1/7/14

“Of all the things I was expecting to attack us in the middle of Berkeley, the Spanish Inquisition was definitely not one of them.”

#

Clarence has left his meeting with Sebastian at the Castro Theater, with plans to meet later with Mr. Ling at the Douchehaus for a consultation on werewolf-proofing the joint. Until then, he heads back to his place to do some of his normal douchey errands in his normal douchey life. He’s not home for long, though, before security calls him to let him know he has a visitor. Thinking that Mr. Ling is early, he pulls up the security feed.

It’s not Mr. Ling.

It’s Walter Perkins.

He’s sitting calmly in a chair in the lobby, looking about as banal and forgettable as an insurance adjuster. No sign of any crazy demonic hell-beast about him.

Bereft of ideas, and assuming that if Perkins wanted him dead he would be dead already, Clarence goes out to meet him.

They have a very polite conversation absolutely overflowing with subtext and diplomacy. Perkins is very thankful of Clarence’s assistance in the events of the previous evening and wonders what benefit Clarence was hoping to confer from them? Clarence is vague in his answer, possibly to sound aloof and powerful but more likely because he doesn’t have any fucking clue, he just did the thing because he’s literally a tool. Clarence mentions to Perkins how other parties in the city were “a little distraught” by the show, including one Maximillian (unsaid: Max was shitting bricks). Perkins chuckles and says some platitudes about omelets and broken eggs.

Perkins then brings up that Clarence seems to be asking around about the removal of “certain parties.”

Perkins: “Might I inquire about precisely whom you feel the need to dispense with? You understand I would feel so terrible were it to be me.”
Clarence: “I have no plans on getting rid of you….”
Perkins: *chuckles* “You don’t have the capacity to get rid of me, Mr. Walker.”
Clarence: “Hence the lack of plans.”

Perkins then comes to the point and says that, in exchange for Clarence’s assistance–both heretofore rendered and as yet to be–if Clarence feels Perkins might be of some assistance, then Clarence need only, quote, “name his targets.”

However, apparently this offer doesn’t stand yet until Clarence helps Perkins with some other things. Point one: the dagger, retrieved from Max in the Chantry (LOL I knew that leaving the dagger with Max would come back to haunt us but I never thought that it would be CLARENCE HIMSELF that was haunted by it). Which leads nicely to point two: the destruction of Max. And the rest of the SF Chantry with him. When Clarence balks, Perkins calmly points out, “I am not asking for the destruction of the entire Tremere clan…*mutters*yet*mutters*…Merely the local Chantry.” Part of Perkins plan is that–now that Clarence seems to have in-and-out privileges at the Chantry–Clarence is to sneak in an associate of Perkins, a man named Jeremiah Flagg. All Clarence has to do is get him in and he’ll do the rest.

In an amazing twist of self-awareness, Clarence begins to realize that, like a tool, he is kinda being pushed around by Perkins. (Clarence: “I am concerned that in the recent incident, I was made to look like your puppet.” Me: “Cause you were, Clarence….”) Perkins levels his gaze at him, asks if he’s more afraid of those who would have negative opinions of him, or Perkins himself, and what he might do to such people. Perkins assures Clarence that if necessary, he can have any of his enemies (aka, us) removed in a heartbeat and install Clarence as Prince. Or Bishop or Baron, whatever the fuck he wants. Clarence agrees to this arrangement.

(And Jim immediately starts laughing. “OH MY GOD, this is SUCH A BAD IDEA!!!”)

They shake hands and Perkins leaves.

#

Kara is finishing up her appointment with the enigmatic Dr. VonNatsi. She realizes that, as well as the water trick, she promised to show him some of her own fire magic. He readily agrees, but always the safety-conscious, he goes to get the fire extinguisher first…

…and comes back carrying a brass trumpet. She tries to hide her surprise. Siegfried, though, assures her that it is in fact an Etheric Fire Extinguisher. And it also plays a good Louis Armstrong.

Georgia casts a small  handful of flame in a bowl. Siegfried examines it, muttering that it must be some form of “lower sorcery.” Georgia bristles at this, but he doesn’t notice. He puts the flame out with the extinguisher, which works through the novel method of sucking the fire into its funnel mouth.

Siegfried holds it up proudly. “You see? The Etheric Fire Extinguisher! Right now the flame is…um…” His face falls as he examines the trumpet. “Oh dear. I…may have forgotten to recalibrate it….”

He pulls out a phone and dials, staring across the lab, face concerned, until the call picks up. “Gunter! Hello! You, uh…You may wish to look in your kitchen?”

(Kara: “OMG that’s his lab assistant who lost an arm!!!”
Me: “OMG he’s like a belabored grad student!”)

“Ja, mein, uh…Etheric…Fire…Detector has told me that zere might be fla–”

Siegfried is cut off as screams start echoing from the phone, loud enough for Georgia to hear.

“NEIN, NEIN, do NOT use ze water, it is not–Ooooooh….” his face drops. “Gunter? Gunter…?” Siegfried quietly hangs up the phone and puts it in his coat pocket. “Gunter will be fine. He is very resourceful.”

They finish chatting about Science! Siegfried finally celebrates with the beer he made from Georgia’s chains of water (Siegfried: “I would offer you some, but you are a vampire, of course, and I do not have ze blood.” Georgia: “That’s fine, you should just drink more!”) They agree to meet up again in the future to discuss Moar Science! Georgia leaves happily. On her way to the car, waiting down the drive at the guardhouse, she decides to give Paul a ring and tell him about her lovely evening.

(Jason: “What an excellent way to segue back to Paul and Tom’s Excellent Adventure.”)

#

Where we last left off, Paul and I were standing with Sophia outside the ruins of Dr. Everton’s rented house, with Sophia picking up the scent of 8ish approaching humans carrying propane, silver, and reeking of Wyrm (note that before, I was sort of indicating that Everton’s house was in the suburb flat land of North Berkeley, but Jason was envisioning it more up on the hillside, so we are now magically transported into a more remote, semi-wooded area). We, by contrast, are beat to hell and sorely lacking in any strategic resources.

I turn to Sophia. “Can you get out through your…Umbra?”

She shakes her head. “It takes time. They’re…they’re coming fast.” She’s practically trembling.

“Alright.” I turn to Paul. “Lets bolt.”

His car unfortunately is a two-seater. Unlike Leeland, there’s no way I’m stuffing Sophia in the trunk, so we convince her to sit on my lap in the passenger seat. Paul drives (because he wont let me drive his car. Imperious jerk.)

As we start down the hill, though, we see a set of headlights coming up it.

My concern is starting to border on panic. I briefly suggest off-roading down the hill. Paul yells at me, says he’s not going to take his Mercedes tearing off through the underbrush.

Paul continues ahead, acting normally. As we approach the car–a beater Chevy Impala–we can finally make out its driver through the windshield.

It’s Leeland.

He’s leaning out the driver window of his car. Paul stops next to him and rolls down his window. I’m curious about why Leeland is here, but I’m also glancing out the windows of the car nervously.

Leeland leans on his car door. “I thought you might want to know,” he starts, companionably, “when I got back to my office, my secretary said that someone had called looking for you, Mr. Stewart.”

“Really?” Paul says.

“Yes! It was the damnedest thing. They called and asked for you, but my secretary didn’t know who you were, but they said that if you showed up then she should give them a call back–”

“RIGHT, ok,” I interrupt, leaning over Paul so Leeland can see me. “We can continue this conversation later. There’s some shit coming down on us, RIGHT NOW, and we need to move ASAP!”

Leeland peers at me. “What are you talking about? And…who is that?”

“She’s a friend, don’t worry about it, just turn around and drive back to campus–”

But it’s too late. Leeland starts peering at Sophia, then his eyes go wide. He sputters in shock and gropes for something on the seat next to him, still staring at Sophia. Paul tries to calm him down through Awe, but he’s still gasping in terror, and is now waving a revolver around.

“You don’t understand,” he sputters, “It’s a lupine!”

“And a person,” Paul chides.

“NO, NO, NO!!!” Leeland yells, thrusting his gun to for emphasis.

“Mr. Leeland, the things you’ve heard, they’re not all true–”

“I HAVEN’T HEARD, I’VE SEEN!!!!” Leeland yells, voice echoing through the trees.

Once again I glance out the windows of the car. I still don’t see anything specific, but something looks…wrong. The darkness behind us seems uneven, the shadows twisting in weird ways.

“PAUL!” I bark. “We NEED to BAIL, NOW!!!”

Paul sighs. “It’s been nice talking with you, Mr. Leeland, we’ll catch up with you later.” Paul starts to continue the drive down the slope.

Oh but wait, I almost forgot. There’s actually four of us in the car:

“It smells like burning!” Mr. Tails chimes in, glee evident. “It’s…so pretty! It sparkles in the dark!”

Great.

Leeland is still yelling at us, waving his gun about, when an explosive gunshot rocks the trees and tears a hole the size of a cantaloupe through his chest.

Paul jumps out of the car and runs to Leeland, yelling at me to get Sophia out of here. I try to dive into the driver seat, but I get tangled up in seatbelt and injured werewolf (Me: “THIS IS WHY YOU SHOULD LET ME DRIVE!”) and plunge face-first down into the seat-well.

Paul looks upslope. Standing in the road, lit by a torch in his hand, is a tall man, dressed all in black, with a wide-brimmed hat and a rifle slung under one arm. More figures are ranked behind him, just on the edge of the flickering firelight. He stares at Paul for a moment, then turns to the figures behind him.

“Purge them all,” he growls in a rough Southern voice. Gunfire erupts from everywhere.

Paul dives into Leeland’s car through the open window, but not before getting shot in the ass.

I’m still upside down in the driver’s seat when I hear the shots ring out. In a panic, I yell at Sophia to steer and I hit the gas pedal with my hand. The car leaps forward. Unfortunately, Sophia–being 16–is either not very comfortable behind the wheel, or they don’t teach Side-Seat Driving During a Firefight in driver’s ed anymore, because the moment we approach the first bend just a few yards down the road we crash into a massive tree. The car crumbles and bucks, throwing me through the windshield and down the hillside.

The man with the torch approaches close enough to toss the lit torch through the open window of Leeland’s car. It flies through and lands on the seat. Paul keeps his cool, but Leeland panics and runs off into the night. Paul takes his place in the driver’s seat and guns the Impala straight up the road, toward where the man is standing. The man, though, sidesteps the car easily, like a bored matador, and Paul sails right past.

Paul screeches to a halt in the cul-de-sac at the top of the road. The seat next to him is still burning, and it’s getting worse. He fights down panic to beat the fire down with his jacket. It recedes to a smolder and he relaxes a bit, but not for long. Out the window, he can see the tall man in black and a few other figures advancing toward him up the road, and through the smoke he can smell something petroliem-based. And it’s getting stronger.

Out of options, he whips the car in a hard-right and plunges down the side of the hill (cause apparently it’s ok to do it when it’s another person’s car). It crashes through the brush, leaping over bumps, but on one of these leaps something clips the underside. The car flips, corkscrewing through the air, and lands upside down. It continues to sled down the hill on the roof for a dozen more yards, finally coming to rest at the bottom.

Incidentally, right next to me, where I landed after being thrown from the Mercedes.

I’m still dazed from my own crashing fall and watch blearily as Paul crawls out of the car. “Can we do that again?!” Mr. Tails whispers with glee. “Wheeeeeee!”

We both ignore him.

Paul climbs to his feet and sees me climbing to mine. “Hey Tom,” he says.

“Sup,” I reply.

“Where’s Sophia?”

I look around, panic building. I thought she had been thrown from the car as well, but apparently she had her seatbelt on so was kept safely in the body of the vehicle (The More You Know!!!). That means that she’s still back up there.

With the Inquisitors.

(Jim: “But at least we’re out of the tree.”)

Gunshots and shouts echo down the hill. Paul and I trade a glance, then start scrambling back up the slope.

As we get closer, the gunshots stop and the shouts turn to yells of pain and terror. By the time we get back to the road, though, they stop. We reach the Mercedes first. No one is around, but Sophia is gone. In fact, it looks like the seatbelt has been torn entirely out of the car.

Small fires dot the brush around us, their smoke choking the air. More shouts drift through the gloom from further up the road. Paul stays to see about the car while I sneak my way uphill. He’s able to get it started and backed out of the tree, though it’s sputtery and dangerously close to giving up entirely.

I, meanwhile, while making my way stealthily through the brush, trip, stumble, and almost collide with one of the Inquisitor-doods holding a shotgun and standing in the shadows beneath the trees. We stare at each other momentarily. Before he can react, I lunge at him, hoping to knock him out with a bite (and get some blood at the same time). He dodges and yells, firing his gun at my face (lol). I dodge, we grapple briefly, then I finally take him down.

Paul’s car is limping back up the road when he sees someone dash out of the trees, carrying something bright, quite possibly burning, and looking like he’s about to throw. Paul decides to GTFO and heals up some of the damage he’s already carrying so it doesn’t slow him down.

Which, unfortunately, brings him too low on blood, and into a frenzy.

Instead of jumping out the door, he dives through the windshield–which, ironically, doesn’t cause him any damage, because he’s in a frenzy (Jason: *laughing* “He spent his blood to heal his wound-penalty, which put him into a frenzy, which makes him immune to wound-penalties!”). He gets out right before the guy throws a lit Molotov cocktail into the car, exploding all over the interior.

And then Paul gets serious about his frenzy.

I’m still draining blood from my guy when I hear screams and a guttural roar coming from the road. I grab his empty shotgun (but don’t find any spare shells. Ass.) and go to investigate.

I get to the top of the road, ducking down in the brush at the edge of the cul-de-sac. Paul is in the middle of the road, standing over a body that has obviously been drained of all blood. I know this less by being able to see the body and more by the fact that the blood seems to be covering Paul from head-to-foot. Paul is looking around in a daze, no sign of frenzy still in his eyes, so I step out of the bushes and approach him.

“Damn, son,” I say, surveying the damage. Paul looks up at me. The confusion is gone from his eyes, replaced by horror. As I watch, though, the horror melts into steely resolve.

“Where’s Sophia?” he whispers. We look around but, once again, there is no sign of her.

Just then, though, someone else steps out of the bushes on the other side of the cul-de-sac. He walks slowly across the road, heavy steps crunching the gravel. Paul and I watch silently, tensed. He stops about twenty feet away, just close enough for us make him out.

It’s the tall man in black, the one who initiated the attack. He’s glaring at us under his wide hat and carrying a very, very large rifle.He doesn’t break eye contact with us, but his breathing grows heavier.

“It always comes out,” he growls in a deep, Southern accent. “Always….”

I glance at Paul. It’s not hard to figure out what has him so upset.

“I will send you back to the hell you came from!” He roars, leveling the rifle at Paul.

Paul dashes toward the man just as the blast from the shot echoes across the clearing. Paul tries to duck but ends up ducking right into a headshot. Paul crashes to the ground. The man stands his ground, calmly advancing another round into the chamber.

“The Lord’s will be done….” he growls. He locks the bolt and turns to me.

Shiiiiiiiiiit.

I pop approximately all my Celerity, dashing toward him, but this time in a curved path. He fires, but I dodge the shot easily. I run right up to him, intending to tackle him down before he can load another shot, but instead of reloading, he calmly takes a step back and pulls something out of his pocket, brandishing it toward me at arm’s length.

I’m immediately blinding by an overwhelming light, my momentum stopped like I’ve hit a force field. I stagger backwards, feebly trying to shelter from the light behind my hands.
After a moment the light dims slightly. I peer through the glare and see the man standing there, holding what appears to be a small, leather-bound book. It’s the book itself that’s shining like a flashlight. And the cover is embossed with a gold cross.

You have got to be fucking kidding me….

“DEMON!!!” He shouts, taking a step forward. “I COMMAND you to be GONE!!!”

“Aw heeeell no….” I mutter.

COMMAND YOU!!!!!” he repeats, taking another step forward.

(At this point I—and by “I” I mean “Tom”—am starting to take this a little personally. Recall that Tom grew up with a conservative asshole father who insisted on berating Tom for being an “abomination,” hiding behind so-called words of scripture to make his point. Tom’s father didn’t have quite the same classic Southern Baptist schtick that this guy has going for him, but Tom still reaaaaaaally dislikes anyone trying to use religion as a weapon against him.

Oh, oh I know, but just wait, the irony is about to get exponentially better.)

At this point, Paul is climbing to his feet behind me. His head is pretty fucked up, shot right through the eye and all, but otherwise he’s alright. The man, though, doesn’t appear to notice this, as he is focused entirely on me. I decide to use this to my advantage and pop a Dreadgaze.

Sadly, now that I actually need it, it fails on me.

“GET BEHIND ME, SATAN!!!!!” He yells and steps forward. He pulls his arm back and slaps me across the face with his fucking Bible. I reel back, screaming and clutching at my face, which is burning like it’s been struck with a brand.

(See, I told you.)

Paul steps in and decides to use his favorite weapon: Questionably-Timed Diplomacy. “Who are you? What do you want?” He yells.

The man smiles. “I am a servant of the Lord,” he drawls.

“Yeah? Which lord is that?”

“THE LORD JESUS!!!!!!” the man cries, his voice echoing around the clearing like the gunshots. “CHRIST ALL—OOW!!”

(The man’s inevitable monologuing is cut off when Jason’s gesticulating stubs his knee against the edge of the table. Jason curls up in whimpering pain for a few moments, which lets Paul jump in)

“You’re no servant of the lord,” Paul says. “You are as dark in his eyes as we are.”

The man glares. “Get behind me, Satan,” he growls, leveling the gun again.

Paul might have to get in line for that, though, because through the dark, we can see a figure approaching the man from behind. It’s relatively small, and moving stealthily. Neither of us acknowledge it.

Paul is running out of ideas. In his desperation, he apparently starts to channel Carlos (Chris’s last character). “Down,” he hisses, a poor attempt to bluff a Dominate.

The man just raises an eyebrow. “You first,” he says, and fires the rifle. Paul dodges successfully this time, getting away with a flesh wound.

Meanwhile, the pain in my face is finally receding and I can start to see clearly. I grab the empty shotgun and rush up to try and club the man with it. He sidesteps easily, then whirls around to hit me with the Bible again, this time backhanded.

(Jason stares at me a moment, thinking. I wait, ready with dice for a soak roll, but he doesn’t call for it. Finally, he points at my sheet. “Ag damage. Four boxes.”

My jaw drops. “WHAT? From the fucking BIBLE???”

“Yep,” Jason said, barely hiding the glee on his face. “You’re incapacitated.”

“OOOOOH!!! OOOOOOH FUCK!! THIS!! GUY!!!!”)

I collapse to the ground, screaming and writhing in pain like I’m on fire.

The man turns back to Paul, lifting the Bible above his head. The figure behind him is still slowly approaching and is now lifting something large above its head.

“I will purge you in the truth of the Lord!!” the man cries, thrusting the book for emphasis.

Paul stalls for time. “Your shot missed, what do you think that says about your lord’s will?”

He glares. “Do you have such little faith that the slightest inclination of failure will disassemble you? No wonder you are a vampire,” he spits out the last word. “I will send you to meet what unholy creator created you.”

He takes a step back, spreading his arms wide. “BE HEALED, DEMON!!!” he cries, but gets no further because someone hits him in the back with a battle-axe.

The man’s face freezes in shock, then he drops, revealing the figure standing behind him.

Leeland.

He’s standing there, but only just barely, as he is torn and shot up even worse than we are and is obviously exhausted. He looks at Paul, taking a moment to catch his metaphorical breath. Paul stares back.

“…No. Gunplay. On. Univeristy. Grounds.” Leeland finally growls.

(Jason turns to me. “All that ag damage you just took is erased.”

I blink. “How?”

“It was all in your head. You weren’t really on fire, afterall.”

“….JACKASS!!!”)

Leeland limps over the man’s body, approaching Paul. “What…was that?” he gasps, air wheezing through the bullet holes in his chest.

“I don’t know,” Paul says, “But he was using that Bible as a weapon.”

Leeland looks down, eyes wide. “Oh no,” he mutters. He rolls the body over and searches through his coat. He pulls out a metal emblem showing a motif of a pyramid, topped with an eye, and inscribed in a circle (Kara: “The Deathly Hallows?”).

“Leopoldites….” Leeland growls.

At this point, I stumble up to the two of them. “Leo…pold…ites?” I repeat.

“I don’t know what else to call them. The Order of Leopold. Vampire hunters.”

(No, apparently no relation to Leopold of Alcatraz.)

We obviously need to retreat and regroup, so Leeland offers to lead us all to the Provost’s house. Both cars are obviously out of the question so we set out on foot, Leeland pausing only to retrieve the ax from the back of the man (who is otherwise very clearly dead). Paul stoops to pick up the Bible from his outstretched hand. Now that he’s dead, it seems to have lost all its power.

Since we’re collecting loot, I go for the gold and pick up the rifle: a Dragunov 762, with two full bandoliers of cartridges and bullets.

Fuck. Yes. It’s a sniper weapon, but right now I don’t even care.

(Jason: “It’s a large rifle, but you’re big enough to take it.”
Me: “Ha-HA!! YEAH I am!!”
Jim: “It’s big, but he’s had bigger.”
Kara: “…Oooh myyy…”)

Anyway. Paul looks at the Bible. It seems to be a normal Bible, except for an inscription written on the inside cover, in Latin. He hurries up to Leeland and shows it to him.

Leeland looks at it. “Go forth and purge the unclean,” he translates. “Johannes Paules the Second.” He shrugs and hands it back to Paul. Paul looks at it again, then leaves it with the body and hurries after Leeland.

I hang back a bit, fiddling with loading up my new weaponry, when I sense something watching me. I look up. Aquilifer is circling overhead, lower and slower than usual.

As if she is trying to get my attention.

#

After all of this, we are finally caught up with the time discrepancy, so Georgia’s call to Paul comes through.

Georgia: “Hey Paul!”
Paul: “GEORGIA! What the hell is going on??”
Georgia: “Ummm, what do you mean?”
Paul: “What the hell is a Leopoldite??”
Georgia: *sifts through her occult knowledge* “It’s….an Amazonian order of panther trackers!”
Paul: “…Sure you’re not thinking of ‘leopard-ite’?”

They realize that they both have a lot to talk about and should meet, although this will be hampered by the fact that Paul doesn’t have a car anymore.

As Paul walks, he catches her up on a few details, including his concerns about Clarence and his suspicion that he’s working with Sebastian. He thinks that one or both of them will try and make a move on his apartment sometime that evening and asks her if she can stake out the place (LOL!)

After a few minutes, he suddenly realizes I’m not following him. He turns around. I am nowhere to be seen.

#

Once she had my attention, Aquilifer’s flight path veered off to the side, into a grove of trees off the road. I follow, moving quickly to keep her in sight. I maneuver through the trees and come out the other side in a small clearing, hidden from the road and the few buildings nearby.

The clearing is a battlefield. A handful of bodies are scattered about, some broken down into components. I can see a few guns lying in the grass as well, but they have all been broken or twisted out of shape. I walk carefully across the grass, investigating the damage. The moon is just rising over the trees, and in the clear light I can see things glittering in the dirt. I bend down to pick some up.

Silver. Silver shot.

None of the bodies or the pieces of the bodies seem to be Sophia. I look around the clearing, then look up at Aquilifer. She’s circling overhead, but as I look at her she cries softly and veers to the far side of the clearing.

Three bodies are lying there. Two of them seem to be some of the Leopold Men. One has been gutted and the other one has had his head bashed in, probably by the broken shotgun beside him.

The third body, though, is Sophia.

She is absolutely mangled, her body streaked with gashes and soaked in blood. The most obvious wound, though, is the gaping hole in her chest.

I hurriedly check for a pulse. There isn’t one, but I’m not entirely sure whether that means she’s dead or not. She herself said earlier this evening that werewolves always heal, given enough time. They might be able to heal from almost anything.

Except silver.

I try to check the shotgun wound in her chest for some of that silver shot, but there is too much blood and gore for me to see anything, especially in the dim light. Out of options, I scoop her up into a fireman carry and hurry back to catch up with Leeland and Paul.

#

Paul calls for me, but when I don’t answer, he returns to following Leeland. They reach the Provost’s house and quickly go inside. Leeland drops the axe off in the hallway, next to a closet that is slightly open. Paul glances in and sees that it’s full of other medieval-looking weapons.

Leeland notices his stare. “I used to LARP,” he mumbles. He closes the closet door and goes deeper into the house.

(Me: “OMG It’s ChrisM’s closet!!!”)

Paul follows Leeland into the kitchen. Leeland opens the fridge and pulls out two large hospital blood-infusion bags. He tosses one to Paul. They both sit quietly in the kitchen, sipping their blood bags like Capri Sun drinks.

I arrive at the house, having easily followed the trail of blood. My arms are full of werewolf, so I knock on the door by kicking the base of it with my foot.

Paul gets up to let me in and immediately identifies Sophia in my arms, even through the damage. Our eyes meet wordlessly.

He looks over his shoulder. “Stay here,” he advises me, “I’m going to try and smooth things over with Leeland.

He walks back to the kitchen. Leeland is just finishing his bag. “Who is it?” he asks.

“It’s Tom.” Paul pauses. “You…remember when you were driving in and passed us, we…had a someone in our car?”

Leeland’s eyes narrow. “Yes, you had a Lupine in your car… How the hell was it you had a Lupine in your car? Why did you bring a Lupine to my university??”

Paul hesitates. “I…she’s a student.”

Leeland’s face drops. “A…student? But…I was so careful!” Distraught, he stares into space, jaw quivering. “I didn’t know she was here! I took every precaution!!”

Paul frowns. “What’s the problem?”

Leeland holds up a clenched, shaking fist for a moment, then relaxes and places it flat on the table. “…Nothing. Nothing’s the problem. There was no Lupine, was there? There wasn’t anyone at all with you in the car, was there?”

Paul sighs. “Ok, well…don’t panic. Tom, come in.”

I hear Pauls voice from down the hallway and step inside. I immediately take Sophia over to the nearest couch and start wrapping her up in a blanket I find there. Paul comes into the living room, followed by Leeland. I ignore them as I check out her injuries under the light.

Leeland’s jaw drops. “You…senseless motherfuckers!! What IS this?? What are you doing to me??”

“We’re not trying to do anything to you—“

“GET! THAT! THING! OUT! OF! MY! HOUSE!!!!” Leeland roars, punctuating each pause with a gesture at Sophia. I stand up and glare at him, arms folded.

Stepping back, though, gives Leeland a clear view of Sophia’s body. He stops yelling and peers at her. “Wait, is it dead? Is it dead??”

I trade a glance with Paul. “We don’t know.”

Leeland visibly relaxes. “Oh, oh I apologize. This is much better then.” He folds his hands thoughtfully in front of his face. “Let’s see, I guess exsanguination is probably where to start—“

I tense and move to stand between him and the couch. Paul reaches out and touches his arm. “Mr. Leeland, walk with me.” He leads Leeland back down the hall into the kitchen. I go back to examining Sophia’s injuries.

“Mr. Leeland,” Paul says as they reenter the kitchen, “Can you explain the Lupine situation to me?”

Leeland blinks. “Situation? What situation? There are Lupines and they wish to kill us. They’re animals, Mr. Stewart.”

“And what do you suppose they say about us?”

“I’m sure something horriffic, but they’re not of us. I’ve seen these creatures kill more than my share of Kindred. They are inimicable to us completely.” He turns to glance down the hall. “Fortunately this one is disabled, and if you don’t want to be a part of this that’s fine.” He pats Paul’s arm. “I know they look human, but they are not.”

Paul regards him. “We look human too,” he says quietly.

“Yes, well, we aren’t.”

“But we still possess humanity within us. As do they.”

“They do not! Have you see what I’ve seen these creatures do?”

“I’ve seen some of it. Doesn’t help me sleep well at night.”

“It shouldn’t.”

“But I’ve also seen them act nobly.”

“Are you seriou—Oh no….” Leeland scrubs his face with his hands. “You don’t actually think you’re going to bring peace between the Lupines and the Kindred?” (Me: “Ooo, is there such a thing?”) Leeland sinks to a stool. “Every twenty-five years, some neonate shows up, thinks he’s going to be ‘The Great Peacemaker.’ If he doesn’t end up in someone’s digestive tract, he winds up seeing the sun.”

“So…how long has it been since the last one?”

Leeland scoffs. “I haven’t dealt with anyone that foolish since…well, the Oakland Fire.”

Leeland’s gaze turns hard. “Is that werewolf dead?”

“I don’t know.”

“If it is dead, then it is of no further use to itself, so we can find a use for it’s blood and corpse. And if it is not dead then I give you an absolute guarantee you will regret not making it so. Nothing good comes of dealing with werewolves. Not even Spiral Dancers.”

(This is literally the first time we have heard “good” and “Spiral Dancers” uttered in the same breath and I for one do not like it one bit.)

Leeland rails against werewolves for a little while longer, letting slip that the whole “Chicago Incident” the Prince was talking about was apparently five years ago when the werewolves killed every vampire in Chicago, in one night. Which…is definitely a little unsettling, yes. He reiterates that the “law” is to kill any and all werewolves, whenever and wherever able.

Because we’re sooooo good at following laws.

He also says that Sophia’s body alone is extremely valuable, which is interesting but also extremely unsettling. Paul lets all of these statements roll off of him, then thanks Leeland for his help and goes to leave. Leeland sighs, says it’s our funeral, and lets him.

Sophia is so drenched in blood and gore—hers and other peoples’, most likely—that I haven’t been able to get a good view of the damage or find any bullets embedded in her, silver or otherwise. When Paul returns, I wrap her up tightly in the blanket and we leave the house.

It’s late, so luckily no one notices two beat-up dead guys carrying a blood-soaked teenage girl in a blanket through town, though we stick to back streets and darker neighborhoods. We make our way to the seedier part of University Avenue and check into a motel room to get cleaned up and figure out what to do next.

(Everyone unanimously decides that this motel is the same one that Clarence checked into and flooded a few nights before.)

#

Speaking of Clarence, for once he is having a relatively calm night. He’s hanging out at the Douchehaus, being douchey I’m sure, when one of his staff informs him he has a visitor. Clarence requests him brought in.

Mr. Ling walks into the room and bows. Clarence stands up and bows in return. “Mr Ling. Well. What do you need from me and what can I do for you?”

Mr. Ling slides a map of San Francisco across Clarence’s desk. Clarence looks at the map but doesn’t see anything unusual about it or marked on it. He waits expectantly.

Mr. Ling pulls something out of his pocket, a small device about the size of a pager, but with a keypad built in. He taps at it. “WHERE. IS. THE. TARGET,” an electronic voice says.

“Ah,” Clarence leads him out of his office and into his private quarters where the werewolves first appeared. “They came through here. Talons, they called themselves.”

Mr. Ling’s eyes widen.

“And a few days before, an entire werewolf organization infiltrated this building by force. Blew up my helicopter, hacked my system….” Clarence trails off, momentarily lost in angry reverie, then snaps out of it. “I’ve also noticed many instances where my movements have been tracked.

Mr. Ling nods and taps at his device. “ONE. DAY. GO,” it says. He opens the door leading back to the hallway, gesturing through it. Clarence frowns but bows at Mr. Ling and steps through. Mr. Ling closes the door behind him. Clarence hears it lock.

Clarence stares at the door, realizing he’s just been locked out of his own apartments. He’s gonna have to find somewhere else to crash for the night.

Looks like the douchery never ends at The Douchehaus!!!

#

Paul deals with the Slowest And Most Undesirably-Amiable Motel Desk Clerk and gets us a room. I walk in and take Sophia straight to the bathroom. With the light and the water in the bath, I’m able to clean her and get a better look at the wounds. I gingerly poke around the edges of the gaping hole in her chest. I find a hard, loose lump and pull it out. I rinse it under the water.

It gleams silver. Much more silver than shot is supposed to look. I grit my teeth and start poking around to pull out as many pieces of shot as I can.

Meanwhile, Paul goes on a shopping mission. We decide that the best way to get back to the city is to call a car service, but we can’t jump into a car with a bleeding teenager in tow (At one point Paul asks if I have any friends who could come pick us up without any questions. I glare at him and say that all my friends who I know are still alive are currently in this room).

The strategy we settle on is to clean her up, replace her clothes (she’s not actively bleeding so she shouldn’t soak through new ones) then dump a bunch of alcohol on her and pretend she’s just passed out. The clothes, though, are the hardest piece of the puzzle. I recall our adventure with Slayer a few weeks ago (if it was even that long) and suggest that Paul go pick up some skimpy costume from an all-night adult store. He finds a strange studded leather vest thing and also grabs any other “Sexy [Noun]” outfit he can find that seems to come with at least one piece of normal clothing. He also picks up a bunch of ace bandages and a bottle of cheap vodka from a corner store on the way back.

I look up at Paul when he comes in, my distress all over my face. “Paul, she’s riddled with silver. If even one piece of this stays in her she’s not gonna make it, if she hasn’t already….”

Paul gives me the bag of supplies then pulls out his phone to call Georgia (who has been spending the latter part of the evening enjoying her stake-out of Paul’s building). There is much confusion and disbelief on her end as he gives her the thumbnail sketch of what’s been going on, but Paul surges through it all and summarizes with the fact that they need to get a shitload of silver out of a werewolf, and does Georgia know of maybe some sort of magical way to do that?

Georgia, unfortunately, does not.

But she knows someone else who probably does.

We get Sophia cleaned up, bandaged, and into the tamest porn-store-motley outfit we can (Jason: “She looks like an explosion at a Halloween factory and smells like Everclear.”). Paul calls for two cars: one to take me to the city, and one to take Paul to meet Adrianna, Prince of Oakland, cause he had promised to touch base with her on our way out of Berkeley. Georgia arranges to meet me at my destination.

Which is, of course, back to Sutro Tower.

(Kara: “Oh my god, I’m friends with a mage and about to be friends with a werewolf, all because I got myself blood-bonded to a Toreador.”
Me: “This is how we roll on Team Marcus! Wait till you meet Aquilifer.”

At this point, I am literally wringing my hands in concern about what’s going to happen. Kara asks what’s wrong. I say that I don’t know what’s going to happen with Siegfried but I am very concerned.

She leans over and comforts me. “It’s alright, Jason isn’t going to kill Sophia, he loves Sophia.”

I look at her, jaw open. “Are you serious? Jason will absolutely kill her if the dice necessitate it.”

Kara shrugs. “I trust Jason.”

“WHY!!?!?! WHY WOULD YOU TRUST JASON!!!!??!?!?”

Jason backs me up, pointing out that he has already killed multiple players and he will kill NPCs with equal abandon.

I look Kara dead in the eye. “We should be very concerned.”)

#

Lest we forget, Team Douche-Force One is still on the field. Since Georgia seems to be signing a term contract with Team Marcus, Clarence apparently decides to do some recruiting of his own.

So he calls Max.

Clarence says he has some information he needs to share with him so Max invites him over to the Chantry for a chat. Clarence heads over and meets Max in his office.

Clarence sits down and gets right to the point. “I just had an interesting visit from Mr. Perkins.”

Whatever Max was expecting, it sure wasn’t that. His jaw drops. “Perkins came to see you? What the hell happened?”

“Nothing, he was just sitting in my lobby. Pleasantly.”

Clarence spills all the beans about how Perkins wants to continue to work with Clarence, having asked him to reacquire the Marcus dagger and get his agent—the Mr. Flagg—into the Chantry.

Max is, understandably, very interested in this, but of course he asks why Clarence is narcing on Perkins in the first place.

Clarence shrugs. “I don’t want to piss him off, I don’t want him as an enemy, but his plans…well…he mentioned his plans included eliminating this Chantry. The entire Chantry.” (aka, “Look at aaaaaaall the favors you owe me now, bitch.”)

Max drums his fingers against the table. “So he wants you to sneak this…Flagg in here, as, say, part of your entourage?”

Clarence nods.

“Well… It’s a calculated risk, but…maybe that’s exactly what you should do. After all,” Max grins slyly, “What happens in the Chantry tends to stay in the Chantry.” (Me: “Hottt.”)

They concoct a plan, wherein they will go ahead with the Perkins plan, but pull a double-cross and capture this Flagg guy. Max is confident that the Chantry defenses—organic and otherwise—will be able to subdue him, and on top of that the Tremere high roller he called in—a guy named Van Brugge—should be here very soon. Hopefully then they will be able to…interrogate…Mr. Flagg and get some more information about Perkins.

“Whatever Perkins is,” Max assures Clarence, smug smile on his face, “Flagg will not be prepared for what we will have prepared for him. We bound Perkins once, we can certainly bind his servants again.”

And no one was reassured that day.

#

Paul meets with Prince Adrianna at Jack London Square. As promised, he discusses helping her with the Anarch problem and bringing her over to the city to introduce her to Bell. He convinces her to let him speak to Helgi for her and see if he can broker something, or, at most, find out some more information (Paul: “Everyone wants something. Usually the thing they’re fighting for the most? They want something else more.”). Unfortunately, Paul is short on time these days, with the Monomanse coming up in a few days. He agrees to deal with this issue as soon as possible, tomorrow for preference. He can’t, sadly, accompany her to the city tonight, as “other plans” have come up, but he tells her where to find them.

Before he leaves, she mentions that she heard there was gunfire on the Berkeley campus earlier this night, would he know anything about that? He says it was a brush up with the Society of Leopold, something she is not happy to hear at all. He mentions that their leader had a Bible inscribed and signed by one “Johannes Paules II.”

Her eyes go wide, then narrow. “That’s Latin, it’s the Latin form of ‘John Paul II.’ As in, the former Pope.”

(Me: “Daaaamn, no wonder that shit hurt so much!”)

#

Georgia arrives at Sutro Tower first and waits at the guard gate for me to arrive. My car arrives not long after. I walk over to meet Georgia, carrying my bundle of werewolf.

“Tom!” Georgia says brightly, trying to hide her nervousness with enthusiasm.

“Georgia,” I say, nodding tersely.

“How are things going?”

I look down at the bundle. “Not…great….” I look up at the tower, looming over us against the night sky. “Is this where the mage lives?”

Georgia follows my gaze. “Yeeeeep.” We stare in silence for a few moments, then jump as we hear a distant muffled explosion and crash, followed by shouts in German.

I give her the five minute replay of the evening’s events, mentioning the Inquisitors (“Like Mormons gone bad”) and the fact that we suspect Sophia was shot with silver shot that is still lodged in her, which is what brings us together today.

I peer up at the tower as we talk, overwhelmed with it’s size and sinister shape. I haven’t been this close to it since before I was turned, over two decades ago. As I stare, a dark shape glides out from the eucalyptus trees and circles one of the spires. I hear a distant fluttery keening, and smile.

With that, Georgia takes me to the guard, who leads us inside. We go into the elevator alone and step out onto the laboratory floor.

“Doctor?” Georgia calls tentatively. “Doctor VonNatsi?” I raise my eyebrows at the name but don’t say anything.

We hear a distant crash, followed by a series of thuds. Siegfried appears from behind a cabinet, covered in soot.

“Doctor!” Georgia exclaims, throwing her hands up in the air. “How are the experiments going?”

“Ah, Georgia! Ze latest deathray requires…some work.” He brushes ineffectively at the soot on his labcoat. “But, ja, science must be done.”

“Doctor, I, ah, I’ve brought you another thing to work on….” Georgia steps aside, revealing me.

Siegfried goes still. “Who…is this?”

“We, ah, have a bit of a problem. Do you remember the werewolf who came to visit you a couple weeks ago?”

“The one who wanted the dagger?”

My eyes go real wide at this but I keep my mouth shut (Desperate times call for desperate measures).

“Yes. Um, she has had a bit of an accident with some silver and we were wondering if you could maybe…draw the silver out of her? Or transmute it into something else?”

“Silver? Mein Gott, but she’s a….” He takes off his goggles and rubs at his eyes. “Come this way,” he says quietly.

He leads us through the lab. As we wind through the equipment, Georgia recieves a call from Paul.

Paul: “I’m here, I’m at the gate, what’s the ettiquite?”
Georgia: “Oh, well, ask the guard to let you in to see the Doctor, tell him you’re with us, and tell him that you have not eaten any cabbages recently unless you have in which case maybe you shouldn’t come in.”
Paul: “Um…yeah ok.”

Moments later, Siegfried stops and holds a finger up to his ear, listening to an earpiece. He turns to us, but before he speak Georgia pipes up.

“There is one more person joining us, I hope that’s ok.”

Siegfried’s eyes narrow. “My dear, when you came here, did you think zis was a public hospital that you could just bring anyone to?”

His tone has an edge to it, which seems to take Georgia aback. “No, I just—“

“This is a laboratory doing exceptionally. Delicate. Research.” At that moment, something explodes off in the distance. “…Except for zat,” he adds without turning around.

“Yes I know, but…you mentioned last time that you weren’t able to conduct any experiments with her the last time she was here, and I thought this might give you an opportunity….”

She trails off. I stare at her, dumbfounded and getting more disturbed. I shift Sophia’s body in my arms in a way that also happens to pull her closer to my chest.

“Zat is so,” Siegfried concedes, but I cannot have every vampire in San Francisco walking in here venever zey vant! Who is zis man?” He gestures at me.

Georgia looks at me. I shrug. This is obviously her show. “He is…the person carrying the werewolf,” she answers helpfully.

“Ja, I am able to tell zis, yes!”

Georgia looks flustered. I clear my throat and speak up. “I’m a…somewhat…friend of Sophia’s. She was actually going to introduce me to you at some point. Obviously we have picked an inopportune time….”

Siegfried sighs. “Ah, zis is why zey said I should stay in the tower….” His shoulders slump. When he speaks again it is with resignation. “And who is ze one you have coming?”

“He’s another associate of ours. He was present at the time of the…incident,” she gestures to Sophia, “this evening, so he may be able to give us more information on what happened.”

“Is he also ze vampire?”

“Yes.” Silence as Siegfried stares at her. “But that’s it! No more!!” She adds hurriedly, waving her hands.

Sigfried nods to himself. “Let me see her.” I hold out her body so he can pull back the blanket. He frowns. “What in God’s name is she vearing?” he mutters. I don’t respond.

He glances up at me. “She is alive?” Unfortunately it is a question, not a statement. I shrug.

Siegfried turns to Georgia. “Fraulein, if I involve myself in this situation, zere is a very good chance that the verewolves vill take an interest in this tower. How am I to conduct science ven I have Lupines beating the door in every five minutes with the anger-management issues that they generally possess?”

“That…is a very good question. We could…not tell them about this?” Georgia suggests.

“Ja, zat is not very likely. Verewolves tend to turn up ven zey are least wanted. I dealt with this one because she asked. Very. Nicely. and provided me with research and materials I required.”

He looks at Sophia’s body again. “I do not…I…uuuuuuuurg.” He scrubs at his face. “Come with me,” he barks and stalks off through the lab once again. Once again we follow.

We approach a large workbench that is only piled with equipment, rather than overloaded. He shoves most of the equipment off onto the floor, but takes a few choice pieces and moves them carefully to another table. I take the hint and step forward to lay Sophia down on it, unwrapping the blanket and some of the bandages to reveal her wounds fully.

He asks what happened and I give him the summary, mentioning of course the Society of Leopold.

Rather than react in shock and fear, though, his eyes widen in surprise and he chuckles. “The Society of Leopold? My, my, ,mein Herr, vat have you been doing to get on the nerves of the Society?”

Now that my arms are free I can throw them up in exasperation. “I don’t know! I was just trying to go to a history lecture!”

Siegfried tsks. “History lecture,” he scoffs as he turns back to the table. “Liberal artists….”

(At this point it is amusing to point out/remind the reader that Jason in fact has a degree in history, from a liberal arts college.)

Just then, we hear a voice drift from the far side of the lab. It’s Paul, plaintively calling, “Hello…?” from over by the elevator.

“Is that your friend?” Siegfried asks. Georgia nods. “Bring him here.”

Georgia goes to find Paul. I wait at the table, for the moment still unwilling to let Sophia out of my sight. Now that we’re alone, Siegfried stares at me critically.

“Who are you?” he asks once again.

“My name is Tom Lytton, sir. Doctor. Herr.”

He sighs. “My name is Doctor Siegfried VonNatsi.” I try to keep the amusement out of my face but apparently a little bit leaks through. His eyes narrow. “It is spelled vith a T!

“No, I know, I took two months of German in high school, sir.”

He leans forward, eyes still angrily suspicious. “Is zat a joke?” he hisses.

I shift uncomfortably. “Um, no…?”

He watches me for a few moments. “Good,” he finally declares, and turns back to examine Sophia. “Vat is your interest in the situation?” he asks without looking up. “I do not often find three vampires walking into ze tower vith a verewolf.”

“I…need to help her. We couldn’t take her to a hospital, and we can’t tear her apart looking for every piece of silver, and if there’s even a speck left she’ll die.”

Siegfried glances back over his shoulder. “Why do you care if zere is one more Lupine in the world? One of the few constants in life is ze Vampires and ze Verewolves.”

I look into Siegfried’s eyes. “Because for better for worse, she’s…become my people.”

His face scrunches as he tries to process this. “She is a vampire?”

“No.”

“You…are a Lupine?”

“No. A…different sort of people.”

Siegfried frowns and looks down at her. “…She is your girlfriend?”

I chuckle. “No. She wishes….” I couldn’t help but make the joke but I’m glad she’s not awake to hear it.

Siegfried is confused, but still presses for more information. I relent, saying that she and I have been independently trying to figure out all the drama that’s been going on in the city and we’ve started trading information and helping each other, both with our investigations and to help each other survive.

He stares at me for a silent moment then breaks out in slow laughter. “Really??” he asks. I nod. He shakes his head. “Now I have seen everything.”

“Well, perhaps it’s a sign of the end times everyone is so gung-ho about.”

He snorts. “Ja. Vell, Mr. Lytton, you keep odd company.”

Now I break out in laughter. “Sir, you have no idea….

Just then, the rest of our own Odd Company show up from their wandering sojourn across the lab. Siegfried throws up his arms. “Ah, another vampire, ve have ze conclave here, ja? Let us sit around in ze dark cloaks and talk about how ve are brooding! And who might you be, sir?”

“Paul Stewart.”

Siegfried’s irritation drops, replaced by surprise. “Paul Stewart? You are a vampire? I have seen you on ze television! You vere talking about…ze Oracle, and ze Ellison man!”

(We then launch into another hilarious tirade against Ellison. Turns out Siegfried has spoken to him in the past and is not fond of him either.)

“Vell,” Siegfried finally continues, “Vat may I do for you? You have brought me a verewolf, which is…polite, but I don’t know what I am to do vif it, ja?”

The first order of business is of course to figure out whether Sophia is actually still alive. She hasn’t gone into rigor mortis or anything, but then who knows how werewolves react to such prosaic things as decomposition.

And of course the best thing to do to determine this is to use…ZE SCIENCE!!!

Overjoyed to not only be doing science, but in front of a willing audience, Siegfried runs around and grabs a handful of safety goggles, one for each of us. Unfortunately, they all have varying definitions of “safety.” Siegfried puts on a pair that is almost entirely encrusted with bling and absurd shit, like a Burning Man art-car. Paul’s pair seems to be made out of a Nintendo VirtualBoy (Chris: “You know I have a VirtualBoy!” Jason: “WHAT???” Chris: “Yeah, it’s on my shelf at home!”) and also encrusted with weird shit. He puts them on tentatively. Georgia gets a pair originally made from a pair of “Magic X-Ray Specs” but there are other lenses that slot over them, some of which seem to have been made from bottles. She puts them on excitedly.

My goggles, however, are simply two blocks of solid granite, held together with straps made of bungee cord and electrical tape. I begrudgingly put them on, even though of course I cannot see anything through them.

Paul is fiddling with the VirtualBoy of his goggles and inadvertently flicks the power switch. He immediately disappears. Siegfried is bent over a piece of equipment and doesn’t notice, but Georgia does. “Paul?” she asks, looking around.

Siegfried looks up, eyes comically enlarged by his googles. “Did he activate the goggles?”

“Uh, probably?”

“SCHEISSE!!!!” Siegfried runs off and returns dragging a piece of equipment like an industrial-sized vacuum cleaner. He pushes a bunch of buttons hurriedly, then grabs the hose and points it toward the ground. Seawater pours out of it, flooding the floor of the lab, and after a few seconds Paul appears in the middle of the puddle—dazed, soaked, but still wearing his goggles.

“Wait, what happened? You guys?” I ask, looking around, still wearing the granite.

Turns out that Paul’s goggles have a side effect of transporting one to an off-shore undersea trench when turned on. Paul promises to be more careful with them in the future.

I raise my hand. “Doctor, my goggles seem to be a little…cloudy…any chance I can try another pair?”

Siegfried glares at me and pulls a small remote from his pocket. He points them at my goggles and they immediately transform into clear, blue crystal.

“Now, I vill determine the condition of ze werewolf by reading the etheric forces, and vith your glasses, you will also be able to see ze etheric forces.” He hesitates. “Ah, ignore anyone else who tries to talk to you, zey are not actually there. Ze glasses are temperamental.” He turns to Paul. “And if you see a high score, do not erase it.”

Siegfried fiddles with some equipment, then stands up and claps sharply. All the lights in the lab immediately go out.

I am standing there patiently in the dark when…something…suddenly appears in my goggles, jumping out at me and howling like one of those screamer videos from the internet. I shriek and panic, tearing the googles off my face, hurling them to the ground, and crashing off through the lab.
Two more claps and the lights come back on. Siegfried crosses his arms angrily. “Vat…vas zat?”

Georgia hurries off to find me. Panic over, I follow her back, chagrined.

Siegfried storms up to me. “Zat…was a pair of etheric goggles!!! DO YOU KNOW how long it TAKES TO MAKE SOME OF THOSE?”

I shake my head sadly.

“SEVERAL!!!! HOURS!!!!!”

Paul chimes in. “Perhaps Mr. Lytton could make it up to you by volunteering some of his time?”

Siegfried considers this. “You know, I could use a test subject for the flogisten generator…. Zere is only one way to know if the fire is pure enough!”

(Me: *head in my hands* “This is how I die. Science.”)

In any event, we’ve played around long enough, back to the issue at hand. Siegfried claps his hands again, killing the lights, and begins to run a wand over Sophia’s body. Those who still have goggles can see a faint flow hovering over her skin, following the path of the wand. Siegfried examines a geiger-counter looking device in his other hand attached to the wand.

“The Inquisitors did this?” he asks thoughtfully.

“We think so,” Paul says.

“Hmph. Well, it appears they have not improved their capacities….”

“What’s your diagnosis?” Georgia asks, eagerly trying to peer over his shoulder at the equipment in his hand.

Siegfried chuckles, but it is not a happy sound. “My diagnosis is that zis verewolf…is in big trouble. She is not dead, but there is silver riven throughout her.”

He turns off the wand. The glow fades. “Verewolfs have a distinct anthesis toward silver. It is…ze baking soda and ze vinegar? Ze reaction is chemical and very, very strong. At the moment, the silver is encysted within solidifed, charred matter. Tissue which has been reduced to constituent components by the silver contact. But…the silver will burn through that tissue progressively, until it burns its way out of the body. By that point, she will be, to use ze technical term, ‘a pile of goo.’ “

He sets the equipment down and turns to us. “Vat vas it you vanted me to do?”

“Could you transmute the silver into something else?” Georgia asks.

Siegfried leans against the table and folds his arms. “In theory, but the process was not designed to be used on living tissue. I can place her in the trans-substantiator. The greater trans-substantiator. The lesser one….” he waggles his hand. “The spatulas they sold me vere not ze best quality. Anyway, the greater trans-substantiator uses pure etheric energy to convert one element from the periodic able into another. I can convert the silver into something inert, like helium gas. Vatever I wish. But….”

He takes off his goggles to rub at the bridge of his nose. “I have never placed a living being in the trans-substantiator and gotten one out. It has the side effect of turning living tissue into…well, it depends. The last time I took out a handful of bees-vax.”

We stare at him, concern and dread building. “What did you put in there?” I finally ask.

Siegfried sighs. “I…look, I did not put an entire living thing in zere, Gunter just put his arm in! I told him I could fix it, but no….”

He shakes it off. “Anyway, I can remove the silver, but if you vant a living verewolf at the end of it, zis is not ze way in vich you are going to get one, ja?”

My heart, such as it still exists, is sinking. Maybe if we had enough time we could figure out something else to try for Sophia, but it may already be too late for that.

Siegfried, however, is now looking at us thoughtfully. “Why does the life of a verewolf matter to three vampires? I already know what this one,” he glares at me, “said, but a Tremere and a…whatever you are…?”

Paul lifts his chin. “Because life matters. Because this world is filled—(Me: “Goddammit I’m getting so sick of Paul’s speeches….”)—is filled with scheming vampires, rage-addled werewolves, and a bunch of people kept in the dark. But against all of that there is friendship, and caring, and passion.” He punches his fist to emphasize the last three points.

(Kara: “Oh my god, he’s My Little Toreador!!!”)

(Kara and I start laughing hysterically. Chris glares at us but continues.) “When we see these things in danger, we can either act, or we can ignore them. And we,” he gestures at the three of us, “have been drawn to act.”

Siegfried listens quietly to the speech. When Paul finishes, he stands there a moment, then takes a slow breath.

“Herr Stewart,” he says, choosing his words carefully. “If you wished to tell me lies, you could have simply said you wished to eat it.”

“Doctor, I may sound cliched, but I am not lying.”

Siegfried looks at Sophia again. “Well, there is one option I can think of, but it is not one you are going to like.”

His tone is serious, but I still feel a thrill of hope. Right now I will take any chance, any chance at all.

Siegfried takes another deep breath. “The etheric trans-substantiator uses raw ether to transform matter, ja? Ze reason I pulled out the beeswax, I believe, is because ze omega rays produced by the emitter—as a side effect of the etheric process, you understand—infused with the raw etheric beam being transmuted into the object and…ah, scattered it, in ze manner of light through ze prism. The result was chaotic and somewhat unpredictable. Zere are imperfections.” He rolls his eyes. “Afterall, ve live in a fallen world in which quantum physics exists.”

He slowly paces around the table, still talking. “I tried shielding the matter with other matter to absorb the omega rays, but zey are highly penetrating. But…zere are substances zat can absorb the omega rays and let only ze pure etheric energy through to the target.”

I am barely following any of this but I don’t really care, all I want is for him to get to the point and tell us what we need to do to save her.

He stops on the other side of the table, looking across Sophia’s body at us. “The difficulty is, ze substances must be charged with negative etheric energy. Und the only things I know of in this area charged with negative etheric energy are the three…of…you.”

My hope sputters and starts to be overwhelmed by a creeping dread.

“If you vish to make the trans-substantiator verk, we must have a great deal of matter infused vith..vith the vitae to block the omega rays and allow the purified etheric beam to transmute the silver into something else. But zere is no vay to predict vat vill happen to you in ze process.”

We end the night with I-as-Tom staring st Sophia’s body, a grim resolution building in my chest, and I-as-myself overwhelmed with mounting terror.

(“Oh my god,” I think, “Jason is going to kill us all, and for once, Jim’s character will be the only one that doesn’t die.”)

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