Rage Across Baltimore

Story 14: Spit Out the Bone

Why you gotta go and fuck with the program?

I beat my machine it’s a part of me it’s inside of me
I’m stuck in this dream it’s changing me I am becoming
— Nine Inch Nails, “The Becoming”

Since their liberation from being ‘grounded’ as the Guardian pack of the Sept of Abundant Grain, the Garou of Last Call have taken advantage of their freedom. The pack has made friends and allies far and wide, they’ve had adventures outside of Baltimore, their Umbral quests have ranged further, and for longer, than ever before.

Now, as a new mystery begins to unfold, perhaps that trend will continue…or maybe this fight will take place closer to home. At least, that’s where it stands to begin, as the pack receives a curious message from their replacements at the Brewery.

After all, someone had to take over as the Guardians of the Brewery when our intrepid heroes left, the survivors of Alpha Mike Foxtrot, who had arrived in Baltimore maybe as Glass Walker enforcers looking to murder Zero, in the end volunteered to take over the job. And, of course, to do it so much better than our pack ever did.

Bunch of rookie Cliath, what do they know…

Anyway, it’s the new caern-guards who are obliged to get in touch with our pack at the Hidden Spring, through whoever still carries a cell phone with decent reception out in the middle of that state parkland. Because one of Zero’s new acquaintances from his most recent Rank Challenge is in town with a rather strange story about his pack going missing…in the CyberRealm. And most curious of all, the old acquaintance who led him to the Brewery.

Still, mysteries, right? Solving puzzles, pondering enigmas, getting into more trouble than they might have thought possible. This is what Last Call is known for; it’s what they’re good at. No worries.

metalbeast.png

Comments

Chapter 2 update:
Looking out of windows, looking under cars
Like to keep you thinking, staying on guard
Nothing ever happens, you wonder why
The constant paranoia is of someone’s design
Doorbell is ringing, no one’s outside
— Prong, “Revenge…Best Served Cold”

The pack Moon-Bridged back from Red Talon territory after their brush with death, charged with a special mission from Mammoth…to a fairly routine, friendly greeting from the home sept, and a pizza party with the Bone Gnawers.

No rest for the wicked, though, as the sept’s grand elder Mila took Zero aside to explain a bit of a problem to him, involving an associate of his showing up at the Brewery under…extremely questionable circumstances. That turned out to be that no one less but Tanner himself, a BSD, had escorted this GW n00b from the airport!

Scully and Zero handled the pleasantries at the Brewery well enough; they still mostly like Scully after all, and only a few of the Brewery Garou really despise Zero. Fortunately, none of those were around — unless you count Natalie. So, the pair was able to extract Zero’s associate, the European GW Cliath, Koschei, and brought him back to the Hidden Spring.

From there, a quick explanation about Koschei’s missing pack was enough to get the pack rolling out yet again, this time for the Cyber-Realm. The questions about Tanner’s seeming involvement in the tale would have to wait for another day.

Willow was able to extend the pack’s Umbral disguises to the cub, allowing Koschei to pass for a Pattern Spider along with the rest of them as the pack snuck past Penumbral patrols and into the realm. While in Old Town, the pack ran afoul of a Geomid swarm’s laser-scan, but they chose to evade and hide rather than fight the Geomids.

Story 14: Spit Out the Bone
 

Chapter 4 update:
Duplicate
Replicate
Multiply
Subdivide
Modulate
Harmonize…
— Voivod, “Quantum”

Zero led the pack first to his old haunt, the Chatsubo bar, and his contact with the Cyber Wolves, When. On When’s advice, the pack “climbed the Corporate Ladder,” again disguised as Pattern Spiders as they undertook a grueling, nearly disastrous climb up the pattern webbing to Downtown.

Although the youngster Koschei was willing, he’d had an easier time with his pack, and would have fallen, perhaps to his death, if not for our intrepid heroes. Even for Last Call, the climb was arduous and exhausting.

Once they did reach Downtown, at least, it was a relatively quick bit of tracking for Zero, employing his new Gift for finding people to hunt down the other Troubleshooters — and he found them!

But shortly after the pack reunion, Zero mysteriously collapsed, and when a cluster of tainted Blight Spiders attacked, the Troubleshooters were more intent on holding onto Zero than anything else. It was a chaotic mess, with Wyrm forces to destroy, Glass Walkers to save…or perhaps not?

During the confrontation, Razvan found the Glass Walkers to be immune to his questionable vampiric charms, and surprisingly strong and tough in their homid forms. Something had changed them — and perhaps was changing Zero and Koschei, too.

Now, dragging the unconscious Zero away from the fight, and with Koschei in tow, the pack has another questionable benefactor to consider — the woman who seemingly led the Blight Spiders right to them…

Story 14: Spit Out the Bone
 

Chapter 7 update:
Mechanical compound eye
Imposed observance. Sentries in the sky
Vigilant lenses. Objectives belied
In blackened heavens covertly they hide
— Meshuggah, “The Demon’s Name Is Surveillance”

The Garou of Last Call returned, hardly triumphant but more or less intact, to their home sept. Zero had survived his encounter with Wintermute, his patron or mentor, turned adversary. Zero’s been forced to confront the consequences of the cybertechnology he so readily embraced. Having hacked his own brain in order to retain his own independent will, Zero now knows the nature of his changed mind and its potential vulnerability.

In turn, the rest of the pack met with the woman who intervened on their behalf during the attack. Calling herself Throws Shade, she had come with questions for the pack, questions about something called the Perfect Metis…something which the pack may have let slip through their fingers without even knowing it.

And Koschei and the Troubleshooters? Koschei died in front of Razvan, Willow and Scully, who were helpless to aid him as something devoured his brain, death by lethal injection. And yet, how certain were they that Koschei would not soon rise again, transformed like the rest of his pack into some kind of werewolf-terminators?

The pack chose not to risk it, and Razvan would have beheaded the poor cub, if not for Throws Shade and her pistol.

Back in Baltimore, the pack nurses their wounds — pride, mostly, but for Zero it’s much more — and they consider their next steps. It’s not clear what happened or why, much less what to do about it. But Throws Shade suggested they find their answers downtown, rather than the certain death of another trip to Malfeas to search for Social Justice’s baby.

Zero has also made the fateful choice to fight his instincts, both good and bad — the healthy dose of caution, the outright paranoia — and establish ties with his tribe. First, to make amends for the loss of Koschei and the Troubleshooters, and to warn his brethren of the threat these transformed Garou may represent.

Second, to learn: about the Umbral machine that attacked Shattered Glass; about Wintermute and his potential ties to a rumored, nascent Weaver spirit called the Machine; and about their apparent antagonists, users of super-science who have appeared again and again in the city. That is, if you can believe Zero’s wild claims that the many disparate encounters are all connected. It’s just what one would expect of a paranoid, delusional conspiracy theorist.

The people the pack fought in the DNA facility. The attack on Exiles’ Rest. The deadly gas grenade there, that somehow delivered a retrovirus of such incredible speed and precision that Zero nearly died. The Umbral machine at Shattered Glass. The City Father, now seemingly embracing stasis instead of corruption. Could it all be connected? Maybe it would be better to hope that it’s not.

Story 14: Spit Out the Bone
 

Further investigation:

Zero joins the GWNet community, posting a long, detailed report on his encounter with Wintermute, inspiring rampant speculation and project proposals about how to tie this supposed Glass Walker elder and mentor to the Machine. Various GWNet users press Zero for more details on the personal information Wintermute knew for no good reason, but Zero does play some things close to his chest.

In turn, he learns about this spirit called the Machine, an Incarna growing so quickly in power that the tribe’s Theurges worry that it may achieve Celestine status, powerful enough to challenge Gaia Herself. Others insist that Gaia can handle herself, and that the Machine is here to help Her. Reports and experiments by GW spiritualists haven’t conclusively determined if the spirit is actually awake and aware yet, and so Zero’s report adds to the chaos.

There is even speculation on the GWNet about a new GW camp, called “advocates for the Machine” or the “Mechanical Awakening”, but nothing is proven yet. The more alarmed Theurges worry openly that Zero’s report will be fuel for these advocates’ fire.

Needless to say, these reports are prefaced with cautions against revealing any of this knowledge to the other tribes. They’d never understand, and they’re all looking for the opportunity to denounce the Glass Walkers as “fallen to the Weaver”. The purge of the Cyber Dogs was undertaken by the tribe for much the same reason.

Zero’s initial searches on magic and super-science find nothing but scofflaws dismissing the notion outright. To the Glass Walkers, humans’ real magic has been science and technology. Following the links Enid “Speaks like River” gave him, however, prove more fruitful.

Penumbral witness reports of fantastic machines, bigger than tanks, covered in blades, spikes and cannons, seems like some Weavery version of Psychomachiae. And yet, it may also sound strikingly familiar. Stories from other tribes with more experience talk of human wizards, shamans and priests.

Could be time to catch up with his old goth-wizard contacts. Unfortunately, after several failed attempts to get in touch, Zero concludes his contact info is too old, all disconnected phone numbers and closed accounts. On the bright side, Zero has upped his game when it comes to finding things…

Story 14: Spit Out the Bone
 

Further investigation:

Razvan invests his time and effort into the information he uncovered through his clinic — a spate of work-related injuries, and lead and heavy metal poisoning cases. Digging deeper into these injuries and maladies as any dedicated, brilliant young doctor would, Razvan meets with patients, travels to local work sites, deploys his Kinfolk, and searches the archives of the local newspapers, news radio and TV stations.

The injuries and poisoning cases don’t work out to be anything particularly unusual. There is new work in town demolishing abandoned, run-down row houses, known crack houses and other areas prone to urban blight. In fact, Razvan’s own investment in the city, particularly in the neighborhood of the Brewery, may have been affected. Property values in some areas are going up! Is it time to flip some row houses?

Also, local lead abatement programs have received new grant funding to increase removal of lead contamination; mostly old lead paint, but also some instances of plumbing and city water pipes, and contaminated soil supposedly traced back to the old days of leaded gasoline and service stations tested for significant lead in the soil.

Neither of these projects seems overtly corrupt or unsafe at the first or second glance; the injuries are chalked up to a busy season this past summer, accidents, and hot weather in some cases leading workers to remove some of their safety equipment. Razvan’s ear for subterfuge isn’t the best, but if things aren’t precisely on the up-and-up, no one he’s talked to seems interested in ruining a good thing. Money’s money, whether it’s a 9-to-5 job or workers’ comp, right?

And the funding for these projects? The Baltimore Sun has run frequent reports and updates on The Foundation for a Better Life, a non-profit promoting “good values” through public service campaigns. Although the organization had mostly been responsible just for PSAs about lead contamination from old paint, the FBL more recently has campaigned successfully for new federal infrastructure programs in Baltimore.

The city is enjoying the benefits of this new federal funding, providing job opportunities for needy inner city families, albeit with some risk of gentrification as Baltimore is revitalized. Reports and leaks from current negotiations with the Foundation suggest that this lead could even be harvested in order to build new infrastructure in the city. There’s talk of vast, underground power storage facilities, storing renewable tidal power. The Baltimore Sun even has pictures of experimental tidal power rigs in the Chesapeake Bay!

In the current age of dysfunctional federal government barely able to keep itself open these days, the successful grant programs seem downright miraculous and no one is giving that gift horse any side-eye…

Story 14: Spit Out the Bone
 

Further investigation:

Willow has traveled the city, mostly on foot or by bicycle, speaking with what Garou elders she can corner. She’s visited the Bone Gnawers that stuck to their old Stomping Ground pattern, now holed up in Leakin Park again until cooler weather forces them to find a warmer place for their homeless Kinfolk.

Taking gifts of produce from her community garden for the Gnawers, along with some marshmallows, chocolate and graham crackers for s’mores, she may have also run into some trouble wandering Leakin Park by herself. The blood spattered on her clothes doesn’t smell like hers, though, and she does carry a big stick.

The Bone Gnawers knew about the Umbral machine that attacked Shattered Glass — all of the city’s Garou likely heard about it — but it seems to be gone, now. It disappeared one day; it wasn’t under constant watch, so no one knows for certain where it may have gone. It’s clear, though, that the spiritual influence over the former Shattered Glass Hive is now Weaver-oriented. The Gnawers have even mentioned spotting drones downtown…in the Penumbral sky.

After getting an escort out of Leakin Park by some of the Gnawer Kin she’s friendly with, Willow set out to visit the Brewery next, bringing more donations of produce for the kitchen and herbs from the garden for Moira. Most of the pack is still relatively welcome there; only Razvan might want to tread carefully. Time has passed, and the pack’s own renown makes up for a lot. Besides, few at the Brewery really hated the Metis.

Willow has some work to do with the City Father’s cryptic comments about “hanging mysteries,” though. Here, the Internet offers her a helping hand. Searches on words and phrases lead her to a likely source, the poems of Edgar Allen Poe. In particular, the ominously titled Spirits of the Dead.

Finally, she visits with some of the Hidden Spring elders, like Mila and Jacky Gecko, to see what they know about the Perfect Metis. For an Uktena, Jacky doesn’t look Indian, but he does know the Death Song of the Croatan and recites a portion (which can be found in our wiki).

Mila confirms that other tribes possess end-time prophecies beyond the well-known Prophecy of the Phoenix. She does not know the story of Eeyarlagh Twice-Born, but Mila guesses that the Black Spiral Dancers would see a true-bred child of Metis as a boon; everyone knows the fallen tribe is overflowing with misshapen, mad Metis warriors, as the Garou Litany law against breeding Metis means nothing to them.

Mila also suggests the Black Furies for further research. Once you scratch the surface of man-hate, she explains, the Furies are close to the Mother, and quite mystical in their own way…

Story 14: Spit Out the Bone
 

Further investigation:

Scully draws a blank when the pack splits up to pursue their various investigative leads. He doesn’t have the detective skills of his packmates; what’s a Fionn to do? Naturally, he goes out drinking.

Visiting the Brewery to participate in one of their Moot Rites, Scully passes on tales from his pack and from the Hidden Spring, but he’s more there to listen (and to drink). Perhaps the rest of the city’s Garou can tell him something about what’s going on.

The Glass Walkers of Alpha Mike Foxtrot and the Bone Gnawer Fireball pack boast of expanding the sept’s territory through regular patrols, defensive battles against rampaging Banes, and locating and eradicating an underground nest of fomori they likened to humanoid toads. The Gnawers claim hideous Leeches also live underground, and are hunting them!

As for the Grog Monsters, Scully witnesses the end of a months-long adventure, and a successful challenge for Rank. While engaging in repeated attacks on local Hellholes — corrupted Penumbral domains corresponding with landfills, toxic waste dumps and Superfund sites — the Grog Monsters accidentally discovered a Calumn, a powerful Wyrm domain in the Near Umbra, linked to the Hellholes.

Tackling a Calumn infested with Banes and other Wyrmspawn was already asking a lot. Tougher still when a Nexus Crawler was spotted there, the same one that assaulted the Hidden Spring during Mila’s reclamation rite. Brenna was determined to destroy it. The sept elders challenged Fade to Black to find a way to inflict a lasting defeat on the Nexus Crawler, and for Brenna to lead the assault — not as just a warrior, but as a war leader.

While her pack continued to assault the Hellholes and the Calumn’s Wyrmspawn, Fade to Black found a way, capturing a former Shattered Glass elder — the Theurge, Vorrag the Binder. Torturing secrets from him, the Grog Monsters learned Vorrag’s dead alpha, Coffinfeeder, had known the Nexus Crawler’s true name, giving his pack a fearsome weapon to call upon. The Grog Monsters traveled to the Battleground realm to find a spirit or emanation of Coffinfeeder, and extracted the name from him. Coincidentally, they visited Last Call’s battle with the Spiral elders to find him.

The assault on the Calumn took place during Last Call’s adventures in the Legendary Realm, and some Hidden Spring Garou participated, along with Garou from all over the region — everyone Brenna could rally to her cause. Under her command, Theurges wielding the Nexus Crawler’s true name forced the Crawler to stand, fight, and ultimately be defeated and bound. Guides-to-Truth, it’s said, bound the spirit. But the fetish/trophy remains at the Brewery, and the Fianna sept boasts two new Athro in Brenna and Fade.

Good stories, of course, but related to our pack’s work? Didn’t seem that way. Lacking any other solid leads, Scully took to the Dream Zone, searching for answers in the dreams of the people of Baltimore, perhaps even the dreams of whatever Weaver minions now dwell where Shattered Glass once stood.

But his excursions into Dream have thus far proven fruitless. Three nights this past week, he’s awakened from Dream choking and gasping for air, fast-fading visions of drowning in blood dancing in his head. His trips through Dream are carved into the tree branches and scrap wood of his primitive shelter on caern grounds, frantic glyphs marking the fractured remnants of dreams…

Story 14: Spit Out the Bone
 

Further investigation:

A week or so passes while the pack is split up, pursuing various lines of investigation and living their mundane lives a bit. Willow decides not to waste any time following up on Mila’s advice…even if the sept elder’s smile disturbs her. Since he established good relations there, and since he’s a Metis, Willow taps Scullly to go with her to the Hand of Gaia sept in the Finger Lakes region of New York state.

The Hand of Gaia is a powerful sept — the most powerful in the region — and it’s dominated by Black Furies. Hence, Willow’s caution in choosing not to disturb the Homid boys in the pack. Children of Gaia have also settled at the caern, although the Furies clearly dominate the sept leadership.

Scully introduces Willow to some of the resident Garou that he’s met, among them the ancient grand elder, Alani Astarte. The elder Fury is unfamiliar with the prophecies of the Perfect Metis, but she and her tribe are familiar with mysticism and prophecy. Alani sends one of her Garou to visit several other caerns, including a “Sept of Prophecy” in search of answers.

Willow and Scully are able to speak briefly with the wanderer before she goes; Scully introduces the Garou as Nightmane, an amiable lupus Fury who doesn’t mind the opportunity to stretch her legs. Later, Scully explains…

Ayup, Nightmane there taught me the Breath of the Wyld after we did some shooting together. Challenged me to an archery contest just for carrying a bow in here. And, she demanded we shoot in the buff, too. Couldn’t even keep me hat on, that was damned humiliating! Quit yer snickerin’. Aye, and her human form’s bloody gorgeous, too…well sure ma’am, of course I won! Expect some Fury’s rack to distract me. No, I didn’t distract her neither.

Later, before they can leave, the CoGs and the Furies get into a bit of a dispute over another sort of prophecy. Apparently, it’s an argument they have had many times before, over restricting outsiders’ access to the caern. The caern’s totem apparently has an urgent message for the Garou, which has baffled many a Garou shaman. At the urging of her tribe-mates, Willow performs a Rite of the Opened Caern and communes with the caern’s totem spirit, a distant and unfathomable presence the locals call the Life of the Nation.

The spirit imparts a cryptic message to Willow in a language even she, a Theurge of some skill, cannot understand, imparted along with bursts of emotion and sensation involving fear, corruption, children, and a harsh scent of bleach. Willow is warned not to divulge this message to the more aggressive tribes, not at least until the spirit’s message is fully deciphered…

Story 14: Spit Out the Bone
 

Chapter 9 update:

Persist for resistance
Resist their insolence
You are a dissident
Burn away conformity
— Fear Factory, “Self Bias Resistor”

Nearly two weeks have passed since the pack returned from the Cyber-Realm, with much research and investigation and talk, but little to no action.

Zero has led the pack on various searches and into discussion with some of the local magic-users, sorcerers the likes of which are probably unwelcome at either sept. Apparently these mages include skilled computer programmers, as well as angsty goths, and the pack knows they have only scratched the surface of these human magical societies.

And while at least one of these mages, a self-styled “urban shaman” named Tony, is eager to ally with the Garou, to what end is as yet unknown. The pack has gathered more and more information about the new players downtown, but has made no moves as of yet — and it’s not clear when, or if, they ever will.

In the meantime, Scully has begun traveling to neighboring septs in order to achieve what Mammoth tasked him with, entering the story of Wrangel Island into the Silver Record. He returns from the Sept of the Green with some news…

First of all, Scully has found that this deed requires a special rite, one he has no hope of learning anytime soon. Only available to Galliards of Athro rank or greater, these Keepers of the Silver Record are quite rare in this time of impending Apocalypse. Only the Keepers know the Record in its fullness, and it is not kept in written form. Scully has his hands full just learning more about the Silver Record. He is determined to learn it all, or as much as he can, in order to better defend the merits of the pack’s tale.

Second, new stories are added to the Silver Record very rarely, and in modern times, no mere battle will qualify; epic battles already fill the Record, and more would be superfluous. No, these days worthy tales must have more to them, a lesson suitable for teaching young packs. And with the Record being so ancient, it becomes harder and harder to find something new and instructive to add to it. What unique lesson might anyone draw from the pack’s adventures at Wrangel? Scully has no answer for that, yet.

Lastly, the special rite, called the Song of Ages, is typically performed only at a concolation, a gathering of Garou beyond any single caern or sept. That way, many tribes can hear the tale and argue its merits and speak for or against its veracity. Ultimately, it is up to the ritemaster, the Keeper of the Record, to decide whether or not the story is worthy.

Such a tale being entered into the Silver Record is reward and renown enough. To the Garou, who immortalize their greatest heroes — and failures — in such stories, there is no greater recognition. Naturally, Scully is…concerned about his, and the pack’s, worthiness. No matter what Mammoth demands, it is up to the Garou themselves, and they are not always beholden, much less sympathetic, to every demand from the spirits.

There’s no guarantee that any given generation of the Garou will produce even one tale worthy of adding to the Silver Record. And Scully doesn’t have to be told how Metis feature in more tragic tales, or even cautionary ones, such as the tale of the First Ronin.

[ http://whitewolf.wikia.com/wiki/First_Metis relates the gist of the First Ronin’s story, who also happens to be the First Metis, and who happened to fall to the Wyrm. It is a story most cubs are taught, and so the prevalence of prejudice and hatred toward Metis may find some degree of explanation.]

Story 14: Spit Out the Bone
 

Chapter 11 update:

It’s so nice to get away, get away for a day
I see a hollow man, gun in hand, gun in hand, it points my way
You know, he follows me everywhere and everyday, I gotta get away
I won’t miss him if he goes away and stays away, yeah, yeah
— The Cult, “Hollow Man”

Although the meeting with the wizards proved useful for gathering intel, the pack still couldn’t reach much of a consensus on what to do. Razvan’s cloning research had plumbed the limits of modern-day science, which clearly wasn’t there yet — even his family’s riches can’t change that.

While the Ratkin and Throws Shade remained loose ends for the pack, Zero and Razvan ultimately decided on a new direction. Unwilling to commit to an attack on the ‘Technocrats’ infesting downtown Baltimore, Zero chose instead to place his bet on being able to implant a mammoth embryo into an elephant, and raise it…in Pangaea.

This side quest might cut too deeply into the time Willow needs to recruit Garou shamans and defenders for the Rite of Caern Building, not to mention Scully’s quest to add their story to the Silver Record. Time will tell whether or not this new direction was a wise choice, or a turn away from the conflict with the Weaver that Zero insists is of paramount importance.

Story 14: Spit Out the Bone
tytalus

I'm sorry, but we no longer support this web browser. Please upgrade your browser or install Chrome or Firefox to enjoy the full functionality of this site.