Real date: 30 May 2009
Game date: 19 March 2112
Early in the morning Shilo Mokushi is awakened by her alarm. Groaning with annoyance she hits the snooze button. Her hand then wanders down beside the bed as she reassures herself that her H&K P29 pistol is still secreted away in its hidden holster between the bed and nightstand. It is one of several concealed and loaded weapons that are scattered throughout her apartment. With an effort she gets herself out of bed and heads for the rest room to start her morning routine.
In the bathroom mirror a very shapely girl with blue hair and pink eyes looks back at her. The eyes are actually a pale reddish brown color but the blue-violet hair makes them look lighter so everyone refers to her as having pink eyes. “Thank goodness,” she thinks to herself, “that my brows and lashes remained black. I’d hate to have to explain why and how I dye my eyebrows.” Shilo’s hair had not always been blue, as she matured and her telepathic and precognitive powers grew most of her hair changed to a deep blue color. Nowadays she explained away this unique trait as a trendy neo-gothic hair dye.
Shilo checked the shower and saw that her Colt MkVI pistol was ready for action within its waterproof holster. Growing up in orphanages and in the rough areas of Osaka, with a telepathic “gift” had not been easy. She had read lots of thoughts and knew what sorts of evil lurked in the hearts of some people. When she reached puberty she had filled out almost too well, and her impressive chest had drawn the attention of every pervert that rode the subways or ogled young women anywhere in Japan. Now Shilo didn’t go anywhere without having a weapon in easy reach.
She turned back to the mirror concentrated on clearing her head, the vision came and she was elsewhere…
She rode in the wagon with Lady O’Shea and Mirko the Bard. She recognized Jared the teamster driving the wagon and sitting next to him was Tiberius the court adviser. Sir Silverton and his Squire Thanatos rode alongside escorting them. Prominent in the wagon was a strongbox that somehow looked rusted and decayed but still sturdy.
Suddenly the wagon ground to a halt. On the road ahead a pair of knights had appeared both were afoot without sign of a horse or squire. They wore full plate mail and great helms covered their faces. Each wore a white tabard emblazoned with a red cross. Each knight held a huge two handed sword at the ready. A voice boomed from one of them “You may not pass.”
Shilo looked up and once again found a blue-haired girl in a nightgown looking back at her from the mirror.
Though she wasn’t late, Shilo was the last to arrive for the morning briefing. Her vision had caused her to lose nearly 15 minutes. This morning’s shower had been a mad rush.
Captain Alexander Richards once again graces the new 9th squad with his presence this morning. The last two members of the squad are joining the team today and if it hadn’t been for an inevitable paper work tie up they would have been here yesterday. Officers Caine and Silverton are introduced to the rest of the squad by Captain Richards. Tiberius Caine is essentially a genius, he can be relied on to know just about anything about any field of science that anyone cares to know about and a quite a few that no one cares about. Give him a box of electronic scraps and he can build almost anything and do it incredibly quickly. David Silverton is a Telekinetic Esper whose past seems very benign and unremarkable. After a brief chat about how the Aminus Mortis case is going the Captain excuses himself so the squad can get to work.
After filling in the new squad members and getting acquainted the squad decides that their first order of business ought to be checking out the offices of Hanson’s Howlers in the Omicron sector. They pile into a pair of spinners and take off.
The offices of Hanson’s Howlers are still locked up and apparently deserted as Mr. Patton had indicated yesterday morning. A quick scan with the spinner’s sensors indicate low levels of power usage but an almost imperceptible pulse in the energy readings (System Ops made by 10!) leads Tiberius to suspect that there is a receiver of some sort active within the offices. Fortunately Jared is able to easily and quickly bypass the electronic security lock and the squad enters to search the premises.
Within the offices the team discovers six empty cradles for power armor suits and an active locator beacon that is still picking up a signal from one of the missing units. The signal is emanating from an ocean front warehouse in the Gamma sector. The squad is able to crack the security protocols on the office computers and soon retrieve a wealth of information.
The transponder logs indicate that the signal from the missing sets of power armor all stopped pretty abruptly on the evening of 16 March. The armor transponder that is still transmitting indicates that life signs of the operator ceased at about the same time. The armor has not moved since that time.
The team finds the names of several mechanics and power armor technicians that the Howlers apparently kept on retainer to handle higher level maintenance issues with their armor. Contacting these individuals yields little useful information since they haven’t been contacted by the Howlers for several days.
The case files of the Howlers indicate that they had analyzed the residue from the footprints at Patton Manor and found the seawater and traces of marine chemicals that XSWAT labs had also found. However the Howlers had also recovered a tiny splinter of an unusual variety of teak wood and had traced it to a couple of warehouse floors in the Gamma sector. One of these warehouses is the one from which the transponder is still transmitting.
Throughout the hour that the squad has spent here they have been tossing around ideas, suggestions and even had a couple of minor arguments. At this point Sergeant Thomas and several of the squad members are in favor of splitting up the squad. A couple of them could head to the Darwin Memorial Art Museum to talk with Alec Lafitte while the remainders finish up here. Tiberius is opposed to this since from what he has heard of their encounter with the Class II entity yesterday he feels it is dangerous to split up their forces.
It is about this time when the squad realizes that Mirko, the squad mystic, is missing. Their fears are quickly abated when he answers his radio; he had just stepped out for tea. There was nothing magical going on at the Howler’s office and all of the chaos of the squad members squabbling was messing up his tranquility. Mirko is a monk and serenity is a virtue.
The squad finds that they are just about done here anyway and by the time Mirko walks back from the local tea house they are ready to head to the museum.
The squad arrives at the Darwin Memorial Art Museum at about 11:00 AM on this fine Thursday morning. The sun is shining brightly giving a welcome respite from the earlier drizzle. The museum is bustling with activity as the seven XSWAT officers enter the building. A group of school children stare curiously at the crisp blue and white uniforms as the officers pass through the main hall.
Shilo’s mind wanders and so she absent mindedly scans the surface thoughts of the crowd. Several people suffer minor side effects due to this (hearing a brief indecipherable hiss of numerous voices or telepathic white noise) only a couple of the squad’s members detect this. Officer Silverton is an Esper and he senses her use of power and Officer Caine hears the telepathic white noise. Neither officer is pleased with what he sees as an unreasonable use of her power to invade the private thoughts of the local citizenry.
As the group strolls through museum they begin to squabble as to whether they ought to go to Alec Lafitte’s office directly or have him paged at the information desk. Should they talk to him out here, in his office or should they see if they can get a conference room. The bickering prompts Mirko to wander off looking at paintings. This causes the group to organize more quickly as they decide to inquire about a conference room and have Mr. Lafitte paged to meet them there. They round up Mirko and head to the blue room.
When Alec Lafitte arrives they have a conversation about the Animus Mortis. They inform him of the painting’s supposed destruction by burning two years ago. He seems aware of this since there was discussion of it in the art world. Alec confirms that he was consulted by Jay Patton several years ago when he sent a deep sea salvage team to see if the vault at the Bothwick estate near old San Diego was still intact. This was the location from which the Animus Mortis was recovered.
The conversation drifts as he shows them pictures of the original painting and several other works that were done by Greg Stoneham. Mirko and Alec Lafitte get involved in how an artist leaves a bit of their spirit in paintings, something that is absent from photographic work.
The topic is steered back on track and they discover that Greg Stoneham was known for his disturbing paintings and his madness. Apparently the artist’s career was brief he only did about a dozen works between the ages of 30 and 33. The Animus Mortis was his final and most well known piece. He committed suicide by breaking into the entomology exhibit at a local zoo and trying to swallow several very venomous scorpions.
It is noted by the squad that several of Stoneham’s painting feature stellar constellations in the background and Tiberius notes that while very exacting they seem to be just a little off. Doing some quick checking he realizes that the constellations are off because some appear as they would have looked thousands of years ago and others as they will look thousands of years from now.
Mr. Lafitte offers to ask around in the art community to see if anyone has heard about the Animus Mortis resurfacing, but Tiberius cautions him against this. He feels that it might not be a safe topic for a civilian to be asking about. He does ask that Mr. Lafitte contact them if someone else starts asking questions about the painting.
Rachel O’Shea is the one who does most of the questioning of Alec Lafitte and after they depart the museum she relates her observations and opinions to the rest of the squad (made a very good Conversation roll). She senses that Mr. Lafitte seems more interested than he ought to be about the idea of the painting being restored. She also points out that as the curator of one of the world’s most famous art museums Mr. Lafitte has a comfortable life, yet he still acts as a well paid consultant for several art hunters. She feels that perhaps Mr. Lafitte is a bit materialistic and could be sensing an opportunity for profit if this unique collector’s item (the Animus Mortis) were to reappear on the market.
The squad decides that their next stop should be the warehouse in the Gamma sector. But by now it is getting past noon and the squad decides to descend on a local restaurant for lunch. After an amazingly short discussion they even find a place that seems palatable to all of them.
After lunch the squad heads to the warehouse. From the outside things appear normal enough but they fly the spinners around the exterior at altitude just to be cautious before they land to venture inside. The beacon is still transmitting but the signal has weakened which likely means that the batteries are nearing the end of their life.
Within the warehouse they find a charnel house. Bits of powered armor and pieces of the pilots litter the floor of the building. There are a few burn marks and some minor damage within the edifice which indicate that Hanson’s Howlers put up a brief, and apparently futile, fight before they were brought low. Examination of the wreckage shows that some of the armor was pierced through and other parts were literally torn asunder.
The warehouse contents are found to be materials and equipment used by museums to restore relics and artwork, including paintings. It also looks like some of these supplies have been used recently within this very warehouse but whatever they were used on is no longer here. Mirko is able to sense magical residue here that indicates a gate of some sort was opened here. Rachel senses a lingering residue of evil.
Feeling his work is done Mirko finds a clean spot of the warehouse floor in an out of the way corner and meditates while the other squad members search the stored materials and the warehouse’s files for clues as to who owns the warehouse, who rents it and who all of the material here belongs to.
Their efforts yield information which makes it clear that Marcus Bentley is the person who ordered this material from the assorted manufacturers and had it all delivered here. Sergeant Thomas calls Corporal Green (their dispatch officer) to have her check background material on Marcus Bentley. Very soon they discover that he has a wrap-sheet for burglary. In addition it is found out that the current residence of the prime suspect is only two doors down from Mirko’s uncle Augustus.
The trip to Marcus Bentley’s residence was swift and without incident. Upon arrival the two spinners paused two houses down as Mirko and Tiberius exited their transport to herd two children (Ghiselle and Konrad, Mirko’s cousins) back into their father’s house (Mirko’s uncle Augustus). No sooner were the children shooed inside that Marcus Bentlley was seen emerging from his house dressed for a night on the town. Tiberius immediately shouted a challenge at Marcus and drew his sidearm, the nimble Mr. Bentley quickly ducked back inside his home.
The squad immediately went into action. David and Rachel joined Tiberius and Mirko in front of the residence while Shilo, Rhonin, and Jared flew their spinner over the three story brownstone residence so they could approach from the rear.
Tiberius was the first to approach the door while the Esper David Silverton removed the front door, frame and all, with a telekinetic blast. Mirko quickly joined Tiberius at the door but was just in time to see Marcus Bentley deliver a powerful eldritch blast to Officer Tiberius Caine. The force of the attack blew the officer across the street and through the front wall of the home he struck. As Mirko watched a ripple in space and wave of nausea enveloped the area and the form of Marcus Bentley swelled and took on the monstrous form of a huge entity. Behind him on the wall was the Animus Mortis whole once again.
A wild battle ensues with the six remaining squad members trying to launch attacks at the creature and occasionally at the Animus Mortis itself. They soon find that their attacks against the painting are having little effect. Attacks that should have vaporized the painting barely blemish it and any marks rapidly disappear. Shilo started to snatch the painting from the wall but as soon as she touched it the creature immediately launched an attack at her which she barely dodged. Next the creature spread a blast between Jared and Rhonin, which the sergeant avoided but the officer did not. Rhonin was blown through a pair of interior walls coming to rest against the kitchen at the rear of the house.
Throughout all of this the entity was taking a pounding as lasers, magical attacks and telekinetic blasts were directed at it. The creature was very tough and only weakened slowly. As the battle dragged on the effects of the entity sickness continued to assault the squad members. JT (Sergeant Thomas) fires his massive C-90 Maser at the painting but in the heat of combat he misses and rips a large hole in one of the house’s few remaining good walls. As the battle rages the house begins to creak as the damaged walls struggle to prevent a roof collapse. Undeterred by the groaning noise and with an exhausted magazine; JT picks up a fallen ceiling joist and smashes it into the creature without much effect.
The creature sends another massive spiked tentacle toward Shilo who grabs the Animus Mortis and uses the painting to block the blow and apparently absorb the momentum of the blow since she barely feels the contact. A final spell from Mirko and the creature finally collapses with a burst of dark energy. This finally finishes off the remains of the house and it caves in.
Trapped under the rubble Shilo sees a faint glow from the painting that she still holds. A tingling passed into her hands and arms and she drops the painting. On her hands she briefly sees what look like some sort of twisted black runes. It is writing unlike anything she has ever seen and it fades away quickly.
Within a few minutes the cyborg JT manages to dig out himself out of the wreckage of the brownstone along with Rhonin, Shilo and the Animus Mortis.
In the aftermath of the battle the team is left with a wrecked brownstone, several other homes with collateral damage and the Animus Mortis on the ground before them. Tiberius had managed to disinter himself from the house across the street; fortunately the force field he had cobbled together from various pieces of electronic gear had served him well preventing serious injury. Mirko attempted to destroy the painting with one of his most powerful attack spells but the painting merely absorbed it. Tiberius attempted to use phosphorus to ignite the canvas but what scorching was done seemed to rapidly fade from the demonic artifact.
Soon the team sensed that the feeling of wrongness that is so characteristic of entity sickness seemed to be building again despite the lack of a creature. Shilo’s hands began to tingle. It took little imagination to realize that the painting itself was to blame and the effect seemed to be gradually increasing. Mirko and Rachel placed magical and holy wards around the painting respectively and this, for the time being seems to be holding the malevolent power of the relic at bay. Shilo rubbed her hands as the tingling subsided.
The squad realizes that they cannot let the painting remain where it lies it must be destroyed but further study will be needed to determine a method that can work. Transporting the Animus Mortis within a spinner is out of the question since there is not enough floor space to etch the wards with which Rachel and Mirko are holding the item. A call is made for an armored truck in which the protective wards can be erected while the painting is transported to XSWAT HQ and secure storage.
In the meantime the squad concocts a cover story in which Marcus Bentley had smuggled a baby pygmy elephant into his brownstone and there he had carried out inhumane genetic experimentation on the unfortunate beast. The creature had grown to adulthood while imprisoned within the house and it had finally gone mad and broken free of its captivity. The mutated and insane, pachyderm had caused untold damage to its prison, it had slain it jailer Marcus Bentley. At the same time the animal’s rampage had released all sorts of noxious illegal chemicals as it trashed the home lab, thus causing the sickness to those in the surrounding area who were exposed.
XSWAT and the APD evacuate the area while hazmat teams are called in to clean up the chemical spill, evaluate the soundness of the damaged housing and remove the bodies of the slain creature and its captor.
Return to Shadows Angelus II