17 June, 2025 – The Persian Gulf
The session begins with a cutscene:
A very large teddy bear floated in a place that wasn’t a place, amidst a billion billion stars. He was a very well-dressed bear: wearing a navy-blue three-piece suit, a wide-brimmed brown felt fedora and a nice trenchcoat. He even had a little tie with polka-dots, held in place with a silver tie-pin shaped like a Recognizer from the movie Tron.
The teddy bear wasn’t happy. His snout scrunched up with a grimace. It was adorable.
In front of the bear, three screens floated. On the right, the console output from some bit of code executing somewhere in the world. In the middle, a composite map of the eastern end of the Persian Gulf, where a number of unlabelled blips moved and shifted. The left screen showed a conference room, as if viewed from a security camera.
It was a very well-appointed conference room, spartan, but classy, a hundred floors up or more, the skyline of downtown Manhattan shining through the floor-to-ceiling windows. A woman was sitting at one end of the table, her back to the windows. She was pretty, pale, dressed in a simple black skirt and blouse. She fiddled idly with a pen in one hand.
On the other side of the table stood an older man, close-cropped grey hair and tidy beard that was little more than stubble. He was dressed in a white oxford under a tweed vest and crisp blue jeans. He was nearly vibrating with impatience.
There was a click of the pen-cap in the woman’s hand.
“No,” she said at last with a soft voice.
“Absolutely not, Alfred,” she continued, pointing the pen at him meaningfully. “I won’t break what little truce we have with them.”
“Lydia…they’ve called in the army. There’s machine gun fire in the streets! They’re making for the water.”
“And I hope he does, make it, Alfred. I really do. You may not believe me, but I miss him as well. But you’ve already crossed a line getting them aid in-country, and I refuse to allow additional provocation.”
The man clenches and unclenches his fists a few times, and takes a few breaths.
“If they make it,” he pleads, “if they make it to international waters…”
“Then you go and pluck him out of there. But not before.” The woman pointedly swivels her seat to look out the window, dismissing the man. He turns and steps out of the camera’s field of view. The left screen changes to a security camera in the adjoining hallway, where the man is stalking away from the conference room. He glances up at the camera.
“You heard all that, I assume?” he says.
“I did,” replies the bear with a deep baritone. He looks over at the screen on the right and nods in approval at what he sees. “I’ve just come into possession of a pair of Iranian Korolev 2 drones that were tootling around Lavan looking for smugglers. They have fuel and air-to-ground missiles. I’ve always loved flying.”
“If you get anywhere near The Wall, they’ll trace you and burn you, Theodore.”
“Yes, well…we all have our burdens. Ta-tah, Alfred. Thanks for trying Lydia again.”
The bear swipes at the right screen, making it vanish, then peers intently at a dot on the middle screen. He’d never get anywhere close to The Wall. His drones were too far away. After a moment of reflection, he reaches into his vest pocket and extracts a little pink cartoon mouse. It’s dressed in shabby clothes and has a fairly ridiculous amulet around its neck. It squirms a bit, but not much. The bear lifts it up in the palm of his hand until they’re looking eye-to-eye.
“Hi!” it says in a cheerful voice.
The bear smiles warmly and whispers something to the mouse.
“Ok then!” it chirps, then zips away in a streak of color.
The bear watches it go for a moment, then closes his eyes and stretches out his fluffy arms like wings.
The yacht races north into the Persian Gulf. the military gunships following a search pattern behind them. Cole and Hugo delay their discovery with some deft navigation, but inevitably the helicopters catch sight of them and begin their approach.
Cole manages a miracle shot with the sniper rifle, sending one of the two attack helicopters crashing into the ocean. The second fires an air to ground missile and misses. Right as it fires a second, a jet of fire emerges from the night, and a giant dragon races by as the gunship detonates. Emma recognizes it as the beast she encountered in Chicago.
Emily receives a message that appears to have come from Teddy, advising them to turn to the west towards Qatar, and after a brief discussion, Hugo changes course.
The party rests for several hours, but just as dawn is about to break, they encounter a blockade of Emirati coast guard cutters at the edges of their territorial waters, one of which is in a position to intercept them. Hugo avoids the other ship long enough to officially cross into international waters, at which point two things happen at once:
First, Emily undergoes a brief, but agonizing psychic attack, but she recovers swiftly. Second, there is the sound of aircraft overhead, and several air to ground missiles descend from the clouds and disable the pursuing cutter.
Hugo steers the ship north and east towards the Sea of Oman. The party spends the day at a slow cruise outside the typical shipping lanes, then the next night rendezvous with the HMM Rotterdam, a giant container ship on route to the port of New Jersey.
At the pilot’s hatch, the party briefly attempts to negotiate with the ship’s Captain Hungwoo Pai to allow them to bring their heavier weapons aboard, but he refuses. The party comes aboard (with a number of concealed weapons) and Hugo scuttles the Yacht.
In the hold of the ship, the Captain escorts the party into a false container, roughly five containers wide, three deep, and three high, revealing a luxury suite with accommodations for a dozen. There are numerous changes of clothes present for the whole party as well as ample supplies and amusements. The Captain informs them that the crew knows they’re on board, but would prefer that they keep a very low profile for the duration of the journey.
The session ends with a cutscene:
There’s a house. In a quaint little neighborhood on the North side of Cleveland. It’s not a big house, but it’s well-cared for. In one of the house’s two bedrooms, on an old four-poster bed, lies a man. He’s an older fellow, maybe in his early sixties, once fit but now softened by years, almost, but not quite, bald.
A very nice three-piece navy suit hangs in the open closet, and a brown fedora sits with several like it on a hat tree in the corner.
He has a small, wry smile on his face. He twitches slightly, just a tic, and then is still. He stops breathing.
His arms are outstretched. Like he’s flying.
As they sped out of the harbour, they heard the helicopters some distance away. From what Cole said, they had not been spotted, but it was clearly only a matter of time. The mood was tense, at least some of them were. Cole seemed to take it all in stride, as did Hugo. Perhaps they were used to being chased by attack helicopters; it was certainly a new experience for Margaret.
John was sitting quietly; he did not look well. Margaret was worried, partly that he might lose control and try to feed on the others, and partly for him. From what Alfred had said, though, John tended to push himself too far, so perhaps it was not as bad as it seemed. She hoped not.
Then he spoke. Muttered something about being there when Otto the Great was crowned emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. Meaning he was more than a thousand years old. She wanted to make a joke about the Holy Roman Empire that was neither holy, Roman nor an empire, but at that time, it actually was; Otto I had been crowned by Pope John XII, and though German, he had just conquered Imperial Italy, so she supposed it qualified as all three.
She decided that when they had the time, she would ask some of the questions that had popped into her head. Right now, though, she could not think of any way to ask them sensibly, and this was not the time anyway. They could hear the helicopters coming closer and closer, and they were still far enough from the border that the Technocracy would catch up with them long before they reached it.
At some point, a message ticked in to Emily, telling her to change course and head west, that there was an ally waiting for them. After a brief discussion, they did. They were running dark, though that would most likely not make that much of a difference for helicopters with military grade equipment.
They kept coming closer, and far too soon, they could actually spot them. And, clearly, the helicopters had spotted them. They were approaching fast, flying low over the water. Then Cole raised the sniper rifle that John had used earlier, and fired a shot.
It should have been impossible. Even if the waters were calm, they were moving, as were the approaching helicopters. They were also still far away, though they were getting closer fast. But Cole fired, and one of the helicopters went spinning down and crashed into the sea.
The other helicopter fired back, then. They could actually see the missile as it raced towards them, only to crash into the waters not far away from their boat. The second one would most likely not miss, though. And then the second miracle happened.
First, they heard, over the sound of the approaching helicopter, a roar. It reminded Margaret of the Tyrannosaurus from the Jurassic Park and the Jurassic World movies. Also, it came from up in the air.
‘Dragon!’ She could not quite keep the excitement out of her voice. It had to be; unless it was a Tyrannosaurus with wings. Which might well be the same thing, in a way. Fire engulfed the second helicopter, and as it exploded, they could all see the dragon fly by and disappear into the darkness.
Knowing that she would seem even more like a nerd than she already probably did, she looked at Emma. ‘The dragon you saw before, was it cold-blooded?’ Not that it was in any way relevant, but she wondered how closely related it was to dinosaurs, and if it might indeed be related to reptiles. Emma just stared at her for several seconds before she answered. Cold-blooded. So it might actually be a reptile.
Some of the others were staring at her. She did not care right now. Dragons were real! She was not sure if she could explain, even if she tried, what that meant. For as long as she could remember, dragons had appeared in the books she read, fiction and non-fiction alike, but the non-fiction had been dealing with legends, myths and religions, rather than reality. But dragons were real! As were vampires. And werewolves. There was the catch. But still. Dragons!
They kept heading west, and several of their group managed to get some rest. As they were drawing close to the border, and the sun was colouring the horizon in reds and oranges, they spotted the blockade. Three, that they could see, anyway, ships were waiting for them. After a brief discussion, though, Hugo decided to simply run the blockade.
Somehow, he managed to maneuver their boat past the blockading ships, and as they raced ahead into what would be international waters, at least one of the enemy ships in pursuits, they heard the sound of approaching aircrafts. Margaret was half expecting a final attack on them, but instead, missiles shot through the clouds and hit the pursuing ship.
That seemed to be the end of it. The people pursuing them had either given up or decided that it was not actually worth it, and things seemed calm enough that Margaret decided to get some sleep. Or whatever vampires did when they were not awake.
She woke late, as they were getting close to the rendezvous. Everything was still quiet, as they approached the ship. It caused a bit of discussion when some of the others wanted to bring their guns onto the ship, but in the end, they left behind at least the big, very visible weapons. Margaret found it somewhat entertaining how these Americans, with all their newfound powers, still clung to their guns. Even the werewolf.
As she climbed aboard the container ship, she could not help but think of how much her life had changed.
She was dead, which was annoying. But she had seen a dragon! And though vampire was pretty far down on the list of ‘if you were a supernatural creature, what would you like to be?’ list, it was higher than werewolf or zombie, at least. Or mummy. In fact, she had to admit that if she had to pick an undead creature, vampire would probably be her first choice. The banshee had too many rules and would be bound to a family, and most of the other undead creatures looked too dead for her taste.
‘I am a vampire. I am dead’, she thought. ‘I suppose I can live with that’.