Jim: “How do subs figure out where they are?”
Jason: “Well, GPS.”
Jim: “Even under the water?”
Jason: “Oh, no, not at depth. That would be sonar mappings. Soundings. Dead-reckoning to a point.”
Jason: “Yeaaah. Everything about submarines is terrifying. Everything.” *pauses* “Everything.”
Before we begin, a quick note.
As you may have noticed, things in the game have gotten a little unbalanced, with both Chris and I having two characters active at once and Jim just having one. This wasn’t intentional, as both Chris and I assumed that Jason would sideline one of our characters for a while to focus on the other, but with plots as interwoven as they are, it’s been hard to leave any of them hanging for long, let alone abandon them completely. This has been clearly unfair to Jim, however, so after much discussion we reached a compromise:
Jim rolled up a second character too.
That’s right. Somehow over the course of this game, we have gone from four players playing four characters to three players playing six characters. And not only that, six characters with six separate plot arcs. If anyone can handle it, though, Jason can (and, honestly, more and more I think that literally no one else could handle this because everyone I talk to says they’ve never heard of a game this complex, ever).
Anyway, this session begins with the very first scene for Jim’s new character, summed up as thus:
Margrave Gavril Yasenev Tsaratsovoshki, Sabbat member in good standing, and childe of Voivode Orlando.
(Jason: “Jim, care to introduce your new character?”
Jim: “So, Gavril is the Tzimisce master of Sam Mazza Castle in Pacifica. Being a Tzimisce, he definitely looks…different, but beautiful in an almost alien sort of way. Attractive in a manner that hints at something wrong, but you can’t quite put your finger on it. Symmetrical face is a bit too symmetrical, and chiseled features are a little too chiseled. He dresses in antique-style suits in rich fabrics and colors, and jackets cut in an Eastern European military look.”
Chris: “Oh? You’re not gonna wear a tracksuit?”
Jim: “Ha! Yes, an Adidas one, and always be squatting.” )
Gavril is in his castle, enjoying a night of fog-shrouded silence. He stands in the small but opulently decorated upstairs sitting room, looking out the sweeping windows onto the dark eternity of the Pacific Ocean below.
A live rabbit noses about the table next to him. Still staring out the window, he picks it up and cradles it in one arm while idly stroking it with the other. Flesh ripples like silk under his fingertips. Slowly, the rabbit’s ears lengthen and spread wide, thinning into sheets of blood-veined gossamer.
The sound of tires grinding against gravel echoes from the other side of the castle. Gavril puts down the rabbit and strides to the front door, peering out the antique glass porthole embedded in the thick oak wood. He frowns. A limousine is outside the front gate, bottomed-out on the steep road leading up to the castle. Men with poorly-concealed rifles climb out, yelling at each other, and collect to shove the vehicle up the last few feet. The limo finally grinds onto flat dirt and settles into park. One of the men opens the rear passenger door and a well-dressed dark-skinned man gets out. He snaps at the other men, then turns around to help an old woman out of the car behind him.
As Gavril watches, his ghoul, Ivan, sidles up next to him in a cloud of vodka. “Who is?” the old man grumbles.
“The Archbishop,” Gavril says in a thick Eastern European accent. “And associate.”
Ivan takes a pull from the bottle in his hand. “Andre knows not to come unannounced.”
“Andre is dead,” Gavril replies flatly, still staring out the porthole. “This is new Archbishop. Leidesdorff.”
Ivan takes another swig. “Should I activate defenses? Neshka has not fed today.”
“No. Show them in, but no retainers, unless given as offering.” Gavril goes back to the parlor. He settles himself in a plush chair and listens patiently to the gruff sounds of Ivan greeting the party at the door.
After a few moments and some muffled argument, the Archbishop enters the parlor with the old woman but none of his men. The woman is clutched on Leidesdorff arm, looking around at the rich furnishings and statues with interest. Leidesdorff, though, glares intently at Gavril.
Gavril stands. “Archbishop. You could have written ahead.”
Leidesdorff’s glare doesn’t ease. “I could have, and I didn’t.”
Gavril smiles gently. “Manners maketh man. Fortunately, I am more forgiving than my sire.”
A tense moment lingers, then a grimace flickers across Leidesdorff’s face and he makes a half-bow. “Margrave Tsaratsovoshki. I am sorry to call on you this late.”
Gavril smiles and returns the bow. “May I provide refreshment?”
“If you have them.”
Gavril nods to Ivan, lurking behind them. The old ghoul shuffles to the sidebar, puts down his vodka bottle, picks up two old-fashioned goblets, and takes them to a tap embedded into the wall. Bright red liquid hisses into each glass. He takes them to the guests. Leidesdorff accepts his without a word, while the woman takes hers with a smile and sips delicately.
Gavril gestures them to an overstuffed velvet divan. Leidesdorff helps the woman onto it, then sits stiffly next to her. “I assume you’ve heard about what’s been happening recently.”
Gavril gestures vaguely, returning to the table with the rabbit. “Tales. Rumors.”
“Some worse than others.” Leidesdorff takes a deep drink. “We have a problem, Gavril. A big problem. Not just me, but you, and even Orlando. In fact if I’m being honest we have several problems. And that’s why I’m here. I need you to do something.”
Gavril pulls a small round object from a pocket. “What is it?”
“I need you to be my eyes for a little while. In the city, and the east.”
Gavril holds the rabbit firmly against the table with his long fingers and presses the object against its skull. The rabbit twists and squirms, chuffing softly in fear. “Looking for?” he asks.
“Looking for a great many things, but in particular several individuals. You are familiar with Tom Lytton?”
“I have heard the name.”
“Well I hate to do this to you, but you have to become familiar with him in a more direct sense. He made off with half of my muscle a few nights ago in a mad-dash crusade to the East Bay to, of all things, kill a bunch of werewolves.” Leidesdorff shakes his head. “The East Bay has completely exploded. All the power structures are off. Oakland has turned into a war zone. That gigantic viking Anarch that was holding down some semblance of order is gone. And now that pissant in Berkeley has disappeared as well. The Setites have thrown themselves off some kind of cliff, the Anarchs are in disarray. And the Camarilla is too badly screwed up to take advantage of the situation, but so are we. Basically something nasty has moved through like a rogue planet and destroyed everyone else’s gravitational orbit.”
Gavril releases the rabbit. It shakes itself and stares up at him with three eyes, one blinking steadily in the middle of its forehead. “So far this sounds very much like your problem,” Gavril says flatly.
“It is. But I have it under good authority that it’s about to become yours.” Leidesdorff glances out the windows to the lights of Pacifica below, nestled in a thin crescent against the sea. “This is a nice little fiefdom you’ve carved out for yourself Gavril, and I haven’t given you any trouble. But you remember what happened in Monterrey? That was Lytton. You remember what happened in Richmond? That was Lytton. I don’t know if you heard about what happened in San Pablo—”
“My scouts tell me you had him in your grasp,” Gavril says. “Why release him?”
The old woman turns to Leidesdorff with interest, sipping her glass. Leidesdorff glares at Gavril a long moment before continuing, “I released him because I felt it was in my best interest to do so. Unfortunately that seems to have been in error. Before I released Lytton, he was involved in some kind of madness involving that Priscus that showed up a few months ago.”
Gavril nods. “Sertorius.”
“Yes. The one your benefactor made the acquaintance of, and as I understand it, not to his benefit.” Leidesdorff hesitates a moment. “It’s benefit,” he appends.
Gavril shrugs and strides to the balcony windows. “I have tried to stay out of Sertorius’s business.”
“That is a good idea, but Priscii decide themselves what their business is. We’re running out of small towns for Lytton to hide in and yours may be next on the docket. I need you to find out what’s going on because it all could come crawling over the hills to your door any night now. I need you because if everything in the bay goes to shit and I lose my position, the next person who replaces me may not be as willing to ignore this little coastal frontier empire set up here between you and your master.” Leidesdorff takes another long sip, watching him intently. “We have a Black Hand agent in town, somewhat openly—”
Gavril turns, one elegant eyebrow lifted. “Tell me about him. Information has been scarce.”
“On Cantor? That tends to be the way its run. Do you know the Black Hand at all?”
“I’ve met some.”
Leidesdorff snorts. “If they made themselves known they must have been mustajib. Recent inductees, canon fodder for the cause. Cantor has not only survived the Hand for centuries, but torn his way through and out the other side. I don’t know him, I don’t want to know him, but I don’t want him to find any excuses to decide to get involved in my operations. Let him stay in his church in San Francisco and pester the Camarilla.”
Leidesdorff puts down his glass, unfinished, and eyes Gavril intently. “I don’t know why Cantor is here, I don’t know why Sertorius is here, I don’t know why anyone is here, but this city and this area have gotten a lot more interesting lately to very unpleasant people. And that concerns me. As it should be concerning you.”
Gavril eyes him, still as the alabaster statues lining the room. “Do you wish Lytton recovered, or merely observed?”
“I wish to know what Lytton is doing with half of my men. And I wish to know if the rumors I keep hearing out of the East Bay and the north are correct.” Leidesdorff glances to the shadows of the room, then leans forward, lowering his voice. “You’ve heard of this Perpenna fellow?”
“Some. Not a great deal.”
“He hasn’t been seen in awhile, but the fact that he’s been seen at all is worrisome. The story is he’s Sertious’s sire, and the evidence seems to fit that, but there’s worse to it. I have some contacts from back in the day, they tell me Perpenna has a history with the Tremere and a few other unsavory sorts.” Leidesdorff shakes his head slowly. “It’s a bad history, even by their standards. Omen War history.”
“If Perpenna wishes to deal with the Temere, I will shed no tear in their passing.”
“Yes, but my concern is he will deal with the Tremere and come back with something worse. Perpenna is not one of us. And the way I understand it, he makes your sire look like a Sunday school teacher.”
The two men eye each other silently a long moment. Finally, Leidesdorff speaks again, tone much more placating. “I would not be asking this of you, Gavril, if half my men hadn’t disappeared for some unknown goddamn reason and most of my contacts in the area weren’t dead or missing.”
“What are you offering?” Gavril asks.
“What do you want? I can offer money, but I don’t think you want money.”
Gavril turns back toward the table. “Extra eyes and ears on everything that’s going on,” he says after a moment, slowly stroking the rabbit. “Along with, perhaps…extra eyes and ears.”
Leidesdorff purses his lips distastefully, but nods. “You will have whatever I come up with. I would also appreciate it if not all this information got back to Orlando. The last thing I need is another one of his caliber running about—” Leidesdorff suddenly winces. “—It’s caliber.”
Gavril smiles and bows deeply. “Then I will look into this for you.”
Leidesdorff makes an audible sigh of relief. “Thank you. Last I heard of Lytton he was running from the city, heading east.”
Gavril nods. He turns to the old woman, still patiently sipping at her drink as she admires the room. “And you madam? What brings you to my domain?”
“Oh, I was just here for a visit,” she says with a smile. “I’m thinking of some new additions to the mansion. Thought I might take inspiration from your cozy little cottage here.”
Gavril returns her smile thinly then turns back to Leidesdorff. “I will deal with this. Do you have leads?”
“Lytton’s had dealing with that Anarch Baron up in the Sunset. De la Vega. If you can stomach the pretense, you might want to have a word with him.” Suddenly Liedesdorff scowls. “Be careful of the new prince in town, though. Augustus von Rabenholz. Ventrue, or at least that’s what some sources say. He’s a slippery fellow. He claims he’s here on a mission of opportunism but I don’t believe it for a minute. He’s well connected, I can sense it. He also wanted Lytton and he wanted him very, very badly. I could see it in his eyes. He was this close to trying something, with me and twelve of my men right there and nothing but a pirate on his side.”
Gavril frowns. “Pirate?”
“Yes, Thomas Anstis. Gangrel. Also a recent arrival. He has some business with Lytton as well, and rumor has it he’s a necromancer.”
Gavril lifts an eyebrow. “That is unusual.”
“What isn’t usual about this city.” Leidesdorff stands, smoothing at his suit. “Be careful, there’s all sorts of unfortunate things running around. Let me know if you need any assistance I can provide.”
Gavril nods. “I will. And next time, please send word beforehand.”
“Do you have email?” Leidesdorff asks, helping the old woman to her feet.
“No. But I do believe the postal service still runs.”
Leidesdorff glares at him. “I’ll do my best.” He bows stiffly. As if on cue, Ivan reappears to lead him and the old woman out.
Gavril turns back to the windows, staring out at the town below and the endless black expanse of the sea beyond. The rabbit is still on the table next to him, rubbing futilely at its third eye and tripping over its elongated ears. Still staring out the window, Gavril picks it up and idly wads it up into a solid ball of quivering flesh in his hands.
Ivan comes back, picks up his vodka bottle from the sidebar, and stands expectantly. After a long moment, Gavril puts the wad of flesh on the table and turns to him. “Bring Neshka around.”
BLACK SPIRAL HIVE
(Jason: “So, I believe we last left Paul overrun with monsters, having just ineffectively discharged the death ray before everything went black.”
Chris: “Yes. And for the record, having a trigger that does not work is a poor user interface choice. This might be a little bit of a pet peeve for Paul.”)
The next thing Paul knows, he’s waking up to stench.
He’s sprawled on his back in a dim, filthy tunnel. There’s no chittering creatures, but there’s no Sophia or anyone else either. And no death ray. He groans as he sits up, slowly healing the hole in his chest. The tunnel reeks of things both organic and chemical and slopes gently down, with a trickle of water running down the middle.
Or at least, he hopes it’s water.
A soft moaning and whispering sound echos from down the tunnel, the same direction as most of the stench. Paul scrambles to his feet and carefully makes his way down, sliding periodically on the muddy floor.
The tunnel opens up at the top of a wide, shallow cistern, roughly five feet deep. More tunnels and pipes open into it, but all but this one have been welded off. Instead of fluid, a large huddled mass is collected in the center.
Children. Almost two dozen of them.
(Chris: “Great…. Well, the last time Paul tried to save a kid it turned out to be an ancient vampire, so.”)
“Hey,” Paul calls softly, voice echoing. Most of the children flinch but a few look up at him. All are considerably younger than Marcus.
“How long have you guys been here?” Paul asks. Silence stares back at him. “Do any of you speak English?” He checks their auras. They’re all human.
Paul carefully lowers himself into the cistern. The group shudders almost as one and slides away. One boy at the edge, barely even four years old, remains in place, staring up at Paul through half-shadowed gloom. “How did you get here?” Paul asks. “Can none of you speak?” He pulls out his phone and activates the flashlight.
The boy’s mouth is sewn shut with greasy black cord.
Paul yells and jumps back, then calms himself. “Can you hear me? Nod if you can.”
The kid stares back blankly.
Carefully, Paul shines his light across the group. Not all have sewn mouths, but most have some sort of alteration. Some are missing ears, one has a crude strip of canvas tied around his eyes, soaked in fluid both blood and not-blood.
Finally he spots a girl, maybe six years old and with both eyes and ears still attached. He crouches down in front of her. “Do you understand me?” She stares up at him with no response.
Until she pulls something sharp from her dirty clothes and stabs him in the throat.
The shiv buries into his flesh but misses damaging anything major. The girl steps back, surprised when no blood comes out. Paul calmly takes it out, heals the wound, and examines it. It’s a sharpened chunk of bone. A human femur, by the look of it. A small human femur.
Paul tosses it away. “Never do that,” he says. The girl just stares back.
Voices suddenly echo from the tunnel above, approaching. The children tense, then flow away, pressing against the far wall of the cistern. Paul ducks into the shadows nearby. Two men appear and jump down into the pit, both dressed in heavy rubber aprons and gloves and carrying buckets. One mutters something to the other and they laugh, approaching the children….
Till Paul steps out next to them. The men stop and stare, then one pulls out a gun. “Who the fuck are you?”
Paul glares at him, summoning forth both Awe and his best CEO voice. “You’re late.”
“Late for what?”
Paul glances at his bare wrist. “By my count you are two hours and fifty minutes late. Who’s your supervisor?”
The men look at each other. “The hell—”
“SUPERVISOR, NOW!” Paul roars, blasting more Awe.
The men stumble back, dropping their buckets. “Th-Thompson!” one stutters. “He told us to come down here, said it’s feeding time. What do you want? Who the fuck are you?”
Paul folds his arms. “I’m upper management.”
Both men’s faces blanch. “Up…upper management?”
“Yes. What, you think I just fell in here?”
“Ah, no, no, I’m sorry. Look, Thompson told us to come down here, he’s coming now—”
More footsteps approach, echoing down the tunnel. “I’ll talk to Thompson,” Paul says grimly. “But right now, this time, instead of feeding them…whatever that is,” he glares at the buckets, “feed them waffles.”
The two men glance at each other. “We…don’t have any waffles,” one says.
Paul leans close. “Find some.”
Paul hauls himself out of the cistern and back into the tunnel. There he waits. A few moments pass, then three more figures step out from the gloom: two more men in grime-soaked workclothes, and a man leading them in a trim uniform.
They stop. “Who the fuck are you?” asks the officer.
Hands, clenched, Paul steps forward…and Majesties.
“What’s your name?” Paul asks, voice ringing with command in the confines of the tunnel. “What’s your itinerary for the day?” He turns to the other two men. “You, you, grovel.”
The workmen fall to their knees and the officer cowers in a half-grovel. “Brian Thompson!” he sputters. “I have orders to just hold the reserves position!”
Paul frowns. “Hold the position where?”
“In the main tunnels!”
Paul eyes him. “…You have a map?”
Thompson nods and pulls out his phone. The screen shows a rotating 3D projection of the tunnels under the mountain. Many twist and turn on themselves, some climb back up to what must be hidden locations on the surface. A beacon pulses on their current location, about halfway through the complex.
Deeper in, though, the lines indicating the tunnels become faded, as if uncertain, then cut off s as they dive into an area marked with solid red.
Paul pivots the map a few moments, then downloads it onto his phone. “What are your orders specifically?” he asks.
“Hold here and deliver the reserves if needed,” Thompson answers.
“Deliver to where?”
“To the Red Zone.”
Paul frowns. “What’s there?”
Thompson gapes up at him. “I…I’m not ordered to know—”
“What’s there?” Paul repeats, stepping forward.
Thompson falls all the way to his knees, sobbing. “Okay, I looked! I looked! I know it’s not allowed, but it was just once! And I saw them….”
Thompson looks down, hands folded against his lap. “Banes…banes and worse, growing, preparing the sacrifices, waiting…waiting to rise and consume the world….” He looks back up at Paul with a tear-stained face. “…It was glorious.”
Paul stares at him a long moment, then turns to the other grovelling men. “Make sure the children get waffles, then take them to the Marin General Trauma ward.” He turns back to Thompson. “You say you’ve been into the Red Zone?”
Paul smiles thinly. “Take me there.”
The radio cuts out as I enter the long highway tunnel. I turn it off, settling into the silence, watching the road lit by the black-and-yellow strobing of the lights overhead.
Suddenly, between one strobe and the next, Norton is in the car with me.
“DOOO YOOU SEEEE!????” he roars.
I jerk in surprise, almost running the humvee into the wall of the tunnel. Horns blare around us. “Son of a BITCH, Norton!!!” I shout as I regain control
His glare doesn’t waver. “Do you see?”
“YES, I see that I’m driving!! What are you doing here?”
“It comes. The fire comes.”
I groan, keeping my focus on the road. “You’ve been talking about this shit for ages now, I feel like it’s been actual years.”
“Do you know why?”
“No, I honestly don’t.”
“Because it COMES!!!!”
“So does your mom,” I mutter reflexively.
In the next moment, Norton leans over and slaps me across the face. “SPEAK NOT SUCH VULGAR BLASPHEMIES!!!”
(Me: “…Did I just get bitch-slapped by Norton?”)
The humvee swerves again, but I stabilize quickly. Norton shakes his head sadly as he sits back down. “You do not see. You do not perceive.”
I spare a moment from the road to stare at him in disbelief. “I’ve had a popsicle stick shoved up my ass for I don’t even know how many nights! So excuse me for being a little out of the loop on things!”
“Are you?” he mutters. “You cannot perceive what lies before you?”
I turn back to the road. “The end of the tunnel?”
Norton doesn’t respond. Instead, face hard, he leans over and clicks the radio back on. Static fills the cab and I sigh. “We’re still in the tunnel, Norton, reception isn’t—”
But then the static fades, and a familiar voice slides from the speakers.
“Nooow…” Jeremiah Flagg sighs, voice boiling with brimstone. “Day and night. In irons-clad, we like poor galley slaves, will toil and toil our lives away. To fill dishonored graves….”
Norton turns the radio off. Silence falls again.
“Those…evangelical radio stations are getting better bandwidth by the year….” I say carefully.
Norton shakes his head sadly. His face, though hard, is suddenly a lot less manic than I’ve ever seen it. “Your lack of vision does not commence with the last week. You have lived and unlived this city for decades and you do. not. see.”
We exit the tunnel, appearing amongst steep wooded hillsides on the other side. I merge quickly to take the first exit, pulling out on a winding access road leading up into the hills.
“Will you see?” Norton continues, still watching me carefully. “Tonight, not another.”
“See…what shit’s going on in Marin? Cause I have no idea….”
Norton nods once. “I do.”
I pull off to the side of the road, in the shadows under a massive oak, and turn to him. “Are you gonna tell me?” I ask.
In response, Norton leans forward and turns the radio on again. “Friiiiiiiend!” a familiar—and unwelcome—voice wheedles.
I lean my forehead against the cold metal of the steering wheel. “Oh for the love of Christ—”
“Are we going to play with the wolves?” Mr. Tails asks gleefully.
I groan. Of all the bullshit that’s happened to me the last few months, getting saddled with this damn spirit is probably the worst. I’m still not entirely sure I haven’t just gone insane, but considering that Paul got cursed by the same squirrel at the same time—
Suddenly I look up. “Mr. Tails, are you still in contact with Paul?” I ask the radio.
“Paul is having fun!” he cries.
I stare. “…Can you get a message to him?”
BLACK SPIRAL HIVE
Paul follows Johnson through the tunnel, checking the map on his phone periodically to make sure he is leading him back to the main routes of the hive complex. They finally reach a steep section, with water flowing down in a small cascade. A rope extends down it. Thompson climbs up it, using the rope for balance. After a minute, Paul picks it up and begins to follow.
“Friiiiiiend!” Mr. Tails suddenly wheedles in Paul’s mind. “Do you want to play with me?”
Paul stares flatly at the grimy rock face before him. “Just keep climbing….” he mutters to himself.
“You don’t want to play? You make me saaaaad!”
“It’s psychological stress,” Paul continues muttering, “Very stressful situation. You know everyone has a breaking point, this is yours.”
“Tom says hello!”
Paul stops. “Are you talking with Tom?”
“Yes! He’s mean,” Mr. Tails pouts.
“Okay, but did he get the werewolves?”
Paul sighs. “Of course not.” He continues climbing. “Well, how have you been Mr. Tails? I haven’t heard from you in awhile, I thought that condition had improved—”
“Don’t worry, friend! I will never leave you!”
“That’s what I’m afraid of. Can you tell me anything about the place I’m in right now?
“You’re in hell!”
“…You’re perceptive, I’ll give you that,” he mutters. Brighter light shines ahead, along with slightly fresher air. “Hey, what’s a bane?”
“Nooooooo!!” Mr. Tails suddenly shrieks. The voice echoes a moment, then the presence fades from his mind.
HILLS ABOVE THE CALDECOTT TUNNEL
The radio crackles and Mr. Tail’s voice comes back. “Paul is in trouble….” he says. For once, though, there’s no mocking laughter under the words.
I frown. “Can you tell him I’m doing the best I can and if he has any suggestions on how to get the werewolves I’m—”
Norton turns the radio off, face stern.
“—Open…to…ideas….” I trail off.
Norton sits back and folds his arms. “What do you see?”
I groan and rub my face. “I see a lot of shit coming down I don’t know how to deal with. None of it looks any good.”
“It is not. There is kinslaying this night. Among the lupines. Blood on blood, silver on flesh.”
“Well, we are hoping the Red Talons will help us fight the Black Dancers.” I pause. “I’m glad they’re color coded cause I’m having trouble keeping track—”
“The Red Talons have already moved.” Norton turns and points behind us. I turn to look.
Rolling, wooded hill surround us, but the dark mass of Mount Diablo looms in the distance to the east. Visible from almost anywhere in the bay, it’s a hard landmark to miss. But right now it’s even harder to miss, since the top is burning with a massive fire.
“That’s…not…great….” I mutter. “We are in a drought—”
Norton nods once. “Worse than you know.”
I groan and scan the woods around us.“Goddammit. Where is—god I can’t believe I’m saying this—where is my Sabbat Pack?”
Norton nods ahead of us. “Around the corner. Go and see.”
I start up and drive, winding higher along the road, finally turning a sharp corner close to the top. A van is parked on the side of the road ahead, with one figure standing next to it. He turns toward us and in the headlights I make out the dark hair, sunglasses, and preacher’s collar of Jeremiah Flagg.
He grins and lifts his hands. “And some dark night,” he bellows, “When all is right, and quiet in the town. I’ll gut the bastards one and all, and gun the floggers down….”
“Motherfucker….” I stop the car, grab Vera, and begin feeding in a belt of ammo.
Norton watches me, but now there’s almost a note of sadness on his face. “You do not see,” he mutters. “But you shall.”
“Who the hell is this guy?” I hiss, jerking my chin toward Flagg. “And why won’t he die?”
The sad lines on Norton’s face deepen. “You do not know? Is it not obvious?”
“No! But everything he says reminds me of the shit my dad used to yell at us when we were kids!”
Norton looks at Flagg, then turns back to me. He begins reciting in the same cadence Flagg was using, as if continuing the same poem: “I’ll give them all a little treat. Remember what I say….” He waits for me to meet his eyes, then continues, “For they’ll yet regret they sent…Jim Jones in chains to Botany Bay.”
I stop fiddling with Vera and stare at Norton, jaw open.
(*I stare at Jason a long moment, dropping my dice bag*
Me: “…Mother…fucker…I’ve been suspecting this THE WHOLE!! GODDAMN!!! TIME!!!!”)
Outside the car, Flagg spreads his arms, beatific grin wide on his sunglassed-face. “My child…let me bring you to right….”
Slowly, I turn to stare at him. For the first time, his face resolves into something familiar. Not one I knew personally, but one from the newsreels, and one that had been hanging over the history of the city for a spectre for as long as I’ve known.
(Me: “…The front windshield is plastic, right?”
A burst of 50-cal shells shatters the plastic and streaks toward the woods, splattering across the van and Flagg’s—Jones’— flesh. He staggers back a moment, then straightens, grin wide as before. “You shall not hinder the work of the Lord.”
I kick open the door, practically tearing it from the hinges, and climb out of the car. Gravel crunches as I approach closer, then stop. Jones just smiles. Bracing Vera against my hip, I fire another concentrated burst. He’s forced back but continues to smile. “Why do you resist?”
“Why are you so obsessed with me!?” I shout.
Jones spreads his arms. The holes in his flesh and clothes seal before my eyes. “Because I am here to save the souls of the many, and you are here to damn them all.”
“We were doing just fine until you started rolling around bitch-slapping everyone with that fucking Bible of yours!”
For a moment, his grin turns sly. “Get thee hence,” he says, pulling the Bible out of his pocket. Bingo, I think, aiming at the leather-bound cover and firing again—
—But the bullets bounce right off.
Jones waves the book chastisingly. “You cannot undo the word of the Lord, sodomite,” he says, spitting the last word from his lips. The term is archaic but the force behind it is familiar.
Familiar as my father’s face, and the back of his hand.
I lower the gun. In an instant my hot rage has ebbed, but not away. Instead it chills, slowly dropping into something still, and dark, and unfathomably deep, something uncaring but unrelenting, with a hunger enough to devour worlds.
With the cold comes something else, something deep inside, twisting….
(Me: “…Yeah, why not, this is as good a time as any for…certain things to coalesce for the first time.”
Jason: “Oh? Let’s hear it.”
Jason: “Ah! Okay! Roll me—”
Me: *reading* “‘Manipulation plus Occult, plus one blood, one success equals one tendril’—”
Jason: “Yeah, I know the rest of it.”
Me: “—Oh, duh, of course you would.”)
It’s not just me. The shadows of the trees, of the vehicles, of the woods around us, all suddenly seem to pulse. I can sense their thinness, feel the call of the depths hidden under the thin skin of this world, and the call of the things underneath, itching to get out….
I let them.
(Me: *gathering dice* “Difficulty?”
Me: *rolls, freezes* “…Oh no.”
Jason: “…OH!! Look who botched the Obten!!!”
Me” “……Oh no…….”
Jim: “What happens when you botch Obten, Jason?”
Jason: “Let me tell you what happens when you botch Obten!!!!”)
Black tendrils erupt from the shadows under the van, lunging for Jones. He leaps away, shouting proclamations and swiping at them with the Bible. The tendrils pull back, and for a moment I feel their confusion….
…And then their rage….
…And then they turn on me.
I squeeze a burst from Vera but the dark surfaces absorb the shells like tar. “Shit, shit, shit,” I mutter, instinctively reaching for Glitch, then remember that my sword is still missing. “Shit-fuck!” I shout, turning to run—
The tendrils grab me, lashing around my ankles to trip me to the dirt, then pull me rapidly toward the shadows under the van.
“Norton!” I shout. I catch a glimpse of his face through the shattered windshield of the humvee, watching me over folded arms, a grim expression on his face.
“NORTON!!! WHAT THE FU—” I manage before being swallowed up into darkness.
(Me: “Did…I get dragged into the Abyss and Marcus isn’t there to save me this time?”
Me: “…Okay. This is…not great….”)
Slowly, Anstis’s consciousness settles and nestles back into reality. He squirms, trying to stretch, but something has him locked down. His one eye opens blearily.
Anstis is chained to the wall of what can only be an opium den, thick with smoke and vacant-eyed people draped about the worn furnishings. He mist-forms his way out of the chains and re-coalesces nearby, smoothing at his clothes as he examines the room and its denizens. One of the addicts stares up at him from a low couch, a twenty-something man in a nice suit hanging loosely on his sallow frame. The man’s mouth opens.
And Flower’s voice comes out.
(Jim: “Because of course it fucking does.”)
“Thomas!” Flower’s voice says as the man’s head lolls, grinning. “What be ye doing here?”
Anstis scowls and folds his arms. “Are you having fun with these games of yours?”
“Aye, but not as much fun as I’m having right now. Tis a fine ship you have, but I think ‘tis time it be reclaimed to more honorable pursuits.”
Anstis tenses. “…Really.”
Yellowed teeth smile up at him. “Aye, I do.”
“And who might ye think deserves it?”
“Why, the admiralty of the Royal Navy!
“And are ye still a member?”
“Emeritus.” The man’s head lifts up, gaze suddenly focused. “Have fun with your landlubbers, Thomas. I’ll be sailing the seas very soon.”
Anstis punches him, knocking his head back against the cushions. The man’s yellowed grin disappears and he relaxes, ignoring his rapidly-swelling eye as he drifts into oblivion again.
With a low growl, Anstis begins searching the room for an exit, stepping over people and tearing through the tapestries lining the wall. There’s no windows and just one door, which appears to be heavily-bolted shut. After a few minutes of trying to force it open, Anstis changes tack, dragging rugs and people aside to expose a section of concrete floor. He bites his hand and draws a teleportation circle with the destination hard-coded into the spellwork.
The Twilight’s Fortune.
Anstis completes the circle and goes back to the suited man on the couch. “As soon as I’m gone, scrub this floor until it’s clean,” he commands. The man’s head rolls in a way that might be a nod.
Accepting this, Anstis steps into the circle, activates it, and disappears.
BLACK SPIRAL HIVE
Paul and the agent named Thompson eventually reach the top of the pipe, stepping out into a wide tunnel lit by industrial lights and filled with a paved roadway. Multiple semi-trucks are parked along the edges.
Realizing they must be near the surface, Paul pulls out his phone and tries to text Sophia. There’s no reply. Paul frowns and tries to call Tom.
(Me: “Yeaaah, Tom’s in the Abyss right now….”
Jason: “Yeah, you get voicemail. Colleen, what’s Tom’s voicemail message?”
Me: *sigh* “Chris, do you want to do the honors?”
Chris: “No, I think I’ve done that voicemail message enough.”)
Frown deepening, Paul hangs up and eyes the trucks.
(Jim: “Yeah, so, your difficulty for driving a semi-truck with no training is probably a 10. You could maaaaaybe just get it moving. Maybe.”)
Paul turns to Thompson. “Can you drive one of these?”
“We don’t want to take these anyway, the tunnel narrows further in. Here….” Thompson disappears behind the nearest truck, and comes back grinning, wheeling a battered motorcycle. Complete with sidecar.
(Chris: “Like Indiana Jones!” *starts looking up Indiana Jones music* “You know I share a birthday with Harrison Ford. And Patrick Stewart.”
Jason: “Really? That’s cool.”
Chris: “Yeah but you know what’s even cooler? By some movie standards, if the birthdate of a character isn’t stated, then it’s assumed that the birthday of the character is the same as the actor who plays them. Thus, I also share a birthday with Indiana Jones and Captain Picard.”
Me: “Yeah, it’s pretty bad-ass. Even beats mine, I got Clint Eastwood for my birthday.”
Jim: “I wonder who shares mine….” *looks it up, face falls* “…Oh, shit.”
Jim: “March 7th. Reinhard Heydrich.”)
Paul surveys the motorcycle, then nods. “Excellent. I’ll drive.”
Thompson’s grin falls.
Minutes later, the two are roaring down the tunnel, Paul on the bike and Johnson crammed awkwardly into the sidecar. The road descends, plunging deeper under the mountain, and the space between the lights overhead gets wider and wider. After some time, they turn a corner and enter a wider antechamber of the tunnel, with more parked vehicles and the shadows of people moving between them.
A few men, all wearing uniforms similar to Thompson’s, wave them to a stop and approach. One eyes Paul. “What’s going on? Who the hell are you?”
Thompson tries to scramble to his feet, but settles for a salute instead. “I’m taking him to the Red Zone.” He glances around, then lowers his voice. “He’s…upper management.”
Most of the guards step back, faces paling. The leader, though, continues glaring. “Who the hell is upper management!?”
The soldiers freeze, then slowly turn to stare at Paul. Slowly, Paul climbs off the bike, brushes himself off, and approaches the leader. Paul eyes the man and takes a breath….
“Search the tunnel for intruders!” Paul shouts, then grabs the man and bites him.
(Me: “Daaaamn. Not very Paul.”
Jason: “Yeah, well, Paul’s had a day.”)
The other soldiers bolt, Thompson almost overturning the sidecar as he scrambles away. Shadows rush past as more soldiers hurry to search for the announced intruder. Paul lowers the unconscious soldier to the floor, and as he stands the phone in his pocket buzzes with a call.
He pulls it out and answers eagerly. “Sophia!”
Instead of a teenager, though, the voice that greets him, though, is a deep, deep snarl. “Stewart,” it growls, sending tremors down his spine. Dread rising, Paul lowers the phone and clicks it over to Facetime.
Revealing the hyena face and rot-streaked teeth of the Black Spiral Dancer.
“Where are my friends?” he asks grimly.
She tosses her head back and laughs. Fresh blood is splattered across her maw. “I have them, Bloodsucker. Come and see….”
“Okay…. Can you send me a link to your location cause it’s kind of confusing down here—”
She hangs up. Paul stares at the phone. By now the soldiers have all disappeared into the darkness and he stands a moment in the silence, surrounded by the hulking shadows of empty vehicles.
(Chris: “This is a low moment for Paul.”
Jason: “It is. The lowest.”
Chris: “He needs reinforcements.”
Jason: “He does.”
Chris: “And because it’s such a low moment, he does the unthinkable. He calls…Augustus von Rabenholz.”
Jason: “…Oh, this is a low moment. And just because I want to annoy everyone else so much, Rabenholz and Paul miraculously both have reception. You may proceed.”)
“…Yes?” Rabenholz answers.
“Lord Rabenholz! This is Paul Stewart, how are you?”
“I’m well, how are you?” Rabenholz replies flatly.
“Uh, fine. So, you know that thing about the werewolves and Perpenna and sacrifices and the end of the world?”
“…I am vaguely familiar, yes.”
“Well I have a map to most of the Spiral Dancer Hive and have tracked down some of the actual entrances and it’d be great if I could get some heavy backup to go in with cause they have military forces and monsters.”
Rabenholz is quiet a moment. “I see…and you would like me to provide that heavy military force? I think you overestimate how well provisioned I am, Mr. Stewart.”
“Well, anything would help. Like…I don’t know, do you have any soldiers that aren’t easily manipulated by mind control?” Paul glances down the tunnel where he last saw the soldiers. “Cause I think that’s probably a problem here….”
“No, Mr. Stewart, I have nothing of the sort. Perhaps you would care to discuss this more leisurely in the city?”
“Umm…no, probably not right now, I think time is of the essence. Is there anyone in San Francisco who has an interest—”
Suddenly a heavy hand falls on Paul’s shoulder, gripping tight. Paul freezes. “Uh, Mr. Rabenholz, I’ll call you back,” he mutters, then hangs up the phone. By the shadows, a massive presence is looming behind him, slowly leaning closer…
“MASTER!!” The hand whirls Paul around to face the grinning gargoyle-face of Dug. “I have come to slay your enemies, Master!” he says, holding up his DVD-case of Up.
Paul stares at him, then grabs him in a hug.
(Me: *gasp* “But…how did he get there?”
Jason: “Someone called him.”
Chris: “…Oh, crap, we forgot where Rabenholz was last session.”
Jason: “What do you mean?”
Chris: “When we last left him, Perpenna had just shown up.”
Jason: “Oh, crap. Well, let’s assume this call happened right before that. We’ll get to Rabenholz next session. I apologize, there’s a lot of characters to babysit.”)
MARK HOPKINS HOTEL
Hours have passed since Scout began her stake-out in the hotel, but there’s been no sign of Rabenholz. Rhona comes through at one point, talking on the phone while flipping through some documents. Scout tries to examine the papers over her shoulder as she passes, but as she does Rhona stops, tensing. Scout freezes too, then steps back. After another moment, Rhona shudders and moves on, apologizing to the person on the phone as she disappears into the suite.
Just as Scout is getting ready to give up, her phone rings with an unknown number. Still under obfuscate, she answers without saying anything.
“Ms. Scout,” a clipped British voice greets her. “This is Thrace. We have a matter to discuss.”
Scout’s eyes narrow. “Do we,” she replies flatly. “I thought our business has concluded.”
“You have a problem at the moment. Several, as it happens, but one in particular, in relation to the multiple powerful kindred you have just made immense enemies of.”
She leans back against the wall. “That is my natural state of being, in case you hadn’t noticed.”
“Those whose natural states of being involve pissing off every Kindred they encounter do not live long. Or have recent examples not been sufficient for you?”
“If you’re calling to give me a heads up because you are one of said Kindred, then I thank you for the courtesy,” Scout says.
“If I were one of them you would be dead already,” Thrace replies coolly. “I know how to deal with meddling Ravnos.”
“You mean like double-crossing them?”
“You’re not one to speak on such matters.”
“So perhaps we’re even.”
“Perhaps we are.” Thrace takes a slow breath, easing some of the ice from his tone. “I have matters to discuss and they may be of benefit to you or not, the choice is yours.”
Scout rolls her eyes. “What are they?”
“I won’t discuss them over the phone.”
She barks a laugh. “You expect me to show up in person, considering what happened the last time we met?”
“It’s a risk you must decide if you’re willing to take,” Thrace says evenly. “But if you do not show up, then in a very short period of time, I would expect neither of us to still be alive.”
“You mean in the general end-of-the-world sense, or something a little more…intimate?”
“Take your pick.”
Scout falls silent, slouched against the wall, phone cradled against her ear. After a long moment, she takes a breath. “Where would you like to meet?”
“You may choose.”
She frowns, thinking rapidly. “…The plaza in front of City Hall. Public space, and more cameras there than anywhere else in the city.”
“Very well. Half an hour.” Thrace hangs up.
Scout tucks her phone away, glances once more at Rabenholz’s suite door, then leaves.
THE TWILIGHT’S FORTUNE
Anstis arrives in pitch-blackness. By the rumble of the engines, he’s in his submarine, but the light in the teleportation circle compartment is out. Besides the engines, it’s dead silent. He gropes for the lightswitch and flips it.
A dead crewman is staked to the wall in front of him, gutted and half-flayed, mouth open in rictus terror, his organs and intestines literally festooning the cabin.
(Chris: “Better check to if this is a ritual-festooning, or a festive one.”)
Anstis eyes the body dispassionately, but pops his claws. He brushes past the dripping hangings over the door and enters the grim silence of the ship. The dark corridor stretches before him, empty. “Mr. Liam?” he calls as he makes his way through, but there’s no response from the ghoul.
After many minutes of silent searching, Anstis arrives in the conn. Computers and machines hum quietly, one of the screens pings gently, but no crew is in sight. Anstis checks their status. No reports of damage in the ship, depth a thousand feet and holding.
(Jim: “How do subs figure out where they are?”
Jason: “Well, GPS.”
Jim: “Even under the water?”
Jason: “Oh, no, not at depth. That would be sonar mappings. Soundings. Dead-reckoning to a point.”
Jason: “Yeaaah. Everything about submarines is terrifying. Everything.” *pauses* “Everything.”)
As he stands there, the intercom suddenly crackles to life above him. “So Thomas,” Flower’s voice comes out, “Tis a fine ship you have here.”
Ansti glares at the speaker. “Aye, ‘tis.”
Flowers chuckles. “But I’m afraid this ship sank many years ago. It’s time to return her to whence she came.”
Anstis snarls and casts Illuminate the Trail of the Prey. If Flowers is in the ship he must have been in the conn, so his path should show up….
…Nothing appears. The pings of the sonar ring louder in the frustrated silence.
Flowers chuckles again. “Oh Thomas, I know you be looking for me, but I couldn’t take care of it myself. So I asked some friends to have a go. That sound you’re hearing? Is a Russian submarine. Akula-class. And they’ve been told by a man who owes a man who owes a man a favor, that you’re an exercise target. Have fun.” The intercom crackles again and shuts off.
Anstis runs to the sonar screen. A long green shape has appeared just at the edge of the range. The pinging noise echoes again with each sonar sweep, and with each sweep the shape gets closer.
Anstis rushes through the ship, searching every compartment for signs of Flowers. Every room is empty. Finally he reaches the starboard torpedo compartment and tries to open the bulkhead door. It’s wedged shut. He grabs the handle and shoves against it, finally forcing it open—
—And finds the rest of the crew. Every man—ghoul and zombie—has been gutted, dismembered, and tossed in a massive pile, limbs layered and interlocking like gristly wickerwork. Blood drips down, pooling on the deck and filling the room in heady iron stench. Anstis scans the mass before him in shocked silence.
Then begins to growl as he recognizes Liam’s face underneath the gore.
Anstis closes the door and rushes back to the conn. The Russian sub is three kilometers off the starboard bow, closing slowly. Anstis stares around at all the machines around him, thinking….
(Jim: “Okay…I can’t operate the ship alone, can’t do anything useful inside the ship alone…”
Jim: “…But maybe from outside the ship….”
Jason: *face falls* “…I admit, I hadn’t thought of you leaving the ship. But you’re a thousand feet underwater. There’s airlocks, but they may not be intended to work at this depth.”
Chris: “There’s always the torpedo tubes.”
Anstis scrambles back out into the ship, arriving in the forward torpedo room, blessedly free of bodies. He hauls open one of the torpedo tubes and peers inside.
(Jason: “But how will you activate the tube from inside it?”
Jim: “Are there like…timed release mechanisms, or…?”
Jason: “There are, but who knows if you know how to work them.”
Jim: “Well, I give it a try.”
Jason: “Fine, give me an Intelligence + Technology roll, difficulty seven.”
Jim: *rolls* “…FOUR successes! On four dice!!”
Jason: “MOTHERLESS FUCK—”)
Quickly figuring out the interlock controls, Anstis sets the tube for timed release. He closes the tube from outside, then shifts into mist-form to squeeze his way in through the air-valves. Once secured, he shifts back into pirate-form, braces himself, and waits.
A moment later, the tube floods, the far door opens, and a rapid swell of high-pressure water fires him out into the open abyss. He instantly shifts up into octopus, orients himself, and jets off in the direction of the Russian sub.
Sonar pings bounce off his flesh as he undulates deeper into the darkness. Small ripples of concussion wash over him too. Something is approaching. Quickly.
Anstis dissolves into mist-form moments before the torpedo hits. It passes through harmlessly and he shifts back to octopus, continuing his jetting dive toward the other sub—
(Jason: “I got bad news, though. The torpedo had a timed detonator.”)
An explosion rocks the water directly behind him, concussive waves smashing against his flesh, tumbling him through the darkness.
Then everything falls into deeper darkness….
Few figures are out this late in the wide expanse of the plaza in front of City Hall, so Scout spots Thrace rapidly, reading a newspaper on a bench under one of the plaza floodlights. Scout conjures a Doppelganger illusion to approach him while the real her remains obfuscated a few feet away.
Thrace glances up at the illusion, then looks down at his paper. He makes a few notes in a sudoku puzzle. “You can’t imagine everyone fool enough to fall for that,” he mutters.
Scout frowns. “It’s best to keep in practice,” the illusion replies to him.
Thrace closes the newspaper and folds it on his lap. He glares up at the illusion. “It’s also best to approach a neutral meeting on neutral terms. If you do not intend to be neutral then I shall consider the appointment over.”
Scout hesitates. After a moment, still obfuscated, she moves to sit next to Thrace on the bench, then drops the illusion the same time she drops the obfuscate. Thrace turns to eye her real form coolly, then opens the newspaper again. “You’ve made some interesting friends,” he mutters, making another mark in the puzzle grid.
“Well, I was brought here by interesting friends,” Scout replies flatly.
“And your friends have interesting enemies.” He eyes her. “What do you know about a man named Cantor?”
She meets his gaze evenly. “I know he’s of the Black Hand, he’s an Assamite, and has been seen around the city, mostly in the vicinity of St. Ignatius Church.”
“Nothing that I’m willing to simply give away.”
Thrace smiles thinly and turns back to the puzzle. “Cantor is a powerful Black Hand agent. One should always keep tabs on such people.” He makes a few more notes on the paper. Scout catches a glimpse. He’s not writing numbers, he’s writing letters. “And tell me of this pirate I hear so much about,” Thrace continues nonchalantly as he writes.
Scout shrugs. “He’s Gangrel, he apparently runs a submarine, god knows where, but he can reach it via Thaumaturgy. And if that wasn’t weird enough, he’s also a Necromancer.”
Thrace smiles to himself. “He has been busy, hasn’t he. Where did he come by such wonderful power, I wonder. But I guess it is in a pirate’s nature to steal things.” He finishes making another mark and casually tips the paper in her direction. Scout looks at the puzzle.
WE ARE BEING WATCHED.
She tenses as he continues, “I’m here, Ms. Scout, because I wish to discuss a mutual transfer of information. Recent difficulties notwithstanding.”
She nods distractedly, carefully scanning the park around them and the edges of the nearby rooftops. “I see….”
Thrace tilts the paper back and continues writing. “Are you agreeable to such terms?”
“I’m agreeable to listen.”
He nods once. “The situation in the city is more complicated than you realize. Your pirate friend is chasing a phantom.”
“I saw him get dragged into Chinatown by your friend.”
Thrace smirks. “A delaying tactic, nothing more. I doubt it will succeed. But you know what he chases.”
“He’s chasing Flowers.”
“He’s chasing the dead.” Thrace glances at her seriously. “Ghosts and monsters of the deep. Revenge on his own crew, if the stories are correct. But what is your intention with the pirate?”
Scout stares into the distance. “It seems my initial intentions with him are now concluded.”
“Initial intentions are irrelevant in the long run. Does he wish you dead?”
She smiles thinly. “He wishes to meddle in things he doesn’t completely understand.”
“He’s not the only one.” Thrace waits for her to meet his gaze again. “I need information concerning all the major players. Cantor. Sertorius. Everton. All of them. Are you in a position to provide such information?”
Scout regards him silently a moment. “I can do my best, but the game seems to be changing rapidly.”
“It’s worth keeping track of the stages of the game.” He flicks his pen against the sudoku grid. “Things shift abruptly and others may find themselves left by the side of the board. Will you play or observe?”
Her gaze drifts away again. “For now, all I aim for is survival. I’ve never aspired to much more than that.” She falls silently thoughtful a moment, then turns to him. “What about you?”
Thrace smiles, finishing another set of marks on the paper. “I don’t play the game, Ms. Scout. I referee.” He tilts the paper her direction.
Scout reads it, then goes very, very still.
Thrace folds the paper, tucks it under his arm, and stands. “Think on my offer, Ravnos,” he says with a smirk and hint of mocking sneer, before turning and walking away into the dark.
Darkness. Silence. And a deep, deep, fathomless cold. At least it’s not actively trying to devour me this time, but as I float in the nothingness, something nags at the back of my mind. A lingering sense of something in the dark, resenting my presence. Something that may decide to change its mind about devouring me….
Right, okay…. Quickly, I run through everything Marcus has told me about this place: 1) it’s bad, 2) there’s probably monsters, and 3) it’s really, really bad.
The unseen presence takes on shapes in my mind: twisted limbs and crawling tentacles, myriads of them twitching in the dark, aching to reach out and grab me at any moment—
I grope quickly at myself, trying to distract from the images in my mind. All pieces of me are still here, and miraculously Vera is still slung on my hip. Her cold metal feels reassuringly warm in comparison to the empty vacuum around me. My hand bumps against the shape of my phone in my pocket and for a moment, I consider using it as a flashlight.
Then a new image pops to mind: an angler fish, its light luring things from the dark depths of the ocean, prey and…otherwise.
I carefully slide the phone back into my pants.
My mental connection with the darkness suddenly twitches in warning. Something is approaching. I twist awkwardly in the frictionless space, slowly turning myself to face that direction, holding Vera at the ready. She may not even work in here but it’s better than nothi—
Something grabs my shoulder from behind.
My yell is sucked from my throat in the airless void. I writhe and twist again in the nothingness to turn back around. Nothing there but more darkness.
But then, out of the silence, a voice….
“Welcome to the Town,” Jim Jones’ voice whispers from the depths of my mind. “Drinks on the house….”
END OF NIGHT
(Jason: “You didn’t really think I’d set a horror game in San Francisco and skip the opportunity to add Jim Jones and the People’s Temple to the mix?”
Me: “So, ironically, my family has a funny story about the Jonestown Massacre.”
Jason: “…A funny story?”
Me: “Yeah, trust me on this. So, my parents got married the day of the massacre. Like the day of. Mom talks about being on their honeymoon and seeing reports about it all over the news.”
Jason: “Wow, that sucks.”
Me: “Yeah, you’d think, but here’s the thing. Since it was such a Bay Area connected thing, reminders of it pop-up around here every once in awhile, especially on the local news stations. Almost every year, at least one of them will have some special program that’s like, ‘Remembering Jonestown, [X] Years Later,’ and whenever they start running ads for it, my dad will be like, ‘Oh, SHIT!! Our wedding anniversary is coming up!!!’”)
And sometimes the delay-of-game posts works out in my favor. The date of this posting, here in the US, is exactly, November 18th, the 38th anniversary of the Jonestown Massacre. In some ways it feels fitting to honor the memory of those who died by bringing the story out anew to people who may not have heard it before. But in other ways, I can’t help but feel a shiver down my back as I write this, imagining the manic grin of Jim “Jeremiah Flagg” Jones watching me from somewhere beyond the depths of time.
Oh also, happy anniversary mom and dad.