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December 16th, 11pm...

Dr. Stephanie Hart looked up from her desk. Her keen senses picked up unfamiliar footsteps coming down the hallway. Two people, both with heartbeats, according to her natural vampiric sense for blood. She quickly glanced down at her desk just to be sure she didn't have anything potentially incriminating in view before someone knocked at the door.

"Come in," she said, nervously tucking her strawberry-blond hair behind an ear. Not a lot of living people came to talk to her in the middle of the night. "It's unlocked."

The door opened and two people came in. One was a woman with sepia-toned skin, short hair, and a detective's badge on her coat. Behind her was a man with pale skin and a football player's build with a blond buzzcut and a trenchcoat over street clothes.

"I'm Detective Smith with the MPD and this is a consultant helping me look into what happened to..." She made a show of checking her notebook. "Wilson Brixton. We understand that you did the autopsy?"

"Yes, I believe we spoke briefly on the phone. Is there more?"

"Just following up." The detective offered Stephanie a too-innocent smile. "So tell me again why a neurologist performed an autopsy for someone who was stabbed in the back."

"It's a little outside my specialty, but some experiences I had in medical school led me to publish a few papers regarding autopsies that have been muddled by incidental damage."

Which was technically true.

"We're given to understand that someone specifically requested you to perform the autopsy, presumably because of his fact?" the consultant asked.

As she turned to face him, Stephanie let the skin of the world fall away to gaze beneath it. She regarded her visitors not with her own eyes, but those of her Beast, to get a predator's take on what was going on.

The man's here because he's angry. Part of him wants to beat the answers out of me, I can see it in the way his muscles strain. His breathing says this is personal, and on some level he blames me.
The detective's here because he asked, she's frustrated by his presence. I might be able to parlay this to get her to get the both of them to back off.
But there's more... a presence to each of them.
There's a subtle, hazy glow coming off the man. Like a heat ripple on the sidewalk. Every time he moves or twitches or shifts his gaze, it moves like it's ready to push something back.
The woman gives off a different effect. It's like the room leans in towards her, like things are moving so she has a line of sight to literally every part of the room at once. Like she's a perspective focal point.
Mages. Fuck.

"I can't recall whom," Stephanie said, cool as room temperature, her analysis literally taking place in the space between their heartbeats. "But somebody was aware of this fact. I could do some checking and find out who it was, help you put some names to this," she said, directing that more at the detective than the consultant, trying to keep her in charge of the conversation.

"Was it someone from the Department of Homeland Security?" the man suddenly asked, clearly not wanting to let her go. "Did they ask you to do the autopsy?"

Stephanie bit back a curse.

"It might've been," she said, standing up to try and mask any facial expression she might have let slip. "What is this about again?" She was careful to sound somewhat offended as she put her attention on the detective again.

The detective held out a hand to calm down the consultant.

"There are just some questions about the whole thing we're trying to clear up, is all," Detective Smith said.

"Like how a man can be stabbed in the back but have it look like he was shot in the chest," the consultant snapped.

The detective turned to him and hissed a rebuke under her breath. Stephanie couldn't make it all out but it finished with her sending him out to the hall. As he left, the consultant leaned in to whisper something to her. Stephanie was able to make out the words 'room temperature' before he left.

Stephanie screamed internally. Her Beast coiled like a snake inside her, ready to spring, to flee towards the nearest exit.

"I'm sorry about that," the detective asked, pocketing the notebook once he was out of the room with an exasperated sigh.

"It's okay, and now that I've got a second... now that I think about it, it was Homeland Security. I remember because I asked 'why' myself. They told me that it happened in a bar full of college students, and the sheer number of foreign students at WVU has them paying closer attention to incidents like that." Stephanie sighed and rubbed her forehead.

Detective Smith just raised an eyebrow. "And refresh my memory, how does that happen?"


"Someone gets stabbed in the back but comes out looking like he's got a shotgun wound to the chest. I know we discussed it on the phone, but I just wanted to hear it from you in person."

"We won't know for sure until some tests come back, but my assessment should be in my report."

"Humor me."

Stephanie forced a smile. "We found signs of a hairline fracture across his ribs, perhaps from some earlier physical altercation. The blow to his back caused some of it to rupture while it sent him staggering forward into the railing just outside the bar's door. The way the bones pierced the skin, well... it was messy."

The detective watched her for a silent three-count.

"Thank you, Dr. Hart. That'll be all." She smiled and left.

Stephanie focused and cloaked herself in the sheer essence of nonexistence and slipped out, unseen, to follow them in the hallway.

"You need to keep this under control, Prodigal," the detective said as she nudged the man towards the bank of elevators. "I know you're mad, but provoking an incident -- provoking a vampire -- is not a good idea right now. Especially when you're insisting on being present for the investigation."

"Billy wasn't a good friend, but he deserved better than all this," the man known as 'Prodigal' muttered. "Barbara McCoy's gone too far this time."

"Yeah, yeah, I think she has," the detective sighed, sounding like she was referring to something bigger than just covering up this one death.

Same night, 1am...

Rahotep -- or 'Sonny Concord,' as the other vampires of Morgantown knew him -- puttered around his haven, going through his bookshelf and deciding which books he'd be keeping and which ones he'd be bequeathing to his childe Stephen when he left town. His biggest concern was making preparations to keep his reflection in check during the drive, but he was pretty sure he could make that ritual work in a portable form. Maybe insisting that whomever drove him to Columbus rent a U-haul...

He suddenly straightened up. A sense of dread over him, every inch of his dark skin suddenly tingling unpleasantly. It felt like the balance of the world suddenly shifted, and before he realized he'd done so he's grabbed his cane sword like he expected a threat to come bursting out of the corners of his room without further warning.

"The owl... what has Derrick done?" he whispered to himself. "Stephen? Stephen!" he yelled out.

His childe came into the room, adjusting his glasses. Middle-aged, white, bald, and sharp-nosed, Stephen looked every bit the history teacher he'd been before his Embrace just a few years ago.

"Did you feel that?" Rahotep asked.

"I felt... something. I don't know."

Rahotep frowned. "Hand me my phone."

Stephen grabbed a cell phone off the dresser and tossed it to him.

Contact me when you get this, he texted to the regent Derrick. You're gonna have someone get me to Columbus tomorrow night. The night after at the absolute earliest.

He set the phone aside and quickly started packing while his childe just watched him with confusion.

Elsewhere, at the same time...

Frank crouched over the opened control panel in the Mountain Line Preservation Society's office. It took every bit of technical know-how he had to mentally untangle the systems he was looking at. There was a system within the building, something that reminded him very much of the God-Machine's Infrastructure. Disturbingly so.

It was a complex system, but it became clearer and clearer that he wasn't going to get what he needed from the panel. For one thing, the panel was a recreation of an earlier control system so he couldn't figure out how the system had evolved over time. Second, as much as he hoped that the panel included one or more of the basic mechanisms, it was now obvious that learning what made Woodburn Hall so special from the controls would be like trying to reverse-engineer a car engine from studying the steering column.

He was snapped out of his focus by the sound of a machine in the room switching to life with excited beeps and scratching of a printer. Out of curiosity, he got up and made his way over.

The Society's head office, for whatever reason, had an older-model seismograph, possibly something 'borrowed' during equipment upgrades at the university. And it was going completely berserk despite the fact that nothing was moving. But by all rights, the building and the hill it was on should have been shaking themselves apart.

Then he recognized the pattern of the data coming out of the measuring equipment. He didn't know exactly what it meant, but he recognized the source. He recognized the style.

Less than two minutes later, he'd put the control panel back exactly how it had been and was out of the office, trying not to run out of the building.
This is one of my short fictions tied to the Vampire: The Requiem game I was running on and off. We wrapped up a story arc and I wrote a little bit of fiction that took alongside it as sort of an epilogue and planting a few seeds for later visits to that continuity.

You can find some writeups of recent game sessions at… which may give this more context. Though those writeups, admittedly, began in the middle of the arc so some of them may just seem like a mess of insanity.

Still, for posterity's sake, here we go.
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May 19, 2015
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