23 After the Rain

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When It Happened (Chronicle Time): July 6, 2003 - July 16, 2003

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

What It Was

While the city and state governments respond to the crisis in New York, the Aces recover and assess what they know: 1) The Occult Underground has been completely wiped out; 2) Tessa left the Renny voluntarily with a group of green serpents; 3) Something has to be done to protect Abel's son. The Aces manage to take care of the last problem, at least, by asking Jamal to look after Luther. Then, after meeting a man named Derek Cross, and having a momentous talk with Katsoulakis, they decide it's time to take the fight to Scotland. But not before Yukio makes a surprising announcement.

The Full Horror

The National Guard finally shows up around 6am and puts New York under lockdown. News reports calm down after that, but their restraint only means rumors on the street get wilder.

Homeland Security reins in the national media. That's supposed to mean nothing of substance gets reported until officials can get a handle on things. But this time around, everyone has video footage, and there are too many copies floating around for the Feds to confiscate. The video clips are blurry and from a distance (if anyone got near enough for a close-up, they didn't live to tell about it). But the images are clear enough: several "blue men," three "lizard men," even a few goblins too distracted to conceal themselves from the cameras. And then there's the distant shot of the Renny glowing a bright yellow/orange. Not to mention several shots of George's big, magical arrow. The skeptics do their best, but it's already clear this is one story no one can dismiss. The country isn't panicking-not yet-but there's a general unease and disquiet, and no one knows what to do about it.

By the end of July 6th, there is still no word from the White House. New York's senators and congressmen issue a joint statement decrying "this tragic and unforgivable act of terrorism," but the "T" word seems an odd fit for . . . whatever this was . . . and the statement has little effect.

Closer to home, Mayor Bloomberg gives a harried press conference. There's not much more to say then, "We have things under control. We want everyone to stay inside so our brave men and women in uniform can do their jobs and keep us safe. I'll have more to tell you when I have more to tell you." But all things considered, the mayor is doing a decent job, and Giuliani gives an often-quoted interview to back him up. That helps to calm the City, but the peace is very fragile.

Bloomberg, Rangel, Sharpton, Giuliani, and both Clintons are in the streets before the end of the day, trying to comfort the people they meet, and doing what they can to speed up services. A few hours later Buscemi, de Niro, and other local celebrities start doing the same. They do this at considerable risk, and the press coverage of them is even more positive because tagging along with them is the only way news crews are able to get past the curfew.

The First Day

Meanwhile, at the Renaissance, Wingate keeps the NYPD at a distance, but their solid blue line around the neighborhood means nothing else will happen. Not that there's much for them to do. There is *no* looting in Harlem that day. The Panthers and gang bangers are allowed to slip away, and then the emergency crews move in. The body count outside the Renny is appalling. The Saints took their fallen with them, and the dead serpents are already goo, but there's plenty of heart-breaking evidence that the people of New York fought hard and well for their City, at great cost to their lives.

The curfew has shut down most traffic, but Ken gets Seema to the Weill Cornell Medical Center Burn Unit, where he stays to help her recover from uranur burns.

Lucy is in bad shape. The taxi took heavy damage from gunfire and grenades during the Saints' attack, and at first Michel can't detect a presence within her. Then he senses Lucy and Oleson, withdrawn and angry at being put in harm's way.

But a more immediate problem is what happened to Tessa. Mark slips into a trance and has a vision of Tessa near the end of the battle, facing a group of the green serpents. No one speaks, no one moves. Then words are exchanged. And then, amazingly, she agrees to leave with them.

That gives George an idea. They head up to the second-floor basketball court. George takes the line that normally supports a volleyball net, and ties one end of Tessa's scarf to it. Then he ties his Lucky Strike lighter to the other end and lets it hang, suspended over a map he's placed on the center of the free throw line. Drawing three symbols on the free-throw circle, George calls on the Greek goddesses to help him find Tessa. After trying a couple of maps, the lighter comes to a rest over the middle of the Atlantic. When they try eight hours later, it's near northern Europe, and eight hours after that, the lighter is definitely over the U.K. The Aces start making plans for Scotland.

The First Week

A few days pass, and the Aces are starting to get the Renny cleaned up, while emergency crews do the same everywhere else. The NYPD and the National Guard are coordinating reasonably well. Bloomberg holds another press conference to say he's assembling a blue-ribbon panel to review the attacks and explain why 9/11 protocols failed so terribly.

George eludes the curfew to visit Grant's Tomb (it looks like the Parthenon), and conduct a small ritual to thank the goddesses for their help. When he comes back, he finds a letter waiting for him from Daria Zannakis, even though the Post Office is barely up-and-running. She says she's writing, at Katsoulakis' request, to offer George some background about Hecate. She does so, then cautions him to be careful and always treat the goddess with respect.

Another, anonymous package arrives after that. Inside is a copy of the dvd of the last four hours of Alex Abel, the same footage that was on the disc the Aces found when they were there. Now that they have time to watch it, they easily recognize Donnelly as he mercilessly works Abel over. He never invokes the authority of the Church, but it's clear he believes he's acting on the Church's behalf. He gives Abel every detail of his plan to wipe out the "Occult Underground," actually using that phrase. It's hard to deny that, except for the Aces, Donnelly's plan was a resounding success.

The Aces ask Tamara and Cassandra to study the Renny security tapes that have footage of the green serpents. Can they learn anything from the styles of clothing the serpents are wearing?

Cassandra also takes time to talk with Luther, and ask him if he knew what his father might have planned if the worst happened. Luther has no idea, so the Aces debate what to do. Finally, they decide the best solution would be to ask Jamal to look after him. Jamal agrees to keep Luther safe, though he also insists on the right to tell the young man whatever he thinks Luther should know. The Aces agree, and Jamal escorts Luther out of the Renny.

Meanwhile, Carla has been gathering intel about Donnelly. Born in 1944 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Graduated Summa Cum Laude in biology from the University of Chicago in 1966. Ph.D. from Berkeley in 1972, then he drops off the map for a while. Turns up again in Boston at a Catholic seminary. By 1993, he was bishop of Grand Rapids, and stayed there until the Aces arrived in 2001. Had a reputation for taking on 'problem cases,' which is probably how he learned about Mark van Laaden and got him transferred to the Grand Rapids diocese in 1996. Despite her best efforts, Carla hasn't been able to get a fix on him after 2001-no bank accounts, no ATM withdrawals, no tax records--he's a total ghost.

Mark asks Carla to track down other priests Donnelly might have "trained." Did they travel anywhere after leaving Grand Rapids? Are Donnelly's former professors still alive? He also asks her to leak the intel they have on Donnelly to the media, but to do it carefully

The mayor's blue-ribbon panel, and a congressional inquiry both promised to be public, but a few days later, their chairs hold impromptu press conferences to announce that they'll only conduct closed-door sessions. There's a firestorm of protest by the media and citizens groups, but the chairs insist that 9/11 protocols give them no choice. In truth, neither political party wants to push hard on this issue because nobody knows what the panels are going to find, and if it turns out to be "blue men" and "goblins," well-what the hell are they going to do then? Everyone would love to drop the whole thing, but they know there's no way they can.

By now the curfew has been partially lifted, and the City is in tabloid hell, overrun with shady journalists willing to put anything they find on the airwaves or the web. The Faerie, at least, are back undercover, refusing to meet with outsiders, but their photo ops with New York photographers are controversial enough. Meanwhile, the national media has been running tapes of George's arrow, and skeptics calling it a "weather balloon" are getting laughed off the air. Several mics also picked up George yelling from the shadows, "You broke the Veil first," and speculation is running wild about what that might mean.

But now there's heat on Donnelly too. Apparently, the Abel dvd was sent to prominent occultists everywhere, and it wasn't long before copies fell into the hands of reporters. A week after that "60 Minutes" breaks the story, identifying Donnelly and showing footage of him crackling with uranur-though the press obviously has no idea what the "blue energy" is. A few days later, the Cardinal of New York insists Donnelly had been excommunicated in 2001 for grave sins, but only hours after his press conference, another story breaks that, in fact, Donnelly was never formally defrocked, nor excommunicated.

By the end of the week, Rome is besieged with questions, but the Magisterium bring the curtain down and refuse to comment. Coming in the wake of the priestly sex scandals, that seems to be the only thing the Church's public relations people can think to do. But the Aces note that none of the intel they have about Donnelly makes it into the news. His backers may still be too powerful to challenge.

But the Aces are starting to come up with addresses for offices in the New York area that may be giving Donnelly support. Getting them under surveillance and checking them out with uranur detectors may give them leads about how to find him. George notes that there are none of these offices in Scotland, or in the rest of England, though there is one in London. Tamara agrees to run some analyses of their intel to see if anything comes up. The Aces also ask her to cross-reference the offices with the New York subways to see if there's a pattern.

While Tamara's research will help, the Aces decide they really need a technical support expert now. Fortunately, they have friends at the Reich Institute. Seema recommends a tech named Jeff Bradshaw. Bradshaw has already seen some strange things, so he won't be a problem for the Aces (though his porn habit can be annoying). If they're planning some electronic warfare, Jeff is the right tech for it.

Derek Cross

Mark is napping one afternoon in CentCom when a voice calls his name. The voice says he means no harm, but suggests Mark grab a gun anyway before coming out to the lobby. When Mark gets there, he finds a man standing in dark clothes and a leather jacket, just lighting a cigarette. The man pulls the cigarette from his mouth, and raises his hands.

When Mark orders him to disarm, the man says, "Look, I'm going to move real slow. Keep that gun on me, but stay cool." He reaches to his collar and pulls up a medallion just like the one Tessa gave Mark. "I need to ask you: do you know where Tessa DiMarco is?"

Noting they finally know her last name, Marks says no, and the man shakes his head. "Neither do we." He looks around the lobby. "Nice place. Hell of a fight, I guess. I can see why she wanted to be here. But it's put a hell of a lot of things in motion. The Old Man says maybe even the Columbia Protocols, and no one ever expected to see those."

The man introduces himself as Derek Cross, and while he won't tell Mark exactly who he works for, he does say he and Tessa are fellow agents. When Mark asks if they're Templars, he shrugs, "How could I be? The Templars are dead."

Mark tries to insist, but Derek refuses to play along. "Look, Mark, the Templars are dead. I understand that you're going to keep asking questions about them. Fair enough. But you need to do it quietly and be careful who you ask. The Templars are dead. That's important and you need to remember it."

Derek leaves soon after, but his meeting with Mark is on the Renny's surveillance tapes, so the rest of the Aces are able to see it. They're struck that Derek Cross was willing to give his name to them up front. It confirms their gut feeling that they're working on a different level now.

Seeing Katsoulakis

A lot has happened in the past few days, so the Aces decide to see Katsoulakis and see how he's weathered the storm.

Niko greets them at the door, and he's looking relaxed and in good spirits. He tells them there was a stand-off with the Saints on the night of the attack, but "The Boss took care of it. I don't know how, and I don't want to know." Alexandra greets them in the hall, and asks how they are. She seems fine too. There's a mood in Katsoulakis' place that feels confident, even unconcerned.

Katsoulakis is in his office, with Miles Davis' 'Round About Midnight playing in the background. As the Aces walk in, he's already pulling out the ouzo. He asks them how the battle went, and they give a short account of it, then ask if Donnelly made a move against him as well.

"Yes, your priest sent men. I have already sent their pieces back to him. I don't know where he is, but-. It's an old ritual, George, perhaps one you will learn someday. Or perhaps not. You would probably find it unpleasant."

He asks about Luther, and when the Aces say they've asked Jamal to look after him, Katsoulakis nods. A good idea. He still wonders, though, whether Abel's son is really worth all the trouble. But the Aces reply, "He's one of our own," and that, of course, is a statement Katsoulakis never questions.

Katsoulakis says he also got a copy of the Abel dvd. It wasn't worrying, so much as amusing that "the priest" would think it would trouble him. Katsoulakis guessed that Donnelly sent copies to every occultist he was aware of, "though that could hardly have been many, and he's just killed most of those he probably knew."

When one of the Aces says getting rid of the Sleepers must have made it easier, Katsoulakis shakes his head. "The Sleepers are not dead. Their Cabinet is in London at a place called Gleeson House---ha! There. I've just given you their most precious secret. Let them try to discipline us if they dare. Perhaps we should post the address on the internet."

But he does admit he's sad to see the end of the Occult Underground. They never had real power, but their presence distracted anyone from inconveniencing those who did. That prompts Mark to ask a pointed question: "Who are the real powers anyway?"

Katsoulakis pauses, genuinely surprised, and thinks for a while before answering. "The true Powers, my friends, tend not to be groups. Groups are for the young." (Which is something they once heard Lesek say too.) "True Power is usually in the hands of individuals. The old men. The old women. We stand behind the scenes and manipulate the young for our ends and for our amusement. I am breaking the old code by telling you this directly, but then that is my way."

"Remember, it is the twenty-first century. The old question, "Will the world end?," passed with the old millennium. Now the question is, "Who will rule the next millennium?"

He pauses again. "Interesting. I had not thought of it until speaking with you, but I suppose the City is now truly in our hands. And Ben-Nevis. Only we are left. And Jamal, but his power is of a different sort. It seems Ben-Nevis and I should come to an understanding, the better to keep the peace. Which makes his interest in you even more convenient. Perhaps you could speak with him on my behalf."

Hearing a blatant show of power like that unsettles the Aces a bit, but they have, after all, personally benefited from Katsoulakis' resources. And he doesn't seem inclined to take things into scary territory. He really does seem to want an end to the chaos.

The thought of seeing Ben-Nevis brings the conversation around to the Aces going overseas. Katsoulakis offers to make that much easier and less expensive. They could simply go as representatives of Katsoulakis Imports, and have access to all the resources that would come with it. In return for a few favors along the way, of course, but he's sure they could handle any "small problems" he would put them to.

Arranging their departure will take 2-3 weeks to arrange. Katsoulakis will contact his people in the U.K. to make sure they are accommodated wherever they go. Niko will help them with the paperwork. They could go to Gleeson House first if they wish, and then on to Edinburgh, where Katsoulakis has contacts and they can prepare to approach Ben-Nevis.

"And don't worry about the City. Leave it to the old men for a while. I'm sure we can keep it safe."

But then Yukio surprises everyone by saying he will not go with the Aces to Scotland. Instead, he is going back to Japan. He turns to Katsoulakis. "The work you wanted me to do, to guide these young men and teach them some discipline, is done. I am an old man too, and it is time for me also to stand alone. I will return to my homeland to build up my power. And then I will decide what I will do next."

Even Katsoulakis is surprised by Yukio's announcement, but the man is firm in his decision and will not be talked out of it. In the days that follow, Yukio says good bye to everyone in the Renny and then departs for home, while the Aces prepare for their own journey.

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