Excerpts from the journal of Connor Galloway, an employee of Orpheus and member of Crucible 7.
Richmond Virginia, October 19, 2013.
Back on the roof of the Orpheus building we were met by Lisa and Prator. Needless to say, when we told Prator about everything that happened on the Andromeda he was taken aback. The swarm of spectres, the black ops team, and the news that there were anti-ghost weapons out there gave us all plenty to think about. I handed over the relocked briefcase without comment and he told us that no other crucible could have handled the situation as well as we did. Lisa took the girl we rescued, Taylor, under her wing and led her inside.
We’d caught plenty of sleep on the plane but Dahlia and I were getting quite hungry so the whole group went out for breakfast. Denny’s of course. I checked some new sites on my phone and showed the others the report about the cruise ship. It simply said that the Andromeda has sunk at sea with ‘all hands lost.’
It was already midday and we felt bad for missing the meeting with Ken but at least we had the whole weekend free to do some digging. The ongoing questions about Bishop and his gang seemed to be the most important to the group so we discussed heading to one of the known bases. The headquarters on Churchill and N street seemed a bit risky so we picked Sheltered Palms as our target. I suggested that we go on a fact-finding mission, try and sneak in and see what’s going on and get out without anyone knowing. Dan and Dahlia were both quick to suggest that any visit would almost certainly end in fighting so we might as well go in guns-blazing from the start and catch them by surprise. I was loathe to just run in and start killing people, however bad they may be, so we settled on a compromise. Dan would possess as much of the building as possible and use the doors to keep any human enemies locked up while opening a path for us to follow that would lead to any point of interest that he could spot. Any spooks that we ran into would be hypnotised by Markus and hopefully we would be able to avoid a fight.
When we returned to Orpheus Lisa approached us and asked what we were getting up to for the day. I dropped my gaze and walked straight past her. Better to let Markus do the talking than say something stupid and reveal our intentions. “We’re doing some team-building,” I heard Markus say behind me, “working on sharing our vitality like you recommended.”
I had something else I wanted to take care of anyway and headed down to the office where Lehto was being held. He’d had a few things brought in to make the place more comfortable. A simple bed against one of the walls and a pair of chairs, one of which had a small tv sitting on it. “How was the ship?” he asked as I entered, the others close behind. I told him we’d had a rough night but that I’d recalled seeing a drawing of a sinking ship in his house. I asked if he would like me to get him some art supplies, if it would be a good outlet for him, and that even though the visions were muddled any warnings we could get were helpful. He seemed kinda enthusiastic about drawing again but reiterated that his visions weren’t always accurate. I thanked him and said I would see what I could get him and we turned to leave. He opened his mouth as if to say something then decided against it and simply said, “See you later.”
Dan saw the pause and stepped back into the room, “What were you going to say just now?”
“I probably shouldn’t say anything, but I get the feeling that things are going to go a little haywire for you guys very soon.”
“Well shit,” Dan turned back to us, “I don’t think we should be going to that place today. In fact I’ve decided not to go.
“What do you see now?” he asked Lehto who looked down and smiled.
“It doesn’t work like that, man.”
Dahlia obviously wasn’t convinced, “Let’s just go, it’ll be fine.”
“You heard what he said,” Dan said, “haywire is not a good word for us.”
Stepping further into the room he probed for more information, “How bad is it going to be?”
Lehto looked back up, “Hey, if it’s any consolation I see you all surviving to see tomorrow.”
At that I saw Markus, Dan, and Lehto’s eyes widen in shock as they glanced around the room. After a few seconds Dan turned to Dahlia and I, “Did you feel that?”
We, of course, had felt nothing, but the others described a tremor that had shaken the ground. An earthquake that only the spooks had felt. Markus coined the term Ghostquake on the spot. We left Lehto and went to find Lisa for some answers.
We found her down in one of the training rooms with Taylor, teaching her how to turn incorporeal. Lisa was projected and Taylor was a ghost so they had both felt the quake, it was also news to them that only the spooks had felt it. For all they’d experienced it seemed like a normal earthquake. Markus asked me if there were any accounts in occult history of something similar but I had to tell him that while there are plenty of real-world natural disasters and doomsday scenarios that I’d never read anything about Ghostquakes.
Back upstairs we asked Grimes about it and he revealed that he’d felt one while working the ghost-dog job up north. But just like a regular quake it had come and gone with no strange aftereffects. Markus said something about huge spectres moving underground, likening it to the large black mass we’d seen under the cruise ship. Once he’d heard that Grimes had to know more and so Markus told him everything that had happened on the Andromeda. When he described the swimming spectres Grimes made the observations that they seemed purpose-built, and pondered whether some spectres were never human to begin with. We told him about the Ghost-shot weapons and about the plans we’d found in the briefcase. He suggested that while Prator may be a shit-head he isn’t stupid and that he probably knows we would have looked. Grimes asked if we’d made copies and I said, “I may have taken some photos on my phone.” He looked rather pleased with the direction our crucible was headed and offered us all one of his beers. I took one.
With Lehto’s warning still clear in our minds we went back to our office to talk about what we were going to do. We all still wanted to do something about Bishop. Markus suggested that since Bishop was heavily involved in the Pigment trade we could maybe try and round up a dealer and question them. He asked me if I was in contact with one and I told him I did, but that I didn’t think Wheezy would meet me anywhere private enough for us to grab him. In the end we decided to go look for Ken and see if he’d turned anything up.
He was nowhere to be seen at his usual spot in the Drink carpark but Dahlia suggested that she might know where his ‘river’ was. Belle Isle Park sat on the James River which cut through Richmond and so we headed there. Walking through the park we saw a lot of homeless people camped out, some of which were spooks, no doubt tied to this place once they’d crossed to the spirit world. We also spotted Ken sitting on a park bench with his head in his hands. As we approached he looked up at us with eyes that were half full of black veins and the gauze of his face was melted and rotting. He spoke softly, “I missed you guys this morning.”
We asked him if he’d ever felt anything like the Ghostquake before and despite his seven or so years as a spook he hadn’t. He complained that there were voices in his head muttering unintelligible words. We tried to calm him but he snapped and said he knew what was happening. He was turning into one of them, a spectre. We didn’t know what to do, or even if there was something we could do. Markus suggested we might be able to take him in to Orpheus so that they could at least study the transformation. As we talked however Ken got to his feet and I could see the blackness spreading up his neck from beneath his coat. “Remember, I was Ken Davenport,” when he spoke his voice was echoed by a lower one, “I was a man!”
Black began to drip down his hands forming into claws, we all instinctively took a step back. “Where is Bishop?” he asked, and when we didn’t answer immediately, “TELL ME!”
“Corner of Churchill and N street,” I told him and with that he broke into a run.
It proved increasingly difficult to keep up with Ken as he dashed back up the path. One second he was a few meters ahead of us and the next he would step into the shadow of a tree and reappear from a dark corner further ahead. We gave up keeping him in sight and made our way back to the car with all haste. We made a quick decision, if Ken was turning into a spectre and about to attack Bishop then this might be our best shot to take him down ourselves. I wheeled the car around and we took off towards the abandoned school where the gangs headquarters was located.
As we got close Dahlia suggested we project from a nearby church. After locking our sleeping bodies in the confessional booths the four of us made our way down the road. The few spooks that were on the street gave us strange looks and I realised that in this neighborhood it was probably rare to see a bunch of white folk walking around. Some spooks were pointing at us and whispering and we saw one run off down an alleyway as we approached. The school soon came into view and we finally got our first look at Bishop. He was sitting out front by a basketball court with a group of five spooks and a handful of humans. He stood out not just because of his skin but because he was a towering, intimidating man; About six and a half feet tall and built like a fighter. The spook who had run off came jogging across the court and said something to Bishop which made him turn.
He stood up slowly and we locked eyes from down the street as his cronies stood as well. The crucible continued to walk forward wondering where Ken was when a ripple in the shadows drew our attention. The next thing we knew a fully transformed Ken burst from a shadow in the middle of Bishops group and landed on the gang leader. At that we all charged. There was still a bit of distance between the two groups but we needed to make the most of Ken’s attack.
As we approached Ken drew back one of his claws and raked it up Bishop’s chest and across his face. The man staggered back but managed to get a hand on Ken and threw him to the ground with force. Ken sprang back to his feet but Bishop was ready and let out a Banshee wail that tore into the former detective. When all that was left of him was a few shreds of gauze floating to the ground Bishop turned back to face us. One half of his face was marred by deep cuts but we watched as claws grew from his fingers and his skin blackened into some kind of carapace-like armour.
The distance was closing fast and I congealed my sword in preparation. Across from us one of the spooks vanished while the others also demonstrated that they too could use horrors. A gun congealed in the hand of the left-most spook and a katana into the hands of the dread-locked thug next in line. The third opened his fists and balls of flame erupted there to lick up his arms. The one on the far right braced himself and I could see his jaw dislocate itself.
A bright red light flashed to my right and I could see that all the spooks, except for Bishop, were momentarily distracted by one of Markus’ lights. To my left another blaze of light, this one white and hot, told me that Dan had activated his witches nimbus to cover himself in fire. Then Bishop sent a wail towards us. I managed to duck to the left out of the way but noticed that Markus’ light flickered out. A slightly higher-pitched wail sounded and I knew Dahlia was returning fire, the shockwaves raced towards Bishop who curled his armoured back toward the blast. Bits of the shell cracked and were torn off but he seemed mostly unharmed. The two spooks next to him were thrown backwards but quickly regained their feet.
The gun-toting spook fired to my left, probably aiming at Dan, as the rest of us closed the distance. I glanced over my shoulder to see Markus cut across behind me and make a beeline for the gunman. I had to duck as Dan threw a ball of fire over my head in Bishops direction but smiled when I saw it connect. The fire caught on his back and I though he seemed to weather the damage the blackness was spread over him. A second blast caused him to lose all composure, knocking him off his feet. As he blazed uncontrollably he began to scream and scramble at the ground with his long claws. In a panic he must have partially manifested because the fire began to scorch the ground.
Another shot rang out and this one hit Markus who seemed unphased, his focus was entirely on the gunman. As the other Haunter returned fire at Dan I had to dodge around to avoid being hit but I did spot Bishop as he got to his feet and made for the old school building. On the far right of the court the enemy Banshee tried to wail at Dahlia who decided to return the favour. Their voices collided halfway and the concrete cracked before Dahlia overpowered the spook. Even when he was silenced and his gauze began to shred she didn’t let up.
Finally we closed the distance between us and my opposite Poltergeist raised his sword to strike. He’d misjudged my speed however and so I lunged forward, driving my blade through his chest. The blow would’ve killed a living man but as a spook he staggered back pulling me with him. I kicked him off my blade and dropped into a defensive stance as he regained his feet. To my left I saw Markus tackle the gunman and for a second wondered what on earth he was doing. Then they both blinked away. The momentary distraction was all the Poltergeist needed to get back on the attack and I found myself shifting and blocking for my life. One feint left me off guard and it was all I could do to jump backwards, turning a lethal blow into a shallow cut across my chest.
Blasts flew through the air behind me as Dan and the other Haunter exchanged shots and I could hear that Dahlias wail was still going, continuing for an inhuman length of time. The Poltergeist and I continued to exchange blows but neither of us could land any hits. It was definitely an eye-opening experience to be in a real fight and not a simple sparring match with Hollis or Markus.
Suddenly the pitch of Dahlia’s wail dropped a few octaves into more of a roar and I managed to get a quick glance around to see what was happening. She had manifested, her body appearing skeletal and dressed in rags, her eyes were dark voids. Her wail had been turned on the building and it’s brickwork was shuddering and breaking apart. When I turned back to the Dread-locked Poltergeist my next swing went wild and wide. He took the opportunity to give me a hard kick and I was knocked back off my feet. By the time I had got back up he was out of reach, running for his life in the opposite direction of crucible seven. I turned to see that Markus had returned and he was turning a strange dagger over and over in his hands.
We regrouped in the middle of the court and I looked around at my crucible. All three of them were very faint and I could see right through their gauze. Dahlia was gaunt and her bones were visible. Dan’s skin looked yellow and pale and seemed to squirm as if there was something beneath the surface. Markus was once more double, images of his body seeming to lag for a second before catching up. But the more disturbing thing was everyone’s eyes. Shining black.
A popping sound behind me made me turn and I groaned inwardly as the Wisp who had disappeared earlier showed himself. He’d gone for backup and we were now faced with five more spooks. Dan let out a low, almost animal growl, and began to advance on them. Markus had the same thought as me however and stepped up to place a hand on Dan’s shoulder. When they had blinked away I turned to Dahlia, “Ripcord?”
And we did.
Dan was livid on the drive back to the office and made it very clear. He was pissed that Bishop had made his escape and that we’d have to start our investigation almost from square one again. The convoy of police cars and fire trucks that were driving in the opposite direction to us served as a reminder that we’d just destroyed the gangs headquarters and beaten a group of Bishop’s well-trained bodyguards. I told the others that at least we’d set them back as well.
Markus also filled us in on what had happened to him, and where he’d acquired the dagger. He’d tried to stormwend the gunman up into the air in order to drop him and kill him but something had gone wrong and he’d accidentally sent them both into the school building. The gunman had taken a few shots at him at close range and he had reached his hand out in desperation to find the dagger. After a closer look I confirmed that it seemed to be of Roman origin and as we drove it was slowly turning incorporeal. It seemed as though he’d summoned it out of thin air, and he even mentioned that when he reached for it his arm had felt cold as it did when stormwending.
The rest of the drive was spent in silence and I had some time to think back over the events of the fight. Dan had single handedly mauled Bishop and caused the gang leader to flee in fear. Dahlia had torn apart two spooks and a building with her wail. Markus had managed to kill a spook through the use of a horror that no one had ever heard of. What had I done to help? Batted swords with some dread-locked thug who ended up escaping. I’m starting to think that my choice of weapon isn’t the most practical. It’s time to start practicing congealing some guns.