Kayou has not been seen for several months, and shall henceforth be named Brick Now On the Missing Person’s List.
Having called McMurderbot, he declared the site DEA after we absconded with their weapons and personal effects. Maxime, however, took the head. He just wants a puppet. It’s name is Jerome.
We also take his car; the hood got hit by Jerome’s dismembered head, so it’s a bit bloody and dented. Since it’s Seattle in February, it’s probably raining, and we’re probably good on concealing the murder. Still, the car needs ditching. Maxime knows someone in Duvall who does drugs, of course, and so we have a nice place to destroy the vehicle if need be.
We pull over and search his car. He’s got a license, a concealed carry permit, and a pistol in the glovebox just ready to go. It’s a .357 Magnum revolver, Smith and Wessen, a classic cowboy gun. He’s also got climbing gear with local dirt on it, a headlamp, and other accoutrements. The dirt is more like stone; looks like we might be finding a nice dungeon crawl.
There’s no spare tire in the back, but a little roll-out spike strip. Unfortunately it is not a James Bond strip, but it’s good in preparation for a battle. 3510 E St. Andrews Way is Jerome Ellis’ house, according to his driver’s license and vehicle registration. It’s a pretty freaking nice house, for a professor, but he’s also a mage. It’s swanky, according to Redfin, and stealing his house along with his car could be fun.
Eric starts to look for public information on Jerome Ellis. He’s the only one listed on his tax records, and he finds a Marie Ellis – deceased. He’s been in the academic field for a long time; his JSTOR file is pretty prolific. He’s mostly writing about artifacts in the Mediterranean region, including experimental archaeology, including reproduction of life and times.
Maxime suggests ‘sending’ Jerome on a long vacation and taking over his pad. And then, in the same breath, asks if we should question him. Or rather, his head.
Now that Alex has rejoined the group, she starts to look over the papers Liliana had. The first thing that comes to mind is ‘why the hell is someone researching PNW artifacts being an expert for someone who is an expert in a completely different reason.’ The second is that there’s a lot of different, every day traditional stuff, but there’s a lot of focus on religious artifacts, specifically on the relationship to snakes and other lizardlike things in the northwest region – dragons. It’s cross-cultural, studying the flow of multiple different myths across different peoples, and it’s fairly comprehensive. She was having a hard time with chronicity of knowledge transfer.
It’s funny, when people book plane tickets the airline usually email them, although it’s not on his silly Nokia flip-phone. The group decides to drive to Jerome’s house and do some more investigating. Eric gets in touch with Smokey mcMurderbot about Jerome; he keeps sending a lot of silly emotes and someone has turned on his Taybot mode.
Ellis’ house has a security system. Eric inspects the outside of the house for phone input to deactivate the alarm. It’s DSL, grossly, and Eric’s opinion of him drops several points. He needs to find a poncho to keep his process of breaking in dry. Time to roll for hacking and break into this house. Having done this, since we have his keys, we just unlock the back door.
The beeper on the alarm system is absurdly loud, for some reason, but we’ve got about ninety seconds or so to turn it off. Eric just decides to rip the system out of the wall, basically, but it migght take more time than he’s got. He’s able to find the box he needs and yank the thing physically out of the wall. Yipeecayay muthafucka, we just broke into a house.
The first alarm box, however, was not non-magical. Fortunately we powered it down mundanely by beating the crap out of it. We start to investigate the house; it’s a fancy-looking place. Eric, of course, goes looking for his desktop labeled Compaq or similar, something awful, and he’s also looking for the DSL modem. Shockingly, his computer is actually a nice modern machine, like someone bought a case off Amazon and assemble it for him.
Maxime finds a nice selection of scotch and cigars, along with small bookshelves. There are a larger number elsewhere in the house, which Alex is interested in. The books are all focused in his field; every book published from the teens through the modern era, as though he’s been buying books since he started teaching. There’s a focus on Mediterranean in general, and the cultural pollination between those cultures. There are also a bit of Western US culture, all the way down through Mexico.
Rama finds a decent selection of magical herbs and spices in Ellis’ pantry. Alex, going to the pool, notices that he’s running the AC in his pool and it feels like there’s warmth coming from the water. There are no eggs in the pool, but it’s hot tub hot, which is weird. It’s not circulating through anything, but it’s fairly obviously a magical pool. Yaaaaay magical mana spring. He apparently built a house on top of it. Rama decides to go for a swim for probably too long, and Alex will remove him if necessary.
Eric has found that Ellis’ bedroom is strangely like a hacker space, complete with 3D printers, laser cutter, milling machine etc. Weirdly, in his bedroom. Why. He thinks for a moment – Ellis is a reproduction dude, press print receive artifact. He can probably also make weapons to his heart’s content, and we’ve got Smokey McMurderbot for hauling it away. Ellis is running Win10 on his computer, and Bitlocker. He also has boot pin password enabled not currently booted. Eric tries all the normal pins one might use.
He has to start trying other methods. When he goes to open Ellis’ machine to look at the harddrives, there’s an additional bay for a second harddrive that isn’t there, almost as though someone removed it recently. After about an hour and ten minutes of work by Eric, Ellis’ password cracks. The desktop is just. Covered in files. Lots of them.
Maxime decides to interrogate the head, and makes himself another soul jar. Jerome is successfully moved into the jar, much success, very well commanded. Maxime demands to know where all of his hidden shit is, rather than anything useful. Any extra mana the pool generates goes to the pantry, car is souped up, etc.
Alex asks about dragons, and he reveals that he doesn’t know the full plan about their arrival. His basement is a Faraday cage, also. Maxime decides to put him in a box with Nyancat.
Ellis’ house has books and other artifacts that Alex is looking through intensely. She finds a lot of normal material to write a paper on, but there’s a bit of basic clockwork nicknacks that’s more advanced than what she would expect out of ancient Greece, more like the Renaissance era, based on things he researched at some point.
It’s almost like he was a magic craftsman who could make things like what sent A Barnes to the other side. She also finds ticket stubs to places he’s flown to recently, many of which are to Vegas. She also finds a map of ley lines in the SW, which is a little weird for someone with his focus area. He’s got tickets to some Vegas shows, but there’s some date gaps in between, closer to when they entered and left Vegas. He’s also got receipts from various indoor full auto armories – what you do when you’ve got too much money. It’s not making a lot of sense, but he’s got various sources pointing to something important being there.
Smokey texts Eric to let him know that Liliana’s place is all bagged and tagged; eh informs him we got into his computer, we’ll send you files later. He replies: Sweet thx :D. Eric also tells him one harddrive is missing, and Smokey Face replies with a lot of emoji and reminds him to ask Soul Jar McEllis. It looks like his more secret files were on the drive that’s missing.
The computer setup is starting to look astonishingly professional, almost like one of his mage friends was part of the Veil. He’s overclocked his CPU and it’s not hot. The CPU cooler is magical.
Maxime tries to control Jerome again so he can ask him about the drive, and fails, sadly. Nyancat isn’t having much effect on him. He just keeps chanting something about the great dragon ruling us all, and begins singing the Nyancat song to him.
Having hacked Ellis’ computer, Eric sends the UW department an email from Ellis making some excuse for leaving to do a dig somewhere and go on sabbatical. It’s a fairly normal excuse, thankfully. Eric decides to invoke Smokey mcmurderbot and get some help with Ellis’ head, to which he replies BRT, winky face, and appears almost instantaneously via helicopter.
Alex starts combing his work for things related to the SW. It took him a while to track down the information he needed, like really strange things, to find those areas in the desert that were highlighted. There are copies of Lovecraftian stories, and if that’s coming into play then that’s bad.
After some interrogation, revealing that Jerome is a little nuts via Nyancat, the drive has been destroyed. Smokey speeds through the gated neighborhood on his stolen police bike to help. Eric asks him if he can enlists help to reacquire the broken SSD from a dumpster or a landfill. The SPD gets recruited to go out on the hunt, which they’re not happy about, but Smokey is Smokey and they follow orders. Eric shows him the email from the Freemasons.
Alex shows him the map. He observes that it’s near an Air Force Base near the middle of Death Valley. He says we could go explore the site down there, an old Indian location that has legends about ‘you go there you die’ basically. Rama asks about equipment we could get for this trip, of the magical variety, and Smokey puts together a nice care package. He recommends getting a barred Humvee or a Jeep, or something that does off-road well enough, and adds some cash dollars to the list – on his Amazon app, hitting the number of unmarked bills button.
There’s some argument about taking a Jeep versus taking ultralights. They book a flight down to Vegas using Ellis’ credit cards because why not. The goal of Tonopah Test Range, an airport in Nevada. Before we leave, Smokey suggests that we learn our rotes before leaving, since the site isn’t going anywhere, and joining an order would help.
Doing the rotes takes almost a week, mostly going to magic school Harry Potter style. Eric decides to join the Freemasons officially, and Rama is already a member of the Ballard lodge. Alex officially joins the Lara Croft society. Maxime is able to pass the crazy Scientology thaton test and goes to start his next class. He continues to basically blaze his way through these classes, and after mouthing off to an underling who asks ‘are you sure you’re not the reincarnation of L Ron Hubbard?’ and replying, curtly ‘yes, yes I am you miserable worm,’ the underling points him in the direction of the elder Scientologists. He asks in Atlantean ‘can we dispose of this now?’ and they say, in Atlantean ‘ no’. “Why?” “Because we have to get dirt on you.” Maxime begins explicating his associations and crimes, his membership in the Bratva, that he’s killed people, etc. They ask about the names of anyoone he’s killed, and he mentions Liliana, that he set her on fire and someone else shot her. When he explains he used Household Cleaners, they say they use them often. He ends up explaining, further, about the minimages and their mission to bring dragons back.
“Oh.” There is a long pause. “That’ll be two thousand dollars please.”
They move him right along to the head of the Seattle order, and say welcome to the Guardians of the Veil. Maxime asks if there are any tshirts or barbeques, but they say he can order the Scientologists and Mormons around. They do missions for the Veil without asking questions and make donations all the time. Any dead drops he needs, the Mormons love working for the post office which is really great because they’ve got deadp drops all over the planet. They can also transport masses of goods around the country; government workers are easy to bribe.
For Alex to join the Not Lara Croft Society, the one that offered to be her mentor was Latoya Pittman, who is a professor of African American studies and traditional art at UW. Really all she has to do to join is to publish information on magical goodness, and a flash of her UW student ID and she’s in.
We get a nice care package from Smokey sent to a VRBO cabin rental that we get. He gives us a list of things: thirty grand in unmarked bills in wads of fives, three more rapid heal bandages, two P90s (in case we find Jaffa), 6 .57 pistols because duh, a crate of 2000 rounds of .57 ammo because that’s how you buy it, 3 suppressor kits of variable caliber, one AR-15 integrally suppressed 300 blackout (subsonic wheeeee), four hand grenades, 2 thermite grenades, four kevlar vests, twenty packages of dehydrated water (don’t ask questions, just add water), a crate of 50 MREs (around now Eric extends the VRBO), 500 rounds of the 300 blackout ammo, five military issue rucksacks, and promises to send cash to a PO Box gift card when Eric says we don’t need the Amazon gift card (ok cool lolz emoji smileyface). He’s giving us the full military getup. There’s spare mags for all of this. And, fuckit, we get a Humvee (I dont’ care, says Smokey). All the stuff he’s sent is in Pelican cases waiting for us at the VRBO.
Well. It’s really more fly to the hills, but we can work with it.