Monday, May 30, 2016

Things Go Wrong

The Red Line Corporate Solutions team is on the trail of vampires in London. As the sun rises, the team stands outside a warehouse belonging to a member of a vampire cult, waiting for the door mechanism to open.

The Red Line team consists of:

Natasha Avram, former Russian government assassin. Wears a lot of leather. Driven by money. Possible sociopath.
Sten Brodrington, ace driver who is a bit vague about which specific branch of British intelligence he worked for. He's looking for direction and purpose in life, or at least that's what he says.
Max Fischer, German investigator with a mysterious past. A little twitchy. He's hoping for some sort of redemption.
Carmel Shaked, Israeli break-and-enter specialist with a bit of a nationalistic streak. Carmel has had enough of secrets and lies.

As the door rises, Natasha rolls underneath to catch an early look at the inside of the warehouse. The expected ambush does not occur, and the Russian skirts the edge of the building, looking for vampires or their minions, but sees nothing that suggests any immediate danger.

The only thing of interest in the warehouse -- at first glance, at least -- is a long crate, just the right size for a human to lie within. The Red Line team suspects that the female vampire they met in Covent Garden is in the box so they gather around, water pistols -- filled with holy water -- and knives at the ready. Max forces the lid off, and to the team's surprise, the female vampire is not sleeping within.

Instead, another vampire jumps out. Quite unlike the graceful and suave female vampire, he is a scruffy, feral looking thing, slashing at them with scraggly claws and growling like a wild animal. The team is plunged into a mêlée and they find that their holy water is having little effect, so they switch to knives, hacking and slashing at the savage monster; Max gets a close look at the thing as he struggles with it and to his horror spots that the vampire seems to have explosives strapped to its torso.

Max calls a retreat and one by one the Red Line operatives backtrack to the warehouse entrance. Sten covers his team-mates' retreat with his MP5 but it jams, leaving him defenceless as the berserk thing approaches; he decides to leg it. Carmel sets the door mechanism in motion and Sten ducks under just in time; alas, so does the vampire.

To the team's great disappointment, the morning sun does not set the thing alight and it continues to pursue them, so in desperation Natasha tries her taser. Carmel's eyes widen in horror and she snatches the weapon from the Russian's grasp, but just a touch too late, and the taser's prongs hit the vampire, dealing an electrical charge to both it and the explosives strapped to it.

The Red Line operatives throw themselves to safety at the last second, but Max finds himself covered in bits of Ramses, indicating that his dog was not so lucky. Worse, the vampire has survived. Worse still, its clothing has not.

It is Sten who saves the day as he ducks under the creature's swinging claws and stabs it in the heart with a stake. It grunts, its crimson eyes go wide, and it falls flat on its face.

The team catches its breath and tries to decide what to do next, knowing that the explosion is going to draw attention soon enough. They consider taking the body with them but, forced to hurry, they decide to take just the head; Natasha does the grisly deed and stashes the result in a bag. Then they run.

They spend some hours resting -- Carmel was wounded and drained in the fight -- and Sten is surprised to receive contact from his brother, who had gone off the grid some days earlier after following up some leads for Sten. It is clear that he is on edge, and he asks to meet Sten at their usual spot, the private members' bar at the Tate gallery.

Natasha sends a sample of the gold coins the team found in the Aytown-Baptiste gallery to some collectors and evaluators, along with a note asking if anyone else has been dealing in similar items of late. The Russian also sends the severed vampire head to a "friend".

The next morning, Sten meets with his brother, who looks anxious and dishevelled, and seems to be quite drunk already. He tells Sten that he has unearthed more about EDOM; it is part of MI6, is headed by an agent with the code name "D", and is involved in the assassinations of foreign nationals across Europe and the Middle East. These killings are not the clinical or covert murders one would expect of the secret services, but brutal, messy affairs apparently designed to send a message; most of the targets have been members of, or connected to, Islamic terrorist groups. No one in British intelligence talks about the organisation, and Sten is warned to stay away from it before his brother stumbles and sways his way out of the bar.

Max contacts his exorcist friend Archbishop Ortega again and gives the priest more detail on what the group is dealing with, stopping short of mentioning Dracula himself. Max asks Ortega if there is anyone in London who can and will bless the group's weapons; the priest is taken aback but trusts his friend and gives them the contact details of an Anglican deliverance minister, Peter Tomlinson. Ortega promises to contact Tomlinson and alert him to Max's arrival.

The team then ponder their next move. Some of them want to leave London, at least for a while, until things calm down, but others push for a strike against the vampire conspiracy; Sten suggests assassinating Jeremy Clarkson, for multiple reasons, not all of which are related to supernatural conspiracies. They lean towards heading to Germany to follow some leads, but agree to sleep on it and decide in the morning. Until then, the team splits, with Carmel and Natasha visiting Aytown-Baptiste again, and Max and Sten going to see Tomlinson.

Carmel and Natasha break into Aytown-Baptiste's flat and search it for clues, finding nothing of interest, although the artist does have a well read -- but shop-bought -- copy of Dracula. Carmel sets up a couple of bugs then the pair gets comfortable and waits for Aytown-Baptiste to return home from the gallery.

Lionel Fanthorpe 2013Meanwhile, Max and Sten visit Tomlinson, who turns out to be a jovial but eccentric fellow living in a house full of tribal masks, stuffed animals, and more than a few skulls, animal and human; "it's a hobby," he says, with a chuckle. Tomlinson offers them cake and tea, and seems a little disappointed when Max refuses, telling him that they are in a hurry.

To his credit, the priest does not seem too perturbed when Sten dumps a holdall full of bullets and knives on his coffee table. He does ask why anyone would want bullets blessed -- let alone so many -- and although Max is reluctant to divulge, Tomlinson is persuasive and soon gets the truth, although again Dracula is not mentioned by name. To Max and Sten's surprise, the priest accepts their story -- hinting that he has prior experience of malevolent supernatural beings -- and agrees to the blessing, on the condition that they do try some cake, because it's delicious.

Not far away, Vivienne Aytown-Baptiste returns home and is wrestled to the floor by Carmel and Natasha. They tie her to a chair and interrogate her, but once again Aytown-Baptiste resists their questioning, causing Natasha to lose her temper and escalate to waterboarding; when again the artist refuses to talk, Carmel's resolve -- and sanity -- falters, and she begins to wonder if there is more to Vivienne than it seems.

Mission accomplished and cake demolished, Max and Sten arrive at a hotel and book rooms for the team, having decided to change their base of operations once more; as Max arranges payment with the receptionist, his eye is drawn to a television in the lobby showing a BBC news report. Geoff Berkeley -- probable vampire cultist and somehow involved with Aytown-Baptiste -- has been found torn to pieces, and police are looking for four people to help with their enquiries.

As a contact number for the investigation appears, grainy images -- perhaps pulled from CCTV footage -- of Carmel, Max, Natasha, and Sten flash up on screen.

Carmel's player gives his account of the vampire fight over at his blog.

I must admit, my confidence took a bit of a knock this session as the Exploding Suicide Vampire™ killed off the entire party. It was a bit of an anticlimax to say the least; I felt the other players were angry and I felt disappointed, as we had a fair bit of momentum going and it seemed as if it had all gone to waste.

Then I remembered that according to the weird chimera of rules I've assembled for this game, the players were all due a dodge roll; each of them made this -- the dog didn't -- and as a result their characters weren't scattered across London after all!

I should have felt better at that point but the sick feeling I had at disappointing my friends was replaced by a sick feeling that I'd forgotten a crucial rule at a crucial time, and if I hadn't I could have saved everyone a lot of trouble.

Writing this summary three days later I feel much better, but it still nags at me. We're taking a week off -- not because my GMing is rubbish, but because everyone's bogging off on half-term holiday -- and that will give me time to get my act together, I hope.

Next: a European road trip!

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