Friday, 27 January 2023

Vampire the Masquerade - V5 - Session One Hundred and Twenty Five - 'A Plague of Blood' (Part Two)

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 over four years of plotting, one of their number is now leader of the Anarch Council of the Free States and the rest have privileged places within the Anarch hierarchy.
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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. There are however a list of potential triggers listed before the introduction. 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 OneTwoThreeFourFive
Story Twenty - 'The MacNeil Protocols' - Part SixSevenEightNine and Ten
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Interlude Session One - After Griffith Park
Interlude Session Two - Divide and Conquer
Interlude Session Three - On the Brink of War
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Chronicle Four - 'Conquest L.A.'
Story Twenty One - 'Veni, Vidi, Victor' - Part OneTwoThreeFourFive
Story Twenty One - 'Veni, Vidi, Victor' - Part Six, and Epilogue
Story Twenty Two - 'The Unbound' - Part OneTwoThree and Four
Story Twenty Three - 'The War Council' - Part OneTwoThree and Four
Interlude Session - Recon
Story Twenty Four - 'Resistance' - Part OneTwoThreeFour and Five
Interlude Session - Damage Limitation
Interlude Session - The Killing Spree
Story Twenty Five - 'Personal Agendas' - Part OneTwo and Three
Story Twenty Six - 'Strange Bedfellows' - Part OneTwoThreeFourFive and Six
Story Twenty Seven - 'The Fiorenza Sanction' - Part OneTwo and Three
Story Twenty Eight - 'Hunters Hunted' - Part OneTwoThreeFour and Five
Story Twenty Eight - 'Hunters Hunted' - Epilogue
Solo Session - 'The Salubri Tome'
Story Twenty Nine - 'Methuselah' - Part OneTwoThreeFourFive
Story Twenty Nine - 'Methuselah' - Part SixSevenEightNine and Ten
Story Twenty Nine - 'Methuselah' - Epilogue
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Galerie Sanguine - 'San Francisco'
'Anarchs' -  ZeroOneTwoThree and Four
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Chronicle Five - 'Blood Cults of L.A.'
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Story Thirty - 'A Plague of Blood' - Part One
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'The Cast' - Past and Present
This Sessions PC's are...
Michael Tomassio - Toreador, 'Baron of the North East'
Dr Daniel Matthews - Banu Haqim, 'Sherlock'
Vincent Ghast - Brujah, 'Constable of the North East'

The Storyteller
Garreth - Everyone else...

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.

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. Introductory pieces that I read to the group are in Blue. 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.

Trigger Warnings for This Session: Blood (Obviously), Incest, Sex Work.
Other Possible Triggers: Rats.

Introduction
Having decided that advancing through the sewers without the aid of a tracker, and with innumerable locations for booby-traps and ambushes, wasn't a great idea, Hope and Daniel have withdrew to the surface to reconsider their options.

Meanwhile, other information has become available to the coterie.

Scene Five  - Little Black Book
Ammaarah Weaver - Tzimisce
Census-Taker for Hollywood
The Little Black Book' belonging to the recently deceased Dominatrix, 'Mistress Sabina' has been obtained by Isaac Abrams Census-Taker, Ammaarah Weaver, who recently replaced Sofia Rivera who was given 'other duties'. The acquisition of this item was apparently done quietly and efficiently and so should be fairly free of consequences.

The clients within are referred to by gender, first initial and a surname, most of which are obviously made up. Each name is also followed by a set of abbreviations which quite obviously indicate their sexual preferences. It seems that Sabina McDonnell was a woman with a wide variety of talents.

Miss J.L. is the only name that doesn't fit the format and is seemingly a fairly recent customer, and a very well paying one at that. There is also no mention of her preferences, which is unusual as all other entries have at least one note next to them.

Ammaarah has also obtained a palmtop computer which Sabina used as an appointment book, and which the coteries resident team of hackers have already broken into and decrypted. An attempt had been made to format it's hard drive but Eric and Zipper have managed to salvage some fragments of information from it.

Most of it is fairly routine and unsurprising. 

The final entry refers to a 'Miss J.L.' who apparently paid extra for personal visits, though the location is just referred to as "The usual place..." It also looks like she'd been a customer for less than three months, though her visits were seemingly weekly. Cross referencing her time of death leads you to believe that Miss J.L. would have been the last person to see Sabine alive, though probably not free of illness, given what you know of the diseases progress.

Daniel was hoping for more, but has filed the information away in case it becomes relevant later.

Scene Six - First Clues
Max's quite obviously stolen motorbike
Max, a Gangrel who patrolled their Eastern border within the North Eastern Barony of Pasadena, arrived on a Kawasaki Ninja H2 motorbike, a street legal version of a racing only bike. This version was still capable of reaching over two hundred miles per hour and with a price tag of over thirty thousand dollars they imagined that it was probably obtained dubiously. When last they saw Max and her ghoul 'Izzy' they were using an off-road Honda, so this was definitely a recent acquisition.

Daniel noted that Max was armed with a short barrelled, pistol grip shotgun in what appeared to be a handmade custom shoulder holster. This appeared to be her only weapon though Daniel didn't rule out easily concealable bladed weapons too.

"Nice wheels..." commented Daniel

"I stole it...." replied Max "... but don't worry, no-one is going to come looking for it." Daniel decided not to ask about the fate of the previous owner. He nodded at the weapon. "You came prepared I see." Max patted the shotgun almost affectionately "It's one of Izzy's, she made the holster too. She's good with her hands."

'Max' - Gangrel
Sweeper for the North East
Max then approached Hope and inclined her head in deference, though kept eye-contact. "What's the job, boss?" Hope explained that they needed someone who could track a target through a sewer.

Max's answer was quite reassuring "I can track through sewers alight. Once you get acclimatised to what smells are meant to be there and which ones aren't, it's not that tricky. I had a Haven in a sewer once. Izzy hated it though..."

"We're just looking for now..." clarified Hope, who was well aware that Max had a tendency to confront threats head-on. Normally this was fine, but on this occasion Hope wanted to make sure they knew what they were walking into before acting. "...so you wait for my go-ahead before doing anything impulsive. Clear?" Max confirmed that she understood completely. Hope Romero had considerable status with the city's Gangrel and an enviable count of victories for a kindred with only a decade of unlife behind her. Subsequently, the sweepers under her command tended to defer to her authority without too much resistance.

Daniel then added his own warning "Whatever we're after apparently stank of decay and might have something to do with this Blood Plague so we're being extremely careful about what and who we get into close contact with."

After being shown to the sewer entrance, Max dropped through the sewer hatch and into the water below without bothering to use the ladder, she looked comfortable in the unwelcoming environment, almost at home in fact. Hope shrugged and followed her down, though used the ladder. Daniel did the same.

Gary Golden - Nosferatu
Baron of the Warrens
As they prepared to move on, Daniel sent a message to Michael, to let him know that they were going underground and that there was a real possibility that they'd need to speak to Gary Golden, the Nosferatu Baron of the Warrens, at some point. Last time they'd journeyed this way they'd lost phone signal very quickly so Daniel sent the message while they were still near the entrance.

Hope's eyes glowed a dull red as she activated her ability to see in the darkness below. She also noticed that Max also was showing no signs of being hindered by the lack of light, though her eyes lacked the distinctive internal glow that usually indicated the use of this talent.

Daniel meanwhile used his preternatural senses to find his way ahead. He also sought out defensive positions along their route, should they need to fall back at some point. There weren't many, and those few wouldn't last against a concerted attack, but something was better than nothing.

"How long ago did you travel through here?" asked Max, causing the other two kindred to pause.

"About an hour ago." replied Hope. "Why?"

Max reply raised some concerns "There's been a kindred through here since then. Mortals think they can get clean but they always smell of something, with kindred you can smell their stuff but not them, unless they've fed, then they stink of their prey. This one hasn't fed recently but they're clean too, so I doubt they're your giant smelly mystery man. Did you say there was meant to be someone on guard, cuz there wasn't anyone watching us arrive..."

The Mysterious Plaguebearer?
Daniel needed this clarifying and so asked if Max was sure.

Max then proceeded to list all the individuals who had been within the water works, and their exact locations, despite not actually entering the buildings at all. "So yes. I'm sure..." she concluded. she then pointed out several areas where she was sure another kindred had walked. Neither Hope nor Daniel could really see the disturbances that she had noticed, but had no reason to doubt her abilities.

Daniel mused through the possibilities for a while before speaking. "Owen was fairly neat and tidy. He didn't strike me as the 'wading through the sewers on a whim' type of kindred. He seemed more than happy to let us do that on his behalf."

Max's assessment was somewhat more direct. "He's a shit tracker. He's left a trail any fucker could follow."

"Is it possible he entered these tunnels after us and got ahead?" queried Daniel. "No." replied Max. Apparently deciding that an explanation about why was unnecessary. "If there's no other signs of movement down here, then follow Owen's trail." Instructed Daniel.

The tracker listened to the command, but still waited for a nod from Hope before indicating that she understood.

Ria - Gangrel
Census Taker for Downtown
"We've met some other talented Gangrel trackers over the years." began Daniel. He was pretending to make casual conversation but really he was trying to confirm a rumour he'd heard that Max was a childe or grandechilde of one of the kindred census-takers of Downtown L.A. known as 'The Circle' "One of The Circle helped us follow a trail in one of the Gangrel Protectorates up in the North West. Have you encountered them yourself?"

Max was quite open in her reply. "One of the Circle is my sire, Ria to be specific, but I only found that out quite recently. She had no idea I existed. I was a pity-siring I think. I came from a shithole, and my dad was an abusive asshole, I think Ria was hoping I'd kill them but I didn't. I just grabbed Izzy and fucked off. I don't think Marius even knows I exist so it's not like the family connection is any use to me anyway..."

"And Izzy?" prompted Daniel. Curious about the ghoul that Max seemed so attached to. He regretted asking the question immediately after getting the answer.

"Izzy is my daughter. I had her young. She's also technically speaking my sister. Do you need me to draw you a picture or is that enough digging into my past to keep you going?"

Max was obviously angry, though Daniel could tell that the target of this was not himself, despite her comment. She seemed to be bitter about her past but her anger was focussed elsewhere. Likely at her father.

Hope, who had been listening to the conversation, made a mental note to look into Max's father. Maybe she and Max could pay him a visit together at some point in the future...

Scene Seven - Surprises in the Dark
Max stopped for a moment, bent down and placed one hand lightly on the water. "Just rats. Weird, I can smell tar as well..."

Tar? Or something else?
This comment triggered something in Hope. In her mortal life she had worked in the army with IED's and all manner of similar devices. One of the common misconceptions was that plastic explosives smelt of almonds. Though this was true for very early versions, modern plastic explosives like C4 had a 'faint bituminous odour, like pitch...or tar...

"Stay right there Max..." said Hope, as she lay a restraining hand on her shoulder. "It might be nothing, but that tar smell could be something more dangerous. Stay behind me for now. If anything goes bang I'm more likely to survive it than you." The tracker didn't argue. Daniel meanwhile moved behind some improvised cover.

She was somewhat relieved to find a barrel, clearly leaking tar, had floated down the sewer from somewhere ahead. Max seemed to be content that this was the source of the smell, though Hope had a closer look at the container in case this was some kind of elaborate double-bluff.

As they reached another junction, Max didn't even pause before turning to the right. Before turning the corner she explained what she was doing.

Gloria Martinez - Brujah
Baron of Whittier
"Our mystery clean guy went this way, so did someone else, looks like Mr Clean was following six, no seven mortals. They smell odd...not beggar odd, diseased and dying odd...they came from that way..." she indicated the tunnel that would have taken them straight ahead. "The walking dead were down there, just waiting I think...just guessing though..."

Daniel had a theory. "Do you think Owen is trying to solve the problem himself so as to not look weak in front of us and Gloria?"

Hope wasn't sure. "Gangrel are usually quite pragmatic so I'd like to think not, but like any clan we also get the occasional idiot so it's a possibility I guess..."

After another fifteen minutes of travel, Max stopped again, but said nothing. She raised a hand behind her and spread her fingers giving the standard military signal for wait, then moved backwards slowly towards Daniel and Hope. "Mr Clean has stopped, but here's the worrying bit. I can smell his stuff in several different places, traces of vitae too. I think he'd dead. Not 'us' dead', actually dead dead."

"Lets slow our pace a bit." suggested Daniel, drawing one of his silenced pistols as he did. "No sense in rushing into trouble."

Hope slid a shotgun from beneath her jacket. Daniel raised an eye-brow as Hope rarely used firearms, but he understood the need. No-one with any sense wanted to go toe to toe with a potential carrier of the plague. Especially as Hopes preferred combat style usually ended up with her covered in bits of whoever or whatever she was fighting. 

Max unclipped the retaining strap that secured her own shotgun, but left it in place for now.

Hope Romero's Shotgun - Mossberg Shockwave

Slowly, and with senses on high alert, the trio advanced.

What they presumed, based on the scraps of clothing, was the torso of Owen Frazier, was hanging from a chain crudely wrapped around his body and slung over a pipe running along the sewer roof. His limbs had been similarly displayed, each strung up individually. His head however was missing.

"Whoever he was following isn't very far ahead..." says Max, apparently having decided that silence was no longer necessary. "There's nine now, no idea how I missed the other two, unless they came from further down this tunnel...their blood smells sanguine...odd really, the scent doesn't match...people aren't usually happy about being sick...they're all ghouls too, not that that's going to help them much against us, but I thought you'd like to know..."

A Sewer Rat and/or a Tasty Snack
Both Daniel and Hope were curious about how she could tell such things merely by smell, and at such a distance, but took her at her word. She'd proven that she knew what she was doing several times already. A moment later a rat scurried up to Max, as if it had been drawn to her. As she reached down and bit into it before draining it dry, this theory was confirmed. "Got hungry..." she explained.

Daniel wasn't sure how much of Max's vitae had been used to power her abilities up to now, but apparently it was enough for her to have felt the loss. "I didn't hear a fight..." commented Daniel.

"Neither did I..." replied Max. "...they must have took him quickly and real quiet like..."

While this debate was going in, Hope was observing what was left of Owen. She noticed a wire wrapped around the body and threaded through the chains. It looked like equipment wire. Booby-trapping dead bodies was not unheard of in her wartime experiences. She wasn't sure whether there was anything to gain from defusing it, as long as they didn't set it off. 

The device itself was strapped to the back of Owen's body, though wires attached to his severed limbs would likely trigger the device if it was moved. It was unsophisticated and clearly improvised. The explosives could have been made by anyone with access to the internet, of possessing even basic chemical knowledge. The core explosive had been surrounded by nails, screws and small pieces of jagged metal which appeared to be coated in a sickly looking mixture of coagulated blood. 

"Oh, shit..." muttered Hope, as she realised that there was a mobile phone attached to it too. Hoping the others would follow her lead, Hope shouted "Get Down!" and promptly hit the deck.

The detonation obliterated the remnants of Owen's body and filled the air with shrapnel and fire.

Interlude - Replacements
Marcelina Black - Ventrue
The Circulatory System, L.A. 'Farm'
Marcelina Black, head of the Circulatory Systems 'Farm' just outside Los Angeles, scrutinised Arla Hartley's replacement. Hopefully this one wouldn't be so stupid as to get herself inconveniently destroyed. "You are aware of the fate of your predecessor?" enquired Marcelina, despite already knowing that they would have been thoroughly briefed.

The pretty young thing, in appearance at least, smiled sweetly before replying. "She failed in a fairly simple task, and paid for that failure with her unlife. Though it was no great loss, from what I'm told, she won't be a very hard act to follow..."

This one would definitely need watching, thought Marcelina. Ambitious, arrogant, and a personal recommendation of Bronwyn, an original founder of the Circulatory System. In it's current modern form that is. She almost certainly already had her eye on the big chair. 

Marcelina didn't necessarily consider this a bad thing. Arla had been too stupid to be a threat and Miss Black had to admit that it was possible that this had blunted her own edge. With any luck this new one would help to keep her sharp.

"As you may or may not be aware, a plague of sorts is spreading through the mortals of this city and has now made the transition to kindred. I therefore anticipate an exponential increase in the need for our services from those keen to avoid a polluted food chain. I will, of course, start you off with some less demanding customers and a number of simple tasks to start. It would, after all, be inconvenient in the extreme if I had to replace another subordinate..."

Celia, smiled once more. "What's first?" she asked

Celia Monroe - Malkavian, The Circulatory System.

"First we need to acquire enough vessels to keep up with the increased demand. Do you have any ideas about how to accomplish this?"

"A few..." Celia replied.

Scene Eight - Bang, You're Dead(er)
The whispers of Hope's Fae charm failed to quieten the voices within, and she fled from the flames as the Beast that all kindred carried within their souls succumbed to fear of the fire, and she entered a state of frenzy. All that mattered to her now was escaping the source of her fear.

Storytellers Note - The Fae Charm is an occult item Hope gained many sessions ago. In mechanical terms we decided it gives her an extra die to resist Frenzy. Apparently this time that wasn't enough...

Max's Shotgun - Remington Tac-13

Techniques of control taught to him by the Bahari, enabled Daniel to overcome his own beast, but barely, as he emerged from behind the pile of detritus he'd used for cover. Max seemed unaffected as she rose from beneath the water, shotgun already to hand.

From the chaos emerged the nine ghouls who presumably somehow ended the unlife of the Gangrel Owen Frazier.  Their clothes were ragged and dirty, and their armament consisted of a variety of close combat weapons, many of which were improvised. Alongside machetes and combat knives were kitchen implements such as carving knives, cleavers, hatchets and what looked like one half of an enormous pair of shears. They moved towards the two remaining kindred with surprising speed and vigour.

Max's Ammunition
Daniel heard a shotgun being discharged and the closest of the attackers was torn apart by the blast. He wasn't sure what load she was using but whatever it was made a terrible mess of the target without overpenetration, well, not much anyway. Daniel aimed his own pistols and with uncanny accuracy put a 10mm round neatly through the heads of four more enemies.

Now a safe distance from the source of the explosion, Hope forced the voice of the Beast back down and managed to come to her senses. Reasonably sure that Daniel was never going to let her live this down, she turned back.

The remaining foes selected their targets. three headed towards Daniel, evidently deciding he was the greatest threat, while a single figure charged towards Max. A long range shot from the returning Hope came from way beyond the optimum range of her weapon and only slightly wounded one of those approaching Daniel.

His view somewhat obscured by a stocky enemy to the front of the three, Daniel decided to focus his attention upon them and emptied both magazines into them. His satisfaction turned to irritation as they ignored what should have been fatal damage and continued forward. Max's single opponent was nearly upon her, and she raised her weapon once more and fired it into their face at point-blank range. As their skull exploded, she turned away closing her eyes and mouth to avoid being tainted by any disease they might be carrying.

Daniel Matthews, Banu Haqim - Showing off a Bit...

Hope closed the distance at speed, firing as she did. Daniel's closest foe was torn apart by multiple impacts as Daniel himself dived aside to avoid being covered in blood and body parts. As he leapt away he aimed both weapons in mid air and finished off the last two ambushers. His elation at the two kills subsided as he landed in the dank sewer water. He then attempted to style out the clumsy landing with a combat roll, but noticed Hope watching him and grinning.

"Nice shot..." quipped Daniel, somewhat sarcastically. He then looked at the multiple holes in the sewer wall by where he'd been standing only a few moments earlier. "Not your best idea though..."

The Cultists Symbol
Each of the mortals had the same symbol somewhere on their bodies. Some had merely drawn it upon themselves in a variety of unmentionable substances, others had carved it into their flesh and yet others had tattoos made in the prison-style, done with only black ink and had dark outlines with little or no interior detail or shading.

The symbol was a star with eight wavy points and a skull in the middle missing a lower jaw. The teeth on the upper jaw were jagged like a vampires. They had seen this symbol before. It was on the wall outside the former crack house where they had taken Sofia and were subsequently ambushed by Lubbock's followers.

While Max and Hope reloaded their weapons and Hope kept watch, Daniel began the unenviable task of looking through the pockets of the dead. Several still had identification on them, though most did not. One name leapt out at him, the identification named the corpse as Calvin David, the male escort who went missing from Downtown. Though his sister, also missing, didn't appear to be amongst the dead.

Daniel noticed that Max liberated a few small items of jewellery from the deceased, including a particularly nice bracelet, but turned a blind eye to it. It wasn't like it mattered much at this point anyway.

Max then got up suddenly and looked around "I think the explosions attracted some attention. There's movement from ahead of us, and also from behind us..." A moment later, Hope and Daniel also heard the sounds.

Once more the trio found themselves forced to find some cover.

Scene Nine - Melinda
Melinda - Gangrel
'The Swarm'
They then heard a woman's voice call out. 

"You down there. Some nosey cunt has phoned the police to report an underground explosion, so whoever you are, come with us. We'll deal with damage limitation later...or you can take your chances with the mortal authorities I guess...or I suppose we could kill and eat you but that isn't exactly going to help with the whole 'masquerade breach' thing now is it..."

Hope and Daniel vaguely recognised the woman as one of the three kindred who accompanied Tilly Kelly, Mistress of the Swarm, to the Council meeting after the Lubbock incident. As she definitely wasn't Quinn, or male, they could only conclude that this was Melinda. They also knew that Melinda was being advised by Vin's 'Sister of the Blood' Georgiana, though Vin hadn't mentioned her since that revelation many months ago.

The rag-tag group behind her had the now familiar mix of fear, hatred and low cunning that they associated with the Swarm.

"We'll take option one.." replied Hope. "...as soon as we know what you're doing down here..."

"We're investigating the Blood Curse of course. Tilly is concerned about it spreading to our Herds, and most of us are concerned about Tilly culling us if food supplies run low. Score some points, avoid being lunch, pretty much the normal night to night concerns of having a sire whose both clinically insane and more cunning than all her offspring combined...Consume or be consumed is basically the Swarms raison d'etre..."

Tilly Kelly - Gangrel
The Mistress of the Swarm
It seemed that all the Swarm members of note were well aware of their leaders fragile grip on reality and were all, to one extent or another, playing the game of survival.

Melinda gestured to one of the more intelligent looking of her followers and he handed her a cloth, satchel-like bag. She removed several explosive devices from it. Four looked like they were incendiary grenades, the fifth and sixth were high explosive ones but from a different manufacturer.

"At least we can make it difficult for the authorities..." commented Melinda.

Daniel could see that Melinda was clearly pleased at the idea of blowing something up, the incendiary aspect seems to be particularly pleasing to her.

Hope was more concerned about the placing of the devices than where they had been acquired. She noted that Meinda placed them fairly optimally, though Hope also noticed what seemed to be a gas pipe whose utilisation might well make the destruction more complete, though this would also need them to get further away from the resulting explosion. Gas explosions weren't exactly what you'd call predictable. It's also possible that the detonation would trigger such an explosion anyway and in her experience controlled explosions were far better than uncontrolled ones.

"We might need to leave a bigger space between us and the explosives when they're triggered, than it might first appear." stated Hope, fairly diplomatically. "Just in case that gas pipe has actual gas flowing through it..." Melinda looked where Hope indicated and nodded. 

One of 'The Swarms' rank and file muttered something under their breath and their leaders expression changed almost immediately. A clawed hand grasped them by the face with preternatural speed. 

Taking Criticism Somewhat Badly...
Talon's punched through eye sockets, and cheek bones, then she twisted and pulled their face from the rest of the skull, watching with glee as they fell forward into the water.

"What the fuck was that about?" Hope asked Daniel, but quiet enough so only they both could hear. "I think..." answered Daniel. "...that they said something along the lines of 'I told you so', and Melinda apparently doesn't take criticism particularly well. That's not the worst thing though..."

Hope waited for Daniel to elaborate.

"That wound, though nasty, probably wouldn't have killed them outright. It's more likely that they drowned in the sewer water..." Max who had been eavesdropping had another concern. "I hope that rat I ate wasn't one of her pets..."

"Are you going to risk going back the way you came or do you want to follow us to an alternate way out?" asked Melinda, between licking blood from her fingertips.

As they made the decision to follow Melinda and her pack, a detonation rocked the corridor as the explosives went off, followed by a chain reaction as the gas-line added to the magnitude. Hope doubted there'd be anything left for the authorities to find, so that was one positive at least.

Scene Ten - Follow the Leader
'The Swarm' - Kindred, Ghouls, Blood Bound
Unlike her sire, Melinda led from the front, and had a level of confidence bordering on arrogance. Swarm members were directed to investigate anything even vaguely suspicious and it was clear to them all that she saw them as little more than cannon-fodder. Max scouted ahead without prompting and Melinda seemed content to let her do so while continuously reinforcing the point to her horde that it's she who was in charge.

The tunnels become more derelict as you travelled, as well as becoming narrower, but the Swarm seemed to be becoming more confident and relaxed as if they were within familiar territory. They imagined that Gloria Martinez would be less than happy to discover their level of comfort while traversing the warrens beneath her very feet.

Max then appeared from behind them, which was somewhat of a surprise as when they last saw her she was ahead. "I thought you might like to know that we're being followed." she announced.

Daniel asked for more detail,

"One individual, kindred certainly, very sneaky, very careful, Nosferatu I'd guess though obviously there are other Clans with a knack for moving quietly, anyway they're not smelly, so probably aren't the one you came down to look for..."

Both Daniel and Hope slowed their pace, gradually falling back towards the rear of the pack. As soon as a suitable hiding place was passed, he silently moved behind it to wait for their follower. Hope advanced a little further, then she too found a place of concealment.

Sister Maladie - Clan Unknown
Sabbat?
The approaching figure paused before any ambush can be triggered, laughed in a high pitched female voice, then turned and headed rapidly back they way they came, blending expertly into the darkness and fading from sight.

Realising that their one lead was escaping, Hope called for Max, who appeared at their side a second later. "Track them, but don't go to far. Ambush's seem to be these fuckers favourite game..." As she moved swiftly along the indicated route, Daniel followed. Unfortunately he soon lost her in the darkness. It was another ten minutes before he discovered her location.

The tracker was sitting on an old crate waiting for him to catch up. 

"They went that way..." she said, indicating a narrow side passage, it's entrance half obscured with a pile of bricks. "...so I decided to wait. It looks like an excellent place to get murdered in, don't you think?" Max handed Daniel a piece of thread.

"This was caught by the entrance. A little too high to have been left there by accident in my opinion." observed Max.

"What do you think?" asked Daniel, deferring to Max's superior tracking skills.

"I think..." replied Max. "...that Owen had a similar conversation with himself a few hours ago, and made the choice to go after them...and then ended up as an explosive laden jigsaw...and Hope did tell me to be careful..."

Daniel desperately wanted to follow their mysterious pursuer, as he hated leaving loose ends, but Max was correct. This had 'ambush' written all over it. "We head back." he concluded.

--------------------

After another hour or so of travelling, Melinda pointed them towards a doorway concealed within a dark alcove filled with boxes.

"Head through there and we'll close it up after you. It leads to some stairs topped by a hatch into an industrial unit basement. Once you hit the surface you can make your arrangements to get back to Pasadena or wherever you're heading. It'll be light in about two and a half hours so you should have plenty of time to get to safety..."

Hope thanked Melinda, and the three headed to the surface.

To be Continued in 'A Plague of Blood' (Part Three)

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Storytellers Conclusions
I sometimes 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....

I'm not going to make this easy for them. They apparently have a well prepared enemy, implementing a scheme that may have been many years in the planning.

And now that enemy knows that someone's onto them...

Song Lyrics
Also, The quote in the header is from the following song, should any-one be interested...


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Further Acknowledgements
Portions of the materials are the copyrights and trademarks of White Wolf Entertainment AB, and are used with permission. All rights reserved.

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 Matt Bomer, Johnny 'Roach' West is Kurt Kobain, Vincent 'Vin' Ghast is Scott Adkins, Dr Daniel Matthews is Mads Mikkelsen, Hope Romero is Deborah Ann Woll, Marie is Eva Green, Mr Hertz is Charles Dance, Sofia Rivera is Eliza Dushku, Ammaarah Weaver is Stefani Germanotta, Max is Milla Jovovich, Ria is Amanda Tapping, Gloria Martinez is Ariadne Artiles, Marcelina Black is Carrie Anne Moss, Celia Monroe is Elsie Fisher, Melinda is Alice Pagani, Tilly Kelly is Anna Paquin and Sister Maladie is Sheila Vand.

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.

Friday, 20 January 2023

Vampire the Masquerade - V5 - Session One Hundred and Twenty Four - 'A Plague of Blood' (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 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 over four years of plotting, one of their number is now leader of the Anarch Council of the Free States and the rest have privileged places within the Anarch hierarchy.
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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. There are however a list of potential triggers listed before the introduction. 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 OneTwoThreeFourFive
Story Twenty - 'The MacNeil Protocols' - Part SixSevenEightNine and Ten
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Interlude Session One - After Griffith Park
Interlude Session Two - Divide and Conquer
Interlude Session Three - On the Brink of War
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Chronicle Four - 'Conquest L.A.'
Story Twenty One - 'Veni, Vidi, Victor' - Part OneTwoThreeFourFive
Story Twenty One - 'Veni, Vidi, Victor' - Part Six, and Epilogue
Story Twenty Two - 'The Unbound' - Part OneTwoThree and Four
Story Twenty Three - 'The War Council' - Part OneTwoThree and Four
Interlude Session - Recon
Story Twenty Four - 'Resistance' - Part OneTwoThreeFour and Five
Interlude Session - Damage Limitation
Interlude Session - The Killing Spree
Story Twenty Five - 'Personal Agendas' - Part OneTwo and Three
Story Twenty Six - 'Strange Bedfellows' - Part OneTwoThreeFourFive and Six
Story Twenty Seven - 'The Fiorenza Sanction' - Part OneTwo and Three
Story Twenty Eight - 'Hunters Hunted' - Part OneTwoThreeFour and Five
Story Twenty Eight - 'Hunters Hunted' - Epilogue
Solo Session - 'The Salubri Tome'
Story Twenty Nine - 'Methuselah' - Part OneTwoThreeFourFive
Story Twenty Nine - 'Methuselah' - Part SixSevenEightNine and Ten
Story Twenty Nine - 'Methuselah' - Epilogue
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Galerie Sanguine - 'San Francisco'
'Anarchs' -  ZeroOneTwoThree and Four
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Chronicle Five - 'Blood Cults of L.A.'
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'The Cast' - Past and Present
This Sessions PC's are...
Michael Tomassio - Toreador, 'Baron of the North East'
Dr Daniel Matthews - Banu Haqim, 'Sherlock'
Mr Hertz - Nosferatu, 'Accountant'
Vincent Ghast - Brujah, 'Constable of the North East'

The Storyteller
Garreth - Everyone else...

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.

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. Introductory pieces that I read to the group are in Blue. 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.

Trigger Warnings for This Session: Blood (Obviously), Drug Use, Sex Trade, Sex Work.

Introduction
A strange fever-like condition has occurred in a number of slum areas around the city and the reports have now made it into the public eye via several local news reports. The early symptoms seem to be no more than lethargy and a slightly raised temperature though this rapidly turns into a fever that robs the victim of the ability to do anything other than lie in bed. Death has followed for a third of the victims and the medical professionals of the city seem unable to pin it down to a specific medical cause. Rather it seems to share the traits of a number of haematological conditions. 


Though anything that threatens the feeding patterns of kindred could be considered a concern, a more pressing problem has occurred. The plague seems to have now spread to the kindred themselves. Several temporary residents of The Barony of the Angels have been the first victims, though how they contracted it is a mystery. They have been 'taken into isolation' by Priss as they were in her feeding ground at the time, though what that actually means is open to interpretation.

No firm connection between their feeding grounds and already sick mortals has been discovered though that doesn't mean that one doesn't exist. Though many of the Barons have ignored the problem due to it being fairly localised, last night cases of the disease cropped up in Hollywood, Long Beach, and La Hermandad.

With the issue now appearing in multiple domains, attention has turned to the Arbiter and his 'Sherlock' to do something about it.

'Galerie Sanguine' Franchise News
With Michael's 'Galerie Sanguine' franchise now opening branches in cities other than L.A., the coterie potentially now has to deal with the concerns of his other agents and navigate the politics of cities other than L.A.

Chicago
The Toreador Primogen, Annabelle, has highlighted with the rest of the Primogen and Prince Kevin Jackson that many areas of cultural significance in the city seem to be closing down and therefore kindred who promote such concerns should be encouraged as these, for many, facilitate kindred influence and therefore power. 

Kevin Jackson, Ventrue Prince - Annabelle, Toreador Primogen

Your agents within the city believe this is an excellent opportunity to 'make a friend', however by doing so they would also gain Annabelle's enemies. Fortunately she has few of these but does have a tendency to annoy the other Primogen who she quite obviously considers unworthy.

Michael is yet to make a decision on this matter as he is currently unfamiliar with the cities factions and which of those are currently in the ascendant.

Tara Kearney - Brujah
Baron of San Diego
San Diego
Tara is growing increasingly paranoid about enemies within San Diego attempting to undermine her leadership, despite the fact that Marius eliminated them all over two years ago, in return for significate boons. Unfortunately, paranoid kindred have a tendency to discover traitors, whether they exist or not, so the kindred of San Diego are being very careful with their activities.

Michael has informed his agents within the city that being too careful will likely make them seem even more suspicious to a particularly paranoid leader. They have therefore been instructed to go about their normal business but to avoid making alliances with any San Diego residents who are currently on Tara's shit list.

San Francisco
The Eastern kindred of Chinatown seem to be increasingly testing their borders and unless the Prince intervenes, there's going to be bloodshed between them and their immediate neighbours. Given their relative independence, it's only a matter of time before someone approached the 'new' Anarchs of Galerie Sanguine to act against one side or the other.

Michael currently believes that it's too early to pre-emptively pick a side, but he is definitely considering getting ahead of the curve. As soon as he can work out whose going to win that is...

There has been a minor skirmish between 'The Butchers' Pack and a pair of Nosferatu who act as Scourges for San Jose's recently appointed proxy leadership. Blanche Johnson, pack leader of the Butchers, claims that these Nosferatu were dangerously close to the San Gabriel Mountains and therefore far from San Jose. Leon "8-Ball" White, a Ventrue given nominal control over San Jose by Prince Winder claims exactly the opposite.

Whoever was in the wrong, the main surprise is that 'The Butchers' chose to spare their opponents. Politically this was, of course, the right decision, but it's still unusual behaviour for them.

Leon is backed by a local Ventrue, T.J. McMillan, who in recent times has pushed passed his rivals in the bay area and has his eye on the position of Ventrue Primogen. It is widely believed that he has pushed for Leon to be given control of this area stating his 'Gangsta' connections as being perfect to run a territory half-filled with Anarch troublemakers. His success will elevate McMillan, his failure will accomplish the opposite. McMillan is also suspicious that he's been 'set up to fail', which is a distinct possibility given the current Ventrue Primogen's close relationship with the Prince...

Vera Vignes, Ventrue Primogen of Chicago, Former Anarch Baron

Michael is now considering 'helping' Leon along the path to failure him, in order to make Vera Vignes less likely to consider them an enemy. Daniel has agreed, but only so as to lure Vera into a false sense of security in case she needs to be dealt with.

Scene One  - Vin's Club
Somewhat unexpectedly, Vin had asked Daniel to meet him at one of his 'establishments' to discus a matter of some urgency.

The classiest of Vin's three 'gentlemen's clubs' was located just across the Ventura Freeway from North Arroyo. South Arroyo offered many of the same benefits as its neighbour, along with its own style and amenities. It was considered one of Pasadena's best neighbourhoods.

Vin's Gentlemen's Club - Los Angeles

Arroyo's executive lounge, was a converted apartment block with the club itself occupying the first three floors with three more floors of rooms above for 'entertainment'. It had it's own off-road parking and Vin had made a point of keeping the area free of crime so as not to draw attention to the shadier aspect of the business. His haven was underneath it so he had other reasons for keeping the location 'under the radar'.  As the business itself was currently putting approximately a hundred thousand dollars a week worth of cash into the coffers of the coterie, Mr Hertz was involved only in making everything look good on the tax returns.

Sarah - Ghoul of Vincent 'Vin' Ghast
The carpark was crowded, but there were reserved spaces for 'staff', and it is one of these that Daniel had been told to use. Security cameras and alarms were subtle but well laid out.

Daniel was met at a 'staff only' entrance by Vin's ghoul Sarah, an attractive dark-haired young lady wearing a business like suit and jacket, paired with a red blouse. She looked every inch the 'executive assistant'.

"If you care to follow me, I'll take you to Vin...sorry...Mr Ghast's office..."

The bar area could easily have passed for that of any executive club, containing leather sofa's and chairs, oak tables and a bar stocked with a wide variety of exotic and expensive beverages. The bar staff, waitresses and the few ladies making small talk with potential customers were universally attractive and covered a wide variety of body-types and ethnicities. Several Daniel recognised as former 'employees' of Garfield Bentley, a brothel owner and pimp who was killed by one of his own security guards several years earlier. Or at least, that was how Daniel had made it look. There was also a small restaurant within that Daniel imagined was also gratuitously overpriced.

Vin's Club - Stage Area
The second floor bar was smaller as this area has been set up for exotic dancers, strippers, pole dancers and the like with curtained off areas for private dances. Regardless of it's function, it still maintained the classic styling of the lower floor.

As with the carpark, security camera's covered all the necessary areas of the club. The doormen were all short-haired, well built and had military bearing. Weapons were present, but well concealed, and Daniel doubt that the average person would have noticed that the guards were armed at all. He also knew that Mr Hertz has mentioned that the place could make "...at least another twenty K a week, if Vin wasn't so obsessed with security."

It's only when he reach the third floor that the less legal aspects of the business become apparent as this was where the clients select their 'partners', before moving upstairs. It is on this floor that Vin had his office. His door was flanked by a pair of guards which was amusing as Vin could have killed every one of them without breaking a blood sweat, so Daniel imagine the guards were for appearances sake.

There were three kindred within the room when Daniel and his escort arrived.

'The Blossoms' - Downtowns Sex Trade
In addition to Vin, Daniel recognised Karla Bray, enforcer for 'The Blossoms' who ran the sex-trade of Downtown and Justine Chen, a kindred from Chinatown recently recruited by Vin from her sire and boss Monique Kim. Vin had agreed to take Justine off her hands in return for some drugs and cash, both of which he had in considerable quantities, and that the newcomer to the city required to help consolidate her own operations. 

Justine Chen, to Daniel's surprise seemed to be somewhat of an innocent and possessed of a naivete that he imagine some might find strangely attractive. Hertz wasn't convinced about the logic of the deal as Vin seemed to have taken an instant liking to Justine for no reason he could immediately discern or explain. Hertz has been somewhat reassured after learning through his Triad sources that Chen had no great love for her sire, and that Monique used her almost exclusively as a lackey. In Hertz's opinion she was either one of the most talented spies he'd ever met, or was exactly what she seemed to be.

Scene Two - A Spreading Problem
Vin got the formalities out of the way immediately.

"Thanks' for coming so quickly. Do you want a drink? I can bring you a girl or we have some of that wine that Leanna overcharges for somewhere..."

Daniel politely refused the offer.

"You've heard about this blood plague, right?" began Vin. Daniel nodded, and the Brujah continued.

Karla Bray - Toreador
Enforcer for 'The Blossoms'
"There's a connection between the mortal victims that not many people know about yet, but me, Karla and Justine here have come up with one but it's a bit tenuous. And as it's not a problem we can stab or punch in the face...yet...so I need you to do your investigator thing. cool?"

Daniel smiled. Vin was a lot smarter than he liked to let people think, but the assessment was correct, this was a problem that needed the kind of investigation that Vin was unsuited for.


Karla then interjected. "One of the poor bastards who died is, sorry was, a pimp. Small time so we'd left him alone, another was a girl of his, but this is where it gets a bit vague. One of the fuckers who dropped dead in Downtown isn't involved in the sex trade, but his roommate is. I don't deal with the male escort stuff much, but Lottie does. It's not as a big a business for us as the rest of our interests but it makes enough for Lottie to make sure we collect our cut. Well, I do the actual collecting, but you know what I mean. Anyway, This male escorts sister hasn't been seen for a while either so we're basically just waiting for her and him to turn up dead based on what happened to the roommate."

Vin then continued "The Hollywood corpse was a dominatrix type, the Long Beach fucker was a people smuggler, so I guess that's possibly a sex trade connection. The only one we can't get a handle on is the La Hermandad one as Gloria is still pissed with us for dropping her in it with the other Brujah for not helping with the Lubbock thing..."

Justine Chen - Toreador
Ally of Vin, Childe of Monique
Justine also had some input. "Monique hasn't had any problems in Chinatown yet but she's promised to let me know if anything comes up, though whether she actually does will depend on what way the winds blowing that night."

Vin concluded "Like I said, it's all a bit patchy but you've worked with less and put something together and given the amount of us that rely on sex workers for sustenance, this could seriously impact on not just business, but our herds too."

Daniel could see that Vin seemed genuinely concerned that such a taint could spread to the coteries own herds. The meeting also confirmed a fear of Mr Hertz's, namely that Vin was involving himself more and more with kindred from outside of the immediate coterie. That, however, was a problem for another time

They then shared then information that they had gathered on the current crop of victims.

One of the Downtown victims was Denzel Rush,  small time pimp with about six streetwalkers in his stable. Most of his girls were junkies, and this was actively encouraged by Denzel. He used to be based on Skid Row, but had to move to an adjacent block when the area was renovated. The other was Calvin David, a male escort, with generally male clients. He had an apartment in one of the residential towers in Downtown, and hadn't been seen for several days. His roommate, and probably lover, Heath Rich, died in hospital so was a confirmed plague victim. Calvin's sister Claire was also missing.

Mistress Sabina - Mortal
Plague Victim
The Hollywood victim was Mistress Sabina, actually Sabina McDonnell, who worked out of a studio apartment off of Hollywood Boulevard. Her clients valued their privacy so obtaining information on them would certainly be tricky.

As for Long Beach, Edan 'Dreads' Finney was a prolific people smuggler, using the usual method of promising immigrants a better life, taking their money and passports then making them work to 'pay their way'. This inevitably involved sweat shops, sex work or crime.

Daniel had some questions.

"This 'Dreads' character. Did he smuggle anything else?

As far as Vin and Karla knew, his sole interest was in transporting people, though as he had the infrastructure it was possible that he supplemented his income in other ways. He also wanted to know if he dealt with any of the other known smugglers of immigrants, to which the answer was also, no, though Vin elaborated a little.


"Marius and Catherine both have big interests in the people trade, but I doubt they'd deal with Edan. If they did they'd probably just have killed the fucker and absorbed his operation into their own. Neither of them are really the 'sharing power' types..."

Daniel promised to investigate and keep them informed.

Scene Three - Plague Politics
Venture Tower - Downtown
With the blood plague problem spreading, many were looking to Michael for leadership, guidance, and inevitably if it all went wrong, someone to blame. His presence had been requested at a meeting to include several of the Barons whose domains had been effected by the potentially devastation to kindred food sources, that this new disease might bring about.

Nines was representing the Barony of the Angels and it had been suggested that as 'ground zero' for the problem that it made sense to have the meeting there. As she had custody of a number of kindred victims of the disease, Priss was also going to be present. The Last Round being a somewhat unlikely place for a kindred summit, Venture Tower had instead been selected as it already has security and a meeting area.

Isaac Abrams was journeying from Hollywood, Harvey Caplan from the South Coast and Gloria Martinez was sending one of her lieutenants, Josie Parrish, rather than attending personally.

--------------------

The meeting room seemed somewhat sparse with only six kindred and their security present. Nines took the seat for 'Downtown' and Priss remained standing. The rest took their own seats or that of their respective Barons.

Michael Tomassio - Toreador
Arbiter of the Anarch Counci
l
As Arbiter of the council, Michael spoke first. 

An important part of his role was to ensure that the notoriously opinionated Anarch Barons actually spoke to one another rather than shouting over each other then having a punch-up. He therefore tended to lay out a rough framework for any meeting and then play it by ear. Supporting the voices of reason, while not appearing to take sides, was his real talent. Of course if he could gain something for himself, or his own barony, then that was fine too, as long as it didn't look that had been his purpose all along.

"I appreciate the necessity of calling this meeting. This plague appears to be spreading, and we must respond quickly. Any new disease may draw the attention of mortal authorities whose interference we can do without. The less eyes upon us the better."

"Daniel is investigating this matter at ground level, and is, as I speak, gathering more information on possible connections between the victims that may assist us in finding the source. However, it is the job of the Barons to ensure that our responses are balanced and measured. Our followers look to us not just for leadership but guidance too."

'Nines' Rodriguez - Brujah
Barony of the Angels
He then gestured to 'Nines' Rodriguez. "Perhaps you can be the first to share what you know?"

Nines was happy to oblige, though his information was quite limited. "The two kindred victims are a gangrel named 'Gizmo', no idea what his real name is, I don't think he remembers either and a Caitiff drifter Kristie. neither had feeding grounds so I guess they fed from the usual suspects, bums, hookers, someone they picked up in a club. You know, the usual...unless they've told Priss anything more since she's had them locked up?"

Priss then elaborated on what Nines had already said. "I've got them locked away in a basement of one of my apartment blocks. They're isolated as we've no idea who this spreads. We're guessing they got it from feeding but that's just educated guesswork. We don't actually know..."

"Both have, what in mortal terms would be a fever, but it's a bit more messy for vampires. They're sweating blood, hallucinating and 'The Beast' is really close to the surface. The Gangrel we've had to stake. He nearly tore up Della, one of my Brujah, just flipped out and went for the throat. Fortunately Taslima was there to restrain him...remotely...but it looks like kindred in the later stages of this condition are going to take some restraining. This thing has 'masquerade breach' written all over it if we can't get a handle on it..."


"Kristie isn't being a great source of information. She was an alleycat, you know an ambush predator basically. She'd stalk, overpower, and drink from whomever she could, when she could, make it look like a mugging or similar. I've asked for information on reported muggings that fit her M.O. but it'll be a night or two before Aegis's representative gets back to me..."

Michael knew, via Hope, that Priss stayed in touch with two former sweepers of hers named Arbaaz and Ophelia, who now worked for Marius's organisation. It seemed likely to him that these were the contacts that Priss was using.

Arbaaz and Ophelia, Gangrel - Barony of the Angels, Sweepers

"Does this 'Kristi', drain her prey completely dry?" asked Michael. Murders would be far easier to trace than muggings. Priss hook her head, before replying. "No. She just takes what she needs. She's not a killer."

Isaac Abrams - Toreador
Baron of Hollywood
Baron Isaac Abrams then spoke. As the most powerful kindred present, he was unlikely to be interrupted and obviously believed he needed no introduction before speaking..

"I have only a single case amongst the mortals of my domain. The lady in question was, I believe the term is dominatrix, so her clientele are likely to be cautious about their identities. I can't imagine anyone with those preferences broadcasting them far and wide, well...unless their Bahari, but we can't blame them for everything...

"I have arranged for her 'little black book' to be retrieved from police custody by my newly appointed census-taker Ammaarah. No disrespect meant to those who employ more direct Clans in the role, but in Hollywood I find subtlety to be more important."

"Miss Weaver has a number of talents in this area and given the assistance she provided both during, and after, the Lubbock mess I could see her potential. As soon as it is in my possession I shall make it available to the appointed investigator. Daniel, one presumes?

Michael confirmed that Daniel was heading the investigation on his behalf.

This left only two kindred who had yet to speak. Josie was no Baron, so Harvey Caplan spoke before her. "In my Barony the victim was a people smuggler somewhat unoriginally nicknamed 'Dreads' due to his Jamaican heritage. I'm currently having Knowles look into his cargoes but I'm a little short on manpower now that I'm without Shantelle's pack or Vinicius's lot and as I'm sure you're all aware, I have a large domain to manage. If I discover anything new I'll pass the information on, however I have no objections to the Arbiter sending in his own investigator if he thinks this will get the job done quicker?"

Harvey Caplan - Ventrue
Baron of The South Coast
Michael saw straight through Baron Caplan. He was trying to make it look like he was doing everyone a favour by allowing an investigator into his domain, but it was obvious to Michael that he needed the assistance. Harvey's resources were currently stretched very thinly indeed. Michael took the diplomatic option and decided not to point this out.

"We appreciate your magnanimity on this issue." replied Michael. "Your docks are a vital part of our city and it is important at a time like this for us to focus on every entrance and exit to this city. Control of our borders is of great importance at times like these."

He then turned to Josie and noticed that she was extremely nervous. All except her were Barons, former Barons, or in Nines case, had the same level of authority. He decided to politely encourage her. "I understand that you are new to this setting, but any information you provide will be helpful to us. Please share whatever you know?"

Michael's natural charisma was amplified to supernatural levels by his own powers and Josie immediately became comfortable in his presence, and eager to please him. Michael also realised that he may have overdone it slightly based on the looks she game him throughout the rest of the meeting.

Storytellers Note - Thirteen successes were made on that dice roll. So I think Michaels going to have a new fan.

"Well our corpse is actually three. I got word of two more just before I set out. All three were beggars who hung around near one of old water works. Don't worry, it's a disused one so this disease isn't in the water supply, as far as I know anyway. Looks like one got sick and the others were trying to look after them and caught it too."

"
Josie Parrish - Brujah
Lieutenant of Gloria Martinez
They weren't exactly physical specimens so it took them pretty quickly. I've stationed an observer to keep an eye on the area but so far nothing unusual has turned up, and no more corpses either...
"

This was the first solid lead that Michael had heard that could actually be acted upon immediately, but he decided to speak to Daniel first. This was his field of expertise after all.

"I thank you all for your input. It is clear that this threat must have a source and that finding it must be our priority. If you are all agreeable then I shall consult with Daniel about which of the areas you have pointed out to me that he believes are the most likely to give us the results we require."

"Then, of course, he'll need to make a personal investigation of these areas. Baron Caplan has already given his permission for an agent to enter his domain for just such a purpose. One presumes that the rest of you here would be equally flexible?"

All agreed, though it was clear that Josie had her doubts. Michael presumed that her reticence was due to her own Baron's adversarial nature. He decided to address this immediately, rather than have to deal with it later.

"Josie. If you wish me to speak with Gloria directly on this matter, rather than use you as a go-between, then I can do so?" Michael could see that she would have loved to avoid the task, but this urge was battling with her desire to avoid showing any weakness in front of the others. In the end, the latter won out. "Thank-you, but no. I'll pass the message on personally. I'm sure she'll see the importance of cooperation..."

Michael wasn't convinced that Gloria even knew the meaning of the word, but wisely kept the opinion to himself.

Scene Four - The Whittier Water Works
Gloria Martinez - Brujah
Baron of Whittier
It didn't take much discussion between Michael and Daniel to establish that the water works in Gloria's Barony would be the best place to begin their investigation.

Hollywood might be a possibility once the 'little black book' had been retrieved, but wasn't going to be worth a visit until then. In Downtown their only real clue was a dead mans apartment, not exactly likely to be a hive of information. The water works however was the 'freshest' lead they had.

Storytellers Note - I obviously over-sold this option as I'd written scenes for the other places mentioned as well, but the players had zero interest in them....

Gloria had reluctantly agreed to allow them access to her domain, apparently at Josie's insistence. In theory, the Anarch Council had agreed that Michael could deploy his 'Sherlock' anywhere in the city, but some political niceties were still necessary as Gloria was notoriously easy to offend.

On the way, Daniel picked up Hope, the Baronies Census Taker, just in case they encountered any trouble. Daniel could handle himself, but Hope was useful to have around for tasks that required a hand grenade, rather than a scalpel. His greeting of "Come on Watson, the games afoot..." had set the tone for the conversation and Hope had been making Sherlock Holmes references for the entire journey. "We're here." stated Daniel, somewhat unnecessarily.

"Great detective work..." responded Hope sarcastically. "...how do you do it?"

The obsolete former water processing plant, now awaiting demolition after a modern replacement was built, is surrounded by metal fencing, with the obligatory 'no entry' signs. The fencing has quite obviously been there for several years indicating that it's demolition is definitely not a priority to any of the local authorities.


Several buildings are still intact, though the smell of sewerage still lingers which is likely to be off-putting to all but the most desperate.

As they approached, they heard footsteps from behind them.

Owen Frazier, a Gangrel Sweeper who they'd met before was apparently the kindred given the duty of observing the area. "Sup, 'Sherlock'. looking for clues?"

"Don't fucking encourage him..." interjected Hope.

Daniel gave her a sideways look before continuing as if nothing had happened. "Something like that, yes. What's the current situation?"

"There's seven people sheltering inside. Two women, five men." replied Owen, then indicated one of the buildings. "The plague dead were found there." He then pointed out a slightly more intact structure near to a pair of empty water tanks. "But the bums are avoiding it like...well, the plague, I guess. I'm no doctor but the other lot seem healthy enough, No fever that I can see and there's been no kindred feeding here, that I'm sure of. Can't testify to what might have happened here previously though..."

Daniel noted that he seemed to be thorough at least. Hope, on the other hand, could see him sizing her up. She wasn't offended. Gangrel liked to know where they were in the pecking order, and though usually this was decided in a physical confrontation, reputation also played a strong part. Hope's reputation for causing carnage was well known and well deserved. Owen sensibly decided not to push his luck and left Daniel and Hope to their investigation.

"I think I'll start off with a bit of recon." decided Daniel. Hope shrugged. Sneakiness wasn't her strong suit and so she took this to mean that she wasn't invited. "I guess I'll make sure we don't get any uninvited guests then?" she replied.
 
After first checking that there were no witnesses nearby, Daniel faded from view and stealthily approached the camp. There were indeed seven individuals inside. Five were asleep, and two were awake.

Daniel's Medical Bag
From what he could see, none of them showed any signs of disease, though one of the men was clearly a meth addict and one of the two women was on heroin. They also showed none of the usual signs of lethargy and anaemia that indicates that they might have been fed upon recently. Daniel decided that he might as well take the direct approach and pulled out his medical bag and clipped his medical ID badge onto his jacket.

He then backtracked a little, and deactivated his powers of obfuscation, before re-entering the building. Hope observed this from a vantage point nearby. "So now you're Dr Watson..." she muttered to herself.

"Don't worry..." Began Dr Daniel Matthews. "...I'm not here to kick you out. I heard about the recent incident here and I'd just like to give you all a quick once-over for your own peace of mind. perhaps I can get a little background information too? For our files..."

Storytellers Note - For the benefit of new readers. Daniel is a legit doctor, but a fake identity had been provided for him by an L.A. 'Fixer' so he could continue to do the job he had when alive without explaining why he looks thirty despite being born in 1952. He's Intelligence 3, Medicine 4 giving him a healthy dice pool of seven for medical related tasks.

Daniel noted that one of the junkies was eyeing up his medical bag. He was quite capable of defending himself against a handful of mortals, but hoped this would be unnecessary.

A Mysterious Hooded Figure
It turned out that the bums knew practically nothing, not even the names of the victims. They did however see a 'big smelly guy in a dark hoody' talking to the plague victims, but presumed he was just another down and out. They claimed that they hadn't seen him since and Daniel had no reason to doubt them. 

He could however tell that the heroin addict had something to say, but was almost certainly working out what it was worth. After a little negotiation, and the exchange of some methadone, The addict revealed to him that they'd seen the 'smelly guy' by one of the disused water tanks and that it was usually they first noticed him. It wasn't much, but he'd have a look there anyway.

"If any of you fall sick, then I advise you to seek medical help immediately. This is a nasty disease and spreads quickly..." concluded Daniel. he had no great hopes that they'd listen but felt that he'd at least made the effort.

A brief look revealed nothing of interest, but he decided to see if Hope would have any more luck. She approached with her hands in her pockets. This looked innocent enough to the casual observer but was actually to conceal the raven claws that tipped each of her fingers. Most animal features that a Gangrel gained during their frenzies faded within a night or two. These had not.

Protean - Gangrel Feral Claws
In fact she'd had them for several years now and had grown accustomed to them. She knew that such permanent features were far more common with elder Gangrel and figured that it had something to do with the potency of their vitae. Thanks to several acts of diablerie, Hope's own vitae was unusually potent for one of her age and generation and she presumed that this was a factor in her own permanent mutation.

"I've looked all over but I can't see anywhere or anything that might be a secret entrance or anything remotely like one." confessed Daniel. Hope then began to laugh. "What's so funny...Watson?" asked Daniel with not a little irritation.

"You're standing on it, worlds greatest detective..." replied Hope.

Storytellers Note - Daniel's player had botched his investigation roll spectacularly...

There was indeed a sewer entrance near one of the water tanks. The hatch was old, but scratch marks indicated that it's been opened and closed several times within recent weeks.

A Poorly Concealed Sewer Entrance
The sewer hatch led to a tunnel filled with debris, and about an inch of stagnant water. It would take a tracker far beyond their skills to follow a trail in such conditions, though there seemed to only be a single, relatively straight tunnel ahead as far as they could see.

"Ladies first..."

"How come every time you take me anywhere we end up in a fucking sewer..." countered Hope, before dropping down into the depths.

After two hundred metres the tunnel split into three equally unpleasant looking corridors. All contained detritus of various kinds and had the same layer of filthy water in the bottom. This was becoming deeper, the further in they went and was now close to six inches in depth. They also noted that they now had zero signal on their phones...

Hope wasn't happy with advancing any further, She was afraid of very little, but nonetheless possesses a healthy dose of Gangrel pragmatism. "Much as I hate to be the one to have to interject with a note of caution...perhaps we should see where the tunnels go before getting lost in a tunnel potentially filled with disease?"

"Who are you and what have you done with the real Hope?" asked Daniel, with a smile. Though, he had to admit that she was right. Even to the casual observer there were many places from which to launch an ambush within these corridors. Though the splashing within the water might alert them to movement, any already positioned ambushes or traps would be very difficult to detect. Someone with actual tracking skills would be an asset if they planned on continuing.

Hope's experience with IED's also set off warning signals about the routes ahead. With so much rubbish about, and with water covering the floor, there were a hundred ways to booby-trap this area.

Amongst the Sweepers under Hope's command within the North East, the best tracker was Max, though in her experience she was also the one most prone to acts of pre-emptive violence, well, after Hope that is. Hogg was a distant second, while Carla and Orla were far more suited to urban environments. the Gangrel had to admit that they were all better trackers than her though.

"Let's get some help then." agreed Daniel, and they both returned to where they could get a phone signal and call in a tracker.

Little did they know that this decision had likely saved their unlives...


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Storytellers Conclusions
I sometimes 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....

And so it begins...

Though if they carry on being sensible they're going to ruin all my fun...

Song Lyrics
Also, The quote in the header is from the following song on the off-chance any-one is interested...


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Further Acknowledgements
Portions of the materials are the copyrights and trademarks of White Wolf Entertainment AB, and are used with permission. All rights reserved.

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 Matt Bomer, Johnny 'Roach' West is Kurt Kobain, Vincent 'Vin' Ghast is Scott Adkins, Dr Daniel Matthews is Mads Mikkelsen, Hope Romero is Deborah Ann Woll, Marie is Eva Green, Mr Hertz is Charles Dance, Sofia Rivera is Eliza Dushku, Tara Kearney is Melissa Rauch, Blanche Johnson is Kathy Bates, Vera Vignes is Helen Mirren, Sarah is Natalie Martinez, The Blossoms are Alyssa Milano, Rose McGowan and Holly Marie Combs, Justine Chen is Joan Chen, Marius walker is Tony Curran, Catherine DuBois is Margot Robbie, 'Nines' Rodrigues is Luis Carazo, 'Priss' is Sofia Boutella, Taslima is Shruti Haasan, Arbaaz is Naveen Andrews, Ophelia is Krysta Rodriguez, Isaac Abrams is Gary Oldman, Harvey Caplan is Harvey Keitel, Josie Parrish is Rebecca Ferguson and  Gloria Martinez is Ariadne Artiles.

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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