All Quiet in Music City

Session 7
Masters of Artifice

Corbin and the party talked through their recent conflicts, explaining that the Vice Lords’ control of the city was all but cemented before they’d been interrupted by the events at Centennial Park. Nevertheless, he was prepared to let bygones be bygones, and he asked for the party’s aid: help Professor Mortimer find some invention he’d lost. In exchange, the party would receive compensation from the Music Man himself. After proposing this task, Corbin suddenly went rigid, said, “To kill me, you must burn me . . . like the Music Man,” put the shotgun to his head, and blew his brains all over Emil.

The group had no idea what to make of this sudden suicide, but they deducted that Corbin must have been manipulated somehow. They decided to leave the body and to take Emil with them for further questioning.

Back at Alan’s apartment, the group interrogated Emil for any helpful information about the Music Man and Vice Lords. They also looked at a map of all the locations they’d visited and compared them to Alan’s list they’d found. After some deductive reasoning, they discovered that certain key locations joined together in a huge outline of the traditional symbol for Spirit, and that most of these locations already had a confirmed Spiritual resonance. Their best guess: someone is preparing for a massive Spirit ritual, but of what sort?

The next day, Clint had to go take care of IT work while the group figured out what to do next. They figured that Edwin Warner Park should be their next priority since it formed the base of the Spirit symbol being inscribed on the city’s landscape, but on the way they’d stop by Mortimer’s lab to hear what all the fuss was. Edwards was still recovering from the battle the day before, and Jonathan decided to stay with her.

On the way to Mortimer’s lab, the party abandoned a much abused and traumatized Emil on the West side of Nashville near the old prison. They made sure that he had no hostile intentions toward them, and then set him free.

At Mortimer’s lab, the Professor told them about a machine he’d created that would lessen and hopefully negate the effects of Paradox. He had intended to use it originally as a therapeutic device for Marauders, but the device has been missing for a few weeks now. Corbin typically controlled who would be able to visit him in his lab. The last stranger he had met was a man introduced to him by Corbin, Alan Jennings. Mortimer gave the group the specifications and talked to Clint via cellphone about how to track down the machine, since it would be much easier to find with Correspondence.

Just when the group left Mortimer’s lab, Victor approached them quickly and informed them that Jonathan and Edwards had been attacked and needed immediate evacuation. They received a phone call from Jonathan almost simultaneously, confirming Victor’s story. He promised the party help from the Greek and his resources, and then quickly left.

When the party returned to Alan’s apartment, they found a bullet-riddled car and the bodies of three Vice Lords outside. They quickly evacuated a limping Jonathan and gravely wounded Edwards and found an abandoned warehouse a few miles away to use as a temporary hideout. Williams helped them out again, but the two Euthanatoi still needed rest before they would be ready for more.

As the party headed for Edwin Warner Park, it was already getting dark. Clint had managed to put together a tracking device that would track Mortimer’s machine, and the energy readings were also pointing them to the park. Upon arrival, they all felt a void, as if life itself were immobile. Off of one of the trails Lucas approached the party. He thanked the party for ridding Centennial of the Psychomachia. He’d tracked more spiritual disturbances to this park, and he offered his assistance once he dealt with it.

After traveling off the trails for some time, the group came to a clearing in which three human figures huddled together. When the group got closer, the figures rose and spined tentacles burst out of their bodies in an agonized scream. Musta Kraskish identified the creatures as Fomori, and the party hurried to fight the surprisingly resilient creatures. Lucas also joined the fight in a terrifying primal wolf form, and the Fomori were destroyed.

In the clearing Garth discovered a full rip in the Gauntlet through which the spirits must have come to possess the hapless humans. Clint fired up his tracking device while Garth began to repair the Gauntlet. As Clint’s device produced readings again, Lucas caught the scent of the one he believed to be responsible. Clayton hurried after him while Wayne dealt with his Paradox-induced Woody Guthrie problem. On the way, Clayton received a phone call from the Music Man, explaining that the attack on the Euthanatoi earlier was against his orders and that he was glad the group had decided to help Mortimer. He invited the group over to his mansion for a preliminary award and to discuss future matters. Clayton was in a hurry, so he cut the conversation short.

Clayton followed Lucas to the edge of another clearing, where he saw Alan alive and well, holding Mortimer’s machine. Alan looked down at the machine, and activated it. The world began to spin around the group, and each awoke to a different world around him.

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Session 8
All Quiet

While the group was dealing with Wonderland, high school, a witch trial, and shadow-Afghanistan, John Marshall, a Son of Ether, was experiencing strange things at the Adventure Science Center. After dealing with some crazed Sleepers, he began to investigate strange readings of intense magical power emanating from southwest of the city. The trail eventually led him to Percy Warner Park, where he met up with the group after they’d finished their respective magical acid trips.

After catching John Marshall up with the details, the group began their investigation anew. There was no sign of Alan, and Lucas wasn’t much help since he’d been forced to navigate his own Umbral nightmare. Fortunately, Clint’s tracking device based on Mortimer’s specifications was still working. Unfortunately, it pointed them back toward the city. Before they left, though, Garth finally sealed the hole in the Gauntlet, ensuring that no other spiritual energy could be harnessed, for now . . .

As the group headed back to the warehouse where Jonathan, Edwards and Williams were waiting, they noticed a change in the cityscape. Streetlamps flickered, figures darted in the shadows, cars were crashed and abandoned. As they came closer to the city proper, they realized the glow of lights came from fires instead of lamps. People on the streets seemed overcome by waking nightmares similar to those the party had already experienced.

When they reached the warehouse, they all compared notes about their next task and made what preparations they needed. They debated whether they should head to the Music Man’s mansion for a final confrontation, for which Williams promised back-up from some friends, or whether they should find out where Alan had taken Mortimer’s machine. Ultimately, after some deliberation and finally tired of Garth’s Spirit-PBR shenanigans, they decided to go after the machine, because fuck the Music Man.

Clint managed to focus his tracker’s energy so that it pinpointed the machine’s location: the AT&T Bellsouth Tower. The group decided to head to a nearby building first to get a tactical look. Clayton used his enhanced scope to discover that there were three hulking humanoid figures and one regular-sized human near the top of the tower. The last one seemed to be Alan. He also spotted a group of people hanging around the entrance of the tower, and they seemed unaffected by the energies being emitted by Mortimer’s device. Meanwhile, the rest of the group started playing 3-man and attracted a group of crazed Sleepers who had to be dealt with quickly.

The group then prepared their best stealth abilities for their infiltration of the AT&T Tower. Fortunately, Clint knew of a service entrance that let them bypass the group of people in the lobby. As they made their ascent, they had a close-call near the stairs to the roof. The other group in the tower was none other than Vance with a few gruff agents in tow, but the party managed to stay undiscovered while the Technocrats headed to the top.

At the top of the stairs, the party decided to hold down the fort while Clayton scouted ahead. He was able to sneak past the agents while they investigated the top, and he even not-quite-teleported onto the platform above the roof proper. There he found the machine, but not before Vance called out to him to surrender and come down. Then, several things happened very quickly.

Clayton saw a rift open between him and the machine, and for the briefest moment he saw the void of the Umbra. His vision soon filled with the hulking masses of two Fomori, both of which immediately jumped in the midst of the agents below. Behind them followed Alan, who activated the machine as he stepped from the void. Arcs of dark energy flashed between the twin spires of the tower and Mortimer’s corrupted device. Alan had a gleam in his eye and seemed unconcerned about the agents below and the former agent in front of him. He mentioned only that it was all part of a greater design, everything from the past few weeks had led to this point.

He drew out a long-bladed knife, and Clayton and the rest of the gang (thank goodness for psychic-links!) decided it was combat time. Clayton leapt into the fray of Fomori and agents below him while the rest of the party burst out of the stairway. The battle-hardened agents seemed hardly a match for the Fomori, with two of them already down and another severely wounded. Suddenly, a burst of energy erupted from the platform, uniting the arcs and causing the whole building to tremble with the massive surge of energy being produced. Alan’s lifeless body fell to the ground, a small smile on his face.

John Marshall tried to stop the machine by collapsing the platform with some quick work with Entropy and Matter, but he saw the energy mass still growing in the air. Apparently, the tower was a focal point of Technocratic magic and was equal to a nuclear power plant without the messy radiation.

It was at this time the party said, “Fuck it” and tried to peace out before the energy discharged. They were halfway down the stairs before the building’s tremors made them realize that they would probably die in the resulting collapse/explosion before they could reach the bottom.

When they emerged on the rooftop, only Vance and one Fomor remained in deadly combat. Vance was lagging, but he’d been giving as good as he got. Clayton calmly pulled out his rifle, lined up a shot, and took out both targets with one shot.

Finally alone on top of the tower, Clint and John Marshall worked quickly to figure out how to manage the energy from the machine. Although it was damaged, the skilled technician and scientist were able to make some complicated repairs to the general working-status of the device. They discovered that the machine’s original purpose, removing Paradox, had been corrupted by a massive amount of Entropy and Spirit by Alan’s influence, and it was now drawing power for a summoning spell. Garth worked hard to close the void of the Gauntlet that had been growing steadily since Alan first emerged from it. Meanwhile John Marshall altered the energy being produced by the tower and the machine with his own use of Entropy with a double dose of Prime to try to negate the corrupted energy.

Finally, having done all they could, the party waited to see the results of their efforts. The arcs of the spires and a beam of pure white from the machine united in a brilliant flash of light. A glowing sphere of energy burst from the epicenter, expanding rapidly outward. It quickly enveloped the party, making their hairs stand on end as the tempered power rushed through them, and then it spread across the city in a wave.

When they looked down upon the city to survey the damage, they could see some of the figures far below cease their swarming and other erratic behaviors. It seemed they had succeeded.

The group made their way back to the warehouse to debrief with Jonathan and Edwards. They thought about dealing with the Music Man, too, since they were on a roll already, but ultimately decided to rest first.

On the way back, though, they all felt flashes of magic bursting around them. The energy had burned off the group’s accumulated paradox, but what had it done to the Sleepers who had been afflicted by torments of the Spirit?

The night had ended with almost as many questions as there were answers, and the group could feel that the true adventure was just beginning.

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Entr'acte, part 1
Picking Up the Pieces

A new dawn rose over the city, bringing light to the chaos from the night before. As usual Clayton was the first to rise, followed shortly by Jonathan and Edwards who both briefed him on potential targets they should exploit as soon as possible. Edwards urged the group to get surveillance into the police communications networks so that they could more easily keep an eye on events in the city. Jonathan, however, was more concerned with finding Professor Mortimer and making sure that he and his work would not be a liability, especially since he was known to have connections with Corbin and probably the Music Man.

Wayne had disappeared at some point in the night, but his absence was soon replaced with the arrival of two new faces: Tommy Collins and Michael Calvin. These two folks were friends of Shawn’s who had been given them the group’s “secret” location in the hope that they could locate Wayne for him. After some quick background checks, the two newcomers assimilated into the group easily enough. John Marshall also brought in a fellow Etherite named Penelope whose specialty tended more towards advanced and experimental weapons. Several members of the group noted that they would need a new “hideout” pretty soon, considering all the additional “personnel.”

Soon, though, it was time for the party to make their first move: implant surveillance at the police headquarters in downtown Nashville. Clint made some sweet micro-bugs that should provide all the coverage they’d need while remaining fairly difficult to detect. Everyone else made preparations as needed. Garth decided that his time and effort would be better spent making sure that there were no more tears in the Gauntlet, so he headed off to the Hermitage. Penelope also didn’t feel like adding federal offenses to her resume, so she headed back to her lab to try deciphering a strange signal she’d picked up the night before.

And so, Clayton, John Marshall, Tommy, and Michael headed downtown. Clayton would infiltrate the headquarters using a magical ID badge he’d looted from Vance’s corpse and place the surveillance in the needed locations, Michael would circle the building outside, providing cover by detecting life forms near Clayton, Tommy would provide distracting music out front while also covering the entrance, and John Marshall drove in a circuit, ready to go at a moment’s notice. The plan went fairly smoothly, especially since Vance’s badge and Clayton’s appearance impressed the officers so much. After the bugs had been planted Tommy and Michael noticed a possibly-agent-looking-fellow headed Clayton’s way, but he was neatly avoided and there was no immediate or apparent threat after the man passed by. Clint reported happily that the surveillance was working as intended.

Pleased with their success, the group headed to Nashville State Community College to check up on Mortimer. They ran into a few looters awkwardly leaving with lab equipment and chemicals stolen from other labs, but they found Mortimer’s lab solidly locked with an electronic keypad with DNA scanner. Everyone tried his hand at the complicated lock, some with shocking results, but finally John Marshall fucked enough of the Entropic enchantment to break it open. Inside the lab seemed relatively untouched, but Clayton noticed some of the experimental weapons missing from a case he’d seen the day before. Needing help investigating Mortimer’s absence, they called Penelope.

Penelope was able to make some sense of various files and messages on Mortimer’s computer, most of which indicated correspondence between him and some mysterious person whose identity and location had been encrypted. One such message had been received at 8:00 that morning: “Evacuate in 5.” There was no other sign of Mortimer, but then Clayton remembered that he could just try calling Mortimer on his cellphone. Clayton managed to exchange pleasantries with Mortimer before the call was suddenly cut off, and Mortimer’s language indicated that someone else at his location had taken the phone from him. The group tried running a trace on Mortimer’s phone, but they could only get enough to narrow down a few square miles just southwest of downtown.

The party had a bad feeling that Mortimer was now firmly in the hands of the Music Man. They had been invited to his mansion the previous night, but they suspected that their invitation had expired due to recent events. They were not eager to storm what they suspected to be a stronghold without any surveillance or backup first. So, they contacted Williams who then put them into direct contact with The Greek.

The Greek was very eager to provide whatever help the party wanted, so long as they guaranteed that they would kill the Music Man and transfer all records, disk drives, and other information resources to his control. In exchange, he would give them all available surveillance, information, and backup that he could muster. It would take a few days for him to gather the resources together, but he promised quality results.

Satisfied with their bargain, the group decided to take a well-earned rest. They tried taking it easy the next day. Garth wanted some backup while he investigated the Spring Hill Cemetery, since his excursion to the Hermitage showed signs of spiritual activity. Clayton, Tommy, and Michael decided to help him out.

When they arrived at the cemetery, they discovered that there was indeed another rift in the Gauntlet. And, as suspected, it was guarded by something unnatural. A spirit had corrupted some poor soul into a blood golem that shot acidic blood any time it was wounded by various attacks. After a hard-fought battle, the group finally overcame the creature and patched the hole in the Gauntlet.

They decided to take it easy after that and to rest for their upcoming assault.

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Entr'acte, part 2
Grandioso Con Forza

After a day or two of rest, Victor came to the party with a plan for the group’s combined assault against the Music Man’s mansion. He provided a wealth of surveillance and information about the grounds and security systems of the mansion, and then he let them in on the highly-detailed plan. In short, a distraction team downtown would lure the police on a wild goose chase (or was it?) away from their true target, he and a strike team would assault the mansion grounds head-on, drawing the attention of most of the security forces, and the party would sneak in through a hole in the perimeter, heading straight for the mansion itself. Clint decided that he would best help the party by monitoring his surveillance of police communications and dispatch, diverting law enforcement away from both strike teams, if needed.

It was a sound plan, and now all they needed was the equipment to carry it out. The party knew they would be dealing with vampires, but very few of them had any helpful information for how to kill them except what they had learned from movies and television. They figured that at least some of the stereotypes must hold true, so they set out to get stakes, crosses, garlic, and other such oddities for their upcoming battle.

Garth decided that LifeWay should be their first stop, and he proceeded to steal as many crucifixes and other holy items as possible while Tommy Collins diverted the pot-addled clerk and the uptight manager. Loaded with the power of Christ, they headed to a Pentecostal church to enact the next stage of Garth’s plan. Bursting into the church, Garth strolled up to the main altar as the head pastor and some of his congregation looked-on, startled by his disruption. Arraying the crucifixes and other items on the altar, Garth ripped open a hole in the Gauntlet and attempted to summon the Spirit of Jesus Christ into the holy icons. As the energy swirled around Garth and a vortex from the void opened, Tommy tried to run interference on the pastor and congregation, attempting to shield their minds so that they would forget the insanity they were witnessing. However, the Sleepers’ witnessing caused a huge backlash of Paradox that somehow left Garth mostly unscathed, yet it interfered drastically with his summoning. A flash of light filled the church as a being of energy appeared, which then attempted to force its way into Garth’s body. Victor burst into the church at almost the same moment, drew his gun, and locked his sights on Garth, ready to shoot him at the slightest moment. Fortunately, Garth managed to hold it off and trap it inside Musta Krakish’s sock puppet (which had been surprisingly quiet, lately). Unfortunately (for Garth), Victor threatened that he would not hesitate to kill him if he did anything like that again. Oh, and by the way, “crucifixes are useless against vampires!” he informed Garth.

During that whole bullshit, Michael, Clayton, and Penelope were preparing weapons, gadgets, potions, and other things that would actually prove useful. Garth stubbornly held onto one giant crucifix, convinced that he could use it as a stake, if nothing else. And so, the party finished their preparations for the assault, occasionally interrupted by threats and promises of vengeance from whatever Spirit had become trapped in the sock puppet.

The hour at last came. An anonymous person left a duffle bag outside a bar near Music Row, which exploded as the person rounded the next corner. Police and emergency responders received a poetic bomb threat based on the “Hickory Dickory Dock” nursery rhyme. At the same time in Belle Meade, a maintenance crew with their huge truck was parked outside of the Belle Meade Mansion’s front gate. When accosted by security, Victor and his crew drew their submachine guns, opened fire, and set up a barricade barring traffic and entry/exit in the immediate area. On the other side of the property, the party stealthily crossed the disabled security perimeter, keeping an eye out for any reinforcing guards. While Victor’s crew engaged security, the party checked out the guardhouse for weapons and surveillance, then headed to the mansion itself. After a few minutes of clearing the mansion, they discovered that the well-known antebellum mansion was little more than it seemed to be. Diligent tracking, however, revealed an extra power source emanating from deeper within the grounds. So, the party headed carefully toward the signature, while the firefight at the front gates slowly took its toll of life on both sides.

As they headed deeper into the woods, Tommy realized that some kind of mind-affecting illusion was present. Just as he overcame the illusion and another mansion appeared before them, the ground trembled as dozens of bodies clawed their way out of the earth. The zombies proved little trouble for the group, but their summoning seemed to serve as more of an alarm than an actual deterrent. For, soon afterward the party met a hail of bullets coming from the new mansion that had appeared before them. After some quick spells and shooting, whatever enemies had opened fire appeared dead.

The party quickly licked their wounds and headed into the mansion. Finding no luck with light sources, Penelope tried to provide some illumination before they were ambushed. Unfortunately, a large cloud of suffocating darkness descended upon the group, and the true battle began. A long, arduous battle took place with shadows rising up to attack the party, spontaneous combustion erupting around them, bullets flying with minimal effect, and even a few instances of mind-control. As several members of the party looked near-death, outside influence from The Greek (?) turned the tide. Finally, the Music Man himself was brought down, and the rest of the vampires tried and failed to flee.

After burning most of the vampires, Victor (who had left the battle at the gates when fight in the mansion had begun) told the party he would be taking two of the vampires back with him. He then reminded them that they owed him the agreed-upon documents, files, and information that must be stored somewhere on the grounds. Anything else the party wanted would be theirs.

After some quick searching, they rescued Mortimer and found what appeared to be the Music Man’s “command center” with surveillance feeds of the grounds and of several “dive bars” around the city and a number of computer and paper files.

Clint reported that he had successfully diverted the police away from the Mansion, giving them some time to collect themselves and figure out what lay in store for them next.

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Entr'acte, part 3
Consequences

Shortly after their hard-fought victory at the mansion, the party commenced the usual looting protocols, finding a great amount of supplies, expensive items, gear, and a clueless Errol Mortimer who had been locked away on the second floor for safe-keeping. After collecting a number of important-looking files and documents for Victor, they realized that the mansion would actually make a pretty nice hideout (certainly nicer than the shit-hole warehouse they had been using lately). To that end, they tried and successfully managed to reinstate the “cloaking” field (for lack of a better term) that the vampires had employed. Because the magics involved were fundamentally different, the field would have to be “recharged” periodically.

As the night grew later, whatever had taken residence in Garth’s sock-puppet became more and more determined to break free from its bonds. It threatened Garth, it flexed its spiritual muscles, and Garth could tell that he would have trouble maintaining long-term control over the being. Opening up the Gauntlet long enough to send it back might also let in more beings just hoping for a chance to visit our plane.

Meanwhile, the rest of the party was disposing of the remaining dead vampires with a bonfire and began to pass around the PBR Tommy had picked up earlier. Sensing the spiritual energy Garth had sneaked into one of the beers, “Batman” (as Garth had taken to calling the being) demanded the “spirit PBR.” Garth sense a solution to his predicament, but he knew that there must be some ulterior moment for “Batman’s” demand. Drawing on his occult knowledge of spirits and their “quid pro quo” nature, Garth created an elaborate contract stipulating that “Batman” would not harm anyone in the party nor any of their friends (primarily, Mortimer, Victor, Lucas, Shawn, Williams, and Father Dave) in exchange for one “spirit PBR.” Satisfied with the terms, both parties agreed to the magically binding agreement. It was around this time that Mike (Clayton’s avatar) realized that he had a really bad feeling.

As the party watched the sock-puppet guzzle the spiritual essence, they saw it begin to glow with pale energy. Garth quickly removed the sock-puppet from his hand shortly before it burst open in a flash of light, revealing the formless entity they had encountered at the church earlier that day. “I have not delved the Umbral Abyss nor crossed planes only dreamt of in your primal hearts only to be imprisoned by a mortal conjurer,” it boasted. It thanked Garth for providing the means of its release, promising that they would meet again, and swiftly departed, its form blending into the still night without a trace. It was then that Mike realized he knew what Garth had summoned: The Doom, Jose Cuervo.

The next day, the party decided to check out a few of the Music Man’s former cover businesses, since they probably hadn’t received word yet of their master’s demise. In the process of investigating a bar downtown, Garth was accosted and mystically branded with the Greek letter “mu” on his forehead. His assailant proved surprisingly elusive, but they managed to track him back to Christ the King, Father Dave’s church. Remembering that the church had instituted a sort of neighborhood watch, they asked the priest why he would send one of his parishioners after them (specifically, Garth). The priest replied that he had given no such instructions, but he had heard about an incident at another church where a demon had reportedly been summoned. One of his parishioners must have mistakenly thought Garth had been involved . . .

With that done, they returned to the mansion where a special announcement was being made by the Governor. Due to the terrorist attacks happening sporadically the past few weeks and the bomb threats of the previous night, the Governor would now bring in the National Guard to supplement the weakened police force and to aid in bringing safety to the city. A mandatory curfew for all citizens would be enforced, and Guard patrols would make regular sweeps throughout the city. Edwards realized quickly that the Governor’s announcement had the hand of the Technocracy behind it, and they had only a short window of time before Agents would try to reinforce their position in the city.

The question was: could they get the Governor to call off the curfew and occupation before it was too late?

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