22: Red Rain

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When It Happened (Chronicle Time): July 5-6, 2003

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

What It Was

As New York reels from a day of violence and bloodshed, the Aces dare to defy Thomas Donnelly. Calling on every ally, the Aces mount a bloody, hard-fought defense of the Renaissance, in what may prove to be their final stand.

The Full Horror

New York is in chaos. Post-9/11 counter-terrorist plans are failing, and emergency crews throughout the City are stretched to their limits. The cellphone network has collapsed once again, and every television and radio station is broadcasting on emergency channels, begging the people of New York to obey the curfew.

New Yorkers are frightened, but more than that, they are furious. Once again, their City is in pain, but this time the enemy is still in their midst, and many citizens are in the streets, determined to strike back. There are reports of "blue men" in several neighborhoods, and the dozens of citizens who challenged them now lie in beds at the Cornell Weill Medical Center Burn Unit, now only fighting to survive.

The NYPD and NYFD are heroes once again, but they need the support of the National Guard. That help should have arrived within minutes, but it is still not there at day's end. Even harder to explain is the lack of air support. No helicopters and no planes are in the sky to help rescue and response efforts, and that only makes things worse for police and fire.

Then, by late afternoon, more bad news as reports of "snake men" start coming from East Harlem and the Upper East Side. The serpents don't seem to be targeting civilians, but they are brutal to any who try to attack them.

Meanwhile, the Aces prepare for the fight they know is coming.

Fort Apache: The Renaissance

In the four hours they have, the Aces turn the Renaissance into a bunker. With the help of Michel Borsavin and Cassandra Moon, Yukio sets up Wards in CentCom (Mark's office) and the secret passage where Jonathan still sits, made one with the orgone engine and the building itself. Luther and Michel stay down there, kept safe behind the Ward, along with Mark's files and enough supplies to last for several days.

Jamal Rashid and Tessa say they will each guard a side of the building, leaving the Aces free to focus on the Renny's north and south sides.

As the hours tick by, the Aces discuss strategy, set traps, and back George's cab, Lucy, into the front lobby. They pour cooking oil over doorknobs and in front of doorways. They move furniture to block doors, and fill hallways with furniture to make killing zones. They position fire extinguishers to be blown up as Saints pass by. They move a refrigerator to the top of the grand stairway to give cover when defending the main lobby. Yukio and Michel contact the Renny's remaining spirits, asking them to be ready to spy on the enemy. Mark hands out headsets to everyone to keep them in contact throughout the fight. And everyone memorizes the escape plan, such as it is.

As twilight begins to fall, George heads up to the roof with Hakim, one of the Renny's guards. From there he can see, in the distance, flashes of blue: uranur, crackling over the bodies of the Saints as they close relentlessly on the Renaissance. Silently he begins gathering Essence, and lights a cigarette-the first of what will probably be many, assuming he survives the night.

Beneath his feet, everyone takes his or her place. Mark will stay in CentCom, but everyone else heads for the second floor, which will be easier to defend. Guns are checked. Molotovs are arranged. Wards are raised.

They don't have long to wait. Within minutes the Saints begin assembling right in front of the building. But they aren't alone. Even as the Saints fan out along the south wall, a cluster of green serpents steps out from the shadows. Green, like those the Aces saw during the attack on Ken's apartment, and not the black serpents they've fought ever since. The Saints and serpents eye one another carefully, and a handful on both sides even trade some blows. But then both groups turn to watch an even larger group coming from the north: dozens of average citizens, backed by the New Black Panthers and Harlem's hardest gang-bangers, all here at Jamal's request to defend their neighborhoods and their City. Everyone knows now how big this fight is going to be.

Meanwhile, Detective Alan Wingate is doing everything he can to get back to Manhattan, but twilight finds him stuck in traffic on the Madison Avenue Bridge, four blocks east of the Renaissance and a few more from the 32nd Precinct. Ditching his car, he runs down the street, punching his cellphone for the outside line into CentCom. Mark picks up the phone, and Alan lets him know he's on the way. Alan finally gets past the traffic jam, and commandeers a car.

The 32nd Precinct has been in an uproar ever since Mark called Sgt. Michael Webster and told him what was about to happen. By the time Alan arrives, Webster is trying to call in every officer he can, but with crises throughout the City, most are already tied down. Fortunately, Webster knows Alan, and lets him leave with a three-man SWAT team while the rest of the precinct gets ready to head out behind them.

And that's when everyone sees George's sign.

It's big, it's flashy, and it's impossible to miss: a gigantic arrow in the sky pointing down toward the Renny with the words "BOMBERS HERE." Had they still been alive, the Sleepers would be outraged, but as George yelled to Donnelly before he made the Invocation: "You broke the Veil first!"

George flicks his cigarette away toward the Saints below, and ducks back as they open fire on the Renny. He can feel vibrations through the roof as the intercom starts blasting Prince, right on cue: "Let's Go Crazy."

The Saints' assault begins just as fast and hard as the Aces feared. While the south side comes under heavy fire, three teams attack from the north. Things might have gone much worse if George and Hakim had not gone up to the roof. Now they can see two grappling hooks catch on the north-side parapet. They rush over, just as one of the hooks slips and falls. After some desperate but slight cuts with a knife, George manages to melt the rope attached to the other hook with his lighter. The rope falls. The Saints have had their first set-back since coming to the City.

A vicious gunfight breaks out along the north wall as the guards, Stu and Zeke, and Seema Mukharji open fire on the Saints below. Ken runs to help, and Seema-with a brilliant shot-shoots a battering ram out of a Saint's hands before he can slam it against the door.

On the south side, Yukio hurls Molotovs down on the Saints while Latrell dodges bullets and returns fire as much as he can. They manage to hold the Saints back for a while, but a team is able to get to the grand entrance and with two tremendous swings of a battering ram, the Saints smash in the Renny's front door.

Three Saints rush into the front lobby, slicing the pie with practiced SWAT tactics-and not slipping at all on the pool of cooking oil under their feet. Suddenly Lucy's doors fly open, pulling the pins on two grenades. The explosions hurt the Saints, who open fire on the taxi, riddling it with bullets until the engine block cracks.

But Mark and his assault rifle are already at the CentCom door. He kicks it open and unloads an entire magazine, shredding two of the Saints, and then falls back before the third can react. They're giving Donnelly's men a harder welcome than TNI did, but Mark knows another team is already rushing the front entrance, and he makes the call for everyone to fall back.

Indeed, the Saints are already raising the pressure, unleashing a fusillade of uranur-fire, the blue crackling blasts slamming against the north and south walls. Seema is hit twice. She manages to hold her position, but it's clear the Saints are taking them much more seriously now.

As Mark kills the CentCom systems, he notices that the signals from the cameras on the west and east sides-the ones defended by Jamal and Tessa-are distorted or completely overloaded. Whatever Jamal and Tessa are doing, the cameras can't handle it.

Caught up in their own survival, none of the Renny's defenders can see or hear the war raging around them. Saints, serpents, Panthers and gang-bangers smash, rip and shoot one another to pieces. By the time Alan Wingate and the rest of the 32nd Precinct arrive, they feel like they're cordoning off a war zone.

Mark warned Alan it would be dangerous to enter the Renny, so Alan leads his SWAT team around to the north in the hope of flanking the Saints.

Inside, things are looking grim. The north-side Saints have smashed in their door, and are moving through the furniture-packed hallway. They take hard casualties from two traps, but not enough to stop them. Meanwhile, more Saints pour into the main lobby. Mark retreats from CentCom, and he's barely down the hallway when the Saints burst through the lobby door and give chase. Mark takes cover behind a corner and keeps shooting, but the Saints charge anyway, trying to get within arms reach. Ken starts running to help him.

Mark charges around down the rest of the hallway, expecting the Saints to follow, but they stop at the corner and hold position, giving Mark time to make it the stairway where Ken is waiting for him. Everyone else is at the top of the grand stairway, taking cover behind the heavy railings and the refrigerator. The Aces have lost the first floor, but for now at least, they are in good position to hold the second. The Saints secure the first floor, and quiet settles over the Renny.

Outside, the battle rages on. When it began, the citizens, Panthers, and gang members outnumbered both serpents and Saints, but the "mundane" body count has been grievously high. The police, outnumbered by everyone, just do what they can to hold a perimeter. Alan, though, is moving in with his SWAT team. He radios Mark, who guides them to the northwest corner of the building, where they should be able to dodge the Saints, get to the roof, and join the defenders.

Mark and Alan are still talking when a familiar voice comes over the Renny's intercom: Thomas Donnelly. Mark realizes the Saints must have patched him into the system-from the noises in the background, Donnelly sounds like he's outside and, no doubt, at a safe distance from the fight.

"Mr. Donovin," he begins. "What is the point of all this? Does Luther Miles mean that much to you? Did Alex Abel really mean that much to you?" Mark replies that isn't the point. They are not going to let Donnelly get his hands on Luther.

"Mr. Donovin, we are serious men. You have done very well this day, but we both know what must happen if this goes on. I will make you a deal: hand over Luther Miles, and I give you my word, I will take my people out of this City. We can avoid any further deaths. I am even prepared to see to it that Ms. Moon's name is . . . misplaced. Let her be the last survivor of TNI. She's of little interest to me, and she clearly means a great deal to you. Take that as a sign of the respect you've earned today."

George breaks in to the conversation with a classic, American reply: "Nuts." That ends the negotiation, and the Aces prepare for another assault.

It's then that Michel, down in the basement and urging Jonathan to do something, finally sees the Ace's head tilt back. It's the first time anyone has seen Jonathan move since he took his place on the dais, and within a few minutes, everyone can feel a change in the air. The Renaissance's orgone field is getting stronger.

Yukio asks Michel to send one of the spirits to spy on the Saints, and the spirit brings back good news: the Saints have taken CentCom, but they aren't looking well. The rising orgone is hurting them.

As the Aces team up with Alan and the SWAT team, Donnelly is forced to order his men to withdraw. A few Saints retreat from the building and get away, but Alan agrees to throw away the book and order his snipers to take down as many as they can. The Aces make no apologies. Any Saint they can take down hurts Donnelly.

Exhausted and relieved, the defenders have held the line. They kept Luther alive, and beat back the Saints, something Alex Abel, with all his arrogance and all his resources, failed to do.

But as they walk out the front entrance, they see dozens of the dead and wounded, sprawled everywhere under the deep night sky. Panthers, gang members, police, and ordinary citizens. They defended New York. They defended Harlem. But the cost was high.

Jamal staggers up to join them, but when they go to check on Tessa, all they find is her white scarf, stained with blood.

There are no Saints to be seen-perhaps carried off by the others to make sure none would be left for an autopsy. And the serpents are already dissolving into the goo the Aces have seen before.

The police move in and secure the area, but Michael Webster makes sure the Renaissance and her defenders are left alone. Whatever comes next, for this night at least, they have earned a rest.

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