Scout’s Honor, Part 15: Vannevar’s Deal

The following segment fills in a lot of subtext and completes two missing-scenes from the 12/17/15 episode. There’s a lot of characters moving in and around each other’s scenes in this one, so if you haven’t already been doing so, I recommend going back to skim the original episode to get a sense of what Rabenholz and Anstis are doing in order to get the full effect of how Scout fits in with it all. Content warnings still apply.

***

THE PYRAMID

Norton’s words tangle themselves in her mind as Scout rides up the Pyramid elevator. She had been content to write him off after their meeting outside the church, but his continued intensity was starting to unnerve her. Malkavians usually didn’t focus on one subject for so long without good reason.

The elevator dings on the fortieth floor. A ghoul–young, Asian, with frosted-tipped hair that was probably popular the decade he became one–stops her as she steps out. “Can we help you?” he asks, a measured hint of boredom in his voice.

“I’m here to speak with the Priscus,” she says.

The ghoul’s eyes dart across her, barely hiding their flicker of disdain. “The…Priscus…is occupied at the moment,” he says with a slight curl of sneer.

Scout eyes him. His attitude can’t be because of her clothes–coming from someone still rocking his like it’s 1999–so it must be her reputation as a Caitiff.

She smiles thinly. Good. Then it’s working.

“Can you let him know I’ve arrived, then,” she asks politely. The ghoul rolls his eyes and leaves as she sits down to wait. A few minutes later he comes back, gesturing brusquely for her to follow.

Scout enters the office, then stops a few feet inside the door. The pirate is there, just getting up from a chair with his usual smug grin, but the man at the desk isn’t the Priscus. A large black man hunches over folded hands, radiating the coiled strength of a tiger and just as unexpected in this crisp, corporate environment. His gaze pierces through his sunglasses and she stills like a deer under it. Years of Cantor’s warnings, half remembered, suddenly bubble to the surface of her mind.

Theo Bell. The Justicar.

Bell stands slowly, leather creaking, and nods to Anstis. The pirate gets up, grins at her again, and swaggers out, closing the door behind him. She stands a long moment, chin high, instinctively avoiding his gaze, willing herself to be unnoticed, but there’s nowhere to hide in this empty room. He moves away from the chair, leaning nonchalantly against the desk, arms folded, looking her over. She chances a glance. The beast within her writhes in fear, submitting to the greater predator, aching to slink away. But the other half of her, the human half, suddenly stirs in an unbidden echo of the hunger from the night before….

She looks away quickly.

Bell shifts with another groan of leather. “Why do you need to talk to the Priscus?” he finally asks, without introduction or preamble.

Willing herself neutral, she eyes him again. “I’m looking for information.”

“Some particular reason you’re talking to him and not me?”

“It’s very particular information.” She shifts. “Sabbat information.”

“Well good, cause I never deal with the Sabbat at all.” Bell stands and approaches her slowly. “I could make you tell me,” he rumbles. There’s no lust in the statement, just a cool predatory intensity.

Conflicting emotions rise again. She forces them down. “You could. But I’m pretty sure he is the only one who can help me with these issues.”

Bell stops a few feet in front of her, looking her over. She waits, gaze glued to a spot on the wall just beyond his head. He glares, opening his mouth to say something–

–Then whirls as the second, private door to the office swings open, and the Priscus walks in, encased in battered armor streaked with blood. Sertorius walks up and eyes them through a deep gash on his face. Scout instinctively folds into a formal bow. Next to her, she can sense Bell’s irritation rising.

The Priscus hefts his helmet onto the desk. “Justicar. Thank you for for playing the secretary, but I do believe she was asking to speak to me. Would you be so kind as to give us a moment?”

At his words, the temperature in the room drops noticeably. Bell glares at Marcus, turns to her with a clear This conversation isn’t over look, then whirls and stalks out without another word.

Scout stands motionless in the middle of the room until the door closes behind Bell. Part of her breathes a sigh of relief while another part groans in disappointment. What the hell is wrong with me!? she thinks. He’d just as soon kill me as look at me, and that’s even without knowing who I really am.

Him and everyone else in this town, a sly part of her responds. At least he looks good.

Plenty of Sabbat lords look good, she counters.

Yes, but none of them come with a sense of honor.

Not liking where this line of thinking is going, Scout forces her attention back to the next threat in the room, the four-foot Lasombra methusula crossing the carpet. The Priscus moves to the desk, ignoring its overlarge size as he sits in the chair. “So. I imagine you’ve had an interesting couple of nights.”

“That’s one way to put it.”

He eyes her. The gash missed lacerating his eyeball by less than half an inch. For a moment, she wonders if the darkness welling within its depths would have spilled out. “You wanted to talk to me?” he asks.

She shifts, taking a breath. “There seems to be a lot of interest in my sire. People are coming to me for information on him, even though they don’t know my identity.”

“I imagine that’s the way your sire prefers it. Wouldn’t surprise me if figuring out who’s asking about him is half the reason he sent you out.”

She nods slowly, frowning. “I’ve thought that as well.” Little else would explain why she’d been given more freedom than she’d had in almost a decade. “Rabenholz sent me to investigate Cantor for him. As did the Baron of the Sunset.” She hesitates. “I find myself in a position where I have all the information I could possibly need to have them trust me and yet I cannot give it to them without them becoming suspicious.”

The Priscus–Marcus–smirks. “So you come to me publicly, asking for an audience with the one person who might have an excuse to possess that information. Clever.” He sits back in his chair, spreading his hands. “Well if that’s all you need, I’m happy to sit here for a few moments and pretend to tell you whatever you like.” Suddenly, his grin vanishes. “But I suspect you wanted something else.”

She tenses. The sense of being stalked suddenly rises again. “I’m not sure what–”

“I can see it in your face. The frustration when I mention his name, and the pain every time you do.” Marcus leans forward. “You’re Cantor’s bonded slave. That’s not a business easy to overcome. And I would know. It took me nineteen years of constant effort to erode that particular chain to my own sire. And when I did, I endeavoured to kill him.” He tenses. “…And failed. But for the intervention of particularly powerful gods I would not have survived the experience. Have you hopes of repeating that?”

Her bond twists in her gut like a knife. “I have been…working at resisting him for twenty years–”

“And how well has that gone?

She fights a grimace. “A little.”

“There’s a difference between mild defiance and standing before your sire with a sword. I don’t know if you’re capable of that level of hate. Maybe you are.” He smiles grimly. “Your brother wasn’t.”

The pains rising in her chest suddenly ease. “…What was my brother to you?” she asks softly. “My lord,” she adds hurriedly.

He eyes her a moment before answering. “I took your brother as a client. At the time I wasn’t entirely certain why. He had an interesting tale behind him and had attempted to murder me in the most ineffective way I could possibly conceive of.” A smirk flickers across his face like a passing shadow, followed by a sigh. “Perhaps it was curiosity. Or perhaps guidance from gods, I don’t know. The ensuing events were…complicated.”

“If he was a mistake, then why did you keep him?”

Marcus turns toward the window. “He had an opportunity to gain a fair amount from my destruction and did not take it. And that is a quality to be cultivated, I’ve found.” He stares at the night a moment, then turns back, face hard again. “But we are not here to discuss Tom, we are discussing your intentions in this city. Because if your intention is to break your bonds and stab Cantor in the face, then fortune’s blessing with you. You don’t need me to kill yourself.”

“I can’t do anything until I find my brother,” she says firmly.

“I think you’ve already found him.”

“I can’t get to him. Rabenholz doesn’t seem to trust me enough yet.”

“Rabenholz doesn’t trust anyone enough, that’s why he’s still alive.”

Her hands, still folded behind her back, clasp and unclasp. “I need to know how to get either into the Chantry or convince Rabenholz to lead me there.”

“Getting into the Chantry might not be as hard as you think. Something’s happened recently. I don’t quite know what. There seems to be contention over the position of Regent. But then again, what’s new for the Tremere.” Marcus rolls his eyes. “The man currently claiming the title–and the building–is named Vannevar Hughes. But I imagine even he won’t last long. With the turnover, it might be a simple thing for an accomplished spy to find a way into the building.” Marcus smirks. “But getting Tom? That’s going to be very tricky indeed. He’s being held in a mirror realm.”

Scout’s hands still. “What’s that?”

“It’s literally what it sounds like, a piece of Thaumaturgy creating a realm on the other side of a mirror.”

Scout falls silent, fighting back a grimace. As if politics and machinations weren’t enough, now she has Tremere bullshit to navigate as well. “So, what, I need to talk to Alice?”

“No, you need to be Alice.”

She smirks briefly. “Well I am naturally blonde. And I’ve already fallen down the rabbit hole.”

“Really, you think you’ve fallen down the rabbit hole? Take care, or one day you’ll see just how far it goes.” Marcus folds his hands on the desk in a strange mimicry of Bell. “Cantor knows about Tom, correct?”

Her stomach grinds. “Yes.”

“Surely has occurred to you Cantor may be intending for you to retrieve for him another servant. Maybe he wants the full Lytton set.” He sighs. “I don’t know why Cantor embraced you. But even amongst the more depraved Kindred I’ve known it’s very unusual to embrace from within the same family. Unless you’re Giovanni.”

She looks away. The same conundrum had plagued her for years. “I wouldn’t know. Tom left almost a year before Cantor…took me away. I didn’t even know Tom was still alive until a couple years ago.”

Marcus cocks his head, examining her thoughtfully. “How long has it been since you’ve seen Tom, in person?”

She’s silent a long moment, staring at the carved wood accents on the walls as if trying to memorize them. “Since the night he left,” she finally says, softly. “In ‘83.”

“Yes, in your calendar that would be some time.” Marcus sighs. “I cannot destroy Cantor for you. I will not. Whether or not he considers himself currently in the Black Hand, he still has ties to them, and the wrath that would call down upon everyone in this city is indescribable. The only man that doesn’t fear to strike at Cantor in this city is Bell. And Bell has better things to strike at.” For a moment, he smirks again. “You need a patron, and I’m not in a position to be yours.”

Something within her twitches and it takes a moment for her to place it: her blood bond, tied to the memories of all it had made her do. “I’m not looking to bind myself to someone else,” she says firmly.

“Good. Then you realize it can get worse. And it can. But if you want to retrieve Tom and you want to do it without anyone realizing what you actually are, you’re going to need support from someone willing to assist. And you’re going to need a thaumaturgist.”

Scout continues to stare off, emotions roiling, unable to decide on just one. This is too much, part of her whispers. You and Tom are lost in a city of monsters, most of which might eat you and one in particular who definitely will. You’re a meager killer for hire with a few tricks you barely understand. What can you do against all this? You’re just some stupid girl.

In the silence that follows, Marcus suddenly clears his throat and continues. “Now, I cannot handle the full weight of patronage, but…I may be willing to offer some support.”

She nods automatically, till the words sink in. “…Why?” she asks carefully. Why would a Priscus of the Sabbat help her?

Marcus meets her gaze. “Because Tom had the option to sell me to the Assamite clan for a great deal of money and no consequences. He did not do that. That’s not something I easily forget.”

A long silence falls. For a brief moment, tears prick like acid. Goddamit, Tom. So easy for you to be the hero when it’s unexpected, yet so hard for you to do so when it counts.

Marcus breaks the silence as he continues, “There is someone you might speak to. I don’t know how to contact him directly, but his name is Holliday. He resides near the great mountain to the south. He knew Tom to some extent, and he knows others of his own clan. I wouldn’t make too many inquiries as to who he is or where he came from, but he is a particular figure and he does know something of how he may help. His sort have had that ability in the past. One of them helped me a very, very long time ago.” He smiles sadly. “As to Cantor himself, this can only end one way.”

“I have assurances that my relationship with him will only end one way,” she says with forced nonchalance.”

“And what way is that?”

She bares her teeth in an approximation of a smile. “Let’s just say my gift of illusions is promised to be more of a loan.”

Marcus steeples his fingers. “Well. If you are serious about what you seek, then someone has to die. Do you have the fortitude to ensure it isn’t you? And frankly, if necessary, do you have the fortitude to ensure that, if necessary, it is?”

Once again, Scout falls still. Her gaze drops to the floor. “I met an Assamite yesterday night. A real Assamite. She called herself Fatima.”

Marcus laughs lightly. “Oh, yes. I know her. Or, I know her sire, to be precise. I only met her once.”

“She’s looking to kill Cantor, but she said she’s not up to the challenge of taking him herself. She insinuated that the best way to get to Cantor was through me.” Scout shifts again. “Via using me to…level up.”

“Levelling up,” he repeats. “Quaint term for a non-quaint practice. But then you know that.”

She meets his gaze. “For a brief moment, I considered it.”

The room falls silent again. Even the shadows are still. Marcus watches her a long moment, face unreadable. She doesn’t look away. Finally, he nods and continues. “Fatima is well outside her league and she knows it. She’s trying to find a way to tackle a target that’s well beyond her. What she should be doing is fleeing to Alamut and calling a series of hunters so terrifying they’d clean this city out. But she’s either greedy, or she’s afraid some other force will intervene before help can arrive.”

He sighs and fiddles briefly with a pen on the desk before tossing it to the side. “If I remonstrate with Cantor to lighten your leash it will only make him suspicious. If I threaten him he will laugh in my face, and if I try to kill him I might lose. But.” He eyes her. “If I report to him that you are serving my interests properly, and you report to him that you have positioned yourself well to spy upon the terrible priscus that rules from the Pyramid, then you might well find yourself with an opportunity. And that will have to suffice.”

Her fear mutates swiftly into anger, withering her stoicism like a flame. Anger at the pity in his voice, at knowing what Cantor is like yet refusing to do anything about it, anger at being so close to Tom and yet still so powerless. Her hands twitch, reaching for the knife so close at hand–

The shadows suddenly swell without so much as a flinch from him. “I have a great many things that I am capable of, Ms. Lytton,” he says firmly. “But I am not a god.”

Carefully motionless, Scout eyes the fragments of Abyss climbing up the walls. She doesn’t say anything.

“And right now,” Marcus continues, “I think you need several.”

She takes a slow breath, then, finally, bows graciously. Just as Cantor trained her to do in the face of greater power.

Marcus nods tersely and gestures dismissively toward the door. She leaves without a word, barely flinching when opening the door reveals Anstis lurking suspiciously close on the other side. He grins and slides past her, stopping in surprise as he sees Marcus in the room instead of Bell, then quickly recovers with a bow of his own.  

Marcus rolls his eyes. “Captain. What can I do for you?”

“That depends on a great many things,” the pirate growls. “You are…looking prepared tonight.”

Rapidly out of the fucks necessary to stand there and listen to Anstis’s eccentricities, Scout turns to leave.

“I had a date with Settites,” Marcus grumbles. “The Settites and I have a difference in opinion on a great many subjects.”

Scout stops a few feet from the door. With all the concern about Tom and Cantor and she almost forgot. “I met some Settites earlier this evening.”

Marcus goes still and turns toward her. “…What?” he hisses.

“They were at Fort Funston.”

Now Anstis turns turns. “What?!

“What were they doing in Fort Funston?” Marcus barks.

She suppresses a smirk as she eyes their identical expressions. “They were searching the tunnels.”

“How many of them?” Anstis presses.

“Eight or so, lead by a dark-skinned woman. They called her Nitocris.”

Nitocris is there?!” Anstis and Marcus both yell at the same time.

“She was. I fought her, but she turned into snakes and disappeared.”

Marcus steps closer, eyeing Scout carefully. “You fought Nitocris?”

Scout stares back coolly. “Just in defense.”

Marcus looks her over, standing calm and uninjured in the doorway. Slowly, he reaches up a hand to touch the gash across his face. “…Well. You see, Captain, that’s why you never turn your back on Caitiff.” He turns and stalks to the desk. “I don’t have any idea what they could have been doing out there, but then again, I don’t have any assets in those tunnels, do I?” He casts a look over his shoulder at Anstis.

Anstis glares back then turns to Scout. “Do you think they’re still there?” Anstis asks.

“I can’t predict their movements, but yes, it’s possible they are.”

Anstis turns to Marcus. “Would you care to pay a visit?”

Marcus hesitates, then smiles grimly. “Why Captain, are you asking me to slaughter your enemies for you?”

Anstis grins back smoothly. “I’m asking you to slaughter your enemies.”

“How convenient.” Marcus turns back to Scout, still standing at attention in the doorway. “How did you survive the encounter?”

“Quite well,” she says flatly.

Marcus looks her over again. “Against nine Settites lead by a warleader?”

“I was only attacking one at the time. The others were lost in the tunnels, and I took one down before I met her.”

A long silence follows. “It seems you have some skill,” Anstis admits finally.

Scout eyes him quietly a moment. “Sometimes I do more than just stand quietly and listen.”

Marcus smirks grimly and turns back to the pirate. “To answer your question, Captain, if you are going to investigate the tunnels, I would in fact like a word with Nitocris.”

Anstis bows. “I can get us there rapidly. This way.” Anstis leads Marcus out of the office with barely another glance to her.

Scout lingers behind in the antechamber as they disappear down the hall. Free of the presence of other vampires for the moment, she relaxes and runs over everything the Priscus told her. To get to Tom, trapped in this mirror realm, she needs a Thaumaturgist, but Johnson is out of the question. It’s unlikely she would recognize Scout from the contracted attempts on her life, but at this point, any risk was too much.

Scout paces the room in frustration. No, her best bet to get to Tom still lies in ingratiating herself to the man who put him there.  Still pacing, she pulls out her phone to call Rabenholz.

“Ms. Scout,” he greets her.

“Herr–I mean, Lord Rabenholz. I have collected some information on the topics which you requested, if you would like to meet.”

“Excellent. Where are you now?”

“I’m at the Pyramid, I just finished meeting with the Pr–with Marcus.”

“…Intriguing. I am on my way there now. Why don’t you wait and I will meet you shortly?”

“I shall.” She hangs up and sits stiffly in a chair in the empty hall.

#

Minutes pass, then almost half an hour. Ghouls and a few other vampires pass by, but none pay her mind. She glances up each time a dark figure approaches, both fearing and hoping it might be Bell, but the Justicar doesn’t return. After awhile she pulls out her knife and slowly runs her thumb along the symbol edged into the blade. Whorls and lines chase each other in a tight knot somewhere between Celtic braids and cuneiform, but in all her years of staring at it she’s never determined what culture it it’s supposed to be from.

But then again, it doesn’t matter. Anyone who knows enough about Cantor knows his personal symbol, and anyone who doesn’t recognize it isn’t someone to be feared. Cantor uses the sigil to mark his work, and his property. Many times when she had still been alive, he had spent hours carving it into her skin in excruciating detail, only to lick the lines closed and begin again….

She jerks as her phone suddenly buzzes. It’s Rabenholz. She tucks the knife away and answers. “Yes?”

“Hello,” Rabenholz says, “I’m afraid I may be delayed. I wonder if you’d be so good as to check the lobby and see if there are any angry-looking men there?”

Scout stares down the empty hall a moment in confusion, then stands. “…Stand by.” Just then, the ghoul with the frosted-tip hair bustles out of a doorway. She grabs his arm. “Is there a security room?”

The ghoul eyes her hand distastefully a moment, then jerks his head and leads her down the hall to a room filled with security feeds, currently unmanned. He shows her how to flip between the different camera angles and steps back as she takes over the chair. She scans between feeds until she finds one focused on the lobby.

The wide, marble-lined space is mostly empty. A couple security guards are huddled behind the desk, looking down and discussing something. Neither of them seem to have taken notice of the man lurking on the far side of the lobby, clearly trying to be unobtrusive. An older man in a crisp suit, with white hair.  

Watching the man suspiciously, Scout unmutes her phone. “Lord Rabenholz?”

“Yes?”

“There’s one man in the lobby, but he seems to be alone. An older man in a business suit with white hair.”

There’s a pause. “Please hold a moment.” The call muffles.

The ghoul sighs dramatically behind her. “If there’s nothing else–”

“Just a moment,” she mutters, tabbing through more feeds. “Lord Rabenholz may need assistance.” At the Ventrue’s name, the ghoul suddenly perks up. She ignores him, focused on the screens. Finally, she finds a camera showing Rabenholz in a barren hallway. Dr. Everton is there as well, standing next to him. Everton has his sword bared and both men are backing away from the elevator.

Her fingers drum against her knife. On the one hand, getting more involved in Rabenholz’s business was unquestionably risky. But on the other hand, if she were to swoop in and save his life….

She turns to the ghoul lurking behind her. “Do you have any spare blood on hand?”

He stares. “Um, certainly–”

“Can I have some please.” She glances again at the monitors. “Now–”

Scout freezes as activity suddenly explodes across the screen. Pale arms reach from the solid walls, grabbing and tearing at Rabenholz and Everton. “What floor is this!?” she yells, jabbing at the screen.

The ghoul leans in to peer at the code in the corner. “Thats…floor thirty-three, a few flights down–”

Scout grabs the ghoul forcefully, ignoring his pleasurable gasp as she bites in, and trying to ignore the fact that he barely resisted before she did. She takes only a few quick pulls before closing the wound and lowering him unconscious to the floor, then grips her knife and runs for the stairs.

Distant roars echo along with her footsteps as she pounds down the stairwell, getting louder as she approaches. Finally, she reaches the thirty-third floor and, knife at the ready, throws the door open–

–Searing heat and light and a roaring cacophony greet her, pouring over the threshold into the stairwell–

–She throws the door closed. Scout stands frozen a moment, fighting through panic to retain control of herself. Okay…plan B…. She turns and runs back up the stairs.

The fortieth floor is strangely quiet as she bolts back to the security room. The ghoul is still unconscious on the floor as she jogs to the monitors and searches for Rabenholz. Flames and dark writhing monsters fill the feed, obscuring any sign of him or Everton. But there’s still no alarms. She gropes for a fire alarm on the wall and pulls it.

Scout watches on the monitors as sprinklers finally kick in, melting the flames and driving back the dark shapes to wherever they came from. Movement flurries in the lobby as the elevators and stairwell start belching evacuated people. She scans the crowd futilely for signs of Rabenholz, then tabs through other feeds in the building. Finally she finds him climbing out of the elevator shaft on a lower floor, holding a lightsaber-bright sword.

She sighs and rests her forehead against the screen. You can’t die yet, asshole. I still need you. After a moment, she pulls out her phone to call him, watching the image of him answer on the monitor.  “Lord Rabenholz? Are you okay?”

“I’m fine.” He places the sword onto the floor and pulls the elevator doors closed behind him. “I believe someone arranged a trap for Dr. Everton that I somehow managed to stumble into. Tell me, that man you saw in the lobby, is he still there?”

She checks the other monitor. The white-haired man from before is lurking amongst the crowd, moving toward the door. “Yes, he’s just leaving.”

“Scout, note this number,” Rabenholz rattles off a phone number. “That man is Vannevar Hughes, Regent of the Tremere, and this is his phone number. Inform him Mr. Bell is not pleased with his theatrics and demands an audience with him immediately. Tell him to come alone, and use the stairway for his troubles.”

She falls still. “…Okay.”

“Call me back afterwards.” Rabenholz hangs up.

She hesitates a moment, then shifts her attention to the lobby-feed and dials the number. On the screen, the white-haired man stops near the doors and pulls out his phone. “Who is this?” an even voice answers.

“Mr. Vannevar Hughes?”

The man glances around the lobby. “Who is this?!”

“I am calling from the fortieth floor. Mr. Bell is here and is not impressed with your theatrics. He wishes to speak–”

Vannevar hangs up. He shoves his phone away and rushes out the front door. She watches a long moment, then calls Rabenholz back. “Is he on his way up?” Rabenholz asks.

“He’s leaving the building. Rapidly.”

There’s a low sigh. “Can you see which car he came in?”

She tabs through the feeds till she finds external cameras. Vannevar is walking quickly down the sidewalk toward an alley next to the building. The feed sputters a moment in snow. When the signal returns, he’s gone.

“He’s disappeared,” she reports.

A low mutter, almost a grumble, then Rabenholz hangs up.

Scout stands in silence a few moments, alone in the room with the unconscious ghoul on the floor, watching the various feeds on the monitors. Bell has appeared in the lobby, talking to the firemen just arriving and clearly trying to regain control of the crowd. Part of her twitches at the sight of him, but she ignores it, just like she ignores the warm prey breathing at her feet. Finally, decision reached, she lifts her phone and scrolls through the call-log to make another call.

She re-dials Vannevar Hughes.

A few rings pass. Then, a click. “…Who is this?”

“Mr. Hughes,” she replies coolly, “I’m sorry our last conversation was rather abrupt. It wasn’t my choice to be so rude with you. Obviously you are someone deserving of much more respect.”

“You need to cut to the chase and you need to do it quickly.”

She takes a breath. “Why do you need Augustus von Rabenholz?”

“Because Augustus von Rabenholz attempted to have me killed.”

“Would you like Herr Rabenholz?”

Hughes falls silent a moment. “…Who am I discussing this with?”

“My name isn’t important at this time.”

“Then how do I know you have the ability to deliver Augustus von Rabenholz?”

Now Scout falls silent. Her hand falls to her knife, once again tracing the pattern along the blade. “Because I work for a man named Cantor,” she says finally.

A long silence falls. “…I’m listening.”

Her adrenaline surges. She paces the room to calm herself, carefully stepping over the ghoul on the floor. “There is something in the basement of the Chantry that used to belong to Rabenholz. Something I need access to.”

“…You need a mirror.”

Adrenaline surges again. “I do.”

“What’s in the mirror?”

“That’s not important.”

“Oh, I think it is.”

She forces a dismissive laugh. “Well, I could certainly find other ways into the Chantry to get it, ways which might move through you–”

“Fine, fine,” Hughes relents. “You want me to give you this mirror without knowing what’s in it? I want Augustus von Rabenholz and Georgia Johnson. I want them delivered, dead or in such a state as to pose no threat.”

Scout paces in silence a moment, mind racing. “Getting both to you at once might be tricky, and separately might be too risky. I could arrange for them to be at a location which you and your forces could also be at.”

“…Alright,” Vannevar agrees after a moment. “If this is a trap, I will find out who you are and send you care packaged directly to Vienna. You will end your days a gargoyle. Do you understand me?”

Scout smirks grimly. “It would feel strange to not work under such pressure.”

“How do I know you actually work for Cantor?”

She stops. If she can’t show him the knife, then there’s only one way. “Would you like to speak with him directly?”

A pause. “Yes.”

“Hold please.” She mutes the call and stands in silence a moment, considering ways to keep the true purpose of her actions hidden. Finally, hand shaking, she dials the only number saved in the speed-dial list on her phone, ironically labelled “Favorites.”

“…Yes, my child,” Cantor answers in a smooth voice.

A new shudder passes through her, strong enough to tremble her whole arm. “The new Tremere Regent seems interested in contracting my services,” she says with forced nonchalance. “I think he may be a useful person to have in our association, but he needs–”

“You revealed your identity to him.”

Ice plunges through her. “…Not my immediate identity, no. Just my associations. He wants to know that I’m able to deliver on my promises.”

“You have never taken contracts of your own before.”

“No. I thought…with you occupied with your plans….”

She trails off, letting the deadly silence linger on the line. “You wish for me to vouch for you,” Cantor says finally. “If I do, and you disappoint me, you will bring shame onto my name. And then I will be displeased.”

She nods once. “I understand.”

“Let me speak with him.”

She connects the two calls using an app but is instantly cut off the line. She paces again, adrenaline pulsing like the ghost of a heartbeat. Finally, a call-waiting beep echoes from her phone, from Vannevar Hughes. She accepts it.

“…I understand,” he says, his voice quavering slightly. “Make the arrangements. And if you can deliver them to me, the mirror is yours. Along with everything in it.”

She slouches in relief against the desk. “Will you be able to access Rabenholz’s enchantments on the mirror?”

“I can break them. Not easily, but I can. Deliver me my targets and I’ll throw that in for free. As a mark of respect for your…master.” His voice chokes again another moment, then hardens. “This conversation never happened.”

“Indeed not.” Scout hangs up and turns back to the monitors. Rabenholz is flicking from feed to feed as he slowly climbs the stairwell. Ghouls rush down to meet him partway, but he brushes their assistance aside as he climbs.

Scout watches him a long moment, then, lit by the wan light of the screens, slowly smiles.

***

Additional Comments:

Okay, so two things I wanted to address briefly. First, I came up with the idea of the Scout-Also-Has-A-Crush-On-Bell sub-plot cause I thought it would be hilariously awkward if she and Tom both realize they’re crushing on the same guy. Hasn’t happened yet in-game but hopefully we can still squeeze it in at some point so I’ve kept it here.

Secondly, this episode ended up being a major turning point for my whole Scout arc. Until this point I was kind of flailing with no concrete plan, following Chris and Jim’s characters around, the latter of whom wasn’t doing anything useful and the former being overly cautious around Scout, as he was instinctively suspicious I was up to something. Which is fair. But from the moment Chris unwittingly handed me Vannevar’s phone number, I knew what I had to do, and everything that would come after began cascading into place.

Even though at this point I wasn’t sure what would happen next, the the significance of the decision was apparent immediately. As soon as the scene of Vannevar’s attack ended, I told Jason I needed to make a secret phone-call. We went off-screen to a back room, and it went down pretty much exactly like this:

Jason: *closes the door* “Alright, so you make a phone call?”
Me: “Yep.”
Jason: “Who are you calling?”
Me: “Vannevar Hughes.”
Jason: *silence, stares, then his face splits in a grin both astounded and terrified* “…Oh…oh my god….”
Me:
evil-grin-gif-3

END OF ADDENDUM

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3 Responses to Scout’s Honor, Part 15: Vannevar’s Deal

  1. pulseofnight says:

    See, Scout and ‘Caitiff’ like that are the reason why you always treat even seemingly inferior Cainites with respect.

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