Friday 17 March 2023

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

I'm currently running a Vampire the Masquerade chronicle using the 5th Edition rule-set for a small group of fellow role-players. These are the chronicles of their adventures.

Our chronicle is set in Los Angeles and features a small group of Camarilla agents sent into the 'Free States' to bring them back under Camarilla control. After 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.
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.
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 OneTwoThreeFourFive
Story Twenty - 'The MacNeil Protocols' - Part SixSevenEightNine and Ten
Interlude Session One - After Griffith Park
Interlude Session Two - Divide and Conquer
Interlude Session Three - On the Brink of War
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
Galerie Sanguine - 'San Francisco'
'Anarchs' -  ZeroOneTwoThree and Four
Chronicle Five - 'Blood Cults of L.A.'
Story Thirty - 'A Plague of Blood' - Part OneTwoThreeFour and Five

'The Cast' - Past and Present
This Sessions PC's are...
Dr Daniel Matthews - Banu Haqim, 'Sherlock'
Hope Romero - Gangrel, 'Census Taker'
Mr Hertz - Nosferatu, 'Accountant'

The Storyteller
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: Drug Use, Sex Trade, Sex Work
Other Possible Triggers: Blood, Disease (Plague)

The coterie have put all their resources into deciphering the information gathered from the various locations traced to the development of the plague currently infecting the city of Los Angeles. These include the base of the people smuggler and pornographer 'Dreads', the location where his violent films with their unwilling participants were made and the laboratory where dozens of victims were used to develop new and deadlier strains of the blood plague.

Meanwhile, their Baron Michael is dealing with some kindred politics that may, or may not, be connected.

Scene Twenty Four - Myranda
Allison Maller had agreed to meet Michael later this evening, though early morning might be more accurate, as long as the meeting occurred within her own domain. Salvador Garcia would also meet him, but not tonight, as he claimed to need to take extra precautions when having a meeting in a Barony on a "war footing", as he called it. This may be true, or might just be a power-play, but either way there's not a lot Michael could do about it other than wait another night.

While assimilating this information, his phone rang, the number was not one that he recognised.

Michael recognised the voice of Myranda Maria, Baron of the Wilds, and leader of it's most dangerous Gangrel Pack.

"I wonder if you might find some time to meet me this evening on a matter of some importance. It's related to your duties as a local leader, not your...broader responsibilities..."

As the line wasn't encrypted, it was clear she was avoiding using kindred related buzzwords.

"There is a place just across the border from where your areas of influence and mine meet. It recently belonged to 'friends' of a certain uninvited guest within our city who you helped to remove. I can be there in under an hour? I'll have only one of my people with me, though feel free to bring as many of your own people with you as your comfortable with. I'll text you the address if that's agreeable?"


The meeting place was a large, but not excessively so, home within it's own grounds. It had a wall guarding it's perimeter but it was clearly not defensive in nature and the gates were unlocked. A single vehicle had been parked out front, it was a sturdy off-road vehicle that looked like a civilian version of a military model. There were a couple of security cameras mounted out front but these were clearly domestic models and not the usual security you'd expect from one of Marius's brood. The location seemed to have been carefully selected to be as non-confrontational as possible.

Lezabel - Gangrel
Member of 'The Wilds Pack'
Lezabel, possibly the most amiable member of The Wilds Pack was waiting by the door, playing with a tatty looking dog with a bandage around it's midsection while another sat on the step watching them both. The other was larger and more wolf-like but also looked somewhat worse for wear having lost an ear at some point. Half a dozen healthier, and far more dangerous looking specimens, were patrolling the grounds.

Daniel noticed that the young pack member had found a place with a good view of the gate, her back was to a wall, and her eyes were darting about constantly. Hyperawareness was one of many common signs of PTSD and she was exhibiting them all.

They were met inside by Myranda.

"I'm sorry I have no refreshments to offer you. This is just somewhere convenient to meet, it's not very well equipped for our kinds needs, it mainly housed mortal agents of Lubbock's."

The Wilds Pack had been assaulted by a veritable army of Lubbock's followers during his ill-fated attempt to take Los Angeles. Evidently he had considered them a major threat and had allocated his forces accordingly. Fortunately for Myranda, her mother and sire Aviana had come to their rescue and slaughtered Lubbock's army to the last man.

"I have a favour to ask."

Michael made himself comfortable. Dealing with her grandesire Marius had made him wary about the word favour. Hopefully his grandechilde's schemes were less insidious. As it turned out, Myranda was nothing if not direct and, for a kindred at least, refreshingly honest.

The agreed route between The Wilds and Downtown, via El Hermandad

"I need permission to travel from here, to Downtown, via your domain. I and some of my packs and their associates have business there and our agreed route is currently unavailable. Oh, fuck this diplomacy shit. Can we just ignore the politics and I'll talk plainly?"

Michael smiled to himself. Myranda was definitely not the same as Marius. Of course, brutally honest individuals tended to expect the same in return, so Michael would have to amend his usual strategies that he utilised when dealing with kindred. I seemed that Marius, like his sire Xaviar, weren't exactly typical members of their clan. "Please do..." he replied. "To be honest it'll be a refreshing change."

Mary 'The Mother' - Gangrel
Leader of L.A.'s Bahari
Myranda seemed to relax a little, and then began to lay out her problem.

"I lead my own pack and control at least five others, but I'm neither the physically strongest, nor the most cunning and certainly not the most vicious Gangrel in my domain. I am however the best leader, by far. But even so, I lead by consent, because I get things done and look after my people. Unfortunately this Gloria thing is going to be something I need to deal with sooner rather than later. Having an alternative route to Mary's temple buys me some time to think, and that's what I need...otherwise more...conservative elements are going to want me to do something more confrontational..."

Michael had already spent some time considering what to do about Baron Gloria Martinez breaking an agreement that she'd made, and without a particularly good reason. Gloria had agreed to allow travel between The Wilds and Downtown, through her territory, so as to allow the Bahari, within Myranda's domain to keep in touch with Mary, or 'The Mother' as many of her followers called her. Mary was based within the Barony of the Angels, specifically Downtown L.A. and Myranda had kept to Gloria's terms for travel exactly.

Michael decided that supporting Myranda was the best move in this situation. Gloria was arrogant and prone to making rash decisions, but Myranda seemed to have a much better grasp on what it took to be a leader. All in all, Myranda was going to be the better ally if it came to a choice between the two.

"You're more than welcome to travel via my domain..." he began. "...especially as Gloria clearly reneged on her deal, making you the wronged party. I myself have begun to take steps to persuade her to re-think her decision, but I'm afraid I can't really discuss them until my negotiations are further along, I'm sure you understand that I wouldn't want to give you false hope of a solution only for it to come to nought."

'Max' - Gangrel
Sweeper for coterie's Eastern Border
Myranda merely nodded, so Michael continued.

"I shall inform my own sweepers of our agreement." He then turned to Daniel. "Do you have any input?"

Daniel spent the majority of his spare time planning on how to deal with threats to Michaels Barony, both actual and theoretical, and so had detailed knowledge of the borders of the North Eastern Baronies. It therefore only took him a second to calculate a route between the two domains via several roads that ran almost parallel to The Wilds. He specified these to Myranda who agreed to utilise these, and these alone.

Michael could sense there was more on Myranda's mind and so reassured her that the more he knew about the situation, the easier it would be for him to provide a solution. It then became obvious that Myranda was planning for the worse case scenario.

"If I go to war, I'll have the unanimous support of every kindred in my domain, as well as pledges of aid from Meredith Lang, Blanche Johnson, the Gangrel in Simi Valley and Santa Clarita, and whatever aid my grandsire pledges, which is likely to be significant. But that's not all. After I've wiped out Gloria, then I'll have no choice but to take out Salvador Garcia, who I don't give a fuck about, and Allison Maller, who unfortunately I actually fucking like...and obviously there will be knock-on effects from that...none of which are going to be pleasant. Most of the other Barons think I'm crazy, but I assure you I'm not, but if we go to war, then I can't afford to leave any survivors..."

Michael indicated that he understood. "I understand that from your point of view that mercy would be considered a weakness in this case, and Gloria certainly needs to be punished, but I'd also ask you to give me as much time as you can to come up with a peaceful end to this. It is my intention to stop a war, but that in no way means that I disagree with your point of view, I merely wish to prevent the destruction of many kindred who might get caught up in this conflict whose only crime is their association with a Baron with poor impulse control..."

He then continued.

Salvador Garcia - Brujah
Baron of El Hermandad
"It is my intention to speak to those who may have some influence over Gloria, namely Salvador Garcia and Allison Maller, and see if they can persuade her to be more reasonable. I of course have no intention of speaking to Gloria herself as she's already proven herself to be incapable of thinking rationally on this subject. It's possible that she believes that her sire and 'sister' will fight at her side regardless, but I think we both know that Garcia hasn't gotten where he is by picking the losing side in battles. Should I be able to convince her few allies to be less supportive, then she might see sense."

Myranda seemed to accept this reasoning, and after a few seconds thought spoke once more.

"As I'm asking for a favour, I presume you have a price?"

This threw Michael for a moment, as the very act of granting Myranda safe passage suited his needs, so he hadn't considered payment.

Myranda was a very practical individual and seemed to have a fairly straight-forward way of dealing with problems so it made sense that she would expect there to be a cost. From Michael's point of view this was also too good an opportunity to pass up. After all, she had made the offer, he was merely taking her up on it.

"I too may find myself in need of allies. Gloria has a habit of taking things personally and may see my interference as a personal affront. In addition, should a war result in territorial gain then I would appreciate any that is adjacent to my existing borders being granted to me. I hope you find these terms acceptable?"

Myranda smiled, then stood and offered Michael her hand. He accepted, then left promptly. He had a lot left to do this evening. He also made the decision to visit Baron Allison Maller alone. Daniel's expertise would be needed to decipher the many files seized so far in the coteries investigations into the plague cult.

Interlude - The Immortal Gladiator
Issac 'Ike' Griffiths - Brujah
AKA Spiculus, the Immortal Gladiator
The arena in which they met was the property of one of the many sporting franchises owned by Isaac 'Ike' Griffiths, under one of his many pseudonym's. 

Spiculus, Ike's real name, was a two millennia old Brujah of the fifth generation who had established so-called 'Fight Clubs' in many kindred cities across the world. His love of gladiatorial combat had never faded and so he had adapted such contests to suit each new era. The Fight Club was it's most recent incarnation and catered, in the majority, to those of his own clan though he had other similar organisations devoted to other clans and sects. Clubs existed where the Tzimisce battled their Szlachta servants against one another and wagered on the outcome. There were also duelling associations where Ventrue pit their sword skills against like-minded clan members and many, many others. Spiculus was now wealthy beyond the dreams of avarice in terms of both mundane finances and kindred boons.

Even taking all this into account, he still saw the benefits of a home-field advantage and had therefore scheduled his meeting with Marius 'The Fixer' Walker in the carpark beneath one of his own enterprises. This also allowed him to clear the area of unwanted observers.

Ike had a dozen vehicles with him, each filled with many potent fighters who answered to him, and many mortals armed with a variety of powerful ranged weapons. He was taking no chances that the Gangrel leader of 'The Oratory' would play fair. When last they had fought, several centuries previous, Marius had picked a time when Spiculus had already fought several times before, and was dangerously low on vitae. Though the immortal gladiator had still been victorious, he still considered Marius to have been less than honourable with his tactics. Gangrel were generally pragmatic, but in the gladiators opinion Marius was, to use modern parlance, a complete fucking asshole.

Marius's Security Teams and Convoy Escort Vehicles

Marius arrived exactly on time and was accompanied by five vehicles of his own. All were armoured and bore a remarkable similarity to vehicles of The Circulatory System that were usually bristling with concealed weaponry.

Several teams vacated these cars and took up tactical positions, but though their weapons were to hand, Ike noted that they kept them conspicuously pointed away from his own forces. Marius himself was accompanied by a pair of ghouls that Ike appraised carefully as the three walked towards his position. 

The Japanese girl moved with a grace and poise that revealed much to the ancient gladiator. She was undoubtedly a master with the sword she carried, though the gun beneath her jacket showed a familiarity with more contemporary killing methods. She reminded him of the samurai, and given her gender he correctly presumed that she was once an Onna-bugeisha, a female trained in martial arts in spite of the significant transformation of the social acceptance of women samurai in Japan at the time.

Victoria Anezka - Ancient Ghoul
Psychopathic Personal Assistant
The other was a different matter. Victoria was well known to any who had dealt with Marius over the centuries and few had fond memories of those meetings. She might have been considered beautiful, but the corruption within her was almost tangible, and one look at her eyes revealed the truth about her. Yukio might have been a killer, but this one was monster.

Then there was Marius.

He was an inch or so taller than Ike, but lacked the athletic physique of the gladiator, which of course meant very little where kindred were concerned. He shifted his senses to the supernatural and looked with distain upon an aura that was almost completely saturated with the black veins that indicated the consumption of many kindred souls. Worse, there was something malignant about what remained of the aura beneath and even the ancient Brujah was disinclined to probe deeper as he began to feel a dull ache behind his eyes. For the briefest moment Ike considered ordering his men to open fire, to cut down this creature as he approached, for the world couldn't help but be a better place without Marius in it. Spiculus had, however, given his word that no harm would come to this Gangrel during the meeting and he hadn't broken his word once in two thousand years.

"You saw the files my assistant provided?" asked Marius, without preamble.

"I did..." replied Spiculus

Marius 'The Fixer' Walker - Gangrel
Leader of 'The Oratory'
"So what the fuck are you going to do about one of your clubs being used in such a manner?" interrupted Marius, as for the second time that evening, Ike considered breaking his word and destroying the bastard on the spot. Unfortunately, on this subject at least, the Gangrel had every right to be angry, as Ike himself had watched the footage provided with anger and disgust.

The kindred in the club were indeed using captured Gangrel in pseudo dog-fights, and one-sided contests within which those captured were given not even the slightest chance of victory. The clubs were there to allow fighters to test themselves against one another and to do so with honour. What he had seen was nothing of the sort. Regardless of those facts, he had no intention of being spoken to like some Neonate.

"Think yourself lucky that I gave my word that you'd survive this meeting..." snapped Ike. "...or I'd kill you where you stood based merely on the lack of respect in your tone..."

"Really?" replied Marius, feigning surprise that he'd caused offense. "Then I free you from your promise." he continued. "Because my Final Death is the only thing that's going to stop me kicking down the door of your club and freeing those of my Clan chained up in there like fucking dogs for the entertainment of cowards who lack any honour at all..."

Ike had begun to reappraise his assessment of Marius. Despite his nature he did have a reputation for keeping his word, and the anger at the treatment of those of his clan was seemingly genuine. Nonetheless, he couldn't allow any kindred to threaten himself, or one of his organisations. 

This, somewhat unfortunately, left him with only one solution.

Scene Twenty Five - Origins
The files, paperwork and experimental notes had been difficult to organise due to their convoluted manner. It had therefore been necessary, broadly speaking, to split them up into more manageable sections. These included diary style entries, notes and information clearly laid down by various members of the organisation, experimental notes, and some files on the subjects of their tests.

Storytellers Note - The Players were given handouts containing many clues, some of which were contradictory. Through roleplaying, in and out of character discussions and a few dice rolls, they sorted through it all. The following information consists of their conclusions written in narrative form.

The Diaries
The Brotherhood of the Ninth Circle
Amongst the many research notes were the ramblings of one of the, presumed, creators of the disease currently affecting Los Angeles.

They clearly identify themselves as of "...The Brotherhood of the Ninth Circle..." and their symbol was the now familiar white skull within an eight-pointed red star. So at least that could now be confirmed.

Their notes on previous locations that had weathered 'The Plague' taught them little factual information that they did not already know. The writers primary focus appeared to have been Paris, and it is clear that they, and their followers, had spent considerable time at that location unearthing previous victims of the plague.

They had apparently made notes on both kindred and mortal victims retrieved from graveyards, sealed up havens and clumsily concealed mass graves hidden in obscure areas of the city. Samples were extracted, then the remnants and records destroyed. Whether this was to prevent competitors from duplicating their research, or to hamper any attempt to formulate a cure, was not mentioned.

Mention was made of a kindred referred to by a variety of derogatory terms including, 'doxy', and other slangs for prostitute or sex worker. It was clear that the writer was relieved to find this individual and her 'dregs' absent from the city of Paris. They seemed to consider this kindred somehow a threat to their plans and hint at their responsibility for the ultimate failure of the plagues previous incarnation. Passing mentions to their 'curative vitae' at least gave them some hope that a cure existed. It was also clear that the author of these diaries was afraid of this kindred as an individual, and not just of their potential as a cure.

Of more concern is another that was referred to as 'The Vector', a kindred who allegedly carried the plague and could infect others with it, though remained unaffected themselves. The writer implied that they had discovered this 'Vector' and that they had allied themselves with them. Unfortunately they did not elaborate.

To add to their list of concerns, the diaries also spoke of an advanced party sent to Los Angeles to field test early versions of the plague to small test groups. He referred to the leader of this 'trio' as 'Sister Maladie', though also occasionally 'Sister C'. From the complete lack of interest he had in, or respect for, the other two members of this group, it's possible that they were ghouls rather than kindred.

The Experiments
The language and handwriting changed in these other notes indicating that the mastermind of this operation, and the mind behind the plagues evolution, were likely not the same.

To a doctors mind, the terminology was familiar, but strangely combined. Modern terms were interspersed with those relating to techniques not used for centuries. The diagrams of equipment and tools also zigzagged between the past and present, with occult imagery interspersed. They were also, quite clearly, sociopathic and psychotic in the extreme and many of the experiments were unnecessarily cruel. It is almost as if the mind behind these notes believed that the level of the suffering of the subject enhanced the resulting disease.

Some of the diagrams matched the equipment in the so-called 'Free Clinic' they discovered a night or so ago. Unfortunately as they burned it to the ground, they couldn't compare them directly.

The first phase was apparently implemented by this advance group. Two mortals were described as 'infected' which seemed to confirm that only one of the three was kindred. These then passed the disease to a number of others via sexual congress and deliberately infected drug paraphernalia. Sister Maladie oversaw this initial operation as well as another involving a small time pimp and his 'girls'. It's likely this second group was the deceased small-time pimp, Denzel Rush, and his drug addicted stable of girls.

It didn't take much research to discover that all six of these girls were dead or missing. 
Three died of the Plague or something with suspiciously identical symptoms. 
Another died of a heroin overdose, the cause so obvious that no autopsy was done, so may also have been infected.
A fifth was found dead, from an apparently self inflicted gunshot wound from a .38 pistol she wasn't known to possess.
The sixth was still missing, but no real investigation had taken place. Junkie sex workers not been considered a priority. Especially when there was no-one to miss them.

It seems that the results of the first phase were deemed unsatisfactory, as they then required a larger number of subjects. Though it seemed certain that 'Sister Maladie' also continued with her own experiments.

Sister Maladie - Toreador Antitribu?
The Brotherhood of the Ninth Circle
The focus now moved to this new, and larger phase, which also needed an increase in agents to oversee it. The three that are mentioned are 'Brother Kanker', probably the leader, and a 'Brother Cor' and a 'Sister Dilara'. This was obviously where Edan 'Dreads' Finney came into the picture.

'Dreads' had already been utilised by them in the past, if the notes were to be believed, and facilitated movement of their people around Los Angeles. These dates, though approximate, could easily coincide with the previous wave of Sabbat operations in L.A. Though it's highly unlikely that he understood how dangerous those with which he was dealing truly were. 

However, according to the information revealed within the obtained files, 'Dreads' had far more extensive criminal contacts than either the authorities or Harvey Caplan were aware of. It is clear that someone with extensive resources has been funding 'Dreads' for some time. Whether this 'sponsor' knew about the Sabbat connection or not is unknown.

The Sabbat allowed him to continue with "...his petty mortal concerns..." so as to avoid drawing the suspicions of any of the cities kindred who had criminal interests who might notice a change in behaviour.

The abandoned water-works was mentioned several times and progress seemed to initially be satisfactory, then less so as time went by. Talk was of an "...unforeseen mutation..." The main symptoms were listed as "...rotting flesh, blood like tar, a complete absence of fear, ecstasy in the face of pain..."

Brother Pestilent - Nosferatu Antitribu
The Brotherhood of the Ninth Circle
The chances are that 'Brother Pestilent', whom Hope destroyed, was one of these 'unforeseen mutations'.

Though considered a dead end, as far as the grand plan was concerned, it was noted that those infected with what is referred to as "...the cadaverous strain..." made useful "...shock-troops and cannon fodder...". There was also some occult language used when referring to mortals with this strain as "...upon death the plague allows them to be raised once more as aggressive corpses with negligible effort..." Several variations of rituals were sketched into these pages, but these were somewhat different to normal blood sorcery rituals, and may have been based around the discipline of Oblivion instead. Of course, an unfamiliarity with necromancy by anyone in the coterie, made this mere guesswork.

It was a surprise to learn that the writer was well aware that they were at some point being observed by "...some animal from the entourage of Garcia's bitch..." Likely this was Gloria Martinez's sweeper, Owen Frazier. It now seemed obvious that they saw neither he, nor her as any kind of threat to their plans.

Several angry rants were interspersed between the medical notations on the subject of 'The Paris doxy' and these were written by at least two authors. One seemed to suspect betrayal from within their own organisation as the only reason why this threat to their plans had pursued them to L.A. The other was convinced that this enemy had been in the city for quite some time and that their inconvenient presence was just bad luck or inconvenient timing.

It was also clear that some internal debate had been going on within the organisation about the viability of a pre-emptive strike against this possessor of potentially curative vitae. Again, the information revealed about this 'other' was vague at best.

The Subjects
Edan 'Dreads' Finney - Mortal
People Smuggler, Deceased
The files on the various smuggled victims of 'Dreads' were extensive, but mundane, medical records obtained from a variety of sources. Those victims provided via the alternative source of the 'Free Clinic' were more convenient as they bought their medical records with them. From the added notes it's clear that previous blood diseases, blood type and overall health were the plague developers primary concerns.

Given the amount with red lines through their pictures and files, it's also clear than most were eliminated for one reason or another, or failed to survive their exposure to the disease.

Trying to find a connection between the subjects, particular areas from where they might have been seized, and other similar search criteria had proven ultimately futile as the results give them a search area of 'the entirety of L.A.' Zipper and Eric, the coteries associated hackers, were still begrudgingly checking, and rechecking, but were extremely negative about the chances of success in finding an exploitable pattern.

The subjects were apparently carefully selected for their expendable nature.

However, one subject in particular stood out. A subject 'acquired' from somewhere in Downtown had raised a large amount of 'red flags' within the Brotherhoods ranks as they showed a considerable immunity to the plague. Surviving repeated applications, even after being weakened through starvation, dehydration and constant physical abuse and bloodletting. 

Jay Olsen - Mortal
Possibly Blood Bound or a Ghoul
Eventually the subject did succumb, but even then suffered greatly reduced effects from the plague.

One of the Brotherhood theorized that he had been a ghoul or heavily blood bound individual and that only when his regnent's vitae was exhausted did he succumb. This hasn't pleased their leaders as this theory implies that there may be other kindred who have an immunity. The idea seems to have been generally rejected by their leadership, though it looks like it persists with some of the group.

The anomaly, 'Jay Olsen', worked for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power as an inspector in charge of surveying potential leaks within the system, specifically below Downtown, and then allocated teams to their repair. He was reported missing six weeks ago after a routine call to a pressure drop below a Downtown hotel.

To add to this disaster, his wife and three children died in a house fire four weeks later, and his mother and father were killed when their car was pushed off the road in an unexplained suspected 'road-rage' incident that same week. His family line, as far as you can trace, has been completely eliminated.

As for Mr Olsen, his ultimate fate wasn't mentioned, but it seems unlikely that he would have been allowed to survive.

A Target
Compiling clues from all the information at their disposal had been a mammoth task. A photograph here, a familiar description there, travel distances, known connections with those dead and missing and a myriad of other trivia had formed themselves into references to a single location. 

Disappointingly it had not led to the identity of either the 'vector' nor the 'cure' but perhaps this final clue would lead them to one or the other.

Downtown Los Angeles at Night
Travelling to Downtown as a Sabbat or pseudo-Sabbat pack, even taking it's location within the Barony of the Angels into account, and kidnapping someone, then killing their family, and escaping without a trace was unlikely. The coterie was well aware that it's status as 'Free' was a lie, and Marius and his people had as tight a grip on it as they ever did, perhaps even more so. 

This made it highly likely, though a tremendous but calculated risk, that at least one Sabbat team had been beneath Downtown all along, while kindred eyes looked outwards, they operated from beneath it, most likely from within the area beneath created for Nosferatu visitors, that was currently vacant.

There was, however, a tactical problem.

If they were correct about the base of his single Sabbat pack, then there were literally a hundred ways in and out of their chosen location, and if they had successfully remained hidden beneath Downtown then they must have had ways of detecting any approaches to their adopted territory.

In short they had two diametrically opposing options. 

One: A simultaneous attack by every kindred they could muster, which would still leave avenues of escape open but at least minimise them, but that would give the attackers overwhelming numbers with which to subdue the enemy.

Unfortunately that strategy could also potentially result in the infection of many of the assault teams. There was a further issue. The other aspects of the Brotherhood of the Ninth Circles infiltration had shown an ability to avoid detection by the majority of the cities Barons which implied that they had excellent intelligence on their locations and movements. This would likely make moving the necessary numbers of kindred to the target location, so obvious as to give plenty of time for them to escape or prepare defences. Downtown's own kindred were likely to be the most closely monitored.

Two: An extremely small but elite strike team, that could sneak past any exterior detection defences while still having the ability to take on a determined and evidently tactically proficient enemy.

The flaw with this plan was that any losses would greatly impact on it's chances of success and that balancing the numbers would be tricky without knowing exactly how many enemies they would have to face. Too many infiltrators and they risked detection, too few and their forces may be insufficient to get the job done, should they manage to penetrate the enemies defences.

Another factor worth considering is, for the first time in many nights, they were slightly ahead of their enemies attempts to remove all loose ends. This advantage would not last long, so time was of the essence and both of their primary options would take time to organise if kindred from outside of their immediate coterie were utilised.

Interlude - Honour
Spiculus, the Immortal Gladiator - Brujah
Ike stood in what had once been the arena of the 'dog-fighting' club that had traded on his name, and looked around at the carnage he'd wrought. 

He had ended the existences of seventeen kindred and fourteen mortals in a few minutes, the heavy doors behind the immortal gladiator were the only way in, or out, and none of the honourless kindred had made it past Spiculus.

Some of the destroyed and dead had fallen near the cages containing the Gangrel and several were tearing chunks off of those nearby and taking what vitae that remained. This seemed an appropriate end for their jailors and Ike casually tossed several more bodies to within a claws reach of the cages and let the prisoners feed.

Now he just needed to decide what the hell to do with the nine Gangrel prisoners...


'Crow', who went by no other known name, scouted out locations for Ike and was the only member of Clan Gangrel within his employ. She had waited outside for her employer to meet out the justice that the bastards within deserved, before being invited within to act as a sort of liaison with the former prisoners.

'Crow' - Gangrel, Greek Bloodline
Freelance Scout
"Your conclusions?" asked Ike. He was standing in a back room that contained cages for dogs, cats and other animals both domestic and feral that they had apparently used to feed the Gangrel. All had died of blood-loss, shock or neglect of some kind except for one pathetic looking puppy cowering in a corner. He breathed in the air and detected the scent of kindred vitae on the surviving creature. Evidently one of the prisoners had used their dwindling supplies of vitae to ghoul the creature. Possibly this is what had given it the strength to survive, but it was a surprisingly sentimental move. Gangrel were usually far more pragmatic than that.

"Five are coherent now they've been fed..." replied Crow. "...and are suitably grateful for their freedom. That's the good news..."

Ike, now gave Crow his full attention. "and the bad?"

"Two of the others are feral as fuck, either they were nuts to start with or their experiences have driven them over the edge, and a third was definitely Sabbat at some point, so I'm not sure how you feel about releasing them all back into society, but all three will need staking if you want to transport them anywhere and keep your promise to Marius about bringing them to him.

"There's also a young female who seems relatively unharmed but hasn't spoken yet. Her vitae is very strong, you can smell the potency of it, well, if you know how. I think she might be the reason Marius became interested in this club to start with."

Florence 'Fox' Mercado - Gangrel
'Lost' Childe of Marius
Ike didn't seem surprised by this revelation.

"She's one of his childer. I suspected as much from the beginning. All that fake anger at the fate of a handful of kindred he'd never met almost fooled me. He acted how I would have done in the same situation in order to encourage my cooperation. Not that it matters. This is a problem I'd have dealt with regardless, but for some reason he couldn't wait and needed to manipulate me into dealing with it more promptly..."

"And you let him?" prompted Crow.

"Of course..." replied Spiculus with a smile. "...because now he owes me a favour...and a fucking big one too. And all it cost me was doing something I was going to do anyway...maybe he's schemes go it certainly isn't one of his best..."

Crow nodded in agreement, but secretly had her doubts.

In her experience Marius's plans were rarely this transparent or unsubtle. In her opinion they'd overlooked something, and it was probably important. Hopefully it wasn't going to come back and bite them on their respective arses. Spiculus may have been a billionaire with a private army, but she was most definitely not....

Scene Twenty Six - Allison Maller
After the unscheduled meeting with Myranda, Michael headed to his appointment with Allison Maller, Baron of Anaheim. He had Dion, his chauffeur, drive him to the meeting. 

Fiorenza Savona - Ventrue
Camarilla Power Broker
Dion was an agent of the Ventrue power broker, Fiorenza Savona and though he had been pushed into Michael's service against the Toreador Barons will, he had turned out to be a useful asset. As long as one only discussed in earshot of him matters that you were fine with Fiorenza hearing about.

Allison's meeting place was new, and far more comfortable than the converted warehouse that was her base during her prolonged war with Amethyst and her proxy Tom Weaver.

It was however, still a place of business, rather than a more traditional home, though was based in Anaheim Hills, a particularly expensive neighbourhood. It was also certainly an enterprise that once belonged to Amethyst, given her heavy investment in logistics and similar businesses, mainly to cover up her smuggling operations.

They were greeted by Maikki, one of Allison's most loyal Brujah followers and a formidable hand to hand combatant. She was an imposing figure, but offered Michael her hand in greeting and escorted him to a board room on the top floor.

Allison was sitting at a chair adjacent to the one in which you'd expect the chairman or leader of the meeting to be sitting in. Two of her sweepers who he recognised as Zakaria and presumably Ameer were stationed in opposite corners of the room by the windows, A third individual was by the door from which he entered, but wasn't a kindred with which he was familiar, and moved outside after Michael entered. Presumably he was a sentry of some kind.

Allison Maller - Brujah
Baron of Anaheim
"Please take a seat. I don't have any of that expensive wine that you like, but I can summon a vessel if you're hungry?"

Michael noted that the seat at the head of the boardroom table was vacant, but he avoided taking it. He sensed that Allison had done this deliberately to see if he would sit there, perhaps as a test to see how he saw their relative positions in the Anarch hierarchy. His suspicion was perhaps confirmed as Baron Maller smiled slightly as he conspicuously walked around it, and took a seat opposite her instead.

"I'm afraid that this isn't a social call." Began Michael. "I have two problems that I'd like to discuss with you. The first is the blood plague, the second is Baron Martinez..."

Allison smiled faded, replaced instead with a far more serious look. "Go on..." she replied.

"Daniel is currently following a number of leads which will, hopefully, lead us closer to the source of this plague. This requires a certain amount of stability within the Free States to accomplish, as I need him one hundred percent focussed upon this mission, and he in turn will need my total support. Any actions will need to be implemented instantly and without distraction. Unfortunately your sister of the blood, Gloria, has chosen this exact time to pick a fight with Myranda Maria, Baron of The Wilds."

Despite having no need to breathe, Allison let out a sigh. Evidently Gloria's actions didn't have her wholehearted support. Michael took her continued silence as an invitation to continue.

Gloria Martinez - Brujah
Baron of Whittier
"I have offered Myranda an alternate route through my own Barony, but this is a temporary solution at best. A Baron can ill afford to demonstrate weakness, and a Gangrel Baron even less so. If it becomes necessary to act in order to maintain her position then she will do so. Presumably Gloria would then expect you to support her in the inevitable conflict as, to speak plainly, that is a fight she's unlikely to win."

Michael's empathetic talents were near supernaturally acute and Allison's thought process might as well have been written on her face, to Michael's eyes at least. 

Storytellers Note - Especially when you roll the amount of successes that Michael's player did on his test.

The idea of being dragged into a war not of her making clearly annoyed her. She had only recently gained full control over her Barony, after her resources were severely depleted fighting against both Amethyst and Tom Weaver, and had no desire to go through another war of attrition. It had taken her several years of work to establish the stability she currently enjoyed, and it was clear that she resented Gloria for potentially putting all she had worked for at risk. Michael could also detect that in spite of this resentment, she would not let Gloria fight alone. Her own experiences of fighting against overwhelming odds without allies had shaped her attitudes. She would not let Gloria face Myranda alone, despite the consequences.

Valeria - Brujah
Eldest Childe of Salvador Garcia
"My 'sister' as you call her, believes herself to be in a three-way fight for the attention of our mutual sire. Valeria's appearance at Salvador's side has altered the dynamics of the relationship somewhat. Perhaps her judgement is clouded by these personal concerns."

Michael had suspected as much, and this conversation was showing quite clearly that Allison was the most reasonable of the two. "Perhaps you might speak with her on this matter?" prompted Michael.

Allison's reply was also exactly what he was expecting, 

"She told me she was planning on closing her border. I reminded her of her commitment and the potential consequences of breaking her word. She then did it anyway, so you may be overestimating the influence I have over her decisions..."

Michael decided to change tack.

"Perhaps some of her belligerence is a direct result of her belief that you and Salvador will support her in a conflict. If she was to be informed that such aid was not guaranteed, she might be a become more...reasonable..."

Allison then beckoned over her sweeper Zakaria. "You and the other baronies sweepers still exchange pertinent information between one another?"

Zakaria Barrera - Gangrel
Sweeper for Anaheim
It was more statement than question. It was well known that the majority of the census-takers and sweepers within the Anarch Free States were Gangrel, and despite having different loyalties, often shared tactical information that might effect their neighbours. It was somewhat ironic that a clan known for it's loners, was also one of the major sources of the cities gossip.

Allison took Zakaria's shoulder shrug as a 'Yes'.

"How long could Gloria survive an assault by the Gangrel Packs of The Wilds, and what forces would she face?"

Zakaria's assessment made for grim listening. "They have some of the best trackers in the city, and that's if they don't already know where all Gloria's hide-outs are, which I'm betting they already do. So Gloria's forces would survive about as long as it took The Wilds Pack to get to them, which would be pretty damn quick..."

Allison then prompted him again about the numbers that would be involved.

"Forty Gangrel within a few hours, sixty if she calls in favours from the San Gabriel Mountains and the Gangrel in Simi Valley and Santa Clarita and that's without giving grandad a call, Cuz if Marius turns The Oratory loose then you're looking at three figures, not two. Imagine what would happen if 'Nines' called the Brujah of this city to come to his aid? Same thing, right? and there's now as nearly as many of us in the city as them..."

Michael noted the use of the word 'us' but made no comment.

"If this goes down, Gloria is fucked. If we go in too, there's going to be a lot of bodies on the ground and most of them will be our baronies. You think any of us are going toe to toe with Nicodemus? We might initially have the edge in firepower as The Wilds Pack aren't big on guns, but if Marius gets involved then that advantage goes out of the window. Guns he ain't fucking short of..." he concluded.

Michael was sure that Marius's involvement wasn't even a debatable point. He didn't like Gloria, and Myranda was his favourite by a large margin, favoured even over his actual childer in many cases. The information furnished by Zakaria seemed to prompt a decision from Allison.

"You've made your point Michael. I'll make it known that my assistance comes with conditions. Presumably you're going to use the same argument with Garcia?"

Michael smiled. 

"I haven't really thought that far ahead." he lied.


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....

The players did a lot of investigation and research, but for the purposes of the write-up I compiled most of it into scene twenty five. Other than the meeting with Salvador Garcia I have no idea what the players plan to do next.

I see a lot of 'winging it' in my immediate future...

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


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, Myranda Maria is Shannyn Visceral, 'Max' is Milla Jovovich, Meredith Lang is Jaime Murray, Blanche Johnson is Kathy Bates, Salvador Garcia is Antonio Banderas, Isaac 'Ike Griffiths aka Spiculus the immortal gladiator is Jason Statham, Yukio Hayashi is Jamie Chung, Victoria Anezka is Lilith May, Marius Walker is Tony Curran, Sister Maladie is Sheila Vand, Edan 'Dreads' Finney was Lenny Kravitz, Jay Olsen is Joaquin Phoenix, Florence 'Fox' Mercado is Camila Fox, Fiorenza Savona is Jamie Lee Curtis, Allison Maller is Chloe Grace Moretz, Gloria Martinez is Ariadne Artiles and Valeria is Elsa Pataky.

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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