We continue Chapter 1 of the first play by post story for the Unusual Suspects. The chapter ended up a lot longer than intended. Future chapters should be shorter now that I know when to cut things.
Seeds of Destruction, Chapter 1.5
Over the ring’s chat, Daemon asks, “Weaver, perhaps we can work together on the research? I can help speed things up in that regard.”
The other demon replies quickly. “I certainly won’t say no. Your assistance is more than welcome.”
The Weaver and Daemon do some combined Promethean research, Daemon uses Greater Than the Sum of Its Parts. Presence + Socialize, Total Dice Pool 4, 1 success.
Daemon can use his cult for a +3 bonus for knowledge rolls in general so we just roll for Daemon and the Weaver (with Weaver as the primary actor). So Daemon rolls Intelligence + Occult, Total Dice Pool 4, 1 success. Then Weaver rolls Intelligence + Occult + 3 for the cult + 4 for Daemon’s Interlock + 1 for Daemon’s roll, Total Dice Pool 13, 4 successes.
That evening Daemon assembles his cultists online and coordinates them with Weaver as they pursue their research on prometheans and their capabilities. From ancient Greek myths to cutting edge AI research, from anonymous YouTube videos to heavily redacted government records, the assembled team scours the internet and whatever library resources they have available.
A rough outline of facts emerges.
These creatures are rare. Most of the accounts document a one in a lifetime encounter with one or perhaps a small band of these beings. Somehow they can find each other though. It is rumored each is created by another of their kind or a single obsessed person. Corpses, statues, even robots have been brought to life in this way. However these creator-creation relationships always sour.
The stories are full of people turning against prometheans. Perfectly normal people turn into hostile mobs when these reanimated corpses are around. Jealousies, hatred, and fears boil to the surface. Meanwhile the region around the promethean becomes twisted, blighted and hostile to all life.
It seems these artificial forms of life are powered through processes best described as alchemical, using a force known as Azoth.
In terms of their abilities, promethean seem uniquely hard to kill, able to withstand incredible damage and even returning from the dead. One record describes such a monster being reduced to ashes only to being reborn from them the next day. Prometheans appear to be able to reconstitute themselves from the smallest fragment of remains.
Through alchemical processes, they can control electricity, manipulate emotions, and transform their bodies. Some have inhuman levels of strength and speed.
Most prometheans talk about seeking to become human, claiming their unnatural and unloved condition as a curse. They sometimes say angels guide them along this pilgrimage. The strange beings they describe do not fit with the God-Machine or its tools.
The names of only a few of these creatures have been recorded. Besides the legendary Frankenstein, they learn of a walking disaster area named Varney, the sinister sounding Doctor, and John Smith, a Promethean who supposedly dedicates himself to eradicating dangerous supernatural creatures.
July 2, 2017 8 PM
Atticus’s phone rings. The Naturalist ducks into a nook in its apartment before answering.
Cymbeline’s breathing is fast and loud on the other end. “I think, I think Karen is dead! I don’t know. There were these stickers on the desk and I rubbed them off and then…I don’t know…I touched Karen and she fell on the floor shaking. She’s, she’s not moving….what do I do!?”
The demon rolls Wits + Empathy, Total Dice Pool 5. 6 successes!
The demon hears the fear in her voice as well as intense guilt. What could she have done? She’s just human. Then the Naturalist recalls her stigmatic capabilities. Did she use an Embed?
Nat gains the Condition: Insight: it has a clear idea of Cymbeline’s mental state. Resolve this condition (and earn a beat) when the demon uses this knowledge to help or hinder her. Upgrade the results of a social skill roll by one step (failure to success, success to exceptional success).
We then moved the game from email to a chat.
The Naturalist crouches down in the kitchen, out of sight of the windows. “Okay. I know you are scared, and that is fine. But take a deep breath. What did these stickers look like?”
“But K-. Okay Okay.” A couple quick breaths comes across the phone. “They were, I don’t know, stars. Blue ones. Should I call 911? Karen needs help.”
I rolled Manipulation + Empathy for Nat to calm Cymbeline down but failed.
“We need to determine this is something the police can help with first. Otherwise it could cause her more problems. Where are you?”
The demon manifests two demonic form abilities. It costs 2 Aether and I skip the roll.
Nat’s eyes turn cloudy and a tracery of blue light covers Atticus’s skin. The demon watches Cymbeline remotely as she cradles her phone while crouched over her friend. Karen doesn’t appear to be breathing. Next to her four desks huddle next to each other like a makeshift table. A half dozen books lie scattered across it.
“I’m, I’m at school,” she says. “On the second floor. In Ms. Peach’s classroom.”
“OK. What makes you think this is your fault? What specifically happened?” The demon pours more power through its fragile cover. Wisps of fiber optics dot Atticus’s otherwise bald head.
He manifests Sense the Angelic and spends another Aether.
“I-I don’t know!” She takes another breath. “We were just starting to study. There were these stickers on the desk. I scratched them off and- and then I felt sick. Like I was going to barf and fall over at the same time. I grabbed Karen and-and-and I-it was like I gave it to her. I don’t know. She collapsed and started shaking. But she’s stopped. Oh-oh, Karen don’t be dead.”
The demon’s milky eyes watch her stroke Karen’s head.
“OK. We call the police and we tell them everything except that you ‘passed’ it to her. I can’t promise you everything is going to be okay. I can tell you that whomever put those stickers there is at fault.” He pauses. “I’ll be by your side soon. I’m coming.”
“Okay, okay. Thanks Dad.”
After some discussion we decide that the easiest solution is to contact the administration, inform them of the situation, and pull some strings by cashing in the I Know Someone condition for that juicy +3 bonus. Nat rolls Manipulation + Persuasion.The Total Dice Pool is 8 and he gets 4 successes.
The Naturalist of course knows the phone numbers of all of its children’s school officials. A moment later Principal Jenkins picks up. Some quick words and dropped names later and the very advancement conscious administrator is on his way to help.
A minute later, so are the police and paramedics.
Nat texts Cymbeline that Jenkins is on their way. Than the demon closes its eyes, scans a location near the school and vanishes.
The Naturalist’s eyes adjust as it leaves the well-lit house and appears in the grassy nook between the science labs and the gym. The glow of street lights shines over the school from the street. Orienting itself, the demon realizes Peach’s classroom is on the opposite side of the wing next to it.
Nat spends a minute focusing on composing itself as Atticus. The unnatural enhancements of its demonic form fade and he strides into the school with purpose.
He sees the strobe of the ambulance’s red lights from the hallway window as he reaches Mrs. Peach’s classroom. Jenkins is already inside, doing a passable job of consoling Cymbeline.
Cymbeline throws herself into his arms when she sees him, shaking and sobbing.
Atticus holds her tight. He presses his head into the her hair, and he whispers. “It’s okay. You did the right thing. You took the right steps.”
As he holds her, the EMTs arrive. Though they try for ten minutes, Karen does not revive.
By that point the police also have arrived. The principal does a good job of reducing the focus and strain on Cymbeline. She holds up well, giving a statement minus the supernatural element.
Along the way the demon retrieves the mental recording it placed on Cymbeline that morning. It confirms what she told it on the phone. She scraped off some of the stickers and began to suffer from some sort of poisoning or overdose. Then she grabbed Karen and the effect transferred the effect to her.
Using the Living Recorder Embed. Cymbeline has the Shift Consequences Embed.
The police take a sample of the stickers, jot down Cymbeline’s description of the events and conclude by asking her to come down to the station tomorrow to give a formal statement.
Atticus calls a cab. He asks Cymbeline to wait in the hall a moment. He then quietly suggests that Jenkins have the stickers tested independently, suggesting Adamant Technologies as good place to try.
Jenkins nods, still numb from his call to Karen’s parents.
Nat is quiet for a moment. “Let me know if you need help. I need to take care of my daughter. I’m sorry for your loss principal.”
Later once they are home, Nat leads Cymbeline to her room and guides her to her bed. The teen, distraught and drained, slips quickly to sleep.
One Manipulation + Empathy roll later (3 successes) and he gets her to sleep without complications.
The Naturalist texts the ring at 9 PM. “We have a problem. Someone has created stickers that make people sick. Cymbeline peeled one up today, and she almost died. Her friend Karen did expire, and it was almost instantaneous. It was recommended to the principal that he send a sample to Weaver’s lab. Also he’ll help keep things quiet. We may need someone else within the police to keep an eye on things.”
A few minutes later the demon adds, “Also… John reported to Jenny that there are temporary tattoos going around that parents are worried are dangerous. This has suspicious similarities to the t shirt incident we resolved. “
Work takes up most of the rest of Hunter’s day. That evening as the demon puzzles over the case, the Naturalist’s texts arrive.
“i can keep my ears open,” he writes back.
Hunter rolls Intelligence + Socialize +2 for Eidetic Memory to have retroactively kept up on the police chit-chat about drugs in the city. Total Dice Pool 3, failure.
The demon thinks back. Drugs are always an issue in a big city. His bosses did instruct them to keep an eye out around the schools several times. He hadn’t asked follow-up questions though. No signs of gang involvement.
We belatedly fill in Accabish’s third Aspiration as “getting eyes on Mercy”.
Accabish reviews the photos and evidence from Mercedes’s appearance at the school. She squints at the blurry photos looking for clues that might give her an idea of where the fugitive might be now.
Unfortunately all she can make out is a dark-haired woman in a leather jacket and dark slacks wielding a sawed off shotgun and carrying a leather satchel. After she reaches the crowd Mercedes melts away, vanishing from the surveillance footage.
According to Hunter, the shotgun is a modified Remington Model 870. The police are still running the serial numbers. If it turns out to be from this world perhaps that will yield some clues.
I treat “getting eyes on her” as an extended Investigation roll, with each interval taking 2 days. Accabish rolls Wits + Investigation + 3 bonus for the Backtrace Interlock +1 further for Police contacts. Total Dice Pool 8 (with 9 agains due to her Professional Training) opposed by Mercedes ability to avoid detection (7 dice plus 2 for an Embed). The demon gets three successes. The target gets one.
Over the next couple days, Accabish canvasses the neighborhood, questions her contacts in the police and scrutinizes the evidence.
The modifications on Mercedes’s shotgun appear crude and hasty. So it probably isn’t something she brought over from the other side. When the serial numbers come back it might unlock part of her path.
No cars appear to have arrived or left after the incident so the woman must have been on foot. Accabish maps out the likely public transit paths and calls in some favors to look at the security cameras. She finds a hit at the very end of a bus line. She was at the Northgate Mall. And she wasn’t alone.
The pictures show her talking to a young black man in a hoodie and fancy glasses.
Accabish doesn’t know who he is. But she plans to.
July 3rd, 2012 10 AM
The Naturalist sits next to Cymbeline in Atticus’s car, a beat up Civic. Outside police officers, concerned citizens, and less desirable denizens of the criminal justice system make their way in and out of the precinct.
The teenager looks at the demon with damp eyes. “What if they ask about how Karen died?”
The major hurdle here is that Cymbeline is a terrible liar and scared to boot.
As the demon considers its next words, its phone vibrates. Dorian’s phone. Caller ID says the number belongs to One of a Kind Investigations.
Then Jenny’s phone vibrates with a text.
The Naturalist takes a deep breath. It reminds itself that “your current life is the face you wear”, and it allows the concern it feels to show through. It’s weird how over time when you practice self-control you have to remember to show your hand.
“If you can get away with holding back, then hold back,” it tells her. “But if they pressure you, tell them the truth. Remember the words ‘I know it sounds crazy.’” The Naturalist is quiet. “I love you. I am horrified you have to deal with this.”
The Naturalist rolls to do a pep talk. Presence + Persuasion, Total Dice Pool 4, 2 successes. Using Insight makes that an Exceptional Success. The demon earns a Beat and I decide adding a Condition to Cymbeline is the right call. She gains Steadfast for the confidence boost.
Cymbeline’s fragile smile gives way to something firmer. “I love you too, Dad.”
She gives Atticus a hug and heads to the precinct to give her statement. The demon watches as she heads up the steps past a trio of black birds fighting over a piece of newspaper.
The Naturalist looks at Dorian’s phone. The call has gone to voicemail. Jenny’s phone shows a text from John.
“Hey are you okay? I just got a call from a private investigator. He said a stalker following one of their clients might be interested in you too. They want to get a hold of you so I gave you their number. Let me know when you get this.”
The demon listens to the voicemail next. It strains to hear as a couple argues loudly from two parking spots over and the birds caw at each other.
“Hi, this is Robert Mill of One of a Kind Investigations. There’s a woman we are investigating for another client who you might have encountered at Moe’s. I’d like to ask you some questions about her. Could you give me a call back? I’d like to meet you to discuss it. My number is 555-4352. Thanks.”
12 sessions in I’m naming the Naturalist’s bar. Moe’s.
Finally we roll for how Cymbeline did. Manipulation + Subterfuge, Total Dice Pool 3, failure. She spends Steadfast to succeed.
The Naturalist frowns. Part of it, the former angel, wants to wipe every trace of Infinity from existence for this infraction. Death, simply, wasn’t far enough. The more reasonable side of it just wants this resolved.
First, The Naturalist texts John. “In a webinar, will call you when I’m done.” The Naturalist, easily distracted, eavesdrops on the couple’s conversation. It is strange to be arguing so vehemently outside a police station.
It watches them as it sorts out the next move. If the investigator knows what it is, then the meeting with Dorian will be a trap. If he doesn’t, then the meeting is an opportunity to fix this situation.
Nat texts the ring. “This is going to be a pain. A man named Robert Mill is pursuing both Jenny and Dorian. Dorian is a problem easier resolved. I tried to keep Jenny out of this, but Infinity has really made that hard. Dorian is meeting him in a public place. Anyone have more info about him?”
Then as Dorian, the demon texts Mill to schedule a time to meet him at Moe’s.
Daemon gets back to the Naturalist quickly with a short dossier.
“He was looking into Weaver a week ago,” he explains.
The Naturalist splits its attention between the files and the couple.
“I thought you were done with that shit!” she yells at him.
“I just needed something-”
“You need rehab,” she says. “I’m not bailing you out again.”
The demon’s eyes scrolls over the document. The information confirms what the demon suspected.
Robert Mill, age 33, employee of One of a Kind Investigations for the past 7 years. Mill originally joined the company as an IT specialist. He acquired his detective licence in 2006. Most of his work was unremarkable. Then last year he was treated for animal bites. Deep ones. A few months later he was arrested after discharging his gun in a threatening manner outside a nightclub. Someone squashed the charges.
A second file includes a summary of One of a Kind Investigations. They have an ex-Seal sniper named Vittorio Vitacelli on staff. The firm’s founder, Frank Brooks, went missing for three weeks and returned with severe memory loss. Shortly after Frank’s release from Hillcrest Mental Health Center, he reported shooting an intruder. No body was found. The company’s current owner is Lillian Shaw, a former cop turned private detective who became famous after rescuing a millionaire’s son.
Daemon’s assumption is that they are a group of monster hunters.
Outside the couple reconcile, stumbling back to whatever place they call home. A black bird lands on the dashboard and caws at the Naturalist. Its eyes blink like camera shutters and it flutters onto the concrete below.
A text appears on Dorian’s phone. Mill has agreed to the meeting.
Then Jenny’s phone rings. It’s Mill again.
Atticus exits the car. He gets close enough to get a good look at the couple, but doesn’t let his gaze linger for too long.
The demon takes a good long look around.
That Promethean is a real bitch. Hunters. It is not just Jenny Nat has to worry about, but the kids. The demon needs to get Jenny some space. It needs to build a larger network.
Nat relaxes fractionally once it is sure none of the hunters are around. The Naturalist slips a wallet from its magical leather bag and calmly jogs toward the couple.
As the demon approaches, it uses Heart’s Desire on each of them. I let it just work.
The woman seeks to have some stability in life. Her virtue is Supportive and vice is Acceptance.
The man wants to stop the pain. His virtue is Cheerful and vice is Impulsive.
Nat slows. Its eyes focus on each of them a moment. The woman just wants some stability, it knows. She wants to help but might just accept a bad situation. The man probably is using drugs to deal with his pain. He doesn’t think things through often but keeps a cheerful disposition.
Atticus speaks confidently. “Excuse me sir, I think you dropped this.”
“I did?” He asks, patting his pockets. “No, I still have mine.”
A black van passes by as the woman says, “I suppose you could turn it in at the station.”
The Naturalist tips his head to the side, and looks at the man with the recognition. “Oh… well… I’ll go do that. I have to head back that way anyway.” He looks down as he puts the wallet away, and then he looks back up. “Have we met somewhere before…?”
“I’m Atticus,” the demon says extending his hand.
The man tries to place Atticus before shaking his hand. “I don’t think so.”
After a bit of OOC chat, I learn he is planning on spying on this couple later, perhaps to create a cult.
“I’m Jim,” the man adds.
“Carol,” the woman interjects.
Nat shakes Jim’s hand, and then Carol’s. “A pleasure. My apologies to both of you. I thought we may have met at a…meeting.”
And tags them with living recorder.
Carol elbows Jim with a smile. “I thought you didn’t go to those.”
“I went to the first couple.”
Atticus smiles lightly, and he feigns embarrassment. “I have missed a few recently myself. Things have been better recently, but I suppose we never know when it won’t.” He looks over his shoulder. “I do have to go. My daughter will be out shortly, but…” He looks at Jim a long moment. “Do you want the card of a group I’m familiar with?”
I award a Beat here for pursuing his Koan. Expanding his social circle is definitely creating a larger life.
Atticus hands them the card and pitches his special recovery group.
The Naturalist rolls Presence + Socialize + 1 for his small talk speciality +2 for working towards their Aspirations, Total Dice Pool 7, 3 successes.
Carol says she’ll drive Jim over at the next meeting. The man just smiles and nods. The black van drives past again going the other way.
That morning Daemon considers its next steps. One of a Kind Investigation appears be a thorn in the ring’s side. He decides to learn what he can about them.
He hacks into their systems and rolls Intelligence + Computers +1 for the pact with Reactor, Total Dice Pool 7, 2 success.
Daemon digs into the computers of One of a Kind Investigations. He finds six people on the payroll. For the past year they’ve been working a large number of mundane cases, searching for a few missing people but mostly watching cheating spouses and locating absconding debtors.
Daemon looks closer. Their computers are all new, purchased in the past year and scrubbed as recently as last month. Did some other hacker mess with them in the past?
Trawling their emails he sees references to some sort of stand alone system for their sensitive files. Gaining access he realizes will require a more hands on approach.
He also locates a list of external experts the firm uses. Two in particular work closely with the team: Dr. Sorenson and Dr. Ilyes.
Daemon quickly spots the spelling discrepancy between Sorensen, the “retired” hunter, and Dr. Sorenson, a psychiatrist working at the Hillcrest Mental Health Center. The demon recalls there used to be an important piece of Infrastructure beneath the old asylum.
Dr. Ilyes was the scientist consulting with Weaver’s cover. Apparently he is a CSI whose hobbies include studies of cryptoparasites. His website is rather fascinating.
On an older computer that one of the investigators, Vito, keeps at his home, the demon finds a series of old files. From time stamps and the internal dates, Daemon guesses this was transferred from Robert Mill’s system in February of last year.
Scanning through them he realizes they are diary entries made by Mill after and during the various supernatural investigations the firm did. He discovers the team visited the creepy house Jabberwoky saw and were perhaps responsible for some of the damage. That house might be the epicenter of the Memnovore activity in the city.
These hunter appear to have eliminated the supposedly dead Ambrose Grant, the currently incarcerated Jarette Costa, something named Community, and an Isabel Westergard (perhaps the daughter of the old owner of the house) in the course of their investigations.
They also were in contact with Infinity.
She wanted the doll they found at the house. They seem to think it was a powerful magic item. Infinity also apparently obtained tapes from the team that contained something important.
Finally Mill references a ‘key’ to some sort of ‘door’. This seems intimately tied to Mill, the doll, and that house in some way.
Hunter sits in his patrol car sipping some coffee. A half eaten sandwich lies in the next seat as he scans the nearby school yard.
Another shudder runs through Hunter’s other cover. Somewhere someone learned some weird fact about Joseph.
Hunter rolls compromise for Joseph. Wits + Manipulation -2, Total Dice Pool 2, 2 successes. We create a new condition for him:
Missing: you’ve disappeared and people are looking for you. Take a -2 penalty when trying to avoid unwanted questions about where you’ve been. Resolved when you return to your old life. This would only apply to being Joseph.
I also let him know that this is probably the last compromise roll until he uses that cover again. Though the cover will continue to degrade over time due to lack of use.
Just then his attention is taken up by a girl moving slowly along the fence separating the street from the school. Her carefully braided hair and soft features exactly match Peace Montaro, one of the missing kids. The 12 year old’s brown skin shines in the summer light.
Hunter exits his patrol car and walks calmly toward the child. Behind the chain link fence the school yard is empty, the other kids gone for the summer. A car drives past a distant intersection but otherwise the Hunter and the child are alone.
As the demon steps in front of the girl, her distant gaze snaps to him.
“Excuse me young lady, is your name Peace Montaro?” he asks, smiling.
“Yes,” she says, returning his smile. He eyes focus on his badge. “I need your help. I must get to Stone Way and 38th.”
This is a couple of miles away, nearer to the center of the city.
Hunter rolls Wits + Empathy, Total Dice Pool 4, 1 success.
The oddly focused eyes and strange calm remind Hunter of his past. She might be drugged but the last time he saw faces like hers was with child soldiers in Africa.
“Young lady, where have you been?” he says keeping his concern to himself. “Your parents have been very worried about you.”
“I’ve been,” she says before her voice breaks up in static. “Away.”
“I see. Can you tell me what you need to go to Stone Way and 38th for?”
Her eyes flash blue. “I need to find Ms. Storm.”
Hunter reflexively Spoofs as she scans for demons. He rolls Cover. Total Dice Pool 7 dice, 2 successes.
Ms. Storm is a member of the Agency known as the Wallbreakers.
“Ah and who is Ms. Storm?” he asks.
“She’s,” she pauses. “A bad lady. Which way is 38th and Stone Way?”
“I’ll take you in a minute, but only if you can tell me why you need to see Ms. Storm if she is a bad lady.”
The girl breaks out into a grin. “She needs to be punished.”
“She does, does she? What has she done wrong?”
“She didn’t do her job.”
“And what was her job?”
“She-,” the girls starts, emitting another burst of static, “-failed to disband the Cult of Eight Feet.”
“Well, if anyone is going to do the punishing, don’t you think it should be the police?”
Peace turns to the south-west. “I need to be going now. I know the way.”
As she starts walking away, Hunter grabs her hand. “I’m sorry young lady, we have to take you home.”
She stops looks back at her hand for a moment. Then she yanks. Hard.
Hunter barely keeps his balance. “Come now, young lady, it’s time to go home.”
Peace Montaro rolls 7 dice vs. Hunter’s Strength + Stamina. He wins. Barely.
As he tries to pull her to the car, her face scrunches up. “I need to go!”
Before he can react, her hand and arm shift and transform. A row of blades embedded in flesh emerge from her slender arm as it changes into a nightmarish biomechanical chainsaw.
Hunter fails a reflexive Wits + Composure roll and takes a point of lethal damage.
Hunter snatches back his bloody hand, pouring aether through his cover. Hydraulics bulge from inside his uniform and a red glow traces along his body. He steps back and pulls his cell phone.
Hunter makes a partial transformation, spending an Aether and rolling Wits + Manipulation +1 for his cover -1 for the “angel” + 6 for unused demonic form abilities. The total dice pool is 11 and he gets 2 successes. He takes the shaken condition.
He sends a message to Ms. Storm. “Your cover is blown. I am doing what I can to control the situation.”
Peace begins to stride away confidently. Then she stops and turns, her eyes glowing red. “Mustn’t leave witnesses.”
“Ditch the 38th and Stone Way site,” he adds as the child approaches him.
We roll initiative and Hunter wins easily.
He tosses aside the phone and rushes her. He grabs the blade limb. With his greater mass and increased strength the demon pins the blade to the ground. Grit and debris is kicked up as the blades cut uselessly into the asphalt street.
I try him to use Shaken instead for a Beat. No dice. Apparently being hit by 4 Lethal weapon is scary or something…
Instead he rolls Strength + Brawl – Defense of 4, Total dice Pool 5 dice, a success. This is followed by a Strength + Brawl roll vs. 6 dice. He has 9 dice and beats the girl.
“Peace, please get a hold of yourself,” he tells the child.
He rolls Manipulation + Empathy (3 dice) vs. 3 dice. He fails and she gets an exceptional success. I inflict the Guilty condition.
The demon hopes to snap her out of it. Instead he sees no humanity left in her snarling face, her childish features now just a mask for the machinery beneath. He tries to smash her head into the street but she slips under his grasp and wrests her arm free.
They again roll Strength + Brawl vs. 6 dice. This time she gets lucky and wins.
Hunter quickly takes stock. Even with her impressive strength, the demon is stronger and faster. She’s better armed for now. She might have some tricks up her sleeve but in raw ability the advantage is his.
He decides his duty is to end her ‘suffering’. He lets his cover slip away, dark skin replaced with gold fur. As his claws emerge, she manages to slip away, desperately putting distance between them.
Hunter makes a full transformation. He rolls for compromise: Wits + Manipulation +1 for cover -1 for Angelic rank, Total Dice Pool 5, 2 successes. He regains 4 Aether.
Unfortunately he fails the opposed Strength + Brawl roll for the grapple. She chooses to escape so she can use her chainsaw arm.
Hunter charges, his claws scoring her small frame. She staggers, blood and circuitry oozing from her wounds before toppling over dead.
He rolls Strength + Brawl – 4 Defense, Total Dice Pool 5. He gets a success and deals 3 Lethal.
She uses her Play Possum numina and succeeds. It means for the next hour she’s dead and nothing can destroy her.
“That was…faster than I expected,” he mutters as he approaches the body.
He detects no pulse or other signs of life. A few sparks fly from the exposed wires.
Hunter rolls Wits + Investigation, Total Dice Pool 4 and gets 2 successes.
The tread on her shoes appears fresh and unworn. She hasn’t walked far. Her red backpack holds some lunch and a stuffed bear. The thermos inside is warm. He guesses she’s been wandering around the neighborhood a few hours after being dropped off by someone or something.
The demon retrieves his phone and taps out a message to the ring. “Missing children being turned into demon hunters. Warn others.”
Hunter retrieves a bodybag and stuffs the remains in the truck before resuming his human form.
He texts Weaver. “I killed an angel. I have secured the body. Do you want to take a look?”
“Of course I would like to see it,” the other demon replies, quietly grateful Hunter did not just dump it in the bolthole.
After a late night of research, the Weaver finds the routine of work reassuring. Since they completed the big contract, Mike has been offering the firm’s chemical expertise to a variety of different companies and individuals.
Around 10 AM, Mike swings by its end of the lab. “I’ve got a quickie analysis project. Jean can you take care of it?”
“Hey, what about me?” Scott calls from the hall. “I can get it done.”
“It just a simple chemical analysis, Scott. No offense, Jean’s the fastest chemist on staff and I’d rather not spend a lot of time on a knock off drug for high schoolers.”
“It seems unnatural how fast she gets those tests done,” Scott snarls.
Mike stares down the hallway for a moment. A door closes a moment later, probably Scott’s.
“Anyway, can you look at this?” Mike says.
“Why certainly, I’ll get right on it,” Jeanette assures her boss.
Weaver rolls an Intelligence + Science (Chemistry) and then. Intelligence + Occult roll as well. The first dice pool is 9 dice and gets 2 successes. The second one is 6 dice and yields 1 success.
The Weaver analyzes the drug once the mortal distractions are away, working with mortal skills and equipment. At its base the compounds resemble LSD and presumably would yield similar hallucinogenic experiences. But the demon discovers a lot of more complex chemistry involved. Suspiciously complex chemistry. Perhaps sufficiently complex.
The demon switches tactics and begins to analyze this as if it were the product of infrastructure. Cross referencing the compounds with the still incomplete research that Daemon liberated from Keystone Pharmaceuticals, the Weaver can see similar but much more advanced lines of chemically induced psychic activity.
Too advanced for even Keystone, this drug seems likely to create an intense connection to another person, tied to the trace amounts of their blood in the drug. Weaver isolates the blood for later work.
The demon also locates trace amounts of contaminants, likely from the manufacturing site. Contaminants that are all too recognizable. The same toxins and chemicals that it worked with before it fell.
The Weaver runs over where those chemical traces could have come from. The original producer shut down due to legal troubles. They lost their lease and the original dye machine was sold off or moved.
But ‘Jerry’ was selling knock offs not long ago, T-shirts that had to be made with same device. Finding Jerry should lead the demon to the Infrastructure behind this mess.
After analyzing the compounds and setting the compounds aside for future analysis, the demon reports to the client the relevant factors that a normal chemist would have been able to pick.
As the demon heads back to the car, it realizes Cymbeline should be back by now. Nat glances back at the van. The dark windows hide the driver but the demon notes the license plate number in case. Then it continues toward the precinct.
The Naturalist makes its way inside but still doesn’t see its daughter.
An officer moving a box full of forms brushes past Nat.
“Are looking for something?” She asks.
Atticus looks around a moment, and then eyes the officer. “My daughter. She came to give a statement. Her name is Cymbeline. She should be done by now.”
The demon looks at its phone and then the officer. “Could you please see if Cymbeline Hand signed out?”
“Sure, just wait here. Won’t be a moment.”
A minute later she returns frowning and scanning the room. “She didn’t sign out. We have officers looking for her.”
“Thank you. Excuse me, I need to use the restroom.”
The demon goes into the restroom and locks itself in a stall.
Nat spends an Aether and rolls Wits + Manipulation -2 (for Atticus’s weak cover) +7 unused form abilities. Total Dice Pool 11, 2 successes. I decide at this point to stop giving conditions for successful rolls. I noticed Mage 2nd Edition does not give you a condition if you succeed a Wisdom roll.
The demon pours aether through its cover and Atticus’s eyes cloud over.
The Naturalist’s vision fills with a soft snow, the color of a winter sky. In between the tumbling chunks of gray, the demon makes out the interior of a van or ambulance. Pushing through the jamming field, Nat recognizes Cymbeline on a stretcher.
A sandy-haired man in damp sweat pants pulls a needle from her arm. “Injection complete.”
His companion on the other side of him looks at a beeping device. He absently scratches the back of his head where a white liquid feeds in via a plastic tube. “Interference. 93% probability from a defective servitor. It is scanning us.”
The first man draws a thin knife from the medical kit beside him. “Incoming?”
The demon uses Heart’s Desire.
Nat rolls Wits + Empathy – Composure. I add +3 since there are three more targets and they all have the same desires. Total Dice Pool 6, failure.
The demon scrutinizes its targets, scanning the interior and spotting two more men up front. Nat encounters an odd resistance. The static obscuring its vision hides these men’s desires from it. It encounters the same bland emptiness.
“Not yet,” the first man says.
The Naturalist decides to act. It sheds its cover as Atticus taking on the form of the glorious angel it once was.
Next a compromise roll. Wits + Manipulation -2 for Atticus. Total dice pool 4, 2 successes. It gains 5 Aether.
The demon uses Sense the Angelic. It rolls Wits + Investigation, Total Dice Pool 5, 2 successes.
Its senses extended the demon perceives the coils of angelic power around the van. An unusual numina has been used to ward the space from extradimensional intrusion. Teleporting in will be difficult.
The men each have been affected supernaturally to make them pliable and obedient. It seems to be concentrated in the liquid feeding through the tubes in their heads.
Next up is some Mind Reading. The demon rolls Wits + Persuasion + Primum vs. Resolve + Primum. 10 dice verses 2. It gets 2 successes to the target’s 0.
Their minds are icily calm. They must deliver the target to the pier for transport. They don’t know where she is going. Under the flat thoughts the demon detects a current of euphoria.
The Naturalist manipulates its burner phone in its inhuman hands. It messages Daemon. “Agents of the machine have kidnapped Cymbeline. I need to act before they get her to port. Can you provide support? Need to shut down their vehicle.”
In his dorm room at the University, Daemon snatches up his phone. “What are they driving? Are you nearby?” he texts.
“Some kind of large black van. I’m in the bathroom of the police precinct. Their cameras should have picked it up. Thinking of doing something stupid but not sure how else to stop them.”
Daemon logs out of World of Warcraft. “I can stop the van but I would need to be touching it. It is possible I can track it on a camera and reach it through the network then teleport onto it. But I would be totally exposed.”
Daemon considers their options. “That’s a stretch though. Do you know where it’s headed? I am more likely to get the boat locked down in red tape by the port authority.”
“Too dangerous,” Nat replies, his panic subsiding. “They know about us. Can you make the police realize they took her? Maybe I can try to cut them off at the port.”
“You can always call the cops if you want them involved,” Daemon tells the other demon. “Is that what you’re looking for though? That’s a lot of heat and attention.”
“I’m in the station now. They kidnapped her right from here. They injected her with something, and they are driving. The vehicle and the people are under the influence of an angel, blocking my powers including teleportation. Not sure if there is a way of helping her.”
Daemon queues up some command line windows. “Do you have a plate number? We could track it and get ahead of it. Is the angel in play?”
“212 AMW. Not that I can sense.”
Daemon quickly uses an old backdoor into the DMV. The plates are registered to a bakery called Angel Cakes on the north end of the city.
Then he switches tactics. His fingers sizzle along the keyboard. Daemon quickly accesses the city’s traffic system, hurriedly adapting a pattern matching algorithm to handle the images. He spots the van a few blocks from the waterfront in the Industrial District. Traffic is moderate with the influx of the lunchtime crowd.
Daemon rolls Intelligence + Computers +1 for the pact -4 for difficulty +3 for willpower. He succeeds.
Daemon texts the Naturalist. “The van is at 1st and Wall Street. I’m working on slowing it down. Do you have any other assets available for recovery?”
“I haven’t texted the others. I do not.”
Daemon accesses another part of the traffic system. A few lights malfunction leading to accidents and near misses. Traffic snarls, pinning the van in gridlock two blocks from the water’s edge.
“The van is locked in gridlock at Wall Street and Western Avenue. I can keep an eye on it remotely. Can you take it from here?”
The Naturalist focuses on its vision.
Inside the van, the Naturalist watches the men talk.
“Should we move on foot or risk waiting?”
One of the men upfront lifts up a strange device made of crystal and wire. He tunes it and touches it to his temple.
“We are to abort,” he announces. “Inject her with the catalyst. Then everyone proceed with Directive 5.”
The demon pulls an alien looking gun from his bag. Then he vanishes.
Nat spends an Aether and rolls Resolve + Primum + Willpower vs. the angel’s power of 9. The demon get 8 success vs the angel’s 4.
The Naturalist materializes within the van, the weapon pointed at the man crouched over Cymbeline.
We roll initiative and the mooks go first.
The man ignores the demon and inserts the needle mere seconds before a bolt of blue tears a chunk of his shoulder off. The other men draw thin knives.
Nat rolls Dexterity + Firearms and gets one success. The mook takes 1 Aggravated.
As the man struggles to complete the injection the Naturalist fires again. This blast craters his chest. He collapses on against the side door.
Nat gets 3 successes this time and I’m not going to give these guys a full health track.
The other men glance at the half empty syringe and nod. They place the knives at their hearts and press down
The Naturalist looks over the gathering of corpses around it.
Daemon watches the traffic cams.
The van rocks for a moment. A flash of blue lights the interior for a moment though the tinted windows makes it hard to see anything. There is a second flash.
“Something is going down inside the van,” he texts the Naturalist.
“Daemon please free up traffic. I’m bringing the van to a place to dump,” the demon replies.
“I’ll do what I can about the traffic.”
As traffic slowly eases, Nat sends off a few quick messages. He thanks Daemon and then asks, “Could you please see if Hunter is available to meet me with a vehicle? Also if Weaver could meet me in the hideout?”
- Base: 1
- Aspirations (completed or progress made, some of the scenes involving these I’ve moved to the next chapter): Weaver 1, Accabish 3, Daemon 2, Hunter 1 (for progress toward killing an angel), Naturalist 2
- Koan: Accabish 1 (for research), Daemon 1 (for reaching out to Reactor), Hunter 1 (for finally attacking a target I give him), Naturalist 1 (for connection building)
- Conditions Resolved: Weaver 0, Accabish 0, Daemon 1 (I Know Someone: for delegating things), Hunter 0, Naturalist 1 (Insight)
- Roleplaying (mostly dependent on level of interaction): Weaver 2, Accabish 1, Daemon 1, Hunter 2, Naturalist 2
- So the totals are: Weaver: 4 Beats, Accabish: 1 Experience + 1 Beat, Daemon: 1 Experience + 1 Beat, Hunter: 1 Experience, Naturalist: 1 Experience + 2 Beats
As for Cover Beats I decide to hand them out specific to the covers. Weaver gets 1 Beat each for Jeanette and Sam, Accabish gets 1 Beat, Daemon gets 1 Beat for Nick Mathers, Hunter gets 1 Beat for David, the Naturalist gets 1 Beat each for Dorian, Jenny, and Atticus as the demon keeps the juggling act up.