It Is Always Three O'Clock in the Morning

Episode 8: People Are Strange

Music: The Doors – People Are Strange

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 8 was a “Halloween Episode” and has little to do with the on-going plots of the previous episodes. Also, the tone of the game was more light-hearted than the previous relatively grimier stories told in this game. The description is also much shorter than for other sessions.

Nora arranges to meet Penny, Anthony, and Angel in a bar to ask them a favor. Marcel, their mutual friend (and a ghoul, not a kindred), is apparently running a “vampire cult” out of a club run out of the abandoned Yonkers Power Station. “Imagine it, vampires in Yonkers!” Nora crows. Also quizzical because Marcel, as a ghoul, couldn’t make new kindred and even drinking his blood would do little more than provide a buzz to the drinker. Nonetheless, it sounds like a possible masquerade breach, and Nora asks the three to check it out.

They travel up to Yonkers and Penny uses her scary madness powers to get them into a sprawling goth club filled to the rafters with black velvet and faux-ancient masquerade masks. By asking around to club-goers, they find the place is run – with a minimum of secrecy – by “_vampires_ in service to their queen, her most unholy and shadowed mistress, Lady Vitathrix.” Oh, jeez. Using actual supernatural abilities to bluff and command their way into the VIP section, they find that “Lady Vitathrix” is an unsurprisingly very mortal woman. Getting into an office high above the VIP room, they discover though that she’s not exactly unscary, though: in the office is Marcel has been crucified on a metal table, a network of wires and needles in his body slowly siphoning his blood into bags for “Vitathrix” and her followers to drink. Marcel explains he tried to run on a con on the goths out here, putting himself up as a vampire in order to get cash and attention, but it turns out the head lady is a real sociopath and before he knew it he was here, on this table.

After an understandable amount of giving shit to Marcel for his extreme stupidity, the three free him and help him escape. Along the way they throw around some of the poseur vampires and scare the living shit out of others to teach them a lesson. “Vitathrix,” however, is strangely nowhere to be seen. Penny, Angel, and Anthony later wonder if she was ever a real person, or just a made-up front for the poseurs combined with a hazy anemic hallucination from Marcel.

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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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Episode 6: Burn

Music: The Cure – Burn

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.

Piercing winds, the calling card of a newly-arrived winter as November turns to December, howl outside of a dim wood-paneled bar in midtown Manhattan. Inside the bar, Penny sits across a table from her sister Jane. They sip their drinks, and their conversation is as strained as their relationship has become since… well, since. Penny glances over her sister’s shoulder, and shudders at what she sees: Angel and Anthony entering the bar, locking eyes with her, walking over. She stiffens as Jane turns to see what Penny’s staring at, and Angel and Anthony are now just a few paces away, standing there awkwardly. Anthony closes the distance and puts his hand on Penny’s arm: “We need to talk.” Suddenly, all of the tension in Penny’s body releases at once and she tumbles backwards out of her chair, screaming “Shut up! SHUT UP!” to both Anthony and her sister’s questioning face, getting to her feet and retreating to the bathroom. She climbs through a window in the bathroom and is gone.

Later in the evening, Anthony walks down a lower east side street, passing but not seeing the identical-looking brownstones to his left and right. He meditates on Arianne’s task – to kill a human being, without drinking from them. He reflects on the blood he has taken previously, from assholes and abusers and fucks. Some of them deserved to die, and he took something from them, but kill them? He had always pulled up short of that. Anthony is about decided, that he would tell Arianna she could go to hell and that he wasn’t going to play her mystical bullshit game, he wouldn’t kill, when suddenly he is snapped out of his trance-like concentration by a soft crying sound nearby.

Looking around, Anthony doesn’t recognize the neighbor. “I must have wandered pretty far,” he thinks. But he can recognize the source of the crying, down an alley. He stalks toward the noise, realizing it’s coming from a window near the ground. This close, he hears another noise: low mumbling, repetitive words under the now-sharp child’s cries. Crouching low, Anthony can see inside the candle-lit unfinished basement. A large man sits on his knees chanting something nonsensical in front of a crude chalk circle. Inside the circle is the child, bent doubled over and sobbing, cradled by a spreading pool of shining crimson-black blood underneath.

Anthony feels the beast explode within him, and before he knows it he is on the floor of the basement, holding the big man in the air. “What have you done here?,” he furiously demands of the man. The large man, his eyes shining eerily, mumbles out an explanation obsequiously: he learned of a ritual from “Jackson, a man in a blue suit,” a ritual to call the “Dark Masters,” who in exchange for proper payment would make miracles happen. The man’s response is more than obsequious, he is manic and joyous, because here is a “Dark Master” himself! The miracle? He is dying, and he is willing to trade his son’s life for his own. Anthony drops him onto the floor, and just stands there looking at the child for a moment. Finally, he reaches down and forcefully grabs the man’s face, forcing him to look into Anthony’s eyes. He speaks quietly and grimly: “So you denied God’s plan and killed your son, seeking help from something unnatural?” The head in his hands wags up and down enthusiastically, yes. Anthony continues: “You found something unnatural, then. And you took your son’s life to pay me. But what you don’t seem to understand is that the right to take a life isn’t yours. The right is mine.” With a quick twist of Anthony’s hands the man’s thick neck is twisted right around, but suddenly an image of Arianne flashes into Anthony’s mind. And as an act of deliberate rebellion, Anthony lowers his mouth to the man’s neck, drinking deeply of that blood before life has completely left the body.

Several hours later, Angel waits in a trash-strewn gap between two abandoned buildings within sight of the hospital, a squat and stained building two steps away from slumping in on itself. He waits for Anthony, who shows up only slightly late but looking vital and refreshed, and Penny, who shows up late and looking bedraggled. “Okay,” she says irritatedly, “you said we needed to talk, so what’s so damn important?” Angel and Anthony explain their new lead, and the three of them debate how to approach “The Ghost,” how to get the incriminating tape back. After several failed suggestions, Penny has an idea: “Let’s just set the place on fucking fire.” The others stare back at her, dumb-founded. “No, I mean it!” she says, “We bring gasoline and set the tapes on fire! V-v-v- things like us are terrified of it, so no matter how tough he is it’ll let us get the job done.” Angel and Anthony consider the idea, and Penny expects them to behave as they have in the past, vetoing the plan. Instead, they agree to go with it. (Privately, they are both surprised as themselves, but after their most recent feeding experiences each of them feels alive, capable of anything. Powerful.)

And so they find their way to a back stairwell in the hospital, seemingly mostly disused. They climb the stairs, and Penny carries in her hands matches and a can of gasoline. At the top, they find a door to access the attic, surprisingly open. Inside the long, low attic is the detritus of years of abandoned hospital equipment, and at the far end of the space a nest of sorts, a tangled mess of wires surrounding dozens of screens and computer and electronic equipment. And all around this, piles of tapes and CDs. But as they stand there, momentarily surprised, suddenly a shot ricochets out of the labyrinth of furniture in their direction and voice screams, “Who the fuck are you people?!”

Diving for cover, the trio spots the shooter. He stands between two piles of furniture, a short slight man who just happens to have no face. Just a completely smooth expanse of skin where eyes, nose, and mouth should be. Voice seems to work okay somehow, though, as after another bullet rings out he yells, “If you’re Arianne’s thugs, I won’t let you take me!” A third bullet explodes a screen nearby, and Angel bursts out from behind cover toward the faceless thing, claws rapidly extending as he charges. Penny, finding herself near the piles of tapes, takes her opportunity while the others are busy to splash gasoline, setting it promptly ablaze. Before too long, as Angel wrestles the faceless shooter toward a broken window at the edge of the room, the long attic is wreathed in roaring flames. Anthony realizes how screwed they will be very soon, and tries to scream at the other two to get them to realize this. Penny hears, and they both scramble out of the broken window and onto the roof, seeking a fire escape. But Angel is absorbed in the brawl for several more minutes, until he feels the wall of flame licking his back as he struggles. Finally noticing the danger, Angel responds to it in a direct and efficient fashion: he grabs the faceless thing and bull-rushes straight for the broken window, shattering the remaining panes of glass and falling five stories straight down in a sharp arc. He lands heavily, falling into unconsciousness (again), but at least the faceless shooter was underneath him to break his fall.

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Episode 5: Bela Lugosi's Dead

Music: Bauhaus – Bela Lugosi’s Dead

A woman gazes out across a dark crowded club. She waits, the music vibrating in her bones. Yet over this thudding, she feels the rapid beating of her heart. She is looking for someone, hunting for someone who is also hunting. The fear is almost overwhelming, but she is too close to death to let that stop her.

Elsewhere

It’s an hour before midnight, and Angel quietly slips into his family’s home. He slowly lifts up the kitchen window, careful to keep the fire escape he’s standing on from groaning too loudly. Sliding over the windowsill and into the kitchen, he looks through the dark at the common room of the grimy apartment he used to share with his mother and two younger siblings. In the corner of the living room is a small table covered in candles and pictures of saints, a place of devotion for Angel’s mother. Creeping across the room, he draws a wad of cash from his coat and puts it down on the table, knowing his mother will find it in the morning.

He pauses for a moment to stare down at the sacred spot, when there is an audible click and light pours out into the living room from his mother’s bedroom. She stands in the doorway, silhouetted in light that blinds Angel from seeing her face. But even though he can’t see her face, her voice betrays her confusion and shock. “Angel? What.. But you’re.. I saw you…” Angel stumbles backwards in likewise shock, and the words fall out of his mouth at a rapid pace, “Mama! No, you don’t, I’m sorry, it’s not, you don’t understand…” They continue in this fashion, Angel’s mother making plaintive cries for explanations or understanding, and Angel telling her she cannot understand, that she must forget this, that he must not be here anymore.

“Wait!” His mother cries. He pauses. “I don’t know what’s happened to you,” she continues, “But a man came to me last week. He asked us many questions, and told us you were in trouble. I told him that you were, well, that you were gone. It was awful. But he told me… that if I saw you, to give you this.” She hands him a card, which he pockets. “He made it sound like you were messed up with bad people. But, Angel – I saw you… you were dead. I saw you die. People don’t come back from that. They either go to heaven with Jesus, or to hell with the Devil. Where have you gone, hijo?” Angel replies, “Mama, no, just – just pretend I was never here. You won’t see me again. I’m leaving. I’m – I’m sorry,” as he steps toward the window. He escapes, leaving her with a wad of cash and unanswered questions.

On the street below, Angel steals a glance at the card in his pocket. It’s a business card for a private investigator named Harold Jackson. On the back, scrawled in ink, is the message “Angel, Call me – Harry” and a phone number different from the one on the front. Pausing at a deserted street corner a few blocks away, Angel pulls out his cell phone and dials the number on the back. The phone rings for what seems like an eternity in the cold night, before a sleep-addled voice picks up: “Hello?” Angel testily says, “This is Angel. Who is this and why have you been bothering my family?” The man on the other end introduces himself as Harry, and says that he knows Angel is in trouble, that he’s in trouble with some very dark forces, and that he can help. Angel is angry and isn’t having any of this, and tells the P.I. so, but tells the detective he’ll give him what info he can if the detective promises to never fuck with his family again. The detective, sounding slightly shocked, agrees to this, and they agree to meet at the Off-Shift Diner a few days later.

Later in the night, Angel stalks across Central Park, hunger gnawing in his gut, worse than it has been in days. He joins Anthony there, as they’re to meet Cherise Maxwell, a doctor in the hospital looming through the trees to the east and Annete’s ghoul, to help them “solve” the blood heist. Anthony has been wandering the streets this evening, contemplating the task set before him by Arianne, his sire. The doctor arrives right on time. She’s punctual, but jumpy and nervous. She claims to have nothing to tell about the blood heist, and especially about the missing video tape (the one documenting Angel, Anthony, and Penny having committed the heist). Suspecting she is hiding something, Anthony sweet talks her, with Angel’s impatient growling as counterpoint.
She finally agrees to help – but only if they pay her with a pint of blood. They hesitate, unfamiliar with what Cherise is proposing. She says, “What? You know how this works, right? Your kind feeds people like me blood, your blood, and it’s like heroin and sex all in one. And in return, we do your shit work. Yeah?” Anthony looks at her for a moment before replying, “Well, we may be a little new to this, yes, but. Um. Don’t you work for Annete?” Cherise shrugs, “Yeah. But still. You gonna pay up or not?”

At this, Angel’s patience is over, and he snaps at the ghoul, an animalistic anger in his eyes and his voice as he lashes out at her for trying to negotiate over something they could just take from her. Anthony tries to hold it together, but soon the freaked out Cherise and the two Kindred are shouting at each other. Anthony, having had enough, wills the stolen blood in his veins to command: “SPEAK,” he intones to Cherise. Finally, the answer comes out in a babbling stream. Dr. Maxwell was approached by someone or something else, another monster but of a different kind, who offered her lots of blood to give up the tape. Whatever the vampire-thing is, it lives in the attics of the hospital, and has no face, like a dressmaker’s mannequin. She just calls it, “The Ghost.” And it’s got their tape. She’s sorry, she says, sorry she didn’t tell them before. But that’s the whole truth. And… could she still get that pint of blood?

Anthony sighs, and takes some pity on the poor woman. He agrees to give her the blood, but before he heads to the hospital to have it taken with an IV, he pulls Angel to the side. “You need to get yourself together, man. You look terrible. Have you been feeiding?” Angel stares at him, “That’s none of your business. I can take care of myself, thanks.” And he wanders off into the middle of Central Park.

Angel wanders for a while, able to focus on little else than the maddening craving knifing through his guts. His dead guts. After a while, he spots a couple of guys under a streetlamp, one emaciated guy handing over money and getting a small package in return. Angel slips off the main path, and trails the addict whose feeble heartbeat he can hear loud as thunder. Creeping along, he missteps, a breaks a branch under his foot. The addict turns back, spots him behind the bushes, and goes “fuck” under his breath and he takes off down the path. Angel dashes through the bush onto the path, and sprints after him.

The addict’s adrenaline and terror allow him to keep pace with Angel for a good while, and strangely as they run Angel finds himself invigorated in turn. It’s unfamiliar, but he feels strong and alive. Predatory. He draws out the chase just a few moments longer, relishing this feeling, before grabbing the addict by his shoulders and throwing him the ground. Angel leaps on top of him, and ignores the man’s cries of “Why? Why me? I didn’t do… ” as he lowers his mouth to the enticing neck, full of life and vigor and freedom. He doesn’t just bite, he gnaws and gnashes and feeds in glorious exultation. By the time he pulls up, his face and the front of his shirt are drenched in blood, and the man below him his breathing slow, shallow ragged breaths. The light in his eyes is dimmed, and Angel recognizes that there is no living through this for the addict. He takes the man’s fate into his own hands, literally, and snaps his neck. Feeling alert and satisfied, Angel wanders back through the woods to find Anthony again.

They meet up where they separated, and the newly slightly drained Anthony stares agog at Angel, covered in red-brown stains and liquid blood. Angel stares back: “What?” As he wipes his mouth on his sleeve, then licks it. They then proceed, despite this bizarre tableau, to debate how to approach the Ghost in the hospital. Anthony is unusually reticent, anxious about owing a favor to yet another powerful entity. And Angel is surprisingly active, urging action now, that regardless of how it falls out they have to do something now to get this tape and save their own asses. Anthony seems somewhat convinced, but they both hesitate for a while, staring up at the looming hospital, unsure of exactly what they’ll find there.

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Episode 4: Personal Jesus

Music: Depeche Mode – Personal Jesus

On a cold night, Anthony stares pensively at a crumbling old cathedral hemmed in by skyscrapers. He climbs the steps, beckoned by the looming shadows of the place, and passes through the doors. Inside, he is drawn to the closeted dark of the confessional booth, recites the words learned as a child. Through the lattice, a reply comes. “Hello Anthony,” says Arianne. This confession has been coming for a long time, but it will neither will learn anything and nothing will be absolved.

Earlier that evening

Elysium, dark and early on an increasingly biting November night. The decaying art deco bathhouse in the shadow of Central Park’s Belvedere Castle hosts a procession of the damned. Angel, Penny and Anthony float separately around the building, presumably seeking the company of the only people in the world who now share their unique perspective. As Angel broods, his attention is caught by Marcel, appearing from around a corner to greet him in his usual chipper fashion. Angel begs off, not in the mood to deal with Marcel right now, and Penny and Anthony are even less tolerant. Angel wanders off away from Penny and Anthony, when Nora calls out to Anthony from across a room. She greets him and Penny in a saccharine, overly friendly way that foreshadows her bad news: the sheriff called in a favor from Nora, and Nora rolled shit downhill onto the head of Anthony and his companions. Nora tells Anthony she has no idea what it’s about, but that after he fixes it, she and he can “be friends again.” He is understandably sardonic in response.

A couple of hours later, a lower east side community center basement is populated by a handful of circled chairs and fidgeting, nervous Kindred. It’s time for Therapy again, and Penny as the ostensible therapy leader is visibly tense as Edith flits about the room checking in on other “therapy participants.” These include taciturn Donald, dressed in filthy scrubs, and twitchy Matthew, dressed seemingly only in filth. The therapy session is called to order and proceeds through normal support group steps: introductions, confessions, and affirmations. It is quickly apparent that though Penny is theoretically in charge, she runs things simply to keep Edith quiet and happy, and any deviation from this plan results in shouting and not so subtle threats of punishment for Penny from Edith. Donald, a former pediatric nurse, confesses to having taken a child from a local hospital pediatric ward “to heaven” in order to protect him, though the child’s crying voice still echoes in his mind. Matthew is surprisingly recalcitrant to confess, which enrages Edith. Edith in turn confesses that someone had broken into her haven in the last week and stolen something of value to her. In her rage at this, she admitted to having embraced a new bloodsucker, only to consume them to calm herself.

After confessions, there is a snack – that is, a moaning half-conscious woman in a body bag at the center of the circled chairs – which Penny notable abstains from much to Edith’s aggravation. Then affirmations occur, and the session is over. But Penny’s situation is not immediately improved, as shortly after the session Matthew insists on speaking to her, hysterically citing “Doctor-patient confidentiality! Doctor-patient confidentiality!” when Edith draws near to listen. Penny at first attempts to sell Matthew out to Edith, fearing her sire, but then changes her mind (for reasons of conscience? Who knows?) and protects him from Edith. This enrages Edith, but not in her normal shrieking fashion. She simply pointedly informs Penny that this week’s snack was a psychiatric nurse and that next week’s snack could be a therapist, before stalking off. When she is gone, Matthew tells Penny that he has discovered “the cure – the cure to being a vampire,” but that to make it work, he had to get something very special: opening his hand, he shows off a lock of blond hair. Penny recognizes this as Edith’s, specifically a trophy she had kept from the last therapist she embraced to “run” the support group.

Shortly later that evening, Penny meets Angel and Anthony at their flophouse in Harlem to discuss the situation with the sheriff. They’re not sure what the sheriff wants, other than that he wanted Nora to complete some kind of task, which Nora foisted onto Anthony. This is seemingly how favors work in this new society of monsters they travel in. Penny suggests that if things go south, they could possibly sell out Jo and Tiff to save their own asses. Anthony argues angrily against that idea, wanting to keep them as allies of sorts. Angel is non-committal. In the end, they simply agree to go together to hear what the Sheriff has to say.

The trio walks along the Highline, the former elevated train line turned swanky park, a testament to urban renewal on Manhattan’s west side. This is where Nora told them to meet the Sheriff, and as they walk along they discuss the upcoming situation and possible plans. There is, as normal, a fair amount of bickering between the three. They first spot the sheriff leaning against an outer railing on a grassy strip, ignoring the park in favor of staring out at the urban maze beyond. Penny pauses for a moment, absorbing the sheriff’s aura with her vampire eyes, and sees in his pale hues that he is frustrated yet calm. She also spots small black veins traversing his aura, though she is unfamiliar with what that means.

The three approach and they speak. The sheriff begins the conversation by asking their opinion of the park. He is unsure of how to respond to it himself, he says, unsure of how to deal with the change to the landscape. “I suppose we don’t deal well with change,” he says with a small cynical chuckle. “I wonder what that means when everything has changed from how we originally experienced it? Well, anyway.” The Sheriff introduces himself as Nathan Raymer, and then asks if they had heard of the blood heist a few weeks back. (Of course they had, being the ones who committed it.) That hospital fits within the Prince’s domain, he explains, and the Prince, well, she demands it be solved. That names of culprits be produced. He seems disinterested, like he has more important things to worry about than this, but he tells the three that since the Prince has ordered it be done, it must be done. And in this case, it must be done by them. They ask what evidence there might be – was there a surveillance tape? Raymer says that there was, but it was stolen. For more information, they could go speak to a doc at the hospital, a “pawn of Annete’s” who is “clued in to us.” Regardless, he tells them, he wants results. At this, he vaults over the edge of the railing and is gone into the night below. Anthony, Penny, and Angel stare at each other, not entirely sure what to do next. In order to think about it, they split up for a time.

Anthony drifts into a nearby subway entrance. Standing on the platform, he feels a strange pull from a disused tunnel down one end. Responding to this pull, he leaps down from the platform and steps off into the dark. He wanders for an hour, maybe two, before coming to another station elsewhere in the city. Climbing back up on the platform and heading upwards to the city streets, he finds himself standing outside of Trinity Church, a place of worship stretched tall and compressed thin between the looming skyscrapers to either side of it. The pull has not subsisted, and he walks inside. For the first time in a long time, Anthony feels a need for confession, and he makes eye contact with the priest on duty in these early morning hours, who is momentarily busy with a homeless woman on a pew. He steps inside the confessional anyway to wait for the priest, where he is to his shock greeted by Arianne.

Anthony and Arianne speak for a while. Their conversation is theological, philosophical, and at turns almost tender. It lacks some of the subtext of anger and competitiveness of Anthony’s other interactions with the damned, but it is simultaneously colder and less “human.” Anthony seeks to know why he was made. Arianne replies that she found him in her own image, that she was struck by their similarity, and thus she molded him further in her own image. Anthony tries to pry from her why the damned exist. Her response is mystical and religious, and seems to place the monsters they have become as part of the order of nature set in place by God. Anthony accuses her of vague equivocations and bullshit, and she simply tells him that he is not yet capable of understanding the true answers, though the ones she has given him are true enough.

But, she promises, there is a path that he can undertake in order to understand them. Anthony is skeptical, but curious. “Murder a living human being,” Arianne explains. “This man or woman can deserve it, if that makes you feel better, but do not drink from them. Murder them – kill them intentionally. Further, do not hide what you have done. There is no shame in what we do, and you must not hide what you have done from those you spend your nights with. In fact, you must tell them. If you do this, you will be one step closer to understanding. And you will have pleased me, and I can reward you with things earthly as well as spiritual.” Anthony responds that he will consider it, but he soon feels an emptiness in the booth. The shadows have lost the solidity they had moments before. The confessional booth opens, and the priest steps inside, greets Anthony. Anthony pauses for a moment, but then says “Sorry Father, I don’t think I’m up for it anymore.” He then gets up and leaves.

An hour or two before daylight, the trio sits at their regular diner in Harlem, pushing forks around plates of garlic bread ordered by Penny. Angel looks up and sums up Penny and Anthony, announcing flatly, “You guys both look like shit.” They don’t argue much, drowning in their own thoughts. Eventually the conversation drifts to what to do about “solving” the blood heist, and the conversation inevitably turns to who to fuck for this one. Penny helpfully suggests Jo and Tiff again, or maybe Edith? Anthony says he might like to get Nora for what she did to get them into this. Angel brings up the missing tape, and how Roman himself might have it, giving him powerful blackmail material over them in the future. They are mulling this over, when Penny’s phone vibrates with a text. “Seen any black squiggly auras? I’m hunting diablerists,” reads the screen of Penny’s phone, a text from Edith. Diablerie, the drinking of another Kindred’s blood and possibly soul, is the worst crime to Kindred society, and sudden comprehension rushes over Penny’s face as she explains what she has just now learned about Nathan and Edith’s plans. An egg of a plan hatches in Penny’s mind, but no one is fully sold on it yet, even Penny. The group decides not to worry about who to try and fuck over quite yet, wanting to find just who holds the tape and therefore the secret of their involvement in the blood heist.

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Episode 3: Return of the Fly

Music: Misfits – Return of the Fly

As Roman and his thugs cross the parking lot to meet Penny, Angel, and Anthony hanging out next to the blood-filled ambulance, Anthony steps forward to take point. He quickly introduces himself to Roman, who sidesteps him and calls, “Penny Scholtz! Who is this jerk?” Anthony tries to re-explain, but doesn’t get too far before Roman and Angel lock eyes, and recognition dawns. Roman cracks, “Hello kiddo,” but Angel shoots forward screaming curses in Spanish as he sprints past first Penny and then Anthony, intending to kick the shit out of mother-fucker who did this to him. Anthony gets in his way, tries to hold him back, but he’s no match for Angel’s snarling, bestial rage. Penny pulls a gun from her purse and yells, “Angel, don’t make me shoot you!” but Angel pays no attention to anything other than his white-hot rage.

Angel, now shrieking incoherently and snapping his jaws as saliva pours over his lips, barrels into Roman, trying to slam him to the ground. But after a moment or two of struggle, Angel is on the ground and Roman is staggering backwards. He’s got his hands out, “Hey, kid, ha ha, you keep it up if you want, good luck!” In a split-second Angel is on his feet again, powered by the stolen blood pumping in his veins, his face distorting and stretching in a parody of canine form, and scary fuck-off claws sliding out of his finger as he steps toward Roman again. “Come on, son, let’s see what you’re capable of,” Roman taunts. But before Angel can dive into him again, Anthony tackles him to the ground, and holds Angel down before his frenzied ass can get them in any more trouble.

About fifteen minutes later, Angel is strapped down inside the ambulance to make sure he doesn’t hurt himself or someone else. The others stand tensely outside, discussing the deal at hand. “I’m sorry for that,” Anthony explains primly, “Let me reintroduce myself?” Roman cocks his head, “Seriously, Penny, who is this jerkoff?” Penny replies, “He’s… an associate, I guess?” Anthony just plows on ahead, nonetheless, and before the deal is done, he asks for Roman to let Jo and Tiff be his problem inside of letting them meet the dawn. “Why the hell would you want that? What’s your angle?” Roman asks incredulously. “I’m looking for friends, you could say,” Anthony replies. “Well, okay, let me give you a little bit of free advice,” says Roman, “Around people like us, you want to be very careful of the kind of friends you make, because make the wrong ones and you will end up dead, or worse. And I can think of few things that fit the description of ‘wrong friends’ more than junkie trash. But yeah, sure, you want them, you got it. Have fun.”

Their conversation is interrupted, though, when Anthony emerges from the ambulance, having calmed down and unstrapped himself. Roman fixes him with a smile, “Feeling better, kiddo?” Angel just grimaces, his teeth still jagged and fanged, “Fuck you.” Roman laughs, “What? Nothing more than that? We aren’t going to have any father-son moments? But I’ve got so much wisdom to share!” Angel just stares for a moment, before very quietly replying, “No. I don’t want anything from you. All I want you to know is that someday, no matter how long it takes, I will destroy you for what you’ve done to me.” Roman rolls his eyes, “Oh, okay, I see it. You’ve gone all Louis – you’re so weepy about your terrible fate, oh poor woe is me, on and on. Well, let me ask you a question. If you’re such a monster, if you’re so cursed, why are you still here? You could have checked out at any moment before now. Suicide is painless, and all that. Yes, you can say it’s to get revenge on me, but keep in mind every day you’re still walking, you’re hurting people. Probably killing them! So save me your moral righteousness shit, because it smells rotten.” They stare at each other for a long moment, before Angel mutters and just walks away, followed shortly by Anthony and Penny.

The next night, the trio heads over to the scummy punk bar where Jo and Tiff play shows, and wind their way throw the crowd into the back to find the pair. Knocking on the door of their back room, the door is thrown open by a hard-looking woman with very short black hair and a wad of 20s in her hand. Behind her a waifish blond girl lies half-dozing on a couch. “Do you have our shit,” the woman at the door asks, but steps back and raises her voice when Anthony steps immediately into the room. Penny steps in after him, and Angel remains leaning against (and blocking) the door. “Who the fuck are you?” the woman asks angrily. Anthony raises a hand, “Hey, listen, we need to talk. Jo?” Anthony tries to introduce himself as a friend, but the woman who does seem to be Jo just gets angrier. “Listen, asshole, I’ve got a knife, and I will cut you.” Anthony grins, “You know, I’ve got a knife too. And I won’t cut you.” She does not react well to this and they go back and forth for a while with Anthony trying to explain how Roman has cast them out and he is their best friend right now, and Jo trying to get them the hell out. At the least, Anthony gets across to Jo that everyone here is kindred, but this just seems to make her angrier.

As they argue, the waifish Tiff calls over from the couch, “Jo, is this them? Do they have the stuff you said we could get?” She pauses, “Could I, you know, bite them?” It’s clear she’s high out of her mind, and while Jo and Anthony snipe back and forth and Angel smolders, Penny walks over to the girl and begins speaking softly, very softly, very close to her ear. After a few moments, Tiff sits up on the couch and begins to sob quietly but powerfully. Jo notices and immediately walks to her, sitting on the couch and putting her arm around the girl protectively. “What in the Jesus Christing Fuck is wrong with you people? You come in here, trying to tell me what that Roman has basically given us to you, acting like I should be thanking you for god knows what, and now you make my fucking girlfriend cry? What. The. Fuck.” Penny looks at Tiff, “I was, um, helping her. She’s a junkie, and now she probably won’t be. One way or the other.” Anthony jumps in with, “Yeah, that’s really not very healthy for her, and you’re buying drugs for her?” Jo explodes again: “You bastard. You absolute bastard. She has a problem, I know it’s a shitty situation, but what do you want me to do? We’re working on it.” Penny says softly, “Yes, now you are.” And Jo begins to get worked up again, yelling at the three.

At this point, Angel has had enough. He stops smoldering and stalks to the center of the room, and matches Jo in volume and anger. “Okay, now it’s time for you to listen. You can sit there with your righteous anger all you want, fine, you do whatever the hell you want. But, and I have no idea why he did this for a couple of strays, especially a junkie like her, but Anthony here literally just saved your ass and no, we’re not asking anything in return for it. So you can sit here and get staked tomorrow night, or you could stop being such an idiot and trust the three people in this city who have actually tried to help you.” At this, Jo grows quiet, and after a moment or two she agrees to go to the address Anthony gives them, the abandoned flophouse he and Angel inhabit.

Having handled that problem, the trio leaves Jo to comfort Tiff and they remove themselves to the bar proper. As they pretend to drink, Anthony turns to Penny: “So, I have to ask, what did you do to her in there?” Penny gives him a side-eyed look, “You’re not the only one who can make people do things, like when you go all sparkly. Or feel things, for that matter.” Anthony mulls this over for a second and says, “Yeah, I’m sure, it just seemed very different from what I did to those guards the other night. More… painful.” Penny looks irritated, “Of course not. We’re not the same, Anthony. Not in any sense.” Angel throws in with an edge of bitterness, “Yeah. Don’t compare us to you, because we’re not like you. We don’t pick up strays, for example.” Anthony shoots back, “What? Uh, I don’t know what you mean? We’re helping those people.” “Yeah,” Penny says, “you’re helping them by taking a junkie into your house. Angel is right, that is fucking stupid.” Angel nods, “Exactly. You don’t understand, Anthony, you did grow up in this world. Junkies are poison, and she will fuck is. Christ.” They argue back and forth over this for a while, with Anthony being well-intentioned or naïve (depending on which side you believe), until Angel finally storms off in a fit of frustration. “Damn,” Anthony says to Penny, “What got into his kibbles this morning?” Penny sighs, and also stalks out of the room annoyed.

Later that evening, Penny is sitting in her apartment, staring at the plastic food taking up all the room in her fridge now. (It was more convenient than replacing groceries of real food, which inevitably rotted when not eaten.) She picks up her phone, and dials Tyrone’s number. After a few rings he answers, “Yeah, Penny.” “Hey, Tyrone,” Penny says, “I just did this thing for Roman. And I gotta say, I think I’m confused about a few things. Specifically, I thought that by working for you guys, you were going to look out for me. I thought you guys looked out for each other. Instead I did this thing for Roman, and now I feel worse off than I started.” There is a long pause on the line. “Hm. Yeah. Penny, you have to believe me, I want to help you. I want to make you one of us, have your back, I really do. I think you’re smart, and you’re right not to trust Roman. He says he’s an anarch, sure, but what he really wants us is for us to shack up with the Sabbat. Between him and that Sabbat collaborator bitch of a Prince we have, this city is fucked seven ways to Sunday, and I’d like to have you on our side. But, see, here’s the thing. You’re too attached to your old life, Penny. I know you still see your sister. And her kid. If you want to be one of us, Penny, you’ve got to let that go. It’s over. You get this?” There is another long pause as Penny stares into space. “Um… I’ll call you back,” and she hangs out.

Meanwhile, Angel speaks to Marcel via phone as well. Marcel assures him he’ll get his money soon, and that Viktor is pleased with all three of them for what went down. “Although,” Marcel comments, “steer clear of the Prince right now, and the Sheriff to boot. Seems something happened in their territory to the hospital, and they’re fucking pissed. Oh well. Hey, could you get me Anthony’s number?” And thus, a few short minutes later, Anthony’s phone buzzes. Picking it up, he sees a text from Marcel: an address and a name, “Arianne.”

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Episode 2: Terror Couple Kill Colonel

A man sits on the stoop of a rowhouse where plywood sheets cover the holes where windows should go. It is early evening. A pale figure and another person obviously deferent to the pale individual are walking down the street toward the man. The pale woman greets the sitting man, “What the fuck, man?” They argue. The man sells drugs for the woman, but he can’t pay for the product because his supply has been ripped off, and he doesn’t know by who or even really how. Shouting follows, as the man tries to convince the woman he’ll get the money back (somehow) and that he’s still truthworthy. The woman has had enough of this, and orders her companion to beat the shit out of the man. As the woman and her companion leave, the now bloody and broken man crawls painfully back into the rowhouse, hoping to sleep off his possibly broken nose on the bare floor. It is only too late that he realizes something else is in the rowhouse with him, and as the door closes on the dark room he mumbles, “Who the hell are you?” These are the last words the man ever says.

.

A couple of weeks after Angel and Anthony’s botched introduction to the society of pretentious monsters calling themselves Camarilla, they sit in a downtown diner with new acquaintance Penny Scholtz. Penny is a fellow “Kindred,” but unlike the others she was recently turned, just like Angel and Anthony, and frankly she seems less batshit than the others they’ve met. As a result, they’ve struck up a kind of friendship, and now they sit chatting in a diner while moving forks around plates of food they don’t intend to eat. Penny’s dish positively reeks of garlic, and she is making more of a show of pretending to eat it while looking over at other diner patrons. They are making conversation quietly about the other underground group, the “Sabbat,” or more specifically about how little they know about them other than their supposed brutality, when the bell above the door rings and Marcel walks in.

Marcel calls over to Angel, telling him he’s been looking for him all over. He also says hello to Anthony, and then smarts off Penny, questioning her on whether “Edith knows her poodle is playing outside the yard?” “Fuck you, Marcel,” she replies. Marcel explains that Viktor has a job for Angel and “the strays you hang out with.” Apparently, a couple of anarch firebrands have been intruding on Viktor’s territory in the slummier parts of town, and Viktor needs that taken care of. “Specifically,” Marcel says, “Viktor wants the problem solved, so this is a good thing. He sees you as a problem solver. Good news.” Angel confirms he’ll receive his usual payment, and then agrees. Marcel turns to Anthony and Penny, “How about it? You guys in too?” Anthony demands information on Arianne, who he suspects is his sire, and when Marcel agrees he is in. Penny on the other hand feels she could use a friend in Viktor – anyone but Edith, really – and goes along with it too. “Fantastic,” Marcel grins. “Here’s the address – their names are Jo and Tiff and they play in some shitty Marxist punk band at this place on the southeast side, The Slopbucket.” He laughs. “Good luck.”

The trio do a bit of background digging, looking up The Slopbucket’s ugly Myspace page and seeing that Jo and Tiff would be performing tomorrow night. They decide to go down and check out the place tonight, though, hoping to scope the place out or even just find them hanging out. An hour later, they find themselves standing in a scummy bar, with blaring punk noise coming from stereos on the walls. Penny excuses herself and walks out the door, while Angel and Anthony move to the bar to try and get some questions answered. Anthony calls over to the bartender and asks if he knows Jo and Tiff, that he and his friend are buddies of theirs and want to find them. The bartender responses incredulously and asks aloud if Anthony is a narc. He’s in fact generally unhelpful.

While this is going on, a bleary-eyed woman, swaying with obvious intoxication, approaches Angel. “Did you say you’re looking for Jo and Tiff?” she yells over the music. When Angel nods, the woman leans in close and shouts, “Are you guys, like, with them?” Angel looks at her with a confused look and responds, “With them? What does that mean?” The woman tries to fix him with a conspiratorial look and goes, “With them! You know, like, I don’t know, are you guys like them? Do you, uh, you know?” Angel looks her over for a second, before leaning in himself and saying with an edge of menace, “Why, do you want it?” At this, the woman stammers and tries to evade, saying she didn’t mean anything by it, as she begins backing away, quickly moving away from the bar.

Outside, Penny is on her cell phone down a secluded grimy alley. She’s speaking to Tyrone, one of the two Kindred in charge of the anarchs in Cathedral City. He can’t help with Jo and Tiff, he says, but he gives her the number of the other influential anarch, a man named Roman, and tells her to call him. She dials the number, and it rings an interminable number of times before a sleazy, slimy voice comes on the line, “Hello?” stretching the word into about four syllables. Penny explains that there is a situation with Jo and Tiff, and that she’d like to find a way to fix it. Roman, too friendly, is amenable and explains that if Penny is willing to do him a little favor, he’ll take care of it right away. Penny asks what the favor is, and learns that Roman wants her to rob the blood bank at Cathedral City Central Hospital, on the edge of The Park. “Not their whole supply, just 10 or 12 cases, they should easily have three times that on hand. Is it a deal?” Penny agrees tenuously, and hurries off the phone to deliver the news to the other two.

The three discuss the situation, and agree that robbing the blood is the best option, in that it might allow them to play both sides by making everyone happy and still getting Jo and Tiff off Viktor’s territory peacefully. They scope out CCCH and decide the front entrances are too closely watched, and they settle on a plan for stealing EMT uniforms and going in a back entrance for delivery of non-patient objects by ambulance or freight truck. Hanging out outside the front ER entrance, they notice an ambulance has been left alone by the EMTs who have gone inside. Anthony casually walks over and leans into the back of the ambulance, hoping to look around and at best nab some spare uniforms. He’s stopped, though, when an EMT comes back and catches him. Anthony plays up the stupid frat guy routine, saying, “Hey, man, I just wanted to see what the inside of an ambulance looks like! Wait a second… have you ever seen a dead body?”

Anthony draws the angry, yelling EMT away from the ambulance with this act, and Angel tries to dig around the back of the ambulance himself. But he’s noticed by the EMT, who is starting to freak out at this weird ass collection of college students climbing in his ambulance. The EMT charges over, and surprisingly is able to fling Angel out of the truck bodily. After this, the group backs off, seeing that the strangely capable EMT is not going to let them get their way right now.

Still skulking around the CCCH grounds, the three find a vehicle maintenance building across a rear parking lot, with a couple of ambulances parked outside under a bright streetlamp. The immediate area is deserted, but there are enough people around that the trio is cautious about just attempting to break into this ambulance. Anthony tells the other two to wait, and he reaches within himself, summoning the blood – not his blood – that he is constantly aware pumping in his veins. The shadows of the scene and warp and contort, and fold in on the lamp, making the entire area full of layered darkness. Able to approach the ambulance under cover of this localized dark, Angel climbs in the back and locates uniforms while Penny is able to hot-wire the vehicle. They quickly drive the truck out of the parking lot and away from the hospital, having achieved their aim.

The next night (Anthony having convincing a drug-addicted friend of his to watch the ambulance during the day), the group dons the EMT uniforms and boards the ambulance again, intending to approach the freight entrance and present themselves as a blood supply transfer to a less well-stocked smaller city hospital. But when they are actually at the underground entrance, and Anthony is face to face with a middle-aged security guard, he finds himself stumped by their demands to see his identification. For a few very long moments, the scene is tensed on the edge of things going wrong, but Anthony reacts once again with his predatory powers, and his able to amplify his personal magnetism to make the guards believe his story of lost ID. Having passed the first obstacle Anthony, Angel, and Penny proceed to locate the blood supply rooms on the basement level of the hospital.

The blood bank is a set of two rooms, an entry office with a bookish-seeming secretary sitting at a front desk with a computer and shelves of records, with the storage space through a door behind her. After buzzing in the three, the secretary asks how she can help them. After they explain their story, the blonde woman looks puzzled, she wasn’t expecting any supply transfer tonight? The characters attempt to bluff her, but she is not having any of it, and her hand moves to the phone to try and check all this.

Reacting instinctively to the fear of this situation going to hell, Angel suddenly lunges forward across the desk, grabbing her hand before she can reach the phone. They struggle for a moment, and before she can scream out further, Angel attempts to drag her across the desk to subdue her. He is successful in hauling her over, but in her panic she is astonishingly strong and manages to scrabble to the floor and escape his clutches. Anthony instead pounces on her, grabbing her and holding her to floor with his hand over her mouth. Feeling the pounding blood in the struggling woman, and not knowing how to stop her from fighting back, Anthony’s reflexes kick in as he lowers his exposed fangs over her neck, draining her blood. As they have learned is the natural response of normal people to their feeding, she quickly calms and is subdued. Watching this, Penny shouts at Anthony: “What the fuck? What in the hell are you doing? Have you heard of this little thing we have, called the masquerade?” Anthony responds hotly, “Jesus, no it will be fine! I’ll lick her, and the bite will go away,” though little can help the small blood stains already dotting the woman’s clothing.

As Penny and Anthony argue, Angel just wants to get the hell out of here. He goes through the door into the actual blood storage room, looking at the cases of blood bags sitting on the shelves. He counts them, and then counts them again. Shit. He walks outside, “Guys, we have a problem.” The others look up. “There are only 14 cases in there. If we take what Roman wants, this hospital will have no blood to use.” Penny and Anthony’s faces fall. “Did someone rob this place before us?” Anthony asks. “Have we been set up?” Penny walks over to the computer, “Well, let’s see.” After a few moments of searching through records, Penny can see that no, the hospital has just been hit by a recent series of events in the city that have put their supply perilously low. If they take that blood, people will die, and not just a few. She stares at the screen with a fixed expression while Angel and Anthony wait. She makes a decision. “No, their supplies are low, but they’ll be getting a new delivery in the morning,” she lies to the others. “They’ll be just fine if we take this.” Angel and Anthony, wanting to believe this is the truth, accept it. The three escape into the hours of the early morning with the blood they came to take.

With just a few hours until dawn, the trio decides not to risk the truck (and the blood) sitting out another day. Penny makes the call to Roman, to tell him they have his blood. He is extremely pleased, although Penny is not, because Roman says two very disconcerting things. One, “Ohh, yes, Annette and Nathan will be pissed.” She reflexively grimaces at this, not especially wanting to be on the Prince and Sheriff’s shit lists. Two, “Yeah, your problem? No worries. Jo and Tiff are stakebait tomorrow.” Penny relays these two comments to the Anthony and Angel, and everyone shares a profound silence for a few moments. Angel leans back in his seat in the front of the ambulance, and just laughs. “Fuck me,” he says. All this to keep the Camarilla and the anarchs both happy, and to get Jo and Tiff out there peacefully, and this is the result. After a few moments, Anthony brightens up, “Wait, no, I’ve got a plan. Let’s keep the blood in reserve, and bargain with Roman. Tell him we want Jo and Tiff to live. We could even take them into our place, this abandoned house Angel and I have been living in. That way they’re out of Roman’s and Viktor’s shit. That’s at least a little better right?” Penny replies, “Honestly, I don’t want to touch any of this with a 10 foot pole, but fine, whatever, let’s try it.”

In the early hours of the morning, Penny, Anthony, and Angel are waiting outside of the local art installation/club space Missing Sun, in a parking lot where they can see junkies shooting up and drunk party-goers stumbling away. They were meant to make their rendezvous with Roman and his crew in the club, but Penny refused to enter, saying she was just “not up” to withstanding the huge lifelike sun illusion in the club. So here they sit, with their ambulance full of literal blood money, as a group of 3 approaches them from the club entrance. Flanked on either side, obviously in charge, is a short, thin man with sunken features who oozes grease, Roman. Angel glances at Roman, and the recognition is immediate. Roman is the monster who bit Angel, the man who turned Angel into what he is now, and the man who Angel promised to make pay for what he did.

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Episode 1: Cities In Dust

Music: Cities In Dust

Several weeks have passed since Anthony and Angel were embraced. They have learned, in rough terms at least, what they are and what they must do to survive, though neither really full believes it yet. Angel has been spending his nights with Marcel, an old friend of his and small-time drug dealer, who seems to be involved with the strange supernatural underground Angel finds himself a part of. Marcel does not seem to be the same sort of monster Angel is, though Angel does not know exactly what he is. Anthony has been guarded and shepherded by Nora. As the episode opens, Anthony and Nora are walking through a large central city park near midnight, and their conversation reveals tensions and distrust between the two.

Nora angrily accuses Anthony of staying in contact with Tracy, her neighbor and twice now the target of Anthony’s hunger. She lectures him on the danger involved and the need for secrecy. Anthony fends her off as best he can, replying that he understands the risks involved and assuring her he has been careful and safe as possible. He also denies further contact with the woman, though he has in fact spoken with her once or twice more than he is willing to admit. Shifting subjects, Nora gestures to an abandoned bath house and sanitarium on a hill on the edge of the park. That’s their destination, she explains, a place of gathering where they can socialize with “others.” This will be Anthony’s social debut, she intimates mysteriously.

Earlier in the night, Angel rides with Marcel in a beaten-up old car as they drive through a run-down part of Cathedral City. Marcel has been fairly helpful but also secretive, and tonight he began the evening by declaring that “the boss” wants to see Angel, and that Angel had little choice in the matter. On the upside, Marcel says the boss might be able to help Angel figure out who did this to him, who turned him into the thing he is now. Angel rides along, and follows even when Marcel leads him in an unmarked back door of a decript-looking building and down several flights of crumbling stairs, until they are well and truly underground. Through a series of halls and tunnels, they find themselves at a large rusty metal door and Marcel gestures for Angel to go inside. From now on he’s on his own.

Inside the dank-smelling room underneath the city Angel finds an exquisitely beautiful library, and an exquisitely horrible monster in the library, sitting at an ornate writing desk. It gestures Angel to come forward and in a clipped European accent of some kind introduces himself as Viktor. Even with everything that has come before, Angel has difficulty controlling his panic and visceral disgust as the creature in front of him, with his surrealist-nightmare face and his amateurishly rearranged looming body. Nonetheless, the creature named Viktor asks Angel what he knows of what is he is, and listens patient to his explanation. Viktor enlightens Angel further, explaining that there is a diversity of monsters like Angel in the world that would beggar the imagination. Viktor is one of them, in fact, though quite different from Angel. There even exists a gentile society of monsters, it explains, to provide some company in the lonely nocturnal void. And finally, Viktor explains that if Angel works with this society, the Camarilla, and more specifically if he works with Viktor, great rewards are possibly in store. But before allowing him to make the decision, the Viktor thing beckons Angel to follow him through a further door into the labyrinth, so that Angel “might make an informed decision.”

Following Viktor through a smaller rusted door and down several twists and turns, Angel finds himself in something resembling no less than a modern equivalent of a castle dungeon. A handful of rows of cells line the walls of this narrow corridor, with shadowy half-light given by electric torches hung by hooks on the ceiling. And there in the last cell, squirming on the floor of the cell and whimpering pitifully, a moving thing. Angel gasps as he realizes the thing is a person, a thing like himself except only flailing stumps exist where arms and legs should be. After allowing this scene to sink in for a moment or two, Viktor turns to Angel and explains that other societies exist, ones actually more horrific than the Camarilla, and that the man on the floor belongs to one such alternative. This, Viktor suggests, is the price of not playing along. At this it faces Angel, and asks whether he is willing to receive the benefits of service. Angel says yes to this convincing offer, and Viktor attempts a sinister broken, grey-gummed smile in response. “Excellent. Well, we must be going,” Viktor says, “You are wanted at Elysium.”

In the echoing art noveau halls of an empty house of baths, sinister people gossip and whisper in small groups around the high walkway edges or linger on plush, rotten couches at the bottoms of pools. Anthony and Angel find themselves brought together, sitting on uncomfortable wooden chairs at the bottom of a long, deep pool in front of a depressingly normal metal desk. They share few glances but fewer words, instead waiting in the echoing silence as various other figures appear in the walkway on the edge of the pool, shadowed and far enough away to prevent identification. After what seems like an eternity of waiting, the empt metal chair is suddenly and instantaneously filled by a mousey-looking woman in a rumpled brown suit appearing seemingly out of thin air. She wastes no time but begins to interview Angel and Anthony for some unexplained purpose, her eyes alive with a rare intensity. Her questions are invasive and seem to suggest that Anthony and Angel are by turns violent, predatory, cowardly, sadistic, and perverted. Angel plays along, but Anthony is defiantly reticent, and the mousey woman mysteriously threatens “positive reinforcement” if he does not begin to comply. Unhappy with the idea of finding out what that might be, Anthony follows along, for now at least.

During this exchange, Anthony is questioned about the woman who turned him, who they refer to as his “sire.” After describing her, an unseen man comments to an unseen woman on the walk above, “Certainly sounds like Arianne..” and with that, another woman has appeared in the pool bottom, a tall and severe-looking woman with piercing gaze behind a set of ornate spectacles. She proceeds to press Anthony hotly on his sire, and condescendingly patronizes to him when his answers don’t seem sufficient to her. Finally fed up with this treatment, Anthony shouts in response to yet another badgering demand, and slams his hand on the desk in his frustration.

This quite simply makes the entire situation go batshit. The mousey woman shrieks in response to Anthony’s echoing slam, and fetches a large scalpel from somewhere under the table which she attempts to drive directly into Anthony’s fist, though Anthony is able to jerk his hand back just quickly enough to avoid being pinned to the desk. But before he can recover he is picked up bodily from his chair as the tall woman’s hand closes on his face with an iron-grip and lifts him one-handed in the air. “Edith! Calm yourself,“ she shouts. “My name is Annette, and I am Prince of this domain, neonate,” she growls. “That means I’m in fucking charge here. If you choose to bawl like a baby any more in front of me, you can greet the dawn. Got it?” Anthony weakly nods, and finds himself dropped unceremoniously on the floor. “I’m done with you,” Annette announces. “Listen to your babysitters, and stay out of trouble unless you want me to schedule a private session between you and Edith. Now get out of here.”

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Episode 0: We Only Come Out At Night

Music: We Only Come Out At Night

A prelude

A cold wind blows down the streets of Cathedral City late on a dry early autumn night. Anthony Forzaglia and Angel Luis Iglesias, two twenty-something guys who could not be more different, are walking these streets heading home. Home to Angel is his family’s small apartment in a run-down residential tower complex, and he’s returning from a long shift at a second job. Anthony, a rich kid slumming it up, is coming back from a nightclub and returning home to his dorm at a prestigious downtown city university. These two have never met, but their attention is drawn by the smell of smoke and the reflected light of a blazing building fire on the nighttime clouds above.

Drawing closer, Angel realizes it’s his building that is on fire and he breaks into a run, sprinting headlong for the entrance. He dashes inside heedless of his own safety, because he knows his family, his mother and two younger sisters, could be inside. As he bounds up the countless flights of stairs to get to his apartment, Anthony cautiously detours to to the scene. Not hearing sirens despite the fire’s already roaring state, he pulls out his phone to quickly dial 911, and when done he keeps it in hand just in case. He’s distracted from getting closer to the fire, though, because his attention is caught by a scream in a nearby alley. A woman is being mugged, and shouting for help.

Angel emerges on the 13th floor of the tower. His family is on the 28th, but he has to cross a long hallway, full of fallen ceiling and flames, to reach a second set of stairs to get there. As he runs down the hall, he stops in response to a feeble cry from an open apartment door. Inside is an old woman in a wheelchair, someone he recognizes dimly, and she’s begging him to help her get out. She can’t walk the whole way down, she needs Angel’s help, she says. Angel can see it’s only a matter of time before her ceiling collapses and the entire room is full of flame. He stares at her numbly for a few moments before mumbling that he’ll come back after he grabs his family, and he backs out of the room. But he knows she probably won’t have the time to wait.

Meanwhile, Anthony plunges down the shadowed alley to help the screaming woman. He rounds a right angle turn to the end of the alley, and sees them: a hulking guy with a knife standing above a woman in anomalously fashionable clothes cowering on the ground, clutching her purse and sobbing. Anthony screams for the mugger to leave the woman alone, and suddenly too many things happen at once. The big guy turns in surprise toward Anthony, leaping at him, and Anthony feels a sudden dull ache in his gut. A gun goes off from somewhere behind him and Anthony is suddenly showered in bits of human being. He looks down as the guy who doesn’t seem so large now crumples to the pavement, and notices the handle end of a particularly large knife jutting out of his abdomen. Glancing up, the previously cowering woman is walking toward him with a revolver in her hand, her mascara-streaked face smiling. Anthony quietly considers this sequence of events until the woman is inches from his face. He whispers, “Help me,” finding it surprisingly hard to speak. She leans in and whispers back, “Oh, I will,” as she lowers her hand to the knife handle. Sharp new explosions of pain cry out as she drives the knife rhythmically in and out of Anthony’s body. The last thing he is aware of before he blacks out is her mouth descending to his neck, and a sharp pain combined with a euphoric coldness…

Angel drives on, thinking of his family but also hopeful that maybe possibly he could help the old lady below. Hitting the 28th floor, he sees down the hall that his door is ajar, and he sprints through it into his living room. He is unprepared for what he finds there. His mother and sisters are here, as he feared. But they’re backed into a corner of the kitchen by a small man with sunken features. Angel shouts at him and picks up a knife on a counter. The small man turns to face him and.. snarls? A rage plays across the man’s withered face, a kind of animal emotion that could only be called a rage, accompanied by a look in his eye as fiery as the blazes surrounding them.

Time seems to slow as Angel and the intruder rush at each other, and they struggle for a short instant before the small man’s deceptively powerful arms pin Angel to the floor. Suddenly the whole man’s body is on top of Angel, as the man’s face lowers to meet his. Angel screams for his family to run before the man rips into his throat, and he sees that they escape as the thing in his apartment continues to tear the flesh of his throat with its teeth. Angel begins to lose consciousness as he finally feels the weight of the creature removed from him, and through dimming sight he watches it dash part way out of the apartment before pausing, saying something indistinct, and returning to Angel’s limp figure. Something is pressed to Angel’s lips, and he feels warmth as something copper-tasting drips down his throat. His next experiences are the sharp crash of glass, a strange chill whipping breeze, and a sudden complete loss of consciousness.

Hunger

Some time later, the whole circus of civil intervention has appeared. Firefighters, cops, and a gawking public fill a perimeter around the building as the fire continues to rage. On the outskirts, Nora Amador flits about, seeking some kind of artistic inspiration from the chaos. Her eye is drawn to a figure stumbling out of a nearby alley, a pale man weaving back and forth with a massive blood stain on his neck and face. Shit, Nora mutters to herself, because she recognizes what is happening here. Running to Anthony, she quickly strong-arms him into following her out of sight of the cops and away from the scene. Around the same time, a local drug dealer named Marcel Kelly finds an old friend in a nearby alley, not dead but also not quite alive. He spirits Angel away to a safe place.

Nora brings Anthony to her apartment, a lavish place in a trendy neighborhood. Anthony is conscious but not fully aware of what is going on. He all he knows is that he is ravenous, and he tells this to Nora multiple times as he sits on her bed. She tells him to shut up, pacing back and forth in her room, until there is a sound of another apartment door slamming outside. “Wait here,” Nora tells Anthony as she leaves the apartment. He can hear her knock on a nearby door, and then the dull sounds of conversation. Eventually Nora returns with an attractive young woman, and later Anthony remembers a warm, sticky sequence of events which he interprets as some manner of sexual encounter between the three of them. The entire chain of events is fuzzy, he can’t quite recall it really, but by the end he is no longer hungry.

The next evening, Angel wakes. He is in the backroom of a bodega with the window mostly painted over, but he somehow knows it’s evening. He recognizes the room as belonging to a neighborhood man, a man known for occasionally helping a kids stay out of sight when in trouble. There is a tray of food on the floor, and the churning of Angel’s gut tells him he is so very hungry, but he can’t bring himself to eat the food. Instead he lingers on the bed in the room for hours, hours which seem like days because of the awful twisting of his insides. He can’t make heads nor tails of what happened the previous night, and he couldn’t even if he had a clear head.

Later, after hours and hours, just a couple of hours before dawn, he hears a delivery boy leave the bodega. Rushing to the window though he doesn’t know why, he glimpses a delivery boy about his age walking away down the street. For the first time, in addition to the hunger Angel realizes just how cold he is. How icey his fingers feel, and how hollow he is inside. But that boy, he feels warm, Angel is so cold he can almost feel the boy’s warmth from inside the room. He can also hear the boy, specifically the rhythmic pulsation of his heart inside his chest, hot and full and complete. The window clacks open as Angel shoves it and slithers down onto the street, lurking behind the boy as he follows him, for what purpose Angel knows not.

Angel follows close behind as the delivery boy winds his way through the streets. The more time passes, the chillier and emptier Angel feels inside. Finally, the guy stops at a back entrance of a store hidden from the street by pallets and fencing. Angel doesn’t keep his distance, he is so cold, he walks right up to the delivery boy until the boy is facing him and staring in incomprehension. Angel stares into his eyes for a moment, seeing the similarities between them, when he realizes the solution to his freezing emptiness: he and the boy must become one. He embraces the boy in his arms, and strangely no cry is heard. A little warmer. But now the pounding of the boy’s pulse thrums through Angel’s ears, blocking out all other sounds, and suddenly Angel realizes that the only way to quench his chill, to fill him to completeness, is to join with the boy in the realest sense. Not fully aware of what he is doing, his teeth latch onto the boy’s flesh, and he begins to drink. He has never experienced such warmth, or such completeness of being until this moment. Later Angel is horrified by what he has done, the bloody body he has left on a back stoop for anyone to see, and he flees headlong into the near-dawn, but for a brief few moments he is once again whole.

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