Time for the first of my play by post “sessions” (Chapters is now much more appropriate) for the Unusual Suspects. Though our start has been a bit shaky a lot of my players have delivered a lot of good story.
Seeds of Destruction, Chapter 1
The night of the Infinity Sanction:
Thinking over the intricate structure of the code within Infinity’s PDA, the Weaver recognizes familiar lines and symbols, fragments were stored in the dust Dr. Ilyes brought to Jean. That sample must be connected to this device. If the strange material does consist of memories then someone who possessed this code in the past also contributed to the sample.
Daemon also takes a look, intrigued by a possible link between demons and pure information.
The Weaver also learns an aspect of the demon’s next key in its Cipher. Intelligence + Wits = Total Dice Pool 6, 2 successes. It learns it doesn’t already know the next Embed.
Then the Naturalist takes the PDA. It activates the identify routine and inputs itself as the target.
The screen displays “Scanning…”
A minute later it beeps. “Current Mission: Kill Cymbeline Hand in 4, 6, or 9 days.”
Nat targets itself with the gadget to determine what purpose the God-Machine intends for it. First the demon rolls for Compromise: Wits + Manipulation -2 for the Facade = Total Dice Pool 4, 1 success.
As its Condition it takes Spooked.
The Naturalist earns 1 Beat for completing an Aspiration.
Nat hands the device back to Weaver quickly. The demon’s mind runs over the possibilities. It fell, it shouldn’t be part of the God-Machine’s plans, and it certainly has no intention of killing Cymbeline.
The following morning (Monday July 2, 2012):
Each of the demons is working through their morning activities when they feel a series of strains and cracks appear in their covers, as if a small group of people learned damaging secrets about them. Most spend the next hour looking over their shoulder or jumping at the least surprise.
Everyone rolls for Compromise.
- Accabish: Wits + Manipulation +2 (Cover 8) +1 (minor compromise of character): Total Dice Pool 10 dice, 4 successes.
- The Daemon: Wits + Manipulation +1 (Cover 7) +1 (flimsy evidence of acting ou character): Total Dice Pool 8 dice, 4 successes.
- The Hunter (for Joseph): Wits + Manipulation +1 (Cover 6) -2 (pics of his demonic form and full history on Joseph): Total Dice Pool 4 dice, 1 successes.
- The Naturalist (for Dorian): Wits + Manipulation +1 (Cover 7) +0 (highly suggestive information of something supernatural): Total dice Pool 7 dice, 2 successes.
- The Weaver: Wits + Manipulation +1 (Cover 7) -1 (pics of your Infrastructure plus filling pieces of evidence): Total Dice Pool 4 dice, 2 successes.
As all of them succeed, no Cover is lost. Accabish and Weaver are Shaken. Daemon and Hunter are Spooked. The Naturalist takes Guilty.
Daemon focuses on researching what signals Infinity might have made in her last moments. He skips class and misses a raid as he falls into a rabbit hole of research.
The Naturalist meanwhile feels guilty for putting the people associated with its cover in danger. It takes some time puzzling out where the most glaring evidence of its supernatural might be.
The Weaver peruses the available resources it has on the supernatural. Admittedly it isn’t much. The public library opens in a couple of hours so the demon contents itself with the internet and an increasingly eclectic selection of books at Adamant Technologies. The Deva Corporation contract helped the company in more ways than one, it muses.
Weaver rolls Intelligence + Occult: Total Dice Pool 6, 1 success.
The demon finds only rumors and hearsay. Legends tell of animate statues, reanimated corpses and machines in search of a soul. Powered by strange alchemical processes, these beings are perpetually on the move, feared and hated by those they encounter. Lightning seems to be involved in some of the myths. It powers them, heals them, resurrects them.
Resurrection. That which falls may rise again. They don’t stay dead.
The Weaver spends the rest of its lunch hour at the library, perusing the stacks for more information on the occult and finding what few books on the subject the library has to offer. The demon skims the original “Frankenstein” and a few other titles about things like mummies rising from the dead, creating golems, and what not. The Weaver sits back in its chair, considering how it might resolve this lack of information. It decides to discretely search local bookstores later. Perhaps they might have what it’s looking for.
It texts the ring knows that Infinity is not permanently dead.
I inform the player it will need a specialized library (either via Merit or by seeking out someone else’s) or outside help to research this further.
As the Weaver puts its books away, it spots Melanie as she goes into the bathroom. Jeanette frowns with concern as she notices the bruise on the girl’s arm.
Perhaps the Weaver has let this go on too long. With five minutes before Jeanette needs to leave for work, the Weaver decides it can spare a little time to make a start on rectifying that abusive father-daughter relationship.
Jeanette follows Melanie towards the bathroom, producing a Styrofoam cup with ice in it from a pocket once it’s sure it’s out of sight of the security cameras. She pushes the door open, stepping inside and scanning the room for Melanie. The girl glances back from half way in a stall.
“I don’t mean to intrude, but I saw you on the way in and thought you looked like something was wrong. Are you alright?” Jeanette’s eyes go to the bruises on the girl’s arm.
The Weaver rolls Wits + Medicine to scrutinize the bruising. Total Dice Pool 3, failure.
Jeanette can see that the bruising is fresh, all around Melanie’s left arm like someone or something hit it several times.
“I’m fine,” Melanie sniffs.
The demon rolls Manipulation + Empathy + 2 for their previous interactions and because this lines up with an Aspiration of Melanie’s. Total Dice Pool 6, failure again.
Jeanette knows that she isn’t. She tries to talk to her but the tween shuts her out.
“That bruise does look like it hurts though.” She looks down at the cup in her hand as though she just thought about it before producing a small hand towel from her bag and taking some ice out of the cup. She wraps it in the fabric so that the ice won’t sit directly on the skin before offering it to her. “Here, this ought to help.”
The Weaver uses Sum of All Fears. Wits + Empathy – Composure, Total Dice Pool 2, 2 successes. The demon learns 4 fears.
As the demon wraps the bruises, the girl’s anxieties become clear. She’s afraid of her father hurting her. She’s afraid he’ll hurt himself drinking so much. Worse she worries he won’t come back from one of the jobs he does for “Big Freddy.” Jobs involving collecting debts. Finally the demon can sense a hope for something better, a job on the other side of the law, one which might one day pit her against her father.
The demon also rolls Wits + Empathy +1 to tend her wound and calm her. Total dice Pool 5, 3 successes.
“Thanks,” Melanie says. ” You didn’t need to do that.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Jean says. “There are some chairs in the break room if you’d like to sit somewhere a little more private. I know Kelly won’t mind under the circumstances and it’s got to be more comfortable than here in the bathroom stalls.”
She nods and follows Jeanette out.
The two find the break room almost empty. A balding librarian scowls at them before scurrying off to the stacks.
The demon finds Melanie somewhere comfortable to sit. The girl seems calmer once they are alone. In the warm light her bruises don’t even seem quite so bad. Or perhaps Weaver’s dab of medical training helped more than it thought.
After some discussion of pacts, we decide that the Weaver will offer Melanie a deal. Her abusive relationship with her father in exchange for some friends. The demon’s side is a Medial Cover (abusive relationship) [+2] plus Permanent [+3]. Melanie’s side is also permanent and gives her the Merit Allies 2.
Weaver rolls Manipulation + Persuasion roll +2 for previous deals. This would yield 3 dice. The demon spends a point of Willpower and gets 1 success.
Melanie seems less suspicious than the last time the demon made a deal with her. Instead her curiosity is the problem as she starts ask some difficult questions. In the end the trust Jeanette has built up wins out and she agrees to sign the deal. Jean writes it up on some printer paper and the girl signs her name.
I allow Weaver to spend a Cover Experience and the new pact to create a 1 dot Cover.
“Sam” is 13 years old and barely defined. Probably she has brownish hair, unremarkable features, and some bruising.
Weaver decides to walk Melanie home both to make sure she is alright and to mark where her father lives. Those mob connections could be useful.
Jeanette arrives at work about 20 minutes later than originally planned. She surprises Scott Liles when she gets in the elevator behind him.
“What happened, was your car towed?” he remarks snidely.
“I left my phone at the place I got lunch,” Jeanette explains, “I had to go back and get it and they had it in the lost and found by the time I got back to my seat. It was a little frustrating for a bit there.”
“But I found it, eventually.”
The rest of the day passes uneventfully.
The Weaver earns a Beat for helping Melanie.
The Hunter has never owned much. Thus dealing with David’s apartment continues to confound him. Over a dozen sets of clothes, artwork on every wall, place settings for six. How can a single man need so much?
This morning in trying to clear out some faded sports jerseys, the demon stumbles across several boxes of gay pornography. He should have expected it but didn’t think to look. He’s sure the Naturalist’s records didn’t include it. The question is what to do with it?
The demon flips through the decade old stacks. In the end he finds a convenient dumpster and burns them. He does an extra hard scrub of his computer’s browser history for good measure.
That dealt with, the officer reports to work. Always looking to prove himself, the demon arrives early to the morning briefing.
Instead of the usual tidbits on local dealers and current neighborhood tensions, Lt. Lawrence arrives to inform them about the details of the latest missing child.
Three children have gone missing since mid June.
Aiden Hex disappeared first on June 15th, vanishing on his way back from school in Windermere. The son of tech investor Samuel Hex and former model Amanda Hex, he is 14, white, 5’ 4″ with sandy blond hair and green eyes.
On the night of June 23, Peace Montaro was taken from her bedroom in Lake City. This 12-year-old African-American girl is 5″ tall, with long curly black hair and dark eyes.
Yesterday afternoon Queue Johnson vanished from her front yard in Olympic Hills. Her father Karl Johnson remains a suspect. He has a history of public drunkenness and violence. Queue may have run away though that seems unlikely due to the details of the scene. She’s 7 years old with short blond hair and brown eyes.
At the moment the department has found no connection between the disappearances but it hasn’t been ruled out.
As Hunter ponders that, a disturbance absorbs all attention at the front of the precinct. There a small crowd has converged on a mysterious package without a sender or a recipient.
After people evacuate, the bomb team looks it over, and the dogs give it a sniff, the police discover that it only contains a few hundred photocopies of a missing person’s poster from the 90s.
The subject is Clare Smith, a teen who vanished from Bainbridge island in 1996.
Hunter considers its options. Officially the purpose of the briefing was to help him and the other officers keep an eye out for the missing kids. But aiding directly would be a good career move.
Hunter heads over to Lieutenant Lawrence.
Hunter rolls to persuade him to get on the investigation. Presence + Persuasion +1 (the Lieutenant likes to see initiative), Total Dice Pool 2. No successes.
“I’d like to help out on the case.”
“Thanks,” the older man says looking at some papers with a pair of detectives. “You keep your eyes open. Hopefully we can find some clues.”
“No I mean I want to help out directly.”
The Lieutenant Jack Lawrence turns to look at the officer. “David, right? I appreciate the offer but let’s leave this to the detectives for now.”
Hunter knows better than to press further and turns his mind to how he can help unofficially.
The sheets, now strewn about the lobby, tell the demon a few clues. Brunette, white, 5’ 1″, and slightly overweight. Last seen by her family’s pier the evening of August 3rd, 1996. 16 when she vanished. She would be about 32 now. He has an address. The demon wonders if her folks still live there.
The Hunter spends an Aether and makes a Legend roll for Academics 2. Total dice Pool 5, 2 successes. Hunter gains the Impostor condition (a beat if you buy Academics).
Then Hunter rolls Intelligence + Academics. Total Dice Pool 4, failure.
Hunter decides to hunt through the records for more clues. Less awkward small talk that way. Drawing on his cover’s academic training, the demon manages to search through the police files without leaving a mess. Thankfully someone digitized the records a few years back.
The files provide a lot more information but create more questions. Statements from friends, teachers, and classmates in Bainbridge describe a girl unlikely to run away. Where it gets strange are the notes on her extended family. Uncle Harry Smith doesn’t seem to exist. Her great-aunt Beth has no last name listed. The company her father worked for never had a branch in Seattle.
Weirdest of all, Clare Smith’s address isn’t on the map. There isn’t space for it. Google maps shows the houses to either side, houses that show up in the crime photos, but not hers.
There are no records of her family after 1997.
Jenny confirms with John that she’ll have the kids on Wednesday.
“Have you heard about these temporary tattoos?” he asks.
“Something I noticed at a group play date this weekend. A couple of the older kids had them. Blue stars, Mickey Mouse, that sort of thing. Anyway the kids seemed interested in them. They seemed fishy. You never know what chemicals they put into those things. Anyway I thought you should know.”
“Maybe we can get them analyzed at the university or something. I don’t like the kids putting things like that on their skin. I met a woman recently whose son got sick from toxic dye in a t-shirt.”
“Really? Well if I get a hold of one I’ll do that. Let me know if you see the kids with any of those. We need to watch that.”
“Ok. I will, and thank you.”
Later that morning as the wave of compromises flow across Dorian’s cover, the Naturalist tries to piece together how this might have happened. What did the demon do to risk its safety?
After poking around its covers and The demon tries to puzzle out the source of the Compromise, the Naturalist rolls Wits + Intelligence: Total Dice Pool 5, 3 successes.
This also covers the demon’s Aspiration of house cleaning its covers.
The answer is obvious. Infinity. She must have had some failsafe, some info dump that went out to a team of mortals she trusted. What did Daemon say? She had connections to monster hunters.
But who is coming after them? Who would she trust? Someone local. She had many connections in the area. She invested a lot of time and energy in manipulating the ring and events in the city.
Sorenson? No. Whoever it is would be more active. They probably already know something about the God-Machine, the Dream Machine and the rest. Perhaps Daemon knows someone who fits the bill.
Cymbeline texts Atticus at noon. “Staying out late with Karen to study for the PSAT.”
The Naturalist asks to use Heart’s Desire earlier in the day. Since the demon had reason to be suspicious I allow it. Nat rolls Wits + Empathy – her Composure. I add in its Empathy (Needs) Speciality. Total Dice Pool 4, 1 success.
The Naturalist runs over what it knows about this young woman. Determined yet shy.
Even with her destiny aborted, she still strives to succeed. Still conflicted about her lost destiny. She wants to rediscover the passion that drove her those short few days when she sought her destiny. Dangerous but also potentially useful. She also wants to excel at the PSAT clearly.
This morning though..she also wanted to learn why Mr. Roberts the library janitor seemed so helpful recently. Who was this man and what was his intentions?
In less poetic language: Virtue: Determined, Vice: Shy. Aspirations: Rediscover the passion she felt following her destiny, ace the PSAT, figure out why Mr. Roberts has been so helpful.
A short while later another more sinister text arrives from Weaver. “Prometheans don’t stay dead. Infinity may come back.”
“What if we like bury the pieces across the world. Like in the movies?” he writes back.
Several stories dominate the Slog’s newsroom that morning. Jane McCall is covering a report on drugs in schools and child drug dealers. Perhaps connected are the recent disappearances of three children in as many weeks. The latest was grabbed from her front yard yesterday afternoon. They’ve all come from schools on the more prosperous north end of the city so there already is a lot of media attention.
Other stories include the recent protests against the Alaskan Way Viaduct and the redevelopment of Yesler Terrace by local industry. Tyler Robbins wants to cover rumors of a modern-day slaving ring. It seems like a wild goose chase.
I had to retconned a bit of my initial postings about going to King’s tattoo shop. It would have led to an interesting revelation about Infinity but Accabish thought visiting was too dangerous.
Around midday, Accabish grabs a latte on her way into nearby Cal Anderson Park. The morning coolness is gone, replaced by a sticky warmth. She finds Mr. King sitting on a worn park bench, petting a small dark cat.
“Do they have things like our late friend on your world?” Accabish asks, settling in before asking her real questions.
“Oh, yes,” the gaunt man says, ruffling the cat’s hair. “Especially like her.”
“What about my companions?”
He hesitates. “I’ve heard rumors. I had assumed they were just about experimental prototypes from one of the other corps.”
“They don’t have the God-Machine at the home office?”
“I was-. My briefing stated that the God-Machine had made some incursions in the past. A few angels. Several secret facilities. The Syndicate purged them 11 years ago. Before we realized how we could use it.”
Accabish asks a few more questions, trying to pinpoint the historical divergence of that world. She files the idea of a world free of the God-Machine away for later. “Interesting. Anyway the item I wanted your help investigating involves a person from another world. Perhaps yours.”
“Who?” he asks, his brow creased in thought. “There are not many of us.”
“A woman. I know she’s from somewhere else because I saw the original die. She got involved in the aftermath of the job we did for you.”
Accabish quickly describes alternate version of Mercedes plus the differences Hunter related. 11 years. That’s an interesting coincidence.
I’m going with 11 years since Accabish’s daughter died.
As she talks, Mr. King’s face loses its already minimal humor. “That’s a very dangerous woman, a member of an anarchist organization known as Eris. On our side, her name is Mercedes Ferrara but she calls herself Lilith. We thought she or her fellow operatives were behind the interference we encountered here until we isolated this hacker Infinity.”
“What’s her connection to all of this?”
“She’s a survivor of the God-Machine’s last incursion. An operative that it tried to install in our world. We believe she might be still working for it. I have orders to capture or kill her.” He looks off across the path. “I’m surprised to hear she manage to make it to this world. Normal humans don’t usually survive the transit. Not intact.”
Accabish’s burner phone vibrates. A text from Weaver. “Prometheans don’t stay dead. Infinity may come back.”
The demon ignores it. She knew from the start it was her. A quick backtrace told her that the promethean wasn’t truly dead.
King’s information however fills in some gaps. There are multiple people being called Lilith. An ancient demon, Infinity, and Mercedes. Her alternate daughter likely was the one stirring up the local demons.
Hundreds of documents and links litter Daemon’s computers, decorated by his current obsessions.
In one diagram, he maps most of the complicated ownership network for the Pentex-Cheiron conglomerate. Another document details a timeline.
- 1893: A house is built at 613 South Washington Street by Mr. Samuelson.
- 1900: S. Westergard purchases the house and moves in with his wife.
- 1922: Mrs. Westergard dies of heart failure.
- 1940: S. Westergard’s daughter (age 27) disappears from census records.
- April 12, 1942: Adam Freud, the future Ambrose Grant, magician and world-renowned psychic is born. He lives at 611 South Washington street.
- 1956-8: Adam spends time at Hillcrest Mental Health Center.
- 1960s: 613 South Washington street and its owner slips from official record.
- 1972: Ambrose Grant builds Ashwood Heights.
- May 8th, 1989: Grant vanishes off the coast of Oregon in his private yacht. He is presumed drowned. He is survived by his ex-wife Doretta Teesdale.
- April 12, 1992: Doretta Teesdale dies from falling down the stairs.
- June 2, 2010: One of a Kind Investigations is paid six figures for unspecified services.
- June 5, 2010: Keystone Pharmaceuticals arranges for the transport for a large amount of material from somewhere in Yesler Terrace.
- June 6, 2010: Verdant Technologies begins its program to unravel the mystery of the Dream Machine, a computer built sometime in the 70s but which contains more complex components inside it.
- November 27, 2010: Aura of forgetfulness fades from Yesler Terrace.
- June 24, 2012: Keystone Pharmaceuticals purchases Ashwood Heights and the property between the two structures that make it up: 613 South Washington Street.
Daemon decides to send a stigmatic (all of whom have Unseen Sense (God-Machine)) investigate, specifically one with Sense Auras.
Daemon runs through its resources. Jabberwoky (a.k.a. Elma Thomas) recently developed just the supernatural talent the demon needs.
He contacts his lieutenant. “I need you to go past 611 through 615 South Washington. Tell me what you see. Be careful and don’t talk to strangers.”
There are a number of possible outcomes for this, but the rules don’t cover this usage of a cult. I roll Intelligence + Cult merit to see how it turns out. Total dice pool 7, 1 success.
The demon then turns to his other obsessions: the code residing within Infinity’s PDA and a terrified fascination with the town of Bainbridge.
The program has resisted superficial analysis. To learn more he would need either to conduction potentially dangerous surgery or find someone or something that could dig deeper into its secrets. The latter sounds more rewarding.
Daemon opens a channel to Reactor. “I have a code that might give us an opening.”
“Not exactly sure but it is powerful supernatural software. I need help decoding it.”
“Decoding the code or decoding the magic?”
“Not exactly my area of expertise. I know a guy however who could. He’s pretty busy these days but I could see if he’d be willing to help.”
Then there is Bainbridge.
Research time! Intelligence + Academics: Total Dice Pool 4, 3 successes.
Named second best place to live in the United States, remote but close enough to commute to the city, and deep under the God-Machine’s thumb.
Originally a logging and shipbuilding town, it remained mostly rural until the 1990s when the technology boom increased the population by an order of magnitude.
That seems to be when things changed. A string of child abductions plagued the area throughout the 90s and early 2000s. No connection was ever made between the incidents and few children were found. Add in the high number of child deaths of a variety of common ailments and he could see why they saw so few kids during their visit. All of this tapered off several years ago before it might have attracted more attention.
A ring known as the Legion colonized the region a few decades ago but no one has heard from them since the turn of the century. The demons in Seattle feel that something is just wrong about the place. From his connections, Daemon knows of only one other demon who has visited Bainbridge recently.
That demon is the disturbing figure known as the Mutilationist.
Daemon determines how to get a hold of her. He’s heard the demon owes the Erasers, a small agency that does counter-surveillance and disappearances for demons under angelic attention. They charge steep prices but the Daemon has aided them in the past. A quick secure call later and he’s put in touch with the reclusive Temptor.
“Are you looking to peel back the skin?”
Daemon ignores the comment. “I want to talk about Bainbridge.”
“I know. It’s begun again. I can meet tomorrow. In person. At the Olympic Sculpture Park under the Eagle at 2 PM.”
That evening Jabberwoky reports back. “It was strange. I could see two apartment buildings back to back. But when I turn my head to one side, I could see this really old house in between them. The front porch was all torn up. Broken windows, no front door, and all of the siding torn off. Upstairs looked intact though. Old, gray but with unbroken windows. The yard was all withered and dead. It felt really creepy so I left in a hurry. I didn’t sense any sign of the enemy though.”
Jabberwoky knows enough about the God-Machine at this point to consider it hostile.
Daemon realizes that most of the day is gone. There are a series of messages on his phone from the rest of the ring.
That afternoon a furtive conversation unfolds.
“Prometheans don’t stay dead. Infinity may come back.”
“What if we like bury the pieces across the world. Like in the movies?”
“I think we should burn Infinity,” Nat adds. ”Inform every contact we have of what she tried to do. Inform them she doesn’t stay dead. Spread word she doesn’t honor the implicit compact of secrecy. If we can’t kill her, she’ll have no friends.”
“Can we box her up in parts? Can she regen limbs?” Hunter asks.
“Weaver, any thoughts?” Nat queries.
A short while later the inquisitor replies. “I need to find better information to be certain of specifics regarding the other things, but cutting her off from the community seems like a good start in case she ever does rise again. She certainly can’t be trusted. Based on what I’ve found so far, it seems like some part of her would have to exist to permit regeneration, somehow, but I don’t know enough yet to be able to say how that works. I will keep you posted as I learn more.”
Daemon decides to involve himself. “Don’t the Black Pyramid still have possession of her body? Has it started moving?”
“Accabish, can you reach out to them?” Nat asks.
“Put the regen part in a box too small to regen in,” Hunter suggests.
“We need to learn more about how it works before we act to try to combat it,” Daemon points out. “What if doing these things makes it easier for her to come back.”
“Burning her is an option if we are willing to burn our current covers as well,” he continues. “As far as we know she can’t become someone new.”
“Well we know we shouldn’t use electricity,” Nat comments.
Returning to the office that afternoon, Priscilla’s secretary tells her that Lillian Shaw called. The private investigator requested a meeting.
As Accabish mulls that over she glances at her phone and the growing chain of messages.
She puts in a quick call to Mr. King’s tattoo shop. “What is the status of Infinity’s body?”
“There’s been a development,” he says slowly. “Her body is rapidly mouldering away. I’m afraid we won’t be able to learn much from it. I’m preparing what remains for transport back to my superiors. Perhaps they can uncover some clues.”
“Thanks, keep me informed.”
Accabish texts the others. “The body itself has mouldered. That seem to be the reverse of regeneration. What makes us think she will reconstitute?”
“On my part, suspicion, hearsay and paranoia,” Nat admits.