At the Edge of All Things

Sinon Sidequest 3

Shadowplay, pt I.

It is the Monday following the rave at Ankh. We fade into Sinon’s office in the attic of the Searcher’s sanctum. It is a mid-size room, cluttered with antique furniture, ornate rugs and old oil paintings left behind by the mansion’s previous occupants. The Guardian has cleared enough space for a desk that appears as though it could be from Renaissance Italy, as well as a compact sitting area with a chair and side table. A series of barred windows rings the perimeter of the room, letting in more natural light than one would suspect from the view outside of the building. Sinon stands at one of the windows, looking out while talking on his phone.

(I figured naming a story after a Joy Division song fit when it involved vampires…)

On the desk is scattered mass of file folders, reports and sketches detailing what he has learned regarding the possible thieves he has come to Vancouver to find:

  • The Red Prince: Matched to the vampire Llewellyn Shaw, a media and real estate mogul who moved his operations from Hong Kong to Vancouver in the 1970s and has since gained a reputation as an elderly, eccentric “recluse.” Shaw is very much a pillar of the local Asian community, at least at a remove, running cultural societies and sponsoring restorations of historic landmarks and so on.
    • He’s also an inveterate collector of artifacts and memorabilia, often (but not exclusively) curios with a religious theme.
    • The origin of the “Red Prince” moniker is unclear, as he’s not – at least as of the most recent reports – Prince of the city’s Kindred or anything
    • At 40-odd years he’s still something of a newcomer compared to the established powers.
  • Queen in Jet Raiment: more ambiguous.  It has been narrowed down to two possible candidates – Lacey Chalke, the Childe of the Prince of Vancouver who appears to have broken from his faction, and Maggie Fang, about whom almost nothing is known and no pictures exist.
    • Both are apparently to some degree movers and shakers in the vampire community, although to what extent is unclear.
    • Lacey Chalke is known to live in Richmond and frequent a string of bars and clubs downtown.
    • Maggie Fang nobody is sure about, although she’s known to be old so it’s likely Old Chinatown would have some clues.

After nearly a day of phone tag Sinon pushes his way past the gatekeepers to someone with a modest-sounding title who nonetheless manages to get him a meeting for Tuesday with Shaw’s “collections manager” at a Sichuan restaurant in Old Chinatown.

After spending all day in his office making phone calls, Sinon heads downstairs to see if any of the others are around. Noting that he is the only one present he retrieves his cell and calls Blackjack.

The Arrow sets down the book he was reading and picks up the phone. “Hello.”

“Blackjack.  It’s Sinon.  If you don’t have any plans tonight, how would feel about meeting some vampires?”

“Dress code?” Blackjack asks with a bit of dry amusement.

“Bar casual.  Meet at the Sanctum?  I can give you background on the way downtown.”

“I will meet you there.” The Arrow goes to change and gather some things.

When Blackjack arrives, he finds Sinon in the sitting room just as the Guardian’s hair color is shifting from dark brown to a sandy blonde.  He is dressed much more casually than normal: boots, dark jeans, a button down oxford and a black peacoat.  He looks over.  “Glad you could make it.”

Blackjack is wearing jeans and a button down as well, with an old school leather bomber jacket that has decades of wear on it. “It was an interesting invitation. Is this a social visit with them?”

“Of a sort.”  Sinon puts a pair of gloves away in his coat pocket.  “I have reason to suspect that one of them may be responsible for the theft of an Atlantean artifact.  And for killing two sleepwalkers in service of the Guardians.”

“I see. What is the plan?” The Arrow is preparing a mental check list. He keeps some gear in the downstairs gym area.

“I have a couple of leads.”  Sinon heads behind the bar, picks up a metal case and sets it on the bar.  “One is a reclusive collector—I’ve made a meeting for tomorrow.  Another is a vampire named Lacey Chalke who apparently has a reputation as a bar hopper.  I figured we could ask around and see if the opportunity to have a chat with Ms. Chalke arises.  I also got these.”  Sinon opens the case, revealing a pair of revolvers.  “S&W Governor.”  He reaches down and picks up another box.  “.410 flare shot.  Won’t do much to a sleeper, but should scare a vampire in the right situation.”

“Dragon’s breath rounds. Workable.” Blackjack picks up one testing it’s heft and balance. “They burn like hell I am told.” He starts to load it.

Sinon finishes loading his revolver and places it in an undercover holster.  He buttons his peacoat and begins heading to the door.  “So, how was the fun run?” 

Blackjack takes out his carry piece and replaces it with the Governor. Tucking it into his carry holster. “It was very fun. Friday and Memo both ran. They got to mile 7 or so. Which is not bad considering.”

“I doubt I would have done as well without preparing ahead of time.”  He heads to his latest generic four door sedan. Blackjack notices that the Guardian keeps replacing them—in order to prevent the formation of sympathy.

We see a montage of Sinon and Blackjack frequenting bars downtown.

The Arrow runs into one of his undergrad students who he thinks is underage. He sends him home after the kid sheepishly admits one of the other students suggested an “interesting” party.

Sinon finds his way to the back room of a club, having asked around but getting a particular fix.  Since some poor souls look out for vampires because they enjoy being drained.

They tell Sinon there’s a bit of competition for the “job” now that it’s summer.  Sunset in July is at 9:20 and sunrise is at 5:15, so the bloodsuckers have to work fast and tend to be in bad moods. When he asks about Lacey in particular, one of them says he hasn’t seen her in a few weeks.  “She said this place was getting too vanilla.”  Which, to be fair, it kind of is.  It’s going for a “neighbourhood” feel but seems very corporate.

The two mages eventually find their way to a somewhat goth-y club called Pact.

It is the kind of place that tries to make being a bit shabby and run-down seem edgy.  It’s very much not the kind of fantasy industrial club of the 90s, with cages everywhere and flames and whatnot – this is Vancouver.  Everything is just a bit drab and boring.  The clientele seems to be eager to make up for that with the sheer violence of their dancing.

Sinon somehow resists the urge to face palm as he and Blackjack enter the club. Blackjack looks around and shakes his head. At least Memo takes more care in her dress.

Sinon wades through the crowd toward the bar.  He pulls a pair of glasses from his pocket and runs a finger across the side.  A ‘HUD’ forms on the lenses.  (/casting detect life—which could be blinding, but looks around for someone who does not show up/)

Sinon pulls his phone out and sends a text to Aurelia. 

Ever wanted to meet a vampire?

I met one in college. Not really my scene.

Too bad. This one may know where an Atlantean artifact is…

That’s more my scene. Where?

Sinon texts the address… and Aurelia is off to the races.

Sinon scans the crowd, and there she is – Lacey Chalke.  She was Embraced just eighteen months ago, by the Prince of Vancouver himself, and is thus still fairly current-looking.  She’s tall, blonde, and angular, with short hair, and is dressed entirely in black leather, from head to toe.

There are a couple other dead around her – a muscular young man with shoulder-length hair, and a girl in candy-colored tights and a red leather corset.

“That’s her.” Sinon nudges Blackjack and motions his head toward the vampire.  “I texted Aurelia.  Mind might be useful here, too.”

Blackjack raises an eyebrow. He isn’t sure he agrees but this isn’t the place to debate it.

“I don’t intend on starting a fight with her around.  I just want someone who can shield us against mental influence.”  Sinon pauses for a beat.  “The Mages in DC relied on the Order Dracul for memory alteration after the Guardian councilor there was murdered.”

Blackjack nods in acceptance and awknowlegdement. “The vampire is a Ventrue. Likely the whole group are Carthians.”

Lacey’s companions, as well as anyone she speaks to, seem to hang on her every word.

Aurelia arrives shortly, wearing some big black docs and black jeans and top with a sort of industrial-punk short jacket.

Blackjack nods to Aurelia. “How are you feeling?”

Sinon resists the urge to nod and greets Aurelia by sliding a drink over to her.  “He just wants to make sure you are not still hung over.”

The Arrow raises his hands in peace. “Yes, you had what I expect was an…interesting night.”

Aurelia grabs the drink and looks away. “Yeah, let’s not talk about it right now, ok?”

Blackjack shrugs and drops the subject. “We have a friend coming over.”

The muscular vampire is moving toward the three mages.

Sinon turns toward the vampire and looks directly at him.

His lip twitches involuntarily and he makes a beeline for Sinon, returning the eye contact.  His nostrils widen as he takes quick, deep breaths.  “….you enjoyin’ the view?”

“You’ll have to forgive me.  This scene here is just so… dead.”  Sinon replies with an utterly flat affect.

Aurelia rolls her eyes. “Hey, lay off him meathead. We’ve all got eyes here.”

The vampire’s face clouds more.  “…dead.  Cute.  I oughta….” he looks back over at the booth, though, and Lacey is looking at him.  “…what do you want?  Make it fast.”

Blackjack just watches. He is not impressed by the posturing.

“All I want is a quick chat with Lacey.  A couple of questions, really.  If I get that we’ll be out of your… hair.” Sinon tilts his head.

He steps closer to Sinon and takes a deep sniff of Sinon’s aroma.  “Man, I don’t…what /are/ you?”  You can see him waging a short internal battle.  “Fine.  But if you clowns try anything…”

He mockingly bows with a hand extended toward the corner booth.

The right side of Sinon’s mouth turns up ever so slightly as he turns and heads toward the booth.

“What are you? Getting all up on a dude and sniffing him?” Aurelia asks the brutish vamp.

“A predator, little missy.  I smell you too, and I never forget a scent.”

“He is a foot soldier. He has been given some basic orders because he is…expendable.” Blackjack says to Aurelia.

His nostrils flare again.  “Expendable?!  You white-bread yuppie…aaagh!”  He punches the bar hard enough to leave a divot.  Everyone around stares at him, and he sneers and backs away from you.

Blackjack stands up and adjusts his jacket for a moment. He looks into the vampires eyes. “Your temper is visible. You show me what you can do. You cloak yourself in macho because you think you are an apex predator. But you are not. You are immature for your… kind. But you have no idea what my friends and I are. What we can do. The smart move would be to watch and talk.”

Meanwhile, talking to Lacey:

Sinon pulls his gloves out of his pocket, grabs a chair and sits across from the vampires.  “Lacey Chalke?”

Lacey stands up as Sinon approaches.  “Manny can’t seem to make head or tail of you.  So now you’ve got my curiosity, stranger.  Why were you watching us?  What are you?”

“You /are/ neonates.”  Sinon shakes his head a bit and decides to go ahead and tell her—she’d find out soon enough anyway.  “Congratulations, you’ve met your first wizard.” He sits down and motions for the vampire to do the same. “I’m here because sources of mine indicate that someone named ‘the Queen in Jet Raiment’ was involved in an… incident of interest to me.  Said sources suggested that you might be her.”

“…A mage.  Hah.”  She smiles.  “Forgive me.  I want to see this, all of this, so I remember it.”  She looks you up and down, unblinking, for long moments.  “That’s…incredible.  So vibrant.  Such life around you.  A queen, eh?  Well, a few dozen scenesters would call me that, but no, I don’t think I’m the one you’re looking for.”

“Maybe I know where she is, though.”

Back at the bar…

Aurelia gets into the vamp’s head: His name is Manny Flores, he likes lifting and horror movies and hardcore and he used to like the ladies but now not so much and it makes him angry.  Everything makes him angry.  You, all of you, smell weird and set off his alarms – he can’t tell if you’re predator or prey and it’s driving him nuts. He wants to smash the yuppie’s face in and thinks the little Asian girl looks like like fun and the other guy kind of weirds him out and of course wants to talk to Lacey, everyone wants to talk to Lacey…

She speaks directy into his mind “Sit down, little puppy. You couldn’t handle me.”

His eyes widen.  He stares at her with something like genuine surprise or fear.  Without looking away, he fumbles for a bar stool and sits down.

Blackjack just smiles a very coldly at him. “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy. Now if you will excuse us, we will join our friend.”

Before following Aurelia pulls out a bronze-colored compact, checking herself in the mirror and cats a mind shield on Sinon.

Back with Lacey…

“Indeed?”  Sinon grasps his gloves in both hands.  “This is the part where you tell me that such information bears a price, yes?”

She swirls her drink.  “I would, but I haven’t decided on a price yet.  But a Mage, owing me a favor…I don’t think even my oh-so-revered Sire has one of those…”

Sinon begins putting his gloves on.  “I think you’re going to make a special case, just this once.”

“Why’s that, mystery man?”

Sinon crosses his fingers in a lattice and looks into Lacey’s eyes. Whispers of all her latent doubts begin surfacing in her thoughts. “Because tonight I am just not in the mood to play this game and you want to live to see 100.”  He states calmly, while staring straight at her.

Aurelia, still messing with the compact, severs the link with Manny while walking to the corner and gets a read on Lacey.

Blackjack arrives and takes a comfortable seat near Sinon. He releases his smile as he looks over the group.

Lacey’s lower lip trembles.  “Do you know who I am?  I’m…I’m the Prince’s..” her lower lip trembles. She can’t quite seem to finish the sentence.

Sinon looks over at Aurelia with a quizzical look.  When she nods, he stands and looks at Lacey.  “Thank you.  You have been most helpful.”

She looks confused.  “Wait…what did you…?” Realization dawns. “I’ll have your skin for this, Mages!  Manny never forgets a scent!”

Blackjack looks at Sinon for a moment, asking for permission to make a point.

Sinon nods.

Aurelia smiles “Please, it is for your own good. Consider that, should anyone be concerned, you have not told us anything.”

Blackjack holds up a finger for attention. He then walks over near Manny. He grabs the vampire’s shoulder scours his pattern.

AAAAGH!  Jesus FUCK what the…!”  Manny screams and falls off the stool to the floor. He tries to stand but his legs wobble and he falls over again.

Blackjack leans down and whispers into his ear. “Next time I see you, I will turn you into an immortal chair. Are we clear?”

He snarls at the mage, baring his teeth.  “You….you gotta sleep /sometime/, meat…!”

“Those fangs will make for some wonderful fetishes.” The Arrow stands up and walks over to the group.

Sinon steps over Manny and looks at the others before heading toward the door.  “Shall we?”

Aurelia: “Yes, let’s”

“Yes, I think so.” Blackjack is dusting off his hands.

As they head out Aurelia relates the following to them:

The Queen in Jet Raiment is Maggie Fang, a Mekhet and the Hierophant of the Circle of the Crone.  She worries Lacey.  Lacey hasn’t seen her use her magic, but the younger Carthians tell all sorts of insane stories about what it /might/ be able to do.  Even the Prince, from what he showed Lacey, was wary of her.

The Prince’s strategy has been to balance Maggie against Llewellyn Shaw, the so-called “Red Prince,” Bishop of the Lancea Sanctum.  They’re bitter enemies, Shaw and Fang.

As a Mekhet, Maggie is massively secretive, mainly coming out for Circle rituals, which are often conducted in open moonlight when possible.  That’s the only time Lacey has ever seen her outside of council meetings.

As they exit approach their cars, Sinon turns toward Blackjack and Aurelia.  “I apologize for that… I normally would have made some sort of deal.  This time…”  His voice trails off.

“Nothing to apologize for.” Blackjack waves his hand.

Sinon wishes the Arrow were not so blasé about this—those things are dangerous.

Aurelia shakes her head. “I would have liked it if we hadn’t made any enemies but still. I hope they at least have the sense to get that I was doing them a favor.”

“Oh I suspect the smarter ones will be annoyed but understanding. The thug…well he will hopefully learn some caution.” Blackjack blows off Aurelia’s concern.

Sinon changes the subject.  “I have a meeting with one of Shaw’s creatures tomorrow in case either of you would like to come along.”

Blackjack: “I will be around.”

“In the meantime, I should probably tell you what we are looking for.”  Sinon opens the door to his car.

“Some sort of artifact, yes?” Aurelia asks.

“An artifact?” Sinon nods. “That… and the rest of my soul.”

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MrAnthropy

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