Friday, January 20, 2017

The Battle of Little Chef

The Red Line Corporate Solutions team is recovering somewhere in north-eastern Romania, after a traumatic experience involving a giant bat.

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.

While everyone waits for the Call of Cthulhu healing rules to kick in their bumps and bruises to heal -- aided by some more dark magic, which reverses most of Carmel's injuries -- they engage in some research, in an attempt to pick up Dracula's trail once again.

The team thinks the tough militaristic vampire encountered at the ruins may be Natasa Dobra; Dobra was a superstar of the Romanian secret police and was tipped to run the organisation one day, but she disappeared in 1988 and the organisation was disbanded in 1991, although successor agencies still exist.

The werewolves had -- before they changed -- distinctive matching tattoos; Carmel's contact Dacien Comenescu sends over an Interpol file that identifies the design as the clan marking of the Ruvari Szgany, a Roma group involved in various low level criminal enterprises across Europe. The file explains that the Roma community in Romania is subjected to considerable racial discrimination, but that the Ruvari Szgany are despised in particular, and even other clans will tend to avoid them. Interpol has found it difficult to gather intelligence on the group as a result; the only way to join the clan is to be born or married into it.

Brigada 6 Operaţii Speciale «Mihai Viteazul» Some of the guards at the ruins also had tattoos and these are traced to military organisations; the 1st Battalion of the Romanian Special Forces and the 528th Reconnaissance Battalion -- also a special operations group -- are identified.

A reference to "Geminii" in the files of the London art dealer Vivienne Aytown-Baptiste -- the one Natasha executed -- leads the team to a branch of the Romanian mafia, one specialising in stolen cars. Further probing of this connection leads to the gang's rivals, thought to be a front for the Chinese Triads.

Another name in the Aytown-Baptiste's files is Cemal Gusa, a "legitimate businessman" who is known to travel between Asia and Romania on a regular basis; a bit of prodding turns up a number of aliases, suspected involvement in the smuggling of opiates, and a possible connection to a Romanian al Qaida cell.

At this point, the investigators begin to worry about how far this thing goes. No one feels like a trip to Afghanistan or Turkmenistan, or of taking on al Qaida or the Triads, but it's almost certain that Dracula is aware of the team's presence in Romania, so the investigators decide to return to the United Kingdom. They have one link between Romania and the UK; the charity Heal the Children.

The head of the organisation, Jo Ramsay, was identified as a member of the London vampire cult, and through a deal with EDOM --  the investigators reneged on their part -- Ramsay has been arrested on some sort of probably-fabricated charge.

Carmel does some digital digging and discovers suspicious details in the charity's accounts. Numbers don't match up, and names appear on and disappear from lists. Most suspicious of all, the organisation seems to be booking a lot of cargo flights to and from London, but what kind of cargo is being transported by a charity that runs orphanages?

Carmel finds the next scheduled cargo flight and the team decides to race back to London to meet it at the other end, but in all the excitement it seems that the team's plane was left in Saint Petersburg. Oops. Some telephone calls and a few liquidised company assets later, the team is on a rented plane back to the United Kingdom.

The company entrusted to transfer Heal the Children's cargo from the plane to the charity headquarters is Axel Logistics, a group the team has encountered before, so the van is easy to spot and follow.

Little Chef at Smithaleigh - - 1375234 The vehicle stops at a Little Chef and the occupants pop in for a spot of lunch; Carmel and Natasha follow. Inside, the two former agents attempt to engage the Axel employees in conversation while sneaking a sleeping drug into their coffees. It's an espionage classic and it works, as the pair slumps into their egg and chips after a few minutes. The slumbering Axel employees are bundled into the van and it's driven off, with Max and Sten following. No one pays the bill.

The little convoy gets off the motorway and a remote spot is found where the van's back can be opened and investigated. Inside, amongst a number of parcels, are three long wooden boxes; not coffins, but of the right size and shape for a human to lie within.

The boxes are checked for traps and then one by one are dragged out of the van into the sunlight, where they are opened. Within each is a sleeping person; a man, a woman, and a child. Each is staked and beheaded, the bodies chucked into a nearby pond and the heads gathered and stuffed into a bag; Natasha takes blood samples. The two sleeping Axel employees are bundled into the boot of one of the team's rented car along with some food and water, and the car is abandoned.

Sten suggests that the team completes the delivery to Heal the Children; that way they get in without raising any suspicion. The rest of the team agrees but Carmel -- having developed acute claustrophobia as a result of the giant bat incident -- refuses to be boxed up and insists on driving; everyone else clambers into a box.

Carmel drives the van to the Heal the Children headquarters, a nondescript square building in a nondescript industrial estate, and is waved into the garage by security. She makes small talk as six overall-clad employees carry -- with suspicious ease, as if they are stronger than normal -- the boxes to a goods lift.

The team attacks. Max, Natasha, and Sten kick the lids off their boxes and gun down their porters, while Carmel takes out the security guard. One man makes it to the goods lift and jabs the buttons in a frantic attempt to escape but is shot by Max; just in time the team stops the lift doors from closing.

Natasha spots a couple of security cameras and shoots them, hoping that it's not too late to do so, while the others drag the rest of the corpses into the goods lift, place a couple of primed grenades beneath one of them, and then send the lift on its way.

As the lift ascends, the team scrambles up the stairs.

Next: a conspiracy uncovered!


  1. Does Carmel know anything about her condition she isn't sharing with her team? I think that's kind of cool when the players know something but nobody in-game knows it.

    1. There are a few secrets floating around, yes. In theory the rest of the team don't know Carmel has claustrophobia; she just refused to get in the box and the others don't know why.