Fight the power! Close the Hellmouth!
In which five ageing whitey whitebreads of the 10s pretend to be young hip black dudes of the 70s
Warning: taken out of context this post contains offensive material.
The White Hats
Jon Samedy, the Haitian migrant: about 5’9 though stooped and limping. His strangely carved stick is a coco macaque and he wields power over loa and less friendly spirits. He is the brains and medic. Subsequent to last session Jon’s spell list firmed up and a way of coping with ‘quick spell’ was laid down.
Vic Creed, the scarred ex-paratrooper: about 6’6 and too bulky for speed. He is the muscle. Also currently the richest white hat, since he still gets an allowance to keep him in food and clothing. His massive ‘Mission before everything’ drawback makes him subject to depression if people get killed.
Roosevelt ‘Arby’ Brown: about 5’7 and thin. He is the trickster. Currently thinking whether he should specialise in Kung Fu [the fight-with-bare-hands skill] or spread across Getting Medieval [the fight-with-implements skill] up. Arby has Photographic Memory but is being beaten like a red-haired orphan by the GM’s heavy-handed fear tests every time he uses it.
Steve ‘the cutter’ Cutter: about 6’, a fast-handed boxer. He is muscle and handyman. Fancies the ladies but luckily has reasonably good looks, so gets to do quite a lot of the talking this session. Also wondering about how important Getting Medieval will be.
Scene: back where we were, in the Ward Square
Theme: I am the Walrus
Screaming, spinning around them, eyeballs rolling, the crazed hobo keeps shrieking about the end of the world, and he knows who they are. Chills roll up and across their scalps. Behind the guy Arby can see Blackhand security coming down off the steps through the crowd. Vic spots a black sedan rolling slowly off where it has been parked, maybe on an intercept course.
That be some righteous diversion mon thinks Jon, now easily able to get to the Farmatec sales staff assembled below the steps. He beams and takes a prospectus. Barnabas surges forward like a great black wall.
Cutaway to Flashback scene: smelly break-room, Brother Gloves Gym
“If we don’t know exactly which buildings Farmatec is looking at, and there must be hundreds, we could start by looking at what they do tell their investors,” Jon explains. “That way we might be able to find out if it’s just the Phyllis Wheatley, or more buildings around it, or somewhere else.”
Cut back to Ward Square
Vic moves to intercept Barnabas but tangles up with two of the Blackhand private cops. He fends one but the other wraps him up. Barnabas meets his eye. Tense moment.
A cylinder arcs up over the sedan from somewhere back on the square fringe.
“Bomb!” someone shouts.
Bedlam! People rush screaming everywhere. Steve loses his grip on the crazy, but Arby catches the guy and they join forces again to hustle him away from the sedan.
The sedan no longer moves to intercept: too many people in the way.
Vic and Barnabas lock glares for some seconds then Barnabas eases back, the security guys are trying to get back to their boss, and Vic is free to leave.
“Meet at the Boneyard!” he yells after the first two. Jon catches the same thing.
The Cutter and Arby keep flowing with the stream of frightened onlookers heading back past the new transport hub and towards the food hub and entertainment joints. Steve stops at a roadside dog stand and plies the madman with a sample but he barely takes a bite, keeps raving about how the blood will run.
Scene: The Boneyard
Theme: Monster Mash
“Smooth Clyde don’ ‘preciate trash in his joint! You get gone!”
Smooth Clyde is the cadaverous manager of the Boneyard, a club on what used to be one of the old meat-processing facilities. His habit of running a hand up from back of his neck and over his shiny black scalp is less irritating than his habit of speaking in third person.
Steve sees crazy guy out the door, hearing a last imprecation from him:
“It’s coming from below!”
“Ey, now s’all good. Smooth Clyde ‘preciates you keeping standards high! Yo’ gots to have the ched-dah to make grade here!”
Luckily Vic and Jon have caught up so Steve unfolds the dreaded ‘Arby-graph’ and they realise that even if they could stand Smooth Clyde they can’t read the paper in the dim light. But Arby freezes up anyway: he can see the whole thing. In his head.
Scene: Lake Trout Diner
Theme: I don’t know what it is, but it sure is funky
They walk Arby up and down once Jon diagnoses a fugue state. Keep his blood flowing. Tell him “don’ mean a thing.” Then sit him down while they discuss the various names written on the sheet. Some things are beginning to make sense.
“What a’ these shapes mean man?” Steve asks Jon, who is his Higher Education Epitome.
“Su’thin’ like computer flow chart mon.”
“But what ezackly?”
“I got nothing.”
“Huh? Where-all that fancy eddication getcha?”
“Got my doctor on mon, computer not be a thing in surgery.”
Jon urges Steve to put the paper away, and Arby recovers, sort of. It’s getting late, so they split: Arby to find a shelter if he can’t get some work on with Titus, his patsy; Steve back to his lonely pad; Jon and Vic to their homes.
Scene: Brother Gloves
Theme: Get Ready
The white hats have put some thought into what they want to concentrate on, but Arby puts a word down that changes that.
“My man Titus and me was down to the Rapid, saw me a sight. That Rapid we saw the whitey pitched out of? Got another whitey clinging to it on the outside. Or a brother be holding him there.”
They hear Jon’s results out. The prospectus suggests three public institutions – schools and skills training – on the west border of Central are being targeted by Farmatec, plus the League Park site up in Hough, plus Coors brewery. So more legwork, lining up for public records, is needed for those. Then there’s what might be beneath Phyllis Wheatley. Since they can’t just roll in there, Steve decides to track over to Cleo’s and talk to his woman about the place and any nearby. Come to think of it, since there are a couple churches near the Phyllis, Arby’s mom might know a lot too.
Jim Fairbanks rolls up on the stoop where Steve and the others are posting-up. Jim tells Vic he owes him a solid, since the heat is off now. Being an out of town face, they decide they can use him to do a lot of the legwork around City Hall or the Ward Office. Vic gives Jim a California Bankroll – a fifty around a bunch of singles – and he rolls off happily. Vic is thirty cents shy of a quarter now.
The other matter that’s pressing is the Monster. Sure, they sent him a-running (or driving) off but he’s still out there. Vic hauls out the card and finds it belongs to a Bill V Burnes, salesforce trainer. There’s a phone number on it.
The day is divided up and the team is divided up. Vic and Jon will work on the card. Steve and Arby will work on their womenfolk.
Scene: Residence in Little Saigon, the Kirtland area
Theme: I need help (I can’t do it alone)
The last time Vic saw May Li she was a little Hmong refugee awaiting evac. Now here she is, all growed up, two kids, her name is Madeline Burnes and she can speak English pretty good. Not that he’s lost his Vietnamese: but for Jon’s benefit they stick to English.
Madeline remembers Vic and isn’t freaked out by his face. She seen worse. She asks the big guy for help finding her husband and gives him a fat roll to help with expenses.
They found Madeline by trailing back through Burnes’ last employer, Hargrove Industries. They managed to get a home address there. According to them, Burnes was a great trainer but has been let go lately after burning off all his sick leave.
Madeline, being from a normal Hmong family, is quite shy about explaining all of the difficulties between herself and Bill. He is Hmong himself, but went full-American, including a name change. Things were great until the second child, then there was a rocky patch. The marriage recovered but intimacy was gone: then Bill left suddenly with next to no explanation. The police didn’t help.
With Madeline’s permission, Jon and Vic search the place pretty thoroughly. Bill sure left a lot behind. He kept a reasonably full filing cabinet and work table, and it takes a large chunk of the day to eventually turn up a business card of his therapist, Jill Spenser, who is with the Wilson Clinic. Madeline dates the therapy back to the rough patch about three months ago.
Scene: Cleo’s brother’s apartment
Theme: Inner City Blues
Steve wonders why he always feels like the butt end of a slug after talking to Cleo, but persists and gets a vague confirmation that yes, the Man is indeed targeting those schools and the skills workshop. Cleo introduces a new player. Apparently this righteous brother named Benjamin Jones works for charitable foundation KinzeyCorp and is helping the network counter the laywers.
Scene: St Adelberts/Fairfax Rec centre
Theme: Respect (Aretha version)
“Get yo’ eye of’n that sista! She be a married woman! Listen up! Ain’t no draggle-tail on the road to righteousness, nossir! Mine eyes hath seen they glory! …and yayss, happen I did hear St. Andrews Episcopal was strugglin’ under a burden of authority.”
Reverend Brown is a formidable, gimlet-eyed woman, even if handsome, and Arby and Steve step off with alacrity, leaving the women of the joint congregations to plan the Bicentennial display. Which reminds them, Vic has rumbled something about helping his mom with a flower show too. Joking about the idea of the giant helping shift a vase or two, they pimp-roll away.
Scene: Little Haiti
Theme: I put a spell on you (CCR or original versions)
Steve and Arby are nursing a cheap beer apiece when she walks in, and all Steve can do is goggle at her. Arby notices she has a cameraman in tow, a very pale guy with a big serious camera.
It’s hard to tell in the artificial light of Little Haiti, but Steve guesses her skin would be mahogany. She’s wearing a brief top that looks sprayed on, dark flares that cradle her butt real tight, and a close-fitted turban that hides whatever ‘fro she might have. He gets up and moves to the bar and she sees him, smiles, and heads the same way.
She’s tall, though maybe wearing high platforms. Maybe an inch below his 6 feet. Waist is tiny – the kind that makes a man want to get both hands around it. Her face reminds Steve of sayings about Nubian Princesses – though somehow in an old fashioned way. Makeup is great, jewellery gold but restrained. He asks what’s she drinking.
“Do they have daiquiris here?”
Moe the barkeep scowls darkly. Then mutters something about tourists and begins fixing one.
Behind the group Arby watches the cameraman, who seems happy to be a cipher. Very pale, Roman nose in a thin face, black eyebrows over deep-set eyes, ears that have no lobes and angle back to quite sharp tips.
“I’m Cindy Channel, night crew with the Plain Dealer. This is Ted.”
Cindy wants to know if Steve has a line on what Jude Humphrey knows. She is easy to talk to. Ted doesn’t speak at all. Steve doesn’t even register him. He takes Cindy’s card, one she slips from under her top. It’s cool in his hand. He tucks it away with a smile and a remark about her being one cool mama. Cindy takes her leave.
Not long after, Jon and Vic arrive in Jon’s Plymouth and the four share information. Steve checks Moe is still OK with the tab he’s running. Then drops a dime and calls Jude. Jude’s happy to hear from him after all this time, though he seems to know he’s got DeNaRes ID. Yes, he does know of Cindy Channel. Agrees she is wasted writing for a paper when she’d look great as a newscaster. Yes, he does know the agency that runs the rapid – the GCRTA, usually known as RTA. Why? Oh, a problem? Jude asks if Kelly and the gang gave them equipment. No? Just IDs? He’ll drop some stuff round to Brother Gloves as soon as he can.
“We got two pieces to pick off, first the Rapid then the Phyllis. Sort out what’s what on the train Arby keeps gloomin’ on. It all seems to happen evenings so that’s now. Can’t wait to see if Jude drops off something. Then head back over to the Phyllis, see what’s goin’ down, down below.”
Scene: a Rapid car
Theme: Jungle Boogie
They find seats together, same side of the aisle, two then two. Jon and Arby, then behind them Vic and the Cutter. The Rapid is well-staffed, a guard has checked everyone is comfortable and passed on along. It’s a very modern, sealed unit and warm. People are dozing off. Jon realises there’s a soporific being pumped in, everyone hangs in there, digging nails into palms to stay alert.
Up ahead the door opens, two guards enter: they can immediately see that four of their passengers are awake and watching them. The guards eyes glow yellow and they leap over the twenty or so feet intervening!
Arby rolls down and squiggles under the bench in front of his seat. Steve rises, catches the one aiming at him and slams him pro-wrestler style down onto the aisle: a smashing impact. The guard that missed Arby perches on the seat-back and looks around, seeing Steve’s back.
Vic’s searching for a fire extinguisher or at least an emergency exit but gives up as he realises Steve will be caught by the upright guard. He launches himself out of his seating. Ahead of him, Jon is struggling to come up with a spell. He’s spent most of his coco macaque’s power and has not restored it: next best thing is to cut himself and feed it. He fumbles a pen-knife out. Cuts his palm. Steps out to the aisle. Blood smears onto the stick.
Steve isn’t caught off-guard. He stamps on his victim’s neck and sways easily out of the next leap from the guard behind him: it lands against a seat a dozen feet further back. It screeches with rage, a terrible, tearing, vicious sound that makes them wince but does not stop the white hats from fighting! The one Steve downed throws him back and scramble up. The incisors of both guards are long and sharp and their eyes glow with yellow hate. Jon coolly classifies them as Vampires. Yells some helpful advice.
Steve gets a headlock on his opponent. Arby rummages around and comes up with an umbrella. He lunges forward and slightly irritates the pinioned Vampire. Steve manages to snap its neck. It doesn’t go down, but is seriously inconvenienced. Steve begins working its tight uniform coat over its head then gives up and simply locks it up until Arby strips the umbrella down to a splintered wooden shaft, and stakes the Vampire.
As the second guard leaps forward, Vic launches himself over Steve like a dive over a ruck at the line and the two crash together against the seat-benches: 400lb of impact, hard! Metal buckles. Vic wrenches the creature’s neck across an exposed metal edge and begins smashing it down. Its head comes off and it turns to dust. Vic glares around, and finds Steve and Arby have dealt with theirs too.
“Another one! Stake him mon!”
From the end-door to the car, a third guard has already arrived and is racing in great bounds towards them. Jon tries to call a fighting loa into his stick – a second time – and screams as his hand turns to sharp bone. Arby tosses the thin stake to Vic, who catches it and slams it through the leaping guard’s heart. Dust explodes over him. He spits it out and coughs.
The white hats scramble up out of the tunnel cutting and make their way up Fairhill towards the nearest bus route. Steve is saying something about whittlin’ some more stakes. Behind them, passengers begin peering out and complaining, but the sun sinking in the west, blazing directly into the tunnel, masks our heroes’ departure.
Back in the fight-scene car, the driver has walked on back to speak to the surviving guard. Neither can see who might have pulled the emergency stop and got away. But the driver smells some blood on a seat-arm. He wipes a finger off it and taste-tests it.
“Anyone you know, Mr. Trick?” asks the guard.
General notes: Vic’s roll of hundreds (it began as $800) does not change his normal resources level. There are only two vehicles in the group, we now know, because Vic is a non-driver and Arby’s car, if he has one, is a junker beyond repair. Jon’s Plymouth is way back down the red line at the new terminus; and Steve’s crappy Ford van is back at his pad. But from University Circle, public transport down Euclid is an easy access to the Phyllis Wheatley.
I eased off on the ‘new plot point’ feeds and let the guys sort out what they wanted to concentrate on. It worked well – probably thanks to the SHC sessions – so everyone got an xp for that. With one for turning up, two for the First Real Fight, and one for keeping more or less in character, a 5xp session.
I had a free plot twist point available for the session, specifically for a flash-back, because as I warned the guys, a real smack-down is getting more and more likely, and they should have had a work-out session in a gym to work on team tactics. As it turned out we got to the Rapid scene quite late so they decided to go straight to the fighting. Luckily these were very much minion vamps. Jon spent a good deal of time trying to work out what spell might work, and Vic was determined to find a fire extinguisher. Arby went for a makeshift weapon from passenger gear, and an umbrella was as good a choice as any – though whether one might be packed in late June I leave you to determine. Anyway all good fun, several drama points spent apiece, and our first “magic mishap FX” of the season.
I have said I would acknowledge resources used, so first a belated nod to Cake Walk, from Fabled Environments. That gave us a fun time with Gremlins and some DeNaRes contacts. This evening’s main dish, Canned Food, was also served up by Fabled Environments, and is a one-off set aboard a jet airliner: re-skinned for Cleveland’s RTA. And a quick Funkadelic nod to Joshua LH Burnett and Hex Games, for the most instantly-annoying and the most spectacular NPCs so far.