About jltraut

Artist, writer, costumer, amateur historian, storyteller, musician, doll collector, gamer and computer geek. Still don't know what I wanna be when I grow up....

11. The Udon Incident

Towson, MD June 21, 2004

Etienne sat on the side of his bed for a moment and delved into his memory for a particular phone number he hadn’t used in over two years. He then tapped those numbers into his cell phone.

A young, male voice eventually answered. “Prospero’s Books, how may I help you?”

“Hello,” Etienne said cheerfully. “I’d like to speak to Cassie Blair, if she’s available?”

Uh… hold on a minute, let me see if she’s here—” and he was put on hold, listening to some kind of new-age vocalist—sounded like Enya, perhaps? —until the phone was picked up again.

Hi,” another voice answered, warm and feminine, but still not Cassie. “She hasn’t come in yet, but I expect her in later this evening. Would you like to make an appointment?”

“Yes, but I’d like to leave my name and number for her, if that’s alright?” Etienne asked, and then gave his number. “Tell her it’s Steve Bishop—yes, that’s right. Thank you.”

“Bishop?” asked Dr. Hewitt, now emerging from the bathroom, fully clothed, his moustache freshly waxed. “I thought your name was Copperfield?”

“Bishop is the name she knows me by,” Etienne said, ignoring the unspoken query about whether perhaps Copperfield wasn’t his real name either. No doubt they’d be getting to that matter soon enough, but it would be a longer conversation than he wanted to have right now. “I’m sure she’ll call me back in a few hours. Meanwhile, we should probably figure out what to do about that girl—”

“That girl?” Charles echoed, in what couldn’t possibly be total obliviousness but was certainly a wonderful facsimile of it. “Oh. That girl.”   Continue reading

10. Chloe

BWI Airport, Baltimore, MD June 21, 2004

The problem with sitting in the back  of a large airplane, Chloe knew, was that you were always going to be one of the last ones off the plane when it arrived at the gate. Even having no luggage in the overheads didn’t help—there were just too many people in the aisle between her last-minute seating and her targets up in first class.

The one thing in her favor, however, was the inevitable time lag between when passengers disembarked—and when their luggage actually showed up at baggage claims.

So when Chloe followed the rest of the passengers from the Chicago-to-Baltimore flight to the baggage area, the vampires and their mortal assistants were still there, waiting on their luggage along with everyone else.

Great. Now what?  She had no idea. Clearly they would be going somewhere—but where? Dawn would be coming soon, and vampires would need somewhere to stay, secret and safe. It was unlikely she’d be able to overhear the address they told a cab driver, or be able to follow them, even if she had a rental car ready to jump into at the door.

Why was she even hereContinue reading

9. Unexpected Company

O’Hare Airport, Chicago, IL June 21, 2004

Etienne steered the girl back to the seating section, where TJ had rejoined the others. “Sit down,” he told her. “You will stay in that seat until I release you, and you will answer my questions. Is that clear?”

Eyes wide and frightened, she nodded, clutching the straps of her backpack where it rested on her lap.

Both the grad students, sitting just across from where he’d sat the girl down, were watching what he was doing with rather keen attention.  Etienne ignored them, turning slightly to hand  the girl’s phone over to Charles.

“Check the phone logs, and transcribe the numbers,” Etienne said. “Especially outgoing.”  He then turned his attention back to Chloe.

“You’ve been watching us. Why? And for whom?”

“I—I haven’t, it’s just—”

“Chloe,” Etienne repeated.  “Look at me—that’s it. You were watching us, we saw you. Just answer the questions. Who are you working for?” Continue reading

8. Starbucks and Spies

George Bush Intercontinental Airport, Houston, TX June 20th, 2004

Another night, another red-eye flight.

Diane stifled a yawn and tried to get more comfortable in her seat—TJ had won the toss for the window on this leg of the trip, and was already out for the count. Just once, she wished they could find a cheap flight that didn’t turn her sleeping schedule upside down. But she wasn’t paying for the tickets, so it wasn’t as though she had much room to complain.

“The Atlanta connection was a bit cheaper,” she overheard Charles telling Copperfield, in the seats behind them. “But a two hour layover—I didn’t think that would be a good idea.” Then he dropped into French. “Vous ne savez jamais qui pourrait être regarder.”

You never know who might be watching. It was amazing how well her high-school French still held up.

Oui, je suis d’accord,” Copperfield replied. Even to her ear, his pronunciation sounded perfect. “Yes, I agree. Chicago’s much safer. With any luck, they’ll never know we were there.”

Diane wasn’t sure who “they” were, or why a two hour layover in O’Hare was somehow safer than one in Atlanta. One airport was really much like another when it came to that, wasn’t it? Long terminals, long walks from one gate to another, and at that hour, they’d be lucky if anything was even open.

Then she remembered a dark-eyed stranger standing in the hallway outside their hotel rooms, and she felt a chill that had nothing to do with the air-conditioning on the plane. At least Charles and Mr. Copperfield were with them. Was their arrival what had driven the stranger away?

And what had that all been about, anyway? How could anyone suspect Charles of stealing from a museum? He’d purchased the jar from an estate sale, she’d filed the paperwork for him. He hadn’t even used University money.

Charles had told them it was just a misunderstanding. That they’d talked to the night manager and handed the deluded bellhop over to hotel security. There was no FBI, just a silly prank that had gone wrong when the bellhop misread his room slip. The hotel management had been extremely apologetic, and had even removed the cost of last night’s hotel room and their meals for the day off the bill.

But that guy in the hallway… maybe he wasn’t FBI, but he had been real. And he hadn’t come across as the pranking kind.

Diane was very glad they were leaving Houston, even if it meant traveling overnight again, through Chicago to Baltimore. At least it felt like they were on the trail of something interesting, if they did get to see the Qebehsenuef jar. And if it had the strange writing as the Imseti jar that Charles had in his carry-on bag, that really would be a discovery. Would the writing be the same? Or different? Maybe they could even find the rest of the set, and track down how the pieces had been separated, and what the strange characters meant. She might even consider changing the topic of her dissertation, with such a fascinating find to research. Continue reading

7. Sowing Confusion

Houston, Texas – June 20th, 2004

“Keep an eye on this fellow for a moment, would you?” Copperfield asked, when Charles came back from escorting his young grad assistants off to their well-earned rest. “I’m curious to see if there really was an order from room 624.”

“Right—“ Charles agreed, and stood where he could give their unfortunate captive his very sternest gaze. But being realistic about his ability to intimidate with his gaze alone, he also kept the sword in his hand and clearly visible.

Copperfield held the receipt in one hand and tapped in the room number. “Yes, this is the kitchen,” he said, when the occupant in 624 picked up, his voice picking up a very genuine French accent, “Pardon the intrusion, but did you place an order—“

Charles could hear the outrage sputtering out over the phone without even trying to listen.

Continue reading

6. Room Service Done Wrong

Houston, Texas — June 19, 2004

“Oh, cool,” TJ said, playing with the TV remote. “The new Tomb Raider movie’s on pay-per-view.”

Diane looked up from her book.  “You’ve got to be kidding me,” she said at last.  “That is SO not real archaeology…”

“Of course not,” TJ said.  “Nobody makes a movie about real archaeology.  If there aren’t curses and traps and magical artifacts and shit, nobody would watch it.“

“Not to mention guns and boobs,” Diane said sourly. “You’re not really going to put that on Charles’ credit card, are you?”

“I’ll pay him back,” TJ said. “Chill out, will you?  It’s just a movie. You want to pick something else?”

“No, I was about to go to bed anyway, soon as I finished this chapter.  Which I can do in the bedroom.  Rot your brain if you want, just don’t cite Lara Croft in your footnotes.”

TJ chuckled.  “That’s an idea—at least then I’d know if my advisor was actually reading my footnotes—“

Diane rolled her eyes, took her book and notecards back into the bedroom and shut the door.

Continue reading

Day 29 – Favorite Supplement

There are different kinds of supplements (“supplement” essentially meaning any game-specific resource book that isn’t the core rule book). In the case of Vampire, those are: Setting/scenario books; Player/Storyteller guides; Other non-setting-specific resources; “splat” books (Clans, Covenants and Roads), and tie-in fiction (clan novels, etc.).

I’ve worked on all kinds of supplements (and main rule books too). I am not a rules person, so I always tended towards the history/background/setting/story development side of things. I like figuring out the whys and wheres, hows and what-happens-next. I like providing story hooks at any possible corner. I like interesting characters who can be both a potential asset to a story, or a potential obstacle (depending on the story and how the characters deal with that NPC). I like doing the research for a setting/scenario book (I am sorry we never got to do Dark Ages: Italy).

Continue reading

Day 28 – A character you will never play ever again

This was one of the more difficult ones to answer, because not even Final Death is really enough to totally take a character out of the lineup. We could always do a flashback, if there’s a past episode that just calls out to be RP’d instead of summarized in text. We’ve done quite a few flashback vignettes when the story called for them. When your main characters are centuries old, that means they have a LOT of past, and while we’ve played through important parts of it (where the characters’ stories crossed paths), there’s a lot more we haven’t covered. And you never know who might show up.

But there are some characters whose story was more finite. They were important when they appeared, but their role in the main characters’ stories was what it was, and no more. And some of them met their Final Deaths, either in the story they appeared in, or at some historical point thereafter.

Because that’s what NPCs do.

Continue reading

Day 27 – A character you want to play in the future

There are two ways to interpret this particular topic. Who would be a specific character (ie, someone I’ve already got at least half-created in the character bullpen) I would like to play in a future storyline in our long-running chronicle…

Or

Who/what might be an interesting character concept that I’ve never created an actual character for but would be fun to play in some future storyline…

Continue reading