Rage Across Baltimore

Sixth story: Ghost Trail

You can't choose your family

Some months have passed since the Black Spiral Dancers’ failed attempt to take the Sept of Abundant Grain. Surviving the siege has been good for the Fianna, along with everyone else there, it would seem. The youngsters of Last Call are not the only ones to gain new respect and power. And the sept is building ties to surrounding caerns, after proving that for a bunch of beer-swilling party boys, they’re still a tough nut for the Wyrm to crack.

Naturally, Willow has been helping Moira with the rites establishing Moon Bridge paths to these neighboring caerns; the Ritemaster’s struggling a bit to keep up with just one arm.

The Sept of the Exiles’ Rest is one such caern in the general vicinity. A small, perhaps insignificant caern of Calm, it’s the place where Willow was raised — a safe haven for the rearing of metis cubs, like her. An unfortunate necessity, these days.

With the stories spreading out from Baltimore, of a bold, desperate pack that’s half metis — led by a metis — the little ones at Exiles’ Rest drink in these tales like the mothers’ milk they never had. For poor bastards like these, exceptions like Willow are their heroes. So, it might not come as a surprise when one of them, a cub of an Ahroun naturally called Social Justice convinced one of the tiny sept’s Kinfolk to drive them out to Baltimore to meet this renowned alumnus of the metis nursery.

…a story the Last Call pack learns some time later, when the cub and Kin never arrive.

The urrah pack is gaining a reputation for their skills, not just as warriors for Gaia but as investigators, wise Garou with unlikely allies and advisers, the sort who can solve mysteries as well as fight. And so, here’s a problem that the Guardian pack might be able to help fix, without interfering overmuch with their duties guarding the lone Gaian outpost in Baltimore.

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Chapter 1:

Born into hardship
World of destruction
Suffer, bastard
Suffer, bastard
— Fear Factory, “Marytr”

After several months’ time as Guardians of the sept, Scully has settled into city life with relative ease, and Zero and Willow have helped to institute some much-needed security upgrades for the caern. And while Razvan’s investments are starting to produce positive results for the city, the young Ahroun is chafing at the burden of protecting the caern — at least, by guarding it, rather than seeking enemies to bite.

So, when the call came from the Shenandoah about their missing metis cub, Raz was even more eager than Willow to venture out to the Sept of Exiles’ Rest…if only to get out and find some trouble. After meeting most, if not all of the tiny sept’s members, Zero quickly rallied his sense of outrage at the sorry lot of the metis in Garou society. Of course, he hasn’t met any baby Crinos, yet.

But so far, the clues they’ve investigated don’t look good. An auto-injector left behind suggests a kidnapping, and if it had anything to do with a company called “DNA” — Developmental Neogenetics Amalgamated — well, there happens to be a facility in Baltimore. If it’s not a total red herring, what does it suggest for the missing metis cub and her Kinfolk friend? Nothing good, of course.

Sixth story: Ghost Trail
 

Chapter 2:

Beyond time I traveled
No space has bound me
Follow the will I know
The eternal order revealed

— Cult of Luna, “Ghost Trail”

After going through the usual lines of investigation — a quick visit to the crime scene via Moon Bridge, a consult with their mage ‘friends’ at the Brewery — Last Call was obliged to hand their findings over to the ‘free range’ pack at the sept, the Grog Monsters, and get back to what has become their usual, boring, guard duty.

Never mind that if they weren’t grounded, the metis cub would be free by now! And the Hive of Desolation would be in the hands of the Garou, free of taint and BSD infestation! Hell, the Wyrm itself should be defeated by now! …to hear Razvan.

Kids these days.

Of course, the grounded pack can be counted on to not stay grounded. And so, with a perhaps thin reasoning from Zero about the benefits they stand to gain, he led them on a merry romp to the CyberRealm, there to get a serious upgrade for his techno-fetish cyberware.

Before that, there was the necessity to acquire a spirit to power such a device. The pack left the Brewery under the premise of another training excursion to the Battleground, but instead found a local branch of the Bank of America to raid for an Informational Geomid. Naturally, resistance was much fiercer than it might have been at a local branch of Target, but…the datas!

So, after half the pack was nearly killed or Calcified by the guardian spiders at the bank, they succeeded in nabbing a suitable Geomid and made for the CyberRealm. Sneaking in under the spiritual guise of Pattern Spiders, they found the realm by turns even more desolate than the ‘real’ spirit world of the city, and then far more crowded and oppressive.

Still, they found Zero’s contact with the CyberWolves, a stoned rasta-man called ‘When,’ who led them in turn to Zero’s prospective cyber-surgeon, a really excited eight-year-old girl…and in spite of these daunting challenges to logic, Zero sat down in the restraint-chair and allowed these spirit emanations to drill into his skull and install new hypertech! And, he let the pack watch this impromptu brain surgery!…which they did!

Now Zero sports a freshly installed implant computer, along with some one-time-use software, a Vulcan AEI that promises to help bring down DNA’s operations in Baltimore, if only they can find the right machine inside the DNA facility to use it on. Where they’re not supposed to go, being the Guardian pack. And which may irreparably damage the Veil if not done just right.

Yes, there is that.

Sixth story: Ghost Trail
 

Chapter 3:

The beast in me
Has had to learn to live with pain
And how to shelter from the rain
And in the twinkling of an eye
Might have to be restrained
— Johnny Cash, “The Beast in Me”

Returning, triumphant — and yet in secret — from their trip to the Cyber-Realm, the pack’s burned Rage and bloodstains were enough for their elders; just another training session in the Battleground.

The situation back in the sept, however, came to a head when the pack sought news of the lost cub, and found her largely written off after an ill-fated raid on the DNA lab from the Grog Monsters. Forced to not use their more obvious, Veil-rending abilities, the Grogs were stymied by the facility’s high-tech security systems, unable to bring them or the lab’s power supply long enough to get far inside.

A split was forming in the sept’s Garou, with some still willing to take further risk to rescue the cub, but with more of them considering those risks, or just prejudiced against Metis, willing to abandon her.

After all, it’s just a Metis, cursed spawn of an awful crime against Gaia. A metis, like the one who brought down the Sept of Unbroken Synergy. A metis, like the ones the sept harbors in Last Call, and is it time to reconsider that, too?

Still, sept elder Vaughan was willing to convene a moot and hash things out — to come to some conclusion, one way or another. They came to that conclusion, with volunteers from the Shadow Lords, the Bone Gnawers, and the sept’s packs all offering to give it one more try at a rescue. Meanwhile, it’s up to the others to keep the Black Spirals busy — so they don’t notice how divided the sept’s attentions are.

And all of this was accomplished, nearly over Zero’s dead body, as his mouth wrote a few checks that his ass couldn’t cash. Forced into public contrition, with devious plans in store for his adversary (and sept-mate) Brenna, nevertheless the Garou of Last Call have leave to try one last time to rescue the Child of Gaia cub from DNA

…and if they draw the attention of these apparent scientist/werewolf hunters down on the Brewery, there’ll be hell to pay.

Sixth story: Ghost Trail
 

Chapter 4:

Biotechnology
Ain’t whats so bad
Like all technology
Its in the wrong hands
— Sepultura, “Biotech is Godzilla”

Armed with a surprising number of allies, Last Call took to the streets of Baltimore, one fine early morning before Xmas. It was time for Zero to deliver on his promises to run rampant over DNA’s network, facilitate the freeing of the lost metis cub, and otherwise perform some quality monkeywrenching.

Unfortunately, Zero’s special cyber-tools weren’t the kind that could disarm DNA’s security and deliver the cub to them on a plate remotely, so the pack was forced to charge in across open ground, triggering alerts that were hopefully nipped in the bud by the spiritual moxie of Mila Walks the Knife’s Edge.

Even if the silent alarms and 911 calls were stymied, though, the pack had to contend with what on-site security DNA possessed. And they had some — packing silver bullets, too. Time and again, Razvan’s bold attacks were driven back by silver searing his guts, and he nearly died twice during the raid; though it was perhaps not so dire as to draw a Battle Scar.

The real danger is what Zero now faces, having been forced to reveal his cyberware in the presence of a knowledgeable Glass Walker, Fade to Black, who immediately called for the mission to be aborted, threatening Zero with tribal justice for the Cyber Dogs’ collective crimes. Sept elder Vaughan Evenhand may have overruled her for the sake of the cub’s rescue, but consequences are coming for Zero.

Once he was in, however, Zero was true to his word — disarming security, locking and unlocking doors as needed, giving the pack what they needed to find the lost cub. Zero went on to really hurt DNA via the Computer Web, using the physical invasion to appear in the midst of their data network, stealing their data ‘juice,’ and possibly crashing the entire multi-site DNA network and corrupting their files worldwide.

Meanwhile, the pack fended off security guards firing silver at them with difficulty, tangling with one last thug who waited by their prisoner, knowing the ‘GLS freaks’ must be coming for her. His speed and strength, nearly a match for the Garou, showed what these apparently mundane human scientists were able to learn from captive werewolves, and the cub’s Kin boyfriend was found to be dead and dismembered.

But the pack did escape with the CoG cub, Social Justice, and a treasure-trove of DNA’s secrets. Whether Zero lives long enough to exploit them is anyone’s guess.

Sixth story: Ghost Trail
 

Chapter 5:

We are immune to life itself
Cold rules are reality
We have control of destiny
We have control of what’s to be

— Fear Factory, “New Breed”

The victorious, yet anxious pack — worried for their packmate, Zero, and what fate the sept might mete out on him now that some of his true nature has been exposed — rested fitfully after returning Social Justice to her home sept. Scully smoothed over relations with the Exile’s Rest elders that came to pick up the cub, Laurel, with the last of his mystic brew. But there would be no help for Zero but his own good deeds, and his pack, against the horrible reputation of the Cyber Dogs.

And to add to the pack’s woes, the DNA facility was destroyed behind them — and it wasn’t even their fault! Although Zero naturally suspects the company itself did it to cover up, it is just possible that someone else, like Brickbat’s old Ratkin buddies, may have done it; after all, it’s not the first time they tore into one of the pack’s targets.

Then, the time came to meet with the sept elder, Vaughan…and a few of the other sept members who don’t much like the pack, like Moira and Fade. It was Vaughan, and Fade of course, who filled in some of the missing, gory details of the Cyber Dogs’ downfall. Not only the Dogs’ fall to the Weaver, their forced cyber-implants on lupus Garou, killing most of them…but the local turncoat, Stainless Steel, was a Cyber Dog. Like Zero, a survivor of the tribe’s purge. Could Zero, hated and persecuted as he is, also be in danger of falling to the Wyrm’s fetid embrace?

That is what most worried Vaughan. Not handling Fade to Black, or the odd pack of Random Interrupts who might show up in Baltimore looking to claim Zero’s head. Not just Zero, but most of his pack! Metis are also badly mistreated by the Garou Nation, and many of them also fall to the Wyrm’s corrupting influence. For Stainless Steel, the double dose of scorn must have contributed to his betrayal.

But in the end, it was Vaughan who was determined to give the pack a shot, though now they know it may cost the sept elder his position of leadership, if enough of the Brewery Garou rally around a rival and challenge Vaughan.

The bloody epilogue to the story came a few days later, just after Xmas, when the Sept of Exiles’ Rest called Baltimore, desperate for aid against an assault on their caern. Still the Guardian pack, of course Last Call got the duty — eager as always to fight for Glory.

However, the CoG sept’s enemies were rather unique, and disturbing…tough, stealthy lizard-like humanoids with a poisonous bite, backed up by black-clad shooters loaded for bear with silver rounds. Neither the creatures, nor the gunmen, displayed any Wyrm taint, but after the pack aided the Gaians, the fallen foes’ bodies broke down into viscous slime.

And the foes’ leader, perhaps, got away — retreating to a waiting black helicopter, after deploying a smoke grenade, smoke that literally killed Zero on contact. Were it not for Razvan’s persistent CPR (from which Zero will ache for awhile), and Zero’s own peculiar cyber-spiritual implants, he would not have survived. Curiouser still, the smoke affected no one else — but it was capable of rewriting Zero’s DNA, fatally so. And Zero’s last stored visual record of his assailant before his body shut down is the man mouthing the words, “Mission Accomplished.”

If the pack needed confirmation that they’d stumbled across something much worse than it first appeared in DNA, they got it in spades. And, as if Zero hasn’t got enough problems, his exploits at the DNA facility seem to have put him on the radar of a powerful, enigmatic force in the world.

Sixth story: Ghost Trail
tytalus

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