11/20/2014

Kara: “I look at him with a mixture of, ‘Thank you,’ and, ‘Why couldn’t you have conjured the water on top of the were-beast?’”
Jason: “Because the flagstone wasn’t on top of the were-beast.”
Kara: *sigh* “Excuses, excuses.”
Jason: “Oh I’m sorry, did the mage’s act of transcendental miracle work not suffice for you?”
Jim: “Well he could have done better, come on. He could have fired water out of his gun!”
Jason: “…It’s a deathray, not a supersoaker.”

***

SUTRO TOWER – DR. VON NATSI’S LAB

Round about the time Paul is talking to Doc, and Anstis and I are going Full-Gangrel and -Brujah, respectively, Georgia’s car pulls up at the gates of Sutro Tower. For once, everything seems normal: the guard is in the guard shack, nothing’s exploding, and there’s no sign of cabbages. She waves cheerily at the guard, enters the building, and takes the elevator down.

The doors open onto the lab, but here something is amiss. Her view is blocked by a rolling whiteboard parked in front of the elevator, one which has never been there before. The whiteboard is blank, but a note is nailed to the middle of it.

Nailed with a knife the length of her hand.

She carefully tears the note off the blade. The paper is a creamy, rich parchment, the content of the note flowing across it in bold, smooth penmanship, but the text is gibberish, perhaps some kind of cipher. She flips it over and sees a gold monogram at the bottom of the page, showing a blimp superimposed with a hat and monocle.

(Kara: “Oh no. The Steampunk People were here.”
Jason: “In an Etherite’s lab? Perish the thought.”)

“Doctor?” she calls, heading deeper into the lab, following sounds of tinkering. She enters the side-lab where we performed the “experiment” to remove the silver from Sophia, only now it’s filled with a lot more equipment, piled ingloriously under the etheric death ray in the middle of the room.

And for some reason, this pile of junk is quivering.

“Hello? Doctor?” Georgia starts removing pieces from the pile—

—And then the pile explodes. (Because nothing’s exploded for awhile now so why not.)

Georgia is knocked out into the main lab. Equipment and kitchen utensils rain down around her, but luckily she is unhurt. Cursing erupts from a different part of the lab and comes closer. “Doctor?” she calls roughly, coughing out smoke.

“MS. JOHNSON!” Dr. vonNatsi shouts back. “Vat have you done!? Did you disturb ze delicate equipment!?”

She looks around at the mess. “I…brought your dart back!” she answers instead.

“…Oh, vell.” He suddenly appears from around a corner, goggled as always, but also wearing what appears to be some sort of team mascot suit without the head. He reaches out a furry blue arm of unidentified phylogeny. “Zank you, how did it verk?”

Georgia places the dart in his…paw? “Um, good, although, I did tell you that it teleported the target to the Shadowlands, right?”

vonNatsi holds up the dart and frowns. “Ja, zis vas not ze intended intention….”

“Yes, well he had it set up previously, as some kind of escape plan….”

“Bah!” vonNatsi gestures dismissively. “No one can escape Science!”

They discuss some of vonNatsi’s other sciences at the moment, including his continuing quest to acquire werewolf bone. He says he actually went so far as to try and acquire some himself, but it…did not go well. He apparently tried to point out that the werewolf can simply regrow the bone, but the werewolf…did not have a firm understanding of science.

Georgia glances across the lab. “Speaking of people you don’t want poking around, what’s with the knife in the whiteboard?”

vonNatsi blinks at her from behind his enormous goggles. “Ze vat?”

“Didn’t you see the note from the Steampunk People?” She hands the paper over.

He takes it carefully, turns it to see the monogram, and his face goes white. “Mein Gott…”

“What’s it say?”

vonNatsi raises his goggles with one shaky hand. “It says that the time has come…for war.” He crumples the note and throws back his head. “SNODGRASS!!!!” he bellows to the heavens, then whirls and storms across the lab, to an ancient-looking mainframe computer gathering dust in a corner. Georgia hurries after.

Cursing in German, he fumbles with dials and levers. The computer boots up with an almost physical hum, a Jacob’s ladder arcs to life on top of it, and an oscilloscope screen in front of them dies to a single green spot before expanding out to show grainy video footage from what appears to be a closed-circuit camera.

The camera is focused on the elevator doors in the lab. As they watch, the doors open and two men step out. The first man is dressed in an immaculately-maintained antique-style tuxedo and walks with a stiff formality to match. He steps to the side and is followed by a large man in equally-antique British expedition khakis, complete with pith helmet. This man glares around the lab over an enormous, walrus-esque mustache, then drags over a whiteboard, holds up the note, and plunges a knife through it. They then both re-enter the elevator and disappear without a second look.

vonNatsi’s shoulders clench higher as he watches this, but he remains silent. When the video ends, Georgia glances between him and the screen nervously. “We should check the outside footage to see how they got in,” she suggests.

“I know how zey got in,” vonNatsi grumbles. He glances at her. “Ethership,” he spits.

Georgia looks back at the screen. “How did they fit it in the elevator?”

vonNatsi’s blinks and his gaze goes suddenly unfocused, as if he was making the calculations necessary to do exactly that, but he shakes it off. “Do you know who zat vas, Fraulein?” He points at the screen. “Zat man is ze most dangerous man you vill ever meet.  His name…is Professor Snodgrass.”

“Of…what university?”

Horizon….” vonNatsi turns the word into an extended growl, then slams a button on the computer to turn the screen off. “Tenured chair of Etheric Studies at Horizon University.” He turns and stalks back through the lab. Georgia hurries behind.

Dr. vonNatsi gestures emphatically as they walk. “He vishes to impose his orthodoxy of Etheric Science upon the vorld! Und he believes zat my science is not acceptable! He has the temerity to think zat I am mad!!!” vonNatsi pauses to sweep a nearby pile of half-soldered spatulas to the floor.

Georgia stares flatly at the mess. “That’s pretty intolerant of him.”

“It is highly intolerant! His science is slipshod und sloppy! He is too busy bandying around in his ethership!!!”

Georgia nods in blind agreement. Also his clothes are out of style.”

“Ja! Tremendously!” vonNatsi waves the note. “Zis message vas a challenge from Professor Snodgrass. He has challenged me mine entire career und now he vishes to take ze glory!” vonNatsi leans forward. “He vants to build…his own golem! Und he says he vill do it before I vill!”

Georgia gasps lightly. “That’s…horrible science, you can’t just take another’s project!”

“It is the most unequivocally terrible thing to do to another scientist! He has alvays been doing this! Even ven ve vere in graduate school, he vas doing this!”

“That’s the kind of toxicity that destroys universities,” Georgia nods sagely. “It’s the kind of thing that pressures people to publish even when the data isn’t true, and then have to retract it later.”

vonNatsi nods vigorously. “This is ze very reason Paradigma has been going downhill in ze last twenty years! Zey vill publish anyone nowadays!”

“Wow. It sounds like their impact factor is dropping.”

The tension finally drains from Dr. vonNatsi’s body and he slumps onto a stool. “It is a sad day for the Brotherhood of Ether. It is bad enough zat I must also deal vith ze quantum mechanics, but now zis….” He flicks the note weakly.

Georgia pats him carefully on the shoulder. “Well, not if we make the golem first!”

He peers up at her, then slowly sits up straighter. “Ms. Johnson…will you help me salvage mein science?”

“Yes!” she beams.

He stares a moment, then leaps back to his feet and grabs her in a blue-furry hug. “Excellent!!! Wunderbar!!!!!

(Me: “Oh. My. Science.”)

“Ve do not have a moment to lose!” He releases her and rushes to a new table in the lab, rummaging around the mess there. “He has challenged me to locate all of ze items I need for the golem project before he does, und ze most salient of zem all is ze powersource.” He levels a hammer—an actual plain hammer, for once—at her. “Zere are no terrestrial power sources zat vill do vat we need. Ve need a powersource zat cannot be acquired anyvere else.”

Georgia stares around at the inscrutable contraptions lining the lab. “What did you have in mind?

“Ze most potent powersource zat I can think of! The greatest powersource zat can be found within the boundaries of the solar system!

“The sun?”

vonNatsi smiles and leans closer. “Vale vomit,” he whispers.

Georgia blinks. “A…what? A vale?”

He blinks back at her. “No, a vale…big, big vale! Like ze…ze fish! Swim round!” He makes undulating motions with his body.

Understanding dawns. “Oh, whale!”

“Ja!! But not any vale! You see, here ve take ze vale vomit und ve make ze perfume. But ve vill not have perfume…ve vill use ze Plutonian vale vomit.”

She stares again. “…What?” vonNatsi closes his eyes slowly, but before he can start yelling again she makes the connection. “Oh, you mean, vomit from whales that live on…Pluto?”

Ja!

“Oh….” Georgia turns this concept over in her mind for a few moments, not trying to think of a question, but rather trying to figure out which to ask first. Finally she takes a breath. “…How are we going to get to Pluto?”

He breaks into a slow grin. “Vith Science, of course.”

#

THE EAST BAY

As Paul leaves Doc’s store, he takes a moment to check in on his gargoyle and his self-help training program. The gargoyle says he is finished with Paul’s music collection and awaits more instructions. Paul asks if he has thought about a name for himself yet, but the gargoyle is still nervously uncertain. Paul suggests he check out some movies instead, looking for inspiration, and directs him specifically to watch his copy of Up on blu-ray, implying that if that movie can’t get the gargoyle in touch with his own emotional center, then nothing will.

With that, Paul mounts up his bike and hits the road, maneuvering his way past a couple curfew checkpoints to head to Alameda and meet Leeland. On his way, though, he gets intercepted and stopped by a couple rough-looking men, also on motorcycles, and a aura quick check identifies them as vampires. They leer at Paul, call him “Cammy,” and laugh in his face when he says he’s there on behest of Leeland. Paul stares back and asks if they know who he is.

“I think you look like a guy who’s here to give us some shit,” one scoffs.

“Well I suspect that neither you nor I have shat in a long time, so I can’t give you any,” Paul responds flatly.

Their faces fall. The first guy turns to the other. “Call this one in, this guy’s about to have an accident….” He climbs off his bike, cracking his knuckles ominously.

Paul glances between them, then looks down. “Um, your shoe’s untied.”

The man looks at his feet, but by the time he realizes that his motorcycle boots don’t have laces, Paul has reved his bike back into gear and blown past them.  Bootsy McLaces stands on the side of the road, staring after Paul blankly, but his buddy kicks up his bike and races after him.

Paul speeds through the waterfront warehouses of West Oakland, heading to the nearest bridge that will take him over to Alameda island. He’s improved his riding ability greatly, but the thug following him is better, and on a Ducati, so catches up rapidly. Paul looks over as the man pulls up along side, then swerves out of the way as he tries to punch him. Paul flips up his visor, locks eyes in a Dreadgaze…

…And sends the man crashing into the corrugated side of a nearby warehouse.

Paul nods to himself, drops his visor again, and continues to the island, uninterrupted.

#

THE CHANTRY

Dr. vonNatsi’s science will of course take some time to prepare, so in the meantime, Georgia decides to head down to the Chantry to do some more internal-investigations on clan matters. The place is sealed, guarded by men sent by Bell, who assure her that though the wards are still down, no one has been in or out since the last time we all where there. She thanks them and enters…

…And of course doesn’t get ten feet down the main hallway before she hears sounds of movement from deeper within.

“Hello?” she calls, voice echoing sharply down the stone corridor. There’s a pause, then footsteps, and a man steps around a corner at the far end of the hall. An older-looking man, in his 50s or so, dressed entirely in white, and with pale white skin and hair to match.

He stares at her intently, unblinking. “Who are you?”

“Um, I’m…the new Primogen?”

His eyes—of a strange reddish-pink color—narrow ominously. “Really? New Primogen, you say?”

“Well, seeing as how I’m the last living member of this clan….”

He smiles unsettlingly. “The last living Tremere?”

“In San Francisco.”

His smile fades. “Hmm. Not quite as good, but still good.”

Georgia glances further down the hall, realizing that this man has just stepped out of the room that was Max’s office. “…Who are you?”

“My name is Charles. Charles Steinhart.” He takes a slow step closer. “Now, what would bring you back here, after what happened the last couple of Primogens?” He takes another step.

Georgia’s instincts start to writhe, sending her all sorts of warning signals, but outwardly nothing seems to be wrong, so she ignores them for the moment. “I…might ask you the same question,” she says cautiously.

Charles smiles. “A whim. A fancy. A desire to see what might be here. I was here before you see.”

“Before what?”

He looks around, smiling in satisfaction. “Before…it became this quiet. I don’t remember you, though.”

She shrugs off his ominous tone. “I’m relatively new in town. Are you of the Tremere?”

A look flashes across his face, too quick for her to identify, then he smiles again. “Call me a…houseguest.”

“Oh, well, then…perhaps I should take you out for drinks or….?”

His face drops. “I don’t think I’m particularly inclined to let a vampire take me out for drinks.”

Georgia frowns and tries to peer at his aura to get a sense of who the hell he is, but all she can tell is he is some sort of shifter, and the aura is bright, bright like the sun. She actually steps back a few paces. “I’m sorry, that was possibly an offensive suggestion and I regret making it….”

He smiles again. “Oh I think you might.” Step. “Why are you here, leech?

“Uh, it’s my Chantry?” She pulls out her phone and texts a brief message to Dr. vonNatsi, mentioning that she seems to have encountered a possible werewolf, if he still needs that bone and all….

Charles glares at her, but doesn’t comment on the rudeness of her texting in front of him. “Oh is it? And what if I told you it was my chantry?”

“Did you buy it?”

“In a sense.  I took it from those who were here.”

She hesitates, alarms in her head ringing louder. “Well. That’s impressive.…”

“I’m glad.” Step. “So you see, what I think is that this is an opportunity for you to show me all of its dirty little secrets, so I don’t have to tear the place apart, brick by brick….”

She frowns at him. “I don’t know all its secrets!”

“You will find that there is an astonishing amount that you don’t know that you know. We just have to find a way to unlock that information.” He smiles and takes another slow step closer. “Would you care to find out how we start?”

Before Georgia can respond, theres a pop behind her in the hallway. She turns.

Dr. vonNatsi has appeared, goggled and lab-coated, armed with two death-rays, one in each hand. “Georgia!! It is excellent you have found ze werewolf! Ve vill—“ He cuts off as he sees Charles down the hall, jaw dropping open. “….Scheisse,” he whimpers, then grins brittly, waving one deathray at Charles. “Hello! I am leaving now!” He starts backing down the hall.

Georgia grabs his arm. “Take me with you,” she mutters out the side of her mouth, still smiling at Charles.

“I didn’t bring ze transporter vith me,” vonNatsi whispers through a gritted smile.

“Then leave a deathray.

“It vouldn’t be functional.…”

Georgia glances at Charles, who has stopped his approach and is watching them unblinkingly. “Do you still have the dart?” she whispers. Dr. vonNatsi’s eyes go wide. He reaches into a pocket and palms it over.

“Who in the hell is this?” Charles asks, glaring.

Georgia turns. “Oh, this is my science partner, but he’s leaving.”

Charles’s uncanny red eyes narrow to slits. “A ghoul then. I forget myself.”

vonNatsi pauses, bristles, and steps forward. “My name is—“ he shouts.

“No, no!” Georgia holds him back. “It’s okay…Gunter, why don’t you just…go back to the lab?”

After a moment, he regains his composure. “…Ja…my name is Gunter! I vill…go back to ze lab! Because zat is vat I do! I vill see you later! At ze lab! …Bye!”

Charles watches vonNatsi carefully as he backs down the hall. While Charles is distracted, Georgia throws the dart. It sticks cleanly into his white linen suit.

Nothing happens.

Georgia and Dr. vonNatsi freeze. Charles plucks the dart out and examines it. “Is this some kind of joke?”

(Kara: “…Oh, wait, the dart needs to get wet!”
Jason: “I was wondering if you were going to remember that.”
Kara: “Is there, like…a wetbar or something in Max’s office?”
Jason: “Ha, I wish. No, there is no water in the room…but there is an Etherite in the room….”)

Dr. vonNatsi pulls what looks like a TV remote from his labcoat pocket, points it at the floor, and turns a series of flagstones in front of them into water.

(Kara: “I look at him with a mixture of, ‘Thank you,’ and, ‘Why couldn’t you have conjured the water on top of the were-beast?’”
Jason: “Because the flagstone wasn’t on top of the were-beast.”
Kara: *sigh* “Excuses, excuses.”
Jason: “Oh I’m sorry, did the mage’s act of transcendental miracle work not suffice for you?”
Jim: “Well he could have done better, come on. He could have fired water out of his gun!”
Jason: “…It’s a deathray, not a supersoaker.”)

Chains of translucent water rise from this pool under Georgia’s command and fly forward to snake around Charles, as well as the dart in his hand. He stares at them, his expression hovering between confusion and irritation. Georgia beams at her success, but Dr. vonNatsi grabs her arm and starts slowly backing them down the hall….

Charles glares at them and clenches his hand around the dart with enough strength to dissolve the chains there. Water leaks from his fist. “Clever trick, but if we’re playing tricks then perhaps I should make one—“

Suddenly heat blasts the hall, flash-boiling the chains into super-heated steam. vonNatsi and Georgia bolt away. Behind them, Charles screams, disappearing from sight behind the clouds, but the sound continues, growing in volume and dropping in pitch to become a deep, bass-filled roar.

“I’m sorry we didn’t get the bone!” Georgia shouts as they run toward the entrance.

“I need bone from a verewolf! ZAT IS NOT A VEREWOLF!!”

A new roar shakes the hall, and something heavy scrabbles at the stone. Georgia chances a glance back. The steam clouds are thick, but movement heaves within them, and after a moment another roar blasts them aside.

It’s a dragon, white as the steam shrouding him, sinewy body crammed into the arched hallway, pulling himself after them like a taloned snake.

“Bad dragon!” Georgia shouts back. “No Chantry for you!”

The dragon pauses, snarling, then rears his head back and exhales a gout of flame. The fire rushes forward, faster than the steam, accelerated by the narrow hallway. They race toward the front door, but it’s too far away—

Dr. vonNatsi stops and mashes buttons on the remote. An enormous metal wall suddenly appears in the air, sealing the hallway from floor to ceiling, cutting off the fire moments before it strikes. The metal groans under the heat, but no more than a warm radiation passes through.

They stop. Roars echo behind the wall, followed by a massive thump, but the metal holds. vonNatsi slumps against the far wall. “Fraulein…” he pants, “ze next time zat you vish for assistance, perhaps you should first mention vat it is you have encountered!!

They wait a moment to catch their real- or metaphorical-breath, then head to the front doors, leaving the echoing bangs and roars of the dragon behind them.

#

ALAMEDA

Paul arrives at the naval base on the west side of the island. The gates are open, in fact it looks like the chain locking them has been broken. Paul drives through and cruises along the edge of the airport runways, the lights of San Francisco glittering across the bay in unparalleled panorama.

Silhouetted against this view is a cluster of lights and shapes on the far side of the tarmac. Paul heads toward it. The shapes resolve into a circle of vehicles with a group of people standing in the middle. The group turns as Paul approaches, but his gaze is drawn to just one of them.

An enormous man looms over the crowd, easily pushing seven feet, with shoulder-breadth and muscle tone to match. He swaggers forward as Paul rolls up, his headlamp revealing weathered motorcycle leathers and drop-holsters loaded with sawn-off shotguns.

Paul glances around. Every other man and woman, though not as intimidating as this one, is similarly armed, except for one man he recognizes: Leeland, twisting his hands nervously to one side. The crowd pulls back as the giant man walks toward Paul, revealing three more figures in the center. These ones, though, are kneeling, hooded, and bound with wire.

Paul stares at the approaching man. He dismounts his bike, takes off his helmet, and at the same time casts Awe.

(Me: “Wanna shake out your hair too?”)

One of the goon-looking men steps forward to intercept Paul. “The fuck is this? Think you’re some kind of new addition? Wanna join, them, Cammy?” He gestures at the kneeling captives.

Paul, though, claps him calmly on the shoulder. “Nah, that’s fine, Bev.” Paul brushes past him and approaches the giant man. “Hello, I’m Paul Stewart.” He holds out a hand.

The giant stares down at him, expression hidden behind his braided mess of a beard. “Paul Stewart, eh?” he rumbles. “Are you presenting yourself before the Thing?”

Paul hesitates, hand still outstretched. “Did you just refer to yourself as The Thing?”

“No, this is the Thing.” He sweeps one massive arm across the crowd.

“You’ll forgive me, I’m a little in the dark here….”

The man throws back his head and laughs, an explosive sound like an avalanche. “As are we all! This is the Thing! A gathering!”

(Chris: *stares at Cameron blankly*
Jason: “You’ve never heard of a Thing?”
Me: “Isn’t it usually the Althing?”
Jason: “No the Althing is the highest Thing. Anything can be a Thing.”)

“I’m afraid I’ve never been exposed to one of these before,” Paul says carefully. “Although I’m honored I suppose….”

“As you should be.” He slaps a fist against his chest. “My name is Helgi Isarnbjorn Ogenherdi, for short, and this is my Thing. I assume you have a reason for showing up here, on this night in particular?”

Paul nods slowly in understanding, then looks significantly at Leeland. Leeland immediately looks anywhere else but back at Paul.  Paul glares at the man then turns back to Helgi. “Well…you know, I usually stay on the other side of the bay, but chaos has been leaking left and right, and I’ve been hearing that things are heating up over here. I just felt it might be a good time to pay more attention.”

Helgi turns to the crowd. “Heating up he says?” He laughs again and more join in this time. “That’s something that some people certainly have been hoping for! But we’re still deciding.”

The motorcycle goon—the one Paul called Bev—doesn’t join in the laughter. “This fucker is Camarilla. What the fuck is he doing here!?”

Helgi turns back, eyeing Paul appraisingly. “Camarilla, eh?”

“Yeah! He’s some big time industrialist from the South Bay. He’s a boss, runs a company, got lots of money! Has a house in the hills, I hear!”

Helgi considers this and chuckles. “Ahh, with many shiny things, I assume.” He folds his arms. “So. You’re from the Camarilla. Who sent you?”

“Well no one sent me, I’ve just been hearing stuff. And I was on my way east anyway—“

“—So you decided to stop by!” Helgi laughs. So far there hasn’t been anything particularly ominous or threatening about his tone, but that’s probably because he lets his size and entourage do all his threatening for him.

Paul nods slowly. “Indeed. And just in time for…a Thing, apparently.” He glances at the captive in concern. They’re vampires, but with the hoods, he has no further idea who they are.

“And a Thing it is,” Helgi rumbles. “We are here to decide some very important business. Business which, in a way, affects you. Tell me, are you squeamish, Paul Stewart, Industrialist?”

Paul tenses. “I would say yes. Yes I am.”

Helgi throws out his arms. “Even better!” More laughter, this time with scattered applause as well. “Very well, then, why don’t you have a seat. We’ll let you know when its your time to have a word.” He steps over and grabs a nearby concrete road barrier and drags it, one handed, closer to the circle.

As Helgi turns, Paul notices another weapon on his body: a giant war-axe, carved and engraved with Scandanavian-looking runes. For some reason, though, wires are bolted to the flat of the blade, extending up the handle. It takes Paul a moment to realize what they are.

The axe is also an axe, as in, an electric motherfucking guitar.

Paul gestures at it. “Do you…play often?”

Helgi turns and smiles unsettlingly. “Oh yes. I learned how to play very many instruments over the years. This combines two of my favorite!”

(Jim: “You could say he shreds!”)

Helgi chuckles and leans against the barrier. “So. Paul Stewart, Industrialist. Of the Camarilla. We will continue where we left off. If you have something you’d like to say there is a procedure for it. You’ll have to wait your turn. If you get any funny ideas about interrupting we have a procedure for that as well.”

Several of the crowd smile, nodding slowly and tapping their weapons against their palms. “Big tarmac, lots of room…Cammy,” says the goon closest to Paul.

Paul looks him in the eye and nods. “Bev.”

The guy blinks, then snarls and tries to lunge at Paul, but some other guys step forward to hold him back. Paul sidles away and sits down on the concrete barrier next to Helgi.

Helgi ignores the scuffle and gets up to circle the bound captives. “Now…I believe we were about to discuss what to do with these prisoners….” The crowd draws closer, enclosing Paul in their midst, and laughs, a sharp sound like hyenas hunting in the night.

#

ACCIO’S OCEAN LINER

Anstis and I finish clearing out Accio’s goons in the ballroom of his massive “pleasure ship,” with the help of Vera and judicious use of claws. In the aftermath, as we loot for blood and clues, Anstis acquires himself a grenade launcher and I show him how to use it.

(Julian: “All those years of watching Terminator 2 have finally paid off.”)

Pwning bitches is fun, but our actual target is still Accio, and searching this enormous boat for him is a daunting prospect. Luckily, while I scope out the deck outside, Anstis pulls out one of his rocks and casts his Necromancy locating-ritual. (Mind, I still don’t know that he’s a Necromancer, so if I see it, I write it off as some weird magic shit he picked up from the Tremere.)

When he finishes, Anstis comes up and claps me on the shoulder. “To the forecastle!” He marches off. I stare a moment then hurry after.

Anstis leads me deeper inside and I eventually figure out we’re going to the bridge. Sounds of battle outside the ship echo through the hallways, with occasional shuddering as artillery explodes nearby, but luckily we don’t run into any more goons. We find an elevator and use it to take us as high as it will go.

(Jim: “This is just a great scene. Two guys, one in leather with a massive machine gun, one dressed as a pirate and covered in blood, standing quietly in the middle of an elevator!”
Jason: “Oh yes, and there is muzak.”)

The elevator dings as it hits the floor. We tense in preparation. The doors open to a hallway lined with stacks of crates but empty of henchmen. We hesitate a moment anyway, just in case.

Anstis blinks at the floor. “What was that?”

I look. “What was what?”

“It appeared to be a red line….” He leans down closer to investigate…

…Then trips the laser, setting off the Claymore mine.

The explosion knocks us to the back elevator wall, pelting us with shrapnel. We survive, but our clothes are all fucked up again, and our ears ring from the concussion. “Son of a bitch….” I pick at my shredded pants.

“Aye?” Anstis mouths at me.

“What?!” I shout back.

A door opens at the far end of the hallway. We freeze. No one comes through, but a smell floods the hallway. Gasoline.

“Son of a bitch!!” I bang at the elevator buttons but the shock set off the Otis brake and put us into emergency lock. I dive out and take cover behind some of the crates. Moments later, a guy steps through the doorway carrying a flamethrower.

I’m out of sight halfway down the hall, but the man sees Anstis still standing perplexed in front of the elevator. He levels the weapon. “Suck on this!” he shouts and fires.

Flame gouts down the hallway past me like a dragon’s moneyshot. I huddle closer to my crates. Anstis dives out of the way just in time, but is still singed. After a few roaring seconds the flame stops. The man yells and stalks closer, angling for another shot at Anstis, but his advancement takes him past my hiding place. I fire Vera, exploding crates across the hall, but somehow miss him. He yells and whirls, spraying fire across the walls and I bolt to a new hiding spot further down. He stalks closer toward me, spots of flame burning the crates and carpet around him…

…Then stops and gurgles as Anstis’s claws plunge into him from behind.

The man slumps to the ground and Anstis falls on him. I watch dispassionately, then start cursing as I realize that last bout of flame ruined my latest new jacket.

Anstis finishes and stands, staring at the flamethrower. He looks at it, looks at his grenade launcher…then dumps the latter and picks up the former. “Tom! How do I use this?”

“Very carefully, and only when I’m standing behind you.” I stare at the open door down the hall. Despite the noise, no one else has come through. “Come on, we need to keep moving.”

We step through and find a stairway leading up. We ascend cautiously and peer through the doorway at the top, keeping low. We’ve reached the bridge. Anstis can recognize it from his time on the bridge of the Revenge, but this room makes Morgan’s command post look like a closet. It’s huge, with enough sleek glass control screens to run a starship, and filled with men rushing between terminals and tables. Everyone is so busy no one notices us, and one glance out the sweeping glass windows tells us why: fires dot the waves, blooming from the other ships of the fleet, and explosive volleys nearby rock ours.

Two men are standing in the middle of this chaos like the dark eye of a whirlpool, both impeccably dressed, talking low as they watch the destruction raging outside. One of them, the older-looking one, gestures imperially and says something. The other nods sharply and turns to issue a command in a language I don’t recognize. As if it wasn’t clear before, it’s pretty clear who we’re looking at now.

Accio.

I turn to Anstis and point at Accio wordlessly. He nods in affirmation, then points at his flamethrower. I frown. We could try that, but Accio and his accomplice seem like they’re out of range, and we want to take them out quick so they’re less likely to counter-strike. From what I understand, Accio is only one generation removed from Marcus, and all that Obtenebration shit becomes a lot less fun when it’s being used against you.

Anstis, though, pantomimes throwing the flamethrower and points at Vera. I stare at him a moment, then understanding clicks in. I nod and swing into readiness. Anstis unslings the flamethrower, takes one more estimate, then stands up and hurls the entire contraption into the center of the room.

The weapon spins awkwardly through the air, then crashes down to the middle of the bridge. Everyone stops what they’re going and stares. It skitters forward along the floor and stops at Accio’s feet. He and the man with him stare down at it…

…A moment before I strafe the floor, catching the gun right in the gastank.

The explosion sends glass and crewmen flying. Accio and his man are both blown out the shattered windows, which is probably good for them because pools of fire splash across the deck where they were just standing. Anstis and I carefully dodge through the chaos and bodies, running to the windows Accio fell through. A sun deck lies three stories below us, and though there’s no sign of Accio or the other guy, other armed men are running across the deck toward us, obviously heading for accesses that will lead them up to the bridge.

(Jim: “You know what’s a great vantage point for someone with a 50-cal?”)

I swing Vera up and clunk her down heavily on the edge of the frame. I take a moment to make sure the belt is feeding properly, humming to myself, then sight down her long barrel and fire.

The first burst kills at least half a dozen men, downing them as easily as dandelions in a weed-wacker. Blood and viscera fountain across the deck and the rest of the men immediately dash for cover. There isn’t much to be found, though, and just like in the ballroom, whatever they do hide behind is shredded just as easily as flesh.

As I mow, something catches my eye. A strange distortion, a shadow undulating more than it should, below me and to the left. Since we’re chasing at least one Lasombra, that can’t be good, so I swing Vera around as far as I can and fire. From this angle I’m barely able clip the shape, but it twists and resolves into the man Accio was talking to, glaring up at me.

Yep, two Lasombra. Definitely not good.

Inky black tendrils erupt from the deck around him, grabbing and lifting him into the air, back toward the bridge. I fire continuously as he approaches, but my shots go wild, barely even grazing the tentacles. He flies forward, face furious…

…And then the entire bridge plunges into darkness, deep darkness that suffocates the scattered fires and absorbs all sounds. I stop firing. “…Whatever, I’ve seen this shit before,” I mumble soundlessly to myself.

Anstis, meanwhile, pauses his efforts to locate Accio and pulls up his Eyes of the Beast. He can see very slightly better than I can, but not enough to locate Accio’s lieutenant in this mess, the one he knows is stalking us. Anstis gropes his way to me, grabs my shoulders, and pulls us both out the window.

(Jim: “Wait, can Tom tell it’s me?”
Me: “Maybe I smell you!”)

I catch a whiff of Anstis rotten-sea stench moments before he shoves me out the window to crash on the deck three stories below. We stumble to our feet, unhurt, then scramble across the blood-soaked deck. We reach a doorway on the edge and look back.

The darkness is pouring out the open windows of the bridge like a waterfall, flowing across the deck toward us.

“Yeah, that’s a lot of nope,” I mutter, throwing my weight to force the door open.

“Tom! Accio is deeper in the ship! We have to go down!” Anstis growls.

I stare. “What? How the fuck do you know tha—“ A booming crack echoes across the deck and I’m suddenly knocked halfway off my feet as something hits me like a sledgehammer. I regain my footing and reach up to peel a flattened 20-mm anti-materiel shell off the back of my jacket.

I stare a moment in shock and glance back at the night-choked bridge. “Fuck this.” I kick the door down and gesture Anstis through. I’m not sure how he knows where to go but I follow him there anyway.

We find an employee staircase and take it down as far as we can, past the gilded passenger decks to the rough-painted maintenance levels. We reach the bottom level and Anstis steps out and frowns.

(Jim: “Do I have any more of an idea where to go?”
Jason: “No. It’s a ritual, not GoogleMaps.”)

Anstis plunges down the hallway without a word. I follow. We pass machinery and storage-rooms, with no sign of anyone. Eventually Anstis pauses in front of a heavy hatch-door labelled, “Emergency Access Only.” He stares at it suspiciously then leads us inside.

It’s a bare metal room, with more hatches and pipes in it, but nothing of immediate interest. I shrug and turn to reenter the hallway—

—But the door slams closed in my face. I curse and grab at the valve handle but it barely turns, even in my hands. Within the room, a red light suddenly bursts to life, followed by a klaxon.

Anstis and I stare at it. “That can’t be good….” I mutter.

Seconds later, a vent above us opens and starts dumping water into the room.

The fuck is this!?” I grab at the hatch again, really throwing my weight into it, but it’s stuck tight. A second vent opens, releasing another spout of water, this one faster than the first. Panic starts to rise as I estimate how much time we have till the air runs out—

(Jason: “…Um, you’re a vampire.”)

“…Oh, yeah.” I relax, but still eye the water cautiously. If it’s not going to drown us, and my clothes are already ruined, then what the fuck is the point?

Suddenly, Anstis’s hand claps down on my shoulder, gripping it tight. I tense. “What are you doing…?”

(Jason: “…Oh, I know what he’s doing. He’s using thaumaturgy to make you spend your blood the way he wants.”
Me: “What the fuck!?
Jason: “Because he’s an asshole.”
Jim: “Sooo…let’s put…three into strength and two into dex…”
Me: “…Which leaves me at TWO blood points!”
Jason: “Whoops, then frenzy-check please!”
Jim: *stares, then bursts out laughing*
Me: *points finger at Jim* “I think when you find yourself trapped in a water-tight, exit-less, solid-steel room with a frenzying Brujah, you’re gonna rethink your choices there, son! There is literally no one I can hurt on this boat right now except for you!”)

My strength suddenly swells, along with my hunger. I pull away from his grip. “What the hell, man?!” My instinct writhes, telling me to lunge at him, but I wrestle it back under control. For the moment.

Anstis jerks his chin at the door. “Let’s try again, shall we?” With the water level now to our knees, we throw ourselves at the door, wrenching and pulling. Eventually it starts to peel back, like the lid of a tuna can. We haul at it as the water roars around us, trying to make an opening big enough to squeeze through.

There’s a splash behind us, as if something solid dropped into the water. I stop and turn.

Accio’s lieutenant is suddenly there, grinning sickly and holding something aloft. It’s long, and lumpy, and before my mind can go snarky places I realize what it is: a belt of grenades.

And in his other hand are all the pins.

I stare at him, he stares at me…then drops the belt into the water.

(Me: “…Why?”
Jason: “Because water doesn’t compress. Any explosion that occurs in a water-filled room is going to do massive amounts of damage, possibly vaporizing you from the pressure.”)

Time slows (Metaphorically! No Temporis shit in this bitch!). The man is milliseconds from shadow-stepping his way back out of here, with only a few milliseconds more until those grenades go off. I should throw myself at the door to help Anstis get it open before then…but I don’t.

My hunger surges again, clouding my judgement, but it’s soon eclipsed by something else: anger. Anger that this useless great-grand-asshole of Perpenna’s thinks he can just flounce around and get the better of us, the better of me. He may have outsmarted us with this little trap, but I wasn’t brought along to think my way through things.

Time whirls back up. Behind me, there’s a last final squeal as Anstis levers the door open enough to squeeze through, but I step the other way, toward the man…then drop all pretensions of civilization and lunge at him. The last thing I sense before everything goes red is a small voice reminding me of Monterey, but its drowned out by the roars of my Beast.

The moment I make contact with the guy, the grenades explode.

#

The blast catches Anstis as he’s half out the door, knocking him into the hall against the far wall. He staggers, dazed, but he’s alive, which is more than he was expecting. He waits for the smoke and steam to clear, then sticks his head back in the room.

It’s empty. Accio’s man, and myself, are 100%, completely, gone.
END OF NIGHT

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