Rage Across Baltimore

Ninth Story: Non-State Actor

They're dead where it doesn't count

After dark my city’s a fuse
One day, I say, today, we live as a lion
And when our cubs grow
We’ll show you what war is good for

— One Day as a Lion, “One Day as a Lion”

Not long after Last Call’s initial dive into the Dream Zone, the sept is put on a serious war footing. Garou from all the packs may be looking to claim credit for their accomplishments, but the sept elders refuse; time enough for rites and challenges of renown and rank when the crisis is over. There may be members of Last Call who by now might challenge for Adren rank, but they’re not alone in wanting to claim what they’ve earned.

Patrols are more frequent and expansive, but the Warder instructs the caern’s Guardians to explore with caution and stealth — learn what you can, but do not give away anything to the enemy! Others, like Willow and Scully, are obliged to summon spirits and build new Talens, promising minor Gaian Gaffling spirits that they won’t have to sleep long before Bane Arrows are fired, Arrow-Killer is spread to protect caern defenders, and Hero’s Mead will be guzzled ere long. Any other spirits that can be cajoled into service scout for the sept.

Some few Wyrm spirits that are caught near the Brewery, of course, may be confined by Wyrm Scales or worse.

Before the moon can wax to fullness, however, an unusual and extended power outage strikes the city. For the first few hours, it might be dismissed as a joke — just another random failure of the city’s infrastructure. When the power doesn’t come back quickly, though, batteries and generators begin to run low, stored food begins to thaw, and tempers flare during the first rush hour from hell.

By nightfall in the warm Baltimore spring, chaos grips the unnaturally (or is it naturally?) dark metro area. Residents and commuters trapped there by circumstance must survive for who knows how long without power, refrigeration, and the ready electronic access to everything they take for granted, including the cash stuck in their bank accounts. The human authorities are swamped, overwhelmed with emergencies. And although our misfit pack of Garou might easily escape the chaos, the Brewery, standing in the midst of this outbreak of rioting, looting and random acts of destruction, must still be defended.

Might this be the ideal time for a strike on the country Hive? Or is this how the Wyrm prepares for a decisive counterattack? And just how long can Zero last without WiFi? You thought the Atrocity Realm was bad!



Chapter 1:

Crumbling ground
Tumbling down
Run to the sound
Of a fire in the city
— Bob Mould, “Fire in the City”

Unfortunately for Last Call, their investigation into the missing (and possibly pregnant?!) CoG metis cub Social Justice has hit a dead end. Even the long-suffering Scully was at his wits’ end, after getting victimized in Social Justice’s dreams, and what the sept put him through to make up for it.

Never a good idea to frenzy on your caern’s Warder…especially if they’re Fianna, and you’re metis.

When the blackout hit, at first it was a minor problem. Traffic became unmanageable, but we’re Garou. Who cares if the power goes out? Under the cover of darkness, the sept’s other packs spread out, trying to determine the cause of the blackout, and what the Black Spiral Hive was up to.

With the Guardian pack stuck at home minding the store, things have gotten weird…and kind of bad. First, some kids tried to break into the place, causing some damage in their likely quest for free beer.

Then, the power outage contributed to an outbreak of fires in the city, made worse when Razvan and Zero found some fire trucks had been sabotaged — slashed tires. The fires did nothing for the tempers of what residents of Baltimore were still stuck in the city, every ’burb-dweller having long since fled for their greener pastures and gated communities.

And then, the city’s water supply became contaminated, owing to the lack of power for water treatment. Fortunately, the caern has its own hidden, secret water supply, a subterranean stream inhabited by a spirit of Brook, no less. All well and good for the sept! But it doesn’t help their friends, like the Bone Gnawers, much.

So, while even the Gnawers may be feeling the pain of the blackout, Zero’s favorite goth-mage pals are MIA, and the other packs are out wandering, howls are heard in the Umbra…from downtown. The eerie, ululating wail of the Black Spiral Dancers.

Pair this up with a very unusual machine of some sort crawling up the Penumbral skyscraper the Spirals call home, and it’s a bit of a mystery for the pack to sort out. Are the Black Spirals about to attack the Brewery? Or are they under attack? Is it time for the raid on the country Hive? We shall soon see!

Ninth Story: Non-State Actor

Chapter 2:

If a building falls you wouldn’t care to notice unless you were in it
Then no one cares about climbin’ stairs, nothin’ at the top no more
Outside trippin’ in the broken city
— Audioslave, “Broken City”

The pack’s long-suffering Galliard was surly the night that the blackout began, after his acts (and Rites) of contrition, after helping to craft arrows till his fingers bled. Although he still hasn’t spilled much detail on his ill-fated quest to find Social Justice through her dreams, evidently she (or, at least, her dreams) are in a very bad place — perhaps Malfeas itself. Then again, it’s only been a week or so since he woke up frenzying on the Caern Warder.

Last Call was stuck in the city with all the other folks who couldn’t afford to get out after the lights went out. Unfortunately, they were also still stuck minding the store while the other packs went out, searching for signs of Black Spiral activity. Was the blackout an opportunity, or a precursor to their next assault on the Brewery?

So, while the pack considered the merits of Scully selling his primitive, handcrafted arrows on Etsy, the bar was struck by vandals or looters. The popping of gunshots in the neighborhood reminded the Garou that, on edge as they might be, scared humans in the dark can be just as bad or worse. But at least Scully got to beat up a few hapless mortals for trying to break in.

When the other packs returned with news of the strange Penumbral machine crawling up the side of the skyscraper Shattered Glass calls home, of course, it piqued everyone’s interest…especially Zero’s. Although Vaughan did authorize the Guardians to investigate, carefully, first the pack had to tend to its own. Razvan and Zero, checking on their Odd Couple’s haven, the ‘Razcave,’ found their block was on fire! They were able to intervene in time, helping out some firefighters who’d had their truck tires slashed, but it seemed the city itself had enough threats to offer, never mind the BSDs.

Ninth Story: Non-State Actor

Chapter 3:

The purist, non-conformist, jaded subhuman terrorist
From flesh to steel and blood to blade I fight to exist
A rival of justice, extreme rush of hatred
Survival in a twisted world where nothing is sacred
— Fear Factory, “Edgecrusher”

Meanwhile, Willow was discovering the downside of hiring Bone Gnawer Kinfolk to keep an eye on her house. And, as the blackout lingered into a new day, through the Gnawers she learned that the city’s water supply was becoming contaminated, perhaps from lack of power for water treatment. The blackout itself had no definitive explanation; depending on who you asked, it was a malfunctioning substation, or aging infrastructure, or scheming evil wizards.

Unsatisfied with the mystery, Zero sought his answers in the Cyber-Realm. The world outside the metro area of Baltimore was getting along just fine, thanks. And a curious power spike was apparently responsible for blowing out several power generation plants, with vital repair parts in short supply. Still, it seemed far too convenient for the conspiracy-minded Glass Walker. The National Guard had still not been mobilized to establish peace and order in the powerless city…

And so, after one last hamburger feast over a scrap-wood fire before the meat went bad, the packs hit the town again, daring to explore the area around the Hive of Desolation — testing whether or not the time was right to strike. Only the Shadow Lord pack, Fear of the Dark, was missing from the Brewery. Presumably they already had the country Hive staked out; it’s why they came to Baltimore, after all.

When Razvan’s howls of challenge seemed to be answered by the ululating cries of the Spirals from downtown, though, this was too much to ignore. With the other packs out in the country, it fell to the Guardians to investigate downtown.

Employing brainpower and stealth instead of claw/claw/bite, Razvan and Zero snuck their way downtown, eyes peeled for Scryer Banes and the expected assault force, but the attack wasn’t coming from Shattered Glass…it was taking place at Shattered Glass. They found the machine, brimming with the glorious power of the Weaver, under attack by the Spirals. Zero’s Scouter data, chock full of the usual techno-spiritual references to entities he doesn’t fully understand, actually scared him.

But with this discovery came the opportunity the sept was looking for. Shattered Glass, under attack by the Weaver? The end is nigh for the Hive of Desolation! And so, the pack sent Scully to cut loose and howl, on both sides of the Gauntlet for once, alerting the packs that now is the time.

Ninth Story: Non-State Actor

Chapter 4:

No more ifs, no bias, no ambiguity
No wondering whether this is it
Clarity so brightly wrong
The image so painfully absolute
— Meshuggah, “Combustion”

Listening to the howls of Fianna and Silver Fangs and Bone Gnawers, the sept’s packs answering the call to arms, the Guardian pack was despondent. This was it, the big fight, and only they don’t get to go! Well, them, and Moira, the one-armed Ritemaster. And the Kinfolk, helping to keep an eye on their homes. And Bright-Eyes, the Corax — wait, what?

Well, Ryan did show up at the caern after doing what he could in the spotting and scouting arena for the other packs. He couldn’t liven things up at the bar for long, though; turns out, Last Call didn’t have that long to wait for a counterattack. Even besieged as they were, hearing the bold Anthem of War of the city’s Garou must have enraged Shattered Glass…enough to send a swarm of Banes at the Brewery, followed up by no less than the elders of Shattered Glass themselves.

While Scully, Willow and Zero engaged the Baneswarm in the Umbra, fighting alongside the sept’s Black Stags, Razvan and Moira found the physical aspect of the bar under sniper attack. Zero debuted his new cyber-weapon, and Scully’s Bane Arrows helped the trio survive the horde of Scrags and Banes spewing sewage and Balefire at them.

Things didn’t go so well on the other side of the Gauntlet, when Razvan found himself on the wrong end of Tanner’s rifle packed with silver ammunition. When a pair of Fomori rushed in to finish him off and burn the Brewery down, the pain and injury and the nearness of death got to the Ahroun, and he blacked out…

When Raz came to, he was back in the bar and on his back, being tended to by Julian, the bar’s short-order cook/fae ally. And he wasn’t alone — the sidhe warrior Miranda and her motley, having not been called to fight with the Fianna, found something to do protecting the Brewery instead, giving Razvan scarcely enough time to recover from his wounds and return to the Umbra. The full consequences of his frenzy would have to wait. The battle wasn’t over!

Shrugging off the ache of new Battle Scars and questions of what he’d done, Razvan returned to his pack to find them squaring off with the worst of the worst. The Soul Maggots, the elders of Shattered Glass.

Ragnor, the Terror — Shattered Glass’ most fearsome Ahroun.
Coffinfeeder, their living Avatar of the Wyrm.
Vorrag the Binder, the fallen sept’s Theurge.
…and Stainless Steel, the turncoat, the Cyber Dog.

Where was Tanner? It didn’t matter. It was time to fight. The Spiral elders fought well, as a pack — coordinated — while Last Call struggled to keep up. The Guardians were already more than half spent from their tangles with Banes and silver bullets and Fomori, ripe for the picking. But Zero wasn’t going to let his shot at Stainless Steel slip through his fingers…not when he could reform them into a red-hot knife to stab the traitor with!

Razvan and Zero rallied, concentrating their attacks on the Glass Walker-ikthya, punishing themselves on Stainless’ chrome steel quills-for-fur, but wearing down the foe with their persistence. Stainless returned fire with silver claws and a cybernetic arm strong enough to block Zero’s spring-loaded punch (Winter Soldier anyone?), giving as good as he got with icy quips and insults before the enraged Garou cut him down. Razvan fought so hard, he shredded his own arm to the bone clawing the life from Stainless Steel, and both of them fell.

Unfortunately, their single-mindedness — and Willow’s trading shots with the other Theurge — left Scully open to be double-teamed by Ragnor and Coffinfeeder, whose poisoned bladelike claws slashed and stabbed the life from the pack’s Talesinger. Scully rallied once, channeling his Rage to cripple Coffinfeeder, but he couldn’t last long against the beast’s counterattack.

When the Wail of Foreboding reached them from downtown, the Spirals recognized their own — it was Tanner, calling them home. Shattered Glass needed its elders, its strongest. But they weren’t all coming! Ragnor escaped once again, taking his Theurge packmate with him; but they left Coffinfeeder behind, and the ex-Glass Walker was already a shiny smear on the ground.

Razvan was down, but alive; Scully was down, and much worse. If it hadn’t been for Zero, they would’ve lost another packmate that night. But when Mother’s Touch failed, Zero sacrificed his new cyberware, tearing his arm open to get at the machinery, channeling his Gnosis into a spirit shock that brought Scully back. And so, the Guardians survived…barely.

Ninth Story: Non-State Actor

Chapter 5:

Prepare yourself for the reckoning
For when your world seems to crumble again
Don’t be afraid, don’t turn away
You’re the one who can redefine it
Disturbed, “The Light”

The Guardian pack got a breather, and unexpected relief, from Bone Gnawers — locals who were kept out of the Hive raid, owing to their youth or infirmity (or metis deformity). This gave Willow a chance to check in with the other side of the Gauntlet, where the crippled Ritemaster was preparing the Rite of Luna’s Spear to send the Guardians to the Hive of Desolation to help save some lives with the pack’s healing Gifts.

Willow also learned why Moira didn’t want them coming back. In his extreme, blackout frenzy, Razvan had taken Moira down, even tried to devour her, before Willow’s Kinfolk beau stopped him…with a bullet to the head.

Even with most of their Gnosis burned out from their own battles, the pack showed up at the now ex-Hive, employing the last of their powers, their mundane skills, and some unexpected help from Scully to save most of the raiders. Some were bound to die, and finding Garou they considered friends and foes died fighting the Wyrm left Last Call with mixed feelings.

But the Hive was theirs, and Mila Walks-the-Knife’s-Edge and her packmates would see it restored, if only the ambitious Shadow Lord Theurge’s skills were up to the task. A caern has not been taken back from the Wyrm for a generation or more. Do the Garou even remember the proper Rites to reclaim it?

So, having survived a night of furious combat, only to be freed from Guardian duty (or kicked out of the Brewery), the pack settled down to rest, as packs from all over were coming in to help with the caern’s restoration — and to score some Glory in the process.

Ninth Story: Non-State Actor

Chapter 6:

We will sing the most ancient song
Spark the fire upon dry tinder
The dance must begin as dusk gathers around
— Wolves in the Throne Room, “Cleansing”

While the pack rested, and took stock of the kills they’d missed out on at the Hive, other packs arrived during the following day — from Willow’s old sept, Exiles’ Rest; from Scully’s old sept, Blue Head Rock; and a motley collection came from the Sept of the Green in New York City. Garou who happened to be in town when the call came, led by of all tribes a Child of Gaia called True Silverheels. And another, small pack, a trio of Uktena from parts unknown, appeared to confer with the Shadow Lords about this old caern.

True Silverheels was interested in meeting this clever young pack that had opened up relations with the Sept of the Green. The Fianna from Blue Head Rock, on the other hand, Scully knew well — he’s old enough to have grown up with a generation of Homid cubs to torment him, after all. Still, the Fianna seemed relatively amiable and only somewhat insulting. Not bad!

As for the Uktena, Willow’s old sept-mates knew the Hive could have once been Croatan territory. More would come with time.

That night, Mila began the Rite of Expulsion, intended to draw out the Hive’s totem spirit, and rid the caern of it forever. Of course, it fought back — both by attacking the Garou defenders, and by calling for help — lots of help. The ground broke open, unleashing a swarm of Materialized Banes…and some of the Banes even fled what came next: a Nexus Crawler.

Last Call stood with Razvan’s Shadow Lord cousins, defending Mila from the waves of attackers. Scully softened Banes up with arrows, for Zero and Mila’s packmate Rajka to finish off. Razvan, Willow and the Arbiter of Storms held the line against the Wyrmish totem spirit, the Dark Fungus. A rolling, spore-spewing, endlessly growing mound of mushrooms and mold and rot, the Fungus threatened to incapacitate the Garou with hallucinogenic spores as much as its unholy Rage.

Meanwhile, the other packs romped and took their fill of slaughter, at least, until the Nexus Crawler lurched out of the broken earth…then, the battle turned against the Garou. In one fell swoop, the Crawler transformed the ground under half of them to liquid, and the Fianna and Uktena found themselves drowning in the dirt. And then, Scully tried something stupid.

With a rebel yell, and a Call of the Wyrm, Scully lured the Nexus Crawler away from the floundering, drowning packs, and straight into True Silverheels, and everyone else still on their feet. This gave Willow, Zero, and the other CoGs, a chance to rescue the Fianna and Uktena before they drowned.

Razvan climbed up the back of the massive spirit, seeking a weak spot he could attack, but the Crawler was like a force of nature. It didn’t stop until it had run down Scully, but the beast’s focus on him gave the other Garou the opportunity they needed. True’s Klaive, Bone Gnawer claws and teeth, even Vaughan wielding Amargein’s Watchspear, all battered at the Nexus Crawler until it was forced to retreat into the Umbra, lest it be defeated and bound.

With the Bane opposition driven off, Mila expelled the Dark Fungus, and exhausted herself with the Rite of Reclamation that followed, coaxing the old Gaian spirit to show itself — a diminutive Groundhog, or Wuchak as the Uktena called it. The Garou spent their Gnosis in homage, and Mila bled for it, giving up some of her spirit power permanently. It was a price she was glad to pay.

And then, the native-born, the Pure Ones as some call them, showed why they were in Baltimore. The Uktena suspected an old Croatan totem would be found at the Hive of Desolation, and they knew the tribal rituals to propitiate the long-suffering spirit, leading the assembled Garou in a Groundhog Dance and then a Stomp.

And so, a new Gaian sept brings change to Baltimore — led by Shadow Lords, Uktena…and the heroes of Last Call.

Ninth Story: Non-State Actor

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