Light stretched out from the Hewstones’ front door and across the thick snow on their front lawn, and shone on their son, Dan. Their son had returned out of the night’s darkness after his long absence. It had been over a year since they had seen Dan. He had left Chicago suddenly, leaving without warning from his home, his job, his life in Chicago. His parents’ eyes filled with tears at the joy of seeing him again. Their words faded, choked away by the emotion of the moment, and all three stood smiling together, to the muffled sound of snow continuing to fall
The magical moment was possibly ruined when Cliff asked “So, can we come in too?” reminding the Hewstone’s of Dan’s four very white friends, somewhat goofy looking in their thick padded jackets, gloves, and warm hats. The Chicago Campus, after an extensive and testing exile, had returned home.
Once inside the Hewstones’ we quickly set onto the Chinese takeout we had brought, and had a chance to reflect on the last 24 hours. It all started with an Old Man bearing gifts.
Gunther Hagen, Octogenarian Sorcerer, had made an offer to us, he could get us into Chicago, we were to stop whatever evil had hollowed out his son, and return Chicago to stability. This suited us, we wanted back in past the mystic barrier surrounding Chicago. We needed to be sure that the Nexii were going to be balanced, and whatever evil had flourished in its isolation was broken. Hagen handed us a set of silver coins, along with a place and time that the coins would allow us to pass unharmed through the barrier, but surprisingly he also handed over an item of power. A silver hammer, light enough for combat. I supposed he was joking when he called it the “Silver Hammer of Maxwell”, but I would have to do some research to be sure.
Still, turns out our entry was no surprise. We rendezvoused at the appropriate entry point half an hour before entry, and a Judge with a tropical tan and a sturdy winter coat pulled up in a Lincoln. Looking jovial yet disapproving at the same time, the way only a Judge can manage to do, he called Paul aside and had what looked like a quick, firm word. Once the Judge left, Paul re-joined us, and did not mention what the conversation was about.
If our entry point was not a secret from the Judge, our exit point on the other side was also not a secret either. We were travelling down a quiet back route surrounded by wide open fields when we barely stopped before plunging into a deep pit dug across the road. As soon as we had screeched to a halt, our clumped up convoy was surrounded by five looming humanoid monsters. It took some spells, and a lot of bullets to break up the attack. But we won before any of us were hospitalized. The attackers were Tulpae, a monster most often found in New Mexico or Arizona. Researching trinkets found on the bodies later revealed that the Tulpae had been summoned north by local Olympian Archmage Liam Heaney, a man with a proven uncanny ability to raise large threatening bands of monsters. And if he can do it twice, he can do it again.
We could only hope that we can find a base of operations that was low key enough to be safe from hostile intentions. In that we have had some luck. While hunting for a place to both lay low and fortify up, we came back to an old site – the Vitae Labs ruins in Highland Park. I had watched the building burn to the ground after a government hit squad’s assault carried out an execution order on the site. Little more than superficial tidying had happened around the site of the ruin since then. It appears the ruin has been left in the confused middle ground of being someone’s property, but no agency was currently sure exactly who that someone is.
More importantly, the fact the Lab was burnt to the ground hides the fact that there still is a sub-basement, with a hard to find entry large enough to allow us to park our cars down in it. Sure the place needs a power source, and electronic security of some sort, and shows signs of being untouched for years. But the plumbing still works, and with a bit of a clean-up, it may just turn out to be the underground bunker of our dreams.
It was as we were stashing our vehicles that and changing into warmer clothing that Dan declared we needed to get to his parents place. Which was fortunate, all things considered. Sleeping through freezing conditions in an abandoned basement would have been nowhere near as comfortable as sleeping in the Hewstones’ spare bedrooms, study and lounge proved to be.
In the morning following breakfast, the team decided to furnish the Vitae ruins as an operating center, and to do that required us to split up. Sandi and Cliff decided that they would get some power cables, building supplies and visit U-Spy for some security gear. Dan, Paul and Hitch decided to head into the center of Chicago. Dan wanted to connect with a Catholic Priest code-named ‘Jack Ryan’, Paul needed to meet up with his lawyer, Leonard Sparce, at some high end drinking hole, apparently. Paul stated he had made a back up copy of the old Academy reference database DARMA that he had popped aside and the lawyer knew where it was.
I have to get to the court house to find out from the probates who inherited our old Peer Jack Deverick’s research library. Hopefully, they live in Chicago.