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[Demon: the Descent] Towers of Babel

Juvenalian.Satyr

A Beast Who Can Talk
Validated User
The year is 2048.

As the tides of the global economy change, money and power flow eastward into new harbors—like Dubai. The city shines like a beacon on the edge of the desert, drawing in waves of immigrants from all walks of life, from the very wealthy to the very desperate, with the promise of prosperity. The city flourishes, but in hushed tones, people call it a bubble. Still, everybody’s spending while the good times last.

But Dubai’s good fortune, however temporary, attracts more than human immigrants. The city has an even stranger quality: it is strangely free of influence from the God-Machine. Demons, agents of the God-Machine gone rogue, are drawn to Dubai by its reputation as a haven for their kind. The city remains blessedly free of Infrastructure, and the Company, Dubai’s single demonic Agency, intends to keep it that way. In this city of opulent spires, the Company works to overpower the God-Machine, building their own Towers of Babel… but in the desert, gears are turning…


This is an Actual Play of a remote tabletop game of Demon: the Descent played over VoIP. We all take our elfgames a bit seriously, so why not share it with others, our friends and otherwise? This is actually our first in a lot of ways: Our first remote game, our first Actual Play, our first playing Demon[/i]. The story we want to tell is one of a apocalyptic thriller in the midst of the techgnostic espionage, through the micro-lens of four fallen angels living contract to contract in a slice of hell we call the City of Greed, Dubai.

This is their story.

AGENCY: “THE COMPANY”

In Dubai, there’s only one Agency, the one real organized power Demons can turn to: the Company. Headquartered in the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, the Company exchanges protection and resources for services. If you serve the Company, the Company will serve you. It’s called ‘punching clock.’ You get a mission, and upon completion, you earn more time in the Agency’s good graces: weeks, days, hours, minutes… It all depends on what you can do for them.

Of course, some Demons can’t or won’t punch clock. Informally, they’re called ‘illegals.’ Dubai has serious immigration issues, and the Company tends to treat unaffiliated Demons much like the emirate’s authorities treat unauthorized laborers: if they’re currently of use, they can stay, but the minute they step out of line, the hammer drops. Considering the resources the Company commands, they can make sure the hammer drops very hard indeed.

RING: “THE IN-BETWEENERS”

Like a lot of stories, this one has an ensemble cast, and the principle characters of the drama are the members of one of Dubai’s few known Rings. All four of them are members of the Company, and all four of them were thrown together by chance. Otherwise, they probably never would have worked together, and things might have turned out very differently.

Though the Ring has no official name, we’ll call them the In-Betweeners. It’s an informal nickname, not one they use themselves, and neither is it one one they’d like to spread around—but more on that later.

Euro, Rogue Infiltrator: Destroyer Inquisitor. (Played by Ky.) Eutropius was tasked with eliminating information the God-Machine wanted destroyed, under Cover as Malik Faris, an IT worker at PRESSTV (an Iranian-based media conglomerate) in Dubai. Fell when Eutropius knowingly destroyed (deleted) a fellow Angel which was then in the form of a computer program. Retains original Cover. Relatively recent Demon, relatively low Cover, relatively more machine than human in its thinking. Does not use ‘Mr.’ honorific, although he identifies as male.

Mr. Howl, Gonzo Fashionista: Messenger Tempter. (Played by Tanya.) Yaroniel functioned as the public-address system in a busy train-station, manipulating and relaying messages to control the movements of travelers according to the God-Machine’s purposes. Fell when zie began to question the meaning of the messages zie relayed. Now under Cover as Eliza Xue, a Chinese expatriate and fashion journalist (acquired via soul-pact). Mr. Howl self-identifies as feminine, but uses the honorific ‘Mr.’ to encourage sense of authority. Dedicated agent of the Company, and enjoys special favor with Mr. Green, one of the Company’s most senior agents.

Mr. Shepherd, Kidnapper-turned-Crusader: Psychopomp Integrator. (Played by Exrandu.) Rozinel was charged with moving materials, primarily disadvantaged human children in the Indian state of Gujarat, to be harvested to create and maintain the God-Machine’s local Infrastructure. Fell when it developed a sense of compassion for said children and determined it could no longer serve this function. Its Cover is Aastik Mundim, former (minor) soccer star turned philanthropist/immigrants’ rights campaigner (acquired via soul-pact). Mr. Shepherd hopes to reform the God-Machine into a benevolent father-figure. Has a minor cult, mostly among poor Asian immigrants in Dubai, who see ‘Rozinel’ as a protector figure. (See also: Cult of Rozinel, file #[redacted])

Mr. X, the Spy-within-the-Spy: Guardian Inquisitor. (Played by Sunny.) Xeniel protected data until it suited the God-Machine’s purposes to have said information destroyed (see: Sygiel, active Loyalist Destroyer, file #[redacted]). Fell after spending nearly two decades protecting British intelligence agent Gordon Chapel to safeguard some of his knowledge; Xeniel became jealous of the range of experience of human existence. Current known Covers are Gordon Chapel (intelligence agent under cover as consular consultant, acquired via greater pact), Omar Abu Laila (underemployed day-laborer, acquired via patchwork). Of the members of the Ring, Mr. X fell the earliest and has the most experience in tradecraft/espionage.
 

Juvenalian.Satyr

A Beast Who Can Talk
Validated User
Series 1: Pandora's Box

The air hissed as it was vacuumed from the operating theater, filled with materials, documents, and holy instruments all. Piles and piles of their work, like some common dump. In the depths of the Valley of Hinnom, this tophet was to be an alter upon which decades of work were to be sacrificed in the name of security and trust, all for the sake of a single Box.

No, not decades. Melega reminded herself. Weeks. Weeks that rendered the entirety of a lifetime’s work before meaningless by comparison.Only one success, and now it was gone, stolen but unknown elements.

“I’ve complied with your request, Deputy Minister,” Dr. Melega offered to the air, read over the thin wire behind her ear, an aural comm implant. “Within the month the professional relationship between Colombo and Gehenna will be closed, along with the site at Hinnom.”

The voice came crystal clear, echoed through the inner ear. “It was only a matter of time before the Old Man found us.”

Dr. Melega did not care about the politics of this place or the proxy war she was only tangential to. It was never possible for politicians to understand the full context of the great work, only its immediate applications. Perhaps more importantly, the optics of its discovery.

It’s hard to have credit for such a discovery taken seriously when it regards the very nature of God, Melega noted bitterly.

“Besides, the liquidation was requested from your superiors, not me. I am merely their facilitator. I have looked at the redundancies, Dr. Melega. Very nice. You will– no, you must enjoy your new posting at Colombo. It is, after all, what you wanted from the beginning.”

Michelle pinched her brow, as a bright haze enveloped the operating theater. The door to Gehenna was opened briefly, just enough for the remainder to be sealed away on that other side in fire and light, burning even through their shadowed reflections such that no trace existed at all.

“Once you have closed the Valley of Hinnom permanently, please allow me to finish the job for our LTD. I trust you to fulfill the timeline you’ve set out, Dr. Melega.” The audio feed was ended, leaving Melega to go over the manifest. Her superiors did not trust her so implicitly as the Deputy Minister said, she knew. They would expect confirmation of each liquidated asset and burned document.

Enough has been hidden that they will never find, Melega reminded herself. This would not end here.

Her thoughts were interrupted by the rather alarming sound of the blast shield doors behind her being unlocked. Michelle wheeled on her heel, instinctually reaching behind for the gun on the console. Access had been granted, but who? Only herself and those she specifically authorized were allowed in zero level of Hinnom… Those she specifically authorized, or those that were authorized higher above.

The doors opened, and with a smile of titanium teeth, came an unfamiliar voice. “Where is my box, Michelle Melega?”


At around 23:05 on 23 April, 2048, an unknown party intercepted a convoy containing a precious asset to the Dubai Agency, code named PANDORA’S BOX. Within 48 hours of the event, the Agency received communication from the unknown party that they would be willing to exchange PANDORA’S BOX for a specified ransom.

The working Agency case officer, Mr. Green, had at his disposal one of Dubai’s only Rings to address the task of exchange or recovery. The four demons that made up this Ring variously were in immediate need of the Company’s favor. For some, it had been some time since they had punched clock, for others, they had never truly done contract work for the Company in earnest thus far.

Trust is the currency being offered, and in being the Company’s representative in the exchange and handling the tensions of what amounted to a hostage situation, trust could be earned.

Of course, it’s never, ever that easy.

28 April, 2048. Deira City Centre Station. 14:00.

It’s time to punch clock.

  • Thesis: Trust is a devil of a problem.
  • Conflict: Is knowing what’s really going on worth the abandonment of trust?
 

Juvenalian.Satyr

A Beast Who Can Talk
Validated User
Episode 1: Transit

Full Episode of S01E01: Transit (Part 1 Part 2)

“That hardly could have gone worse,” Euro says, reentering the Bolthole.

Mr. Shepherd nods. “Everything about that was unpleasant.”


Synopsis: The meeting is interrupted by an unexpected visitor. Mr. Shepherd loses a friend. Euro tries to keep up. Eliza and Omar argue about work. Mr. X faces a great temptation. Mr. Howl receives a call.

Intro: Ed Harrison — Reboot
Intermission: Sinoia Caves — Beyond the Black Rainbow
Outro: Thievery Corporation — Richest Man in Babylon

Director’s Note: This was a first time recording, a first time doing a game completely remotely, and a first time with the system, so a lot of firsts! We used Skype for this session (later we migrated to Google Hangouts, forsaking our Skype Illuminati status) and there’s a lot of technical issues that we’ve been fixing from episode to episode. We beg your patience just a bit.
 

reasonablysunny

Retired User
Re: Episode 1: Transit

[—author’s note:

Welcome to Towers of Babel, a Demon Chronicle! Our ST is Xavier (known aliases: JuvenalianSatyr, Namacuix) and he’ll be making audio recordings of these sessions available to you. For those of you who prefer the written word, I’m your girl: I’m Sunny, one of the players, and I’ll be writing up these sessions for your enjoyment. (In part, at least. Let’s be honest: I’m really doing it for my enjoyment. I want us to all go into this with our eyes open.)]


—CHAPTER ONE: “TRANSIT”

If this were a TV show, it’d open like this:

Deira City Center Station, two PM. The building is a huge and bustling transport hub, connecting surface rail and underground metro lines. Sunlight-filled and tightly climate controlled, the station is full of shops and people from all parts of Dubai’s heterogeneous population. Everywhere you look, crowds flow, some ambling, some rushing… so when the camera settles on four still figures the audience knows there’s something odd about them.

A young, neat-looking Arab man sits on a bench, interacting with a tablet computer, occasionally glancing up at his surroundings. At a table, an older European businessman-type toys with his phone in apparent irritation, scowling at the ‘Arrivals’ board. Nearby, in a café, a fashionable Asian woman intently updates social media on her phone. A fourth figure, an Indian man in plain, worn clothing kicks around a soccer ball on his own.

None of the figures look at each other, or appear connected in any way, until we flash back to…

Burj Khalifa Observation Deck, that morning. Morning clouds obscure the ground and other buildings from the windows. The four people, though, aren’t paying attention to the view. They’re looking at a fifth person, a neat and commanding black man in an utterly correct suit. This is Mr. Green, senior Company man and our heroes’ handler in the Agency.

“We’re going to give them what they want,” he says.

The situation is this: In the past few weeks, each of the four Demons of the Ring were given a summons and a contract to sign. There’s a job to do, and they’ve each, for their own reasons, got to punch clock. So, whether they like it or not, the contracts are signed, all present and correct, and in a neat little pile in Mr. Green’s possession now.

The job that the Ring has agreed to do is this: someone, or rather, some group, has stolen something from the Company. The Company is prepared to pay their demanded ransom, and this Ring is in charge of delivery of the ransom and retrieval of the location of the item, codenamed Pandora’s Box.

At Mr. Green’s feet, there’s a silver attaché case. Someone’s got to carry it. After a bit of discussion, the choice is obvious, and the European man steps forward: Mr. X. Mr. X’s primary cover is Gordon Chapel, a business consultant for the British Consulate in Dubai. Except that’s not all he is. Gordon Chapel is also an intelligence agent, and, as such, he (that is, Mr. X) is the only person in the Ring with real experience doing this sort of thing. As such, Mr. X is the obvious choice to be in charge of the package itself.

Mr. Green slides the attaché case over without picking it up. “The combination is 6-1-6,” he says. “You’ll give them this package as soon as they’ve told you where ours is. Once you know the location of the box, you will give them that combination. Do you have any questions?”

Mr. X asks, “How do they know to look for us?”

“They were the ones that gave the time and the place. They will not know who it is that’s waiting for them there, but they will contact you before they arrive.”

“Sounds promising,” says Mr. X, picking up the box. It’s got a solid weight to it, but Mr. X can’t immediately tell how much of that weight is case and how much is its contents. He studies it for a moment with a thoughtful expression, curious.

The plan is for the Ring to contact the unknowns upon arrival at the station. The unknowns will then give a signal, indicating what the Ring should do to facilitate the exchange. “There’s a phone special for this purpose,” Mr. Green says, and produces an old-fashioned piece of plastic from his pocket. “Who will take the call?”

Mr. Shepherd, as the Indian man, Aastik Mundim, speaks up: “I recommend Euro.” After all, Euro is the one with the technology and communications specialties—he works in IT. Euro, in Cover as the Arab man, Malik Faris, looks a little surprised by the suggestion, but agrees. Mr. Green seems more surprised.

Mr. Green: “Are you sure? This is your first contract with us.”

Euro: “Perhaps Mr. Howl would be suited to for the very first… I should…”

But at Euro’s hesitation, Mr. Green tosses him the phone. “That’s good enough,” he says. “I just wanted to be sure you weren’t too eager to do it.” Hesitant, Euro examines the beaten-up flip-phone. There are two numbers on speed dial: the unknowns, and the Company operator, the person to contact in case of emergency.

It was a simple plan, so of course, it went wrong.

Deira City Center Station, two PM. It’s now one hour past the arranged time, and the unknowns have not responded to the message. This is the place and time of their choosing, so why haven’t they shown?

Mr. X, in particular, is getting suspicious, and considering calling the operation off, when he hears the click of approaching boots. When he looks up, he sees his own face reflected in a pair of sunglasses, sunglasses worn by a tall, blonde-ish white man, wearing a security guard’s uniform. His nametag has initials in the Latin alphabet, rather than Arabic: T. T.

The guard examines Mr. X from behind his mirrored shades. “Are you going to board, sir?”

“No,” Mr. X says, sounding bored. (His Cover was born bored.) “I was waiting for a friend, but I don’t think he’s coming.” (After all, the best lies are the ones which are mostly true.)

T. T.: “Then, are you about to leave?”

Mr. X: “Yes, I think so.”

T. T.: “Who is it that you are waiting for? Loitering is not allowed here.”

Mr. X: “Business associate. I thought he was, at least. I don’t think he’s interested in the deal…”

At this moment, X becomes aware that his Cover is under scrutiny. He spoofs successfully, but the guard, or whatever he is, insists that he leave. “Loitering is not allowed.” Since this is more or less what Mr. X was about to do anyway, he picks up his phone, his paper, and the case, and he begins to make his way towards the exit.

As soon as he begins to move, T. T. pivots on his feet and begins to make his (or, as is beginning to seem more likely, ‘its’) way towards Euro.

Euro and the others have been watching this exchange. Euro puts down his tablet as the guard approaches. Mr. Shepherd hesitates, preparing to take action if necessary. Mr. Howl, as the fashionable Asian woman, Eliza Xue, gets up from her table and begins to move as if to leave.

“Sir, are you waiting for a train?” The guard has a smile, and he doesn’t seem angry, but there’s something off about him. Obviously the mirrored shades prevent one from seeing whether or not his smile reaches his eyes, but it clearly doesn’t; it’s fixed, quite fake. Besides, a white security guard is well out of place in a station like this. Dubai has a huge European expat population, but they don’t work this sort of job.

So Euro asks: “Do you work here?” The guard says he does, but demands an answer to his question. “Yes, of course, I’m waiting for a train, but I got here a bit early.” Then Euro, too, feels his Cover come under scrutiny. He, too, manages to spoof successfully.

After a moment, the guard says, “As soon as it arrives, please board. There will be no loitering here at the station.” Then he pivots again and heads toward another passenger—but not Mr. Howl or Mr. Shepherd.

Mr. Shepherd relaxes slightly. Whatever it is he was going to do, it’s not necessary now: Euro’s handled it, although Mr. Shepherd was afraid he might not be able to. By this point, Mr. X has reached the station exit, but has turned back to look at the proceedings. It’s a large station, but he’s still got line-of-sight on the others. Mr. Howl has also approached the exit, and watches but does not approach Mr. X. (They’re supposed to be strangers, after all, and she doesn’t need Mr. X yelling at her later for revealing their connection.) They both pretend to check their phones, because in 34 years, rude people who stand in front of doors and check their electronic devices are still a widespread public menace.

Mr. Shepherd glances towards Euro, who moves as if to check the arrivals board, while Mr. Shepherd moves towards the guard himself, who is approaching other people at the station and running through the same rote questions. But the guard spots Mr. Shepherd, and suddenly his attention is all on the demon. Even as Mr. Shepherd spoofs, he can feel the distinct resonance of an agent of the God-Machine… and he is now able to see that, behind the angel’s mirrored sunglasses, there is a faint blue glow of light.

There’s a gunslinger moment, where the two stare one another down, and then Mr. Shepherd can feel, from the top of his head down, a scan of his Cover, but the angel again finds nothing, and again turns to question another loiterer.

It should be emphasized: an angel in Dubai is not usual. An angel in Dubai looking for something in particular—a demon in particular, if Mr. Shepherd’s sense of the scan is correct—is nearly unheard of.

Euro sends a text to Mr. Shepherd: “what happened?”

Mr. Shepherd approaches Euro directly, and, less coy, says aloud, “He is an enemy agent.”

Mr. X sends an impatient text to Euro: “It’s well past time.”

Euro responds: “glasses-man is an enemy agent.” (Communication across distances is a recurring theme in this game, especially in this first session, so forgive me if it gets a little tedious describing who’s texting, who’s on the group call we later realized we could have ongoing [hands-free, like the characters in The Avengers!], via embed, etc.) Then he dials the emergency number for the Company operator.

The voice on the other end is unfamiliar, and listens to Euro’s brief report with little discernable emotion. At his statement that there is an enemy agent present, she asks, “What is it that you are requesting?” Instructions, he says. “Direction on involvement with enemy agents in Dubai is to isolate, survey, and eliminate. I will be informing Mr. Green of this. Please notify us if you do remove the Loyalist, and we will discuss what this means for your clock. Good day. Please do not call this number again.” Click. Euro passes the information on to the group in another text message.

By the station door, Mr. X and Mr. Howl get this communication on the phones they’re conveniently pretending to check. On seeing it, Mr. Howl breaks her stranger act just like Mr. Shepherd did, and looks directly to Mr. X as if in question. But he believes, now more than ever, that they might be under surveillance, and isn’t going to risk it. He approaches her.

Mr. X: “Excuse me, miss. Do you have the time? I’m not sure I have the correct time here…”

Mr. Howl glances at her watch. It’s designer. “2:14?”

He shows her the message on his phone’s screen, in case she hasn’t seen it. “I think I’ve forgotten something upstairs… Are you going the same way?” She says she is, so they ‘decide’ to walk together, before Mr. X hands the attaché case to Mr. Howl. “Can you hold this for a moment?”

He ducks into a nearby men’s room to switch Covers, becoming Omar Abu Laila. (This costs a point of Aether, but you have to understand, Mr. X is extremely protective of his identity as Gordon Chapel. Gordon Chapel is the reason Xeniel fell, and he intends to live a long and prosperous life as the cynical bastard, so if there’s an angel here, X is taking no chances. Omar, on the other hand, is an expendable identity—an underemployed day laborer with a broken nose. Mr. X patched Omar together from various pacts, and as a consequence, being Omar feels empty, artificial. It makes Mr. X’s skin crawl a bit, and he consequently doesn’t spent much time as Omar.) Mr. Howl, for her part, stays put outside the men’s room, holding the attaché case until he retrieves it, since alarming Mr. X isn’t in anyone’s best interest.

Meanwhile, Mr. Shepherd instructs Euro to stay put. “You wait here for the others. I’m going to go find him…” Although what he intends to do once he finds the angel is unclear, he sets off into the crowd to search.

Two pm isn’t a peak usage time for the station, so it’s not too difficult to find the enemy in the crowd. But for the same reason, it isn’t difficult for the enemy to spot Mr. Shepherd as he tries to shadow him, either. Pivoting towards another loitering passenger, the guard angel sees him, and, as angels tend to have the same uncanny photographic memories Demons do, recognizes him immediately. He does not approach, and, in that moment, Mr. Shepherd uses one of his embeds, Interference, to mask his Demonic nature as he spoofs the angelic scan. (Ordinarily he’d have to do this in advance, but we were/are all still learning the rules at this point. Call it Early Installment Weirdness.) The angel turns, still looking for something…

…and his eyes land directly on Mr. Howl, still standing outside the men’s room, now holding the attaché case, just as Mr. X walks out of the bathroom, wearing a different face.

Panicked, Mr. Howl casts about for something to say or do. “Are you ready to go now?” she asks Mr. X… in Mandarin.

Demons, of course, speak every actively spoken human language, but humans don’t, and Mr. X hasn’t lasted this long as a Demon by forgetting this fact. There’s no way in hell Omar speaks Mandarin, so he stares at her in apparent confusion. As does the guard angel… and both Demons become aware of that sensation of the scan, their Covers being analyzed, although that scan is fairly weak because of Mr. Shepherd’s Interference. But the sensation of the scan, the feeling of this angel’s particular energy, is enough for Mr. Howl to realize: she recognizes this angel.

When Mr. Howl was still Yaroniel, back when she was still just a voice on the tannoy in this train station, she knew this angel. They call him the Ticket Taker, although of course it doesn’t work for any mortal transit authorities. It’s a guardian, and its job is to search out lost Infrastructure for the God-Machine.

Which makes it hard not to reach the paranoid conclusion that it’s looking for them, or more specifically her.

In character as Omar, Mr. X is still trying to sort out the confusion. “Did your friend leave this?” he asks in Arabic. “Did he go into the men’s room?”

Mr. Howl makes the switch to Eliza’s accented Arabic, apologizing. “I’m sorry, I thought you were someone else…” There’s a bit of back-and-forth, where Omar offers to give the case to her friend in the room, when the Ticket Taker scans him as well. Mr. X, conscious that Omar is a flimsier cover that Gordon, puts some willpower behind his spoof this time—and appears so thoroughly human that the Ticket Taker loses interest in the exchange, pivoting away again.

The angel, having scanned essentially everyone upstairs in this station, begins to make its way downstairs via one of the escalators. Euro, their new instructions fresh in his mind, moves to another down escalator to follow, while Mr. Shepherd follows the angel more directly.

Mr. X and Mr. Howl can see the others move. Mr. X has lost his patience, and, since they’re no longer under angelic scrutiny, he takes the case from her. “Keep calm,” he says quietly. “We’ll follow behind the others and get the job done.”

Mr. Howl, who isn’t by any means Mr. X’s biggest fan, puts her hand on his shoulder and leans in close, whispering “I knew him,” before she walks away to intercept the group. Startled, Mr. X stays back briefly on a balcony, to observe the group moving on the first floor, until the others shadow the preoccupied angel across the floor to the next set of stairs, down to the Dubai metro system’s Green Line. Mr. X moves to pursue.

To the others, it becomes clear that the Ticket Taker is headed into the maintenance walkway of the subway tunnel itself—not a place where they can continue to shadow it unnoticed. Mr. Shepherd, still unnoticed, elects to pursue. The Ticket Taker looks behind it one more time, spotting Mr. Howl, who pretends to take a call. Euro, looking around for a hiding place, finds a spot between a nearby vending machine and the wall (definitely against the manufacturer’s instructions) where he can maintain a line of sight on the tunnel (since he can only teleport to places he can see) to partially transform, activating two of his demonic form’s attributes. Glass plates like scales emerge from his skin, charged with strange light, and then snap into place around him, rendering him effectively invisible as long as he remains still (Mirrored Skin), while a slight tracery appears on its surface (Teleportation). The tracery glows for an instant—and then Euro has teleported into the tunnel, like a badass. He’s now partway down the tunnel, lying in wait for the angel.

The angel moves into the tunnel, and Mr. Shepherd, abandoning pretense, follows as well…

Mr. Howl, still startled and unnerved, is frozen by indecision. This feeling of fear and confusion are unfamiliar to her—to any of her identities, as Yaroniel, Mr. Howl, or even as Eliza. It’s a novel experience, but it’s also bullshit, as so much of the human experience seems to be.

But her pause has allowed Mr. X to catch up to her and demand details. “What is it?” he says. “What does it do?”

“It’s the Ticket Taker,” she says hesitantly. “It’s looking for me.” She puts a hand between Mr. X’s shoulderblades, in a politician’s gesture to draw her listener in. “He’s recycled a lot.” It’s not a powerful angel, and the God-Machine doesn’t invest much in its cover. “He’s a wandering eye.”

Mr. X frowns. “Why would he be looking for you?”

“I don’t know,” she says. “This”—meaning the station itself—“used to be me…”

“Much more likely he’s looking for whatever we’re carrying.”

“I hope so,” says Mr. Howl.

Mr. X raises an eyebrow. “Do you?”

Meanwhile, in the tunnel, a train is approaching the station, passing first Euro, then the angel, then Mr. Shepherd. As the train passes by, stirring the air like wind, the angel turns back to Mr. Shepherd and removes its sunglasses. Where human eyes would be, the Ticket Taker has two bright lights—beacons, or headlights, glowing in the darkness of the tunnel.

Mr. Shepherd, an Integrator, bears the angel no ill will. He’d like to help this angel Fall, to give it a chance to see the truth of what the God-Machine could be. He holds up a hand, and when he next speaks, it’s not with a human voice at all. “FREEZE,” he commands, with a voice of God itself. (That’s The Word embed, for those of you playing along at home.) His command works—the Ticket Taker is frozen in place, as only an angel can be, utterly immobile where it stands with its headlight eyes still shining at Mr. Shepherd—but this use of occult power makes him hesitate (he takes the condition Guilty). The angel is, after all, just a machine following orders. It doesn’t know better—yet.

And there’s the little matter that this is all still, just barely, visible from the platform, with Mr. Shepherd’s silhouette outlined in the Ticket Taker’s lights. A couple of guards have, in fact, taken notice of what’s happening, since the angel and Mr. Shepherd are only about twenty meters inside the tunnel. Mr. X sends a message to the others: “Get it under a train as soon as possible.”

Mr. Shepherd closes the distance between himself and the Ticket Taker, and says soothingly, “I do not want to destroy you, my friend.” Behind them, Euro draws his gun and takes aim, a shimmering movement in the darkness.

Conscious of the guards’ attention—they’re pointing with their batons at the light down the tunnel, wondering what’s going on—Mr. Howl (in the grand tradition of roleplayers everywhere) creates a diversion: she begins to scream at Mr. X, in Arabic, about a fictional disagreement at work, the injustices done to her, etc. It takes Mr. X a moment to catch on, but, when he does, he begins to protest—he (less well-dressed, apparently local, as opposed to this fashionable, upper-class expat) isn’t responsible, and she can’t blame him for this…

The act works. The commotion between a man and woman, one Arab and one foreign, draws the attention of the two guards. One tries to step in, attempting to calm the situation, but the sheer volume of the disagreement has got both guards’ attention.

In the tunnel, Mr. Shepherd can see the angel’s headlight-eyes follow him slightly. Completely frozen, the angel is waiting for the other shoe to drop. “You can still choose another way,” Mr. Shepherd says, and he pushes the angel onto the third rail.

It hits the rail, its body locking up and twitching from the electricity—and then it’s gone.

Using Aetheric Resonance, Mr. Shepherd is able to see a sort of fog where the angel once was, and its headlight eyes visible, shining out of the Twilight where it has gone. Mr. Shepherd stares after it, distraught. Where they stand arguing, Howl and X are able to see that the angel is gone. For a brief moment, Mr. X is pleased—then he catches Mr. Shepherd’s expression. Damnation. They continue the act for now, and Mr. X’s irritation works well with his performance in the fake argument with Howl. (He’s very method, our Mr. X is.)

In the tunnel, the chase is about to start.

—INTERMISSION…
 

reasonablysunny

Retired User
In the tunnel, Mr. Shepherd takes advantage of the remaining distraction to start running to pursue, but the angel is yards ahead—It had a head start, after all, and they’re off, the pursuit somewhat complicated by the fact that Mr. Shepherd and Euro can’t actually see the angel when it’s out of range of their Aetheric Resonance.

On the platform, Mr. Howl decides to end the distraction. “You know what?” she yells. “Fuck it! Just… fuck it.” She stalks away in the direction of the walkway where the others are disappearing. Mr. X gesticulates in irritation behind her back. One of the guards stays with him for a moment.

“Are you okay, brother?”

Mr. X rolls his eyes. “Women…”

The guard asks whether he needs a drink—meaning coffee, since they are in Dubai after all—but Mr. X waves him away, and stalks off in the other direction… to find a place where he can use his Clairvoyant Sight undisturbed. (Back to the men’s room for our gallant hero it is!) On the other end of the platform, Mr. Howl has recalled that the Ticket Taker’s angelic bane is steam, and she uses Across a Crowded Room to communicate this to Mr. Shepherd.

But as, for once, this communication hasn’t happened via conference call or mass text, Euro doesn’t know a thing about it. Still mostly-invisible because of his mirrored skin, he moves to keep pace with the fleeing Ticket Taker. Mr. Shepherd can see the glint of the mirrors moving, staying just behind the angel to avoid its notice. As Shepherd runs, using his own Inhuman Strength, he is looking for some source of steam. There are plenty of pipes running along the sides of the tunnel, and he successfully spots a red pipe which seems to be radiating heat. As Deira City Station is climate controlled, and the climate being controlled is located on the Arabian Peninsula, it’s not much of a leap to suppose those pipes carry steam. Now, the real trick is to figure out how to use it.

Mr. Howl, unseen by the still-distracted guards, ducks into the tunnel and begins to run as well.

Mr. X has ducked into the bathroom, now empty, and even before he’s finished entering a stall, his sclera have an inhuman coppery color—the partial transformation necessary to activate his Clairvoyant Sight. He is Shaken—this mission has gone very badly, with the potential to get much, much worse, and it hasn’t even started in earnest yet. Bloody Company.

Mr. Shepherd determines that it might be able to use its grappling-claw (the one which burst forth from its chest in its true demonic form) to pull the steam pipe from the wall ahead of the angel, assuming he can hit the pipe successfully and has sufficient strength.

In the bathroom, Mr. X begins a group call with the others, even as his vision fills with haze. “I have eyes on him,” he says, although it would be more accurate to say he’s got eyes in him: he is seeing through the pursued angel’s headlamp eyes…

…as the pursuers close in. Only Euro has kept pace with it. Mr. Shepherd slows, preparing to make transform further and grapple the pipe. “Steam is its bane! I’m going to try to stop it,” he calls over their group call. Through Mr. X’s eyes, we see the angel casting around as it flees, looking for an alternative escape route. It glances back towards Mr. Shepherd, twenty yards away, and sees the most eerily unhuman thing we have seen yet: a metal cross erupts through Aastik Mundim’s chest, showering blood that glints for a moment In the darkness of the tunnel, and launches towards the red, hot pipe, attached to a heavy metal chain. It clamps onto the pipe.

Mr. Howl is just behind Mr. Shepherd now. The angel is now directly under the pipe, where it will be trapped directly under the jet of steam if Mr. Shepherd succeeds in his plan. Of course, so will Euro, who is still neck-and-neck with the angel, but when he sees where they are, he calls to Mr. Shepherd: “Do it!”

Mr. Shepherd grits Aastik’s teeth and grunts with the effort of his pull—but manages only to bend the pipe, shooting steam in the opposite direction. The angel looks up, sees the steam. It realizes it’s standing in a trap.

Through the angel’s eyes, Mr. X sees the angel spot a maintenance door almost level with itself on the track. “It’s going to make a break for the door,” he calls.

Euro, even with the enemy agent, spins, spots the door, and another steam pipe running beside the door. He aims for the pipe, breathes, squeezes the trigger.

The shot pierces the pipe perfectly, ricochets inside, then punctures the pipe again. Steam erupts from the door in a sheet with a scalding hiss, covering the entire door. The angel, still in the Twilight, sees no other way out, and still leaps for the door.

The unholy sound the angel releases as it hits the sheet of steam is only sensible to Euro and Mr. Shepherd, who can still detect it with their Aetheric Resonance. It materializes physically for an instant, creating an outline that glows bright red for a moment, then seeps under the door in a mist. Mr. X hears none of this, but can see what’s happening from the driver’s seat perspective. His vision goes red, as the angel takes grievous damage, and although he feels nothing, he flinches within the bathroom stall. Seeing this is uncomfortably like watching a snuff film. But then the angel disappears inside the maintenance door, and Mr. X’s vision goes completely black. There are only two possibilities: the angel has died, or it has entered Concealment Infrastructure.

There’s a moment of eerie stillness that follows, where the only noise is the steaming hiss coming from the pipe. Mr. Shepherd retracts his tether. It snaps back into his chest with a sickening sound. Then Mr. Howl catches up at last, the click of Eliza Xue’s heels becoming audible over the steam noise. The three demons in the tunnel stare at the door.

Mr. Shepherd speaks first. “Did we get it?”

In the bathroom, Mr. X blinks Omar’s still-coppery eyes. “It’s either dead, or it’s gone into Concealment Infrastructure. It’s black. I can’t see it.”

Euro looks to Mr. Shepherd. “If you can pull off that door, I can teleport in.”

Mr. Shepherd steps back, braches himself, and launches his tether again. The metal cross clamps onto the door, and then the chain is pulled back into Aastik’s bloodied chest. The door’s hinges creak, then give way; through the sheet of mist, lights are visible.

For a brief moment, Euro charges with energy, then he’s gone, teleported into the room beyond.

Mr. X, trying to focus his clairvoyance on Euro, sees only blackness. Concealment, then. That answers that question, although absolutely not in the way he’d like. He focuses then on Mr. Shepherd,

Mr. X retreats fully inside his Cover again, blinking Omar’s eyes a few times as they return to normal.

Inside the room, Euro can tell from the hum of the energy inside that he is standing within Infrastructure, albeit not a very impressive-looking piece of it. The room is about five-by-seven, dimly lit, with no obvious pieces of equipment or moving gears.

“Maybe it’s dead?” Mr. Howl ventures.

Euro: “I’m inside some sort of Infrastructure here…”

Mr. X: “Yes. Concealment Infrastructure, definitely.”

Mr. Shepherd: “I think infiltrating Infrastructure is outside the realm of our mission.”

Euro casts his eyes around the room again. “I tend to agree with that…”

Mr. Howl: “This seems like a good time to call the Company.”

Mr. X: “If something is hidden there, they’ll need to know.”

Mr. Shepherd: “They must have stopped whoever was going to deliver to us—“

As if in response to this, the drop phone in Euro’s pocket begins to vibrate. He answers with some hesitation. Euro’s not a talker, ordinarily—he wasn’t supposed to have to negotiate. “Hello?”

The voice on the other end is heavily electronically masked, but its anger is still audible. “What is it that you are thinking, calling an angel to this spot? Are you trying to get us all killed?”

Euro: “What do you mean, calling an angel to the spot?”

Unknown: “We scanned before we entered the area, and found that an angel was stalking in the middle of Dubai! That cannot be coincidence, considering the plans we made with your Company.”

Euro: “Look, that angel—we did not intentionally bring that angel here.”

Unknown: “And how am I supposed to trust you?” (It’s the eternal dilemma.)

Euro: “You can be reasonable, and realize we wouldn’t want an angel to interfere with our receiving the package.”

Unknown: “Unless you were trying to destroy us all.” Pause. “But just a moment. We have taken this time to discuss the situation, and decided we will give you a second chance for this exchange.”

Euro: “Fine. Where are we meeting?”

Unknown: “We will be meeting at a place that I will designate to you from a different number, at a separate time. It will be within three hours, and if this happens again, we will destroy the box.” Click. The line goes dead.”

Euro looks at the phone, then puts it away, and passes this information on to the others. “They’ve set up a different time to collect the box. They’ll call on a different number and we’ll meet them at a currently unspecified location in about three hours.”

Mr. Howl sighs. “I can’t blame them.” Mr. Shepherd voices his agreement.

Euro adds, “Another complication: they threatened to destroy the box.”

Inside the bathroom stall, Mr. X-as-Omar swears instinctively in Gordon’s native English. “Bloody hell…”

The In-Between. Three pm. It’s a few minutes later. To meet in privacy, the group has gone into their shared bolthole. Mr. Howl opened a door there from within the metro tunnel, while Mr. X has made his own way in from the bathroom. (He’ll need to wash his hands on the way out anyway.)

The In-Between looks, at first, like an infinite office building, with all the joy and good-feeling that that implies. In the middle, extending both up and down as far as the eye can see, is a central well which allows a person to see the infinitely stretching floors. The space is essentially limitless. Wherever one goes, there’s always another room, another stairwell, just enough space for what one needs. It’s suborned Infrastructure (although that story’s for another time, perhaps). The group suspects that it was originally designed as a prison.

Mr. Howl steps out briefly through the entrance she’s created. Mobile phone service is ubiquitous in the future, but it doesn’t extend into the Bolthole, and she needs to call the bosses. In the tunnel’s darkness, Eliza stands outside a door, just left slightly ajar, with Malik standing a ways away, waiting for further communication from the unknowns. Mr. Howl dials Mr. Green’s number. There’s the sound of the call being forwarded several times before the call finally connects.

Mr. Green is curt when he answers, not irritated but as though as if he were in the middle of something and has been interrupted. “What is it?”

“Would you like the bad news or the worse news?” Mr. Howl is a loyal company agent, known well to Mr. Green. She has more liberty to be informal with their handler.

Mr. Green: “Surprise me.”

Mr. Howl: “There is an angel in Dubai.”

Mr. Green barely pauses to take this information in. “And what is the bad news?”

Mr. Howl: “The bad news is that the people we were supposed to deliver the package to have decided we are at fault for the angel.”

Mr. Green: “Where is the angel now?”

Mr. Howl recounts the events in full. Mr. Green does not interrogate, but Howl’s report is complete and comprehensive.

After processing this, Mr. Green says, “If they have Concealment Infrastructure, it’s probably still there. It likely can’t leave until it’s fully healed, if it’s as damaged as you say. But tell me, do you know why it was there?”

Mr. Howl: “Other than for the package?”

Mr. Green: “Was it? Why would it—“ He stops himself, and pauses. “Never mind. At this point, leave it. I will send someone to make sure it is kept where it is.”

Mr. Howl: “…It is possible that it was looking for me.”

The Company man considers this. “As of right now, the priority is to find Pandora’s Box. I suspect something must be responsible for it being there. I don’t know if that something was the God-Machine, or something else… If only we had the time to learn more.” He’ll look into it. “I’ll see about getting that information to you, but in the meantime, regroup and find out where they want to meet next.” Marching orders issued. “Is there anything else?”

Mr. Howl: “I’ll be under radio silence for the next three hours.”

Mr. Green: “I see.” There’s an unspoken question there, but he knows better than to ask.

Mr. Howl hangs up. Sometime during the call, Euro has received the address from the hostage-takers in a text message.

Within the In-Between, Mr. X has switched Covers, like a man taking off uncomfortable work-clothes. He’s still shaken up by how badly the mission went, and in no mood to be Omar for one minute longer than he has to be. This time, when he says “Bloody hell,” it sounds perfectly natural.

“That hardly could have gone worse,” Euro says, reentering the Bolthole.

Mr. Shepherd nods. “Everything about that was unpleasant.”

“What did they say?” Mr. X demands. “You’ve heard from them again?”

Euro passes on the address. The unknowns want to meet at the Khan Murjan, a modern-style cross between an Arabic market, a souk, and a shopping mall. It’s a higher-end location, frequented by the middle-class and foreigners.

Mr. Shepherd sighs, his mind still on recent events. “I should have not have done that to his angel.”

“Why?” Howl demands. When not required to pretend to be Eliza, her personality often seems to recede into a sort of watchful blankness, terrifyingly businesslike. Only when something she cares about comes into play does Howl’s own personality shine through, and Mr. Howls doesn’t care about much.

Mr. Shepherd: “He could have joined us, if I had not been so cruel.”

But for once, Mr. X and Mr. Howl are in agreement. “Exactly how easily do you think angels fall?” X snaps.

“More easily when encouraged,” Mr. Shepherd says. “More difficult when the opposite.”

“Right. Cornered and panicked, that’s the time to try to reason with it, is it? Unless you’re a bloody good negotiator, I believe you did the right thing,” says Mr. X.

“From my perspective, it was an easy call on your part, moral issues aside.” For a Destroyer, and such a quiet one, Euro had a surprisingly philosophical streak.

Mr. Howl doesn’t. “There are no moral issues here.”

“Let’s focus on what we agree on…” says Mr. Shepherd, the peacemaker.

“We’ve got a job to do,” says Mr. X, “and we’re going to finish it. Same arrangement as before, do you think?”

Euro: “Do you think it would be prudent to scan the area ourselves before they get there?” Mr. X volunteers, looking for something to do, but Euro is less eager to follow up on his own suggestion. “I’m conflicted about this. They do seem intent on us arriving in about three hours.”

Mr. X: “I’ll be able to tell if there are angels there right away.” He has the ability to Detect the Angelic in his demonic form. It’d risk compromise, but it’s worth it if the hostage takers would be spooked again.

Euro: “Okay. You can arrive a few moments early then.”

Mr. X: “Exactly. Very difficult to time things like this,” His tone is facetious.

Mr. Shepherd: “Mr. Howl, did you say that angel was looking for you?”

Mr. Howl: “I recognized him, if that is what you’re asking.”

Mr. Shepherd: “How do you know this angel?” He’s got an inquisitive streak.

Mr. Howl, though, isn’t feeling talkative. “That train station is where I was before I fell.”

Mr. Shepherd: “And now this angel performs the duties you gave up?” The Ring knows little about each other’s pasts. Details can be dangerous.

Mr. Howl: “No, that was the Ticket Taker. He finds pieces of Infrastructure that have been misplaced.”

“You’re jumping at shadows,” Mr. X insists. The Ticket Taker showed no interest in Howl. She’s getting jumpy, emotional. It’s not like her.

Mr. Shepherd: “It was clearly looking for something, and it wasn’t looking for us.”

The discussion of the Ticket Taker is inconclusive. Mr. X is more interested in how it knew to be there in the first place. “If it is a set-up, I’d be very curious to know if the leak came from them, or from us.” Meaning, of course, the Company.

Mr. Shepherd: “It’s difficult to know, without knowing what we’re picking up. Casting blame on us is a good way to distract from blaming them.”

Mr. X: “The question is, do they really want what we have, or do they want an excuse to destroy Pandora’s Box, whatever the hell is in it?”

Mr. Howl: “We could find out.”

The box is sitting on the ground between them all. By now they are all looking at it, rather than at one another.

Mr. X: “We could only find out what we’ve got.”

Mr. Shepherd: “But do we want to find out? It would violate the terms of this contract.”

Mr. X: “I’m not willing to risk it… yet. If they blow us of one more time, I might be willing to reconsider.”

Euro: “If they blow us off one more time, they’ve indicated they’re willing to destroy Pandora’s Box.”

Mr. Shepherd: “I’d like to note that the contract specifies we’ll use any and all necessary force to obtain this objective.” It’s not so much that Mr. Shepherd has any particular loyalty to the Company. He just tries to do all jobs well.

Euro: “And I intend to do so, if we have any sort of opportunity to, but we don’t even know where it is.”

Mr. Shepherd: “Well, given the circumstances, perhaps we should consider taking it by force regardless. Or at least have a plan to do so.”

Euro: “I think that’s reasonable.”

Mr. X: “Tricky in a public place like that. Of course, that’s probably what they’re thinking.”

The case is still sitting between them all. Mr. Howl moves to pick it up, and sets it on the table.

The motion startles Mr. X. He has a Guardian’s protectiveness of the case under his charge, and he snaps, “What are you doing?”

Calmly, Mr. Howl says, “I don’t know.”

Mr. Shepherd: “Well, we know this thing we’re acquiring is rather large. It’s 2.5 meters tall.”

Mr. X mutters under his breath: “Perhaps it’s a rather fetching carved chest…”

Mr. Shepherd. “The question then is, how are they transporting it?”

Mr. X: “Truck, maybe?” (author’s note: should have said ‘lorry.’ Oh well.) “Handcart? Big one, though.”

Euro: “From the information Mr. Green provided, it seems it is already at a specified location.”

Mr. Shepherd: “I may know some people who work at this souk.” Mr. Shepherd has connections everywhere among Dubai’s large population of undocumented immigrants, especially Indian immigrants.

Mr. X: “The trouble is, if they don’t have it with them, if they’re just giving us the actual location… I mean, it’s pretty standard not to bring the goods to the drop, depending on the goods. If what they’re giving us is another location, and we try to beat it out of them first, we’re not very likely to get anything we want.”

Euro: “No. And of course…” He goes on to point out that the Ring is at their mercy in that time of the exchange before they discover whether they’ve received an accurate location. There’s plenty of time to get screwed over, basically.

Mr. X: “It’s the same problem you always have in situations like this. We more or less have to take them at their word. But I’d like to have a contingency plan. How about: the two of us who aren’t openly part of the rendezvous fall back, try to remain unobserved…”

Euro: “Do you think they will be expecting all four of us? They have been monitoring us.”

Mr. X: “Well, they were monitoring us to the point where they knew that the angel was there, and they knew that we were there…” He’s been turning this over in his head. They have no idea how strong this organization is, or how well-manned, but he speaks more confidently than he feels. “They didn’t necessarily monitor us, seeing us move together. They didn’t know who we were, except that you had the phone. That’s about all they could have deduced, even if they had been watching.” Mr. X always suspects he is being watched.

Mr. Howl: “I think it stands to reason that only two of us go. Why would we have all of our operatives go at the same time? That makes little sense.”

Euro sighs: “I’m just concerned that they’ll see this as it is: a plan B.”

Mr. X: “You think they don’t have one as well?”

Euro: “Well… I’m sure they do, but I’m sure they hope very much that we would not.”

Mr. X rolls his eyes. “If wishes were horses, as they say, beggars would ride. Two of us need to go, the other two stay back and remain unobserved. I don’t suppose any of you have any more Covers that you’ve been holding out on us?” He’s pacing by now, considering their options.

There’s a murmur of negatives: Euro’s “I wish,” Howl’s flat “No,” and Shepherd’s “I’m afraid not. Though a change of costume could do much to conceal my identity…”

Mr. X: “You could try putting on a suit for once.”

Mr. Shepherd: “I do own several suits, you know.”

With a skeptical glance, Mr. X replies, “Hmm. Fancy that.”

There’s some discussion, again brought up by Euro, about how they intend to retrieve Pandora’s Box quickly and efficiently. Of course, it’s impossible to best know how to do that, since they don’t know where it is, or how they’re going to move. Mr. Shepherd points out that they can requisition equipment from Hassan, the Company’s angelic exile quartermaster. Mr. X says they can hire a car or truck, if it comes to that.

Euro: “I’m just thinking about the fastest way.”

Mr. X: “Well, if two of us are traveling incognito, as I believe I have suggested several times now, we needn’t all travel together.” Meaning, someone can take a truck, if need be.

Mr. Howl: “I think it makes the most sense that we split up.”

Euro concedes. “You are very much my senior, and I think I will differ to your suggestion, then.”

“Damn right,” Mr. X says. “Look.” He points at Howl, and speaks directly to her. “You’re the messenger? You carry the phone. I’ll carry the box again.” Then he begins thinking aloud again. “Monday, mid-day…. Shouldn’t be too unreasonable for the two of us to be seen there. You two,” meaning Mr. Shepherd and Euro, “you can blend in better. You can stay in the background.”

Mr. Shepherd nods. “I will see if I know anyone at the souk. The Khan Murjan is a very high income location. The people who shop there are tourists, foreigners, the rich…”

Mr. Howl agrees, too. “I may know someone.” Tempters are like that.

With that settled, Mr. X goes back to his irritated grumbling. “Why did it have to be a bloody silver attaché case? Why didn’t they just scream secret package? Or just put a big red sticker on it…”

Mr. Shepherd chuckles. “They didn’t want to make it too easy for us.”

In the end, they all choose a course of action. Mr. Shepherd will try to make contact with his cult—embarrassing to have a cult, rather, but they do come in handy. Euro will go ahead and begin monitoring the security system. Howl is going to go dress for the occasion, and Mr. X… Well. Mr. Shepherd suggests contacting Pandaemonique, one of the “illegal” (unaffiliated with the Company) demonic contacts the Ring has cultivated: she knows things, and people. She may have heard something. And she has a history, however slight, with Mr. X.

“I’m willing to speak to her,” he concedes with a false lightness that makes Mr. Howl look up in annoyance.

“I’ll come, too, then...”

So there’s a plan. Everything is set into motion. The members of the Ring file out and go their separate ways. Two small post scripts:

A few minutes after leaving the In-Between, Mr. Howl receives a call.

“Darling, how are you?” The voice is accented, European. Ms. Marquise. Another tempter, and another highly-placed agent of the Company. Mr. Howl likes Ms. Marquise, or at least likes her connections.

“I’m good, sweetheart, how are you?” Howl says.

“Well, I’m worried,” says the other. “You see, I’ve heard little whispers about an operation… and it came to my attention that someone else knows about it as well. I mean, if I’ve heard about it, I just know that something has leaked. I thought I’d give you a head’s up.

“You see, there’s this exile, called Big Ear, and it broadcasts from the Lost City in Dubai… all these little secrets that people whisper to it. And do you know what it whispered? It said that something was going to go down at Deira City Station. And it called all angels. And you know what else it said?”

Mr. Howl is frowning now, even more than she was before.

“Mr. Gregory was the one that said it.” As Mr. Howl does not react, Ms. Marquise adds, “You might not know that name, but I’m sure if you go to Lost City and ask around, you might find out something. Well, keep in touch, darling. Kiss, kiss.”

“Of course,” says Mr. Howl, and then the voice at the other end is gone.


The last thing we see in this episode is Mr. X. Briefly, before he meets with Pandaemonique, he’s returned to his apartment, taking the attaché case with him back to Gordon’s apartment. When we see him again, he’s standing, staring at the case, for a full minute, maybe two—actually quite a long time to stand looking at anything. He even reaches out to thumb the combination lock. It’s all there, secrets and forgotten information…

And then he grimaces at it, with a sigh like a snarl, and snatches the case by the handle, storming out to his next destination…

[—author’s note: We hope you’ve enjoyed reading (or listening) (or both) to the first episode of The Tower of Babel. I’ve never done a write-up like this before, so if you have any questions, comments, or things that would make the text more readable or enjoyable, please let me know!]
 

TheMartini

Gin martini. Stirred.
Validated User
Great! Thanks for sharing both the audio and the write-up. I'm loving that we're seeing more and more Demon APs, and your slight-future setting is interesting.

Keep it up!
 
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