3/20/14

Me: “Oh shit! Don’t go to Chinatown!”
Chris: “You never go full-Chinatown.”
Jason: “Forget it, Jake.”
*blank stares*
Jason: “Really? No one gets that?”
Me: “Is it from Big Trouble in Little China?”
Jason: “What? No! It’s from the movie Chinatown!”
Jim: “There’s a movie named Chinatown?”
Chris: “With Kurt Russell?”

***

Anstis and I are still in the storage locker, staring at the chained, desiccated corpse of Slayer. I’m trying to decide what to do with him. I could turn him over to Helgi, certainly, which might make an interesting show, but I’m starting to think that he might be more useful as a personal bitch. I could just leave him for now and decide later (but something tells me that if I leave him in this storage locker, with our rapid plot and slow time rate I would never see him again).

 While deciding, I check my messages and see the text from Paul warning me about the building possibly exploding. “Fuck….”I mutter. Now my conscience definitely won’t let me leave him here.

Whelp, just because I’m taking him with me doesn’t mean he has to be awake to do so. I dig around the unit and come up with a good-sized duffel bag. I wrench the chains off of him and stuff his torso into the bag, careful not to dislodge the stake. He fits alright, but unfortunately his excess limbs do not. I go find a second bag to put them in.

#

Paul and Georgia drag the arsonist-man back into the lobby. They too are faced with a conundrum. He’s not dead, but he’s pretty unconscious from Paul feeding on him and obviously isn’t going to wake up anytime soon. They still want to interrogate him, but don’t know what to do with him until then.

They decide to just fuck it. Paul calls an ambulance and reports a man unconscious on the street. They then drag him back out of the lobby and leave him on the corner, under a street light. Georgia releases the chains, which immediately soaks the man in water. Paul calls for a company car, which the two of them take without waiting for Anstis and me.

Assholes.

#

I sling my bags filled with Slayer on my shoulders and leave the storage room, expecting Anstis to follow. Anstis, though, returns to his box of gold near the door. He can lift it, but it’s too heavy to carry very far, even for his Gangrel strength. He finds a wheeled dolly-thing in the corner of the room, hoists it onto that, and fortunately has enough intelligence to know that he should take this to the elevator instead of the stairs.

(Jim: “I’m liking my rolls tonight! This will end!”)

I exit the building, expecting to find Georgia and Paul, but find nothing but a soaking-wet man on the sidewalk.

“Son of a bitch,”I mutter, staring up and down the empty street. I drop the duffel bags and pull out my phone to call a rideshare car. Moments later, Anstis wheels up behind me with his dolly.

“What the hell did you get, son?”I ask, staring at the crate.

“You found your treasure, I found mine,”he says, beaming.

I frown down at my bags. “Yeah, this is some treasure, I’m real excited about this.”

A car pulls up. I open the trunk to hoist my bags in and the driver gets out to help.

It’s Adam. Of fucking course.

I stare at him as I unload my bags. He just grins back calmly.

“Could I be having some help? It’s quite heavy,”Anstis says. Still staring at Adam, I grab one side of Anstis’s box. The unexpected weight makes me stumble.

“What the…What did you—Wait, treasure?? Anstis avoids my eye. “Is this literally a box of gold?!”

Anstis doesn’t answer. We drop the crate into the car, rocking the suspension considerably. Adam closes the trunk.

“What are you going to do with it!? You can’t just walk into a bank with a bunch of bars of gold!”Anstis continues to ignore me and gets in the back of the car. I glare at him through the window as I pass and climb in the passenger seat.

Adam is already back in the driver’s seat. He turns to me with his smooth grin as I fumble with my seatbelt. “Long night?”he asks.

I turn my glare on him. “They’re. All. Long. Nights.”I grumble.

“Savor them,”he says, still smiling. “One day they may be too short.”He starts the car and pulls away from the curb.

I tell Adam to take me to my apartment in the Tenderloin. He glances in the mirror and asks Anstis where he wants to go.

“Tom, you mind if I stay with you for the night?”Anstis drawls. I slouch in my seat. Just. Fucking. Great.

“Fine, but I’m not sharing my bathtub,”I mumble. I spend the ride staring out the window, trying not to think too hard about what my (un)life has become.

#

Paul and Georgia are on their way down-Peninsula when Paul gets a call from Klaus. Apparently some men have shown up at Tesseract and want to speak with Paul. Klaus does say “men,”though, not monsters or vampires, so that’s an improvement. He says these men are acting calmly, but their presence is starting to disturb some people due to the fact that they have, quote, extremely large quantities of firepower with them. Paul says he’s on his way and hangs up.

Georgia asks what’s up. He says that their plan to interrogate the gargoyle we accidentally captured—who is still in a sarcophagus at Paul’s Portola house—will have to wait, as Paul needs to make a sidequest detour.

#

Adam drops us off outside my apartment building. We unload the bags and the crate onto the sidewalk with meaty-thwacks and a clanging thump, respectively.

Adam nods his head. “Have a good night, what’s left of it. And be careful with that crate.”

“I will,”Anstis says. I stare at the crate with a new, rising paranoia.

Adam drives off. I grab Anstis’s arm. “Did you check that crate for explosives?”

He stares at me. “I opened the crate,”he grumbles.

“But did you look under the bars of the top layer?”

“No….”he says.

I pull him closer to my face. “Everything…in this fucking city…explodes,”I hiss through gritted teeth. “We gotta check that entire thing out.”

Of course we cant start unloading gold bars onto the sidewalk, though, so the best thing to do is get it inside ASAP.

(Jason: “So. How you gonna get that thing up the stairs? There’s no elevator in your building.”
Me: “…BUT IM ON THE FIRST FLOOR!!! 😀 😀 :D”
*I cheer and high-five Jim as Jason glowers at me*
Jason: “I’m gonna make it so this building is like the TARDIS and your apartment is on whatever floor is the least convenient.”
Me: “Oh my god, it’s like Oldenborg Dorm!”
Jim: “What, like you go up four floors and you’re still on the same floor?”
Jason and me: “YES.”</reference from college>)

I drop off my bags of Slayer and help Anstis manhandle the crate up into my apartment. I close the door behind us and metaphorically breathe a sigh of relief. I never thought I’d be so relieved to be back in this shithole. I haven’t spent a day at home for three nights, but somehow it feels more like two and a half months.

Anstis starts rummaging through his crate, carefully checking it for explosives. I watch him quietly for a few seconds. I have a lot on my mind at the moment, am very concerned about many things, but the sun is coming up soon and I need to prioritize what I’m going to deal with first.

I glance at the bags and decide that I should follow this thread to its next logical step first. Marcus knows this Accio guy Slayer mentioned so hopefully he’ll have some more information for me. I’m a little hesitant to call, considering what happened the last time, but I figure this is something he’ll be more interested in. He doesn’t answer, so I leave a quick message saying I have some information and ask him to call me back.

Next point of importance: blood. I am running very low, so low that when I wake up tomorrow I will be on the knife-edge of frenzying. It’s obviously way too late to go to the clubs, though. I stand in the middle of the room and consider my options.

None of them look good.

(Me: “So, I’m at four blood points, which means tomorrow I’ll be at two….”
Jason: “No, you’ll be at two unless you decide not to heal.”
Kara: “Doesn’t he need two because of the flaw?”
Jason: “No, one to wake up and one to repair the disease. He doesn’t have to repair it.”
Me: “…What would I wake up looking like?”
Jason: “Sick.”
Me: “…All the way sick?”
Jason: “Open-lesions sick.”
*Quiet in the room for a few moments*
Jason: “You took the flaw!”
Me: “I know!!! I just….”*trails off into silence as I process this*
Kara: “Damn, AIDS is inconvenient.”

Here’s my conundrum. On the one hand, as soon as I get some more blood I can heal myself, so I could just suck up being sick again for awhile. But the problem is I rely on my “safeherd”of contacts in and around the clubs with known HIV+ status so that I can feed without infecting more people. Many of these people (mostly men, but not all) see me often and would get suspicious if I suddenly showed up with serious symptoms out of the blue, symptoms which disappeared just as suddenly a few days later.

And of course there’s the strong possibility that I wouldn’t be let into the clubs in the first place, looking like that.

Not to mention the fact that I don’t know if I could bear seeing myself in that condition—and everything it’s a reminder of—again.

(Ben: “You should probably get something to eat, then.”
Me: “I KNOW!!!
Chris: “Yeah, or you might go Full Brujah.”
Me: “…In my apartment?”
Chris: “I wonder what your neighbors taste like.”
Kara: “You are in the Tenderloin….”
Ben: “Look, sweetheart, this is what transients and prostitutes are for.”)

Yeah, but nobody deserves that, especially if I can help it.

(Ben: “Uhh…Rob a blood bank?”
Jason: “Yeah, cause there’s a lot of those in the Tenderloin.”
Chris: “You know what there is a lot of in the Tenderloin? Pigeons.”
Jason: “And look who doesn’t have Animalism!”
Me: “…But look who has a new roommate!!”)

“Heeeeeeeey, roomie,”I turn to Anstis. He’s crouched over his crate, a few bars unpacked and stacked next to him. He’s holding a bar to his mouth, biting it experimentally.

He stops mid-bite. “Roomie?”he growls.

“Are you able to call animals like Helgi did?”

He thinks for a moment. “Aye, I can do that.”

“Think…maybe you could call up more pigeons, if I open my window?”(“I can’t believe I’m asking for more pigeons….”)

Anstis stands up. “I suppose I could. But in exchange, I’d like something.”

My melancholy evaporates into irritation. “Exchange?! I just helped you haul your gold all over town and I don’t even want any of it!”

He folds his arms. “I’ll call up yer animals, but in exchange, I want you to explain everything that has changed about the financial system.”

(Me: “I…do have one dot in Finance!”)

“Urg, fine,”I agree. Anstis asks which animals I prefer.

(Me: “Lets start with rats.”
Kara: “Oh, I get it, mammals just aren’t fluffy and cute enough for you?”
Jim: *rolls* “One success.”
Jason: “Okay. One fucking rat shows up.”
Me: “…I eat it.”
Jim: “Okay let me try for pigeons.”*rolls* “…One success!”
Jason: “One goddamn pigeon shows up. Do you eat the pigeon?”
Me: *fake crying* “…Yes!”
*Many people in the room and on Skype make adorable-pigeon noises at me while I do so*)

Urg, this is getting nowhere. I tell Anstis to try calling cats, which he has more success with. Three cats show up in my open window.

(*Many people in the room and on Skype make mewling noises*
Chris: “Does one of them look like Indy??”
Jason: “Yes.”
Kara: “…Is one of them orange??”
Jason: “Yes.”
Chris: “This is my saddest moment, after Carlos’s death.”)

I quickly grab and dispatch two of them before I can think about it too much.

Just as I am about to lay into the third one, though, something large barrels through my open window. It grabs the cat from my hands and lands on the floor behind me. Anstis and I yell and jump back. The intruder is dark and hunched, with long wings mantled over the carcass and trailing onto the floor.

Feathery wings, touched with gold.

“Aquilifer!!” I yell, throwing my arms in the air (as if she were a cat I was in proximity to).

Anstis is still standing back, eyes wide. “I didn’t call that one…”

“No, she’s with me. Kind of.” I step over to the window and look outside. Marcus doesn’t seem to be around so I assume she came on her own.

(Also, just in case anyone doubts her ability to dive through my open window)

I turn to Anstis. “Can you talk to her?”

“Aye, I’ll try.”Anstis makes eye contact with her the next time she looks up from the cat. “What is your purpose here?”

She eyes him obliquely for a moment before responding. “The Small One told me to come.

“Are you to deliver a message?”

She tilts her head. “Message?

Anstis gestures to me. “What do you want to say to this one?”

She looks at me, then opens her wings slightly, a bare whisper of baby-bird begging position. “Steak?”she chirrups.

Anstis relays the translation to me. I immediately walk to the mini fridge and pull out the rest of the grass-fed steaks I got a few nights ago. They’re at the edge of their shelf-life but Aquilifer doesn’t seem to mind. She tears into them with the same gusto she tore into the cat.

“Why did Marcus send you?”Anstis asks.

She looks up at him, gore dripping off her beak. “Send?

Anstis gropes for different phrasing. “Why did…the ‘Small One’…tell you to come here?”

He didn’t,”she twitters, leaning back over the steak.

Anstis translates for me again. We stare at each other a moment, confused.

And that’s when the closet door behind us creaks open and Marcus steps out of the shadows within.

Once again I throw up my arms. “Boss!! Wow! Cool!”

Aquilifer bolts down the last chunk of steak and bounds over to him in a half-winged jump. Now that she’s healthy and in one piece, its obvious that she’s almost as tall as he is. He reaches out to rest a hand on her shoulder while she leans over to scrape-clean her beak on the floor.

“You left a message?”he says by way of greeting.

“Ah yes, um…you remember Slayer? The one…who introduced us?”

“I remember the name,”he says flatly.

I take a breath. “Yes, well, he apparently says your guy Accio, from the boat job, is the one behind all the Semtex being moved around. The one who stole it from Helgi and sold it to Himmler.”

Marcus processes that a moment, then sighs dramatically and shakes his head. “Oooh…I warned him…. But no one listens….”

I hesitate. I don’t know what reaction I was expecting, but it certainly wasn’t this, a sort of resigned disappointment. I could just as easily be telling him I forgot to put gas in his car.

I glance at Anstis. “Warned him…about fucking with Helgi?”

Marcus rubs his head. “Among other things.”

“I thought you two weren’t on very good terms?”

“We aren’t.” Marcus shoots me a look. “But we’ve been around awhile. Circumstances change. I knew his sire.”

Speaking of: “Helgi claims you killed your sire,”Anstis chimes in.

“My sire?”Marcus turns to him. “Well, a week ago I would have told you yes, but it appears there may have been…a slight error.”His face goes dark and withdrawn. I glance nervously at the shadows in the closet behind him.

“Helgi says you struck the killing blow. May I ask how you went about it?”Anstis asks.

Marcus stares at him a moment, then draws his sword, his glaudius, from the sheath on his back. “This,”he says, brandishing it against the light.

“Beheading?”

“No.”He flips it once. “I cut his heart out with it.”

I blink. “Does that work?”

“It should,”Anstis says.

“It does,”Marcus replies, still staring at the blade. “I assure you it does. Decapitation is more efficient, but…well there was a personal stake.”He looks up at us. “I cut out his heart and I watched him crumble to ash,”he says, the edge in his voice rivaling that of the sword.

“How did he survive that?”Anstis asks.

Marcus stares out the window a moment before answering. “…I don’t know,”he says crisply. “He shouldnt have. If I thought he had a chance of surviving it I wouldn’t have done it.”

“Are you sure it was actually him?”

“No,”Marcus says promptly. “No I’m not. Not at this point.”

“Well the other people associated with him have definitely come back from mortal wounds, including mortals,”I add.

Marcus nods. “Yes…yes it would appear. I don’t know what’s going on. I have…feelers out to try and figure it out. But I’ve never seen anything like this before and I’ve been around awhile.”

He’s quiet for a moment, watching Aquilifer preen, then shakes his head and re-sheathes his sword. “But that’s beside the point. Accio is a bit player who has delusions of being a much greater one. So Slayer was working with him?”

I tell him Slayer’s story of meeting the guy in Pacifica and passing along the information about Helgi and the Semtex. Even though Slayer doesn’t seem to have been directly involved, Marcus suggests I take him to Helgi anyway, as Helgi can, quote, “show me things.”

Again, could be fun, but it also doesn’t sit well with me. I shrug and kick one of the duffel bags. “I don’t know, he might be useful to me still.”

Marcus sighs. “Well do as you would then, I have no particular interest in him. Although he was the one who sent you after me, wasn’t he?”

I smirk. “Yes, that’s why he’s in two bags, not one.”

Marcus glances at the bags, perplexed. He unzips the one closest to him. It’s the one with the limbs in it. He raises an eyebrow. “I see….”

Anstis unzips the other one and pulls out Slayer’s unconscious torso by the hair. Marcus looks at it. This time both eyebrows go up. “You know, strangely, this isn’t the first time I’ve seen something like this. A pirate holding a legless and armless man in a strange outfit.”

Now we stare at him. He shrugs. “It’s a long story.”

“Oh!”My eyes light up. “Speaking of stories, Helgi said to say that the Toreadors say hello!”

Marcus goes quiet, his face clenched. “Of course he does….”he says through gritted teeth. I successfully keep a victorious grin off of my face.

Marcus sighs. “Next you see him, ask Helgi if he’s lost a fight to any dragur lately.”I nod, serious look on my face, but inside I am actually enjoying the idea of being the insult-deliverer between these two.

So long as neither of them suddenly decide to shoot the messenger….

Marcus gets things back on track. “If Accio has made the mistake of involving himself in the affairs of his elders and betters—despite all suggestions to the contrary—then he might need to be dealt with more quickly than I anticipated. Can’t do anything about it until after the Monomancy is resolved, but once it is, I’d like you to pay him a visit.”

(Me: “YES! The Boat Job!!!”)

“His boat, last I heard, was anchored somewhere off of Monterrey, a hundred miles out in international waters. Not sure what he’s doing out there, but I’m certain he’s up so something. Can’t be anything helpful, though, given what he is.”

“Which is…?” I prompt.

Marcus waves a hand dismissively. “Oh, he’s a peddler and a small-time smuggler of various sorts. Fancies himself supplier to the world. Likes to lay hands on merchandise belonging to his betters.”He gives me a Significant Look. “It’s a habit that’s gotten him in a great deal of trouble in the past, and now I think it’s going to get him in far worse.

(I suddenly realize as I am writing this up now that this conversation right here is probably All You Ever Needed To Know About The Lasombra: Each individual vampire of the Lasombra clan probably thinks that s/he—and only s/he—is the best of the clan, and all other ones who might claim otherwise are actually just useless tools.)

“Helgi wants him alive, you say?” Marcus asks. I nod. Marcus smirks. “Well, then I suggest you take him that way. Believe me, he won’t be much of a problem once you get him into Helgi’s hands.”

We discuss specifics, though there aren’t many to discuss. Marcus has basically washed his hands of the man already so we can do whatever we want. Unlike the plan before, where we had to figure out how to identify Accio’s boat in the middle of busy bay shipping traffic, this time he will be relatively easy to spot, since his boat will be the only one in that offshore area and Marcus might be able to get us specific reconnaissance.

As to how to get out there, though….

I grin and look at Anstis. “Well, luckily we have a captain.”

He grins back. “We’ll just need a ship.”

“But however will we be able to afford one?”I say, voice dripping with jovial sarcasm. At this, though, Anstis’s face drops. He glances at Marcus.

“…Come into some money, have you?”Marcus asks in a tone a lot more interested than I would have expected. My grin evaporates. Whoops

Anstis and I freeze, both avoiding eye contact with Marcus. He looks between us. “Something you all should be telling me?”

“Nothing of note,”Anstis says. I remain quiet, not wanting to add insult to injury by narcing on him.

“Captain,”Marcus says, calmly taking a few steps closer. “Are you familiar with my clan?”

“Yes….”Anstis says hesitantly.

“Good.”Marcus nods and continues in a companionable voice, “Then maybe you want to rethink the question of whether or not you have anything to declare? I mean before you tell the 2,000 year old elder who’s been practicing Auspex for longer than you’ve been alive.”

Anstis shoots a glare at me. I choose that moment to turn around and watch whatever Aquilifer is doing.

“Found a bit of gold,”Anstis mumbles.

“Hmm. Would it be that?”Marcus says, pointing at the crate (which, besides the mini fridge and the duffel bags, is the only other object in the room, so…yeah he probably didn’t use his Uber-Auspex on this.)

“It would,”Anstis mumbles again.

Marcus nods. “Well, open it!”Anstis grumbles and lifts the lid off the crate.

Marcus wanders over. “My, my, my, where did you find this?” He lifts a brick out and examines it. “It’s heavy enough….”He pulls out his glaudius and chops the brick in half in one strike. He nods and shows it to us. Solid gold all the way through.

“This is quite a find, captain. What were you planning on doing with it? Burying it?”

Anstis shrugs. “I seem to be without a ship and this seems to be the method of remedying that.”

“What were you planning on doing? Walking down to the nearest marina and shoving gold bars in someone’s hand?”

“Well I was planning on asking Tom here if there was a better way,”Anstis says. I figure that now is probably not the best time for I-Told-You-So’s so I stand quietly, still avoiding his gaze.

“Well as a matter of fact there is a better way,”Marcus says. He tosses the split bar back into the crate. “Twenty percent,”he says, “and I’ll convert it to whatever liquid currency you wish.”

Uuuuh-oh….

Anstis leans over and closes the lid on the crate. “I can handle it on my own.”

Marcus sighs. “Captain….”He stares at Anstis till the pirate meets his gaze. “I think you best take the twenty percent offer. With the gold converted to liquid form you can purchase whatever you need, and I have the access to the kind of assets that can accomplish that.”

Anstis glowers, then folds his arms. “Fifteen.”

Marcus laughs. “You are aware that I can make you take the twenty? In fact I could make you give me the whole thing.”

Anstis continues to glare. For a moment, I am struck by the incongruous sight of a six-foot-plus pirate having a stare-down with a nine-year-old…and losing.

“Eighteen,”Marcus finally says.

Anstis nods. “Done!”

I breathe a sigh of relief.

“Alright. Tom,”Marcus turns to me. “Would you do me a favor and drag all this to the closet?”

I’m still nervous from the adrenaline of watching their negotiation so I don’t even think to make a crack about being the one sent to the closet. I nod and start laboriously shoving the crate across the floor.

Marcus turns back to Anstis. “If you have an eye on a boat, let me know via Tom and I’ll make the appropriate financial arrangements. The rest of the money I’ll deposit into an account.”

“I’ll explain that to you,”I grunt between shoves.

Anstis still looks a little uneasy, so Marcus does his best to reassure him: “You’ll have your money, captain. I don’t screw people unless there’s a good reason.”

“Well, then I certainly hope there’s not a good reason,”Anstis says.

“So do I. But then, I guess we’ll find out.”

The conversation then turns to everyone’s favorite topic, The Monomancy. I, of course, have tickets in the Team Marcus Skybox, but Marcus also says he wants Anstis to be there as well (and Anstis looks none too pleased to be getting orders from Marcus, Methusula or no). Marcus says he wants as many people on hand as possible, since even though Paul has “some technical”plan to win, Marcus doesn’t have as much faith in it and predicts things could devolve into, quote, a slicing match. I, of course, am ready to go (though I do need to grow back my fucking hand before then), but Anstis mumbles and doesn’t commit either way.

Marcus asks if theres anything else. I hesitantly bring up something that’s been on my mind for the later part of the night.

“Boss, on our way back from Helgi’s, I was doing some reading on the Wiki-pe-Dia….”I say, intentionally mispronouncing the last word.

“The what?”he asks.

I sigh. “Sorry. The Wikipedia,”I say with normal inflection.

“…The what?”He repeats.

I hesitate. I wasn’t expecting this. I figure a visual aid is worth a thousand words so I pull up the article on Quintus Sertorius and hand him the phone, watching his reaction carefully.

He scrolls through the screen, eyes narrowing as he reads. “What is this?”

How does one explain the greatest invention in the history of human civilization? “It’s…the free online encyclopedia….”

“…Of course it is,”he mumbles. The surprise fades from his face, but the expression that replaces it is carefully blank. “…I see,”he says.

He reads quietly for a few seconds, then looks up at me. “It’s…tolerably accurate, I suppose. For what it is.”He looks at the screen again, reflexively scrolling up and down. “This is a mortal contrivance?” I nod.

He sighs. “Then it will do,”he says and hands the phone back to me. Anstis immediately grabs the phone from my hand and starts reading it himself (though it takes him a bit longer to figure out the scrolling).

“Conducting background research?”Marcus asks, voice still neutral.

I shrug. “I was reading about Perpenna and it led me to there. Figured the more information about him, the better.”

“Well you won’t find much thats of use there. They believe Perpenna died some time ago.”He shakes his head. “So what did you discover? Fascinating truths?”

I choose my next words carefully. “A…tragic story. An opportunity lost.”

Which is true. Quintus Sertorius wasn’t just a pretty cool guy who didn’t afraid of anything, Quintus Sertoris was a really fucking cool guy who didn’t afraid of anything. When Roman political society threw him out, he basically said fuck your couch and stormed off to Spain to win the hearts and minds of the locals through leadership and charisma as much as military force. He was basically inches away from setting up a second, independent Roman republic when Gnaius Perpenna—the ancient equivalent of an entitled prep-school bro—got all butthurt that he wasn’t the one everyone was flocking to. Perpenna took it upon himself to rectify things and had Sertorius assassinated.

The punchline, though? After Perpenna killed Sertorius and took over his army, everything went to shit because everyone was like, fuck this guy. Hell, a lot of the army abdicated to Pompei, who was the leader of the forces trying to stop Sertorius in the area at the time. When it was obvious to even Perpenna that he was losing, he too sought amnesty from Pompei, suing for his freedom by providing documents proving Sertorius was in contact with high-level officials in Rome who were essentially supporting his treasonous efforts in Spain. Perpenna hoped that Rome would be so pleased he had narced out the traitors they would give him a pardon.

Instead, in a dramatic ceremony, Pompei took all the incriminating documents and burned them, in front of Perpenna, and then had him executed anyway. His reasoning? Fuck. That. Guy.

Thats how much respect Sertorius commanded, and thats how much of a douche Perpenna was.

***THIS IS NOT JUST GAME CANON, THIS IS REAL-LIFE HISTORY***

Anyway. I-as-Tom don’t know exactly what Marcus’s connection to Quintus Sertorius is (although I can take a pretty good guess), but whomever he is, it’s obvious Marcus respects the guy.

And you know what? I do too.

Marcus stares at me a moment before answering. “Tragedy…is for the Greeks. What happened was a crime. A crime I believed I had avenged.”He looks away. “Apparently I had not. This explains a few matters.”

He draws himself up. “Yes. Perpenna killed Quintus Sertorius, and did not die when Pompei killed him. He faked his own death, he returned to Rome, and I tried to murder him during the Clodian Riots. I was unsuccessful then and I was apparently unsuccessful again, during the Renaissance.” He scowls. “Doesn’t matter. I will not be unsuccessful the third time.”

On the outside I nod stoically, but inside I am practically bathing in the righteous vengeance. This is some shit I can get behind.

Marcus’s next words, though, send a cold shock through that bath. He looks into my eye and adds, “Even if I have to incinerate the entire city, I will not. be unsuccessful. a third time.”

(Yeah, well, it’s not like things in this city are especially explosive or flammable or anything….)

Marcus walks to Anstis—who is still groping with the phone—and takes it from him. Marcus scrolls through it again. “Worthy reading, though,”he mutters. “Quintus Sertorius was once a name remembered by most who considered themselves educated.”He hands the phone back to me. “But we live in fallen times.”

I nod. “With…quantum mechanics….”I mumble under my breath.

Marcus asks if there’s anything else. I decide to try and cheer him up a bit by ending on a high note. I nod at Aquilifer. “I see she’s doing better.”

His face softens as he turns to her. She is standing by the closet, stiff and regal as an emblem, albeit one with feathers roused and eyes very sleepy.

“Much,” Marcus says. She seems to realize we’re talking about her and pulls herself awake with a yawn and a stretch. “But then she is quite resilient. More so than most.”He walks over and brushes her shoulder again. She squints her eyes in pleasure. “She’s, ah…somewhat unique. There are few of her age about, and age gives them power as much as it give us.”

(Chris: “So…it takes it away?”
Jason: “…No, he means vampires, not mortals.”
Chris: “Oh. So…it makes them ineffective and yabbery?”)

Now that Marcus seems to be in a better mood, I have one more thing to mention to him. I hesitantly say that Bell has asked for a sit-down meeting with him, at some neutral location, careful to emphasize that it was not my idea and I am simply passing the message along.

Marcus is suspicious, and more than a little exasperated, but seems willing. “Well I’m not adverse to calling temporary halt to the situation between myself and Mr. Bell, but…if he truly wants to meet, tell him I will not meet him on any neutral territory. My status is greater than his, so he will meet me at a place of my choosing or we will not meet at all.” He folds his arms. “When he asks you what assurances he has that I will not try to kill him, tell him that he has none but my word. If he values that he’ll show up, and if he doesn’t…I have no use for him anyway.”

I’m…sure that will go over real well but I agree to pass the message back. Marcus says if Bell’s interested, Marcus will arrange the time and place, but it’ll have to be after the Monomancy, of course. (Me: “LOL maybe we should get Bell tickets too….”)

With that, Marcus nods and walks back into the closet, Aquilifer lumbering after. The door closes behind them and we hear nothing more.

#

Paul and Georgia get down to the South Bay. Paul needs to go to Tesseract (as usual) but Georgia asks to be dropped off at the Portola house, partly because she is worried about the oncoming dawn (and partly because Kara is le sleepy and wants a nap on the couch). Paul drops her off and heads to work.

On the way, Paul calls me to pass along a message from Marcus, which is obviously moot at this point cause I just saw him…

#

…But, this action reminds me that there is another message that I need to be passing along. One that I have been trying not to think about (aka, have almost forgotten about).

I call Georgia. I tell her that I met someone who might be able to help her with her “Assamite problem.”I give her Fatima’s name and contact information, but nothing else. Georgia seems confused but thanks me.

And if she hears the pained note in my voice she doesn’t comment on it.

#

Anyway. Paul arrives at Tesseract to find several large, unmarked black vans parked around the parking lot, mostly  congregated around the main entrance to the campus. A few armed men dressed in combat fatigues are standing around out front. None of them react as Paul parks and approaches the main building and heads inside.

Klaus is in the lobby with a cluster of people. Some of them are Tesseract’s own security staff, but there’s also about a half dozen more of the combat guys. One of these men is noticeably not armed and is holding a radio. He looks up as Paul enters and approaches him.

“Mr. Stewart. My name is Ian Shrike. I’m with Myrmidon International.”His voice is clipped and professional and said with the cadence of someone who expects Paul will know what he’s talking about.

Paul, of course, does not. “…Who?”Paul asks, frustrated, but also as polite as one should be to a man backed up by six armed guards.

Shrike hesitates. “Myrmidon, sir?”

Paul racks his mind but it doesn’t ring a bell. “Are you traded on any exchange?”

Shrike looks momentarily flustered. “I’m sorry, has there been a mistake? You are Paul Stewart, CEO of Tesseract?”

“That’s me….”Paul glances at Klaus, who simply  folds his arms and glowers at him.

“This…is your signature, I would assume?”Shrike hands Paul what appears to be some sort of work-order contract, with a very good facsimile of his signature on it. However, this is the first time Paul has ever seen this document.
Paul stares at the signature and flips through the document. “It looks like it….”

Shrike pulls his professional composure together again. “Sir, we’re here because we’ve been asked to secure these premises from…well, terrorist elements that seem to have infiltrated this region. We’re a private security and military contract firm. Are you saying you did not sign these papers?”

Paul stares at the signature again then hands the papers back. “Let’s step into my office,”he says.

Shrike nods. “Yes, I think I should.”

Shrike follows Paul up to his office. Paul directs him to a seat and they talk. Shrike is understandably concerned, since he had been told that Paul requested Myrmidon directly. Paul says there have been a lot of events lately, perhaps plans at the company accelerated without his knowledge. Shrike seems to accept this.

“Sir,” Shrike says, “We were briefed to come down here because you were having difficulties of a secure nature. We were informed that these difficulties were…somewhat non-standard. We specialize in such matters. I’ve been instructed to bring…well, quite a large number of assets to this location and secure against any and all hostile intrusion.”
Paul nods. “Excellent. Let me check some things, clear this with legal, make sure things are in order. In the meantime, is there anything I can get you?”

“No, I think we’ll be just fine. You make whatever calls you have to, we’ll be establishing our perimeter around here.”Shrike gets up. “If there’s anything we should know about the current state of your security protocols it would be best if you informed me directly. Your chief of security was…not very forthcoming.”

Paul nods and excuses himself to talk to Klaus. Klaus is—understandably—frustrated, and the fact that Paul doesn’t even know who these men that barged into his campus are makes him even more frustrated. Paul says that he’s been making inquiries about security practices against the supernatural, though he wasn’t expecting to get actual results on this front so soon.

Paul tries to call Marcus but gets only the generic voicemail. There isn’t much he can do to reassure Klaus for now—theres no denying the situation is scary—but he says he will be meeting with “a powerful older vampire”soon and will hopefully get some answers. In the meantime, when Klaus asks what to do when the employees come in tomorrow, Paul says that if Myrmidon is a legitimate operation, they will appreciate discretion.

“How often do you see men walking around with assault rifles who appreciate discretion?”Klaus snaps.

“…A fair point,”Paul says. He eyes Klaus a moment. “How you holding up?”

Klaus sighs and rubs his face. A few days’of stubble is sprouting on his chin and his normally polished demeanor is looking worn. “Well, believe it or not this is not the worst thing I’ve ever seen, but it is the second worst.”

Paul raises an eyebrow but doesn’t question that point further. “Hope you weren’t looking for too much excitement in your job description.”

Klaus laughs tiredly. “I was looking for a way to get away from the excitement. I spent eight years in the Caucasus, this is turning out to be just as bad.”

Paul nods. “Well, I’m glad you’re here, all the same.”

Klaus snorts. “I’ll be around if you need me.”He nods at Paul and walks off.

Paul tries Marcus again. This time he answers.

Marcus: “Yes?”
Paul: “Marcus Sertorius.”
Marcus. “Paul Stewart. How are you doing?”
Paul: “I am at Tesseract now, should I expect to see you here?”
Marcus: “Well…I will say this for you, Paul. Did you design this facility?”
Paul: “…No, we actually bought it off a previous megacompany that floundered in the early 2000’s.”
(Jason: “Webvan?”
Jim: “Geocities!”
Everyone at once: “Pets.com!!!”)
Marcus: “Well, I will say this, you have a very impressive roof-deck on this place.”
Paul: “…*sighs*…Which building are you on?”
Marcus: “The main one.”
Paul: “I’ll be right up.”

Paul comes out onto the roofdeck to find Marcus admiring the native-plant xeriscaping that is the prime showpiece of the company’s Green Building initiative. Marcus turns as Paul steps out of the stairwell. “Hello Paul,”he says. “So, I assume you have a few questions.”

“I do. The…Myrmidon International….?”

Marcus nods and looks at the parking lot below, where a few of the vans are just visible. “Yes, they were considerably more celeritous in arriving than I anticipated. My apologies, they weren’t supposed to arrive for a couple of nights.”

Paul nods, understanding. “That’s a very impressive signature on the legal documents, there.”

Marcus tilts his head. “Well you don’t think I’ve gotten to my age without figuring out how to make one of those work? Once you know where the cracks in the system are it’s not that hard. I could file your death certificate without the slightest difficulty, Paul.”

With Marcus’s inflection, it’s hard to tell whether that last comment is a joke or a subtle threat, but really, with him, it’s usually both. Paul nods tersely. “I see it’s difficult to overestimate you.”

Marcus smirks. “That’s the idea.”

So yes, Marcus was the one who hired Myrmidon. Not only has he worked with them before, apparently he founded them, two hundred years ago (which explains the name. Seriously, Marcus, come on….). Most of them, of course, have no idea who Marcus is, though—he’s influenced them through intermediaries over the years—thus the rooftop meeting. Marcus called them in because Paul, quote, “has made the enmity of someone who may have interest in burning your facility to the ground.”

“Sadly at this point I don’t know who you mean,”Paul grumbles. “The candidates have…blossomed, recently.”

Yes, well, the most likely candidate is still Andre, who will hopefully be dealt with come Wednesday. To that end:

“Are you familiar with a William Liedesdorff?”Paul asks.

Marcus thinks. “Doesn’t ring a bell. Should it?”

“He’s the Bishop of Palo Alto.”

Marcus frowns darkly. “There is no bishopric in Palo Al—OH!!”He relaxes and rolls his eyes. “I see, yes. Of course. No, I’ve never met the man. Why?”

Paul gives Marcus the rundown of his meeting with Bishop Liedesdorff and the arrangement they came up with. Marcus is surprised, but more than a little impressed. Paul tells Marcus the plan he came up with to indicate the non-sunlight lights with colored lights. Marcus agrees that’s clever, but points out that he will probably have to be seen in attendance with Andre and his men—at least at some point—which will make things trickier. Compounding this is the fact that Marcus, as a Lasombra, will be even more at risk of sunlight damage than the other vampires there. Still, he says to go ahead with the plan and he will figure out his own contingencies.

“I’ll leave you with the rest of the arrangements, but there is one thing I thought you’d want to have.”Marcus pulls a small vial out of his pocket.

A small vial, with something red inside.

He hands it to Paul. “That is my suggestion if this…wonder…of yours doesn’t work. Or doesn’t work as efficiently as you would like.”

“Vitae?”Paul asks, holding it up to the light leaking up from the streetlights below.

“Not quite,”Marcus says, face serious. “That’s werewolf blood.”

Paul looks at him in surprise. Marcus continues, “And if you don’t ask me where I got it, you won’t have to lie to your little werewolf friends. Suffice to say, it’s real, and it functions. Werewolf blood, if you’ve never had it before, has certain…properties to it that mortal blood does not.”

“I…am actually familiar with them,”Paul says slowly, tilting the vial slowly.

Now Marcus looks at him in surprise. “Well, if I don’t ask, you won’t have to lie to me.”

(Footnote: Paul is referring to the time when we first met/found/rescued Sophia and he accidentally fed on her, I think maybe he had frenzied? I don’t remember, but obviously it’s all good now.)

Paul stares at the vial a moment longer then pockets it. “I feel our working relationship is improving.”

“I’m glad,”Marcus says flatly. “I thought you might want to have it in case. It’s got a helluva punch. It’s of course grotesquely illegal to use it in a Monomancy, but then it’s no more illegal than what you’re planning to do. So I suppose it doesn’t matter.”

They discuss the overall plan, again, mostly so Marcus can point out the obvious, again, and say that a whole lot could go wrong, and if it does he won’t be able to help him. Paul says, though, that if things go completely pear-shaped, he’s not so much concerned for himself as he is for his people, at Tesseract. Marcus considers this and says that if Paul dies, the best thing would probably be for him to quietly assassinate Andre—on the reasoning of Just Because—and let Bishop Liedesdorff take over San Jose. He’d do it now but if it happened before the Monomancy people would be suspicious.

Ahh, the Sabbat, where apparently the rules are very very important, except when they are not, which is all the time. It’s like fucking Schrodinger’s Code of Hammurabi or some shit.

Anyway, the reason Paul should care is because: “Most of my enemies don’t have the stones to come after me directly, so they come after you, and if they can’t come after you directly, they’ll come after your people.”Marcus lets that sink in a moment. “That’s just the way the world works.”

Marcus glances to the parking lot below. Myrmidon people are moving equipment and outlining the perimeter, illuminated by the yellow floods of the streetlights. “Which reminds me, when this is all over, do you still intend to go through with your little….purge?”

Paul follows Marcus’s gaze, realizing that it’s focused not on the men, but the streetlights. “Since we spoke last fall, I’ve had…time to think. Time to process.”Paul’s gaze sweeps the rest of his campus, as well as the looming shapes of other office buildings in the distance. He takes a breath. “My initial assessment that humanity needed saving is wrong. Humanity has done fine on its own for thousands of years, and will continue to do fine.”

Marcus chuckles. “Paul, you are familiar now that theres much more going on than you appreciate. Conspiracies within conspiracies, plots within plots. Lupines and mages and vampires dancing all around each other. Right?”

Paul scowls. “I am.”

“So if I was to ask you who rules the world, who actually runs the show behind the scenes, who do you think it would be?”

Paul thinks a moment. “I couldn’t say….”

“Well I could. I know exactly who runs the show.”

Paul looks at him. “And who does?”

Marcus looks him in the eye. “Mortals,”he says, smirking ever so slightly. “Ultimately it’s their world. We’re all just sitting around in it.

Paul stares. Marcus sees an opportunity to pontificate at length and leaps at it: “You see we—the Camarilla, the Sabbat, the Anarchs, the mages, the Lupines, and whoever else there is out there, we all kid ourselves into thinking that we run them from within the shadows, like they’re our puppets. But the truth is, we react to what they do. We try to steer them away from our little fiefdoms, and sometimes were successful, but….”

His tone darkens. “In the 1400’s, when the Europeans discovered our existence, they embarked upon a purge. A bunch of frightened, superstitious, Christ-laden humans, led by a church that was as corrupt as anything you ever encountered went to war with a vampire organization that had been established for 3,000 years and was staffed by innumerable vampires as powerful as I am. And do you what happened?”

Paul shakes his head. “I dont, actually—“

“We were butchered,” Marcus snaps.Slaughtered in such quantities that it sparked the Anarch Revolt and forced us to create the Masquerade. A bunch of ignorant peasants with pitchforks and torches took our high and mighty society to pieces over the course of a decade and a half. Hunted us across the continent. And all of our plots and special arrangements that we had made were nothing compared to the fury that they unleashed. Because all they needed to do was attack during the daylight or attack with numbers or attack with one man crazy enough to try and take down a monster. Repeat that enough and we died by the truckload.”

For a moment, the dispassionate anger in Marcus’s voice is replaced by a much more personal one. “We died by the truckload because the elders were sacrificing their childer in such numbers.”

Marcus turns to look out across the sleepy landscape of the valley, filled with lights and buildings and the glittering shapes of aircraft overhead. “And that was in the dark ages, when there were a 12th as many humans in the world as there are now and they were equipped with nothing more than swords and bonfires. Now they have guns, missiles, flamethrowers, modern telecommunications, and armies. Your little sunlight weapon honestly won’t make much of a difference in terms of their capabilities. They are the ones who still rule.”

Marcus shrugs. “If the Antediluvians still exist and wake up perhaps they’ll change things, but no one else is capable of it. Not me, not you, and not the entirety of the Camarilla and the Sabbat combined.”

Paul stands in silence for a few moments, processing that, before continuing the conversation. They get back to the topic at hand, finish up their plans, and Marcus plans to leave. But first:

“One last thing, Paul,” Marcus says, looking him in the eye. “I’ve lived long enough to know that this is necessary. If you’re having any thoughts that you might just flood the entire chamber with your sunlight…. It takes more than a moments’sun to burn me to ash. And you would regret that decision for the rest of your life. Which at that point would not be very long.”

Paul’s face goes carefully blank. He doesn’t know if Marcus can tell that he took the Vaulderie blood (which was largely for a just-in-case situation rather than an actual plan) but it’s probably better to avoid that topic completely. “Well, if that were the case, it sounds like you’d have to join the club.”

Marcus raises an eyebrow. “Yes, but I’m the sort of person who gets to cut in line.” He sighs. You understand, this is a speech I’ve had to give many times, to many people, and not all of them were as intelligent about it as I assume you are going to be.”

Hopefully. Though speaking of people being unwillingly bonded to other people: “What do you plan to do with Perpenna?”Paul asks.

Marcus straightens. “I plan to kill him. Permanently. By any means I have to. Discovering what those means are are what has been occupying me the last few days.”

Paul points out that, if necessary, he can perhaps try and Summon Perpenna to the Shark Tank, which will be conveniently filled with fire and sunlight. Even Marcus points out that that is a risky idea but he will keep it in mind.

Daylight is rapidly approaching by now. Marcus excuses Paul, who goes down to check in with Klaus and find a place in his office to crash. Before entering the stairwell, Paul looks back and sees one last view of Marcus, silhouetted against the false dawn of the sky, staring off across the valley.

#

The day sets and a new night dawns (HOORAAAAAY!). Georgia wakes up in the wine cellar at Paul’s Portola house. She doesn’t remember Paul coming home before she fell asleep but she wanders up to the house to check for him just in case. As she ascends the stairs, though, she starts to hear odd noises. Puzzled, she climbs faster.

She enters the kitchen and sees…a very odd thing. Pots and pans from the various cupboards and racks in the kitchen are levitating, spinning and drifting on air currents. They occasionally knock into each other, creating the noises she was hearing. She looks around. There’s no sign of any people. She carefully investigates the nearest pan, but finds no sign of strings—theoretical or otherwise—effecting it.

Bemused, she wanders through the rest of the house. She doesn’t find anyone else, or anything else floating, but it feels like…gravity is sporadically faltering. She walks through the living room feeling like a lead weight, but is able to bound up and down the stairs like a bouncy-castle.

(Chris: “WHAT IS GOING ON WITH MY HOUSE!?! Seriously! Weird ghost people walking around my house, my plants have strange frostbite problems, Assamites coming out of nowhere, werewolves, lost emperors, and now gravity is broken. What have you people done….”)

She returns to the kitchen. “Hey van Brugge?”

“…Ja?

“Um, have you turned off the gravity in Portola Valley?”

“…Um, nein

Georgia nods and looks around the kitchen. “Ok, just checking.”

“…Why do you ask? Is this something I should be concerned about?

“Um, well nothing dangerous appears to be happening, but…things are floating here at Paul’s house….” She pokes a saucepan, sending it drifting across the island to ricochet off a skillet.

Suddenly, van Brugge’s presence in her head disappears, snapped away like a rubber band. She hesitates. “…Van Brugge? Van Brugge?” she calls. No response. She stares around uselessly. “…Did he just hang up on me?” she mutters.

Like any good houseguest, she next pulls out her phone to call Paul to tell him his house is broken, but doesn’t get too far into the conversation before a loud thunderclap knocks her out of the kitchen and into the front entryway. She crashes to the floor and looks up, dazed.

In front her stands a figure like some sort of cross between Tony Stark’s terrorist-cave Ironman suit and the Rocketteer. The suit is an enormous contraption made of plate metal and leather, studded with instruments and mechanical contraptions. The hands are covered in heavy welders gloves and holding devices that look suspiciously gun-like. The head is covered in a antique-style diving helmet fitted with smoked glass so she can’t see who’s inside.

(Chris glares at Kara. “What have you done to my house now….”)

Georgia levers herself to her elbows, staring at the figure. “Um, ow, um…can I help you?” The figure turns awkwardly, pivoting down so that the glass ports of the diving helmet face her. The figure hesitates a moment, then gropes at some buttons on the arm of the suit. The helmet hisses and disengages from the shoulders, allowing it to be lifted off.

Revealing…. Dr. vonNatsi. Because of course it is.

He blinks at Georgia through his latest pair of elaborate goggles (which he apparently was wearing in the diving helmet). “Georgia!” he yells. “It has verked!”

“Doctor! What…what did you do?”

“Mein latest invention, of course! The Transdimensional Transportation Unit!” He hesitates. “I do need a better name….”

Georgia gasps in excitement and jumps up to examine the suit. It looks like something you would put together if someone let you into a hardware store that just exploded and told you to build the craziest thing you’ve ever seen. It’s covered in rubber tubing, felt, leather, chrome, brass, various alloys that seem to be riveted together, and a large pack in the back that seems to be some kind of proton-pack nuclear accelerator.

(Me: “It’s like the Project Runway Unconventional Challenge….”)

Georgia examines each individual piece of the suit, exclaiming over each discovery. “So…what are you doing here?”she finally thinks to ask.

“I vas testing it! For science!!!”

“Ahh. What did you do to the pots and pans? Everything is all floaty.”

Dr. vonNatsi frowns. “Vat?”Georgia gestures toward the kitchen. He clumps over and enters it, but stops just inside the doorway as a stockpot as large as his helmet drifts by. “Vat happened here? Zis not right at all!” He turns to Georgia, eyes wide behind his goggles. “Vat did you do?

She throws up her arms. “It was like this when I woke up! I thought you did this!”

The suit clatters as he shakes his head. “Nein! I—“ He stops, his face suddenly falling. “Oh no….”

He drops his helmet and clunks into the kitchen, straight to the fridge. He gropes the handle with his gloved hand and wrenches it open.

There—nestled neatly around the tote bag containing Sebastian’s head—are stacks of cabbages.

(We all agree that this is necessary but we have a quick debate about why Paul would have cabbage in his fridge. We decide that he grows them and keeps them around to keep up his public facade as a dietary eccentric, just like the real Steve Jobs.)

Dr. vonNatsi stares in horror. “Oh no….”he says, slowly backing away from the fridge. “Vhy did you go to a place vith ze cabbage!? I varned you about ze cabbage!!!

“I didn’t know it was here!!!”

He turns around, face pained. “Do you have any idea vat has happened now, now zat this suit has been brought into the proximity of cabbage!?

“…No?”

I vill have to recalibrate it!!!!!” He throws up his arm. “It vill take several!! minutes!!!

Yes, well, since the threat of the cabbages has been…somewhat overblown, Georgia calms him down and they discuss the reason that he is here. Apparently he has a task that he is in need of assistance with, something that perhaps she might be able to help with. Georgia agrees readily—thrilled at the prospect of advancing science—before she even knows what it is.

“Are you prepared to conduct operations for Science, Georgia?”

“Yes!”she says, nodding enthusiastically.

“Are you committed to the task of Science?”

“Yes!”

“Are you prepared to sacrifice, in the name of Science?”

“Yes!”

“Excellent!” His smile turns brittle. “…Can you kill me a verewolf?”

Georgia’s grin droops. “What? No….”

So apparently Dr. vonNatsi has been continually fascinated by the werewolves’ability to not only change their shape, but their mass, which seems to break all known laws of science, quantum or otherwise. To this end, he very much would like a werewolf specimen to study.

And not just any werewolf. Specifically: Stormwalker, Sophia’s buddy, and obviously an important leader among the local werewolves.

“Why?” Georgia asks.

“Vell, I’ll show you….” He extends a hand, which she takes. There’s a wrenching sense of disorientation, then she finds herself standing in the middle of vonNatsi’s lab.

Which has been completely ransacked. Several tables and benches have been overturned, equipment and pieces of equipment scattered everywhere. Some of the larger pieces have been literally gutted, spilling wires and cords like intestines across the floor.

“Zis would be why,” Dr. vonNatsi says, glowering at the lab with his arms folded. Georgia squats down and tentatively reaches out to touch one of the nearby pieces. It’s the salad spinner, and it’s been completely crushed. As if something large and heavy stepped on it.
Dr. vonNatsi clomps through the mess, arms still folded. “Zey vere not happy vith my presence at zis facility. And zey had means of expressing this displeasure! I vas forced to inaugurate the transdimensional transportation unit somewhat earlier than anticipated.”

Georgia tears her eyes away from the shards of plastic on the floor. “But…that could have been disastrous!”

“It could have!” VonNatsi draws himself up proudly. “Fortunately my calculations were, as usual, perfectly accurate. Und I promised I would replace that wall in Gunter’s apartment.” He shakes his head. “I do not understand why he puts up with that crappy apartment to begin vith. You vould think zat 200 euro a month vould get you something better in Stuttgart.”

Georgia agrees that the situation with the werewolves is quite troubling. Dr. vonNatsi points out that since she is so keen to help with the advancement of science, and since she is a blood mage, and since she has had dealings with the werewolves before, perhaps she can be of assistance in this matter.

Georgia looks at the scale of the destruction around her, but nervously agrees.

“Thank you,” vonNatsi sighs. “It is not for vengeance that I ask you to do this. It’s for Science.”

Georgia tentatively asks if vonNatsi has any silver around. He doesn’t, but he can make some, with the transsubstantiator of course, but it will need some repairs first. He pines again over his equipment, mentioning that the situation with Stormwalker got so desperate he resorted to actually trying to use one of his deathrays on the werewolf, though it had no effect.

“What if…you created a silver-spitting deathray?”

VonNatsi pauses, intrigued. “A silver spitting deathray? Hmm…but what form will the silver be spat?”

“Liquid, obviously.”

“Liquid silver?” Dr. vonNatsi rubs his chin with one gauntleted hand (sidenote: I start giggling at this because my mind immediately goes to this but I’m positive no one else in the world would so I keep it to myself) “Very interesting…. I vill consider it!”

Georgia says that she will acquire a battery for him to make his repairs to the transsubstantiator (since she apparently doesn’t have any nuclear accelerators lying around) and come back so they can make the werewolf ray.

#

Anstis and I are both at my apartment, asleep in my light-sealed bathroom. Anstis wakes up first and ducks out into the night to call some parrots to him and gives a point of blood to one of them.

(Jason: “Look! Someone likes befriending birds instead of eating them.”
Me: *DEATHGLARE*)

He also summons up a cat and gives a point of blood to him too. Anstis memorizes the features of both these animals so he can summon them up again tomorrow and sends them back into the night.

#

I wake up to see Anstis sitting on the floor of the bathroom, smiling at me innocently. I say I got some chores to do, and he doesn’t seem interested in attending (good), so I leave him and head out.

At the top of my to-do list, since it is early in the evening, is to finally get my ass back to City Arms in Pacifica to get some more hardware. This time I don’t fuck around with handguns, instead dropping some cash on a few boxes of acid-laced shotgun shells. It’s no dragonsbreath but for now it’ll do. After that I head back to the city to scrounge up blood and get some other things done. I’m looking forward to a quiet night of laying low, collecting myself before the big showdown of the Monomancy on Wednesday.

#

As soon as I leave, Antis’s phone rings. He uses both hands to carefully pry open the flip cover and hold the phone up to his ear. “Yes?”

“Is this Thomas Anstis?” says an unfamiliar voice with a light accent.

“Aye it is. Whom am I speaking to?”

“This is Xiang Li Weng. I would like to have a word with you, sir. In regards to an event which transpired last night.”

“Which event are you speaking of?” Anstis asks hesitantly. A reasonable question, considering.

“A grave disturbance in the local spiritual energy. One I believe, sir, that you are in the center of.

Anstis tenses. “A grave disturbance?” (HA!! IseewhatJasonaccidentallydidthere)

“Indeed. A very grave one.”

“…And who are you?”

“Who I am is not important. What is important is that I know you were party in this matter, and I believe it is best we meet in a cordial setting, lest we meet in an uncordial one.”

Anstis hesitates a moment before answering. “Where shall we meet then?”

“The Temple of Eternal Brotherhood, in Chinatown. I will be expecting you there before midnight tonight.”

(Me: “Oh shit! Don’t go to Chinatown!”
Chris: “You never go full-Chinatown.”
Jason: “Forget it, Jake.”
*blank stares*
Jason: “Really? No one gets that?”
Me: “Is it from Big Trouble in Little China?”
Jason: “What? No! It’s from the movie Chinatown!”
Jim: “There’s a movie named Chinatown?”
Chris: “With Kurt Russell?”)

Anstis nods. He knows enough to know that Chinatown is probably a risky place, but he doesn’t know what the rest of us locals know, which is dont go to fucking Chinatown. (Seriously. Jason mentioned it being a dangerous place on Day 1 of the game and it is the one thing we have been steadfast about not fucking around with, even when he’s thrown out hooks to try and get us to go there. Now, it seems, he’s finally found his in….) “Are you offering any assurances of conduct?”Anstis asks.

“If you enter Chinatown with the express purpose of meeting me, you will come to no harm. Not from me, nor from any of my associates. If you do not enter the premises with those intentions by midnight tonight, you will not live to see the next sundown.”

Anstis nods, likely starting to get the picture about the neighborhood. “Very well.”

“I would also suggest that you keep this matter to yourself, and from all of the others. It would be unfortunate if they were to get involved in a matter of this importance.”

“In that case, where can I find this place? I am new to the city.”

“Grant Street and Sacramento Avenue. I look forward to our meeting, Captain.”

The call ends. Anstis grabs his coat and his hat and leaves my apartment.

#

Georgia is wandering down the hill from Sutro Tower, looking for a place to buy a battery.

(On this night we happen to be playing at Jason’s parents’ house, which is on the hill just down from Sutro Tower. I suggest that Georgia should come here to knock on the door and ask for a battery! Jason glares and says don’t cross the streams.)

Meanwhile, Paul has been trying to get ahold of her all evening. He’s been having trouble getting through due to the gravitational anomalies floating about, but finally the call connects:

Paul: “Georgia! What the hell happened!?”
Georgia: “Um…Dr. vonNatsi.”
Paul: “…In my house?”
Georgia: “Yes.”
Paul: “…Why is everybody coming to my house!?”
Georgia: “He was recently attacked by a werewolf that destroyed his entire lab.”
Paul: “Oh, this will end well for everyone….”

Paul says that he wants to try waking up the gargoyle they have in the garage, but Georgia still has the key. She says she’s gonna try and find a battery and then will hopefully have Dr. vonNatsi send her back.

She finally finds a corner store, buys a battery, and returns to the lab. Dr. vonNatsi immediately places the battery in a microwave, puts on his goggles, and punches in three minutes on high. The battery explodes, splattering chemicals and shrapnel, and the entire microwave catches fire. Acrid smoke belches into the lab.

“Success!!!!” Dr. vonNatsi exclaims. He opens the microwave and scrapes up the chemical residue, smearing it onto a slab of metal like one would smear jelly onto bread. He brings it to another etherically-themed device and, with Georgia’s assistance, begins the experiment. There’s a rising hum of electricity, Georgia flips a switch, and then an explosive flash of light fills the lab.

When Georgia’s vision clears, she is still standing in the lab, but it has been completely repaired. Every table replaced, every device repaired. Even the salad spinner is back to it’s original late-70s luster.

Dr. vonNatsi slowly takes his goggles off, smirking proudly. “And zey said zat Science couldn’t do anything.”

Now that the equipment is repaired, Dr. vonNatsi says he will start some research into the silver-spewing death ray. In the meantime, he sends Georgia back to Portola Valley without further incident, though she does appear back at the house covered in CO2 foam and Matchbox cars, for reasons of Science.

#

Paul finishes up work at the office and heads home to meet Georgia. However, for reasons not entirely clear to the rest of us (though they are probably along the order of “Because I’m Paul Fucking Stewart, Bitch”) he decides to take a motorcycle home.

Problem is he doesn’t have a motorcycle. No worries: he heads to a dealership and buys a BMW motorcycle.

Next problem? He doesn’t know how to ride a motorcycle. No worries: he’ll wing it.

Next problem? He’s liable to crash a few times just winging it, probably wrecking the bike in the process. No worries: he decides to buy three bikes and has the other two shipped to his house.

He also peruses the selection of motorcycle gear and selects a high end helmet and heavy leather jacket with red and white stripes across the chest. He puts on the gear, does not bother to pay for it (nor does it occur to him he would have to pay for it, as he just bought three bikes. Also, because he’s Paul Fucking Stewart, Bitch), walks to one of the bikes, and mounts up.

So Paul, with many stalls and a few low-speed crashes, makes his way back to his house.

He parks the bike out front and walks up to the house. Georgia opens the door, covered in fire extinguisher foam and toy cars, and stands aside to let Paul enter.

“You look worse than I do…”he says as he passes, bemused. He walks through the living room, toward the kitchen, then stops. “…And why are there pots and pans everywhere?”

“They were floating.”

He stares at the kitchenware scattered all over the counters and the floor. “That…might have been good to know over the phone….”

They both go through their own necessary steps to get themselves cleaned up then reconvene in the garage, by the gargoyle sarcophagus.

“Shall we do this?”Paul asks.

Georgia hesitates. “I have to tell you, I still don’t think this is a great idea.”

“What do you expect to happen?”

“The gargoyle is going to get out of our control and kill us? Or go on a rampage?”

“Why would it do that?”

“Because…its a gargoyle?”

“Well, you’re a vampire, so…do you do that often?”

“No, but lots of other vampires do, and so do lots of gargoyles.”

Paul asks what she know about gargoyles. She says they’re susceptible to mind control, so on the plus side between her Dominate and Paul’s Presence they might be able to keep a handle on things. She warns him not to do something stupid, though, like try and set the gargoyle free, since it would most likely rampage.

“Why would it do that?”

“Well, for starters, it’s a gargoyle, they’re designed to kill things. Secondly, most gargoyles are not happy about having been made into gargoyles.”

Paul frowns. Despite being involved in the Escape from Alcatraz mission, he still hasn’t put two and two together about where gargoyles come from. “How are gargoyles made?”he asks slowly.

“Ummm….” She can’t outright lie to him because of her bond, but she tries to skirt the issue as best she can. “Well, I mean, it’s kinda a complicated process….”

“Complicated how?”

“There…are lots of steps involved.”

His eyes narrow. “Such as?”

“Umm….”She trails off.

“What is it made from if it’s going to be angry about becoming a gargoyle?”

“It’s…made from things that weren’t gargoyles before….”

Paul folds his arms and looms closer to her. “Yes…that’s implied….”

(Ben: “Evade faster! Evade faster!!!”)

Paul loses patience and blasts Awe. “What are gargoyles made from?”

Georgia’s eyes go wide, unable to break his gaze. “Vampires….”she says softly. “Gargoyles are made from vampires. Generally Nosferatu, Gangrel, and Tzitmisze, usually combined.”

He stares at her in silence for a few moments. “…Do they remember this?” he asks, finally.

“That I don’t know.”

“Well I can see why they would be angry,”Paul says, staring at the sarcophagus.

“That’s why we don’t make them anymore.”

“Except for that whole island!” Paul’s throws out an arm vaguely in the direction of north.

“That wasn’t supposed to be there!”

“There seems to be a lot of that going around,”he mutters. “Anyway, well keeping this thing staked forever is no solution either.”

Georgia quietly unlocks the sarcophagus and opens the lid. They peer in. The gargoyle is still there, still in the staked position he was in before.

“You don’t have to be here for this,”Paul says.

“…I’ll stay.”

Paul nods, then reaches in and pulls out the stake. The gargoyle’s eyes open very slowly and stare at the ceiling. After a few moments, he focuses on Paul and Georgia.

“Can you hear me?”Paul asks. “Do you have a name?”

The gargoyle continues to stare.

“Can you speak?”

The gargoyle raises a hand and reaches it toward Paul, slowly. Paul hesitates, then offers a hand in return. The gargoyle grabs it with a grip like forged iron. He holds Paul’s hand for a moment, then pulls himself up and out of the sarcophagus. He steps onto the floor of the garage, wings unfurling slightly behind him. Paul and Georgia take a step back to give him more space. He stares around the room but still doesn’t say anything.

“How do you feel?” Paul asks. Still no answer.

“Paul, I don’t know if this gargoyle has been activated,” Georgia says slowly.

“Like…with a product code?”

“Like with a ritual.”

“Do you know the ritual?”

“I…don’t know exactly what happens, but generally they’re Dominated and given orders.”

Paul nods, considers the issue, then blasts Awe again. “My name is Paul Stewart. I mean you no harm. Can you hear me?”

The gargoyle stares at him a moment. “Yes Master,”he finally rumbles in a voice like grinding stone.

“Do you have a name?”

“No, Master.”

(Me: “Dude, he gets a gargoyle and all I get is fucking Slayer.”
Jason: “Could be worse, Kara’s got Bob.”)

“What do you remember?”

The gargoyle hesitates. “Remember, Master?”

“What do you know about yourself?”

“I exist, Master.”

Paul nods. “That’s a start.”

“Where are your enemies, Master?”

“Away. For the moment.” Paul looks the creature over. “What interests you?”

“I obey, Master.”

“What do you need to survive?”

“Obedience, Master.”

Paul glances at Georgia, who looks back blankly. “Intriguing. If I tell you to wait here and not leave this room, you will do so?”

“Yes, Master.”

“How long can you do that?”

“I do not know, Master.”

“Will you get hungry at some point?”

“I do not know, Master.”

Paul nods, processing this. “Do you know if you have any brothers?”

The gargoyle’s attitude shifts slightly. “Yes, Master.”

“Do you know how to contact them?”

“No, Master. Contact is not permitted, Master.”

“Hmm. Can you read?”

“I…do not know, Master.”

Paul walks to the workbench and grabs a random manual. He flips it open and hands it over. “Can you read the letters on this?”

The gargoyle peers at the page. “Insert sprocket into figure 1-A….” he drones slowly.

“Good,” Paul takes the manual back.

The gargoyle turns slowly to Georgia. “Is that your enemy, Master?” Georgia tenses, eyes wide.

“No, she’s a friend. Assume, for the moment, anyone you see here is not hostile.”

“Yes, Master.”

Georgia relaxes slightly. “Do you know who made you?”

“Yes, Master. I was made by the Tremere, Master.”

“Were you made by any Tremere in particular?”Paul asks.

“Yes, Master.”

“Who?”

The gargoyle hesitates again. It’s hard for Paul to read the expression on his craggy face, but for a moment, a look like fear flashes across it. “Leopold, Master.”

Paul nods. “You do not serve him anymore. He is an enemy.”

The gargoyle shifts uncertainly. “Leopold is an enemy, Master? I do not understand, Master.”

“He has betrayed us all,” Paul says darkly.

“He is…Master, Master.”

“Do you think that I am Leopold?”

“No, Master.”

Paul is obviously perplexed—and a little concerned—by the fact that the gargoyle can apparently have simultaneous loyalties. “Do you remember anyone else?”

“Yes Master, many.”

“Name them.”

“I do not know their names, Master.”

“Describe them, then.”

The gargoyle describes multiple people, most of which aren’t particularly interesting or notable, but one description seems to be a dead-ringer for Sebastian.

Paul holds up a hand, stopping the lineup. “Tell me more about that man.”

“He was a friend of the Master, Master. He came because he wanted servants. The Master agreed to give him servants.”

That seems to track with what we suspected. “Do you know how many the master gave him?”

“No, Master.”

“Where is the Master now?”

“On the island, Master.”

Paul and Georgia glance at each other. “Do you know where else he might be when he’s not on the island?”

“No, Master. He always was on the island.”

Well, he’s obviously not there now, but they don’t see fit to tell him that. “Do you know what you are capable of?”Paul asks.

“I serve, Master.”

“In what ways can you serve?”

“I do not know, Master. Command me.”

Paul sizes the gargoyle up. “Can you fly?”

“Yes, Master.”

“Can you read minds?”

“No, Master.”

Paul sighs and tries to shortcut a ray to the gargoyle’s root directory. “Do you know what questions I would want to ask to find out everything you can do?”

“No, Master. Only the Master would know these things. And he is on the island. The island in the sea.”

Paul rolls his eyes and goes back to the previous tactic. “How quickly can you move?”

“I do not know, Master.”

Paul takes a step back. “Try moving across the room, from this end to the other.”

The gargoyle lumbers across the room as indicated, impressively large but not impressively fast. Paul nods. “Fascinating….”

At the far side of the room, the gargoyle glances out a window, facing the oak woodlands surrounding the house. “We are not on the island, Master?”

“Not at the moment.”

“Have…I displeased you, Master?”

“No. You’ve done nothing wrong.”

“Then why have we left the island, Master? We were not to leave the island.”

“The island…became unsafe.”

The gargoyle hesitates, obviously confused. “But the Master is on the island.”

“Master is no longer on the island.”

“No, Master, the Master is on the island.”

Paul and Georgia trade a perplexed look. “Do you know the name of the island?” Paul asks.

“No, Master.”

“How big was the island?”

“Very small, Master.”

“Were there…other islands?”Georgia asks.

“Yes, Second Master.”

Paul frowns. There are other islands in the bay. Treasure Island and Yerba Buena, for instance. “Do you know where you are now?”

“No, Master. I am not on the island.”

“That is correct.”Paul trails off, stumped. He stares at the gargoyle a few moments, then nods. “That will do. I must put you back in the sarcophagus for now.”

“Yes, Master.”

Paul asks the gargoyle to come back to the sarcophagus and get back inside, which he does, but before he lies down he hesitates. “Master, may I ask a question?”

“Yes.”

“Will the other Master come?”

He and Georgia trade a look again. “I don’t know.”

“He is on the island, but…. He will be angry that I am not on the island. He was always angry if we were not on the island.”

“He will not be angry with you,”Paul assures him, then hesitates as a thought occurs to him. “Can…you sense where he is now?”

“Yes, Master. He is on the island.”

“Can…you sense how far away that is?”

“Yes, Master…many hours’ flight.”

Paul strokes his chin, considering. “Can you…point in his direction?”

“Yes, Master.” The gargoyle lifts an arm and points it confidently, but it’s not toward the north, in the direction of the bay.

It’s toward the west. To the Pacific.

Paul stares, puzzled, then his eyes go wide as suspicion dawns. He pulls up a map on his phone, centering it on the greater Bay Area. “Can you point out the island on this map?”

The gargoyle peers at the screen, then presses a finger to the left-most edge of it. Paul pulls the phone back and look where he pointed.

The Farallones.

“The Master is on the island, Master,” the gargoyle rumbles again. “He will know that I am not on the island and he will be very angry.”

Paul puts the phone away. “I will discuss the matter with him. You have done well,” he says, stressing the last part.

“Thank you, Master. How may I serve you, Master?”

“I am going to restake you for awhile. Do you have any feelings on that matter?”

“I—no, Master,” he says, obviously evasive.

“You may be honest with me,” Paul reassures him. “How do you feel about being staked again?”

“It…it is punishment, Master. How have I failed you, Master?”

“You haven’t failed me. But you remember very little, and this is a foreign place for you. I worry someone could accidentally come here and the situation will spiral out of control.”

The gargoyle grips the edge of the sarcophagus, fingers digging into the stone. “I will kill your enemies, Master. I was made to kill your enemies.”

Paul holds up a hand. “I do not require any killing right now.” He sighs. “If I leave you awake, can you remain in this house? Can you avoid detection from anyone besides myself?”

“Yes, Master.”

Paul nods, relieved. Georgia, though, steps forward and grips Paul’s arm tightly. “Will the other master know that you’re awake?”she asks the gargoyle.

The gargoyle turns to her. “Yes, Second Master.”

She looks up at Paul. “Will he know where you are if you are not awake?”

“Yes, Second Master. He will now.”

Paul and Georgia are silent a moment, concern settling over them simultaneously. “Do you know how to use a cell-phone?” Paul asks.

“No, Master.”

Paul sighs. Well, if he taught a pirate he can teach a gargoyle. “Wait here,”he says, and heads into the house to grab a spare phone from his office.

Moments after Paul leaves, the gargoyle’s eyes widen. He looks around, but doesn’t seem to be staring at anything in the room.

“Is everything ok?” Georgia asks.

“I do not know, Second Master….”

“What’s happening?” she asks, looking around herself.

“The Master is no longer on the island….” he says vacantly.

Georgia tenses. “Where is he?”

The gargoyle frowns. “He is….” His eyes widen again and he turns to her. “…here, Second Master. The Master is here. Now.”

“…PAUL!” Georgia calls, just as a concussive bang rocks the inside of the house.

END OF NIGHT

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