10/8/15

Chris: “I like how in the last game, I destroyed a car with a sword and flew across the forest in a wingsuit. And now, in this game, I am struggling to do paperwork.”

***

THE CHANTRY

The entire evening, while the Mad Max showdown has been going on up north, Georgia has been quietly occupied with tasks around the Chantry, most of them centered around considering how to deal with the imminent arrival of Regent Vannevar Hughes, the man intending to take over her Chantry, possibly eat her, and–worst of all–interfere with her ongoing assistance to Dr. von Natsi and his golem research.

Towards the end of the evening, she’s doing some research into some of the serious magical tomes in the Chantry’s collection–as well as the strange book given to her by Cantor–when there’s a knock at office door. Bob’s quavering voice carries through the wood. “Regent? I’m sorry to bother you after 3 am, but…there’s someone at the door.”

Georgia looks up from her book. “Who is it?”

“It’s the Hermetic….”

“Really? Which one?”

“The one who…didn’t want to kill you….?” He sounds uncertain.

“Interesting.” She mentally accesses the wards. Sure enough, Jawahar is pacing outside in the general vicinity of the Chantry front doors, though clearly he cannot see exactly where they are. She goes outside to meet him, closing the door behind her so the obfuscation wards kick back in. “Jawahar! How pleasant to see you!”

He adjusts his glasses, trying to see where she just stepped from, then nods. “Ms. Johnson. I imagine it is more pleasant than the alternative.” He sees her looking around the empty street. “I have not come with Warmaster Mwonge if that’s what you’re concerned about. The Warmaster is busy on certain business he has not communicated to me. He may be lurking around the corner waiting for me to lure you out of hiding, but I would have no way to know.”

“Well, I imagine if that were so, I would already be dead,” she says calmly, turning back to him. “Why are you here?”

Jawahar sighs. “Because I wish to discuss the possibility of resolving this outstanding situation in a way that does not end in anyone being incinerated.”

“Well, I like the sound of that.”

“I imagine you might, but I do not think you will like the sound of what will be required in order to do it.” Now Jawahar glances around the street. “I have not discussed this with the Warmaster yet. I expect that if I did the result would not be to my liking, or yours. But… you did rescue me from that ship, and you have not behaved as most Tremere are presumed to behave. I feel that should probably account for something, though I don’t think the Warmaster will see it that way. You must understand there is bad blood, a great deal of it. What he will almost certainly require is the Chantry itself, and all of its contents.”

Georgia bursts into laughter. “He’s going to have to get in line!”

Jawahar glares. “Warmaster Mwonge is not the sort to wait in line. His response to lines is generally to destroy the things in them until he reaches the front. Is someone else attempting to seize the Chantry from you?”

Georgia sobers. “Yes, another Tremere–that would be the easiest for him to dispose of, I think–and an elder vampire.”

Jawahar frowns. “These are not the same person?”

“No.”

“Do you know who this other Tremere is?”

“Yes.”

There’s a long silence. “….Will you tell me who this other Tremere is?” Jawahar prompts.

“Oh! Yes, a man named Vannevar Hughes. He’s from Annapolis, and there was something to do there, with gargoyles, that was unsavory.”

Jawahar stares at her a moment, then folds his arms. “Would you explain to me what dealings of your clan are to be regarded as savory?”

“Oh yes, we do quite a lot of science and research on expanding the bounds of knowledge of magic,” Georgia says breezily.

“My understanding is much of your science and research on magic is done via vivisection, human sacrifice, and the worship of devils!”

She sighs. “Well, most of that is true–”

Jawahar holds up a hand to cut her off. He rubs his temples under the stems of his glasses. “Who is the elder vampire?”

Georgia almost mentions Marcus by name, but stops as she suspects that mages knowing who he is would be bad for the mages. “Oh, he’s actually kind of a friend, so it’s not that big a deal,” she says vaguely. “He doesn’t actually want the chantry for himself, he just really wants unlimited access to it, which is pretty much the same thing.” She shrugs. “But he means well.”

Jawahar eyes her incredulously. “In your experience, are there a great number of elder vampires who mean well?”

“…Good point.” She quickly changes the subject. “There’s also a dragon who had a claim on it for awhile and has indicated he could move back anytime he wanted. Which is probably true.”

Jawahar sighs and rubs his face again. “I was rather hoping to present you with the option to not have Warmaster Mwonge chase you across the Earth and turn you into some form of parchment. You would have to surrender the chantry immediately.”

Georgia shakes her head slowly. “Yeah, there are a lot of people that would not go over well with.”

“And they would chase you across the earth and turn you into parchment themselves?”

“Probably.”

Jawahar casts his gaze plaintively toward the stars a long moment. “This is not an easy situation to resolve, you understand that? Have you any suggestions about how it might be resolved without the need to kill a vast number of people?”

She tilts her head, thinking. “We could take all the people who want to kill me and put them in a room together and see if they kill each other.”

“Except the people being slaughtered might well be other Hermetics,” Jawahar says sharply. “I do not like the Warmaster, or House Flambeau, but I will not have them killed simply because they are attempting to do their job.”

“Well that does complicate things–”

Suddenly the front door bursts open and Bob stumbles out. “R-Regent…I’m…I’m….”

She stares. “Bob, what is it?”

“I-I’m sorry–”

Georgia tenses. “…Why?”

“S-s-something is in…the Chantry….” Bob cowers. “I’M SO SORRY I DIDN’T LET IT IN–”

Georgia rushes back into the Chantry, dragging Bob with her and slamming the heavy oak door behind them. She stops at the end of the hallway, listening. Bob huddles behind her. “I…think it’s coming up the stairs….” he whispers. At the edge of her hearing, she can hear something echoing up the basement stairwell. Something heavy.

(Kara: “Georgia grabs an umbrella from the umbrella stand.”
Jason: “…Why?”
Kara: “Because that’s what you do when something is coming up the basement stairs!”)

The thuds resonate through the stone of the building, low and slow. As they get closer, she can also hear a strangely metallic clanking.

Georgia nods smartly. “That is either a dragon, or a gargoyle, or Anstis carrying his anchor.”

Bob clutches closer to her robes. “I..don’t think so….”

“Okay.” Georgia brandishes the umbrella and edges along the wall to the top of the stairs. Bob runs the other way, back toward the foyer.

(Kara: “What are the odds that the umbrella is a death ray?”
Me: “Von Natsi DID leave a bunch of random stuff around the Chantry when he redid the wards.”
Jason: “Not all of them were deathrays.” *hesitates* “Though most of them included deathrays….but no, as far as you know, this is not a deathray.”)

Slowly, step by laborious step, a massive mechanical thing climbs into view. It’s vaguely humanoid, made of tarnished bronze pitted with age, with stubby legs and two long over-jointed arms sticking off a bulbous body shaped like a diving bell. Guidewires and pistons articulate the limbs, powered by clockwork, and a stovepipe on the back belches steam and smoke. A protrusion on top mimics the shape of a head, but instead of a face, a metallic mask is bolted to the frame, scowling like a Greek theater mask.

It stops as it reaches the top of the stairs, footsteps cracking the marble. The upper half of the body swivels to face her.

Georgia grins and throws her arms up in the air. “Dr. von Natsi, you’re back! And you finished the golem!”

The eyes of the mask glow red. Gears grind, and suddenly metal hands unfold from mechanisms in the arms, each holding a crossbow.

Georgia hesitates. “Dr. von Natsi…?”

The automaton raises one arm and fires.

(Chris: “This thing got in even after von Natsi’s wards? I think we should get our femur back.”)

#

HUMBOLDT COUNTY, EUREKA GENERAL HOSPITAL

As stated last time, Scout and Rabenholz wake up in the morgue.

Rabenholz is in a bag, in the dark, and naked. A low hum of refrigerators echoes around him. He lies for a long moment, listening for movement or voices around him, then mentally casts for the location of his cane-sword.

(Chris: “It’s not just a sword, it’s my talisman. It’s why my dice rolls are so good.”
Jason: “Alright, Perception + Occult.”)

An image comes to mind of his sword, lying in a bin on top of his cloak and other clothes. He pulls back and sees the bin is just one in a room lined with hundreds of them. He pulls back further, outside the building, and sees the sign out front: Eureka Police Station.

Once sure no one is around, he slashes his way out of the bag through sheer strength and sits up. He’s on a steel table in the middle of the morgue room. It’s empty, but suspicious banging is coming from a nearby body-drawer. Throwing away the remains of his bag, he pulls open the drawer to reveal another bag thrashing about. He unzips it. Scout sits up, then leans over the side of the drawer and vomits formaldehyde.

“Difficult morning?” Rabenholz asks coolly.

She gags to a stop and glares. Realizing she’s naked, she makes a half-assed attempt to cover herself. “Evening, though, isn’t it?”

Rabenholz pads around the room, unconcerned by his own nudity. “I believe you are blessed with the gift of obfuscate, are you not? Our possessions are in the town’s police station. Perhaps you could cloak us as we go there.”

She slides out of the drawer and tosses the empty body bag on a nearby pile of them. “I can only cloak myself.”

“Hmm. Then perhaps you wouldn’t mind rummaging about in the hospital for some clothi–”

Rabenholz freezes as the door to the morgue opens. A man dressed in scrubs walks in holding a clipboard. He stops as he sees them. “What the…? What the hell is going on he–”

(Chris: “Dominate.”)

Rabenholz leans toward him. “Your clothes, give them to me.

The man stares into his eyes a long moment, then blinks and seems to shake it off. “Wha…? No, these are…mine….”

The man trails as Scout walks slowly toward him wearing nothing but her smile, her dyed hair loose and tossed coyly over one shoulder. She leans close.  “Could we just have some clothes, please?” she whispers.

The man stares, then gropes for a nearby cabinet, pulling some spare scrubs out of a drawer all without breaking eye contact. She smiles warmly as she accepts them.

Rabenholz, meanwhile, is eyeing the man thoughtfully.

(Chris: “…Is he a first son?”
Jim: “You can tell?”
Jason: “Yeah, it’s part of the Ventrue thing, you can smell them. And…no, sorry.”
Me: “…Wait, I don’t have a prey exclusion, or AIDS, so I can eat whomever I want! For the first time in years!”)

Scout beckons him closer. He leans in…then she bites him.

(Jason: “So do you eat him?”
Me: “Not the whole thing, no!”)

After a minute or two he slumps woozily in her arms. She dumps him into a nearby chair and starts shrugging into the scrubs. Rabenholz–already wearing a set–leans in to wipe the man’s mind with a successful Dominate spell.

With that, they leave to find the police station.

#

HUMBOLDT COUNTY WILDERNESS

Anstis, meanwhile, wakes up in the woods, pleasantly refreshed. After bursting from the ground in a shower of loam and taking in a few draughts of clean, wilderness air, he pulls out his phone and tries to call Rabenholz and Scout. Neither answer. Puzzled, he tracks Rabenholz via the stones:

Rabenholz is in the town named for discovery.

Anstis frowns. He has no idea where that is. He shrugs, shoves the rock away, then drops into parrot form and starts heading south, back toward San Francisco.

#

THE CHANTRY

The bolts slam into Georgia’s shoulder, shoving her back but not causing any serious damage. She reaches up to pull one out. They’re not wood, they’re metal. In fact, they’re solid primium.

The automaton stares at her a long moment, as if expecting her to fall over. When she doesn’t, automated lever action reloads the crossbows and it raises its arm again.

(Kara: “I fall over.”
Jason: “…I can’t believe I never thought of that.”)

Georgia slumps to the ground, playing dead. The machine stomps closer, each step followed by shaking of ground and puff of steam. It examines her a moment, then swivels its upper body around and starts stomping in the other direction.

Carefully, Georgia pulls out her phone and tries to call Dr. von Natsi. It goes right to voicemail.

(Dr. von Natsi’s outgoing voicemail message provided by Chris)

As she’s lying there, she sees movement on the stairs leading to the upper floors. MewMew is sitting there, staring down at her. As she makes eye contact, the cat starts to descend the stairs.

She levers herself up. “MewMew! Do not come down! There is a heavy thing down here! I do not want you to get squished!” She hesitates a moment, remembering the gravitational mass-anomalies the space whales are supposed to have, which made bringing the creature back from Pluto so difficult in the first place. “…But if you wanted to sit on it and squish it, that might be okay–”

More bolts suddenly slam into her, missing the heart again but jerking her backwards. The machine has swivelled again and is coming back toward her.

She scrambles to her feet. “Stop! I welcome you in peace!” The thing keeps coming. “Please stop!” she barks in frustration.

It lifts an arm, but instead of firing, the hand holding the crossbow folds away. In its place, a hand holding what looks like a hose pipe appears and slots into place. The mouth of the pipe is also bronze, engraved with carvings and what looks like Greek inscriptions. She can just make out part of it: Pyros Heliacon

(Kara: “…Yeah, that’s gonna breathe fire.”)

Georgia runs up the stairs, scooping up MewMew on the way, as fire suddenly rages behind her. Flames coat the stone walls and floor, continuing to burn even after the hose shuts off. Thick, oily resin fumes pour up the starwell. And that’s when she realizes: it’s not just fire, it’s Greek Fire.

MewMew squirms from her grip and bolts up the stairwell to safety. Georgia backs up, fighting the urge to flee from the flames, and pulls out her phone to call Jawahar.

“Yes?” the mage answers, exasperated.

“Are you still outside?”

“Uh, yes–”

“Do you know how to turn off a golem?”

He pauses. “…I don’t know, throw him into Mount Doom?”

“Can you get into the Chantry without my help?”

“If I knew that I wouldn’t have knocked on the door!”

“Fine, goodbye.” She hangs up, shoots a text to Bob, telling him to let Jawahar in, then turns back to the automaton. “Excuse me, Mr. Golem?”

The baleful metal face sneers at her. The flamethrower arm pumps and hisses, slowly preparing another flame assault.

Georgia raises her hand. “I am friendly!

The machine raises its other arm.

Georgia turns to run up the stairs just before two more bolts slam into her back, knocking her to her knees. She stumbles and peers back. The flame arm is still pumping, but the crossbow hand folds in with a series of clicks, replaced moments later by a long vicious-looking blade. Even from here, she can tell it’s made of the same primium as the bolts.

She falls down, playing dead again.

After a long moment, the hissing pump-action slows. The blade slides back in, and the body swivels to stomp away.

Georgia gets up to follow behind, as silently as she can, as the machine stomps its way to the front foyer. The boiler mounted on its back hisses and steams, the sound of water sloshing inside with every step. The thing turns the corner just in time to catch Bob opening the front door. Jawahar, facing in, sees the thing first. His face goes white and he yells something in Hindi as the machine raises its arm.

Thinking quickly, Georgia pulls one of the primium stakes from her body and stabs at the boiler. The bronze dents, but doesn’t break. She keeps stabbing, focusing on the seams of the tank, as the machine stops and slowly turns, swivelling at the waist.

Finally the boiler punctures and hot water gushes out onto the floor. Georgia dances back and casts Chains of Water, wrapping the entire machine in filaments of steaming water. The chains bind it like spider silk, pinning the arms down and keeping the body from rotating. The automaton shudders, then gears groan as it slowly forces its way against the restraint, trying to bring its arm around to face her.

Georgia starts pacing around the machine in a slow circle. It swivels to follow, but slowed as it is, she’s able to keep just ahead of its arm and out of a targeting-angle. Steam and smoke continue to belch from it, and water splashes out onto the floor. As she walks, she calls Vannevar Hughes.

“Acolyte,” he answers with a sneer.

“Hi, did you send me a gift this evening?” she asks brightly, pitching her voice over the grinding of gears.

“…A gift? I hadn’t thought to. Why, is it your birthday?”

“Oh no, I just thought, you know, with people moving in and moving out, sometimes there are gifts exchanged. I should probably be sending you one–”

“…What’s that I hear in the background?” Vannevar asks suspiciously.

Mechanical noise no longer fills the foyer. Instead, she hears the panicked voice of Jawahar, chanting in Sanskrit, barely drowning out Bob’s terrified wails. She stops and looks at the automaton. It has stopped rotating after her. The whir of small gears echos within the bronze, and suddenly the top of its head slides open. A mushroom-shaped object springs up.

“Oh dear…I wonder what that does,” she sighs.

“…What what does?” Vannevar asks.

Little nozzles slide out of the dome, studding the circumference in every direction.

Georgia hangs up.

Instantly, the nozzles belch Greek fire in a 360-degree shower of flame–

(Kara: “Ohmygod, I encase myself in water!!!
Jason: “…Can you do that?”
Kara: “Well, I get the water from the chains wrapped around it.”
Jason: “Yeah, but how you going to wrap yourself in water?”
Kara: “I cast chains of water-thing on me!”
Jason: “…You know, I never thought of that.”
Kara: “That’s twice tonight I’ve made you say that!”)

Georgia summons water from the machine’s chains and up from the pool spreading around her, forming a solid tomb just in time. Oily flame blasts the walls, boiling them away into steam. Georgia concentrates, pulling water from the far side to reinforce the side facing the fire. Her tomb becomes a wall, then a shield, slowly shrinking as the water runs out–

Then the flames stop. The arms of the automaton droop and the fire nozzles slot away. The steam and smoke puff out. She lowers her arm and peers around it carefully. The boiler has finally emptied.

Jawahar is pressed against the wall by the front door, Bob cowering behind him. Patches of burning flame are scattered around the entire foyer. Georgia surveys the damage. “Bob, I’m going to need you to go down to the basement and get some barrels of sand to put out the fire.”

He peeks out from behind Jawahar. “Y-yes Regent…”

She smiles encouragingly at him. “You did a good job. Go get the sand.”

“…C-can I change my pants?”

“Yes. After you get the sand.”

Bob runs off. Jawahar remains frozen in place, his glasses opaque from the clouds of steam roiling through the room. His hand is raised, shaking slightly, an amulet clutched in the palm. Bolts and patches of fire litter the ground and walls around him, but he looks untouched.

Georgia throws out her arms in welcome. “Jawahar! Thanks for coming in!”

Jawahar stares a long moment, then gulps. “How…in the names…of the four arms of Vishnu did that get in here!?” he gasps.

She stares at the machine. The lights in the eyes have gone out. “I’m not entirely sure, but we’ll definitely be rechecking the wards–”

Jawahar lowers his arm, slowly. “Do you have the first conception of what that is!?”

“Is it a golem?”

He pulls off his glasses and tries fruitlessly to dry them against his shirt, itself soaked with steam and sweat. “In the loosest possible sense, yes.”

“Was it sent by Dr. von Natsi?”

“I very strongly doubt it!”

“Was it sent by Warmaster Mwonge?”

His gaze snaps to her in a glare. “This was no Hermetic doing! Do you not recognize–?” He shakes his head. “No, of course you don’t, your kind haven’t been actual mages in five centuries!

Georgia stills. “Ouch. Rude.”

Jawahar pauses as he sees flickers of actual hurt on her face. He sighs and puts his glasses back on. “That…thing is a Technocracy construct. It’s called a HIT Mark.”

Georgia turns to regard the machine. “Huh. But I seemed to get on well with the Void Engineers, why would they send this?”

“I doubt very seriously a Void Engineer sent that. Do you know what a HIT Mark is?”

“That thing,” she says brightly, pointing to it. Seeing the look on his face, she continues. “A…metal assassin?”

Jawahar carefully comes closer to it. “Yes, in a direct sense. HIT Marks are robotic assassins designed to kill mages. They will do quite well at killing you as well. But this model….” He carefully checks the temperature of the bronze, then runs his hands across it. “See, modern HIT Marks look like something from a movie.”

Georgia cocks her head thoughtfully. “Like Terminator?”

“Yes–”

(Jason: “–Wait, how in the hell do you know Terminator?”
Kara: “She’s been awake for a decade.”
Jim: “And it’s a big part of popular culture.
Chris: “Georgia’s a James Cameron fan. She saw Titanic, like, six times.”)

Jawahar stops, looks at her oddly, then continues. “–Yes, actually, very much like a terminator. A robotic body covered in skin, guns, all manner of things. But built of primium. We’re all trained to recognize them.” The boiler echoes hollowly as he slaps it. “But the terminators are the Mark Five design. This…thing…is a Mark One, there hasn’t been one of these active in thousands of years!”

“Intriguing. Who could have sent it?”

He throws up his hands. “How in the world would I know? All I know is the Hermetics would never have sent that, they would have sent Warmaster Mwonge! They did send Warmaster Mwonge!”

Georgia pokes at the gear mechanisms controlling the crossbows, scientific curiosity overcoming caution. “You’d think this would belong in a museum.”

“It belongs destroyed,” Jawahar mutters darkly.

“We should investigate it first.” She turns to him. “I don’t think we’re going to be able to take it whole down to the basement, we’re probably going to have to take it apart.”

He scoffs. “It’s made of bronze reinforced with primium, how do you propose to do that?”

“Screwdriver?”

Jawahar rolls his eyes, but as he stares at the machine, his face turns thoughtful. “This thing is normally set to kill mages, not Tremere….” he muses.

“Yeah, and how did it get into my basement?”

Suddenly Jawahar frowns, turning toward the hall. “If one of them could be in there, is it not possible there is also two? Or perhaps thirty,” he mutters.

Just then, footsteps echo across the stone, approaching from the stairwell. Georgia and Jawahar freeze. Georgia reaches out to summon more water to her hand, Jawahar raises his amulet again. The footsteps come closer, moving quickly….

…Bob comes around the corner, awkwardly hefting a leaking sandbag, oblivious of the thin trail left behind him. He stops at the threshold to the foyer. Georgia and Jawahar relax a moment, until they see his face. “Regent….” Bob gulps. “…Something’s wrong, down there.”

She and Jawahar trade a look. “Are there more HIT Marks?” Georgia asks.

Bob gapes. “…Whats a HIT Mark?”

Georgia pats the cooling machine.

“Oh, no,” Bob sputters, “But there’s a…thing.”

“Oh,” Georgia says. “Like maybe a hole in the floor?”

“No, it’s more like a hole…in the air….”

Georgia frowns. “Which room?”

Bob winces. “The exsanguinatory….”

“Ah, okay great.” She smiles. “Which one?” she prompts.

Bob dumps the sand on the flames still sputtering in the foyer and leads her and Jawahar down into the tertiary exsanguinatory. This one isn’t very big, basically a room designed for one person at a time. As they approach, they see the door burst off its hinges and thrown into the hallway. HIT Mark-shaped footsteps track out through the dust on the floor. Bright light pours out through the open doorway. Georgia and Jawahar glance at each other, then carefully lean around the door frame.

Inside, the room looks like a normal, pitted, blood-stained exsanguinatory, but there’s a large, glowing white sphere hovering in the middle of the space.

Jawahar curses softly in Hindi. “What is this….” he mutters.

Georgia stares, then slowly pulls out her phone. Running out of resources to call, she tries Marcus.

“…Yes, Ms. Johnson?” he answers distractedly.

“What casts giant white glowing spheres that can be used as portals?” she asks.

There’s a long silence. She checks to make sure the call hasn’t dropped. “…Blood mages?” he finally ventures, by his tone gearing up to ask some follow-up questions.

“Thanks!” She hangs up and turns back to Jawahar. “Blood mages cast this.”

He eyes her. “I have a very difficult time believing that. If blood mages could generate portals like these, I assure you, the Hermetic order would know about it.”

Carefully, she sticks a hand across the threshold to the room. Nothing happens. “Maybe they’ve been keeping it secret by casting them in Tremere basements only,” she says.

Jawahar glares. “You have a very interesting opinion on the ability of vampires to keep secrets from people who can create thermodynamic miracles by wishing to.”

“Yeah, well, we just…don’t talk about it. It’s basic security.” She steps into the room to examine the orb closer.

Jawahar’s scowl deepens and he steps in after her. “I’ve known mages that can read your mind without meaning to.”

She shrugs. “Well…then don’t hang out with them.” She digs in her bag for a pencil and carefully pokes it at the orb.

Instantly, the orb pulses, and everything bleaches to white.

#

EUREKA POLICE DEPARTMENT

After a long hike across town from the hospital, Scout and Rabenholz arrive at the police department headquarters and enter. Even this late a lot of cops seem to be around, milling in the front waiting room and moving through the halls between offices, but no one takes a second glance at the two vampires, as almost all eyes are glued to TV’s scattered about relaying news of a domestic terrorist attack in and around Sacramento earlier that day.

A sergeant is staffing the front desk, alternating between watching the TV and doing paperwork. Rabenholz strides up to her as imperiously as one can while dressed in seafoam-green scrubs. He waits until the sergeant meets his eyes. “We were told you would be able to help us. Perhaps you would invite us up to your office.

The woman blinks, then nods slowly. “Yes…please come to my desk….”

A nearby cop behind the desk gives a strange look at her tone but she gets up and leads us to a desk in a room down the hall. “Who are you?” she asks after sitting in the chair.

Rabenholz raises a single finger in an arcing motion. “Pay no particular attention to anything about us, and obey.” Behind him, Scout rolls her eyes.

The sergeant nods. “Sure, of course….”

“There were some items taken from some bodies found recently in a nearby town. Where are those belongings being stored?”

“In the evidence tank,” she says.

“I see. And how can we access them?”

“Through the property clerk. He works the desk downstairs.”

Rabenholz nods and gestures to the door. “Please escort us there.”

The sergeant leads them deeper into the building, then down a flight of stairs. In the basement, they reach a hallway as unadorned a the first floor, but cops linger down here as well, drinking coffee and moving through the hall. None bother a second glance as she leads Scout and Rabenholz past them to a counter cut in the wall, half blocked-off with chainlink cage. A man is sitting at the counter on the other side of the cage, working on paperwork. He looks up as they approach.

Rabenholz excuses the sergeant and meets the property clerk’s eye. “Nothing to be concerned about, we are medical examiners and need more context. We need some items that came in from some bodies found last night.”

The man shrugs and turns back to his papers. “Alright, come back with a requisition order.”

Rabenholz taps the counter lightly. The man meets his gaze again.“You’ve already seen the requisition order and everything is fine.

The property clerk blinks, then frowns, giving Rabenholz a strange look. “What’s going on here? I haven’t seen anything.”

Rabenholz lifts an eyebrow, then mimics an exasperated sigh. “We came all the way from the hospital for nothing, they assured me this would not be a problem!”

The man puts down his pen and leans across his counter. “Look,” he says seriously, “I need form 51-A, a chain of custody box, and two officers to escort the goods around. Feds are showing up tomorrow to repossess all this crap, and if I let this stuff walk out the door without any of those things, it’s my ass.”

Rabenholz tenses, glancing down the hall. Almost half a dozen cops are lingering in the area. Next to him, Scout shrugs. “Do you have a quiet room where we might make a phonecall?” he asks the clerk.

The man gestures vaguely and turns back to his papers. “Yeah, go ask the sergeant upstairs, she can let you into one of the witness rooms.”

Rabenholz leads Scout back to the stairwell, pulling her aside the moment they’re out of view. “I can take care of acquiring the necessary officers, perhaps you can sneak behind his desk and make sure the paperwork is in order?”

Scout stares blankly at Rabenholz.

(Me: *stares blankly at Chris* “…What?! Where the hell do I get the paperwork?!”
Chris: “I don’t know, be resourceful.”)

She glances around. “…Can’t you order him to obey?” she hisses.

“He seems to be unusually resistant. Perhaps this is a well-disciplined force.”

Scout lapses to silence. She leans around the corner to peer down the hallway, her body language quivering in nervous agitation.

“Ms. Scout, I apologize,” Rabenholz says smoothly. “Perhaps I’m being presumptuous. Are you literate?”

Her gaze snaps back to him in a withering glare. Instantly, she disappears.

#

Scout sneaks down the hallway back to the evidence desk, sidestepping the cops moving through the hallway. The clerk’s window is too small for her to climb through, but the grate surrounding it provides a clear view into his little office. She presses close and peers in. Behind him on a wall is a rack of various forms in sad bureaucratic colors. She next investigates the door leading into the office, but it’s locked with a keypad. There’s another door behind him, probably leading into the evidence locker itself, but it’s also closed.

She steps back, staring thoughtfully at the clerk working at his paperwork, and the other police officers lingering in the hall.

Suddenly, a voice drifts down the stairwell from the first floor, shouting, “Hey guys! Someone at the fire department sent over some leftover BBQ! Come on up!

Immediately, everyone in the basement clears out, rushing toward the stairs. The property clerk looks up, looks like he’s about to get up from his chair to leave…then glares and leans forward. “Hey! Shitheads! I can’t leave the desk, get me something!” Muttering, he turns back to his paperwork.

Scout stands unseen on the other side of his desk, staring at the forms behind him, drumming her fingers in frustration.

#

Upstairs, Rabenholz has found two cops and Dominated them into escorting him back to the evidence desk. They are on their way down the stairs when they hear someone behind them shout something about BBQ. Moments later, they’re almost bowled over by the rush heading up the stairs. Rabenholz backs up to see what all the fuss is about, but pandemonium is breaking out as cops mill about the first floor looking for the promised BBQ and find none.

Rabenholz frowns and leads his Dominated cops back downstairs.

The property clerk at the desk looks up as he approaches. “Hey, where’s the BBQ?”

“Upstairs,” Rabenholz says smoothly. “Apparently it’s quite the delicious item.”

The clerk finishes whatever form he’s been working on, shoves it into an out-box next to him, and grabs another. “Figures. Those assholes better save me some.”

“Oh…I wouldn’t count on it, it was going rather quickly.”

“I can’t leave the desk while I’m on shift,” the clerk mutters.

Rabenholz gestures at his pet cops, standing mutely behind him. “Perhaps you have a procedure where one of your colleagues here can fill in momentarily? Or perhaps you can shut down the room entirely?”

The man looks up. “Yeah…yeah that’s a good idea.” Smiling, he grabs a set of keys and slides a grate across the desk window, locking it. He gets up and lets himself out the door, letting it swing closed behind him. “Thanks!” He slaps one of his mute comrades on the shoulder and walks off.

Rabenholz waits until he’s disappeared up the stairs, then peers into the cage. He cranes his head against the grate, looking for signs of Scout rummaging through the paperwork–

Scout appears in the hallway next to him. “I’m sorry, I couldn’t fit through the doorwa–”

(Jason: “Uh, Rabenholz told the cops to follow orders. He didn’t tell them not to react when women appear out of thin air.”)

“HOLY SHIT!” one of the cops shouts and staggers back, while the other grabs for his gun.

Rabenholz holds up his hands. “Easy friend! Miss Visa, it would be in your best interest not to sneak around like that–”

“Shut up!” the cop with the gun barks, levelling it at Scout. “Who the fuck are you?! Hands in the air, now!”

Scout freezes, slowly raising her hands. Rabenholz taps the shoulder of the other cop, getting him to turn around. “Your colleague is getting carried away,” Rabenholz says smoothly. “You should restrain him, before he makes a career-limiting move.”

The officer blinks, then nods eagerly. He reaches a hand to his partner’s shoulder gently. “Mike, Mike it’s alright, it’s just a misunderstanding….”

Bullshit!” Officer Mike barks, jerking his gun toward Scout. “Where the fuck did you come from?!”

Scout stares at him, wide eyed…then starts crying.

(Me: “Heh heh heh.”)

Officer Mike slowly lowers his gun, then turns as Rabenholz taps his shoulder. “It’s obvious she just walked in at the wrong time. It’s just a girl.”

Mike stares at him, then nods. “Right…right…sorry.” He puts his gun away. “It’s just, you know…we’ve been hearing stories.”

“Perfectly understandable, I’m sure she won’t say anything. Miss, this was just a misunderstanding, right?”

Scout nods slowly, trying to make her sniffing sound real.

“Miss Visa,” Rabenholz continues imperiously, “Don’t you have something you need to be doing?”

Scout glares again and walks back to the stairs. The moment she’s out of sight, she obfuscates and comes back to the desk to try again.

#

SOMEWHERE IN NORTHERN CALIFORNIA

Anstis is still soaring south, carrying his phone in his feet instead of absorbing it with his shape-change. Suddenly, it vibrates with a call. He lands in some farmland and shifts back to human form to answer.

It’s Bell. “Anstis,” he growls. “Something very strange happened last night.”

Did you get my letter?” Anstis replies.

There’s a very long silence. “…Yes. I did. But that’s not what I’m talking about. Where are you?”

Anstis glances around. Fields stretch in all directions, the only landmark of note a cow sprawled nearby, chewing her cud as she stares at him. “About an hour flight south of the town I was in last night.”

“The one the FBI called in because of some kind of serial killer?” Bell says with a dangerous tone. “The one where they found two dead bodies stashed in people’s sheds? You wouldn’t know anything about that, would you?”

Anstis shrugs at the cow. “Nay.”

Another silence before Bell continues,“The bodies have been taken to Eureka General. I need you to find out what’s been going on up there and get them out of Eureka.”

Anstis rolls his eye. “Where is Eureka?”

“About two hours north of you,” Bell snaps. “Keep in touch.” With that, he hangs up.

Glowering, Anstis shoves his phone into his pocket. He drops back into bird-form and leaps in into the air, whirling around to head back north.

#

EUREKA POLICE DEPARTMENT

Rabenholz and his pet cops are still outside the evidence desk when the property clerk comes back, fuming mad. Rabenholz watches him jab at the keypad. “They didn’t save you anything, did they?”

The clerk jerks the door open and holds it a moment as he whirls toward Rabenholz. “There wasn’t anything! Just some bullshit prank from the firefighters!”

(Jim: “Firefighters do love their pranks. I should know, my dad was one.”)

Rabenholz nods in sympathy. “Well, that was in poor form.”

The clerk steps into his office and lets the door close behind him. He storms to the desk and drops himself onto his stool. “You people at the hospital have to deal with this too?”

“All the time.”

The clerk grabs his new paperwork and starts attacking it with his pen. Rabenholz waits patiently. Nothing happens. After a long, awkward moment, he clears his throat. “I’m sorry, but our colleague was insistent that he did file form 51-A….”

The clerk groans. “I haven’t gotten any 51-A’s today, or yesterday. But maybe it was misfiled, hold on….”

He climbs off his stool and moves to unlock the door behind the desk, propping it open while he digs through a filing cabinet just on the other side. He pulls out a folder labelled “51-A” and starts flipping through it, muttering about database budgets under his breath.

(Chris: “I like how in the last game, I destroyed a car with a sword and flew across the forest in a wingsuit. And now, in this game, I am struggling to do paperwork.”)

The clerk finishes, shoves the file away, and shrugs to Rabenholz. “Sorry, I don’t have anything for any requisitions for that gear.” He sits back at the desk.

Rabenholz peers past him at the door, still propped open. The room beyond is lined with shelves loaded with labelled tupperware bins, identical to the one in his vision. “That’s quite alright, I’m sure it’s not your fault,” Rabenholz says smoothly. “These people are….” he searches for the correct word. “…Assholes. But thank you very much for your time.”

The clerk sighs, then sets down his pen. “Look, maybe you can go talk to the captain. Doing the paperwork again will take forty-five minutes, but if he can authorize you himself, I can let it go. Best I can do.”

Rabenholz bows lightly, the move only slightly awkward coming from a man in scrubs. “Thank you very much.” He tells his pet cops to take him to the captain and they file back upstairs.

The captain’s office is on the second floor. Through the glass door, Rabenholz can see he’s yelling at two officers standing sullenly in front of him.

(Chris: “Is he yelling at them in a comically over-the-top way?”
Jason: “Yes he is.”
Me: “Is he demanding their badge and gun?”
Jason: “Yes he is.”)

Rabenholz sends his pet cops away and waits patiently outside. Eventually the captain dismisses the officers and waves Rabenholz in. “Who are you?” he barks.

Rabenholz settles into a chair in front of the desk. “My name is Mr. Espresse, I’m from the medical examiner’s office.  There’s been some mix-up with our paperwork and the man downstairs said you might be able to help us rectify it.” He smiles disarmingly.

(Chris: “Forgetful Mind.”
Jason: “What are you saying?”
Chris: “I construct a story of utter woe and paperwork hell we’ve been going through.”
Jason: “Well…you don’t have enough successes for that, so you craft this story and it doesn’t take.”)

The captain swivels back and forth in his chair, eyeing Rabenholz suspiciously as he talks. Finally, he raises a hand. “Let me stop you right there, Mr. Espresse. This paperwork…this is to get your hand on the equipment that came in on those two corpses?”

“Yes, there were some very unusual markings on the bodies, we’re trying to establish some context.”

“I see. And you need all of their gear for that…why?”

“We want to rule out the possibility that the markings were from their possessions or clothing.” Rabenholz folds his hands. “You understand, we have a sequence of steps we go through to try and recreate these things–”

“You’re aware the feds have already given the word they’re going to be taking over this investigation, right?” the captain interrupts sharply.

Rabenholz nods graciously. “I had heard that, and honestly my experience with them has been nothing but trouble. I was hoping to get in and do this analysis before things get even slower than they usually do.”

The captain snorts. “I don’t blame you, we don’t have any use for the feds around here.” He continues slowly swivelling back and forth. “Who all is running this investigation at the hospital?”

Rabenholz meets his gaze. “The usual, which I’m sure you’ve heard by other channels.”

The captain continues to swivel. “Right…right….” He takes a slow breath, then stops swivelling. “Well, we can probably arrange something for you. We’ll have to have a chain of custody box for you, and a couple officers to escort the items back to the hospital.”

Rabenholz smiles woodenly. “Of course.”

The captain stands from his chair with a groan. “Tell you what, wait right here and I’ll have one of the deputies wrangle up a 51-A and we’ll find a desk for you to fill it out in. We gotta have all the paperwork in place when the feds show up, you understand.”

Rabenholz’s eyes narrow, but he nods again. “Absolutely. Very much appreciated.”

“I’ll be right back.” The captain leaves, closing the door behind him.

(Jason: “Perception + Empathy.”
Chris: “Five successes.”
Jason: “This man is lying to you. This man is not getting a 51-A, this man is highly suspicious, he’s about to go do something else and he is trying to keep you in his office while he does it.”)

Rabenholz looks around quickly. There’s a phone on the desk, and various heavy-looking decorative items scattered around the office, but his eye is drawn to a fire alarm on the wall outside the door.

(Chris: “Movement of the Mind.”)

#

Although unseen by Rabenholz, Scout was able to sneak into the property clerk’s office the second time he opened the door. Unfortunately, after carefully peering through the forms on the rack, none of them were marked 51-A. She stood in the office, stumped, until the clerk opened the back door to access the filing cabinet. She snuck into the property room, and–seeing he had no blank forms in the file either–she gave up on the paperwork and headed straight for the bins.

The bins are all labelled, but not in any chronological order, so it takes her some time to find the ones storing her and Rabenholz’s stuff. She sighs in relief to see that her knife and phone are still there, nestled on top of her clothes, but then she pauses, faced with a conundrum.

When she touches or moves something, it essentially becomes obfuscated as well, which is why she is able to carry around gear and clothes. But the problem is, the act itself of the item disappearing is still visible to an observer. In other words, if she touches a bin to move it off the shelf, anyone watching will see the bin suddenly disappear.

She looks up. Cameras dot the ceiling, pointing in every direction, easily able to pick up two bins–and the gear within them–disappearing and reappearing as she moves them around. Moreover, the shelf holding the bins is in a direct line of sight to the doorway, which is still propped open, and the clerk is sitting right beyond, able to turn around at any moment.

She’s staring at the shelves in frustration when the fire alarm suddenly shrieks through the building.

#

The captain runs back to his office as flashing lights and shrieks echo through the halls. He stares at Rabenholz, follows his gaze to the fire alarm, then curses and reaches for his hip.

“Captain you seem to have a lot going on,” Rabenholz says smoothly, “I doubt our conversation is even worth remembering.” He stares intently at the captain, this time pouring willpower into the Dominate effort.

Immediately the captain’s face goes blank. He turns on his heel and leaves the office, ostensibly to deal with the evacuation.

Rabenholz leaves a few moments later, making his way smoothly through the chaos to head back to the basement. As he’s going down, he meets the property clerk coming up the stairs. “Fire alarm, gotta get out!” the man shouts.

“Absolutely!” Rabenholz says. He lets the desk clerk pass, then continues heading down.

He stops outside the evidence desk. The window is locked again, the door to the office is closed, but the door to the evidence room beyond is still propped open. “Scout?” he shouts to be heard over the alarm. There’s no response. He peers closer into the room, noting the cameras dotting the ceiling.

(Chris: “Well, isn’t she invisible on the recordings?”
Julian: “Actually no. She shows up on the cameras because obfuscate only works on viewers.”
Jim: “Yes, but the people looking at the recording don’t notice the person.”
Julian: “But only while the obfuscate is in effect. If they look at it later, she’ll be visible.”
Me: “Aw, shit, so I’ve been on camera the whole time!?!”)

“Scout, if you’re there, I believe I can convince the captain to help us,” Rabenholz says. “However, the fire alarm has been set and as he is distracted, so he likely won’t get back to us any time soon. I think at this point we may as well break out our items and set fire to the building.”

(Me: “…That would burn down the camera recordings….”)

Scout reappears in the middle of the evidence room. “Yeah, alright.”

(Jim: “Scout channels her inner Tom!”)

She grabs both bins, hauls them to the front desk, and dumps them on the counter. She opens the office door for Rabenholz and starts passing him his stuff, then strips off her scrubs to climb back into her own clothes.

Footsteps–heavy footsteps–suddenly echo over the sound of the alarm, coming down the stairs. Scout and Rabenholz freeze. As they approach, Scout obfuscates, and Rabenholz ducks to hide under the counter.

(Jason: “Behold the dignity afforded you by your vampiric power. The Lord of Cologne, everybody!”
Chris: “…This is a low moment for me.”)

Three firefighters in full gear come out the stairwell. They move down the hall, pausing in front of the counter to peer back into the evidence locker and check that it’s empty, then move on.

Once they’re out of sight, Rabenholz gets up and strides through evidence room, digging out anything that looks remotely flammable and stashing it in piles around the room.

(Me: “Omg, you’re ruining so many cases. There’s probably, like, rape cases and stuff in here.”
Jason: “Are those flammable?”
Me: “…No, I mean evidence from rape cases!”
Chris: “Yes, we’re doing evil stuff. Because I don’t want more Masquerade violations, and a police station burning down is apparently better than getting caught.”
Me: “It’s true, we haven’t blown anything up in awhile.”
Jason: “Yeah, well, we’ll see.”
Jim: “I’d like to point out that I am in no way involved in any of these decisions–”
Chris and me: “BUT YOU ARE THE REASON WE’RE HERE!”)

Rabenholz finds a lighter in one of the bins, carefully lights the piles, then beckons to Scout and leads her from the room.

#

GEORGIA’S UNKNOWN LOCATION

Georgia awakens to the sound of waves. She’s sprawled across cool stone, and opening her eyes, she sees the roof of what looks like a cave. She sits up. It is a cave, looking out over a sea, a few dozen meters in the air. She peers over the edge. Sheer cliffs plummet to the rocks below. By the look of the rockface to either side and above, the cave is embedded near the top of a stony pillar.

(Kara: “…Am I about to get a whole bunch of letters from Hogwarts?”)

A pair of islands lie a few miles across the water, forming a massive semicircular bay that stretches around the pillar. A town is perched on the cliffs of the larger island, its lights gradually twinkling to life, mirroring the stars appearing overhead.

Georgia pauses. By the colors lining the far horizon, sunset wasn’t that long ago, but when she left the Chantry, it was halfway through the night. She digs out her phone to check the time.  The clock still shows 4 am, but there’s also no reception to update it.

As the colors slowly fade, she turns to examine the cave. The stone has been clearly hewn, but is deeply pitted, like pumice. The floor is thick with chunks of gravel and rock dust. Footsteps lead from the mouth of the cave deeper into its depths. She follows. At the back of the cave, she finds a staircase spiralling down into the darkness. After a moment, she descends, using her phone as a flashlight.

The stairs land at the foot of a long gallery of worked stone faced with marble blocks. The gallery ends in a set of large stone doors, covered with carved symbols and bound closed with clockwork bronze mechanisms. Jawahar is standing in front of the doors, peering up at them in the light of a small glowing orb hovering at this side. He turns at the sound of Georgia’s footsteps. “Oh, I didn’t know if you would awaken.”

She shrugs. “Well, I did.”

He turns back to the door. “Do you have the slightest idea where we are?”

“No. Do you?”

“I’m afraid I don’t. My phone isn’t working and I haven’t been able to raise anyone by other means.” He looks around the gallery. “This certainly doesn’t look like a shardrealm, but I haven’t had the experience to tell. Do you have any conception of what happened?”

“Yeah, the glowy-white-blood-mage-ball pulsed.”

Jawahar glares. “That’s not helpful, even by your standards.” He glances toward the stairs, the orb-light obligingly increasing to light the whole hall. “I saw lights on the other islands.”

“Yeah, it looks inhabited. Why, are you hungry?” Georgia sees his face. “I mean for food,” she clarifies. “Human food,” she clarifies again.

Jawahar releases a long, slow breath, then continues. “I was thinking perhaps we could use the other island to determine where in the world we are, if in fact we are anywhere in the world.  But if there are people there I’d hesitate to use proper magic to get over there. The last thing we need is for paradox to interfere.”

They both turn back to the door. “These carvings are a type of Greek, but like, really really old Greek,” Georgia says. “Ancient stuff.”

“Can you read it?”

“Not really.”

Jawahar tugs at the gears bound to the door. None budge. “I could try blasting the door open but it has not escaped my recollection that the HIT Mark may have come from here.”

Georgia frowns. “That’s true. Do you think we should knock?”

Jawahar glares. “If we do and there are seven more HIT Marks on the other side of the door, what happens then?”

Georgia considers this a moment. “Well, we’ll probably die. But if there are more HIT Marks, they are probably controlled by whoever sent that glowy white ball, which means they probably already know we’re here, and would have sent more HIT Marks after us already.”

Jawahar looks between the doors and the stairs at the end of the hall. He sighs in exasperation. “So…we should open the door?”

“Yes.” Before Jawahar can react, she leans forward, knocks on the door, then steps back.

There’s a metallic chunk, and slowly the gears start to grind, hoisting the doors open in a shower of displaced dust. A cold breeze washes over them as the doors thud open against the walls. The room beyond is massive, and dark. They trade a glance, then Jawahar sends his orb floating forward to light the way.

A massive, ornate gallery lies before them, lined with marble columns and carved colonnades. The light glitters on gold and electrum trim, dancing along the wall in plated scrollwork. Passages lead off the gallery, but most have been blocked with rubble, and more rubble litters the floor. At the end of the hall, looming massive in the darkness, stands a statue, carved in classical nude pose, of a man braced against an anvil and raising a hammer triumphantly above.

Awed, Georgia starts to enter, but Jawahar jerks her back. She glares. “What? The door did invite us in.”

“Are you sure you want to take the hospitality of a door that admits HIT Marks?” Jawahar hisses, glancing around.

“We don’t know that they came from here. Correlation does not imply causation.”

“It certainly gestures in its direction!”

“That’s true,” Georgia says brightly, then pulls from his grip and enters the room anyway. Jawahar mutters in Hindi and hurries after.

Nothing leaps from the darkness as they approach the statue. More rubble is piled up at its base, partly blocking an inscription in the same archaic Greek as the symbols on the door. Georgia crouches down and clears some away. She can’t read the full statement, but this time she is able to pick out a name: Daedalus.

“It says something about someone named Daedalus.” She peers up at the statue. “You know that name, right?”

Jawahar scoffs. “Of course I know the name–”

“Okay, good, so just in case, if we find wings stashed around here, we can’t use them to get us off the island either.”

(Jason: “Hey, technically the wings were fine.”
Jim: “It was pilot error.”)

Jawahar frowns. “Why would there be a statue of Daedelus here….” he muses.

Georgia shrugs. “Maybe this is where he made his wings?”

Instantly Jawahar’s face falls. He turns and stares at the gallery around them. “No, it can’t be….”

Georgia stares. “What?”

“You don’t know, do you?” He scoffs. “Of course you don’t know, you’re not….” He trails off, suddenly remembering himself.

Georgia glares, fists braced on her hips. “I’m not what? A real mage?!”

Jawahar sighs and continues. “All I know is what they told me at the chantry. My chantry. Daedalus was a mage, an exceptionally potent mage. He died thousands of years ago.” He peers around the room again. “This can’t be his workshop….”

Georgia beams, his slight against her instantly forgotten. “So we’re in Greece? I’ve never been to Greece!”

“The islands…the bay….” Jawahar says suspiciously. “Did it look a bit like a caldera to you?”

“It could, I guess.” Georgia toes at the rubble. “This rock seems like it might be volcanic–”

Jawahar turns back to the statue, towering overhead. “This is impossible, mages have searched these islands for thousands of years–”

“What is it, Atlantis?”

Jawahar doesn’t laugh. “Of a sort,” he says grimly. “If this is where I think it is, this is entirely real….”

“What’s it called?”

He takes a breath. “The last I heard, it’s called Santorini. But in its day, they called this island Thera.” He glances at her. “Surely you’ve heard of the island of Thera?”

(Kara: “The only thing I know Thera from is Earthdawn.”

Jason: “Guess what? It’s the same Thera.”

Kara: “…That…doesn’t make sense….”

Jason: “Oh it makes every sense in the world. Allow me to explain. The Thera you know from Earthdawn is an island in Greece. It was the center of a grand and violent empire called the Theran Empire. This empire eventually would fall and magic would disappear from the world, only to eventually come back and create the world of Shadowrun.”

Kara: “Yes, this I know.”

Jason: “Good. Do you know why the Theran Empire fell?”

Kara: “Uh…greed and corruption?”

Jason: “Certainly that had something to do with it, but it was also the small, minor inconvenient fact of Thera itself blowing up.”

Kara: “Oh.”

Jason: “And now let me revert to real history for a moment. The island of Thera in Greece is a real place. Thera was an island in the middle of Greece which, sometime in the Minoan age, had a slight problem wherein a volcano erupted underneath it and blew the island in half. The resulting eruption destroyed the Minoan civilization and ended the Bronze Age. It basically ruined every civilization in the eastern Mediterranean.”

Me: *hands over a satellite-view map on her iPad*

Jason: “Behold the island of Thera. The rightside island you’re looking at there is the island of Santorini, the leftmost one I forget the name of but it’s largely uninhabited. The island of Thera and the empire associated with it were very real. They of course did not encompass a magical empire from Britain to China, but they did encompass part, at least, of the Eastern Mediterranean. See, Thera generated the myth of Atlantis. Over a thousand years after Thera blew up, Plato wrote an allegory about a vast island civilization that oppressed everyone and then had the gods punish it for its arrogance and blew it to pieces, sinking the island beneath the waves. Plato called it Atlantis, JRR Tolkien also took the same myth and called it Numenor. All four of those things–Thera, Santorini, Numenor, Atlantis–are potentially where you are standing.”

Kara: “…But…how did we get here? And why?

Jason: “Those are excellent questions. Let’s see if you can find the answers to them.”)

#

EUREKA POLICE DEPARTMENT

Scout and Rabenholz stand silently in the shadows across the street from the police department, watching as flames consume it. Rather than dealing with the flames, most of the firemen in the area seem to have gotten into an argument with the cops about a so-called BBQ prank. Fist-fights have broken out.

“It’s a pity, really,” Rabenholz says. “If only someone had found the paperwork.”

Scout glares at him. “I’m used to working with those who have slightly better prowess in their mental-control abilities.”

Rabenholz tenses, then glares back. “Shut up,” he snaps.

Scout closes her mouth, glowering silently in light of the flames.

(Jason: “I love that it wasn’t the Abomination, nor Uncle Ruland, nor the cult full of skinheads, nor the car chase through the mountains that did it. No, what almost brought you down was Form 51-A.”)

END OF NIGHT

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