Rage Across Baltimore

Fourth Story: Keep It in the Family

Is blood thicker than water?

It’s a sad statistic: about 800,000 children are reported missing every year in America. And while 97% of them are recovered, consider the other 3 percent. Human trafficking, prostitution and sexual slavery, forced labor, even poverty-stricken parents selling their children to pay off their debts…all these things are alive and well. And in Baltimore, in the WoD, they’re positively thriving.

Even worse, Baltimore is home to a relatively new Black Spiral Hive, formerly a Glass Walker sept. Beyond the simple, brutal loss of Gaian holy ground to the forces of the Wyrm, information also fell into the hands of the enemy, including (for a brief time, you hope) access to the Glass Walkers’ computer network, GWNet.

The GWs’ network of contacts, allies, and Kinfolk have all been compromised, and few Glass Walkers — or any Garou — remain to send out the alarm or come to the aid of the more mundane allies of the Garou. The beleaguered Fianna sept can spare little time or effort beyond phone calls.

And so, when a lost Kinfolk child shows up on the Brewery doorstep with a tale to tell of kidnapping, it falls once again to the new blood of Last Call to re-establish ties with the city’s Gaian Kinfolk…and perhaps, to uncover another Black Spiral plot. The Spirals’ hands may not be idle, but they certainly do the devil’s work.

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Chapter 1 update: Last Call’s latest misadventure began most inauspiciously, with Zero testing the limits of the Garou’s healing factor — and the Veil — by getting himself shot in spectacular fashion on the Brewery doorstep.

Hard for anyone to resist a little lost girl in distress, and just as hard to resist the urge to rip someone a new orifice or two when the girl’s would-be kidnappers showed up. With the pack split up, unprepared for a surprise crisis, it fell to Willow and Zero to rescue the girl and drive off her assailants. They learned why the sept’s Guardians were less eager to face the peril after an extended bout of scrutiny from the Baltimore PD, Afterward, however, sept leader Vaughan discovered the girl was Kinfolk.

Madison Gables apparently hails from Unbroken Synergy stock, which could make her a victim or a plant, depending on how suspicious you are. But the safer bet, perhaps, is on victim. Razvan and Brickbat checked out her house, only to find a dead body that’s most likely Madison’s mother. And when Zero’s Google-fu located the girl’s father, all they found was a tragic fiery auto accident.

And so the pack’s latest dilemma begins, with the danger of losing all of Baltimore’s wayward and compromised Glass Walker Kin — perhaps the danger extends to the other tribes as well! Who is attacking Gaian Kinfolk, and why are they only kidnapping their children? How much do the Garou really care for their Kin brothers and sisters, how much are the Kin worth to the Blessed of Gaia? And how does a Garou pack go around making calls when not all Kinfolk even understand what they are?

A test of not only detective skills, but diplomacy awaits…as Last Call investigates kidnapping and murder, and a smidgen of rotten prejudice at the heart of the Garou Nation.

 

Chapter 2 update: A mere day after the foiled kidnapping and shooting incident in front of the Baltimore Brewery, Last Call is fielding contact requests from the rest of the sept, and beyond. In return for taking up even more of the beleaguered ritemaster’s time, Razvan picked up a new Gift for making heroic leaps into battle; in return, he has to make sure the pack locates a pair of wayward Fianna Kin, Paul Whitaker and Neville Golding, and make sure they’re safe — and warned of the potential danger.

Meanwhile, Brickbat has been to see some of the Gnawers and their Kinfolk in the city, bringing a gift of pizza, although the pack has had no contact with the Bone Gnawer community as of yet. What they do know, so far, is that the Gnawers aren’t too keen on Brick’s working with the Fianna sept lately.

And pack alpha Willow has spoken with her old sept, a rustic commune well outside Baltimore, about taking in the now-orphaned Glass Walker Kin, Madison. Naturally, the Children of Gaia have some Kin of their own in the city for Willow to locate. One of them, Mike Tidwell, is a name Zero read on the documents stolen from the paper factory the pack destroyed in Cry of the Black Birds. The other, Katrina Cheever, runs a local domestic violence shelter…

The Baltimore Rescue Mission, although it’s run by churchfolk, seems to do enough good that the pack was inspired rather than put off. And in this case, Willow had a relatively easy job — a Kinfolk ally who knows about the Garou, as the CoG’s aren’t shy about sharing with their Kinfolk the way some other tribes are.

The pack still has plenty of work to do in tracking down Kinfolk scattered around the city, not to mention solving the mystery of the kidnapping-killing spree afflicting at least the Glass Walkers (if not all the Gaian tribes). And they have yet to figure out how to approach the Kinfolk they’re not so sure about…how do you warn someone of a danger they may not comprehend? Will they risk the Veil to protect their Kin, or leave the less blessed among them ignorant to their nature, and the danger they’re in?

 

Chapter 3 update: The search for wayward Kin continued, with the pack tasked with finding a pair of the sept’s Fianna Kinfolk that had thus far been difficult to find. The pack’s Ahroun warrior Razvan promised this, in return for training in a new Gift. This turned out to be useful later, as he’d hoped!

But in the meantime, the Garou of Last Call were on the run through the city, searching for a Fianna beat cop and running into a police contact of Brickbat’s instead. And this is where Zero learned Brickbat’s True Name (horrors). Thanks to Brickbat’s cop ally, though, they acquired a copy of the police report associated with the dust-up outside of the Baltimore Brewery, and with it some information about the car used in the assault.

As for the Fianna Kin, that didn’t turn out so well — they found one stabbed, near death, while the other narrowly escaped the same fate, and Brickbat took the knife instead. But with the Kin safe and, um, not quite sound, but alive…thanks in part to Razvan’s medical training…

With their obligation to the sept satisfied, the pack moved on to follow Zero’s determined lead, and handed the police report over to the goth wizards they know, although calling them friends is not a sure thing. More out of a sense of owing one to the pack, the steampunk mage Felony made the deal with Zero, and that they would come back with results soon.

 

Chapter 4 update: With the pack split up — Brickbat off tracking down the other errant Fianna Kin — the others decided to tackle one of Razvan’s apparent tribal relatives, a lawyer if her online profile was legitimate, by the name of Jessica Volk. Wandering off to a well-lit, manicured suburb, the Garou were forced to play it careful, not sure if this particular Kinfolk was aware of her true nature…or of theirs.

Jessica turned out to be good practice for the pack. Although as it turned out, she was an ‘aware’ Kinfolk, and once associated with the Sept of Unbroken Synergy, It may have been the story they told about investigating crimes on behalf of the Romanian embassy, or just Razvan’s archetypical, tribal look (owing to his intensely Pure Breed), but she knew a Shadow Lord to see one. Fortunately, she turned out to be useful in making connections, and introductions, with other Kin in the area, and not just the Lords.

After an ill-fated drive back from the ‘burbs (that may or may not result in Razvan acquiring the deed name “Sunday Driver”), the pack pursued more Kin contacts through Moira’s Rite of Blood Kin and took a break.

The next day brought plans of a visit to the local Bone Gnawer territory, a city-wandering arrangement they call the Stomping Grounds. Bereft of a caern or sept (perhaps purposefully so), the Gnawers move from place to place, month to month, before their…natural proclivities make them too unwelcome in any one area. Willow prepared for it, of course, by picking up a bunch of food for them.

However, duty called, as the goths contacted Zero, wanting to speak with them ASAP. So they did, the pack splitting up once again. While Willow went with Brickbat to meet the Bone Gnawers, Razvan and Zero met with the goths, choosing the run-down Mount Auburn cemetery, a place Brickbat reputedly uses sometimes as a place to rest.

Felony, Griffin and Penance were waiting. The news they had to offer wasn’t good, and they knew it. After a little creative necromancy and clairvoyance, the wizards reported having found a rough settlement way out in the boonies, off the winding country roads, lost in a trackless forest. No one would see what the kidnappers were up to, there. The goths were not happy to have found children penned up like pigs, or the monstrous, nearly hairless beast that was their keeper.

Zero tried his best to get them to pitch in, fight the ‘good fight,’ so to speak, but the goths weren’t buying it. Having helped with the investigative work, they left the wetwork to the pack. Partly out of a firm interest in keeping their skins intact, and partly not really understanding the Garou that well, the goths did their bit and bowed out of this one.

In the meantime, at the Stomping Grounds, Willow and Brickbat learned of how hard the kidnappers had hit the street-folk. Many Gnawer Kin and associated hangers-on had turned up missing, and especially in the beleaguered city of Baltimore, it was all too easy for the authorities to do their minimal duties, file reports and forget about it. It was up to Last Call to end things a bit differently.

 

The big finale: With their pack totem Gordias having scouted out the place for them, alerting the pack to the presence of a small horde of Banes, the Garou were obligated to stick to the ‘real’ world this time. Saving the kidnap victims was the priority that night. Their road went from the state roads winding through the hills, to a gravel off-road path, to just rutted dirt as they left their SUV behind and went hunting.

Although their skills at sneaking, hunting and tracking in the wild were woefully inadequate, the darkness of a new moon offered them some protection as the pack allowed Zero to find the kidnappers’ camp and survey it for them. Zero found the camp; he found a nice little meth lab enterprise; he found the kids, penned up like animals; he heard, more than saw, the monster guarding them; and he found the rickety, rust-bucket school bus being fixed up for a quick escape by the kidnappers.

It was Brickbat that found a little boy, floating in a small kiddie pool, that Zero had taken to be just some sort of Wyrmish slime from the way it set off his Scouter cyber-eyes. In reality, the boy was skinned alive in such an alien fashion that Willow’s healing Gift was not up to the task. Zero had detected some weak, dark power in him, and the captured Kin would later tell them stories of something they gave him to keep him alive. Having tried to escape, the Spirals somehow made an example of him…leaving him there, floating in a small kiddie pool, still alive, a warning not to run.

Discovered at last by, of all things, a thirsty mutt of a dog, the pack struck, with Razvan and Brickbat tearing into trailers and cheap tin-roof shacks looking to rend, tear and slaughter. Humans ran, scattering. Some tried to fight with guns, or makeshift weapons — one even tried to choke Razvan with a thin silver necklace, that burned before it snapped on his neck. Willow caught up with the massive beast guarding the camp, a near-hairless, mutant Crinos — perhaps their first real Black Spiral foe. They also found a pair of men there with some sinister power to them, as Zero was doused with the caustic ‘breath weapon’ from one, while the other sought to freeze him in place with a glance from his horrible eyes.

While Brickbat and Zero teamed up on the apparent fomori, Razvan went to the aid of his alpha. They fought tooth and claw with the metis Spiral, and when it tried to run, Raz cut him off with his new Salmon Leap, grappling with the fleeing wolf and ending it with a spine-cracking bite.

It took more effort, really, to clean the acidic glop off of Zero before it burned off something important, than the actual combat. This left the kidnap victims, including a couple of Gnawer Kin who knew Brickbat; also, hunting down the scattered Spiral Kin who fled into the surrounding woods, sport for Razvan; and one unfortunate little boy, with an immaculate, perfect face and not a trace of skin covering the rest of his body.

The pack’s interrogation of the surviving kidnappers proving largely futile, they left with a few clues to pursue another time, and the knowledge that many of the victims were gone, taken perhaps to New York City, to an unknown but grim fate. It fell to Willow to deal with the skinned little boy, who had doubtless endured agony for days, stretching the Children of Gaia’s concept of mercy to include merciful death.

And then, they took the rickety school bus, and the Kinfolk children they did find, back to Baltimore…enjoying what victories they’d claimed, more with the Bone Gnawers perhaps than the Fianna sept.

If there are to be consequences for breaking up the kidnapping ring and slaughtering Black Spiral Kin, that will come later.

Perhaps, not much later?

tytalus

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