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The lion's claw

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Caden was unconscious just long enough for it to matter. Less than a minute. The kind of spectacular knockout that plays itself out in a prize fight and decides the bout but which reliably ends with that party on their feet and walking away, if a little bruised around the ego.

But this was no sporting match. In less than a minute soldiers in a war would descend upon him, vultures on roadkill, ants on a wasp, and tear him apart for their queen. If he had his senses about him Caden could devastate many among their number while simultaneously making his escape. But, for less than a minute, he floated in a miasma of naked vulnerability. A child could straddle him and slit his throat.

Caden was already beginning to regain his composure, to clear the first layer of starstuff from his eyes, when he feels something deadly splash against the back of his throat, something which tastes like a riot and hurts on the way down and radiates that hurt from his stomach into his limbs. He uses the pain to dredge clarity out of the murky depths of a flickering consciousness; when Vito arrives at the spot marked by Liam's flare, Caden is motionless but his eyes are wide awake and his voice is audible, if barely, over the register of the still hissing smoke.

"Isolate the nymphs that fed." A deep, ragged breath. "We want them for analysis, but don't know if they can be tracked." Another, like tearing cloth. "It's fine if we leave any behind all we had were numbers for this one what matters is we get to see how what kind of equipment those pricey footsoldiers got."

A cough. "She surprised me I guess."

# in between

Caden had dreams as he slept the short time to the safe house; dreams of memories or memories of dreams or fever-fueled fabrications disjointed from reality. It was Caden and his uncle. Fishing. A lake north of Last Chance. His uncle is young and Caden is younger still. The scene is familiar but the details are not - the words are different and, he can tell, not his own.

"A suicide mission isn't a plan. You can do better than that."
"Intelligence gathering." Caden offered in a gruff, old, tired voice by way of explanation. Not totally a lie, but enough of one.
"She was in your head. You were surrounded. Your generals -"
"They're grown ups."
"They trust you. They should. You're a capable leader, a valuable peer. You're respected but that's not a tree that can water itself Caden. That's why I had to get you away from her. What you want is a nice, clean, victory that makes use of every one of your advantages and exploits every one of their weaknesses. Do it again but better. Encore Caden, encore."

# safe house

"First thorn in my fucking paw. I had something for the psychic motherfucker but she had something for people that had something. So that shit's gotta go."

He had a button down shirt on because it was easier than a pull over. It was open because he was among literal and figurative family, and unconcerned about showing the wraps around his ribcage. His right arm was in a sling, so he used his left to awkwardly procure a stoppered vial of translucent purple and held it out to Liam.

"I had to use twice as much of the goods during the dreamwalking as I thought I would so take it out of my paycheck or something." He nodded to Vito here, acknowledgement that his supply had been crucial. Then addressing Liam: "That's as close to a 'psychic fingerprint' as I could get at. Let's chop up some ideas on what we could do with that.

"Thorn number two. This motherfucking bitch MOTHERFUCKER!" Caden slammed his good hand on the table, winced as pain splintered and fragmented from his right side to everywhere else. "The last time she showed her face she took out FAMILIES and grabbed half of Last Chance by the balls. This time around they just worry about putting hands on one club. Okay. We find out why.

"Three. She's been in my head. Like I said I came ready to put a little whammy on her so she didn't get very deep, what she got maybe wasn't as clear as it could be, and hey if information was all it took we'd be kneeling to historians right? Am I right? But okay. I'll be more . . . careful."

That word looked like it hurt him more than a broken bone.


Edited by supernal

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Back at the Red Door (Insurance Claim: #4RTA8874902-B)

The bar was a war zone, bleeding as Phoebe did.  With great, gaping, holes in its walls and floors mopped with blood, there was a sense that only its history and the force of its reputation kept it together. 

It was hurt; she was furious.

Incensed, the First carved her way through the club's ruins, fast-stepped down its once polished staircase, and burst through the shattered remains of its once vibrant Red Doors.  Her eyes searched the horizon and locked on to the skyship as it lazily wove its way through the night sky with infuriating deliberateness.  The nymph Phoebe clung to was growing further away- and the Skeleton it had consumed was long dead- their contract faded, disintegrating and crumbling with death's decay, even as Phoebe struggled to force its pieces back together long enough to identify her attackers.


Phoebe swore as the contract failed, as her second sight dimmed, then was ripped out of her mind like all the rest of the Dead souls had been.  She set her jaw, teeth white and flashing in the red and orange haze that served as 'light', and curled around her wound as it tore with the exclamation.  Bending double, she pressed her hand hard against the torn flesh and tried to slow her breathing.

A fire had started somewhere and its haunted light cast wicked shadows.

"You're bleeding."  A skeleton spied her and jogged over, stating the obvious as he slowed by her side.  He was one of the luckier skeletons- assigned to guard the smuggling tunnel, he'd avoided the initial onslaught and spent the battle on the offense, cleaving through tiny rodent heads.

Phoebe's lashes fluttered, her eyes rolled behind her closed eyelids as she set her jaw against the pain and forced herself to straighten.  "Yes, I do that sometimes," she answered, lifting the edge of her shirt to bare the wound to her examining gaze and the flickering firelight.  It looked ghastly- torn along the seam and weeping crimson, with tendrils of snapped stitching waving at its edges.  The woman remained impassive, summoning her psionics and beginning to stitch the wound in full view of the Skeleton- a demonstration, of a sort, a denial of her mortality even in the face of so much death.  

"I have a lot of questions," she stated.

The skeleton tilted his head toward her, waiting.

"But first, we have a lot to do-

I need you to gather up the rest of the survivors; we need everyone to evacuate in case the police show up.  Then, I need a woman - any woman - to be the new owner and prepare to deal with the police or rescue personnel when they arrive  Which I assume they will, because it's been that kind of night," she said, smiling wryly, "and this has obviously been a very loud and unfortunate gas explosion.

Then I want to know who and what was taken."

Phoebe's eyes shifted, reflecting the flickering orange across their light green surface as she traced the path of the disappearing skyship.  Once it faded from view, she turned back and smiled at the Skeleton- despite her beauty, it was a grim sight.

"...and then I want to tear his tongue out through his asshole.

But we'll get to that later."

Edited by Noko

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20 hours ago, supernal said:

"I had to use twice as much of the goods during the dreamwalking as I thought I would so take it out of my paycheck or something."

"I'm well aware of your "usage" and it's extremely worrying. There's a border that cannot be crossed, you're stood close enough that you might as well be on a shearminx's most wanted." The raider pointed to his eye, the pure white spheres ever still. "Don't fuck up like I did." Vito's tone had no emotion, a simple warning with no threat. A genuine worry, but one he'd pursue no further. 

20 hours ago, supernal said:

Three. She's been in my head. Like I said I came ready to put a little whammy on her so she didn't get very deep, what she got maybe wasn't as clear as it could be, and hey if information was all it took we'd be kneeling to historians right? Am I right? But okay. I'll be more . . . careful."

"Hmmm, I'll document this occasion and add it to the Mechanicus Library." Vito jokingly pulled out a journal and began scribbling. It was a moment he'd genuinely never expected, the closest thing they'd get to an apology. 

20 hours ago, supernal said:


"What do you mean 'so'? We're at the border, LET'S JUMP THE FUCKING WALL!" Vito's tone perked up as he reached into his cloak, pulling out a gold threaded canvas bag. Dropping on the table into front, as it landing it let a high pitched chime. "Come on, let's go to depths never reached before."

"You wanted stronger, I'll give you stronger. What you see before you is kyuc, ground up with the tusk of the fallen god, Aries. Well known as part of the celestial body and life energy manipulator. Unlike Kyux, this is actually taken by rubbing it behind the eyelids..." Vito left a pause as he awkwardly explained it.

"It's also received very little testing...."  Another pause.

"And killed 95% of all participants." Another one.

"By separating their souls from their bodies." Yet another pause.

"Separated with such force that not even my shamans could stop nor retrieve them." And another pause.

"Like, enough force so that they couldn't even be tracked or find traces of their souls, pretty much to the point that they never existed." The raider let out a quick sigh.

'Maybe I shouldn't have mention that.'

"But on the good side, those that survived reached extremely high levels of situational and mental clarity. They returned from the dream realm, knowing everything they needed to know about what they seeked." Vito stopped, allowing the others to take in what he'd presented.

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Checkpoint Canon

Status: Pending. Changes only when everyone has signed off in the OOC.


The Heavy Hand group counterattacks members of the Dead just as the Dead has completed their own attack against a local cabal in Martial Town.

Long Summary

Caden is the deposed 'prince' of a crime family which once operated in Last Chance and were squeezed out of their domain by the Dead. He barely escaped with his life and has been plotting his revenge in the intervening years. His first order of business was to build an army and a war chest. His second order of business was to cast the net and wait.

A contact in Martial Town informs Caden of intriguing underworld activity. Caden is perhaps one of the only people alive who saw what the Dead did in Last Chance, and how, and in the communication of what transpired he recognizes the outline of a familiar shadow. He contacts Vito, partner and co-founder of Caden's new Heavy Hand gang, and Liam, cousin who lived through the LC fallout with a scar across his neck as his prize, and mobilized them to Martial Town.

The rest transpires over the course of a day and a half, Caden realizing that the ice was thin and that he would need speed to survive.

Once in Martial Town Caden immediately reaches out to the local crime family, the Vilads, to pay respects and arrange several meetings. During the first he combined information from their intelligence network with his own to confirm his suspicions. During the second he persuades the Vilads to assist him in eliminating a common enemy before its too late, and leans on their local network to help them avoid law enforcement – during the actual strike this translates to a large volume of confused police reports as the attack played out, and inaccurate descriptions of the participants and the escape.

The strike itself sees Caden using his Transmutation expertise to give himself an Iron Body, which is then Rail Gunned into the office he visually confirms Phoebe is occupying, his breach of the perimeter executed before the Dead can erect a proper base and his target can leave for greater things. Phoebe was injured and significantly weakened from executing her coup the previous day, making her viable as a target where she normally wouldn't be. Their fight is a short, brutal, and bitter as they exchange psychic strikes and magical assaults; it ends with Caden's hands around Phoebe's neck seconds before an unseen force smacks him through the second floor and onto the ground.

Now unconscious, Liam rescues Caden as Dead skeletons start to converge, working his way through brute enforcers and clouds of venomous miasma (some of which Liam is himself responsible for) as Vito's basic ground forces die even as they kill in service to their escape plan, before Liam is able to get somewhere safe and light a beacon that signals to Vito to ferry them away. Vito arrives in a nimble airship whose forged license and transponder code were handcrafted by Caden and buttressed by Vilad influence.

The Heavy Hand gets out of dodge as soon as they can and regroup to consider their next steps.

Consequences and Opportunities

C1: Phoebe is now aware someone she may have thought was dead is alive, active, organized, and wants to kill her.

C2: Phoebe knows about Caden in some detail and can provide physical descriptions of Vito and Liam thanks to a brief connection through blood magic to Vito's flying nymphs.

C3: Vito’s flying nymphs ate some bodies and collected some others in an optimistic attempt to analyze these in the future for even partially useful information (this will be worked out with vested parties explicitly when it becomes relevant).

O1: All the bedlam around the Red Door attracts law enforcement. There's enough collateral damage and remnant magical traces to resist being brushed off (contact supernal if playing law enforcement)

O2: Although the testimony is muddled, it is possible to find more information on the Heavy Hand's airship, flight path, and personnel (contact supernal if playing law enforcement or competing criminal)

Edited by supernal

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"Don't fuck up like I did."

Caden's first smile in a week. "Never that."

Vito threw a bag of something special on the table so that it landed equidistant between himself and Caden, Liam relegated to a distant corner of the conversation. Caden fixed his eyes on the bag but made no motion other than to press his left, free, hand flat on the table and listened to what the talented marauder had to say.

Vito struck a drum with every sentence, and every beat of the drum a reminder of how far he still had to go. The masked man was a force to be reckoned with, indeed commanded forces to instigate such a reckoning at the drop of a hand, but the freshly broken bones and new scars Caden earned for his campaign had already shown him this victory was not to be sized on pure elan.

"I won't sell nothing with no 95% mortality rate. Not to the general populace. Float it towards the Druids at Behods and see if they want to try the House Special, call it that, and have them sign a waiver if so. They should be tough enough."

Caden could almost still feel her neck, elastic skin covering the tough windpipe. His uncle was right. Had he the proper, unclouded presence of mind, he would cast a spell the moment their skin made contact and popped her head off like a doll's. But she had gotten in because Caden had only thought far ahead enough to bring a spear, not a shield.

It made him furious, reigniting the fury which had nourished and warmed him for years but he could see the fire for what it was. Only now that he had understanding could he focus the open, roaring flame into a screeching, white-hot torch.

"Liam. Let our 'friends' know right away. No one's been tipped but they should be on their guard. See if they can let it get around the Red Door used to be a deal spot and what happened mighta been retribution by a local."

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