Ultimate New York By Night

Buchanan's Journal #3
If...

What a near disaster of a day.

First, another visit to the Nosferatu warren turned into a macho-fest between Twat and my companions. Still, Albert did manage to get some kind of deal out of them, I think. He says he didn’t but later said some things too close to the deal they offered me last time for comfort. Best I don’t know, probably.

Then, my retainer Edgar tells us that the Ventrue Primogen, Viennatti, is to be indicted on various financial charges and thus his promises to fund both Albert’s research and the Carnegie Elysium are worthless. But that doesn’t matter because the Carnegie won’t have us at any price unless the booking comes via Wallace Whittig.

And finally, a visit to the Toreador “palace” leads us – well, Albert really, he did very well and all kudos to him – to promise Milan Foster-Whittig the position of Keeper if she’ll convince her old man to not only fund the Elysium but get Carnegie to agree to the booking.

By half-way through the night I was in an unaccustomed funk, almost ready to go watch a sunrise, in outrage at the way Fate had played with my most valued plans. My worst performance to date and one that certainly shook my confidence – and the confidence of my companions in me.

What’s that verse from Kipling, the poem that Sir Edward swore was always his guide and should be mine too? Ah yes:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

So…

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A Night of SpYttE-ful Deeds

“Slowly changing! I would love to beat the face of any motherf*cker who thinks they are going to change me!” -Mudvayne “Dig”

This song had been running through my mind through that whole night. A bit out of my usual zone of musical preference, but I like to think of it as my driving thought process of that night. I was in less of a mood to scar the people with my words, and more with my nails, teeth, and fists.

In hindsight, I pity Buchannan even more than I had that night. Then, I believe I was really acting like my old mortal self, drunk and caustic. It must have been that goth-blonde I had found a while before I had shown up. She didn’t taste sober, which excited me to no end. I know at least part of it was alcohol and maybe some illegal substance or another, but that was all I needed to get that old feeling back.

Our first trip led us back to those Nos-f*ckers, and I made sure to hint left and right that I was not just going to sit and watch their games. Twat didn’t like that very much. We didn’t gain sh*t from that, but we’re far from finished with those pricks.

Our next trip proved fruitless, but I did get some recognition for BloodRape, which really made my night. That show I had done the night before really bumped Stripped Cog Nightmare to some limelight. Buchannan, on the other hand, was not a very happy camper. Turns out, none of his deals were working out, and he was on the brink of losing all that he was working for. Or something like that. Don’t remember that very well. I just remember having offered to break some knee caps. People tend to be much more cooperative when they don’t have knees to help them stand in firm defiance, so I thought that would be of enough comfort to turn his fanged frown upside down. It really wasn’t.

Our last stop was to the Toreador palace. Nice place with soft company, I didn’t fit in well. While they were discussing issues with Mulan, or whatever the f*ck her name was, I couldn’t concentrate. Just before entering her chamber, the receptionist and a few loiterers recognized me from the show from last night. I was flattered, but I was even more preoccupied with the next demo or even if a major label would begin courting us. That would be a life’s (And unlife’s) ambition realized for me. I wondered if the Masquerade would allow it.

I came up with a title (Hookers and Blood) before we had to leave. I was glad to get on the move. I had plans and ideas. I knew that Buchannan probably needed a good couple of days sleep to get over this issue. All I knew was good shit for me and hard shit for us seemed to be on its way.

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False Fears Hide True Dangers

False Fears Hide True Dangers

::Ring Ring::

Albrecht: Hello, who is this?

Milan: Sorry to disturb you again so soon after you’ve left, but I talked to daddy – we had a fight. He said he will do it, but I’m scared. I think he might look for me again. Christophe is going to be really really mad.

Albrecht: Is Christophe there yet?

Milan: No, he called right as you left but he is running a little late. What should I do?

Albrecht: Christophe has been pressured with blood hunts on his childe before, you need to leave now and tell no one. I will send my ghoul Rutgar to meet you behind city hall – near the Brooklyn Bridge.

Milan: ::Sob:: Wh-why is this happening. I just wanted to be the Keeper.

Albrecht: ::shuuu shuuu:: It’s ok child. I’ll keep you safe – you have aided us at great risk to yourself – I should have foreseen it. You will be Keeper, but first I must ensure your safety.

Milan: ::silence:: Ok – I’m coming, but I’m scared.

Albretch: I know, it’s ok everything will be fine and I’ll see you soon. ::click:: Rutgar we must act quickly – go and pick up the the Rose Milan and be delicate. She must not know she is a prisoner – she is our guest but a captive guest. Start up the car and wait for me outside.

Rutgar: ::Nods:: Yes master. ::Hurried foot steps and the rattling and clanking of the door can be heard from below::

Albrecht: ::Making his way quickly for the Sprinter, Al’s foot falls are filled with grim purpose:: Rutgar drop me off by Buchanan’s apartment – take the Williamsburg bridge.

::It is not long before Al is walking along the brightly lit paths of the Syndicate’s grounds – making no effort to be unseen as he approaches the doors::

Albrecht: ::Knock Knockthe door swings open:: Greetings brothers, I was wondering if the Praxis might enlighten me, I would like to know how I am to serve.

::The Foustian’s continue to scurry about without sparing Al the briefest glance – busy at some unknown task. Albrecht steps inside and sits in the lobby patiently playing with his mask as he waits – checking every bit of its surface for the brush of decay. He finally stands and makes his way towards the doors of the Praxis. Foustian’s continue to attend their business like a swarm of wingless bees, yet one moves to stand in the way – shaking his head::

Albrecht: Suppose I am not wanted here now. Let the Praxis know I payed a visit.

::As Albrecht makes his way home a breath before dawn, he makes a single call. Rutgar would be very busy today::

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Buchanan's Journal #2
Deals and Developments

Three interesting developments, maybe four, to keep track of.

1) Our new comrade, Arturo of the Giovanni Clan. Talks like someone out of a Hollywood mafia flick but obviously a hard man, a “button man” as he puts it. He says his family is ready to help against George Snr and the Sabbat and he’s just the first installment, but it has to be kept “on the low down”. Such quaint colloquialisms. A bit of a rough type: carries a gun to meetings in public places and yet is paranoid about being followed or observed (mind you, who isn’t these days).

N.B. Be more circumspect about the Giovanni’s involvement. (Perhaps already blown this.)

2) Albrecht kidnapped a Pentex security guard and had him neatly trussed up in his basement. Bit of a surprise. More so when he and Arturo set to torturing the poor wight. I couldn’t stomach it, I confess – so I made an excuse about deniability being politically expedient and went back upstairs. At least the guard confirmed where we might find Cassandra Finch, key to the Gangrel – although Al needn‘t have bothered. Still, the bit about political deniability is still true. We might need to know stuff by methods I don’t need to know about.

N.B. make a point of letting Al know that he’s trusted and that if he sees something needing done he should just go ahead and do it without my needing to be in the loop. If it’s something he shouldn’t really be doing or I shouldn’t really know about, he’ll just have to not get caught at it.

3) Edgar says he has a spot of trouble but was unable to tell me what it was. Not good enough. He cut me off to have dinner.

N.B. Get a hold of Edgar, find out what’s going on, remind him sternly of his responsibilities and duties.

4) Met with the Toreador leader Cristophe. He tried a first blood bond by the hoary old “blood in wine” gambit, so I made sure mine got added too. Let it work both ways – I’ve nothing against loyalty being strengthened a bit as long as the strengthening helps me as well as the other party. Probably slipped by mentioning the Toreador to him, but we’ll see. He may actually mean his promises. He also told us everything we’d got from the pentex guard. Al was peeved at what he saw as wasted effort – i saw it as useful to have confirmation. Had a bit of a clash of wills but I’m confident I gave a decent account there, even if he and I almost came to blows. He has to know I intend being the leader, the dominant, even if title and power would suggest otherwise. You have to want it enough and it’s clear Cristophe doesn’t – more concerned with protecting his own Clan’s illegal get and making treaties with the Sabbat than being a Camarilla team player. Sir Edward would have him executed “pour encourage les autres”, but I’ve no such privilege yet.

Still, we’ve a deal: his backing for my future progress if when I get there I’ll give the Toreador the Elder of Manhattan chair, Account his strays and he gets prime choice of Elysium notables. Since they’d be the best I can see so far for both jobs I agreed. He only gets them if he backs me and I succeed though, so there would be no reason I can see (as yet) not to grant those boons as long as he’s loyal. Loyalty must be the reward for loyalty and first come, first served. The deal’s probably more dangerous for him than I at this stage. I’d just get killed if it were public. He’d likely see his whole NYC Clan go down before they let him die.

N.B. I need to test this deal. So set up a way to do a favor for the Toreador and then ask for a slightly larger one in return.

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A Conversation With London
Buchanan makes his report to Sir Edward Stafford

:: The strains of Elgar‘s “Pomp and Circumstance” come from Buchanan’s Sat-Phone. Recognising the pre-programmed ring-tone, he answers and waits for the hiss of an encrypted connection to cease::

Buchanan: Sire, your servant Buchanan here.

Sir Edward Stafford: Buchanan, dear boy. Report.

Buchanan: Sire, I am now Accounted by the Praxis and have made contact with the Primogen here. He is a shame to our Clan, to be honest – utterly indifferent to anything but his business dealings with the kine and his own pleasures. However, his lieutenant is most able and very helpful. I’ve been able to include the Primogen, through his good offices, in a new company I’ve set up and he has funded it with $1 million, sufficient for the present. I’ll have Edgar send you the details, in case you wish to acquire a stake yourself.

Sir Edward: That was well done, boy, and I’ll mention it to others. Getting Viennatti enmeshed in a Clan-controlled venture may well come in handy in the future. And it’s good to hear confirmation of my intelligence that McManus is the real controlling hand. The boy could go further than his Primogen, I believe, if he’d just return fully to the fold. But what of the Praxis. Is it as bad as I’ve heard?

Buchanan: Worse, my Lord. The Praxis seemed to me not entirely focused on the here and now, veering off at tangents of its own devising. The Nosferatu had asked us – my companion Albert Rosenkreuz and myself – to stage an Elysium Event to prove the Camarilla was no spent force in the City and had shaken on an agreement to turn out in force. It certainly seemed a good rallying point and we convinced McManus, who got Viennatti to fund the thing. We’d tentatively earmarked Carnegie Hall as a venue but when I asked the Praxis about the idea it became almost apoplectic, thundering that no such event was to ever be authorized. Yet, more worrying still, Priscis Dixby told us afterwards to keep planning the Elysium, and that he’d make sure the Prince went along in time. It’s almost as if the Prince isn’t…

Sir Edward: …Now, boy. Enough. Didn’t I tell you that the situation across the pond was highly confused and you’d have to tread carefully? That tendency of yours to attempt running before you can walk will be the end of you if you’re not careful. Take your time, develop your knowledge of all the players, then act. Festina Lente, young man, Festina Lente.

Buchanan: ::Chastised:: I hear and obey, my Lord.

Sir Edward: And enough of that pouty-lipped nonsense too! You’ll have explored the stance of the other Clans too, I expect? I’ve only heard about Ventrue and Nosferatu so far.

Buchanan: Well, Sire, there I’ve hit a bit of a stone wall. The Toreador Primogen has heartily backed the event but the Brujah will only turn out if the Gangrel do – and the Gangrel are nowhere to be found.

Sir Edward: Come now. The Toreador are gossips – use them to hurt the Sabbat that way boy. Use the weapons you have. If you pull off the Elysium you’ll have use for them then too. Make some of them Harpies and let them loose. But what did I tell you about the Gangrel? They’ll hide in plain sight but in the last place anyone would expect. Like Zulus in the veldt, the buggers will pop up when you least expect it. Just be careful you don’t end up singing “Men of Harlech” when they do. Get some muscle, boy, and stand alongside it!

Buchanan: In that respect I have some good news, Sire. The Brujah gave us one of their own for our little Coterie, an individual named SpYttE.

Sir Edward: Good-oh. What do you deduce from this, boy? Come on, use your brain.

Buchanan: That the Brujah already support the idea of an Elysium, Sire, and getting the Gangrel involved is more in the way of a test…

Sir Edward: …Spot on! But it’s one you still have to ace, young chap, because…?

Buchanan: Sire, because the point of the Elysium is to show a unity that hasn’t been there before and thus strengthen our apparent bargaining position even if we’ve little behind it.

Sir Edward: ::chuckles:: Well done. You can win a rubber with no trumps at all if you have the brass for it, son. Remember that. Now, tell me about the Nosferatu.

Buchanan: They’re strong, Sire, far stronger than I imagined. I’ve been in their lair and there’s dozens and dozens, all behind some fearsome fortifications – they’re deathly afraid of something, Albert says.

Sir Edward: Yes they are. And don’t you go meddling or looking for that particular bit o’ trouble, ye hear?

Buchanan: And I’m afraid I lost my temper a bit, Sire. The Nosferatu liason, name of Twat would you believe, froze Albert and SpYttE out of our last meeting. Albert being one of them took it badly and when I emerged from their lair I found him torturing some poor stray dog. I reacted quite angrily.

Sir Edward: How’d this Albert take it?

Buchanan: He seemed quite chastened, Sire. He’s a good fellow really.

Sir Edward: That’s m’boy. Show them you’re the leader and they’ll follow. But never, ever abuse it. We’ve seen too much of that sort of thing and it’s ended where you are now. So what are your plans?

Buchanan: well, Sire, we’ve been told by three separate sources to look up one woman, a Cassandra Finch. Apparently she’s a scientist and our route into the Gangrel. But we’ve only a vague idea where to find her.

Sir Edward: Use the Nosferatu and the Roses, m’boy. Between them they’ll know where she is. They also know about some treaty or other with the Sabbat. Find out about that.

Buchanan: Yes, my Lord. I need to speak to the Toreador Primogen, Cristophe, about other matters too. I still need to get some notion of the Sabbat’s stomping grounds and he’s our liason while the rest of the power players in the local Camarilla are out of town on some hush-hush mission. But I don’t think the Nos will tell me anything – last time, they wanted to trade a Toreador for information, as part of some old feud. I wouldn’t do it, of course.

Sir Edward: Pish-posh, lad. Another test! You’re going to have to get up before the sun goes down if you want to catch the early worm. Now mark my words, you hear me? No rushing things or you’ll feel the flat of my hand.

::click::

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Meeting the Nos and Learning of Terrors.
A Selection from "Albrecht's Reflections"

Rutgar ::Bam Bam:: its me again – let me in. Quickly.

Master ::quickly glancing over the dirtied and distressed form before him before casting his eyes downward:: what happened tonight?

It is on little matter Rutgar, just quiet for a moment and close that door quickly. I will be going below – let no one enter, be it Buchanan or the Praxis or Cain himself. We will talk of this on our next rising.

::Albrecht quickly opens the inner sanctum and rushes below – the solid steel doors closing slowing after his receding form::

All those Nos – terrified. I am in deep shit, I thought those stories were just another of my sires cruel jokes. I am not safe alone – I’m not safe anywhere. My kin felt danger despite all their defenses and knowledge.

I have acted most poorly this night – I thought myself safe at last from Jethro and my kind. Only to learn I have come among greater terrors with only the friendship of one silver tongued Ventrue. Buchanan can’t keep me safe from these things – th the Syndicate can help. Gods I’ve spurned them this night – I need them if I am to be safe. What in the hells can I do – can I hide from them? ::In his panic Al is pulling the dying hair from his mask in clumps, not seeing them fall to the floor::

Would I be safer with the Nos? If I go among them they will kill me – they with tamper with my work and mock my art. I need more ghouls – stronger doors and stronger weapons. How can this be real – I’m the predator now I CAN’T BE HUNTED!

::A muffled knock comes from above and an indistinguishable voice::

Gods it trailed me back here! Rutgar is dead… ::Al finally notices the flashing light of the coms systems::

Who who is it?!

Master, its just me sir – I’m worried and scared. Can I come below tonight?

::Al quickly glances at the security screens, it all looks clear but what unknown powers might these things have?"::

Rutgar, are you alone up there?

Yes, Master. Why are you so scared?

A vampire fears nothing – the first mask we got together, do you remember it?

Yes sir, we took the face from one of your sires kine. A pretty girl with bright eyes, you never wear women’s faces though – quite a waste.

::A low rumble echoes off the subterranean lair as the doors slide open – and just as quickly slide back::

Master! Your face! What happened?!

::Albreacht hand darts to a small mirror kept on him at all times – and he stares into the reflection::

Gods, I’ve destroyed it. Rutgar I must tell you about something, but I will need to be calm. Could you fetch the Facade, it always brings me an air of peace.

Yes Master – but after please tell me.

::The two talk till sunrise about the terrors that sup upon sewer rats – and of what must be done to secure the research, to make sure it can go on.::

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Buchanan's Journal #1
Meetings with the "leadership".

I finally met our local “betters” tonight and I must say I’m not impressed. A loudmouth oik called Eddie Dixby and a learing maroon called Victor Cadiz. The first would be flipping burgers or shining my shoes if he wasn’t Embraced and the second I recognized from a totally humdrum daytime TV soap I saw on my last holiday in Ibiza. Apparently, Dixby is the Speaker in this city – good grief but that’s depressing. He’s an utter chump with no respect for the Traditions – in London he‘d be exposed as an Anarch in two jiffies. Telling us we haven’t been properly Accounted yet but then asking who is boss and telling us all kinds of stuff that basically assumes we’ve passed Accounting. Then he answers my Domain door without even asking leave and actually threatens me with a Blood Hunt when I bring him up gently on his appalling lack of manners. The nerve of the man! Let’s hope he knows no-one in London or my Dignitas will take a huge step backward. I’ll need to account with him one day, somehow.

Still, they gave us a cellphone to contact the Syndicate, which is what passes for Praxis in this benighted city, and told us to go see the Nos. So like good little neonates off we went – although Victoria headed off on her own to see what she could dig up about the Big Bads from her European contacts. Nice lass, very well put together mentally. If she wasn’t so arty she could be a Ventrue.

Any old how, we picked up the merc at the office and I got time to finalise matters with Edgar.

(N.B. Shell company for Albrecht will be Rosy Cross Medical Research Ltd. Incorporated in the British Virgin Islands, office address to be P.O. number in Rosslyn, Scotland (Near the cloned sheep place). Edgar has $100k as initial funds for website, stationary and to establish proper cut-outs and records. Al, Edgar and I as directors – I’m CEO, Edgar is CFO and Al as Chief Researcher. All kinds of useful as conduit and might even turn an actual profit if Al knows his stuff.

P.S. Edgar‘s getting awfully nosy. Remember to ask Sire about ghouling him.)

Once out in Brooklyn by way of Al‘s haven (interesting place), the Nos lair turned out to be beneath an old fire station which is now a museum. Paranoid buggers – the place is a fortress of the Maginot Line kind. I’m very glad Al was along, otherwise I think they’d have eaten me. Disgusting, but doubtless usefully well informed and actually quite nice in the same way some of the working hands on the estate could be quite nice in their own uncultured and obscene ways. Couldn’t let them see my worry, of course. Stiff Upper Lip and all that guff.

Al and I met some senior Nos, called Twit and Kumquat or some such self-parodying guff, and got an inside line on what they want. A real Cam leader and an Elysium Event. (N.B. Carnegie Center?) Well, despite my doubts there’s such a leader in the pack of Anarch rejects I suspect the current leadership comprises, we agreed and managed to extract a promise the Nos would turn out en masse to defend any such Elysium led by a “real leader”. That’s a start.

Next steps: we’ve an appointment to see the Ventrue Primogen, Vinnie – who definitely isn’t the leader either – and another to be properly Accounted at last. Plus I really must pay a visit to Eveline tomorrow eve and get the car upholstery cleaned after the grunge from the Nos Pit got all over it.

(N.B. Down to 2 suits – call tailor and have him UPS another from London, get Edgar to pick up 2 more pairs of footwear – one usual and one utility boots)

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The Usual Suspects

After all the wait, Eddie has finally returned from Europe, and he has brought the new yacht with him. The Corinthian Memorial is everything the coterie hoped it would be, and more besides. It boasts state rooms for each of them, with plenty of smaller rooms for their herds, retainers, and miscellaneous hangers-on. The crew is only on temporary loan from the Camarilla, but there is time to find a new set.

The coterie’s first glimpse of it is when Eddie calls them down to a set of private docks, and ferries them out to the yacht using the ship’s runabout. The vessel is quickly declared the new base of operations, and Panzermayer starts transferring all their excess weapons and equipment over. Plans are also drawn up for modifying the boat’s interior to provide more space for future operations.

Despite their satisfaction with the Corinth, it was necessary to turn their attention to other matters. After the attack on D.N.A., the two most likely culprits were the werewolves and the Gangrel. Tina, also known as Grunge Girl, has finally returned Christophe’s call, and arranges a meeting halfway between Albany and NYC. One of her packmates is with her, though he is well out of sight, and she assures the vampires that he is only there for her protection. Putting that aside, Christophe gets straight to the point, asking her what she knows about the attack. Tina doesn’t know much, and can neither confirm nor deny that her people were involved, though she admits that it is a possibility. Orion believes she is sincere, but they are no closer to finding those responsible. Before leaving, Tina says she will try to find out more, but she would like the coterie to consider helping out again in Miami, where Pentex may have a second facility.

On their way back to the city, Eddie makes a call to Hanz’ number, and arranges a “consultation” with the arms dealer, claiming to be a Russian gangster. The meeting is set for tomorrow night.

The last stop for the night will be underground with the Nosferatu. The coterie have come prepared this time, wearing disposable plastic shoe covers and ponchos for their journey through the sewers. Upon reaching the warrens, they find what appear to be fortifications and weapon emplacements, as though the Nos are preparing for an invasion.

Twat won’t answer any questions without some information in trade, so Christophe brings up the story of Corinth’s “birth.” Twat is stunned, and hurriedly fires off an email, likely to inform his superiors. In return for this revelation, he answers their questions about Miami’s politics, revealing that the Sabbat of the city are split between those who are content with the status quo, and those who want to resume the crusade against the Camarilla. In all likelihood, Jafar’s little errand involves tipping this balance towards the crusader faction. Orion then asks what Twat knows about the attack that took Cassandra’s life. In fact, Twat hadn’t even heard about the attack on D.N.A., and is thrilled to have pierced one of the Syndicate’s secrets. Of course, he assures the coterie that he’ll make certain the leak isn’t traced back to them. He also promises to look into the matter.

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...It Pours

At nearly 4:00 in the morning, Christophe arrives at the Hilton in Saratoga Springs. Eleven comes down to meet him. She is smiling weakly, and says that she is ready to leave. Christophe asks about the new vamp, and Eleven becomes evasive, saying that it isn’t a problem. Christophe presses her, and she makes him promise not to kill the new girl. The girl’s name is Milan Foster-Whittig, part of the wealthy and influential Foster-Whittig family of New York City. Christophe is displeased with the young heiress, but realizes immediately that killing her would be a bad idea. To his dismay, she will need to stay with them for the time being.

Back in New York, Cassandra is still adjusting at Victor’s apartment. Leon has been staying close to her, filling her in on the denizens of the night, the dangers of unlife, and his adventures since his embrace. The once-vibrant researcher is frail and quiet, a reminder of what Leon did to her. Cassandra admits that while she understands why her ex did this, she can’t help but resent him for her new state.

The next evening, Cassandra is getting back to her normal self, and manages to chow down on two rabbits. Christophe brings Eleven and Milan home, where Brian is a bit confused by the new girl, but otherwise is happy to have his girlfriend back. Victor brings Cassandra to the penthouse, while Orion checks out the Zoo. Deacon has been out in Albany for three nights so far, but that isn’t the air-tight alibi that Orion was hoping for. Once all the new vampires are assembled at the penthouse, Christophe lays down the law for the fledglings, and punctuates it with the DVD of Corinth’s diablerie. They won’t forget anytime soon.

During this time, Diego has gone to meet with the Assamite who contacted him. Hasim is calm and gracious, promising to educate Diego on the truth of his situation. The Camarilla, he says, sees Diego only as a valuable novelty. They want their Assamite Sheriff, and intentionally keep him ignorant of his alternatives. Alamut (Assamite HQ), however, recognizes that he is one of them. There is no anger over Mohammed Abdullah’s diablerie; if Diego was capable of it, then clearly Abdullah was not a worthy vessel for that blood. Diego remains aloof, despite Hasim’s blandishments, but does ask what it is that the Assamites want. Hasim informs him that they would want to use him as a mole in the Camarilla, at least for a short time, before they take him back to Alamut for proper induction into the clan. As a sign of friendship, Hasim hands over a small bottle of elder blood. Diego suggests that they share a drink, but when Hasim is all too eager, the canny professor withdraws the offer, satisfied that the blood is not tainted.

At the same time, Kurt Panzermayer is checking up on Ten-Pound Jimmy’s old neighborhood in general, and the abandoned house in particular. He finds the lock busted open, and a bunch of homeless people camping out inside. One of them, when questioned about the symbols marked throughout the building, says that someone told him they were signs of protection, like from a gang. Kurt immediately orders the impoverished squatters to leave, directing them into the torrential rains outside. As he is orchestrating this massive act of bastardry, a mysterious assailant slams him into a wall. Despite Panzermayer’s impressive strength, this foe still is able to pin him, and hisses in the Brujah’s ear. “These people are mine! Leave them alone.” The voice is harsh and graveley, and the speaker disappears as quickly as he came. Confused, Kurt allows the squatters to stay until the rain stops, then returns to his car, wary of another attack.

Shortly before midnight, the coterie assembles at Christophe’s penthouse before driving down to City Hall. Jafar has appropriated a sinecure, the Mayor’s Advisor for the Arts and Humanities, that allows him to maintain an office on the premises. The woman at the front desk, the same one from “Goldman’s” tenure, recognizes the coterie and gives them directions. The office door is flanked by two of the Setite bodyguards, who enter the room just behind the guests. Jafar sits behind his desk, flipping through sheets of paper, jotting down notes, and generally appearing busy.

Seven seats have been prepared, leaving two empty. When Jafar finally looks up from his work, he notes the absences. “Ah, yes, Mr. Dixby is away on Syndicate business.” The chair is removed by one of the Setites. “And Mr. Rutledge… Is no longer with us.” The chair remains, causing Kurt, Orion, and Victor to bristle at the reminder.

Jafar wastes little time after that. He informs the assembled members of the Camarilla that unlike Prescott, he has no personal grudges against them. He is entirely focused on maintaining the prosperity and stability of New York. If they do nothing that might harm the city or the Sabbat, then he will not take any action against them. If they should accept Prescott’s offer to join the Sabbat (an offer, he is quick to mention, that is still on the table), then they would be welcomed into his inner circle. This suggestion is quickly shot down by Panzermayer in a typically rude manner, but Jafar seems unfazed. Instead, he offers up another possibility. Clearly, the coterie had their hands full cleaning up “Goldman’s” messes, which they did quite well. Although the Regent is nowhere near as incompetent as the Prince, an experienced group of problem solvers could still earn some gratitude. Christophe asks if that gratitude might take the form of an end to a blood hunt, and Jafar smiles. That would indeed be possible, though it would take a considerable amount of gratitude.

Although he is evasive on the matter, it seems that Jafar would like to use the coterie to “resolve” internal rivalries in the Sabbat, particularly in Miami. That way, as he explains it, they are able to serve both him and the Camarilla, without feeling there is a conflict of interest. No one quite believes him.

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When It Rains...

The evening after the Grand Elysium, the coterie members awake to the sound of rain. A massive storm is coming in off the Atlantic, and the city will be drenched for the next two days. Orion spends his first few minutes checking in with Cassandra, and makes an appointment for the coterie to visit her laboratory at 2:00AM. He is eager to get her away from her research, and any other ties to Pentex.

Christophe awakes to Jessica’s concerned face. It seems that Eleven slipped out sometime the night before, probably due to the problems that she and Brian had been having. Brian is at first unwilling to seek his sire out, but Christophe shares a few choice words with him, convincing him otherwise. A quick call to Leon ensures that the two Roses now have an experienced tracker, and the trio races off to Brian’s old hometown.

Meanwhile, Diego and Kurt decide to check out Kitty’s Place, the mob hangout they learned of from the men at the laundromat. They determine that it is an especially public place to stage a raid, and that even without witnesses, there would be a lot of armed and experienced mobsters on the premises. Still, they file away their discoveries for later. As they are leaving, Professor Tori has a brief run-in with one of his students, one of the dancers.

Out in the ‘Burbs, Brian, Christophe, and Orion are having little luck finding Eleven, despite visiting all the key locations from her early dates with Brian. It is only at a movie theater that the Gangrel catches a whiff of Eleven’s scent, but the heavy rain makes it impossible to follow beyond the front doors. The two men realize their young charge is not with them, and find Brian, completely enraptured by a showing of Avatar. Christophe recognizes the look in the boy’s eyes, and regrets being a Toreador. It is nearing time for the meeting with Cassandra, so the trio reluctantly heads back towards New York.

Christophe swings by his penthouse to drop off Brian and pick up Diego. The three vampires arrive at Cassandra’s office, fifteen minutes late, and find it locked. The interior of the building is completely dark, yet there are still a fair number of cars in the parking lot. After being unable to reach Cassandra, Leon hurriedly picks the door lock.

All the building’s power seems to be out, so the coterie pulls out cell-phones and flashlights. The security guard is found behind the front desk, his body face-down, his head face-up, a look of mild surprise as his last expression. In panic, Leon shouts a curse and dashes for the stairwell. Racing directly to the fourth floor, he finds mutilated bodies strewn about the hallway, and claw marks in the walls. Blood pools beneath white labcoats, cooling and congealing.

The bodies belong to Cassandra’s friends and co-workers, but she is not among them. A desperate search of the offices turns up nothing, but a call to her phone leads the Gangrel into one of the labs. The Assamite and Toreador slide in beside him. At the far back of the room, Cassandra sits with her back against a cabinet. Her side is torn open, both hands pressed against the wound in a futile attempt to stop the bleeding. Leon drops instantly to her side, checking her pulse and examining the wound. She is dying of blood loss, and has perhaps a minute to live.

It is a terrible choice. Do you let go of the last vestige of life, or do you cling to it beyond death? Are you saving a loved one’s life, or damning their immortal soul? Leon O’Ryan knows that there is only one feasible way to save Cassandra, but from the amount of blood on the floor, he also knows that it might come at a terrible price. To him, though, it is no decision at all.

The Toreador Primogen sees the look in Leon’s eyes, and is moved. He calls the Syndicate, requesting emergency permission to expand the Camarilla, and swears that the new childe is not another Rose. Permission is granted, though Christophe suspects there will be a price to pay, and Leon begins the Embrace.

A long time seems to pass, during which the coterie are completely motionless, standing around the tiny beam of a key-chain LED. Cassandra moves, emitting a cry of pain and hunger, and Leon feels that special mix of shame and relief, that cocktail of emotions that he will never forget. So happy that she is still with him, so sad that she is now like him, so pained that he has brought her to this point. He cuts his arm and lets her feed from him, being careful not to let her gorge. Momentarily satisfied, the researcher regains a little composure, and begins to ask questions. Recognizing that this is a matter for Orion alone, Christophe and Diego start their search for clues.

Cassandra never saw the person, or thing, that attacked her. However, by gazing backwards in time, Christophe witnesses the event. The power had gone off, causing the employees to stumble out into the hallway in search of flashlights. In the dim light from the windows, he can just make out a humanoid shape emerging from the stairwell door, but cannot distinguish anything further. Cassandra is on her feet now, and Christophe insists that they get her down to the Syndicate immediately, in order to get her accounted for. Diego stays behind to continue the search, and calls Panzermayer to come assist him.

After the Brujah’s arrival, the building is searched floor by floor. On each level, more bodies are found, as well as smashed computers, broken optical media, and waste-bins full of burned paper. There are no other survivors, but the searchers discover two important treasures. In one bin, a lone dossier had not been incinerated, only singed. It seems to contain the project overview for some sort of scanning device, and Diego notices a slot that is perfectly shaped for an ampoule of Culture Shock. Then, in the purse of an intern, a netbook is found. It seems Tiffany took her work home with her from time to time, though the password on her “Work” folder will require someone with hacking expertise.

Cassandra is brought before the Syndicate, who give their approval of this capable new Kindred. When informed of the attack on D.N.A., they promise to send a cleanup crew, and to use their resources to determine who might have struck at the research firm. Upon leaving, Christophe calls up “Grunge Girl,” as the coterie has two main suspects: Deacon, or the Werewolves. However, their furry friend does not pick up, and the Toreador is forced to leave a message. Not sure of who to trust, Leon takes Cassandra to stay with Victor, hoping that the Brujah can help explain unlife to her better than he could.

Kurt heads to his new apartment, pausing to drop Diego off. The professor checks his mail, and becomes instantly alert when he finds a blank envelope, sealed with a dab of wax. Taking it inside and briefly searching the room, he pops the seal and draws forth an ornate letter. It is from Hasim long-string-of-names-that-end-in-Haqim, a fellow Assamite who wishes to educate Diego about his true heritage, and offer the friendship of Alamut. The letter specifies a meeting place, at 10:00 on the next night.

Back at the penthouse, Christophe checks in on Brian, finding him writing a poem for Eleven. He has a heart-to-heart chat with the young man, encouraging him to try to work things out with Eleven, to find what made them fall in love in the first place. An odd bit of advice from a hitman, but Brian seems invigorated. Jessica is waiting outside Brian’s door with a message. A Mr. Abdel-Rahman had called earlier, saying that he would like to meet with Christophe and his “friends” at midnight tomorrow night. As if that news wasn’t bad enough, another call comes in, this time from Eleven. When told that Brian still loves her and wants to work things out, she is elated, but becomes distraught when told of his fear of being replaced. Christophe feels a sinking feeling, but manages to control himself enough to learn her location, at a Hilton in Saratoga Springs. He packs his shotgun, grabs his car, and roars off across the rain-slick streets.

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