24: Sleepless

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When It Happened (Campaign Time): July 16, 2003 – August 7, 2003

Who Was There: Mark Donovin (Eric), Nemura Kentaro (Chris), Jeff Bradshaw (Bob)

What It Was

While the Aces prepare for their journey to the U.K., Ken discovers he has a destiny, one linked to an ancient sword called the Fang of the Jade Serpent. After London, the Aces head for Lancashire, where they find Gleeson House, the headquarters of the Sleepers. Unfortunately, the Saints got there first. But as the Aces sift through the rubble, they find some things the Saints did not—including a pale woman with some fangs of her own.

[Note: Lower Crowham and Gleeson House are adapted from the “Unknown Armies” supplement, Hush, Hush.]

The Full Horror

It only takes Niko Kakoyannis a couple of weeks to get the paperwork ready for the Aces’ trip overseas. While they wait, Tamara and Cassandra spend some time with the Renny surveillance tapes, studying the clothes worn by the green serpents on the night of the attack. The serpents’ leather jackets and clothing have tailoring worthy of New York or Paris, and they sport all kinds of styles and colors. But the clothing turns to goo when they do, so who knows what it’s made of?

Lucy and Jim Oleson are still withdrawn. Michel thinks the damage from the attack put them in a kind of shock. He thinks George should get Lucy to a garage immediately, but preparations for the U.K. get in the way.

Tamara is almost done going through the Tesla journals, and she’s covered the walls of her room with Post-It’s, graphs, charts and strange diagrams. There’s a lot she doesn’t understand about them yet, but she’s making progress. She’s also found a sketch of something that looks a lot like Reich’s “cloudbuster,” which makes wonder if she could build an “orgone gun.”

One afternoon, George notices Tamara sneak into CentCom and put something on Mark’s desk. George only gets a glance, but he's certain he saw a little stuffed bear with the word “Stud” on it. But the bear is gone within the hour, and George decides sneaking into Mark’s room to look for it would be a very bad idea.

Seema is grateful to Ken for helping her recover from uranur exposure during the defense of the Renny, but she’s ready to head back to Ann Arbor and the Reich Institute. She wants Ken Inada to test her for uranur effects, and she’s yearning to get back to her lab and start exploring some new lines of research. Mark goes with her to make sure she arrives safely.

Only a few days later, dozens of large boxes arrive at the Renny, all marked fragile. The next day, Mark returns from the Reich Institute with Jeff Bradshaw, a talented tech with just the skills Mark needs to beef up the Renny’s security systems. It only takes Jeff a few days to set up white-noise generators, vibrating glass (to counter laser-beam surveillance), and other jamming technology. If the Renny had any electronic back doors, they are shut by the time the Aces leave.

Ken’s Destiny

Ken is practicing forms at the Shaolin Temple under the watchful eye of the sifu himself. Ken stops to rest for a moment, but the sifu is still watching and then gently says, "No, try again." It takes Ken a moment to realize the sifu is watching the empty space right next to him. Because Jennie is learning the forms too.

When the sifu notices Ken's reaction, he smiles and tells him to close his eyes. When Ken does, he can see Jennie by his side--a beautiful Scots woman in a gi. The sifu continues, "Jennifer has embraced her new path. The time has come for you to embrace yours. Draw your sword."

But when Ken does, he holds not his own but an ancient sword, with a blade wrought from green crystal and a pommel of jet-black stone. The sifu nods again, and says, “Now, we shall have tea. For I have something to tell you."

"There was once a samurai from your land. His family had long been known for their skill in the healing arts, and for a special blade which had been passed down for generations. They called the sword the Fang of the Jade Serpent. The blade was said to have the power to heal and to kill. The samurai's father wielded that blade in service to his lord for many years. As the young man grew, he studied the arts of both medicine and war, as his father had, and his father before him. But he was still a student when one day his father fell, cut down by his nemesis, a man wielding a sword of deepest black.

The samurai inherited his father's sword and vowed to avenge his death. But his lord was wise, and knew the young man was not ready to face such a foe. And so he refused to release the samurai from his service. Burning with rage, the samurai defied his lord, an act which the gods themselves condemned. The young man met his enemy and slew him in battle, but when he set sail for home, a great storm came and cast him many miles from his homeland.

He washed up on a distant shore of the Mainland, half-dead, with no idea where he was. But his sword was still at his side, and so he made a new vow, to do only good for those in need. And thus did a samurai become a xia, wandering through strange new lands.

One day he came to a village that was stricken by a terrible plague. First people suffered fevers and chills. Then their skin became covered by strange dragon-like scales that caused great pain.. Most who became sick, died within days. The monks of the nearby temple tried every remedy, but nothing could resist the plague. In desperation, they begged the xia to seek out the dragons of their land, in the hope that such ancient creatures might know a cure for the deadly scales and be willing to share it. For if a cure was not found, the entire land might be emptied. The xia vowed he would do this, no matter the peril.

But this quest, which he expected to take weeks, soon turned to months and then years. One by one he visited the ancient dragons. Some were old and angry, and refused to help. Others were noble and wise, but had never heard of this strange disease or knew a cure for it. Then one day the xia knew he had visited all the dragons. With a heavy heart, he began his return to the village to tell the monks he had failed.

But while on the road, he met an Arab merchant who knew tales of lands even more distant than his own. And in one of these tales he told the xia about a great and wise but very strange serpent that lived in a distant land, far in the north, in a place of many hills and deep dark waters, where tall and strangely dressed men dwelled and warred with one another.

Honor bound, the xia knew he had to see this dragon, no matter how long the journey might take, and find out if he knew a cure for the plague. Most tellings of this tale insist that the xia, though no longer young, but still brave and honorable, did finally reach this land, and meet this last dragon. But what happened then, and what the fate of the xia finally was, no one can say.

But I think, Ken, the answer to that now rests with you.”

London, then Lancashire

Deep in his mystical studies, George needs to stay in New York for a while longer, so Mark and Ken decide to give Jeff a baptism by fire and take him along. Early the next morning, Katsoulakis’ private jet takes off for London.

Katsoulakis has told the Aces they can trust his people in Britain, but hardly any of them know about the occult. Katsoulakis tries to shield his employees from that private and dangerous side of his life. “Don’t get them killed or you’ll pay for their loss. And with the money you make, gentlemen, that would take a while.”

The jet lands at Heathrow, where a nondescript but comfortable car takes them to DK Imports, London. Minutes later, they are in the office of Ileana Sarkis, who oversees all of Katsoulakis’ business in the U.K. and Ireland. Resting informally on the edge of her impressive desk, she asks the Aces about their flight, and whether there is anything they’ll need for their visit.

Mark and Ken first want to find the Sleepers, and then head for Scotland, so Ileana tasks one of her staff to get the address for Gleeson House. Then she gives them contact information for Terrance Selway, who handles DK Imports business in Edinburgh.

Less than an hour later, Ileana tells them Gleeson House is near a village in Lancashire named Lower Crowham. The Aces requisition their usual black van, and quickly depart for the wooded hills of northern England.

Lower Crowham is a small, rural village, but the locals aren’t impressed by the Aces. Eccentric visitors have been common there for years, thanks to the Hamilton family whose estate lies only a short distance away. The Hamiltons still own most of the region, and many of the villagers work on the estate as domestic help. But the family pays well, and people seem to respect and even like them. The family may be strange, but that only gives people something to talk about. A round of drinks is all it takes to hear some hopelessly vague stories about “strange things” seen out there.

But after a while people start to admit they are worried about the Hamiltons. Nearly a month before, old Charles Hamilton himself ordered the entire staff on indefinite vacation at full pay. No one would be allowed on the estate until further notice. The paychecks have arrived on schedule, but after a month of silence from the estate, people fear something is wrong.

Obsidian Dreams

The Aces get some sleep as they wait for twilight before heading out to what is obviously Gleeson House. Ken dreams of an ancient stone castle. The air is cold, and the light gray and grim. He’s walking along a corridor, looking for something he cannot remember, but which he knows he must find. Then he thinks it might be round the next corner.

Instead, he comes face-to-face with a nightmare: a hideous creature whose skin is like jet-black rock with razor-sharp edges—living, volcanic obsidian. No eyes, no ears, and when it opens its “mouth,” Ken sees only a single red eye. It spreads open its hands, revealing mouths with sharp teeth in both its palms. Their drool is steaming magma that sears and cracks the stone floor.

Ken “hears” a kind of muffled, deep-bass roar in his mind that makes him dizzy. The creature is almost on him as Ken stumbles back and tries to regain his balance. But as he raises his sword to defend himself, he sees that it’s become the Fang of the Jade Serpent. Battle is joined. After a desperate struggle, Ken triumphs, drenched in the creature’s black, steaming blood. When he wakes, he’s drenched in a cold sweat on his bed.

The End of Sleep

The Aces aren’t surprised to find Gleeson House dark and silent. They take cover at the eight-foot-high privacy fence surrounding the estate, and survey the grounds with night-vision binoculars. The bodies of guard dogs lie scattered over the wide lawn. At the top of an eight-story tower, a bell has fallen from its mounting and sits cracked and shattered.

The mansion is heavily damaged, and their Gifted senses can feel the aftermath of a massive battle. Most of the second floor has collapsed into the first, and the building is riddled by mystical blasts and mundane explosions. Whatever happened, it was over weeks ago.

Mark, Ken, and Jeff head into the mansion and find the ground floor covered in the rubble of what had once been a charming country estate. Priceless art works lie crushed or ripped to pieces, furniture is smashed and splintered. Only a few partially damaged books survive from what must have been an excellent, general-interest library on the upper floor.

As they move through the house, Mark pieces together how the battle must have gone. Unlike TNI, the Sleepers fought back with magic, not gunfire, but they obviously had no way to deal with uranur blasts. The bodies remaining on the ground floor are all Sleepers. The Saints once again must have taken their own. But Mark can tell from bloodstains and some crime-scene forensics that the battle had not been completely one-sided.

The stairs below are blocked by rubble, but the Aces clear a path to the basement, where they find gaping holes in most of the interior walls. There are shell casings, and blast and flame patterns everywhere, and bodies lie in every direction. In fact, the basement would be a charnel house, but the uranur blasts burned every body to a crisp.

The Sleepers could not save themselves, but they put up a tremendous fight, and they must have taken more Saints with them than TNI did. A tight group of six bodies—five humans and one dog—show where the Sleepers made one last, futile stand before the end.

At one end of the basement, a wine rack has been pulled down, and the wall behind it smashed in with sledge hammers to reveal a secret chamber. The chamber had been a comfortable library, with one side decorated in angelic iconography, and the opposite in demonic. The shelves on the angels’ side are completely bare, but the books on the devils’ side were gathered in a pile and set on fire. There had been over one hundred, and most are beyond recovery, but the Aces salvage twenty of them.

The Last Secrets

The Saints were thorough, but Jeff is better equipped, and he manages to find something they missed: another chamber beyond the library. This one is much better hidden, and Jeff only finds because he’s certain there must be a server somewhere in the basement.

The concealed door is blank except for an engraving: Quale preaemium scientiae? (“What is the price of knowledge?” A partition next to the door slides back to reveal three metal switches. Rather than just stick his hand in, Jeff sprays the switches with luminal, and when he sees more fingerprints on the middle switch than the others, he moves it with a piece of wood.

The door opens onto an untouched trove of the occult. This chamber has fewer books, but they are all priceless, and there are scrolls, clay tablets, wax records, and strange objects as well. Unfortunately, most of the writing is in languages Mark and Ken can’t read, but Jeff finds a copy of Unausprechlichen Kulten, by Friedrich Wilhelm von Junzt. That shocks Ken, who always thought the book had only been an invention of Robert E. Howard.

Meanwhile, Jeff has found a workstation with the Sleepers’ server right beside it. Halfway wrenched out of its tray is a dvd, which Mark and Ken recognize as the recording of Alex Abel’s last hours. It seems the Sleepers were watching it when the attack began, and that means it probably happened around July 10. Jeff does a quick sweep of the Sleepers’ database and finds three interesting files (see the end of this recap). He downloads the rest of the system so he can hack it later.

Mark and Ken are gathering up the rest of the chamber when Ken finds one last door, set in the far wall. The door is solid, and the strange symbols carved on it and the threshold around it put both Aces on alert. Mark covers Ken as he opens the door and looks inside. Ken is surprised to see a young woman, very pale and thin, sleeping on a simple cot. She wakes and sits up.

Suspicious as they are, Ken is still a doctor, and he steps forward to see if the woman needs help. But as he steps close, the woman lunges for him, and somehow Ken isn’t surprised to see fangs bearing down on his neck. Mark starts shooting, while Ken blocks the vampiress with his sword.

The vampiress is probably weak from her imprisonment because they manage to drive her back until she bursts into a mist that quickly dissipates. The two Aces stop to catch their breath and marvel at the sight of their first vampire.

After that, the three men have had enough. They gather up everything they’ve found in the mansion, and stow in the van. With no need to return to the village, they drive into the night, bound for Edinburgh.


Treasures from Gleeson House

Twenty texts from the Chamber of Wisdom

Malleus Malleficarum (a very old copy)

Archidoxes of Magic, by Paracelsus

The Secret Doctrine, by Madame Blavatsky (English)

Occult Japan, by Perceival Lowell (English)

And sixteen others, including two books of hours and three grimoires.

One hundred texts and items from the Chamber of Knowledge

Das Garten (this book was chained to a shelf; it is also locked shut w/o a key)

The Marriage of Hermes and Aphrodite

Histore de St. Germain

Das Ueberkult

The Invisible Clergy, by Emil Dodustov

Unausprechlichen Kulten, by Friedrich Wilhelm von Junzt (All experts considered this book an invention by Robert E. Howard--and yet here it is.)

And other books, two dozen scrolls, clay tablets, wax records, and objects.

The Sleepers’ Database, including:

Item #1 – Audio interview, recorded on CD

A label on the CD names the interviewer as Blaine Helfant. The man he is interviewing is unidentified, but you recognize the voice. It’s Saint-Germain.

BH: Now I’m going to ask you once again. How did you find out about us?

SG: Young man, you really are amusing. I am, by the way, aware of your hidden recording device. You will find that it has recorded only what I wish it to record.

BH: Look—

SG: Groups such as yours have come and gone since 1913, Mr. Helfant. All of you have hoped to step into the vacuum and wield the power once held by those who came before you. Yet not one of you has had the insight, the vision, much less the raw power, to do so.

BH: Oh yes, 1913. . .

SG: As if you had the slightest notion of the significance of that year. The Sleepers. How aptly named you are. Barely more competent than those you would control. You have no knowledge of 1913, no account of the battles of that year, no understanding of those who fought in them. If I tell you that the battles of Belgrade and of Prague spelled the end of the Templars and the Rosicrucians, and that their Pyrrhic victory over the Black Hand and their allies—if I tell you, in other words what so many mystics would trade their metaphorical souls for--it would mean nothing. You lack any context to understand what I am talking about. . . .

BH: Then why don’t you—

SG (keeps talking): . . . The great irony of 1913 being, of course, that the forces of “paganism,” the Templars and the Rosicrucians, were defending the Christian Austro-Hungarian empire against the allegedly pagan Thule Society. But was the Thule Society pagan? Could they really be called so when they stood beside the Black Hand? Not to mention the Cecilites and the Sentinels, backed as *they* were by the Church? Or was their shared fear of Modernity and human progress so dominant as to overwhelm their other differences? Who truly can say? You see, it is a complex puzzle, even for those of us who are *not* hopelessly ignorant.

BH (giving up): I don’t understand---.

SG: If only you meant that, Mr. Helfant. It might perhaps have signaled the beginning of wisdom. But no matter. You haven’t much time left. You, or the organization you serve. But you might at least spend your final months embracing a healthy, if sadly atypical, humility.

BH: The Sleepers know how to respond to threats, old man.

SG: Ah! You think I threaten you. You think yourself worthy of it. Your end will not be engineered by me, Mr. Helfant. I do not find you nearly interesting enough for that. Besides, any action by me would be redundant. The forces of your destruction are already in motion. The fact that the Sleepers are still completely oblivious to these forces is the surest sign that their time is done. For centuries the Great Game has been the deepest secret, but it seems the true Players are finally moving out into the open. And in such a world as that, what need have we for play-actors such as yourselves? You fulfilled your purpose. You distracted the world from our presence. But soon, it seems, that will no longer be necessary. But that is enough for today, I think.

BH: You’re not going--.

SG: Goodbye, Mr. Helfant. We shall not meet again.

BH: Wait! Just--!

Recording ends.

Item #2: Addendum to File: Baphomet H xvi (Templars)

October, 1998: After careful review we suspect Keith Laidler’s claim of a mystical object at Rosslyn may be correct. Various claims of Christ’s head, skull of demon Baphomet, or unidentified “bearded” head. Consistent claim that head could answer questions that were put to it. Church denies these claims. Laidler had not been able to study the chapel himself. Suggest we organize an op to examine location and secure any significant materials.

A note at the bottom reads: Permission denied. It’s initialed, but you can’t make out the letters.

Item #3: File: Gotham P ii (Occult Underground [NYC])

This is a data CD. It seems to contain profiles of New York’s Occult Underground, most of whom, of course, are now dead. The information was submitted by Lawrence Ridley, who was apparently the main Sleeper operative in New York toward the end. Most of the information on this disc seems to come from his regular reports.

A few samples:

Demetrius Katsoulakis (June, 2001): Greek importer/exporter. Collecting occult items for a personal collection. May have items of significance or danger that should be secured by operatives at nearest opportunity. Having difficulty surveilling his residence (90th & Lexington), but this is most likely due to the presence of items. Katsoulakis himself is a dabbler, without an apparent understanding of True Magick. Most of the Occult Underground avoids him, but probably just due to his reputation, which he has cultivated well.

Jamal Rashid (October, 2000): Still few sightings. Keeps to Harlem, and the locals are protecting him and won’t talk to outsiders about him. I share the Council’s continued concern about him, but Rashid is likely to remain an unknown for the foreseeable future. At least, no evidence that he is an immediate threat.

Sir Alistair Jameson (1998): Death of Jameson likely to put his collection on the market, unless wife (Margaret) decides to maintain it. Difficult to predict what she will do. Request adequate funding asap in case of auction.

Lady Margaret Jameson (Feb, 1999): Confirmed that widow of Alistair Jameson has decided to keep his collection intact, though does not seem to be pursuing active interest in his studies. May only be trying to secure her position in his social circles. This would, however, be enough to keep his items from going to auction, so it seems to be a favorable development.

Everett Rolston (1999): Rolston’s death coming so soon after Jameson is a cause for concern. May be related, but could be delayed effect from Jameson. Rivalry of both men long known among older circles. The younger circles (Occult Underground) remain unaware of importance of either man. Rolston’s collection likely to go on market, including several potentially dangerous items. Auction already set for May 14, 1999. May include Kempelen Speaking Machine, a staff of oak, and a rod of ceremony. Recommend we ask Hunderprest to represent us and secure most important items.

Miranda(?): Persistent reports of young woman by this name. May have pyrokinetic ability. May be daughter of New York mystics, but this remains uncertain. Rumors that she may be receiving help from Czernin, but this is also unconfirmed. Stronger rumors that TNI is looking for her.

Status report: New York City, August, 1999: Death of Rolston and Jameson has left a vacuum in New York metropolitan area. Must strongly recommend that the Council reconsider our presence in the City and consider launching a new initiative to assert our control over the region. If vacuum persists, other parties, including TNI, may step in. As I have said before, we are misreading the situation in New York. There are other levels here we know nothing about, and they did not die with Jameson and Rolston. The Council’s assumption that the so-called Occult Underground is now the only significant locus of power here may be badly mistaken.

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