Chris: “Sharks on the beat! Sharks on the street! Beat Sharks! Street Sharks!”
Kara: “I was thinking that too!”
Jason: “Alright, from now on, anyone who makes a Street Sharks reference gets an automatic negative-one penalty to their dice pool until I say otherwise!!”
Jim: “Okay, so it’s up to you now, Cameron.”
Dr. vonNatsi beams around the room, somewhat less perturbed by the splattered blood and entrails as one probably should be. The wan fluorescent light glints off his goggles and his strange metallic armor, like the gay-adoption child of Ironman and the Rocketeer. As I watch, these plates disappear like his helmet did.
“Dr. vonNatsi!” Georgia exclaims, running into the room. “What are you doing here?”
The mage glances around shiftily. “Vell, Fraulein, you indicated to me zat you vished to test a certain…series of things upon a certain…series of individuals? Who might be…” he leans in, “…Nazis?”
Georgia glances at the carnage in the room. “Um, yes…yes I did….”
“Vell, I took the liberty of glancing over here vith ze Etheric Farcaster und I noticed zere vere a number of gargoyles in this island.”
“…This island?” I ask, climbing to my feet, throat finally healed.
He shoots a glance at me, perhaps irked that I was able to compose myself without the help of Science. “Yes, zis island, you may have noticed ze blood vich is coating ze walls?” He turns back to Georgia. “I do not know vat zey vere doing here, but I noticed you vere going to zis island, und you said ze Nazis had gargoyles, so I made ze deduction zat zere vas a connection to zese things, ja? Sooo….” he beams again, “I turned zem all to glass und killed zem.”
Georgia and I stare around the room again. “That…was very forward thinking of you….” she says.
“Vell, it seemed like ze thing to do.”
“How many did you kill…?” Georgia asks.
Dr. vonNatsi hesitates and consults a device strapped to his arm. It sputters for a moment, then coughs out a strip of ticker tape. Dr. vonNatsi tears it off and consults it. “Ehrm…Thirty two. Plus or minute twelve.” He looks up and sees our expressions. “Zis is Science, ve have error bars.”
(Me: “Yeah, but what’s the p-value?”
Kara: “Well, he only had the one sample.”)
Dr. vonNatsi glares through the fourth wall at the biologists sitting at the table. “Vell, if zere is another island full of gargoyles zat I have access to….”
Georgia and I trade a look. “Well, actually, now that you mention it….” she says slowly.
“Ahh, ja…” Dr. vonNatsi folds his arms. “You are referring to ze Farallones. Unfortunately, zere is a problem vith ze Farallones. I cannot go zere.”
Georgia droops. “Why not?”
Dr. vonNatsi turns and glares through one of the blood-spattered walls. “Because I cannot go out of a certain radius of ze tower right zis instant. Zere vould be…an unfortunate incident.”
Georgia, perplexed, follows his gaze. “Did you leave the oven on?”
“In a manner of speaking,” he grumbles. “Ze production of golems is a delicate art, und I vould not vant ze production to fail…” he hesitates, “…catastrophically.” He hesitates again. “Ze tower might…melt…und possibly turn into cheese.”
He glowers another moment, then turns back to us. “But ze deathray I provided you should be functional! Also, I have something else for you….” He pulls a plastic-tipped gaming dart out of his labcoat pocket and holds it up. “Zis…is a beacon. It does not look it, I know zis, but you see, not all is as it appears to be….”
He hands it to Georgia proudly. She peers at it from all sides. “How does it work?”
He frowns. “You throw it.”
A few silent seconds pass before comprehension dawns on his face. “Oh, you mean ze beacon. Ven you throw it into something—say, a Nazi—it vill send signal through ze etheric waves, back to ze tower, vere I have been testing the defensive—purely defensive, mind—systems for ze golem. Ven ze beacon is activated, I should be able to target it vith pinpoint accuracy, vith an etheric microwave emitter.”
Georgia stares at it. “How do I activate it?”
“Vell, given your proclivities, you pour vater over it.” He hesitates. “It occurred to me too late zat you vere going to ze Farallones, und vere ze might be vater all over ze place.”
Georgia holds it a little further away from her. “So, unless it’s in a Nazi, don’t get it wet. Got it.”
“Yes….” He stares off again, an unsettling smile spreading across his face. “Zis vill be ze experiment, you see? Ze beam only affects ze dead flesh. I have calibrated it properly for this purpose.”
“Cause you recently had a lot of beams pointed at dead flesh?” I mutter, rubbing my left arm.
Dr. vonNatsi eyes me. “As it happens, yes. Anyway, be very careful vith ze dart. It took me many hours to produce!”
Georgia nods and carefully wraps it up to put in her bag. “Well, I appreciate your sacrifice, and I will apply this in the best possible scientific manner.”
“I would suggest it.” He draws himself up straight. “Und now,” he announces brightly, “I must return to ze tower, before it causes ze city to explode!” He bows deeply at Georgia, nods curtly at me, then presses a button in the device on his arm and disappears.
I go to check on Aquilifer and Slayer. The former has walked into the room by this point, staring at me reproachfully, while the latter is curled up in a corner out in the hallway. I drag him to his feet and into the room. He gapes around at the blood and viscera. “What the fuck happened here?” he mutters.
I clap him on the shoulder. “Science happened here, son.”
Georgia, meanwhile, investigates the summoning circle embedded in the floor. It’s buried under body parts and soaked with blood, but the runes shine through in wrought gold. Georgia peers at if for a few minutes, then calls Maimonides. After some exchanging some unpleasant pleasantries, he instructs her on how to alter the circle.
“Friends…in high places,” Paul says.
Himmler chuckles. “Oh, I seriously doubt that, Herr Stewart.” He starts pacing the concrete pad in front of the tunnel. “You have done remarkable things. You have built a company, created a wondrous device that kills the unclean, you survived a Monomancy against all odds. But do not think that the world owes you your survival, or that I do.” He walks up to Paul, grinning under his round spectacles. “Cease these attempts to become something that you are not, and let us discuss the world that must be.”
Leaves skitter across the concrete in the silence that follows. Paul stares evenly into Himmler’s gaze. After a few moments, Himmler sighs. “Or I can kill you, and leave you here, dead, and all your prospects wasted. Your company in ashes, your engineers killed, or enslaved to the will of…little men, with little imaginations.”
“…Ellison?” Paul says.
Himmler glares at him and continues. “Do you know what it is we are trying to do?”
“Well, I had some stuff explained about how gargoyles are made—“
“Gargoyles are the means to the end. A means of ridding the world of a number of…problematic elements.” Himmler turns to regard the two enormous gargoyles looming behind him on the concrete. “The Gangrel, the Nosferatu, the…Tzitmisce, I believe you have experience with these, yes? And their lovely…toys. Is that truly the art you wish to preserve? All the ways in which men can be made into furniture?”
“No, not particularly,” Paul grumbles.
“Or the Nosferatu, hideous abominations who live below ground, hiding in the shadows, waiting for the chance to strike at anyone who has the gall to not be cursed as they are….” Himmler turns and sees Anstis, crouched in the shadows behind the Myrmidon agents, frozen where he was when the Majesty was released.
Himmler smiles. “Or what of the Gangrel….” He paces slowly toward Anstis. “What do you know of the Gangrel? The animalistic beasts that live in the wilderness and howl at the moon because this is what a man does.” He idly flicks one ringlet lock of Anstis’s wig.
“Not a whole lot,” Paul says, face clenching tighter.
“Ah. You should not, they’re Slavs. They come from another culture, they value different things than we value.” He sneers at Anstis another moment then turns back to Paul. “I have created many gargoyles because I would not waste power. But the gargoyles are merely a sideshow.” He grins. “What I want, Mr. Stewart, is your light.”
Paul tenses as Himmler ambles closer. “What is it you Americans say, that you will be the light onto the nations? Well, I wish to see your light, Mr. Stewart, I wish to put it to use. To glorious use.” He spreads his arms, taking in the dunes, the rotting concrete, and the armored men cowering before him. “I wish to light the world, and purge those who would smother it.”
(Me: “Give the world a light and it’s bright for a day. Light the world on fire…”)
Paul glances at Vincent, still collapsed on the ground, gripping his bleeding wound, teeth clenched to silence. “Are you…looking for a demonstration?” Paul asks Himmler.
“No, no. I have seen it already. At the Monomancy.” Himmler follows Paul’s gaze and scoffs. “These…rabble you associate with, they are not worthy of you, Mr. Stewart. They are not worthy of what you can accomplish, what you can do.” His sickly grin returns. “I am worthy of what you can do, and I know others who are worthy of what you can do. Not…mongrel children lusting after the glory of empires long burnt. Not sodomites cruising about the town looking for casual means of relieving themselves.” He glares around at the rest of the group. “Not pirates, not mages, all stuck in their ways, unable to perceive that the world is modern, and changed, and must be salvaged from the pit it is plunging into. I know these people. I will take you to meet them.”
Himmler strolls up to Paul, face melting back into an expression of welcoming. Paul’s eyes narrow but he doesn’t look away. “So….” Himmler says, “What do you say?”
(Chris: “You know, apart from the whole Slavs thing, everything he said made a lot of sense.”
Jason: “I know, it’s almost like I worked on this….”)
The ocean breeze drops to a lull, and for a few moments, the only sound is the distant rush of waves and the anxious breaths of the Myrmidon agents. Paul and Himmler stare at each other, unblinking.
Finally, Paul nods once. “Lead the way,” he says softly.
Himmler smiles a Cheshire grin. “Yes, Mr. Stewart. I will show you the way.”
At that moment, Anstis finally breaks through the force of the Majesty. He erupts to his feet, lunging forward with a stake aimed at Himmler’s heart….
Himmler stumbles slightly from the blow, then turns to Anstis and smiles. He waves his finger in a chastising gesture.
And then the gargoyles attack. They lunge at Anstis, claws bared for an impaling blow, but he dances out of the way and strikes back with his own.
Himmler watches the battle a moment, bemused smile on his face, then gestures curtly for Paul to follow him into the tunnel.
Back on Alcatraz, Georgia has finished scratching in the modifications to the teleportation circle. Still on the phone with Maimonides, she stands up to survey the work.
“Alright,” he says, “If you’ve followed my instructions correctly, that should do the trick, but the proof is in the teleporting.”
(Chris: “You mean, the tele…pudding?”)
A few moments of silence (as Jason glares across the table at Chris). “Anyway,” Maimonides says finally, “that’s all I can really do. Without testing the circle directly we can’t know more, but it should get you to an uninhabited portion of the island. I chose a location largely at random, cause we don’t know where the landmines are.”
Georgia finishes exchanging…pleasantries?…with him, then hangs up. She turns to look for me and finds me looming right behind her, Aquilifer back on my arm and Slayer nervously lurking behind me.
“Who was that?” I ask over folded arms.
“That was our…transportation specialist.”
I glance down at the bloody scratches in the circle. “And can we trust him?”
(Jim: “Trust my rage!”
Me: “Isn’t that my line?”
Jason: “No, it’s Loki. Thor 2. …God, I see too many movies….”)
Georgia, ignoring me, puts away the dagger and steps into the circle. She turns to address the gore-spattered room. “If there are any Nosferatu around who would like a ride, we’re going now!”
I stare at the piles of body parts, perplexed, but there’s no sign of movement anywhere.
Georgia sighs and waves me into the circle. I grab Slayer’s shoulder and drag him in too. Luckily the circle is already soaked in blood, so all Georgia has to do is close her eyes and mutter the ritual. There’s a wrenching sensation and flash of darkness….
…And then we’re falling.
I crash onto rocks, slick and stinking of the sea, and continue to slide until I find purchase. I pull myself to my feet and stumble up-slope, coughing air back into my lungs. Waves pound the shore just a few feet away but I’m barely able to see the water through the thick fog. I finally reach flatter ground and stop to look around. The barren rocks around me stretch away on all sides, melting into the mists. There’s no sign of any buildings, or gargoyles, or patrols.
But there’s no sign of Georgia or Slayer either…
…Because they came down in the water.
Georgia struggles to the surface, dark air over dark water. The waves are low but the current is strong. She’s pulled helplessly along, desperately searching for a sign of land, one thing on her mind.
Terror beats at the edges of her already rising panic. She stops struggling—which, unbeknownst to her, is the exact behavior recommended for avoiding the attention of sharks—and lets the current take her.
I stand on the shore, peering into the rolling blackness of the waves. After a few moments, I try my helmet-mounted radio but there’s no response from either of them. As I stand there, a winged shape circles out of the fog and lands gently next to me. I wait a few moments longer, then scoop Aquilifer up onto my arm and crouch low to move into the island.
(Jason: “…Great, now I’ve managed to split the entire party….”)
Gunfire erupts around Anstis as he struggles with the gargoyles. More gargoyles are pouring in from the dunes, falling onto the Myrmidon agents. Anstis retreats from the center of the chaos, but the two gargoyles on him follow.
One draws a sword, slashing at Anstis’s head. Anstis—sadly still missing a sword of his own to complete his outfit—dodges and lunges back with his claws–
(…Actually, you know what, this was kinda dull. They hack and slash for a bit but Anstis comes out just fine. We’ll catch up with him later.)
The sounds of battle echo down the bunker tunnel, but grow quieter the deeper Paul goes. After a few dozen yards, they reach an open area. Himmler stops and turns to him.
“Mr. Stewart, shall I show you something?” he asks with a smile.
“Go right ahead,” Paul says flatly.
Himmler nods and gestures to a corner of the room. A circle is just barely visible, carved into the concrete floor. Himmler walks over and steps into it, gesturing for Paul to follow. Paul begrudgingly does so, and they disappear.
After an endless time in the icy water, Georgia finally sees something. A darker patch against the black of the sky, one solid and jagged. She carefully pulls her way to it, trying not to splash too much.
(Kara: “Oh, wait, I had a song I was going to play for this.”
Jim: “Lol, for a second I thought it was going to be ‘Under the Sea.’ “)
Rocks suddenly loom out of the fog in front of her. She’s able to grab on, using the swell of the waves to help pull herself out of the water. She scrambles onto shore, surveys for any damage, then stops as she realizes something.
Carefully, hands shaking—though certainly not from the cold—she pulls it out. Blessedly, the plastic it’s in is still wrapped and knotted tight. She instinctively breaths a sigh of relief, then sputters as she coughs up more water.
Something moves out of the corner of her eye, something further up the shore. She stops coughing and looks up.
A massive shape is descending the beach, sliding through the fog with incongruous ease for its eleve-foot form. Hulking, hairy arms end in massive claws, and a sword the size of a tree-trunk is propped on its shoulder, resting against its snarling head.
Georgia stares a moment, then raises a hand…and waves vigorously. “Hello!” she cries cheerfully.
The werewolf stops, stares a moment, then its growls deepen. It strides forward in two massive steps, grabs her by the throat, and drags her into darkness.
Higher ground doesn’t help my search efforts, since the fog swallows everything up no matter where I go. I stop to consider my options. Slayer I can probably write off—I didn’t need him anyway—but I definitely have to find Georgia.
I hoist my arm. “Quill! Have you seen Georgia?”
Aquilifer cocks her head and stares at me.
Oh, right… I droop, THAT’S why I needed Slayer….
I sigh. “Quill, can you go look,” I gesture at my eyes, “for Georgia,” I hold my hand out at about her height, “and Slayer,” I lift my hand for his.
Aquilifer stares at me a few more moments. I sigh again, about to think of a different strategy, when she suddenly springs off my arm and takes off into the mists. Within a few yards, she’s swallowed up as well.
Paul finds himself stepping into the light….
He blinks. The light is a spotlight, shining onto him from overhead. He holds his hand up against it and peers around.
He’s outside in an open area, surrounded by grim, armed men and even grimmer gargoyles. Ahead, Himmler is walking away from him and the circle they arrived in. As he walks, Himmler lifts another beckoning hand. Paul is compelled to follow.
They approach a doorway, at the base of the building the spotlight is mounted on. Guards in Tremere-marked uniforms open the door as Himmler approaches. Paul follows him inside. They enter a long, white hallway, lit by hanging fluorescents but otherwise empty.
“Mr. Stewart,” Himmler says as they walk, his voice echoing off the austere walls, “When you were alive, what is it you sought to do?”
“Make…great things,” Paul mutters.
“And what things was it you wanted to make?”
“Communications tools. Devices to empower creativity, empower people.”
Himmler stops in front of an unmarked door and turns to him. “I also wish to empower people, Mr. Stewart. The right people. Tell me, when you were alive, did you think there were no right people and wrong people, only people?”
Paul meets his eyes with the same, flat gaze. “My feeling was whoever could put the tools to their best use was the audience.”
“And now, having lived through an incident in which Andre Roussimov—who is a Tzmitsce—killed many people in front of you just to make a point, do you still believe that whoever can use the tool best is the one that should have it?”
Paul’s eyes narrow. “Depends on the tool, I suppose.”
“Doesn’t it.” Himmler smirks. “I have something here, something I think you are familiar with….”
Himmler opens the door. They enter what looks like an old-style operating theater, with tiered rows of seats encircling a semicircular floor and a stainless steel operating table, lit from above by canted spotlights. The seats are all empty. The table is not.
She’s lying motionless on the steel, a thin sheet covering her to her neck. Her eyes are closed, though a quick aura-read confirms that she is alive…barely.
“I believe you know this wolf,” Himmler says as he strides into the room. “How is it you know a werewolf?”
Paul, still staring at her, forces a shrug. “Coincidence?”
Himmler chuckles. “Oh, I think not, Herr Stewart.”
Paul follows him cautiously into the room. “Andre and his associates were being a little…dickish….”
“Ahh, so you knew this werewolf because it was the enemy of Andre.” He circles the table slowly, bright surgical lights glinting off the silver emblems of his uniform. “But Andre is dead, and you are not. So what use now do you have for this werewolf?”
“She…helped me deal with Andre.”
“Ahhh, but you are here now, on my island, and if I wished, I could have a hundred gargoyles tear you apart. Is this werewolf going to stop me?” He stares down at her near-lifeless form and chuckles again. “So what is this werewolf to you?”
Paul glares at him. “She remains a friend.”
“A friend….” Himmler tilts his head and considers this idea, as one might consider a bizarre species of insect. “You know what these creatures do to our kind, and you call this your friend? You think you can afford this…luxury?”
Paul steps forward into the pool of light encircling the table. “I think people who can’t afford friendship are a little far gone.”
Himmler raises an eyebrow above his glasses. “Far gone into what?”
Paul looks him up and down. “Good question.”
Himmler sighs and resumes pacing. “What shall I do with this werewolf, Herr Stewart? Because there are men right this moment who are trying to come to this island to take it from me.”
“Which men?” Paul says in his best poker face.
“I do not know all their names, but I know that they are out there, and they are coming. You are familiar with some of them.” His gaze darts over to Paul. “Is that not why Herr Lytton and Fraulein Johnson went to Alcatraz?”
Paul hesitates a moment before responding. “It is.”
“Well, then it is reasonable to assume that there may be others. That pirate we left back at Fort Funston, for instance, if he is not already dead.”
Paul approaches the table and looks down at Sophia. There are no outward marks on her, but Paul has seen enough to know that there doesn’t have to be for things to be seriously wrong. “Why do you believe she’s your werewolf?”
“Because I have her. I have her, and she is mine, and I will do with her whatever I may.”
Paul’s hand clenches on the edge of the table. “And…I guess that makes me your Toreador, does it?”
“Ooh, well, right now I have you enthralled, but I cannot have you enthralled forever…or can I?” He grins. “See, normally I would feed you a bit of my blood, but…we have a problem, don’t we? Your diminutive little friend has beaten me to it, and my blood is not as potent as his.” He spreads his arms beseechingly. “So what am I to do?”
Paul stares at Sophia another moment then looks up. “Well, Mr. Himmler, I don’t trust you, though I expect you get that from a lot of people born after 1900.” He hesitates. “That said, most of what you said back on the mainland was…very appealing….”
Himmler clasps his hands and smiles. “I’m glad you see it this way. There is someone else you should meet, an associate of mine.” Himmler glances across the room. “He is…indisposed at the moment, but he will be back.”
“Not quite. I knew him before. He was once my subordinate. He is no longer, and that is a testament to him. But then, I died, and he did not.”
Paul frowns. “He…must be very old now….”
“We are all very old now.” Himmler steps away from the table and gestures. “Come this way.”
Paul glances once more at Sophia, then at Himmler’s retreating back. He needs to contact Georgia and I to tell us about Sophia and let us know where he is, but he can’t use the radio. But then another idea occurs to him….
He quietly casts Summon on both Georgia and myself, then follows Himmler from the room.
I am scouting the shores of the island, still finding no sign of anyone, when a familiar tingle suddenly hits.
(Jason: “Alright, Chris, what were your successes on the Summons?”
Chris: “Ummm, two successes for Georgia and…seven successes for Tom!”
*everyone turns to me*
Me: “Uh…I gotta go.”
Jason: “Yes, you need to go now.”
Me: “But where?”
Jason: “The signal is leading to the other island.”
Me: “…FUCKIN-A! COCK SUCKING MOTHER OF SHI—“)
I stare in horror as I am suddenly compelled to walk toward the dark, roiling, shark-infested waters.
(Chris: “Alright, I’m going to wait a minute or two then cancel the Summons.”)
My compulsion drops moments before I jump into the surf. I stumble back, mentally taking stock of what the fuck just happened.
Paul Summoned me, that I know. I also know that the Summons lead to the neighboring island, not the mainland where Paul is supposed to be. I frown into the darkness. That can’t be good….
I look around. There’s been no sign of any infrastructure on this island, not even research boats to commandeer, but it’s highly likely that my entire purpose for coming out to the Farallones lies on the other side of the channel.
I take a moment to curse out Paul, Nazi Tremere, and every other asshole who’s been up in my grill lately, then take a running leap to dive into the fucking ocean anyway.
The werewolf drags Georgia into the deep shadows beneath two jagged boulders. He thrusts her against the slick rock and growls at her. “Who are you?”
Georgia stares up at him. “Uhh, my name is Georgia, what’s yours?” she says, voice slightly nervous but still unnaturally cheery.
The werewolf leans back, nostrils flared in surprise. His eyes narrow and he growls again. “What are you doing here, leech?”
His grip tightens. “Belong here, leech?”
“Well, these islands belong to the Clan Tremere, do they not?”
The werewolf glares into the mists. “You are a servant of the master of this fortress?”
“Oh, no, not to him.” She shifts her neck against this grip. “So…who are you?”
He turns back to her and snarls. “What are the security measures of this island?”
“Well there are the wards, obviously, to detect whether or not I’m Tremere. There’s also the passphrase, which…(…I forgot to write down….)”
(Jason: “…Alright, we’ll reset the passphrase to ‘password,’ cause the Tremere have terrible IT.”)
“So,” Georgia continues, “Can I assume that you are no friend to the establishment here?”
(Jason: “…Somewhere, in the vast distance of space and time, someone is face-palming, right now. You just asked a werewolf if he was friend to the establishment of Nazi Tremere.”
Kara: “Look back at what Georgia has seen in the last two weeks!”
Jason: “…I withdraw the face-palm.”)
The werewolf growls again and leans closer, then suddenly snaps his head around to stare at the water….
…Where I am slowly pulling myself out of the surf and onto the rocks.
The werewolf whips Georgia around and points down the shore. “Do you know this leech?” he growls.
Georgia peers through the mist. “Oh, yeah that’s Tom. He’s the…brawn in our group.”
I, meanwhile, have finished coughing up approximately the entire ocean and look up to see the looming form of Stormwalker, holding Georgia in one hand and his big fucking sword in the other.
“Oh, hey Stormwalker,” I say, hauling to my feet. “While you’re here, I really need to get your phone number, but…my phone is probably ruined again….”
Georgia stares between us. “You…two know each other?”
“We’ve met,” Stormwalker growls, hand tightening on his sword.
A sound suddenly appears in the fog, heavy flapping approaching. Stormwalker immediately sheathes his sword, grabs me, and drags us back under the cover of the rocks. Moments later, three enormous gargoyles materialize in the gloom, flying just offshore, following the line of the coast. Even at this distance, we can see that they are armed.
“So….” Georgia says, voice partially muffled by the werewolf’s talons, “Tom, since you came ashore at a different time than me, and I wasn’t holding your hand when I said the code word, it’s entirely possible you tripped the wards.”
Himmler leads Paul down a hallway to another unmarked doorway. Paul tenses, expecting another room of creepy medical horror, but Himmler opens the door and leads them into…a conference room, complete with high-backed office chairs and a whiteboard on one wall.
Finding himself back in his natural habitat, Paul relaxes noticeably.
Himmler gestures to a chair. “There is someone who will be here soon. My associate—the one I spoke to you of—will answer all of your questions and remove whatever doubt you may still have.”
Paul takes a seat at the head of the table. “By persuasion or some other means?”
Himmler simply grins. “We shall see.” He nods curtly at Paul and strides from the room.
The gargoyles are headed in our direction, but not with the determination of something angling in for an attack. Perhaps they haven’t seen us, or perhaps they have something else in mind….
The gargoyles set down on the beach. Each is nearly as large as Stormwalker himself, and they’re all brandishing swords and polearms. They stare around into the gloom. After a few moments, the largest one’s gaze settles in our direction. We hear him growl.
Stormwalker’s hulking form disappears from the crevice—sending Georgia and me crashing to the gravel—and instantly appears in the midst of the gargoyles, almost two dozen yards away.
Femtoseconds later, all of the gargoyles are dead, torn to pieces and scattered across the shore like an exploded whale. Stormwalker stands in the middle of the carnage, spattered in gore and heaving with breath. He scans the beach then stalks back to us.
“You said you could get us inside, past the wards,” he growls at Georgia. She nods mutely. He leans down. “Do so….”
Paul is fiddling with his radio, considering the best way to get a message to us without letting any Nazis overhear, when the door opens. He swivels to face it.
A woman strides into the room, dressed in worn camo fatigues, rough-cut blonde hair pulled back from a harsh face. She sees Paul and her face grows harsher.
“Who the fuck are you?” she growls.
Paul adopts his best Command Chair pose. “I’m Paul Stewart, who the fuck are you?”
Her eyes narrow. “Are you the one in charge here? Are you the asshole I’ve been waiting to talk to?”
Paul regards her. Himmler did say he was sending in an associate of his…. “I’m not sure. I don’t think we’ve met.”
She stares at Paul a moment, then walks up to the table and rips it out of the floor, tossing it to the side of the room as if it was so much balsa wood. “Figure it out. Fast,” she snaps.
Paul remains calm, but scoots his chair back slowly. “I said I’m Paul Stewart, and you haven’t introduced yourself yet. Why don’t we become acquainted with each other a bit?” He gestures to one of the other chairs.
She stares another moment, then grabs a chair—a different chair—and drags it into position in front of Paul and plops down in a wide-legged stance. She leans forward and stares into his eyes. “I’m the one who’s here to collect what you owe us.”
“And…what do you think I owe you?”
She snarls. “Are you playing games with me, leech? Is that what we’re doing here? You make me wait, and then you play games with me?” She leans closer. “You have ten seconds to give me my werewolf, or I’ll kill you and paint the walls with your blood. And any other leech comes in to lick it up? Well, I’m going to add to my painting.”
Paul stares at her. He isn’t able to get an aura-read, but at this point there’s probably enough clues that he doesn’t have to. There’s only one type of creature we’ve met so far that uses the word “leech,” a creature which coincidentally also has superior strength and inferior anger-management skills.
“Why do you want her?” Paul asks slowly.
“The fuck is that to you, leech? I want her because I’m owed her. We helped you, and now you’re going to help us.”
This situation grows more interesting…. If she is in fact a werewolf, well, we’ve heard of few groups who would willingly form a business contract with serious vampire fuckers like the Tremere.
And one of them is infinitely more terrifying than the others.
The woman stands up. “Do I have to call my boss? Get her to haul her ass down here? Is that what you want?!”
(Cameron: “Oh shit, it’s a middle-manager!”)
Paul stares at her another moment, then jerks his chin up. “Three levels up. Second door on the left.”
She glares at him and reels, arms spread mockingly. “Oh, well let me just go there then! I’ll just wander through your little facility until I find whatever it is you sent me to get! Come with me.” She grabs him by his turtleneck and drags him toward the door.
Paul stumbles into the hallway. “You’re pretty assertive for middle-management.”
She freezes, them draws him in close, breath hot on his face. “You got some mouth on you. I like that. But you know what I’m going to like even more?”
“Umm…wiping that grin off my face?”
“Carving my initials into your eyeballs with your fangs!!”
Paul glances at her fatigues, which are unfortunately unlabeled. “Yes, and what are your initials?”
She tenses, then leans forward again. “Why don’t we find out!? Open wide, motherfucker!” She reaches up.
(Chris: “Right! Yes, okay, so…. I would like to activate my Celerity….”)
Paul struggles in her grip, but even one-handed it’s too strong. She snarls again and erupts into full-on werewolf form, nearly filling the hallway, not as massive as Stormwalker but still terrifying.
But…there’s something weird, something off. Her face looks different, with broad flat planes more like a hyena than a wolf.
(Me: “Uhhh, hyenas are more closely related to mustelids than canids.”
Jason: “I know, that’s why she looks wrong.”)
Paul holds up his hands. “Alright, alright! I’ll show you the way.”
She glares at him, saliva dripping from her jaws, and shoves him away from her. “Quickly….” Paul composes himself and leads her down the hallway.
Away from the operating theater.
If it isn’t totally obvious by now, the Tremere facilities on the Farallones are buried in the granite rock of the island like a termite mound. Georgia leads us to an outcropping a few yards away from a supposed hidden entrance. She stares at the rock face a few moments, then turns to Stormwalker.
“I can get us in, but I’m worried about attracting attention.” She hesitates. “If…you could cause a distraction, like, somewhere else….”
Stormwalker stares at her, bright eyes narrowed, then folds his arms and mutters something under his breath.
Another wolf appears next to us, this one actually wolf-shape and sized. Georgia squeaks and jumps aside. The wolf just stares at her, head cocked.
“This is Sees-Faces-in-the-Stars,” Stormwalker growls. Georgia curtsies hesitantly. I stare at the wolf and nod once.
Sees-Faces stares back quizzically, then barks once. Darkness slowly settles on us—not abyssal-black like one of Marcus’s tricks, but just as inexorable. We can still see through the gloom, but only just barely. Georgia uses the cover to sneak up to the door and deactivate the wards. She reaches forward toward the rock…
….And her hand sinks right through. Like some Platform 9 3/4ths shit.
She gestures us over. “Alright guys, you’re going to have to hold hands.” She grabs one of my hands.
I hesitate, then offer my other hand to Stormwalker. He glares at me a long moment, eyes narrowed to razor slits, then takes it in a crushing grip.
(Me: “OMG!! Symbolism, you guys!!!”
Jason: “Do you say that?”
Jason: “Good! Cause the symbolism that would follow would be very apt!”)
Georgia leads us through the rock and into the facility.
Paul leads the female werewolf down the hall and up some stairs…
….And straight into a locked door.
“Umm…” He thinks fast. “This isn’t right. How did you get in here, if this is locked—“
She grabs his shoulders and whirls him around to face her, froth filling her snarling mouth. “What the fuck is this, leech? You trying to fuck me?”
Paul looks her over. “Not…in that form, I’m not—“
She backhands him down the hallway.
Julian: “Really, ‘Tom’? I wouldn’t think the heterosexuality would be hot by your standards.”
Me: “Oh, you know, you gotta diversify on the scene. Especially if you’re pro’….”)
Paul flies down the hallway and collapses at the top of the stairs. She storms up and stands over him in towering rage, fists cracking.
(Jason: “What’s going to happen next will likely be unpleasant, so…what do you want to do?”
Chris: “…I Summon Himmler!!”)
Georgia leads us through the wall and into a large corridor, which is thankfully empty. It leads to a freight elevator, which from here only seems to go down, but how deep we’re not sure. We pile in. The exposed gears groan under the Stormwalker’s weight, but hold. I close the gate, hit the button, and down we go.
As we descend, I use the downtime to pound down the remaining blood in the extra bottles I brought from Paul’s. Stormwalker glares at me and growls. I stare right back and continue drinking.
The elevator stops. We open the doors and step out into a cavernous room.
Filled with gargoyles.
A man is standing in front of them, in Tremere-red robes and a Nazi-looking hat, grinning over folded arms. “Well, look what the cat dragged in…and you thought you could—“ He stops as his gaze pans up and sees Stormwalker looming behind us. His face falls. “Holy shi—“
(Julian: “Yeah, I kill him.”)
Moments later, everything in the room starts to die.
Paul’s Lady-werewolf friend steps forward and grabs him by the throat. “I hope you’ve had fun, leech. Don’t play with me.” She throws him against the wall, then leans in and sniffs him. “…You do know where the wolf is…tell me.”
“Tell me your name,” Paul says.
She smashes him up into the ceiling. “THAT’S my name, leech!”
Paul reels a moment. “That…isn’t that a little hard to pronounce?”
She shoves him against the wall again. “You take me to the wolf right now, or I kill you, and I kill all your friends, and I come back here with Zhyzhak, is that what you want?”
“Alright,” Paul gasps through her grip. “You…bring me my four lieutenants, dead, and then I’ll believe you.”
She growls and slams him into the ceiling again.
Georgia and I watch in awe as carnage rages through the cavern. Growls and shrieks echo off the walls, playing counterpoint to the blood and gore that is spraying across them. More people—gargoyles and otherwise—start pouring into the room through doorways ranged around it.
I decide to use this opportunity for the distraction it is. “I’m going to look for Sophia!” I yell at Georgia over the noise. Keeping my back close to the wall, I make my way to a doorway that, for the moment, appears to be empty.
Georgia doesn’t follow. Instead, she investigates the dead Tremere—or, at least, she investigates the pieces of him she can find—looking for clues or whatever. One of the gargoyles at the edge of the fray sees her and advances, bearing a battle-axe almost larger than Georgia is. Georgia looks up and meets his eyes.
“Protect me!” She commands. He hesitates a moment, then grabs her shoulder and shoves her through a doorway, slamming the door and barring it closed behind her.
The doorway I found leads to an empty hallway. I walk cautiously down it, the sounds of battle receding behind me.
I hear footsteps ahead of me, heavy ones. I pull a shotgun and step back to wait. Moments later, a gargoyle rounds a corner, bearing a spear made of silver. It stops as it sees me.
BAM!!! I blast it with a full load of dragonsbreath. The smell of gunpowder and charred meat fills the hallway….
…But just like with the fucking gargoyle on fucking Alcatraz, it barely makes a dent in his igneous hide. He growls and lowers the spear. I curse, drop the gun, and draw my special sword instead. As he lunges forward to strike, I meet his advance and slash at his chest.
The moment the sword touches his skin, the blade bursts into flame.
(*Everyone leans back in shock, including me*
Jim: “…Where did you get this sword from!?”
Me: *gaping* “From…a secret room in the Chantry! When we were looting it!”
Chris: “Wait, I thought you got those two swords from Max’s office….”
Me: “Well I did, the one on my right side is Max’s, but I found this secret sword on some sort of elevated dais, and when I stole it, I put the other Max-sword back in its place!”)
The gargoyle shrieks and stumbles back, collapsing to the ground. It doesn’t move again. I ignore it, though, staring at the sword in my hand. It’s still burning, so bright I can’t tell if the blade is on fire or made of fire itself. My instinctive terror of the flames is overshadowed by shock and awe…
I hold the sword at a dramatic angle at my side, step over the gargoyle, and fucking strut down the hall, epic theme music playing in my head.
Georgia looks around the room, eyes rapidly adjusting to the darkness. It appears to be a control room, filled with panels and monitors showing multiple views of the facility. Many of them show gargoyles and humanoid guards rushing through the halls, brandishing weapons. One shows me striding down a corridor, bearing a sword that is inexplicably on fire.
And one shows Paul, getting the shit beat out of him by another werewolf.
Georgia wrings her hands. Her bonded-instinct is to help him, but unfortunately she has no idea where he is in the facility.
The noises on the other side of the door have finally ceased. Georgia listens at the threshold for a moment, then carefully opens it.
The room beyond is an abattoir, painted in blood and gore. Nothing is moving, living or undead.
(Jason: “I don’t think any of you guys understand what you just did. You breached a top-secret Tremere facility and let two werewolves loose in it. This is not a minor event.”
Georgia picks her way through the carnage, back to the elevator. She climbs in and hits the button for the next level down.
The elevator descends. When it reaches the next floor, Georgia opens the gate and peers out. It is a cavernous room, extending deep into the rock. The walls are lined with leveled walkways, and rows of metal bars. Georgia stares for a few seconds before she realizes what it reminds her of.
The cellblocks of Alcatraz.
She frowns and hits the next button.
Paul’s werewolf takes a break from the pummeling and stands over him, chest heaving. “Bring me…to the wolf,” she says, words barely distinguishable through the growls.
“Alright, alright,” Paul says, staggering back to his feet. He heads back down the hall and opens a door at random. Inside is a machine room, filled with what looks like a generator.
The werewolf’s growls deepen. Paul, still calm, opens the next door.
I reach the end of my hallway, finding another door. Strange sounds are emanating from the other side, growls and…I don’t know what.
I grip the sword tightly and kick the door open.
(Chris and I look at Jason expectantly. He grins at us a moment.
“No,” he says finally, pleased, “You do not see each other.”)
Paul’s door opens to a generic, office-like room, with a man he doesn’t recognize, dressed in a tailored black uniform with no insignia. Youthful, with a strangely angular face and pale blond hair. He looks up as the door opens and stares at Paul with ice-blue eyes.
Paul stops. There is something wrong with those eyes….
The man’s gaze tracks up to the werewolf behind him. Paul feels her grip tense on his shoulder, then suddenly release him. Her breath increases, shuddering slightly, and she takes several steps back.
The man stands up and approaches them silently. He regards the werewolf calmly, then turns to Paul. “Who are you?” he asks softly.
“A…guest….” Paul says.
The man stares at him, expression steely and flat as an operating table. “Why were you brought here?”
“You’d…have to ask him that, but…I think he wanted me to meet her….”
Paul turns to the werewolf. She has backed into the hallway and is watching the man with wide eyes. “You may go,” the man says to her.
She hesitates, licking her maw. “I’ve had enough of his bullshit, I want my fucking werewolf before I—“
He raises a finger. “You. May. Go.”
She stares at him, backing up another few steps, then shifts into an actual wolf and bolts down the hall.
The man turns his soul-piercing gaze to Paul and smiles.
My door crashes open, revealing another hallway. I also see a man, standing halfway down the hall, turning to me in surprise. It’s not Paul.
But it is someone I recognize.
“Well, well….” He smiles a sickly smile and raises a small book, shining like the sun. “Come hither, ye sinner, and know the blessings of the Lord….”
I freeze, muscles taut as granite, as the flames lick off the sword next to me.
Jeremiah. Fucking. Flagg.
Back at Fort Funston, Anstis has finally finished playing with his new gargoyle friends and met up with Emperor Norton. They advance into the bunker tunnel, hoping to figure out where Himmler took Paul, but all they find is the nitrogen tanks.
And also another gargoyle. A big one, the biggest we’ve yet seen, armed with a weapon that’s part poleaxe and part meat-cleaver.
Anstis and Norton—two men overdressed not just for a fight, but for the entire modern era—glance at each other. Neither of them know exactly what a boss fight is, but fortunately their instinct tells them how to react properly anyway.
Norton draws his sword and lofts it high. “CRY HAVOC—“ he yells and charges.
“—And let slip the dogs of war!!” Anstis finishes, leaping at the gargoyle with claws extended.
The elevator door opens on another large, dark room, this one filled with lab equipment and a single very large tank, like an aquarium tank. No one appears to be around. Georgia steps out and approaches the tank.
The tank is filled with liquid, dark like old blood but not as viscous. She can’t see through it clearly, but she can see unidentified shadows swirling in its depths. She circles the tank, perplexed.
Footsteps suddenly approach from behind. Georgia turns. It’s Himmler, appearing from the shadows at the corners of the lab. “Mr. Himmler…” she greets him hesitantly.
He smiles grimly. “Georgia Johnson. How good of you to join us.”
Chris: “Tremere dance-off!”
Jason: “…Oh, Certamen. I forgot about that.”
Kara: “What’s that?”
Jason: “It’s like a wizard duel.”
Me: “They’re break-dance fighting!!!!”)
Himmler paces closer. “Nice trick with the werewolves. We will be cleaning the blood out for months.”
“Oh, yes, sorry about that, that was…unexpected. I do hate messing up good decoration….“
“I do as well,” he sighs, “Which is why I am glad I found you here. Nothing to mess up, no decorations to get in the way.”
“Well….” she gestures behind her, “There is this lovely tank, which I’m sure was expensive to build….”
“Ahhh, yes….” He strolls past her to the glass, staring into the inky depths. “Yes, it is, but it’s not the tank that was important. It’s what’s inside.” He glances at her, his glasses mirroring the darkness of the tank. “Do you know what it is we do here? A manner of wonderful things. And right now I’d like to show you some of it.”
Georgia glances around. “Okay, so…a tour?”
“Of a sense. I’d like you to meet someone. An associate of mine. Someone I’ve been working very closely with, for some time.”
“Ah, well…I’d be honored,” Georgia says politely.
Himmler smiles. “I think you would.” He reaches into his pocket and fumbles with something. Immediately, the liquid in the tank heaves and starts to drain.
“What do you know about these islands?” he asks, watching the level steadily drop.
Georgia too is watching the liquid, but with much more trepidation. “Not much, honestly.…”
“No? A pity. These islands are well regarded as being one of the great habitats to witness some of nature’s greatest predators.” He sees her confusion and bares his teeth in a wide grin. “Sharks. Killing machines, perfectly adapted by millions of years of evolution.” He turns back to the tank.
Georgia takes a small step back, out of his periphery, and reaches into her pocket.
And carefully palms Dr. vonNatsi’s dart.
The liquid has now drained so far that only a few feet are left in the tank, but it’s still too dark and distorted to see clearly inside. Himmler fumbles in his pocket again and, with a metallic whir, the glass panels start to lower.
Georgia turns to him. “Don’t…sharks need liquid?”
“Yes. But…there are exceptions.” He smiles again and gestures forward. Georgia follows his gaze.
Something hideous steps into view, sloshing through the remaining liquid in the tank. Ten feet tall, hunched over with a strange protrusion on the back, a toothy, twisted head like a hammerhead, massive trailing arms ending in heavy claws—
(Chris: “A street shark!!”
Jason: *belabored sigh* “…Yes.”)
As horrible as it is, something about it seems even more wrong. Its grey skin is sloughing off in sheets and it lurches unsteadily on its heavy hind legs. The coal-black eyes roll in their sockets as it swings its head back and forth, scanning the room.
(Chris: “Sharks on the beat! Sharks on the street! Beat Sharks! Street Sharks!”
Kara: “I was thinking that too!”
Jason: “Alright, from now on, anyone who makes a Street Sharks reference gets an automatic negative-one penalty to their dice pool until I say otherwise!!”
Jim: “Okay, so it’s up to you now, Cameron.”)
Georgia takes another step back. “That’s…impressive…. What do you intend to use it for? I mean, after you have it kill me?”
Himmler is still gazing at the shark, almost lovingly. “We’ll see.” He jerks his head at Georgia. “Eat her.”
The shark growls and lurches forward. Georgia takes another large step back…
…Then whips the dart out of her pocket and throws it at Himmler.
It hits him in the side with an audible thunk, piercing through his uniform. He jerks in surprise and holds up a hand. The shark stops and growls wetly.
Himmler pulls the dart out and examines it. He looks up at Georgia, more puzzled than angry. “Was this supposed to do something?”
Georgia responds by summoning out all the water in her soaking-wet clothes and tossing it at him. The water splashes over him, instantly soaking him.
As well as the dart in his hand.
He jumps and sputters, staring at her incredulously. “Fraulein! What is wrong with you!?”
Georgia feigns surprise. “Oh, I’m so sorry, I meant to throw it at the shark—“
“You tried to throw water at a shark!?”
“Well…it was out of the water, I felt so bad!”
He glares and holds the dart out in a clenched hand. “This is why I said,” he hisses, “that the Clan should not embrace any more—“
Suddenly, a sharp POP! echoes through the space, and Himmler is gone. The dart—and his uniform—fall to the ground. Georgia stares at them, stunned.
Until the shark starts growling again.
Anstis and Norton fall into battle with the gargoyle, taking turns to swipe at him with sword and claws while dodging the strikes of his blade.
“IS IT NOT A PITY SIR!?” Norton roars at one point, sidestepping a strike and glancing at Anstis. “To be doing battle with a foe who is so unarmed….”
The gargoyle suddenly stops and drops his weapon. He stares at the ground, then drops to his knees and gropes sightlessly for the axe, despite the fact that it is right in front of him.
(Jason: “I already did the snakes thing so it had to be something else.”)
Anstis leaps onto the gargoyle, aiming for a bite, but misses and is thrown off, across the room. Anstis scrambles to his feet at the same time at the gargoyle finally finds the axe and rises to his own, growling.
“Quite a quandry sir!” Norton shouts. “What do you suggest we do?”
“Could he not fall asleep?” Anstis shouts back, keeping his eyes locked on the gargoyle’s.
“No, I mean—“ Norton hesitates. “Oh…do you not see?”
Anstis tears his gaze away and looks around the room. Four more enormous gargoyles have emerged from the shadows deeper in the tunnels and are advancing to stand behind their comrade. They are equally as large, and equally as armed.
Norton steps back to join Anstis. “How do you fancy, sir?”
Anstis glances at the nitrogen tanks, chained to the back wall behind the advancing gargoyles. “Paul mentioned a special trick….” he rumbles. Unfortunately, the gargoyles now fill the room wall-to-wall, a moving phalanx of claws, blades, and invulnerably stony hide.
Anstis shakes his head. “We should exit this room.” He starts backing up, toward the entrance tunnel. “This way.”
Norton whips his sword around to level at the gargoyles. “BUT THE ENEMY LIES IN FRONT OF US!!”
Anstis hesitates. Norton turns to meet his gaze and grins. “Come now, Captain…do you want to live forever?”
Anstis turns back to the gargoyles. His face hardens with resolve. He reaches up to straighten his hat, then extends his claws. “AHOY!!!”
Norton’s grin widens. He turns back to the gargoyles—
(Jason: “—And, you know what, it’s an oldie but a goodie—“)
“SNAAAAAAAKES!!!!” Norton roars, “EVERYWHERE SNAAAAAAAAKES!!!!”
END OF NIGHT