11/12/15

Jason: “From within your bag you hear the faint sound of mechanical movement.”
Kara: “But the dragon doesn’t have any liquid in it!”
Jason: “I know.”
Kara: “…Creepy.”
Jim: “Or maybe all the liquid didn’t come out.”
Me: *mumbles* “Sounds like my prom night.”
Chris: “Maybe the liquid is just dripping out slowly, and when you think it’s all gone, there’s still more.”
Me: “That’s my prom night also!”

***

THE CHANTRY

Georgia wraps up her run-down of everything that’s been happening at the Chantry since she arrived. She falls silent, shifting uncomfortably in her chair as Vannevar continues to watch her silently from his seat at the desk.

(Jason: “From within your bag you hear the faint sound of mechanical movement.”
Kara: “But the dragon doesn’t have any liquid in it!”
Jason: “I know.”
Kara: “…Creepy.”
Jim: “Or maybe all the liquid didn’t come out.”
Me: *mumbles* “Sounds like my prom night.”
Chris: “Maybe the liquid is just dripping out slowly, and when you think it’s all gone, there’s still more.”
Me: “That’s my prom night also!”)

“Well,” Vannevar says finally. “You’ve done an excellent job at laying out the activities of my predecessor, Mr….” he checks a paper, “…Max von Strauss. But we have not discussed much of your activities.”

Georgia smooths at her robes. “What would you like to know?”

“Well you can start by telling how it is you got here. To my office. Just a moment ago.”

Georgia glances around. Halfway through her report Vannevar summoned another ghoul to drag Bob away, but Jawahar and Sophia are still passed out on the floor, chests moving shallowly in the nitrogen-replaced air. “Um, I don’t honestly know.”

“Really. Are you under a compulsion not to know?”

“No. I mean, I used a transport circle.”

“And where was the other side of that circle?”

Georgia tilts her head. “…Atlantis, maybe?”

“Atlantis?”

“Maybe.”

Vannevar’s grandfatherly eyes narrow. “And Atlantis is where you found a werewolf and a mage?

“Oh no, these are friends. Jawahar I rescued from a Technocrat ship in deep space, and then I rescued the Technocrats and came back here. Jawahar has been mostly a good friend ever since, except for the whole warmage thing. Sophia, on the other hand, I met right after I got to the city. She seemed to somehow be involved with the death of the previous Tremere I was investigating, but she’s kind of turned out to be an ally, which is really unexpected given that she’s a werewolf.” Georgia hesitates. “Also they probably prefer oxygen, to nitrogen.”

Vannevar stares at her a long moment. “They would, to the extent they would wake up and then I would have a very serious problem. This one is a mage, and we have no cells capable of holding a conscious mage, and you just said this werewolf was involved in the death of your predecessor.”

Georgia waves a hand dismissively. “No, not Max. The death of Isaac.”

Vannevar lifts an eyebrow and gestures leadingly. “And Isaac was…?”

(Me: “A dick.”)

“A neonate,” Georgia says.

“So no one of consequence.” Vannevar stands to slowly pace the office. “I understand you’ve been the only Tremere in this city for some time.”

“About a week and a half,” Georgia clarifies, turning in her chair to follow him..

“But it’s been a long week and a half, hasn’t it?”

She sighs deeply. “Yes.”

Vannevar pauses by the fireplace, reaches up to touch the crest above it. Specifically, the holes where two swords once clearly lay. He frowns and continues. “So you’ve adopted a certain amount of bad habits. Bad habits that are natural for a Tremere operating alone and involve questioning the motives and actions of your direct superior.” He turns to her. “Are you familiar with what the punishment for that is?”

She sighs again. “Yes.”

“Good. So then, let me make it clear. I want to know where you were because I asked you where you were, and the reasons why I asked that are totally irrelevant, therefore you shouldn’t be asking about them. And if you do, then I have to…discipline you.”

“I see,” she says.

(Me: “Fun.”)

Vannevar moves to a cabinet and picks up a ceremonial knife from its display stand. “So, if you fail to answer my questions or try to be cheeky with me again, I will walk downstairs to the tertiary torture chamber, and in that chamber I will flay your ghoul alive. And you will watch me do it.”

Georgia is quiet a moment. “Well. That does sound unpleasant for me. That is a good choice of punishment, so…well done.”

“Thank you.” Vannevar smirks, thumb flicking on the knife, then eyes the bodies on the floor. “Now, I think we should return to the more important question, which is what I should do with the two of them. See, I can’t let them wake up. Especially not the mage; that’s a Hermetic mage.”

“Well, he’s a novice.”

“Oh, I have no doubt. An advanced mage would have reduced the entire building to a cinder the moment I tried my atmosphere trick.” Vannevar walks over and stands over Jawahar, eyeing him like a gardener might eye a troublesome anthill. “So, since I’m interested in keeping him from retrieving just such advanced hermetic mages, tell me why I shouldn’t just kill him.”

“Well, the warmages in question have yet to kill me, largely due, I think, to Jawahar’s–”

Vannevar gestures with the knife, cutting her off. “Let me stop you right there. ‘The warmages in question,’ that’s a very interesting statement, I’d like to know more.” He folds his arms, glaring at her.

Georgia blinks. “Ah, yes, there are warmages in this city.”

“Really. And how did they come to be in this city?”

“They were alerted there was a Tremere alone here.”

“And how did that alert get sent out?”

“Um…I don’t know the exact mechanism, maybe an email–”

Vannevar toes at the bodies. “You can stall all you want, eventually the situation will resolve itself.”

Georgia looks at them again, then sighs. “…You know how the Tremere have rules we have to follow no matter what? Turns out the Hermetics have those as well.”

“And I’m guessing this Hermetic here followed those rules.”

“Yes, but he didn’t mean for it to lead to a warmage hunting me. He’s a nice guy!”

“Is he?” Vannevar steps over the bodies and approaches her. “Have you blood bound him? Have you exerted Domination over his mind? Have you employed blood rituals to seal his obedience to you?”

Georgia blinks up at him. “Ah, no.”

“Have you employed any methods to actually assure this willworker is not operating in ways that are contrary to the interests of the Tremere?”

“…No.”

“So you’ve effectively decided that instead of doing any one of the many things that, as a Tremere, you are required to do, you should instead rely on the goodness of a mage’s heart from the clan of mages that most hateful toward us?”

Georgia is silent a moment. “…It does sound a little silly when you phrase it like that, but I wasn’t thinking in those terms–”

“I have a feeling you weren’t thinking at all.” Vannevar strides back to the desk. “It seems to me that leaving you alive would be yet another careless act on top of the pile you have already caused.”

“Well, there is a crazy Methusula vampire still in the city and I have been undergoing many of my activities in pursuit of defeating him.”

He glares at her as he sits again. “And what progress have you made?”

“Very little. We have determined that he needs to kill all his childer.”

“So did you go and approach him and request an alliance in exchange for assistance in killing these childer?”

Georgia stares. “…I don’t think he’d agree to that.”

“Did you take efforts to ensure you’d take the upper hand in whatever circumstances arise from this little campaign of his?”

“…I’m working on that.”

“And your progress?”

“Very little.” Georgia sits motionlessly a moment. “I understand it looks very bad from the outside.”

“So can you think of a reason why I in my position, having heard what I’ve just heard, should not order you vivisected? More or less immediately?” He places the dagger on the desk with a heavy thunk.

She eyes it a moment. “Well, for one thing, I could be useful to you. I have allies within the city already. I have knowledge of what’s been going on the last couple of weeks–”

Vannevar smirks. “Oh, the names of your allies and knowledge of what’s been going on is something you will be yielding to me, whether it be involuntarily, via diablerie, or voluntarily, via torture. Is that understood?”

“So…do you want a list of my associations?”

Vannevar’s smirk evaporates. “Give me the highlights.” He leans back in his chair. “Start with the mage in the tower.”

Georgia sighs and begins talking about Dr. von Natsi, laying out the details of the strange frame-job on his fake-death, but leaves out any mention of the golem project. Vannevar asks if von Natsi is the one to thank for the strange accoutrements stashed around the Chantry and apparently tied to the warding. Georgia confirms and asks him not to remove them. Vannevar begrudgingly admits that for the moment, they seem to be so effectively tied in that he’s unable to.

Paul Stewart’s name comes up as well, in an exchange perhaps best left for you to hear for yourself.

By the end of this exchange, Vannevar is face-palming. “I had no conception it had gotten this bad, that you had compromised yourself and this Chantry to this degree.”

Georgia sits up. “I didn’t compromise this Chantry–”

“No, you’re right, Max did, but you did nothing to rectify it.”

“On the contrary, I’ve been trying to take it back!”

His gaze snaps to her. “By making yourself the slave of a Toreador?”

She blinks. “Slave?”

“You have a better word?”

(Me: “Looover….”)

Vannevar levels a finger at her. “Your first loyalty is to the Pyramid. The Vienna Pyramid. I can see in your eyes that that’s not the case.”

She fidgets in her seat. “My loyalty is to keeping the Tremere clan great–”

“And who appointed you the arbitrator of that? You know nothing of the Tremere clan’s greatness, you’ve been asleep since the Dark Ages!” Vannevar sighs, then leans down to open a drawer. “I’m afraid you leave me with very little choice.”

Georgia watches his rummaging. “I don’t suppose I have a say in this, do I?”

“No, you do not. There are formalities to observe.” He pulls out a stake and lays it on the desk next to the knife. “This will be much easier if you don’t resist.”

Her gaze flicks between the stake and the dagger. “…I see. What are the formalities?”

“Well, ordinarily I would execute you myself. But in this case, given the circumstances, there has been pressure from above. You’re wanted in Vienna.”

“Wanted how?”

His gaze darkens. “Any way I can get you there.”

“…Why don’t you just buy me a plane ticket?”

“Because we feel it better to do it this way.” Suddenly the door opens, with a rush of cool air as the atmosphere equalizes. Two gargoyles walk into the room and flank both sides of Georgia’s seat. Georgia looks up at them but doesn’t flinch.

Vannevar smirks and picks up the stake. “Perhaps the council will see it differently than I do. Then maybe you’ll come back and use this on me. I doubt it though.” He gets up from the desk and walks over to her….

(Jason: “…Unless you wish to do something.”
Kara: “I…don’t know that there’s anything I can do.”
Jason: “That’s the position he wanted to put you in.”
Kara: “I mean, I suppose I could probably try some Thaumaturgy on him, but….”
Me: “…But he probably knows some too….”
Kara: “…And he’s got two gargoyles…and really that would only hurt my case.”)

Georgia remains firmly seated as Vannevar leans down and stakes her. She twitches once, then collapses next to Sophia and Jawahar on the floor.

#

(Chris: “Also, Jawahar is dead now. Even assuming that conversation happened three times faster, he’d have to have suffered at least permanent brain damage.”
Jason: “Jawahar is a mage, there are contingency spells in place.”
Jim: “What about Sophia?”
Jason: “Sophia’s a werewolf, they can survive without oxygen for quite awhile.”
Chris: “Also, honestly a little bit of brain damage probably wouldn’t slow them down much.”
Jason: “…Perhaps. Also, Chris?”
Chris: “Yes?”
Jason: “I need Paul for a moment.”
Chris: “YAY!!!”)

#

PORTOLA VALLEY

Thanks to the efforts of Gates, the repair work on Paul’s Portola Valley house has finally been completed and all is still at the woody mountain getaway. Paul is in the living room on his laptop, quietly working on his slides for the upcoming Tesseract announcement about the solar technology. Dug is in the room too, splayed out on the floor, reading an iPad picture book with the werewolf cub.

(Chris: “I think the werewolf cub is also coming around to eating vegan food.”
Jason: “No.”)

Suddenly, Dug tenses and looks up, staring toward the window. “Someone comes, Master,” he rumbles.

Paul follows his gaze. Nothing’s visible but the shadows of oak woodlands. “Someone you know?”

“No, Master.” Dug climbs to his feet, wings flaring. “May I slay your enemies, Master?”

The cub cowers away from the gargoyle, staring up with wide eyes. Paul holds a hand out to calm her. “Um…we may work toward a mutually-beneficial and profitable resolution with our enemies.”

Dug’s wings droop slightly. “Yes, Master.”

“Do you know who’s coming?” Paul sits up. “…Is it Georgia?”

“No, it is not Second Master, Master.”

Paul tenses and sits higher. “It’s not Other Master, is it?”

“No, Master. It is also not Other Master’s master, Master.”

Paul relaxes a fraction. “That’s also good.”

A gentle knock echoes from the front door. The werewolf cub scrambles under a chair. Dug’s skin ripples, turning obsidian. Paul gets up and tiptoes his way to the door, peering carefully through the large windows flanking it.

Doc is standing in the entryway garden, nonchalantly examining the camellias.

Paul throws open the door. “Doc!”

Doc smiles thinly and tips his hat. “Mr. Stewart, I hope I am not intruding.”

“No, not at all. I’ve actually been stuffed up with work for awhile, but that’s not going to abate, so I’m happy to have a visitor. Come in!”

Paul gestures Doc in grandly. The cowboy steps through into the foyer, boots treading on the polished wood floor, then hesitates as Dug steps out of the gloom. “I did not know you had guests,” Doc says, looking the gargoyle up and down.

“Ah, Dug is a long term guest,” Paul pats Dug’s arm. “He’s staying here while he gets back on his feet.”

Doc stares up into the creature’s twisted, stony face and lifts an eyebrow. “I’m…impressed. Not many non-Tremere can sport a gargoyle as an ornament.”

“Well it seems the Tremere waste their gargoyles.” Paul pats the massive arm again. “Dug is actually very clever.”

Instantly, the obsidian glaze of Dug’s skin ripples back to it’s normal pallor. “Thank you, Master!” he says, standing straighter.

“I have every faith.” Doc turns to Paul, face serious. “You will forgive if I skip the preambles, Mr. Stewart, but I have come for a purpose. I require your assistance with a matter of some personal interest to yourself, I should think.”

Paul tenses. “Alright….”

“You are, of course, familiar with our dear Regent, Ms. Georgia Johnson?”

Instantly, Paul beams. “Yes, yes of course! I haven’t seen her in awhile–”

“Well, unfortunately you may not be seeing much of her any time in the future,” Doc says grimly. “There’s a new sheriff in town, to use a more colorful term.”

(Me: “Well, there is a new sheriff in town, so, you know.”
Jim: “AYE!”)

Paul stills. “What do you mean?”

“Vannevar Hughes, a man with which I am unfortunately familiar, a Tremere Regent of some notoriety, has arrived in the city and made his obeisances to the Justicar as Regent. He has some authority in this regard and has the support of some elements within the Tremere clan. I do not know which ones. If my information is correct, Georgia Johnson returned to the Chantry rather recently, where she no doubt made the acquaintance of one Vannevar Hughes, and that acquaintanceship is unlikely to go politely.”

Paul is quiet a moment. “No, but she’s resourceful…maybe I should give her a call….”

“You should, but should you be unable to reach her, I fear we must take more drastic steps.”

Doc watches as Paul pulls out his phone and calls. Paul’s face falls as the line goes straight to voicemail. He pages through his texts and call logs. The most recent time stamp is from almost three nights ago. “Is she okay?” he asks softly.

“I am uncertain. But I also have information to indicate that Ms. Johnson is not alone. Your werewolf friend may be with her as well.”

Paul looks up. “Sophia?! So she’s back?”

Doc nods slowly. “My understanding is she is, but if so, she has entered a section of the world that it does not do to enter. I noticed she has made something of a habit of that.”

“Yes, she seems to have picked that up from Tom.” Paul frowns. “I should call him too….” He dials again.

(Jason: “Straight to voicemail too.”
Chris: “Rabenholz doesn’t answer Paul’s call?”
Jason: “No. Because fuck. you.”
Chris: “Can you handle it?”
Jason: “Nope! I refuse!”)

Paul stares at the screen a moment, then tucks the phone away. “What happened to Tom? I heard something about a Ventrue…?”

Doc takes a breath. “Mr. Lytton has been disabled, staked, and rendered to the Tremere Chantry for processing by parties unknown. Perhaps now by the same parties in possession of Ms. Johnson and your werewolf friend, as well as the Chantry in general.” Doc falls silent a moment, then takes a slow step closer, lowering his voice. “I do not have a means of entrance into the Chantry, but…there is someone who does, and I am not capable of making their acquaintance directly. “

“…Who do you mean?”

Doc eyes him from the shadows of his hat. “I have a confession to make, Mr. Stewart. Ever since I became aware of your association with the werewolves, I have been making certain inquiries. I have been watching the werewolves, particularly yours, to see what they might be up to. Your werewolf entered the Chantry by some means directly, and she was assisted in this matter by another werewolf. I need someone who has a history of dealings with werewolves to arrange that entrance once more. I myself do not have such a history, but you do.”

Paul falls silent, staring at the floor. Finally, he takes a breath. “I have some ideas. They may not be things I want to rely on, but maybe now’s the time to test them….”

Wordlessly, Paul walks back to the living room, Doc and Dug trailing behind. He squats down on the floor and peers under the chair where the cub disappeared. She stares back, eyes wide, but scoots slightly closer.

“Do you know the Tremere Chantry in San Francisco?” Paul asks.

Her amber eyes blink slowly.

“Do you remember in San Simeon, the other changer we were with? She’s trapped there right now, along with some other friends of mine. Do you think you could make a way in for us?”

The cub’s gaze flicks to Doc. Doc tips his hat but says nothing. She’s still a moment, then slowly reaches one tiny, articulated paw toward Paul. Paul reaches out, taking her hand–

(Kara: “Ohmygod, grip Doc’s hand first!!!”
Chris: “I don’t think that occurs to Paul.”)

–There’s a flash of blinding light, then Paul is no longer in his house.

#

NOB HILL

Scout is lurking unseen in the darkness outside the Chantry. Or, rather, outside the space where the Chantry should be. She scans the buildings across from her methodically, looking for the gaps in the illusion, but after half an hour of watching nothing so much as twitches in her sight. She folds her arms, grumbling in frustration.

Her phone rings, with an unknown number. She frowns at it a moment, then, still under Obfuscate, answers. “Who is this?” she asks softly.

“Who is this?” an unfamiliar man’s voice replies.

She glares into the darkness. “You called me.”

“Yes I did,” he snaps. “Who is this?”

“Why did you call me?”

“It’s going to be like that then?” the voice sneers. “I called you because I’d like to speak with the person that I hope this number belongs to.”

Scout hangs up. She goes back to watching. A few minutes later, the phone rings again. Still staring across the street, she answers. “Well obviously you don’t have the wrong number.”

“You got a lot of nerve for someone new to the city!” the same voice barks. “Who is this!? A name, please!”

She glances up and down the street but no one is visible, not even parked cars. “If you called me, you must know who it is.”

“If I called you, I know who this phone should belong to, but I have no idea if that person is answering or if that person even exists, so why don’t you tell me your goddamn name before I come over there?”

She sighs and leans back against the wall. “This is the phone of Scout, how can I help you?”

“…Good. I need you to meet me somewhere.”

“I don’t really accept dates from unknown numbers–”

“Good cause I don’t usually give them out. My name is Leeland. I’m the Baron of Berkeley, Provost of the University. Maybe you’ve heard of me.”

(Me: “Aww, look at him sounding all confident and stuff….”)

“You on the other hand, are a Caitiff,” Leeland continues with a sneer, “Which means no-one in that city wants anything to do with you unless it’s in their benefit.”

Scout is quiet a moment. “Who gave you this number?”

“The muffin man, what do you care so long as I’m talking with you?”

She rolls her eyes. “What do you want to talk about?”

“I’m not going to talk over an open line, I wish to meet. Wherever you choose.”

She’s silent a long moment. “…The cafe at the Seal Rock Inn,” she replies finally.

“…Isn’t that Norton’s territory?” Leeland asks, a note of nervousness in his voice.

“It’s where I got a room. There’s a convention in town, anywhere an inch closer to downtown is full.”

“Fine, fine. When?”

“I’m on my way there now. Half an hour.”

“…Fine. This turns into some kind of disaster, you’re going to have a very bad day.”

“They’re all bad days.” Scout hangs up.

She lingers for one more cursory scan across the street, then walks away, pulling up an app to summon a car.

#

FINANCIAL DISTRICT

Anstis spirals down through the skyscrapers of the Financial District, landing in the alley containing the plaque marking the once-location of the Committee of Vigilance. He pops back into human-form, settles his clothes to a presentable state, then casts Witness of Death to slide into the Shadowrealm. Mists rise, the modern buildings fade away, but this time he doesn’t have to enter the low, columned building that appears.

Because Carlos is already there, standing right in front of him.

(Me: “Let’s see how many characters Chris can squeeze into one session.”)

Anstis nods. “Carlos.”

Carlos bows low, his weathered clothes and stringy hair sweeping through the dead air. “Captain Anstis,” he greets in his raspy voice.

Anstis smirks. “The time approaches, it won’t be long now.”

“You’ve kept your word, then. Very impressive Captain. You do know how to make an impression.”

Anstis nods. “There are a couple matters I’d like you to look into, so that I may keep my mind on the task at hand.”

Carlos folds his long fingers. “I am listening, Captain. Very intently.”

“Have you seen my cabin boy, the young vampire who was with me in the city until recently? He goes by the name Noah and went missing some nights ago.”

Carlos blinks. His gaze turns distant. “Yes, I believe I am familiar…he was taken.”

“By whom?”

Carlos turns, scanning the building behind him slowly. Small shapes flit through the shadows. “Someone…very familiar with here.  Someone as stenched in death as myself.”

“Do you have a name?”

“No.” Carlos turns back. “I do not know him. Just that he is familiar with this realm.”

Anstis glowers. “What of the boy, do you have his real name? I have spoken with his parents, William and Nancy Finch–”

“They are gone, Captain,” Carlos says, shaking his head. “Their minds overturned. I too have found what is left of them, and there is nothing to be found there.”

Anstis grumbles to himself, then scans the shadowy mists around them. “Last we spoke, you mentioned you were being watched. Did you ever find out what it was?”

“No…but it has gone now.” Carlos smiles slowly. “I have been…free to go about my business for, perhaps, two days.”

Anstis nods, stroking at his tentacles. “I may require more spies in the underrealm. There are new forces in town, dangerous ones that must be watched.”

Carlos’s grin widens. He spreads his arms, dirty clothes swaying like wings.“Well, my Sparrows and I are happy to help.”

Anstis eyes the flitting shadows, then nods. “I shall call upon you again soon.  And I am looking into Elrich McMannus, as you asked.”

Carlos’s smile turns sharper. “Good…. He can answer many questions for us.”

Anstis nods. “Until next time.” He banishes the magic and slides back into reality.

#

SEAL ROCK INN

Scout sits tucked into a corner of the cafe, out of line-of-sight of the door, staring out the windows at the moon-lit cliffs plunging toward the ruins of Sutro Baths. The rest of the cafe is empty but for one janitor in the corner, wiping ineffectively at a pitted counter. Normally the cafe isn’t open at this hour, but after some polite words and a warm smile, the boy at the front counter had let her in. He’d even made a show of pouring her some of the stale coffee from the office. She sits quietly, warming her hands on the mug.

The front door opens and closes. Footsteps, then a man appears in her vision, in a trim pale suit and bowtie, appearing somewhere in his late twenties–

(Me: “Wait, really?? Leeland’s in his twenties?!
Jason: “Yeah.”
Me: “I had him in, like, his forties!”
Jason: “Yeah, because he talks like he’s in his forties, but no.”
Me: “…I don’t know, my headcanon is pretty strong at this point.”
Jason: “Well, leave your headcanon however you want but he’s in his twenties.”)

Scout doesn’t get up. He slides into the seat across from her with a scowl. “Scout, I presume?”

She nods. “Baron.”

His scowl eases slightly. “That’s right.”

She twirls her mug in her hands. “Can I order you some coffee?”

“No, thanks,” he says coolly. “I’m the only recognized authority left in the east bay, Ms. Scout, so I’d wipe that smirk off your face. You see the man at the door?”

She peers around the corner to view the front door. No one is there.

Leeland smirks. “Exactly. He’s one of mine and you won’t see him coming if this goes sideways.” He shifts in his chair, taking a moment to position his arms in a threatening way. “I understand you’ve been working with…Pfalzgraf Rabenholz recently?”

She nods once. “I have contracted with him to do some jobs, yes.”

“Really.” He looks her up and down and sneers. “Didn’t think he’d employ Caitiff.”

“He’s new in town too. He doesn’t seem to have particulars about how he gets what he wants so long as he does.”

Leeland’s face darkens. “Yeah, I’ve noticed. What do you do for him?”

The smirk creeps back onto her face. “Scouting.”

He glares. “Hence the name?”

“I like to keep it simple. You know, like people used to be called Taylor, Thatcher, whatever….”

(Chris: “Colleen’s character concept is when asked what she does, she replies with her name.”
Jim: “MATT DAAAMON!”)

“A fan of mockingbirds, then?” Leeland asks.

Her smile eases slightly. “It was one of my favorite books in school,” she says softly.

“So you’re not that old. Most Caitiff aren’t.” He eyes her a moment. “Plan on staying here long? Cause things aren’t shaking down too well right now.”

“I’ve noticed.”

“What have you noticed?”

She watches the steam rising from the coffee. “Work has been…interesting.”

“And what have you been finding in this work?”

She lifts an eyebrow, still staring at the mug. “I found a dragon in the park, that’s pretty fun.”

Instantly, Leeland’s face goes blank. “Yeah. There is.” He shifts in his chair again. “But I’m not interested in the dragon. I’m interested in this Rabenholz. What do you make of him?”

Scout takes a breath, stares out the window, then replies, “I think he’s a Ventrue and he’s doing what the Ventrue do. He’s collecting power for himself, but he’s at least treating those that help him with respect.”

“You’re lucky then. They seek power but most don’t know the meaning of the word respect.”

“True, but those that don’t bother don’t tend to be on this side of the fence.”

“You mean the Camarilla?” He leans in. “Which side of ‘the fence’ is that, for you?” he sneers.

She turns to eye him with an even gaze. Seconds pass. She doesn’t say anything.

Leeland glowers and fidgets again. “I think I asked you a question.”

“I think you’ve been asking a lot of questions, and that doesn’t make a conversation, does it?” she replies smoothly.

He sits back and gestures invitingly. “Well, what would you like to discuss?”

“How did you get my number?” she asks sharply, gaze locked on him.

“I stole it.”

“From whom?”

“Someone who had it.”

“Really. Cause besides Rabenholz, I only know one person in this city who should have my number and I doubt you stole it from him.”

“I got the number, that’s all you need,” Leeland grumbles. “Are you offended?”

She smirks. “I’m just surprised at the audacity.”

“Audacity? To call someone and invite someone to an inn? By the way, great place,” he sneers, scanning the run-down room.

Scout shrugs and turns toward the window. “I like the views.”

Leeland watches her a moment, gaze lingering on her silk-blend suit. He straightens his collar and scowls. “What’s Rabenholz offered you?”

She hesitates before answering. “Simply a place in the game.”

“Is that what you want? A place in the game?”

She shrugs. “It’s not a bad thing to turn down if offered.”

“Do you even know what the rules of the game are?”

She picks up a spoon and stirs at her coffee. “I’ve found the best way to learn is through experience.”

“It’s an experience you might not survive.”

Her gaze flicks up. “I have so far.”

Leeland watches her a moment, then nods slowly. “I used to play that game. Or I tried. I wasn’t very good at it. You know why I wasn’t very good at it?” He leans forward. “Cause I wasn’t enough of an asshole. I didn’t have the right temperament. That Rabenholz, though, he’s an asshole. A biiiig asshole. Way I hear it, he may be a bigger asshole than anybody knows. He’s good at the game, really good.”

Her spoon clinks against the mug. After a moment she pulls it out and licks it, apparently savoring the heat, then sets it down. “So what is it you want to know about him?”

“I want to know where he wants to play, who he’s playing with, and what the stakes are.” Leeland tents one hand against the table. “I run the University of California at Berkeley. I’ve run it since it was founded. I want to ensure I will still be running it after all this crap blows over, assuming there is still a university, or for that matter, a California to have universities in.”

Scout shrugs. “I doubt he’s that interested in the ivory tower, he might leave well enough alone.”

“Maybe. Or maybe he’ll decide there’s some money to be made.”

She shrugs. “So if you want to know about the Ventrue, what are you willing to trade in exchange?”

“That depends on what you want.”

Scout watches him evenly a moment. “I’m collecting information on some of the players in this city.”

“Who?”

She takes a breath before continuing. “Do you know about the pirate?”

Leeland snorts. “Thomas Anstis. I know a few things. Captain Johnson wrote about him. He’s a pirate, and a necromancer to boot. He’s involved with some very, very bad people and done some very, very bad things. And he has a submarine.” He rolls his eyes. “But that’s just basics. You want more, I’ll need more in return. About Rabenholz. And I’m willing to pay.” He glances across the cafe at the janitor, then gestures her forward and leans close. “You breathe a word of this to Rabenholz and I will deny it, and I will make you deny it in front of him too,” he hisses. “Do you understand my meaning?”

She eyes him a moment, then nods. “I have encountered those with excellent skills in that regard before.”

“Good.” Leeland sits back and slumps in his chair. “I don’t like making threats,” he grumbles, looking away.

“What is your ideal outcome from this situation?” Scout asks after a moment.

“That everyone leave me the hell alone.”

“And you’re going to get yourself left alone by sending in spies to observe your enemies?”

Leeland glares. “I said I wanted to be left alone, not that I was gonna stick my head in the sand. I know how this works.” He leans forward again, splaying both hands on the table. “I have been provost of the university since before there was a university. I built it, brick by brick, and it is mine. Every building, every student, every protestor, every blade of grass on that campus is mine. And I will not let anyone or anything take it from me.”

(Me: “No wonder he and Charles get along so well.”)

Scout eyes him a long moment, then nods.

Leeland sits back. “So. Do we have a deal?”

Scout stares out the window, then turns back to him. “I will consider it. I won’t tell Rabenholz we’ve spoken, but I’ll need to consider what I’m in need of that you can assist me with.”

Conflicting emotions flicker across Leeland’s face, but finally he nods. “Fine…fine. You have my number.” He moves to stand up. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to Berke–” Suddenly he freezes, eyes wide, staring at the door. “–Oh…oh no….”

Scout whirls, reaching for her knife.

A large man looms in the doorway, holding the door open and scanning the room. His eyes glare manically from a bearded face, almost hidden by a half-squashed tophat. The night breeze blows in around him, swirling his regally-embroidered coat. Imperially-embroidered, even.

(Me: “Oh son of a bitc–”)

The man sees them in the corner, freezes, then levels a finger. “DOOOOO YOOOOOOOOOU SEEEEEEEEEEE????!!???”

(Jason: “…And I think you know how the next few minutes go.”
Chris: “Or possibly hours.”)

#

THE PYRAMID

Since he’s already downtown, Anstis goes to talk to Bell, but as the elevator reaches the Camarilla floors, the first thing he sees in the hall is Marcus, talking to a ghoul. Both the ghoul and Marcus look up at him as he steps off the elevator.

Anstis stops, then immediately turns and walks back toward the elevator.

“Captain….” Marcus calls to him, a dangerous edge to his young voice. Anstis hesitates, then turns back with a smile. “Captain if you’re looking for the Justicar, he’s out at the moment. He doesn’t like to be here when I’m around.” Marcus smirks. “I can’t imagine why.”

“Well, then I shall call upon him another time.” Anstis bows and starts to turn away again.

“Thank you for solving the problems with the bathroom, by the way,” Marcus says.

Anstis turns back. “You’re welcome. It be my pleasure. If you’ll excuse me, I have other business to attend–”

Marcus walks slowly toward him. “Yes, speaking of business, how is that submarine of yours? Where is it again?”

Anstis smiles. “In the ocean.”

Marcus glares up at him a long, tense moment…then rolls his eyes. “Have fun, then. If the Camarilla gets on your case for sinking something you shouldn’t have, it’s on you.” He hesitates a moment. “Any news on Noah?”

“Not yet, but I’m following several leads.” Anstis gestures dismissively. “Both his parents became spectres. Not much to be found from them.”

“Then you’ll have to do things the old fashioned way then, won’t you?”

Anstis’s grin droops slightly. “Aye. I have…been in contact with others. Specifically, the Kindred that Lytton murdered.”

Marcus’s gaze hardens. The shadows start to flicker. Down the hall, the ghoul hurries away. “Yes. Carlos,” Marcus says flatly. “Do you really know what you’re getting into with him?”

“Do you really know what you’re getting into with anyone?”

“Perhaps. Perhaps not.” Marcus watches him a moment, then pulls out a phone to check the time. “I’m afraid I must be off, I’m only stopping by to recover something. Do give the Justicar my regards and let me know if you find anything about Noah.” His shadow twists again. “Soon.”

Anstis nods, then bows again and steps back into the elevator. He continues to smile at Marcus’s steady glare as the doors close between them.

#

GOLDEN GATE PARK

The light fades and Paul stumbles, blinking at the sudden darkness. The cold air smells like eucalyptus and charred ash, and as his vision returns he sees why. He’s standing on top of Strawberry Hill, in the firebombed remains of the werewolf cairn in Golden Gate Park.

(Chris: “Is the cub still with me?”
Jason: “No.”
Chris: “Is Doc with me?”
Jason: “No.”
Chris: “Am I alone?”
Jason: “No.”
Chris: “Who is with me? …Is it Gus?”
Jason: “No.”
Chris: “Phew!”)

Paul peers around, then stops. A shadow is lurking at the edge of the hill, silhouetted by the lights of the city. As Paul watches it slowly stands, unfolding to a massive eight-foot height. By the bulk of the shoulders and the line of the legs it’s clearly a werewolf, but slender, sleeker, with short black fur and long ears. It walks toward Paul with even, rolling strides. Paul remains still as it approaches and stops, looming over him, staring down a long muzzle with great golden eyes.

Paul raises a hand and waves. “Hello!”

The werewolf’s ears twitch.

“Nice hill you have here. Um…I’m Paul Stewart, and I’m here to rescue someone.”

The werewolf eyes him a moment…then chuckles, a sharp breathy sound. “Are you now? And who is it you mean to rescue?”

“Ah, a friend, though this isn’t where I expected to be.” Paul glances around. “But that’s ok. I assume that means you’re probably my friend, and…oh my god, I’m beginning to sound like her, aren’t I–”

The werewolf laughs, flashing long teeth. “Paul Stewart. That name is familiar. My name…is Samir.” He holds a massive paw to his chest. “So. If we are exchanging names, what is the name of the person you are attempting to rescue?”

“Georgia Johnson, do you know her?”

Samir laughs again. “Oh, I’ve certainly heard her name.”

(Kara: *gasps* “I’m famous?”)

Samir folds his hands behind his back. “So. You and she…you’re all connected by Tom, are you not? Tom Lytton?”

Paul blinks. “Oh you know Tom!”

“Yes.” Samir smiles, but the grin shows canines.

“Yes, we’re…mutual acquaintances of Tom–”

“Though you’re not willing to say ‘friend’ yet, because doing so will cause me to tear off your head.” Samir lifts one long claw. “Which is a wise maneuver.”

“You’re not wrong,” Paul sighs. “I mean, I’m never entirely sure where Tom stands on these things.”

“I am to understand he does not stand anywhere right now.”

“Yeah, I’ve been hearing that a lot, do you know anything about what’s going on with–actually, you know what, it’s not important right now.” Paul waves the subject away. “What’s going on with Georgia Johnson, and why am I not where I was expecting to rescue her from?”

“Where you were expecting to rescue her from?”

“The Tremere Chantry, I believe.”

Samir’s gold eyes widen. “And here I thought she had become the owner and proprietor of said Chantry. I suppose the rest of the Tremere did not agree with what she’s accomplished recently.” He grins, looking Paul up and down. “You are the technologist, are you not?”

“In a way, I guess you could say.”

“I have heard the most fascinating rumor. I have heard you have developed a technique of summoning sunlight from other parts of the world.”

Paul goes still. “Well, that’s quite a rumor.”

Samir’s grin widens. “Yes. Yes it is. Fascinating.”

“May I ask where you heard that rumor from?” Paul asks nonchalantly. “It’s always interesting to hear where leaks may be getting through.”

Samir chuckles. “I have many sources whispering in my ears at all times. Fewer around you, interesting enough, but around your actions there are many.” He paces around Paul, heavy footsteps crunching the charcoaled earth below them. “So. You came here…how, precisely?”

“Well…out of curiosity, do you know a Glasswalker named Sophia?”

Samir’s ears flick. “Sophia, yes! She is the one who vouched for Tom so that I did not kill him when I first saw him. I still don’t know if that was wise.”

“Well, she is probably also a prisoner of the Tremere Chantry, along with another acquaintance. A different acquaintance brought me here when I mentioned I needed to rescue them.” Paul’s feet shuffle against the ash. “So…do you want to help me get her back?”

Samir throws back his head and laughs, the sound yipping into the night. “Oh, you are quite mad, are you not?”

“I see no evidence to the contrary.”

The laughs die down. Samir eyes him coolly. “Imagine, for a moment, you are in my shoes. A member of your most hated enemies comes before you and says, ‘I know your friends. I know people you know. I know that they are in trouble, I know where they are, I want to help them, but I need your help.’ Would you leap into danger and certain death with me?”

Paul considers this. “Well, I suppose my first response would be to confirm if any of it was true. But you already know who I am, which is a start, and you’ve heard rumors that I have interesting technologies coming out, which may or may not be true, but that would suggest I am invested in remaining alive if possible.” He hesitates. “If such technology existed,” he adds hurriedly.

Samir waves a claw chastisingly. “Ah, now I know you are lying.”

“Eh, well, can’t win them all.” Paul shrugs. “If you’re interested in Tesseract’s technology, I could offer you an invitation to our upcoming announcement, assuming you’re able to take on a…less noticeable form?”

“That is very generous of you. But I leave that business to Sophia. I travel in different circles.” Samir grins, then folds his hands seriously. “But. I am afraid I will not be setting foot in the Tremere Chantry anytime soon.”

Paul nods slowly. “I understand.” He stares across the city a moment, then turns back. “Do you have the ability to get me in through the wards, at least?”

Samir stills. His ears prick forward. “You would be willing to storm the Tremere Chantry, going in against unknown numbers of forces alone, all to save your friend?”

Paul takes a slow breath. “I’ve found since…some certain lifestyle changes last year…that the importance of backing up my values with actions is more significant to me than it used to be, and I’ve kind of already accepted I’m not going to live forever.” He hesitates. “Despite the irony of potentially being able to live forever and becoming a huge dick.”

Samir laughs his loudest yet.

“So in this case,” Paul continues through the laughter, “Yes, I’m willing to take on personal danger to save people who put themselves in danger to save me.”

“And that includes Sophia?”

“Oh, absolutely.”

Samir gestures. “And this mage and so forth?”

“Yes. I mean, Tremere are kind of worrisome, but I don’t want to leave my friends to death or torment. If I can stop that I will.”

Samir eyes him a long moment, slowly stroking his jaw. “Most…fascinating…. Well then, I think we can come to an agreement. You seem to be very sincere. So I will ask of you only a single favor, to be determined later, and which I am certain will not be in any way something you will object to. It might be uncomfortable, or inconvenient, but it shouldn’t be something you will have a problem with.” He smiles. “Probably.”

Paul stares up into his teeth. “O…kay….”

Samir extends one taloned hand. “Are you willing to shake on that?”

Paul hesitantly accepts the shake. His hand is absorbed into the massive, dark grip. Samir leans down and smiles. “Good boy,” he whispers.

(Chris: “Oh, Paul, what do you get yourself into….”)

Samir releases Paul’s hand and claps his together. “Now then…have you ever traveled by way of the moon before?”

#

THE CHANTRY

Minutes later, Paul stumbles out of a shimmering, glowing white portal and stares around, disoriented. He’s in a dark, concrete-lined hallway, dimly lit by exposed bulbs running along the ceiling and dotted with suspicious stains. One end of the hall disappears around a corner, but the other ends in a short stairway leading up. Something about those stairs nags at him, but it takes him a moment to realize.

(Jason: “This is the exact spot in the Chantry dungeons where you damn near chopped Perpenna in half. But Perpenna isn’t here.”
Chris: “That’s a relief.”
Jason: “In fact, no one is here.”
Chris: “That’s also a relief.”)

Paul moves carefully down the hall, treading silently on the stained concrete, ears straining for the sound of anyone else. Some of the doors bring back memories–the room with the bottles of Marcus’s blood, the room with the rack Aquilifer was bolted to. As he approaches the room where he and Georgia rescued Marcus from the sarcophagus, he stops. The door is slightly ajar, and whimpering is coming from the other side. He hesitates, then pushes the door open.

The room is small, but in the far corner, sprawled against the wall, is Bob.

(Jason: “He’s been…chastised.”)

Thick welts–all bruised, many bleeding–cross his skin in a lattice-work. A heavy leather rod lies on a nearby table, suspiciously the same width as the marks. Bob’s head hangs against his chest, which is slowly heaving in muted, sobbing moans.

Paul rushes in. “Bob? Jesus, what happened?”

Bob lifts his head and slowly peels one eye open. The other is swollen shut. His chest heaves again and he gasps, barely a whisper, “I’m sorry…I’m sorry…I’m sorry….”

“Bob,” Paul says firmly, tilting his chin to face him. “I’m here to rescue the Regent.”

“Regent? Which Regent?” Bob tenses. “I mean, theresonlyoneRegent–”

“No, it’s alright. I’m here for Ms. Johnson. And her friends. And you’re one of her friends, so I’m here to rescue you two.”

“But…he said no….”

“Mr. Hughes?” Paul glances at the door and lowers his voice. “Bob, I think he’s a bad person. We can ignore bad people. they don’t deserve our respect.”

Bob’s jaw works soundlessly a moment. “But…he’s the Regent….

“No, Ms. Johnson’s the Regent,” Paul says firmly. “He’s an imposter.” Paul looks around the room. “Do you trust me Bob?”

“Yes…?”

“Then stay calm while I get you out of these chains.”

(Chris: “Wait, is he actually restrained, or did they just tell him to stand up against the wall until they told him to move again?”
Jason: “Turns out, that’s exactly what they did.”
Chris: “Well, they’re clever, I like that. I give him some blood to see if that helps him heal.”
Jason: “Here’s something else: he had vitae in him already. Part of the deal is, they beat him, then they tell him to not use the blood he has in him right now to heal himself to stop the pain, or there will be more pain. It’s a type of training, you see. The Tremere don’t just beat you for the hell of it.”
Kara: “Well, of course there’s a method. Obviously.”)

Paul gives Bob just enough blood to heal him back to mobility, then asks where Georgia and the others are. Bob says the “primary body storage,” but also says it’s locked. When asked about finding the key, Bob starts shaking again. “He…he has it….”

“Has what?” Paul asks gently.

“The master key.”

“Okay. Is there another way into the body storage?”

“No.”

“Is there a spare copy of the key?”

Bob hesitates. “…No….?”

Paul leans close. “Are you sure? Are you sure that when Ms. Johnson took over the Chantry, she didn’t ask you to make a spare copy of the master key after an elder vampire repeatedly insisted on having one, and maybe you haven’t given her that copy back yet?”

Bob stares back blankly, then, like a switch, realization dawns. “I…I remember…it’s in the ghoul barracks….”

Paul lays a hand on his shoulder gently. “Then let’s go to the ghoul barracks.”

Bob leads them through the dungeons to the entrance to the ghoul barracks. The long room is empty but for one ghoul, asleep in one of the bunks. Paul and Bob trade a glance, then slowly, gently, sneak down the length of the room–

The floor creaks. They freeze. The ghoul groans, tosses in bed, then opens his eyes. A moment later, he sits up. “What the…?” he mutters, staring at Paul. “Who are you?” He turns to Bob. “And how in the hell did you get free?!”

Paul steps forward, meeting his gaze, blasting the whole room with a wave of full-bore Entrancement. “Everything is fine,” he says firmly.

The ghoul stiffens. “Is it? But…he’s supposed to be in the basement…and you’re that Toreador….”

Paul rushes close, gently lowering the ghoul back down to the bed. “Shh, shhshhshh…this is just a dream.”

The ghoul stares into his eyes, awash with the force of the entrancement, then nods dreamily. “Yeah…yeah, it is, isn’t it….” He rolls over into the pillow and closes his eyes. Moments later, snoring echoes through the room.

Bob points to a dishevelled bunk a few beds down. A brass key carved with runes hangs on the wall above it. Paul tiptoes over carefully, takes the key, then starts to head back–

–Turning just in time to see Bob plunge an awl through the back of the other ghoul’s neck. Bob holds it there a moment, then withdraws it slowly, hand shaking.

(Chris: “Wouldn’t I have heard something?”
Jason: “No, it was silent.”
Chris: “That…probably takes a practiced hand, that’s creepy.”
Jason: “It might be, you don’t know what the hell they’ve had Bob doing.”)

Bob stares at the blood-streaked spike, then looks up at Paul, eyes wide. He remains motionless as Paul strides over and carefully pries the awl from him hand.

(Chris: “How’s the other ghoul doing?”
Jason: “Oh, he’s dead. He died instantly.”
Chris: “Small blessing. But he doesn’t love me anymore. That must be a personal hell.”)

Paul stares at him silently. “He hurt the Regent,” Bob says softly, but firmly.

“It’s not okay that he did that,” Paul says softly, “But we don’t repay violence with violence.”

Bob stares back blankly.

Paul sighs and motions toward the door. “Come on. Take me to where Ms. Johnson is.”

They wander deeper into the basement dungeons, finally reaching a series of corridors lined with cell doors. One hall ends in a large door, bolted with metal braces. A small grate is embedded high in the door. Bob stands on his toes to peek through, then ducks back. “There’s a guard,” he whimpers. “A g-gargoyle.”

Paul nods flatly. “I can handle gargoyles.”

Paul unlocks the door and swings it open. The room inside is lined with open-cells–more like cages–each barely large enough to hold one humanoid figure. Three of them are occupied at the moment by unconscious forms. Two of them are wearing robes, and one is wearing a weathered army jacket.

A gargoyle pacing down the middle of the room whirls as the door squeals open. It’s larger than Dug, studded with armored plates and spines, and its red eyes narrow at Paul as he steps in. “Intruder,” it growls, flaring its wings.

(Chris: “Majesty.”)

Release the prisoners,” Paul commands. Instantly the gargoyle staggers back. Next to him, Bob falls to his knees.

“Yes, Master, I obey….” the gargoyle grumbles, averting its eyes. It opens each of the three occupied cells, then backs up to the far wall and kneels.

Jawahar’s and Sophia’s cells are closest, but as Paul hurries over he realizes something is wrong. They’re both alive, but multiple thin tubes are running from their bodies, disappearing into ports in the wall. Paul peers closer. The tubes are carrying blood.

He turns to the gargoyle. “Can they be unhooked safely?”

“I do not know, Master,” it grumbles.

“Bob, do you?”

Bob looks up from his groveling position on the floor. “I’m…only supposed to unhook them when they’re dead.”

Carefully, Paul follows the tubes through their clothes. All end in regular IV needles. He removes each carefully, but neither wake up.

He checks on Georgia next. There’s no tubes in her body, but she’s staked, and also missing an eye and a hand, both removed with surgical precision. Paul grimaces, then carefully works the stake out.

Slowly, Georgia stirs back into consciousness. He cradles her in his arms, gently stroking her face. After a few moments, she blinks blearily up at him. “…Paul?”

“Georgia.” He smiles. “I’m here to rescue you.”

“Oh. Okay.” She blinks more, face furrowed in confusion.

“You’re missing an eye,” Paul explains. “Also a hand.”

“Oh. Are you going to rescue them too?”

“I don’t know where they are.” He looks around. “Jawahar and Sophia are here too but they’re still unconscious.”

Georgia moves to sit up with Paul’s help. She stares around the room, finally noticing Bob grovelling behind Paul. “Bob, are you okay?”

Bob tenses, then looks up at Paul. “Am I okay?”

“Yes, you’re okay.” Paul climbs to his feet and pulls Georgia to hers. “Georgia, you know how to make those fancy circle things? Because we need to get out of here now.”

“Well, I need blood to draw it with–”

Instantly, Paul bites open his wrist and holds it out. Georgia stares, then glances nervously at the door. “Um, as I was saying, I can make it, but it will take awhile….”

Paul turns to the gargoyle. “Are there more gargoyle guards down here?”

The gargoyle dips its head. “Six, Master.”

Georgia frowns at the gargoyle. “I see you made a friend.”

Paul shrugs. “I find that gargoyles are pretty easy to make friends with.”

Georgia examines the door. There’s nothing in the room to barricade it with, and rumbles of footsteps echo down the corridor. “Perhaps we should take the basement teleportation circle to Alcatraz, then make a new one there,” she suggests.

“That will do.” Paul gathers up the unconscious Sophia, instructs the gargoyle to carry Jawahar, then tells Bob to take them to the teleportation chamber.

Distant echoes of footsteps and roars harry them as they rush through the dungeons. Bob leads them to the circle room, its door still unreplaced from when Marcus tore it off. Inside, the room is empty, but the circle is still engraved on the floor. Paul sighs in relief and steps into the room.

The lights lining the hall suddenly turn red. A klaxon echoes down the corridor.

“Well, they’ve noticed,” Georgia sighs.

The distant footsteps begin to approach. Paul shoves the gargoyle into the center of the circle, then squeezes himself and Bob in next to it. Georgia kneels down to prepares the circle, steps in, and activates it with a touch. There’s a rising flash of light–

–And they instantly reappear in the abandoned gargoyle production facility, deep in the bowels of Alcatraz. The space is dark, silent but for echoing drips of condensation on rusted metal and stone.

But it’s not empty. A shadow moves suddenly, stepping from behind a piece of machinery and moving closer.

It’s Doc.

Georgia sags in relief. “Oh Doc! I’ve never been so glad to see you, and I have often been quite glad to see you. What are you doing here?”

Doc tips his hat to her. “I had a passing fancy to come this way. An inclination, of sorts, that you might be making your way to this facility.”

“Doc was the one who told me you were in trouble,” Paul says, gently laying Sophia down on the floor.

Georgia curtsies. “Then I am once again in your debt.”

Doc smiles grimly. “Well, I do know a thing or two about debts, but I have a question for you, Ms. Johnson, at this moment. You have made the acquaintance of a Mr. Vannevar Hughes?”

Georgia’s face darkens. “I have.”

“You have found him, perhaps, to be a less-than-congenial fellow?”

Georgia looks at the still-bleeding Bob cowering behind her, and the unconscious bodies of Sophia and Jawahar. “We did not make immediate friends, no.”

“Then what would you say if I suggested a methodology whereby you might render unto Vannevar Hughes his just desserts?”

Georgia and Paul trade a glance. “I would be very curious as to what you might have to say,” she says.

Doc smiles. “I know a man I think it would behoove you to meet. A man who can provide you with some assistance in removing Mr. Hughes from his mortal coil. But this is a man you may not wish to engage with. After all, it is a man you have met before.”

“Oh?”

“His name is Max.”

Georgia stares. “Max…what?”

“Von Strauss, I believe.”

Distant drips echo in the silence. “Maximilian von Strauss,” Georgia repeats flatly.

“We saw him cut to pieces,” Paul says, frowning.

Doc nods. “Oh yes, Max is quite dead. Nonetheless, I suggest it may behoove you to make his acquaintance.”

Georgia and Paul trade another glance. “…You mean through the spirit world, don’t you?” she says slowly. “How?”

Doc chuckles. “Come now Ms. Johnson, I believe you’ve had sufficient dealings with certain personnel to work that one out yourself. And I believe you have been intruding into certain realms that Max would prefer be kept secret?”

“I have,” she says, then frowns. “Wait, how did you know that?”

Doc smiles and slowly taps the side of his nose. “Let’s just say I have enthusiasms, and these enthusiasms lead me to knowing things.”

Georgia falls quiet. Doc continues to smile at her. Paul glances back and forth between them. then clears his throat. “I hope one of you will fill me in at some point. You know I’m only twenty miles south of the city, you could call me when things come up–”

“Things have been moving at a rapid pace, and you have recused yourself from the dealings of this city,” Doc says without glancing at him.

Georgia shrugs. “I was going to call you, but then I got magically kidnapped.”

“May I suggest this is a conversation best continued elsewhere, lest certain individuals follow you through that circle,” Doc says.

“Yes, that’s true.” Georgia stares around the echoing space. “Do you have a quick way to get us off the island or should I draw a new circle?”

Doc smirks. “I have a method of conveyance.”

“Could it take all of us?”

“Oh, I think it might. I shall show you the way. But that is all I can do. I may set a path, but you are the ones who must walk it.” He eyes Paul significantly as he says this last line, then turns and leads them into the shadows.


END OF NIGHT

 

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4 Responses to 11/12/15

  1. Well that was exciting!

  2. ExecuteDumbo says:

    I give a 50/50 chance that VonNazi has put, like, five backdoors into the Chantry for a situation exactly like this, specifically this situation, too, on average, there’s probably 2-3 backdoors for every concievable scenario.

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