This Is Midnight
|This Is Midnight|
|Part of Hail to the Pumpking|
Pump King Jack
|Casualties and losses|
|Santa & Diet Coke Army||Gum Toad's Spirit Formula|
Team heads to the metaplanes on behalf of Grand Duke Zaleos, a spirit keeping tight security over a geomancy-stabilized astral gateway terminal in Sophocles. They raze a notorious Gum Toad, Amerio's networking operation by disrupting the toad to its home plane and stealing its formula. Pumpking Jack is given a brief window to seize control of the networking contacts himself and make an arrangement with Zaleos.
During one of Babylon's previous metaplanar quests, she came across a Gum Toad that seemed to work off forming far-reaching networks of acquaintances and contacts, roughly equivalent to a fixer in the spirit world. He was owed favors and fulfilled them in turn, occupying a robust position despite his sleazy attitude. There was a plan to eventually dethrone this all too familiar personality of owed debts and collecting favors. In addition, Ty Vallynn went on an initiation ordeal not too long ago in Sophocles and discovered that a three story office building housed a peculiar astral gateway, its stability ensured by various proto-Enochian sigils scattered across Sophocles' alleyways. Little else was known about it other than that spirits occasionally came through, possessed bodies prepared for them and went on their way in Seattle.
The meet happens in the building Ty investigated before. The Enochian sigil in the alleyway nearby that he points out to Babylon seem to ascribe dominion and authority. The ward around the building is strong, but once inside the team spots a cyberzombie possessed by some kind of fae-like being, Adeptus, Ezekyle Burton and Nameless in the first floor waiting lounge. Nameless meditates, Burton seems to not want to disturb anyone, the cyberzombie is irritated by Babylon's attempts to use cleansing and Adeptus gets annoyed once the team tries probing her for too much info. The meet happens in the second floor with the actual astral gateway in the middle and the team meets what looks like the person in charge, a massive serpentine creature covered in pale plating and with a face resembling a thousand-toothed anglerfish. A quick assensing test shows it to be a Force 12 spirit and it speaks in reverse at first, adjusting once informed that the team can't understand it. It elaborates that the gum toad in the Metaplane of Man is causing issues and that it has to be dealt with one way or another. In addition, Pumpking Jack may be able to aid, possibly even still having the capacity to drain karma somewhere inside him if given the chance. In return, he offers solid bars of gold which appear genuine, although when Babylon tries cutting into one with a hand razor to verify its purity, he insists she take the bar with her now that it's been touched. The spirit appears extremely cautious about astral taint of any kind.
The plan is to go to the metaplanes (everyone but Babylon uses the gateway, she will project from her lodge and meet the Dweller) and get the job done even if the spirit hiring them was rude by using Compulsion on Swerve to get her to sit.
Once the team gets to the metaplanes, they find there to be uncountable spirits warring in teams of Pepsi Max and diet Coca Cola. Two massive great form air spirits are wrestling in the sky. Jack can be seen in the crowd on the ground, fighting with Santa on the team of diet Coke. They're fighting on some sorts of temple grounds, beating various spirits to a pulp or taking licks themselves. The sun in the plane immediately affects the gateway-using banshees who take cover from the rays. Meanwhile, the projecting magician flies down to inquire what the fighting is about. Jack is busy fighting but explains that the temple was erected years ago as a symbol of metahuman tribalism and brand loyalty, something that's at an all time high in the Sixth World. The flags the spirits rally under change every day, as the contents of the flags aren't as important as experiencing the "us vs. them" mentality with the daily brawls. The day before it had been communists against capitalists, now it's various drinking brands. Jack's evacuated against his will as Santa gets bludgeoned to death by hockey stick wielding hooligan spirits.
Babylon locates a sky-mounted highway that the team begins advancing down when one of the air spirits is defeated and the surviving one roars his loyalty to the S-K owned brand of Heineken, causing a devastating storm across the horizon. Swerve doesn't have enough time to float down from high up in the sky and take refuge in the temple, Babylon is out of the range of the storm and Ty has a channelling spirit to help her reach the temple for shelter. Swerve, La Rapide and Gomorrah combine their efforts to make a strong barrier to hunker down and survive the storm; as the Storm all but disrupts the remaining brawlers, the day changes to night and the air spirit dissipates as the victor. Finally rid of the sun.
Once the team reaches the pit in the ground, one of the entryways to Id, the underbelly of the Metaplane of Man, Babylon levitates down to use the gum toad's key, enter Id and do a Ritual of Change on Gomorrah. There, she finds a familiar face, a heretical spirit depicting the worship and idolation of science impaled upon a spike, wreathed in shadow magic. She manages to free the spirit who recounts corporate metahumans assaulting various heretical spirits, wanting to excise the very concept of heresy from the metaplane so any false idol can only ever be perceived as valid. She offers to stay behind in Id while Babylon goes back up to help the team with the actual run.
The Gum Toad, Amerio, has a motley crew of clients. Seducer, the avatar spirit. A Tsuchigumo warrior that Ty recalls is hunting "The Crow of Seattle," a Magic 11 vampire, a squad of indentured anansi who were displaced from their new home by a hive Invae queen invading it and a Force 7 shintoist Guardian spirit with traces of shadow magic in her aura. The Gum Toad offers to relinquish Jack's formula since he's been weakened to merely Force 5, but demands 75 Karma as compensation. If Ty goes back and acquires the pelts of 70 foxes for the Gum Toad, he offers a 30 Karma discount. Refusing this absolutely horrible deal, the team attempts coercion, intimidation and even leveraging past interactions. An astral echo, a remnant of Garry Foreman's actions is found as a trophy chained to Amerio's desk which Babylon destroys with great glee. Once negotiations fail, the vampire offers Babylon a handshake and a secret message, implying that the formula is inside the guardian spirit, Izanami. The team executes a surprise strike, disrupts the guardian and grabs a pitch black gemstone appearing to be the formula, disrupting the Gum Toad as well.
The escape is easier, but as part of the distraction, the vampire -appears- to summon mimic mantis spirits to fight the Gum Toad, something that alarms the team quite a bit. On their way out of the metaplanes, they see the entire tribalist conflict army marching towards the pit, having received word that there was an Invae incursion on the Metaplane of Man. Ty corroborates the report and wishes them luck as the team exits through the gateway in the plateau.
The true identity of the vampire, who had told Amerio "Ordo Maximus sends its regards" before betraying it, is left unclear. Upon further inspection of the formula, Babylon realizes it's not Jack's formula, but Amerio's. This gives far more leverage than expected, and with the Gum Toad disrupted, Jack has a window of opportunity to seize his position as the leader of the spirit network. The serpentine anglerfish leading the Sophocles gateway terminal is exposed to be Grand Duke Zaleos, one of the demons mentioned in Ars Goetia, the Lesser Key of Solomon. He agrees to an arrangement with Jack; people are now free to visit him through the gateway at any time, and in return Jack shares some of his network with Zaleos to further help spirits explore the physical world with willing volunteers who interview spirits and if they prove compatible, allow spirits to take their bodies out for a weekend trip in Seattle. The gateway remains sustained by geomancy sigils in Sophocles.
Other interesting tidbits:
- Ty ate a pumpkin pie offered by Jack and gained 4 karma.
- Horizon's logo was on the metahumans who invaded the Plains of Heresy Babylon had been to before, possibly trying a collective consciousness psyop manipulation.
- The hat lady's motives remain unclear.
- Finding Nameless and Burton in the same building was highly suspect, and while they're not there when the team returns, Adeptus offers her services as a fixer to the team members.
Rewards (2x Runtime Multiplier, total 40 RVP)
- 40,000 Nuyen in gold bars (20 RVP)
- 6 Karma (2 RVP)
- For Ty: 4 Karma (4 RVP)
- For everyone else: 8 CDP (4 RVP)
- 2 CDP
- Optional Contact: Pumpking Jack 5/1 Halloween Lord (5 RVP or 10 CDP)
- Optional Contact: Adeptus 2/1 Guidance Spirit Fixer (2 RVP or 4 CDP)
- Optional Quality for Swerve: Witness My Hate at chargen rate
Player After Action Reports (AARs)
I have never encountered such strange things. It was a learning experience for me. The others seemed to have a better idea of what's going on, especially Babylon. Jack talked her up, and I now firmly believe in her abilities. It was also very nice to meet more accomplished awakened. Observing others teaches us a lot.
I have encountered one of the demons of the Lesser Key of Solomon - Grand Duke Zaleos, or at least a spirit claiming to be the same. They are very powerful to be sure, and seem to have managed to create a stable astral gateway, though I was not afforded the opportunity to study it in detail in order to determine how. Still, I did not entirely trust him, electing instead to take shade and travel to the Metaplane of Man in the traditional way - the encounter with the Dweller was interesting, as always. The plane is troubled though, both by fiendish spirits like that vile gum toad and from mortal actors who would use the power there to influence our world. As usual even with all my power I can only do so much. However, the ritual to increase Gomorrah's force was a success, and I managed to recover the formula of the gum toad so that it can be permanently dealt with. Hopefully Jack is successful in stabilizing the power vacuum left in its wake.