“If you start swapping disciplines, Jim is already close to having the Holy Quartet: Potence, Celerity, Fortitude, Protean. When their powers combine, you are Captain Fucking Planet.” –Jason
I wake up the next night at Paul’s apartment. All the rooms in the place have giant fucking windows so I ended up crashing in the deepest closet I could find.
I come out to the living room to another clear view of the fresh dark across the city, the lingering blue-green twilight highlighting Twin Peaks to the west. Aquilifer is still on the couch in the same place she was when I left, even though I propped a window for her before going to bed. She blinks at me sleepily, then yawns and stretches her wings.
“Hey ‘Quill,” I say, looking around the room for Marcus. No sign of him yet. Can’t tell if that’s good or bad. Last night’s conversation is still heavy on my mind. I walk to the window and look out at the city.
Whatever is out there, this night—and likely the one after that, and the one after that—will just bring more ambiguously-evil bullshit. Part of me wants to say fuck it all and go back to what I was doing before: spending the nights holed up in my apartment, buried in old records and and new movies in a desperate attempt to ignore what my life has become and forget everything it’s left behind.
Aquilifer keens a short noise. I look at her. She circles her head, peering at me, then flutters her wings in a begging motion. My tension eases. I smile softly and go to find our boss.
Walking down the hallway, I hear some odd noises from behind the bathroom door. I stop in front of it and knock cautiously.
Marcus opens it. He looks…better? His major holes seem to have sealed, at least, but he still looks obviously roughed up, and is of course missing an arm.
“Evening,” I say, hiding a wince. “You’re…looking better.”
He sighs and rubs his head. “I seriously doubt that.”
“Yes, what is the term you use? ‘You should see the other guy’?”
Ha. Speaking of the other guy: “Did…you want me to set up the sit down with Bell today?”
He shakes his head. “Not today. There is an art to these things. A great deal is said without being said. I don’t want to walk in facing Bell looking like this. He might decide to try and take his shot.”
I look down at my clothes, intact but also looking worse for wear. “Yeah, I don’t like looking like crap in front of him either”
“He’s not going to try and kill you.”
I rub my neck. “Yeah that’s not what I’m worried about,” I mumble.
Marcus rolls his eyes and walks past me to the living room. “Let Bell know that when I have a spare moment I will meet with him. Tell him it’s nothing personal, things got a little heated down south.”
Aquilifer looks up as we enter the room and makes a chirruping noise at Marcus. He walks to the window, stroking her as he passes. “So…I expect you’re going to be needing a couple of days to recover from the events of last night.”
I shrug. “Actually I’m feeling pretty good. I’m more concerned with getting my girl back.” I hesitate. “Though I have no idea how so it will take me some time to figure that out.”
He nods, still facing the glass. “Well, the werewolves and I are not on wonderful terms, as you know, but if you’re serious about going after this werewolf, you will most likely have to put a grave dent in the operations of the Tremere, and what Sabbat Priscus wouldn’t salivate at that prospect.” He smirks at me over his shoulder.
I smile back. Frankly I doubt you could find a Camarilla Brujah—hell any Brujah—who would object to that either.
He turns back to the window. “Moreover, Accio is still out there, offshore somewhere, though I’m not sure where. He could have left, could be in Baja by now, but I doubt that. He’s here for some reason.”
He looks at me. “You do, of course, realize that assaulting the Farallones is going to be a very tricky, very bloody prospect.”
I roll my eyes. “It’s not like the rest of my weeks lately have been very PG.”
“Not like this. I haven’t the first clue what you might run into out there. Alcatraz was an open facility, the Tremere moved there with the behest of the rest of the Camarilla. This gave a certain degree of security against outside penetration. No one could attack it without going through the city which, until recently, was a bit of a prospect.”
He jerks his chin to the west. “The Farallones, they’re not supposed to have. Not even the rest of the Camarilla will be aware of what’s going on out there, which means they’re wholly and completely responsible for their own security. And the Tremere take these things very seriously. Gargoyles may be the least of your worries out there. On top of that, the Farallones have a reputation for…other things. If the Tremere are operating out there openly, they’ve managed to form an alliance with those things, or suppress them. Neither of which should be particularly comforting. What those things are I don’t know, but I’ve heard rumors. Were-creatures of various unsavory sorts.”
Marcus shakes his head. “If your prospect is to attack the Farallones you’re going to need to be fairly subtle about it.”
I snort. He glares at me. I sober up. “Yeah, well…I’m working on a plan.”
Or, rather, I have a plan to work on a plan. We’ll see how that goes….
Marcus rattles off more advice about being careful (duh) and recommends taking Paul, Georgia, and Anstis with me (shocking). While he talks, I wander into the kitchen for another vase of blood, then dump out two of Paul’s SmartWater bottles from the fridge and fill those up too.
Aquilifer wings into the kitchen and lands on the island with a thump, observing my blood pouring owlishly. When I’m done, I check the fridge again, hoping there’s some meat tucked in somewhere that I missed. An extra cabbage has somehow appeared during the night, but it was apparently not accompanied by a steak.
I close the fridge and shrug at her. She keens sadly.
“I have some matters to attend to,” Marcus says. “There’s an old associate of mine not far to the east. I’m going to go shake him down for what he knows. We didn’t part on the most comfortable of terms the last time. That will help.”
“Sounds like fun,” I mumble, trying to figure out the best way to carry bottles of blood in skintight leather pants.
“It should be. Incidentally, do you have the first idea what that thing was that attacked us in San Jose?”
“The Hellbeast?” I say, looking up.
“They’re called vozdt. Tzimitscian hellbeasts. They’re not supposed to be that large, and they’re not supposed to be here at all. What Andre was doing with three of them I can’t possibly imagine. Unless he felt the need to arm himself with the equivalent of an armored regiment.”
I frown. There was something interesting I noticed last night after the Monomancy, which the following vozdt attack drove to the back of my mind until now. “Boss, when you left the arena, did you take out the flame-thrower guys at the entrance?”
“No I bypassed them. Why?”
“Because they were torn apart when we left….”
Marcus waves a hand dismissively. “Vozdt are not vampires. Fire doesn’t hurt them like it hurts us. It does, however, make them rather angry.”
I nod slowly, chasing my thought. “So…who’s to say that they were inside the arena to begin with. What if they came in, from outside?”
Marcus goes still, his face turning thoughtful. “It’s possible…but it’s a disturbing possibility. It would mean there would be another potent Tzmitsce with an interest in throwing vozdt around. Vozdt are rare these nights, especially ones that size. You don’t deploy them at random.”
“Well perhaps this wasn’t a random strike.”
Marcus frowns. “Who could they have been targeting?”
I shrug. “Everybody was there.”
“That’s true,” he mutters, staring into the distance.
Silence for a few moments. I obviously know less than nothing about Sabbat intrigues—though as long as they don’t effect us I could care less about them—but something from last night’s conversation bubbles back to the top of my mind.
“Do you…know of any other powerful Tzmitsce in the area?” I ask slowly.
He nods once, still staring at nothing. “One. Quite a ways south. Further than San Jose.”
“God, I hope it’s not Gilroy, I don’t do well with garlic.”
He shakes his head. “South of Big Sur. The castle.” He sees my perplexed expression. “Hearst Castle.”
My face falls. Great. Because powerful old Tzmitsce + castle = WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG!?
Marcus folds his arms and starts pacing the kitchen. “It’s his summer home, he’s not always there. He’s…an interesting fellow. Another Vovoid, but of a different stripe. Old clan Tzmitsce. They’re extremely archaic. Ironic, I know, me saying that, but still. They reject the modern world and many of its senses. They reject the modern Tzmitsce too. They’re…a very strange lot. Quite isolationist usually.”
He pauses, staring into space again. “Can’t imagine why he would want to send vozdt. Can’t imagine why he would even have any.” He shrugs. “But he is powerful enough, if he wanted one.”
I nod slowly. Someone powerful enough to create such monsters obviously has a deep understanding of Vicissitude and the feats it is capable of. Feats great…and very, very small.
Marcus shakes himself out of his reverie and looks down at himself. “I…am not in any condition to go down there, unfortunately. He’s not of my power level, but he’s close enough that in this state I wouldn’t want to take chances. However, he is another former Sabbat Priscus. He may know something.”
He looks up. “I can give you a letter of introduction. If he lets you into his house, you will not suffer any harm at his hands. If he lets you in. But if he doesn’t, he’ll let you know and give you a short time to leave his property.”
I sigh. “I hope he doesn’t have mutated Tzmitsce zebras all over the place….”
“He’ll have mutated Tzmitsce something. He’s Old Clan. They believe in their Animalism down there.” Marcus shrugs. “Even if he didn’t sent the vozdt he might know something about them. They are their thing, after all.”
I take a breath. “And…I assume he will know more about…what you said last night…. About Vicissitude?”
Marcus’s gaze levels with mine. “He might. Vicissitude is, I must admit, not a subject I am particularly—“
(Kara: “Jason! Paul fixed my phone!”
Jason: “—Uh, no he didn’t. Your phone was smashed.”
Chris: “Sure I did! I wiped it off on my shirt and handed it back!”
Jason: “Okay, it’s smashed but is now cleaner.”
Kara: “No! It works fine now!”
Chris: “CEO’s prerogative! He can do this!”
Jason: “…Paul’s phone is now smashed.”
Chris: “Okay, well speaking of, Tom you received a text about getting together to talk about Sophia stuff.”
Me: “Okay, I’ll text back in a minute.”
Chris: “Well, apparently I don’t have a phone anymore so take your time.”)
“—Anyway. Unfortunately Vicissitude is a subject I know very little about.” Marcus hesitates. “…Actually, I’m not sure that’s unfortunate, really. It’s a strange Dacian work. The Tzmitsce are quite expert with it. You will find all manner of its employments down there. Try not to look too shocked. He enjoys shocking neonates.”
I fight a smirk. Please, son, the number of times I’ve been to Dore Alley. “Yeah, well I’ve seen some shocking things in my time,” I say, walking past him back into the living room.
He frowns after me. “Hmm. Walk into the lair of an Old Clan Tzmitsce and you may not think so anymore.”
It’s now full dark in the city so it’s time to get moving. I start gathering up my gear from where I dumped it last night, checking each of the guns and reloading them. Marcus watches me quietly for a few moments, Aquilifer peering over his shoulder.
“Tom, I appreciate you feel indebted to this werewolf in some regard. But you’ll find, especially as you grow older, that the werewolves and us are simply…different. At their best, they’re not immortal. Very few of them even live long enough to test that.”
I belt the bandoliers to my chest and slot the guns in the holsters. With the sword and the whip, I’m ready to roll. I walk toward the front door.
“The werewolves exist on a plane different than ours and they do not care to share it with us,” Marcus continues. “Not even the most comprehensive or pragmatic of them. So while you may feel you have to do this, there are bigger issues at stake, so…be careful. And don’t be a hero.”
I pause, hand on the handle, then turn back to him. “Didn’t you know, Boss?” I say with a wry smile. “There are no heroes. There’s just a bunch of assholes.”
And with that I walk out to face the night.
Everyone else has gotten their nights underway. Anstis finished ghouling the grey tomcat that he’s been calling around, Paul talked with Gates about cleanup and insurance options on the Portola house, and Georgia was unable to find anyone to fix her phone.
Paul and Anstis also chatted briefly about discipline trading, because yup, we’ve reached that point in the game. Anstis also calls me to discuss the same thing but I have some errands to run so I say I’ll meet with him later.
So the night is off to a rather low-key start when something very odd happens.
Georgia’s broken phone rings.
Georgia is in the car going with Paul to Portola Valley when the phone goes off. The screen is dark but it’s definitely buzzing. She pulls it out and answers.
Caller: “Ms. Johnson? Zis is Dr. vonNatsi!”
Georiga: “Oh, Doctor!”
vonNatsi: *voice strained* “I, ah, have some need of your assistance, ja.”
Georgia: “At the moment?”
vonNatsi: “Errrm, sooner would be better than later.”
Georgia: “Do you have another werewolf problem?”
vonNatsi: “NEIN, nein, zere are no verewolves in the city, ja, zis is not the problem. I have…a different problem. It is a more difficult problem, a more intractable problem, ja.”
Georgia: “Oh…of what sort?”
vonNatsi: *long pause, then, in a low voice* “I…have a colleague in town. Und I require some assistance vith ze Science.”
Georgia: “Okay, well…I will be there as soon as I can.”
vonNatsi: *relieved sigh* “Zank you, zank you very—PUT THAT DOWN!!! ZAT IS DELICATE EQUIPMENT!!”
Georgia: “—Yes I will absolutely be there as soon as I can! Keep the salad spinner away from him!”
vonNatsi: “DO NOT TOUCH THAT YOU VILL POLLUTE IT!!”
Georgia: “Tell him not to go near the Primium Infusing Ray! I will be there soon!”
vonNatsi: “Ja, zank you very—OF COURSE IT WORKS DO YOU KNOW NOTHING ABOUT SCIENCE!!!!”
There’s more half-German shouting to the unidentified person in the background, then the call hangs up.
Georgia sighs and asks to be dropped off at the tower instead.
I arrive at my Tenderloin apartment. The street still looks like a scorched warzone but at least they are letting people back into the building. As I approach the front door, though, something catches my eye.
A pink Vespa, parked on the sidewalk next to the doorway. The paint is scratched in many places and there are a couple long grooves gouged into the metal, way deeper than any key could create. There’s also an envelope taped to the seat. I peel it off and open it.
It’s another invoice addressed to me, this one for towing fees.
I stare at the paper a moment, then crumple it into my pocket and storm inside.
I let myself into my apartment—wonderfully Lasombra free at the moment—and immediately unzip Slayer from the bags.
I pull him out—still staked, and still wearing the school-girl outfit I put him in months ago—and prop his torso up against the wall, slotting the legs at his hips so they can knit back together. I keep the arms separate, though, for now. I carefully pour most of one of the blood bottles into him, then bite my wrist and add in a few drops of my own.
Which makes this a third-night blood bonding. Booyah.
Considering how much I’ve been putting the fear of God into him, I probably could have gotten away with just a one or two level bond, but frankly I still don’t trust him. Making him my bitch is risky, so I’d like to reduce my risk as much as possible.
On the other hand, by the Code of Marcus, this means I now need to start looking out for him and shit.
I stare at him a moment, sigh, then lean over and unstake him.
He wakes up slowly, flesh filling out to look a lot better than he did the first time I unstaked him. He blinks, staring around groggily…
…And sees me, smiling, slowly tapping one of his arms against my leg.
“Agh!!” He jerks back, eyes wide.
My grin grows larger. “Heeeeeeey, Slayer. How you doing?”
“I’m good,” he whispers, eyes darting the room. “Where are we?”
I look around at the bare walls. “Oh, we’re at my place.”
“It’s…nice! It’s really nice!”
I snort. “Thanks. Actually we need to talk about that in a little bit. But first, here’s the thing.” I flip the arm up to my shoulder and pace in front of him. “So I’ve been thinking, and I realized that you owe me a lot of shit—“
“I’ll pay you man! I’ll pay you!” Slayer struggles against the wall, legs starting to twitch as they reattach.
I point his arm at him. “Yeah, you will. So I got some things I need done and—“
“I can do them!!”
“I know! You know why?” I lean down. “You’re my boy now. You understand what I mean?”
He nods, eyes wider. “Yeah, yeah I get it! I get it!”
“No, now, listen…listen….” I lean closer, locking with his gaze, voice serious. “I don’t want you to misunderstand what I’m saying. When I say you’re my boy…” I drop to a whisper, “I mean it…in the gayest way possible.”
His eyes go so wide I think they’re going to pop out. He stares at me, jaw trembling. “….Okay,” he squeaks finally.
I smile and stand up. “Good!” I toss the arm into his lap. “Now, pull yourself together.”
Not surprisingly, he struggles with that a bit so I relent and help him, giving him the rest of the blood bottles in the process.
Once he’s got things underway, I stand up and fold my arms imposingly. “So. Now that we’re square here, let’s be direct. I know that you’re still probably going to be tempted to maybe try and get revenge, try to get away with something—-
“No, no!” He shakes his head and waves his one attached arm, which is currently holding the detached other.
I hold up a finger. “No, I know what you’re thinking! But I want you to keep in mind that if you try and fuck around with me, the first thing I’ll do is give your name to Helgi, and he’ll be very interested to hear about you.”
Slayer gasps and sputters. “No, man, I’ll do whatever you want!”
I spread my arms and smile. “I know, I know, we just need to be clear here.”
“You can’t give my name to Helgi, man, he’s fucking crazy!”
“I know, but see, even if I don’t give your name to Helgi, Marcus already knows your name!”
Slayer goes still. “Oh fuck….”
I smirk. “Yeah, so remember, if you fuck with me, you’d better pray that Helgi finds you first. Cause you know what’s gonna happen if Marcus finds you first.”
A flicker of confusion eclipses the terror on his face. My grin grows larger. “Oh, you don’t know?” I ask.
“I-I can guess…”
This time I lean down inches from his face. “Can you?” I whisper. “Cause he’ll throw you into his private hell dimension, from which not even souls can escape.”
His jaw quivers a moment and a breathless squeak escapes his throat. “I’ll…I’ll do whatever you want, man! I’ll…suck your dick!” He breaks down in dry sobs.
I roll my eyes and stand up. That’s probably enough Brujah for now. “No, we don’t have time for that….”
Time to get down to business. I start pacing the room. “Here’s the thing. So you know how scary Marcus is? Well his sire was here two nights ago, and he’s worse.”
He stops crying. “Oh…shit…”
“Yeah. So we gotta move. The first thing I need you to do is set up a network of flophouses for me around town. I also want at least two on the Peninsula, maybe one in San Jose, and a couple in the East Bay.”
Slayer nods enthusiastically. “Yeah, I can hook you up man. I can do that.”
“Great. Next thing.” I grab Clarence’s last invoice from the top of the minifridge and hand it over. “So one of the douche-ass Ventrues in town grabbed a bunch of my shit and stuffed it in storage.”
He unfolds the paper and stares at it. “Yeah, yeah I think I can get this out.”
“Good.” I’ve been thinking about this next step since my conversation with Marcus last night. I take a breath. “I need you to fence it. All of it. There’s a lot of expensive vinyl you can get good money for, we’ll need the cash. Get rid of the rest where you can, except…” I stop and hold out a finger, “for one thing.”
He looks up. “What thing?”
Another breath. “A painting. A watercolor. Of a sunrise.”
He lifts an eyebrow at that but he nods. “Yeah. Alright.”
“Good.” Of all the baggage from my human life, Isabella’s painting is probably the heaviest, but…I’m not quite ready to give it up yet.
But for now…on to the fun things. I clap my hands. “Alright, next. I need you to get me some dragonsbreath. Now, wait…” I hold up a hand against his protests, “Don’t you complain! If you can hook Accio up with Helgi’s Semtex, I know you can get me some fucking dragonsbreath.”
Slayer throws his arms—now both attached—out. “Dude, Helgi had the Semtex, man! I just put ‘em together!”
I glare. “Yeah, well dragonsbreath is legal in Nevada, son, so I know you can figure out a way to bring it over!”
He droops and rubs his shoulders nervously. “Alright, I’ll make some calls, man.”
“Good. Next thing: there’s this Shadowlord walking around by the name of Stormwalker—“
He frowns. “The fuck’s a Shadowlord?”
“Big guy, hairy, eleven feet tall. Sword the size of Godzilla’s dick.”
His jaw drops. “WEREWOLVES?!”
“—FUUUUUUUUUUUCK!” He whimpers and curls up against the wall.
I smirk. That was pretty much the response I expected. “Yeah, so if you run into this Stormwalker….” I lean forward. “…Can you get his phone number? Cause I forgot to ask him the last time I talked to him.”
He twitches. “DUDE, I ain’t gonna be ALIVE, I run into that motherfucker!”
I shrug. “I’m just saying, he ran away too fast last time I talked to him, so if you can get—“
“THE FUCK you doing talking to a werewolf!?”
I throw out my best bro-arms. “I don’t know!! What the fuck am I doing fighting three vozdt last night in San Jose!? This is my life now! This is what I do!”
(Jim: “The only thing more terrifying than that sentence is the fact that Tom is uninjured right now.”)
Slayer uncurls slightly, enough for me to see his face—apoplectic with shock. I smile and shoot him pistol-hands. “You’re my boy now!” I say reassuringly.
Something suddenly occurs to me. I walk to the window and peel back the curtains to glance outside. “Slayer…can you ride a bike?”
He uncurls more, nodding enthusiastically. “Yeah, man.”
“Great. If you need to get around, your ride’s out front.”
He hesitates, then nods again. “Cool. Ok. What…?”
I drop the curtain and smile my silkiest smile yet. “Oh, you’ll know it when you see it.”
I walk back to him. This has been fun but time’s running short. I stare at him, face serious, until he meets my gaze. “You know that guy I was talking about? Marcus’s sire?” He nods. “His name is Perpenna. Remember that name.”
He frowns. “Wait, I’ve heard that name….” He mutters for a few seconds. Surprised, I watch patiently, giving him time to think.
He snaps a hand. “Oh yeah! He was this creepy guy, on the phone with Accio. I remember the name cause he said it all weird.”
I frown. “Weird how?”
“I don’t know, but Accio said the name like he was afraid he was gonna jump out of the phone.”
I roll my eyes. Bad as Perpenna is, I doubt he’s fucking Beetlejuice. “Right, well this guy is possibly the reason there’s no more werewolves in town—“
“There’s no more werewolves in town?”
I shrug. “Well except for this guy Stormwalker, possibly.”
Slayer leans back against the wall. “Shit man, if he’s the guy behind that I’ll shake his hand.” He sees my expression and holds out his hands. “Unless you don’t want me to!!”
I hold out a finger. Slayer stares at me and goes still.
“Perpenna comes around,” I say slowly. “You run. You drop whatever you’re doing and you run. Because you know Marcus’s hell dimension? This guy’s got even worse.”
Slayer nods, head thumping the stained drywall. “Alright man, no problem.”
I nod. “Good. We’re bouncing from this place and we’re not coming back. Let me know as soon as you get something else set up and you’ve fenced all my gear.”
He nods, scrambles to his feet, and, clutching the storage invoice to his chest, scurries out. I go to follow, but something makes me hang back.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not feeling nostalgic for this place or anything. I haven’t been here that long, after all, which is beside the fact it’s a shitty apartment with a shitty fridge and shitty curtains that took me fucking nights to get ahold of. On the best of nights it felt more like a holding cell than a living situation.
But, then again…I don’t need a “living” situation, do I?
I stare at the room a moment, then turn off the light and close the door behind me.
Georgia hesitates before stepping off the elevator into Dr. vonNatsi’s lab. Everything seems normal, as chaotic as ever, but as soon as the doors close behind her she notices a new device leaning on the wall next to the elevator. It’s a giant backpack-like contraption, made of hammered metal, and splattered with mud. She taps it experimentally, examining it from all sides, then stands up.
“Doctor?” she calls into the lab. A crash echoes from across the room. It’s followed by footsteps, heavy ones, coming toward her. Moments later vonNatsi turns a corner and storms up to her.
“Doctor!” she cries happily, holding her arms out in welcome.
“Ms. Johnson! At last, ve have sanity in zis place!!” His requisite pair of goggles are strapped to his reddened face, magnifying his furious eyes to comedic proportions. “Zis it outrageous!”
Georgia’s arms droop. “What’s going on?”
He stiffens and clenches his fists. “I have been…intruded upon!!!”
Georgia glances at the backpack. “Show me.”
VonNatsi storms back across the lab, Georgia close behind. He leads her to an open area in a portion of the lab, with a table in the middle of it. Unusual for the lab, this table is clear of all equipment.
Also unusual for the lab, there is a woman sitting at it.
Her clothing is odd, even by Dr. vonNatsi’s standards. The overall theme seems to be a cross between British Exploratory Expedition and Mad Max. Everything is made of leather, straps, and khaki, and perched on her head are an enormous pair of brass goggles as complex as vonNatsi’s but somehow much more elegant. All the look needs is a fine coating of alkali dust and she’d look like she was fresh off the Playa.
At the moment, though, she looks fresh off the country estate, perched on a stool with the perfect posture of a Victorian painting, calmly sipping tea from a fine porcelain cup painted in a blue and white motif of gears.
The woman looks up as Georgia appears. She puts down the cup then stands up and bows. “Ahh, you must be Georgia Johnson.” She extends a leather gloved hand. “Victoria Lovelace. Daughter of Ether. Dr. vonNatsi has told me so many things about you. Do forgive me, you are…what do you they call your sort of…Tremere, was it?”
“Yes, yes I am.” Georgia beams and curtsies. “It is lovely to make your acquaintance.”
“Ah yes. Never made the acquaintance of a Tremere. Blood wizards of some nature, yes?”
“Umm…something of the sort, I guess you could say.”
“And how is it that you know Dr. vonNatsi,” Lovelace asks, turning to the doctor. He’s standing to the side, arms folded, glaring from behind his goggles.
“Oh, we’ve…collaborated…on one or two small projects,” Georgia says, glancing uncertainly between them.
“JA!” vonNatsi barks, “VE have collaborated ON SCIENCE!!! Etheric science!! TRUE science!”
“Dr. vonNatsi is very accomplished,” Georgia says proudly.
Lovelace sighs. “Yes, I’m sure he is.” She picks up a nearby teapot patterned in the same gear motif and pours herself more tea.
“Are you a collaborator?” Georgia asks, settling down on one of the other stools.
“In a manner of speaking. Dr. vonNatsi and I have rather…unresolved questions concerning the proper direction of etheric studies.”
“Oh, then…you must want to do science!”
Lovelace smiles. “Well it is my calling of course.”
VonNatsi scoffs. “It is not science, it is vitchcraft!! She practices QUANTUM MECHANICS!!”
“Oh…” Georgia’s face falls. “I’m afraid I don’t even know what that is.”
Lovelace sighs and puts her tea back down. She folds her hands in front of her. “Dr. vonNatsi is a purist in many ways. He regrets the introduction of quantum mechanics, ignoring of course who it was who introduced it.”
“And…who was that?”
Lovelace smirks and stands a little straighter. “Why the Brotherhood of Ether, of course. Who else could have accomplished such a thing. It certainly wasn’t the Technocrats.”
VonNatsi starts spitting curses in German. He storms to a nearby table and buries himself in some task there, though from afar it looks like he is just smashing things together.
Georgia turns back to Lovelace. “So…you both study the ether?”
“Of course. I however prefer to use any methods necessary to study the ether, as opposed to some…” she glances at vonNatsi’s back, “…Neanderthalic restriction derived from a generation long lost.”
VonNatsi pauses in his banging. He places both gloved hands on the table and hunches his shoulders. “Zere is nothing Neanderthalic about ze practice of PURE SCIENCE! Neutonian mechanics vas good enough for the original Sons of Ether und it is good enough for me!!”
Georgia nods. “I have to heartily agree, I have seen Dr. vonNatsi perform some very impressive feats of science.”
Lovelace brushes her hand over the teacup sitting on the table. It wobbles a moment then slowly levitates into the air. “I’m sure you have,” she says with a smile.
Georgia stares at the cup. “…Intriguing…that is a pretty cool trick, isn’t it….”
“Ja,” vonNatsi spits, still not turning around. “It is a parlor trick, you can find the same vith a child’s birthday magician. Ve are not trick magicians, ve are scientists!!”
(Me: “ILLUSIONS, DAD!”)
Lovelace plucks the teacup from the air and sips from it. “The doctor and I go back quite a ways. He mentioned that he was practicing his science with a colleague and I wished to inquire who that was. We don’t see a great many Non-Awakened, you know.”
Georgia blinks at the term but doesn’t question it. “Oh, no, um, I’m certain you don’t, but Dr. vonNatsi and I have an excellent working relationship.”
“I’m sure you do, but if I might ask, and do forgive the intrusion, but…what have you been working on?”
Georgia beams. “Well there’s been some lovely experiments. The very first one we did was on teleportation.”
“Ah yes….” Lovelace glances across the lab. “He showed me the teleporter. It has a certain…crude beauty to it, I will grant. But I was hoping you could enlighten me somewhat more on this larger scale project of Dr. vonNatsi’s.”
Georgia tilts her head. “The…one in which he turned all of the silver inside a living being’s body into not-silver? Because that was pretty impressive.”
VonNatsi stiffens. Lovelace frowns and glances at him. “He said nothing of the sort,” she mutters.
VonNatsi turns around, glowering. “It vas done in the service of experimental science—“
“—And it was incredibly impressive,” Georgia chimes in, “you should have seen—“
Lovelace holds up a hand. “I would like to inquire as to precisely whose body it was whom you transmitted silver out of.”
“Oh, a friend’s,” Georgia says. “…Or, well not my friend….”
“You’ll forgive me, but it is my understand that silver is not a mechanism employed tremendously often, except against a certain particular form.”
“Oh that’s true, but as I said, it wasn’t one of my friends, so I don’t feel at liberty to disclose the details of the event, but the science involved was incredibly impressive. I’m sure Dr. vonNatsi would be happy to explain to you exactly how he went about calibrating the machine.”
Lovelace regards Georgia quietly for a moment, then turns to Dr. vonNatsi with a raised eyebrow.
VonNatsi sighs and deliberately places the tool in his hand—which looks suspiciously like a garlic press—back on the table. “All of it vas done vith ze utmost academic rigor. As practiced by Ethernauts since ze dawn of time.”
“Of course, of course.” Lovelace turns back to Georgia. “Might I offer you some tea?” She opens a satchel strapped to her hip and removes another teacup identical to her own. She lifts the teapot and fills the cup.
The liquid is red, and steaming. She hands it to Georgia with a smile.
Georgia looks into the cup. “Wow, um…where did this come from?”
“A creation of my own,” Lovelace says. She turns to refill her own cup from the same pot. Once again it comes out as tea. “It’s an experiment of mine. Artificial blood. It’s not quite as good as the real thing, I’m told, but….”
Georgia still hesitates. “Is it safe to drink?”
“Oh it should be quite safe. It comes out hot but I imagine it will have cooled sufficiently by now.” Lovelace settles herself back on her stool. “I’m afraid, though, that the subject I wish to discuss is not quite so simple. Dr. vonNatsi has been working on a project to produce…what was it you called it, Doctor…the golem project?” He looks away, scowling. She turns to Georgia instead. “Have you and he had much in the way of interaction in regards to that project?”
“I don’t think he’s mentioned it…maybe once….” Georgia says absently, sipping the blood. It tastes a little flat, but seems otherwise alright. She turns the cup in her hands and realizes that the gears painted on the side are slowly turning.
Lovelace sips her tea. “Ah I see. Well I was rather hoping to get a look at the golem and its progress but Dr. vonNatsi is rather…unwilling.” She sighs and softens her voice. “There are some concerns in the Society itself as to precisely what it is Dr. vonNatsi appears to be up to at the moment. Do forgive us, but we don’t quite understand how the interests of science is served by certain of his more…outlandish purposes.”
Lovelace and Georgia both turn to look at vonNatsi, who is currently engrossed with trying to shove a tennis ball through the garlic press.
“I’m…not quite sure I understand what you mean….” Georgia says with no trace of irony.
Lovelace searches the ceiling. “How shall I put this, I don’t want to be rude…. The city has become rather…unstable as of late, you may have noticed, and the board at Paradigm at the very least has taken notice of this fact and we think it might be best for our purposes of all if unstable elements were removed from the proximity of the city. And…well…Dr. vonNatsi has a…history of being something of an unstable element.”
Georgia sits up straighter. “Oh goodness, but the lab is warded.”
“Well, yes, and yet there have been how many werewolf intrusions in the last week?”
“Certainly that’s been because of the werewolves intruding and not the instability of the science being done here! And at any rate, the werewolves, I am told, are no longer in the city!”
“Yes, but we are somewhat concerned by that fact as well, you see,” Lovelace says sadly.
“Well it was certainly not Dr. vonNatsi’s instability that created the lack of werewolves!”
Lovelace puts her cup down. “I do understand. As a colleague, you must defend your compatriot and it is to your credit that you should do so. The difficulty is we’re simply unwilling to take the risk of having another Three Mile Island incident.” She notices Georgia’s confused expression. “You’ve heard of the nuclear reactor? At Three Mile Island?”
“What’s a nuclear reactor?”
Lovelace sighs. “Oh dear. Suffice to say, there was an incident in 1978 in Pennsylvania that Dr. vonNatsi may or may not have had anything to do with—“
Dr. vonNatsi whirls around, brandishing the garlic press at Lovelace. “Zose vere SPURIOUS RUMORS! Nothing vas ever proven!!”
“The good doctor,” Lovelace continues calmly, “wished to perform a degree of experimentation on the reactor core and might have transmuted several of the control rods into something he should not have.”
Georgia, blessed with ignorance, shrugs this off. “Well I can personally attest that I have seen Dr. vonNatsi perform multiple transmutations in the last week and he has done every one of them exactly as predicted.
“Exceptionally glad to hear that, but nonetheless there is a concern that this form of science might prove to be a destabilizing element.” She holds up a hand against Georgia’s protests. “We’re not trying to say that he shouldn’t perform it. Far be it from us to impede the flow of science, after all. We’d just prefer it if he were to undertake his experiments in a somewhat more controlled environment. Horizon, perhaps, or a shard realm.”
“…Where are those?”
Georgia’s face goes dark. “So you wish to kill him.”
“What? No! Of course not! Etherites do not do such things, what are we? Barbarians?”
Georgia still frowns suspiciously. “Dr. vonNatsi,” she says, turning, “What do you say to this?”
vonNatsi is leaning against his table, arms folded, glaring at Lovelace. “I say zat zis is an officious busybody attempting to suppress zose who do not subscribe to her orthodoxy!!”
He throws up his arms and paces, intoning in a mocking voice. “Quantum mechanics is the new science! Ve cannot understand ze particles! It is unknowable!!!”
Georgia puts down her teacup and folds her arms at Lovelace. “Well, I do not know what to say. And I am not entirely certain why it is I’ve been summoned.”
“Well, I merely wish to inquire whether you had beheld any experiments that might be concerning.”
Georgia draws herself up. “I’ve beheld many experiments that have given me great pause to consider what I have been doing with my research. And I think that Dr. vonNatsi has a great deal to teach me.” At these words, Dr. vonNatsi behind her draws himself up too, scoffing at Lovelace.
“Quite,” Lovelace says, regarding them both. “Quite….” She stands up. “Well, I don’t mean to take any more of your valuable time. I do understand, your kind has your own agendas in the city and I don’t wish to interfere. But, doctor…. I do understand your antipathy towards certain core tenants of etheric science. But we are concerned that your methodologies may be somewhat suspect and that they may lead to destabilization of the immediate environs. After all…the reports from your former assistant were rather alarming.”
vonNatsi facepalms. “I informed Gunter that all the damage could be repaired….” He mutters.
“It does sound like he was an exceptionally poor lab assistant,” Georgia adds.
Lovelace raises an eyebrow. “Yes, well, it is rather hard to assist in a laboratory when one is having one’s limbs amputated.” She picks up the cups and the teapot and stows them away in satchels that look too small to contain them, yet somehow everything fits. She also removes a card. “In any event, Ms. Johnson, will you do me the great compliment of taking my contact information? Should something else come up, please contact me.”
Georgia sighs and takes the card. “That sounds delightful. And, should you wish to participate in any experiments here or watch any demonstrations so that you might feel better about Dr vonNatsi I would be happy to assist with those.
“Yes, I would love to, but I’m afraid that today I would be hard pressed to do so.” She takes a slim pocketwatch from a pocket and clicks it open. “Yes, I’m afraid that I’m required in less than an hour on Venus.”
Georgia stares. “I see…and where is that?”
Lovelace stares back. “Roughly sixty million miles in that direction.” She points straight up.
Georgia looks at her askance. “Do you mean north?”
Lovelace smirks. “Not quite.” She bows to Georgia, bows slightly less so to vonNatsi, then walks back toward the elevator and out of sight.
Georgia and vonNatsi are left alone in the lab.
(Kara: “Oh myyy! With no supervision?”
Me: “Kara! What would Doc say?”
Chris: “Hey, Dr. vonNatsi still probably has a sex drive.”
Me: “He doesn’t have a sex drive, he’s a scientist, come on.”
Chris: “Wow, aren’t you a scientist?”
Kara: “Aren’t I a scientist?”
Jim: “I’m sorry for your loss.”)
vonNatsi storms over to a cabinet, grumbling, and pulls out a bottle of schnapps. He pours himself a glass. Georgia watches him sadly. “Well, I will say she was lovely company, although her plans to…murder you were a little disconcerting. “
vonNatsi pounds his glass back and slams it on the table. “She doesn’t vant to murder me, she vants to murder vat I stand for! Pure! Etheric! Science! She’s ze royalty among ze Etherites. She does does vat she vants, she has the research grant! She writes for Paradigma!”
He waves his arms and starts pacing. “Ooooh, look at me, I do ze quantum mechanics! Everything is vat I say it is! Black is vhite, up is down, zere is no functioning of ze universe, zere is only quantum mechanics! Vere is ze particle? I DON’T KNOW! Nobody can tell!!!”
(Chris: *stage whisper* “It’s really disturbing how good Jason is at this.”)
VonNatsi slumps onto a stool and pours himself another glass of Schnapps. Georgia sips her blood.
(UPDATE: As one of our favorite exchanges in this entire game, we now have an audio clip of the original discussion to share.)
“You vin one contest, one…PostIt contest, practically, and suddenly you’re the one everyone wants to talk to, you’re the one being invited to give lectures…” he mutters.
Georgia reaches out and pats his arm gently. “Perhaps it was because of her catchy outfit. Maybe…maybe if we gave you a makeover?”
He looks up. “Makeover? Vat is zat?”
“You know, like…update your look.”
He stands up and spreads his arms. “Vat is wrong vith my look!?”
Georgia looks over his stained labcoat, the giant green lab gloves, the bandoliers of deathrays, and the goggles—which, now that she’s looking carefully, she can see are made from colored glass Christmas ornaments that have been cut in half. “Nothing is wrong with it, it’s just…perhaps we can get you a nice set of embroidered lab coats, um…”
(Me: “We need to glue more gears to all your shit.”)
VonNatsi scowls and gropes his labcoat. “Vat is the use of an embroidered labcoat? Vat am I, a Hermetic? Am I Merlin, standing around vith the pointy hat and shouting for lightning!?!”
Georgia holds up her hands. “All I’m suggesting is that her dress was quite catchy….”
“Ohh, yeaaah…” He starts pacing again. “She has the Ethernaut gear. She is a member of ze Ethernautical Society. Ze Royal Ethernautical Society.”
“Hmm. Royalty, huh? I thought they’d done away with that…”
VonNatsi laughs mockingly. “Nein, Fraulein, ze did avay vith ze old ones, but zey have ze new ones now. Oh, she is the great-granddaughter of Lovelace, so ja, ve give her everything she vants.”
Georgia blinks. “Granddaughter of whom?”
VonNatsi stops. “Of no one….” he says, glowering into space. “Of no one at all….”
(Jim: “I love how your ignorance is Dr. vonNatsi’s favorite trait about you!”)
Anstis has set up a meeting this evening with Bell, of all people. He begins their appointment by swaggering into Bell’s office and wandering nonchalantly to a window.
Bell glares at him and closes his laptop. “Now that is the appearance of a man who is about to ask me for a favor.”
Anstis is quiet a moment, staring at the fog pouring in low over the bay, before responding. “Back in my day I was an opportunist. One could consider me an anarch. Did me own thing.”
Bell leans back in his chair and swivels to face him. “The Anarchs are members of the Camarilla same as everyone else. They may not think that they are, but they are.”
Anstis inclines his head but continues to face the window. “I’m aware that it brought me ruin in the end.”
“As it often does.”
“A lack of respect for the powers that be, shall we say.”
“The world is what it is, not what we wish it to be.”
Anstis nods and is silent a moment. “In my time, there was a certain concept. A…letter of mark”
Bell raises an eyebrow. “Yes…commissioned privateers.”
“Did you take on any letters of mark in your career?”
“I did not.”
Bell clasps his fingers. “And are you looking to see if such things are available now?”
Anstis turns and folds his arms. “I might be interested in helping put your city back together, if I be granted a certain amount of…autonomy at sea.”
“At sea?” Bell frowns. “What are you planning on doing at sea, Captain? I can’t have you raiding cargo ships from Korea.”
Anstis shrugs. “Well if there be a certain direction ye be pointing me in….” He trails off.
Bell regards him a moment. “The further south you go, the less apt I am to care what you do there, if that makes the matter clearer.”
“Aye, it does.”
“There’s no shortage of pirates in the waters these days, perhaps not the same ones you are used to dealing with but they’re around, and most of them have backers of some sort. I have heard interesting rumors going on off our own waters, of course. Ships of the Damned and islands of fear.”
Bell leans forward. “If someone were to show themselves worthy of a letter of mark, someone were to show themselves a trustworthy pair of hands in which which to put it—cause afterall, a bearer of such a letter would be operating, in a sense, for the Camarilla itself—that someone would be given very broad license indeed to do what he wished in certain waters. Say even…Caribbean ones.”
Anstis smiles. “I like the sound of this. The sea is where I consider home.
Bell nods and swivels to the window. “Well one must always go home, if one can. But I would need some reason to entrust you with such a thing. That would be a very wide commission, Captain. If you were able to show me that you have the capacity to handle certain nautical matters—the rumors that I’m hearing onshore, this…Perpenna matter—then I’d be in a position to help you.”
“I believe we have an understanding.”
“Good.” Bell turns back to his desk and opens his laptop again. “Then unless there was anything else, Captain, I will bid you good evening.”
Anstis sweeps off his hat and bows with an exaggerated flourish, and leaves the office.
Paul arrives in Portola Valley at the ragged battlefield that was his house.
(Chris: “Is there a front door?”
Chris: “Then I walk in through the gaping maw.”)
He surveys the scorched rubble and glass of the entryway with a sigh then heads to the kitchen. It is similarly trashed, but the large cabinet-veneer fridge is still intact. He pries open the door and digs out his Alcatraz tote bag containing Sebastian’s head from amongst the cabbages. Next he visits his office and grabs a couple new phones from his stash, one for himself and a few others in case of emergency.
He goes to get cleaned up and changed, in the process of which surveying the ragged battlefield that was his body.
He wisely decides to contact his solar-project engineers via phone instead of in person. He calls the lead engineer—Bill Can-His-Last-Name-Be-Tungsten-No-It-Cant-Fuck-You-Chris—and raves about what a success their “test” at the Shark Tank was the previous night.
Then, after a pause, he asks if Bill has any ideas to make the technology mobile.
I am out and about, trying to get my mind wrapped around things, when I get a call from Paul. He wants to talk about plans for rescuing Sophia and tells me to meet up with him at a neutral, public location. Being both Paul AND a Toreador, he chooses some sort of hippie meditation drumming and chanting thing being held at Cellspace in the Mission later that night.
I agree and start making my way there.
Georgia is still with Dr. vonNatsi, both of them nursing their drinks in silence, when she suddenly remembers something that Lovelace said in passing.
“Doctor…this is the second time I’ve heard about your golem project….” She says slowly.
VonNatsi nods. “Ja. It is a…personal project. Are you familiar with the legend of the golem?”
Georgia shakes her head.
“It is an old mythological legend from Medieval Kabbalic studies. It regards a man who creates a creature, a living creature, out of clay, vith vitch to destroy his enemies.” He wobbles his head back and forth. “He inscribes it vith mystical sigils und it comes to life und it ultimately destroys him.” He pauses. “Obviously I vish to do away vith the third part there.”
Georgia shudders. “Oh dear. Clearly.”
VonNatsi takes a sip of his schnapps. “I vish to practice ze art of golem making on a scale that has never before been produced. You see, anyone can create a golem. Ze Hermetics can create a golem, it is easy, but I vish to engage in a much more ambitious project. A different sort of golem.”
“And…what is that?”
“A golem produced not through the typical animating structures, you see.” He turns to Georgia and lifts his goggles to his forehead. “Typically ven one produces the golem, one employs a channeling devicing to draw Quintessencal energy from the etheric plane und infuse material of ze creature zat it might be animated.”
“How dramatic!” Georgia says breathlessly, eyes wide.
“It is dramatic. BUT!” He holds a finger aloft. “It is limited. Ze etheric plane cannot produce energy of sufficient quantity to animate ze golem und produce ze effects necessary. Zis is why ze golem is alvays ze big hulking man who valks around like the movies from ze 30’s, ja. Zey are not elegant, zey do not employ…science.” He grins. “I vish to do something entirely different.”
“And what is that?”
VonNatsi leans forward. “I vill access a different energy source. The latent etheric energy trapped vithin ze material of ze golem itself. Ze golem vill be, in a sense, self-powering. It vill not be reliant upon exterior sources of etheric energy. Und zis vill allow a golem of unlimited complexity.”
He takes a dramatic swig of his drink then sits up straight. “HOWEVER! Ze strictures to produce such a thing are very precise. Zey require the most delicate testing, und proper configuration, so as to produce the intended effect. Ze alternative could vell distintigrate ze golem….” He hesitates. “…Und possibly the golem maker. For obvious reasons, zis is a matter zat requires great care.”
He hesitates again and looks at Georgia askance, tapping his fingers on the table. “Und it would be helpful if I could acquire a few items zat…might…come in handy?”
Georgia nods enthusiastically. “Yes you have mentioned before you have a list of things you need help with but I don’t recall ever receiving the list.”
“Ooh, yes, my apologies, Fraulein, zere were…complications.” His face darkens. “Involving verewolves.”
“Oh, yes, of course. It happens to the best of it.”
“Ja. Vell I do need a certain number of basic things. A 57-gigawatt Flux capacitor, a perpetual motion machine, a pocket-sized nuclear reactor, a cold-fusion reactor….” He waves his hand vaguely. “You know, the simple items. But zis is not vat I need assistance vith.”
Georgia frowns in puzzlement as he lists the items but doesn’t ask for clarification. “So…I shouldn’t write these down?”
“Vell, if you have a perpetual motion machine that vould be useful.”
“Oh no. Not on me. Um…what would you like me to get for you?”
He sips his drink, thinking. “Vell, zere is an item that a vampire might be able to assist me vith. Zere is a certain alchemical element. It is called [fourteen-syllable-German-word-Fahrfagnugen-Autobahn-Ich-bin-ein-Berliner].”
Georgia stares. “Um…is there a shorter name for that?”
VonNatsi thinks for a second. “Vell…I have also heard it called Compound E. It is an alchemical product produced by blood sorcerers. And it is unfortunately one zat I am not certain of the proper mechanisms for producing. Othervise I vould do so. Zere are, however, certain thaumaturgists who might be able to produce it, in quantity, und so I turn to ze blood mage.”
He puts down his drink and turns to face Georgia intently. “It is an extremely unstable element. If you heat it past a certain point, it immediately reverts to a more stable compound, one not useful to me. Nitro-glycerin. But kept at it’s proper optimal temperature it is as safe as rainwater.”
He hesitates. “Ze…proper temperature being 3 degrees Kelvin.”
Georgia nods, wide-eyed. “That doesn’t sound too hard. I…could get a cooler.”
VonNatsi winces. “You…might need something a bit more potent zan zat.”
Georgia frowns, then shrugs. “Well, perhaps we will cross that bridge when we come to it. First I will track down the compound.”
VonNatsi beams. “Excellent! If you assist me vith zis it vill greatly progress human understanding of Science!!” He hesitates, his smile turning brittle. “…Also I might have a golem that kills people….”
Georgia is a bit nonplussed by this but not as plussed as she probably should be. “Is that…better than a death ray?”
“Oh, Fraulein,” vonNatsi sighs, “Zis vill make a deathray look like a microwave antenna.” His eyes go distant, and a pleased smile spreads across his face. “If I can create this golem, it vill make my finest deathray look like a product of quantum mechanics….”
He trails off, obviously thinking scientific thoughts. Georgia sips her blood.
“Doctor,” she says suddenly, “There was one more thing I wanted to mention. Remember that…problem you asked me to help you with? You said you were going to outfit one of the deathrays for me….”
VonNatsi blinks himself out of his reverie. “Ooooh, ja, ze deathray….” He looks over his shoulder across the lab. “I do have ze deathray for you. But…zere is a problem vith it.…”
He gets up and disappears behind a nearby lab bench for awhile, coming back cradling a bulky ray-gun looking contraption in his hands.
He sighs. “I tried, und I tried, but…ze eye surgery setting simply does not verk.” He hesitates. “Or, well, it does verk if you vish to boil the eyeball.”
He hands it to her. Georgia blinks at stares at it. “Oh…well that might be useful. And the other settings?”
He his hand dismissively. “Oh, zey vill verk. Death, disintegration, microwave cooking. Um, do not press the green button, however.”
Georgia pauses with her finger millimeters above said button. “Why?”
“It causes the deathray to violently explode.”
“Oh, good to know. And this button?”
He peers at it. “Oh, zat is the MP3 player. Ze music player. You push it und it plays ze music.”
Georgia beams. “Oh, how nice!”
“Ja. Though unfortunately it only playz polka music at ze moment. I vas trying to add ze other ones, and, vell…let us say zat ze Country und ze Western music and ze Science do not connect.” His face darkens again. “Zey do not connect at all.”
(Me: “Hey! Hey…. I grew up on country music.”
Jason: *glares and leans in toward me* “Zey do not connect at all!”)
Anstis leaves the Pyramid, transforms into Parrot-Anstis, and takes off into the night. He circles up over the city, spots his intended destination, and soars down to it.
He finds an open window high in the belfry, squeezes through, then glides through the rafters, long tail ruddering him through the columns like rainforest tree trunks. Few clergypeople are around at this late hour, so he’s able to flutter up to the baptismal font unnoticed.
He transforms back into human form, glancing around surreptitiously, then takes a handful of stones out of his pocket.
One by one, he starts dipping them in the water.
Once they have all been consecrated, he pockets them and flies back up into the belfry. There, he hides in the shadows and, using one of his own molted feathers, inscribes a series of names on the rocks in his own blood.
(Names which the rest of us weren’t allowed to know so the vague things he saw when he used said rocks for his necromantic scrying spell are without context so imma just skip that and we can catch up with Anstis later.)
I arrive at Cellspace before Paul. As I approach I hear the muted reverberation of music. I make my way through the smokers lingering outside the door and duck inside.
The entry-atrium of the space doubles as a white-walled art gallery, currently showing some sort of photography exhibit. A few people are scattered around the room, but none of them seem to be looking at the photos. They are all standing, staring vacantly around the space, obviously entranced by something else.
The music. If it can be called that, actually. It’s a repetitive, droning sound, like an electric sitar—(Me: “Oh wow, those are really rare!”)—and bordering on atonal.
I hesitate, gaze softening, the sound starting to unravel the edges of my mind like pulled sweater strings. Then the moment passes and I’m able to shake myself out of the fog. I frown and enter the main performance area.
Cellspace is a warehouse-like space, half art venue and half circus-school, hung with velvet curtains and lighting equipment and littered with props and decorations from all manner of events. Right now everything is pushed to the sides and the floor is filled with folding chairs, all ranged in a semi-circle around a circular dais acting as a stage. People are scattered throughout the room—some in the chairs, some standing near the walls, some gathered around the bar set up in the corner—but wherever they are standing, every single person in the room is oriented toward that dais stage and the man currently standing on it.
The man is tall, dressed in an outfit like a reject from a Falco music video but topped with hair that even David Bowie would aspire to. He’s curled in a rockstar-slump over a baroque long-necked instrument that is almost, but not entirely, unlike a sitar, teasing out long chords of the strange music. Though everyone in the room is focused on him, he seems to be oblivious to anything else outside the sphere of music surrounding the dais.
I stare at him, then at the vacant faces around the room. This can’t be good.
I notice an analog clock hanging on one of the walls. I stare at it a moment, trying to figure out why it grabbed my attention, and then I realize: the second hand is ticking over very. very. slowly.
Someone brushes past me, walking slowly into the room. I glance over. It’s Paul, face rhapsodic but eyes vacant. He steps down the aisle, entranced, as close to the stage as he can, and drops down into the nearest available seat.
I frown. Son of a bitch…. No one, not even the musician, glances at me as I stride up next to Paul and start shaking his shoulder.
“Hey, heeey….” I hiss. Paul rocks with the movement but doesn’t respond. I look around the room. No one looks quite as gone as Paul is, but no one looks…quite…right.
I turn to the musician. Though I am standing just a couple feet from him, face almost at eye-level, he is focused on the music and doesn’t acknowledge me at all.
I glance around the room again, concern deepening. There’s obviously some magical shit going on right now and it looks like I am the only one around able to deal with it.
The musician doesn’t even flinch as I step onto the dais and walk up behind him. “Hey, brah.” Still no response. I reach out and tap his shoulder.
The music doesn’t falter, but he turns to glance at me out of the corner of his eye. He stares a moment, then plays one loud chord that drives through the music without managing to break it.
An electric shock blasts my hand off his shoulder. I stumble back, cradling it, but I’m more surprised than hurt. He scoffs at me then turns back to his instrument.
I glare at him then storm back into the seats. “Paul!” I bark, shaking him more vigorously this time.
“…Huh? Yeah?” He looks up, then around the room. “Tom…?”
I glance at the musician. “Paul, we need to GO.”
He stares at me blearily. “But…this music is fantastic, Tom, I—“
I lift at his upper arm. “Paul something weird is going on, let’s talk about this outside, ok?”
Paul starts to drift again. “But…I want to listen…to the music….”
I pull harder, lifting him half out of the chair. “Paul…lets go outside….”
He sighs. “Fine….”
Just as Paul stands up, the music hits a high, long note. It resonates through the space, filling up the empty ait between the adoring eyes of the crowd, then, slowly, languidly, dies out.
There’s a moment of silence, then an audible, collective breath from everyone else in the room. The musician doesn’t say anything, doesn’t even acknowledge the crowd. He leans over, unplugs his instrument, and steps off the dais. He walks down the aisle, passing Paul and I without a glance, the rest of the crowd stirring in his wake. He walks up to the bar and leans against it, staring around the room haughtily.
Low conversation starts to spread through the room as people get up and move around. No one seems in any immediate danger, or any worse for wear, but I still stare at him suspiciously. I decide to go try and talk to him again. Paul follows.
He flicks his eyes at us as we approach but otherwise doesn’t react. Paul bustles forward to speak first. “Hey, man, that music was amazing, I mean…wow. Can I buy you a drink?”
The musician regards Paul lazily. “Oh, zank you, jaaa. I play for the people who understand the muuusic.”
“When are you playing next?”
“Oh, ven I feel like it. The schedules, they are boring.” His gaze drifts to me. “And who are you?”
My eyes narrow slightly. “…Tom,” I say, voice clipped. With his Eurotrash accent and overall demeanor, I’m starting to think I liked him better when he wasn’t talking.
“Tom. Jaaa, zis is a boring name, you bore me.” He turns back to the bar and picks up a drink.
Paul leans forward eagerly. “Where did you learn to play like that?”
The man slouches against the bar. “Oh, you know, you play and you play and you look for the perfect muusic and you praaactice it. And ven the music takes you zen you attain the true bliss.”
The bartender wanders over, finally drawing Paul’s attention away from the man. “What will you have?” Paul asks him.
The man purses his lips and stares across the room. “I vill have…transcendence.”
(Me: “Oh my god I hate this guy so much.”)
The man’s gaze drifts over bar. “Und…ze Jaegermeister.”
(Me: “Oh my god I hate him even more.”)
I roll my eyes and lean against the bar a few feet down, frowning. Paul orders the drink and goes back to fawning over him. “Would you…play another?”
The man thinks for a long moment, then nods. “Jaaaa, I could play another von, what would you like to hear?”
“Know any ACDC?” I ask before Paul can suggest some sort of douchey hipster alt-rock band like the kind he’s always inviting to the Tesseract company beer bashes.
The man looks at me, face still condescendingly dreamy. “Jaaa, ja zey vere real, zey played the real music, before zey sold out. Before zey became boooring.”
He unslings his instrument from behind his back. He reaches into a pocket of his crushed velvet coat and pulls out an amp cord. He plugs the cord into the instrument but doesn’t pull the rest of the cord out to plug it in anywhere else. He plucks a few notes, then begins to play—
(Jason: “Someone do me a favor and suggest an ACDC song only hipsters would like.”)
—Begins to play “Let There Be Rock.”
The music explodes into the space, the full accompaniment of music, more than one should be able to play with just a single instrument, and note-perfect to the original song. Just as before, he curls over the instrument, eyes closed in concentration. Unlike before, though, the room responds with jubilation. People start bouncing and rocking out wherever they are standing, and a few start pulling back chairs to make an impromptu mosh pit.
Paul, of course, is totally swept away, grinning and bobbing his head. And this time—caught unaware by the power of rock perfection—I unfortunately am too.
Georgia collects herself to leave the tower. Dr. vonNatsi offers to call her a car and asks if she would prefer a cab or another service.
She waves her hand dissmissively. “Oh, whatever. It’s going to be the same driver anyway.”
VonNatsi frowns. “You do not find this worrisome?”
(Me: “Well, there’s only five cabs in the city, so…statistically….”)
Georgia says that Adam is weird but doesn’t seem to be dangerous. VonNatsi scowls and warns her that there are stranger forces at work in the city than even she has met yet. Still, he calls her a car anyway. When it arrives, he bids Georgia goodbye and she leaves the lab to meet it at the gate.
(Jason: “The car arrives. Do you get in?”
Kara: “Yes I do. Who’s the driver?”
Jason: *scoffs* “Oh you know who the driver is….”)
“Where to?” Adam says with his now-trademark sunglasses grin. Georgia gives him an address in Russian Hill, a few blocks away from the Chantry. On the ride they have a predictably long chat that gives no real information. This time the major themes are the current lull in the drama of the city, though literally no one believes that will last for long.
He drops her off not where she requested, but once again in front of the old Victorian house a few blocks away, the same one he took her to the first night they met. The one that reeked of mystery and blood.
“Is there a reason you’ve dropped me off here?” Georgia says, staring up at the darkened windows.
“This is where you asked to go.”
“This is not where I asked to go,” she says, turning to him and frowning.
He lifts an eyebrow in an “Oh, really?” grin. “Are you sure? I think you should think about that again.”
She looks between him and the house, perplexed. “Is…there anyone else who might be interested in this house?”
“Well it is a nice property.”
“Yes, I’m sure it looks great in the morning sunlight,” she says flatly.
Adam chuckles. “Only one way to find that out.” Georgia glares at him and exits the cab. He nods at her and drives off.
Georgia spends a couple minutes staring up at the building, damp foggy air swirling through the heavy trees and unkempt landscaping out front. Reaching no conclusions about a sensible course of action, she decides to Pull a Georgia:
She walks up to the door and knocks. There’s no response, but she can hear slight movement inside, like someone trying to move around without letting anyone know that they’re there. She knocks a few more times with still more response, so she takes a chance and tries the door.
It’s unlocked. She opens it with a creak, peers into the darkened foyer, then steps inside.
(Me: “OMG! It’s Haunting at House on the Hill!”
Chris: “Whatever you do, don’t go into the basement. Nothing good ever happens in the basement.”
Me: “Yeah I think she learned that at the Monomancy.”)
The ACDC song finishes, perfect to the last echoing cord. The musician hovers for a moment over the last whispers, then slings the instrument back to his back and stands up. “Ja, zat vas the ACDC. Zey were good once, before they became boring.”
I slowly shake myself out of my trance. Paul, who barely left his trance to begin with, nods enthusiastically. “What’s your name?” he asks.
The man takes a sip of his Jaegermeister. “My name is Siegfried von Austerlitz. Jaa. I come from Munich, you understand, were ve play the real music. I have come here to see if zere is music to be found.”
“What sort of music are you looking for?”
He smiles. “The puure music, the music zat hasn’t been contaminated by the mediocrity and the consumers. The truuue music, jaaa, you understand.”
Austerlitz nods to himself, staring across the room, then slouches back against the bar. “And I have found the music here, and some of it is good, and some of it is boooring. It is American pop, it is the charts, zey play the Justin Beiber.”
Paul grips his forearm, eyes intent. “There is a great chanting class coming up here.”
Austerlitz nods, still staring into space. “Jaaaa, the chanting can be good, the chanting can be pure, but now zere is the hipsters, they read about it in the magazine, and zey think zey want to free Tibet and zey chant. Urgh. Zey are boooring.” He shrugs. “I will try ze class, ja, perhaps it is good, but probably it is boring.”
Speaking of boring…. I look around the room, watching the now rather disheveled crowd start to put the chairs back together. Once again, weird shit has happened, but no one seems to be in any danger and I’m getting tired of this. “Right, sooo…. Paul, what were you going to talk to me about?”
He continues to stare at Austerlitz, but seems to shake himself back into focus. “Oh….yeah, we should…talk….”
I grab his arm gently. “Do you want to step outside? You gonna be ok? There’s a lot of art in here.”
He nods, staring around the room. “Yeah…It’s just…so pure….”
I roll my eyes and drag Paul out of the room, leaving Austerlitz to condescendingly sip his Jaegermeister at the bar. I check my phone as we step out of the place, then stop so suddenly on the sidewalk that Paul crashes into me.
Though Austerlitz only played the one song, somehow time has jumped ahead three hours.
“Son of a bitch!!!” I snarl at the doorway behind me. “Paul, do you see this!?” I hold up my phone.
He stares at it, face still dreamy. “Huh…that’s…fascinating….”
(Me: “Urg, can I slap him?”)
Paul pulls his shit together. We discuss the Farallones and the fact that Sophia is probably there. We know we need to get out there soon but are stumped as to how.
Paul: “I was thinking some sort of nature outing—”
Me: “There aren’t many nature outings that leave at night, Paul.”
Paul: “—on an attack helicopter?”
Me: “….That…sounds like fun, but—“
(Jason: “Not a lot of nature outings leave on attack helicopters either.”
Chris: “Oh, well, not if you’re not filthy rich.”)
We contact Anstis and agree to get together to discuss these plans. Paul and I head to the Tesla to wait.
No sign of anyone inside the house, or movement, even as Georgia tentatively calls out into the gloom. She steps across the threshold. The door slams shut behind her, making her jump. Dim yellow light from the street filters through the curtains on the windows, but it’s largely absorbed by the heavy rugs and dark brocade wallpaper. She carefully feels her way down the hallway.
Something rustles behind her. She turns, peering into the darkness. “Hello….?” she calls, conjuring a ball of fire to see better.
Suddenly, a figure rushes out of the gloom, her firelight glinting off the long blade of a sword in it’s hand. The firelight also illuminates the figure’s face.
It’s Dr. Everton.
“Doctor Everton!!” she cries, stumbling back and holding up her hands. He stops, blade inches from her neck. Georgia gasps in relief, but it’s short-lived.
Something is wrong, very wrong. Everton is ragged, covered in wounds, dirt, and dried Vitae, and absolutely haggard. He is pale and gaunt in a way that Georgia has never seen before, not even in a vampire.
“Doctor Everton….?” she asks cautiously.
He stares at her, sword still held at her neck. “…I know you,” he whispers.
“Yes! It’s Georgia! From the Chantry…?”
He frowns. “Tremere… You were the Tremere…. Who came to Berkeley….”
“Yes! Are you alright?”
He stares at her, then drops the sword on the floor and grabs her robes. “You must…understand,” he hisses, “I am not alright, nothing is alright!” He peers into the darkness around them. “I have seen them all. They are coming.”
Georgia follows his gaze. “Who are?”
He leans in. “There are no names for them, but I’ve seen them, and I know, I know what they mean to do….”
Georgia stares blankly at his wan, darkened face. “What…what do they want? Tell me so I can stop them.”
He chuckles cruelly. “You can’t stop them…. You can’t get away.” He stares at her another moment, sanity slowly returning to his eyes. “You…there were others. Others with you…The Brujah, and…the Toreador….“
Georgia nods encouragingly. “Yes, Mr. Lytton, and Mr. Stewart.”
“And…the Ventrue! There was Ventrue—“
Her face drops. “Ah, Clarence. Clarence is no longer with us.”
Everton frowns. He drops her robes and steps back, muttering. “But…I saw him….”
“I saw him…in a very dark place….” He stares into the gloom and trails off.
“Yes…. Have…you seen his new employer?” Georgia asks carefully.
Everton’s mouth works soundlessly for a few moments. “The…Man of Wind….” he finally whispers.
“Yes…that’s the one…. Have you seen him?”
Everton turns his gaze back to her, eyes wide. He shakes his head slowly. “The Man of Wind is not his employer.”
“Umm…” Georgia shifts uncomfortably. “Interesting…who is, then?”
“There are no names. None that can be spoken, not even in the light. There are no names for what employs him.” He regards her a moment. “What are you doing here? How did you find me?”
“Uhhh….” Georgia glances at the door. “An acquaintance dropped me off. A…very tight-lipped cab driver.”
Everton strides to a window and peers through the dusty curtains. “Well, if you can find me here then so can the rest. We must go. Immediately.”
“Alright, well the Chantry’s not far. Not…really secure, mind you, but…”
Everton glances up and down the street. “No where is.… The Chantry will do. …Wait,” he turns around. “How did you know about the Man of Wind?”
“Oh, well the attacked the Chantry.”
His face drops. “We can’t go there,” he growls, turning back to the window. “You don’t understand, the Man of Wind…. I saw the things he works with.”
“I…saw some things too—“
“No, not like this. You would be different if you had seen these things…Unless….” he turns around slowly. “…my God, are you working with him too?”
Georgia scoffs. “Oh good lord no.”
Everton drops the curtain and stalks toward her. “Are you…working for him? You cannot lie to me….”
She takes a step back. “What, no, I’m—“
“You’re lying….you’re lying!!” He reaches down to pick up his sword, still staring intently at her.
“I’m not ly—“
“YOU ARE LYING!!!” He levels the sword.
Georgia throws her hands up. “Look at my aura!!”
He squints at her, then slowly relaxes his sword. “Why did you come here? Who sent you!?” he says, still glowering.
“I don’t understand—“
“You will understand soon, you and all of your kind.”
He continues to glare at her but drops the point of the sword to the floor. Georgia relaxes. “So…are you staying here alone, or….”
He smiles unsettlingly. “I am never alone, my dear. None of us are ever alone.”
“Okay, well…would you like some blood? You’re not looking too good….”
He scowls. “What trickery is this?”
“It’s…a peace offering. I mean you no harm, I’m here to help. You have my word.”
He laughs. “Your word is that of a Tremere. Both of our words are that of vampires. We have no words, there is merely that which we can and cannot do. And you are a Tremere, so who knows what you can do. What do you want with me, Johnson?”
She shrugs. “Well you seem to know a lot about the occult goings-on of the city—“
“I have seen a lot of events which I did not expect to have,” he spits.
“—Indeed, and as events become more complicated, you are becoming an invaluable resource.”
“You’ll forgive me if that doesn’t fill me with confidence, I know what the Tremere mean by ‘resource.’ “
“In this case I mean that having you on my side is incredibly valuable. And at the moment I am interested in helping you. You look, frankly, terrible, and that concerns me. Especially since you say you’ve seen the Man of Wind. He…scares the night out of me.”
“He scares the night out of most who cross his path. There’s a reason for that. I’ve seen more than just him, I’ve seen from whence he draws his strength,” Everton says darkly.
Georgia throws her hands up excitedly. “And thats the thing we can use to fight back against him!”
Everton scoffs. “Fight back? Against that? You have a deep overestimation of your capabilities.”
“Not mine, certainly—“
“Then whose?” Everton snaps. “I know there are elders in this town. They are not equal to this task.”
“Well then we will do something you advise,” Georgia says, exasperated. “But I do think that something needs to be done, or else the entire city may burn.”
Everton stares at her a long moment, a dark shape eclipsing the filtered yellow glow of the windows. “If you are telling the truth…call for the others. Your Toreador, your Brujah.”
“Umm….” Georgia pulls her smashed phone out of a pocket and holds it up.
“Then employ mine,” Everton sneers, grabbing his and holding it out.
Paul and I are chilling in the Tesla when his phone rings. It’s an unknown number but he answers it anyway. “Ms. Johnson!” Paul announces, then starts chatting with her. The volume is down and I don’t have Auspex so I can’t hear her side of the conversation. I stare out the window, only half listening to what he’s saying.
“Uh-huh…yes…Dr. Everton? That’s great! Where did you find him?…. The Man of Wind?”
I snap my head around. Paul doesn’t notice.
“Who is—…Perkins? Is he with you?…I think Tom saw him the other night…. Alright, where are you?…Great, we’ll be there in twenty minutes.”
Paul hangs up. I stare at him in concern. “We’re meeting up with Georgia,” he says, starting the car and blasting the stereo before I can say anything.
We head north. My mind is reeling, thinking about Sophia and Perpenna and everything else. I’m barely able to focus over Paul’s new age hippy music and stream of consciousness lecture about how awesome Austerlitz was. The streets are clear so we’re halfway across the city before we hit a red light and have to stop.
The moment we do, something large and feathery lands on the windshield.
Paul jumps and accidentally hits the wipers. The thing is whapped back and forth a couple times before I can make out the blue and yellow tones to its feathers.
“Oh, shit, I forgot about him.” I roll down the window, grab Anstis, and pull him inside, tossing him in the backseat. He pops back to human form and glares at Paul, rubbing his head.
Paul pivots around. “We just heard…the most amazing music anyone has ever heard!! It was perfect! It was so pure, it was—“
Anstis stares. “What happened to you two tonight?”
“I don’t know,” I mutter through my hands.
A car horn blasts behind us. I look up. While Paul has been gushing, the light turned green. A giant Hummer roars around us, still honking, some ‘roided-out douche leaning out the window yelling and flipping us off.
The license plate of the car says “WINNING.”
Paul trails off. “Wait…I think I know that guy….”
I roll my eyes and turn to Anstis. “I took care of some chores, set Slayer off on some stuff, ditched the Tenderloin apartment because fucking Perpenna knows where it is!”
Anstis’s eyes narrow. “Ye should not be speaking his name. There be power in names.”
I start to laugh, but Anstis’s expression makes me hesitate. “…Wait, really?” He inclines his head. “Wait…he is literally He Who Must Not Be Named?!”
Anstis obviously doesn’t get the reference but doesn’t acknowledge it. “There be ways of telling.”
The car pulls ahead, continuing the drive to Russian Hill. I stare at Anstis another moment before turning back in my seat. I am silent for the rest of the drive as dread starts to spread through me.
Georgia and Everton are sitting in quiet tension in the parlor when they hear a knock on the door. Everton watches her carefully as she gets up to answer it.
It’s us, of course. We greet each other and file into the house. Once it’s clear it’s us, Everton hauls himself to his feet and comes over.
“Dr. Everton,” Paul says slowly, “You look like you’ve had a worse week than we have.”
I look him over as well, concerned. “Are we going to get that Carthage talk now, cause I really…wanted to go….”
Everton peers suspiciously out the door as Georgia closes it. “No, we don’t have time for that now…. Not unless you want the city to share its fate.”
“Doctor, what happened to you?” Paul says.
“A tremendous number of things that I am not particularly inclined to discuss at this moment.” He stumbles back into the parlor and collapses on the chair again.
“What do you need right now?” Paul continues, following him.
“The intercession of a benevolent god would be of use.”
Paul spreads his arms. “I’m here now.”
Everton snorts. “You are not a god, Mr. Stewart, nor are you particularly benevolent. No, I’ve been to places, places that even our kind were not intended to go.”
Paul sinks to a chair across from him. “We looked for you in Berkeley.”
“No, no I went to a place far worse than Berkeley.”
Anstis swaggers in. “What did you see there?”
Everton looks up at him. “Terrible things. Terrible things. I saw…creatures beyond description, beyond compare, and beyond number. A vile force of blackness vomited up from some lesser Hell.”
Anstis considers this. “Well, at least it wasn’t the greater Hell.”
Everton grumbles and leans back in his chair.
“How did you get there?” Anstis asks.
“It’s…something of a complex matter. I employed…potent magics. Highly potent ones.”
Anstis leans forward, face serious. “And what magics do you know?”
“Myself? None. It’s not about what you know, it’s about who you know. Or so they continue to tell me. I employed the potent magics of another and I went to a place I had to go, and perhaps I did, but I found things there that I was not prepared to see. Horrors beyond reckoning.
(Kara: “…Tentacle porn?”)
“My dear, this is not Japan,” Everton says, glaring through the 4th wall.
While they talk I’ve been pacing through the open foyer and nearby rooms of the ground floor, keeping everyone in earshot. “What is this place?” I call. “Is this your house? Is this a secure location?” I wander back into the parlor.
Everton shakes his head. “My house? No. This is a house of a man whose been dead for some time.”
“Fraulein Johnson!” Van Brugge’s voice suddenly appears in Georgia’s head. “You have been calling me, ja? What is going on?”
Georgia’s eyes go wide. “Sir!” she blurts out. “We found Dr. Everton!”
Meanwhile, of course, now we all are staring at her. “Who are you talking to….” Dr. Everton says slowly.
“Oh, my superior.”
His eyes narrow. “Another Tremere? The Tremere you spoke of?”
“What have you been saying about me?”
Georgia hesitates, suddenly caught between the impending wrath of two elders. “I…merely said that you existed, that you were one of two Tremere left in the city.”
Everton turns to the rest of us. “To what extent to you rely on this Tremere? I have grave suspicions about her….”
Anstis shrugs. “I’ve gotten no sense of betrayal, but she is Tremere.”
Paul rests a hand on her shoulder. “She’s been very valuable to us. Come through in a number of pinches. Gone above and beyond what I’d expect any sane person to do to help.”
Everyone in the room turns to me. I shrug. “Yeah, she’s alright.”
“Well then….” Everton mutters. He looks us each in the eye. “I know why the Man of Wind is here.”
We glance at each other. “Oh…well by all means, tell us!” Georgia says.
Everton chuckles darkly and shifts on the couch. “It’s the simplest thing really. He’s here to end the world.”
Silence in the room. I can hear the distant ticking of a grandfather clock somewhere in the house. “Well…why did he come here to do it?” Georgia asks first.
“Because an item he requires is to be found here.”
“Is it the statue you had?” she continues.
“No. The statue was merely an…adjunct. A representation of something. An old werewolves’ legend.” Everton takes a slow breath. “He needs…a werewolf. A very particular werewolf. I don’t know the exactitudes, but one that has been a matter of some importance to their community for some time. One they’ve been looking for. One they’ve been looking forward to, if you might believe it.”
“…The Perfect Metis,” I say slowly. Everyone turns to me.
Everton raises an eyebrow. “Oh you’ve heard the term.”
“Yes….” I frown. “From…a friend….”
“What be this? And why would he wish to end the world?” Anstis grumbles.
“To rule its ashes, I would imagine. Or something less. I hope it is to rule its ashes. Cause the alternative is he has no reason but to do it.” He waves his hand. “The Perfect Metis is the standard savior legend. A Jesus figure. Someone to lead them to the end days. A Ragnarokian figure.”
I nod slowly. “And it’s…supposed to destroy the Wyrm? Which is us? In their eyes, at least….”
“Yes, it is. But there are other legends.” Everton leans forward. “The potential for this creature to do something other than what it was intended to. For the Wyrm to repurpose it. In the aid of Apocalypse.”
“Is that…Perkins’ angle?” Paul asks.
“Could be, I don’t know. I do know that I saw him, and I saw evidence that he was in search of such a thing. Or perhaps already had it.” Everton shakes his head. “But its not enough because he is a vampire. Whatever he is now, he is not enough. He needs to…restore himself in some regard.”
We glance at each other. “Restore himself…like…become human again?” Paul asks.
“He can’t become human again, after all he’s done. But I think he may be attempting the next best thing.” He stares at us, gaze piercing the gloom. “There are…potent rituals that can ape the processes of mortality in a perverse and twisted manner. If he were to perform such a ritual, he might be able to do whatever it is he wishes done. But to do that he would need a number of matters. I don’t know these rituals very well, but most of them demand that the kindred in question be cleansed ritually. Generally through the removal of organs. Egyptian, you understand.”
I tense, my conversation last night with Marcus suddenly springing back to mind….
“And then they are made whole through the reclamation of their heart’s blood,” Everton continues. “Reclamation of all the Vitae which has been expended out into others.”
“So…his childer,” Georgia says slowly.
“To put it mildly, yes. He must devour all of his childer, and his grandchilder, and on and on throughout the ages. The entire line.”
My jaw goes slack. Oh, fuuuuuuuUUUUUU—
I step back slightly from the group and pull out my phone. It’s possible Marcus already knows this, or at least suspects it, but I need to tell him anyway. I shoot him a quick text saying that we’ve found Everton and that creepy shit is afoot.
“So….” Van Brugge says to Georgia. “First of all, this is what happens when people get partisan with respect to the fundamental forces of the universe. Second of all, finding out what this particular ritual does, what he intends to do to destroy the world, and why a perfect metis is required seems to be the priori—“
Van Brugge suddenly cuts off. Georgia blinks. “Van Brugge? …Van Brugge?”
A sensation of cold cuts through Georgia, not painful but enough to make her stumble. A moment later she senses the telepathic connection start up again. But the voice that slides into her head like the cold draft that preceded it isn’t van Brugge.
He laughs—a deep, mocking laugh—and as he speaks the cold clutches fingers around her heart. “Run away, little girl, run away. Your Chantry can’t save you and neither can your flame….”
“Guys!! I have a problem!” She looks at us, eyes wide. “Van Brugge is no longer talking to me but the Man of Wind is!”
“Clever little Tremere….” Perpenna chuckles in her head. “How tasty.”
END OF NIGHT