38a: The Hauntings of Master Yukio

(9/18-20/11 and 9/27/11)
Previous Recap | Next Recap

When It Happened (Chronicle Time): July-October 2007

Who Was There: Yukio Ohta(Bob)

What It Was

Hauntology: An idea suggesting "that the present exists only with respect to the past, and that society after the end of history will begin to orient itself towards ideas and aesthetics that are thought of as rustic, bizarre or "old-timey"; that is, towards the "ghost" of the past. In this, it has some similarity with the cyberpunk literary movement...."

As summer settles in at the Marble Arch, Yukio has a strange dream which reveals an alliance between his nemesis, Kokuyougan, and the Contessa Catalina Saragossa; a seance with Luther Miles goes very wrong; new artifacts turn up in the form of the wreckage of a sea plane and an Atlantean crystal sculpture; the strange voice emerging from Katsoulakis' Speaking Machine turns out to be the work of Thomas Donnelly; and Yukio and Cassandra journey back in time to save Yukio from a death he had once embraced.

The Full Horror

I: Earth (July 2007)

It's a beautiful summer in New York, but Yukio's nightmares have become even more intense than usual, each night taking him deeper into the Twilight City of Geburah.

Finally, on the night of July 7, Yukio finds himself on the lower observation deck of the Empire State (on the 86th floor), facing Downtown. As always, here in Geburah, the World Trade Center is one of the most solid landmarks. (By contrast, ever since Jonathan became one with it, the Renaissance Casino has disappeared entirely from Geburah.) Yukio feels himself drawn to one of the elevators, and as the sickly green fluorescent light flickers above him, he rides the cab down, and then takes the combination of elevators and stairs leading down to the first floor. The building is deserted, as are the streets, and that is odd for the Twilight City, which is usually thronged by countless spirits.

Yukio feels the pull again, this time drawing him "west," toward Broadway, and then Greenwich Village. He passes by storefronts, empty and silent, from every age of the City's past. Finally, he stands at the corner of Thompson and Bleecker, home of the nightclub, "The Village Gate." Despite the 1960s look of the place, there are faint sounds of jazz from within. Yukio opens the door and goes in.

To most ears, the jazz ensemble is excellent, but Yukio, being a necromancer, can sense that on a deeper level the music is decayed and distorted. He also notices that his presence there is not as immediate as it should be. He suspects he might not actually in Geburah, but in a Hod-based dream of it. That might account for the unusual absence of spirits.

But the Village Gate is crowded enough, once inside. The one empty table, in a back corner, seems to beckon him, and a desultory waiter fills Yukio's request for a martini. Yukio waits for something to happen, and after a while, he hears a familiar voice.

He looks around, and there, sitting at a nearby table, are his nemesis, the mage Kokuyougan, and the Contessa Catalina Saragossa. They seem to be having a tense discussion. Yukio tries to overhear them, but their words stay stubbornly indistinct, just like in a dream. Yukio takes that as proof that he is in Hod, which means his powers are limited.

The ensemble begins playing again, but their music is a loud buzzing noise. As the patrons begin to complain, Yukio realizes the music sounds like the intercom in his bedroom, and a moment later he wakes in his bed.

Michel is buzzing in to say he is back from having picked up Ishida at LaGuardia. Ishida was visiting Japan, and has brought back several interesting plants. But Yukio stops listening at the word "LaGuardia," which has given his mind a kind of static shock, followed by a sudden vision of the Erie Railroad key and a powerful scent of ocean spray.

Summer at the Arch

Yukio takes a moment to Cleanse himself before dressing and going down to greet Ishida. The gardener has resupplied their stock of salt from Hokkaido, and does have several plants for the gardens, including Maltese Everlasting.

Later that day, Cassandra stops by with two spray cans which have been specially prepared by Tamara. The cans are covered in the distinctive pattern of a low-level spell of protection, which Cassandra explains will make them less likely to break if dropped. The spray cans can be used to release a diluted solution of Hokkaido salt for creating a quick-and-dirty magic circle under stressful conditions. (The circle will have minuses, but sometimes that is better than nothing.)

Nightmares aside, summer at the Arch has been idyllic. Six students are there for the season, and attendance for special events and poetry readings has been higher than usual. There are also new teas and drinks to enjoy, thanks to Ishida and Cassandra: mint tea, strawberry wine, black mead (an acquired taste but a favorite of Ishida's), heather ale (for special guests, since it takes a lot of preparation to avoid ergot-like hallucinations), and heather honey from the recently installed beehives. The two now make regular runs up to Shawangunk, in the Hudson River Region, for interesting table and dessert wines.

But there are some unhappy incidents too. Yukio, Michel, and Cassandra attempt to contact the spirit of Luther Abel, in the hope of finding out just what plans he might have had for New York. Unfortunately, Luther's spirit is even more enraged and vengeful than Yukio expected, and only his careful preparations prevent a disastrous confrontation. Nonetheless, the encounter helps Cassandra realize that the "shadows" that had frightened her and Luther into fleeing Chicago those many years ago (Ep. 3: "Miles to Go") must have been agents of TNI dispatched by Alex Abel to keep his son safe. A bitter irony.

Given how Luther turned out, Yukio decides to put off trying to contact the spirits of Gareth Kale and Clarissa Bart, the parents of Miranda Kale. But thanks to some detective work by Tommy Salamanca, he now knows they are buried in the New York City Marble Cemetery.

Yukio and Cassandra have been taking advantage of Bruce's absence (building his criminal empire?) to have tea most evenings with Miranda. Those go perfectly well for a while. Miranda has almost total amnesia about her time in the Dreamlands, but she has recovered enough to be aware, on some level, of her real identity, regardless of what she and Bruce are up to. But the pleasant evenings come to an abrupt end one night when Cassandra accidentally mentions Luther Abel. The name "Abel" sends Miranda into a literal meltdown, and while she does not burn the Marble Arch to the ground, it is a very near thing. Worse, Miranda stays angry at Cassandra, the one psychologist in a position to help her.

II: Air (July 2007)

A few days after Yukio has his vision of the Erie Railroad key, the New York papers carry a local story about LaGuardia's Marine Air Terminal, which is still used for shuttle flights between New York, Boston, and Washington D.C. A local history foundation has raised enough money to buy the wrecks of two Pan American Airways Yankee Clippers (aka Boeing 314 Flying Boats). One of them has been restored using parts from the other, and a dedication is held to install the plane as part of a small museum within the historic terminal.

Reading about the event gives Yukio another mental jolt. A few inquiries reveal the foundation wants to sell off the remains of the plane (including a large part of the fuselage, with the flight deck more or less intact) that they used for parts. Yukio buys it for the small "island" at the heart of the Marble Arch, and Ishida redesigns the area surrounding it to look like a runway.

Having fulfilled its role in helping Rolston and Jameson return from the Dreamlands (Ep. 31: "Return of the Magi"), the Erie Railroad brass key now seems to be "just" a matrix for storing Essence, but it does seem to have some kind of connection to the plane, so Yukio decides to use it as a symbolic ignition key. He suspects that might allow them to use the plane to "fly" into the Dreamlands.

Tommy Salamanca, meanwhile, has been investigating the backgrounds of the thirty or so new members of Stuyvesant Lodge. Salamanca is surprised when Rolston and Jameson volunteer to share what few documents they have which mention Ann Salters. Salters was never a member of the Lodge. Far from it. But both mages openly admit they fear her, and consider her a serious threat. They are also aware that the Aces defeated Woolworth at Winfield Hall and suspect they might have encountered Salters while there. Perhaps Lady Margaret told the story to some mutual acquaintances prior to her death.

III: Water (August/September 2007)

Matthias Osbourne is a curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art whom Yukio met at a dinner hosted by Katsoulakis. Osbourne contacts Yukio, asking him to come by the museum and view an odd sculpture one of their teams recovered from an archaeological dig out by Montauk Point. The item makes anyone standing by it feel nauseous, and no one can figure out why. Yukio is able to identify the crystalline sculpture as an Atlantean artifact, and he agrees to take possession of it. Osbourne is not happy to relinquish the artifact, but Katsoulakis has apparently assured him that the Met will never be able to store it safely, much less ever put it on display, and that Yukio is eminently trustworthy. Researching the sculpture in Katsoulakis' library leads Yukio to conclude that it may be a hybrid creation fashioned from orikalk and crystal. As it happens, he already had plans to build a new greenhouse with a secret area below it for storing magical (and potentially dangerous) artifacts. The sculpture is the first item he installs there, protected by secure locks and a strong Ward.

Yukio is warned in advance that the two Atlanteans (Ep. 34: "Timewave Rising") will soon visit the Arch again. Yukio has Cassandra raise a fog that evening to ensure they will not be seen. When the two Atlanteans arrive, they introduce themselves this time as Marcus and Titus. They admit to having been under stress during their previous visit, but they strongly approve of the actions taken by Yukio, Bruce, and Mark since then, and they are content to have Yukio safeguard the sculpture. In fact, they warn him that there are other items still at the Montauk Point site which should be recovered.

Yukio uses Death Projection to reconnoiter the site, and finds evidence that black serpents have been keeping it under surveillance. Accompanied by Derek Cross, Tommy Salamanca, and Miranda, Yukio takes a closer look, and runs afoul of three black serpent sorcerers. Even after the serpents are defeated, though, Yukio can see that a full investigation of the site is well beyond his means. He tells Derek he is willing to concede the site to the Templars, provided Aglie is willing to tell him what they discover there. After all, the Templars might well discover more there than Yukio would have, and this way he does not have to risk another confrontation with the serpents.

Derek agrees to keep Yukio in the loop, and in return, Yukio shares the news that the Contessa is active again and in league with the black serpents. Once back in the City, Yukio warns Katsoulakis about the black serpents as well.

IV: Ether (September 2007)

Yukio begins sending regular shipments of strawberry wine to Queen Maori as thanks for the continuing protection provided by Pwyll and Oison. The wine is hit with her Court (earning Ishida even more notoriety with the courtiers).

Michel has started guest-hosting on a popular local program, Spooks On!, which has begun to kick-start his long dormant celebrity in the City. He tells Yukio he might even join Stuyvesant Lodge to help raise his image while also giving them insider access to what is going on there. Even if Rolston and Jameson wanted to reject his membership, his notoriety is already high enough to make it hard to pass up, and of course, Michel is as close as the Lodge will ever have to enjoying any of their group as a member, much less Katsoulakis himself. Yukio agrees, so Michel makes his overture in late September, and a prolonged courtship dance ensues.

Meanwhile, Tommy is still collecting background on the new Lodge members. Some notables: Hillary Brookstone-Trent, a British emigre and the Met's curator of Ancient Near Eastern Art; Wolf Sigurdsson, a sculptor and painter in the Village who seems to be modeling his public persona on Trent Reznor; and Sophia Angelova, who styles herself "the Mistress of Dreams," whatever that means.

And then there is Javier Mendoza. A Basque mage who lives in the Village, Mendoza has a secret: he unintentionally helped Thomas Donnelly. When Tommy asks Mendoza offhand if he has seen anything weird lately (he asks everyone that these days, usually after the second round of drinks), he is surprised to hear a slightly tipsy Mendoza make a confession. Mendoza had been having trouble making ends meet for a while when a priest named Theodore Dixon offered to pay him for information about an extremely obscure Basque rite of exorcism (mastery of which necessarily included the knowledge of how to summon). The man made Mendoza distinctly uneasy, but they offer was too good to pass up, so he reluctantly agreed to share what he knew about the rite. He has regretted it ever since, especially considering what horrific things could be brought into the world with that knowledge.

The rite includes a very distinctive chant, and when Tommy tries to imitate the short part of it that Mendoza recited, Yukio immediately recognizes it as the same one he heard coming from the Kempelen Speaking Machine in Katsoulakis' collection. Donnelly's meeting with Mendoza happened in May, 2006, one month before the strange chanting began in the Speaking Machine.

Mendoza has concealed the incident from other members of the Lodge, worried that he might have done great harm. Yukio realizes if he can make the matter right, he might be able to nudge Mendoza into becoming a useful informant. Tommy arranges a meeting, and Yukio makes sure to explain to Mendoza what a reputation "Dixon" has for cutting off loose ends. He suggests to Tommy "Stevens" that he keep an eye on Mendoza for a while. Then Yukio goes to see Katsoulakis.

Donnelly apparently thought he would get revenge on Katsoulakis for bringing the Aces together (and thereby wrecking Donnelly's plans), but all he has managed to do is piss Katsoulakis off. Even his knowing Katsoulakis owns the item is an insult, but they can probably thank Donnelly's recent meetings with the Contessa for that.

Once Katsoulakis understands what has happened, he suggests a plan of action: Katsoulakis will exert his will over the brownstone to seal it off. No matter what the Machine might summon, it will not threaten the City. But for Katsoulakis to hold that line, he will have to release the Machine from its current stasis and Yukio must try to dispel the summoning before it completes.

Yukio agrees to help and returns to the brownstone with Cassandra and Michel. Much careful preparation ensues, but that turns out to make all the difference. The stasis drops, Yukio leads the counter-rite to dispel the summoning, and their attempt succeeds, preventing a powerful and merciless Soul Eater from crossing over into Malkuth. The three leave, having earned Katsoulakis' sincere thanks.

V: Fire (Early October 2007)

Yukio's nightmares take a particularly unpleasant turn, making him relive his "final flight" as a would-be kamikaze at the Battle of Okinawa, right as he entered the dive that sent him hurtling at the USS Missouri. At the time, a mysterious force had prevented him from completing that dive, but Yukio had never been able to figure out what that force had been. In the nightmares, however, the force fails to appear until the very last second, and Yukio's dream self—youthful as he was at the time but vested with his older personality—is barely able to save himself. As the plane finally pulls out of its all-but-fatal dive, the image of Kokuyougan appears in the windscreen, with a laughing Ann Salters visible over his shoulder. A moment later, Yukio hears the craggy voice of the sorcerer taunt, "Tomorrow that final end from which you were spared will finally be visited upon you."

Yukio wakes up in a cold sweat to find the Comte de Saint-Germain relaxing in a chair near the foot of his bed and chuckling quietly.

"Well. Wasn't that exciting? It would appear, young man, that you have a rather serious problem."

Well aware that Yukio wants to know how Saint-Germain knew to be there, he Comte says, Yukio's experience touched on Space-Time. "Most matters involving your nemesis partake of dream in one form or another, but this was not entirely a dream. It was, ultimately, a manipulation of Time itself, and while that manipulation was artfully performed, it was not nearly subtle enough to escape my notice. And so here I am."

When Yukio asks why he chose to intervene, Saint-Germain waves dismissively: "My dear boy, the world is much more entertaining with all of you in it. Besides, each time one of your adversaries' plots are foiled, there is always the hope that it will encourage them to come back with something even more intriguing and insidious."

Yukio is less than pleased by this answer, and the Comte's next comment is not much better: "Always an annoyance when one's enemies finally realize they might come together and collaborate on your ultimate doom, wouldn't you say?"

Yukio resorts to his recent hauntological discoveries in Necromancy which allows him to refresh his memory of the kamikaze attack. For the first time, he realizes there had been another plane nearby his, and that plane was distinctly modern. It was a rather serious thing to miss, but then Yukio had been rather busy at the time. Saint-Germain nods and adds, "You will, of course, realize that should only be considered a 'potential past,' since it has not actually yet happened in our timeline. And yet, one must also realize that it *has* taken place. The two statements contradict one another but also do not. Time. A fascinating phenomenon, yes?"

As an added bonus, perhaps a case of beginner's luck, Yukio picks up the name Gunnery Sgt. Bill McCluskey of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, who happens to have been manning the anti-aircraft gun on the Missouri that had been trying to shoot Yukio's plane out of the sky.

Saint-Germain cautions Yukio against any thoughts of reaching back through his own timeline. Such a direct approach would be potentially disastrous for two reasons: "The first is that to treat the matter primarily as a dream is to address it within the context established and dominated by the enemy. The second is that to alter one's self directly, to change yourself 'from within,' as it were, leaves you no margin for error and quite possibly no means of correcting a mistake once made. The slightest mis-step, and you risk erasing yourself from history altogether. Better to introduce a copy of yourself into the situation and effect a change through it. Then should you err, you at least have a hope of removing the copy, leaving the original unaffected. Also quite hazardous, but at least marginally less so."

"No, were I you, I would take advantage of the fact that the experience is at least *partially* a dream. That provides some room to maneuver in terms of changing the final outcome, just as an experienced dreamer can alter his own dream. It should, for example, be possible to manipulate certain external conditions and effect your desired change that way."

"How many times have you wondered just what force moved your plane's ailerons and pulled you out of your doomed descent? It must have taken quite a gust of wind, yes? A carefully directed one at that. I wonder who in your circle might be capable of such a steady and focused invocation of wind...?"

Cassandra, of course.

Yukio begins making preparations: flak jackets, fire extinguishes, first-aid kits, even an Orgone battery pack. And a parachute for Cassandra that his clearly marked with a US Navy logo

Yukio and Cassandra rent a small plane and fly it to a small field outside the City where Yukio asks Ishida to cast a Ward on the plane. Unfortunately, Ishida's attempt goes badly wrong, and he nearly kills himself in the process. Ishida, it seems, needs to stay in the Arch where he belongs. They will have to make do without the Ward, but Saint-Germain shows up just as he is needed to effect their passage back through Time.

One problem remains: the flying skill required to succeed is well-beyond Yukio's ability. Saint-Germain agrees, in return for a favor of his choosing at some future date, to give Yukio the ability to manipulate the dream aspect of the experience (in effect, a temporary ability for Lucid Dreaming).

That done, Saint-Germain's "ritual" to send them back in Time is alarmingly informal: he merely lays a hand on the plane for a moment, and suddenly Yukio and Cassandra find themselves flying at full-speed high in the air, surrounded by anti-aircraft fire.

Yukio struggles to keep the plane in the air while getting them as close as he can to the young Yukio's plane so Cassandra can invoke the Gust of Wind needed to divert it from its plunge toward the Missouri. Fortunately, Bill McCluskey has his work cut out for him, because hitting Yukio's plane had always been next to impossible. But Yukio's task is only marginally easier than that.

All of this would be bad enough, but just as they are about to succeed, Kokuyougan intervenes, appearing in the passenger seat next to Cassandra's (Ishida's Ward really would have been helpful). At a loss to know what else to do, Cassandra hauls off and slugs the sorcerer, surprising him almost as much as she surprises herself. "Punch him in the face until he goes away" turns out to be an excellent plan. Kokuyougan flees the unexpectedly wild-eyed Wiccan, and Cassandra manages to pull herself together just long enough to cast the spell and save the day.

An instant later, Yukio and Cassandra find themselves back in the current day and sitting at rest in the field. Cassandra, still barely a step away from a complete meltdown, decides to try using her shiny new combat skill on Saint-Germain, but the Comte is more than up to making a graceful exit, leaving Yukio with the unhappy task of trying to calm Cassandra down again.

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