Have you ever faced down a missile being launched at you? I don’t recommend it. And yet here we were, surrounded by military personnel with that exact thing happening right this moment, courtesy of the Apache helicopters aimed in our direction.
This ain’t good.
We take down legions of vile spirits and eliminate the Hangman itself, but are going to get wiped out by a rocket? Well…I guess there’s actually less epic ways to die, like choking on a cheeseburger. Come to think of it, humans having to send out an entire military regiment to contain us and then use artillery normally reserved for taking out tanks to send us on our way in a blazing inferno of pyrotechnics is actually kind of flattering.
Yeah, I’m fine with this. I don’t wanna die, but this is a good way to go. I can see the other packs talking about it now. “Did you hear about the Sons of Thunder? Yeah, I heard that they had send in the marines to take over their territory. Tanks and mortars and snipers and everything. They had them surrounded and they only choice they had was to launch a missile that was all like zzzzhhhhhooooo”KRAK-BOOM
And I was snapped out of my daydream as is wont to happen when a random lightning bolt slams into a missile-launching helicopter. TLE across the gauntlet or…boss? Whatever it was, it blasted the chopper’s aim, sending the missile careening to explode somewhere behind us, blowing out the windows of Walter’s Fit and knocking Luc and Brook off their bikes. I know a deus ex machina when I see it, and we all took the opportunity to make a break for it.
Just for extra fun I shifted to Dalu to try and freak out any of the marines that would get in our way, tailing D, Luc and Walter with Brook right behind me. Weirdly enough, my shift didn’t have near as much effect as I thought it would. It would seem that the Pure have bolstered their ranks with wolf-blooded, goddammit.
The marines and remaining choppers gave chase, gunners in the hummers opening fire and catching a few of us. Hurt like fuck, but not a big deal. Still, a lot of bullets will kill a werewolf, and if there’s one thing the military has endless numbers of it’s ammo. Brook fell back a bit to pull up beside the closest humvee and worked his weird technomancy thing he does. By barely touching the hood, he sent the thing careening off the side of the road, and from the sound of it he fucked the engine block raw. Heh, they won’t be fixing that soon.
That still left a few more chasing us, though. This time, Walter stepped up to the plate. I keep forgetting that he’s got more tricks at his disposal than just the power of attorney, and tonight he reminded me. With a little kitsune mojo he summoned a herd of deer so real I nearly pulled off to hunt them myself. The humvees, more out of concern for the integrity of their vehicles than animal life, slammed to a halt and gave us a chance to pull ahead.
Even prey has its uses.
It seemed like we had a chance to make a clean break for it, but then I saw D perk up and suddenly signal to me to swing down an alleyway just as a tank pulled into view on the street. I gave the hand signals that literally meant “ROAD BLOCK – TURN LEFT” but when run through the filter of context and body language translated a bit more accurately to “BIG FUCKING TANK – MOVE IT OR LOSE IT, JACKHOLES!”
D and I swerved down the alley. Walter, who was right behind gave the alley a quick assessment before realizing that the Fit wouldn’t…well, “fit”. He swung over to bail out, only to have the tank take aim, fire, and reduce Walter’s car to fiery shrapnel.
At the other end of the alley, D spied a closed ramp to the 101. This was our getaway opportunity. I told her to go, and shortly after Luc and Brook barreled through the alleyway, helicopters firing and winging the both of them. Thinking fast, Brook blacked out the neighborhood, giving us some cover of darkness to make our escape and he took off after D. I looked for Walter.
I didn’t see him.
A quick decision was made between Luc and I: we came back around the block from behind the tank to try and find our last packmate while D and Brook waited at the highway ramp. Meanwhile, a dazed Walter-fox regained consciousness beside what remained of his immolated fuel-efficient vehicle. He bolted for the alleyway but didn’t make it two steps before hearing a marine in an approaching humvee shout, “Shoot the fox, shoot the fox!”
Somehow, they knew about Walter, and Walter knew he wouldn’t make it to the alleyway. He would, however, make it to a nearby sewer grate. He dove for the small opening and, I presume, barrel-rolled into the cistern below just ahead of the gunfire.
About this time, Luc and I made it around the corner, taking advantage of the tank turret’s slow turning speed and poor close-range abilities to get around it. We had a tank behind us, a humvee approaching us, and no Walter to be found. There was no time to search. We reversed course, catching some stray shots from the hummer and backdraft from the tank cannon as we beat a retreat to catch up to D and Brook.
We met them on the ramp, and Brook gave us some peace of mind by letting us know that the pack was whole and in as good an order as could be, given the circumstances. With nothing else to do, we headed south to Colma.
Walter, slightly wet and equally bereft of options, managed to orient himself and start making his way to the Union Hall.
On the highway, our flight wasn’t as clean as we’d have liked. Another chopper was giving chase, and hoping for a second miraculous bolt of lightning was too much to count on. This looked bad, and being gunned down by a helicopter while fleeing was a markedly less epic way to die.
Before I could decide if the noble and awesome self-sacrifice of riding my bike off the road and into the strafing helicopter was a viable plan, a pale blue Chevy joined our pack. It’s driver made a gesture – flipping the bird, I swear – to the chopper, whose rotors promptly flew apart, crashing the whirly-bird. I could hear Brook’s Iron Master-boner raging over the sounds of our engines.
It was Billy Braggart to the rescue. The blues musician was apparently no more welcome by the Pure in Ukiah than we were. He let us know that Devlin was on this same highway heading south, possibly to San Francisco. Good; this saved us hunting time. We bid each other adieu, and Braggart went his own way.
Devlin had a good lead on us, so while we were busy not dying he pulled into a Colma Outback Steakhouse, parked his bike behind a dumpster, and took off to the Cypress Lawn Cemetery, the place where our pack was born. Rather than being greeted by Scarpa like we had what felt like an eternity ago, Dev found the space cordoned off by the police and Department of Water & Power workers.
It took some hunting, but he found access to an above-ground cistern that would give him a roundabout path into the cemetery. One quick dog paddle later and he was in, though the place was a little different than we remembered. Primarily, the grounds were oddly muddy and sloshy, which made pathfinding something of a chore. Cleanliness was less of a concern than getting stuck in the mud, which in turn Dev discovered would be a fatal proposition as an honest to god zombie rose from the muck to take a swipe at him.
Boss barely had any time to react before the thing’s head got blown to smithereens by a sniper hunched atop the nearby funeral home. Seeing that this was the safest place to go, Dev headed towards the home to be greeted by the hunched sniper, a pair of thin nearly identical twins, and Bill Sykes, Scarpa’s Ithaeur who scoped out territory for us way back when. They led Dev to a boat floating in the muck and, from what it sounds like, boated across the cemetery grounds to the mausoleum headquarters of Scarpa’s pack.
Inside the mausoleum, the central sarcophagus was playing host to a tactical battle map. Apparently the fights up north weren’t contained to the area, and Scarpa’s pack were preparing for war. Given that they had survived the Pure once before during the Brethren War, they likely knew when and how to prepare for the oncoming troubles.
Scarpa was not present, so Sykes took Dev and stepped sideways into the Hisil. The First Men’s Map, which had been covered in the material world, was laid bare and glowing with silver light, territory boundaries slowly shifting and undulating with their packs’ influences. Ukiah was completely ivory-colored and marked with the symbol of the Ivory Talons.
Sykes and Dev walked up the mausoleum stairs to meet Scarpa, who was in a massive Urshul form, reclining and powerful, but exhausted. Sykes filled Dev in: whatever was going on, it was even worse in the Hisil and it was all Scarpa could do to protect the Locus of his pack.
Dev was going to ask for aid, but upon seeing the trials already at Scarpa and Sykes’ feet he realized what a foolish and selfish request that would have been. Surprisingly, Sykes countered him, saying that they always have problems, but that we all have each other’s backs. What they could do was send Dev to the Golden Gate Guardians, the San Francisco pack, who would be able to offer a little help.
At this point Sykes shifted to Dalu himself, sliced open his palm, and then spit some of the blood onto the ground where a hidden tunnel was casting moonlight onto the sepulcher. A bridge of silver rose from the moonlight and seemingly right into the wall.
“What is it?”
“A moon bridge.”
“What do you do?”
“Well, it’s a bridge. You walk on it, like.”
Sometimes magic is complicated. Sometimes, not so much. Dev stepped onto the moon bridge and found him suddenly high in the air, surrounded by moonlight and with a stratospheric view of the bay area. Taking a few more steps further hurtled him towards Golden Gate Park, which was quite literal in the Hisil. The park is gilded everywhere, and everything is in gorgeous, healthy bloom, and a majestic observatory standing on Strawberry Hill, covered in trees. This was his stop.
Traveling via moon bridge evidently fucks with one’s sense of spatial awareness, so when Dev stepped off the bridge he promptly face planted into the dirt. He swears it felt like falling a hundred feet.
Our fearless leader.
Greeting him, and most certainly judging him, was the GGG’s totem, a handsome man with yellow eyes and weeping willow hair.
“Welcome, Storm Lord. I’m Golden-Eyed Jorst, leader of the Golden Gate Guardians.”
Meanwhile, Walter made his way through the underground of Ukiah until he reached the Union Hall. Military were everywhere, but thankfully the marines were largely inattentive, giving Walter the opportunity to slip inside unseen, and then to the Locus where he stepped sideways into the Hisil.
In the spirit world he heard the sounds go war and gunfire everywhere, but no sign of Thunderbird’s Last Echo. Then he heard a slight buzzing from the podium. As he closed in to investigate, his fur began to stand on end…not from fright but from the excess electrical charge that an exhausted and hiding TLE was giving off from her hiding space in one of its drawers.
TLE had been attacked by the War Eagle, the giant perverse bird-plane spirit that was the Pure’s totem and was bombing the entire Hisil. Walter had had his car blown up by a tank. Both had had a bad day. Both agreed that finding the pack is good. Both figure that World’s Largest would be their biggest help.
While making their way to the old spirit’s haunt, Walter picks up on his presence far sooner than expected.
“World’s Largest is just down that way!” the old Japanese man exclaimed.
“Talking is not as interesting as running for our lives,” the ancient hummingbird spirit intoned.
Keeping hidden as best as possible, the pair made it to World’s Largest, finding him taking refuge on a rooftop from a bomb spirit that kept diving in and out of the road like a shark, trying to catch the old spirit off guard. Rather, it sensed Walter and TLE and caught them off guard, changing its target.
It turned out this was all the distraction World’s Largest needed, who leaped onto the spirit’s back, lit it on fire, and jumped back off. As soon as the bomb went back below the surface, an explosion detonated underneath everyone’s feet.
“Uratha are so fun to have around,” he groaned.
Walter and World’s discussed their respective situations; World’s Largest too was having a bad day. He agreed to help Walter and TLE find a safe exit from the territory in exchange for a favor to be named later. With not a lot of options, Walter agreed and the trio headed out.
They managed to make it just outside of town before a bunch of bomb and gun spirits ambushed them. World’s Largest got a fire barrier up just in time to keep the spirits at bay, at which point in a fortuitous coincidence Vito’s number one thug Caraggio stepped out of the bushes with a regiment of Fruta di Vitae who made short work of the spirits. Caraggio also made it clear that Vito requested Walter’s presence…now.
Not such a fortuitous coincidence.
World’s Largest, having upheld his end of the bargain (technically) and not really being a match for an entire host of wine spirits, went his own way.
Walter, TLE, and Caraggio reached the Trellis Mansion, which was now fortified be the the Trellis Fort, with Vito in his finest war attire commanding over it all. It turns out that Vito was less than pleased at Dev for causing all of this fallout and for “disrespecting” him by leaving him out of the plans with the Hangman. So, in an act of petty vengeance, Walter and TLE get to be his “guest” for a while and are escorted off to the dungeons.
Back in Golden Gate, Dev and Jorst discuss the situation in Ukiah. Jorst doesn’t know what his wolves can do to help, but they’ll see. During the discussions, Jorst was surprised to learn that Walter, a ridden, had been made a part of the pack. While Dev politely declined the offer to “take care” of the problem of a ridden, he did take Jorst up on the offer to bring Walter and TLE out of their current situation (whatever that was) to Golden Gate Park as a courtesy. Jorst directed Dev to the observatory to find the other wolves and dismissed himself by stepping through a summoned vine archway and disappearing.
Dev walked to the sequoia in the observatory, the massive tree’s roots extending at right angles to make five seats. The largest sat unoccupied, but one on the left held a lovely Mediterranean woman, while one on the right hosted Stretch Willis.
“Sup?” said Stretch.
Dev filled Stretch in on everything that was “sup” from the Third Battalion Third Marines to the Ivory Talons to the Hangman and the rest.
Jorst stepped through his archway into the dungeon room where Walter and TLE were resting. Brief introductions were made and the pair, no longer inclined to be Vito’s guests any longer followed Jorst through his archway, and then to the sequoia to meet up with Dev, who was discussing the Wincott situation in Ukiah.
Stretch figures that Wincott wouldn’t even been there unless there was something he really wanted, and Devlin wouldn’t even be alive if it didn’t pay Wincott dividends. Unfortunately, nobody had a clue as to what those dividends would even be. Normally something like this would be a pack’s own business, but the Pure make problems for everyone.
During the discussions, a howl went up from Fort Point; someone was injured. Zamir, Stretch’s companion, invited Dev and Walter to join her to help out the rest of the pack while Stretch stayed behind to guard the tree. The two agreed to come along, so Zamir summoned three large blue heron spirits who bore the trio away to answer the howl.
The rest of the Sons of Thunder continued our journey south through the dark and rain, and by the time we reached the Golden Gate Bridge traffic was at a standstill. Which wasn’t a problem for us because fuck yeah lane-splitting!
As we crossed, Luc and Brook noticed flares coming up from Fort Point and that the water had risen up the sides. Unnaturally so; like, the water was higher around the Fort than it was in the middle of the bay. We could also see once we got close enough that people were stuck inside the fort. Luc, figuring that Dev may have gotten sidetracked to play hero, suggested that we should investigate first and then head to Colma if we don’t find him.
Pulling to the side of the road, we find a good vantage point to take the Fort in Urhan form and spy what looks like about 20 people inside as part of a late night tour, with one mother and her children huddled off in a corner.
In the Hisil, Dev sees a disemboweled Japanese kid whose entrails were working back into his body before one of the heron spirits picked him up and carried him off. On the fort parapets two Dalu Uratha were fighting. One heavily muscled and tattooed was struggling with something that looked like a horrible hybrid of sea life and a human trying to rise up. He used those muscles to punch the abomination back into the water.
The other Dalu was a hispanic woman covered in assorted military hardware, using a compound bow to fire short shafts of moonlight at things swimming underwater. Meanwhile, one of the other herons flew low over the water and exploded into flowers.
In the material world, D managed to construct a bridge from plant life to the island fort, where there just so happened to be a Loci we could use to cross over if we get the chance. At the same time, Devlin and Walter arrive on the scene, Dev pulling out a knife just in time to defend himself from what could most accurately be described as an angler fish with arms.
The weirdness didn’t stay within the Hisil, though. As we reached the group, the two fat children hiding in the corner transformed into human-sized puffer fish and roll towards Luc. He managed to redirect them and forced one to the side, but the second crushed a young girl in its rolling around.
The aquatic battle ensued on both sides of the Gauntlet, and ultimately the packs won. Because in the battle of fish v. wolf who the fuck did you think was going to win? We crossed over and reconnected with Dev and met the GGGs, who offered some healing and direction: an alliance could be made with the San Jose pack headed by Brigid Sayuri at Santa Clara Paintball. Zamir had seen a similar river of silver that Brook had seen earlier and figured that San Jose might be connected to that.
Stretch impressed upon Dev the importance of us making better alliances with the packs around us. War was coming, and in war unity is required for victory.