THE ESCHATON DANCE, Part 1
"A van broke down outside," said Toomey, perched on a chair, his feet dangling.
Dr. Gideon LaCroix looked around. "And no one knows anything about vans but me?"
Toomey smiled. "Cabot's away. Talithe does, but--"
LaCroix sighed. "I know. She can't leave. She's the receptionist."
LaCroix approached the van. Three teenagers were standing around while the fourth, a blond, kicked the front grill. "Like, try it again, Teddy," said the boy watching. Teddy tried it again. He was built like a football player--eighteen, maybe.
"Hi," said the prettier of the two girls--women, LaCroix reminded himself. "Our van broke down. Can you give us a hand?" A redhead, she wore a purple minidress. Purple used to be the colour of royalty.
"Does this count as a beginning? Because if it is, he's the bad guy," said the other girl. "No? Let me check my notes."
"It's the second person, Wilma," said Teddy.
"But it's never anyone we haven't seen," she said.
"No," said Teddy, and he gritted his teeth and kicked the van again.
"You have to kick it harder than that," said the sloppily-dressed boy.
"You try it then."
"Let me look at it," said LaCroix. He lifted the hood and said, "How far have you driven?"
"Jinkies, I don't know," said the less-pretty girl. "We travel all over the country looking for secrets to unearth and mysteries to solve."
"Oh, sure, we find mysteries," said Teddy, using his neckerchief to wipe his forehead.
I'd do both of you in the first week, LaCroix thought. And together the second week. And then he was glad his grandfather wasn't here to hear that; he was supposed to be controlling himself.
"But they're always guys in suits," said the purple one, wistfully. "What I wouldn't give for real supernatural stuff."
"How did you get this far?" LaCroix said, "The engine's a wreck, you have no distributor cap, the head gasket's blown. And it's old." He sighed. "You'd better come upstairs and use our phone."
And then he heard, "Ris Seth there?" At least, he thought heard it, because the man had a terrible speech impediment. And a Great Dane jumped out of the back of the car.
For a moment, LaCroix thought, A talking dog! How odd, and then that thought went away. He knew his emotions were being played with, but he didn't care. "No. He's getting ready for his first date in centuries. He took the afternoon off."
"Ruh-roh," said the dog, and looked beyond LaCroix.
A burning angel hung there: a cross suspended in the air, carrying a spear.
"Jinkies!" cried out one of the girls, and "Jeepers!" said the other one, and LaCroix was dimly aware of pictures being taken. There was the sound of running feet, and LaCroix stepped in front of the women, careful not to touch them.
"You are damned," said the angel. "You will burn forever!" And he pointed his spear and a ball of fire flew straight at the lineup of LaCroix, the women, and the dog.
LaCroix spun to grab the women and drag them away, but they had already dived for cover, and the ball of fire caught him, though he ducked. His suit was singed, not on fire yet, and LaCroix pointed his fetch stick at the angel. "May the darkness consume you!"
A ball of darkness eighty feet wide hung in the sky, where there had been a man. "Run!" LaCroix pointed to the building. "That won't hold long."
The angel rose out of the darkness, its white wings beating strongly. "Not long at all," said the angel. It aimed a bolt of fire at LaCroix, but LaCroix dodged it.
"Know fear," said LaCroix, and pointed the stick again. Wisps of things that might have been ghosts shot from it and wreathed the angel.
"Foolish mortal," said the angel. "I have no fear." This bolt of fire was closer and smoke rose from LaCroix's jacket. Thank goodness I have my gris-gris bag, thought LaCroix.
GM's Note: The gris-gris bag is Protection 5.
LaCroix redoubled his efforts. "That's...not...true." The wisps were thicker now; you could almost see them. LaCroix felt the sweat popping from his skin, though he looked as though he was only standing, holding a stick.
GM's Note: Extra Effort for +2 on the Emotion Control: Fear, and the player didn't want to waste his hero point yet.
Suddenly the angel clutched at his eyes. "I have failed. Forgive me, Father!" he wailed and he dashed away, through the air. LaCroix noted absently he was faster than the cars on the street.
Then LaCroix buckled. "Help me," he said to the teenagers.
* * *
The van had been towed away before the angel got back, and at Markur's boarding house the lady said he was out. "Like, I hope they're eating." Hairy cast a longing glance at the bar fridge that sat in the common room--the only room without a window. The dog went near it. "It's empty," said Hairy. "I already checked."
"Does the angel count as the second person?" asked Wilma.
"I think the towtruck driver does," replied Taffy. "I got his name."
"He barely spoke to us," said Ted. "I think we have to wait."
"What do you want with Seth, anyway?" asked LaCroix. He had forbidden Toomey and Daya from coming in here for fear of making them the second person Wilma was looking for.
"He knows about angels, right?" Teddy said.
"He knows about demons."
"Demons were just fallen angels," said Wilma. "In the myths."
"It's more complicated than that," said LaCroix. "From what he's told me."
"Dr. Severn says that angels are just a manifestation of our desire to believe."
"He's my hero," said Wilma.
"He's a professor at my school." He said pointedly, "I'm on sabbatical."
"I think you're great," said Taffy. She smiled at him.
He murmured his thanks.
"So you don't think that angel was supernatural?"
"It'll turn out to be a hologram or a guy in a suit," said Wilma.
"But... there are powers."
"I've rarely seen them." He shook his head. It was like arguing with Cabot, but worse. She went on: "Even the Raven is just a highly-trained man. We had an adventure with him, so I know."
The Raven as a man had been retired since the early seventies. These kids were older than they looked if they had an adventure with him.
"Right," said LaCroix. He excused himself for a moment and got the toy from Daya's desk. It jostled a bit and then started rocking as soon as he brought it in the room. It clacked faster as he brought it toward Ringading. He didn't tell the kids: first, because there was no point in arguing with them; and second, because some secrets should be kept, at least until he knew the lay of the land.
"What's that?" said the pretty girl, Taffy.
"Executive toy. I bumped it--I was going to bring it in for Hairy to play with, but it's delicate."
Hairy ignored the toy. "Like, can we order out for pizza?"
LaCroix shrugged. "I would think so. The angel will come back, but we sometimes order out for pizza here. Toomey loves pizza."
"Will we meet Toomey?" asked Taffy.
"Will the pizza guy count as the second person?"
"Not if the tow truck driver doesn't," said Wilma.
* * *
The pizza guy had been and gone, and there were six empty boxes next to Hairy and Ringading. Everyone else was sharing one pizza when Cabot walked in. "Good day. The 'angel' hasn't returned yet."
Toomey and Hutton, who had been waiting in the doorway, burst in. "Oh, you should have seen it," Toomey said. "A burning angel it was, all lit up with fire. Fine work, LaCroix."
"You," said Wilma as she pointed at Cabot, "are the second one."
"I'm Jedediah Cabot. I'm one of the investigators here."
"Doesn't matter," she said darkly. "You're second."
"Terrific." To LaCroix he said, "Does that mean anything?"
"You're going to be the fall guy. Do you know where Markur is?"
"Probably shopping. I loaned him money for better clothes."
"You'll never get it back; mercenaries are notorious about that," said Toomey.
"I'll live." To LaCroix, Cabot said, "What do you mean, I'm going to be the fall guy?"
"The second person they meet is always guilty."
"But I'm part of a group they've already met."
"Good point," said LaCroix. "Wilma?"
"I withhold judgement for now," she said.
Teddy stretched. "We'll need a place to stay."
"Well, this house is protected, so you're probably best off to stay here," said Hutton. "I'd offer you my place, but I don't have one. I stay at the YWCA," she explained.
"I can take someone," said LaCroix. "My house is protected." Cabot rolled his eyes. LaCroix looked at Ted and Hairy. "But my couch is short."
"Oh, I'll try it," said Taffy quickly. She was using him, but so what? If they both used each other, that was fine with him. He just had to find out her status before they touched.
"I'll take the guys," said Cabot. "Toomey-- Where do you live, Toomey?"
"At home," Toomey replied, with a wave of his hand. Cabot nodded with understanding.
"No," said Wilma. "Someone's got to keep an eye on you. I'll stay at your place."
"I thought you were withholding judgement?"
"Just making sure. The boys will be fine here."
"Riiiight," said Cabot. "Toomey, stay with them."
"I will," Toomey said, and looked grateful.
"Like, guys? The angel's back. And he's brought friends."
"We might not get to our homes tonight," said LaCroix. He looked at Taffy. "Pity."
* * *
Cabot got up and looked out the window. Two black SUVs had pulled up and men in black got out. The Angel hung above them, his wings beating fast to hold him there.
"Talithe will keep them out. They don't want to create a scene."
"Will she do that?" asked Ted.
"If we ask her to."
"Like, you better hurry. They're coming up the walk," said Hairy.
Cabot headed out the conference room door--and Talithe said, "Great. I really need to use the bathroom. Can you watch the front?"
Cabot opened his mouth to say something, and then said, "Okay."
"Great!" She scurried off. Cabot sat down in the warm seat.
Two men in black suits walked in. They wore sunglasses and carried Bibles. The older one, in his fifties, was slightly winded from walking up the stairs. Presumably they saw that the bookstore had a female owner and the Sweet and Low Down wasn't open yet; LaCroix had to have come from here.
"May I help you?" asked Cabot politely. He hadn't been a combatant, so he wasn't worried about being recognized.
"Yes. We're looking for a man," said the older one. He gave a reasonable description of LaCroix.
"I don't think I know him," lied Cabot.
"We believe that he might have committed a crime," added the younger one.
"Might we see your staff?"
"No," said Cabot. "Most of our staff are in the interview process with clients right now. I can certainly take your number and ask them if they want to call you back, Mister--?"
"Talbot," said the older man. "Larry Talbot." Cabot gave no sign he recognized the name. He wrote down the number the man gave him.
The younger man said, "You should repent now. The end is nearer than you think."
"Thank you," said Cabot. "I'll keep that in mind."
They left. A minute later, Talithe returned. "Who was that?"
"Missionaries," said Cabot. "Don't let them in, okay? Tell them nothing."
She nodded and when Cabot went back into the conference room he found everyone hiding from the window and Wilma whispering, "He phoned the angel's people."
"I didn't," said Cabot. "Why are the blinds shut?" He pulled back the edge of the blind to see the angel's wing brush the glass as the angel looked into the conference room. "Ah."
"We need a plan, gang," said Ted. "A trap?"
"Of course," said Wilma.
"I thought you were avoiding the angel. Now you want a trap?" asked Cabot.
"With a trap, like, we're in control," said Hairy.
"And we like being in control," said Taffy, with a raise of her eyebrow meant for LaCroix. Cabot noticed but said nothing.
"Ringading, you'll be the bait."
"Would you do it for a Ringading-Dong?" Said Taffy, holding up a snack.
"Ro way!" Ringading shook his head.
"Like, I'd do it for two."
"Nope, we'll need you to swing the molasses can," said Ted. "It's gotta be Ringading."
"All right, you tyrant. Three Ringading-Dongs."
"Raw right." Ringading happily ate the three sticks in Wilma's hand. Cabot thought they looked like dried human fingers.
"We're going to hang a net under one of the trees near the front of the property. Wilma, you and I will drop the net on the angel when he swoops down to grab Ringading. Hairy, you're the best thrower of us, so you'll swing the molasses can to get rid of that spear. Taffy, I'll need you to give the signal when the angel is under a tree. Ringading will be the bait."
"Do you want help?" asked Hutton. "I could make a wall..."
"No offense, but we're experienced in this sort of thing. You aren't."
LaCroix expected Cabot to be offended, but all he said was, "Hey, go with it. Best not let me see it; Wilma is worried I'm the enemy as it is."
He drew Cabot outside the room and asked his reasons.
"Look," said Cabot. "It doesn't work or it does. If it doesn't, I haven't lost anything. If it does work, we find out who's employing the angel."
"What if it doesn't, and it makes the employer angry?"
"Not our lookout," said Cabot. "We haven't even seen from the Toon Gang. It's a gang of kids and their dog."
"Potentially immortal kids and their dog." He filled in Cabot on the comment about Raven. "Who knows what kind of enemies they've collected in their time?"
* * *
Ringading moved back and forth on the sidewalk, waiting to be spotted by the angel. "Hmmm hmmm hmmm hmmm," he hummed. "Hmmm hmmm hmmm hmmm." The detectives watched from a second-storey window. Suddenly the angel detached himself from a house across the street, snatched up the dog, evaded the net, and flew away.
"Well, crap," said Ted. "That's never happened before."
"We'll save you, Ringading!" cried Hairy. "Though, like, I don't know how."
* * *
Cabot was already looking up the phone number in the reverse directory. "Please let it not be a cell phone," he said. "Here it is. The Wolfram Group. Hold on while we see who owns them." He popped a CD in the computer. Hutton peered over his shoulder.
"They're a wholly owned subsidiary of Rapture Industries."
"I know that name," said LaCroix. "Reverend Fate?"
"Yup," said Cabot. "Immanentizing the Eschaton since 1995. He opened a church in Las Vegas about six years ago."
"Wait," said Toomey. "What's immanentizing the whatsit?"
"Reverend Fate thinks we should embrace the Rapture and the second coming of Christ. He's working to bring about armageddon."
"No thought for those of us without souls," said Toomey.
"What does he want with Ringading?" asked Hutton.
"Good question," said Cabot.
"Well, he talks," said LaCroix. The others looked at him, not comprehending. "He's a talking dog."
GM's Note: Yes, LaCroix made his will save, the new one.
LaCroix looked at them. "Of course. It is Freedom City."
They could hear the heavy tread on the stairs: the gang was returning without Ringading. Cabot let Hutton do the talking. "Got a lead on him," she said. "Easy-peasy. He's being held by people who are employed by Reverend Fate."
"Who?" asked Ted.
"We'll explain on the way." Somehow only Hairy and Taffy were with LaCroix while the rest rode with Cabot.
"Like, I hope the ol' Ringster's okay," said Hairy.
"It will be okay," said Taffy as she patted his arm.
"I can't stand being away from him too long."
An awful thought hit LaCroix. He said, "He means that literally, doesn't he?"
"We all get nauseated after a couple of days, but it hits Hairy the worst." She wrinkled her nose. "He starts vomiting. Disgusting."
"And you've been with Ringading for thirty years?"
In the back seat, Hairy moaned. "I don’t think it's a good idea to tell our secrets."
"Forty," she said to LaCroix. "Does that make me less interesting to you?"
LaCroix smiled. "Actually, it makes you more of a challenge."
* * *
"We have to assume Reverend Fate got what he wants," said Cabot.
"But why would he want Ringading?" Hutton asked. "Wilma? Ted?" They were quiet.
"The obvious answer is that he's not a dog," said Toomey.
"Obvious to you," Cabot said.
"It’s Freedom City."
"Right," Cabot conceded with a nod.
"Reverend Fate is a brand of Christian—"
"We're not all like that," said Hutton.
"I said a brand of Christian," said Toomey. "So whether it’s true or not--" Toomey looked at Wilma "--he thinks Ringading is a demon. He wouldn't kidnap an angel."
"Okay," said Cabot. "I buy it. So what do we do?"
"Well, if he wants to immanentize the whatsit, he'll be forcing Ringading to give up the shape of a dog. To reveal he's a demon."
"Oh," said Ted. "Then it won't work."
"No, it will just kill the dog."
Ted and Wilma groaned.
* * *
GM's Note: Markur's player is preparing for Pennsic, so he wasn't there. This is two-thirds of what we played.
Last edited by kipling
on Mon Sep 17, 2007 10:56 am, edited 1 time in total.