CD22: That name is not on the list!

Fight the Power! Close the Hellmouth!

Urban arcane roleplaying using Buffy the Vampire Slayer roleplay rules

The white hats for today’s session:

Jon “Doc” Samedy, slight and stooped Haitian ex-medical intern with powers of Voudun in his coco macaque.

Victor “Vic” Creed, 6’6 ex-paratrooper, hideously scarred, built for combat.

Roosevelt “Arby” Brown, 5’7 slim and quick grifter, built for ducking and running away.

Steve “The Cutter” Cutter, 6’ fast-handed boxer, built for fighting and smooth-talkin’ the ladies.

Recap:

Someone is infecting psychiatric patients with demons! Psychiatrist Jill Spenser, Research Psychiatrist Dr. Wilson, or creepy thickset, antisocial Thacker? The Wilson Wellness Clinic in Ambler Heights seems to hold some answers.

Before they head back up there, the white hats have a few little things to worry about: Doc needs to store the last demon encountered in a spirit container; and then there’s the frozen corpse the demon is currently trapped inside. So since Steve is away somewhere, Doc and Arby are out buying the spirit box, and Vic is readying some equipment…

Scene: Maman’s house, Fairfax

Theme: Soul man

Maman looks over the cut-price spirit container.

“They tried to sell you this?”

“They did sell us on it,” Arby chips in pointedly.

“It was all we could afford,” Doc explains to his mother.

“All I could afford,” Arby avers heatedly. He is broke now.

“Why didn’t you mention my name, and get them to put it on credit?” wonders Maman, and Doc face-palms.

Scene: DeNaRes ranger station, above Baldwin reservoir

Theme: Green onions

“What… the… fuck???”

Vic is only too glad to explain to the newly-returned Cutter.

“See we gon’ need us a di-ver-shun an’ these oily rags and such gon’ add to th’ corpse stink. Ain’t no see-curitty gon’ be worryin’ ‘bout us in th’ clinic when this is all burnin’ under it…”

“Mu-Tha-Fucker!!!”

The erudite discussion of thermodynamics that follows gets to top-of-voice loud and Captain Kelly and the bearded Minnesotian Gunnarsson stumble down into the common room, looking very pissed-off considering their normal frames of mind. Doc and Arby arrive in the middle of the shouting.

Cutter alertly volunteers to make coffee and Doc weasels out after him. Arby attempts to reason with Vic, to no avail.

[I ask Vic’s player if Vic will be swayed by Arby. “no,” he decides. Arby keeps his 0-point “Ballsy” quality.]

Coffee made and Kelly’s feathers smoothed down a mite, some evidence-based discussion follows.

The verdict is that the body will remain where it is, in the ranger station freezer, but really, really needs to get gone asap. Gunnarsson has noticed a Smokey parked up not far away – Cutter didn’t, he’s got to admit – and the corpse has definitely outlasted its welcome.

[I’m guessing that Gunnarsson as the out-of-state guy calls State Police ‘Smokeys’ not ‘Troopers’ or ‘Staties’. Either way it has to be explained to the white hats.]

Doc returns from sealing the demon away and asks for a biggish tool-chest. He has no particular place to store the box yet, and doesn’t want it opened. Long-suffering Gunnarsson soon has the tool-chest on his truck re-purposed as demon-container locker.

[I skip over Doc’s ‘don’t roll a 1’ sealing ceremony, though I note his player burns a drama point to make absolutely sure the GM doesn’t get his jollies from a failed sealing. The demon ‘I am all’ is now secure in the spirit container and the body can be disposed of safely. But how?]

The plan (to the theme of Mo’ onions)

  1. Call Rev. Brown who kind of owes them a favor, get her to help arrange an ad-hoc cremation.
  2. Find somewhere for the spirit container to stay.
  3. All that will have to wait for morning, in the meantime let’s get to the old Luna Park site.

Steve’s backstory – he was busy with womenfolk but he did also see Boddington, who has put some newspaper-girl contact of his onto trailing Charlie Stone. Now he’s ready to smooth-talk Arby’s mom once the phone is handed to him.

[Arby does call his mom Rev Brown – and hilariously forgets the plan he just agreed on – and tries to bluster his way through parental disapproval – but I can’t recall if it happens at this point or later. Thanks to this, Cutter takes a net -1 into convincing Rev. Brown she will want to help with illegally disposing of a body, but still makes it using a drama point.]

Scene: Single-take follow-along

Theme: Going to a go-go

It has been a tense two-mile hike from the tunnel mouth. The white hats are now paying more attention to possible sounds of water mains, and Vic has also been looking out for Charlie leaving booby-traps.

The gunfire-riddled cables are still as they were, but someone has disconnected power. There’s no sign that the clinic has sealed off the utility access. Hmm, suspicious.

[Barring one or two Perception checks for the sound of running water this is all as stated. No-one asks about spirit presence, which surprises me.]

Pushing on, the white hats make their way through a much older tunnel, probably a re-purposed brick-lined sewer. The side-tunnel that services the mental hospital is of similar age. Here, the gas and electricity clearly lead up to the main facility, but there’s also a service hatch that can be wound up, allowing access to what sounds like water mains.

Doc senses spirits around, and Arby starts seeing things on the fringes of his peripheral vision.

Yes, water mains do lie below this level of tunnel. And the hatch has another of those small sigils on the underside. Same as The Machine, in the Wilson Clinic.

[Arby asks to let him look at the sigil so he can commit it to memory. This of course triggers his freak-out check as memories of The Crazy Wall flood back. He shrieks and Cutter and Vic pin him. ‘It’s like you carved a stick, and keep handing it to the GM to hit you with,’ Cutter’s player says unsympathetically. Because yes, that is what it is.]

From that point, the old tunnel continues with few breaks and plenty of cobwebs. Since the floor is thick with dust and dirt, they can see that a group of men has been using it. But now there’s a junction. The tunnel directly ahead looks less used: they can only identify one set of boot prints to and fro. Pretty big prints, too. The well-trodden path lies to the right, possibly to the old Armory.

There’s a little debate, very quiet. The feeling is, see what’s so interesting that this one large dude had to go visit up there. Especially as Doc has a sense of strong spirit or demonic energy up there. They push on.

Vic is just in time to ward off something leaping at him: he slams his M16’s butt into it as it attempts to throttle him…

Behind him Arby feels spirit powers grappling with his mind but keeps it together.

Cutter watches in shock as Vic repeatedly slams his M16 stock against the tunnel wall, seeming intent on smashing it.

Doc unleashes San’ Pièrre’s protection and a rippling wave of light pushes the attacking spirits away.

Ruefully Vic examines the gun. Luckily this model has a synthetic stock, and isn’t too badly damaged.

[Vic being kafoodled by enemy spirits is so much a given I didn’t bother rolling, instead concentrating on what happens to the others. Good reaction by Doc prevents this from getting really ugly.

In hindsight this would have been a better place to unveil an enemy, on top of the spirit attack.]

And the white hats push on (Arby very reluctant, but all brothers) to see:

Scene: Hellmouth, base of the old quarry pit

Theme: Cold sweat

Doc explains the massive runes they are looking at are really old, not his scene mon but this has to be a Hellmouth. There’s more than one, so he hears.

“There’s another one in California, is what I hear” agrees Cutter.

This old quarry has been sealed up, but at some stage in the not-too-distant past someone, and it could be the single person using the old tunnel back there, has carefully unsealed it and cleared away everything from the Hellmouth.

[Think Buffy season 7 rather than season 1. But a bigger metallic cover.]

Side-Scene: the old Armory basement

The other turn is explored for completeness’ sake. The white hats find where the Corridor Boys’ remnant had been hiding. Along with plenty of other crap, comics, wrappers, makeshift blankets and cartridge casings cleared away from the original gun-fight: someone left one of the Saturday Night Specials. The piece has four rounds left. Cutter keeps it.

[There was still one more deduction to make out of this store, but it is unimportant in the wider scheme. Had the white hats decided to explore further up into the armory things might have become even clearer. Or not.]

Scene: below the Wilson Clinic utility room

Theme: In the heat of the night

While above them Vic is using his leg-muscles to gradually drive the nailed-up door open, Doc Arby and Cutter continue their discussion.

“So it could be, man ‘at’s been at th’ Hellmouth be an insider we ain’t seen nothin’ of yet.”

“Could be T-Bone, at that,” Arby reminds them.

“Ey mon, spirits be flowin’ and that sigil be glowin’.”

There’s a crash as the door, finally released of its nails, flies open and hits the wall behind.

[This is one of the first “busting through” scenes of the campaign, if not the first. I move ‘interior door’ up to ‘reinforced door’ to represent a door that is nailed shut but not so heavily it can never be re-opened. Vic is given a Hard strength check, because he wants a slow, quieter push. Vic makes three raises then a few attempts later four raises.]

“That our cue. I be up, then I pull you up,” Cutter decides.

Scene: Wilson Clinic

Theme: Pick up the pieces

This time the white hats are smarter about how they do. Neither Doc nor Arby can ‘feel’ anything bad, so as the minutes tick by they open formation and explore.

[Recall they have a talisman that confuses demons, so have been keeping tight formation round Doc, who is carrying it.]

Arby checks the basement storeroom, and finds a pair of binoculars amongst a large variety of junk. He dons them, well pleased.

The others search Thacker’s office properly. It is a technician’s in nature, and has no patient notes.

The machine’s room has been cleaned up. There’s no sign of fresh work on it. The cabling in the utility room has been given running repairs, but only so far as getting the place running again at a minimal level. In the next room, no longer locked, there’s a janitor’s broom and swept-up rubbish from around the machine.

Exploring up the center corridor the white hats find a couple of small out-of-use offices and a storage-cum-janitor’s closet under the stairs.

Cutter stands looking and listening up the stairs for a good long while. No sign of any slow-moving, donut-chomping security guard. But he has spotted an invisible eye alarm near the top.

[Since he stands there and waits, this is a given.]

From there it’s a simple matter of Vic carefully stepping over the beam, and helping first Arby, who expertly opens the locked door at the top, then the other two.

[A simple Dex check, i.e. Dex doubled, and Vic has his Dex pumped up to 4 these days so not difficult for him.]

They now have access to the lobby, which also grants access to the electronics firm above. There’s one security camera indoors, but it’s pointing at the outside doors.

Two more lock-pick sessions later, Doc and Cutter start rifling filing cabinets while Vic guards and Arby explores another store-room, this one containing an equally-bewildering bunch of crap.

[Arby’s Crime+Dex is very good, he has no difficulty with any of these checks. Later, he is persuaded not to take the silver tea-service he finds. He does keep the binoculars.]

Doc and Cutter aren’t sure what to look for:

“Charlie Stone!” one guesses;

“Silverman!” another guesses;

But how are they stored? Patient? Date? Treatment? Room? Physician? It’s a very chancy search… until Vic suggests Nicholette de la Fleur. From there it’s routine, since the other patients that went through The Machine are filed the same way she is.

[An xp right there for Vic, good idea, which provides an easy roll for Doc. I ask which skills he brings to bear and he appeals for Int+Doctor since these are medical files, and I allow it.]

There are only three names left unaccounted for. And neither Stone nor Silverman are on that list:

  • County Prosecutor Milton Warnock
  • Alderman Creed
  • Barnabas, Boss Creed’s coat-holder

An exit strategy is debated and Cutter’s destructive impulse is overruled: nothing is smashed. Instead only the machine is interfered with again, to make it look as though the white hats were only worried about keeping the machine out of action.

[Cutter proposes they set the scene to make it look as though they got no further than the silent alarm then fled. The others feel that is gilding the lily and a simple withdrawal leaving little trace of above-ground activity is simplest.]

Scene: Filtration station

Theme: Move on up

It is four a.m. and Arby ducks hastily as the new-woken Professor attempts to remove his head.

“Good reflexes son, lucky for you I didn’t have my eye in,” the Prof blusters, stowing the steel pipe away again.

The big news is, of course, the Hellmouth. But what’s the purpose? The Professor studies the sigil Doc copied from the water-access shaft (before expunging it) and agrees with Doc’s guesstimate that it would draw spirits, including demons, that way. So if evil spirits were unleashed from the Hellmouth, they would tend to “flow” into the water main under the mental hospital, then into the reservoir, and from the reservoir, demonic water can be fed into the loop tunnel. Where the key sigils are.

[Doc could possibly have traced a fake sigil using Voudun that would ward the tunnel, instead of attracting, but it seemed complex and he decided against it, probably wisely.]

“That turn the whole city one butt-ugly Hellmouth?” Cutter guesses. “Nobody gonna notice any diff’rence my hood, but rest o’ city ain’t gon’ be too happy…”

“I estimate you right son, least that’s the likelihood.”

The feeling is – particularly from Cutter – that this is nowhere, nohow as simple as a bunch of demons just getting into people and opening a Hellmouth. He points to the nature of Warnock and Creed. Fixers both. Then, Wolfgang & Hearst, the lawyers moving money around. Getting hold of property along the loop tunnel.

[The Professor jokes that he is the main suspect, then later when the difficulty of moving bricks away from the Hellmouth is brought up, jokes that he would need a team of rangers to do that. Cutter’s player gives me an old-fashioned look. Given that the whole ‘patron betrayed you from the get-go’ was the signature of Cutter’s player’s Pavis campaign I am playing with fire here.]

Doc suggests maybe they reach out to Mitchell Delaney, who Arby can contact, to get his side of things. Arby looks startled then remembers, yeah, that’s another Whitey he’s supposed to be snitching for.

What about Jude Humphrey? He works in the CP’s office. Yeah, Doc scoffs, and he’s real fond of us since we took him for that ride. Arby and Vic agree, he did seem kind of shifty yesterday. Was it only yesterday? It seems days ago! So tired!

Over the objections of the Professor the white hats lay down where they have been sitting and get some shut-eye. Except Arby, who can’t help feeling sick-worried.

[Sleeping here is purely based on Con checks.]

Scene: Ranger station

Theme: Walk on by

Sure enough there’s a State Police’s white truck parked at the turn-out. Vic has agreed reluctantly that if they roll down to Fairfax or Central, an M16 ain’t gonna be a good thing. Another fire-axe will be handy though. He slides the M16 under his coat and walks in.

To the common room, where Kelly and a young Statie are seated at the table drinking breakfast coffee. He glances at Vic, but Kelly has the charm going and he pays little heed to the gigantic, deep-black man in the room. Vic and Kelly fake a delivery pick-up between them, and within a few minutes Vic heads back with a good-size box of first-aid stuff, with a fire-axe hidden inside.

And away!

Scene: Soul Food diner near Brother Gloves

Theme: Trouble man

As the four white hats settle in to their chow, a brother finishes up and pushes the paper over to Cutter as he leaves.

It’s the Call & Post and Cutter reads it over carefully for signs of, well, anything really. Aside from splashes on the unsolved gun violence over to League Park, and the general tone of the paper, most of the focus is on the upcoming local elections. Cutter looks for evidence of candidates standing for the CP’s job and finds none.

Outside, there’s the rapid clatter of a woman running in platform heels, then a pause, and Melvin’s apologetic tone of ‘he ain’t work here no more’.

Oh yeah, this is just down from Brother Gloves. With a sinking feeling, Cutter peers down the street and spots Afro-dite talking to Melvin.

Yes, it is him she’s looking for. Rev’rend Brown wond’rin’ where you at. So’s Cleo. An’ Miz Jefferson. Best get yo’ ass over to Phyllis Wheatley!

Scene: Phyllis Wheatley

Theme: I’m your boogie man

Esther Jefferson has been networking with Reverend Brown and the two of them have been networking with the wider women’s network. Right now, they have need of animal control officers. Because one of the girls that stays in back saw what she thought was a child, stealing underwear. And when she followed the kid, he led her to the basement, and a door that ought to have stayed locked.

So it’s back down to the tunnel then!

Selma-Beth – the little chick from the Call & Post – is there with the other women. “I got me a real scoop on Rev’rend Stone!” she tells them. “I fill you in when you back.”

The white hats gear up away from prying eyes and head down, flashlights shining and fire-axes at the ready.

Scene: Loop Tunnel

Theme: Jungle Boogie

Flashlights reflect back off a shinier side-wall and back-light a weird-looking, vaguely female form, and around it a group of child-size creatures. Wearing women’s underwear on their heads. Who bare sharp teeth, pull handguns and open up!

And we leave it there. XP for this session is 4 all round, including 2 for progressing the plot. Yes, to a large extent the advance is owing to NPCs telling the white hats directly to go back over ground they neglected, but that should not detract from their own successes.

The ‘five threads’ the season kicked off with can now be unscrambled and reassembled to look more like this:

1.The sigils in the ‘loop’ tunnel mean ‘the end of the world’.

1.1 The Baldwin reservoir will push a great deal of water into the tunnel.

1.2 Investigation of the heights has located a Hellmouth and a connection between that and the water main leading into the reservoir. The connection is a sigil.

1.3 At least one demon-possessed agent, T-Bone, knew about this connection.

1.4 T-Bone liaised between the CP’s office, Charlie Stone the radio preacher, and Curtis Silverman the CEO of Farmatec.

1.5 The CP’s office is connected to Boss Creed’s office by a slush fund operated by Wolfgang & Hearst.

1.6 Farmatec has access to Case Western, where the machine originated and where it still operates a Med Lab.

1.7 T-Bone also connects Farmatec and Blackhand security and the Spartans football squad.

1.8 Charlie Stone, radio preacher on WKCY’s Feelgood Hour, mobilized his loyal followers to put out of business: Little Haiti; and Creed’s Furniture Emporium; and curtailed the Haitian congregation’s activities.

1.9 Jude Humphrey works in the CP’s office. Notionally, he is liaison between the operational DeNaRes (i.e. the rangers, the Professor’s consultancy) and Head Office. Jude seemed to be trying to get Arby to say out loud what weapons the white hats are armed with.

1.10 The Wilson Clinic lies roughly along the same path as the Hellmouth-Baldwin line and the same sigil technique was used to move demons into a machine there which infected seven patients. Four of whom are exorcised or dead.

1.11 The remaining three demoniacs are Milton Warnock, the CP; Boss Creed, Alderman for Central Ward, and Barnabas, Creed’s coat-holder.

1.12 W&H seems to lie at the center of attempts to purchase various properties lying along the line of the loop tunnel.

1.13 KinzeyCorp has stalled W&H from the takeover of the Phyllis Wheatley and other properties that roughly align with the ‘loop’ tunnel.

1.14 But Johnsson, KinzeyCorp CEO/local chief, is not necessarily trustworthy.

1.15 KinzeyCorp Security has taken over BlackHand Security’s contracts.

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