All things change, even if they don’t end. This is the final session of my Demon: the Descent game to be done “live” or over a video chat. With scheduling becoming impossible due to children and time zones, we are moving to a Play by Post format. Fingers crossed that it works out. I’ll post the details on that in a month or so.
Last time the ring eliminated the doppelgangers for their covers and traded Lilith’s scepter for several useful items.
The Lacuna Job, Part IV: The Infinity Sanction
First thing we did was update Aspirations: at least for those players who showed up on time.
The Weaver set the goals of getting One of a Kind Investigations off its back and locating Jerry, the dealer trading in the tainted T-shirts it worked on as an angel.
Accabish wants to know how the alternate version of Mercy differs from her own long dead daughter.
Priscilla’s phone rings. She picks up.
A distorted voice asks, “what about our deal? What happened to the Dream Machine?”
“By deal you mean your blackmail?” the demon replies sourly.
“It wasn’t all blackmail. Not for you.”
Accabish considers that. Sensing a loophole, she pours Aether into one of the hidden rules of reality. Laws bend then break as she extracts Infinity’s location from the call. An image of the angular woman sitting upright in front of a wall of screens floats within her mind. Infinity is in a wood cabin well set back from the road in an empty quarter of Eastern Oregon.
Accabish tries to argue her interlock Backtrace could be used here. I disagree but allow her to create an Exploit on the spot. She spends the experience, an Aether and rolls Wits + Socialize + Primum to use “Where are you?” an Exploit that locates an individual that the demon is communicating with. I’ll post the complete details with the next session.
She made her compromise roll with Wits + Manipulation +2 (for her high cover) but we never established a condition.
“You mean you have information on my daughter? Do you want to do a side deal on that?”
“Do you still have the item?”
“Yes,” she lies.
Accabish rolls Manipulation + Subterfuge + her Lies Speciality + 3 for Willpower spent (11 dice!). Infinity rolls a base pool of 6 plus 3 for Willpower spent. They tie.
After a moment of silence, Infinity says, “my electronics say you are telling the truth but I don’t trust them.”
“It’s really too bad you don’t trust your machines.”
After another awkward silence, she says, “if you can deliver the device, I’ll give you the information on your daughter.”
“Well I’ll need to get it away from the rest of my team first. How about I drop it off tomorrow at 10?” she ask, thinking of a location with poor surveillance. ”Down at South Washington and 1st?”
Daemon pours through company memos and private emails, neck-deep into hacking Keystone Pharmaceuticals. Ever since he saw the article linking the company to land buys in the former memory hole of Yesler Terrace, he knew he had found the connection between Verdant Technologies and the Dream Machine.
In other words, his aspiration.
The strange forgetfulness that until recently had a hold on the neighborhood must be connected to the Memnovores. Verdant took possession of the Dream Machine shortly after the effect dissipated. And Verdant is tied to Keystone and the tortuous web of subsidiaries and joint projects that make up the Pentex-Cheiron Group conglomerate.
The other interesting thing about the Keystone purchase was that the property, Ashwood Heights, was the former home of Seattle’s latest serial killer. Jarett Costa murdered three women by slicing their eyelids open. The relevant point for Daemon was Jarett’s claims of prophetic dreams and God-Machine imagery in his rants. He was probably a stigmatic, likely exposed at Ashwood Heights.
Hacking Keystone had been easy enough. After a couple of hours he found the shipping records for trucks in the vicinity of Ashwood Heights just before the Dream Machine arrived at Verdant Technologies.
Daemon rolls Wits + Computer explore Keystone’s files.
As for the recent purchase of Ashwood Heights, the official line is that this is an example of giving back to the community. But Daemon discovers they bought three plots of land. Ashwood Heights encompasses two of those plots but the third doesn’t appear to exist.
Also surprising is the fact that Keystone has paid One of a Kind Investigation for several jobs over the years. The last one was shortly before the Dream Machine ended up in Verdant Technologies hands.
Accabish and Daemon reveal their information at the next meeting of the ring.
“So we should strike at Infinity,” Accabish concludes.
The team discusses how they will counter the defenses the hacker has in place, especially any data dumps her removal might trigger.
The Naturalist scries her, watching the hacker for a few hours. Though the demon cannot detect any direct angelic influence, it does notice some crude infrastructure. Several sets of wind chimes hang around the darkened rooms. They appear to be some sort of shielding device. The homemade PDA she keeps on her person definitely is running Infrastructure level code. Nat also detects something weird about her personally though it can’t pin down what.
More mundanely interior of the building appears to clad in modular Kevlar and steel security walls. There are no windows though frequent monitors attest to a network of security cameras.
We forgo the Compromise roll. The demon uses Sense the Angelic as well as its normal demonic senses. Nat also tries Heart’s desire but fails. I let something slip anyway…
The most worrisome thing to the demon are the documents displayed on the screens. Neural scanning papers, details on brain-machine interfaces, speculative material on uploading minds, and a large number of reports and evidence on the God-Machine. She wants to join mentally with its old master.
They decide to bring in some backup. Accabish puts in the call to the Black Pyramid.
And I work to skip past the mission planning stage.
The van bounces along the darkening road. Fading light touches a few parched trees and dusty scrub.
Inside the ring crouches in their facades with the Black Pyramid team. An albino called Snow drives them to infinity’s hideout while Mr. King goes over the plan with them and Barb, a towering warrior woman.
Daemon will accompany the team to secure her tech and cut off any last-minute transmissions. As they approach he will enter the system in dataform. Accabish and Hunter will aid King’s team in any fighting. Nat will hang back using its abilities to provide remote intelligence. They will approach by stealth if possible where King and his people will secure the doors before they can close. Weaver will help should the security doors inside the house hamper them. The demon’s shears can cut through almost anything.
I don’t apply Compromise rolls since King and his people are from another dimension and are supernatural themselves.
King lets them in on some of his people abilities. They practice their world’s ancient blood magics and have been further enhanced by their corporate superiors. Somehow this grants them superhuman reflexes and speed.
Daemon reads their strange crimson auras. Hieroglyphs and stars twinkling within the bloody mess.
Daemon uses his aura sensing demonic form ability.
As the sun sets, the terrain becomes even bleaker. In the final hours, they pass only two cars and a delivery truck going in the opposite direction.
Hunter’s skins blends with bare earth as his eyes scan the perimeter in night vision mode. If he didn’t need to guide the others, he’d be able to slide past these cameras easily.
He moves and the others follow.
Hunter activates Mirrorskin and Nightvision (costing him 1 Aether due to his merits). He rolls Dexterity + Stealth -5 (for supporting the others) + 3 (for Willpower) +3 (for mirrorskin). Infinity rolls Wits + Composure -1. Unfortunately Infinity wins.
Daemon trails behind, scanning the air for signals. As they get within a few meters of a camera, he turns into a stream of ones and zeroes, disappearing into the system.
He uses his Electromagnetic Linguistics merit and then dataform. I skip Compromise rolls for now.
The front door opens easily but the entrance hall soon splits forcing a choice: right or left.
“Straight,” Accabish says.
Weaver pulls a pair of giant shears from its shoulder and begins slicing.
Weaver’s Laser Cutter demonic form ability takes the form of magic shears.
Nearby Daemon traces the buildings power to a large lithium power cell . As it struggles to disable it a short signal escapes the structure.
Daemon tries twice to roll Strength + Computers before succeeded.
The team makes its way through the newly darkened structure, their path illuminated by a ball of red energy in Mr. King’s hand.
Outside by the van, Nat’s milky eyes view Infinity’s control room. She waits, the glow of a custom PDA shining from her hand.
Daemon slides into the back of the team as they reach Infinity’s hideout. Up in front, Weaver spots strange blood stains on the woman’s shoes.
The Weaver rolls Wits + Medicine to notice the dried blood.
“You understand, I couldn’t be sure I could trust any of you,” the woman says. “Especially not members of the Black Pyramid.”
As Mr. King steps into the room, Daemon shifts into his true form. With a sickening lurch, his facade stretches and then shreds. The metallic being glows with electrical energy.
“We’ve got incoming,” he says.
Daemon takes full demon form and fails his Compromise roll (Wits + Manipulation -2 for his facade of 1). He loses the facade and gains the Hunted Condition. On the plus side he gets Aether equal to his Primum or 4.
As King and the others move in, Infinity’s fingers move with increasing slowness toward the PDA. Everyone grinds to a halt and stops except Accabish.
Accabish uses Strike First followed by Stop (spending a 2 Aether to roll Intelligence + Science + Primum to halt time for 3 turns). Those are both reflexive actions.
The demon slips forward in that instant of time, snatching the device from Infinity’s hands. As she hurries back into the pack, she slips the PDA into her pocket and tosses a curse upon the hacker.
She uses her Interlock Preemptive Strike to inflict a tilt. She rolls Manipulation + Brawl – Infinity’s Stamina and hobble’s her (-2 to all rolls, -1 Defense).
Time speeds up as Accabish takes on her demonic form. The shining blue metallic woman stands ready to strike.
She makes her Compromise roll (I forgot the earlier one for the Exploit) and trades her Condition of Steadfast to avoid any complications. I award a Beat anyway. She also gains 4 Aether for the shift.
The initiative order is Accabish (done), Hunter, Daemon, the Black Pyramid, and Infinity (with the others hanging back for now).
Hunter lunges forward ahead of the sorcerers. One moment he is a man falling to all fours and the next he is a metallic gold lion bearing down on Infinity.
The hacker stumbles back, her hands grasping the air where her device was a moment ago. Then he rakes her leg with one claw. The other warriors tries to crowd in on her but end up interfering with each other.
Hunter takes full demon form, gains 3 Aether and makes his Compromise roll (Wits + Manipulation – 2). He suffers only a glitch and attacks. He makes his Strength + Brawl – 4 (for her lowered defense) roll. She takes 2 Lethal.
The Black Pyramid gang pummel at her (with 2, 3, and 4 dice respectively) but only deal 1 Bashing.
I’m can’t recall what Daemon did. I think study her aura. Which looks like it is on fire.
Infinity retreats to a corner before regaining her balance. She lashes out with one hand. Electricity races up her body and down her arm. In the blue glow, her skin looks withered and leathery with stitching along every joint.
The blast strikes Hunter dead on and he tumbles back, his circuits momentary overloaded.
Infinity is a Promethean and has more powers than one might expect. She deals 11 Bashing and KO’s Hunter.
Outside the Naturalist hears the thunder rumble out of the house. Then he hears another crack answering from a few miles to the southwest.
Hunter angel inbound.
“Two can play at that game,” Accabish shouts as electricity arcs around her body.
She grabs the hacker grounding the charge in her. Again the electricity arcs around Infinity revealing her true corpse-like features. As the sparks subside, the hacker’s wounds close up.
Accabish makes her Strength + Brawl – 4 Defense to touch her and deals enough “damage” to heal Infinity fully. Well now they know.
On the ground, Hunter’s own scorch marks fade. The lion snaps at Infinity from the ground but she skips past him.
Hunter revives thanks to his wound healing ability. He tries to grapple her with a roll of Strength + Brawl – 3 Defense -1 for wound penalties but he fails.
And right into the middle of the Black Pyramid operatives.
Mr. King clips her shoulder with a sudden punch sending her into Snow who smashes her into a wall. As she staggers away, Barb topples the wall of monitor displays on top of her.
The Black Pyramid team strikes with 6, 7 and 8 dice as they spend their willpower, dealing 1 Bashing, then 2 more, and finally 3 Lethal.
As she struggles to rise, Daemon brings his sword arm down swiftly twice. Her newly severed arms twitch for a few seconds as she glares up at him, critically wounded yet somehow defiant.
Daemon gets an exceptional success on his Strength + Weaponry roll. With the weapon bonus this deals 9 Lethal. After upgrading severity and wrapping, this yields 4 lethal and 4 aggravated marked boxes on Infinity’s sheet. I remove her arms as part of the exceptional success.
Daemon notices a signal emitting from her searching for a device in the area. As he readies his arm blade again, Accabish rushes forward and smashes her metallic fists into Infinity’s leg, shattering it.
Infinity spends a turn connecting the PDA and playing crippled.
Accabish rolls Strength + Brawl – 4 Defense +2 prone and deals 2 Bashing. 2 wounds to go.
Daemon swings but his sword sticks into a monitor.
Daemon uses Fractal Reality to replicate his earlier exceptional success but fails the roll to actually hit her.
Hunter rises to his feet and sinks his fangs into the crippled monster. She gasps, shudders and dies.
Hunter rolls Strength + Brawl and deals 2 Lethal.
Outside the Naturalist climbs into the van. Another peal of thunder rolls over the land, closer this time. Hunter runs out of the building, Infinity’s body in his jaws.
Nat blinks and Mr. King and his confederates appear next to the van, several hard drives in hand.
Accabish and Daemon hurry to catch up.
The next clap of thunder is much much closer.
As the van starts down the road, the thunder gets nearer and nearer. Daemon tosses a burner phone out the window. A moment later he disappears into it as mix of ones and zeroes.
He uses Dataform.
A moment later the thunder stops right behind them.
Then they are alone on the long road to Seattle.
I ran the next section as a quick chase.
Daemon begins bouncing from cell tower to cell tower. an ominous booming chasing him through cyberspace.
He pings off a few satellites until the angel almost corners him high above Canada. Circuits pop and melt as the servant of the God-Machine attempts to overload the system and trap him.
At the last moment, he slips away, disappearing in networks across the Pacific.
Daemon rolled Intelligence + Computers vs. the angel’s Finesse. Daemon remains ahead or close to it for three rounds before reaching 8 successes and escaping.
He resolves the Hunted Condition and earns a Beat.
Weaver rolls Intelligence + Occult to learn what Infinity was.
Weaver runs over the events in Oregon as it looks over the dismembered body of Infinity. She might be a promethean, a reanimated corpse with strange alchemical powers, such as manipulating and healing from electricity. For some reason they are universally despised.
The Black Pyramid offer to take the corpse to analyze with their magics.
”We have techniques for interrogating the dead,” Mr. King says.
The Weaver gives its okay. “Share anything you learn please.”
Weaver buys up its Occult to 2 for 2 Experience. The demon plans to do more studying.
Accabish takes King aside. “Since we provided Infinity’s location I think you still owe us something. I need your help investigating a personal matter.”
“It is private. I’ll stop by later to give you the details.”
She wants to know about her daughter. This is progress on the Aspiration and she earns a Beat.
After the corpse and their allies leave, Accabish produces the PDA. Weaver scrutinizes the code within it. It is an incredibly potent gadget, perhaps a high level lambda. Its primary ability is to tap into the control codes behind the God-Machine’s minions, overriding their free will temporarily. It can also identify what the purpose an object or person serves in the Machine’s plans.
“I want to use it on myself,” the Naturalist declares.
“This was also made by Lilith,” Weaver says.
Basically it allows the user to roll Resolve + Computers + Primum against the target’s Resolve + Primum (which can be any servant or past servant of the God-Machine). Each success allows the user to control a demon or angel for a turn (or a scene for mortals).
It also allows use of a variation on the Voice of the Machine embed. When used on a specific target, the user learns can roll Wits + Computers to learn what role that person or object plays in the God-Machine’s plans. Each use requires a roll against Compromise.
At the very end, I found the time to check people’s ciphers. Accabish and Daemon have already unlocked their ciphers. The Weaver finally buys the next Embed and gains the following interlock:
Roll: Manipulation + Academics vs. Wits + Composure
Dramatic Failure: Amid the range of options, a clear choice appears to the target. They gain a +2 bonus on their next action.
Success: The demon fills the target’s mind with the endless options for how to act. They suffer a -2 penalty to actions for the scene as they try to sort through them.
Exceptional Success: They become paralyzed by the options available to them. They lose their next action.
The Naturalist and Hunter both make their Wits + Intelligence rolls and learn their final Keys.
The Naturalist buys Persistent Legend and learns:
Patch Job: The demon invokes Legend but using a different Cover as the source than the one they are currently using. Spend an Aether as usual and then roll as below. Rather than gain the Imposter Condition, roll for Compromise for the Cover currently used at +1.
Dice Pool: Lower of Wits + Socialize or source Cover – dots in Skills or Merits being gained
Dramatic Failure: Not only does the demon fail to gain the dots they still roll for Compromise at -1.
Exceptional Success: The demon suffers no Compromise.
Nat’s koan is “safety can be found by hiding within a larger life.”
Hunter buys Combustion and unlocks:
Conflagration: The demon causes a pre-existing destructive force (fire, wind, rushing water, toxic chemicals) to spread throughout a region. The area is affected by the appropriate Tilt.
Roll: Strength + Science
Dramatic Failure: the force turns on the demon instead. The demon suffers 2 Lethal and may be set on fire or otherwise negatively affected by the force.
Exceptional Success: The demon maintains an unconscious control over the raging elements around him. The demon doesn’t suffer the effects of the Tilt.
His koan is “the untamed fire must escalate or die.”
Experience time! I give every one Experience for the story. Accabish earns beats for all three of her Aspirations (blowing Infinity, learning more about Lilith, and making progress on alt-Mercy). Daemon and Nat both get 1 Aspiration Beat (for Learning about Verdant Technologies and raising its Primum respectively). Daemon gains another one from resolving its Hunted Condition. Accabish also earns one for a canceled condition.
Everyone (except Daemon who failed a Compromise roll) earns 2 Cover Beats. Daemon gets 1 Cover Beat.