Friday, 11 October 2019

Vampire the Masquerade V5 - Session Forty Nine - The Messiah Complex (Part One)

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 campaign is set in Los Angeles and features a small group of Camarilla agents sent into the 'Free States' to search for ways to once again bring the Ivory Tower to dominance under the pretence of being disillusioned neonates looking for the freedom of the Anarch way of life. Now with a barony of their own it's time to consolidate their position and then plan their next move.
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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.
Chronicle One - 'Infiltrate LA' 
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
Chronicle Two - 'Foothold LA' 
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 OneTwo, Three, Four, 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

The PC's
Player controlled characters
Michael Tomassio - Toreador, Baron of Pasadena
Vincent 'Vin' Ghast - Brujah, Sheriff
Dr Daniel Matthews - Banu Haqim, 'Fixer'
Hope Romero - Gangrel, Scourge
Mr Hertz - Nosferatu, Mob Accountant
The SPC's
Storyteller controlled player allies
Priya Haynes - Gangrel, Hound

The player characters stats and backgrounds can be found HERE should any-one be interested. 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 beneath their picture.

Introduction
Having persuaded the kindred of the Anarch Free States that their assault upon the Blounts mansion was entirely justified the coterie has now taken possession of their domain as compensation for the apparent death of their Seneschal 'Roach'. It has been presumed that Roach had been diablerized by the sisters though the coterie still holds the vague hope that he instead left with his sire. Though Roach's sire is a lunatic even by Malkavian standards if anyone could survive in his presence it would be their resourceful Seneschal.

Together with the arrangement made with Karen Anatos this effectively gives them control of the North-East baronies of Los Angeles. With the financial expertise of Mr Hertz enabling them to finally control all of the former baron of Pasadena's assets he has now taken control of their criminal enterprises. His experience as both gangster and mob accountant have made him the ideal person to take over the responsibilities of Roach.

Pre - Session Handouts
David Geduld - Ventrue Baron of Torrance
Michael Tomassio, Baron - You are aware through your contacts with other barons that the kindred of the Barons of Torrance and Long Beach have had several border scuffles over the last month. There have yet to be any Final Death's but the Torrance Kindred are definitely psyched up for war with the Long Beach kindred.

As there have already been several clashes between the two groups, it seems likely that a major war will start there very soon. Most kindred believe that the only thing holding Geduld back is the fear that his victory would leave him too weak to defend the vast domain he'd then control.

Mr Hertz, Mob Accountant - Your plan to expand 'The Apostles' into the areas of crime neglected by Roach are broadly speaking going according to plan. Daniel has eliminated the major players who were getting in their way in a variety of inventive ways, as they were all mortal the task was routine for a killer as skilled as the Banu Haqim. The only downside is that the takeover of political assets of the Blounts, and the remaining ones of the Vignes has been more expensive than originally estimated due to the need to get them 'on board' quickly before rival kindred moved in on the vacant barony.

Hope Romero, Scourge - Rumours spread amongst the Gangrel Scourges are saying that Nicodemus has left the Wilds for the first time in over a decade to meet with Marius in Downtown. No-one knows what they discussed.

Scene One - Captain Atkins's Investigation
Captain Frank Atkins - Ghoul of Michael
Michael - The number of the burner phone allocated to your police contact Captain Atkins, flashes up on your phone. He seems unusually agitated. "Is it possible we can meet up? I have a minor problem that I could do with some help with. It may have 'special' significance and therefore I'd rather discuss it in person."

Michael noted the word 'special' as it was their code for any matters related to kindred. The baron had warned the police officer to avoid using certain phrases in their conversations due to fear of monitoring by the Second Inquisition.

Mr Hertz suggested meeting at the funeral home they'd recently acquired as it had a meeting room but was unconnected to the coteries main businesses. This particular business was one of the Nosferatu's recommendations as he knew from personal experiences that there were many ways of maximising the profitability of such an enterprise if one was unscrupulous enough. It was also a useful way of disposing of unwanted evidence. When justifying the purchase to Michael he had however only extolled the money making potential and skimmed over the other uses.

"It's nice to see that our arrangement has been beneficial Captain Atkins." said Michael, emphasising the officers new rank. "How can we help each other on this occasion?" The Captain then proceeded to lay out his problem.

"As part of my new duties we've been looking into a series of robberies of gun shops, army surplus stores and places of that nature that have occurred over the last three months. Normally this stuff is used in robberies or sold on the black market pretty much instantly but these weapons haven't. The feds suspect it's been stockpiled in preparation for a gang war...which is plausible enough if not for some other factors..."

Michael, Daniel and Mr Hertz all began to pay attention at this point.

"The security footage of one robbery clearly shows two robbers walking straight past a security guard who swears blind that no-one passed him and that he only investigated when he heard the security door being torn off it's hinges. He's been investigated as an accomplice, or he might have been shit...or..." "...or they had other talents..." Finished Daniel. Frank nodded then continued. "Certain physical security precautions have been bypassed using what seems like physical strength. Chains broken, locks bent, security doors with dents in them that could be boot-prints, and so on. It's all things that can be explained legitimately but when taken as a pattern it looks like whichever group is doing this can turn invisible, rip doors off with their bare hands...and...in one incident I've had to 'lose' the tape for, clear about fifty metres of corridor in a fucking second..."

Reuben Hart - Ghoul of Mr Hertz
Gang Leader of 'The Apostles'
"Where exactly did you lose this footage?" Asked Daniel. The Captain slid a briefcase onto the table. "It's possible I left it in this case with some other evidence. It's also very likely that I'll forget to take it with me when I leave..." Daniel asked Mr Hertz if they had anyway of watching the disc that had been provided for them. The Nosferatu summoned Reuben, the leader of the Apostles gang who (on paper at least) was manager of the funeral home. "We've got a monitor and dvd player for the promotional stuff you could use." He confirmed before sending one of his goons to fetch it. Once it was set up, Reuben and his assistant left them alone once more.

The security tape clearly showed a door exploding off it's hinges then a second later one at the other end of the corridor doing exactly the same. The quality is poor but the blur of movement and the timing clearly showed the use of both supernatural speed and strength. This combined with the photos that Frank had deemed relevant also indicated strength at far beyond human levels.

DSAC Albert Decker - FBI
Los Angeles Organised Crime Task Force
"The FBI guy I liaise with is a very practical guy." Reassured their contact. "I've offered mundane explanations for the few suspect events and blamed incompetent local officers for missing and misplaced evidence and he's buying it for now." Daniel became curious about the FBI agent and was informed that his name was Albert Decker. Frank also informed him that despite his best enquiries, the Deputy Special Agent in Charge (DSAC), Decker appeared to have no exploitable habits or weaknesses and would therefore need to be handled carefully. Still concerned about Second Inquisition involvement, Michael asked Frank to keep an eye out for any federal employees who showed overt religious inclinations. He also gave him a list of the organisational names and symbols that they were aware of being connected to such organisations.

Storytellers Note - As part of Michael's players background, he narrowly escaped London before the Inquisitorial purges and so see's them everywhere and is understandably paranoid. He's worse now that at least one 'FirstLight' operation in LA has been discovered and foiled.

As Daniel perused the list of weapons stolen he noted that they were high calibre, had high ammo capacity or were civilian versions of assault weapons and rifles that could easily be converted. Also telling was the fact that more AP and incendiary ammo has been stolen than conventional rounds. Frank interjected that the Agent Decker had theorised that this was due to the increased use by gangs of body armour and that he had encouraged this theory.

At this point the Banu Haqim came across the pictures of the pair of individuals who had snuck past the guard and something about them seemed familiar. Though they had been described in the most generic terms by the security guard once he had noted their presence, the pictures immediately made Daniel think of the two kindred who had followed him during the aftermath of the Blount incident. While he pondered this new development, their police contact began to talk about the most recent locations that had been hit.

"These are the locations of reported crimes, though we're reasonably certain that some criminal armouries have been hit too. They're hardly going to phone the cops about it." He listed the five most recent locations as suspected earlier crime scenes had been processed by local cops and no forensic evidence had been found. the locations included a high profile 'boutique' in Beverly Hills, West LA. This had low security precautions and contained mostly handguns though some exotic and rare models were amongst them. A storage warehouse for an army surplus store just outside Downtown LA had been more or less emptied of a number of deactivated military weapons and lots of civilian versions of military weaponry had also been taken. There had been a rifle club in the Pasadena's hills that had lost a significant amount of customer stored weapons in the most recent robbery as well as a lot of ammunition of various types.

Marius Walker - Boardroom Gangrel
'Provider of many useful services'
The last two of the most recent crime scenes were fairly mundane gun-shops, one in Melrose avenue in what the kindred referred to as 'The Barony of the Angels' and another in Palos Verde, Torrance. Both had been emptied of rifles, handguns and the better of their ammunition. "I can get one or two of you allocated as police consultants if you can make it plausible that you have the necessary expertise. Then you'll have access to the crime scenes that are still sealed off. They'll be temporary passes of course." Offered the Captain.

"I can authorise this easily enough but bear in mind that if you take me up on this you'll need to have identities that can stand up to a background check." Mr Hertz's identification had been created by the Camarilla in Chicago and was more than capable of withstanding a check. Dr Daniel Matthews had been created by Marius's people and was of an equivalent high standard. This effectively made them the only real candidates for the offer.

Sarah - Ghoul of Vincent 'Vin' Ghast
Personal Assistant
"We'll be happy to help you with this and thank-you for bringing it to our attention." said Michael. "Now if you wouldn't mind leaving us to discuss the matter between us?". As the cop got up to leave, Mr Hertz handed him a printout on headed notepaper. "I've prepared a list of recent burials and cremations should you need to explain your presence here." Nodding his thanks he was escorted back to his car by Reuben. As the gang leader returned Mr Hertz told him to put the word out that they were interested in making some weapons purchases in order to see if any of the stolen guns could be traced. He also asked him to send a runner to Vin's establishment asking so as to see if his army of street people could also see if any rumours could be picked up. He reminded Reuben that he might get more consistent results if he passed the message through Vin's ghoul Sarah as she seemed to have adopted the role of his PA.

Once the officer and the other ghouls and mortals were out of the way Michael asked the others for their input on the situation. "It might be a good idea to inform the more criminally minded of our allies about the crimes." Mr Hertz suggested."We are on good terms with both Hank of the Crypt Sons and Steve Booth of Long Beach and they might be able to help. Even if we gain no information it would still be seen as a show of respect to let them know what we have learned." Michael agreed this as a good idea before turning to Daniel.

Santa Monica Pier - Duskborn Domain
"It did occur to me..." Theorised the assassin. "...that the duskborn may have adopted Roach's idea about building a thin-blood army and taken such a plan to the next level. Most are weaker than an average kindred so firepower would be a great equaliser. It's also possible that they have bought some of the kindred from the Barony of the Angels into their scheme as it looks like those pair of bastards that followed me are also involved."

As most of the retaliatory attacks on them after the problem they had with the Blounts sisters had originated from the aforementioned barony Daniel was reasonably sure that this was his stalkers point of origin.

With no firm evidence other than the fact that kindred were definitely involved they resolved to hold off with further theories until Hertz and Daniel had investigated one of the crime scenes. They were informed that their identification would be available to pick up the following evening. Mr Hertz arranged for some untraceable burner phoned to be dropped off for him by the gang to use during the search.

Scene Two - The Pasadena Rifle Association
Zhi Baxter - Operative of Fiorenza Savona
Currently Assigned to Mr Hertz
The most recent of the robberies had taken place in the outskirts of Pasadena where a rifle club had lost most of it's customers weapons in a blitz style robbery. It was also the location where apparently the security guard hadn't seen any-one inside until a door right next to him was blown off it's hinges despite them walking straight past him on the security footage. After picking up their identification as temporary civilian consultants and the burner phones, Mr Hertz's driver Zhi took them to the scene of the crime.

As they drove through the hills towards their destination, Daniel suggested that they park some distance away in order to limit evidence of their presence in case the area was observed. Mr Hertz countered by pointing out that the mountains were known werewolf territory and he wasn't leaving his transport a mile away and that they had identification allowing them to be there anyway should they be interrupted. Realising that the driver worked for the Nosferatu and would no doubt ignore his orders anyway he reluctantly relented as they parked right outside the front door.

The building was an expansive but single floored structure whose front door had recently had it's security barrier replaced. Presumably after the robbery had occurred. While Daniel investigated the front door, he himself walked the perimeter, letting the occasional rat out of his coat to scurry ahead just in case. Observing nothing of note other than a few possible alternate methods of ingress he returned to find Daniel had skill-fully picked the lock. Committed now, they both entered.

You find yourself in a luxuriously decorated but functionally simple reception room. Sofa's and chairs are off to one side for those too important to stand while waiting to sign in and a wooden counter on which there is a signing in book. Daniel flicked through the last few weeks of entries and recognised no suspicious names. It did however seem to be a whose who of the rich and influential around Pasadena and the neighbouring areas. There were a few disreputable citizens among the members but no-one who would need to steal to acquire guns and definitely no kindred or their associates that he as aware of.

The door at the receptions rear was still hanging from it's frame and had crime scene tape across the middle. He could see why the security guard had come under suspicion as the thieves would have literally had to walk past the desk to demolish the door. The fact that he also hadn't seen the blow that had knocked him out a moment later would also look suspect to someone unaware of a supernatural connection. The corridor ahead led to another security door that presumably led to the important areas where weapons had been stored. The doors along the sides which had been ignored by the thieves led to various luxurious sitting rooms, an office, a security room and a bar.

The security room lock took a little longer to bypass than the one at the entrance but Daniel wanted to make sure that all the cameras were off. Though they had identification it probably didn't mean much if they were caught breaking and entering. The security room was powered down and once he was sure they weren't being recorded he went to see what Mr Hertz was up to.

Mr Hertz wasn't surprised to discover that the paperwork relating to weapon ownership had been removed as it would be needed by both the police and the insurance people. The actual financial records were still there however and the financial expert gave them a 'once-over'. Though nothing relating to their enquiries leapt out at him he was positive that some-one had been embezzling from the business as to his trained eye the signs were clearly visible. He filed the details away for future reference, passed the information onto Daniel, then together they moved towards the weapon storage area.

The storage area consisted of a secured cage area that was now damaged and had been re-secured with a lock through a chain which Daniel casually opened. Behind it were a series of weapon lockers that looked like they'd had the locks opened with a crowbar. However a few odd shaped dents could easily have been caused by a hand ripping them open physically. Some weapons still remained which was probably why the area had been secured. These were mostly obsolete, low powered or otherwise poor examples of their weapon type. Whoever had hit this place had carefully selected what weapons they wanted. "So how the fuck did they get the guns out if they didn't go back out the way they came?" asked Mr Hertz. It was a good question.

There was a rear door to the firing ranges but despite the police report suspecting this as the getaway point Daniel doubted it. Firstly they would have had to have picked the lock and then locked the door behind them. This seemed like a lot of effort when they'd happily destroyed every other door in the place. Another search would apparently be in order.

Eventually, Mr Hertz noticed that a small service room in the locked area had an old drain in the back next to some cleaning equipment. A closer examination indicated that it had been opened recently. Daniel who had been edging towards it being an inside job, changed his opinion. Had they been sure of where the hatch was, they would have certainly used it as the ingress point rather than as an exit.

Mr Hertz sent a few rats to investigate and discovered that it led to an old storm drain in the nearby woods. It seemed to him that this building had been constructed over an older area and the drainage had been re-used. As rats weren't big on detail, they decided to check the tunnel themselves.

The area showed signs of recent use including drag marks and more obvious clues like the fact that the gate at the end had been broken open. While examining the shattered lock, Daniel noticed a spot of blood on a jagged edge. Utilising a recently acquired basic Thaumatury ability, Daniel tasted the blood to see if he could discern anything of the donor. The fact that they were kindred was easy to determine though the blood felt, for want of a better term, 'thin'.

Storytellers Note - As he acquired this ability through diablerie rather than training I've decided to make it's use slightly more complicated than the rules state until he'd done it a few times. Basically I'm going to get less and less vague with the information I provide the more he uses the discipline.

Hope in Raven Form
Hope had been circling the area in raven form, on Michael's suggestion that they might need help at some point spotted them emerging from the storm drain. From her elevated position, using her supernaturally enhanced avian senses she could easily see the trail from the drain to an open area where vehicle tracks were. Drag marks could be discerned at various points along the trail.

After watching their piss-poor attempt at following what was to her a trail that might as well be illuminated and signposted she flew down, circled their position and guided them the way they needed to go. Realising that ravens didn't have eyes that glowed red, it was a fair conclusion that the bird that had just dive-bombed them was Hope.

The site where the drag-marks finished were indeed by the tyre tracks of something heavy like a van. It had also been considerably heavier after it left than when it arrived judging by the change in depth. She also guessed that about four individuals had been involved though the fact that the drag marks overlapped the tracks in some places made it less than certain.

Hope Romero - Protean Shapechange - Wolf
"Shall we report this to the authorities?" Asked Hope after returning to humanoid form. Daniel chose this moment to wave his ID at her. "Technically we are the authorities..." "I feel safer already..." replied Hope unconvincingly. "...I imagine you want me to see if this trail goes anywhere useful?" This time shifting into wolf form she used her much improved animal senses to follow the trail but could only really discern that the van had rejoined the traffic at the main road. Mr Hertz meanwhile who was quite capable of understanding the speech of creatures other than his rats was amused to hear how often Hope referred to Daniel using the word 'asshole' when in animal form.

With the crime-scene more or less a dead-end, Daniel suggested that they go to see his friend Alonzo as if any-one knew who might have knowledge of obsolete sewer networks in LA it would certainly be him.

Scene Three - Mutual Favours
Alonzo Guillen -  Autarkis Nosferatu
Ancient Hollywood Warrens
Daniel explained for the second time to Mr Hertz that he didn't like to park too close to the locations they visited and was ignored again. This pleased Hope immensely as she was increasingly convinced that Daniel was parking further and further away just to piss her off.

Storytellers Note - He definitely is...

Mr Hertz suggested that Hope do some recon of the area in case they had been followed before they ventured into the sewer network. She promptly returned to raven form and had a brief discussion with the Nosferatu about how long it would be before Daniel remembered that he needed to open the door so she could get out. After it became obvious that it hadn't occurred to him, Mr Hertz spoke up. "Perhaps you can open the door for the lady so she can do that reconnaissance we discussed?"

Storytellers Note - Despite being more or less the most ruthless member of the coterie, Mr Hertz is scrupulously polite and respectful at all times. It's been interesting to watch him roleplay that aspect of the character.

Hope hopped out of the vehicle and then soared into the air, circling the area and retracing their path but observed nothing that looked like a pursuer. As Hertz and Daniel entered the concealed sewer entrance she glided through the gap after them and perched on Daniel's shoulder as he guided them to Alonzo's lair avoiding the areas where Alonzo had installed deterrents to the progress of the uninvited.

Eula - Alonzo's Guardian
His base is much the same, except that the breeding vats are now full of a dark-red liquid in one of which something vaguely humanoid is floating. It's difficult to make out what it is other than the approximate shape. The other notable change is that the pit in the rooms centre seems to no longer contain his pet. The liquid level is much lower and you can see the upper portion of a circular passage that has been integrated into the lower area. It would seem that Alonzo has made it possible for 'Eula' to move around the sewers a little.

"What an interesting coincidence, young one, I was just about to send a messenger to ask for your assistance. But as you have arrived of your own accord please allow me to deal with your request first." Before explaining his problem he introduced Mr Hertz who complimented Alonzo on his interesting selection of verminous servants. Daniel was also interested in what exactly he was creating in the now seemingly functional breeding vats and pits but decided that now was probably not the time to be nosy.

Caleb - Nosferatu
Childe of Gary Golden
Alonzo was sceptical that any mortals existed who knew of such obscure parts of the sewer network such as those in the outskirts of LA. Especially those no longer connected to the main system. He did however point out that the youngest of Gary's childer 'Caleb' was when mortal in charge of collating all the different districts alterations to the network itself. In fact it was being a little too good at this job that had led to his embrace.

Alonzo was aware that the existing rifle club had been built over an old hunting lodge that had existed in the mountains. In fact as far as he was aware there had been a hunting club, rifle range or some similar enterprise on the site for well over a hundred years. This awakened the curiosity of Daniel who had been suspicious about the lodges lack of information about it's owner when there. That was however a problem for another time and with new information at his disposal he decided to ask what help Alonzo himself required.

"Well young one. I could do with you using your particular skills to investigate something for me. If you have the spare time that is?" Daniel explained that he had already been assigned several tasks by his baron but would happily help if it was something he could fit in-between. The Nosferatu continued and the others began to pay attention as Alonzo rarely if ever asked for assistance. "It has come to my attention that some-one is mapping the sewers, to be more specific it seems that several groups are mapping the sewers though whether they are allied with one another is less certain." It occurred to all present that this could actually be connected to their own problem so they asked him to continue.

Alonzo's Vermin Spies and Messengers
"One group seems to have significant skills at stealth and with powers over creatures, as my spies are always commanded to leave the area and it takes significant skill to override the will of a creature I have given a task to. They are however doing my creations no harm."

"The others seem to have some natural skills in stealth with a few representatives having supernatural talents, though not all by any means. They tend to kill my pets on sight. The fact that they can tell which are under kindred influence and which are not implies certain abilities not possessed by mortals." He then laid at the additional complication that he was experiencing. "Detecting clan through the eyes of my pets is unfortunately impossible and asking a rat to describe a person is an inexact science at best. But as I know a helpful young investigator with resourceful friends I thought you might be able to look into it for me?" Mr Hertz sympathised with his problem as though he himself made extensive use of rats and other creatures their usefulness had limits.

Werewolves - Bone Gnawer Tribe
Daniel asked if this had anything to do with the absence of Eula from her usual place in the centre of his lab. "Why yes, actually. I have arranged for several sewer pipes to divert water into the pipes below and around my home and have flooded several tunnels. This has enabled my pet to patrol the area around my domain in case these spies become aggressive or invade my territory." Daniel and Hope who had both seen the monstrous guardian were sure that would be more than enough deterrent. "Do you have any specific locations where these searchers have been seen?"

The group who had sufficient skills to divert Alonzo's vermin spies had been mainly operating beneath the edges of Downtown LA and had possibly also been exploring beneath it. This area was considered dangerous to kindred as a group of Lupines from a tribe that Alonzo called 'Bone Gnawers' made their home there. Though they were not as aggressive towards vampires as many of their kind they were still not to be trifled with.

The camp that had been actively eliminating the spies and messengers of Alonzo and possibly those of other Nosferatu as well seemed to be focused mainly on the West of Los Angeles as well as the Barony of the Angels. Suspiciously, some of the locations at which they'd been seen were close to the robbery locations. Though this could have been a coincidence, Daniel didn't really believe in them where Kindred were concerned. They reported this new development to Michael and then Hope and Daniel decided to explore some of the areas indicated by Alonzo to see what they could discover. Mr Hertz on the other hand decided to stay and chat with his fellow Nosferatu some more and then head back to Chinatown.

Storytellers Note - Mr Hertz's player has family commitments that require him to be home earlier than the other players. I therefore try as best as I can to insert any plot points related to him into the earlier parts of the session. The others tend to stay till I throw them out...

Scene Four - Beneath the Baronies
Allowing Daniel to lead the way was something Hope came to regret as he announced after an hour of travel that he had absolutely no idea where they were. A brief return to the surface indicated that he had been going in almost completely the opposite direction to that which he had intended. Fortunately a different location that coincided with both underground reconnaissance and a weapons robbery wasn't far away. Trying his best to make it seem that this had been his intention all along Daniel began to apply his investigation skills to any sign that others had passed this way.

Hope hadn't exactly given up on finding a trail but had definitely had enough of traipsing around the sewers. It was therefore something of a relief when Daniel found a fairly recent boot-print in the dirt alongside the water. The only distinctive feature of the clue was a slight nick in the heel.

Storytellers Note - To be completely honest I made up the last bit about the heel on the spot. He'd rolled really well to investigate a throwaway clue so I threw him a bone, so to speak. Of course I then had to make it relevant later, lol. I'm just too nice sometimes...

"Are you done, Lieutenant Columbo?" Asked Hope smiling. "I'm just trying to work out which direction they were going in." Replied Daniel. It was obvious that the Banu Haqim meant the statement in a broader sense but Hope chose to deliberately misunderstand. "Why? Do you think they were walking backwards?"

Choosing to ignore the sarcasm, Daniel told her he was going to scout ahead using his talents of Obfuscation in case their quarry was ahead. Hope followed in the direction he had indicated but even with her ability to sense the unseen couldn't discern his presence. The Banu Haqim turned to see if the Gangrel was following him along the corridor and was surprised to note that he almost missed her. Her movements were almost animal-like as she stalked along the passageway and Daniel could see what made her such a good scourge.

If he hadn't already known she was there she would have been on him before he even knew he was being tailed. Of course, neither of them would have ever told the other that they were impressed with their allies respective abilities.

As he advanced something out of the corner of his eye caught his attention. There was a recess in the opposite wall that looked like it led to a corridor. The alcove would have certainly gone unnoticed had he not been on the look out for anything suspicious. His heightened senses detected nothing so he dropped his supernatural cloak to enable Hope to see him and then leapt over the water to the other side. The Gangrel then followed suit, landing with almost unnatural stealth. The short corridor ended in a padlocked door. Though the chain and padlock were quite new, the door clearly wasn't. Grooves in the dirt on the floor indicated that it had been used recently.

Daniel had become paranoid about doors that might have been secured by kindred after almost losing a hand at the Blounts mansion so carefully checked for traps. Finding none, he asked Hope to have a look due to her experience with IED's gained in the military as a mortal. She also confirmed that the outside was clear but warned Daniel to be careful when opening the door.

Daniel picked the lock with his usual efficiency but opened the door very carefully and looked through the crack between the door and frame. A wire could clearly be seen attached to the door handle, though to what it was attached he couldn't see. Hope's advice was to just cut it as to her it looked like it was simply designed to activate something if the door was opened. She also pointed out that whoever had secured the room might need to be able to get back in, hence the wire having enough slack to not activate as soon as the handle had been turned. Fortunately she was correct.

The wire led to both an anti-personnel grenade and an ignition system for half a dozen petrol bombs. Though a relatively simple set-up it would if triggered have ignited the Molotov cocktails just in time for the grenade to propel flaming material over any-one who entered. The damage from the grenade would have also been fairly potent at such close range. Hope carefully removed the grenade from the rest of the improvised trap and kept it.

The room contained a few mattresses and sleeping bags on the floor and several empty used up blood bags. The bags numbered four but there were six distinct sleeping areas so it was possible that not all the previous occupants had been kindred. Of course they also may have been unable to consume bagged blood or had already fed.

Daniel asked Hope if she could summon a creature to send a message to Alonzo but she confessed that the constant transformations without feeding had left her with very little Vitae in her system and that she was already dangerously hungry. Daniel therefore abandoned the idea and instead decided to see if they could pick up the trail once more.

An occasional scent here and a scuff mark there were all the signs of movement they could find until another set of footprints were discovered. Daniel was pleased to note that one of them had the distinctive mark in the heel he'd seen earlier so he quickened his pace. As he did so he felt a clawed hand on his shoulder that stopped him in his tracks. Hope's feral claws had failed to return to normal many frenzies ago and though she didn't tear into his undead flesh, she made quite a mess of his jacket. His irritation became gratitude as Hope gestured to the wire on the floor he was about to break and the grenade to which it led. Adding the explosive device to the other in her coat they continued, very carefully onward.

As they moved forward, some instinct caused Daniel to stop. The sewer tunnel narrowed and had a number of alcoves in the sides and a steep curve that obscured the way ahead. Something about it screamed ambush. "Have we stopped for a reason?.." asked Hope. "...or have you found another interesting footprint?"

Both of them had been in the military and knew basic hand signals so when Daniel signalled for her to stop and that their were enemies ahead she paid attention. With both of their senses strained to their fullest they detected a sign of movement in one of the alcoves. As the Banu Haqim readied his own weapons, Hope lobbed a grenade with perfect accuracy into the indicated position. The detonation sent a body flying into the sewer like a rag-doll. The relative lack of blood indicated that their victim was kindred.

The Banu Haqim covered the distance to the site of the explosion in a fraction of a second and could hear footsteps in the distance. The kindred at his feet was still moving so he decided to let the others get away and instead question the one that remained. He first flipped them over with his foot and then began the interrogation. "You're going to tell me exactly what I want to know..." His plan to gain some useful information was interrupted as the grounded kindred threw something at his chest. He looked down to see the pin from a grenade lying at his feet and a full bag of explosives lying nearby. Drawing upon his vitae to once again increase his speed to supernatural levels he intercepted the approaching Hope and both hit the ground as a good portion of the tunnel was vaporised behind them.

"Looks like we're dealing with a bunch of fanatics..." Stated Daniel. "Looks like it's an hour from dawn..." replied Hope. "We'll never make it back to the gallery in time...". They could however make it to Alonzo's...

Scene Five - The Flesh Trade
Vincent 'Vin' Ghast - Brujah
Manager of the Coteries 'Sex Trade' Interests
Before they left the next evening, Alonzo promised them that he'd make enquiries with Caleb about both of their problems and how it might relate to the sewer network. Daniel then raided his supply of blood bags, while Hope went to see if Vin would spare some of his substantial herd for her to slake some of her own thirst upon. Vin did indeed give her access but she couldn't help but notice that he was in a bad mood. Apparently not at her, but something was definitely on his mind.

As Hope and Daniel gave their progress report to Michael, Vin had arrived and was pacing impatiently outside the office. "We'll decide what to do about that lot once I've dealt with whatever is bothering Vin." said Michael. Vin took this as an invitation to speak and laid out his problem

Several of the young ladies in Vin's employ have gone missing over the last few weeks. Though a certain amount of circulation occurs amongst sex workers a couple of those who have disappeared are the higher paid and most popular of the ladies working at your various establishments and showed no signs of wishing to leave over and above the usual dissatisfaction's with such a career. The rest are street girls with which there is a higher turnover.


Catherine Du Bois, Velvet Velour and Leanna - Mistresses of the LA Blood Dolls

Vin's own investigations had discovered that his establishments were not the only ones to have issues. Most of those in the sex trade across LA had been having the same problem. Small amounts of high end hookers were disappearing as well as significant quantities of street girls. More critically in Michael's mind was Vin's next revelation that Catherine Du Bois had lost several of her stable of depraved blood doll sex slaves, Some of the Sin-Bin girls had disappeared and that at least one of Velvet Velours dancers was also missing. Whoever was responsible either had little fear of reprisal or was incredibly stupid.

"Call in whatever favours you need to find out what's happened to these women and put Alonzo's problem on the back-burner..." Said Michael. "...this now takes priority."

With some-one stockpiling weapons, two groups mapping the sewers and the now inevitable war between the baronies of Torrance and Long beach imminent the last thing they needed was a forth problem. Los Angeles was apparently becoming a very dangerous place for a kindred to call home.

To be Continued in 'The Messiah Complex' - Part Two

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 will probably be one of the last stories of this particular chronicle and the players have more than enough experience now for me to pile on the pressure a little...well...a lot...

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, David Geduld is Zachary Quinto, Frank Atkins is Michael Chiklis, Reuben Hart is Ray Liotta, Albert Decker is Thomas Gibson, Marius Walker is Tony Curran, Sarah is Natalie Martinez, Catherine Du Bois is Margot Robbie and Leanna is Leeanna Vamp. 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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