Wednesday, 28 April 2021

The Persephone Extraction - Session 2, a VirtualGROGMEET 2021 Play Report

The second 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 - Jeremy, Neil, Steve, Rich and ABS.


...Here Be Spoilers...

More Paris

Team 1 (Cornell and Jian) are in La Défense region of Paris, they are covered in dust and debris from an explosion at PRX Biogenics [See the previous session].  Cornell is talking in sharp breaths to Team 2, "Find Morgaine... keep on this line... will update."

MAR-VX


Cornell and Jian help themselves up, they are bruised and bloody.  PRX Biogenesis employees are in a daze, the two ex-agents look at each other and nod.  They quickly make their way back into the burning building.  Inside is chaos, burning material is all around them and they hear the structural groans of the building, the ceiling looks like it is near to collapse.

Cornell heads into the main lab where he saw the suspicious guy, whilst Jian tries to grab a sample from the lab store.  It doesn't take long for Cornell to spot the person he is after, he is lying face down, he turns him over, his face is a mess, his chest crushed and a leg hangs at an unnatural angle.  The room is full of rabbits and guinea pigs, they hop over concrete and sniff around the lumps of plastic and metal. Cornell picks up a large New Zealand White Rabbit, its pink nose twitches as he strokes it, he bends down to investigate a lump of plastic with wires, this looks like an explosive component.  

Jian is busy working his way through the smashed glass and other rubbish, as he tries to find a complete sample, he hears the distant sound of sirens, he redoubles his efforts.  Jian calls out to Cornell, "Cornell! No more time, we've got to leave."

Meanwhile, Team 2 (Joney, Wheeler, Heyerdahl and Brand) are looking through the material from the car.  Brand is outside he's unscrewing and replacing the signs down to their safe house, it's located on the river , accessible only via a dirt track that leads into an industrial area.  Inside Wheeler and Joney pick through the evidence, the man they had found dead was Michaelakos, he was born in Athens and is a monk.  The two also find a code name Simba in his documents, as well as references to other names, Brutus, Gaius... the ringleaders who assassinated Julius Caesar, what does this mean?

Research time


After some debate they pick out the address of Morgane, Brand disguises himself as the brother of Morgane, Francis and they head to the building.  The building is in an upmarket part of Paris and Joney goes in first, distracting the concierge as the others head up to the top floor apartment of Morgane.

Back to Team 1, Jian turns as he hears footsteps, Cornell is standing at the door, he has a rabbit under each army and there seems to be a guinea pig looking out of the pocket of his trenchcoat.  "Don't ask!" says Cornell and Jian shrugs.  Jian has found a computer and battered though it is, he's managed to log in and is reading out gobbets of information as he taps away, "Marburg, MAR-VX virus... similar to Ebola, an enhanced airborne variant.  Shit - 100% fatality, no effective treatment.  Loads of global pandemic/catastrophe articles.  Looks like PRX has enhanced this virus from some old Soviet work."

Cornell sniffs, he sees a wave of smoke come into the room and another explosion goes off, the light of various fires plays off the walls, "You are right, it is time to leave Jian, we have enough."

Team 2 are in the apartment of Morgane, Brand is searching the living room, he finds photos of Morgane with her husband and son, a quick research shows the husband died in 2003 after massive blood loss following a car accident, he was a registered haemophiliac.   The son, also a haemophiliac died in 2002, after a fall, blood loss and it seems some controversy, a lot of police investigation into this one, what really happened?  Cross-referencing medical records to the Morgane family tree, Brand finds no more references to haemophilia, just the husband and son.  And Morgane?  Lastly, under some magazines is the university address and phone number of Morgane.

Joney is in the bathroom, he's found a bloody handprint, this is likely Morgane's and there is a syringe, it looks like she has injected herself with some kind of anti-coagulant, there is a cupboard full of this and Joney and Heyerdahl grab a number of bottles.

What is Morgane injecting?


Team 1 are back in the main lab, next to the body of the unfortunate saboteur, Cornell is stuffing various animals into Jian's pockets, "Enough with the bunnies, Cornell, let's get the hell out!", shouts Jian.  They look back at the entrance, there is a lot of fire and smoke blocking their exit, they start to sprint towards it.  A beam falls in front of them, sparks and flames roar up, they dodge to the right and clamber up and over a fallen cabinet.  

Dropping down the other side, they see fierce flames all around them, Jian grabs Cornell's arm and points to a glass wall, beyond they can see the entrance.  They grab a tech trolley and charge at the glass, it shatters and they fall through into the corridor, they hear various squeaks as they roll over and come to their feet.  

A small explosion goes off behind them and they redouble their efforts, they look behind, a ball of flame is rolling down the corridor towards them, they sprint and jump as they reach the entrance and the steps down to the street, rabbits, guinea pigs go flying as they are propelled through the air as another, much larger explosion erupts.  

They hit the concrete hard, roll and carry on running, Jian and Cornell, start dropping the startled animals as they go, a trail of hopping and scrabbling creatures left behind them, just as the blue flashing lights of police and fire engines arrive on the scene. 

 
Saved!


Team 2 continue their search of the apartment and Heyerdahl is in the bedroom, he has found a pile of bloody clothes - a blouse with a bullet hole, spattered in blood.  There are photos of Morgane, her husband and son and later pictures of Greek and Roman ruins, some pretty remote sites.  In the wardrobe are a bag of clothes  - a black and white face mask and a robe with a saffron veil, this looks to be the garb of a Milano worshipper, a cult who sacrificed to a minor Greek underworld goddess and ghosts.  

Dominating one wall is a print of an angelic woman, standing on a mountain looking out into the distance, there is no signature, only a graffiti style tag of a skull, this is a possible interpretation of a Greek classic. 

Wheeler is in the office, there are many books here on the Marburg virus, and a scrawled note, the earliest variant found in 1997.  Other books on Greek mythology are common, in one book, it looks to be Morgane's handwriting, there is a line "I am parched with thirst and I am dying..." is highlighted.  A business card is on the table, it's for Gerard Devont, a bookseller in the market area near Notre Dame.

Team 1 is back at the safe house and patching themselves up, a rabbit sits on the coffee table, munching on a carrot.  Cornell talks to Joney, "...yep, you have some good intel, we'll meet you in town once we are fixed up."  Jian calls Cornell over, he is looking at the laptop, he points to the screen.

PRX Biogenesis is bankrolled by a Greek company based out of Barcelona, Eurydice Investments.

Jian flips to a new tab and points again to another piece of information.

Eurydice Investments board were killed in a freak accident, they started stabbing themselves with office equipment.  

This was a few months back, one of the board members, Mr Monserrat is currently in jail on a matter unrelated to the killings.  The current CEO is Mr Angel Calyx.

Team 2 are getting ready to leave when they hear the buzz of a phone, they all look at their phones but shake their heads.  Brand puts up a finger and then points it under the chaise lounge, they peer under and see the lit screen of a phone.  They reach under and pull it out, on the screen is a message:

Been Shot. 
Lost P.
HELP ASAP.  
Descending to Elysium.  
Suspect Natalie. 
M

In response, a message has just come through from an unknown number:

Stay there, extraction team on the way.  
Code Name: TAXUS.

The team reason this must be Morgane's phone.  The group frantically lookup on Elysium, there are a few possible locations, the most likely is the cemetery near to the entrance to the catacombs, but it is decided to first close off the bookseller, they call Team 1 and agree to rendezvous outside Notre Dame.  Brand and Wheeler set up a web of electronic surveillance, in case Morgaine returns and both teams head to the rendezvous point.

The team are now as one, browsing through the rare books near Notre Dame, Joney heads into the bookshop of Gerard Duvant, it is empty.  Joney smiles at George.  George smiles back.  A few minutes later Joney is heading back to the group, in the doorway, a visibly shaken George is wiping his brow.

Notre Dame


Joney mentions to the others he has a lead on a group, The Thailosi Society that may have links to the catacombs beneath Paris.  We are to head to Cav du Vin, a wine shop owned by Angelos Kokinos.  

Inside Cav du Vin, the team browse the various bottles and are shmoozed by Angelos as he talks in detail about the range, variety and quality of his wines.  Brand is lounging outside the building, watching a small crowd build-up across the street, they seem to be dressed in long gowns, maybe students?  The gowns look familiar, possibly similar to the one found in Morgane's apartment but it is dark and he is too far away.

Back inside and Heyerdhal leans over to Angelos, he whispers into his ear, "We want the finest wines available to humanity."  Angelos' eyes light up, he turns and says, "Follow me, gentlemen, I think I have something that might interest you."

As they head downstairs to an ancient wine cellar, a few of the group notice a passage going off to one side, it's rough-hewn and distant cries can be heard.  Two of the group stop and head off to explore.

Kokinos Cav Du Vin


Outside Brand is calling across the street, to the rest of the group, not realising they are down in the depths of the Cav du Vin, he broadcasts on his mike, "Suspicious group heading through the cemetery, I'm tailing them."  Joney, at the back of the group descending, decides to head back up and support Brand.

Heyerdhal and Jian are listening to Angelos talking about the finer things in life and outlines the principles of the society he is a member of, the Thaiosi Society, which seems to revolve around Greek mythology and rituals.  They observe paintings in the cellar, with the familiar graffiti skull tag, seen in the apartment of Morgane.  After trying a few glasses, Angelos brings out an aged wooden case, inside, backed with straw, is a dusty, ancient bottle of wine, "The pinnacle of society!", mulls Angelos, "Just €22,000 to you fine gentlemen."

Heyerdhal and Jian consult, Jian has a few target accounts that he could dip into, he selects one, some kind of sportsman based in Paris, perfect!  A few moments later and the money is transferred to Angelos, he beams at them.  Wheeler and Cornell contact them on their mikes, they have been exploring the tunnels and have heard cries of pain, as well as some weird chanting.  Heyerdahl and Jian slip into the tunnels as Angelos goes to find some additional gifts to go with the wine, the wine sits on the side.

He won't notice it's missing.


Brand and Joney have seen the group they are following, disappear down a hole in the middle of the cemetery.  They get to an open cover and see the last of the cowled figures stepping off of a ladder, deep into the heart of Paris.

Into the catacombs


Brand and Joney creep behind the figures until they gather in a larger temple-like area, they hear cries from behind the group, someone is in pain, Brand, tries to get closer, moving in the dark from pillar to pillar.

Meanwhile, the rest of the group have met up and are following the sounds of agony, it's a woman's voice, they come upon her in a corridor, she is grasping her shoulder and looks pale.  It is Morgane.

Cornell looks at the wound, it is deep, the bullet is still inside, glinting.  He starts to open his bag, getting out various items to assist in the operation.  The woman ignores all questions, she is barely conscious.  As Cornell begins to operate, the woman's screams echo through the tunnels, and as this happens, a pale, shroud-like figure seems to lift out of the woman and lap at the blood flowing from the wound.  Cornell staggers backwards, a bullet in the tweezers and blood spurts from the wound, the figure targets the wound, it is starting to solidify as it feeds on Morgane.

The Vampire awakens


Joney and Brand are working their way towards the now high-pitched screams that are becoming louder and more desperate.  As they do this, a number of high powered torches light up the scene, a group of heavily armed men have entered the chamber, "Down, down.", they shout at everyone.  Joney sprints towards the woman's screams as a round of bullets cut up the ground behind him.  Brand observes, trying to keep to the shadows and edge forward stealthily.

All hell has broken loose, Jian has been raked and bitten by the beast, his face is mass of cuts and blood, he is trying to stem the blood from a wound to his neck.  Cornell has emptied a clip into the creature but then been picked up and thrown across the tunnel by the pale figure - Cornell is broken and bleeding in a heap.  Heyerdahl has Morgaine and is trying to extricate her from the scene, whilst observing the armed extraction team heading towards them.  Heyerdahl sees a figure sprinting towards him, he holds for a second after realising it is Joney.  Joney runs past him and sees Cornell's bag scattered on the floor, he sees the stake and he sees the pale creature in front of him, hissing and exposing long, sharp canines.  Joney wastes no time, he picks up Michaelakos' stake and plunges it into the aberration in front of him.  

Joney goes all in.


The beast twirls and slams into people and the tunnel as it twists and arches it's back - inhuman sounds emanate from it.  As it slows, smoke rises from it and its screams are painful to the ear.  Eventually, it curls up into a ball on the floor, a pool of grey liquid flows out from beneath it as it disintegrates, eventually, all that is left is a pungent mist and a few scraps of clothes.

Heyerdahl is weighing up the situation, he is holding tight to Morgaine, but is facing off to half a dozen well-armed military personnel, they instruct him again, "Leave the woman, you have five seconds."  Heyerdahl looks behind him, he sees another team approaching from the rear, he also sees Cornell, bleeding out on the floor.  He makes a decision, he lets go of Morgaine, she stumbles forward and then walks slowly to the masked gunmen, she briefly looks back at them.

Morgane Extraction Team


As the team waits for an explosion of gunfire, they slowly see the lights from torches wink out and within a few minutes, they realise they are alone in the tunnels.  The extraction teams have gone.

Wheeler is holding up a card, it's from the military extraction team, tracing this it looks to have affiliation with Eurydice, all roads seem to lead to Barcelona, the headquarters of Eurydice.

As the group stumble back up to the Cav du Vin, they are met by a worried Angelos, the looks on their faces silence him.   As everyone steps out of the shop, Heyerdahl notices the wine, set aside on the counter at the front of the shop, picks up the wooden box, opens it, takes the wine bottle and drops the rest of the contents on the floor.

As he walks out of the shop, Heyerdahl smashes the neck of the bottle on the wall and tips the wine down his throat, he stands there in this position for a few moments, wine splashing over his face. 

Eventually, Heyerdhal turns to Angelos, red wine is streaked across his face, he wipes a sleeve over his mouth, tosses the wine behind him into the street and holds a finger up to his lips.

Either give me more wine or leave me alone


PS - Many thanks to Dirk for sharing his notes on this session, which lead to a lot of spelling corrections :)

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