Friday, 21 August 2020

Vampire the Masquerade V5 - Session Sixty Seven - The MacNeil Protocols (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 a year of plotting, the coterie now controls the three North-Eastern Baronies and has successfully weakened several others. Unfortunately other Barons have used the chaos they have created to consolidate their own positions.
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.
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 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
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
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 One

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

The SPC's
Storyteller controlled player allies
Priya Haynes - Gangrel, 'Sweeper'
Carla Doyle - Gangrel, 'Sweeper'
Orla Riviera - Gangrel, 'Sweeper'
Rosalind Perkins -  Thin-blood, Alchemist
Sofia Rivera - Toreador, Michael's contact with Sire

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

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

Storytellers Note - This was quite a long session so you might want to make yourself a cup of tea before you start reading...

The coterie is investigating a theory put forward by their ally, an Elder Nosferatu known as Alonzo. 

Alonzo has theorised that Jeremy MacNeil had access to, or had created, a computer system that was connected to every police station in the city. This had allowed him to control information on potential masquerade breaches, assist the baronies in cleaning up their own messes and almost certainly compile prodigious amounts of useful information. Such a system, if it truly existed, could give an ambitious group of kindred considerable power.

Having decided to avoid the information brokers connected to kindred who may wish to take the system for themselves, the coterie have opted to meet with Gary Golden in order to acquire information on potential havens of the missing Jeremy MacNeil.

Scene Four - 'Gorgeous' Gary Golden
'The Asp Hole', Hollywood
Michael arranged a meeting with Gary Golden via the usual convoluted channels that seemed to amuse the warren dwelling Nosferatu. Having no intention of wading through a smelly, rubbish strewn sewer, Michael arranged to meet Gary in the basement meeting room of a Hollywood club called 'The Asp Hole'. 

This was slightly risky as the club was one of Marius's establishments and should any of his people be present then their curiosities may end up being aroused. Fortunately, meetings between barons and information brokers were common enough that only the most spurious of explanations would be needed. No-one expected kindred to be honest with others about their activities anyway.

Daniel was pleased to note that Venus Dare, manager of Marius's three clubs was not present there this evening. The coterie had hoped this would be the case as she tended to favour Club Confession most of the three clubs under her control. The staff were, of course, aware that certain customers had 'special' needs and were also well aware of the fatal consequences of asking too many questions.

Club Confession, Downtown and Glaze, Chinatown - Marius's other Clubs

The sub-basement had only a single meeting room as it was mainly only used so surface dwelling kindred and those who made their havens beneath the city could meet. It did however have several tables with fairly comfortable seating and a number of fridges that were used to store any 'refreshments' that guests might require. The fridges were currently empty, however one of the previously empty chairs was now occupied.

'Gorgeous' Gary Golden
Baron of the Hollywood Warrens
Gary is impeccably dressed in a dinner suit, white shirt and bow-tie and as usual appears as if from nowhere upon your arrival. "Evening boss. What can I do for you?"

Michael had already prepared a vague reason for needing the required information. He was however reasonably sure that as long as a price could be agreed that Gary couldn't really care less about the 'why'.

After a polite handshake he got straight to the point. Michael claimed to be "Curious.." about certain properties owned, or utilised by Jeremy MacNeil back when he was the de facto Baron of all of Los Angeles. He mentioned the locations learned of by Daniel as a starting point. These included a mansion in Hollywood, a pair of locations in San Fernando and a possible location near a seat of government.

Though obviously intrigued, Gary as expected asked no questions. "I'd love to help of course..." replied Gary. "...but unfortunately I have quite a serious problem on my hands currently that requires my undivided attention..." Michael could see where this was going but waited for Gary to finish. " as long as I have this on my mind I couldn't possibly take on any other tasks."

"Perhaps I can help." said Michael. "That could certainly change the situation." Replied Gary.

Tilly Kelly - Gangrel
'Mistress of the Swarm'
"You are aware of the unpleasant offspring of Marius who dwells below the city?" the Nosferatu began.

Michael nodded, but it was Daniel who spoke. He confirmed that he and several other members of the coterie had seen the so-called 'Swarm' in action and had even been in the presence of their mistress. "She's not someone that I'd like to trifle with on a whim..." concluded the Banu Haqim.

"Don't look so concerned, I don't expect you to destroy her. To be honest I doubt that's a viable option for anyone in the city at the moment. However, during the recent unpleasantness below ground in L.A. they have been spreading far and wide and then withdrawing back to Downtown. However, she appears to have inherited her sires parenting skills and the dregs of the dregs get left behind. I'd like you to clear out a small number of 'nests' for me..."

Michael's empathy immediately allowed him to detect the half-truths within the statement, Daniel's talent for profiling had led him to a similar conclusion. Gary was an experienced enough negotiator to tell when some elaboration was required so he provided a slightly more detailed explanation.

Storytellers Note - The players rolled well enough to get some extra exposition, but not quite well enough to learn everything that they potentially could have.

Marius Walker - Gangrel
'Sometimes Prone to Overreaction'
"Well, when Marius fell out with Ramirez I made an arrangement that the Nosferatu of the Warrens would stay out of the way of his childers swarm. Now I'm just the tiniest bit concerned that wiping out groups of the leftovers could be considered me breaking that agreement, if the kindred I made it with happened to be an unusually picky and unpredictable lunatic with a psychopath for an assistant. However your coterie made no such agreement and you're also on unusually good terms with the Gangrel in question."

Michael confirmed that he had people that could deal with such an issue but that they would need a guide to the appropriate locations. Gary agreed to arrange to "...have Caleb guide you to the approximate areas of 'infection'...". A meeting point was then arranged for the following evening to begin their clearance operation. "I imagine..." said Michael, turning to Daniel. "...that you'll be needing Miss Romero's assistance?"

Hollywood Cemetery
With the deal arranged, Michael and his bodyguard Daniel left Hollywood. Michael did however make a small detour to check upon the tomb of his ancestor Countess d'Adhemar within Hollywood's cemetery. The cemeteries guardian 'Romero', a ghoul of Baron Abrams, had ensured it was undisturbed as agreed with the Baron of Hollywood.

Storytellers Note - The full account of that discovery can be found in part one of a three part story beginning HERE.

A security guard, an unusual sight in a cemetery during the early hours of the morning, was stationed nearby, equipped with night vision gear and a selection of ranged weapons. Michael also noted that there were several security cameras mounted subtly around the tomb. Precautions added by Baron Abrams at the request of Carmelita Neillson no doubt. The guard came to attention at Michael's approach but relaxed slightly when he recognised him. Presumably he had been well briefed on who and who not could approach the area. Satisfied that adequate precautions were being taken he returned to his vehicle and his chauffeur Dion drove him back to his haven.

That he had been observed the entire time by another individual was a fact that he unfortunately completely missed...

Scene Five - Old Friends
Caleb - Nosferatu
Childe of Gary Golden
Caleb, third childe of Gary Golden, and an expert on the sewers and warrens below Los Angeles, was waiting for them at the agreed upon meeting place. The coterie had rescued Caleb during the thin-blood uprising known as the Cross Rebellion and he was therefore quite well inclined towards it's members. It was Gary's apparent willingness to sacrifice his own childe during those events however which had soured Daniel towards him somewhat.

Daniel was armed with his usual compliment of suppressed weapons and knives and as they were hunting below the surface had taken far fewer precautions to conceal them than usual. As they were currently lacking information about enemy numbers and capabilities, Daniel had bought along extra ammunition.

The coteries Gangrel census-taker Hope had some weapons with her but rarely used them as she much preferred the sensation of tearing apart enemies with her claws. Her claws were somewhat of an issue at the moment as after a recent frenzy they had remained in their extended state. Most such transformations amongst frenzied Gangrel faded after a night or so, these had not. Though she wore specially made gloves when out in public, the fact that each of her fingers ended in a several inch long ravens claw was still difficult to conceal.

Hope's duties currently were ensuring the security of the baronies borders along with directing the activities of the coteries three other sweepers. She had separated herself from the night to night activities of the other coterie members of late as had recently found that only the vitae of kindred gave her sustenance. This was something she wished to keep to herself for obvious reasons.

Alchemical Tools
She currently resided in the basement of an abandoned hotel that she had acquired with borrowed funds along with a number of duskborn whose number included an alchemist. Currently Hope sustained herself by using duskborn blood 'thickened' by alchemical means. Hope ensured that her pair of duskborn guests were well fed though a certain measure of fear was also part and parcel of ensuring their cooperation. Certain areas of the haven were strictly off limits to all but Hope herself. No-one amongst her retainers and herd asked what they contained though they had their suspicions that they themselves weren't her only source of sustenance.

Hope and Daniel engaged in some small talk before a subtle and biologically unnecessary cough from Caleb indicated that he required their attention. 

"The swarms left-overs have currently infested three areas. There is a small and fairly isolated group near to here. A marginally larger gathering which seems to have based themselves around an abandoned surface access that they occasionally utilise to hunt prey that are a mile or so away. The third and largest of the groups has taken a disused underground station for themselves and seem to be the most organised. I'll guide you as near as possible to each group but i'm afraid that I've been instructed to take no part in any aggressive activities."

"Is Gary that concerned about breaking his agreement with Marius?" asked Daniel. "Who Knows? They have a weird relationship..." answered Caleb. "...they're still playing their stupid tit for tat scavenger hunt game. If I didn't know how busy they both were, I'd think they were bored..."

"Shall we get this done?" Interrupted Hope.

Interlude - Gary's Game
Sebastian LaCroix - Ventrue
Former Camarilla Prince, Destroyed
During the Sabbat invasion of Los Angeles in two thousand and four, LaCroix, then Prince of the city used a wide variety of agents and resources to obtain intelligence, resources and occult items in order to cement his position. Amongst those agents were a newcomer to the city, several information brokers and Marius 'The Fixer' Walker and no doubt many others. Marius, having no known political leaning was just as willing to work for the Camarilla as the Anarchs, though he drew the line at the Sabbat.

After completing several tasks for Gary Golden that enabled him to obtain the information the prince required, it was thought that the matter was closed. That was until the first of a selection of slightly odd e-mails was received via ShrectNet.

Since then their game has continued on and off for fifteen years. Gary tasks Marius with locating an item for him and on it's acquisition the payment is invariably a photograph or poster of a notable female kindred within the city. Sometimes these are covertly taken photographs, or posters and pictures taken when the kindred in question were mortal. It is also suspected that Gary plays this game in varying forms with other kindred throughout the city though the 'rewards' vary considerably in format. Why he would put such effort into such an ultimately pointless activity is unknown to anyone but himself. 

A Selection of Gary's 'Posters'

What is certain however is that Marius is one of only three kindred who bothers to play the game in return. Marius invariably responds shortly after each of Gary's 'jobs' with a request for a piece of obscure and generally useless, yet difficult to obtain information. He pays for each of these with a piece of memorabilia from Gary's mortal film career during the nineteen thirties and forties.

It is apparently Gary's turn next.

Scene Six - An Infestation
The Hollywood Sewers
Daniel suggested that they dispose of the group with surface access first as they had the greatest potential for a breach of the masquerade. He was also concerned that they may learn of any assault upon the other groups and make their escape. Hope was largely indifferent about who she killed first and so left the planning to Daniel.

As they moved through the underground passages, Hope noticed that Daniel was significantly different from when they had last worked together. He had always been careful but now seemed almost paranoid, his movements were quicker but less measured and he hadn't made a single pop-culture related wisecrack since they met. It had always been him who was a steadying influence on her and he who had prevented her from letting her beast have full rein. Whatever changes had occurred with the Banu Haqim began to worry her. Caleb interrupted her musing.

Kindred Disciplines - Obfuscate
"The second largest of the three groups is just down the next passage on the right. These have found a store-room near a surface access. There's definitely more of them than the first lot and at least two are kindred. I think they've been up a few times so they might be a bit better fed than the first group."

"Some stealth is going to be required. You stay here, I'll scout ahead " Said Daniel and promptly blended into the shadows and disappeared around the corner without making a single sound. "Whatever..." began Hope, but he had already left. "You're friend has gotten awfully serious since I last encountered you both..." observed Caleb. "Yeah..." said Hope, noncommittally.

The side room was exactly where Caleb had described and seemed to be a disused equipment store of some kind. Extending his preternatural senses to their fullest, the Banu Haqim observed the area. A lock on the door had been ripped clean off and left to dangle uselessly from the frame. He could hear voices talking softly within but couldn't make out exactly what was being discussed. As he contemplated moving closer, the door opened and a scruffy looking man emerged and headed down the passageway towards where Hope and Caleb were waiting.

Daniel could see that they were not human by the simple observation that they weren't breathing as he stalked them in silence. He briefly considered taking them intact for interrogation and to see if they had any tactical information before abandoning the idea. They were here to destroy everyone and Caleb already knew their numbers and locations so it would just be a waste of effort.

Daniel Matthews - Banu Haqim
'Significantly More Ruthless'
Storytellers Note - The character has recently become Humanity 4 and so the player is roleplaying him as far more ruthless than he was before and slightly less careful. Expediency has now become more of a priority than anything else. Unfortunately for the player this was possibly a bad move as there was useful information to be had from an interrogation which is why I put them the target there in the first place, lol.

The victim never saw the blow that granted him his final death as Daniel emerged from the shadows behind him and drove his blades deep into their body. As he dragged them into a nearby alcove to finish them off he tasted a small quantity of their vitae. He concluded that they were a new embrace, barely even a vampire judging from their bloods relative lack of potency. The lack of decomposition on their death confirmed this hypothesis. Daniel then returned to his companions.

"They're where Caleb specified, there was one wandering about but I dealt with it. One entrance, so it looks like surprise is our best bet." Summarised Daniel. As expected, Caleb elected to wait exactly where he was. Hope was the most resilient of the pair so was to be first through the door. Daniel readied two of his pistols and waited for his Gangrel ally to begin the assault. 

Daniel - Precision Shooting
Daniel swung the door open and Hope launched herself into the room. She selected an enemy who was beginning to raise a drum-fed assault rifle. He never got a chance to fire as she leaped across the room and tore into them with her raven-like feral claws. Quickly scanning the room, Daniel noted that two of the occupants had, or were near to, handguns and promptly put several bullets into each of these targets killing them instantly.

Dropping the shredded remains of the kindred she had butchered, Hope cleared the corpses of Daniel's victims before their bodies had even hit the ground and tore the throat out of a panicked looking swarm member before he had a chance to move. The two that remained alive made a break for the door. They never made it there as Daniel's pistols accounted for two more victims. "One down..." said Hope, expecting Daniel to respond. He didn't.

Half-Empty Assault Rifle
The magazine of the drum fed assault rifle was half full, as were the two pistols. The rest had been armed with nothing more than sticks and knives. As well as Hope and Daniel's targets there were two additional corpses in the corner. They appeared to belong to a vagrant and a young woman, possibly a prostitute. They had both been drained of blood and partially consumed. Caleb then appeared at the door. "Where next?" he asked. Both the Banu Haqim and the Gangrel could clearly see that Caleb was uncomfortable with the scene of destruction before him.

"I've reconsidered that first group." said Daniel after a moments thought.. "I don't want the main group to have a fall back position with potential covering fire. We'll wipe them out, then take out the main force." Hope agreed, though she was growing increasingly concerned about some of Daniel's new personality traits apparently his ability to think tactically hadn't suffered.

Storytellers Note - For those of you who haven't read previous write-ups featuring this pairing, some explanation might be needed. Hope and Daniel bantered a lot in character and so the fact that he's not doing so would be very noticeable to the character. The characters are also friends in a very real sense and so it's understandable that Hope would be concerned about her friends radical change in outlook. There was some good role-playing this session which was enjoyable to watch.

Scene Seven - Fodder
Caleb took them back towards the first group of swarm dregs via a different route. He had circumvented them originally to get close to those that Daniel and Hope people had just destroyed but this time led Michael's people directly towards them.

"The first lot are lurking down that side passage, they have a guard by the entrance but I doubt that will deter you much. They number approximately half a dozen, none are actual kindred as far as we're aware..."

A brief reconnaissance by Daniel confirmed that there was a single mortal, possibly a ghoul keeping watch and four others around some form of campfire. The fact that they were casually warming their hands using the open flames indicated to Daniel that they must be all mortal as Caleb had surmised.

Hope used some of her reserves of Vitae to further enhance the fortitude for which her clan was famous and rendered herself temporarily immune to the vampiric bane of fire, Just in case of complications. Daniel had already reloaded both his pistols. "I'll take out the guard on the way in..." suggested Hope. "...then you can give me covering fire then follow?"

Daniel had initially planned to take out the guard himself but as the location could be clearly observed from within the tunnel they would gain little time by doing so. "Okay." he confirmed. Once again trying to awaken some of her friends sense of humour, Hope made reference to "...Super Mario games leaving her unprepared for the realities of sewer related combat..." but as before the cultural reference was either ignored or went unnoticed.

True to her word, Hope removed the guards throat with brutal efficiency and leapt upon another mortal by the fire before they even looked up. A moment later Daniel appeared at the entrance and killed two more with precise shots from his paired 10mm pistols. The sole survivor sat frozen, not knowing what to do and having no avenue of escape. Daniel calmly walked over and executed them without a second thought.  

Though several poorly maintained handguns were discovered, there was barely enough ammunition between them to fill a single magazine. Their improvised weapons were merely sticks and a rusty old knife. "Let's hope the third lot are that unprepared and poorly equipped..." quipped Hope. Though she doubted that it was likely. "...I also found their lunch." she said, indicating a partially consumed corpse in one corner.

Storytellers Note - I figured they would take out the targets in the order that Caleb had listed them so this was meant to be their first target. It was basically a warm-up and the first indicator that their prey were cannibals, amongst their other issues...

Scene Eight - Lynch's Mob
Abandoned Subway Station
Hollywood Warrens
Caleb agreed to take them to the outer limits of the final and largest groups territory but stated that he had no intention of going any further. "I'm staying well away from this lot, they've spread through an abandoned subway station. It has multiple surface entrances and plenty of hiding spaces. They patrol too. I'll wait here..."

Daniel once again acted as scout using his natural abilities at stealth and his more supernatural abilities to remain both silent and invisible. It turned out that Caleb was correct about patrols as a pair of swarm members moved down the corridor before crossing over a makeshift bridge and returning the way they had came. Not wishing to act prematurely, Daniel pushed down his instinct to kill and instead quietly followed the patrol into their recently acquired territory. As he did he noticed that the lights were working so either this station still had power or the swarm had somehow tapped into a power line somewhere.

Abandoned Subway Station
Sniper Nest

Stopping a safe distance from an abandoned subway platform ahead, Daniel settled into a shadowy corner and observed the area ahead. The concealed sniper nest almost escaped his notice as whoever was manning it made no movements at all.

The assassin concluded that they were probably kindred as he couldn't even see the rise and fall of normal breathing. They did however have an excellent view of the approach to the station. Daniel decided not to risk moving any closer as he had no idea what supernatural abilities his opponents may have and instead crossed to the other side of the corridor for an alternate view.

A second sniper, this one probably mortal, was stationed in another nest at the opposite corner of the gantry containing the first. Daniel didn't like to jump to conclusions but their positioning seemed to imply a third nest of some kind just out of his view. While contemplating this he noted a second patrolling pair moving across the platform. Deciding he had seen enough he returned to Hope and Caleb to discuss their options.

'The Swarm'
Ghouls, Blood Bound and the Insane
That there was a tactically experienced kindred controlling this group was obvious to all present. This probably meant that there were at least two kindred to deal with and at least half a dozen other experienced fighters. This was without taking into account any cannon-fodder that was so common amongst the swarm and was almost certainly lurking around somewhere.

Caleb interrupted the tactical conversation. "Actually, we believe that they have at least three full kindred amongst their number. The leader and two others. They also had a lot more of those blood bound or ghouled lunatics, that they seem to favour, than you've mentioned so far..."

"I can take out at least one of the nests, quickly..." stated Hope. "...unless they're in the habit of taking pot shots at any random bird that might be flying around down here. I imagine my transformation back will draw enough attention in my direction for you to do some damage of your own. Especially from the sniper I'm standing over at the time..." Daniel agreed that it was a decent enough distraction plan, and began to calculate the head-start Hope would need before he made his own way forward.

Hope Romero - Raven Form
Protean - Metamorphosis
Hope transformed into her raven form and launched herself down the access corridor, skimming the ceiling to minimise the chance of being targeted. A moment later, Daniel broke into a run timed to intercept the closest of the two patrols.

Hope transformed in mid-air, a technique she'd utilised many times before and plummeted into the kindred sniper below. Near to starvation due to her casual and consistent use of vampiric disciplines she grappled the enemy and drover her fangs deep into their throat, draining them dry and leaving them in torpor. The patrol that Daniel was heading to intercept, turned at the commotion as did the first of the other sniper nests to react.

Daniel emptied both of his handguns, one into each of the patrol members backs and reloaded on the run as the bodies before him fell to the ground dead. Ignoring the sniper aiming at her, Hope leapt across the gantry to the slower reacting nest as it turned to focus upon the now visible Daniel. They were merely mortal and soon fell to the claws of the experienced Gangrel. As the surviving lookout attempted to target the fast moving Gangrel once more, Daniel riddled their nest with suppressing fire but couldn't see if he'd hit anything. Then the doors to a series of broken windowed retail units ahead opened and the ragtag horde mentioned by Caleb emerged.

The Swarm - Improvised Weapons
Armed with swords, knives and a selection of sticks and bats wrapped with barbed wire or pierced with nails, the group charged forward. Behind them, another individual was spurring them on, presumably one of the three kindred guiding this particular infestation. Hope jumped down from her perch, attempting to catch the kindred below her by surprise but mistimed the leap and stumbled as she landed. fortunately she regained her footing and avoided stumbling into the dozen blood-crazed lunatics charging towards Daniel. Less concerned about a dozen mortal scum with improvised weapons than a sniper, Daniel took careful aim and emptied both magazines into their skull, just to be sure.

Daniel could see the second patrol attempting to move towards Hope but found themselves caught up in the mass of bodies surging in the opposite direction. The assassin switched to his full-auto browning and emptied it into the pack before calmly reloading. He figured he'd get one more burst before he needed to break out his blades. Hopes chosen enemy meanwhile was attempting to heal a pair of gaping wounds in their chest and neck, but their reserves of vitae were inadequate to fully repair the damage before their head was brutally ripped from their shoulders.

Daniels Karambits
Ignoring their dead, the remainder of the swarms cannon-fodder continued forward into another burst of fully-automatic pistol fire. The closest almost impaled themselves on Daniel's pair of karambit's such was their momentum. The warrior had recently been taking training from Marius's ghouled assassin Yukio and was now at the peak of skill with both knives and swords. Taking apart such untrained opponents was childsplay to him now and he killed three more in as many seconds.

Out of the corner of her eye, Hope saw movement as a previously unseen figure made a break for a stairway in the far corner of the station and transformed once more into avian form so as to pursue. Seeing his team member transform, Daniel concluded that she must have seen a surviving enemy. Anxious to assist her he quickly finished off the remnants before him, stopping only to take a quick drink of blood to replenish himself.

Scene Nine - 'First, Do No Harm?'
Hope's prey was climbing up a ladder, leading to a service hatch of some description, with considerable speed. She noted they had a submachine gun over one shoulder. Attempting to slow them down, Hope glided down, claws extended and went for their eyes. Daniel meanwhile immediately burned through the blood he'd recently consumed and covered the distance to the ladder using bursts of superhuman speed.

Temporarily fending off Hope, the fleeing kindred hurled the hatch aside and began to climb through. Slipping through the gap in her airborne form, the transformed Gangrel moved to intercept as Daniel climbed the ladder in pursuit. The kindred saw Daniel climbing and aimed their MP5 downwards. Realising that his positioning would effectively result in the bullets going through the top of his head, the Banu Haqim pushed himself backwards off the ladder. Instead of potentially being decapitated he instead took the rounds to his legs and stomach. Not the best result, but far better than the alternative.

Feral Claws
The distraction created by Daniel had given Hope time to transform back and she launched herself at what was hopefully their final foe. The speed that they evaded the blow caught her by surprise. Their targets up to now had been weak-willed mortals and newly embraced weaklings. This one was different.

Having healed himself enough to climb, the Banu Haqim emerged through the hatch and found himself in an alley in Hollywood. His senses still at their maximum he immediately realised that they were dangerously close to a busy area of the town and that the burst of weapon fire would have echoed alarmingly in the narrow alleyway in which they stood. Another worrying fact was that Hope was still engaged in combat, her foe apparently proving more troublesome than their previous encounters.

Hope admonished herself for presuming that all those left behind by the Mistress of the Swarm would be easy marks. Her underestimating of this foe had already allowed him to wound her twice and evade her opening attack. As she gave herself some space to consider her options, Daniel tried to grapple them to the ground. Claws as deadly as those of Hope almost disembowelled him as he did and he too intended to take a step back. Instead he lost control. The urge to taste kindred vitae overwhelmed him and he tried once again to grapple their mutual enemy. This time however, he went straight for the throat.

Lynch could tell that he was outclassed. Perhaps he could fend off one or the other but not both. Deciding that it was time to depart, he cleared the charging kindred going for his throat in a single leap and zagged past the gangrel who had pursued him, while she was in avian form. Another figure turned into the alleyway entrance right in front of him and he slashed them across the throat without a second thought as he ran into the crowded street beyond.

Daniel watched the unfortunate cop who had come to investigate the gunshots, tumble against the wall, blood spurting from his damaged throat. It was obvious to a trained surgeon such as himself that without instant attention they would be dead within minutes. However he felt strangely indifferent to the fact. Hope shifted into her other animal form, that of a wolf and gave chase using her enhanced sense of smell to track them. She was sure that Daniel would be helping the wounded policeman so didn't give that a second thought.

Storytellers Note - We had a bit of a break here while a discussion was had about whether being Humanity 4 would completely undo a lifetime of training based around helping others. My personal opinion is that a Humanity score of 4 is on the edge of being a monster but that fundamentally you are still you and therefore would still know the difference between right and wrong. However I also believe that you'd be more than capable of letting someone die if saving them was too much of an inconvenience. Still being unable to decide, the player took a Willpower test and let the dice decide for them.

Daniel habitually carried basic medical gear with him though of late he had picked up the pouch more out of habit than anything else. Deciding that a dead policeman would cause them more trouble than a mysteriously saved one, Daniel set to work. The man had already passed out from shock which made the chance of a masquerade breach marginally less likely, especially as Daniel knew that their body would not heal unaided. Drawing one of his blades across his wrist he allowed his vitae to flow into the unconscious cop's mouth. Daniel knew that Ghouls healed quicker than mere mortals and right now the poor fellow needed all the help he could get.

In wolf form Hope darted between the legs of surprised mortals who had congregated in this seedy part of Hollywood's underbelly. She followed the scents of the sewer and traces of gunpowder that her quarry had left behind them and eventually tracked them to a side street. 

Hope Romero - in Wolf Form
Protean - Shape-change
They were leaning over an unconscious mortal and had began to sink their fangs into their throat. Now with the advantage of surprise, she flowed back into her humanoid form and advanced slowly towards the kindred and his victim. Her first strike severed their spinal column, the second removed their head completely.

After using an ability to cloud the memory she had learned after an act of diablerie a year ago, she left the woman by the alley entrance and returned to the decapitated corpse that had began to rapidly rot away. She quickly and deliberately dismembered the body, left a piece in each of a number of refuse bags dumped nearby and then became a raven once more and flew away.

Having done all he could to save the man at his feet, Daniel picked up their radio and called in an 'officer down' before heading back down to the abandoned station and sealing the hatch behind him. Caleb was waiting amidst the carnage below. "Any problems?" "All dead except one runner..." said Daniel, summarising considerably. "...Hope is running down the escapee. they're probably destroyed already so your boss can send Michael the information he requested." Caleb withdrew to make his report as the Banu Haqim checked all the bodies to ensure they were actually dead or destroyed. A single survivor in torpor was summarily dispatched and then, with the job complete, Daniel made his way back to make his own report to Michael.

Nicholas Rowland - Toreador
'Census Taker' for Baron Abrams
Hope flew low over the alleyway from which they'd initially emerged and landed upon a nearby wall. She could see that several law enforcement officers had cordoned off the area. An ambulance crew were loading a uniformed man into the back of an emergency vehicle before driving away at top speed. With all the attention focused on the commotion, no-one had yet discovered the woman she'd left behind but as Hope had licked her wound shut she should be okay. Strangely conscious of a man in dark glasses who was watching her intently from the back of a nearby car, she quickly became airborne and returned to her haven. 

A moment after the raven was out of sight the man in the dark glasses reached for a mobile phone as it began to ring in his pocket. "Mr Abrams?...Why, outside contractor has seemingly dealt with the infestation we were discussing...No...a minor breach but it's been contained...yes, I'll ensure it's been done thoroughly..." As his boss hung up, Nicholas Rowland, 'Census Taker' for Hollywood once again wandered how the Baron was aware of an event that had only occurred minutes before. He also recalled that his predecessor had once asked a similar question out loud and had never been seen again.

Removing his glasses as he did so, he walked over to the most senior looking officer to ensure that any reports made on the incident were phrased correctly. "You and I need to talk..." without question the dominated officer began to explain exactly what he knew. Then Rowland explained to him that that wasn't what had happened at all...

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...

Last session was to let the players get warmed up with their negotiation skills, this one was all about the action. Or avoiding the action so you could visit your ancestors grave, in the case of Michael's player.

Anyway, it went fairly well and they kinda cleared up their little masquerade breach. If you haven't read some of the earlier session write-ups then take my word for it, for them this was clean. Next session they'll get access to the information they require and we'll see what they do with it. Which will almost certainly be exactly the opposite of what I expected.

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

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, Tilly Kelly is Anna Paquin, Marius Walker is Tony Curran and Nicholas Rowland is Matthew Mcconaughey.

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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