Campaign of the Month: October 2017
Blood & Bourbon
Disgraced medical researcher turned meth-cooking alchemist
“Well, technically chemistry is the study of matter. But I prefer to see it as the study of change.”
Walter White, Breaking Bad
“I’d heard a saying about meth, that it took you down one of three roads: jail, the psych ward, or death.”
“A felony conviction is almost like an economic death sentence.”
Sean is pale-skinned and pasty-faced, with a scraggly beard, thick glasses, and semi-messy short dishwasher blond hair. He’s got wide shoulders and a thick neck for a man of his size, though he’s of slightly below average height and has a portly belly—he lost the motivation to exercise and had access to an abundant supply of fast food during his last days among the living.
When working in his lab, Sean dresses in stained and dirty clothes he doesn’t care if he ruins further. He smells like rotten eggs and industrial-strength chemicals. Cooking meth will do that. He has the hygiene sense to shower after finishing a cook job. He dresses better outside of his lab too, but he’s not much of a fashionista. Jeans, t-shirts, hoodies, and sneakers are his usual nightly wardrobe.
Name: Unknown. Sean stopped using his birth name after his Embrace to duck the feds.
Aliases: Sean Wilford Peck
Ethnicity: American. Sean doesn’t identify with any particular ethnic group.
Date of Birth: May 17th, 1980 (Las Cruces, New Mexico)
Date of Embrace: August 15th, 2014 (Tucson, Arizona)
Apparent Age: Mid-30s
Real Age: Approx. 40
Eye Color: Brown
Hair Color: Brown
Education: M.S. Chemistry (University of California Irvine, 2008—2010), B.S. Chemistry (University of California Santa Barbara, 1999—2003)
Occupation: Meth cook (2014—present), cashier, O’Tolley’s (2014), medical researcher, Magadon Inc. (2008—2014), increasingly brief tenures in assorted STEM and eventually odd jobs (2003—2008)
Religion: Atheist. Sean was raised in a family religious enough to attend church on holidays, but his life experiences have left him too cynical to hold faith. He believes there’s a yet-undiscovered scientific explanation for the Kindred.
Sean was born to a middle-class family in Las Cruces, New Mexico. He did well in school, went to a good college, and earned a chemistry degree. His future looked bright if not for the fact that he’d been diagnosed with ADHD and bipolar disorder at a young age. Sean spent years going through the mental health system and trying medications for both disorders, all without lasting improvement. He could not hold down a stable job. He alienated friends and romantic partners. His parents, exhausted by years of never-ending behavioral problems, ceased contact with him. In his own words, “I kept fucking up my life.”
Sean had a habit of burning through psychiatrists. They were expensive, too, for the often “between jobs” young man without his parents footing the bill. He decided that he knew enough about chemistry, and his own mental health, to do without professionals. He started by self-prescribing his own combinations of medication to mixed success. Finally, in desperation, he turned to illegal drugs. He discovered that a combination of indica-strain marijuana and low-dose methamphetamine allowed him to virtually eliminate all symptoms of both his disorders.
It changed his life. He went back to school. After earning his master’s, he became a highly successful medical researcher for the Phoenix division of Magadon Inc., a major pharmaceutical company. Raises and promotions steadily followed his work. He had the respect of his colleagues. He found a girlfriend who worked in corporate management for another company. His parents started inviting him over for dinner and asking about grandkids. Life was going very well. Sean owed it all to the illegal drugs.
Because Sean was in no hurry to actually buy meth from drug dealers, he used his chemistry background to make the stuff. It was cheaper, too. The same amount of meth that a drug dealer would sell for $100, Sean could make for only $10, not to mention without needing to interact with drug dealers.
Sean had sold mushrooms and weed in college, but he never sold any of the meth he cooked: once again, he was in no hurry to get caught up in dangerous and illegal activities. His research job already paid well. He led an active social life. He had a good thing going, now that his mental health was finally under control. He was not going to take needless risks. He was not going to fuck this up.
Sean thought he was being smart, to never actually buy or sell meth. He was being smart. He attributes bad luck to how the police caught him. They searched his car on a routine traffic stop after spotting a white powder residue (probably spilled from a sugar packet) that was totally unrelated to methamphetamine manufacturing. To the police, though, powder meant drugs. They tested Sean with a cheap PharmaChek sweat patch that turned up a false positive for ephedrine. This prompted a search of all of Sean’s possessions. He thought he could get away with it because of the very limited quantities of meth he was making.
He thought wrong. Because his crime involved the transportation of five grams of pseudoephedrine across state lines (he’d been visiting his parents in Las Cruces), Sean was charged with a federal offense. His lawyer got him down to only one month in jail, but couldn’t get him out of the felony conviction. Now unable to vote, receive financial aid for education, or own a firearm for the rest of his life, he was fired from his job at Magadon and swiftly lost his savings from court fees, legal bills, and moving to Tucson after the judge ordered him to live at a location far away from the site of his “meth lab.” That part was just as well after his girlfriend broke up with him. His parents stopped speaking with him again: their son getting caught manufacturing meth was the final straw.
That was also just as well. Without the meth, Sean’s bipolar and ADHD symptoms returned in full force. Even if he could’ve held down a job, finding future white-collar employment was hopeless with the felony on his record. He barely managed to snag a position as an O’Tolley’s cashier for $7.90 an hour. As far as Sean was concerned, his life was over. His chemistry knowledge could still be good for one thing: taking the right combination of pills to never wake up again. (He knew that pharma companies had made it impossible to kill yourself with just sleeping pills.) That suicide cocktail got more tempting every day.
The disgraced medical researcher was just what Clan Tremere was looking for: intelligent, accomplished, and all out of options. They approached him with an offer to live forever and master the secrets of the universe. He could belong to a society of like-minded and learned people whose knowledge he could enrich, and who could enrich his own. Sean could be respected again, have a purpose, and be part of something greater.
Sean accepted in a heartbeat. Clan Tremere gained an unwaveringly loyal childe.
That’s what was supposed to happen, anyway.
To his sire’s chagrin, Sean wasn’t a Tremere at all after his Embrace, but a thin-blood. To Sean’s chagrin, his sire told him to leave Tucson and never come back: his kind weren’t wanted here. Sean refused. His sire waved a hand and blasted apart the contents of his bedroom. The cowed fledgling fled into the night.
Sean supposed it could have been worse. The full-blooded vampire could have killed him. Sire had taken some pity upon childe. But he’d also wanted nothing to do with Sean and refused to claim any responsibility for him. The thin-blood’s initial fear curdled into bitter contempt.
He got by on his own. He returned to Phoenix and resumed cooking meth: why not, after all? He could still take it to treat his mental disorders and it was a reliable source of money, seeing as he was still barred from gainful employment. He didn’t particularly enjoy interacting with drug dealers, but it beat interacting with drug addicts when he had no desire to sell meth on the streets himself.
It was in the course of his meth cooking that Sean started experimenting upon his own vitae. As a chemist, he was naturally curious about its properties. Trial, error, and a lot of hazardous waste led to a great many (if somewhat unconventional) insights into his new state.
Sean also found he could use his blood and the right ingredients to produce tangible effects far beyond anything his feeble vitae could accomplish on its own. Other thin-bloods called what he did “alchemy.” Sean corrected them that alchemy wasn’t a real science. What he did was chemistry. After learning that alchemy was the recognized street name, and that other thin-bloods (as well as some desperate true-bloods) were willing to trade favors for it, Sean shrugged and went along with the name. Alchemy it was.
Phoenix didn’t last, though. The city’s sheriff raided Sean’s lab just like mortal police would’ve done. It was dumb luck that he wasn’t there and only had to deal with the ghoul stationed to keep watch for his return. It wasn’t luck, though, which had previously led Sean to trade many of his alchemical services in return for information about the nocturnal world he was now a part of—information which might now save his unlife. Clearly, he’d worn out his welcome in Phoenix. (Though for what, exactly?)
Once again, Sean turned to alchemy and bartered his services with an experienced Kindred nomad who arranged his passage to New Orleans—he’d heard it was a welcoming city to thin-bloods. He was half-right. The French Quarter was a welcoming enough place for duskborn, but New Orleans writ large was not. If anything, it was worse than Phoenix. The prince pursued an active policy of extermination against all thin-bloods, not just alchemists. Antoine Savoy was the only Kindred both willing and powerful enough to offer them shelter. (The Baron was the latter, but not the former.) It came at a price, though. Thin-bloods who didn’t prove themselves exceptionally useful were crammed into the least desirable parts of the French Quarter with poor hunting and even poorer future prospects.
Once again, Sean turned to his alchemy. He did some work for Virgil “Duffy” Gestard, although “work” implies a fair exchange of services—“blackmail” was Sean’s preferred term after the Quarter’s “top rat” (who’d bugged his lab) threatened to disclose his activities to Caitlin Meadows or the Guard de Ville. After all, Vidal considered thin-blooded alchemy a blasphemous perversion, and alchemists were higher targets than other thin-bloods. Sean sullenly forked over cash and alchemical formulae in return for his unlife.
In a rare change of character, Duffy turned out not to be the worst “friend” to have. The Quarter’s “top rat” found that having an alchemist on retainer was useful, but Sean complained that Rampart Street’s poor hunting severely limited the amount of work he could accomplish (which required vitae), to say nothing of the fact he might get killed there. Duffy spoke to Natasha Preston on Sean’s behalf. The Malkavian had no desire whatsoever to enlist his services herself, but she upgraded him to Canal Street at Duffy’s recommendation. Duffy never let Sean forget what he’d done for him—or lets him forget that he could be back on Rampart with the wrong word in Preston’s ear.
Sean took the upgrade for what it was. Hunting was indeed easier and getting to live in comfort rather than poverty was always nice. He kept a hovel along Rampart Street, though, because it was a more convenient place to cook in. That “work commute” left much to be desired, but a meth lab would be much harder to conceal along the tourist-frequented Canal Street.
Beyond his “work” for Duffy, Sean’s spent the past several years honing his alchemy and selling drugs to local gangs. He makes steady money and can draw on an equally steady flow of favors from other Quarter rats. Few of them, even the true-bloods, have the luxury of sharing the Camarilla’s distaste for thin-blooded alchemy. Even his relationship with Duffy isn’t completely one-sided—in fact, he’s been able to get the older Quarter rat to run several other alchemists out of town as a “reward” for his services.
No, now that his immediate needs are seen to, Sean wants more. His sire’s promise still nags at him. Respect and belonging from a society of fellow knowledge seekers. He even asked Peter Lebeaux whether the local Tremere would accept him as an apprentice, and was bluntly told “not in a million years.” The Ordo Dracul, too, have proven frustratingly elusive to find, and at this point Sean doubts they’d want a thin-blood either. His feeble vitae appears to be yet another felony conviction forever closing doors.
Still, it beats working at O’Tolley’s for $7.90 an hour.
• 12. Unknown sire
• 13. Zachary Buenrostro (e. early 21st century)
• 14. Sean Peck (e. early 21st century)
Sean is the childe of Zachary Buenrostro, a Tremere of little reputation who dwells in Tucson, Arizona. Sean has no idea of his lineage beyond his sire—and clearly, Zachary had some gaps in his own understanding to be surprised when his childe turned out a thin-blood. Sean presumes himself to be of the fourteenth generation.
For the same reason, Sean doubts he has any broodmates. He doubts he’ll have any, either, not that it particularly matters to him.