poorly lit, but as we pull up, we can see that the person in the center of this group is female, and most of the figures are heavily armed. Paul and I rapidly decide to let him do the diplomatic talking. He gets out and approaches the group. I get out but stay with the car, leaning on the open door, giving me a better view but still hiding the fact that I’m injured and have no weapons.

As I look around the area, I notice a bird shape circling above. I turn back to Paul and don’t say anything.

Paul launches into a run of negotiation skills that years of being a tech magnate has lent him. Not surprisingly, the woman in the group is the Prince of Oakland we’ve been hearing so much about. Her name is Adrianna, and she is pissed. Not so much at us for crossing “her” bridge, not so much even at Bell for imperiously sending edicts to her, but mostly at the fact that she has apparently been asking for help from San Francisco, New York, ANYONE, to deal with a large-scale Anarch revolt in her city and so far none has been forthcoming. An Anarch revolt, incidentally, that is apparently being lead by this Helgi we keep hearing so much about.

Paul: “Did Helgi precipitate the trouble here?”
Adrianna: “No. We’ve had Anarch troubles here for a long time. Real Anarch troubles, not the bullshit you people call troubles over in San Francisco. Yeah, real problems you guys have. You have your Anarchs over for fucking Sunday dinner. We have real Anarchs here, the Freestate Anarchs. The Hell’s Angels. I have half the manpower that that asshole in San Francisco has and I’m expected to deal with five times the fire!”
Paul: “Well, if it makes you feel any better, at least it seems like you have five times the brains.”

She says things were relatively fine till the Anarchs murdered her predecessor with a car bomb a few months back. She took over, and then Helgi showed up out of the blue and really started riling things up and she’s barely been able to keep a handle on shit since. She says the only way she can get attention from anyone seems to be to lock down the East Bay and piss everyone else off. To that end, she can’t let us go to Berkeley.

Paul insists that we have to, for the sake of larger dramas going on. We are trying to find Everton, since he may have information for us and was apparently involved in the werewolf attack in Berkeley two nights before. Her eyes go wide at this. “That was werewolves?” she asks. We nod. She curses, then turns to scream at the man standing next to her and deck him across the face. It was hard to see in the dark at first, but I can now tell that the man is Leeland, Baron of Berkeley. He falls to his knees, clutching his jaw, and she chews him out for not telling her the full details of the shit going on in his city. She also uses it as an excuse to chew him out for his so-called revolutionary ideologies.

“Don’t you know,” she says to us at one point, voice dripping in sarcasm, “There’s really no such thing as the ‘Anarchs.'” She glares down at Leeland. “There’s just a bunch of assholes.”

I like the Anarchs, but I’m starting to like this woman too.

Paul, finally, speaks up and offers a compromise that would let us get to Berkeley tonight and give her what she wants (and this is why we let him do the talking, cause if it were me, I would have had trouble keeping admiration for the Anarchs out of my voice). One of her concerns is that while Bell has been sending orders to her, he seems unwilling to answer any communication coming his way. Paul says if she lets us through, he can bring her to talk to Bell directly. The only problem is as the Prince of Oakland, she can’t just saunter over whenever she wants. She needs formal permission from our Prince (a fact which I laugh at openly).

Paul calls our Prince to broker the deal for Adrianna to visit Bell. Our Prince scoffs, says that maybe if Adrianna didn’t cause as many problems as she claims she needs to solve this wouldn’t have happened. He says that she can come to the city, though, but only if she does the, quote, “proper reverence.” Adrianna doesn’t like that, because what that means is he wants her to acknowledge him as the formal overlord of not only San Francisco, but the entire Bay Area, which would basically forfeit Oakland’s autonomy. She begrudgingly agrees, though, since without San Francisco’s help with this situation, she won’t have any princedom anymore, Oakland will become an Anarch Barony, and the entire rest of the East Bay will probably follow.

She lets us go to try and find Everton, but says that after this the bridge is shut until further notice. We agree to meet up with her later in the night to accompany her to visit Bell.

She looks down at Leeland, who is still on his knees next to her in the gravel. She asks if we wouldn’t mind giving Leeland a ride home. Paul points out that the car is only a two-seater, it might be a tight fit. Adrianna smiles and says that oh, Leeland isn’t too particular about comfort.

I lean over and pop the trunk.

#

Georgia returns to the Chantry. Max and others have been preparing the ritual needed to trace Paul’s blood bond. It still needs some more time, though, as well as the assistance of the Tremere big gun they’re calling in from back East who hasn’t arrived yet. Max calls Georgia to him, saying he’s had a thought, but not about the ritual. Apparantly after I mentioned Sigfried to Bell, Bell mentioned it to Max (Me: “Seriously?? GODDAMIT!”) and whether or not Bell knows who or what Siegfried is, Max definitely knows.

He mentions it to Georgia now because he’s concerned that if I go up there and start talking to Siegfried, then he’s gonna want to become involved in shit, and apparently the last thing you want is a mage involved in your shit (that I believe). He says that apparently the Tremere have a deal where they can request audience with him on occasion, so long as they’re ultra polite and respectful (must be suuuuuper hard for them). He asks Georgia to take advantage of this clause to go up there and talk to him herself to convince him to either not talk to me, or keep out of whatever business is going on. Georgia is intrigued at the possibility of talking to a mage and readily accepts.

#

Unbeknownst to any of the rest of us, Clarence has set up an event this evening befitting of his status as the founding member of Douche-Force One.

He’s meeting with Sebastian.

The meeting is scheduled at the Castro Theater, apparently “an old haunt” of Sebastian’s. Clarence is led in, through the empty theater to the balcony. Sebastian is sitting there, alone, in the middle of the front row. He looks up and smiles his trademark oily smile as Clarence approaches.

“Mr. Walker, how good of you to stop by. I hear you’ve had an interesting couple of days?”

Clarence sighs as he sinks into a seat. “Too interesting, I’m afraid. Did you hear?”

“Yes, I heard it was a rather unusual night at Elysium. Something about a Methusula, and someone attacked the Justicar?”

“Yes, the Methusula did. Sertorius. Have you heard of him?”

Sebastian doesn’t lose his grin, but one of his eyes twitches ever so slightly. “I…am familiar with Sertorius, I’m afraid.”

Clarence updates him with more details, about Perkins and the dagger and how Marcus has disappeared. Outward, Sebastian reacts to the news with wry bemusement, but underneath you can just feel his sadistic pleasure at the chaos that is erupting around us.

But that is not why Clarence has set up this meeting. He’s looking to parlay a favor in his quest to protect himself and the Douchehaus from werewolf intrusion. He suspects that Sebastian will be able to help, for a price, and that price will probably the total humiliation and destruction of Paul and myself that Sebastian came to him about yesterday.

And luckily for Clarence, even though the video footage from the Shark Tank didn’t work out, he has a new strategy in mind.

“Due to a complicated set of circumstances,” Clarence says, “I seem to be in possession of the entirety of Mr Lytton’s personal effects.”

Sebastian’s eyebrows lift. “Really?”

“Yes. I have promised to return them, but it’s a shame that the storage place is closed for the weekend. Tom seems very attached to his vinyl collection, as well as a certain painting.”

Sebastian smiles. “Ah, well, I do fancy myself somewhat of an artist as well. I used to be quite involved with…portraiture.”

Clarence gives Sebastian a key to the unit containing my stuff at the storage place. He also gives Sebastian the copy of the keys to Paul’s penthouse. Sebastian is very pleased, although he doesn’t let on what he might plan to do with this new windfall.

Sebastian also asks about Norton. Clarence says that he was last seen with me visiting Alcatraz, but is now missing. Sebastian smiles ominously and says that Norton may not be a problem to worry about for the moment.

In exchange for this cadre of gifts, Clarence asks about the contact Sebastian mentioned who might be able to help him with his werewolf problem. Sebastian smiles and says that as it happens, this person might be able to help both of them with a number of problems they are both facing at the moment (perhaps alluding to the fact that I seem to have contacts with the werewolves, which Clarence mentioned). Sebastian tells Clarence to wait here a moment, then gets up to leave the balcony.

He returns with an older Asian man in tow. “Mr. Walker, I would like you to meet Mr. Ling.”

“Pleasure to meet you, Mr. Ling,” Clarence says. Mr. Ling bows his head slightly in return.

“I’m afraid Mr. Ling doesn’t speak much. But Mr. Ling is a man of particular skills. A very particular set of skills.” Sebastian busts out his ominous grin again. “Mr. Ling…is a werewolf hunter.”

Goddamit I hate Sebastian so much.

#

Paul and I arrive at the Berkeley faculty club to drop off Leeland. We get out to help him out of the trunk. Paul apologizes to him, but I have to work to hide my amused grin.

Leeland curses Adrianna, and not just because of this embarrassment. He says that she isn’t being totally forthcoming with whats going on. She acts like all this has been thrust upon her, but he claims that it’s actually her fault. There’s an alternate theory going around that she was the one who assassinated her predecessor in order to take over as Prince. He also says that despite her tale of Anarch-woe, things were actually fairly stable and calm until she took power and started a pogrom against the Anarchs in town. It was only then that Helgi showed up and started organizing resistance against her. Leeland grumbles, says he wishes Adrianna was out of power and things could go back to their tenuous balance of normal, but with his luck whomever would replace her would just end up being worse.

We leave Leeland, since we’re running short on time and he apparently has a faculty meeting to get to. After all the conversations we’ve had tonight, the general consensus seems to be that Everton is missing and will not be at the symposium, but we still figure it’s the best place to start looking for him.

Sure enough, though, when we get to the lecture hall it’s closed. There’s a sign posted saying the lecture symposium is indefinitely postponed. The next best bet is to check out Everton’s house, where the attack and fire were. We head to North Berkeley.

#

Georgia arrives at Sutro Tower via Chantry car.  She’s dropped off outside the gate, in front of the guard house. She approaches the security guard stationed there, hands over a writ she received from Max and says she’s here to request an audience. The guard calls it in, then leads her up the drive to the main facility at the base of the tower.

She enters the building and is stopped at a small security checkpoint. Another guard asks if she has any weapons or metal objects. She says no.

He nods. “Hold on a moment….” He pulls a small envelope out of his pocket, opens it, and reads from a paper folded inside. “Have you brought with you any…cabbages?”

Georgia gapes, slowly shaking her head.

“Ok. Magnesium?”

“…No.”

“Uh…cold iron pieces in the shape of a dousing rod?”

Once again Georgia says no. He nods and leads her to an elevator. He says Siegfried will meet with her in the basement and advises her that he prefers to be called “Doctor.” He pushes the button and steps back, leaving her alone inside.

The doors open to a large open room, filled with rows of tables loaded with equipment, the purpose of most of which appears completely inscrutable. Electrodes, lasers, things whose only purpose seems to be to spin, and other various science-y looking bits and bobs like something out of a 50’s pulp comic. Georgia wanders through the tables, bewildered. Over the various sounds of machinery and explosive sparks from a giant Tesla coil, she hears a voice muttering and cursing in German. She makes her way through the equipment to find it.

“…Doctor?” she calls out hesitantly. There’s a crash, like a salad bowl filled with utensils hitting the floor. She winces. “Sorry!” she calls.

Footsteps approach, then a figure turns the corner. It’s a man, in his 40’s or so, wearing a long white lab coat over maroon clothing, with heavyweight blue lab gloves smeared with what one hopes is engine grease. His hair is a shocking Doc Brown-white and he’s wearing the most elaborate pair of googles Georgia has ever seen.

(Kara: “Do I have to make a willpower check to not fall in love with him instantly?”)

He stops in surprise. “Who are you?” he asks in a heavy German accent.

“I’m so sorry to bother you, Doctor. Maximillian von Strauss from the Tremere Chantry–”

“Strauss?” He barks. “The vampire?? Vat does ze vampire want with me?”

“I’ve been sent as an envoy to have an audience with you.”

He tosses a hand. “I do not have time for an audience, I am in ze middle of an experiment!!

“Ah, is there a better time that I can come back?”

Siegfried grumbles, then suddenly looks thoughtful. “Actually…you are also a vampire?”

Georgia hesitates. “…Yes….”

Siegfried spins on his heel. “Come vith me! We must conduct an experiment!! It is FOR SCIENCE!!!”

Now, if it was any of the rest of us, we would beg an excuse and try coming back at a later time. But Georgia has a known fascination with all things magical and science, which is in fact the reason she agreed to meet Siegfried in the first place.

So as Siegfried storms off through the lab, instead of backing away slowly, Georgia hurries after him excitedly.

Siegfried leads her through the tables and lab benches to a wall. In the center of the wall is a man-shaped chamber (something like a Borg recharging-station, as Jason describes it). Surrounding the chamber, on the rest of the wall, is an elaborate Rube Goldberg-device. Everything from complicated circuitry to kitchen utensils are welded to the wall. There are moving parts, sparking parts, places where the electricity is arcing between bare electrodes, and analog dials scattered across the entire contraption. In the center, mounted above the chamber, is a metal kitchen colander.

Georgia gapes at the wall. “What does it do, Doctor?” she asks, barely able to contain her joy.

Siegfried smiles. “Zis…is my latest invention,” he says like a proud parent. “It is the Quantum Teleportation Device.” He pauses, then adds, “Either zat or it is a disintegration chamber….We will find out!!!!

He approaches the wall. “I have conducted studies with non-living matter. I have conducted studies vith living matter. But I have not yet conducted zem vith…re-living matter, you understand?”

“Ahh, I do!” Georgia says excitedly, completely oblivious to the ominous-ness of that statement.

“I must adjust the harmonics and zen…we vill conduct it.” He turns to Georgia, shaking one gloved finger. “Now, zere is a very, very small chance of disintegration. Five out of the twenty-three mice survived the initial experiment. But…vampires are much more durable.” He looks thoughtful for a moment. “I will admit two of them were fused, but zey survived!!”

He rushes over to the wall and starts fiddling with dials. “I thought it might be an issue of mass-coefficiency,” he mutters, “so I tried it vith all the mice at once, but zat did not work out either. But no matter! Allow me to make ze calibrations for the experiment.” He turns to grin at Georgia. “So if–I mean, ven you survive, zen you may have your audience. Ja?”

Georgia hesitates only briefly. “Umm…ja!”

“Excellent!” Siegfried claps his hands.  “So, tell me, what location vould you like to appear in? You have three options. The flat area over zere,” he points across the lab, “ze area in front of the elevator, oder Stuttgart Cathedral.”

Georgia thinks. “Of the mice that survived, what location did they get sent to?”

Siegfried pauses in his calibrations. “You know, I did not think to record that…. But zey are mice, they do run about.”

Georgia nods. “Let’s go for the flat area over there.”

Siegfried throws himself at the preparations, fiddling with dials and adjusting instruments on the wall. At one point he pulls out a piece entirely and replaces it with bubble gum. Finally, he whirls around, spreading his arms dramatically. “Ve are ready! Please, step into the chamber and affix the Quantum Teleportation Mental Link Device.”

Georgia steps forward and settles the colander on her head. (Which, of course, is something that had to actually be role-played:

photo-3
)

Siegfried steps over to a giant lever on the side of the wall and rubs his hands together. “Alright? Three…two…one…FOR SCIENCE!!!!” he yells and throws the lever.

(We then sit around for two full minutes as Jason does the calculations and rolls necessary for the magic (“You see why I didn’t start you guys on Mage?”). The rolls apparently come out as a massive success. We say yay, that’s good right? He hesitates and says well, the teleportation wasn’t the only thing the experiment was supposed to do. He goes quiet for awhile as he thinks, then takes Kara into the back room to explain the full results of the experiment secretly, which are details that we still don’t know yet.)

Georgia disappears from the device, but reappears in the location prescribed, although minus the colander. Also she is upside down. She falls over, then climbs back to her feet.

Siegfried runs over. “EUREKA!! Ve have discovered it!!! Quickly, you must tell me everything you recall! Be as specific as possible.”

Georgia is a little shaky, but obviously excited herself. “Um, ok…headrush, I feel really energetic, and there was kinda a swirly squiggle….”

Siegfried looks thoughtful. “Was the swirly squiggle grey…or brown?”

Georgia thinks. “Um….black.”

Siegfried goes quiet. “Mein Gott… Vat have I accomplished?” His face lifts as a grin breaks out. “Zis is fascinating! I vill write a paper and win the Paradigm Award!!!”

Georgia isn’t entirely sure what happened but doesn’t let that dampen her enthusiasm. “That was invigorating! What’s next, Doctor?”

“Vell, I must make some adjustments to the machine. To calibrate it, you understand, for other conditions. For example, persons who have recently consumed large quantities of cabbage.” He hesitates. “I assumed, as a vampire, zis would not apply to you, but I probably should have asked. Cabbage can cause the machine to catch fire.”

He looks thoughtful for a moment, then waves it off. “Anyway, you asked for an audience. Vat vas it you required?”

“Ah, well, I wanted to speak with you about…very boring vampire things. You know how vampires are….”

“Ah yes,” Siegfried sighs. “The politics, and the talking. You people have immortality and you waste it with fighting, instead of SCIENCE!! The things I could do if I vere a vampire, but…nein….” He stares wistfully across his lab.

“Well, the things I could do if I were a mage,” Georgia sighs. “This is a beautiful lab, by the way.”

“Ah, zank you. I have been assembling it for many years. Zis, for example,” he leads her over to a nearby table. “Zis was originally at ze School for Scientific Inquiries for Etheric Studies in Paris, prior to the Technocratic raid.” He points to something that looks like a salad spinner.

Georgia reaches out to touch it, but he grabs her hand. “Nein, nein! It is quite…carefully…calibrated.”

“What does it do?” she asks, awe in her voice.

His leans in toward her. “It…prepares…salad. But like no salads you have ever seen.”

He walks to another table. “But this here, zis is an invention of mine. It is a death-ray.” He says this with the same non-chalance with which he described the salad-spinner.

“Oooo….” Georgia says. This one she does not try to touch.

“One of many. It is a specialty of mine,” Siegfried says. “Etheric Contra-energy Death Rays.”

Georgia seems totally unphazed by this at all. “How does it work with the mice?”

Siegfried sighs. “Not well.”

“And the cabbage?”

Siegfried goes still. “No,” he says darkly, eyes glaring off into the distance. “One should not employ this around the cabbage….”

Georgia looks around the lab, beside herself with wonder. “Doctor, this is fascinating, your array of experiments and your background in science, it’s…staggering.”

Siegfried smiles. “Vell, I am glad to finally meet one of ze vampires who has an understanding of the need for science.” He scoffs, slowly pacing the aisle. “Most of them just scream and yell. ‘Dr. VonNatsi, vhy do you do zis? Dr. VonNatsi, vhy do you build ze death-rays?’ As though there isn’t a need for death-rays, as though I need to explain myself!!!”

Georgia is rapidly falling in love (Me: “I ship it.”) but she can’t help but snigger when he says his last name, which indeed sounds like “von-Nazi.”

Siegfried stops his pacing and turns to glare at her. “Ze name is older than ze party!! Ve vere here FIRST!!”

Georgia backtracks. “No no, it’s not that, it’s…about how everyone seems to get so upset about trying to kill people and the murdering and the death-rays! I don’t understand it!”

Siegfried nods enthusiastically. “Ja!! Why zey would be objecting to a mere dozen death-rays is beyond me!”

Georgia’s eyes go wide. “You have a dozen of these?”

Siegfried thinks. “Well, give or take. More like seventeen.” He waggles his hand back and forth. “If you count only ze ones that have been tested.”

“Do you get the same effect from each of them?”

“Oh, nein! Vat would be the purpose in reinventing the death-ray? Nein, we employ the death-rays here in many different forms. Zere is ze Contra-Etheric Death Ray, zere is ze Etheric Death Ray, zere is ze Electrical Death Ray–”

“What is…eseric?” Georgia hesitantly asks.

Siegfried’s face looks pained for a moment. “E-ther-ic.” He pinches the fingers of each hand together and tosses them to punctuate the enunciation. “It is ze very principle of science!”

“I…don’t have knowledge of the…etheric principle….”

Siegfried groans and tosses an arm dismissively. “Ja, zank you, Technocrats.” He starts pacing again, waving his hands and eyes rolled to the ceiling. ” ‘Ooooooh, we don’t need the luminiferous ether! It isn’t necessary! Ve have ze new science which doesn’t require such things!!’ As if I should turn my back on science such as this.”

Georgia still isn’t sure what he’s talking about, but she still agrees with him whole-heartedly. “That’s reprehensible!”

“It is! So they wrote it out of the Consensus! There is no more ether, no more luminferous matter in this universe, just empty! fucking! space!!” He quivers with anger for a moment, then droops, looking down at the floor. “What can you do with empty space,” he mumbles sadly.

There’s a moment of silence, then he pulls himself together. “Nothing,” he spits. “Ether is the foundation of science, and if they want to write it out, zen I vill have nothing more to do vith zem.”

There’s another moment of silence. Georgia hesitantly speaks up. “You…don’t need a lab assistant, do you?”

Siegfried looks thoughtful. “You know, I have not had a lab assistant since the last accident vith a death-ray….”

He starts pacing through the lab again. Georgia scurries after. “But he was not dedicated to science. I told him, ‘Gunter, I can replace the arm! I can make it better than it was before!!’ ”

“But this isn’t a problem to me! I’m a vampire, I can regenerate!”

“Hmm.” Siegfried regards her for a moment, then shakes his head. “The problem, my dear, is that you are a vampire. The process of becoming a vampire disrupts the ability to generate the proper etheric forces.”

Georgia looks crestfallen, but tries another tactic. “Wouldn’t that…allow me to experiment with new dimensions of the ether?”

Siegfried opens his mouth to respond, then stops thoughfully. “You know, I never thought of it that way before….”

And I’m good at mixing things! And there’s no chance of me eating your mice.”

Siegfried taps his chin for a few moments. “Have…you ever worked…vith…zuchinni?”

“I…do know it’s very difficult to light on fire.”

“Ah, zat is because you haven’t tried properly.” He leans forward in a conspiratorial grin. “You have not used…an Etheric Flame Generator.”

Georgia’s jaw drops. “Do you have one of those?”

Siegfried lifts an eyebrow. He takes a step back, snaps his fingers, then opens his hand. A volcano of flame erupts from his hand (or, rather, a tube disappearing into his sleeve) and fountains straight into the air. (Me: “But wherever did the lighter fluid come from??”)

Georgia, unfortunately, naturally, panics and bolts across the room. She regains her composure at the threshold of the elevator, then turns and walks calmly back across the lab.

“Is everything alright?” Siegfried calls.

“Yes, sorry about that, the flames….startled me.”

“Oh, ja, forgive me, I forgot about vampires and ze fire.”

They finally get down to the reason for the audience. Georgia mentions boring vampire politics, emphasizing how boring they are, really quite boring, and wouldn’t Siegfried be much happier staying out of it and just focusing on his research up here? He says yes, probably, he doesn’t pay much mind to the vampires anyway. She says great, well if that changes, would he mind giving her a call?

Siegfried looks hopeful. “Why, do you think you will be interested in acquiring death-rays??” (Me: “No, but Tom will be once he finds out they’re available.”)

Siegfried cautions that the death-rays will not work for just anyone, though. One has to be able to control the etheric forces. Georgia asks if it’s anything like thaumaturgy.

“Vat is that?”

“It’s…um….like…vampiric ether?”

Siegfried’s jaw drops. Georgia offers a demonstration. She asks for some water, which Siegfried provides by instantaneously condensing an entire car-sized canister of it out of the air. Georgia draws on her thaumaturgy to form the water into chains, which encircle Siegfried.

“Fascinating,” he says, poking at the chains hovering around him. He peers closely and taps his goggles. A pink ray shoots forth, striking the water. When the ray clears, the water is a slightly different color where it struck. The change slowly spreads throughout the entire network.

“What did you do?”

Siegfried is tapping the chains again and muttering to himself. “…Hmm? Oh, I turned the water into lager beer.”

Georgia jumps up and down excitedly. “I have actually used this very spell with beer!!!”

“Really? Interesting! I just thought it might be convenient to celebrate.”

They launch into a long discussion about the nature of will, of ether, and how vampiric magic might be some sort of combination of the two. It’s pretty freaking adorable. It’s also likely that the rest of the Tremere would be pissed if they found out she was talking about the secrets of thaumaturgy with a mage, which makes it even more adorable.

Once the conversation gets back to the topic of politics, Siegfried reiterates that he has no interest in the politics and dramas of the rest of the city. The vampires, the werewolves, all of them. “This is what I told ze other woman who came here, and this is vut I say again.”

Georgia frowns. “What other woman?”

Siegfried is investigating the chains of beer again. “Hmm? Oh, the other…she vus not vif you? Yes, she was here…oh…twelve, thirteen days ago? She left a calling card, said to get in contact with her if someone else arrived.”

He pulls out a piece of paper with a number written on it, no other information. Georgia looks at it. “What was her name?”

“Uhh….” Siegfried stares at the ceiling a moment. “…Sophia? I think it was? She was not so dedicated to science.”

(Out of game, I’m surprised, but not too concerned. Sophia did say she knew the mage. I just didn’t guess that she had seen him so recently.)

“Ja, she would not stand in the quantum teleporter. I begged her! Said I had yet to try this on a creature which could alter its own mass!” Siegfried gives an exaggerated shrug. “But she claims that a 22% chance of disintegration was too high. I said it is barely one-fifth!!” He hammers a fist in his palm for emphasis.

“So…what did she want from you, if not science? Did she want death-rays?”

Siegfried scoffs. “I will not give death-rays to someone who isn’t properly dedicated to science. These are tools! Not toys. What are you going to do with them? Kill people? Bah! Pathetic use for a death-ray. You might as well use a particle accelerator to heat your tea.”

Georgia looks a bit flummoxed at this but doesn’t comment on it. Good thing too, cause it makes her earlier comment about murder not being a big deal rather awkward.

Siegfried regains his composure. “Anyvay. Nein. She did not want ze death-rays.  She vanted to know things about other creatures. Vampires, und verewolfs. I told her again und again I am not the expert in ze paranormal agencies. My specialty is inorganic science.” He sighs. “But she was insistent so I told her everything I could.”

Siegfried turns to start fiddling with something on a table. Georgia shuffles around anxiously behind him. “And what was that?” she prompts.

“Hmm? Oh, what little understanding I had on the primium dagger she was looking for.”

Georgia goes very still. “…Dagger?”

“Ja, an odd, thin-bladed thing, she had a schematic. Small. She probably vanted it to open her mail or something.”

“…Or stab someone with it?”

“Pssh,” he scoffs. “She was barely large enough to lift it. I made it from primium. She was insistent that she needed it. Normally I wouldn’t but…” he shrugs. “She was insistent. And she was interested in the nano-lathe.”

Georgia is still processing this info about the dagger, but her eyes can’t help but light up when Siegfried mentions a new piece of technology. “Nano-lathe?”

Siegfried turns, eyes wide behind the goggles. “You have not seen a nano-lathe? What science-deprived era do you live in?? BEHOLD!!!”

Siegfried drags Georgia across the lab, through a doorway in one of the walls. They enter a round, domed chamber, like a planetarium. Hanging from the ceiling is a massive, baroque contraption, pointing down toward a plate on the ground.

Siegfried rushes over to a control panel. “If you are going to observe, zen you must wear ze goggles.” He tosses a pair–somewhat less complicated than his own–to Georgia. “If you do not wear ze goggles, then zere is a slight chance it will remove your ability to see the color purple.” He busies himself with some dials. “I am actually not sure why, it is a pretty good movie.”

After a few moments of tinkering, he stands back. “OBSERVE!!” he yells, typing some commands into what looks like a computer terminal embedded in the machine, then starts cranking a hand crank. The machine lets out a rising hum, releasing sparks from various points. Georgia huddles against the wall, fighting down panic as gasses and flames erupt from a few junctures. The hum reaches a crescendo, then stops as a laser beam blasts down toward the plate. There’s a flash like the rising sun, then everything fades and goes quiet.

Georgia peeks out from behind her arms. Siegfried walks toward the machine, bends down, and picks something up. He walks toward her, holding it aloft in front of him.

It is a perfect copy of Perkin’s enchanted blade.

“You see!” Siegfried is saying, obviously pleased with himself. “The nano-lathe. Zey have something similar now, they call it ze…uh…’Three-dimensional Printer,’ but the nano-lathe…” he shakes the dagger at her. “You cannot find precision nor materials like zis anywhere else.”

Georgia is enthralled and asks to see the dagger. Siegfried shrugs and hands it over.

“Ze dagger won’t do you much good. It is a primium alloy. Etherically charged. What some fools would call ‘magic’.” He rolls his eyes as he makes air-quotes. “I’ve never heard of something so preposterous.”

Georgia turns the dagger over in her hands and finds an unusual hollow in the hilt, like a thin bore-hole. She asks about it. Siegfried says he’s not sure what it’s for, but Sophia’s schematic was very specific that it had to be included.

(Funfact, out of game, shock, panic, and paranoia are starting to set into me and don’t let up for the rest of the night.)

They geek out a little bit more about the theories and practices of the discipline of Etheric Science. Siegfried says Georgia can keep the dagger, and assures her that he has no interest in engaging in any of the politics of the city.

Georgia thanks him, and says that if he ever needs assistance down in the city, or perhaps a lab assistant, to please give her a call. He says he will, and that she is welcome to visit anytime.

“Maybe you could teach me the basic principles of Etheric Science!” she exclaims.

“Ja! Excellent! First thing, forget everything zey ever told you about relativity, it is a lie!.”

Georgia blinks. “What’s relativity?”

Siegfried smiles. “…Perfect.”

#

Paul and I arrive at the remains of Everton’s house. We park the car across the street and scope out the situation. The place is burned out, there’s police tape up, but besides that nothing notable. The street is quiet.

Paul decides that perhaps it would behoove us to have the assistance of a tracker, and probably the best tracker we could probably want is Sophia. He drops her a message using the notepad protocol. She responds immediately, saying she’s on her way.

I get out to look around. Paul does too, but lingers by the car. As I approach the house, though, the first thing I notice is a dark shape perched in the half-burned tree next to the house. It’s Aquilifer, and she’s watching me. I don’t acknowledge her, nor do I point her out to Paul.

Paul, though, is able to pick out her large shape, even half-hidden amongst the branches. “Tom! What is that?” he calls.

I freeze, then make an exaggerated show of looking where he’s pointing. “Ah! Yes. Um…an owl?”

“That’s way too big to be an owl….”

Paul stares up at her. I pretend to ignore him, focusing on looking around, but then I see him pull out his phone to take a picture.

“Wait!” I cry out, walking toward him, but it’s too late. I hear the electronic snap of a photo.

Paul looks at the photo. I see him frown. “What the….” he mutters. As I approach, he turns the phone to show me.

Although the eagle behind us is sitting very clearly on a branch, in the photo the branch appears to be empty.

My jaw drops. I slowly turn to stare at Aquilifer, suspicion dawning.

“Tom,” Paul is saying, “Can animals be vampires? I mean can they be Embraced?”

“Embraced? No. Ghouled, yeah….” I mutter, still staring at Aquilifer. In the darkness I can’t see which way her head is facing but something tells me she is staring intently at us.

I lean over to Paul. “So…yeah, there’s a strong possibility that eagle is working with Marcus,” I whisper.

“Really?” Paul’s eyebrows raise. “Thats…kinda awesome.” He stares at her for a second, then frowns. “You didn’t think to tell me that when I pointed her out?”

I sigh, defeated. “Look, there’s a lot of information flying around, leaking all over the place like bad bong water, and I figured the fewer people who knew about her the safer she’d be.” I rub my face. “I don’t know, I’m very concerned.”

Paul glares. “Well, let me help you out with that concern. In the future, you give me the information and I’ll do the thinking for you.”

Now I glare. I debate coming at him with a sucker-punch, but freeze as I hear a sudden noise coming from the bushes behind him. I lean to the side to look past Paul. He turns to look too.

A white wolf comes out of the bushes. It stops at the edge of the sidewalk. This close, we can see that it’s wearing some sort of harness backpack. It hesitates, then shifts up into human form. It’s Sophia. We both call a greeting.

Something is wrong. Her posture is weak, slumped to the side, and she’s breathing heavily. Paul steps forward in case she falls over. As he approaches, he gets a better look at her.

She’s been mauled. Huge claw-marks are streaked across her arms and torso, and a few on her face. There’s not really any blood, but it’s still obvious that the wounds are relatively fresh.

She comes toward us and my stomach drops as I see the extent of the damage. I instinctively reach toward her, then stop. Even in this condition, I’m not sure whether she would want me to touch her.

“Sophia,” Paul says, taking charge. “Is there any reason we should not take you to a hospital right now?”

“There are many, many reasons,” she mutters, sighing in pain.

“Alright. We won’t do that then. How can we help?”

She looks up at him. “You’re the one who called.”

“I…didn’t think you would answer if you were in…this condition….”

“I had to get away from Marin for awhile.”

I am still beside myself in shock. “Wh…what happened?” I finally gasp out.

She shrugs her uninjured shoulder. “Dispute.”

“With whom?”

“With the Talons. This is how werewolves deal with things.”

She gives us the thumbnail sketch. Apparently the Talons are nearing the warpath. They’d been arguing all day about all sorts of topics, largely centered around who to kill.  (One of those names is our dear Dr. Everton. Sophia hasn’t seen him either, but she suspects he is still alive, although with the Talons riled up about him perhaps not for long.) Some of the other werewolves objected to how the Talons had been dealing with things, and thats when the fights broke out. (During this discussion she mentions a friend of hers, a Shadowlord werewolf named Alexander. She doesn’t say anything about him, but it’s notable that this is only the second werewolf we have ever learned the name of.) She also says that some of the other werewolves are starting to suspect that Sophia is talking to someone.  Not specifically Paul and myself, but someone. They wanted her to tell them everything, and when she refused, that’s when she was attacked.

Paul and Sophia discuss his sunlight experiment, since she disappeared before they could before. This is of course the first I’ve heard of it. He tells her his plan to pipe sunlight into the Shark Tank to fight Andre during the Monomanse.

Which brings Paul to the reason he called Sophia in the first place. He mentions Sebastian as the man who orchestrated the kidnapping of his people, and that we suspect he is somehow in contact with Clarence.  Paul says that he gave Clarence the key to his penthouse and fully suspects that not only will Clarence have made copies of the keys, but likely bartered them to Sebastian (which wasn’t meta-gaming, apparently this was Chris’s plan the whole time). he says that if Sophia thinks she could handle such assholes, she would be welcome to “stay there” as well, ifyaknowwhatimean.

Sophia looks nervous. She points out that all evidence to the contrary, killing vampires isn’t really her thing. She’s not one of the warrior types who would normally handle such things. On top of that, of course, she’s injured (just as bad as I am!). She says she’ll be fine, she just needs time to heal.

As she talks, I flick my eyes over toward the tree where Aquilifer was.  She’s gone from the branch, but I’m not sure I remember hearing her take-off.

Paul’s changing course, saying to forget about Clarence and Sebastian for now, but can she help us track Everton? She says not really, not well. We’d need sort of a shaman spirit-trackers. She’s only good at the wire-work.

Suddenly she tenses, sniffing the breeze. “Did you come here with anyone?”

Paul and I look at each other. “No, just us.” We look around.

“No, they’re still far away. Coming downhill, from the ridge.” She sniffs again, then frowns. “Eight or ten of them.”

“Vampires?”

“I can’t tell, but…I can smell propane.”

I whirl on Paul. “We need to BOUNCE.”

His eyes narrow. “You know something I don’t?”

“Yeah, I know that some freaky people are coming, armed with fire, and meanwhile I am injured, hungry, and have NO weapons! ZERO! NONE weapons, Paul!”

Sophia is still sniffing the air. Suddenly she turns to us, her eyes wide.

“I smell propane…and silver.”

END OF NIGHT

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