Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Night 5 -- Retaliation

Night 5
Wednesday, November 11th, 1992

Duke

Duke
Duke strides into the Broadstreet, the trendy jazz club that serves as the center of the regime. While most nights, even during the week, the place would be packed with mortals, tonight it was empty. Edward, his lord, had used the forced downtime to make some improvements to the place, and the ladders and drop clothes of the workers still dominated the stage and bar area.

Up on stage, Edward thoughtlessly tunes a guitar, while Don Alonzo speaks quietly to him, too quiet for even Duke to make out. Probably trying to convince him of this or that course of action. Alonzo had his fingers throughout the mortal realm, and they danced to his tune. But like Duke, he follows Edward. The three were referred to as “The Council”—a gathering of equals, but Edward was the Prince. And the Prince, no matter what else, was the Prince.

Duke’s presence is acknowledged with a quick look from both vampires, before they resume their discussion. “Yes, things have calmed down, but we’re far from out of the woods, Edward.” Alonzo was saying, trying to get him to focus on what felt was the more important situation. “I’m not saying we need to go on the warpath, but….”

“Warpath?” Duke interjects. Force was his domain. Alonzo’s job was to provide the money and the cover with the mortals, and to stay out of Duke’s way.

Alonzo
“The missing childer. The ones you failed to take care of.” Alonzo says disdainfully.  “A failure which has caused this mess, I might add. We can’t just let things go unanswered. We’ll look weak, and weakness is one thing our Kind cannot abide. Remember the chaos of the 50’s, when we didn’t…”

Edward cuts him off, quietly. “I understand, Alonzo. We need to resolve this mess.” Taking his gaze away from the guitar, he asks Duke. “And what happened? Why is this even happening?”

Duke sighs. “As I said sir, it was a bad situation. When we got to Prestor’s house, the place was a mess. If I had to guess, I would say that someone had already ransacked the place. Perhaps Prestor, himself, for some reason. Perhaps someone else, we don’t know.  He was almost in a Frenzy when we arrived, and attacked us practically immediately. We didn’t have a chance to do it right. We couldn’t interrogate him, not in that state. And the fight, well, we put him down. But he didn’t go down quietly. Per your orders, we took him out and torched the place and left. We didn’t examine the house.”

“And why not?” asks Alonzo, accusingly. “I mean, how does one miss a frat party in the basement?”

“Per my orders,” Duke says evenly. “We had no reason to assume he had grabbed anyone, and we didn’t want even rumors of what he was up to getting out. Prestor was just further along than we could have known.”

“The past is past,” Edward sighs, returning to his guitar strings. “What are we going to do about it now? Do we have anything to worry about with the mortals? What about this survivor they have.”

“The cops are in line,” Alonzo says proudly. “They attribute all the deaths to Prestor, labeling him as a deranged killer. As for the girl, the psychiatrist has convinced everyone that her story isn’t to be believed, the result of stress and smoke inhalation and the 'drugs' that Prestor fed them. Even she is doubting her own sanity. We have nothing to fear on that front.”

“And the missing ones?” They both look at Duke.

“We don’t know. We think we know their names, based on what the police have told us. But we don’t know much else, unfortunately. We think Bothwell ran into one, but his description doesn’t match any of the missing students. I have my guys looking into them now.”

“But we’re sure they’ve been turned, yes?” Edward asks the two of them. Neither responds. “So, Prestor has created a brood. Perhaps to ensure his vengeance would take place after his demise? Or to carry out whatever insane scheme he was plotting. They must be found, and they must be destroyed. Prestor’s rebellion ends. Now.” Edwards eyes flash angrily at both of them.

“Edward, if I may,” Duke says, hesitatingly. Edward glares at him, but Duke takes his silence as permission to continue. “We don’t know exactly what they’re up to. Our timeline suggest that Prestor grabbed them on Friday, and turned them either late that evening or early, very early, on Saturday. That doesn’t leave him a lot of time to ensure their loyalty, or to give them any sort of instructions or plans. It’s possible that they just don’t know what they’re doing. They might not even know exactly what they are.”

Alonzo laughs harshly. “Don’t know? Please. If they didn’t know, why haven’t they come forward? If they had come anywhere near the police or the hospitals, we could have snatched them up, smoothed things over.”

“Perhaps they ran out of fear, striking out on their own,” Duke suggests.

“On their own?” Alonzo mockingly replies. “Have you seen the degenerate youth of today? They are cowards and helpless lambs. They would run to their parents, or their teachers, or anyone with authority and cling to their legs, crying for help. Or, they would rush to the nearest camera, hoping to get on the MTV, desperately eager for attention and fame. No, they ran for a reason.”

“We don’t know…” Duke attempts to stay.

“We do!” Alonzo says, triumphantly. “If they didn’t know, where are the bodies, as their uncontrolled hunger drives them to kill? No, instead they rob a Blood Center. A Blood Center! We all know there are only two reasons any of us would ever consume such blood. Either they’re leaving town and need it for the journey, in which case they are no longer our concern. Or,” he adds, with emphasis. “they are going underground, hiding out, waiting for us to let our guard down.”

“There was the one woman,” Edwards notes, thoughtfully.

“But that only proves my point,” says Alonzo. “One victim, stolen right out from under one of us. A clearer declaration cannot be imagined. They wanted us to know they were there, that they were here to take the city from us, and they wanted to rub our noses in it.”

“It’s also entirely possible that they just don’t like Bothwell,” Duke adds, which brought about the desired laugh from Edward. “In any case, we don’t know what their intentions are or what they’re trying to accomplish. Not with what little we information we have.”

Edward, Prince of Denver
Edward raises his hands, bringing the conversation to an end. “It doesn’t matter what their intentions are. Their very existence as uncontrolled Kindred is a threat to all of us. Agree?” The two others nod. “If they are gone, so be it. If not, we must find them. Alonzo, pull your strings. If they are in hiding, where are they? Check their accounts, and their parents accounts, and their girlfriends accounts, and her parents and anyone they may know. Have they rented a cabin or an apartment recently? Where are they laying low? Find out where their money is being spent. If they intend war, they will certainly turn more—find out if anyone else is missing, particularly fellow students from their university. It is our nature to strike closest to our hearts, after all. Duke, you will scour the city. Find any victims they may be leaving behind, any potential victim they are grooming, any rats nest they might be sleeping in. Turn the city over, and find them.

And I want this done now.”

Dukes gets up to leave, ready to enforce Edwards will. He pauses to add one thing “That’s a lot of ground to cover. And if we’re running around, our friends will start asking questions. Things might be easier if we make this public.”

“Fine,” Edward says dismissively. “Spread the word among us. Prestor’s brood are to be found at all cost. I want them brought in alive, is possible. If not, well, there are limits to even what we can do accomplish. “

As the initial heat and attention over the fire and kidnapping dies down, the threats to the players increase. The vampires of Denver are after them now, officially. Per the module, there is a 1 in 10 chance per night of them having an encounter. I keep this rule, but also add them to the Mythic NPC list. I also change the Chaos Factor—the past few nights, the players have been working well, and accomplishing their goals. As of Wednesday night, this changes. The CF had dropped to 4, but I unilaterally increase it to 5. And until the characters resolve the challenge with Edward and his Court, it can never decrease, only increase. Also, I wasn’t sure what the NPC’s were going to do, so I rolled “Recruit/Intrigues“—the above is my interpretation of that.

Maya

While curious as to what Trent and Daron find out, Maya is still focused on practicalities. She’s not convinced their make shift haven is viable for long, and she knows they need money. They can’t risk using their savings or writing checks, as she assumes that the police must be monitoring them. And she doesn’t want to turn to her family, even her Uncle Diego. She can’t bear the thought of having to lie to them anymore than she must.

So, they can’t use their savings, or get a job, and they can’t borrow or beg—therefore, they must steal it. But she’s not going to rob houses or mug somebody or knock over a liquor store.  However, stealing from other criminals is something different. She knows enough to have sympathy for those forced into the drug trade, knows that most of them are struggling and barely able to survive. Despite what the music videos show and the news reports say, the majority of street dealers are among the most exploited workers in America.  Taking them from their bosses, though, would be a form of justice.

She heads to the Five Points neighborhood, the most drug and crime ridden part of Denver. She had only been here a few times, as part of social outreach project. But that was during the day. Even then, a palpable sense of despair and menace hung over the area. And at night, it was even more acute.

She parks her Uncle's car in a lot, figuring the few dollars well spent to secure it. She walks the rest of the way, looking, waiting for the right target. With her hood pulled up, none can see her face, but she seems to radiate an aura that keeps the few other pedestrians away from her.  She rolls Perception (2) + Streetwise (1) to find dealers. With 1 success, she finds a small crew dealing out of a park. She then seeks a spot she can watch them unobserved. Normally, this would be almost impossible, as the crew's various watchers, some hidden and some obvious, keep a look out for anything unusual. But, her Obfuscate comes in useful once again, and she gets to roll her Dexterity + Stealth. With 2 successes, she finds a decent location.

She watches for a few hours, and sees where they keep both the cash and the drug stash. Around 9, a classic white Cadillac Coup de Ville pulls up, and the apparent leader of this crew gives it something. Due to its size and the fact that its being handled by him directly, she figures it must be the cash. Around 1, they come back again. By then, business had dropped off significantly, and the darkness, cold, and snow drives the crew indoors.

She believes she has seen enough, and heads back to the lot, then drives to the gas station to meet Trent and Daron.

Daron and Trent

Trent and Daron, masquerading as interns with San Jose Mercury News (Daron is from LA), head out to Prestors neighborhood, doing “follow ups.” Most of the neighbors want nothing to do with them, having grown tired of the media and the police over the past few days. They spend hours knocking on doors, asking the same questions, hoping for any new information they can find.

Daron is the one talking, Trent keeping himself in the back and being the “photographer.” Daron rolls his Manipulation + Subterfuge at a difficult of 6. The module says that a “good idea” should be at a difficulty of 5, but I bump it back up to 6 due to the general fatigue the neighbors have. He still manages to get 4 successes.

Naturally, they get the get the routine “quiet, nice gentleman, moved in two years ago, kept to himself” answers, and other tidbits they already knew. But, one particular dog walker has something new. Prestor apparently had a regular visitor, a blonde man who drove a yellow Jaguar with the vanity plate SC13NC3. Do the cops know this information? I assume that this is Very Likely, but the result is No. When they inquire why the dog walked didn’t tell the police, he says “Well, they didn’t ask, honestly? Hmm…do you think it’s important? Maybe I should call them.” They try to talk him down, emphasizing that this information is already known and of no particular significance. Manipulation + Leadership (dif 8, as their initial excitement might have betrayed its importance) , and 1 success. The dog walked isn’t sure, but won’t call the police. At least not tonight.

As the night grows late, Trent and Daron stop their inquiries. They feel they’ve learned what they can for now, and no one is likely to welcome them knocking at such an hour. They drive to the gas station early, and discuss future possible avenues to investigate. They want to know where Prestor came from, and that means tracking his money. Also, they need to find some way to track down his visitor. Neither has any Contacts that they think will prove useful, so they plan for a number of phone calls tomorrow night. Then, they wait for Maya.

With the scene change, a Random Even occurs. Remote Event: Extract Wounds. I decide that this refers to Zoe. She and Suzanne have teamed up. While she would like nothing than to forget that horrible night in the basement, the fact that someone, anyone actually believes her is enough to tie the two together. They have managed to read a copy of the autopsy notes, Suzanne distracting the attendant while Zoe quickly reads the forms. They discover that both Vince and Mavis were found exsanguinated, but that this information didn’t make it to the final results. Instead, their deaths are listed as being from “unknown causes.” Zoe feels that Daron’s story has been confirmed, and Suzanne feels, finally, vindicated. The two begin looking for more answers…

Once they all meet up, they all get in Maya’s car, then drive to a better location, as she explains her plan. Daron and Trent are somewhat skeptical, but anything is better than having to murder someone, so they’re at least willing to try it.

Each rolls Manipulation + Stealth to sneak up and get a cow. Trent gets 3 successes, and Daron 2, enough with Maya’s guidance. They both are able to feed. While they find the blood disgusting and unsatisfying, they are forced to admit that it might be possible for them to survive in such a fashion.  They spend the rest of the night hunting and feeding off of various cows in the and around the area, careful never to kill too many from any given heard. They also begin practicing on NOT killing their prey.

Maya is now able, with a Self-Control roll, to only feed a little off of her prey. Daron and Trent need significantly more practice.  Despite the poor quality of blood, they all feel quite satisfied with their night. They’ve learned some information on their captor, found a safe way to satiate their hunger, and are starting to learn how to feed without killing.

In a better mood than they’ve been in a while, they drive back to their new home, laughing and singing along to pop songs on the radio. And the Chaos Factor increases to 6.

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