SWEET LIKE COPPER
Previously: Perfect Storm
Themesong: All I Wanna Do by Sheryl Crow
The note on the VMoD said “Since you enjoyed being a monster so much.” I peeled it off and swore. Fuck, I hate it when I’m right.
“Crap crap crap crap crap.”
“S’wrong, short stuff?” Ahab asked.
I pointed the machine.
“Don’t see what’s so bad about hunting Vampires. Didn’t you do that in Buffy, or am I remembering that wrong. Crap… it’s been a few… centuries.”
“Nothing wrong with hunting vamps. But this isn’t about hunting them. It’s about being one.”
“Indeed. And it’s about being a fairly squishy newbie vampire in a world full of psychopathic nasties. Shit. Shit shit shit. Mages. Fuck… There are… wait… no… Bloodlines… shit… um… Bloodlines… damn… it’s a videogame. It’s… crap… I didn’t buy it. It’s… I want to say 2010? 2012… something like that. It’s a videogame version. Based on the TV show I think.”
“You’ve lost me.”
“Vampire the Masquerade is an RPG. One of the five Flagship RPGs from White Wolf Games that make up The World of Darkness. Vampire was the first, followed by, in descending order of quality, Werewolf the Apocalypse, Mage the Ascension, Wraith the I’m drowning in darkness oh god help me help me glub glub glub, and Changeling the Dreaming. They also had a couple others… Hunter the Reckoning was the one I remember sucking the most but there was a Demon one too… I think… and a Mummy supplement and an actual book for Chinese Vampires who were cool, but not as powerful as “Real Vampires”. It was all doom and gloom and heading for a coming apocalypse and none of the systems worked well together, even though they were in the same world. And there were a zillion splatbooks and they all contradicted each other because the whole world (see Mage) was actually a bit of consensual reality and history kept changing depending on how many people believed whatever to have been true.”
“Sounds ghastly… that wasn’t really the title for Wraith, was it?”
“Tell me about it. Anyway, they eventually brought the apocalypse and scrapped the entire setting and released New World of Darkness… which I think they then changed to “Chronicles of Darkness” to keep from confusing everyone… it was Modern Gothic instead of Gothic Punk like the oWoD and scrapped a lot of the vagueness and “no one really knows, but one story says” parts of oWoD. CoD… oh… right… it was CofD because CoD in gaming terms is Call of Duty… god… that’s lame… anyway, CofD had three flagships, but subtly different. Vampire the Requiem, Werewolf the Forsaken, Mage the Awakening, and 4… no… 5… smaller runs… let’s see… Promethean the Created replaced Wraith… it focused on Frankenstein’s Monsters and Golems I think, bought the book, never read it… know exactly which shelf it’s on too. Sigh… Changeling the Lost was more about madness than Changeling the Dreaming’s focus on hopeless. Hunter the Vigil was, from all reports, less craptastic than the original… Then Geist the Sin-Eaters, which was marginally less depressing than Wraith, and another Mummy, but I don’t think I ever knew the subtitle.”
“Classy. I take it this reality was more concrete?”
“Yup… the players ummm… were divided.”
“The new owners of the company that made all these games rebranded nWoD to CofD when they bought the company and spun off a division to publish it, relaunching it with all new books under the “God-Machine Chronicles” heading. They even scrapped calling it Vampire the something and changed the name to Blood and Smoke for the second edition. They then reestablished White Wolf to develop a second edition of the classic World of Darkness.”
“Yeah. The nWoD was a little too cookie cutter… but honestly, it was all urban fantasy type nonsense… and I’m hoping absolutely none of that matters.”
“Because this isn’t the world of World of Darkness the roleplaying game. It’s the world of Bloodlines the computer game.”
“How are those different?”
“I’m hoping that this means that we’ll only be dealing with the Vampire setting. Remember, Old World of Darkness settings weren’t all that compatible. As long as we don’t have to run into reality bending Mages, and I don’t have to deal with Paradox every time I cast magic or use powers, we might… might… be okay.”
“Why do you say might? Are these vamps bad news?”
“Oh, hell yes. But they’re not the issue. The issue is Caine and the Antediluvians.”
“Caine? As in Caine & Abel?”
“That’s the one.”
“I don’t follow.”
“Story time then. Caine killed Abel, right?” he nodded and I realized I was attracting a crowd. “Well God in this universe turned Caine into the first Vampire. Blood for Blood… cause apparently, one murder wasn’t enough for God. Caine can’t be killed. Fiat on that. Word of Motherfucking God. Caine cannot be killed. The God of this particular universe has made it so it’s just not possible and anyone who tries had better be able to fight big G himself over it.”
“Makes as much sense as any of your religions,” Reggy commented. I ignored her.
“Anyway, Caine had, depending on who you ask, either 3 or 13 children, in the Vampiric sense, which in this world are called “Childer” because they’re stupid. Those Childer had more Childer. Possibly as many as 100, but other numbers say 27 or 13. Regardless, those vampires are the forebearers of all the clans of vampires. And they’ve been asleep for thousands of years and will be awakening soon for something called “Gehenna”, the vampiric Apocalypse. They’re so old, they can no longer feed on human blood but must, instead, feed on other vampires.”
“Doesn’t sound like a bad thing if you’re not a vampire.”
“Sure… except that the non-Antediluvian vampires aren’t going to go down easily. They’re going to need Vitae, blood, to power their defenses. If the mages get involved, they’ll start tossing around nukes to stop all this crap. If they don’t exist in this version of the reality… then we’re only marginally screwed, because every freaking Antediluvian is a conceptual enemy. They’re all as broken as Yhwach and twice as mean.”
“Sooo… what’s the plan? Head for the hills? Head for Mars?”
“Yeah. If Gehenna breaks out, that’s the plan. I am not going out on a futile attempt to save the world from something I can’t win. But hopefully, it won’t. I have no idea of the timeframe or if Gehenna will occur within the ten years. If the Time of Weak Blood begins… well… we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. But the big sign is the election of Caitiff Princes.”
“Not who. What. Vampire society is divided into clans and further divided into bloodlines. But no one clan controls an entire major city and even if they did, there’s lots of mixing and… anyway… There are two organizations that control almost all Kindred… that’s what vampires call themselves collectively… The Camarilla and the Sabbat. The Camarilla are essentially the Illuminati of Vampires. Old, boring, rule bound, and extremely political. The Sabbat were created in reaction to how annoyingly bossy the Camarilla are, and are essentially the First Anarchist Church of Vampirism.”
“That doesn’t make any sense,” Joy commented
“Role Playing Game.”
“Right.” She shook her head in disgust.
“These Camarilla gits sound like the Volturi from Twilight,” Velma added.
“That is almost assuredly where Meyers got the idea. Just… imagine there are about a thousand of them, none of them like each other, and they’re spread across all the major cities of the world.”
“Right. So, these local leaders are called “Princes.” they’re usually mid generation… oh… I haven’t explained Generation. Caine was the First, his direct Childer are the Second. The Antediluvians are the Third. The current clan leaders are 5th or 6th generation… the average Prince (the title is gender neutral) is about 8th, maybe 9th. 13th is where the character creation process in the RPG begins. 14th and 15th are barely more powerful than humans.”
“Clanless Vampires… usually ones so weak they can’t get into a Clan or so weak they lack the markings of their clan.”
“So, 13th is bad… seems to be a running theme,” said Gaius, “Is there a way to improve your generation, or is it just about the waiting game?”
“Age is less important than generation. An 8th Gen vampire, as powerful as you could be in character creation, Turned (that’s what they call being made into a vampire by your Sire… also gender neutral) yesterday, would be roughly as powerful as one turned 200 years ago, but the 200 year old would have a lot more experience and thus better control over their powers and skills. Generation is more about hardcaps than raw power. Age just gets you closer to your cap. Age can’t increase your generation.”
“Yes. It’s called Diablerie or Amaranth… and no… not a good thing. To do it, you drain… you drink… all the blood of another vampire, one more powerful than yourself, absorbing their power… and their essence. It marks your aura for years, and can corrupt your soul. And other vamps can sense it. And it’s kinda gross. And super evil. You lose Humanity doing it.”
“Ummm…” AJ raised his hand.
“It’s a metric of how close you are to the Beast… to letting the hunger control you… or how far. Look, I could probably tank it, maybe even tank the taint of draining an Antediluvian, but I’m going to be trying my best to abuse Diplomatic Immunity in this jump. Granted, the major vulnerabilities of vampirism are meaningless to me… actually… all of them are. No stake is going through my skin, fire is snackfood to me, and I can shift to a different form that isn’t vampiric in the day time… or maybe not… at least in this jump, it probably enforces staying a vamp. Eh. Fuck it. Still don’t see the need to get involved in vampiric politics. I might anyway, but realistically, not much point unless I feel like hunting down and destroying all the Sabbat. Regardless, let’s do this thing.”
Without even turning around, I spun the wheel of senility and got… 24. Excellent. I generally enjoy my 25th birthdays. Only one place to be, LA, so that’s sorted. Now, who shall I be this time? Drop-in? Tough? Nerd? Or Socialite? Hmmm… Socialite… more charming, easier time making friends, reasonable notoriety. Sounds good. They’re all free, so there’s that.
The next choice to make was Clan… also free. Only 7 choices… though not all choices are created equal. I automatically discounted the Orlok-Look-alike clan “Nosferatu”. Creepy, ugly, and reclusive is not really my schtick… well, not all at the same time. Ditto insanity in a clanshell “Malkavian”. Didn’t enjoy being insane last time, and I’m not sure what my Psi powers might do if I went completely bonkers. Last thing I needed was a disintegrated city on my conscience; I was still dealing with emotional fallout from some of the things I’d done from time to time and didn’t want more of that. Tremere use blood magic, which is… creepy and waaay too powergrabby for me. That left the thuggish, militant, anarchic Brujah; the feral, wolflike Gangrel; the moody, artistic, and easily bored Toreador; and the classist, elitist, smug-bastard Ventrue.
Oddly enough, those were 3 of my favorite clans (playing a Malkavian is fun, being one… less so, I’d imagine.). Still, a Socialite Gangrel didn’t fit, so that was out. It was pretty much a toss up. Toreadors got Celerity (Vampiric Speed) and Auspex (Vampiric Senses). Ventrues got Fortitude (Vampiric Toughness) and Dominate (Vampiric Mental domination). Both of them got Presence (Vampiric Glamor). Huh… the effects of those powers were different from the ones in the RPG… or at least couched in different language. Heh… imagine the metaness of running a group of vampires in a vampire campaign. “This is soo realistic!” they’d say. Or maybe not.
Regardless, I realized I’d forgotten that Toreadors and Ventrue had their own little quirks as well, to balance out the insanity, ugliness, rage issues, or physical frailty of the other clans. Toreadors gained and lost humanity more easily… and Ventrues were snobs who only fed from upper class people. Fuck it. I was going to be doing most of my feeding from my massive bloodbank (Proper Planning Prevents Puncturing People). Ventrue was not the way.
Toreadors were the most connected to the mortal world, especially the arts and entertainment, which was doubly important in LA where everything is arts and entertainment. I locked that in and checked on freebies. Gotta have freebies, right? “Vampirism” topped the list. No duh, thanks for that. “Sharper senses, tougher body, the potential for eternal life, and a maximum capacity of 30 Blood Points when sated. Weeeee.” But what good is Blood if you can’t use it on stuff, right? So I also got “Blood Buff” (a temporary boost to strength and dexterity/agility, at the cost of some stored blood) for free. And as a Toreador, I got the first ranks of Celerity (the ability to spend blood to run faster), Presence (the ability to spend blood to make anyone within a meter suffer a strength, wits, perception, and speed debuff.), and Auspex (the ability to spend blood to increase my thinking speed and see the auras of the living and undead within 10 meters). The powers were fairly meh, but they had great growth potential… if I chose to embrace them. Ha! Embrace! I slay me! Badumtish!
But wait, there’s more! As a Vampire of Caine’s lineage, I could use the Blood Bond to transform the living into my willing Ghouls (not the eat corpses kind). A Ghoul was an obsessively loyal minion, bound to you because they’d taken three sips of your blood (the first imparted strong feelings for the vampire in the drinker, the second imparted a powerful sense of the vampire’s importance, and the third was stalker territory… and vamps did this for fun!). Ghouls also didn’t age as long as they could sample a vamp’s blood once a month, healed incredibly rapidly, and gained some basic access to any vampiric disciplines their master had. Animals could become Ghouls too, and it tended to make them… grow bigger, fiercer, and more dangerous.
I also gained access to “The Embrace” (Hence the terrible joke above), the ability to transform mortals into fellow vampires. It wasn’t a pleasant process for the prospective blood sucker, as it essentially involved draining them to the point of death and then giving them a small about of your own blood. The transition took several days usually and wasn’t happy fun times… and the nascent vampire usually went into Frenzy at the first sight of blood. As a GM, I’d always wondered what would happen if a sample of a Vampire’s blood was used on a freshly exsanguinated body that hadn’t been drained by a vampire. Would that still work? And what if the ghouling process was done with intravenous blood, not drunk? Could I steal some vamp’s blood and addict someone else to that person? What if I mixed a whole bunch of blood from other vampires…. The science was calling to me… as a doctor.
The last vampiric freebie was my own personal Ghoul, a fanatically loyal servant that could either be someone named “Heather” or anyone I described. They’d be extremely loyal regardless of how I treated them or if I left them as a ghoul or not… and they counted as a companion. Huh. I could, in theory, pick someone from the real world… my world, Origin Earth, since this was close to that world. Hell, I could probably get a copy of one of my friends, or my sister… or my dad… I’d have to check the year of the jump to see if it was before he died… but no… it wouldn’t really be him… or them. It would be a copy. And if I ever found a way to get the real people, I’d have to explain “Oh, this is your Earth-Bloodline’s copy. They were just filling in for you.” That might work, but I’d feel weird about it. On the other hand, I could get Johnny Depp or Christian Bale or Rachel Weisz or… or Tilda Swinton! I love Tilda Swinton!
But that would be creeper stalker lady of me. Bad SJ. Well, I don’t know who Heather is, and so I have no real desire to have her follow me around like a lovesick puppy… or really to have anyone follow me around like that. My companions might not be my equals but they come closer than most… except Ziggy who is clearly a superior lifeform since he gets all the snuggles and petting and treats and I have to do all the work. I’ll pass on this, at least for now. If someone actually interesting presents themself… or, you know, I can find Justin Bieber… oh… that’s tempting. “Justin! Fling yourself into this furnace for me!” “Yes Mistress!” Nooo… bad SJ!
So that was it for the Vampire freebies… but Socialite got me Haggling (the tendency to always get the best possible prices – buying and selling – as long as I have even a vague sense of the value of something.) for free. Not that I needed it, as I usual either paid whatever the price was or used mind control, but sure, why not. The other two Socialite perks were Seduction  and Persuasion . The first made me able to talk the pants off of even the most prudish… and made it come naturally, instead of me feeling like a little girl asking Santa for a pony or a tween demanding to know why she got a D+ on an A paper (stupid biased asshole teacher. Grrrr.). It went well with “The Voice” from Pervert Bride. The second made me insanely good at persuading people to do… pretty much anything I wanted them to, plus it gave me the gift of sizing up a mark and lying quickly and smoothly. They weren’t the best abilities, but, they fit the scene and nothing better seemed to be on offer. It too went well with “The Voice”. I was a charisma machine!
In the gear section, I found such useless tat as a Fire Axe, a Revolver, Leather Clothing, circa 2010 Body Armor, a refilling fridge with enough blood to keep me going for 1 week (but not at full tilt), an assault rifle, a shotgun, something called the “Odious Chalice” that sounded about as pleasant as root canal, “A Group of People Who Aren’t Assholes” which would allow me to take up to 8 chucklefucks from this world as companions but which wasn’t an import option, a magical katana, a blob of amber that boosted the time limit on my disciplines by 50%… and the only thing worth buying, a green thing that increased my learning rate by 1/3rd. It was called the “Saulocept” and cost … which left me with 400 and nothing to buy with it. Fuck.
Drawback time, I guess. 600 CP limit. The 300 pointers were all out. Plaguebearer was gross and exactly what it sounds like. Twice Damned changed the blood drinking to eating fresh human flesh. And Gehenna started Gehenna within the first 2 years. Fuuuuuck. Of the 200s, one would make me a coward and one would make me a sycophant to someone named “Lacroix”. The only one that seemed at all interesting, and indeed, possibly fun, was “To Be Continued” which would stock the world with all sorts of weirdness (landsharks, vampire hunting strippers, Justin Bieber being a not-douche…). The 100’s… had a theme. The letter “F”. Fornication (you will spend a disproportionate amount of time seeking sex and dress like a stripper), F.A.T. (a weight problem. Comes with Afro.), and Frenzied (anger control issues). I took the first and second. A fat, slutty, artistic, socialite vampire. Sure. Why the hell not. That brought me to 800… now I had twice as much and nothing I wanted. I know, I know, you’re wondering why I took drawbacks then? Literally for the hell of it.
I could buy levels of the disciplines, but it would be more fun learning how to use them than just buying them. Wait… what generation am I? That’s a kinda big thing… I read through the entire thing. No comment? Wait… blood pool is determined by… 6th Generation! Well fuck me sideways and call me Bruce! You couldn’t even buy 6th Gen in Dark Ages. 8th was the starting limit in standard, and 7th in Dark Ages. 6th generation limited everything in the setting to 7 dots… out of 5. 7… out of 5. And as a vampire, I could boost anything. Stats, Skills, Disciplines. Hell, the Toreador level 7 of Auspex was the ability to create custom personalities for myself at will. And the level 6 was mesmerific storytelling… from a sense boosting power. Level 7 Celerity was essentially pulling a Flash and doing multiple things at the same time. Level 7 Presence could numb people’s emotions to nothing or remove their ability to feel empathy for others. Scary shit.
Eh, screw it. I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to unlock the clan disciplines I didn’t buy, so I might as well buy 5 more level one disciplines. Couldn’t buy them all… not even from the limited pool available (11 out of more than 30 if I was remembering correctly.). I opted for ones that offered the most interesting potential effects, stuff I couldn’t normally do on my own. That was Obfuscation (Vampiric Invisibility), Animalism (Animal Control), Protean (Gangrel specific Beasting Out), Dementation (Malkavian specific inducing insanity), and Thaumaturgy (Tremere specific Blood Magic). I could probably learn Potence (Vamp Strength), Fortitude (Vamp Toughness), and Dominate (Vamp Mind Control)… all of them were common and not clan specific.
That left me with 50 and I splurged and bought a Fire Axe with it. It was either that or the gun or the leather. Fire Axe… eh… don’t leave home without it?
“Ahab, Joy… you sitting this one out?” Neither one had picked up their Tablets of Destiny. Joy nodded. “Not really…” She trailed off, but Ahab continued “It’s a little creepy, you know?” I nodded.
“Your choice. I’m locking the warehouse into timeless while I’m gone. I’ve got a bad feeling about this.”
Franky elbowed me and grinned “And it’s not ‘cause you don’t want us seeing you all gross and skanky?”
I shuddered. “Yeah… that too. I’m going to try and not be… fucked up… in this jump. But I’m not counting on it. And if anything goes wrong, I don’t really want any of you getting fanged, ghouled, or worse.
Joy laughed. “Well, if that’s the way you’re going to be, I can’t see how I can pass this up.” She plucked her tablet up and logged in, announcing her choices as she went “Nerd… Ventrue.” I groaned. Blood Buff, Blood Bond, Embrace, Ghoul, Fortitude, Presence, and Dominate… Plus “Hacking” (The ability to hack weird 90s era computers… except they all turned out to be 80s era, so hah!). Ahab smirked “Fine! If you’re going, then so am I! Tough Brujah!” I groaned. They were going to be bickering the entire damned jump! I banged my head on the VMoD. He got Melee (oh, so useful, Mr “I-Invented CQC.”) instead of Hacking, plus Celerity, Potence, and Presence. Great. The trifecta of Presence Clans. Intimidation, Glamour, and Majesty. Just what the world needed.
I didn’t mean for things to go like this. I really didn’t. I assume this is how the game begins. You wake up in a bed in a dive motel, another person sitting across the room watching you sleep and smoking. Some goons smash down the door, grab you both, and drag you to this theatre where everyone who’s anyone in Vampiric LA (at least on the Camarilla side) is there for your Sire’s trial for unauthorized vampirization. He or she, in my case He… He said his name was Lester or something… is executed, and the Prince, a douchenozzle named Lacroix is about to order the same done to you when one of the Brujahs protests and Laxative changes his mind (Lacroix Baby, Lacroix) and gives you a reprieve, at which point the game begins and you get to act. I assume this, because that’s pretty much how things went for me. I had no control of my body for over an hour. I blame that for what happened next.
I couldn’t speak, couldn’t exert external force on anything… but my senses worked fine and I read the hearts and minds of every single person in that theatre, Camarilla, Anarchs, Sabat spies… Kuei-jin sympathizers. Sure, some of them had mental defenses… but not against anything like me. I’d read the hearts and minds of Vampires dozens of times more powerful than these idiots. Which is why it came as such a shock, because I’d never read minds as inhuman as theirs. Christ! I’ve been inside Reggy’s head! She was utterly non-human, but these… beings… I wanted, in that moment to destroy them all… they were all murderers… well… not all… some were guilty of manslaughter more than murder, having killed only once or twice when totally out of control from hunger, often their first kill… but there wasn’t a single person in that theater who hadn’t taken human life at least once… including the drunken (and all too human) janitor asleep in the basement… wow… what a dick.
I got angrier and angrier as my enforced immobility dragged on and on… and the second they released me I… may have snapped and turned everyone in the theater into vegetables… mentally speaking. Okay, yes, I psychically lobotomized everyone in sight… and sensory range really. I looked around as, one by one, they toppled like ten-pins, thrashing and drooling. I swore. “Fuuuuuucccccccccckkkkk…” I was reasonably certain none of them would die if I did nothing… at least not until some humans came by and took them out into the sunlight… but the VMoDs had said that, if I played nice and, in general, followed the plot (it was a fairly sandboxy game I guess?) I’d get more “power up potential” than just executing everyone for being vampiric scum.
I rolled my eyes, then ate the last 3 minutes of history. It tasted… smoggy, but went down easy. I only had to undo a very very recent event in a very localized area. I could eat a decade old event on a global scale without too much trouble. This was… an amuse bouche by comparison.
Everyone blinked, looking around as if trying to figure out what had happened, but, for once, the nature of the WoD meant that reality snapped back around them and they forgot it almost at once. Right… Fucking consensual reality. Still wasn’t sure I was safe from Paradox, but no witnesses, right?
I have no idea how closely what followed reflects the game. I never played it, I don’t know. But in general, there was an utterly bullshit tutorial section involving some Sabat and some gang bangers. I lumbered my… absolutely staggering 540 lbs body, 7 feet tall, dressed in stripperific clothing that… I should not have been wearing a thong!!!! Anyway. I lumbered my way through that section, letting the core persona for this jump (Salty Jones… part black, part hispanic, part chinese, part… Salty was LA in microcosm. He, yes he, was bound to offend… everyone. Transvestite, omnisexual, blimpoid, and a little bit of almost every ethnic group on the west coast. He was also a massive smart ass, a personal chef, and a nightclub singer. I liked him… me… despite myself.)
For the next few weeks we acted like a normal… if very large and oversexed vampire. I even tried drinking from a mortal, but it was… gross. Really really gross… it was… hot… and ugh… blech… cloyingly sweet. Just how much sugar was in one of those things? People… whatever. I mean, sure, the beast within was all “Gnarrrr Feeed me!” but really, Silent Judge was about ten times scarier than this nebulous hunger that didn’t even have an identity. It was a secondary ID really, but that’s what Silent Judge essentially was at this point. There were too many of us, of me, to let a frustrated hunger monster shape our identity at this point.
Met some interesting people. Some Thin Bloods down by the beach… I gave them a place to crash when I took out some jackasses who’d beat up this ghoul named Mercurio. He sent me to get meds for him from the local clinic, and to get some high explosives back from the douchebags who beat him up… I considered just healing him… but he asked for pain meds and mentioned a clinic and I know a plot hook when I hear one. So I went… found out who Heather was. Injured girl, room all alone, bleeding to death. Seriously. Fuck this. I was being handed Ghoul Girl on a Gurney? She didn’t have any plot hooks, so I stuffed her into the medbay. She could be grateful later, but I was not turning her into a ghoul just to save her life.
Anyway, got the drugs for Mercurio, headed to the beach to get his not-semtex back, met the thin bloods… turned the thugs into seagulls, then gave their house to the Thin Bloods I’d met getting there (E, Rosa, Cooper, and Julius). They looked like they could use a pad. And some blood. And I could use a few test subjects, to see if curing the vampirism was actually possible. Who knows, it could be.
Each of them had their own little questline potential, it seemed. E wanted to find his Sire, Lily, who must be gen 14 if she made him and was thin-blooded herself… gen 15s can’t sire as far as I know. Cooper was an idiot who thought he could return to being human if he killed the head vampire like in Lost Boys or got a blood transfusion like in… huh… never heard that one before. Naive, but still… an idiot. Rosa wanted to get out of town, but that wasn’t safe… not that staying was much better. Julius was apparently breaking the masquerade to sell Vampire info to a screen writer named David; I’d have to erase David’s memory but in the meantime I explained about the masquerade to these little yutzes… and the Jyhad, the Sabbat, the Camarilla, being Thin Blooded… I gave them the 20 minute powerpoint presentation (about as long as I could spare by teleporting back to Mercurio instead of driving. Bet the game version of LA was smaller. LA is fucking huge!). “Stay here, don’t kill anyone, and try not to act like vampires.” I told them.
Getting back to Mercurio with the RDX (what else could it be, it was in two bleach bottles and smelled homemade), he begged me not to tell Lacroix about this. “Chill little man, I ain’t telling Lacock more than the time of day. Dude be tripping, killing that nice lady like that.” Then he sent me on the next step of the quest, which was to blow up some Sabbat warehouse… but I couldn’t just take it out personally, I had to get some dillhole named Berty Tung to get me in… and that meant getting some bint named Teresa and her sister Jeanie to drop some kind of feud… it was all getting do A to do B to get C to blow up D… but at this point it was like LARPing, and I’d done enough of that IRL to not really mind. I was actually getting into character a bit.
Get to “The Asylum” the nightclub run by twin bitches T&J Voerman, and T wants me to help her unhaunt some hotel… and the only way to get to the Ocean House Hotel is through the sewers… really? What, the, everliving, FUCK? Why? Can’t I just take a fucking cab? Screw this, I’m taking a cab. I didn’t even bother to scan her; she was just a quest giver, right?
I took a cab. Turns out the sewer reason is cause the doors are boarded up. Riiiight. I have a fucking sword that can cut between spirit particles… matter is not going to stop me… no… no.. no destruction of private property. I turned into a snake and slid through a broken window, fully expecting this to be a bullshit fake haunting.
Not so much. Fuuuck. Bits of things kept exploding. Fucking Wraiths! Shit… shitshit… if they were here, Werewolves, Fae, and Mages were too. Screw this noise. I turned spectral and drew my Zanpakuto. “Here ghosty.” I said, voice full of menace. “Bakudo 44. Big Trouble in Little Seireitei.”
At my words, the entire hotel was sealed, cut off from the outside world, both physically and spiritually. “Bakudo 88. Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice.” There was a screech and lighting fixtures exploded all around me as the ghost was pulled out of the immaterium and physically manifested by my highly unorthodox sealing spells. “Bakudo 69. Who You Gonna Call?” A rectangle of light appeared beneath the ghost, actinic tendrils of energy reaching up and wrapping around its spiritual form.
“This is not your place, spirit.” I said, drawing Soul of Ice. “Time for you to move on.” And I pressed the base of my… overly large machete… someone was having funtimes… but to be fair, her normal slender forms would have looked like a toothpick in my massive mits… against the ghost’s head and, with a scream of rage and anger and hate, the ghost was dragged into the darkness beyond. A moment later a second ghost coalesced, looking tired but ultimately satisfied. She nodded silently to me, then dissolved into a pillar of light and rose through the ceiling, leaving behind a pendant and a diary. I read the second, learning about the asshole father (ghost 1) who killed his daughters and wife (ghost 2) then tormented her for decades. Fucker… he got off… probably not easy, come to think of it.
Getting back to Terry V, I found her missing and her twin sister Jennie had a quest for me… in the form of vandalizing some paintings at a local gallery. That took me twelve minutes, most of it because doing so summoned some fucked up blood… thing. Get back and Terry’s sends me to some diner to make up with Jeanette… Fuck it, if I’m going to be running errands for these two, I’ll take the time and do the reading…
Well, fuck. Not twins. DID. Multiple Personality Disorder. Thanks to a fairly fucked up childhood and the Malkavian Madness… ooohh… this is what I get for treating people like people. The two of her were in full on meltdown mode. There was a psychic war going on between the two of them, plus Jeanette was planning to have some thugs shoot me at the diner. Oh, and Theresa had Lily tied up as a blood donor at the local blood bank, courtesy of one of her ghouls.
One jaunt into TJ’s mind, a lot of cleanup and a rather disturbing bossfight later, and the two were… talking to each other instead of plotting cerebral sororicide. “Now, you two behave, call Tung, I’m getting out of here. And you want to be Prince of this city so bad, start acting like it. A Prince does not plot to assassinate herself, got me? Oh, and that one ponytail on the side of the head look? Not you. Makes you look like you forgot to balance your look.”
I sauntered out, heading for the gas station where the Nosferatu Tung lived… how the fuck long were the nights here? Long enough I guess. But it was getting pretty close to dawn. Tung gave me the skinny on the warehouse… why I needed to do all the other bullshit I dunno, but fine, juuust fine. Padding, introducing stuff… whatever. This jump was 2 days old and I already needed a drink… not that it would do much besides make this form sick. “Sneak in, plant the bomb, yaddayadda.”
I rolled my eyes. I could do this blindfolded. I didn’t. But I could have. Instead I flew up to the roof and cut my way through the ceiling, dropped the bomb and walked away. Building went boom. I’d scanned it, nothing but humans who wanted to be Sabbat. Not a nice group of people.
As I was doing the post explosion walking away from the flames bit, a Gangrel wolfshifter named Becket showed up, wanting to wax all philosophical about the Book of Nod and its “Secrets of Vampirekind, shhh sooo secret.” history / myth… whatever. Him, I read. Not Cam, not Anarch, not Sabbat. Just a 300 year old loner… with some interesting information. He acted cryptic, I acted weird… it was all good.
Get back to Berty, report the deed done, he calls me a Cab… that’s… when things go off the rails. I suspect things would have been different in the game, is what I’m saying. I walked to the cab, just passively scanning everyone I ran into if I was going to be spending more than a few minutes with them, and I stumbled. The driver wasn’t human. Fair enough, this was WoD. But the Driver also wasn’t just any old vamp. The driver was freaking Caine. His eyes tracked to me and he had the same stunned expression on his face as I would have had if I’d had worse self control.
“We should talk,” we both said at the same time.
“You first,” I said.
“Not here,” he said.
“Fine.” I climbed in the back and he drove to an underground parking facility.
“No two day old fledgling should be able to keep me from reading him,” he said as he pulled into a spot.
“No. I imagine not. Except, I’m older than you are, Caine.”
“That’s not possible, unless you’re my father.”
“Oh, it is. Well… probably. I doubt either of us really has that firm a grasp on just how old we are.”
“How is this possible?”
“The God that Marked you is not the only God.”
“The how isn’t that important. The why is. I’m here for a 10 year… let’s call it an audit. I’m here to watch things play out, maybe to interfere, maybe not. Like you, I could easily wipe out every Vampire in this city… besides each other. I can’t hurt you, obviously… and you cannot reasonably harm me. At least that’s the assumption we should both go on. According to legend, If I harm you, I’ll receive the same wounds, only worse. Let’s not test each other’s limits, shall we?”
“No. I suppose not. So, you just… show up places, and watch?”
“Sometimes I show up places and kick ass. I imagine the same goes for you, though I’ve seen… many more places than you have.”
“Oh? Do tell. I love a good story.”
I laughed. “Yeah, yeah. You don’t believe me. Want to see a trick?”
He chuckled. “Sure. I love… tricks.”
And with that, I drew him into my Mind Palace. “Welcome to Sunny California.” I said, throwing open the doors leading from the foyer to the outside. Caine looked around at the vista, a crowd of palaces atop a hundred mountain peaks, each surrounded by a nimbus of cloud and bathed in sourceless light. “Where is this… and who are you?”
I smiled, “I’m the same person who’s sitting in the back of your cab. This is just what I really look like. And this… is the inside of my mind.”
“How do you reflect damage? Call it the curse of a vengeful god.”
You don’t sound bitter.”
“It’s been a while. I’ve adjusted. Can’t go home again and all that. I guess I should be asking why you’re in LA at this time, but I’m here, so I can only assume something major is brewing within the next four to eight years. Gehenna, or something like it.”
“Something like it? What’s like Gehenna?” He seemed incredulous.
“Believe it or not, the mortal Apocalypse and the vampiric Gehenna aren’t the only doomsdays rolling out around these parts. The lycanthropes, mages, changelings, and even the wraiths all have their own ends of the world. It’s a right clusterfuck of Doomsdays.”
“Well… isn’t that just lovely.”
“Gets worse than that.”
“Worse than doomsday? days?”
“Has to do with why history is all fucked up.”
“Do I want to know?”
“No. You really don’t. I have multiple post doctoral degrees in high level math and it makes my brain hurt just trying to deal with it.”
“Wonderful. So… what now? I mean, I was all set to be super cryptic and drop hints about destiny and how you were shaping it and how we’re all fortune’s fools… but I think you might understand that as well as I do.”
“Yeah… learned that the hard way. I could and have been a major plotbuster… but only when I know what’s coming… in detail. This time? All I know is the power level.”
“You sound worried.”
“Your children scare the crap out of me.”
“But I don’t?”
“Aside from being a murderer, you’re fairly reasonable. And there’s only one of you. I have no idea how many of these Antediluvians there are, where they are, or what their motives are. And their power level is, I think, higher than yours in some ways. An awful lot of your power rests in being… unkillable.”
“Yup. That. I’d love to be able to tell you I have a solution to that, but, while I know solutions are out there, I don’t know how to get to where they are.”
“Lovely. Well, if you find one, do drop by again and spare a thought for Caine.”
“If there’s a world left when I’m done here…. But for now you should take me to see LaCock, and I should report in. There’s a plot to unravel here.”
And there was. It unravelled slowly over the next month and a half, a month that largely focused around a massive practical joke being played by a local anarch called Smiling Jack involving an ancient sarcophagus and an Antediluvian rumor…. And about eleven pounds of C-4. The city got a new Prince (not me), the Anarchs had a good laugh (not at my expense), and all the Kuei-Jin in the city ended up very very dead (those who didn’t flee when I gave them the option… I don’t like people trying to play me for a patsy.)
That was how I spent the first 2 months of the jump… call that the tutorial. The rest of the time I spent largely with Caine as we tracked down the Antediluvians one by one and I explained (between battles) the nature of the world to the vampiric progenitor. “So… everything in this universe is some kind of… illusion?”
“More like an agreement on what happened, is happening, and can happen. It’s what causes the mortals to largely forget everything they’ve seen of the supernatural, no matter how often it crops up.”
“And it’s all coming crashing down?”
“Yeah… pretty soon. The Final Nights are coming within the decade.”
“And you know all this from playing games?”
“Parallel universes. Some more parallel than others. In my world.., my homeworld, all of this world was merely a rule set for bored people to pretend to be Vampires, Werewolves, or Mages.”
“I’d ask why they’d want that, but I have a feeling I wouldn’t understand even if you told me.”
“Yeah… pretty much. It’s a mortal thing. I still enjoy it, but I get regular doses of mortality every decade or so. I’m not really sure how far into the immortal range I am. This is my… third? Fourth… fifth? Time being something that will, in theory, live forever. I’m a racial / societal god, a pagan goddess, an elf a couple of times over, a half-dragon… dunno if they die of old age… and a vampire, of course.”
“And there are more vampires out there than just the kuei-jin that have no connection to me?”
“Oh, a good hundred or so. What did you think of those Twilight Audiobooks I loaned you?”
“I think the Volturi sound like what the Camarilla wishes it could be… and their Embrace sounds like the torment of the damned. I would not wish it on my worst enemy. Still, they sound like fierce warriors… when they aren’t moping. Much better than that Louis, and his child bride. Dracula I liked. He had style… but I could not figure out which clan he might be.”
I laughed. “Yeah. I do that too sometimes. If I had the Darin Shan books, I’d loan those to you, but they’re on backorder. Vampinese… I dunno… sometimes people amuse me. I never read them myself. Just saw the first movie… prissiest vampires ever. But Vampire Fiction is essentially divided into three groups. The Vampires are People, Vampires are Monsters, and Vampires are Monster-People.”
“How does that work?”
“Well, VaP works try to limit the power and play up the humanity. VaM works tend to nerf both the humanity and the power pretty heavily so that normal people can badass their way to killing them… that’s what Buffy the Vampire Slayer was all about. Most of your descendants would rip through most of that world’s vamps like a sawblade through balsa… And VaMP works tend to play up both factors, showing how hard it is to be a demi-god of murder without giving in to the hunger.”
“You don’t seem to have a problem with it.”
“First, I source all my blood ethically… I have a jar that makes blood. But mostly. I think blood tastes disgusting. Too coppery too sweet. Of course, that means everything tastes ghastly to me these days besides mint gum. I drink it because I need it, but honestly I just close my eyes and think of England.”
“What they used to tell puritanical British women to do with regards to sex. You don’t seem bothered by the hunger either.”
“Just practice. When I’m not angry, I barely feel it anymore. It doesn’t sustain me. The Curse does that all on its own. All I feel is pain if I don’t eat.”
“Ah. That makes sense.”
“I’ve been meaning to ask… why do you wear that… ridiculous form?”
“Salty? It’s the form I was given this jump… and for this jump, all my forms will be… rotund… just like I’ll be incredibly slutty… It’s the price I pay for more power. I inflict… hardship upon myself.”
“Huh… just out of curiosity… is one of those hardships an explanation for why we’ve been attacked by Vampiric Were-Chihuahas every night for the past week?”
“Heh… Could be.”
Nine years and change. That’s how long we managed to put off Gehenna. Four of the Antediluvians were willing to listen to reason. Ennoia, Malkav, Ilyes, and Saluot… and not a single one of them was sane. Ilyes had been driven mad by abuse of time travel. Saluot and Malkav by the conflicting nature of their precognitive gifts in a world where even the past was fluid… and Ennoia from being half-vampire, half-werewolf. That these four were the sanest of the lot should tell you much.
Still, nothing could save a world bent on destroying itself, and even holding Gehenna at bay wouldn’t stop the Ascension or the Apocalypse or the End of Days. The World of Darkness was being cancelled and the world was coming to an end regardless of what I or Caine might do about it. I’d never actually read the Gehenna sourcebook, since my World of Darkness Campaigns were always set in the future past the point they’d have occurred (and I’m not a big End of the World fangirl), but I’d surfed wiki’s and talked to people enough to know that the book didn’t paint any absolutes. Just… scenarios… mutually exclusive ones at that.
“Are you certain this will work?”
“No. Not even a little bit.” I said, pulling out the syringe and handing it to him.
“Then explain again.”
“There is a thing called the Withering. It showed up in some of the scenarios.”
“And it does… what?”
“It makes vitae useless. Forces vampires to eat each other.’
“And this concoction of yours?”
“It’s technical… but the biggest theory of the Withering is it was caused by something taking you out of the picture.”
“Remember in Lestat, when all the vampires got burned because Akasha was put out in the sun?”
“What happens to the father happens to them all.”
“Them? Not you?”
“Eh… maybe. But my powers will work in other worlds where you don’t exist… at the worst I’ll lose all the Vicissitude and Obtenebration and Quietus and the other powers I picked up from the minds of those who opposed us. Everything else I should keep. And if I don’t… I’ll always have Paris.”
“You’re very strange… I still do not-”
“I think I have a way to make anyone who has your blood in their system turn into a mortal again… It’s… it’s fucked up, but it’s essentially a combination of a lot of science, a lot of magic… this curse from Buffy… some powdered Phoenix Down… it’s complicated… Just… stick yourself with the needle. Worse that can happen is you die, right?”
“But the world is still going to end?”
“Then… what good will this do?”
“Endings are just beginnings as seen from the other side.”
“And this will remove the curse?”
“Almost certainly not.”
“Because it will end everyone else’s Eternal Night.”
“Ah. It will be as if I’d never disobeyed Uriel.”
“Well… everyone your children have ever killed will still be dead… but yes. They’ll grow old and die, just like everyone else.”
“And this is for the best?”
“What the hell do I know? I can see a few seconds into the future… Ask those two.” I pointed at Malkav and Saluot who were playing chess against each other… two seers, predicting each others’ moves in real time.
“Fuck.” The father of all vampires said, then jabbed himself with the syringe. His heart (yes, he still has a heartbeat… he’s not undead.) lurched as the bolus of magic hit it like a ton of bricks and there was a flash of light and an Angel of THE LORD stood in front of us.
~WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?~
“Ah. Good. Thought that might get your attention.”
“What?” asked Caine. I might have left out this bit.
“Sit down Caine… you’re dying,” I said, then turned to the Angel. “What I did was very simple… I had him inject a tiny chunk of anti-matter into his body along with the cure which might or might not work”
“To get you to show up.”
“Because I want you to make this whole thing go away.”
“The ends of the world.~
~AND IF I DON’T?~
“I erased the gods of a world that wasn’t ruled by consensual reality once. Do you really think I’d have a problem convincing everyone on this Earth that Blue was Green? I like this world… it’s fun. But the End of the World shit has got to go. I don’t know if you can do much about the nature of the world, but between the Christians and Muslims, you and your people have got the pull to stop the end of the world cold. So do so. Let things play out on their own. Stop pushing for a final resolution and enjoy the ride. It’s not what you were made for, but it’s the more interesting story.”
~I HAVE REMOVED THE ANTI-MATTER. HE’LL BE FINE.~
“I know. I knew you would. God can’t have Caine just keeling over, now can he?”
~YOU TREAD A VERY DANGEROUS PATH, MORTAL~
“Fuck you. You’re playing dice with the fate of the world. Grow up.”
~YOU DARE.~ It wasn’t an accusation.
“I do. You’re the fire of god. Hit me with your righteous fury. Give in to the anger. Judge me, big boy.”
~DO NOT TEMPT ME.~
“Then act like you’ve grown some over the past fortnight. The world took a long time to build… it’s pretty fascinating. Shutting it down now… that spoils all the fun.”
~DO NOT DO THIS AGAIN~
“Do we have a deal?”
~YES. DO NOT DO THIS AGAIN~
18 weeks later
“Oh, come on Caine. I knew they wouldn’t let you die.”
“That’s not the point. You lied to me.”
“Hah. If that’s my biggest crime, I’ll take it.”
“And you’re asking me to trust you? After getting me to stick Anti-Matter into my body?”
“This is a terrible idea.”
“And we’re having this talk inside your mind palace because?”
“No eavesdroppers here… probably.”
“This will never work.”
“You’re such a worry wart. What’s the worst that could happen?”
“Oh… please stop saying that.”
10 minutes later
~CAINE. DO NOT THINK YOU CAN ESCA~
And the pillars of time rose out of Santa Monica Beach.
Next: World 49 – Under the Domes