21: Journey's End

Previous Recap | Next Recap

When It Happened (Chronicle Time): July 4-5, 2003

Who Was There: George Phillapoussis (Storn), Mark Donovin (Eric), Nemura Kentaro (Chris), Yukio Ohta (Bob)

What It Was

Explosions rip across New York City as Thomas Donnelly and his uranur-charged Saints wipe out the Occult Underground and close in on Alex Abel and The New Inquisition. While police and fire struggle to restore order, the Aces rescue Abel's son, Luther, and bring him back to the Renaissance. After a tense debate, the Aces decide to stand their ground, and as twilight falls they find themselves surrounded, not only by the Saints, but green serpents as well.


Yukio returns from self-imposed isolation, having at last finished his book of 9/11-related poetry. Alan Wingate, meanwhile, goes on an extended vacation from New York so he can sort out how his new Gift will change his life.

Now that the Solstice has passed, New York is quiet once again. The Faeries have gone underground, recovering from the hang-over after their wild return to the mundane world.

The Reich Institute has retrenched in Ann Arbor. The Houghton facility has been shuttered, and its staff and their equipment have been transferred to a large, unused wing in the Ann Arbor labs. Now Ken Inada and Bill Anderson are doing everything they can to keep a low profile.

The Institute sends the Aces two handheld devices which can detect orgone and uranur.

The Full Horror

At 9pm on July 4, 2003, the Aces have a sudden premonition, and Mark realizes it's almost exactly ten weeks after his encounter with Thomas Donnelly in CentCom. The Aces decide to check on people with ties to TNI, but when they try to reach Lesek Czernin, his phone is dead. The Aces immediately go on alert.

Cassandra, Tamara, and Seema are already at the Renaissance, but the call goes out to Michel Borsavin, Jamal Rashid and the three guards (Hakim, Zeke, and Stu) to gather at the Renny as soon as possible. Yukio makes a quick stop at the Abyssinian Baptist Church and asks James Robertson if strangers have been seen in the neighborhood. James says yes, several men clad in long red leather jackets. James' description matches the serpent man who attacked Mark.

Cassandra is trying to hide it, but she's terrified. The Aces give her a cellphone in case of an emergency, and say she should come with them when they go check on Czernin's apartment.

Just before they leave, Mark takes a moment to go talk to Tamara. While they shyly dance around the real topic, Tamara tells Mark she's found plans for a device in the Tesla journals that reminds her a lot of Wilhelm Reich's "cloudbuster." It might be an important step toward developing an orgone gun. After a few minutes of that, the two finally make up and plan on a date-provided they survive what's about to come.

When everyone is assembled at the Renaissance, George, Mark, Ken, Yukio, and Cassandra head for Czernin's apartment in Greenwich Village. They find it dark. Both windows and the door have been broken in, and there's evidence of a major battle in the living room. All Czernin's objets-d'arts, his sculptures, his paintings, lie smashed and slashed on the floor, and there are blood stains on the walls. Fetishes are scattered everywhere, drained of Essence when Czernin used them to cast spells against the invaders. Mark has a vision of the battle, and says Czernin killed one of them before the others beat him unconscious and carried him down to their waiting car. The Aces search the apartment and take what occult artifacts remain because they know Czernin will never be coming back.

A Drink Before the War

Next the Aces go to see Katsoulakis. Nico greets them at the door and says he's on the roof. Even George hasn't been up there before. They take the elevator up to a greenhouse that covers half the roof. The plants grown there are wonderfully exotic, cultivated for their sheer beauty or for some occult use (mandrake, monkshood, belladonna, etc.).

Every flat surface up there has warding symbols on it, and on second glance, the Aces notice that they have been embossed, inlaid, etched, or fused into the glass, steel, brick, or roofing itself.

Katsoulakis stands at the far end under the open sky, looking south toward Mid-town. There is a small table next to him, and the Aces are not surprised to see six glasses are already there. As they walk up, Katsoulakis says, "Abel dies tonight."

He pours ouzo and hands each of them a glass. "This is your bastard, isn't it? The priest. He does this in my City, and yours." He looks out again. "But the Underground were always fools, and this is no longer a place for amateurs."

The Aces say that would apply at least as well to them, but Katsoulakis shakes his head. "I brought you into this world. That gives you status they never had."

Mark asks what they should do now, and Katsoulakis replies, "Protect your own. You are 'mine,' of course, but you have others now. Your own to protect, as men should."

"But I have some experience in these things, gentlemen. I've found that if you show a bastard you *will* defend your people, he will back off and leave them be. But if you take that path, you will need to trade blows to make the point. Or you can your other path, and leave."

The Aces protest, but Katsoulakis interrupts, "Don't let pride get in the way. Retreat is always an option. You choose another day and take the fight back to him. Remember, your people are a target now because you are here and any strike at you hits them too."

"But I trust you to decide what is best for you. Only remember this: I can give you safe passage to any port in the world, within hours, if you need it."

The Aces, Yukio, and Cassandra thank him, and head back to the Renaissance. Everyone can sense something is about to happen, but they've done all they can to prepare for it, so they try to get some rest. George sets up a chair in front of Cassandra's door and sleeps there until dawn.

Death in the Morning

At precisely 9:02am, five explosions rip across Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn and Jersey City. Everyone in the Renny watches in horror as police and fire crews respond as quickly as they can. Unfortunately, as the 9/11 Commission will show a year later, the new protocols are not up to the job, and communications and logistics quickly begin to snarl. By 10am, ambulance and paramedic crews are overwhelmed, and many emergency rooms are at capacity. By mid-day, hospitals are desperate for blood supplies. New Yorkers have gathered at every site, helping to clear away debris and rescue the wounded, something they know how to do all too well.

But there's more: at locations throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn, members of the Occult Underground have been left burned at stakes in front of several landmarks: the Guggenheim, the Met, the Chrysler, the Empire State. At the top of each stake is a sign bearing the word stultus, Latin for "fool." As news cameras pan over the bodies (FCC regulations forgotten in the chaos), the Aces recognize Lesek Czernin and Lady Margaret Jameson among the bodies.

Cassandra whispers, "Everybody, everybody who knew-." She bolts for the bathroom, stumbles and falls to the ground, already losing her breakfast. The Aces help calm her down, and say she should join Michel and Tamara downstairs where it's safer.

Most New Yorkers are not frightened that day. They are furious to see their city hurt again. But for now they channel their anger to help one another. Meanwhile, there are reports from across the City of men "crackling with some kind of blue fire." The police try to catch up with them, but they aren't fast enough. All day, sirens wail throughout the five boroughs.

A Final Request

The Aces are still trying to take in all the news reports, when the phone rings in CentCom. When Mark picks it up, a wail of static erupts from the phone, loud enough to break the speaker. Then comes a hammering at the front door.

The surveillance cameras show a man is lying on the stoop, near death from extensive burns and a massive gunshot wound in the chest. They quickly bring him inside, and the Aces recognize him as Eponymous, Alex Abel's personal bodyguard.

Eponymous grabs Yukio's shirt front and, gasping, tells him to do whatever he must to keep him talking. But then all he can get out are the words: "You. Abel. Luther. Prospect Street. Jersey City. Hideaway." Eponymous goes into cardiac arrest, and despite Ken's best efforts, the man is dead in seconds. George runs to get Michel, while Yukio holds Eponymous' spirit. Borsavin arrives, and at Yukio's request, he lets the spirit possess him.

Eponymous has a grim story to tell. TNI had six safehouses left in New York. The explosions instantly leveled five of them. News of the attacks stunned Eponymous and the other guards at the sixth house just long enough for a dozen "Saints" to breach their perimeter. By the time they recovered, the Saints were storming the doors and windows. His description of the Saints leaves no doubt they were seething with uranur.

Wielding uranur blasts and SIG-Sauers, the Saints fell on the fifty men left in TNI's last safehouse. Eponymous sighs, "If I had the guys I had a year ago, we might a' done all right, but they've been picking us off for a year now. All I had were accountants, wonks. They tore right into us, and anytime their guys got close, our guys doubled over, got sick, tossed their lunch." Worse, the Saints' uranur also protected them against physical attack, much like Essence Shields.

"They were just...cruel. When they knew they had us, they started crushing guys' hands before they shot 'em. That's when Abel told me Plan Omega. Tried to say no, but you can't say that to Abel. He was ready. I was a soldier. I did what I was told. Shot my way out. Had to leave my guys behind, every one of 'em getting ripped apart. But I had to come here. Tell you Abel wants you to go there. Get Luther. Keep his kid alive, and get him out of this. Make sure he doesn't pay for the mistakes his dad made. Abel said he'd make it. Put the kid in a 'Hideaway'-said you'd know what that is. Abel used some kind of fetish to pull it off. Guess he'd been planning it for a while."

"Abel got his wife, Ella, overseas. Not sure where, but he said you guys would be able to find her." Eponymous shakes his head. "We fucked up with you guys. Abel's the smartest guy I ever saw, but we fucked up with you. Should a' let you in. Hell, should a' asked you to let us in."

Eponymous tries to answer a few questions, but he's said what he knows, and Yukio lets him pass to whatever fate awaits him.

Last Act

Mark, Ken, Yukio, George, and Cassandra pile into Lucy-the-cab and Mark's black van and head for Jersey City. The news reports show a city in chaos. Worse, the Weill Cornell Medical Center's Burn Unit has gone into overdrive. They hear Ken's colleague, Dr. Amir Hourani, say the center is trying to help victims suffering from "terrible burns unlike any we've seen."

The Aces find the right address, an office building about a quarter of a mile south of the two Jersey City sites that blew up earlier that morning. They can see the rescue crews in the distance. The Aces have no time for subtlety. They back the van and the taxi up to the building and do a perimeter sweep. The windows are shattered, the doors battered in, and blood stains the lawn.

It's dark inside, except for a strange flickering coming from what is probably a conference room. It looks like the flash of a television set.

The tang of blood and fear and burned flesh hits them as they head inside. What they find is horrific. The office building had been hurriedly remade as a bunker, with food, water, and weapons stashed everywhere they could fit. Boards had been nailed over doors and windows. Now those boards lay shattered on the ground.

There are nearly fifty people, all dead from massive burns and point-blank gunshot wounds. From the look of them, Mark can see Eponymous was right: these weren't soldiers. Abel must have lost his best warriors long ago.

As expected, the flickering comes from a conference room, and when Mark looks in, he sees another hellish spectacle. In the middle of the room, Alex Abel is strapped into a chair. He's a bloody mess, his body slumped forward from a final gunshot at close range, back of the head. A tray beside him holds bloody metal instruments.

There's a digital camera on a tripod in front of him, and four monitors arrayed so he would have to watch himself getting worked over. The digital camera is still connected to a bank of recorders, and the monitors are repeating a recording of Abel's last hours, Mark can see Donnelly in the video. It looks like he made several copies of the recording.

There's also something written on a dry-erase board on the wall. Something in Latin: "Omnes enim qui acceperint gladium gladio peribunt."

But what finally takes Mark's attention are the three heads sitting on a table a few feet away from Abel.

The Aces later find out these were Abel's last lieutenants. And that the Latin phrase is from Matthew 26: 52: "All who take the sword will die by the sword."

Papers scattered across the floor include every one of TNI's secrets, and a complete list of its members. The Saints knew everything in the end. Mark shuts down the monitors, takes the last DVD recording, gathers up the papers, and leaves the room.

Meanwhile, the others are searching the rest of the building for Luther. In one room, George comes across a deck of cards, sitting in plain sight on a table. He picks it up and when he shuffles through them he finds fifteen cards covered in a numeric code. He pockets them, guessing the code should only take him a couple of hours to decipher.

They find Luther in an office supply room, knocked out with some kind of sleeping drug, but healthy and unharmed. Not wanting him to wake up in that place, they gently carry him out.

Mark is barely outside when he sees two men across the street . The two are just standing there, watching, as blue electricity coruscates over their bodies. Mark slips Luther into the van and gives them an ironic salute as everyone piles into the van and taxi and take off fast, back to the Renaissance.


There are more reports of "blue men" on the way back, and now also stories about "snake men." People are starting to panic. When the group gets back to the Renny, Jamal greets them and says, "Twilight. If it happens, it will be at twilight."

Twilight is four hours away, and the Aces spend it deciding what they will do. George is for making a retreat, but Mark and Ken believe their best chance is to stay. Eventually they agree to make their stand at the Renny.

Most of the preparations are already done, so George spends some of the time deciphering the code on the cards. It turns out to be a last message for them from Abel:

"Hoping you never read this, but know you will. Known it for a year now, since the attacks started. Hear my people grumbling, I was a fool. I should have listened. They were right. Doesn't matter now. Make sure you learn from my mistakes.

"Thought we knew enough. Wrong. Not enough. Giving it to you now. Maybe you know it already. You, ahead of me again. Czernin said happened a lot. Something else I got too late. Maybe get lucky, though, have something here you don't know.

"If you have this, E got to you. If you listened. If you said yes. If *he* is with you. Then my thanks. My real thanks. This here is all the help I can give now, but you have it. Plus apology.

"Donnelly. Out of my league. Spent my life making sure never have to say that. Ending it saying it anyway. Out of my league. Hoping not out of yours.

"What I know: Donnelly. His agents: Saints. Their patron: Opus Dei. O.D. has Special Council, only top people know. Deep, deep cover. Made Donnelly their man, funding, resources. He might have his own agenda, but they run show. Special Council's location uncertain. Not usual places. Not Rome. Not Spain. We checked. Maybe on the move.

"You're thinking S.C. new Player in the Game. Wrong. Been at table before I knew there was one. Made sure I never got seat.

"Something else: Last loose end: Not sure how fits in Game, but source not related to O.D. intel.
There is something in Scotland. Not sure what. We have a number: 1913. And a word: Mohabyn.

"Now you have what we have. Going to lose everything else. One thing left: *Him* Thought I could protect him. Can't. Get him somewhere safe. Please. Wherever that is, leave him there and don't look back. He never asked for this. You know and I know this life not for him.

Strength. AA"

As the last hours tick away, the Aces make some last, but crucial, preparations:

- They contact Nico, and ask him to try tracking down Ella Miles, Luther's mother.

- Ken starts experimenting with the "rat ring" he recovered from Virginia de la Poer.

- Jamal contacts Malik Shabazz and the New Black Panthers to tell them Harlem is about to be attacked.

- And Ken calls Kaori to tell her to flee back to Inwood Hill Park and take refuge with the

Faerie in Arcadia until the Aces can come for her.

Jamal is right. As the sun sets, there is tension in the air, even above the reassurance of the Renny's orgone field.

They have to strain to see them at first. Maybe just nerves playing tricks. But then there is a definite blue flash from far down the street. Then another. Then another. Not a hundred. But not a handful either. All heading for the Renny.

Then there's something else. A slithering, a familiar sound. Serpents. Green serpents, clad in red leather, also closing on the Renny. At first the Aces wonder if they are allies, but there are a few skirmishes as the two groups come up and surround the building.

From out of the crowd they hear Donnelly call, "Gentleman. I think you have someone who belongs to me."

The Aces look at one another and ask, "What now?" And from behind them comes the reply, "Well. Whatever you do, I would do it quick."

Blonde hair. Long white coat. Tessa. The Aces are glad she'll have their back, but if she's there, they have to wonder if things are even worse than they thought.

Previous Recap | Next Recap | Updated 3/19/12, by the Croupier