Friday, April 12, 2013

Tooth and Claw: Three Pair of Eyes, part three

OK, this is the last bit of this vignette.  These three will probably be their own chapter all together, I have them as one continuous bit on the .doc file.  But it's complicated, and each PoV has to be coordinated with the other two!  :)  Anyway, this one's considerably shorter, but it's got a sweet little game-changer at the end, and I hope you enjoy.

This was partly written because of a situation I'd frequently run into with my Pen & Paper gaming group:  some event would crop up where players J and K knew what was going on, but couldn't inform player L until after things had settled down.  So player L would obviously want to arrive on the scene as soon as possible, right?  So the storyteller, usually Jack, would react to L's "I rush to the scene" declaration with, "OK, it takes you twenty minutes to get there."  Player L then says, "Well, I'd try to weave in and out of traffic."  Replies the storyteller, "Do you break traffic laws?"  "No," L says, "I get there as fast as possible without attracting police attention."  "OK," the ST responds, "It takes you twenty minutes."  "Ugh," player L would sigh/grunt at this point, "Fine.  Can I make a 'driving' skill check?"  "Sure," the storyteller replies, waiting out the die roll, then replying regardless, "It takes you twenty minutes."

Unless, of course, a critical success was rolled.  Then it would only take fifteen minutes.  But I'm assuming that, because it literally never happened.  So here you have what player L should have done the whole time.

Z, you may or may not be happy to know that I originally wrote that as "players X, Y, and Z," but then I realized that you never pulled this shit.  One player L most certainly did, though... so I rearranged a bunch of variables to exonerate you and incriminate the guilty.  :)
Friday, July 6th, 2012

                Evan Lawrence lays on his back beneath his car, pulls the plug free of the oil pan, and starts to twist his filter counterclockwise.  His phone buzzes on the workbench, and Evan nearly bangs his head on his car’s undercarriage out of a conditioned reflex to immediately respond, but he gets himself under control.  Whatever it is, it can wait – he’s not going anywhere until his oil is changed, anyway.
                After the oil has drained and his filter has been replaced, Evan replaces the oil plug and tightens it with a torque wrench, slides out from beneath the vehicle, and wipes his hands on a rag.  His phone has buzzed regular reminders to him during the intervening minutes, but he’s put it out of mind; his focus is on the task at hand, and whatever’s going down can damn well wait until he’s got his vehicle back in driving condition.  Five quarts of oil glug-glug-glug their way into the engine, replacing what has been removed.  After screwing the cap back on, Evan starts his car, and checks his transmission fluid:  nominal.  He shuts off the ignition and clips his keys back to his belt, then checks the oil level:  right on.  He takes a sip from a can of cola on his bench.
                Oh, right – Evan looks at his phone:  Facebook has pushed a notification.  “Jim Reynolds posted to Gravediggers Poker Club.”  Evan presses the “View” button as he takes another pull from his soda.
                Jim Reynolds:  “Not sure if bluffing or clueless:  pair of hearts loses to a spade flush, right?”
                Ken Wu:  “Damn skippy.”
                Stacy MacIntyre:  “Tonight as well as any other night.”
                Jim Reynolds:  “Well, rules is rules.  Hand’s over, time to ante up.  (At PT’s Pub, Las Vegas, NV.)”
                Stacy MacIntyre:  “Little blind.”
                Don Harper:  “Big blind.”
                Ken Wu:  “Call.”
                Well, shit, Evan thinks.  May have missed the party.  Whatever, gear up and head out.  See what you can do.  He heads up the stairs to his second-floor apartment, struggling with his phone’s autocorrect the whole way, finally managing to send an orthographically proper text message to Jim:  “Shit, I was changing my oil.  On my way, man.”  Once inside his single, Evan grabs his satchel from his couch, then heads into his bedroom.  He extracts a 9mm pistol from a small gun safe in his closet, loads a magazine into it, and grabs a spare just to be safe.  After stashing the goods in his satchel, he also grabs a trench knife, a Maglite, and a burrito-sized roll-up toolkit, then stows them in the bag as well.  Evan jerks the strap over his head and slides the bulk of it behind his tailbone, closes his closet, locks up his apartment as he leaves, then races down the stairs to his private single-vehicle garage.  He fumbles with his keys, unlocks the T-handle, and lifts the door with both hands, taking care to manage the rebound.
                It takes conscious effort to control his speed as Evan opens his car door and sits behind the wheel.  He removes his keys from his belt loop, thinking, Patient seconds now save frantic minutes later, and breathes deep as he slides the key to his Dodge Caliber into position with smooth familiarity.  He knows that every second counts, but he still puts his right arm over the passenger seat as he reverses out of his garage, then exits the vehicle to shut and re-lock his garage before driving out through his apartment complex’s labyrinthine parking arrangement.
                As Evan rides the brake, one eye on the field of his headlights, he brings up an app on his smartphone to find Jim’s current location in the city.  After instructing his GPS to plot directions for him, Evan just barely manages not to make his tires squeal as he pulls out into the street and prepares to deal with traffic.  This is definitely the time to be a ninja demon, and not a samurai asshole, he thinks to himself with a grin.
                He floats through a stop sign and merges onto a main thoroughfare.  Traffic is “politely heavy,” in the sense that Evan is able to weave in and out, but only gains two to four car lengths at between any light.  He makes up maybe a full minute by darting off through a section of town controlled only by stop signs, avoiding a knot of traffic he saw two lights ahead.  Nevertheless, less than half a mile from his destination, he’s stopped cold by a red light that seemed to turn solely for the purpose of spiting him – no cars for the next block, but plenty of cross-traffic.
                He sends a text message to Jim:  “Almost there, don’t start the party without me.”  The light turns green, and Evan sets his phone on his dashboard.  The next light is still red, and Evan gently presses the accelerator, waiting for the green to let him floor it.  Thirty yards from the intersection, Evan sees telltale headlights from the right, slowing down to stop for the yellow.  He readies to jam the pedal to the metal, but then the vehicle pulls into view:  he spots the headlights first – Ford – then the body – white – then the takedown and the cherries – cop.
                Evan takes a deep breath, pulls his right foot back from the accelerator, and cruises easily through the stoplight after it turns green.  His phone buzzes from the dash, and after clearing the cruiser’s field of view, Evan reads a message from Jim:  “Too late.  I’m DDing, but everyone else got started pre-gaming.”
                Evan quells the panic slowly boiling in his chest, and forces himself to obey the traffic laws across the last half-mile to his destination.  It’s a warehouse buried in in a dilapidated business district, four stories tall and considerably shorter than the surrounding buildings.  He pulls off into a parking space across the street, the whole block unoccupied, then grabs his satchel and crosses the street after waiting for a lone Pontiac to pass.  No sign of entry by the front, dark alleyway on either side; Evan shakes his head to clear it and heads to the left.  Once hidden by the shadows of the alley, he draws his pistol and knife, thumbs off the safety, and pulls back the hammer.  Rounding the corner, he sees a steel door standing ajar, and slows his pace enough to let the soles of his sneakers roll silently over the asphalt.
                For a fight between four Hunters and two bloodsuckers, the scene is eerily quiet.  Evan hears the echo of a voice as he leans against the open doorway, then dips his head and strains to hear the words.
                “…pick up a four-pack?  Uh-huh.  All right, see you soon.”  There’s quite a reverb, but the voice carries well:  female, black, and calm.  He’s missed the party – his partners are likely dead.  No, wait, “pick up a four-pack?”  Subdued, not dead.  And here he is, holding his… well, his gun.
                If you have time to lollygag, you have time to gather intel.
                Evan thumbs his safety back on and stuffs his pistol down the front of his trousers, hears a muted click from inside the building as the ambient glow of a flashlight fades.  He pulls his cell phone from his pocket, thankfully still on silent mode, and looks for his memo recorder app.
                “OK, Herman’s on the way,” the voice says before Evan can hit “record” and thrust the device into the doorway.  He catches, “Just don’t fuck up, and we got four more in the stables.”  A white female voice, maybe twenty-one, replies,
                “I dunno.  Maybe we ought to let one of ‘em go.  Tell him there’s a new breed of – ”
                “Shut up, Della!”  Della?  That high-schooler who Cochran marked?  No fuckin’ way!  “You done fine so far, now don’t go and fuck it up!”
                “I was just – ”
                “Just, nothing!  Think about it.  How’s it gonna help us if we turn one loose?  No way, no how – all it’s gonna do is give them more intel on us.  They know we’re here, they know there’s a fight on, and four down is four down.  Three down is one less.  This scare-tactics bullshit, trying to make your mark or whatever – it’s bullshit!  Don’t even fuckin’ try it. You hear me?”
                “All right,” Della says, “I’m sorry.”
                Evan lets his recorder run a few seconds longer, but nobody says anything.  He stops the app, powers it down and pockets it, then takes stock:  he’s got intel, he’s outnumbered by bloodsuckers, his cohorts are subdued or worse, and he’s got a well-burned bridge with the girl’s family.
                You’re alive, you have information, and they don’t know you’re here.  He reflects on this for a second, then decides to escape while he still can.  Evan pads softly down the back alley, silently returning the hammer to its resting position and stowing both it and the knife before he reaches the corner.  He walks calmly across the street, one car half a block downroad of him, then enters his vehicle and drives slowly into the night.
                He’s sure got his work cut out for him, all right.


Zach L said...

Man, trying to avoid letting Player-Knowledge corrupt Character-Knowledge was HARD. But dammit, we're telling a story here!

L was pretty bad about it, but he was always so damned enthusiastic about everything it wasn't really as big a deal. My current gaming group has this problem really really bad; it's rough. I miss gaming with alla y'all.

D said...

Something about a theory of mind: I believe it was either vsauce or SciShow that was talking about how kids, before age 2-4, can't infer that others have different information. To the effect that if you tell them a story about a box and a basket (Sarah and Jane have a box and a basket. Sarah gets a cookie and puts it in her box, then leaves the room. Jane takes the cookie and hides it in her basket.), and ask them where Sarah looks for the cookie when she returns, they always say "in the box." Because the cookie is in the box, regardless of whether Sarah saw it move or not.

Sorry to hear about your troubles. I miss gaming with you, too! :)

D said...

DAMMIT. They always say IN THE BASKET. Because the cookie is IN THE BASKET.

Too early for me to be typing about this stuff. Need coffee yarble-garble...