2/27/2014

This week, I was the character who had a rather lackluster night. Almost everyone else had some major developments, but my night can be summed up as follows:

“I hung around the shipping yards. A Viking told me a story. I ate a bunch of pigeons. End of night.”

***

We open with Georgia, who was last seen at the Backup Chantry, located at SF City College. I realize last episode I indicated that she left that location, but we’re going to backup a bit because she realized she actually wants to investigate a little more before leaving. She has Bob take her to the gargoyle vats located there, since apparently she hasn’t seen enough of them lately.

He takes her to a room lined with stone; ceiling, walls, and floor. The vat is recessed into the floor, like a great big hottub. A hottub filled with blood. Blood that is slowly bubbling. Some large meat hooks hang over the vat on heavy chains (because there are always. fucking. meathooks.) but otherwise the room is empty.

Bob says this vat is only producing one gargoyle and it isn’t, quote, “finished yet.” Even though his bosses are all gone, Bob has been maintaining the process, “stirring it” every couple of hours. He was in the vat room when Clarence attacked and escaped by hiding in the pool of blood, but he suspects the gargoyle “didn’t like it.” Apparently even though it is only half-finished, the gargoyle…talks…to Bob sometimes. 

Georgia steps into another room to “make a call,” which in this case is disturbingly literal:

She closes the door behind her and turns to the empty room. “Van Brugge?” she calls into the empty air.

…Yes?” Van Brugge’s disembodied voice echoes through her head.

“So I am at the Backup Chantry, and they have a vat here with a half-finished gargoyle in it.”

…Ah. So they have…some facilities.

“Apparently. There’s only the one vat, and there’s…an intern here I have started to ghoul. I’m going to leave him here and move on to the next location.”

Ok. What is the status of the sub-Chantry then?”

“Oh, everyone here was eaten by Clarence,” Georgia announces brightly.

…Ah. Ok. Um, wow…. So who is this Clarence?”

“Oh, he’s a Ventrue. Friend of the Prince.”

(Jim: *cough*”Former-PC”*cough*
Me: *cough*”Douche”*cough*)

Ah. Well. That certainly speaks of the Prince’s judgement. He may also have to be replaced by someone more competent.” (Me: “Oh, Christ, please do….”)

Georgia points out that Clarence is probably under the thrall of Perpenna, but that only enforces van Brugge’s assessment of his character. Anyway, she finishes her report and van Brugge advises her to move on. She says goodbye to Bob, who waves at her with a somewhat brittle smile, and then she leaves to the next location:

Sunnydale.

(Me: “EWW, why??”
Chris: “Wait, like in Buffy?”
Jim: “You know there’s a Hellmouth there.”)

#

Paul was originally headed to his house in Portola, but he changes his mind and goes toward the house in Seacliff, since he has something stashed there that he needs.

On the way, though, he gets a call. From Leeland, Baron of Berkeley, of all people. Paul answers. They exchange pleasantries (Paul: “How are you?” Leeland: “I’ll be honest with you, I’ve had better weeks.” Paul: “Yeah, that seems to be going around….”) Leeland rants about werewolves and Inquisitors and Viking Anarchs and undergrad protestors camping in the trees.

Paul: “Well, at least they’re going back to their roots.”
Leeland: “…Thanks.”
(Chris: “Could be worse, they could be branching out. *pause for effect* Can’t you just leaf them alone?”
Jason: **MANY, MANY GLARES**
Me: “Chris is being knotty.”
Kara: “Be careful, Jason’s going to turn us all to ash!”
Jim: “I hope he doesn’t bark at us!”
Chris: “Those were all sappy jokes.”
Jason: “I’M GOING TO GO IN THE BACK AND CRY!!”
Ben: “These are all some wonderful tree puns.”
Jason: “NO!!”
Chris: “I don’t know, I think the humor is blooming here.”
Jim: “Jason is looking a little green.”
Ben: “Is the willow weeping?”
Cameron: “I think we’re getting to the root of the problem.”)

Speaking of werewolves, now that he’s calmed down somewhat, Leeland is curious about how Paul came to be associated with a werewolf. Paul says that it was rather odd—

(Me: “OH!! Put a cork in it!!!”)

Rather odd circumstances and Sophia is certainly an outlier in even the limited experience we’ve had with them so far, since frankly it seems that they care about us far less than we care about them.

In any event, though, Leeland says that Paul has caught the attention of an associate of his, an associate who would very much like to meet him. Paul is skeptical, but Leeland assures Paul that he’s known this man for awhile and his intentions for the moment seem to be focused on business, not hostilities.

Paul agrees and has Leeland set up a meeting with the man within the hour, at the Samovar tea lounge downtown.

#

Back at Helgi’s bar, Anstis and I agree to his request to track down who stole his (likely originally stolen) Semtex and sold it to Himmler on Alcatraz. The stuff was stolen about a week ago, from a locked cargo container. Helgi has no suspicions about who it might have been specifically, but whomever it was, he is very clear he wants them brought to him alive.

Helgi takes us to the scene of the crime, a shipping yard next to the bar. The container with the Semtex is unmarked and hidden in the middle of a row of other, identical containers. The door is locked with heavy bolts and has apparently been modified so that the doors swing inward. Helgi has to throw his weight into the doors to shove them open, creating a loud shriek that echoes across the yard.

We step inside the container. Anstis and Helgi pop their Eyes of the Beast to peer through the gloom. I pull out my cellphone and pop my flashlight app. Inside we can see that the doors have been rigged with a large, industrial-looking hydraulic system to brace them closed. It’s obvious that Helgi is one of the only vampires in the Bay Area able to open the thing, and even he had to exert effort to do it. It’s also clear that even if someone had forced their way in, the noise would have alerted everyone at the bar nearby.

This leaves one likely suspicion: someone transported themselves through the walls of the container by some other means.

Although a good chunk of the stash has been stolen, most of the Semtex is left. The air stinks of chemicals. Pallets line the walls of the container, stacked with reddish-orange bricks. Anstis picks one up and peers at the Cyrillic writing stamped on it.

“What’s this say?” he asks Helgi.

“‘High explosives; Do not smoke.’”

I poke at some of the blocks experimentally. “Really? I wouldn’t think cigarette ashes would be enough to set these off.”

“Oh no, it’s a warning to not smoke them. It’s made by Russians, after all.”

I raise an eyebrow. Anstis nods, impressed, and puts the brick back on the pallet. We leave the container and start poking around the area for clues.

#

Paul arrives at his Seacliff house. He doesn’t have much time before his meeting with this contact of Leeland’s, but luckily his plans won’t take too long.

He goes to a small safe in his office and opens it. It’s empty, save for one thing: a stoppered vial containing a small amount of deep red blood.

The Vaulderie blood that Marcus gave to him, though me.

Paul doesn’t know much about it, but he knows what I told him: that it’s part of some kind of Sabbat ritual, that the vampires tied to this blood are long gone, and drinking it has the notable effect of erasing all previous blood bonds. 

Like his bond to Marcus.

Paul wants a little more information about it, though, so he calls up his best resource for dealing with blood magic:

Georgia: “Paul! I was just sending you a text!”
Paul: “Ah, intriguing. So, you know a thing or two about blood magic, right? Do you know what a Vaulderie is?”
Georgia: “Uh, yeah…”
Paul: “Ok. Do you know much blood someone needs for that? Like what sort of equations do you use to spec out the proportions?”
Georgia: “Um, you just…take a sip?”
Paul: “That’s it? I mean, how small? Is there a unit beyond which you can’t subdivide it anymore?”
Georgia: “I…don’t understand what you’re asking me…”
(Peanut gallery suggestion: Use the homeopathy solution and dilute the stuff down in water until it’s of minute concentration!)
Georgia: “Why are you asking, Paul? You do know it’s a Sabbat thing?”
Paul: “Potato, pot-A-to.”
Georgia: “Paul…are you planning to create a Vaulderie?”
Paul: “No…but how would one do that?”
Georgia: “I don’t know, but I think you would have to be Sabbat.”
Paul: “Ok, so? Isn’t that just, like…crossing the street?”
Georgia: “Umm….no?”
Paul: “Look at it this way: are you religious, Ms. Johnson?”
Georgia: “No….”
Paul: “Ok, well do you possess a full understanding of the various differences and denominations out there?”
Georgia: “Um, sort of….”
Paul: “Right, so for you, they’re all kind of the same thing, the distinctions aren’t personally relevant?”
Georgia: “I guess….”
Paul: “Well, now you know what sane people feel about the difference between the Camarilla and the Sabbat.”

Since she can’t help him much with the Vaulderie blood, Paul asks what she was trying to text him about. She says that van Brugge suggested she have Paul contact his “werewolf friends” to try and find more information about Perpenna, since they can tap different resources than us vampires can. Paul says he’ll pass the message along.

Paul hangs up the phone and picks up the vial. He pulls out the cork and drinks the whole thing.

#

Georgia, meanwhile, is waiting around outside City College for a car service car. Her intended destination, Sunnydale, is a baaaad set of projects in the south of the city, so understandably no one wants to pick her up. She pings every major service simultaneously until finally a car accepts the ride and comes to get her.

She climbs in the car, sighing in relief, and turns to the driver.

It’s Adam. The Creepy Driver.

She tenses. “Adam! …Good to see you!”

He nods at her.

“I, uh…assume you already know where I’m going?”

“Well, you indicated you wanted to head to a bad part of town.”

“So you came to fetch me?”

He shrugs. “I needed the fare.”

“Ah. You…don’t seem like a man who would need the fare….”

He puts the car in gear and pulls away from the curb.  “Well, I’m a man of many talents, and…well, you wouldn’t like to know everything.”

Over the course of the ride they…basically have the same conversation they’ve had the last two rides. She asks him pointed questions that he somehow is able to deflect every time. This time, though, Adam does mention how he’s lived in many cities before, and how he likes to be around when things, quote, “reach a tipping point.” He likes to watch and see what happens.

As usual, he turns her attempts at conversation back around on her:

Adam: “So what brings you to a place like Sunnydale?”
Georgia: “I’m sure that you already know as much as you need to….”
Adam: “Oh, no one could possibly know as much as they need to.”
Georgia: “I find that that’s very true. Which is why I keep searching.”
Adam: “Well that’s always wise. And what do you hope to find in Sunnydale? It’s not a very nice place.”
Georgia: “The same thing I hope to find anywhere; information.”
Adam: “Ahh, it’s information you hope for? Cause not everyone searches for that.”
Georgia: “Don’t they?”
Adam: “No, some people are looking for something else. They don’t always know what.”
Georgia: “I find that information is usually the best. If you get too much power, people come for you. That’s no fun. If you get too much money, then you have problems spending it. But information, you can hold onto that, or give it away without losing it.”
Adam: “You can, but if you think no one will come for you in search of information, well…you’ll have another thing coming.”
Georgia: “Right, but you can give it away without losing it.”
Adam: “Yes, unless someone else doesn’t want anyone else to have it.”
Georgia: “That’s true….” *thoughtful pause, then brightly:* “Well, I guess I’d better give up then.”
Adam: *chuckles* “Well, that’s not an option.”
Georgia: “No?”
Adam: “No, we all have to play the game.”
Georgia: “…Why?”
Adam: “Because the game is out there.”
Georgia: “What if I want to stop?”
Adam: “You can’t stop. It’s play…or be played.”
Georgia: “…What if I want to be played?”
(Ben: “Oooh myyy…”)
Adam: “Well…. If you just want to be played, perhaps you found the right line of work.”

The car pulls up outside the Sunnydale projects. Georgia glances at the clock. She’s only been in the car for three minutes or so, watching and talking with Adam the whole time. 

But Ingleside is at least fifteen minutes away from Sunnydale, even in clear traffic.

“Wow, we’ve…made remarkable time….”

Adam smiles at her, sunglasses still masking his eyes. “I’ve been doing this a long time.”

Georgia puts her hand on the door, then hesitates. “If I need to get ahold of you again, how would I do that?”

“Well, I don’t like to be tied down. I’m just gonna be around. But if you need a lift,” he nods his chin toward her, “just use that little phone of yours, and I might be there.”

“That…does seem to be reliable so far.” She hesitates again. “I’m, ah…I am going to let you know that you do creep me out a little….”

He chuckles. “If I creep you out then I wouldn’t go in there. You’ll find there’s far worse things than me inside some places. “

Georgia looks at the buildings. “I’ve seen a lot of terrible things in the last few nights…are we talking worse than those, or, like, those?”

“We may be talking anything. See, in this city, at this time, you really never know what you’re going to find on the other side of a door.”

She turns to him again, frowning. “Adam, I am very impressed by your ability to tell me nothing.”

He grins. “It is a skill, isn’t it.”

“It is.” She opens the door and climbs out. “Drive safely,” she says as an afterthought.

“I always do.”

She shuts the door. He flicks a jaunty wave and drives off.

(Kara: “I hate him so much.”)

The Sunnydale projects are a series of two-story apartment buildings with all the charm of a WWII baracks and all the construction- and design-integrity of the late 70s. Georgia walks up to the one that is the supposed location of the next Chantry bolt-hole.

It doesn’t take her long to realize she’s being followed.

(Heads up: Trigger warning. Spoiler alert: It’s fine, but trigger warning all the same.)

Georgia ignores this fact and walks to the door, pulling out a key. Unfortunately, it seems that someone has sprayed plastic sealant over the handle of the door and she can’t get the key in.

The person following her walks up behind her. He’s a young human male, his dress and attitude obviously pegging him as a local. He looms behind her as she fiddles with the door. She continues to ignore him.

“How ‘bout a taste?” he sneers.

She finally turns around and looks him over. “Of me or of you?”

He smiles, flashing some grill. “We can do it either way.”

She smiles in return. “Well in that case, I’d love one.” And she grabs his neck and bites him.

Damn, girl. Represent.

He flops down to the ground unconscious. She turns back to continue working on the door.

“What the FUCK??” a voice shouts down the corridor. Georgia turns again.

Two guys are standing at the edge of the building, dressed in the same colors as the guy she just met. They stare at his body on the ground as they wander up. “Who the fuck are you?” one guy barks.

Georgia gestures meekly at the door. “I’m locked out, could one of you guys help me? That would be great.”

The other guy points to his buddy on the ground. “What happened to him?”

“Oh, I…think he’s sick…. I was gonna get him some water, but I can’t get into my apartment.”

They stare at her. “You don’t live here!”

She shrugs and wobbles her head. “Ok, so it’s not ‘my’ apartment, so much as my friend’s, but—“

“You trying to rip the place?”

“No, I just…I haven’t heard from my friend in a couple days, I’m kinda worried about her.”

The men look at each other. “Yeah, we’ll help you in,” one says. He pulls out a pen-knife and manages to dig the sealant out of the lock of the handle. Georgia pulls out her key and opens the door.

Many things happen at once. Georgia pushes the door inward, then jerks as both men hit her from behind, shoving her into the apartment. She stumbles forward a few feet, but then the force pushing her forward disappears. She stops and turns around.

The men are gone. And she is now covered in a fine coating of white ash.

(Kara: “I assume I have a reasonable suspicion that they were obliterated by Tremere wards?”
Jason: “That is a pretty good guess, yes.”
Kara: “I…can live with that.”)

Once again, never say the Tremere never did anything for anyone.

Georgia closes the door and checks out the place. This place is smaller than the City College facility, more like am office than a lab. There are a couple rooms—one set up with a couple lab benches and one set up with a couple cots—a kitchen, and a desk in the living room. Like City College, the place looks undisturbed. No one is present, but then it’s such a small location that it’s not regularly staffed anyway.

Georgia walks through the space then stops in the middle of the living room. “Van Brugge?”

“…Ja?” his voice replies after a few moments hesitation (as Ben gropes to unmute his microphone).

“The second site looks clear…. There was sealant over the lock, which made it a little hard to get in, and I’m not sure how to replace that, but if there’s nothing else I’m going to lock up and leave.”

Hmm. The sealant is not standard procedure.… How did you end up getting in?

“I, uh…had some help jimming the lock—“

“…You had help jimming the lock?”

“Yeah, but don’t worry, the guys who helped me were vaporized by the wards.”

Ah. And by ‘helping’ this late at night I assume they were being helpful for self-interested purposes?

(That’s rich, coming from a Tremere….)

“Yeah, but. You know. No big deal.”

Ah, good. Well played. Any idea who put the sealant in the locking mechanism?

“I…am guessing it was someone with a can of sealant who didn’t want other people to get in.”

“*sigh* Well obviously….”

In any event, no she has no idea what happened here nor does she have any clues to follow up on. Van Brugge tells her to object-read some things but she sheepishly says that she can’t yet. He sighs and says that Max has obviously been neglecting her training (that’s fine, no one has any problem with blaming everything on Max) and she definitely needs to pick up the skill fast.

In the middle of this lecture her phone rings. Van Brugge goes quiet but hangs around (her head) to listen in as she answers.

It is Doctor VonNatsi! Georgia is very happy to hear from him. He asks her how things are going. She looks at her ashy footprints and says, um, quite well actually, how is he doing?

“Um, zis has been an interesting couple of days, ja…. I was vondering if you vould answer me a qvestion or two?”

“I’d love to!”

“Ven you said to me that you vished to bring me the verevolf, ja, so I could assist you with the verewolf, you said you vould be bringing me the one verewolf und she was unconscious?”

“Um, yes….?”

“You did not mention the two other verewolves who vere not unconscious!!!

“What? There are other werewolves—?“

“JA ZERE ARE OTHER VEREWOLVES!!! ZERE IS ZE BIG VEREWOLF VITH THE SWORD!! Und ze other one KNOCKED OVER MEIN SALAD SPINNER!!! WITH HIS TAIL!!

So, yes, Dr. VonNatsi is still very upset about Stormwalker showing up with a buddy of his to “rescue” Sophia. Dr. VonNatsi would like to know why—despite the fact that Georgia came to him in the first place to ask him to stay out of things—he has been dragged kicking and screaming into the middle of things anyway. She honestly doesn’t know, but while she’s at it, she warns him about Perpenna and asks him to call her if any more strange figures start sniffing around the tower.

Georgia, though, gets a thought, and also asks him if he might be able to locate specific figures, such as Perpenna. He says perhaps, asks why. She cheerfully responds that she wants to kill him.

Siegfried: “Oh. Is zat all? Why?”
Georgia: “Oh, well he killed a bunch of other people and he’s…kinda creepy.”
Siegfried: “…But you are a vampire, ja?”
Georgia: “He’s creepier than me!”
Siegfried: “Oh. Zat is unfortunate. You should arm yourself vith a deathray!”
Georgia: “…Do you have one to spare?”
Siegfried: “Well, nein, one can never have too many deathrays—“
Georgia: “Could you help me make my own?”
Siegfried: “Vell, the problem is the deathrays require a very detailed understanding of the precise science in order to produce the proper act. One can not simply pull out a deathray und kill. Zat would be ridiculous!”

The good doctor hesitates, though, and warily says that he might be able to arrange something, though he doesn’t indicate what it might be. He says he will get back to her on that. They exchange more pleasantries and bid each other good night.

You have a remarkable ability for humoring Etherites,” van Brugge says the moment she hangs up.

“Oh, but he’s lovely, don’t you like him?”

A pause. “I…sort of do, actually…. Well, if we survive and we need to establish diplomatic relations with the Etherites or something, you are going to the top of the list.

Van Brugge instructs her to check the third and final location and to “dispose” of the third man, still unconscious outside, before she leaves. She does this by the simple method of dragging him over and tossing him through the wards as well.

(Jason: “What’s your Humanity score?”
Kara: “Uh…six.”
Jason: *barely containing glee* “I think it’s time for a Humanity roll! As you murder the defenseless, helpless man!”
Kara: “…But I was told to!”
The entire room and Skype call: “OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOH!!!!
Jason: “She was just following orders, ladies and gentlemen!”
Ben: *in van Brugge accent* “I am a German, it’s what we do…”)

She feels bad about it—

(Kara: “Pretty sure he was gonna try to rape me, though.”
Jason: “I know, that’s why I had you roll instead of just giving it to you.”
Kara: “Well, out of game I don’t feel bad about it.”
Jason: “Oh, out of game you shouldn’t feel bad about it.”)

—but is able to move on. She brushes the ash off her robes, locks the door, and wanders off into the night.

#

Paul arrives at Samovar Tea House at the Metreon. It’s close to closing, but they make an exception for Paul Stewart. He sits down at one of the outside tables and orders tea. When it comes he pours himself a cup, but doesn’t drink it, instead just holding it as he stares at the lights of the downtown skyline.

One of the other patrons a few couches down has been staring at Paul since he came in. Paul eventually notices him. When their eyes meet, the man gets up and approaches Paul’s table. He is a dark-skinned man with an impressive mustache and is wearing exquisitely-tailored Edwardian morning dress.

He stops next to Paul’s chair. “Paul Stewart?”

Paul looks up at him. “I am. And you are…?”

“William Leidesdorff.”

Paul extends a hand. “Have a seat, join me.”

“Thank you, I think I will.” William sits down and glances around the patio. “If you would do me a favor? Don’t gesture toward me. No one else can see that I’m sitting at your table.”

Paul nods slowly. “I see.”

William shifts in his chair, adjusting his coat. “So I have a question for you….”

“Alright. I can’t promise I can answer it.”

“Well I think it will be in your best interests to answer it this time.” He leans one arm onto the table, staring intently at Paul. “What exactly do you plan to do on Wednesday? Because I read you as an intelligent, educated man, and an intelligent and educated man knows that there is no way on this Earth that you are going to walk into an arena of Monomancy with Andre Rousimov and walk out alive. Not unless something very, very special is about to happen.” He lifts an eyebrow. “Possibly the same kind of special thing your people have been trying to set up all over the Shark Tank for the last week?”

Paul keeps a very carefully neutral reaction through all this. After the last comment he gestures with his tea. “Oh, yes. Technology demonstrations. You heard about that?”

William doesn’t break his gaze. “Technology isn’t my field. My field is business. But I know enough about the world to know that when someone decides to send an army of workmen to walk all over the place where a Monomancy is about to happen and does so without telling the authorities running the joint…well he just might be up to something. So I was wondering if you might tell me what that is.”

Paul shrugs. “What’s the rush? It’s two days from now, you’re bound to find out then—“

“Well, you see, if what it is happens to be, I don’t know, a hundred pounds of C4 (lol, or Semtex) that would concern me somewhat. Especially if I happened to be in residence at the time it went off.”

“I see. Are you planning to spectate on Wednesday?”

William’s gaze turns into a glare. “I don’t have much of a choice.” He hesitates a moment. “I apologize, I should have introduced myself further. My name is William Leidesdorff, and I’m the Bishop of Palo Alto.”

Paul sets his tea down. “I see….”

“I work for Andre Rousimov, have worked for him for some time.”

Paul uses Diplomacy! “Do you like working for him? You strike me as more of a self-employed type.”

William sighs and rubs his eyes. “Ooooh, that is a long and ugly story. Andre…goes back in this city a ways. I go back a ways further. Let’s leave it at that. But he’s deputed me to find out…well, to find out what in the world it is you’re planning to do, and to make sure nothing interferes with the Monomancy. I’m running security for the operation to make sure the whole place remains secure, and lo and behold…here are all manner of Tesseract people wandering all over the place and setting up meetings to talk about rewiring the lights.”

Paul nods, still keeping his face carefully blank. “Indeed. So I assume you haven’t found anything, then. It seems like a lot of…well, busywork.”

“It does seem like  a lot of busywork, which is why we’re sitting here now having this conversation. Because it would be really unfortunate if I had to tell Andre about all this, because I know what he would do. Ive seen him do it before.”

Paul and William cat-and-mouse each other for a little while, during the course of which Paul learns that while William figured out his people are doing something with the lights, neither does he have any idea what it means, nor has he told anything to Andre about something being up in the first place.

“Ill be frank,” William says. “I’m here to make a deal if I can. My situation is…not as secure as I would like it to be. And there may be a way for me to increase that security somewhat, but in order to do that I would need some forms of guarantee.”

“Such as?”

“Well for one thing, knowing exactly what it is that I’m dealing with, and for another thing, knowing exactly what it is the person who’s planning on employing it intends to do after it’s all over.”

William tries to intimidate Paul by discussing how one could “in theory” rig the place up with explosives, but what an ultimately bad idea that would be. He goes off on discussing the various theoretical logistics of explosives for a while, completely oblivious to the fact that he has missed the mark entirely. Paul lets hims speak, calmly swirling his cup of tea on the table.

Paul brings up the fact that if he was to, in theory, reveal his actual plan, such as it might be, then he would need some guarantees of his own. William points out that Andre is from a sect of the “old country” that reaaaaaally takes the Monomancy seriously and won’t react well to even a rumor that someone is considering messing around with the rules, but since William is the one who’s been put in charge of the investigations, well…who’s to say what information will or will not reach Andre?

Finally, someone who speaks the same language of Saying Things Without Saying Anything that Paul does.

William also brings up the fact that if Andre is taken out, there will be an opening for the title of Archbishop, an opening the Sabbat would certainly like to see filled rapidly and with a minimum of fuss and thus it would certainly be convenient if there was a Bishop in the area already able to fulfill that role. It is also interesting to note that whomever claims praxis over the South Bay would be the one in charge of investigating the death of his predecessor and could pretty much tell the other investigators as little or as much as he likes.

This is the second time tonight Paul has had to discuss these issues but the first time he’s actually marginally enjoyed the conversation.

As to the “guarantees” William mentioned, he said that “this person”—whomever it may be—would need enough information to make sure that “the right people” were the ones to survive the event, and to ensure that “this person’s” own well-being wasn’t being threatened itself. Also, “this person’s” involvement in such a deal would naturally have to remain secret because, quote, “the only thing the Sabbat would hate more than some Camarilla walking in and messing with their rituals is a Bishop helping him.”

If it’s a Bishop. We certainly don’t know, speaking in hypotheticals and all…. Besides, where-ever would we find a disenfranchised Bishop willing to move against Andre?

William stares at the skyline. “I’ve been in this city since long before Andre heard its name, but he’s the boss. And I don’t find that reasonable. I’m tired of working for someone who doesn’t appreciate this area the way I do.” He turns back to Paul. “They call me the Bishop of Palo Alto, but you may have noticed that despite your facility being within spitting distance, you’ve never seen me before? Well there’s a reason for that. My bishopric is more or less an invention of the Sabbat to throw me a bone. Andre keeps his friends and his enemies both equally close and disposes of either whenever he sees fit. If I don’t kill him, it’s only a matter of time before he kills me.”

William suddenly goes tense, eyes darting over Paul’s shoulder. Paul freezes as well. “Someone unwelcome?” he asks quietly.

William licks his lips nervously. “Would…would you do me a kindness, at the moment? Would you turn around and tell me what you see?”

Paul turns around, pretending to fiddle with his coat. A couple people are crossing the patio and a server is straightening up the hostess station a few feet away. No one seems to be paying their table any attention.

“Is there anyone there? Anyone staring directly at us?”

Paul shakes his head. “Not that I see, but it doesn’t mean it’s not there….”

William sighs and rubs his face. “No, in this case I believe it does. Could I possibly prevail upon you for another favor? Could you forget that we just did that? Or endeavor to, at least.” William tears his eyes away from whatever he was staring at and turns to the skyline again, face pained. “It’s…. We all have trials we have to put up with, thanks to our state.”

Paul nods slowly. “I think I follow your meaning.”

“Yes. Yes I hope you do.”

Someone else follows William’s meaning: “Is he a new friend?” Mr. Tails wheedles. “He should be our friend. He’s should plaaaaaay…on the ice!

Paul ignores Mr. Tails, William slips back into business mode, and the negotiations continue. Paul wants to know who would be leaving the arena, since anyone leaving would have at least some knowledge of the sun technology. William says just his people, unless Paul has any objections. Paul doesn’t (but not saying, just saying, at some point he should probably get Marcus’s and my names on the guest list. Just saying.).

William reiterates, of course, that this arrangement will not be valid unless he knows exactly what is going to happen on Wednesday:

“What is it you intend to do, Mr. Stewart? Some form of magic? You didn’t strike me in the background checks as a Tremere.”

Paul chuckles, perhaps taking that as a compliment. “Well, one picks things up, but no, magic is not my game.”

Paul asks for more assurances that William isn’t just tying to mine him for information, information that he will then report to Andrew. William points out that his people already caught Paul’s workers fiddling with the lights and that alone would be enough to Andre to call the thing forfeit:

“If Andre knew, he wouldn’t wait to find out what you have planned. He’d just kill you. You don’t have to believe me on that note but I think you know enough about Andre to guess. And if you don’t believe me, you can ask your little friend.”

Paul raises an eyebrow. “Really? You can hear him too?” William stares at him a moment before it clicks over. “Oh, wait, you mean that other little friend.”

William’s stare turns serious. “Who are you talking about?”

Paul waves it off. “I’m sorry, it’s like you said. We all have our own trials to deal with.”

(Jim: *Laughing hysterically*
Chris: “Good job, Jim. Leaving a lasting scar on the game.”
Jason: “This isn’t going to come up so I’m just going to mention it: he can see Mr. Tails on your shoulder right now, but he assumes he’s hallucinating it.”)

Paul looks at William thoughtfully. “Just out of curiosity, you wouldn’t happen to be able to see a talking squirrel anywhere around, would you?”

William tenses and leans back slightly. “Why?” he asks softly.

“Um, lets just say that it’s something that…interests me from time to time. Though ‘interest’ is maybe a generous word.”

William stares at Paul, still tense. “You’ve been playing around with Malkavians?”

Paul shrugs. “It seems you have as well.”

“I am a Malkavian, sir,” William says, glaring.

(Me: “He’s a Sabbat Malkavian? Thats terrifying!
Jason: “It should be!”)

“And how did you become one?”

“The same way any of us become one, I was bitten,” William snaps. “By a man who regarded my existence as a black man with power in this city as something of anathema. It was the 1840’s. Malkavians are known to bite on spurious grounds just to inflict their torment on someone else.” William shifts in his chair and straightens his coat. “But one rises above.”

Paul nods. “Well…it’s somewhat comforting to have someone else around who can…see this guy.”

William’s stare turns icy again. “Believe me, if you knew the half of it you would not say so. But that’s beside the point. We all have crosses to bear. I could have asked to meet you in an art gallery but I chose not to.”

Back to business. William has literally no clue what Paul is actually up to. Paul decides—partly out of calculated risk, but also probably partly out of pride at the fact that he’s been able to successfully fool the big scary vampires of the area—to lay it out for him:

“You understand our competitive advantage in…well, the internet backbone industry?”

William nods. “I’ve done a bit of research, yes.”

“Our cable is the best around. We can send much more information over it, and that’s because we can send a much broader range of light than anyone else.” He puts his untouched cup of tea, now cold, back on the table. “Including sunlight.”

Silence. Paul stares at the tea, swirling the cup. After a few moments he glances up. William is staring at him, face carefully blank.

“No…” William whispers. He leans forward. “You’d put sunlight through the lights?

Paul shrugs, still slowly swirling the cup. “We can. It’s not just the Shark Tank that’s wired.”

“My God…. How long have you been doing this?”

“About a year.”

“…Why?

Paul uses Environmental Awareness Talking Points! “Well, power generation for home lighting accounts for 164 CO2 piped into the atmosphere every year. Why? Because we had the technology and it’s simply the right thing to do.”

William shakes his head in awe. “The right thing to do? I think I know a number of people who would disagree with you on that point, and I think you know some of them as well.”

“Well, there’s a simple thing to do when you’re out of your element, and that’s just Do the Right Thing.”

“How in the world is piping sunlight across the planet doing the right thing?”

Paul shrugs again. “Well, for my immediate circumstance, it solves the problem of a room full of angry vampires. But the applications are truly endless.”

“If you’re fixing to get yourself murdered by some paranoid elder, that is. You see, I don’t really understand what fiberoptic cable is, I’m 180 years old, you will forgive me. But an elder? One the  age of…your associate? One who has never heard of electricity before, or who thinks it’s some form of Tremere magic? One who thinks the whole rest of the modern world is some nightmare he’s trying to wake up from?—“

(Jim: “Yarr.”)

“—He’s going to hear that you can pipe sunlight through the lights? Well, he’ll kill you just to make sure.”

Paul sighs. He’s already gotten this speech once tonight and he didn’t like it the first time. “There are levels of retribution I’m willing to deal with.”

“I seriously doubt that. But then….” William shrugs and leans back. “If all goes well, no one needs to know what happened underneath the lights.”

Paul and William continue to circle each other carefully through discussion and eventually realize they are at a stalemate. With nothing to lose, they might as well move forward with their agreement. They discuss logistics. William points out that sunlight is not an instantaneous death for most vampires and some—perhaps many—will be able to stumble around in search of safety for full minutes, possible longer. Paul suggests setting it up so that there is one obvious looking point of exit, but that exit leads to more sunlight. William agrees that there is certainly a droll macabre element to it, but he would prefer if instead his people were set up at the escape point with fire.

William warns, though, that if Andre escapes the solar lights, even fire wouldn’t be enough to stop him.

Paul is…well, not so much thrilled, but very relieved at the idea of William taking over as Bishop of San Jose, since he speaks Paul’s language of Rationality and Technology (or at least, openness to technology). William says, though, that just declaring himself as Andre’s successor is not enough. He needs some sort of gesture to reinforce his claim of praxis among the local Sabbat.

A gesture…like a strike against the Camarilla. William needs, quote, a “sacrificial lamb,” and he needs Paul to set it up. Someone important. A Prince would be nice (and no one would protest that day), but a Primogen would do.

Paul taps the rim of his teacup. “Would…a former primogen do?”

William frowns. “Who did you have in mind?”

“The former Malkavian Primogen in San Francisco. Sebastian.”

“Sebastian? I heard he was dead….”

“He is.” (Again.) “But I don’t think that information has travelled too far yet. You would be welcome to claim his demise.”

William stares at Paul, puzzled. “I thought he burnt to death.”

“That was the plan, but he survived that. He didn’t survive the sword to the neck.”
William snorts. “Few of us do.”

William agrees that Sebastian’s head might do, especially since apparently he was up to something with the Sabbat. William’s not sure what it was, but whatever he was doing hanging around with Andre was just the tip of the iceberg.

The last important question, of course, is how to not burn up themselves. Paul has a plan for this, though: rotating patches in the arena where the sunlight isn’t activated. Cleverly, those patches will be masked by regular lights in concert with the solar lights, so the difference between where the sun isn’t and isn’t won’t be as obvious. The details on this will have to be hammered out later but for now William agrees that it is an ingenious plan indeed.

“Well, I’m just full of bright ideas,” Paul says, lifting his cup.

William chuckles (although Jason most definitely does NOT). “I think we can do business along these markets, Mr. Stewart.”

“Is there a name other than William I should use with you?”

William stares at the skyline again, taking a slow breath. “So many of us pick up other names. So-and-So the Unholy. What’s-His-Name the Inscrutable. Garvax the…Ill-Odored, I don’t know….” He turns back to Paul. “William Leidesdorff was my name when I was alive and it will do just fine for me now.”

The two of them are now alone on the patio, save for the server hovering in the corner, trying to look as politely impatient as possible. Paul takes the hint and gets up to leave. William, though, stays seated.

William’s eyes dart across the patio. “If you don’t mind, I am going to stay here a while. I have to…well, I have to wait for my own personal difficulties to subside.”

Paul nods, bids him farewell, and leaves him alone on the patio, staring into the lights of the city.

On his way back to his car, Paul messages Sophia. He wants to meet to discuss hiring her hacking skills for the show on Wednesday. She agrees, and tells him to meet her at the Arboretum.

Which is back in the park. In werewolf territory. But Paul goes anyway.

#

Nothing immediate has turned up in Anstis’ and my search for clues. I’m getting bored and want to get back to the city to pursue a lead of my own, but Anstis is still intent on scoping out the shipping yard. We shared  a ride and I feel bad about ditching him—especially in front of Helgi—so I slouch against the outside of the container while he wanders around.

First thing Anstis does is call up some bird-friends from the area to see if any of them have noticed anything interesting in the area in the last week. Unfortunately, they’re, you know, seagulls, so all they really remember are dead rats and a couple empty fast-food bags.

“You almost done here, Dr. Dolittle?” I yell. Anstis shoots me a perplexed look. I wave it off and go back to sulking.

Anstis turns to Helgi. “Have you killed anyone around these parts lately?”

Helgi chuckles and considers the question. “Hmm. Well the killing’s been running together…. Why?”

To my surprise, Anstis looks uncomfortable. “Well…if you had…offended certain groups by killing some of their members, they might be a good place to look.”

Helgi laughs explosively, scattering the remaining seagulls left in the area. “Well, I’ll have to remember not to offend certain people by killing them.”

Anstis apparently decides to change the subject and points out that some sort of Lasombra shadow-teleport could easily have gotten someone inside the crate, and since Marcus and Helgi have a history, could it have been him?

“If Marcus wanted something from me he wouldn’t steal it,” Helgi says.

(Kara: “He’d make Tom steal it.”
Chris: “Yeah. Not as a test, just as management. His management style is ‘Bad’.”)

“If he did take it,” Helgi continues, “he’d have left a note.” (Me: “And that’s why…you always leave a note.”) Helgi chuckles. “He still hasn’t forgiven me for that whole mess with the Toreadors, though.”

I…am suddenly a lot more interested in the conversation.

(Jason: “…You son of a bitch….”)

Anstis raises an eyebrow. “Is there a tale you could be telling about this?”

(Jason: “OH GODDAMIT!!!!”

Jason sputters indignantly at Cameron for awhile, then finally grits his teeth and lets him tell the story, but uses that time to take Kara off-scene for secret stuff. He and Kara abscond to the back room for almost half an hour for…whatever the hell happened. Meanwhile, the rest of us cozy up to hear the tale of Marcus and the Toreadors)

So there we were in Constantinople, back before it was Istanbul. We had just burned the Bogomils out of the city. 

“The whose-it whats now?” I interrupt.

“Bogomils. Christians the other Christians hated, so it was alright to kill them. “

Anyway, we had done this, and we had killed a Toreador that had been meeting them. I can’t recall his name—it was the childe of Michael, one of the leaders of the city, but he had fallen out of favor, in part because he had fallen in with the servants of Jormungander. 

We were looking for some things and Marcus was looking for…Perpenna, interestingly enough. You see, Marcus had been asleep for nearly a thousand years and he had no idea what had happened to Perpenna. But here he was, come across someone who knew of Perpenna’s name, though we had disposed of the man at the time.

But there were other Toreadors. The…you would call him Primogen, now, I think?…was holding a party. A person we knew had been staying at the Primogen’s mansion after it had been nearly burned, and he had an invitation, as he was of their blood.

Now, at the party, I decided I was going to go and make friends. I’d learned enough Greek on my way to this place that I could compose in it well enough, and I’d learned enough Latin from Marcus to be able to compose in that. I took one of the great sagas and composed it in Norse, and Greek, and in Latin.

I stood up in my chain and leather—

 

“Hot.”

—And I spoke of the tales of the North, in three different tongues at once. The entire room stood silent as I spoke.

And the Toreador Primogen, the leader of them there in Constantinople, why if he still lived he would have been moved to tears. He wondered, how a Northman could speak such wonderful words? And I said, the words themselves come from the stories and the greatness of the tales, but the way to speak them, in part, came of Marcus. He taught me the words. After that, the Primogen arranged a meeting between him and Marcus and they spoke of the old times, back in Rome.

But despite this, Marcus was never very happy, because for weeks after, every time he would go to see the Primogen: “Oh, Marcus! Did you bring Helgi?” Marcus was tasked to to bring me with him every time he went to visit, so that the Primogen might hear the stories again.

I remember afterwards we left the city, the Primogen was still struck dumb every time someone spoke of me. He fawned over my tales, likening them to that of Homer, or Tacitus or…one of the other ones.

I wonder if he ever found another teller of tales as me. I think he died in one of the crusades.

I nod vacantly. “It…seems like most people did.…”

I am considering ways in which I might use this information to tease Marcus—while still surviving the conversation—when something occurs to me. “Wait…you said Marcus was looking for Perpenna a thousand years ago, why was he so surprised to see him here?”

Helgi shrugs. “Well we thought we’d killed him! We fought, it was an epic battle. Much like the sagas…In fact, I composed one! It’s etched into a wall somewhere, but I forget where….”

Anstis, too, seems perplexed by this. “How did you think him dead, when he apparently be not?”

“That’s a good question. I suspect he may be draugr. One of Jormungandr’s greater servants. Perhaps a jotun.”

“Could you tell us more about these?” Anstis asks, apparently clicking every option in the dialogue tree.

“Ah, well you generally can tell them by the stretching of their skin over their bones. They appear to be corpses more than others. Some people back then called them Cappadocians. They tormented the living, often bringing them back to life after having killed them. Most unnatural. And most of them would not be harmed by simple weapons. To get rid of them, you had to drag them back to their grave, wrestling the entire way. Their art is a dark one, to be certain. Raising the dead like that…unnatural.” Helgi shakes his head. “It could be Perpenna was of their number, or perhaps he was brought back some other way. Truly he was a servant of evil.”

We ask Helgi how they killed Perpenna last time. Unfortunately, Marcus was the one who actually struck the killing blow and Helgi wasn’t around to see. Helgi does not doubt, though, that Marcus would have ensured Perpenna was dead. Helgi can’t remember many other details, it being so long ago. The best thing for it would be to check the inscription of the saga, but of course he cannot remember where it is.

(And that’s why…you always leave a note.)

Helgi starts reminiscing fondly of other epics he’s written, apparently scattered on rockfaces across Europe. Many of them were events like onto Ragnarok in terms of scale, but of course they weren’t really Ragnarok. He says he’ll know when Ragnarok is approaching because of the signs.

I frown. Ragnarok. Armageddon. Gehenna. These are all words I’m hearing a lot of these days. “Are…any of the things we’ve been seeing around here lately some of those signs?”

Helgi thinks. “Well the first sign is three years winter with no summer in between—“

I snort. “That’s San Francisco every year, sir.”

Helgi raises an eyebrow. “Is it? Interesting…. Perhaps it is fortuitous that I am in the area.”

The conversation wanders. Now that we’re becoming BFFs, I tell Helgi that Marcus told us to mock Odin in front of him. He laughs and makes it clear that that would have been a rather poor idea. My missing arm is also brought up. I say that I’m working on healing it but I don’t have the blood at the moment. Helgi, though, kindly offers to summon some animals for me to feed on so I can top-off.

“I could call up whatever you prefer,” he says. “Strays. Rats. Birds. …Those pigeons, they’re everywhere!”

(Me: “NOOOOO sleepy pigeons!!!! 😦 😦 :(“
*Stunned silence*
Me: “…See, there’s a flock of pigeons that roost at the Bart station and at night they’re all fluffy and cute and—”
Jim: “Colleen is a slight bird lover, I don’t know if you’ve picked up on this.”)

(We still need to kill time for Jason and Kara to come back so) Helgi regales us with more tales of his adventures and his lost culture of the North. The common thread through all of these ramblings, though, is clear: Helgi views himself as a honorable man and respects those of similar integrity.

Helgi folds his arms and draws himself up proudly. “If you can show me that you are a virtuous person, I care not how you look, I care not how you act, beyond the fact that you have your virtue.” He looks intently at each of us. “When faced with conflict, do you shy away or stand tall? Do you bear the scars of battle proudly? Do you avenge when wronged?”

I glance at my missing hand. Anstis, too, looks thoughtful.

Helgi turns to me. “I do not believe you would have been in Marcus’s service long, if you did not share at least some virtues. Marcus and I…have not always seen eye to eye on everything (looooool) but he does have integrity.”

I rub my face. “I’ve…definitely had worse jobs, that’s for sure.”

“I can imagine. After all, you are serving two masters, and one of them is in the Camarilla.”

What, the Prince? No, fuck that gu—Oh. Bell. I shrug. “It’s…not so much serving as…trying to impress him….” I mutter.

Anstis snorts. “Let me give you some advice. You follow your own path.”

I stare off into the yellow-and-black shadows of the shipping yard thoughtfully. Meanwhile (Jason and Kara come back and Jason OK’s the pigeon summoning so) Anstis calls in some pigeons for my “fast food.” I shrug and get to feeding (while IRL I curl up on my chair fake-sobbing, keening about how fluffy they are).

While Helgi and I are distracted with the pigeons, Anstis wanders off, ducking out of sight behind another container row. Despite being a swaggering pirate, he does this stealthily, avoiding attracting our attention.

For you see, Anstis has a secret.…

…He knows Necromancy.

His story is that he diablerized a Giovanni on a captured ship during his pirating days. Ships are lost at sea all the time so the Giovanni never investigated, and Anstis has been very, very, very careful to keep his secret, from everyone—even his most trusted crew—ever since.

Right now, he wants to use it to cast Witness of Death and try to interrogate some ghosts around the yard. He double checks to make sure Helgi and I can’t see him, and casts it.

(Jason: “I’m not exactly sure how it works, remind me?”
Jim: *reads* “Can see, hear, feel, and smell the dead. Ghosts don’t like being spied upon and may react…Lasts the scene…umm…Botch means you only see the dead for the scene.”
Me: “Psssh, good thing you never botch, then.”

Jim rolls his dice…and receives ones. Ones for daaaaaays.

Jason: “Well, look at you, Mr. I Never Botch!”)

The world drops away, swallowed by haze. No shipping containers, no lights, no sign of Helgi and myself, nothing. Anstis whirls around. The mists fade to darkness in every direction, but within the mists…things are moving. Shapes rippling like oil slicks across the gloom, circling Anstis.

Circling him…and getting closer.

The ones closest to Anstis take on recognizable forms as they approach, forms of people who have died in the shipping yard. Dock workers, gang members, prostitutes, even some native peoples from the prehistory of the shore. They drift closer to Anstis, but their staring, hungry eyes don’t seem to have noticed him yet.

Except one. One workman, dressed in a hardhat and utility clothes, is staring intently at Anstis. Anstis meets his eyes. The man stares back, unblinking, then starts walking closer.

#

Paul has reached the Arboretum (funfact: in grad school we once were trying to explain to someone what an arboretum was and my friend Megan said, “It’s a zoo for trees.”) for his meeting with Sophia. Paul goes to the designated meeting spot and, shockingly, finds a wolf sitting in the middle of the lawn. A wolf wearing a tablet like a backpack. Paul walks closer and the wolf shifts up into Sophia.

She looks…better? Not great, but a lot more healed than any of us was expecting, even for a werewolf. At least her chest isn’t blown open anymore.

“You look…better….” Paul says by way of greeting.

She shrugs, arms folded tightly across her chest. “Should I ask what happened?”

“Are you familiar with the Society of Leopold?” She shakes her head, perplexed. “Weird bunch of guys. One of them had a Bible that he used to whack Tom around. Burned like fire.”

“I don’t think Tom reads much.”

Paul smirks. “That may be true, but this was something supernatural. But here’s the even weirder thing. A few days later we saw the exact same person, even though he should have been dead….” Paul trails off, frowning in concern. “Oh, and then he turned into an ancient vampire. I don’t really understand it.”

Sophia is also surprised and perplexed by this, but doesn’t seem to have much to add, so the conversation moves on. Paul talks about needing a hacker to take control of the light boards at the Shark Tank. Sophia presses him for more info and he says it’s for the Monomancy with Andre. She is surprised that this is the plan, since, duh, won’t the light burn Paul too? He says he’s working on a plan for that. She asks how he’s going to get away with rigging the place without them knowing, but he says that they already do know, in a way, but not to worry cause it’ll be an inside job. He assures her that she doesn’t need to be on site, that all she needs to do is set up the software remotely and he can take it from there.

While he talks, she glances over his shoulder, staring into the shadows of the landscaping. Paul frowns. “Something wrong?”

She stares for a moment then shakes her head, clutching her arms tighter. “It’s…nothing. It’s the park, there’s things around here. Spirits. Ones that don’t like you.”

They talk more about what happened in Berkeley. She was understandably surprised when she found out she wound up in Sutro Tower, both at the fact that we thought to do it and that Dr. VonNatsi agreed to go along with it. Even though she’s dealt with him before, he—and apparently all mages—are pretty crazy and everyone is generally advised to stay away from them.

Speaking of the fact that she’s dealt with him before, Paul brings up the dagger, and the fact that Sophia apparently requested that Dr. VonNatsi make one just a couple weeks before the attack at Elysium.

Sophia rubs her arms and glances around the clearing again. “That’s…well…. “ She sighs. “I don’t think it concerns you but I don’t really know what’s been going on around here.”

“Well that powerful demon or vampire seemed to be the sire of Marcus, whom I’m sure Tom has told you about. And I’m not quite working for him but I do have some arrangement with him.”

Sophia looks down and sighs. “I don’t know Marcus, but I know the stories. And they’re not good at all. Not even by suckhead standards. I mean, vampires kill people, we’re used to that, but this one…. They talk about him like he’s some kind of demon.” She looks up at Paul. “They call him the Devourer of Innocence. You don’t get a name like that just by killing people.”

Paul frowns. “Innocence, or plural of innocent?”

(Me: “HA, I asked the same thing first time I heard.”)

Sophia clarifies and Paul shrugs. “I don’t know, he’s…odd. There’s a strange code he seems to adhere to.”

“Really? Do you know what that code’s actually about?”

“I assume it’s about being an irritating prick.”

Sophia shakes her head slowly. “Paul, that guy has a huge amount of dirt on his head. If the others knew he was in town, I don’t know what they’d do.”

“At this point, I’d be surprised if they didn’t know.”

“Well, there’s other things they’re concerned with now. But if they knew you were involved with him?” She meets his eyes. “You’re a lot easier to get at than he is. And so’s Tom.”

Paul rolls his eyes. “Something tells me Tom can survive anything.”

“No. He can’t.” She suppresses a shudder. “I don’t know exactly what the Devourer did but the stories are…terrible. We’re talking like demon stuff. Human sacrifice. Rituals. Decades worth. Terrorizing entire countries. You don’t earn that kind of a name in one night.”

She tells him he should distance himself from Marcus but Paul points out that he is probably too entangled at this point to get out easily. She says fine, but be careful not to let any of the other werewolves know that he’s associated with Marcus, or even that Marcus is in town, cause they could very well tear the city apart to reach either of them. Or even Sophia herself, if they realized she was involved too.

Anyway. She agrees to do the wire-work for the Monomancy and will contact Paul with more information about it later. In the meantime, she advises him to keep his head down.

“It’s been weird couple of weeks,” she says, glancing around the park again. “Even for us.”

“What’s been going on?”

“I don’t really know. Just a lot of bad stuff in the air. The Talons are here and everyone else is running around on eggshells because of it. They’re looking for something, looking at you guys, but no one knows what for. We’re all kinda worried about them.”

Paul scowls and stares unseeingly into the distance. “You wanna know something that has been bothering me since I began learning about the supernatural world? It seems like everyone has all these plans that they’ve been working on for thousands of years, but no one has actually accomplished anything. You’d think people would realize what they’re doing doesn’t seem to work.”

Sophia snorts. “Well, now you understand why our policy is usually ‘Fuck it, kill them all.’ “

“That doesn’t seem to be working either.”

“Ask the guys we kill.” She shakes her head. “Anyway, if there’s nothing else, I gotta get out of here.”

Paul pulls himself out of his reverie. “No, that’s it. Um, ok, well…be careful.”

She nods. “You too.”

Moments later, the clearing is lit up by a flash of light, then rocked by an explosive wall of sound. Paul and Sophia stumble to the grass in a panic. As they reorient themselves, they see a fireball rising over the trees to the west, the light of the flames lighting the park around them.

Sophia climbs back to her feet, gaping at the cloud. “Oh…my god….” she says, voice quavering. Before Paul can ask her what’s going on, she shifts back to wolf form and sprints off in the direction of the explosion.

Paul hesitates a moment, then runs back to his car so he can follow her.

(Me: “Why. Does everything. In this fucking city. Explode.”)

END OF NIGHT.

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