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Demon Intel Deciphering Codex [IC Let's Read of Horror Recognition Guide]

Leliel

SJ Road Warrior
Validated User
This note was attached to a brown box, left by a nondescript post office with an odd stamping system. On the box is three stickers with a space left for the stamp, each one covering a different piece of an address. Despite the fact it had a perfectly mundane and normal street address on the outside, it somehow was sent to a location on a different continent than the supposed selected destination. There is no written record of it in the postal system.

To: Contact.

Finally got around to magpie's nest. Put all the missing twigs together, just need them in order. Orthonology guide enclosed, with definitions. Only professors can make sense of it. Call me.

-Esther Knightley.

Inside the box was a touchscreen tablet. One with an interesting design on the back, and protected by a password-for everyone except its intended recipient.


----------------------------​

PDF File In Tablet, Entitled "Read Here for New Client":

If you are currently reading this, I am amazed. The hack I did on that particular bit of Infrastructure is the first I have able to ever (hypothetically) pull off at all. Besides what hypocritical moral implications there are of me adding to the thousand or so glitches in God's Temple, the simple fact of the matter is that I prefer to have as little involved activity with my once and future lord as possible. Not until I feel more confident.

Probably why it took me so long to get to you, despite the fact that the Order managed to get my hands on this oh, seven years ago, now? Maybe eight? Wasn't particularly long after I Fell.

But I digress. As my knight has no doubt told you, I am founder and current High Templar of the Order of the Clockwork Heart. I am currently unworthy of my name and shall be until my duty is complete, but the translation "Sir Night" is debased enough to be considered a fitting moniker. I, like you, am Unchained, and as you may have surmised by the fact I don't devalue God by appending "-Machine" to the title, I am indeed an Integrator-though one not foolish enough to believe that hiding that fact about me leads to any lesser distrust down the line. Or believing that the errors in the Temple should not be fought if it endangers humanity, much less avoid repair of. How one is to repair the temple is how I became involved in research of other esohuman* beings, since their own link to occulted physics gives a much needed outsider's perspective into the mind and blueprints of God.

* My term for beings that would be regarded by current human science to be supernatural, with a distinct culture-forming ability of their own and the ability to pretend to be normal humans for protracted periods of time. We Unchained, mages, and werewolves are all esohuman (sub/)species. A cryptid, spirit, or slasher (who, be definition, are serial killers who cannot form societies of their own except in edge cases) would not be.

Which is how I got involved in this strange little aspect of hidden human society called the Vigil-the humans who have not only overcome the inherent aversion to supernatural phenomenon, but have dedicated themselves to making it safe.

I will be blunt-I founded the Order with the express intention of harnessing a bit of the Vigil for my own purposes. As the Loyal Opposition is all too aware, mortal humans are an incredible resource, not the least because even a small cell of stigmatics is several agents dependent on their truly esohuman leader, creating trustworthy and numerous allies, even if they are significantly weaker than true esohumans. Hunters are individuals who stand up to esohumans and beings of similar power on a regular basis, and frequently come out ahead; if I could tap that potential, my Agency and ring would have a massive boon in their dealings, even long after I am gone. More than that, however, many of the larger hunter groups (which a few have come to call, amusingly, "conspiracies") have enough working knowledge of occult physics to codify them into pseudo-Embeds called "Endowments." Remarkable enough, except every conspiracy seems to have a different specialization that gives them radically different Endowments, often ones completely alien to God's "normal" aesthetics. Even beyond the scientific potential wrapped up in decoding the principles behind Endowments, if I could give the Order one of their own even beyond the stigmatic inner circle, they could become a potent force in supernatural politics, one loyal to the Unchained and my Agency in particular.

Which was how I acquired something called the "Horror Recognition Guide."

How I acquired it is not important, and to be frank, to maintain an agent's privacy and security, I have not gone out of my way to discover how. Suffice to say, it came into my possession through one of my most promising knights, who I picked up in the process of the Order removing (what I believe to be) the current iteration of a very toxic form of Infrastructure from the world. She recognized how much of my time and resources are devoted to acquiring information about other esohumans and the supernatural in general, which the Guide is a very good starting point to weeding out the occult version of chaff and actual factual accounts of.

From what I can tell, the Guide is the collection of various case logs and intel a cell of Philadelphia-native hunters, who called themselves "the Support Group" in a rather unoriginal fit of inspiration, collected over their collective career shortly before the active members vanished in an incident related to the aforementioned Infrastructure, a legacy of slashers known collectively as the Sowers. Given what I know of the Sowers' modus operandi, I am almost entirely sure at least a few members survived but hid in other cities far away from the apparent location of their would-be murderer. Nothing I have read suggests they knew a thing about either loyal angels or Unchained, so given how my very nature serves as useful camouflage and how they likely believe the Guide is in the hands of a different party, I have not dedicated resources to tracking them down. Besides, I am somehow lacking motivation, as a monster, to seek out a group of experienced and successful monster hunters.

From there, it passed into the possession of one Michael Moryken, a high-ranking officer in Task Force VALKYRIE, a hunter group consolidated by the United States federal government to monitor and remove esohuman influences in the running of this country (I am given to understand many Tempters have a dartboard with their logo plastered over it). He attempted to send it off to a contact in the Cheiron Group, which is almost certainly a front for a large-scale Machine cult, but my knight somehow stole it for her own purposes. I have asked what those purposes are, but she has refused to tell me, apart from intelligence that suggests her reasons are largely irrelevant for the moment.

From there, I was able to organize research into many genuses of esohuman, using the Guide as a starting point. However, my research has hit a plateau, which is why I instructed the Order to contact you. To put it simply, my breadth of knowledge is significantly greater than depth on any one subject...and there are several things in the Guide I have not the slightest inkling refers to. My field of expertise is largely esohumans alone. Hence, the "sorting" I referred to in my notes-I need you to help fact-check and

The tablet you are currently holding is a temporary Gadget from my Agency, meant to be utterly inaccessible until its intended bearer tried logging in. It is a completely normal computer now, consider it part of the advance payment. What remains a Gadget is one of my personal design, a flash drive that downloads a "synchronous PDF" to whatever device I plug it in-if you copy and edit this pdf, the file will manifest in every other computer I have attached the drive to, up until I erase the file on there-the drive will remain a Gadget, but the connection between the PDFs will be broken and I will need to build a new network (which is the idea, as it is how to shake an infiltrator out of the network-aggravating to reset, but that is the cost of doing business). As a precaution, I did actually invite several other computers into this current iteration of the network-the reason I joined the Agency in the first place is that several of its contacts are representatives of other esohuman types, and their requirement for giving me your contact information was either a very strenuous and risky favor, or personally listening to the intelligence you and are are able to dredge up. One computer is shared among my most trusted knights as well-contrary to the masters of some Cults, I try to lie to the Order as little as possible, especially to my direct lieutenants. Beyond morality, it is simply easier to keep stories straight that way, even for memories as notoriously sharp as Unchained ones. Should you reject this, that is fine-please send me your objections, and I will send you a more private tablet (though that would waste an incredible amount of time for the both of us, and possibly arouse the suspicions of the angel who oversees the mail office). I will note, though, that I have personally vetted all outside contacts, and beyond that the Agency has data and leverage on all of them-if the prospective contact wants to do business, there needs to be insurance against betrayal. Said data also serves as security if a member of the Loyal Opposition steals a computer-there is a set amount of contacts we have inducted into this transaction, and we are watching all of them. The instant one appears to have been compromised, plugging the leak is only a click away-and we will know where the mole was hiding.

Awaiting your response,

Sir Night.

(OOC: So yeah. This is the IC Let's Read of the Hunter Horror Recognition Guide I was talking about in my last thread. The "Contact" is played by Stupid_Loserman, give him a round of applause, but I chose this method as a way of allowing others to RP their own commentary on the Guide, if they feel like it).
 

Stupid Loserman

Lame Dumbhead
Validated User

UNIDENTIFIED VOICE: [unintelligible]
H DOWNING: Yeah, I got it all right. Used the old express route to pick it up. The guy's a wacko but I had it checked out before taking it anywhere. It's clean.
VOICE: [unintelligible]
HD: Eh, nothing you'd need to worry about. His eyes wouldn't be on you. Leave him to me.
VOICE: [unintelligible]
HD: Well, you probably shouldn't. Go ahead and fact-check me wherever you can. The truth shall set you free, my friend.

[HR][/HR]
snow.pdf:

Holy hell, you're a crusty one. Seriously, a knightly order in the year of our lord 2007? That's your idea of laying low?

Anyway, I'm up to speed on the document. If it's your thing to dole it out piece by piece that's fine, but I want photocopies of the original. Esther knows how to deliver them.

Here's a freebie on the fact check: Cheiron's not plugged in. There's a lot that's fishy about them (ask your folks about the 1999 Baphomet controversy; it goes deeper than that), but they've been outcompeted in Machine matters since the latter days of the Cold War by a German outfit, Leuchtlaboratorium GmbH. Long story behind that, and one I'm not gonna dig into for free. The real question is, does that even mean the Germans are plugged in? I don't think so. I've seen my fair share of people huffing aether fumes who don't wear horns or halos. They're just doing what works. That's human nature.

It can happen to you too. You wouldn't be the first monster to think to wave the fire of humanity around and forget he's also flammable.

— Snow
 
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Leliel

SJ Road Warrior
Validated User
confirming_response.pdf

In response to your first item; actually no. Subtlety was not the first thing on my mind when I organized the Order-I felt that a common identity among what is ostensibly a group of hunters capable of outlasting me came before anonymity. Mostly because I am entirely sure Defense Infrastructure, upon realizing there is an entire cabal of hunters dedicated to understanding the mind of God, is probably going to be able to crack any degree of organization, no matter how decentralized. Humans do not have the same inherent capacity for counter-intelligence we do. As a knightly order, though, one is (un)surprisingly good at blending in with the other thousand subcultures of hunters who style themselves noble orders of warriors. Including knights-I was inspired by my own encounter with a group of mage hunters called the Knights of St. George, and I dearly hope the Order will not evolve to be as...unsettling as the Dragonslayers can be (I am sure you have heard of the Awakened practice of Goetia? The Dragonslayers apparently picked up the trick themselves, despite not having a single item of Awakened lore they haven't burned. Having captured one of said manifestations of their subconscious, I can honestly say it looks nothing like any Astral entity I have seen-unless Astral entities can develop cancer).

You're entirely correct to warn me about the problem of invoking humanity as my fellows, especially the Vigil, of all things. That is another reason I attempt to remain honest-I have discovered too many stories of how attempting to deceive human allies backfires spectacularly to try to repeat the feat myself.

On to business;

As you wish, I am sending photocopies as I get around to each individual case log of the guide, for your convenience and my own. I will describe each chapter in text, with my commentary, for the sake of the other people on the network-with the occasional picture, if I finally wrap my head around how to operate the copy-and-paste (perhaps fittingly, I have trouble with some modern technology).

Since it contains some important information as to how the Guide left the ownership of the Support Group, I will start with a pair of letters my knight acquired along with the Guide, as well as a "table of contents" Moryken's own allies made. A sort of "prologue" for the rest of the Guide.

First letter is Moryken consenting to lending the Guide to his Cheiron contact, one Alicia Magnum, a senior associate at the Keystone Pharma LLP branch. Apparently familiar too, if the fact they use first names in their letters is not evidence enough. I would not call it particularly friendly though, at least not on Moryken's end-Magnum may or may not be flirting with him in her letter, but I suspect her offers for drinks has more to do with company scouting than any romantic overtures. In any case, Moryken's letter grudgingly consents to handing over what his team found in the Support Group's abandoned headquarters (who he calls the Hahnemann cell-it slips my mind if this refers to any individual in the Guide), in return for partial funding of VALKYRIE operations given budgetary woes from the government and alarming disorganization, and information on an ENE (Extra Normal Entity, for those unfamiliar with North American hunter shorthand-a supernatural being of any kind), he refers to as "the Driver". Not coincidentally, that is my first direct question of you-whoever and whatever the Driver is, they have a level of paranoia that puts most of our species (Unchained and loyalist) to shame. All I have been able to figure out is their relation to a group of gruesome killings and disappearances around the interstate system (all of the interstate system) in the Pennsylvania tri-state area. I cannot even tell you if the Driver is behind these events or not-that is how dense the secrets are.

He then goes on to describe how his organization acquired the Guide-about four months before the writing of the letter, the Support Group and all the furniture in their meeting place vanished, with the only remaining member being Moryken's own informant. The only trace evidence VALKYRIE was able to find was a finger-drawn Sator Square (a small square with the Latin phrase Sator Arepo Tenet Opera Rotas-"The sower creeps and holds the wheels with effort", as Moryken's translation puts it-arranged in a perfect 5x5 grid) in the center. This is what tipped me off to the current Sower's involvement; the occult nexus that allows the holder of the title to manifest from their collective spatial pocket is keyed to the Sator Square, to the point where even once they have translated to the mundane locality of time-space (ie, the Earth where humans generally live, along with esohumans, in physical form), they cannot enter a building without at least one iteration of the Sator Square present. Why I'm sure the Group is still alive has to do with the Sowers' "deal"-they kill monster hunters, you see, and take the souls of their victims to their pocket (why, I don't know, but the fact said pocket is called the Fields Beyond in the lore I have attained suggest it is a form of agricultural Logistical Infrastructure). However, they don't kill at random, but as part of a deal-the Sower kills two "monsters", though I'm not sure if it's always supernatural beings or anything that has attracted a hunter cell's lethal ire, then collects the soul of a hunter. If the soul is collected first, then the Sower must kill two monsters next-they seem incapable of deviating from the symbolic transaction in any form. I find it difficult to believe that any cell, no matter how successful or unlucky, provokes a feud with so many supernatural beings that prove to be such a danger to humans that they are willing to sacrifice their entire membership to take down the majority of them (though I have too much faith in humanity to say they wouldn't-it's just not likely that eventuality comes about).

Back to the letter, Moryken's agents found the Guide (titled by the Support Group's "compiler" in a bit of blackly dry humor), though they are out of chronological order. Bizarrely, contained in the Guide is also part of the manual for Cheiron's Field Projects Division (for readers not Snow, that's the monster hunting part of the Cheiron Group-infamous for raiding monsters to extract organs which they implant to improve field performance and derive several of their more miraculous pharmaceuticals) and records of contact with Valkyrie. As we will see as we comb through the guide, there's also documents from other groups that the Support Group had no apparent ability, much less business, to have in their possession. How and why is something I suspect you cannot help me on-I think I would have to ask a surviving member, and again, I am not motivated to walk into the hornet's nest, as it were.

After Magnum's response letter comes the "table of contents", several notes made by what is presumably a member of Moryken's team and a request for both chronological ordering and further research. Each case file, which the Support Group has given almost literary titles to, is listed in the order they appear in the guide, along with the writers summarized notes, in particular highlighting the main compiler of each file. In order, they are

Blood Dolls (Eddie Ford, who doesn't seem to have been part of the Group, writer worries about how the Group got the FPD manual),

The Cat Lady (compiled by actual hunter Bryan Rafferty, journalism major college dropout and possibly not actual member of the Support Group, writer seems utterly baffled for reasons that will become clear),

Oleg Cherneko (Marko Kradzic/Yuri Zhivkov shortly before his vanishing, writer wonders "revivified ENE?"),

City of Ghosts (email conversation between YA author Greg Sendack and "Ernie Fish", writer expresses bemusement at "standard ghost-hunter bullshit" but is slightly alarmed given reference to occultist Jack Bleak, who is linked with several disappearances)

Close Encounter (Rafferty again, writer wonders who someone with the screen name iofthepyramid71@ufology.net is, tries to convince themselves the story within is a hoax of some kind),

Frostbite Girl (Rafferty's apparently an active sort, weiter says "Shakes" abandoned her job at a Food Lion and left behind some rotten apples and thorns)

Gillen, Emily (definite Group members Andy Kaplinski-bank teller-and Officer C. Rodriguez just before actually begins her career, writer compares the Gillien of the title to someone in VASCU's files-not good, since the Vanguard Serial Crimes Unit tracks serial killers, and the attached photo has a distinctly knife-shaped shadow over the face of the woman in it)

Gnosopharm (no author directly stated, writer wonders who "Logos Smith" is and if the displayed supernatural abilities are actually supernatural or incredibly strong hypnosis-spoiler alert, hypnosis doesn't work like that-and asks to check the system for who Martin, aka Victor, reports to, expresses dismay at breakdown in internal VALKYRIE communication)

The Market (Kaplinski, but definitely chronologically before Gillien, Emily, writer admits to paranoia thwarting their internal Occam's Razor in regards to someone calling themselves GreenLight, wonders if Kaplinski had a fever dream given the enormous amount of speculation involved)

The Ogre (Jacob, Null Mysteriis hunter, and "Emma", who the writer believes to be a male member of Network Zero named Mike. Writer wonders if "Bulldog" and Shakes know each other).

Shy's Kill (Hickman, a contemporary of Rodriguez, along with a group of "Satanists" and Bill Beck in his penname of "Regular Joe". Writer recognizes he "Grey Wolf of North Philly" as a fugitive VALKYRIE has been attempting to subdue for years).

Snake vs. Bird (Ernie Fish is focused on now, also talking with Robin Garter-who suddenly switches to "Theresa" midway through. Writer seems convinced someone was having a psychotic break).

Ten Photographs (Doug O'Neil, who apparently disappeared before the Support Group, along with "Marcie". The actual ten photographs seem to have partially drilled past the iron plate bisecting the neocortex the writer seems to think is healthy skepticism, given how they simultaneously want to ignore the story and yet follow it up for clues. Cheiron seems involved in some manner)

Thing From the Deep (Rafferty-luck of the hypothetical First Fallen, that one. Writer also refers to "Satanists", wonders if they're the same faction in Shy's Kill, writer argues with "Sgt. Rebworth" about whether ENE is extradimensional or terrestrial mutation in origin)

The Vivisection (Rodriguez and an unknown informant, writer wonders if event is due to Cheiron-affiliated lab)

Theleme and Maman (Susan Doyle, and two VALKYRIE agents the writer actually knows and dislikes. Note contains demand to track down Theleme as top priority to serve as a much needed informant).

Writer finishes with demand to "patch leak with a bullet", entirely understandable given the sheer amount of intel the Support Group was able to collect.

As evinced by the slight change in my typing habits, I am about ready to fall asleep on the keyboard. Expect my exposition of "Blood Dolls" soon. Any member of the network is free to ask questions for clarification on discussed topics from me, or any other member using this pdf. Including Snow, if you consent?

-Sir Night, signing out.
 
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Stupid Loserman

Lame Dumbhead
Validated User
snow.pdf

"Mundane locality of space-time?" Come on, you're making my eyes glaze over with language like that. Don't be pretentious. Nobody says "locality" and you know it.

The Driver is famous scuttlebutt around Unchained communities neighboring I-95: spider sitting at the center of a web of informants, enforcers and hidden cameras. Commonly – and erroneously – assumed to be an angel, but for one nasty talent he's got: he can pick out a demon from just a few minutes of conversation or a detailed behavioral description, and he almost always has his people go for them. They don't have anything more special than pipe wrenches and cunning, but that's enough to crack your skull open if you're not careful, and that's all they need. Only three of our folk have met the man and lived, say he's a tall, wiry guy. Two of them followed the advice the first guy stumbled upon: pretend you know more than he does, which fortunately, you do. It won't keep you safe but it throws him off his game. They got a few buzzwords out of him: he thinks he's studying a "road gospel," that if he finishes his "map of the deep highways" he can set himself free of the false world and escape into the truth.

Sator squares have a lot of different associations. Moryken's translation is deprecated; the sator palindrome is our only surviving example of the word "arepo" in Latin, and most relatives appear to be derivations from the sator square itself. Creeping is a best-fit based on resemblance to an abbreviation for "ad repo;" sator arepo interpretations more commonly take Arepo as a proper noun, the name of the sower in question, which gives you "Arepo the sower keeps wheels for his work": he tills it with a plough. There's a more compelling reading boustrophedon reading, which uses the sower's cue to alternate reading lines in each direction, like a plough would till the soil. That gives you "sator opera tenet" starting from either corner, meeting in the middle: the sower keeps his deeds or preserves his work. Or, you could say, as you sow, so shall you reap. Couldn't tell you any more about your Sowers in particular.

Hopefully I should have some more on-point information when you start digging into the actual reports.

— Snow
 

Leliel

SJ Road Warrior
Validated User
understood.pdf

My apologies for the technical jargon. Sometimes I feel it is the only way to describe these things without invoking occult terminology, which is woefully imprecise at the best of times. It annoys me.

Anyway, as Esther informed me, it is probably safer to not wait for your reply after getting the photocopies to you. I will be waiting intently.

Moving on, let us talk about Blood Dolls.

As befitting the Support Group's habit of cover images fitting some element of the case file, we have a music CD case, entitled Razorkids. The picture is typical death metal, snarling skull with glowing eyes, crown of thorns to invoke a parody of religion, that sort of thing. Not very original, though I do like that the skull's been modified to appear as almost as if there's flesh, but it's been mummified.

The first page of the file seem to be emails about a music article written by the aforementioned Eddie Ford, stapled in reverse chronological order. Mr. Ford is just sending the email as an attachment to one Peter Goldfinch, his editor at "The Philly Alt", but Goldfinch has apparently cut a deal with a figure he names Alexis, noting that he needs a "treatment" soon and asking them for advice on how to censor the article properly. I feel for Alexis in this case-there is a reason I am not involved in information control when I can manage it, rewriting the media to keep esohumans safely hidden is an art I do not have the passion or skill for.

But I digress. The next sub-part of this file is the actual article from Mr. Ford-which is where we actually get the title of the file from: "Blood Dolls; Secretive, Eccentric and Rich: Meet the Post-Goth Underground."

The start is a typical opening header of any personal piece, commentary about the artist's view of the focus of their story. In his case, Ford talks about the fact that the initial wave of Gothic rock and associated subculture, at least in Philadelphia, has petered out, leaving the fact that the dour mood in tailored nightclubs is a bit more unintentional than it used to be. Given the picture here, of a perfectly in focus singing and a massively motion-blurred individual in the audience, I am inclined to believe there's more than just internal tensions at work there-but I will leave discussion of the reasons until later in this file.

In any case, Ford notes that the only time goths get excited these days is when a major band sets up a venue, such as the Razorkids. Tour bus, roadies, and all the other aesthetics of a more famous and mainstream rock band, the Razorkids seem to live up to their fame-or at least, as much as you can while being as camera-shy as they apparently are. This isn't an interview with them; as Ford discovers, he's not special in the fact that the band won't give him a few words, they don't give interviews at all. Ford suspects the obvious resources and word-of-mouth they still have regardless is the sign of the youthful wealthy with supportive parents, but after digging, he cannot find anything on half the band and the other three members are from strictly middle-class backgrounds. After doing some legwork, Ford discovers the financial backers are a group who call themselves the titular Blood Dolls.

Ford corners a pair of said sponsors, who go by Dan and Jennifer-no last names, no indication they're aliases. Ford spends a bit talking about their fashion sense-Corporate Goth, business suits and pseudo-Victorian wear with somewhat melodramatic accents. Fits with their self-proclaimed role as the underground version of the Medicis-they sponsor bands like Renaissance nobility kept personal artists. They help each other, too-if you're invited by "them" (Dan corrects himself, but Ford, in an action truly worthy of a very dull secrecy breach, keeps in the initial slip), and you pay the tithe, you get help in succeeding in life. Normally they keep themselves separate from the "common folk" of most Goths, but at some point the Dolls decided that an air of covert aristocracy could probably be compromised by recouping the money they keep pouring into the Razorkids, so the Dolls are out of the drawing room and in with the rest of the club. Ford is intrigued; the non-ironic elitism and conventional class displayed by the Dolls strikes him as a new level of rebellion against the punk culture that Goths were born from...but he doesn't get to find out why they're called Blood Dolls. “Darling, the privileged have always had secrets", as Jennifer puts it. I don't disagree, but I would also like to add that if you are going to keep secrets, ask yourself why they're secrets-a little spoiler for my analysis.

Razorkids music isn't anything to write home about, good or bad, as Ford says. It's Darkwave with classical instrumentation and a slower pace. The lyrics, on the other hand, the lyrics are already something that suggests exactly why the Support Group got involved. Ford is cheerfully innocent enough to just be confused, but you and I? Tell me you do not find this some degree of alarming or interesting:

Verses of "Service" said:
Delicious service
Your feelings fall into the flow
You love her you hate her, it doesn’t matter
The red river takes it away
My love, my enemy
I would smash a marble statue for you
With my bare, cursed hands
The one I made of you, for you
Waste all my art
Delicious service
For my listeners, if you do not instantly guess at what this refers to-I will get to that.

The Dolls don't dance at their own show, preferring to keep behind a rope if they can't hide in the back. Ford's the only one there who's visibly old and seemingly non-airbrushed, which is odd, given how there is over thirty Dolls in their area. After the show, an apparently new Doll, Bill, invited Ford to the after-party. Grand mistake, right there-in a private setting, secrecy is always a bit thin. About the least odd part of the party is the lack of food in favor of high-quality wine and the need for a sponsor (Bill suggests who is presumably the same Alexis Goldfinch was speaking with in the emails). The band isn't allowed at their own celebration, instead sleeping it off in the van, and everyone seems more interested in Ford's "sponsor" than this new apparent Doll. At 4:00 AM, the strange reaches a crescendo, when three normal-looking individuals and one seeming burn victim come in unannounced, and suddenly become the stars of the party. And not just the focus, the object of adoration. Jennifer even gives the injured man a quite passionate kiss. The chaos is only calmed when a thin older woman pipes down the Dolls, and says that her party will give them "one-third payout [after being serviced]," and "We're not going to have any gangbang bullshit." Ford is understandably unnerved by this and leaves with Bill, the latter of whom seems more depressed about not meeting the party directly by my reading. The closing section reveals Ford has been a bit soured on the Dolls as a whole-not because he disapproves of the apparent prostitution, but because they strike him as addicts of some stripe or another.

He believes it to be privilege without the effort that shows the whole aristocracy business to be as shallow as any other social system based on irrelevant physical makeup. Given your claimed experience, Snow, I can only hope you can see there's more literal blood than blue involved in this. No offense, but this is a good example of why esohumans with no inherent ability to erase memory by dint of our existence must be incredibly careful with who we let into our social events.

The Support Group presumably figured out the obvious link, given how their stolen chapter of the FPD Handbook on vampires is here. As my observation of Cheiron itself has corroborated , the manual is notoriously basic and often inaccurate in its information (in particular as you get closer and closer to human baseline in terms of esohumans-I've heard rumors they even raid anti-witchcraft tracts from the Reformation to find some physical evidence a person is a mage). That being said, it's a good starting point-in particular, they note there's a difference between a dead vampire and one that has been merely sent into forced hibernation (torpor, they call it) due to a stake of wood through the heart (and before you ask, the occult symbolism of life-vs-death requires it is wood). In particular, while a vampire in torpor often looks like a mummified corpse, a truly dead member of the Kindred undergo rapid decay into ash-an evolutionary adaptation to hide their existence from sapient prey, no doubt. They also note that while a vampire does not normally have life signs, with effort they can fake them for a period of time-long enough to trick an examiner into believing they're a living person and escape once in the infirmary, for instance.

I can't fault the safety here, either-a heart is an easy organ to miss, and a vampire clever enough to fake death as soon as they realize the wood was an inch off is probably capable of planning on how to drain their would-be captors dry and running off. They recommend eight people at least, four security with incendiaries and four medical technicians. The idea is the surround the apparent immobilized leech, clamp them down, and then get the techs to check if this is truly a Kindred in torpor, a normal corpse, a Kindred faking torpor, or an unconscious and likely soon to be dead mortal. As noted by the manual, vampires are known for their mental tricks-the impression everything is fine may be what they're trying for.

Analysis: As alluded to, it's quite clear this entire case file is a study in the system that develop among the most common genus of unliving life-parasitizing entity in this planet of ours, the various types of the vampires who call themselves the Kindred. More than that, it's a demonstration of why, in all honesty, I take every opportunity I can to undermine them and burn them out. For the benefit of the network, Snow, it is best I explain some pertinent facts about the biochemistry of Kindred.

In blunt terms, vampires are specially adapted for two things; stealthy hunting among normal humans, and the complete and utter mental mutilation of humans into a form that supports predation. It's the second part I detest about them-I despise true involuntary modification of the mind, hence why my agreement with my knights is not only to get them clean of drugs, but cut off their suppliers. Vampires do so not only as a function of their biology, but because it's convenient for them.

See, undeath causes a series of bio-pneumal (soul-related) changes in the new Kindred. First among them is the "Beast" so prominent in their culture-I'm not sure if it's a metaphor or symbiote, but I do know the Beast is the seat of the new instincts that guides the vampire to their new existence. The ability to tolerate drinking blood, ability to remain unknown and lonely for long periods of time, a reduced social conscience, that sort of thing. However, what really intrigues me is their ability to modify their own flesh, the initial manifestation of which is their ability to reconfigure their canines into piercing, hypodermic fangs and saliva into a fast-acting coagulant; a vampire bleeds only as much as they drink before a quick lick sterilizes and heals the wound. However, said fangs aren't just teeth-all reports I have of a vampire bite is that it also somewhat deserves being called a Kiss; during feeding, the vampire unleashes a powerful cocktail of neural signals into their prey, causing feelings of contentment, sexual exitation, and affection in peaceful situations, terror, shame, and nonaggression in hostile ones. Not anything I am hypocritical enough to condemn, but many vampires have long realized this makes them living psychotropic drugs. In effect, not only do they become the dealers to their prey, they have the gall to charge them for the privilege of being a snack. In fact, I have learned "blood doll" is Kindred slang for a Kiss addict, not something anyone should be proud of.

That would be bad enough, except that vampires are not just drinking blood-they are, they can't normally generate fluids by themselves, but what a vampire is truly after is what laymen call "life force." The nebulous energy that keeps the body's mystical processes intact, otherwise the brain would lose its connection to the soul (I am aware it is possible to be technically alive and soulless, but having met Thralls in my time I consider my hypothesis that the soul is critical to mental functioning valid) and promptly die. The symbolic drinking of blood allows the vampire to absorb this life force and store it as a liquid medium in their own blood, creating a substance called Vitae (it should also be noted that a vampire can attain life force without blood, but all records I have suggests in transubtinates into Vitae despite the lack of a medium. I theorize that is because the bone marrow is still functional enough in the undead body to create basic plasma if there is excess life force to refine. It would be actually quite fascinating to watch). Being hypercharged with vital energy, Vitae can be used to drastically retard aging, freezing a mortal at the age they began taking Vitae until they run out-and is quite possibly the most addictive substance in existence. Besides being more or less pure life, and this can only be interpreted by the mortal biology as utterly necessary to continued existence, Vitae is also a medium for a psychic bond effect called a Viniculum; a false feeling of love and devotion that grows stronger with every specific feeding from a vampire, until the vampire is the only thing that matters in the subject's life.

Kindred casually create these thralls as minions to operate in daytime. Assuming they don't just do it to avoid the irritation of setting up a shell company to feed some pet project in Darkwave. Hence why the only vampires I actually can proactively stomach are Neglatu, the keepers of revenants (lesser vampires who cannot retain Vitae easily)-who cannot form the Viniculum, and given how their biological purpose is to protect and shepherd revenants, forces them to learn a smidgen of empathy. Sociopathic twits, the rest of them-they aren't on my exterminate list as a species, but I am not ashamed to admit always looking for a reason to add individuals. It isn't prejudice to dislike tigers and hunt down man-eaters, to invoke a simile.

As for the fate of Eddie Ford, I can only assume Alexis did not enjoy having his name taken by a cheerfully unknowing hole in the Masquerade, as they call it, and plugged it very violently. At least, I hope it was a violent plug-there's so much worse awaiting those who enrage vampires.

My next story will be on the Cat Lady, and some very puzzling felines.

- Sir Night.
 
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Leliel

SJ Road Warrior
Validated User
OOC: Since Stupid_Loserman can't respond nearly as much as he'd like, please feel free to ask OOC and IC questions. Such as what an Unchained is, if you missed my last Let's Read

Also, keep in mind Night's Agency does not necessarily share his dim view of the Requiem-it's quite possible they roped him into allowing Kindred and Begotten into the network (he also dislikes Beasts, since he doesn't view them as altogether different from other mental mutilators, just ones who aren't as invasive and have an excuse-and the fact he isn't Kin despite being an esohuman strikes him as incredibly snobbish).
 

Leliel

SJ Road Warrior
Validated User
on_the_next_episode.pdf

To avoid wasting time, I will skip the preamble and start talking about The Cat Lady (photocopies already sent).

Our cover image is...mundane. It's an old woman, spectacles the largest feature on her face. We see the full image on the actual first page, revealing her to be behind a dusty old body length wall window. It fits, I must say-wonderful case study in how omnipresent the paranormal is.

Bryan Rafferty is our narrator, although someone named "Ian" notes to "Tess" that things get rather gruesome as the story goes on, and I'm inclined to agree (though not for any reasons involving gore). The file, as is typical for him, are transcriptions of his own verbal records he puts on his voice recorder (as we'll discover later, he had it for college before a vampire ruined his journalism degree-it's always vampires, it seems). Thanks to his habit of starting off as a preamble to any of his case files (I can only assume he's internally making an article), we learn of Rafferty's feelings on animal hoarders, and the apparent ubiquity of the archetypal crazy cat lady. Every town has one, according to him-and he'd know, he's so allergic he can detect the presence of a feline in 10 feet by his runny nose. Because fate is a cruel jester with a finely developed sense of irony, his current investigations have led him to the house of the local cat lady, who he later learns is named Ella Mae Simmons. I will be referring to her as Simmons for ease of typing.

Anyway, despite the incredulousness of his fellow hunter, "Andy", Rafferty is currently hanging around the Simmons house despite his misery, on a hunch. A hunch he isn't actually sure has the right to be one, hence the investigation (I am probably not remiss in saying both you and I have been there). During his morning routine, Rafferty saw a poster for a missing dog, which he was sure he had seen, heavily injured, in Simmons' property. Rafferty, being as apathetic as one would expect a monster hunter who performs his duty out of a sense of virtue as one would expect, he naturally tried to alert the owner, only to be turned away and asked to destroy any remaining posters for reasons he refuses to elaborate on, only that it was traumatic to his children. Thinking about the bizarre behavior, Raffety realizes the dog actually looked dead rather than injured. Thus, why Rafferty is hovering around the Simmons household, and eventually (some time after Andy gets sick of the apparent red herring, I presume) infiltrates the yard, looking for any sign of what happened to the canid. All he finds is signs of decay, a bird's beak (not exactly striking given the amount of cats, and indeed a contact of Rafferty's explains it is apparently a perfectly normal sign of predation when he sends it to her), and Simmons herself, wandering the interior...but no cats. Which is the incongruent bit, as besides the fact that the Simmons household is their territory, he did see them milling about earlier (we also see a picture of said cats, which is probably all the evidence one needs when arguing against the validity of hoarding animals. They do not look healthy in the slightest).

A bit later, he discovers why, which is also why he buys a air gun capable of killing a cat. Simmons' pets do not behave like cats should-or even well-coordinated pack animals like dogs do, normally. At certain times, it seems, the colony-not just a large portion of the cats, the entire group of them-leave in complete synchronicity, looking for all the world like a pet store had sprung a leak, in his words (I would use "security team leaving on patrol", but I'm a spy by biology-that is entirely my metaphor), which "Ernie" confirms is precisely what happened earlier. Hence the gun-at some point, you can't gather intel by mere observation, you need actual hard material. Much to his disgust, he proves his experience in a crack shot that doesn't leave time for the black tom he selects to know what hit him (he believes he got lucky later, but I've found ability to even hit what you're aiming at the majority of the time under stress is a sign you're improving quite well). The other cats react even more bizarrely, apparently not only noticing but entering into a full mourning caterwaul-something cats, who are notoriously uncaring of the dead (they eat the corpse of their owners if starved) do not do.

By the way, we get a flash of something Rafferty is not yet aware of, something a bit more sinister than what he currently seeks; a pair of newspaper clippings. One concerns serial murder, the other a disappearance. The sole public evidence revealed in the former is a keychain with the design of a cat. The other concerns an mp3 player found while a park ranger was clearing out strays.

The biology of the dead cat, though, seems perfectly normal to Rafferty's contact (as a side note, she's the only one with a letter alias. Affiliated with the police or another profession to prestigious to go off chasing cryptozoological felines, I suppose). Nobody, not even the clogged-up fringes, noticed the cats mourning (probably thought they were singing, as cats are wont to do). Rafferty worries about Simmons for a bit, then makes a plan with his cell to observe quietly in shifts now that he's convinced them the cats have paranormal elements. Not a moment too soon; "Gary," his boss at what appears to be a convenience store, gets annoyed with Rafferty's tardiness, even leaving a note (given how there is almost the same exact note happens in a completely different file with almost the same exact threat of firing, I suspect Gary is actually the forgiving sort when he's not upset). I'm rather more interested in what's under said note in the file, a religious story about a priest-mystic exorcising a village of devils...in the shape of cats. I suspect the Support Group followed up the lead in this story on their own...anyway, Rafferty moonlights on his shift to research stories of monstrous housecats, finding only tangential relations, when suddenly the transcript is interrupted by a very peculiar customer that apparently walked out of the darkness to ask for mercury thermometers for about a minute.

Next entry comes from the contact finding a lead: A man walking his greyhound was attacked by a pack of cats that left a very pungent odor of decay-three guesses as to what she suspects are the culprits, first two don't count. Rafferty realizes the colony is getting bolder and malicious, but in a virtuously auspicious turn of events, decides not for the arson sweep-and-clear. Simmons is still living in her house, after all, and given her rather sorry state (he even relates her petting the arm of a chair in the belief it is one of her pets), he is a mile away from risking her safety-as he puts it, he isn't the hunter who blows up a day care center on the not-quite-reasonable suspicion a hostile oneriovore lurks there when seeking easy prey. Killing the cats one-by-one is not only inefficient, but probably cruel-especially if it turns out they are normal felids. So, he decides to confirm his suspicions (and reach a good vantage point for poisoning) the best way that presents itself; an interview.

As evinced by the fact he begins the next entry recovering from vomiting, it goes better and worse than he hopes. Claiming to be a social worker named Louis Wayland (is that a reference to anything not personal? I wouldn't know), he secures an invitation to tea. Trying very hard to avoid and ignore the vengeful cats showing their paranormal military precision (acting like a security team watching their quarry, now), Rafferty gets Simmons to open up about her life. Most of it's largely unremarkable, but she does note her visiting nurse doesn't really show interest at all in her condition or really anything she has to say, preferring to poor drivel into her cell phone (Rafferty notes she should be fired, and I would only disagree in that I would ensure she never finds work near people who need a nurse again). Then Rafferty asks about anything that she would have normally told Denise about.

That is where the case breaks. Initially, she seems to have had a bit of a psychotic break (I could forgive Denise her skepticism, if nothing else, when she talks about learning to fly and run and suchlike), but then she tells Rafferty that her cats helped her do that. She doesn't know how, but she suspects the cats share breath with her when she's sleeping and help her dream of the lives of their prey. She can definitely breathe her spirit into their victims, gain their senses for a while-she even has the bodies she did it with, even offering to show Rafferty the body of that missing girl I presumably mentioned earlier. It's quite clear to Rafferty at this point that Simmons has long since left the point where she could tell right from wrong long behind her-she even briefly mistakes him for a cat, it seems.

While Simmons stops by the restroom, Rafferty resolves himself, and envenoms her teacup-he figures she's become addicted to whatever her pets give her, and even beyond the fact she doesn't understand what she did, any bitterness towards the world that drives her is all too understandable (that, and he figures the cats themselves are too smart to not notice the poison-but they do love her enough to not kill someone in front of her). It's a merciful end, the poison-Simmons simply drinks it, and from there sleeps forever. Once she stops breathing, that's when our hunter sets the house aflame-and at least a few cats, it seems, stay with her in her pyre.

Rafferty notes that many of them didn't stick around, and he couldn't think of a way to get rid of all of them that wouldn't implicate him. He swears to tell his cell about it in the morning, hunt them down-though he asks whoever is reading the file to kill any of the demon felines, not to protect the world, but to let a sad old woman rest in piece.

Analysis: I mentioned before there's a few stories I have not found likely theories for, and desperately needed your help. This is one of them.

My first instinct was a type of our own cryptids, but Aetheric mutants have a knack for ruining the kind of camera photo we saw earlier in the file, and such a collection of lore would likely be too obvious for our old master to let slip by the censor-angels. Besides, the cats seem completely normal to an anatomical expression-I have heard of subtle mutation, but thorough inspection should turn up a circuit design on the veins or a human-like cranial shape, at least.

My second guess is that they might by similar to a different species of stable felid mutation-Felis silvestris maleficus, or the Witchcat. Deliberately engineered by mages and hedge magicians of a decidedly lich-like attitude, Witchcats are highly intelligent, trainable, and loyal felines that are the source of many stories of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome-the Witchcat perches on the body of its prey, then proceeds to drain life energy (similar to vitae? I have heard stories of vampirism via breath eating) from the subject in the form of breath. From there, it can then transport the breath back to its designated master and exhale the the stored energy into them, extending their life and vitality, or keep a little for themselves to the same effect (infants appear to have the most "youth" to steal, as well as being defenseless against the process). The difference is, besides the fact that Simmons would have been decidedly less senile in all likelihood due to her extended lifespan repairing and reinforcing her cognitive functions, Witchcats appear to be, and act like, perfectly normal specimens of F. catus. In fact, I have heard them to be friendlier overall to humans in general minus targets, since Witchcats can read social cues almost as well as dogs can and possess tamer dispositions. Simmons' cats act far too much like trained militants, and show far more coordinated pack behavior than I expect anything that acts like a normal housecat to be capable of doing.

Notice I used the present tense. Even beyond any hypothetical survivors of the Simmons brood, and assuming that story of the priest to be tangential-the murders in that other newspaper clipping, the cats didn't hide the bodies. Either they got lazy...or as implied by the fact that Simmons didn't have any recollection of killing anyone but a younger woman as opposed to four older men, I suspect it's because they didn't have a convenient hiding place before then. And if they existed before then...well, I suspect there's more to that colony than Simmons' pets.

(OOC: I should note out of character what I thought, I realized.

This story's a lot better than Blood Dolls, and since I already liked Blood Dolls, it's pretty good. For one thing, it's not obvious what the cats are, or even what their relation to their master is-are they symbiote, or parasite with occasional, accidental benefits? More importantly, though, is the lack of wasted wordcount-everything in the story is about the story, as opposed to a sudden hard left into technical that does absolutely nothing for the overall theme. Seriously, what was that about?)

Our next story, in sequence, is an autobio, of sorts-both of one Oleg Cherenko, and his errant hitman.
 
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flyboy254

Registered User
Validated User
From:JoeHillJr@UnitedForAll.com
To:Sir_Knight@Boundless.net
Re:Those Guys

I still don't know how you managed to drag me into this, especially considering I would've been well within reason to have left you to explain to those nice priests that you were of course some kind of friendly monster. Whatever, let's just focus in on this right?

Moryken and Mangum, those are names that've been floating around for three and two decades, respectively. Doesn't do either one a damn bit of good though, looking at what I see here. Moryken's been a virtual ghost though, and Mangum is too high up to care about us regular folks. Better for her really, a few people I know would like to ask her where that cure for cancer is hiding. And yes, I do know that there's more than one cause of, type, and cure for cancer. With the shit I've seen her people using, one general cure for cancer is nothing.

So yes, word has been spreading around about these idiots (Not just my words) and what they compiled here. Every cell on up to the men in black and Inquisition keep files like this, helps when you come across something after all. The disorganization isn't so unusual, not when you read through what they lived through. It's the so-called "Sator Square" that I get pissed at. They might have been a lone team, but they had to have some allies. If they had needed help, they shouldn't have gone and called up something that might have bit them in the ass despite your theories on some of them still being alive. More than likely one of them is dead or worse. The Sator thing? Mostly scuttlebutt as my uncle would say, but the Grocer thinks it's real, and that's good enough for me to know there's something to it.

So with that out of the way, let's deal with this first little section shall we? It's no secret that the leeches do what they can to sink their fangs into daddy and mommy Warbucks' little angel to siphon the cash away. What does make me look twice is that this dumbass music critic got in so deep like he did. I don't think he did this one on his own, I think someone let his stupid ass see all this on purpose. Either because they wanted him to see what he saw, or because they're just about done with those little asshats and are about to move on to the next buffet line. More importantly, that section they included with how to take the leeches down. Some NetZos have tried to keep stuff like this circulating, personally I print it out the second I get it so everyone I know can get a copy if they ask. What these guys did though, that's a good portion of that book. Which makes me think even more that this was a deliberate slip. Your theories on the "soul-drinking" thing? Well, maybe it is, maybe it isn't. All I know is that you lose enough blood you'll be walking like you're dead no matter what. At least we both agree that leeches are only good for compost once you ash them.

Rafferty? Guy is a fucking idiot. It's not his staking things out, or his trying to piece everything together, or even shooting the cat. It's that the dumb fuck went in alone. There's a reason cells exist in the first place, and this dumbass just decides to risk everything by going it alone? Who's he think he is, John Wayne? Even worse, he lit that house on his own call too. Anyone in my cell did that they'd be hooked up to a breathing machine, myself included if it was me. He's lucky we've heard stories about the surviving cats, otherwise I'd be calling him a fucking murderer. More proof that these assholes were making more trouble than they solved to me. I know, you think he's doing the right thing by not just burning the house, but he went in on his own and made the call on his own. That, right there, is a bad sign. Any of your people start doing that? Take them to the mat for it. What the cats were? No fucking clue man. Some of the rumors involve witches, sure, but others involve some kind of test that went out of hand. Maybe the old cat lady is the perfect way to test out some kind of occult weapon? Who's gonna miss that person, right?

Just be warned, you're painting a giant target on yourself with this one. This guide stepped on a lot of toes, and anyone who looks too close into it is in for a world of hurt if they're not careful.
 

Leliel

SJ Road Warrior
Validated User
hello_there_joe.pdf

To answer your query: My winning smile? I did work for hours on it.

In all seriousness, I "dragged you into this" to repay the favor you did me. You receive what knowledge I've managed to scrounge up, and Snow's own intel.

Thank you for both warnings, by the way. When you are as paranoid as Unchained are by necessity, sometimes you forget what's a danger sign instead of just good caution.

Moving on:

Our next file is Oleg Chernenko, and our cover photo is the eponymous Mafiya boss himself. I don't think it's a spoiler to point out one of his nicknames is "Tovarisch (Prince) Bones", and it fits him quite well. The man's head looks like a skull that spontaneously grew a bearded, scowling face around itself. From my experience with aged Covers, though, I can say his wrinkles aren't the normal progression of age, particularly since there'd be more white in his hair, then. More like poison, or perhaps more fittingly, radiation. For the benefit of Mr. Hill, who I suspect does not obsessively check the original meanings of names as a hobby-"Chernenko", as a surname, is closest to a Russian surname meaning "black."

Ms. Magnum puts her own commentary at the front, saying she's the one who acquired Oleg's (it's easier for me to spell his first name, and it's his first named used consistently throughout this file) FBI file, and her staff lobbied the renaming of this case file "Frankenstein's Mobster." Insert your own booing sounds here.

Back to serious matters; the majority of the case file is the transcript of an audio interview with a man who calls himself Marko, for his and the unknown interviewer's protection (the watermark logo says FBI-Vanguard Serial Crimes Unit, perhaps? I know they deal with any supernatural criminals who appear murderous). It appears Marko approached them of his own free will, both to offer his own advice to lead to the interviewer's survival, and his own. He is also, in his own words, a very bad man who wanted to hide, which is why he is now a security guard.

He starts off with his own backstory-Bulgarian by birth, found himself in a world still under the Iron Curtain. He also claims to be a bit of a poet, but not because of any talent-it's because poetry helps take the mind off of starving. Since he was good at boxing, though, he became an athlete, then a member of the secret police's legbreakers, and when Communism fell, transferred that same talent to the newborn mob-better than starving by a long shot. And to be frank, the 90s were a wonderful time to be a gangster in the ex-Soviet bloc; with the rise of capitalism without pesky things like regulation or a police force that even pretended at honesty came the sudden advent of things like color, excitement, art that doesn't make a critic gouge out his own eyes just after finishing with the censorship bureau (my words-socialist realism is, in my humble opinion, quite simply the only art movement proud of being so dull it's an eyesore). So, with capitalism comes the potential for business, and being gangsters, that business begins with protection rackets and car theft-usually both at the same time, selling the stolen cars and then forcing an insurance policy on the buyers on pain of the mob taking it back and leaving the buyer with nothing but bruises (to their credit, Marko's gang did take the insurance part seriously-someone else stole a car already sold, the gang gets it back to its proper not-quite-legal owner). When the war started in Serbia, that's when Marko's bosses got into grey marketing, selling Bulgarian produce that would be legal were it not for the UN sanctions and thus, impossible to export were it not for the friendly mob. From there, they branched out into petrol (including the Romanian kind, which Marko feels the need to warn the interviewer about never actually putting in a car-from bitter experience, I can concur), then gun running, and on occasion mercenary work, if time permitted. Marko was good at it too, getting rich enough to move to Moscow (My own words of warning-if the Loyal Opposition hates you or the Mafiya gets wind of your supernatural abilities, stay away from Moscow. The Agency there is insane, and that's before getting into what demonic capabilities allow them to do).

He soon came to wonder why he thought that was a good plan, as he ended up meeting Oleg.

We have the FBI file Magnum found on Oleg. Truth is, what he's wanted for doesn't interest me-the crimes there's mundane laws for are, sadly, nothing special for anyone involved in the management of international organized crime. What does draw my eye are two of his aliases: "Oleg Wormwood" and "Chernobyl Olie". This simply sounds like those nicknames other ruthless mob bosses, in particular ones that claim to be from Pripyat (for the network's benefit, that is the town killed by the Chernobyl accident)...except his birthday is four days after Chernobyl blew. Long after anyone sensible ran from Pripyat, and 1997 is long after the stubborn idiots would have died off.

Back to Marko's interview; he noted immediately that something was uniquely offputting about Oleg. He doesn't look like other mob men, for one-other people high in the Mafiya, they began as muscle, same as any other low-ranking goon, and keep up the habit of body building. Oleg dresses like them (moderately expensive suits, lots of gold jewelry, a real Rolex) but he's...not a big man. Not in the sense of being short (he's over 1.8 meters-six feet in Imperial), but in that he's thin. Unhealthily so-he looks almost like he's sucking his cheeks in at all times.

Of course, if Oleg was just sallow, people might call him Comrade Bones in earshot (it is a pretty good nickname for a high ranking crime lord). Thing is, Oleg has more than just the aura of menace mobsters cultivate to survive about him. For one thing, nobody likes him, not even the prostitutes paid to like him even after he showers them with gifts if they please him (though he still loses interest quickly-Marko says he can buy a new one every night, and often does). This gets pretty strange in a profession where people literally live or die based on personal trust. Marko didn't know why at the time, but as he went out drinking with his fellow goons, he discovered that Mafiya guys, in place of ghost stories, tell Oleg stories. First, Marko relates Oleg's venture into sex trafficking. He has a particularly ruthless way of it, even given this is sex slavery, a pyramid scam that forces the relations of people caught up in the slave trade to find other girls. Of course, Marko was a part of that, and Oleg didn't come up with that, but for a while, he was good at it, even "sampling the wares" every time he got a woman. Then he stopped, when the wares kept dying of some sort of cancer in a year-it gets expensive. Thing is, Oleg's men knew he liked screwing the women, and more than that, "died of cancer in a year" describes every woman Oleg penetrates.

Alarming enough, but another, stranger story is that Oleg keeps the bodies of people he's killed for some reason or another. Not to admire, but to do things. Things that result in said bodies being up and walking, despite the death wounds. Yevgeny, a (dead, for unrelated reasons) friend of Marko once told him that he once saw a victim not even a week old walking around with a hole in his skull, and Oleg doesn't exactly deny he shot the man. There's a picture of the mobile cadaver someone thinks is that man, and I would say I'd be more disturbed by the apparent vivisection scars and desiccation, but it's possible Yevgeny didn't get a good look at a cadaver with clothes on.

Third story, when Oleg owned a Chechen Mafiya franchise (yes, I was a bit amused to discover even black marketers have franchises). He had a gang out in St. Petersburg for a while, but then it had a paranoid meltdown. as upset criminals without someone clearly to blame tend to do. Oleg, however, doesn't take the cap off the tension for whatever reason, and instead lets his men literally tear themselves apart, perhaps even watching. When Marko asked another man to confirm the rumor, he did-and also revealed that, at the same time, St. Petersburg had an outbreak of similarly lethal paranoia, even to the point of witch hunts for actual witches to burn at the stake. Marko's contact didn't think the phenomenon had much to do with Oleg, but then again, the man is a nomad-he never stays in one place if he can help it, dropping in like a scowling spectre on his network on a loose schedule.

And that's where Marko tells his Oleg story. It starts when Oleg arranges a rare personal meeting to find a good, reliable muscle for a hit. Marko is elected as a good candidate, much to his dismay, as Oleg also wants to come along to make sure it's done right. Even beyond the unease he radiates and the similar effect the burn scars covering his arms has on people, he seems to be deliberately showing his burns off to Marko and makes him ride in a car lacking air conditioning, since it seems that Oleg doesn't even sweat in the heat of a closed-window car. After Marko fights off heatstroke, he goes up to the mark's apartment to kill him and let Oleg in to take whatever it is he doesn't want Marko to know he's stealing. The target turns out to be a very old man with a gun, who immediately recognizes Marko as Oleg's hitman. Before he gets beaten to death, he decides to at least attempt at explaining at what Oleg really is-not just a monster in the sense of being a bad man (though he is), but also in the sense of being born not of woman, but various other men stitched together. Marko thinks he is insane (and to be fair, he looks it), but the man just shrugs and tells him to get it over with and let the boss check the apartment, as agreed on-glancing at the refridgerator all the while.

Marko stabs him, but checks the mysterious ice box, discovering milk, cheese, and an obvious homemade bomb. Marko's first instinct is to tell the boss, but then he remembers just how much of a frightful person Oleg is, and all the Oleg stories. So he hides the bomb again, calls Oleg, evades his boss' suspicious gaze, goes to the car, and plugs his ears.

Whatever Professor Vissarion Yudenich (from the newspaper clipping included-not a famous scientist at any point, but he was a hero of Chernobyl) was planning to do with his errant creation though, it didn't work. Oleg comes out. It wasn't fruitless, however, as human disguise has been shredded to reveal that indeed, Comrade Bones is a skeleton-except in places where tendons are necessary to hold things like eyes in, where he is disturbingly meaty and vitreous. Assuming those aren't the metal wires where tendons weren't apparently available. I believe I've seen a picture of him without his disguise, though I can't say where-in the bluntest terms possible, he looks like a modern version of the Grim Reaper, a skull with all-too-living eyes. Even if it wasn't for the unsettling aura intensifying even further, Oleg would have driven off like the First Fallen himself was after him.

After that panic attack, Marko attempts to convince himself that Oleg's literal skull face was due to the rest of his skin being flayed off by the explosion, and this, Oleg is safely dead-a task that proves Sisyphean when Oleg himself rings up Marko's cell, asking him for a face-to-face to explain a few things. Not being an idiot, Marko decides to not risk that his betrayed boss is actually just trying to explain what he is, and takes the first flight out of Russia. If I was the one pursuing him, that would be that, or at least it would be after I tracked down the potential leak and put a lead plug in it, as they say. It is nothing personal, I just happen to not wish to die from Cover loss (although any internal tension over killing for selfish reasons would be relieved that the hypothetical leak left me to die thanks to a bomb; that part would be entirely personal). But while Oleg does eventually figure out where Marko went, he decides to drag it out for no apparent reason-perhaps torturing Marko became Oleg's hobby, I've known of darker ones elder Kindred get up to.

It starts in Mumbai, when Marko is working for a Bollywood director who figured mob money was as good as any other investment in his films. One night, Marko is given the night off, and he goes to a nighclub looking for quick sex. Initially, the night goes well-then a trio of zombies, one of which Marko realizes is a man he shot a week past, attack, devouring several guests-and animating them as new undead. Marko barely fights it out, and when he is preparing to leave for greener, less death-infested pastures, when his cell phone rings again. On it is a message from Oleg: "I'll find you."

And so it continues, with Marko in the place of the mouse and Oleg playing a somewhat out of character cat (real felines "play with their food" to leave it exhausted before the kill, and thus won't injure them in the process. They don't do it purely out of sadism). In Delhi, Marko greets a swarm of dead rats. In Johannesburg, everyone he works with dies of radiation burns similar to a dirty bomb (and no, I don't know why Marko knows what a radiation burn looks like in that case-unfortunately, I have a reasonable guess). In Buenos Aires, a different monster strikes at Marko, a worm made of human flesh that dissolves into a black stain after it takes a chunk out of his thigh. Marko decides that Oleg may be tracking him by his reputation in the criminal underworld, so he gets a legal job in Rio de Janeiro. Even finds a true lover, who he has ambitions of marrying-then she vanishes for a few days, and when she comes back, she is covered in radiation burns-and with the mind of a stranger. She strikes Marko with mouths in her hands, and at one point he sees she is the same kind of stitched-together skeleton that Oleg is. Marko kills her, twice, and moves one last time to Philadelphia, where he becomes a security guard for three years, seemingly free of Oleg.

The day before the interview, Oleg called Marko at his apartment, and politely explained to Marko that he is finally going to kill him. Which is why Marko gave the interview-he doesn't have the money to run any more, so he has to face Oleg directly, and he desperately needs help.

Help that wasn't forthcoming or capable, as it seems. Marko (or Yuri Zhivkov, as the newspaper clippings reveal), is beaten unconscious by an "unidentified assailant" and thrown out of a second-story building in broad daylight-and then vanishes from the hospital. It's possible that Zhivkov's interviewer is responsible, squirreled away into paranormal Witness Protection, and in fact under normal circumstances that would be likely. Given how capable Oleg is of tracking down a single man to play with, and his demonstrated capabilities both underworld and paranormal? I suspect that if anyone sees Zhivkov again, it will be his body. Possibly still walking.

Analysis: Oleg is one of those fascinating problems where the context is easier to find than the specifics-broad strokes of the painting and the image is clear, but you can't tell the artist's style or their name. It didn't take long for me to discover he's almost certainly a Promethean of some kind-which is to say, a close relative of Adam, the greatest creation and worst mistake of Victor Frankenstein (quite literally-much like Dracula, Mary Shelly's work is actually a semi-fictional, slightly inaccurate biopic of a real person. Intel has it that Adam-Mr. Verney-actually returned from the Arctic at one point, moved to America and is accidentally responsible for the 50-year long coal seam fire in Centralis). He fits every reliable description I have of the "Created", and what little I have of knowing direct observation. For the record, Prometheans are "homonculi", living beings born from dead body parts recycled into living cells by the branch of occult physics humans call "alchemy", either by a mortal alchemist (a demiurge), or a Promethean of the same subtype (a genitor). They are not their original donor(s) returned to life, or even undead, though-they are entirely new living beings given motility by a sort of "proto-soul" called Azoth, which allows them the functional capacity for things like consciences or human emotion, but is..."uninsulated", somehow. This gives them their supernatural capabilities (the Azoth is effectively the alchemical equivalent to an unshielded nuclear reactor with machinery powered by it inherently attached), but compared to real souls or functional equivalents such as my processor core? Even beyond the fact that Azoth seems to have instructions programmed into it to be fully refined and become a true human soul (which causes a chain reaction that turns the Promethean into a being indistinguishable from someone born human), it's entirely understandable that Prometheans lacking the desire to complete the "Great Work" are considered aberrant (for more than one reason, but I'll get to that).

See, Azoth leaks a bizarre form radiation into the world, which depending on who you ask causes or is a phenomenon called Disquiet-a growing subconscious sense the Promethean is a danger (since the subject of Disquiet is standing next to the alchemical equivalent of an unshielded nuclear reactor, and the soul knows it), combined with mental instability themed after the dominant psychological drive in the Promethean's subtype (Adam's own children, the Wretched, are known to be angry and ambitious by instinct, and thus their Disquiet provokes narcissistic tendencies and feelings of contempt), which eventually results in feelings of murderous aggression towards the Promethean (having gone through the beginning stages, I can attest to how insidious it is). Overexertion of Azoth combined with the refusal to move on from a certain area also causes the Azothic radiation to toxify the landscape into an increasingly lifeless and bizarre state (Prometheans call it the "Wasteland effect", fittingly), and thus by necessity any conscientious Promethean (or one who wishes to avoid the Disquiet the remnant radiation in the Wasteland provokes) must be a nomad by necessity. While many individuals of a loner disposition would not mind, I also have it on record that one of the major faults Azoth has in relation to a true soul is that it does not "fit" the Promthean's recycled body-as a result, they are always feeling severe body dysmorphia and chronic pain, as well as being prone to cycles of extreme manic-depression known colloquially as Torment. Even if one things they can tolerate that state, a Promethean's Azoth is, once again, programmed to seek Mortality-going against that basic instinct does not result in a Promethean not studying ways of refining their Azoth, it results in contamination by the alchemical principle of Flux; stasis, entropy, and mutation without true evolution. The Flux Promethean, called a Centimanus, cannot live in peace far away from humanity-Azoth demands they become people or they outright reject humanity, and rejection means monstrosity in every sense of the word, physical, moral, and mental. "Mental monstrosity", as it turns out, is usually synonymous with "self-destructive mental illness." And finally, while Prometheans do have powers, actually using them results in the disguise of humanity they use to avoid aggravating Disquiet thanks to humans realizing they are literally not human to malfunction, and the true form of a Promethean is always horrifying (indeed, the term the Created themselves came with to describe their real appearance is "Disfigurement").

As a personal aside, I once wondered why a Promethean would willingly give up their paranormal powers, and with it a significant degree of personal agency. Having become learned in their condition, I consider it more of an unfair trade, with the former Created getting the significant better of the deal. And people say the plight of Integrators is an exercise in self-loathing torment.

Back to the analysis; Oleg is, from a reading, pretty clearly a Promethean of some stripe, likely a Centimanus. There are few more immoral things than running some of the most vicious organized crime to blight the planet, and dragging out execution of a man purely on a lark, to say nothing of his apparent habit of giving women cancer. Cancer, by the way, seems to be strongly associated with Flux in general-it is mutation of cells into a form that does not actually contribute to the body's processes (stasis) and will eventually destroy it if not removed (entropy). The problem is, I'm not sure what kind of Promethean Oleg is. Bluntly-those same paranormal powers I have heard of do not include animation of the dead. Transmutations are based around rapid alteration of the world, and creating zombified servants, symbolically, is about freezing the world at a particular state in spite of all reason-keeping the body "moving" despite lack of "life." This isn't out of the possibility for Flux, admittedly, but the mode of operations for Flux seems based around mutations of the self (the likely creation of Oleg's, with mouths in her hands, is a good baseline). Mutating the world around it, such as imparting mobility to the deceased (let alone as a contagion) seems beyond it. More concretely, is the fact that Oleg's Disquiet, whatever it is, does not fit the typical patterns of behavior-normally, while Disquiet does result in some internal tensions between victims, most of the aggression begins focused on the Promethean. Beyond the fact that paranoia is not a feature of the major subtypes of Promethean, from the sound of things the Chechen crew and the Petersberg populace had undirected fear, more like events that normally happen when tensions are high as opposed to a reaction to Oleg in particular. This is something that does not normally happen with Created, to say the least-alone him being apparently able to take advantage of it.

So I did some more digging, and made a discovery of an oddly universal rumor-a genus of Prometheans who, rather than being based around a classical element or metaphysical concept, draw their instincts from the energy released by lethal levels of radiation, in particular those released by atomic bombs. Or a Promethean as the case may be, as the rumor suggests said Promethean is unique or nearly unique in all the world, even given the low numbers of the Created to begin with. Among the most common elements of the story are the idea that the unique ability of a Nuclear Promethean is to create zombies (using their relationship with energy to restore the nervous system but given how they are fundamentally children of a weapon are always little more than humanoid guns), and that the proper name of the subtype is "Zeky"-a Russian word for "prisoners". If Oleg is the Nuclear Promethean, it would also be congruent with his obsession with Chernobyl-given that his demiurge was a member of the rescue team, it would fit the pattern of a Promethean creator needing an excess of their progeny's element to forge the Azoth, and several of his nicknames; due to a mistranslation of Ukrainian, it is believed in much of the pop eschatology of the West that "Wormwood", rather than being a comet, is actually a reference to the Chernobyl disaster and how it turned the earth around it foul for millions of years. This does not make sense from a biblical ("And a third of the waters turned bitter" is the actual quotation of the Book of Revelations in reference to Wormwood) or linguistic (Ukrainian for "wormwood" is actually two words, polyn hirkyj, "bitter pollen"-chernobyl is actually Ukrainian for mugwort) perspective, but it is something that would make sense for a Mafiya man proud of his monstrosity to think of himself as a herald of apocalypse.

Particularly given how he seems intent on ensuring that World War III happens.

Snow, you may be wondering why I've just spent four paragraphs describing my investigations of one man. Well, that is due to the fact that the first item of information my knights found wasn't anything about Prometheans. It had more to do with the fact that Oleg is a dealer in nuclear weapons if he can get his hands on them-and unlike other nuclear dealers, who tend to resort to selling nukes only when they are in danger of bankruptcy, and generally to people not interested in using them except as deterrents (arms dealers who survive to the point of the purchase and sail of atomic materials are generally far-sighted enough to minimize chances of destroying the world, thankfully), Oleg actively seeks out bombs, and then finds those blessedly rare buyers who buy up the bombs with every intent of using them at some point (usually defensively, but when someone is making plans where nuclear weapons are a feature rather than a failure state, I think it's safe to say they aren't people who should be allowed within a hundred kilometers of any authorization buttons). That would be alarming enough, except he also uses his connections to ensure there's a demand-which means more political tension between major powers and the allies thereof, which means more risk of a nuclear exchange. More in denial of a threat to the entire planet than anything, I initially believed he was just proof that the maxim about his kind of arms dealer being capable of recognizing that the world as they know it is where they keep their possessions, but then I learned something else-Prometheans feed on their elements. A place awash in electricity calms a Frankenstein, water soothes the pain left by an Osirian's missing organs, and spirits quiet the whispers heard only within an Ulgan's mind.

Bluntly: Oleg strikes me as precisely the kind of individual who would cheerfully destroy the world because he finds the idea of its ruins more agreeable. Maybe there's some genuine pain in there (there likely is, given how he goes out of his way to give women a horrible death) but whatever part of him that wasn't a monster is long gone-and that monster's name is Sutur, the Fire Giant who the Norse prophesied to set the sky itself aflame.

Melodramatic? Yes, but I have no shame in admitting Oleg Chernenko (or perhaps more accurately, Oleg Wormwood) scares me in a way even the mightiest, most malicious loyalist does not. The loyalist has a reason I can understand-they were born that way. Oleg chose to be as he is, and he has done it without a single scrap of remorse. Fear, above all else, is why I grew so obsessed with his origins, because his beginnings may be key to ending him.

If nothing else, the network has served as a useful warning-Oleg is out there. Waiting. Watching. Plotting.

In brighter news, the next file is about City of Ghosts, involving the ghosts of abused children. I wish I was being sarcastic.

(OOC: Honestly, one of my favorites, partially because I already know Frankenstein's Mobster-he was first seen in Promethean book Saturnine Night, with largely the same backstory that I went into during my Analysis. Honestly, he's probably going to be the main villain of any story or chronicle he features in-he really does want to destroy the world for the sake of making it more homey. Even beyond that, though, there's two elements I love in this story-noir, and Marko/Yuri's sense of utter desperation, but also a sense of lighthearted irreverence that makes him likable and sympathetic despite being the banality of evil incarnate. Really, I recommend you read this story first before you get Saturnine Night-it sells Oleg as a character, turning him from just a generic nuclear-themed villain into a genuine person you just love to hate-and legitimately terrifying, because for all of Oleg's ambition, when it comes down to it his personality is pretty realistic for a selfish criminal. Really, if you were a complete misanthrope who thrived on radiation, would you care if the species you didn't bother emphasizing with died in the face assuaging your chronic pain?)
 
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