It Is Always Three O'Clock in the Morning

Episode 7: Heavy Metal Machine

Music: The Smashing Pumpkins – Heavy Metal Machine

GM’s note: The last three episodes (6, 7, and 8) were written down months after the game happened, an unfortunate result of procrastination. As a result, these accounts are pieced together from my notes during the session and my foggy memories of what went on. Compared to the previous write-ups these will be shorter, feature less dialogue, and they may or may not fully reflect what actually happened in the game.

Episode 7 in particular turned out to be the last serious session of the game, as the “Blood Heist” arc gets wrapped up here and we felt this was a decent place to leave the game. (Episode 8 was a special “Halloween Episode” that deviated from the normal game in tone and plot.) Episodes 1-8 make up a kind of “season” of play, resolving an arc but still leaving more plot that could be expounded on in future seasons.

The cold open this week is not especially related to the events at hand, and is probably best considered as a bonus scene that happened at some point earlier, midway through the breakdown in Penny and Jane’s relationship.

Penny’s sister Jane and Jane’s son Ollie sit on a couch in her apartment. Penny sits on a nearby loveseat. They’re watching Buffy, and each time the “v-word” comes up Penny visibly twitches, but she’s trying to hide it. Ollie gets up, wanders into the kitchen. The fridge is opened. Ollie steps back into the living room, holding something in his hand: a plastic apple. “Why is your fridge full of plastic fruit, Aunt Penny?” Jane looks over at the apple and laughs, glancing over at Penny, “Yeah what the heck –“ Her words peter out as she spots a look of wide-eyed panic on Penny’s face. Penny mumbles, “P-p-plastic food. Plastic food.” She gets up, walking backward toward her bedroom door, her eyes on Jane and Ollie. “Plastic food. Plastic family.” She retreats into the bedroom, and shuts the door.

Now to the actual events following Episode 6.

Penny, Angel, and Anthony sit in a copse of trees in Central Parks, a few blocks away from the burning hospital but still close enough that the light of the fire can be seen above the trees to the east. They’re debating what to be done with “No-face,” still unconscious between them. After several minutes of back and forth conversation, he coughs (through what mouth is unknown, as he doesn’t have one) and comes to. They begin questioning him, but No-face or Grigori as he introduces himself, is surprisingly obsequious and talkative. “Frankly,” he says, “I just want to make you happy enough not to cut my head off and leave me staked her for sunrise. I figure you guys have got me over a barrel, and you’re not Arriane’s goons, so things could be worse.” He actually knows Angel, Anthony, and Penny’s faces though they don’t know his (couldn’t, really), which they express surprise at. He explains, “Yeah, I know you. Most people around here do, at least by rumor. It’s not everyday orphaned bloodsuckers get made or left around. Anyway, I just hear things. I hear lots of things.”

“Wait,” Anthony stops him, “Arriane’s thugs? What does Arriane want with you?” Angel throws in with, “Also… what the fuck is the deal with your face?” Grigori says, “Oh, my face. My sire did that to me, he can do that, mold flesh like plastic.” He seems slightly uncomfortable talking about this. “I can do it, I suppose. I could have fixed myself, but to tell you truth? I forgot what my face looked like a long time ago.” He turns his face away from them. Penny throws in, “You had a tape with us on it, right? How about copies?” No-face replies, “No copies, just the one that went up in the blaze. Hell of a thing to watch though.” Anthony prompts him again about Arriane. “Oh yeah,” No-face says, “she’s out to get me because I know about her deal with Ronan.”

“Ronan?” says Angel, surprised. “Yeah, Arriane and Ronan are trying to make a deal to take the city from Annete and carve it up for themselves,” Grigori responds. Penny chuckles, “Sounds like that is something Annete would pay to hear.” Grigori snorts: “Not likely! Arriane’s not going to go after Annete, or at least she’s shown no interest in it so far. Rumor I heard if that they were lovers a century ago. Now they just sit on their small thrones, sniping at each other with petty schemes. Heh, I wonder if a back and forth like that is part of the reason why you’re around.” He nods his featureless skin-mass in the direction of Angel and Anthony. “Anyway, now Arriane has those shovelheads out for me, thugs with fucked-up faces, like similar to me but not so pretty, y’know?”

“Well, that’s as may be,” says Penny, “But what do we do about you now?” Grigori offers up that he has information, he can give information in exchange for them letting him go, he can give more information in the future. The three of them draw away from him to discuss this. “You know,” Angel says conspiratorially, “We could throw the sheriff this guy, tell him he carried off the blood heist. He apparently already looks like someone who would work with Arriane, why not?” The others consider this – they don’t want to throw the guy under the bus, he seems like one of the few potential allies they’ve met since this entire horrible business just started, but they have to get themselves out from under the lethal trouble their theft of the blood has caused them. “Wait a second,” says Penny suddenly, “we don’t need to hand No-face over! He can mold faces. And Arriane has thugs with molded faces. We could just, you know, find someone and have No-face mess their face up. Hand them over.” The others stare back, somewhat shocked at Penny’s suggestion. “It couldn’t just be a normal person though,” says Penny, “the sheriff would know. They would have to be a v- v- v- a kindred. We would have to make a kindred.”

Several tense minutes went by as they debated this both with each other and inside their own heads. They stole that blood from the hospital, but the sheriff tasked them with “figuring out” who had done it. Whoever they fingered would get staked, if not worse. And if the sheriff found out they were the ones who were responsible, who knows what the result would be. And so far, though they considered framing someone else, some other kindred they knew and were familiar with, for the job, they hadn’t been able to do so. But this solution seemed simpler, though far more damning. Would they be willing to take the step? Finally Anthony says, “I’ll do it.” And the others, Penny and Angel, just nod.

When they describe the plan to Grigori, he’s not pleased. “No, come on, I hate flesh-changing. And besides, wow that is messed up. Why, why do you need to do it?” Angel snaps back, “It doesn’t matter why we need you to do it, that’s the conditions of us letting you go. You do this and you give us any information you have on Ronan.” After a few moments of whinging, Grigori agrees. Angel and Penny don’t have to go far to find a street person, a man they bring back to Anthony. Anthony takes him away from the group, not wanting them to see him turn the man, and after a minute and a week struggle he brings back the half-conscious newly-turned bloodsucker. “Alright, do it,” he orders Grigori. Dutifully but with a queasy look on his face, No-face molds the meat of the man’s face until it is a grotesque unrecognizable mass.

“It’s done, can I go now?” Grigori asks. “Give us the info on Ronan,” says Angel. No-face gives them the only real information he knows – the location of where Ronan lies during the day, and more importantly where Ronan’s still-living mortal descendants live. With the faux-shovelhead in hand and those pieces of information in hand, the three let Grigori go and he stumbles off into the park away from them. Anthony calls Nathan, Annete’s sheriff, and tells him that they solved the situation he had given them. They decide to meet deeper within the park in one hour’s time to hand him over.

Nathan meets them alone, as he has done previously, and takes the half-conscious faux-shovelhead from them. “So,” he says searching them with a stare, “this is the guy who stole the blood from Annete’s domain?” The three just nod. Nathan stands there for a very long moment, his face grimly set and his gaze matching each of theirs, one at a time. Then he turns, leading his captive away. “Good work,” he calls over his shoulder. “We will remember it.”

With Nathan gone, Penny, Angel, and Anthony just stand there in silence for a while. “I feel sick,” Anthony says, and Penny nods in agreement. Angel is silent, but thinks how he desperately needs a shower after this. Eventually, they go their separate ways for the night, out from under the doom that they had been grappling with for the last two months and armed with new information to use against those that made them like this to begin with. But not one of them feels much better for it in the end.

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