Friday, 18 September 2020

Vampire the Masquerade V5 - Session Seventy One - The MacNeil Protocols (Part Six)

I'm currently running a Vampire the Masquerade chronicle using the 5th Edition rule-set for a small group of fellow role-players. These are the chronicles of their adventures.
Our chronicle is set in Los Angeles and features a small group of Camarilla agents sent into the 'Free States' to bring them back under Camarilla control. After a year of plotting, the coterie now controls the three North-Eastern Baronies and has successfully weakened several others. Unfortunately other Barons have used the chaos they have created to consolidate their own positions.
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The now obligatory warning bit - Unlike my other RPG write-ups this one will contain swearing, sexual references and other references that might offend. If you can't tell the difference between real peoples opinions and grown-ups role-playing predators who crave blood then this probably won't be for you. I've also used actual photographs to represent some characters which I'll give acknowledgements to at the end if I've any idea who they are.
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The introduction to this campaign, the first story and all the other parts can be found at the following links and are in chronological order. If you'd prefer a summary of each session rather than read everything then there's a more detailed link page HERE as well as links to the first episode of each story in the blog sidebar.
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Chronicle One - 'Infiltrate L.A.' 
Welcome to L.A. - Introductory Session
Story One - 'Three Murders' - Part OneTwo, ThreeFour and Five
Interlude Session - One
Story Two - 'The Pasadena Problem' - Part OneTwoThree, and Four
Solo Session - 'The Neillson Library'
Story Two Continued- 'The Pasadena Problem' - Part FiveSixSeven and Eight
Story Three - 'Becoming Baron' - Part OneTwoThreeFour and Five
Solo Session - 'The Gather'
Story Three Continued - 'Becoming Baron' - Part SixSeven and Eight
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Chronicle Two - 'Foothold L.A.' 
Solo Session - 'Hostile Takeover'
Story Four - 'Countdown' - Part OneTwo and Three
Story Five - 'The Missing Chantry' - Part OneTwoThreeFour and Five
Solo Session - 'The Anaheim Assassination'
Story Six - 'A Meeting of Barons' - Part OneTwo and Three
Story Seven - 'The Carmelita Situation' - Part OneTwo and Three
Story Eight - 'The Blount Sisters' - Part One and Two
Story Nine - 'Blood Money' - Part OneTwoThreeFour, Five and Six
Story Ten - 'Anathema' - Part One and Two
Story Eleven - 'Predators and Prey' aka 'The Blount Sisters' - Part Three
Story Twelve - 'Aftermath' - Part One and Two
Story Thirteen - 'The Messiah Complex' - Part OneTwoThree and Four
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Chronicle Three - 'Incursion L.A.'
Story Fourteen - 'The Rant'
Story Fifteen - 'Ties of Blood' - Part One and Two
Solo Session - 'A Gathering of Roses'
Story Sixteen - 'The Southern Solution' - Part OneTwo and Three
Story Seventeen - 'The Baker Disappearance' - Part OneTwo and Three
Story Eighteen - 'Inevitable Betrayals' - Part OneTwoThreeFour and Five
Story Nineteen - 'The Marius Contracts' - Part One and Two
Story Twenty - 'The MacNeil Protocols' - Part OneTwoThreeFour and Five

The PC's
Michael Tomassio - Toreador, 'Baron of the North East'
Vincent 'Vin' Ghast - Brujah, 'Constable'
Dr Daniel Matthews - Banu Haqim, 'Fixer'
Hope Romero - Gangrel, 'Census Taker'
Mr Hertz - Nosferatu, 'Seneschal'

The player characters stats and backgrounds can be found HERE should any-one be interested, but be warned that the page is usually several stories ahead of the most recent write-up and may contain some spoilers. There's also some minor 'house-rules' HERE that have occurred as we went along.

As I have written out introductions and dialogue for certain NPC's and some location descriptions I'll post these more or less as I wrote them so they'll be in a 'reading to the group' style and they'll also be in blue so you can tell them apart from the more traditional write-up sections and occasionally an obscure Premonition will turn up in purple. If I think something needs a bit of out of character explanation then those will get a storytellers note that will helpfully be in red. Anything covered via player handouts will also be in blue as they're written in the same style as introductions and the like. Where particular NPC's have a mention in a faction profile you will be able to reach it by clicking on their name or faction beneath their picture.

Introduction
The Temple of Enlightenment
Home of the Bahari in Los Angeles
Having survived a violent assault by the MacNeils in the midst of domain of Downtown, the coterie was 'invited' by the psychotic ghoul assistant of it's Baron to explain their actions. The location of the meeting was a place known as 'The Temple of Enlightenment', A Bahari place of worship where a ceremony to Lilith, the Dark Mother was underway.

Lucky to escape with their un-lives they are now trying to piece together the few clues they have accumulated in order to finally discover if the elusive computer system that Jeremy MacNeil used to control Los Angeles still exists somewhere within the city.

Of  course there were also other matters to consider. They still had a domain to keep secure and an increasingly powerful Victor Girard as a newly emerged competitor to their goal of taking the city for themselves. The system if discovered could be a great evener of the odds.

Player Handouts
Storytellers Note - Rather than require my players to sit while each of them roleplays meetings with every one of their contacts I instead do some of it between sessions. I allow them to select a 'job' for their contact or agent to do, or a question they can ask, etc. I then give each of them handouts relating to what was accomplished. This allows the players to decide what they reveal to their coterie and how they do so and invariably results in an interesting in character conversation. It is, however, a lot of work for me so I don't do it between every session.

Handouts - Michael Tomassio
Victor Girard - Toreador
Media Magnate and Adviser to El Hermandad
Storytellers Note - Michael's player basically got in touch with every contact he had with a variety of questions and pushed a number of personal agendas... 

Victor Girard, Adviser to Baron Martinez of El Hermandad
Attempting to see how he's influencing both of Garcia's childer...
"I can see right through you, Michael. You suspect me of using our clans particular supernatural talents? I understand your reasoning but they're both Brujah and well aware of both the subtle and unsubtle applications of that ability. No, it's far simpler than that. I just have political talents and influence that they do not." 

"They accept my council because I haven't been wrong once. Between the two of us I fully expect their none aggression pact to become a formal alliance between the Baronies of El Hermandad and Anaheim within the year..."

Velme - Daughter of Cacophony
El Hermandad Harpy
'Velme', El Hermandad Harpy
How is Victor advising Gloria and Allison so effectively?
"He seems to be able to predict local power shifts with preternatural accuracy. Same with his advice on investments, which politicians to bribe and which to blackmail, everything really. He's getting his information from somewhere and whatever his sources are, they're impeccable.

"His media empire is helping too. Cover ups, publicising companies they want to do well, smearing those places and people they need sabotaged. He's made himself indispensable to Gloria and is well on the way to doing the same with Allison. He'll almost certainly be the power behinds those particular thrones unless something radical occurs..."

Velvet Velour, Club Vesuvius
Can you make some subtle enquiries about Griffith Park as it borders Isaac's Territory?
"Isaac guessed that it was you who wanted to know but he didn't seem curious at all about why. He told me to tell you that there's two tribes of Werewolves in dispute over the area. One lot he described as the werewolf equivalent of the Baali, whoever they are, and the others see themselves as champions of the downtrodden. Griffiths Park is technically speaking part of Hollywood, so he says to bear that in mind if you happen to go there for some reason. He did also point out that the Blounts considered it their's too, as does Marius. In Isaac's opinion they are both wrong but it doesn't really matter as it's worthless as long as it's full of Garou..."

Velvet Velour - Toreador, Owner of Club Vesuvius

"Oh did you know Marius sent Issac a gift out of the blue? Issac has been looking for this super rare pocket watch for years and Victoria just turned up with it, the original too, not one of the copies. Isaac is super suspicious of course..."

Damsel - Brujah
'Den Mother' of Nines Crew
Damsel, 'Den Mother' of Nines Crew
Do you have any insight into the Werewolves in Griffiths Park and safe ways in?
"That's a dangerous area. The werewolves there are aggressive even by their kinds standards, downright evil in fact. I've heard from some of the Gangrel who pop into the bar that there's a handful of less erratic ones on the border, but I suppose that's a relative term when your talking about nine foot tall rage monsters." 

"If you're really desperate talk to 'Crow', she works mainly for Ike at the Brujah Fight Club but she's freelance. Word is she can get anywhere in the city, for the right price of course. Marius tried to hire her permanently and she apparently told him to fuck off so she's got guts, maybe not a lot of sense, but you can't fault her bravery..."

Franklin 'Frank' Atkins, Police Captain, Ghoul of Michael
Empty properties around Griffiths Park?
"There's shit-loads. It's a nice area to look at but crime levels there are ridiculous considering the low population density. If you're looking to buy a house there I'd make sure you buy a good alarm system too..."

Mariel St John - Ventrue
Adopted Childe of Louis Fortier
Mariel St. John, Adopted Childe and Mistress of Baron Fortier
An assessment on the Crypts Sons current strength?
"I suppose it wont hurt to share that information. Hank Boyd is down to fifteen Brujah from over twenty-five and that's including himself, his Seneschal Twain and that new emissary Deacon. Both his most loyal bodyguards were destroyed protecting him from a 'The Blood' counterattack.

"Though it seems unlikely that we need to worry about The Blood and their vampire hunting element for a while as Priss more or less eliminated their best operatives in her preemptive strike and they lost many others attacking Hank directly. Unfortunately to make matters worse, both his sweepers jumped ship after he more or less abandoned them during that same attack so now he's got Brujah doing a job that's really more suited to Gangrel.

"As you're of course aware Gangrel make excellent sweepers due to the resilience, animal forms and obviously the pragmatism but now he's got Punks performing the role instead...and no we've no idea where the two missing Gangrel disappeared to."

Priss, Baron of 'The Border'
Enquiring about equipping her with weapons instead of Marius so she doesn't side with him over Hank.
"It's an interesting offer. Having the power to sway the decisions of both Hank Boyd and Marius certainly has it's appeal. The only flaw in your offer is that any political assistance I need would involve local authorities and your influence ends at the Pasadena border. Find a way around that issue and we can talk again..."

Priss: Baron of 'The Border', Heather Taylor: Ghoul of Marius

Heather Taylor, Ghoul of Marius
Why is Marius so 'distracted'?
"Not sure. He has some long-term project that I think only Victoria knows about and his creepy underground childe nearly messed it up, or something..."

Handouts - Daniel Matthews
Storytellers Note - Daniel's player tasked his various agents with a number of tasks related to locating MacNeil's system.

Andrew Francis and Keith Chang, Ghouls of Daniel

Andrew Francis, Ghoul of Daniel
Finding a paper trail to link payments of any kind between, The Blood, their church sponsor and Salvador Garcia has proved impossible. His search for information on the MacNeils was only marginally more successful. He has traced the vehicle license plate number you gave him from one of their vehicles but lacking the contacts to further investigate he has asked Mr Hertz to assist.

Keith Chang, Ghoul of Daniel
Keith's counter surveillance duties have so far come up with nothing, which is a good thing, i imagine...

Private Investigations Firm, Owned by Daniel
The two people from the notebook who were declared missing both worked for a company called multi-finance whose headquarters appears to be a post office box in San Fernando.

The company existed entirely on paper having no physical assets at all as far as they can tell. It did have several hundred thousand dollars in assets however, but this account was closed a decade ago. There the trail ends...

Contact in Police Records
Your contact can find no crime reports on any of the locations you specified that look out of the ordinary. Of course, you are aware that if the system was working back then that Jeremy MacNeil would have sorted out the problems himself. She has also misfiled a description of the 'Good Samaritan' given by an eye-witness in Hollywood. 

Handouts - Mr Hertz
Amethyst - Brujah, Destroyed
Former Baron of Santa Ana
Storytellers Note - Mr Hertz's player was more interested in investigating other loose ends, leaving the computer system investigation to the others.
The Quartz Group
The Quartz group, formally under the control of the destroyed Baron 'Amethyst' had significant assets, the majority of which are now in the hands of it's legitimate company directors. As far as you can tell they simply knew 'Miss Amy Furst' as an independently wealthy share holder and investor who has disappeared. You imagine that they will wait patiently for seven years, have her declared dead then reabsorb those assets into the company.

The estimated seventeen and a half million dollars embezzled at the same time as her disappearance is being investigated thoroughly due to implications that the now missing 'Miss Furst' may have stolen it herself. The virus that destroyed the company records has been linked to the notorious hacker known as Zipper who has covered his tracks with irritating thoroughness.

The Blood
You have also been asked by Daniel to assist in his ghouls search for a traceable connection between Salvador Garcia and The Blood. You have pointed out to them that charitable donations may be made anonymously and churches are exempt from having to pay federal, state, and local taxes. Basically they've got no chance.

Vampire Hunters of 'The Blood'

The MacNeils
Having a starting location and a licence plate has made tracking the MacNeils significantly easier than the other two tasks allocated to you. Calling in a few favours from other Nosferatu within the city you have gotten hold of traffic cam footage that has enabled you to track them to a base of operations. Though you have been told that the two teams that Michael negotiated with are destroyed, their base seems to still be active.

The 'MacNeils', Brujah, Kindred Military Unit

Handouts - Vin
Storytellers Note - Vin's agents were doing surveillance of the coteries earlier search locations to see if others were also on the same trail.
You have been gradually slipping your small army of street people allies into the areas around the locations that the coterie have been investigating.


The Hollywood Mansion
The first few that wandered back, knowing nothing, you gave a gentle slap for being useless, high or drunk and sent them to try again. After the second time you have concluded that someone has been fucking with their heads. As killing them would probably have been simpler you're a bit confused about why anyone would put in that much effort.
San Fernando Mansion
This has mostly been a fruitless endeavour as you have discovered very little of use other than the fact that Mr Mathis has a thing for cheap hookers. His wife is apparently unaware of his outside interests.


The Mountain Retreat
You had to use some of your own security guys for this as most of your street folk are poorly equipped for hanging around in the woods. They have discovered nothing of use other than the fact that the property has had no visitors.
City Hall
Marius's clean up crews have cleansed the scene of the massacre. Or more correctly 'Aegis Industrial Cleaning' vehicles have cleaned up the area. You expected to lose a few people here but you've been told that a petite oriental lady had approached them and told them not to get too close. They heeded the subtle warning as she was apparently 'a bit scary'. You presume this is a measure of professional courtesy from Yukio Hayashi, Marius's ghoul enforcer and on occasion, assassin.

Scene Twenty Four - Something Unforeseen...
Jeremy MacNeil - Brujah
Baron of L.A., Presumed Destroyed

A meeting of the coterie members was convened by Michael so as to share any relevant information that they might have gathered.

Mr Hertz revealed that he had located what he suspected to be the MacNeils base of operations and despite their recent losses during their ambush by Marius's sweepers it seemed to be quite active. Daniel added that in his opinion, this would be where they kept the information they had acquired. Though an attack might be too dangerous, some subtle reconnaissance couldn't hurt.

On the issue of why the MacNeils had suddenly become interested, it was Daniel's theory that they were reacting to suspicions that the system had been accessed already. Others believed that it was as likely that the coteries own activities had triggered their involvement. Vin's concerns however were that if the MacNeils were that fanatical about destroying any kindred who might want to rule L.A. as Jeremy had once done, that Michael himself might become a target.

Vin also mentioned that some of the street people he'd sent to monitor the Hollywood mansion had returned in a confused state and with their memories clouded and in some cases completely altered. The other coterie members immediately concluded that someone with powerful mental abilities must be involved. They immediately began to compile a list of suspects. 

Christopher Houghton - Toreador
5th Generation 
Elder
Michael suspected that the powerful Toreador elder, Christopher Houghton might be responsible. He had up to now kept his knowledge of their presence in the city to himself and didn't think this was a good time to burden his coterie with that information. Instead Michael shared his suspicions that Victor had been telling him a half truth about his methods and could indeed have system access himself.

Michael decided to dispatch Hope and Daniel to scout out the suspected base of the MacNeils, while Mr Hertz looked into the deed they'd acquired from the secret file room beneath City Hall. The fact that a number of files had been removed from the file room relating to the domains of Marius Walker, Myranda Maria, Isaac Abrams, Louis Fortier and the recently destroyed Amethyst confirmed in Michaels mind that the room was far less of a secret than Jeremy had believed. It also gave him yet another pool of potential rivals.

He then asked Vin to fetch one of his street people who had potentially been brainwashed so Michael could attempt to use him as a focus for a premonition. A technique he had used several times before with varying degrees of success, though he generally used objects rather than people.

Though Michael hadn't seen Vin make any attempt to physically summon one of his followers he had noted the five or so minutes of concentration upon his face that indicated his use of his mental abilities. Though the Brujah and Toreador clans shared a knack with certain powers of the mind, Vin had developed his in a significantly different direction to Michael.


Once the scruffy individual in Vin's employ had arrived Michael wasted no time in attempting to discover who had effected their mind. Michael cleared his mind then attempted to actively provoke a premonition. Nothing happened. A moment later the subject collapsed to the ground. They were dead. Daniels instincts as a trained medical man prompted him to attempt to save the man. With a supreme effort he managed to resuscitate them and start them breathing again. However as far as he could tell they were completely brain dead. "I'm sorry Vin..." said Daniel. "...there's nothing else I can do..."

Sarah - Ghoul of Vincent 'Vin' Ghast
Michael was beside himself with grief that he might have potentially caused the unfortunate mortals death. He then began to rationalise what had occurred. Nothing he did could have bought about this mans collapse. The fault surely lay with some ruthless bastard who had conditioned the unfortunates mind and body to shut down under these exact circumstances. The name of Christopher Houghton once more popped into his thoughts.

Collecting himself, Michael told Vin to take the victim to the nearest hospital and to ensure that any expenses necessary for their care were billed to himself. Vin scooped them up in his arms and informed Michael that "..he'd get Sarah to handle it...". Sarah was Vin's ghoul and had proven themselves to be very capable assistant. Even without his empathetic abilities the Toreador could clearly see that Vin was barely holding back his anger. He saw himself in some strange manner as these peoples protector and this was certainly a failure in that area. What Michael couldn't tell was who Vin blamed for these events. If the notoriously aggressive Brujah held him responsible then it may well irreparably damage their relationship, and right now Michael needed them all on the same page.

"I'll get Hope and recon the MacNeil's place..." said Daniel. Michael nodded as Vin stormed out with his comatose agent without uttering another word.

Scene Twenty Five - The Enemy of my Enemy
Abandoned Hotel - Pasadena
Hope's Haven
Daniel picked up Hope near the abandoned hotel that he was now sure was her haven and they then headed to the address discovered by Mr Hertz. Daniel had a habit of never parking too close to his mission targets so his car wasn't tied to any incidents there. This was even more important at the moment as the MacNeils would have seen his car during his barons tense meeting with them in San Fernando a few days ago.

He and Hope had barely survived their second encounter, a firefight at city hall. If they were indeed heading to their base of operations then who knew how many of their number might be there. This was meant to merely be a reconnaissance but Daniel was taking no chances.

After parking somewhere inconspicuous, they made their way to the target location. Judging from the properties they were passing Hope would stick out like a sore thumb considering her casual manner of dressing. They therefore both ducked behind some nearby shrubbery when a police patrol drove past, just in the nick of time to avoid being seen. Moving on before the vehicle returned, they quickly reached the suspected base.

The MacNeils - Base of Operations
The property that the MacNeils are utilising is a large 'L' shaped building, with three large garages and five, maybe six bedrooms. Given the militia-like organisation of the group, the building could easily serve thirty or more people if the rooms were set up like barracks. Of course that is pure conjecture from the outside.

Two vehicles are parked near to the garages, similar in style to the ones you've seen them use before though the car used to track them here is absent. The only feature that mars the suburban look of the place is a tarpaulin covering up something bulky in the front yard.

Considering that Mr Hertz was sure there was activity here only a few hours ago, the silence was for Daniel and Hope a cause for concern. A brief communication with Hertz confirmed that this was the right place. He double checked his information and his sources confirmed that they were one hundred percent sure that the site was active no more than two hours previously. In Daniel's opinion a closer look was called for. "This is your thing, not mine. I'll go with whatever you decide." said Hope.

Hope Romero - In Raven Form
While Daniel stealthily investigated the tarpaulin, Hope transformed into a Raven and flew over the property, scouting the area from above. The tarp was covering a selection of heavy duty digging equipment and related tools. Wacker plates, drills, a small excavator, etc. He also noticed from this closer viewpoint that there was a stain of some kind on the inside of the window, possibly blood. There were a couple of security cameras mounted outside but Daniel had bypassed enough such systems to be able to find gaps in all but the very best.

From her aerial viewpoint Hope could see that the ground at the rear of the property was disturbed near the entrance to a cellar beneath the building. It looked like someone had been doing some renovations. She also noticed that the front door was very slightly ajar. Diving down she circled the door a few times, presuming that Daniel would be looking out for her and after slicing through the security camera cables with unnaturally sharp claws she slipped through the gap into the house.

As you have discovered, the front door is unlocked, Within the hallway are the partially decomposing bodies of two decapitated kindred. The cuts were precise and quick as the victims seem to have had no time to respond to the attacks.

Bloodstains Everywhere
Hope transformed back and then pushed open the door and beckoned Daniel over. "It was like this when I got here..." explained Hope.

The story is the same throughout the property though those further inside have had far less precise final deaths. These have been forcibly dismembered or shattered by single, incredibly powerful blows. As you suspected, the bedrooms are more like barracks though still comfortable. There are enough beds for twenty-five, maybe thirty individuals. So far you have discovered eight dead kindred and six ghouls, one of which was the lookout you observed at the mountain retreat in San Fernando. There is, what is presumably, a cellar door accessed via a small brick structure attached to the rear of the building.

Daniel decided that Michael needed to know what they had discovered before investigating any further. "I don't think we need to worry about the MacNeils anymore..." observed Hope. "...Marius, do you think?" she added. Daniel doubted it. He'd seen Marius's enforcer Yukio kill with amazing precision and he had even learned some advanced techniques under her tutelage. This was however, quite different.

Yukio Hayashi - Ghoul of Marius
Assassin and Enforcer
Even fuelled by Marius's vitae she was still fundamentally human, this carnage showed both an amazing level of skill and a brutally efficient brawling style backed up with inconceivable levels of strength. "Two assailants..." profiled Daniel. "...one an expert with a blade beyond anything I've ever seen, capable of decapitating a man before he could move an inch. The other with the physical prowess required to tear a kindred limb from limb so fast they didn't even get a shot off."

Hope who had been examining the weapons of the bodies as they discovered them, agreed with his assessment. "Not one of them got a gun out of it's holster, let alone shot anything." She confirmed. "Notice anything else?" she then asked. Daniel had been carefully examining the wounds on the bodies but had only one conclusion and he wasn't sure how helpful it was. "Whoever did this wasn't very tall. Most of the damage is low to high and the grip marks on the limbs I can find aren't big at all. Though they did crush, tear and break flesh and bone like it was nothing."

Both Hope and Daniel had seen Marius and his closest agents kill. It looked nothing like this.

At the bottom of the stairs is a well equipped operations centre, the cellar having been extended considerably and quite recently. There is a planning area in the centre next to a large clear, and currently blank, perspex board and a second board with a map of the city, containing several pins. The armoury within has enough assault weapons, sub-machine guns, handguns and ammunition to easily equip thirty or more individuals. Body armour is also piled up on a table next to it. 

An Interesting Sculpture...
There is also another door in the far wall, like a fire escape door and like those can presumably only be opened from one side. This one. 
However these are not the most significant feature of the room. Your attention is drawn to a pyramid that someone has made from the severed heads of the twenty or so remaining members of the MacNeils. Some are certainly kindred judging from the decomposition, many are however mortal. The rest of their bodyparts are in a far less organised pile in one corner.

After making his further report to Michael, Daniel was somewhat surprised to hear that he was on his way. Once again Daniel began to have the suspicion that his baron was withholding something important from them all.

While they were waiting for their baron to arrive the pair examined the scene further and came to some additional conclusions. From the information they could gather from the pin board it seems that the MacNeils had three primary targets lined up. Nines Rodriguez, Marius Walker and their baron Michael Tomassio In that those individuals havens or bases each had red pins in them. Black pins marked the four locations of Jeremy MacNeils havens of which the coterie was aware. Griffiths Park was also circled with a question mark crudely drawn in it's centre.

Part of the MacNeils Armoury
The armoury was also considerable which indicated that these kindred were exceptionally well funded or connected. Possibly both. They counted twenty-four M4 assault Rifles, twelve MP5's, thirty handguns, Mainly Glocks and a handful of Sig Sauer P320's and thousands of rounds of ammunition as well as pre-loaded magazines and three one hundred and fifty round double drums, also loaded. The body armour was military grade and also plentiful.

One final detail was a gap in the blood which indicated that a pile of boxes had been here during the massacre and removed soon afterwards. Whoever had enacted the slaughter had apparently also helped themselves to the MacNeils spoils. Daniel suspected that they were the files that they had seen the MacNeils load up during their first encounter with them. It was at this point Michael arrived to observe the scene with his own eyes.

Both Daniel and Hope noticed that he was unusually focused upon the pile of heads. this was somewhat out of character as Michael generally looked down upon violence as a problem resolution method. However to the artists expert eye, a feature of the pile leapt out at him that his followers had missed. The heads had been arranged in order of skin tone and eye-colour. They had basically made a colour chart out of them. The name of Christopher Houghton once more came to mind. He snapped from his reverie and spoke to Daniel. "Has anyone checked that doorway?" As Daniel examined did as he was asked, Michael had a look at the map on the wall. Michael then removed the pin that indicated himself and tossed it onto the table. "We'll keep that to ourselves..." he said.

The MacNeils Base of Operations - Escape Tunnel

It led to a tunnel, accessible only from this side which finished beneath an empty house on the opposite side of the street. The escape tunnel hadn't been used. The attack had happened far too quickly for there to be any hope of any of the MacNeils escaping.

A moment after his return his preternatural senses heard a noise from outside. Several large vehicles had pulled up.

Scene Twenty Six - Handled Personally
Eleanor Moreno - Agent of Fiorenza
Assigned to Marius Walker
Several of the large vehicles that make up the 'cleaning' part of Marius's fixing business have pulled up in the space outside together with several tow trucks, a van and a large vehicle that you've seen before parked outside the 'Temple of Enlightenment'. The attractive, dark-haired woman that appears to be Marius's new chauffeur gets out and opens the door. A moment later Marius steps down.

Michael had been informed by Daniel about who their new visitor was so decided to meet him personally. It was immediately obvious to Michael that Marius wasn't happy, but that he himself for once wasn't the focus. "I thought you might be here..." said Marius. "Issac has demanded...I mean requested that I handle the clean-up of this scene personally." The source of the Gangrel Fixers annoyance became immediately apparent. He then spoke to someone who was presumably head of the clean-up crew. "Wait here, I'll have a look myself first."

Michael explained what they had discovered as Marius was about to see it himself and they had nothing to hide. He then decided to push his luck a little. "Not like you to jump just because one of the barons asked you to..." Unusually Marius's reaction to the statement wasn't in any way confrontational. Moreover he was uncharacteristically forthcoming. "Isaac is an exception to most rules..." Marius replied. "...and what he wants he generally gets...even if it's me dragging my arse to a crime scene in the middle of the fucking suburbs..."

Isaac Abrams - Toreador
Baron of Hollywood and San Fernando
Marius acknowledged Hope with a nod and then turned to Daniel. As he did so he ran a finger through a bloody smear on the table and tasted it. "Two hours? Give or take?" It was a moment before Daniel realised that he was being asked for his opinion. "That seems about right." replied Daniel. "Based on the dead mortals condition and what we know about when activity was last observed here."

Michael could pick up that Marius was definitely bothered by something and decided to just come out and ask. The reply created more questions than it answered. "I was elsewhere when Baron Abrams called and then I had to get a significant team together to cleanse a scene this...messy...so it took some time..."

Marius paused for a moment his attention seemed to be drawn to the pile of skulls, before continuing. "...therefore if your timeline is correct, and I have no reason to doubt it based on Daniel's expertise, Isaac was aware of this event within moments of it happening. Perhaps even slightly before..." as he spoke he ran his finger over the map from which Michael had removed the pin and smiled wanly as he crossed the area of Pasadena.

Marius Walker - Gangrel
'Fixer' and Baron of Downtown
There followed an uncomfortable silence which was broken by Michael. "If you have no objection I'd like to take some of the evidence here with me as it may relate to my recent enquiries." Marius indicated that he didn't care how the scene was cleaned as long as it was, and that they were free to take anything they pleased other than the bodies themselves.

"Does that include the armoury?" asked Daniel. Marius moved to the racks of weapons and selected a few at random, checking that the serial no's had been removed. "Go on then, but don't take all night about it. I do have a job to do you know?" Correctly presuming that the question was rhetorical in nature, Daniel arranged for one of their criminal contacts to get a vehicle to their location as soon as possible. Then without another word he turned and left the bloodstained operations centre of the now defunct MacNeils gang. "Let's get out of here before he changes his mind." stated Michael. The others agreed that this was an excellent plan.

After they had left Marius's cleaners to their grim task, Daniel subtly prompted Michael about what had interested him so much about the carefully arranged pile of heads. Michael explained that when members of his clan began to lose their humanity that their artistic talents tended to be one of the first things to fade. However the impulse to create often still remained, hence the possibility had occurred to him that one of his own clan might well express themselves in such a manner. "Or it could have just been some Malkavian..." concluded Michael, deciding to change the subject. Michael had become convinced that the Toreador Elder, Christopher Houghton and his bloodthirsty childe Joaquin Murietta were responsible for the attack. 

The Toreador of Boston
Awaiting the Unveiling of Christopher's 'Art'
Christopher was famous amongst his clan for all the wrong reasons. In the late 1820's his sire, tiring of Christopher's endless leeching off of the art world without ever creating anything of his own, challenged him to create a piece of art, in any medium, which he could show to the other Toreadors of the city. Christopher was delighted.

He went to work and spent nine months painting his masterwork, 'The Gates of Heaven'. Finally, in September, it was ready for showing. Almost the entire Toreador clan of New England came out, more out of respect for Sir Matthew than out of any affection for Christopher, who was generally disregarded. 

With enormous flourish, Christopher removed the cover. After a stunned silence, the laughter began. The work was a mess, instantly branding its creator as a poseur of the worst sort. Sir Matthew, whose position in the Toreador community had been devastated by his get's disaster, forbade Christopher to ever darken his door again. Enraged, Christopher fled from Boston, vowing to find a place where true art could be appreciated.


Such is Christopher's charisma and supernatural presence that while in his company the artists he meets are overwhelmed by him and fellow clan members are unable to fathom any creation of such a creature being anything but perfection. Of course the feeling fades with his presence and soon the tale of his failure comes flooding back to their minds. He is also notorious for getting crushes on particularly charismatic men and going to any lengths to assist the object of his affections. Michael now believed that Baron Issac Abrams was Christopher's current obsession.

"So do we have any fucking leads left at all?" asked Hope. It was unfortunately getting close to dawn so no immediate reply was expected and any other plans would need to be implemented tomorrow night anyway.

Scene Twenty Seven - Nik Nak Computing
Mr Hertz had been busy researching the company name from the card they had found in the hidden box in City Hall's secret basement.

He had discovered that NikNak computing was, at least on paper, the biggest rival of the current market leader in computer sales, Sunburst Computing. However after considerable digging he had traced the two companies back to the same holding company and from there back to Pentex. Hertz theorised that this was an elaborate, and seemingly incredibly successful, attempt to fix the market price and allow Pentex to gain a near monopoly in the field. Mr Hertz had also made considerable effort to cover his tracks as during his investigation he had concluded that Pentex had gone to great lengths to keep this connection a secret.

They would, however, have been a perfect choice to create a system for Jeremy MacNeil 'no questions asked' as their business practices were extremely dubious. Most of NikNak and Sunburst's products were seemingly produced in the same Third World factories under sub par conditions, often involving child labour, blackmail and extortion. Most of its products were also made almost exclusively from non-biodegradable, and in many cases banned, materials.

Culver City - Los Angeles
Mr Hertz had no doubts that they would consider murder a small price to pay to keep their secrets. He at least had an address for the companies offices in Los Angeles but intended to warn his allies to be extremely careful in how they approached any further investigations. He also decided to keep a low profile for a few weeks, just in case.

NikNak computing is based in Culver City, on the outer edge of Marius's domain, right next to Fortiers. Despite the borders of what was once the Barony of the Angels being gradually claimed by Marius as part of the new Barony of Downtown, it could be argued that Culver City is still under Fortier's control. It largely depends on who you ask...

"This may require a certain measure of diplomacy, so I'll go myself." Said Michael. "Daniel. you can accompany me in case things become...complicated. Unfortunately Hope, Your unique appearance would draw too much attention on this occasion." Hope wasn't offended. Having razor sharp claws and glow in the dark eyes were both extremely useful, but not really suited to subtle missions involving mortals.

Hope's Permanent Feral Claws
Storytellers Note - In V5 the animal mutations that Gangrel receive when they frenzy last only one night. I have decided that isn't always the case, sometimes they last longer, sometimes indefinitely. I came to this decision when Hope hit her about fiftieth Frenzy....

Vin was also somewhat obvious due to his height and build though at least could still pass for mortal. Unfortunately he was busy dealing with his now comatose operative and Michael hesitated to call him away. He also wanted to give Vin a little more time to cool down as he had been less than happy that Michael's actions had cost him one of those under his protection.

While Daniel drove, he and Michael discussed the likelihood of Jeremy MacNeil's system being hidden beneath Griffith park somewhere. Michael was impressed with it as an idea. The werewolves that inhabited the park would pay far less attention to humans within their domain so Jeremy's people could come and go without issue. If, however, any kindred attempted to interfere with his system then the Garou would almost certainly detect and destroy them as most of their tribes inherently hated vampires and could seemingly detect them very quickly.

NikNak Computing - Pentex
Arson Attack
Daniel added his theory that the silver ammunition they had found along with the other clues might well be there just in case Jeremy MacNeil ever had the need to visit personally. A sensible precaution under the circumstances. Their musing was then interrupted by a commotion near their destination.

Fire department, ambulance and law enforcement vehicles are everywhere as the building you have come to investigate is ablaze.

The pair left their vehicle to get a closer look and as they did so, Daniel used his preternaturally enhanced senses to listen in to the various conversations going on. he picked up three possibly pertinent facts. Firstly, that the Fire Department suspected arson. Secondly, that the police had reports of a black van leaving the scene. Thirdly, he heard two newly arrived police officers discussing the same van, though the license plate number had turned out to have been from a vehicle stolen in Santa Ana yesterday night.

Mysterious Observer
Several of the other observers also caught his interest.

A group of five, dressed in loose dark clothing were watching closely and seemed to be particularly interested in any teams of investigators near to or exiting the building. Their apparent leader was an upright military looking gentlemen. Also of interest was a young woman partially concealed within a building doorway opposite. She was dressed in jeans, jacket and a crop top and an old tatty baseball cap. Though at first glance she appeared to merely be a curious bystander snacking on fast-food, something about her caught Daniel's attention. She was initially observing the group of five that also caught his eye but now her focus was solely upon himself. Strangely she was ignoring Michael completely despite the fact that they had clearly arrived together.

Daniel pointed out both the group and the lone woman. Focusing upon the group first, Michael once more attempted to force a premonition, hoping for better results this time.

The figures before you begin to flow and change and you have the uncomfortable feeling that something is wearing them like a suit. Each form is different. Some have tentacles, others strange bony protrusions, others defy explanation. Only their leader is different, though he remains unchanged in your vision, he radiates a malice and power that is difficult to quantify. The atmosphere around them is one of corruption and as your vision fades, the feeling or wrongness lingers for a moment longer.

"We need to stay away from those..." said Michael indicating the group of five. "...whatever's under those coats isn't human. I don't even know how to describe it to someone who didn't see what I just envisioned..."

"Then let's get out of here." replied Daniel. "You go first and I'll make sure we aren't followed."

Interlude - The End of the Rainbow
Agents of the Wyrm - Pentex
Vin arrived just in time to see his Baron and Daniels observation of several of the crowd near to the burning building before leaving rapidly. He had been arranging for his comatose operative to get treatment from a sympathetic doctor who normally looked after the needs of the prostitutes in his employ. They had been reluctant to help with such an unusual case until Vin explained to them how important it was to him and how unhappy a refusal would make him. On his return to the gallery, Mr Hertz had explained the new developments to him.

Deciding to follow the larger group at a safe distance, the surprisingly stealthy Brujah observed them getting into a nondescript but obviously armoured vehicle. Possibly an ex military police vehicle of some type. The only identification on it was a stylised rainbow which appeared to be a company logo of some kind. A simple search identified it as that of  Rainbow Inc., a major plastics and rubber manufacturer and a wholly owned subsidiary of Pentex. It had its international headquarters in the city of Vernon, so technically Downtown in terms of baronies. 

He also noticed that he wasn't the only individual following the vehicle. The other person of interest was also nearby though had stopped further away. Almost as if she had known where it was heading.

After some consideration he passed the information onto Mr Hertz and returned to his haven. he had a communication from his sire due and didn't want to miss it. He also needed to ask her advice on a somewhat sensitive subject.

To Be Continued in 'The MacNeil Protocols' (Part Seven)

In Conclusion
I like to do a round-up of how the session went in these features but if you couldn't give a shit what I think then feel free to skip this bit...

This session was basically about stoking the fire of the players paranoia. It worked perfectly which means I'm either a pretty good storyteller or a complete bastard. I'll let you decide.

Acknowledgements
Portions of the materials are the copyrights and trademarks of White Wolf Entertainment AB, and are used with permission. All rights reserved. For more information please visit white-wolf.com.

I've used pictures of real people to represent some of the characters and art for others so in no particular order Michael Tomassio is represented by Matt Bomer, 'Vin' is Scott Adkins, Dr Matthews is Mads Mikkelsen, Hope is Deborah Ann Woll, Mr Hertz is Charles Dance, Victor Girard is Bob Hoskins, Velvet Velour is Ilona Shvets, Damsel is Irina Delnova, Mariel St. John is Kate Moss, Heather Taylor is Liz Vicious, Andrew Francis is Ray Stephenson, Keith Chang is Daniel Dae Kim, Amethyst is Paula Patton, Sarah is Natalie Martinez, Isaac Abrams is Gary Oldman and Marius Walker is Tony Curran.

Everything else is from vampire related folders and searches and is as far as I know is all of the 'fair use' variety. If there's something that you feel should be attributed to some-one then feel free to let me know and I'll happily add an acknowledgement.
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