Thursday, January 19, 2017

It is almost here...


The preview is up.
And I am holding back tears of joy.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

One week has passed...

...and I have not played any table top games, be it board games or role-playing games.  The first week of January is always a tricky period, with some groups still focused on family events, while others tied up with other activities.  Admittedly, I'm not the kind of guy who is used to having such quiet days, and so this week has been a tad tough on me.  To survive it, I've been diving into Civilization V on the laptop, as well as been writing.  I got a lot of writing to do after all.

I've finished my first draft submission for Witch: The Fated and I'm really hoping that will be received well.  Currently, I've been working on the Martini stuff for Cold Shadows, which will explore a variety of ways to enjoy the game despite having only you and your friend for the game night.  I'm drawing inspiration from shows like The Night Manager, Alias, Infernal Affairs and movies like Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy.  Admittedly, I'd love to have done the same with books but there just isn't enough time as I tend to be a slow reader.  I've also been working on the Tenra Bansho Zero scenario which reads sort of like a Black Mirror episode with lots of Eastern influences.  I'm hoping that goes well too.  And finally, in between projects, I sneak in time to work on Dreamscrapers and A Second Moment.   Sickening Queens, the drag queen Fiasco playset, is pretty much done, save for the artwork and layout which has become a challenge due to my limited funds.

But yeah, I'm no longer just a fanboy who loved gaming and dreamed of some day sharing my own stuff to others.  I've now become a game designer for role-playing games as well, and who knows, maybe within this year, I'll also have a table top game release?    I'm even toying with the idea of working on a Dune-inspired game with Rocky and I writing out the universe and making it our own version of cool.  If we're lucky, it will have an appreciative audience as well.

Here's hoping this coming week will be a more game filled one. Pandemic Legacy is on its last month at our office game.  While the box I got for me, Rocky, Che and Urim has only had its first month so far.  Then there's the 7th Sea twin-campaign which ended with a huge reveal on the Villain's plans, but not their Mastermind yet, there's the Vampire 20th edition campaign with the reveal of the "Sleeper" given the title, and there's our insanely fun Legends of the Wulin game which has taken a mindscape time jump as the heroes try to master their Kung Fu before they face off against the bid bag guy.  There's also the upcoming Houses of the Blooded oneshot game we're playing with Flip and Carlo, which if they turn out to like it as much as we do, might become a monthly thing.  And there's the plans of trying new games, including Exalted 3rd edition.


Later today, January 8, I'll be back with family cause it is my dad's birthday.  I'm hoping to steal him away to try to catch Rogue One on IMAX. Web shows its still screening at SM Southmall, but online postings have been wrong before - so crossing my fingers and hoping it works out.  It is almost 5a.m. so I better grab some sleep, wake up by noon, to have a quick lunch, then head to the south for my dad.

So yeah, 2017. Let's get brighter each passing week, shall we?

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Hello 2017!



So this is officially the first post for the new year. It is now 2017 and we got 365 days to celebrate in various ways waiting to be filled with gaming.  Lots of things in store for us this year, from a variety of games that need to be written, to a range of stories that desire to be penned down, and even a bunch of table top non-role-playing games that are to be released or further developed.  It is gonna be a busy yet fantastic year!

A Second Moment
It feels very apt to call upcoming next book A Second Moment.  As the Companion book to my first game release, A Single Moment, this book has a hefty amount of content in its pages.  When you're designing a game, it is not uncommon to find your mind wandering over a lot of ideas and different approaches that you could have done or wanted to try.  The tougher part comes when you need to "kill your darlings" and edit away parts which you feel over-complicate the initial goal of creating a game that people can grasp, enjoy, and play.  But afterwards, that's when you realize some of those ideas can be repackaged to work wonderfully with the existing rule set and deserve to be brought back as options.  And that's the main key word of A Second Moment: It is all about the options you have available.  The book is about taking a second moment to look at what is happening and find ways you can make it cooler and more awesome. The book offers alternate resolution systems which I initially hinted in the first book, such as systems that use ten-sided dice, or systems that use the variety of polyhedral dice instead of just the six-sided ones, as well as a few diceless systems, such as one that uses playing cards and another that completely removes any random element and trusts the players to resolve things without any random numbers being generated.    The book also offers ideas on running A Single Moment with more than 2 players, as well as running games which might feel almost like traditional role-playing games, with one "GM" being the antagonist, and the rest being a group of heroes... or switched around with one being the lone hero and the rest being the group of antagonists the hero has to go through.


It would be wrong not to admit that works such as Lone Wolf and Cub, Kill Bill, Scott Pilgrim, The Devil Wears Prada, RuPaul's Drag Race and the Super Sentai Series were not huge influences on this coming book.  And if you are all wondering how a confusing set of influences figure into this book, well, I guess you'll just have to imagine for now.  Finally, I've also offering what I call the Forty Minute Face Off, which is a way to play A Single Moment in far less than an hour, which can be perfect for those days when you just want a quick session.

12 New Games for 2017
Continuing my promise to myself to always explore new ground and never limit my experiences in gaming, this new year has once more opened the opportunity to explore twelve new game systems.  To be quite frank, the last two months were filled with instances where I was actually holding back from playing certain systems since I wanted to have them count for my list this year.

Last year's tally has these:  Twelve New Games for 2016
1) Pocket Odyssey
2) Marvel Heroic Role-playing Games
3) Fiasco: Bookhounds
4) Wield

5) #TagRPG
6) Mutant City Blues
7) 7th Sea, second edition

8) Curse of the Yellow Sign #3
9) Chuubo's Marvelous Wish-Granting Engine
10) Inspectres
11) A Single Moment
12) V20

And yes, I haven't really transcribed all of them yet.  I have a backlog of 40+ game session recordings to transcribe into this blog. But I definitely am happy to have tried such a range of games and I experimented with others. I am anxious to try a lot of other game systems, including King Arthur Pendragon, Mistborn, Blood and Honor: A World of Dew, the Star Trek Adventures RPG, the Frost Papers, the various Protocol Games and so many more.


Let's see what will be the games for this year.

More Updates
I'm also looking at making sure I be more active in updating the blog as well. I used to write a lot of articles, but that was eventually replaced by other ways I shared knowledge.  This year, I think it is time to go back to writing more articles, and maybe even having a new webshow with Rocky. Whether it is just YouTube or Twitch or something, we will find what will work best.

But yeah, 2017 is a very promising year!  Let's celebrate more gaming!



Friday, December 30, 2016

Recruitment #15 : Lacuna

04/08/2015
Recruitment #15
Lacuna, Part I. The Birth of Mystery and the Girl from Blue City

The agents in the mission are the following:

Agent Singer, played by Jose 
Endurance : Caller : Armed (Sub machine gun) : Meditation

Agent Fisher, played by Jonas 
Endurance : Driver : Documents : Safe-House : Contact (Kira)
Caller : Meditation

Agent Dexter, played by Alfred 
Meditation : Spy : Writer : Judge : Caller

Agent Page, played by DJ 
Training : Caller : Armed : Meditation : Credit (Through Snyder) 

The reception room looks different than the previous one.  The room appears to be under renovation.  Wires jut out from areas.  The windows are covered with newspaper.  The floor itself does not have tiles, and is mostly cement. Some parts have lines drawn to suggest where tiling should stop.  The receptionist however is the same woman as before.  She seems to be quietly checking the computer as the others start to come to and realize they are in the room.   She smiles upon seeing they are all awake and she greets Agent Singer for being back with them. She commends him for his previous missions and shares that Agent Duke is happy with his performance.  There is mention that he has been in the Blue City more often than the rest of them in the room.

The Company is very happy with how the threat of the Hostile Personality Jigsaw has finally been rehabilitated.  The group begins with more Commendation than expected.  The receptionist's clothing seems to be predominantly cut from circular patterns.  She also has very curly brunette hair.  She shares how reception is now held in the Blue City as the company seen it fit to start here already to save on time.  Mission Briefings are now given during the Reception process in order to better facilitate meeting the goals.  Agent Fisher recommends Agent Singer to be the Team Leader, but Singer declines.  Fisher wonders if they should do a coin flip, but a brief moment of static seems to run through the lights.

Mission:
1) Locate Personalities: Watts and Perls, located somewhere on the First Train.
2) Receive/Retrieve the Aleph.  It is not to fall to any other hands.
3) Safely arrive at Station G.
4) Hand over Aleph to Senior Agent Baxter.  Distinction: She was head of operations when Agent Miner went AWOL. Not found guilty of misconduct, clearance level Blue, and is female.  African-American descent and has a pearl earring on her left ear.

Fisher tries asking for equipment but Reception reminds him that they will have to do so on their own.  The room is only clearance level Green.  She admits she cannot do anything beyond giving the mission parameters.  The rogue agents Miner, Kira and Draper however have raised the alert level of the mission.  She suggests they begin at the Train Station.  Fisher assures the team he will handle getting them there.  Singer asks Reception for her name, but she just tells him she is Reception.

There are things posted in the area around the door, but she pays them no heed.  She offers to them the option to step out now and proceed with the mission. "See you in three hours," they tell Reception. "We will see you in two hours and forty-three minutes."

Fisher calls Control as they step out, immediately asking for information and equipment.  Control confirms his role as Team Leader and confirms Reciprocity is in effect.  He asks what is the Aleph.  Control confirms he has Deep Blue Clearance but warns him that other members of the team do not have that clearance.  Aleph is an important document that must be reclaimed from certain personalities.  It has been known to attract the presence of... something redacted.  More so when it is present within ten to fifteen minutes. It is not to be harmed nor communicated with in any manner.   He requests for three handguns and a sedan.  The three handguns are requisitioned and are now present at the mailbox south of his location. The request for a vehicle is granted, and a pair of keys are in the driver's pocket.  The vehicle should be in the vicinity.  Fisher does not recall having the keys earlier.  The others look around, scanning the streetlights, nearby buildings, and the many parked cars. There are billboards lit up on the rooftops.  The readers can read the flashing two words.  A train is above, with the railway above it.  Not too far away, a woman stands on the street, waiting for a cab.  Other than her fantastic legs, she has a tattoo in her inner thigh, but its too far to see right now. She hails down each car that passes, but none have stopped for her.  A truck is approaching.  The woman has a small hat at the back of her head, with has a small veil that covers her face.  Her hair is barely visible.  Caucasian.

Dexter admits he thinks he knows her.Page chooses to stand guard while Singer follows him.    As Fisher ends the call, he looks up to see the others headed for the woman.  He scans the area for a mailbox, wanting to get the others the guns.   Dexter grabs the woman by the arm gently and looks at her fuzzy out of focus face.  He shakes his head, apologizing and admitting he mistook her as someone else.  The truck rumbles past the others, stops and on its back, a black sedan.  Fisher sees the mailbox further down.  Page focuses on the driver and sees it is a five-foot seven figure in overalls.  He has a frog's head.  Dexter whispers that the place where they are is not what it seems.  He can read the words "Go Back" appearing on the walls. On the billboard.  He thinks its a warning.  The frog asks for the papers, and Fisher pulls out the necessary documents.

The faceless woman walks up to them, asking if she can get a ride.  Fisher says there's no room.  She mentions she's late for the Opera and Kira is playing tonight.  Fisher pulls the others close for a huddle while the Frog brings the sedan down from the trailer.  Fisher asks the others if they know Kira, and they admit they do.  Page is concerned about pulling their weapons while with a passenger.  Dexter reminds them the rogue agents are on high alert.  Going there might stir up things. Fisher agrees they can learn more about Kira later. "Let's not arouse suspicion with the company."  They tell the woman they're full up, and she walks away.   Frog asks if they're Mystery Agents, but they get in the car without replying.  They drive off.

A sharp high pitched tone hits Singer's head, and his nose begins to bleed.  Fisher tells the other to grab the weapons and go back to the car.  When they don't respond, probably due to panic, Fisher rushes to grab them himself.  Singer stands up and watches Fisher curry to the mailbox.   Page focuses on watching the rear, and sees a parked van further down the road.  Black in color. Slight hints of movement. Fisher finds a mobile phone instead inside the mailbox on his first attempt to dig in.  Page notices a red dot somewhere inside the windshield.  He tells the others quickly there's a possible contact, "Van!"  A shattering sound erupts as Fisher hears the muffled ping hit the mailbox.  He feels the guns in his hand and grabs it.  Dexter tries to find the source of the warning shot as he asks for the gun.  Singer stays low, ducking for cover.  Fisher starts running for the car.  Shots are exchanged.  A shot hits the driver's door as Fisher ducks into the driver's seat.  Dexter and Page opens fire at the van to force the attackers down.  As the sedan's engine roars into action, a Call reaches Agent Page. The Caller turns claims to be Senior Agent Miner, and he tells Page he needs his help. The caller admits he cannot verify his identity.  Dexter asks who Page is talking to.  Page ignores him, however, and using his Judge skill, asks if the Caller is who he claims to be.  "Absofuckinglutely."  Page confirms it to be true.  Skidding into the first corner, they have a better view of the van.  Dexter aims for the driver and fires.  The Caller asks where Page and the others will be so he can intercept the Aleph.   Blood splatters against the windshield, then out as the glass shatters.

Fisher explains to Page the stuff he's found in the mailbox, and he tosses Dexter the phone.  Dexter looks at the phone and types in a reply: Trains.  Page doesn't explain further who called him.  They drive off, leaving the van now, and make their way to the Train station. Singer asks someone to handle navigation as he feels his heart starting to pound against his chest.  While driving, Dexter inspects the phone and its a basic smart phone. Nothing in the directory and the like.  Fisher asks for it back. Dexter tells them he saw the board earlier saying, "Got Your Back..." but then it changed into, "Go back!"  Now the other signs are telling the same thing.  Singer admits he seems to recall dying.  He doesn't think he's supposed to be here. Fisher asks Singer if he knows Kira.  "Don't Call and Drive, even in the Blue City."  Fisher admits Kira might be their only lead with the rogue agents, and asks Singer to ask her how they can get out of this place permanently.  Dexter shares his faint recollections of the same lady, with a tattoo, who they had shot in the face.  That woman was disguised as Kira as well.  Fisher clarifies the Kira they know might have the same tattoo, but it might just be a well designed Cover.    Singer tries Calling Kira.  She responds, a bit surprised to hear from him.  Singer shares that Fisher is calling in a favor and that they're headed for the train station.  He asks her to meet them there.  She tests Singer first, asking what she was wearing when they met, and he confirms it was Yellow, not Red.  He also confirms they were at the Kitchen in the Zoo and when she scolds him for being back after they had ejected him, he admits he just woke up again in Reception.  Kira, however, tells them no one has been in Reception.  She's been monitoring the place all day.  She warns them there are too many Hostile Personalities in the Train Station.  They map out a place outside the Train Station and they will meet in ten minutes.

Dexter sees more billboards along the route.  The text once again changes into, "Go back" despite the posters being ads for clothing and the like.  The place feels darker.  More oppressive.  Dexter wonders if they should Eject.  "I have a very bad feeling about this."  Even the streets seem more populated than before.   Fisher has Singer call Kira again, admitting he suspects they may be in Deep Blue. Page remains alert, keeping watch of anything suspicious outside the car.  

The call to Kira has her admit she cannot track them right now, since she is mobile.  Singer admits its kind of weird that there are a lot more people out.  Kira however thinks it might just be the Blue City - there are times there seem to be more around on certain nights - but at least they haven't seen anything weird yet.  Like spiders.  "If you do meet Spiders, stick to headshots.  Don't get too close. They are not human."  Page can hear a muffled beating sound.  He risks sticking his head out a window to check and hears the sound stronger.  Looking up, he sees the open sky and a black shape following the car.  A silent helicopter.  Page warns the others that they may be being followed.

Enjoy. Embrace. Bliss.    The group sees the massive signboard ahead with these three words.  To their surprise, they can ALL read it.   Suddenly, a powerful feeling hits and deep down, they feel the urge to stop the car, walk up to the billboard and... something.  A feeling they all want. A feeling they miss.  But one they have no idea where it is coming from.

Knowing Kira is about a minute away from their destination, Singer turns the sedan to find the nearest building to the station.  Page reminds them to find a parking area that has a ceiling or roof.  One is a covered parking area, and the second option is a low bridge.  Singer turns the car to the covered parking area instead.  The man at the entrance gives them a ticket, after writing on it.  The ticket comes out and hands it to them.  Singer passes the note immediately to Dexter, who confirms the contents are just the parking notes.  They call Kira, confirming they're at the Parking Lot of the Trainstation and warns her they are being followed.  They are in a black sedan.  Kira confirms she is close and she can see the bird in the sky.  She's waiting for a crowd.  "I'll find you."  Fisher changes the plan and tells Kira to meet at the Train Station again.  But Kira thinks the helicopter is from the Company, and they might just be monitoring the group. Dexter offers to shift into a Disguise to meet Kira. Page glances around, and thankfully everything is still clear.  But Kira no longer responds.  A group is now crossing the street.  Girl scouts.  

Page watches the Scouts walk past the parking lot.  Dexter looks for any black women in the area, and he sees one at the entrance at the Train Station with two people, remembering Kira's old disguise.  Page reminds them to hurry. Singer admits this feels unusual for Kira as she usually just appears out of nowhere. As the Scouts walk past the Train Station, one separates and approaches the parking lot.  Page watches the girl as she offers a box to the parking attendant, then walks away from him after he buys a box.  Fisher calls out to her, asking if she needs a smoke.  She turns towards them and approaches.  Singer stands outside.  Dexter notes the black woman has an earring only on the left ear.  He tells them Baxter is waiting by the Station.   The Girl Scout offers them cookies and when they accept the box, they note the cookies in the box seem odd.  Dexter looks in and reads the pattern made by the chips: Kira.

 A metallic sound catches their attention.  They look at the Train Station and a massive sculpture is being dragged out. It is made of various metal pieces, of hands reaching for the sky.  The shadows cast by the hands fall upon the group, criss crossing lines, like a net.  Singer asks if the Girl Scout is Kira, and she smiles, sitting along them in the back seat.  Dropping her Cover, she admits this isn't Deep Blue and Dexter reminds them Baxter is waiting for them.  She admits having not met Page yet, who tells her he's knew.  He gives his name, and she Calls him to confirm his identity.  He hears her voice, confirming it. She tells Singer she owes him for that save.  She asks Fisher why he keeps coming back here.  They ask her of the Aleph and she admits Miner wants to get a hold of it.  They think it has something to do with what they call Bliss. They aren't sure if it would be safe to give it to the Company right now. Miner's suspicions are it is a person. Fisher admits they need to give the Aleph to the Company or they might suspect they have gone rogue. She asks about Draper, and he admits he's no longer with them.  Singer asks about Watts and Pearls, and Kira admits she has never heard of them either.  She thinks they're Hostile Personalities. Dexter shares his sightings of "Go Back" and Kira asks if he's also noticed the mentions of Bliss. No one remembers what it is, but they all remember desiring it... wanting it...  Sadly, none of them remember anything about it.  Fisher suggests they push through with the Mission and determine what to do with the Aleph when they get it.  With an hour and a half left, they realize they best meet Watts and Pearls before time runs out. Learn what they can and report back once possible. She then asks Page, who is new to the group, whose side he is on.  Kira shares that they're all being recycled.  When the Company first started, the Lacuna devices were being used to rehabilitate Hostile Personalities.  Whenever they were captured, they would be ejected out using the Lacuna devices.  The same way any of them would Eject after a Mission. "Miner suspects we have all most likely once were Hostile Personalities." And this brings the question who they are and why does the Blue City exist.  Miner noticed since the shift in the hierarchy in the Company, with many of the ones who "died" were from the other side of the Operations. They think Snyder is part of the coup. Page asks what their goal would be. Kira admits they think they're trying to make the Blue City safe.  Whatever the Company used to be, Snyder might have taken over. Kira thinks the Spidermen might be the missing element. Dexter admits he found one of the Spidermen's guns before and he realized humans would have a hard time using them. They think the Spiders use human bodies like Cover, to move about them unnoticed. Headshots incapacitate them for a few seconds, forcing them to tear out and attack. They have always resorted to running upon seeing them. The Safehouses are safe from Spiders but not from Agents of the Company. The Garden has been infiltrated many times, but they still use it to fool the Company into thinking they don't know.   A call arrives, for Agent Fisher.  Baxter Calls to ask where he is.  As the group sees him talking, Kira touches his face and reaches her hand out to the others.  Taking it, they realize they can hear the call as well now. Fisher admits they're outside and Baxter scolds him that they are late.  The train is leaving in ten minutes. Ending the call, Fisher is surprised to see them all already ready to go for the train.  Page asks who the other HPs in the station are working for. Kira admits they're only known as HPs based on the fact they're recurring faces and have constant personalities. Page muses they'd probably identify the Aleph once they notice the presence of a lot of HPs. Kira shares one last thing: they can't contact Mason. Too much Static. She tells them she will wait in the car.  Fisher brings the keys with him.

They hurry and cross the street. Page does not see the copter anymore.  They approach and see Baxter, dressed now as a security guard.  Dexter looks around for anyone who might be Pearl and Watts.  Baxter tells them they should hurry or they'll lose their train.  They identify the train they should head to. The four hurry down the hallway, moving to the platform where they want to get to.  Fisher notes they have barely seven minutes left.  He reassures the group he can use Documents for the tickets.  Page scans the area for suspicious individuals and notes while most of the people are blurry, there are people who are dressed finely in semi-formal garb, all wearing animal masks.  Singer checks the masks and notes what they are: A White Tiger. A Wolf.  And another type of cat, but not sure what kind.  Singer reminds them to be wary of the cat. Page notes none of them have their hands exposed, they may have their hands on weapons hidden in pockets/inside their jackets.  The three are in different locations though.  Dexter suspects they might be protecting the wolf, given the two others are cats.  Maybe he or she is the target in the Mission.  Page suggests they wait for the last moment to see who will ride where.

The call comes, for the last five minutes to board the plane.  The three now make their way to the same platform they are at.  Steam rises from the wheels of the train.  Blurry faced people begin boarding the train.  Even the crew have faceless featureless faces.  Singer allows the three masked figures to go in first. Page looks for anyone with a clear face but finds none.   Singer notes the three stop instead of going in, as if waiting.  Dexter decides to walk past the three, then finds an available seat in the train.  The others note the masked figures watch Dexter as he goes in.  "Last four minutes.."   The two cats nod.  The Wolf starts going in.  Inside the train, Dexter realizes it isn't the usual open seating train.  There are booths.  He moves ahead to find any empty booth in this car, or the next one.  He finds the first available one and steps inside.   Page is unnerved by the faceless conductors.  The group walks past the two cats in the suits and board the train.  They see the booths. Singer asks the attendant for a booth, and the attendant tells him to take any one he prefers, "This is Train Number One. Invitation only." Fisher follows the Wolf and realizes they are heading to the next car.  He fingers his gun, sliding a finger into place.  Dexter slides out of the booth to follow Fisher.  Singer moves to the door, but waits for the last call to close the door before the Cats board.  The two cats look up surprised as the door doesn't open in front of them. Singer fakes miming he's trying to unlock the door he "accidentally" locked. The Cats look at him angrily as the train begins to move, leaving them behind.  One of the two cocks his head, seemingly in a Call.  The train leaves them behind.  Singer tries to follow the others.

In the next car, Fisher and Dexter follow the Wolf.  Dexter moves faster, walking past Fisher, then the Wolf, and continues walking further ahead.  Page slides into the room as well, peering at the nearby booths for anything out of place, like people in suits.  Or a person with a face.  Finding an empty booth ahead, Dexter slides the door open and sits inside.  A door opens, revealing two men in semi-long shirts and bowties. Their faces are fuzzy.  Between them, a young girl in a blue dress is being escorted.  A sharp stabbing pain suddenly hits the brain of the Mystery Agents who can see the girl.  Some of them begin to feel faint from the pain.  Page seeing the effects on the others, he looks at the faceless guys and sees no reaction coming from them.  Singer stumbles into the closest booth, and the two personalities in the booth ask if he needs help.  He claims it is just a nosebleed.  The older personality asks him to "Have some Bliss," insisting it will make the pain go away.  They are quite insistent. Page slips back into the earlier car, worried about Singer.

Fisher walks up to the Wolf man, addressing him directly and asking if he's been to the Zoo lately.  Dexter, in the other booth, keeps the door open enough to overhear the conversation. The Wolf tells him to stand aside.  Dexter notes the Wolf has drawn a hand into his suit, and the head of an axe can be seen peering from inside his jacket.  Dexter fires a shot at the arm holding the axe, hoping to disarm the man.  The elbow explodes into red, cloth and wood.  Fisher plants a foot down on the axe head, and he pulls out his Document as it it were a badge, and demands the Wolf explain who he is.  To his surprise, the Wolf growls, "Mystery Agent.." Dexter hurries out of the booth, and grabs the Wolf up from the ground, and the two drag Wolf into the empty booth.  As the door closes, all the other booth doors open, as the other passengers wonder what just happened.

Singer sees the two faceless guys continue to escort the girl in blue down the car.  Page sees this too, and he slides into the car and he walks towards the nearest booth. Singer notices the young girl's eyes are focused on him, and she seems to be speaking without words.  Singer feels another stabbing pain hit is head.  He slams against the wall and something clicks in his brain.  He suddenly is a Writer.  As the lights flicker when the train moves past some things. Singer begins to notice the flickering is actually in morse code! H - E - L - P - M - E - H - E - L - P - M - E...  He struggles up to his feet, but when tries to draw his pistol to help.... the car is empty.  He doesn't realize five minutes had passed!

Five minutes ago, Page sees Singer suddenly shove himself against the far wall, then fall unconscious.   He slides open a booth he thought was empty, but realizes there is someone inside.  He continues instead down the path, ignoring the booth after closing the door.  As he opens the door he sees all the people in this car, asking about what just happened. He continues walking forward, and he stares at the glass reflection to look behind him.  He sees the two men and the child go to the booth he approached earlier and go inside.  Page stops, he realizes it might be best to find the others.  He notices one booth where no one has a head out, and approaches it. He sees Dexter and Fisher there.  Dexter keeps the Wolf held down. Fisher has the axe in his hand.  Fisher asks the Wolf to admit who he is. The Wolf snarls they and their company shouldn't even be here. Fisher tells Dexter to choke the Wolf. Page slides in to see the Wolf gasping for breath. Page tells them Singer is in trouble. The Wolf slumps to the ground after his neck is snapped.  Dexter checks the body for anything and he finds a Lacuna device that has been jury-rigged in some way.  He pockets it without the other noticing. Page quickly reports what he saw, and admits he saw a girl that had a face. Fisher wonders if she's the target. Dexter sets the dead Wolf against the window, as if he was asleep. Dexter offers to wear a disguise. Page points out to them where the others would be. Page hates the fact he can't recall what the person inside the booth looks like.  He thinks it was blurry. Page offers to check the rest of the train, reminding them they haven't checked the front of the train.  Fisher gives Page approval to do it. Page worries if Fisher won't have someone to cover him. Page heads forward to check the train.  Dexter and Fisher head for the rear.

Singer quietly walks down the train, looking into booths for the Girl. As he approaches the third booth, he notices his reflection on the glass and there's blood all over his face.  He tries to wipe himself clean.  The adjoining door slides open as Fisher and Dexter arrive.  Seeing the booth with the Blue Girl, Singer draws his machine gun, hoping to fire at a swinging motion to hit everyone who is taller than the girl.  The bullets fly, tearing through the metal and shattering the glass.  The two are downed, with bloody splatters all around the walls.  The third, a red stain against the window.  The Girl stares at Singer, still pristine and Blue.  Singer rushes inside to grab her. He pulls out his Lacuna device.  Fisher confirms Singer got the girl and asks the Girl for her name.  She looks at them but her mouth opens and words do not come out.  Both Fisher and Dexter feel their heads explode from within.  From the blood that sprays out of Fisher's nose, the blood almost twists midair for a split second to become: Help Me.  Fisher admits she still isn't sure if the Girl is the Target. Singer admits he wants to bring her to Kira and he activates the Lacuna device.  A black pit appears, and the Girl suddenly shrieks so loud the glass shatters in all the nearby booths.  Her words are, "Don't! When Three Becomes Two... and Two Becomes One..."  And then, Singer is gone.  So is the Girl.

Page continues forward, moving to the next car, when a heat wave feeling reaches him.  He instinctively covers his face as glass shatters all around him. In front of him, the long corridor is suddenly filled with more faceless crying and fearful. A man with a Rabbit's face emerges from the other end of the corridor.  Page sees the Rabbit but it does not seem to notice Page is a Mystery Agent. Staying low, Page gets the bearing of his surroundings while watching the Rabbit.  The Rabbit is suddenly in front of Page, covering the distance quite.... impossibly, and it asks if Page is alright. He offers to check Page's wounds on his face. Page feigns shaking in panic as he realizes the Rabbit does not know he's not one of the Personalities. The Rabbit mutters, "Mystery Agents," in reference to the explosion, "This is not good," then to Page, "Stay down, Citizen. We will keep you safe."  And suddenly, the Rabbit is gone.  The door to the next car is already closing.

Fisher Calls Singer, asking where he is now, but there is no response. The sound of the door sliding open alert's Dexter to look if the man has a weapon. He sees the Rabbit headed guy in a suit the same time he hears Page Calling him about a Rabbit-headed Contact! The Rabbit's eyes widen upon seeing Fisher and Dexter.  Dexter fires, not hesitating, and the perfect shot actually misses! Dexter notes however he did not hit anything at the opposite side of the room.  Fisher calls Page to tell him Dexter shot the Rabbit. Page can see the Rabbit against a far wall, checking a wound.  "You grazed him," Page laments.  Fisher recommends Page move closer but Dexter admits it might not be best to engage. Dexter asks Fisher to cover him. Dexter steps out, firing shots that the Rabbit begins to dodge.  Fisher tells Page information on the Rabbit's position, to guide them to hit the target. Page realizes if they keep the Rabbit busy, he can snipe the bastard. Fisher ties to badger the Rabbit to talk, asking who he is and what he wants.  The Rabbit tells them they're not supposed to be here, as this is their city.  He says the Mystery Agents have been infiltrating the city far too...  Page sees the perfect moment and takes the shot. The Rabbit falls to the ground, the mask falling off to reveal a human face.  Dexter and Fisher close in to check the "Rabbit"'s body. Page stays in the distance to keep cover.  The man looks familiar.  Dexter sort of recalls the man is Agent Tiller. Of a man slipping from the helicopter, then the man grabbing his hand, and the two yelling at each other not to let go.  Dexter can't believe its Tiller. He drops to his knees and searches for any identification. He finds Tiller's Lacuna device and slides it into his hand.  Fisher asks if he recognized the man, but Dexter can only stare blankly. Fisher notices what Dexter did, and asks what he just tried to hide. Dexter admits it is beyond Fisher's clearance. Fisher asks who gave the Mission, and Dexter admits Miner gave it.  Fisher admits if it was from Miner, then he will trust him.

Nothing else has happened. Page watches in fascination as the blanks, these faceless people, seem to have totally forgotten what just happened.  They're now all just seated, despite the broken glass, talking to each other, laughing, or keeping themselves busy.   Then in an eyeblink, the glass is fixed. The booths show no damage. Page walks up to the others and tells them they have to finish whatever they came to do and get out. Fisher admits they have no leads. He even wonders if this was a trap. Page asks if the Girl was Aleph. Fisher thinks she may have been, but its hard to know for certain. He offers what happened in a previous mission and admits they cannot tell for certain.  They are but all pawns working to help solve a larger puzzle.

*

Elsewhere.  Agent Singer opens his eyes and finds the Girl pulling away from him.  There is soft jazzy music in the background.  He hears the roaring sound of people applauding.  He looks up to see a studio audience, with hundreds of people watching.  All of them are beautifully dressed, wearing paper mache masks of animal heads. Unlike the masks he had seen in the Zoo, which resembled actual animal heads, here they were clearly craftwork, with black string to hold them up against their faces. Singer cannot feel the weight of the Lacuna device on his shirt. He can feel the weight of his gun however on his side.

A man in a white suit, which looks red and black due to the lights, addresses the audience.  Singer notices everyone is completely in white clothing and masks.  Even the walls and chairs are white.  The lights shift the colors they seem to be in.  As the Girl in Blue runs, she trips and hits the floor. She sobs. The host walks past her and stops in front of Singer.  He asks, "Well, we have Agent Singer with us today. Would you like to share with us how you feel about today's episode?"    When Singer asks who he is and where he has been taken, the host calmly admits they are in White.  And that they are happy to have him here. "It is not often anyone reaches all the way to White."

A massive screen on the background shows Singer's face in close up as he admits, "I don't recall there being a White."  The audience roars in laughter. Singer asks again what is going on, and the audience all yells in unison, "YOU'VE MADE IT TO WHITE!"   Singer can see the Girl in Blue however worriedly muttering about having to go back.  The host tells Singer he's gotten past all the sadness, depression and heavy feelings of Blue.  "And you are now in White."   The host now asks for words from the audience.  He draws out numbers... "386.." and a woman in white with a duck-beak stands up.  She holds a pose that reminds Singer of a ballerina. A hanging microphone descends and she asks, "What was it like being in Blue?" Singer mumbles he doesn't remember. His memory is fuzzy.  People laugh again.



The host tells Singer there is no need to pretend not to remember as this is White after all.  Singer yells back he doesn't even know what that means. Laughter.  The host draws another number and he gets "247." The man in a suit and a walrus mask and a bowler's hat asks, "I know this is probably a strange question to ask, but given all the times you Mystery Agents would be running from the Spiders, and your desire to understand what the Spiders mean, did you ever consider to just drop a spider in some ink and see what marks they would make when they try to crawl out of it?"  Singer claims he hasn't even seen a Spider.  This time however, no one laughs or claps.  No one responds to his reply.  The host turns to Singer and admits there is only time for one last question.  "Are you ready to finally stay in White?"

"What do you mean by that? What is here in White?" Singer asks.

"Have you been playing for so long, you've forgotten what it means?" the host seems shocked.  Singer tries to feel around for the Lacuna device, but he can't find it at all.  The Girl in Blue is staring at the Agent, shaking her head as she weeps.  Singer can somehow see her hair moving in slow motion, and the words read, "Please don't let me send you back... Please don't ask me..."

Singer asks, "Where?"

The host, thinking it was for him, asks, "It is a Yes or No question..."

Singer tries a Call.  "Aleph."  Suddenly everything stops frozen, as if a pause button was pressed.  The Girl stares at Singer, her eyes widening more, and Singer can hear her voice now in his head. He asks where Kira is and she admits she needs to wait here.  That they've all been trying too hard.  And that this is not making sense.  And that they're out of time. She is out of time.  It is her birthday, she claims.  That happens today.

Singer tells her that she won't have to send him back.  She says thank you.

Time resumes.  The audience is cheering.  A clock begins to tick.  The lights transform the whole room to blue.  The audience applauds even louder.  The host turns to Singer and tells him that he is about to witness a birthday.  The Girl looks up, and as she screams, a paper mask is appearing over her face.

But then a light touch pushes against Singer's nape.  He hears a voice whisper, "3... 2... 1..." and he is once more falling.  The laughter and the white room fades.  He is gone.

*

Back at Reception.

Fisher, Page and Dexter see the Receptionist, a different woman, who smiles at them and admits that they might look perturbed, it is quite common as memory loss is common in the Blue City.  She offers them refreshments and tells them Control was very impressed with how Page carried himself in the Mission.  Senior Agent Chambers was giving him a recommendation for Team Leader  position in the future. Page asks what he did exactly.  Page is told he successfully escorted his team throughout the mission, and successfully noticed when Control itself was sending an Agent to shadow them. He even terminated a Hostile Personality.  Page just says, "If the record states it, then I just have to agree. I don't exactly remember what had happened."  Page is told they foresee working with him again in the future.  Dexter is told that Control noticed he seemed to be hesitant in using his Techniques, and if he would prefer to have a different Team Leader.  Dexter admits he would like a chance to talk to his Mentor, Senior Agent Snyder.  Receptionist promises to inform the Senior Agent when she gets the chance, given the Senior Agent tends to be active.  Dexter is noted to have disabled a number of Hostile Personalities.  He is recommended to work more frequently with Agent Page, given their capacity for Force.  Agent Fisher is commended for his direction in handling operations but is bothered that they had lost an Agent during the Mission. Fisher claims he does not recall.  Reception explains an Agent Singer was killed in action and his body was never recovered. Fisher claims to regret the action despite not remembering anything.

The three are told they will have an extended Rest and Recreation until their next Mission.  They are asked to give a single word response to the next question to end the debriefing.  The question for Agent Page is, if they trust the pearl earring. Page responds, "What?"   The question for Agent Dexter is, how many eyes did he see. Dexter responds, "Just mine."  And finally, Agent Fisher is asked if he is working for Senior Agent Miner.  Fisher says no.  They are thanked for their service.

They stand up.  They have that urge to ask each other what happened, how they escaped, but they decide not to risk it.  They recall as they walk out of the room a door opening. A man standing at the doorway, with a hand extended towards them.  The man says, "Mason.  My name is Mason.  You are all-" and then he closes his eyes and Calls each one of them to confirm who they are. He tells them he's pulling them out and reassures them Singer is safe, and that Singer will not be returning at the end of this Mission.  And that when he returns, he sadly might not recognize them.  Mason turned to Dexter, and asked if he collected the devices.  Dexter asked then for Snyder, but Mason countered that he needs to decide if he's working with them or with Snyder's group. Dexter insists he needs to know where Snyder is. Mason admits Snyder is where he always is, monitoring things in White.  He asks Dexter again for the devices.  Dexter hands one of them to Mason.  Mason admits he will need the jury-rigged devices to get Singer out.  As he opens his jacket, they see five other jury-rigged devices pinned in his coat.  Mason matches the one Dexter gave to one of them and confirms it should work.   He presses the button, and instead of a black hole, a white one appears.  Mason falls through and he is gone.


*

"You lied, Agent Fisher."

Fisher turns around to see the Receptionist in front of him.  The two others, Dexter and Page, were walking further down the hallway.    Fisher sees her gaze staring into his eyes, and he calmly replies, "About what?"

The Receptionist stares.  Then shakes her head.

"My mistake."  And she walks away.



Sunday, December 25, 2016

2016 Year In Review

My partner, Rocky, (L) and me (R) in our Zsazsa Zaturnnah t-shirts!
2016 seems to have been a tremendously active year for TAG sessions.  Thankfully, the personal ups far outnumber the downs.  This year saw the first releases of games I've made which I wanted to contribute to the game options the world can enjoy, which include the thankfully successfully received A Single Moment, as well as the quirky romantic comedy Fiasco playset, Bad Timing.  Then there's the Halloween release, That Night Out and the Gamechef entry, Sunlight and a better laid out Sunlight:Second Edition.  Even more awesome, the last few years leading all the way to 2016 have been spectacular.  Let me try to list them out here:

All in all, the reception to my games has been wonderfully generous and kind, with lots of good praise and open arms from the international arena.  Locally, things aren't moving forward as much, but I guess that's expected given the direction most local blogs go.  But I still will thank everyone who has been truly supportive and I want to someday creatively repay all the encouragement and support I've received from you all.


This year also saw the birth of a lot of projects, including an upcoming contribution to two John Wick projects, Fragments of the King for his Curse of the Yellow Sign lovecraftian horror game, as well as my work for 7th Sea Second Edition's upcoming Pirate Nations book.  Then there's the incredible opportunity I've been given to write for the upcoming Alan Bahr's Cold Shadows where I explore two-player games, and Elizabeth Chaipraditkul's dark modern fantasy game, Witch:Fated Souls where I get to expand on the setting to add in different facets of Asia!   There's also the upcoming Itras By: The Menagerie work I got to send in, which adds Imperia Manila to the incredible setting, two works for Kotodama Heavy Industries, one being an upcoming Shinobigami scenario and the other being an incredible chance to come up with a scenario for Tenra Bansho Zero, both being extremely cool games!

Recently released this year was Third Act Publishing's Reflections, which drew great inspiration from A Single Moment and took it to a new story-focused level.  The Kickstarter was quite successful, and allowed my humble game a chance to reach a wider audience.   Even more amazing, the game has inspired Five Single Playsets with Riverhouse Games coming up with new ways to play A Single Moment, and there's an upcoming Rome inspired playset, as well as an upcoming Italian Release of the game!


Sneak Peek on a POSSIBLE Italian cover of A Single Moment
There was also the well received work I submitted for a host of other games, such as Ginger Goat's Doll Advanced, Girl's Elsewhere, and the fiction anthology, Trust Me.  Even more awesome, both Doll and Doll Advanced have been re-released in Italian.  Then there's my Asian Horror contribution to Woerner's Wunderwerkz's A World of Dew, which can be found in Sound of Water.  There were the smaller contributions to help release works for Vas Quas Editrice including Imprisoned, Cartooner RPG, Witness Protection Program, Truel, and My Fantasy RPG. I had a contribution called Songs to the Indie Mixtape Megamix, a small game for Queer Gaymers which talks about , fictional contributions to the Talecraft Master Story Creator's Anthologies 1 and 3 (Horror).  I even submitted to the 2016 Golden Cobra challenge, and though I didn't win or anything, I'm just happy to have contributed a LARP game for the community to enjoy!

Sneak Peek of the upcoming Sickening Queens!
Art by Ivan F.
There are loads of personal projects ongoing too, from my companion book to A Single Moment, which is to be called A Second Moment.  The book expands on how to enjoy A Single Moment, including alternate rules for using different dice, cards, and even playing with multiple players.  Then, there's Sickening Queens, my Fiasco playset which celebrates the drama and insanity of drag, and is greatly inspired by RuPaul's Drag Race and our drag friends known as the Oh Divas! at O Bar. I was originally hoping to release it with the All Stars show, but I guess it just wasn't ready yet at that time (and I really wanted Kayta to win instead.)

I've also been working on a larger game, most likely to use the Apocalypse World Engine.  Called Dreamscrapers, the game is all about kids who find themselves becoming heroes in a world where every living thing dreams.  In this place, the dreamscrapers fight against nightmares and visit exciting landscapes, and possibly meeting wonderful people.  The game draws inspiration from Steven Universe, Adventure Time and more. The game is even being designed to be run GM-less, so kids can play whether or not someone can run the game for them.

Finally, there's a new dream project I have in the works which I plan to write with my partner.  Pieces are moving and I've sent out an email with high hopes of being permitted to use a certain game system we love for it.  The game shall draw inspiration from Dune, Battletech and other cool science fiction titles.  But it all depends on whether or not we get the approval to move forward with it.  But we're hoping to be able to work on the game, focus on the scope of influences we are drawing from and perhaps add a whole new science fiction universe for people to enjoy exploring, adventuring and creating their own tales in.

There's just something about giant robots at war, space fleets in battle, and alien vistas with strange massive creatures that calls to us.  Who knows, maybe like space, this game shall flow?


Games I've worked on have been played, if not featured on a variety of podcasts, youtube and twitch shows, and it still amazes me how much love and support the community is always willing to give.  Thank you so much!

On the lows, we lost our wonderful and loving dog, Yoshi, who was able to give us six more months of happiness before moving on to run the endless dry grass (he hates wet grass) and enjoy endless bananas.  Yoshi's passing was a immense loss in our lives which even now we are still learning to live with. He brought us happiness and changed us in so many ways.    He was a part of our family and we were blessed to have six more months with him despite his medical prognosis a year ago.   

We will always love you, Yoshi.
We've also left an organization which we helped form during its earliest incarnations and keeping it short, the reasons were far from "creative differences".  We remain close friends with many of the original members of the organization, but some times you just have to leave when certain people do what they can to destroy your passion for gaming and insult you whenever you aren't looking.

But thankfully, opportunities to share our love for gaming and to pass on knowledge remains present.  For one, I've been accepted to be a part of the Indie Game Developer Network, which has given be a chance to learn from a lot of industry greats as well as share whatever knowledge I can as well.  I was recently asked to be a guest speaker for the Electronic Sports and Gaming Summit 2016, where I talked about the importance of being exposed to a larger number of games.  We have what we jokingly call our Finer Gamer Things Club (It's very exclusive) which is a play on the Finer Things Club book club from the show The Office.  There, my partner and I hang out with some friends, and at times get to meet new faces and explore different kinds of board games and the occasional role-playing game.  And then there's the GM Mentoring Fellowship I have established with a small group of GMs whom I share routinely ideas, chat with to give advice and share insight, and at times supply music and needed books to help them gain the confidence and the know how to run games with their own groups.   Having seen firsthand how some people try to insinuate or poison anything related to me, I've asked them to remain mum on their connection to me so they don't become targets themselves.  But I'm very happy to know most of them have fully progressed to running for their own friends as well as for people they haven't really met yet. I've been trying to get this idea up and running for months, back when we were part of that org, but some people just kept blocking the idea (and I guess given how they've forced us to leave, its clearer now why it happened).  But yeah, very proud of them!  And there's a possible guest speaker coming up for a game jam next year, but I haven't really confirmed anything yet.

All in all, TAG Sessions has gone through a lot of bumps, and yet has leapt through hurdles and, despite opposition, has emerged productive and stronger.  This all started out as a joke, with the name TAG Sessions being a joke about friends boasting they've had a "Tobie Abad Gaming Session" but now it has become a tiny brand that's making a space for itself in the gaming industry.

I remain extremely grateful to my Pateron Tag Team Supporters, whom have been with me through this journey and helping me finance the art and layout needs of my upcoming books.  I'm most likely updating the pateron thing completely given now that I'm trying to release more work, than blog.  I realize having the games out there is far more effective a means of giving back to the community than just blogging.  


I'm very thankful for my parents whom have always been nurturing my creativity and reminding me to stay responsible with how I do my work.

I love dearly Rocky, my partner, who is my constant source of support, my anchor to keep me grounded, and completes me.  Thank you for always reminding me to be myself in my work and to ignore all the other voices. I love you.


We still got a few days left for 2016!  But yeah, let's see if we can make 2017 even more awesome!  Thank you every one!



Thursday, December 15, 2016

Syrinscape: Making Games Better



If you've gotten the hang of using music to make your role-playing game sessions or board game nights more awesome, then allow me this moment to recommend to you Syrinscape.   Available on both iOS and Android, Syrinscape is an app designed to allow dynamic audio additions to your favorite games.

And boy, does this app allow you to do things very well. There are multiple tracks available for a variety of scenes and moods, with tracks easily set to loop, or to be tweaked to work with other audio elements.  There are also hot key buttons to add specific sounds for key moments. Want to surprise the group by letting them know the monster has arrived?  Tap the button to trigger the growling sound before you tell them its upon them, for that added OMG moment!  The app is free to try out, and there are loads of available soundscapes to add to it if you find it fun to use.

Even more awesome, they're not limiting themselves to role-playing games!  There are sound boards for some of your favorite board games.  My special love goes to their Catan and their Chess soundboards.  There's a lot of fun in using the ticking-clock sound of the Chess game for tense scenes, and the Catan one just makes production of Wool, Wheat, Stone and Wood so much more fun!

In full disclosure, they sent me a copy of the app to try with some free tracks a LOOOOONG time back, but I have been so used to using my own tunes and stuff that I completely neglected to try the app.  Literally a few years down the line, I remembered having it, tried it out and had such a fun time using it I feel bad that I didn't try it sooner.

So if you ever want to add more music to your games, and you don't think you have the time to dig through a variety of movie scores and the like, then this app is a great way to do it without having to spend too much time searching for stuff.  The site currently boasts a healthy collection of sound options, and the subscription choices are actually pretty well priced for what they offer.

Check out Syrinscape today!
Download options for both PC and mobile devices available here.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Sleeper ep03 : V20

11/20/2016
Sleeper

"Of Shadows, Sister, and Marcus Vitel."
Episode Three

Vampire 20th Anniversary

The children move away from the dark room, unaware of Diana Pierce who is held and told to remain silent by the Malkavian, Scott Levin.    The child stops for a moment, as if sensing her, but then scurries away.  Diana realizes this man has somehow cloaked her from the gathering.

*

Alex Cross awakens in his Haven, with dawn breaking any time soon. But the banging on the door does not stop.   He opens the door to discover Diana outside, anxious to tell him about her discovery of the Sabbat and twenty children at an abandoned orphanage.  "There is someone with them."  Alex sees the time and admits there is no time to head there right now.  But then, his phone rings and the caller is an unlisted number.  Alex slams the door shut at Diana's face and answers the call away from the door.  The caller, who sounds nervous and tense, identifies himself as Dorian Adams and tells him he needs to speak with him but only if he is willing to meet with him alone.   Alex remembers Dorian  Adams to be the Ventrue living at the outskirts of the city whom Marcus Vitel had once spoken of as the Ventrue who remains an embarrassment of the clan.  Adams would have been easily mistaken as a Malkavian, according to Marcus, given the man dresses as a theater vampire, complete with mid cape, pomade hair and foundation to make his skin paler and lipstick to make his lips red.  He even speaks with a terrible Transylvanian accent.  The Old Bat Of Washington.  Some wonder if he tipped over the edge due to his age.  But right now, on the phone, Alex notices Adams isn't speaking with any such accent. Adams offers to send a car that moment, suggesting it might be the safest time to speak... during Dawn.  The car is a hearse and the plate is 4EVRD3D.  Alex gives the location of a diner not too far away.  Diana offers to go with him, especially since she is armed.  The two hope the car does not arrive late, given the tinge of purple at the distant horizon closing in.
Dorian Adams, Ventrue
(Bela Lugosi)

As Diana waits for Alex, however, she starts to wonder about how she avoided those kids.  She was alone at the orphanage, after all.

*

The previous night.  Mildred Hobbs awakens to realize she is not at her haven.  She sees the rich curtains, the bucket of wine, and the immensely soft bed.  Opulence.  The place makes her think it is one of those five star hotels.  Even the floor around the bed is carpeted, while the rest of the floor is hard red wood.  A soft tone rings.  She walks up to the door and peers outside.  A man is waiting outside, dressed like staff.  Opening the door, Mildred peers out and asks what the man wants.  He walks in after she lets him in and parks a metal tray on the side of the bed. Inside, he pulls back the cover to reveal ice keeping two blood bags cold.  He walks past Mildred and begins cleaning the room without ever once addressing her, looking at her, or responding to anything.  His movements are rote.  Almost pre-programmed.  Mildred walks up to the tray, and finds a small card atop one bag.  "A welcoming present."  Touching the cart, Mildred attempts to see if she can pick anything up with the Spirit's Touch.   Mildred drinks the bags down.  The waiter hears the sound of her drinking and in response, pulls out a remote from his clothes.  Pressing a button, the waiter continues to clean the room as the television set's display changes to reveal a previously recorded video clip of a man who does not look welcoming or friendly.  The man's face is marked with scars.  A notable break in the skin around the face can be seen.  Mildred notes this break in her mind.  Scott Levin's voice begins to speak, "You are looking at Razor.  The Anarch Malakvian who is known as one of the best Politicians in Washington, D.C. among the Kindred. He has a network of ghouls who gather for him information around the streets. Some of them even utilize graffiti to communicate with each other.  He is among the seventh of individuals I have identified to be wearing the name, Razor, to fulfill his duty. As an Anarch, he seeks to break the rule of Marcus Vitel. I have reason to believe we must help him. I am telling you this because I am not an Anarch, but I believe Razor may have uncovered something that we must pay attention to."  As Mildred responds to the video, the video seemingly answers the questions she asks.  Razor might know about the Black Sisters, who are clearly not Vitel's direct line, having been witnessed to have certain discrepancies that are unthinkable.  The video shows a montage of images of different places - a parking lot, a gala, a concert, a party - but in all the images, the Black sisters are never seen.   Mildred then realizes, it is because the Black sisters are never seen that is of interest. The sisters might be of the Clan Lasombra, and Vitel may have been Dominated to see them as his daughters.  Or worse, have welcomed them into the Clan as Ventrue for reasons they do not know.  The last picture shows Marcus Vitel, but his arms are empty.  Mildred realizes the sisters are probably supposedly in his arms.  Mildred asks if she should work on this alone, and the video responds she should if she thinks that is best.  Their best lead so far is how "When there is a city at peril, it is the Nosferatu who are the first to run." The City has not had an active Nosferatu presence in the city, and they must have had some reason to run away. Mildred digs into her pocket for her phone but finds a different phone.  Finding it be someone else's phone, the video apologizes to her for not being home yet, and admits this was the safest way to communicate.  Levin warns her to avoid the Nosferatu tunnels as there are defenses left there for certain.  He allows her back home and she admits she will hit the library next.  He warns her of the twenty recently created Sabbat children running around and that the Hound and the Sherrif are certain to be dealing with it.  "Now is the time to wake up..."

She opens her eyes.  She is back at her own Haven.  She decides to prepare for the library.  Even the body of the staked former Sherrif is still against the wall.


*

Elsewhere in the city, David Sullivan feeds on a sleeping bum to raise his dwindling resources.  He visits his Nosferatu contact, a tall vampire in a beige trenchcoat and slacks.  Named Lawrence George, there are times upon blinking that David sees him change his appearance slightly.  He agrees to see the Tremere since they owe the Clan.  David admits he's look for Dor and Lawrence expresses in a lot of cuss words how angry he is that the Toreador was rescued and yet is acting as if it was the worst thing to ever happen in his life.  They leave the sewer meeting place and walk instead to the Metro, with Lawrence asking what brought about the change of heart given they have been trying to convince the Tremere to join the Nosferatu in the last two years.  He asks what tipped him off, and David admits he doesn't not know what he means.  Lawrence scratches, then pulls out a marble sized louse.  David looks away in disgust, but then hears Lawrence whisper to it, "Do your job," and leave it against the wall.  David's eyes widen in realization the Nosferatu must have a network still in the city. They get on the train.

Lawrence berates David for not being here based on what the Nosferatu claim to have uncovered about the Prince.  He knows David is trying to get on his good side, given he needs information, and even mutters something about the Tremere losing the Net to the Malkavians. When David admits he'd prefer people weren't overhearing them, Lawrence unleashes a huge silent stinky smell to force everyone else to move to the other cars.  "Silent but deadly."  Lawrence learns this isn't the Tremere actually finally calling for the Boon, and asks him to say what he wants directly as he hates reading between the lines and all that crap. He tells David the Prince is sheltering two of the Lasombra, Monica and Cynthia Black. They have megabytes of footage and pictures showing neither of the two appearing on any of their photographs and footage. The Prince however has not accepted their investigations, which leads them to suspect the Prince is either Blood Bound to them, Entranced, Dominated, or worse, replaced.  David suddenly feels a Summons.  He can see Marcus Vitel in his mind.  I need you, Hound.  Lawrence admits David is in trouble for that.  In exchange for the info, David admits to the Lawrence that he has been ordered to replace the Prince with a Tremere.  Lawrence is aghast though, claiming everyone knows that the Tremere want to replace Marcus with one of their own! "Give me something useful!  What's next, the Toreador want to be pretty?!" David shares how he is also "Brujah," and when Lawrence asks how that happened, David heads out of the 
train and leaves the Nosferatu to ponder over it.

*

Nathan, Nosferatu
(Jonathan Pryce)
Somewhere. Dor looks around and sees the accommodations the Nosferatu have attempted to set up for him. There are velvet curtains hanging around and a soft padded bed for Dor to lie on. There are paintings and Dor recognizes most of them to have been reported stolen in the past. The Nosferatu explains they have done what they can to make him feel comfortable, although Dor clearly stresses he does not accept these accommodations in any way. Nathan explains they had rescued him, despite Dor insisting he could have taken care of things himself, like he could have gone to the Prince or something.  Dor stands up and tries to be as small as possible.  Nathan introduces himself as the childe of Francis Broderick and that he has been loyal to the Camarilla since 1697.  This room, he claims, was prepared for any Toreador they would ever have in their area. Dor suggests that a ton of paint and flowers might help make the place better.  Might.

Nathan explains the tunnels will not welcome Prince Vitel and his traitorous associates, given he is a pawn of an elaborate game most are not aware to be transpiring around them.  He calls for servants  and two other Nosferatu come into view.  They set up an old television set and a VHS player. Another arrives with a bunch of VHS tapes in his arms.  Dor wonders what sort of museum this is.   The Nosferatu show the tapes showing their investigations regarding the Black Sisters.  Dor uses Aura Perception to peer into Nathan's aura while he talks about the footage being taken since the 80s.  Seeing the parts where the women have vanished, Nathan explains the women do not have Obfuscate, but instead it is the Clan curse of the Lasombra affecting the tapes, which use old silver nirate in the film to capture the images. On the smart phone, however, the Nosferatu have confirmed the sisters do appear.  Digital, it seems, circumvents the curse.  Dor asks if its an iPhone and Nathan admits its a Samsung since they like how, "They can be used as weapons."  They leave Dor to go through all the footage from the 80s to the turn of the century.  They talk also of a shift in Marcus Vitel's personality towards the women in the footage.

*

Back to earlier this morning, both Alex and Diana wait for the car in the diner.   The diner's walls are all glass, however.  The old woman brings down the blinds as she tells the two that they don't like the sunlight hitting them in the morning.  Before the blinds close, however, Diana catches sight of one of the vampiric children at the street.  Seeing the car, Diana ponders on whether or not to deal with the trouble standing now, or the pressing matter they were tasked to handle.  Alex admits it might not be prudent to go after the child today.  They enter the car and see its heavily tinted windows.  Inside, Dorian Adams greets them and apologizes for wasting no time to see them.  As the car drives back to his haven, which Alex knows to be outside the outskirts of the city, Dorian tells them that he had just witnessed the Prince present in one of the events last night when he noticed he was not among the sisters. He looked nervous, scared even, glancing around nervously as if he was not certain.  He kept to himself, avoided talking to anyone.  Alex wonders if it really was the Prince he saw, and Dorian questions if anyone would dare pretend to be the Prince.  Dorian followed the Prince as he ducked into a room away from the rest of the people, and soon reemerged with his hand against his chest, as if he was holding something.  Dorian felt the Prince was asking like some kind of spy. He lost track of him for a few minutes, but later saw the Prince again but this time with the sisters, and none of the fidgety behavior.  Dorian asks if they ever noticed the Prince act differently in relation to the daughters, and Alex admits he does dote on the two. Dorian believes Marcus Vitel is one of the Sabbat, a Lasombra, just like the sister.  "The real Marcus Vitel is dead."

Alex does not react. He asks for evidence.  Dorian promises he has evidence to show them.  Diana looks out the window and sees the car closing in on a castle.  Adams has a literal castle as his haven, which is situated outside Maryland and Annapolis. The car hits the dirt road leading to the castle, and the forest has hints of gargoyles and towers.  Those who have broken in have never... emerged again, or so they say.  Alex holds back from laughing when he remembers Marcus telling him they sent Adams a box of glitter when a certain movie came out.  Adams supposedly never got the joke.

At Dorian's estate, Alex and Diana struggle to stay awake and learn of the group called the Midnight Road which Dorian used to be part of.  Dorian shares how all the others had met accidental death and he is the sole remaining member.  Alex brushes away all urge to sleep. Diana fails, however, and drifts off many times. Dorain claims he had been allowed to stay alive since he is a joke to the Clan and allows any breach of the Masquerade to be attributed to his presence, which is the weird vampire guy in the city.  Dorian admits Diana is correct that his appearance is deliberate to stay below their radar.  Dorian admits he wishes he could stake Marcus Vitel and send him to Final Death. Alex apologizes for Diana's questions and claimes she is low on the upkeep - Dorian explains that Cynthia and Monica Black are the Childer of Marcus Vitel.  He is Lasombra. And that any Tremere can confirm this. Part of his proof is that Vitel has shown NO dietary feeding restriction, and that the two women - so distant from each other in personality and trait - do not reflect any refined taste the Ventrue are known to have.  The Prince and his daughters do not seem to limit themselves in what they feed on.   Diana wonders, "So just cause they do not feed only on people who eat grapes..." Alex and Dorian try not to react to the Brujah.  Dorian admits he feeds only on helpless attractive women. Alex wonders if Vitel only has a stranger less easily discerned taste. Dorian admits they must be sleepy, and has made arrangements for their accommodations. Alex pushes Diana to wake her, and the shove triggers her Brujah temper enough for her to growl at him, "Don't do that." Dorian asks them to quickly share what questions they have so they can rest.  With Vitel having shown no traits of the Ventrue, and the daughters having shown traits of the Lasombra, Vitel must be one too.  Dorian thinks Vitel might be using some form of rare Thaumaturgical Ritual to fake a reflection, but has not been able to recreate it for his daughters.  Diana finds it hard to believe he would have failed to cover for her daughters with the same Ritual. Dorian thinks it was just the inherent stupidity of people to forget to do things.  Or overlook things.

Alex finally asks why Dorian has opted to tell him these things.  Dorian states, it is because he is the new Sheriff.  Dorian admits he stated these things to the previous Sheriff too.  Alex remembers the previous Sheriff supposedly had been keeping things from the Prince.  Could it be it was because he was trying to investigate as well back then?  Dorian asks them if they need blood, but they say they are well.  Dorian admits their actions are up to them now.  He dares not act, nor leave, for doing so would tell them he knows and that would make him a target. Diana wishes they had physical evidence to present.  Dorian admits the best would be either with footage showing their lack of reflections, with an old camera, or a Tremere identifying their lineage.  Diana remembers Karina Dobson's words, stating she knows about 14,000 cameras in the city and nothing happens without her knowing.  Diana wonders about the children, and Alex gives her the go signal to share it. Diana tells Dorian of the embraced children at the orphanage, and that there are around twenty of them.  The breach on the Masquerade alone... She believes the children are the more pressing matter.  The Prince they can investigate slowly and quietly.  Dorian goes to the nearest television set and sees the news are showing reports of youth attacking people in the streets and homes.  The reports claim it to be a Zombie Drug, some Russian drug that has hit the street market.  Dorian wonders who is covering this for the Sheriff. Alex feels panic rush in as he realizes someone is doing his job, and when he pulls out his phone he sees the phones have no signal.  Dorian's place is a deadspot.  For security reasons. "We need to go.  We have a long day ahead of us!" Alex mutters, but Diana has fallen asleep.  Dorian tells him Diana can stay with him.  Alex takes Dorian's car and asks him to bring him to one of the Elysium.

As Alex is in the car, they soon reach the point where the signal returns.  The messages flood in, with Vitel asking for Alex in many ways.  Alex eventually sees a message where Vitel says he will handle it himself and Alex will owe him a Boon.  The last message reads, "Dobson is handling it. You will owe her as well."   They get to the Elysium, a Hotel, and there, when Alex awakens at the hotel, Monica Black is in the room.

 *

Mildred Hobbs is at the library, pouring over the many maps and charts of the tunnels underneath Washington, D.C.  She noticed a familiar face in the place and says hello.  Velvet smiles at her, admitting she was looking for the very book Mildred was using that moment.  "Why are you looking for the sewer maps?" Mildred admits she was just getting a feel for the place.  Velvet questions that Mildred wasn't there when it happened, which Mildred doesn't quite get.  She shares with Velvet the map, who then considers the Nosferatu to be at a certain junction that the map shows. Mildred locks the map in her eidetic memory, and Mildred shares with Velvet the thought that the sisters might not actually be of the Camarilla.  Velvet stares at her as she talks and tells Mildred to stop. "Didn't you just get here? And you already have this damn conspiracy theory about the sisters being Lasombra?" Velvet admits that her sire once told her that when Malkavians speak, it is either batshit crazy stuff or something true.  Mildred asks Velvet if she will accompany her to the tunnels, but Velvet wonders if they should tell Cross about this first.  Velvet and Mildred pull out their phones to call him, but sadly neither of them connect.  The number cannot be reached.  Are they outside the coverage area?  Velvet considers trying calling Diana, which Mildred tries as well.  Still not reachable.  They decide to head for the sewers.  Mildred folds the map and stuffs it into her pocket.  Velvet stares in shock as Mildred walks off with the torn map.

"Malkavians," Velvet sighs.

*

David arrives at a hotel and after going through the usual security finds Marcus Vitel with Peter Dorfman waiting.  Marcus smiles, thanking him for receiving the Summons, and Peter even commends David for being the Tremere he would entrust such an immense duty. Vitel tells David that Dorfman suspects the Sabbat are in the city and that his daughters, Monica and Cynthia are working with them.  Vitel admits he has not told the Sheriff of this and asks David to conduct an independent investigation on his daughters to know for certain if they are indeed Lasombra.  Vitel was warned he may not be able to judge clearly on this as he may have been swayed.  When David admits the Nosferatu have made their own investigations, Vitel is surprised to learn they are still in the City. Peter's eyes stare at David, as if to tell him not to admit more.  David claims he has been looking for them as well. Vitel wonders if he should have listened to Nathan when he left.  He thought the Nosferatu were just swayed by rumors of what lies beneath New York might also have something beneath Washington, D.C. Dorfman reiterates the Tremere will always be loyal to the Prince thus he felt they should know of their suspicions on the sisters immediately. Vitel looks very bothered by this, and he even tells Dorfman that he wishes Peter to succeed him as Prince if anything happens to him. Among all the Primogen, Dorfman is the only one Vitel feels he can rely on.  Dorfman reminds Vitel the Tremere Primogen is someone else, but Vitel counters that they all know she is just a figure head.

Peter smiles.  David realizes Dorfman seems to be planting himself as a successor very successfully.  Vitel states that the Tremere are usually seen as the last one can trust, "But you have earned it." As Dorfman and David leaves, and get into a car, the Pontifex raises a ward and asks David to share what he knows. David explains the Nosferatu have been still hiding in the City and that he had made contact with them.  This impresses Dorfman as the last one he sent to make contact with them disappeared with only a hand left behind.  David admits he only found one so far though.  Dorfman admits there were around forty before in the City, but they've been keeping to themselves since the former Prince was destroyed.  With all Hunting Grounds restrained, Vitel keeps the Kindred population in check.  David asks Dorfman if they have other evidence of the sisters being Lasombra as he had witnessed Cynthia Black not having a reflection on the glass windows as they walked.  Dorfman at first wondered if Cynthia was replaced, until he realized both did not cast any, unlike Vitel.  Dorfman even tried contacting older Kindred who claim to have known Vitel during his younger years. They all confirm Vitel's story.  David realizes he needs to go to the Nosferatu to try to gain their evidence.  But then the car comes to a abrupt stop as the driver halts the car and suddenly steps down to check something.  Did he hit something?

David opts to check as well, but as he reaches for the door, he suddenly sees a feral thing leap at the driver and tear into the car!  But in an eyeblink, David realizes it was an Auspex vision, and tells Peter to lock the doors!  As they do so, the driver is then yanked below the car and they both see the driver's door remains open!

*

Dor sees other Kindred in the footage, not noticing the sisters' lack of reflection.  He asks why show him as no one would believe him.  "I mean, I could paint something?"  Nathan admits Clan Toreador is the most influential clan to spread the information out, and so they reached out to him for help. Dor reminds them his art is his passion and he isn't the most respected among Kindred.  Nathan however admits the Kindred eye will be focused on him and that the Sheriff cannot help as they do not exist in the Camarilla's eye.  The former Prince branded them as traitors, and the current Prince has demanded for their leave of the City.  Nathan knows they are not the only ones who believe in it, and if others learn a Toreador is now believing it, then the truth becomes stronger with more mouths speaking it, especially if the known rivals of the Nosferatu are speaking of it.  Dor asks if they approached their primogen, and Nathan admits they already tried before.  Dor spits as he mutters Chas Voyager's name. Another Nosferatu arrives and informs them that a Tremere also believes the rumor, and that Tremere is actually pretending to be Brujah.  "Sounds very St. Germaine," he mutters.  Dor learns that Tremere is David Sullivan, and that he is now one of the Hounds of the Prince, both being things Dor did not know.  Dor at least can see they are reaching out to others.

*

At the street, Mildred and Velvet consider which sewer to go into.Velvet considers going through the same sewer where Dor's trail was, although that was where they fought the giant gator.  Velvet thinks the fact the two aren't answering means they are in the sewers.  Mildred mutters how someone on television once said if there's trouble, the first to go are the Nosferatu.  Velvet is confused how such a Masquerade breach can happen on television.  Velvet asks Mildred to wait and she goes to the nearest convenience store, claiming its best they have back up.  Mildred sees Velvet stand infront of the CCTV camera for a few second and learns if the Ventrue Seneschal, Dobson, goes looking for them, the image of her in that store should help lead them here. The two descend into the sewer. Velvet asks Mildred to guide her as she wants to save the batteries of her flashlight til they really need it.

"This way..."

*

With the driver's seat open, David scoots over to the front to shut the door closed.  A young child emerges, shoving the door open as it climbs into the room with his mouth full of fangs bared open!  The glass of the window spiderwebs as it slams against it to climb in with its immense strength.  David reached out and plants his hand against the boy's skin and uses the Cauldron of Blood to boil the child's blood from within! Rötschreck hits as the boy feels aggravated damage for the first time.  It flees.  The driver emerges from the front, waving as a second boy, the one attacking him, is flung away.  Dorfman reaches forward and the driver is flung into the air, flung into the car, and the doors slam shut.  The three look around and see the boys swarming around the car, fangs bared.  The driver counts eight.  David looks at Dorfman.  Dorfman admits fighting those eight without breaching the Masquerade will be tricky.  The driver starts the car.  The children begin slamming at the car from the outside, shaking the car back and forth.  The driver tries to move, but the children begin to hold the car in place with their immense supernatural strength! Dorfman tells them he needs a few seconds as he closes his eyes to focus.  David feels helpless, not wanting to do anything.  More slam at the windows to cause more cracks to spread on the surface - thankfully the bullet proof glass holds.  "Go reverse!" David recommends and the drive complies.  The sudden shift forces the children to lose balance for a second, and a fog surrounds the car.  David tells him to hit it, and the drive shoves a foot on the gas.  Dorfman opens his hands, and fire suddenly erupts out of the fog surrounding them!  The car screeches forward and the children feel the fire burn them, forcing them to flee as the car leaps out of the fog and onto the street.

People from the nearby buildings think some kind of explosion just erupted, blind to the burning children running from the fog.  As the car drives down the road however, one last child has clung onto the back and clambers atop the trunk.  David yells at the drive to hit the brakes.  As the car comes to a stop, the kid flies, and hits the road.  Dorfman rushes out of the car, with David behind him.  Dorfman draws a stake out and asks David if there are witnesses.  Seeing none, Dorfman stakes the boy and the two carry the body into the car.  "The boy will give us answers. Take us to a safe house."

*

Dor is to be escorted back through the sewers.  The Nosferatu are unwilling to let him take the evidence however, as they need to hold on to it. They ask him to convince David Sullivan to test the blood of the Prince and the daughters.  They used to have a vial of his blood but had lost it when the one they trusted turned out to be untrustworthy.  Dor promises he will try to do his best.  Dor accepts a blindfold (and covers his nose with it as well)  Nathan tells the Nosferatu their Clan remains strong despite their lesser numbers.  Dor notices there are only five of them.  Lawrence ends up being the one who has to escort Dor as the rest fade away from view.  Nathan reminds Lawrence, "Seven, eighteen and twenty-one."  Lawrence mutters it is good he fed before going home. "And don't complain about walking on water and stuff, cause it ain't water!"  As they travel through the sewers, Dor soon learns that the numbers Lawrence was told to remember are Spawning Pools that he has to "replenish" with Vitae, to keep the monsters that feed on them to become ghoul servants that they can control. The Nosferatu network remains strong.

Not too far away, Velvet and Mildred navigate the tunnels. Velvet admits she doesn't think they're wading through water given the orangey color.  Mildred uses her Auspex and tastes it, confirming it isn't water.  "Urea." Velvet struggles not to vomit.  Mildred reminds Velvet they don't have to smell it, by just not breathing.  The two soon begin to realize they can see despite the tunnels thanks to phosphorescent glow coming from the lichen.   They notice rats staring at them, almost like they're smart.  The things don't even run away when they approach.

Dor starts to hear the voices of the female Malkavian and the Brujah bodyguard nearby, as his Auspex helps him detect their echoes in the tunnels.  Lawrence grabs one of the nearby rats and holds it close to his face.  His eyes glaze over and next thing Dor knows, Lawrence begins to fidget with some rat like activity before his eyes come back into view. He puts the rat down and tells Dor he knows where they are.

*

Dorfman remembers Helena Taylor telling him David Sullivan can't read minds, and so he tries to read what he can from the mind of the child.  When Dorfman's eyes open, David sees they have gone bloodshot. He is still connected.  Dorfman begins to speak, though his intonations have shifted to an unfamiliar one, "Yes, you are trying to see if I left anything in my creations... well, here I am!  I am Jack and this City is my playground now."  Dorfman disconnects and his eyes return to normal.  He states the man is an Anarch and is most likely Tzimisce.  David realizes if the Sire is Tzimisce, then the boy might NOT have his heart in the normal place!  The boy moves, mouth about to plunge into Dorfman's throat. David grabs the stake, twisting it more to try to hit the heart!  The boy reaches up, grabbing David's face, and stretching the skin with ease!

*

Alex stares at Monica from across the bed, realizing she had slipped into the room he was in while he was asleep.  He must have nodded off sometime during noon and now, it was evening again.  She admits she was wondering where he had gone and was hoping to spend some time with him and another kine to feed on. He admits he had a long day.  They talk about the crazy kids on the street, and she congratulates him on a good cover-up.  Monica even muses how there are a lot of Youtube videos online of it.  Alex asks him why she is here. He cannot help but keep looking around for any reflective surface where he can look if she has a reflection.  She accuses him of suddenly becoming so much less fun ever since he started hanging out with the Brujah. She jokes about having fun with the jock they had the previous night, even if Alex is full, and just see if he remembers them.  "We can wipe his memory out again after." When Alex remains detached, she starts to ask what's wrong with him.  As Alex goes to get ready, he sees the full length mirror in the bathroom and he tries to see if he can see her if he angles himself.  Realizing he can see the bed's headrest, he tries to suggest to her to go to the television near the bed, hoping she will be in position enough to see her reflection.

"Could you open the television for me please?"

She switches it on, using the remote control.  Alex grunts, frustrated it didn't work.  Monica calls room service, asking for the cute guy who carried her bags to head up.  Alex considers a new approach.  Faking a moment of anger and frustration, he begins yelling out loud as he punches the mirror to shatter it.  He picks up a shard of the broken mirror.  Monica sees him step out with a bloody hand, and she teasingly asks if she needs to use the wine bottle to protect herself.  He apologizes and admits he just feels the stress from the job.  As she reminds him to watch his hand cause it has blood, he grabs the opportunity to raise the mirror and peek.

Monica has no reflection.

But before she notices, room service arrives.  As Monica goes to answer the door, Alex holds the mirror higher and double checks.  True enough, no sign of Monica at all.  The bellhop, an attractive man, smiles back at them at the door, asking if there's anything he can do for them.  Alex firms his emotions up and tells the bellhop to come in, but his words come out sounding uncertain.  Alex instead bites his lip to make it look like it is because the man is that attractive, hiding the fact the tension is from confirming Monica is Lasombra.   As Monica turns off the lights to make the scene more romantic, Alex starts to worry about the shadows growing in the room.

*

With David's face yanked by the child, David uses the Cauldron of Blood once more to try to burn the child and force it to let go of his face!  As the blood flares, the child screams and as he tries to pull free, he yanks David's face pulling his cheek outwards into a strange flap that disrupts his perceptions.  Dorfman unleashes a touch of fire upon the child to force it down.  As the boy howls and screams, he attempts to plunge his hand to David's chest!  But before it does so, David unleashes the Cauldron one last time, and the child shrieks as he burns from within, burning away into ashes.

Disfigured by Vicissitude, David tries to use his Vitae to heal the alteration, but it fails.  Grabbing a knife from Dorfman, he slices away the meat, knowing the Kindred form should allow him to regenerate it after a night of rest.  He feels sick for having to do this, but he at least finishes it with his Humanity intact.  Dorfman tries calling the Sheriff but still is unable to make any contact. He calls Helena and tells her to try to find him.  He informs her they had just been attacked by the Sabbat. They head for the Chantry for now.

David is recommended to get some rest at his own Haven.  He digs through the Chantry Library hoping to find a Ritual that can help speed up healing.  He isn't certain if he finds it, but soon, he decides to try to head home to get some rest.

*

At the sewers, Dor is finally reunited with Mildred and Velvet.  Dor is kneed from behind into the muck by Lawrence, who then vanishes into the darkness.  Mildred and Velvet find him lamenting his clothing now that is has been ruined.  Mildred hands Dor a dirty rag to use to clean himself up.  Dor waves it away and begs them to get them out of this place.  Mildred holds out the map despite being dark, and guides them to the nearest junction to get out.   They emerge onto the street level and find themselves at some kind of street eating thing.  The people start to recognize Dor and call out to him.  To explain, Dor declares his appearance as "Urban Decay" and the people begin taking photos with their cellphone cameras.  The three hurry to get out of the limelight.

*


Alex finally answers his phone, while Monica lies atop the bellboy.  Alex throws out a Summons, targetting Velvet, David and Diana to come to him. He hears Velvet's voice on the phone that moment and realizes it is Mildred on the line.   Alex isn't sure who Mildred is, until she explains she was the Malkavian.  She tells him she is with Dor and Velvet.  Velvet tells Mildred and Dor that Alex is summoning him.  Alex tells Mildred to follow them.

*


 Dor admits he isn't sure if anyone would let them in a cab.  But the three find a way to make their way to where Alex is, with Mildred skipping along the way.

*

David sees Alexandria at the haven, who worries over him when she sees his injuries. He admits he got attacked and tells her the wound was inflicted by Fleshcraft.  She worries at the thought they would be in the City. He's surprised she's at the haven given her choice to stay with Bjorn. David admittedly is still hurting from the choice she made.  According to Alexandria, Bjorn was watching the news and recognized it to be a cover story for a Sabbat attack. David refuses to confirm anything, but admits he doesn't know for sure.  The Children are Tzimisce, but he is not sure who is in charge or created them.  Alexandria wonders if they should just leave the City, given things are getting too "hot". David does not want to, thinking such an action would just build a reputation. Alexandria however counters that people don't even know she exists!

She admits she came back because she cared about him, but he's acting like some fucked up teenager that is making a fuss over her hanging out with another guy.  She walks out on David, leaving him to ponder on his own fate.  As he calls Alex, he feels the call of a Summons.

*

Alex mutters about receiving a lot of calls tonight, hoping to keep Monica from noticing something is up.  Thankfully, she's too busy with the bellboy to notice.  He answers the call and learns from David that he was attacked and showing up might not be too wise.  Unfortunately there is no way to end the Summons. David will have to make do with what he can manage.

*

Diana wakes up, cursing as she realizes she just rose up!  She actually was dreaming she was already there with Alex!  Getting up, she looks around and realizes the place is not Alex' place.  She sees a hunchback moving in the room.  Excitedly, she calls out Igor and to her surprise, the man turns and offers to help her.  The man, it turns out, is actually named Igor and he goes to prep the car for her ride back to the city.  In a coppery suit, a red haired man walks up and offers to call the Master for her.  She realizes the man is... probably named Renfield.  He insists he is always ready to provide lives for the Master.  Diana sees the massive painting of Dorian Adams with a woman in a white gown nearby.  She notices the gargoyles and hears wolves howling nearby.  Walking to the sound, she discovers they're coming from standing speakers where the howls are coming from.    She learns the car is ready.  When she asks about Dorian having wives, Igor explains that the Master Dorian is unmarried but has many wives.

And that's when she sees the wives, at least one of them. A woman in a long white gown is seated, fixing something out of view.  Seeing Diana, she stands up and glides to Diana, saying she's too early since they normally open at nine in the evening.  The place is known as Dorian's Castle and as she steps down, Diana sees the mechanized self-balancing scooter she was standing on.  She learns the place is an amusement place.  The woman waves goodbye as Diana steps into the car and is driven to where she needs to go.

*

David sees another vampire child running into an alleyway as he drives to the Elysium. He decides it is too risky and continues to obey the call of the Summons.  The child breaks into the window of a nearby place.  A woman screams.

*

Cynthia Black, Childe of Prince
(Amy Adams)
Monica mutters that the guy is asleep.  Alex looks at Monica, planting his phone down, and they talk about why she never chose to be the Sheriff to have more time. To Alex's surprise, Monica suddenly begs him to stay calm, to hear her out, and to allow her to tell him something: she tells him she thinks the Prince is lying.  Monica goes to the bathroom, grabs a broken shard of glass and hands it back to Alex.  She reveals she does not have a reflection and admits she thought she was Ventrue.  She and her sister Cynthia, ever since their embrace, were always told by Marcus to groom each other.  But she couldn't find Cynthia one day and tried to groom herself and discovered her reflection did not exist.  Monica doesn't think she's Ventrue, and she tested herself today with the bellboy.  She's always been attracted to straight dumb jocks.  But today, she fed on an effeminate pretty boy and the blood didn't disagree with her. She isn't sure how far the lie goes, and she thinks Cynthia might be part of it.  But the shadows suddenly shift, Monica suddenly falls backwards.  Alex stares and realizes she's been... staked?  Rushing close, Alex checks and finds a slight wooden point on Monica chest. At the door, with a crossbow in hand, Cynthia tells Alex to tell her what Monica told him.  When Alex hesistates, Cynthia fires a bolt into Alex' hand, demanding he talk!   Alex, knowing the others are enroute, opts to buy time and tries to get Cynthia to talk.

Cynthia admits she knows Monica has figured it out, and she regrets having broken routine.  She does notice Alex is far too calm given he's just learned this friend is Lasombra. She figures he already knew.  He throws the question back, asking Cynthia what she expects him to do about it.


*

At the street, David sees Chas Voyager on the street, playing another musical instrument.  The crowd in the street gathers, and starts to stop as they get close enough.  David blares the horn to make the people move aside, and they do so.  Chas however never notices him and continues to play, with what looks like music illuminating the inside of his eyes.


*

The driver asks Diana if the owner is really a vampire.  He admits he's new to the job, one of the five drivers.  When Diana mutters it is the castle of a vampire, the guy admits that sounds pretty cool.  Diana admits it is her first time there too.  Diana catches sight of a man on the street.  The man. The one who cupped her mouth!  She tells the driver to stop, hurries down and walks up to him.  Scott Levin turns, seeing her, and she claims to have seen him before.  He admits it seems the powers of the blood are no longer as efficient as before to stay hidden.  "I am usually ignored, as I prefer to be. But things have been changing."  He stares at a wall with lots of posters and ads on them.  Diana asks where they met before, and with a word, Levin states, "You will remember," and she does.   He stares at a poster of a magician for hire and he mutters that of the children they saw, there is less now, but the shadow they leave is great.  "Magicians are nice but they are only really better when they do fire tricks."  The other poster he looks at shows a plumber service.  Diana asks him about the Sabbat.  He takes the plumber poster from the wall and admits, "They tried to tell us.  But we didn't listen.  The italians tried to."  Diana does not quite get what he means.  "The Japanese own them now."  Diana feels more lost.

Levin reminds her her car is waiting.  He takes another poster of a motorcycle for sale and mutters, "Vikings is a good restaurant." He smiles, hands it to her, and adds, "Miss Pierce, if my Sire speaks to you, please tell her I tried to help."  When Diana asks who his sire is, he simply walks away.


*


Along the way, Mildred, Velvet and Dor squeeze into a cab.  When the driver argues against having them ride because they stick, Velvet tosses the guy out of the car and drives instead.   She only hopes the cops don't stop them since she has no license.  They approach the hotel.

*

Cynthia tells Alex how Marcus Vitel did the world a kindness when he adopted two shovelheads who were unable to dig themselves out of the soil during a Sabbat Creation Rite. "If you think you'll turn yourself into a hero by revealing to everyone what we really are, I won't let you!"  Cynthia soon even admits she was the one who got the previous Sheriff in trouble when he learned the same fact.  Cynthia is doing what she must to protect the Prince from the truth, because she cares for him and all the effort he has placed in keeping the City functional, despite the Anarch and Sabbat presence. She asks Alex if she is with them, or helping the very thing he is fighting by ruining everything the Prince has made.  Alex admits he stands by the Prince as per duties and responsibilities.   Cynthia then asks him to help her: Monica does not remember because she nightly keeps Monica from remembering that she is actually Lasombra. "I want her to think she is Ventrue.  It is easier for her to believe she is part of something greater. Rather than know she is a monster among monsters."  Cynthia can erase her memories, but she needs Alex to play his part, given he is part of her recent memories,  and support the lie. Cynthia admits the last time she allowed Monica to know the truth, she nearly tried to face the coming dawn.  Cynthia hates how the Lasombra are seen as betrayers and traitors and does not want Monica to live her unlife believing she's become something horrible.  She rather Monica lives happily than die miserable.  Cynthia admits she is old enough to accept life is most of the time, just shit.   An existence of never seeing one's own face.  Of never being able to face oneself.

Up the elevator, David notices a room service tray set against the wall.  He slowly approaches.

Down at the lobby, Diana arrives but before she could reach the elevator, she sees an exotic woman staring at her with a smile on her face.  She stands up and approaches Diana, never breaking eye contact.  To Diana's surprise, she cannot move at all as if her body had been paralyzed.  The woman gets close enough and names her by name, stating she was based in Los Angeles and handling the murders needed.  The woman recognizes her and talks to her about her sire, who would most likely soon be in the City given it is ripe for an Anarch revolt.  Diana expresses her disgust at being tied to him.  The woman finds it quaint that she's pretending to be Camarilla, and she can't wait to see how they will react when they find out the truth.  Diana struggles to maintain her composure, knowing they are in a public venue.

"Should I tell him and let him know that you are here?" she grins.

"Tell him what you wish. I do not want to owe her anything!" Diana growls.  The woman tells him they will see her again soon.  Fernando, Diana's sire, and she are anxious to get started in the City. The woman even quips tonight was a productive night, after a meeting with the Lasombra... and now this meeting with Fernando's childe.  The woman leaves, covering herself with her hood as she notes tonight is a very busy night.

*

Dor, Velvet and Mildred arrive, with Velvet rushing past the others to head up.  Mildred and Dor run through the lobby to follow.  They do not see Diana just head up ahead of them.  Velvet rushes into an elevator, but it closes before Mildred and Dor can follow.

*

Cynthia asks Alex to hold Monica, and guides him on what to do the moment they remove the bolt. Alex is to reinforce whatever Cynthia tells Monica.  David, however, outside the door, considers the right moment to interrupt.  He fires at the door with his pistol to break it open.  That moment, Alex leaps for Cynthia's crossbow, hoping to knock it off her hands.  Alex takes it from Cynthia's hand, and David runs into the room with the pistol trained at Cynthia and fires a shot at her leg.  The elevator door opens as Diana arrives at the floor.  She pulls out her own pistol and runs for the room.  Cynthia screams as blood splatters from her leg from the gunshot.  Before Cynthia can react, Diana reaches the room with her Celerity and upon arriving, she sees the people in the room and assesses whom to train her gun at.

Alex hits the ground with the crossbow in hand.  Cynthia snarls at David, and her voice echoes as she commands him, "Drop it!"  David drops the pistol, unable to resist the Dominate power of the woman.  Another elevator door opens, and Velvet arrives.  Velvet calls out to Diana as she draws her pistol.  Alex trains the crossbow at Cynthia, but the bolt falls to the ground proving Alex does not know how to use it.  David rushes across the room to grapple Cynthia by the neck.  Diana runs to Alex, hoping to protect him. Cynthia snarls and suddenly fire erupts in her hands!  All the present vampires feel the red fear grow within them as they see the flames dance above her fingers. She tells them to stand back, reminding them the floor is a carpet.  Diana stumbles backwards, away from the fire.  Diana asks Alex to explain what is going on.  "Lasombra complications," Alex mutters.   Cynthia takes this as a statement that he never was really going to help.

The next elevator opens, with Mildred rushing to the scene.  Dor however, walks slowly, still feeling uneasy given the state he's in.  Mildred peers in, smelling the burning smell of the Lure of Flames.  Dor stops, upon smelling the fire, and waits to see what will happen.   He recognizes Cynthia's voice. Alex tries to convince Cynthia he is on her side, but she snarls that he just told them all the secret she is keeping and how she will have to wipe their memories as well.  Alex reiterates she is not doing the right thing. He tells her that if she believes the Prince took her in, shortcomings and all, then he has his reasons and she should learn to stand by them.  He doesn't believe she should let her sister live a false life.  Cynthia's questions if Alex really knows what he's talking about, and if others would ever be open-minded to having a Lasombra in their midst.  The others, all in their own way, hear the confirmation to the rumors they've heard that night. Dor steps into view, attempting to seem friendly as he allows Entrancement to reach out towards Cynthia.  David asks if Cynthia is antitribu then, one of those of the Sabbat Clans that moved away from the Clan.  Cynthia sees Dor, and thanks to the Entrancement, sees him as a friend.  She calls out to him, afraid that the others are here to hurt her. Cynthia claims they are Venture!  They are not Lasombra.  Dor tells Cynthia to put out the fire and come to him for a hug.    Alex sees Dor diffusing the situation and remembers Marcus Vitel before telling him that Dor was worth watching.  As they hug, Cynthia looks at the others, still wary of them.  Diana brings down her gun.  Dor tells everyone else to calm down, stating they've all had a terrible day.  He stresses he knows he had one, and points to his stinky clothing as proof. David asks Cynthia to choose: Live a lie where everyone will hunt her down, or the life where only the Sabbat will. As only the Sabbat hunt down the antitribu.  Dor however hushes David to be quiet, and to let Cynthia rest. Mildred calmly walks into the room, shoves the unconscious kine off the bed, then, unfazed, fixes the bed for Cynthia to have a place to lie down.  Alex and Diana help carry Monica to the side.  Cynthia asks David if the Camarilla would protect them?  David admits they will, but probably not publicly.

Cynthia's phone rings.  All the others stare in silence as she takes it and answers aloud, "Sire?" She mentions the Sheriff is with her and that he is making sure Monica and she are safe.  Cynthia hands Alex the phone.  Mildred shoves the unconscious kine under the bed, and as he rolls under, his eyes open and he mutters to Mildred, "Thanks. It was getting kind of weird being the only one alive." No one else sees that conversation happen because it happens only in Mildred's mind.

Vitel confirms with Alex if his daughters are there.  He affirms they are and apologies for his absence. Dobson has tracked 12 attacks in total. Alex promises he will be on it soon. Vitel shares Dorfman believes there should be only one or two remaining and that they are coordinating their efforts.  He asks if the Hounds are searching for the rest, and when Alex admits they will be, Vitel gets angry that they actually haven't even started! Vitel asks aloud if he made a mistake in choosing him as a Sheriff and wonders if he should have become instead the Toreador primogen.  Thankfully, the daughters being safe seems to be enough a detail to calm him down. "The last thing I want is something coming from the shadows at them." Vitel gives him an address to bring the daughters, and tell him he expects a full report.  Alex shares with the others the updates, but Dor insists they can discuss things after they help Cynthia calm down. Dor asks them if they remember the last banquet, with that Malkavian who did the thing.  Dor begins to laugh, but no one knows what he's referring to.

With Monica restful on the bed, Alex unstakes Monica.  Monica actually continues her conversation earlier without realizing she had been staked.  Realizing there are many people, Alex calms her down and explains the situation.  Diana tells Alex she will get started on the children.  Mildred offers the unconscious kine again for Monica to feed on.  Cynthia comes up to Monica, hugs her tight, and helps Alex explain that they got attacked but things are fine now. Monica stares at Alex, with a "we need to talk" look.  Alex waves at her to wait, and to talk about things next time.   Diana opts to leave, thinking of the orphanage and hoping to see if there are any new clues she overlooked there before.  With everyone else calmer, Monica presses Alex for a better explanation of what happened. Alex just tells her she is safe and that is what matters. Monica looks at Cynthia, wondering if she knows. Alex tells her it is fine. Everything is going to be fine.  Alex looks at Dor and Cynthia and tells Monica, yes.  Monica and Cynthia hug, and promise, "If things go bad, I'm sure Peter will help us."

*


Sitting and watching the happiness, Mildred wonders about the thing she was supposed to do in the sewers. She stands up, crosses the room to leave, but Alex calls out and approaches her.  Alex asks where she found Dor, and Mildred admits it was in the sewers, pointing to her forehead as she does so.  Alex looks at Mildred, then at Dor, and decides Mildred might have talents that would prove useful.  He asks if she would like to be one of his Hounds, so she can get help when she does things. Mildred asks to get back to him on that.  She leaves.

Alex realizes he best shanghai Dor to be a Hound as well in the future.

*


Later in the evening, while Diana stakes out the orphanage, she sees one of the Children return.  As it looks around, she stays hidden and waits. The thing sits on the ground, clutching its knees, and starts to make sad keening sounds.  Diana feels some desire to help, but opts instead to use her cellphone to record the sound in her phone.  She continues to wait.  Night stretches on.  Still no one else.  Just the child alone, keening.

Diana shoots Alex a message then she moves silently to leave.  Peeking at the other windows, she finds no trace of any other Sabbat.  Another hour.  Still no one.  Diana draws her stake, and closes in on the Childe to stake at it.  She sees it scared to be alone, hugging itself and waiting.  Moving swiftly, she attempts to stake it before it notices her.  The first few strikes misses the heart, and after a few seconds tumbling at each other, Diana finally lands on the ground with the childe staked and beneath her.  A man arrives, one hand holding an axe, and stops upon seeing Diana.  She recognizes Bjorn who is impressed she got the last one. Diana asks if he will take care of it, and he admits it depends if she will take it to her Prince or not.  She notices his axe is blood splattered, and decides she will take the childe to the Prince.  "Let him know," he asks her, "The Brujah did their job."

*

At the Chantry, a few days later.  Peter Dorfman is with Helena Taylor and the others. She tells them this gross attack on the Camarilla means only one thing: the Sabbat are out there and are calling for their blood.  She moves to enact Rituals to raise wards but before she could continue, Peter states as Pontifex he is overruling her recommendation. He does not want the Tremere to reveal its strength. He tasks David to use his ties with the Brujah, given the Prince called them to help during the absence of the Sheriff.  This has led to the Rabble asking for a seat in the Primogen Council. Peter looks at Helena who realizes what Peter has in mind: David can attempt to gain the seat of Primogenship for the Brujah Clan as they know him to be one of them.  "Two Tremere in seats of power," Peter grins, "Sounds like a plan."   Helena nods.  She walks up to David and whispers, "You know some people would kill for a job like that."  Then walks away.


*

The Prince calls for a Ventrue Gathering.  The Camarilla gather. During the meeting Cynthia throws Alex glances, worried he will chose this moment to reveal their lineage.  Monica tosses Alex glances, worried if she can trust her sister.  And finally, Vitel throws glances at him for his own reasons.  Vitel informs the gathered of the situation of the Sabbat childer and how the Brujah had to be petitioned for assistance given the Sheriff's absence while rescuing Dor. He states Alex Cross' decisions have gained stronger allies among the Toreador.  Vitel officially presents Alex as the Sheriff of the City, to the sound of applause. Monica stands up and speaks aloud, announcing her desire to work with the Sheriff from this day on, if it pleases him. Vitel however turns to Alex and he says, "Aren't you already working with Monica?" Alex admits it is on different terms.  Vitel has him to choose then who will work with him as his co-sheriff.   Alex can read Monica and Cynthia's stares too easily - for Monica it is a chance to investigate her suspicions, but for Cynthia it is a chance to prove she can be trusted. Alex is given the weight of making the decision.

Alex chooses Cynthia.  Monica looks down, angry for the rejection.  Cynthia stands and admits she is honored to be given this opportunity, to be trusted and to have a chance to show she deserves their trust.  Marcus Vitel simply smiles.


*


Genevieve Orseau, your friend
(Tilda Swinton)
Walking home in new clothes, Dor is accosted by fans who love his urban decay.  But Velvet intercepts them and tells them to walk on.  The two, however, see Chas Voyager further down the street, once more playing music to a transfixed crowd.  As they hear the music, however, they find themselves swept away by the performance.  The next thing Dor realizes, he has moved infront of the crowd, seeing glimpses of his mortal life - of beatnik bars, of trying to look cool but not, of enjoying the music - and then, as he relives a memory, with the bar crowd cheering the band, a figure sits beside him, almost androgynous. She reaches for his hand and smiles, "Master Roberts.  I am Genevieve Orseau." She begins to appear in glimpses of Dor's other memories.  She begins to appear in different recollections, she's there, in various moments of his life.  She is there.   "We know each other," she smiles, "I need of you. I must wake up soon. I need you-"

Chas Voyager has stopped playing the music.  Dor blinks his eyes a few times and stares at Chas, asking if he saw her too.  Chas merely mumbles "She needs us" as he walks away.  Being slightly older than Chas, Dor recognizes the mix of what could have been Presence and Auspex to make one a perfect friend.   A perfect...  Dor focuses his will to break free from her hold on him.

An elder.
There is an elder in Washington, D.C.
One that is asleep and seeks to wake up.

*

Elsewhere, elsewhen.
Mildred is at the Library, realizing she has yet to return the map.  As she slides it into the map case, with nearby people staring at her.  Behind her, a seated figure waits for her to finish.  She turns and sees Scott Levin.  He asks if her journey in the sewers went well and she admits she needs to do further investigations... she thinks.  Scott begins by saying, "Hirsch-" but then switches and says instead, "Mildred, I hope you are enjoying your Nights." She admits relatively she is.  He admits they may have to leave the City given the events that have been stirring.  One that has been sleeping has begun to awaken.

"The Nosferatu lied to us," Scott calmly explains, "The Nosferatu are said to run when the City is in danger. But the Black Sisters are not the danger they are running from."  Mildred agrees, saying the television personality told him that. "Have you not noticed, the Nosferatu have run from the sewers as well. They are not watching the City, they are watching down below."  Scott shares that the Nosferatu have been doing what Mildred thought to do, investigate the sewers, and now from forty, they number five." Mildred wonders if they should inform the others.  Scott apologizes, telling her this is such a waste of time, but he feels they should go.  Mildred does not understand what he means.  Scott just wants to leave before whatever is sleeping has drank enough to wake up.

"Wouldn't it just follow us?" Mildred wonders.  "Sire please!" Scott suddenly yells out, but stops himself and tries to calm down, "Forgive me, you are Mildred. You are not Hirsch."  She asks if it would be better for them to try and stop whatever it is here.  Concentrate their forces.  Logically, it seems sound to bunker here instead of running away.  He apologizes for the outburst, and leaves.  Mildred turns around and makes a mental note to inform the others of what she thinks is happening.  Or at least what she thinks is happening.


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