Friday, 23 April 2021

The Persephone Extraction - Session 1, a VirtualGROGMEET 2021 Play Report

The first part of The Persephone Extraction, this is a Night's Black Agents game.  Night's Black Agents is a gumshoe variant from Kenneth Hite.  This game was run over three sessions at VirtualGROGMEET 2021 16-18/Apr.  Thanks to the amazing GM, DirktheDice and the fantastic players - JeremyNeil, Steve, Rich and ABS.

...Here Be Spoilers...

Paris, Modern Day

The six-person team are surveying the apartment on the 2nd floor of a dilapidated St-Denis apartment in Paris.  They are here because of a series of shared encounters with otherworldly elements  From Brand, the watcher's, perspective these elements need to be eradicated off the face of the earth.  One of the group noticed that a rental car, registration WC-982-FG had been taken out in their name, using this address and some forged credit card details from another of the group.

Brand, Watcher, Surveillance King

As they explore the apartment, discovery is made of links to a Biogenics company, PRX Biogenics, with research into anti-virus drugs.  Jian, the resident hacker, looks up the company, finding two interesting names, Antoine Berringer a PR consultant and Natalie Talbot, head of security.  Brand waits patiently, fingers flexing, behind Jian, "I need access."   Jian sighs and shoves away from the desk, leaving Brand free to tap away at the laptop,  Cornell now leans over Brand, "When you've finished, I need to use it."  Brand tenses, six of the best operatives and they can't afford more than one laptop, he makes a mental note to head to PC Monde to pick one up, just for himself.

A little while later and the apartment has been tossed, another name Morgaine Leceour, a lecturer, something to do with viruses and seemingly a map depicting a location to kidnap or kill her.  Also in the room, explosives (acetone peroxide) and various European origin guns.  Jian shouts, he now has the laptop back from Cornell.  Heyerdahl and Wheeler, wait in a line behind him.  "Look here, you are famous.", he grins and turns the laptop round to show to both Joney and Cornell, their photos are on the servers of Brigade Criminelle.

Brigade Criminelle

"Burn it!" says Joney, looking nervously at Jian.  "Someone is stitching us up, looks like there is a hit coming in on this Morgaine women. ", ponders Cornell.  "Or PRX Biogenics is the hit, what about the APEX?" asks Wheeler, as he points at the homemade explosives.  Jian smiles and looks up, "Your pictures are now encrypted, I thought it best to leave them there.  Who wants the laptop next?"  There is a scramble for the tatty looking  Dell Inspiron 600M.  The team, having seemingly covered everything goes about cleaning the apartment, removing all evidence to avoid anything being traced back to them.

Customised Dell Inspiron 600M, guaranteed not to explode

A few moments later and Team A - Cornell and Jian head to the Defense region of Paris, to check out the laboratory of PRX Biogenics.  Meanwhile Team B - Brand, Wheeler, Heyerdahl and Joney - are going to go to the map location that may or may not depict a hit on Morgaine.

Team A is observing the various CCTV and other security measures at PRX Biogenics, Jian is on the phone with Gerard Depardieu (not that one), he is a fixer and adept at getting them access to places that don't want people like them to get access.  Gerard will meet them and hand over the passes, he's also arranged a meeting with Antoine the PRX PR person, Gerard wishes them good luck, as he departs, he says, "I'm bored, I'm going to go and drink, come find me."

Gerard, not that one

Jian and Cornell are being given the VIP treatment at PRX by Antoine, he is showing them around, as prospective investors.  They lean over a rail, looking down on the expanse of the laboratory.  Cornell sees one worker looking mightily shifty, he nudges Jian.  Jian turns to look, he has a body camera on him that captures this.  Jian also has a wifi scanner, that picks up and cracks networks, he is already into the intranet of PRX Biogenics, he casually searches through information on his smartphone as they follow Antoine around the building.

Continuing the tour, the two of them identify the main lab store, a plan forms, perhaps Cornell or Jian can get inside and get a sample.  Jian has found links to Morgaine, she is a special projects director here, also he has information on the security guards rotation, security looks weak today, lots of people on leave.  This information feels worrying.

Team B are close to the location where X marks the spot, a hit?  A snatch?  They need to be on high alert.  As they round a corner of the narrow Parisien street they hear a loud crack and clouds of birds take off into the sky.  They look at each other and then break into a run, they come to a stop in an open street area, there is blood on the floor, someone has been shot or stabbed, definitely shot, there is a gun casing, but blood is splashed everywhere, knifed too?  They notice an Audit TT, it has a dashcam and reversing cam, that works off of movement,  Heyerdhal pops the car and takes off both cameras.  One trail heads off down an alley but disappears, the other leads into an apartment building, blood is smeared up the wall and as we enter we see more blood in the hallway - can someone still live with that much blood on the outside?!

A grisly scene

We switch back to Team A, Cornell has managed to sneak away and get into the main lab, he has secured a tracking device on one of the canisters that are being loaded onto a van.  Cornell sees someone else who looks like they should not be in this place, they are dirty, hair long, could they also be after the virus?  As Jian spots for Cornell and listens to Antoine ramble on, he overhears a woman say they are closing down the lab for the rest of the day, he recognises her as Natalie Talbot, head of security at PRX.  As people start to file out, it is easy for Cornell to sneak back through the airlock without being noticed and join up with Jian.

Viral Canisters

Team B is in a state of shock, they've encountered a dying man on the stairway up to the top floor of the apartment, he is covered in blood, half his cheek hangs off of his face, he breathes raggedly but a few words come out, Joney recognises them from the Odyssey.  As the main dies Wheeler searches the body and finds a phone, it has face recognition, he gently tries to manoeuvre the flaps of skin back to their original position on the dead man's face and viola the phone is open - he sees a text "COMMENCE", the phone is using sophisticated encryption software, Hush-Hush.

Brand cries out and points at Heyerdahl, as he sees a dark shadow pass over him, the group all look at Brand before they are distracted by the sirens of police cars and the loud hailer, "Armed police, come out with your hands out!"  Brand rushes up the stairs, followed closely by Wheeler and Joney, Heyderhal just rubs his chin, looking down at the dead man and apparently lost in thought.

Brand skitters across the tiles on the roof, he hears a shout from below, "Allez, the roof!  Stop!"  He looks down and sees a number of armed police officers rushing along the street below, looking up at him.  Brand stumbles and tries to regain his footing, he heads down the other side of the roof, seeing a flat area below and possible escape if he can jump across the gap.

Wheeler comes out of a skylight on to the roof, he sees Brand up ahead, tottering as he balances on the roof, he looks down and sees a number of policemen, wide-eyed and gesturing to him to come down.  Wheeler scrambles out and tries to get to a fire escape, on the other side, the police rushing around to head him off.

Rooftop escape

Joney has climbed out of an open apartment window and is trying to parkour down to the ground, he misses a window ledge, his fingers slipping and plunges down into a small garden, he thuds on to the soft grass, air wooshes out of his lungs.  Joney rolls on to his front and checks for serious injury, he feels okay and starts to climb to his feet, jogging towards the street.

Heyerdahl is waiting, hearing the commotion on the roof above him, as the sounds become more distant, he leisurely turns and walks downstairs, tipping his hat to an old lady poking her nose out of the door.  He walks into the deserted street, heads to the Audio and after a little fiddling with wires, the engine starts and he drives off.

As Joney reaches the street an Audi TT pulls up beside him, Heyerdhal leans over, lifting his hat.  Joney gets in, nearby there is a crash as Wheeler falls from the end of the fire escape, landing in the nearby bins, they wait as he scrambles towards the car.  Heyerdahl leans forward so can he look straight up.  Out of the corner of Heyerdhal's eye, he sees a number of policemen rushing down the road towards them.  Eyes trained upwards Heyerdhal sees the figure of Brand, arms wrapped around a drainpipe, as he falls from one side of the building to the next, there is a crash as he falls through the opposite apartment window.  A few moments later, bruised and bleeding and with glass and plaster dust covering him, Brand appears at a doorway, clocks the Audi, also clocks the policeman shouting and almost within touching distance and dives towards the car.  

Brand flees

With everyone inside Heyerdhal looks behind and slams the car into reverse... ...inside the car, Joney holds up a plane ticket to Istanbul, a Greek passport, for a certain Michalakos Xenu and a car rental document in Joney's name.  Wheeler is looking into a bag, pulling out dark clothing and a stake, fashioned from a live tree.  "Nice Haul.", remarks Heyerdahl as the car skids around a corner and then is slammed into first and disappears down the street.

Team 1 are being ushered out of PRX Biogenics, "Allez! Vite!"  the guards are pushing and pulling them along, as they exit the building, there is an almighty roar and the heat of flames as both Jian and Cornell are thrown to the floor, they look back and see a massive eruption of fire, glass, building material in what was PRX Biogenics.

PRX Biogenics

Team 2 are back at the apartment, they are looking over the shoulder of Wheeler as he runs through the Audi camera footage, they see a woman, seemingly shot in the shoulder by, the dying man in the apartment, Michaelaxos.  As they continue to stare, hairs on the back of their neck stand up, they see an old man or creature pass across the screen and this creature attacks the shooter, the figure moved at incredible speed, slamming Michaelaxos off his feet.  The group turn and look at each other, fear etched into each other's faces, knowing that this figure was inhuman, beyond anything they could dredge up from their worst nightmares.

A crackle brings them back into the room, Cornell's voice, "Assistance needed, Code Red, Code Red!"

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