4/2/2015

Cameron: “The best thing would be if the phone has a heavy-metal ringtone and it just keeps playing during the action sequence.”
Jason: “…That is exactly what happens. Colleen, what’s Tom’s ringtone?”
Me: “…’Thunderstruck.’”

***

OAKLAND DOCKS

(Jason: “When we last left off, Tom and Anstis were engaged with our as-yet-unnamed group of enemies.”
Me: “Well, they’re pretty fucking Egyptian-themed.”
Jason: “Yes, I wonder what clan they might be!”)

#

Bell lunges toward the fray. The Anarchs, despite their considerable weaponry, appear to be losing, falling one by one to the dark-clothed swordsmen. A few of the swordsmen see Bell approaching and fan out to meet him. Bell stops, scanning them calmly.

The phone clenched in my hands is still echoing Sophia’s voice, yelling for me. I glance at the bikes. She might still be able to start one up so I can get out of here, or at least maybe put some distance until Marcus arrives as backup. Then I glance over at Bell, braced in perfect poise at the base of the dock in the half-circle of swordsmen, the wind flapping his long coat like wings.

Son of a bitch. I hang up, shove the phone in my pocket, draw Glich, and run after him.

Neither he nor the swordsmen react as I stagger to a halt next to him. I try to look at him, but one glance at his chiseled jaw forces my gaze to the ground. Shit, he smells good, and not just because I’m super hungry.  “So, this is a new development since I called you,” I mutter.

“What did you do this time?” he growls, still staring at the men before us.

“The Semtex deal went bad—”

His shotgun clicks as he loads new shells. “You don’t say.”

“—Helgi went missing, and then these dudes all showed up.”

Suddenly, one of the Settites lifts his sword and shouts something in Arabic—

(Me: *fake gasp* “Oh my gawd, they’re Settites!?
Jason: “ 😐 “)

—And the rest of them charge.

Two men come at me, swords raised. I knock one away, but the the other strikes my arm, doing little damage to my flesh but adding a new slash to the hashed remains of my leather jacket. That’s fine, it’s super easy for me to go shopping for new clothes during evening hours, thanks….

Seeing an opening, I strike back with Glitch, cracking open the ribcage of one while ducking away from a decapitating strike from the other. I rush the second man, driving him town to the ground and return the blow, severing his neck in one strike. Pleased, I stagger back and glance at Bell.

Four swordsmen swarm around him in a flurry of blades and blood. A kick so fast it practically cracks the sound barrier shoves one man from the fray, followed immediately by a hail of dragonsbreath. The other three stumble back, and one is decapitated, so fast I don’t see the blade. The remaining two men hesitate. Bell stops then, long coat twisting around him, and reloads his gun with another flip-cock. The spent shell hits the ground before the body does.

(Me: “…Sploosh.”)

#

Anstis flares his razor-tipped tentacles spread to an impressive 30-foot armspan. The sight is enough to drive nightmares into sailors and other mortal men, but the crocodile is a monster itself, one with considerably more mass on the pirate.

(Kara: “Also, Jim is squishy.”)

The croc opens its jaws, wide enough to crush a car, and lunges forward. Its bite misses and Anstis engulfs it in tentacles, digging and raking with suckers and claws, but they skitter off the croc’s armored hide.

Suddenly the croc tears out of his grip. Anstis hovers near the surface as the reptile dives deeper into the bay, then suddenly jackknives to drive up, ascending from the darkness like a rocket, jaws wide, crashing shut on his soft body and continuing its power drive to the surface.

(Jason: “Here’s the bad news: he’s a crocodile, his jaws are really big. Here’s the worse news: he’s a vampire, his bites do agg damage.”)

The two explode out of the water for a breathless moment, then slam back down, the croc’s jaws locking shut, Anstis’s arms beating futilely at the armored hide while he’s shaken like a chew-toy.

#

Bell steps over the bodies and glances at me. Self-consciousness flares and I instinctively look away, just in time to see my other swordsman half-healed and back on his feet, lunging his sword at my throat. I parry his sword up and grab at his wrists. He grabs at mine and we tense, dropping our swords, arms aloft, locked in struggle—

From the water next to us, an enormous crocodile suddenly explodes into the air, a massive kraken in its jaws, then crashes back into the water like a breached whale. Both of us freeze and stare.

(Jason: “That’s shit you don’t see every day.”
Me: “Or night.”)

I turn from the water first and, seeing the swordsman still distracted, pull him in for a mouthful of blood. He screams and flails, but I grip hard, pulling as much blood as I can. The more I drink the harder he fights, until finally he drops into a full frenzy, his body jerking against me, testing even my significant strength. I grope for a stake, forcing his snapping fangs away from my face—

Then suddenly his head falls off.

The body slides out of my grip, revealing Bell standing behind him, leveling his bloody machete at me. “Quit fucking around,” he sneers. Before I can come up with an appropriately-witty-yet-maybe-slightly-flirty comeback, he twists away, slicing another approaching swordsman in two and turning the momentum into a dash forward toward another cluster of men.

After a long staring moment, mesmerized by his power, I pick up Glitch and follow.

#

THE CHANTRY

With the blood bank delivery from Michele due the next night, Georgia has some time to get other things in order and lay low. She takes the werewolf cub to the most secure place she can think of: Max’s room.

With all the wards down she enters without a problem and places the cub on the bed, in the middle of Max’s douchey red satin sheets. The cub looks around the room then stares up at her, wide-eyed.

“You live here for now,” she says soothingly. “You should be safe in this room, relatively. You are free to come and go if you like, but I think it will probably be better for you if you stay here.” The cub just stares. She pats it awkwardly on the head then leaves the room.

Returning downstairs, she checks on Jawahar and Bob, the latter of whom is still trying to choke down bites of Indian food between gulps from a pitcher of water. Jawahar watches him resignedly, sipping at a mango lassie.

Georgia sighs. “Jawahar, can you give him some rice or something?”

“I tried, but he wont stop drinking water.” He shrugs. “I warned him it was spicy, he asked what that was while he was eating it.”

(Me: “Jawahar probably ordered in Hindi so they were like, oh yeah, lets give this guy the real stuff.”)

“Well be nice to him, he’s new to food.” Ignoring Jawahar’s stare, she turns to Bob. “Bob, wheres Wolfgang?”

“In the…ghoul…quarters,” he sputters, spilling water down his front.

Georgia heads to the ghoul quarters in the basement, where she finds the young ex-Nazi sweeping between the rows of empty bunks. “Wolfgang!”

Wolfgang staggers erect. “Frau Regent!”

“You’re sweeping, I see.”

“Ja, I sweep! I do not kill Jews!”

Georgia investigates the bunks, ignoring the blood stains on many of the sheets. “Good, that’s lovely. Keep that up. Have you had dinner?”

“Um, nein….”

“What did they used to serve you? When you were working for Himmler?”

“Schnitzel, Frau Regent! Und…tinned sauerkraut.”

“Do you like spice in your food?”

Wolfgang’s eyes dart around the room as he searches for the answer she’s looking for. “Um…ja?”

Taking him at his word, she beams. “Then why don’t you come join us upstairs?”

#

Twenty minutes later, Wolfgang and Bob are now both sputtering with the food. Georgia relents and asks Jawahar to order something…milder. He sighs, puts down his plate, and takes the Chantry credit card she offers. “So,” he mutters as he dials. “Not that I don’t appreciate you offering me your hospitality, here in your Chantry, but what is it you plan to do here? ”

Georgia settles in a wingback chair, smoothing her skirts. “Oh, well I’m going to fortify it. Though whether that will make it safe is another matter. The wards should hopefully be fixed by tomorrow evening, you’re welcome to help if you like.”

“I’m not a full Chantry mage, I don’t know if I could handle such wards.”

“Well, perhaps you could be my…assistant.”

He glares at her as he lifts the phone. “I’m glad you ended that sentence with ‘assistant.’ I know how House Tremere employs its ward-magics.”

She sighs. “Jawahar, if I were going to eat you, I would have done it in space.”

He stares at her, then hangs up and puts the phone down heavily on the table. “If you were going to eat me, it would have been a great waste of raw materials which you could use to activate the wards. I am not a fool! Where are you planning on getting this necessary blood? Kidnapping random passers-by from the street, I’d expect?”

“Oh, god no. That’s much too inefficient. I called the blood bank. People there give willingly.” She smiles. “Volunteers!”

“And should your all-devouring monster come in first, what happens then?”

She sits back. “Oh, we’ll probably all die.”

There’s a long moment, the only sound Wolfgang and Bob choking down water. “I’m not the most clear on the distinction between vampires, but I thought the crazy clan was something else,” Jawahar says carefully.

She frowns. “What part of that statement was crazy?”

“If this thing is devouring vampires and other things in this city, is this not a reason to be in another city?”

“Well, part of my motivation for staying isn’t just to protect the Chantry and see to a few things I started here, but to use this Chantry as a research base. There’s quite a lot of information here about the Tremere…” she glances at Wolfgang, “…And since some of the Tremere have been doing things they should not be doing, I think the Chantry is a good place to seek that information out.”

“I didn’t think the Tremere kept to many moral standards.”

“Maybe, but one of the standards we do keep is ‘dont make gargoyles.’”

“Gargoyles?” Jawahar scoffs and reaches for his lassie. “There haven’t been gargoyles made in any quantity in hundreds of years.”

Georgia holds up a hand. “Ah, wrong, sir! Two separate instillations were making gargoyles on Alcatraz and the Farallones. This is the problem, we have to figure out who in the Tremere is responsible for this, and that, sir, is why we need this building.”

He stares at her, drink halfway to his mouth. “The Tremere have been making gargoyles on islands outside of San Francisco?”

She shifts uncertainly at his sudden intensity. “Yes, but you really can’t tell anyone about it, it’s kind of an internal matter at the moment.”

He sets the drink down. “You know, I have masters as well. Ones who will be wondering where I am, ones I will have to report to eventually. You understand the hierarchy. The Tremere were once hermetic, it works quite similarly, only we don’t eat people.”

She glares. “Look, have you seen me eat anyone in the time we’ve known each other?”

“You are a vampire, I think I can make certain assumptions on how you sustain yourself!” He jabs a finger at his lassie. “Do you consume vegetable juice?”

(Chris: “Paul does.”)

“No,” he continues, “You consume blood, and blood comes from people!”

“Yes, but it doesn’t have to kill the people it comes from. And I think that is an important distinction that a lot of people overlook.”

“I think most vampires overlook that as well,” he mutters darkly.

She smooths at her skirts again. “Well, I’m not most vampires.”

(Jim: “#NotAllVampires.”)

“Lucky me,” Jawahar grumbles.

Georgia looks at the ghouls, who are staring at them silently. He resettles herself in her chair to compose herself. “Anyway, I have a few leads, and we need to follow those up to figure out who was behind the ultimate order to make the California gargoyle army.”

Jawahr picks up his plate and pokes at it a moment before answering. “Could it not be these masters of yours that are now dead?”

“Oh it’s entirely possible, yes. It’s entirely possible it goes up to the Council of Seven, and if so, I think we’ll have to remake the clan.”

“How?”

“By killing everyone involved.”

He pauses, fork in hand, and looks up. “You’re saying you’re investigating a crime so terrible that if the Tremere elders were to discover it, they would have to slaughter their own, to the point where they would need to essentially remake the clan?”

“Yes,” she says flatly.

“…How can I help?”

(Julian: “Nothing motivates people like a pile of dead Tremere.”)

She beams and leans forward excitedly. “Have you heard of Heinrich Himmler?”

“The Nazi?”

“Yes, I recently killed him. He was in charge of making some of these gargoyles. So we need to figure out whom Himmler was working with, and stop them.”

“Assuming it leads to the Council of Seven themselves, you have no capacity to challenge them, and neither do I. So how will you enact this retribution?”

“Well there are two ways we can go about it. One, as we begin the investigation, we can accrue allies, as I have just gained you. Two, we can eat them.”

He stares at her a moment then sets his plate down with a note of finality to his appetite. “I’m not certain I’ve ever eaten a vampire, and moreover, my understanding is thats where all this problem started.”

“Fair enough, it may not work for you, but I can eat them as we find them, which will give me not only their power, but everything they know, which we can use against their superiors.”

Jawahar is quiet a moment, then, glancing at the ghouls, leans forward and lowers his voice. “There is another option. If this leads to the Tremere Council of Seven, you will not be able to strike at them inside their lair.” He hesitates. “Vienna is…not a place one goes.”

(Jim: “Says the mage.”)

“But there are other means to attack and destroy a vampire,” he continues. “If you find that any of the Tremere councillors are involved, and can arrange for them to be somewhere other than Vienna at a specified time, arrangements could be made. I know some who would be very interested in that information. And they are those who do not find themselves restricted by the need for blood magic.”

Georgia considers this and nods. “Well that is a very generous offer, and as soon as I find some proof that any of them were involved in he Naziism and gargoyle making, I will let you know.”

“What would qualify as proof?”

“That’s a very good question, I don’t really know. There are things like discovering memories.”

“But all the Tremere in the city are dead.”

“Well, thats not entirely true. I’ve got Heinrich Himmler’s memories and I haven’t gone through all them yet—“

A pounding knock at the front door echoes through the ground floor. Everyone in the sitting room freezes, then Georgia stands up to head to the foyer, Jawahar and the ghouls following a few steps behind. The knock comes again as she sweeps up to the front door, standing on tiptoe to peer through the peephole—

(Kara: “No, wait, I don’t look through the peephole, I’m not that stupid.”)

—Georgia does not look through the peephole, instead pressing her ear to the wood. “Who is it?” she calls.

Ms. Johnson we had an appointment last night,” a deep voice rumbles through the wood. It takes her a moment to place it: the strange man who connected her telepathically a few nights before.

“Oh goodness. Jawahar, I very unwittingly cancelled on a new visitor we had in town, hold on.”

“Is he Tremere?”

She wrenches at the door handles. “No idea—“

(Kara: “…Wait, do I know?”
Jason: “Didn’t he identify himself as Ventrue?”
Chris: “He didn’t say anything about clan.”
Kara: “He was using Tremere protocol when he mind-contacted me….”)

The heavy oak swings open, revealing and older gentleman in a tailored suit, cloak, and silver-tipped walking cane. He eyes her imperiously as she curtsies. “Hello, I’m terribly sorry about last night, something came up and I wasn’t able to alert anyone that I was going to be stepping away.”

His fingers drum on his cane. “Quite.”

“What was your name again?”

“Augustus von Rabenholz.”

“Ah, yes, very pleased to make your acquaintance.” She takes one hand from his cane and vigorously shakes it.

He permits her to grip his hand a moment, then removes it. “Likewise.” He steps past her into the foyer, stopping as he sees Bob, soaking wet and clutching a flagon of water, Wolfgang, also wet but standing ram-rod straight, and Jawahar behind them, hovering near the hallway. Rabenholz scans them all imperiously, lingering a moment on Jawahar. “Ms. Johnson, do you have an office?”

“Of course.” Georgia leads him down the hall. Jawahar eyes him suspiciously as they pass.

Georgia gestures him to a seat as they enter her office. He surveys the bookshelves and laden cabinets of the room a moment before sitting. “That was your staff, I take it?”

“Such as it is,” she sighs, sinking into her chair.

“I would say you have your work cut out for you.”

“Rebuilding a chantry is the opportunity of a career.” She folds her hands politely. “What can I do for you, Mr. Rabenholz?”

“I was going to ask you the same thing.”

“Are you offering your services?”

“Yes.” Rabenholz twirls his cane between his fingers. “Let’s say there are interested parties who would like things to quiet down here.”

(Jason: “He says as pitched battle is going on in Oakland.”)

“In this Chantry,” Rabenholz clarifies.

“I see. And who sent you?”

He eyes her, cane still twisting. “I can’t tell you that.”

“Indeed.” Georgia tenses, suddenly suspicious that Rabenholz is yet another agent of Perpenna’s. “Where did you say you came from?” she asks nonchalantly.

“I didn’t.”

“Ah, then perhaps now would be a good time.”

He meets her eyes. “Vienna.”

The room suddenly seems a little colder. “…Ah. So, are you here to take control of the Chantry?”

“No. In fact you are the only person in this city who knows I came from Vienna. Consider me…help. Quiet help. As you might imagine, I don’t fit in the traditional social structure here. That is to both of our advantages.”

Georgia considers this a moment, eventually deciding that, creepy as he is, any help is good help at the moment. “I have a few preliminary questions to ask you, though is sounds like you probably will not answer them, but we will precede from there.” She drags a notepad over and clicks open a pen. “Have you ever interacted with Heinrich Himmler?”

In fact, Rabenholz has no idea who that is, but his face doesn’t betray this fact. “No.”

“Excellent. Have you ever ordered the creation of, or created yourself, a gargoyle?”

“No.”

(Jason: “Are you lying?”
Chris: “No, but if she is particularly perceptive, she will see that there is a lot more there that I did not say.”)

Georgia picks up on his hesitation and pauses in her notes. “Is here anything else you’d like to say on that topic?”

“Not right now. But on that topic, though, you have a gargoyle in the city.”

“I suspect there are at least a few of them.”

“This one is large, angry, willing to forge many alliances to take you down.”

She looks up. “Oh, Jalut! Large, blue, tendency to break spines?”

“Yes.”

“Yeah, he’s a nice guy.”

Rabenholz’s eyes narrow. “Quite.” He glances around the room again, suddenly noticing the heraldric shield over the mantle, which seems to be missing two swords. “I would ask if you have everything here in order—“

She laughs. “Oh god, no.”

“—But I can already tell that,” he finishes cooly.

She laughs again, weakly. “Have you ever inherited a chantry, Mr. von Rabenholz?”

“No.”

“Then I imagine you’ve never inherited a Chantry after everyone in it was murdered and the wards were taken down and you had to take it back from a were-dragon?” She sets the pen down. “Things have been stressful this past week. I have a feeling that they will get back to some semblance of normalcy within the next millennia, but the rate at which they will do so is a little unpredictable at this point.”

He eyes her a long moment. “The gargoyle wants me to let him in here.”

She sits back. “Oh god, that’s not a good idea at all. Do you intend to let him?”

He makes another slow survey of the room. “Perhaps.”

Silence stretches long. Georgia’s chair creaks as she leans forward and folds her hands delicately in front of her. “I must ask you to consider…not…letting him in here.”

(Me: “Could you fucking not?”)

Rabenholz clicks the tip of his cane smartly onto the floor.“You have two options here. He comes in at a time of your choosing, hopefully things arranged as you choose, or he comes in at some other time, unexpected—“

Suddenly, there’s heavy knock on the door to the office. Both vampires freeze. “Who is it?” Georgia calls hesitantly.

A silence, then, “…Regent?” It’s Bob’s voice, slightly slurred.

She relaxes. “Yes, Bob?”

I fixed my tongue!

“Excellent Bob, is there anything else?”

…No!

“Well, then, just run along.”

Yes Regent!” Muffled sounds of footsteps recede down the hall.

Rabenholz stares at her throughout this exchange. “Where did you find that one?”

“At one of the other Tremere locations in the city. He was one of the only survivors of an attack by…that thing that decimated the rest of the Chantry.”

“Was he always this way?”

“Oh god, much worse.”

Rabenholz’s eyes narrow. “And what of your other two staff? One seemed to be a full mage.”

“He’s not staff, per se, although we have been discussing taking him on. And he seems willing, and that’s good, but he would not be ghouled. Thats just a waste of power. The other one…isn’t quite trustworthy.”

Rabenholz sets his cane against the edge of the desk and leans forward, hands folded. “My superiors care about the Tremere presence in this city. They dont care if its you who is managing it. But that said, I have no particular interest in seeing you loose your first Chantry. How can I help?”

Georgia smiles, relieved. “Well, there is the simple matter in that the place is completely undefended until the blood arrives tomorrow evening.”

Rabenholz’s cool expression melts into a frown. “The blood arrives tomorrow…and you are completely unwarded until then?”

“Yes.”

“Why are you waiting until tomorrow evening to collect the blood?” he asks firmly.

“It’s being delivered,” she says reasonably.

Still staring at her, his voice rises ever so slightly. “Is there no blood closer by to use? Is there some property of your wards that requires very exotic blood? You said you had a ghoul you don’t trust, what’s wrong with his blood?”

She tilts her head. “…That’s an interesting point, but we would still need six or seven other people.”

Rabenholz is silent another moment, then swiftly stands, grabbing his cane. “Give me the ghoul you don’t trust for the hour. I’ll bring back ten.”

She blinks. “You’ll bring back ten ghouls?”

“Ten people.”

“Which people?”

“Ones with blood,” he says sharply.If you have more particular requirements, you should let me know.”

She glares up at him. “You realize were under a pretty strict curfew law at the moment. The whole city is on high alert, the Masquerade has been violated multiple times, there’s a Justicar in town. If you just go abducting people off the streets, you’re likely to draw attention to the Chantry. “

“Oh, I think we’ll be quite discreet.”

“How?” she asks, frowning suspiciously.

“We’ll just be walking along like people do.”

“And then?”

“They’ll walk into the Chantry.”

“And then?”

“They’ll provide blood for you,” he snaps.

“Will they walk out of the Chantry?”

“I don’t see why they would.”

She glares. “You seem to have overlooked the ‘gone missing’ part, the ‘high alert’ part, where the entire city is on notice for this sort of disappearance.”

He returns her glare evenly, his tall, cloaked shape seeming to fill the office. “Ms. Johnson, do you feel you are ready to be Regent?”

She laughs. “Oh, no, but one learns on the job.”

“A basic talent you should possess is how to take possession of a dozen bodies without there being problems. You are running a Tremere Chantry, not a merry-go-round.”

“Well, of course, this place doesn’t spin.” She composes herself and smiles politely. “Sir. I appreciate the points you are raising, but I feel you are overlooking the points I am raising.”

“Ms. Johnson, you have told me the Chantry is undefended for twenty-four hours. I know at the minimum, you have a very dangerous gargoyle nosing about who would love nothing better than to come in here and snap your spine like a toothpick.”

“Well he’s already done that once, I can recover from it again. Look, if I can dislodge a dragon from this place, I can certainly hold out another twenty-four hours.”

He eyes her. “Ms. Johnson, you’ll forgive me for saying so, but I doubt you could dislodge a vegetable from between your teeth.”

She stands, nowhere close to meeting his eye level but she glares all the same. “Pfalzgraf von Rabenholz. Sir. If you would like to assist, you may do so in the way that you think you are most suited. In the meantime, I will hold onto this Chantry in the way that I think I am most suited. If I am killed in the process, then so be it, and someone else will have to take over. “

“Do you have a line of succession in place?”

“Yes.”

“Indeed, and I have wings,” he mutters.

“Sir, you are currently my heir.”

He blinks. “…No.”

“As you are, to my knowledge, the only other Tremere in this city, yes.”

He closes his eyes a moment, then turns and sweeps toward the office door. “I will be back within the hour with people. If you cant abide the thought of them not walking out of here, that is fine. I will bring sufficient quantity.”

Georgia beams, relieved. “Well, in that case, I would be happy to lend you Wolfgang. But I dont think that lending you Bob would be an asset.”

“No, I don’t think so either.” Rabenholz lets her lead him to the door, standing back as she opens it to the hall.

Dr. vonNatsi is standing on the other side.

Ms. Johnson!!!” the Etherite shouts. “Ve have made a discovery!!”

Georgia blinks. “Doctor! Hold on one moment, I am just showing out a visitor.” She steps aside. “Dr. von Natsi, may I introduce Pfalzgraf von Rabenholz. Pfalzgraf, this is Dr. von Natsi.”

Rabenholz eyes him. vonNatsi is currently decked in a casual outfit of long white lab coat, blue rubber dish gloves, and double-decker steampunk goggles perched on his forehead. Georgia hasn’t seen these type goggles before, neither has she seen the goggles tucked into the breast pocket of his lab coat, nor the goggles folded and tucked into the holster around his waist, next to the deathrays.

vonNatsi peers back through the lower pair of his goggles. “Pfalzgraf, you say? Are you German?”

“I am. And you, are you from…[that place which it sounds like you are from]?”

vonNatsi beams and starts babbling in German, much of it too fast for even Rabenholz to follow, but punctuated with gesticulations and frequent shouts of the word WISSENSCHAFT! as he talks. Rabenholz takes a slow look at Georgia. She shrugs. Rabenholz rolls his eyes and engages vonNatsi in discussions of science.

(And if you would like to hear the details of this conversation, you may do so here, and also learn why live animal actors are rarely employed in RPG settings)

As they talk, Georgia calls down the hall for Wolfgang. A few minutes later, he strides in and clicks his heels. “Wolfgang, you have been doing an excellent job, and I think it was time you were rewarded with a mission. You will accompany Pfalzgraf von Rabenholz this evening, and assist him in whatever he requires, unless it involves wholesale murder. In which case, you will not engage.”

Wolfgang looks puzzled, but nods. “Ja, Frau Regent!”

Rabenholz and vonNatsi wrap up their conversation. Rabenholz bows stiffly. “Doctor vonNatsi.”

vonNatsi bows deeply, knocking a pair of goggles off his head. “Pfalzgraf von Rabenholz.”

“Pleasure meeting you.” Rabenholz nods at Georgia and leads Wolfgang from the room.

vonNatsi rushes over and grabs her arms excitedly. “Ms. Johnson! I have made a discovery, and I vished for you to be ze first to know!” He sets her into a seat on the desk and leans forward. “The Plutonian space vale vomit…it vas effective!”

Georgia gasps and stands. “Then…you were able to create…the….?” She hesitates, breathless.

vonNatsi stares, then waves his hands.“Oh! Nein, nein, not yet. Ze golem vas not complete. Zere vill be several more veeks of verk in order to finalize it.”

Georgia droops slightly, but nods enthusiastically. “But this is an excellent step!”

“Ja, ja! Researching the effects of the quintessal energy of the vale vomit vith ze etheric forces of ze golem has been a major advancement for science!!” Suddenly his smile turns brittle and he wrings his hands. “…But I vas vondering if you have any verewolf bone?”

“Ah, yes, that is still on my shopping list, but I have no procured any yet.” She grabs her notepad and jots it down. “How long of a bone did you need?”

“Anything from fifteen inches up. Ze verewolves, zey are big.”

“Okay, I’ll…try not to find a werewolf that is too small,” she says cagily.

vonNatsi nods. “Also try to find a verewolf zat does not eat cabbage.”

She makes a note of this too. “I will make some phone calls.”

“Excellent! Ze sooner I get ze verewolf bone, ze sooner I can complete mein magnum opus! Ze etheric golem vill…be….MINE!” He leans back, thrusting his fists to the ceiling. There’s a sound of lightning crashing in the distance.

Georgia doesn’t seem to notice. “Out of curiosity, what are the etheric properties of werewolf bone?”

vonNatsi suddenly tenses, then lowers his hands. “…I don’t know. But ze mathematical theories indicate it vill be very effective. I have not had ze opportunity to test, as ze verewolves I have had at mein laboratory vere…not cooperative.”

“Well, this is excellent, thank you for bringing me this news!” She starts to lead him to the door, then hesitates. “Wait, how did you get in?”

He gestures to the hall. “Ze front door, it vas open.”

“Ah, yes.” Georgia guides vonNatsi into the hallway and leads him briskly along it, heading to the foyer. “…Doctor, is there any way you could lend me a small deathray for the remainder of tonight?”

“Perhaps I could…” He opens his labcoat as they walk, revealing a bandolier of guns of all sizes strapped underneath. “Vich deathray did you vant?”

“I don’t know which one I’m thinking of, but the one I’m thinking of can protect me from a rampaging, out of control gargoyle, and perhaps an angry giant were-dragon, and maybe a shadowy death-monster.”

vonNatsi hesitates. “…Zis rampaging gargoyle…vat does he look like?”

“Um, big…greyish blue…angry….”

He lets the coat drop closed, wringing his hands. “Ah…ehm….”

Georgia stops as they enter the foyer and turns to him. “What? Have you met him?” She hesitates. “…Is he standing behind me?”

They look around. The only person in the room is Rabenholz, standing by the door, waiting for Wolfgang to bring a car around, watching them carefully. vonNatsi ignores him and continues. “So, you must understand, I vas doing experiments, and I needed symbols of reanimated tissue, und he vas most…villing, to provide. He asked only for some assistance.”

“What assistance did he ask for?” Georgia asks cautiously.

“A piece of equipment zat I did not need any longer, for I had invented a more appropriate one.”

“And you gave it to him? What was it?”

He waves his hands dismissively. “Just an etheric detector. It’s perfectly harmless, an etheric detector is only used to detect latent etheric energies zat have been utilized for some purpose.”

Suddenly Rabenholz speaks up. “Ms. Johnson, the gargoyle has been using this tool to find Tremere in the city and hunt them down.”

“Oh, goodness.” She turns back to vonNatsi. “Did you give him this address?”

The mage shakes his head vigorously. “Nein!”
“Ms. Johnson,” Rabenholz rumbles, “The gargoyle gave me this address.”

She pauses. “…Ah. In that case, I should like to borrow two deathrays.”

#

THE OAKLAND DOCKS

Bell dispatches the rest of the swordsmen in the immediate vicinity—

(Me: “I helped.”
Chris: “Yes, you distracted them while Bell killed them.”)

—Leaving us a clear window to pause and take stock. I’m scanning the docks, looking for the bald bitch, when suddenly Bell grabs the front of my shirt and pulls me over. “Wheres Helgi?” he growls.

“Uhh….” I stare into his sunglasses. He’s way too close for me to string rational thoughts together. “…Fuck if I know, the boat he was on blew up!”

He glares, but releases me. “Where did these people come from?”

“I don’t know, they just appeared in cars, started tearing the place up, calling Anubis-monsters from the fucking ground!”

“This many Settites just showed up?” He curses and reloads his shotgun. “Try not to die.” With that, he dashes off to another cluster of fighting.

“…I always do,” I sigh.

#

Anstis slaps tentacles across the jaws of the croc, pouring the last reserves of his energy into prying them open—

—And then he frenzies. And we don’t find out what happens with that till later.

(Me: “…Omg, it’s going to look like that pool scene in Showgirls.”)

#

Bell spots the bald woman across the melee and starts moving toward her. She eyes him too and advances as well. Drawn by the inevitable, they approach one another, tossing away any straggling Anarchs or swordsmen that try to interfere, not breaking eye contact the whole time.

I glance around. No one seems to care about me at the moment, so I follow meekly.

The stop a few yards away from each other. The sounds of battle seem to slowly die around them, absorbed by the force of their gaze. I tense, waiting.

Everything happens at once. Bell flips his shotgun up and fires, exploding another round of dragonsbreath at the same time she shouts and extends her hands. She stumbles back from the blast, burns melting her robes and streaking her chest, at the same time a moat of wet, black pitch bubbles up from the concrete. It undulates sickly and extends tendrils into the air, reaching for Bell.

(Me: “Oh no, this is how Tasha Yar died!”)

My head snaps around. Vera is still laying on the ground where I last dropped her. I run over, swing her up, and turn her on the woman and the oozing tendrils. Noise and hot metal spray across the dock in my longest barrage yet. I scream with the force of it, lost in the power, until a jam in the belt makes me stop. I lower Vera and look up.

The woman and the oil monster are both completely unaffected.

(Jason: “How did you get no damage on a twelve die roll again!?”)

Bell takes a moment to glare at me before racing forward. I curse and whack at the gun to loosen the stuck shell, probably harder than I need to.

Bell leaps the tendrils, slashing them with his machete, and continues his rush toward the woman, She stumbles back, raises her hand, shouts something again, then her form ripples like the ooze in front of her, twisting and heaving and growing into something new.

A forty-foot snake.

(Jason: “Yeah, she goes Full Jafar.”)

She looms over the dock, dark as her human skin, hooded like a cobra, with massive dripping fangs the length of my forearm. Bell stops, staring up at her, momentarily uncertain.

(Me: “Sure wish I had a Panzerfaust.”)

She strikes down, snapping her massive jaws. Bell dives out of the way. I run forward, shooting to help distract her, but the 50-cal shells glance off the scales without even a dent.

I’ve finally attracted some attention. Two more Settites run toward me from somewhere across the dock. I curse and hesitate to load a new a new ammo-belt. In the middle of this, my phone suddenly rings. Damn it, I definitely don’t have time to take that right now. Let it keep ringing as I fiddle with the gun.

(Cameron: “The best thing would be if the phone has a heavy-metal ringtone and it just keeps playing during the action sequence.”
Jason: “…That is exactly what happens. Colleen, what’s Tom’s ringtone?”
Me: “…’Thunderstruck.’”)

Music blaring from my pocket, I swing Vera up just in time to jam her barrel into the stomach of the closest Settite. He stops, sword overhead, stares at the gun, then up at me. I flash a wink and a smile, then fire.

Heat explodes inches from me. His chest caves in with the force, enough to blast him across the docks, over the edge and into the water. I smirk and turn away.

BAM, the other Settite runs up and shoots me point-blank in the face with a shotgun. Hot lead stings my face like a motherfucker, but glances off. He stares, shocked. Annoyed, I grab the barrel of his shotgun, smashing the stock back into his face. He releases it and stumbles back, dazed. Feeling cocky, I try to flip the gun one-handed to fire back on him in one smooth movement.

I drop it.

(Me: “Dammit, was Bell watching?!”
Jason: “Yes.”
Me: “DAMMIT!! I HATE THE EAST BAY!!!”
Jason: “I’d like to point out that right now, the person who has been most effective in combat situations in Oakland and Alameda is Paul.”)

The call finally gives up, ending my theme music. The swordsman glares up at me, nose healing, and opens his mouth. A black, forked, four-foot tongue emerges, lashing at me. I duck the strike, snapping over my head like a whip, then, lift Vera and unload into him. Vitae sprays as he flies back and collapses to the concrete. Near starving by this point, I fall on him to drain as much blood as I can.

(Jason: “He’s down for the count, you could chop his head off.”
Jim: “Or eat him….”
Me: “…No.”
Jason: “He did try to kill you.”
Me: “Nah, not personal enough to warrant diablerie.”)

Strength rapidly returning, I stagger to my feet. A small explosion rocks the area, and I turn to see Bell and the woman—back in human form—blasted away from a burning propane tank, fetching up against nearby shipping containers. The woman climbs to her feet, piercing us with her glare, and shouts something. The remaining swordsmen on the dock gather toward her.

She stares down the dock, her injuries healing before my eyes, and hisses in English, “Werewolf killer, Brujah, Anarch would-be. You would stand with the defilers, then?”

I glance around. There’s no one in line of sight, so apparently she’s talking to me.“I’m sorry, what?” I shout back. “What defilers?”

All the defilers. The ones who have harmed the resurrection of the Great One. We have watched you long, but we will watch no more. You will die gargling your own entrails.”

I thump Vera down against my leg. “Girl, I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about.”

“Would you care to see?” Spitting out a curse, she raises a hand. I yell, suddenly pierced by the sensation of someone trying to dig out my innards with an ice-cream scoop. She twists her hand, shocking the pain skyward. Choking down another scream, I feel my knees weaken, and I glance around for Bell. He’s staggering to his feet a few yards away, sunglasses missing, face dazed. The remaining swordsmen are coming up behind him. I try to shout a warning but all that comes out is a choked grunt.

The woman laughs and clenches her hand. The torment that follows drives me to my knees. Desperately clinging to consciousness, I stare at her, stalking toward me, and see something moving in the darkness behind her. Maybe it’s some sort of hallucination brought on by her spell, but it looks like one of their black vans is rising slowly into the air….

She stops a few yards from me, face triumphant. “Do you feel it, defiler? This is a taste of what awaits you when our lord returns!” She raises her hand and opens her mouth again, perhaps to release a final, killing spell—

—The van flies out of the darkness, fast as a baseball, slamming into her. It rolls, crashing into the swordsmen approaching Bell, knocking them off their feet and smashing them to the concrete.

I turn. In the sodium-yellow light of the docks, a figure is standing where the van was just parked. A figure very small.

The woman and the swordsmen, healing before my eyes, climb to their feet, but freeze as they see Marcus glaring back at them. She shouts something, a clipped bark of command, with a note of fear—

—And with that, the Settites are gone.

END OF NIGHT

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