Rage Across Baltimore

Seventh Story: Desire

No one wins. One side just loses more slowly.

What’s my drug of choice?
Well, what have you got?
I don’t go broke
And I do it a lot

— Alice in Chains, “Junkhead”

Months have passed since the xmastime raid on DNA in downtown Baltimore, and the disastrous explosion that destroyed the facility — and put the humans in the city on high terror alert. Although the quiet time since has dulled their fears somewhat, the city itself is more on edge than ever. After all, it’s not really on the side of the Garou these days.

The Last Call pack remains the guardians of the Sept of Abundant Grain, weathering attacks from swarms of Banes and the occasional Black Spiral pack testing the caern’s defenses. Reinforcements to the Shattered Glass Hive have made it a formidable target; however, the Hive of Desolation in the nearby countryside seems to enjoy less support. Even so, if the Garou hope to take back the crippled Hive in the country, they know it will be incredibly difficult — as they always knew it would. The stuff of legend.

While the urrah pack endures this time, stuck as caern-guards while others fight for Glory, they dig for clues — on the enemies they’ve stumbled upon in their adventures, and for clues on what to do once they have the freedom to take action. Still some conflicts in the city land on their doorstep whether they want it or not.

Take Razvan’s low-cost, inner-city medical clinic, for example. Does he charge full price for pitifully few clients? Exploit what government programs he can to do some good? Barter service for service? Give it away as a charitable deduction? Who knows…

What could happen, though, if the pack’s Bone Gnawer allies drag one of their addled Kinfolk into Raz’s clinic? A Kinfolk suffering from withdrawal, begging for the latest drug that’s hit the streets of Baltimore? A drug that promises to ease their pain, even as it makes their flesh rot like they’re already dead? What’s changed in the city — what could force Baltimore’s users to resort to such obviously harmful narcotics?

This might be another problem for Last Call, a mystery better suited to their unique (if mistrusted) talents and investigation skills. While the other Garou packs brawl with the Spiral Dancers over the fate of Baltimore, it’s up to the guardian pack to cure a new plague that promises to further corrupt the city they hope to take back from the Wyrm.

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Chapter 1:

Used to be curious
Now the shit’s sustenance
— Alice in Chains, “Hate to Feel”

So, after a season of quiet, or disquiet, action breaks out in of all places, Razvan’s low cost, inner city medical clinic. Having gotten on the good side of the local Bone Gnawers and their Kinfolk through trades of service when the Gnawers are short on cash (read: always), the Shadow Lord warrior/prodigally skilled doctor got an early evening call just as the place was closing up.

Arriving to find what in practical terms seemed more like a living zombie than a human being, Raz learned what he could about a new drug with horrific side effects being cooked on the street, by no less than some of the Bone Gnawer Kinfolk — and he had to patch up an apparent non-Kin ‘friend’ of somebody named Jon.

Raz gave the hapless fellow some street level ‘surgery’, and some methadone to dull the double pain of the procedure and withdrawal, then left it up to the more sober Bone Gnawers to handle the aftermath just for now.

No sooner than than the pack could regroup, and make it back to the Brewery, however…than they found another new pack in town. A pack of Glass Walker “Soldiers,” in fact, which sounds ridiculous on its face. Not to mention, a pack of young, sassy know-it-alls with no kind words for our beleaguered Guardians.

And to top it all off, a vampire and self-styled “Archbishop” chose that night to waltz into the bar, coming this close to touching off a combat with the pissed-off Ahroun Razvan — and perhaps further embarrassing the pack’s security measures in front of the newbies.

Of course, a sept set in a bar/restaurant in downtown Baltimore…what, exactly, could they do to counter a subtle threat like that? And what if anything will the pack choose to do about this change that’s occurred in the drug trade, where more reasonable(!) narcotics like crack and meth and heroin have seemingly been replaced by ‘krok,’ with its concomitant side effects of zombifying the using populace?

Seventh Story: Desire
 

Chapter 2:

What in God’s name have you done?
Stick your arm for some real fun
So your sickness weighs a ton
And God’s name is smack for some
— Alice in Chains, “God Smack”

As usual, the pack’s investigation into the shift in the city’s drug trade has taken some time, and they’ve learned about a lot of things that aren’t to blame, run down red herrings and the like. A problem months if not years in the making, it seems it’s not a problem to be unraveled in a day or two.

While Razvan’s patient Jon, and his friend Kiko, both turned up dead, so far the pack has turned up no convincing evidence of foul play. And that includes an on-the-spot séance of sorts from the pack’s goth mage allies. That turned out to be a bit more hazardous than the goths expected — in a particularly bad neighborhood, they may have been shot at! Alas, no such violence occurred while Razvan was on the job, contributing to his frustration and swollen Rage.

Perhaps there will be consequences for Dr. Dragomir, too — that is, if the methadone Jon apparently overdosed on is tracked back to his clinic.

The pack did uncover on a fragment of paper, a receipt or packing slip perhaps, the name of a compounding pharmacy, one which may be connected to the drug trade — that is, if you believe the rantings of a Bone Gnawer shaman.

Naturally, Zero is a believer. We shall see if he follows up on this lead.

Meanwhile, Willow continues to trade favors with local spirits, this time employing Rat Gafflings to look for their old Ratkin buddies (well, Brickbat’s, before he died). The Ratkin may know something about the drug problem, and they may be responsible for the DNA bombing besides. So far, they’ve been pretty scarce, though.

The Shadow Lord pack, Fear of the Dark, on the other hand, has come through for the pack, or at least for Razvan…scouting the enemy, experienced in exploitation of the foe’s weaknesses, as the Lords often do. Perhaps they are from the Light Bringers camp, as well? Razvan doesn’t know yet, but he hopes so, as his family has long been associated with that tribal camp.

It may be that the Shadow Lords identify a target for Raz’s full-to-bursting Rage, if the pack’s own investigation can’t turn up something soon. And in his current mood, the young Ahroun may be in a mood to just go and take out his anger on whatever the Lords point him at.

Seventh Story: Desire
 

Chapter 3:

Boy, I wanna taste you
I wanna skin you with my tongue
I’m gonna kill you
I’m gonna lay you in the ground
— Meg Myers, “Desire”

The Guardian pack continues to chafe under the burden of protecting the Caern, grousing about it whenever the Brewery is not literally under attack — in other words, most of the time. With the full moon, and the lack of an enemy, the pack’s attentions turn inwards, rather like a dog chasing its own tail.

However, Razvan’s need to get back at the new Glass Walker pack in town, so far, hasn’t panned out. Tracker-by-Moonlight, the Warder and Raz’s favorite partner on patrol, has warned the pack’s Ahroun to be careful in picking his battles; the Master of the Challenge, Amargein, is not as friendly with the pack as Tracker is, after all. It was Amargein, in fact, who permitted Brenna to give Zero a beatdown not long ago.

Frustrated so far in his attempts to dominate the Cliath pack, Razvan’s also been refused the chance to look for the Legendary Realm. Although he feels the pull of his ancestors, the pack risks a serious loss of Renown if they abandon their duties as caern-guards.

The pack’s enjoyed more success in puzzling out the shift in the city’s drug trade. Although Zero hasn’t been able to completely solve the mystery from the comfort of his laptop, he did run down the pharmacy Razvan connected to the unexplained supplies of codeine hitting the streets. Hacking the pharmacy led to a P.O. box in town, and one minor break-in later, they had the name of the PO box’s owner.

Zero’s dastardly identity theft gave him the name of one Cody Barr, along with everything UPS knows about him — which is a frightful lot! Their unlikely target is a full-time lecturer in the Business Administration track at Towson University, on the north side of town. Armed with some of Barr’s particulars (like his home address), it was relatively simple, if time-consuming, for the pack to track down the professor and wait for him to go somewhere interesting.

As Zero continues to attempt to solve all mysteries from the comforts of home, his internet wanderings turn up a little more information, but nothing particularly spectacular. The university website just has a listing in their directory with contact information, that’s what’s available publicly. After searching their class schedule he finds a number of courses taught by the lecturer, including Microeconomics (regular and honors courses), Comparative Economic Systems, and other coursework in the business-economics sections. His CV includes articles written for The Freeman, Reason, The Journal of Private Enterprise, and the Cato Journal. Zero doesn’t find anything unusual in the fellow’s work as a college professor, and casual searches for any interesting news reveal nothing at all.

Several days have since passed, and the full moon along with them, alas for poor Razvan. But the pack has tracked Dr. Barr and his latest delivery from the PO Box to a block of row-houses, some of which look boarded-up and vacant, while others are occupied by a corner 7-Eleven and a laundromat, several have been combined into a small second-tier movie theater called Seven Stars Cinema, and there is also…a Starbucks.

Truly, the pack must gird their loins; they are about to enter the belly of the beast.

Seventh Story: Desire
 

Chapter 4:

Everybody knows you’re fake
You’re everything I fucking hate
And I’m everything that you could never be
— Godsmack, “I Fucking Hate You”

With the blessing of Tracker-by-Moonlight and the promise of new Glory should they bring back Leech fangs as trophies, the pack ventured out into the barren spiritual wasteland of the city, the better to sneak up on any vampires behind the shift toward ‘krok’ in the city’s drug trade.

By means of the Penumbral approach, Peeking across the Gauntlet and other use of their Gifts, Willow led them to a well-secured basement — in the material world, that is — which was no proof against their ambush from the spirit realm. After first arriving in a wide, open, nearly pitch-black chamber lit only by a small blue-flamed gas burner that lit up a small idol of a snake-headed man, they searched onward through the Umbra until they found some people…alive, and otherwise.

Although the ‘ambush’ part didn’t work perfectly (owing to the high Gauntlet of the bleak inner city), the pack was still able to corner a pair of sleeping women, one of whom turned out to be a vampire. But since the pack was there to get some answers more than trophies, they got some…

However, the female vampire was not quite defenseless, instead subtly influencing their minds to be nice, and not so menacing. While Razvan railed against even the slightest push against his bloated Rage, the others struggled to contain the situation and get the answers they were looking for. The pack managed to avoid turning the situation into a bloodbath, but when the Ahroun would not stop menacing, he ended up falling under the vampire’s entrancing spell.

In the process, though, the pack found this group of snake-vampires was affiliated not with the Archbishop, but with some rival tribe or sect, undermining the Archbishop’s rule through the drug trade as part of their own little wars.

So, the pack departed with no confirmed Leech kills, and unfortunately Razvan has been enthralled by the vampire they met, an alluring child of Set called Beth…which should complicate the inevitable double-cross. But it seems they have chosen which vampires they would prefer to kill first.

Seventh Story: Desire
tytalus

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