Posted by: lordkyler | November 29, 2014

Radiance Part VIII: Gone Fishin’

Previously, Connor, Ian and Drake visited a mechanics shop to purchase some weapons and have their stolen motorcycle inspected. They discovered that the vehicle’s decrepit appearance was all a show, and that the bike hid an impressive engine and small, secret machine guns. Connor came into possession of a famed Makara blade. They now return to their temporary hideout to reunite and discover what leads the Mongrels have dug up…

“So what is this hunk of junk worth?” Aria asked skeptically, eyeing the motorcycle. They stood in an alleyway behind the chocolatier’s shop that also served as a hideout for the Seven Sisters. The men admired the women’s newest acquisitions of fauna, and Lilly handed Connor his frozen hawk.

Ian grinned and took a seat on the motorcycle. The suspension bounced under his formidable frame, but balanced well. “Oh, it may look like a scrapyarder’s nightmare, but this beauty has some secrets. You just have to treat her right.” He activated the sequence, causing two small machine guns to unfold from the sides. He spun them, dry firing, and then snapped them back to their hidden home in the chassis.

“Impressive,” Aria admitted.

“That was A-MAZING!” Lilly squealed. “I love it. Those could really cause some damage.”

Aria studied the bike for a second. “My father used to have a model like this,” she said after a moment. “I’m pretty sure. But I don’t remember it having a second tailpipe.”

“With the motor on this thing, I’m not surprised,” Ian said, but Aria ignored him, inspecting the superfluous exhaust more closely.

“It’s not a tailpipe,” she announced. She fiddled with it for a moment longer, then found a small catch hidden in a fold of the seat. She pulled, and a panel opened on the side of the bike, behind the seat. “What is this?”

Ian muscled past her. “A pneumatic cannon!” he said. “Brilliant. You can load just about anything in here with a little packing. Alchemical potions, grenades, caltrops. Then shoot it out at whatever poor bugger is following you.”

“Useful,” Connor commented. “But we’re late for our meeting. Time to earn all this shake we spent.”

The rest of the group agreed, and after stashing the motorcycle in a secure place, they made their way to the unfinished subway that the Mongrels called home. Noah Simonson and a few other men waited there, along with two stranger obviously not of the group.

The first man looked nervous. His large, bulbous glasses magnified his eyes as they flitted back and forth, darting from one person to the next like a mouse searching for an escape from a den of terriers. He was a slender fellow, with a faded pea-green waistcoat, a tattered old thing covered with pockets, each one containing a notebook or the stubs of a dozen pencils. His meticulously styled and curled mustache wobbled as he muttered to himself.

The other man looked much more confident, though he seemed pensive and impatient. He was partially Oqidan ,at least, with dark, slicked back hair. His clothing was shabbier than the green-coated man, well-worn and threadbare. A cigarette dangled from his lip, smoke rising into the two massive bushy eyebrows that rested above his piercing eyes like two caterpillars about to mate.

Noah stepped forward, nodding slightly in greeting. “This is what we’ve found,” he said, launching straight in. He gestured to the pea-green man. “This is a reporter, Mr. Josiah. And this guy is an informant. We call him Phillip and nothing else, apparently.”

Phillip waggled a bushy eyebrow. “I hear you’re looking for that little girl they stole,” he said. He spoke fast and smooth. ” I know what you need. I know where she is, right this moment. I’ll tell you, a warehouse on the east end.”

“Who has her?” Ian questioned.

“I don’t know that,” Phillip replied. “Not important. What I do know is that she is waiting right there right now, but if you don’t come with me right now, they’re gonna move her again, and there’s no way of telling where she’ll end up. We gotta hurry.”

A few members of the crew looked at each other with wary expressions. It seemed a very convenient offer. “What about you?” Aria asked, turning to Josiah.

“Listen,” Josiah grumbled. “I’m not going to tell you I know where she is. In all likelihood, she’s been dead for a week. But there’s one thing I do know. I know who’s behind all this.”

“Who?” Lilly asked.

Josiah glanced from left to right again, and leaned in close. “The government,” he said. “It has their fingerprints all over it. And I know that our brave General Fisher, district marshall for the whole eastern coast, was not home that night. His staff claims he was, but his hounds were gone, and he always brings them with him. I have strong reason to believe that the government is involved and that General Fisher is involved. If you can get into his mansion, I am sure you will find proof, and hopefully clues as to where this girl was taken.”

“Listen, that’s all well and good,” Phillip said. “But I know where she is right now, and she won’t be there forever, yeah? This is a limited time offer.”

“A word, gentlemen?” Aria said to the other members of her group. They turned away and formed a huddle. “I don’t think I trust this Phillip guy. He seems entirely too eager.”

“Yeah,” Connor said. “It could be a trap.”

“And Josiah’s story fits with the rumors we’ve heard,” Lilly pointed out. “About the government. And he’s nervous about it. Someone lying would try to look more calm. Like that guy.” She looked over at Phillip and waved. “Yeah, he’s no good.”

“Are we all agreed?” Ian asked, and when the others nodded their assent, he turned to Noah. “We’re going to investigate General Fisher.”

“Your funeral, friend,” Phillip said. “I only hope it doesn’t turn out to be the girl’s as well.”

“Be careful,” Josiah said. “He’s a dangerous man with a vindictive streak. If you are caught, you will be pursued mercilessly. You would be wise to sneak in and out with nobody ever knowing you were there.” He looked around once again. “I should be leaving,” he announced, and scurried off.

“Us too,” Aria said. “It will be sunset by the time we reach General Fisher’s mansion. Can you offer any help, Simonson?”

The Mongrel leader shook his head. “My men are skilled, but not equipped or trained for this level of work. Besides, the General would love an excuse to purge the city of us. This is up to you.”

•••

The General’s mansion was impressive, especially given its location in the middle of the city. The estate grounds were extensive, with one half comprising the mansion and assorted buildings, and the other half a barracks and staging ground for local troops. That area was too heavily patrolled to sneak in through, so they kept their focus on the mansion.

The building was impressive, a massive brick structure many stories tall, covered with windows and stately arches, and lined with gas lights that made the building stand out almost magically against the sunset sky. It was as much a monument to the power and status of the military as it was a home. The main structure appeared to be five stories tall, with a tower-like central section rising a further five stories into the air. Two wings on either side connected the main house with other structures. Their intel said that the eastern wing was dedicated to servant’s quarters and record-keeping, while the west wing served as housing and offices for Fisher’s officers. The tower in the middle was Fisher’s private office and headquarters. If there was anything to find, it would be held there.

Our heroes arrived at the front of the mansion, looking up at the impressive structure. The perimeter fence was made of wrought iron with a  brick base, tall but climbable. There was a paved path leading straight from the gate to the front door, with a garage on their left and stables on their right.

“So, what’s our plan?” Aria said. “I’d like to steal some stuff, quite frankly, but that’s probably not viable. Should we disguise ourselves as servants?”

“I do love disguises,” Lilly said. “But that won’t work here. The Fisher place is hard to scam. General Fisher’s personal security force is small but well-trained, as is his staff. They all know each other very well, practically family. We won’t get far that way.”

“Oh, yes, that’s right,” Aria said. “I’d forgotten.”

“Looks like it’s a straight infiltration,” Connor said. “Sounds like a job for you and me, lady,” he said, nodding toward Aria. “We’re the stealthiest.”

“Let me come,” Drake interjected. “My skills could be very useful.” Connor looked the young man up and down and cocked his head.

“All right, just stay close and be quiet,” he growled.

“What are we going to do?” Lilly asked. “I’m not about to sit around like a slug while you guys have all the fun.”

“What did you have in mind?” Aria asked.

“Distraction. Commotion. Conflagration.”

“What?” Connor asked.

Lilly sighed. “See those stables? I want to set them on fire. Loose horses and drakes running around, hay catching fire, pure pandemonium. You could probably swipe the General’s knickers, he’d be so busy.”

“It will also draw suspicion,” Ian cautioned. “You don’t get to be a General without a healthy dose of skepticism and paranoia.”

“It would be better to avoid leaving any trace,” Connor said. “But it would be a good idea to have a backup. How about you go to the stables, and Ian hits up the garage. Be ready to work some mischief. We can use the morse headsets to signal you if necessary.”

“Sounds like a plan,” Aria said. “Keep an eye out for patrols. There’s a guard by the front door there, so we’ll have to go around to the side, probably the servant’s side. Ian and Lilly can hop the fence with their buildings as cover.”

The others nodded, and after working out a code for the morse sets, they broke apart, the strike team following the fence to the right, and Ian and Lilly moving into their respective transitions. The sky burned with the sunset overhead, giving the red bricks an unnaturally ruddy glow. Fireflies danced in the shadows, accompanied by the chirp of crickets. TIme to move.

Aria hopped the fence first, vaulting over and landing softly on the thick grass. Connor followed, clearing the iron fence in a single bound and flipping over it adroitly. He grinned grotesquely at Aria, then helped Drake over, who was not nearly so adept at acrobatics. Aria rolled her eyes and gave a quick tap on her headset, signaling they were in. Ian tried to clear the fence but failed, falling back about halfway up. Lilly tried, but went too quickly, and slipped, falling back to the sidewalk and rattling the fence as she fell.

The noise was slight, but noticeable. So was the growl that came from the darkness to the north. The growling was followed by snuffling and curious, low, hollow baying, like someone blowing across the mouth of a jug. only a hundred times louder. It was close. The members of the infiltration team could hide, but that would be useless against dogs, and especially hellhounds, which they suspected Fisher used. They had no choice but to retreat back over the fence they had just come over.

Aria and Connor leaped easily, but Drake floundered, and there was no time to get help from Connor. Desperate, he focused his mind and hoisted himself into the air with telekinesis, as if picked up by a giant invisible hand. They ducked behind the brick base of the fence just in time.

A guard wearing heavy armor and leather padding followed two hellhounds. The beasts were dark, with matted fur resembling scales. Their eyes burned like coals, and as they breathed, light flared in the depths of their throats like that of a furnace. The hounds were eager, but fortunately passed by without noticing the intruders, continuing on toward the front of the house by the stables.

The invaders decided to move further north and climb the fence again, now that the hound patrol had passed. They crossed the fence again, though Drake had to use his powers once again to steady his landing.

The dogs continued on their way, following the front of the house, and when the moment was right, the other two members of the team made it over the fence more successfully. The hellhounds caught a hint of sound from Ian’s direction, and began making their way toward the garage.

Ian heard them coming and cursed under his breath. He made his way to the garage, hoping to find an entrance. The garage was quite large, and made of brick and concrete. The building was actually a hanger as well as a garage, as shown by the large bay doors and retractable sky-roof. It wasn’t large enough for true planes or even hot-air balloons, but there would likely be some small skycraft inside. Fortunately there was an access door on Ian’s side, and while he had no particular skills in lock-picking, his mechanical expertise allowed him to hijack the simple lock and slip inside. He locked the doors before the hellhounds reached him, and then looked around to see what goodies lay within.

Lilly was having less luck picking the lock on the stable doors. She had tried to pull the bolt using her magnetic powers, but after failing twice, she gave up and decided to try to get into a skylight instead. This proved easier, and she soon found herself standing in the middle of a confused bunch of horses. Smiling, she began to make preparations for chaos, praying she would get  the chance to use them.

The invasion team had resorted to similar tactics. After finding a door on the servant’s side, Aria tried to pick it, but this lock was more secure than the others had been, and she failed. Neither could Drake manipulate it enough. Connor spotted a slightly open window on the second floor, and run up the wall far enough to grasp the window sill. Pushing the window open carefully, he peeked inside to find an empty washroom. Success.

Drake had a small whip, and tossed one end up to Connor. Aria shimmied up while Connor held one end secure. Drake followed, but made some noise stepping against the side of the house. He fell in through the window just before a guard wandered out onto a balcony attached to the main house. Everyone held their breath. The guard looked around, noticing the open window, but did not seem particularly  alarmed. It was a bathroom window, after all. He wandered back inside, and Drake let out a sigh of relief.

“This is quite thrilling,” he whispered. “But I must confess my stomach is churning.”

“You get used to it, kiddo,” Aria replied.

Connor moved into the hallway carefully, keeping a close eye out for guards. Aria followed, then Drake. Unfortunately, Drake closed the door behind him out of habit. Aria winced.

A noise came from one of the rooms down the hall behind them. There was nowhere they could safely hide, so the invasion teem pressed themselves into doorways, trusting in the shadows to keep them hidden.

An old man clutching a candle shuffled out into the hallway, dressed in a nightgown and sleeping cap. He squinted badly, as though he were missing glasses, but he could apparently see well enough to know something was strange about the hallway. He took a few faltering steps, peering down the hall. If he kept going, he would spot them hiding there, glasses or no glasses.

Drake, thinking quickly, focused his mind and focused his mana again. A picture swung out from the wall behind the old man, and fell back with a small thump. When the servant turned to investigate, Drake stepped out and pressed the back of his staff to the man’s neck. The silver trim extended his touch, and allowed him to reach inside the man’s mind using telepathy.

It was nothing, he sent. Just wind. Go back to sleep. Take a lot of sleeping pills. Nothing to worry about here. Sleep. The man, drowsy as he was, took the suggestion, and toddled off back to his bedroom. A second later, they heard a thud as the man apparently crashed face-first into his mattress. Connor shrugged and moved on, but Aria gave the young magician an encouraging nod before holding her finger to his lips. Drake blushed and followed sheepishly.

They carried on and found themselves in a pantry overlooking a kitchen on the ground floor. Nobody was about about, just fancy new appliances glistening in the moonlight. Gas stoves, pneumatic chopping machines, even a refrigerator. The kitchen was large enough to service the entire mansion, and well-stocked for it. Stacks and stacks of dishes and pots and pans, cupboards everywhere, trays filled with silverware. There was a cabinet full of expensive liquors, and Aria helped herself to a few of the smaller bottles.

Connor stalked through the kitchen like a wolf. There was only one door leading the direction they needed to go, with a small window set in it. Connor used the mirror-polish of his Makara blade to sneak a look through the window. There was a short hall on the other side of the door, with a guard standing watch. It appeared to be the only way into the main house.

Drake beckoned Connor over to the side, pointing at an unusual panel in the wall. Connor came over, not expecting much. Some houses had panels like this as a way to access the different sorts of pipes in a house. It was too crowded to crawl through.

To his surprise, Drake opened the panel to reveal an empty space. “It’s a dumbwaiter,” he whispered. “My father has them in his hotels. You can send food up without having to climb all the stairs.”

“Like a tiny elevator,” Aria said.

“Exactly. I’ll bet it goes straight up to the fifth floor, and I’ll bet it connects with the main house.”

Connor inspected the box within. “It’s too small for any of us to fit in,” he said.

“But the shaft isn’t,” Aria answered. We’ll lower the box, and then one of us can stand on top and get lifted up.”

“You go first,” Connor said. “You’re light and a lot stealthier than the kid.”

“Be careful,” Drake cautioned. “Try to put as little weight on the box as you can. And there’s probably a bell to signal when it reaches the top, so don’t let that ring.”

“What, you don’t think they’ll be happy to see me instead of supper?” Aria grinned, and pulled the box down. She then wriggled her way into the shaft. Connor began hauling on the rope with strong, smooth pulls. He stopped when he felt a distinct wobble, indicating Aria was at the top. They repeated the process with Drake, but Connor was too heavy, and he had to resort to spider-climbing the inside of the shaft. It was a difficult task, but Connor made it look easy enough.

Meanwhile, Ian was having a ball in the garage. Whistling merrily to himself, he strolled among the different cars and aircraft. There were some fancy cars, several jeeps and trucks, two skywings (the aeronautical equivalent of the motorcycle) and an ultralight gyrocopter. Ian approached this last machine and gleefully hotwired it so that it could be started at a moment’s notice. He then did the same for the skyroof. That ready, he turned his thoughts to creating a distraction, and whipped up a little contraption involving a spark plug, a remote detonator, and a natural gas pipeline. If he had to blow it, it would look like an accident. And the explosion would be large enough that nobody would notice a missing machine. He took a seat on the gyrocopter and waited, grinning.

Inside the mansion, the strike force reached the central mansion. Here on the top floor, rooms surrounded the periphery, ringed by a hall. On the inside of the track was the tower section. From where they were, they could see only one door, directly ahead. It looked to be heavily reinforced, and the lock was complicated.

Seeing nobody around, Aria began trying to pick the lock, but she hadn’t gotten far when they heard footsteps approaching from their right. It had to be a guard on patrol. Aria immediately began putting away her tools, but everyone knew there wasn’t time to retreat, and there was nowhere to hide up here.

Connor leaned close to Drake. “I’ll trip him, you grab him,” he whispered. “Get in his mind and send him elsewhere.” Drake nodded and took up a position at the corner, ready to ambush the guard when he came around.

Three… two… one. Connor stuck out his leg, but this was no half-asleep rookie. The man reacted almost instantly, taking a big step to clear the outstretched leg. The unexpected movement made him clumsy, but he was still standing, stumbling toward the wall in front of him. Drake lunged, but in his haste tripped and only managed to grab onto the guard’s legs. The motion did trip up the man enough to make him crash fully into the wall.

Aria, seeing things go sour, leapt into action. She drew her mechanical bow and opened it with a snap of her wrist. “Try to avoid leaving a mark,” she hissed, then used her bowstring as a garrote around the guard’s neck.

However, the man was fast and strong, and grabbed ahold of the bow. With a spin, he tossed Aria to one side, causing her to trip over Drake. Connor whipped out his wakizashi, and raised it overhead to smash the guard on the head with the pommel. The man caught Connor’s hands with crossed arms before he fell, and kicked a foot free of Drake’s grasp to push Connor backward. Connor stumbled and hit his back against the wall.

Seizing a moment of breathing room, the guard tucked into a roll, somersaulting over Drake’s back and landing in a crouch on the other side. He had barely cleared the maneuver when Aria’s boomerang took him in the back of the head, leaving him dazed. He stumbled to his feet and drew his sword, but looked a little disoriented.

Connor charged in and pressed the assault, all hopes of stealthy takedown abandoned. Now they just needed to bring him down before he raised the alarm. Connor traded blows with the man. Both were skilled fighters, but the guard was dazed and outnumbered. Drake used telekinesis to further hinder the man’s attempts to move, and Connor finally triumphed. When the guard tried a desperate lunge, Connor parried to the side, then wrapped a hand around the guard’s neck and slammed his head into the wall. The guard fell still, and the three invaders stood in silence for a moment, out of breath but not daring to breathe. When they heard no sounds of alarm, they finally let out a sigh.

“We may still be able to disguise this,” Aria said. She pulled out one of the bottles of expensive liquor and poured some over the man, leaving the bottle in his hands. “I don’t know if they’ll buy it, but it will at least cloud things.”

“What if we threw him down the dumbwaiter shaft?” Drake asked. “Nobody would find him until morning at the soonest.”

“We don’t know that,” Aria answered. “Besides, then there would be definite suspicion. There’s a chance they might believe this.” She ran her fingers over the dent in the wall.

“I suppose,” Drake said. “Let’s be out quick, then. Somebody is likely to come by here before long.”

“Agreed,” Connor said. Returning to the door, Aria began to pick the lock.

After a few moments of quiet work, there was a click, and the door seemed to relax as the deadbolt retracted. Aria let out a sigh of relief. “Here goes nothing,” she said.

•••

This is where we ended this session. Bit of a cliffhanger, but that’s where they decided to stop. Drake’s skills are not exactly geared to this, but he managed to hold his own at the cost of his mana. Hopefully he won’t need that anytime soon. Mwahahaha.

This was the first true fight against an opponent that our heroes have been in. They got a couple of scratches, but emerged victorious. It was three on one, after all. However, they are likely going to face some much more dangerous foes soon.

You remember that guard on the balcony when they first snuck into the house? They got quite lucky. During the battle with the guard, I was rolling to see if he would detect the noises. If he had, he would have joined the fight and probably raised the alarm. As it was, I got epic failures and similarly bad rolls the whole time. Now we’ll just have to see if they can get out of the mansion alive…

(Note: I had to take more liberty with the dialogue than I usually do, but i don’t think the players will mind.)

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