A Hard Rain

The Wax-Ways
Wherein the world is built.

“So… it goes anywhere?”

Crawford looked on with slight bemusement as Agent Doyle spread the dark red substance around the perimeter of the door.

“Not anywhere, no. Just where whatever bored these tunnels happened to go. Think of it like this; in the olden times, some sorta worm ate a buncha holes in our reality apple. We can gain access to these doors, and they can take us from one hole to another. Got it, rookie?”

“I think so. So… it goes anywhere?”

Agent Doyle sighed. This wasn’t his first new hire, and it wouldn’t be his last. Still, he found himself annoyed at the reaction this one was having to the earth-shattering secrets he was imparting.

“Not… Necessarily. I’m sure you’ve taken one of these, considering where you started your ‘career.’ Think of it as a tunnel that doesn’t necessarily follow the laws of physics. The Pacific Northwest has a bunch of these.”

“Well, that explains a bit. Is there anywhere they don’t go?”

“Nowhere that crosses an ocean or a mountain range. And they don’t work when either side is dark. Other than that, it’s all about what address you know.”

“Address? You mean this extradimensional tunneling system works on the same mechanics as the US Postal System?”

“Not quite.”

There was a flash, and Crawford covered his eyes. When it seemed to have passed, Agent Doyle opened the door, revealing a stone-lined passage.

“Make sure you only use passages that you or a trusted agent have opened. Otherwise, you might wind up anywhere… wherever the holder of the Sepulcher Crown wants you. That’s rule number one.”

Crawford peered into the passageway. What had previously been a door into the prison cellar was now a long and winding corridor leading… well, god knows where. He stepped inside, overcome with a sense of deja-vu.

“Well… that’s something new.”

“Damn skippy. C’mon, we’ve got a walk ahead of us.”

Agent Doyle stepped inside, letting the heavy iron door swing shut behind him… hadn’t the door been cheap plywood a second before?

“Get a move on, Agent McCormick. We’ve got work to do.”

Agent Doyle started walking down the long stone corridor, and Crawford followed. For what seemed like an hour they walked, until Crawford passed by a familiar door, festooned with locks.

“Hey, Nate. Where does this one lead?”

“No idea. We’ve learned to ignore the Locked Door. Though we did take notice when a couple locks happened to undo themselves… Any ideas on how that came about?”

Crawford paused. “Nope. No idea.”

“I figured.” Doyle kept walking.

After another hour, Doyle took a sharp right turn down a corridor that Crawford had hardly even noticed; if he hadn’t known better, he would’ve assumed Doyle willed it into existence.

“Where we headed, Nate? Guantanamo? Abu Dhabi?”

“Nothing so exciting as that, Agent McCormick.”

Doyle settled his view upon a heavy steel door and examined it. He gave a satisfied nod and swung it open, revealing a simple spiral staircase beyond. Doyle gave McCormick a significant look, then began to ascend. Crawford paused for a moment, and then started taking the stairs two at a time in an attempt to keep up; for a man who appeared to be in his mid-forties, Doyle was alarmingly fast.

“So… spiral staircase, eh?” Crawford panted out, “I’m hoping you’re not stereotypical enough to, uh…” Crawford reached a window.

“Enough to have a secret base in a national monument? Not at all, Agent McCormick. This is simply where the Wax-Way comes out.”

Crawford peered out at the twilight. It was late afternoon, and the sun was just setting over Washington DC. Crawford peered through the window, searching for landmarks. He saw the Capitol Building, the White House, everything but…

“You have to be kidding me. The… Wax-Way? It comes out under the Washington Monument?”

“More like the Monument was built to hide the Wax-Way. But aside from that, yes, you have the right of it.”

Crawford stared.

“I see, for once, I have you at a loss. Perhaps it’s best you keep that attitude, Agent McCormick, because I feel I’m not exaggerating when I say you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”

Lawyers, Guns and Money
Hard time, hard decisions.

Crawford scowled at the blank grey wall of his holding cell. He idly wished he had a ball to bounce against it, for the fiftieth time in the past half hour. Still, it was probably for the best, considering the state his arm was in. He winced as he flexed it; the stitches were itchy, but he knew scratching them would be far worse.

Crawford had been in lockup and awaiting trial for nearly a week, which was roughly five days longer than he had been willing to wait. There wasn’t much to be done about it, though. Though his crime had been flashy, it appeared there were more important criminals in need of judgement. His trial had been scheduled for later that month, and for now he languished in the Lovelock Correctional Center, a typical podunk prison in a typical podunk town, all wrapped up in a typical podunk state. Christ, he hated it.

“McCormick! You’ve got a visitor.”

Crawford looked up. Finally, Maya got me a damn lawyer. Crawford stood up off the ground and allowed himself to be handcuffed.

“Your mom coming in for a conjugal visit again?”

The guard yanked him out of the cell by his cuffs, and Crawford let out a gasp of pain. It felt like the guard had pulled his stitches apart. The guard gave him a contemptuous smirk.

“Pro tip, hotshot. Don’t antagonize the guy with the taser, the billy club, and the backup.”

“That’s… not what your… uh, yeah. Good advice.” It wasn’t his best retort, but only because it felt like his arm was on fire. The guard led him (somewhat more gently) through the labyrinth of halls to a room that looked, to Crawford, eerily like a classroom. The only real difference was a lack of desks and chalkboards, replaced with a conference table and a huge mirror covering the wall. Crawford smirked at the mirror. He glanced over his shoulder at the guard.

“Looks like your wife finally found a mirror that’ll show everything.”

At this, the guard reached for his belt. The tazer was inches from Crawford’s neck when he heard a voice from a corner of the room.

“That’s enough.”

The guard froze. The tazer crackling in his hand was the only sound in the room… save for the click of government issue shoes on institutional linoleum. From the shadows emerged a man in a black suit. The suit was pressed, his shoes were shiny, and his hair was alarmingly perfect. The man himself was… The only word to describe the man was “plain.” He wasn’t ugly in any sense of the word, but he wasn’t exactly handsome either. Crawford would’ve been hard-pressed to pick him out of a crowd.

“Let’s just… there we go,” he said as he gingerly plucked the tazer from the guard’s hand, “none of that. I feel like our mutual friend has had enough… ‘fun’ for today.”

The guard stared at the nondescript man.

“I’ll, uh… I’ll just, leave you to it. Knock on the door when you’re, uh… done.”

“Thank you kindly.”

The guard backed out of the room, never blinking, and slowly closed the door. There was a brief silence.

“Please, have a seat.”

Crawford looked around, then awkwardly pulled a chair out from the table and sat. He was joined by the other man.

“There, isn’t that much better?”

“Not that much better. Any chance I can get these taken off?” Crawford jangled his shackles as he spoke.

“Oh, naturally.” The man reached into an interior pocket, produced a small key, and slid it across the table to Crawford. He gave the man a quizzical look.

“Really? You’re just giving me a handcuff key… in prison?”

“Oh, most definitely. See, you’re either leaving this room with me, or you’re leaving in a bag.” There was a click of metal on metal as the nondescript man placed a Colt 1911 on the table in front of him. Crawford stared. He gulped.

“I take it… you’re not a lawyer.”


“You know there are people watching through that mirror, right?”

“There actually aren’t. Well, no one who’d report me, anyway. Ah, but where are my manners? I haven’t even introduced myself. Doyle, Nathan Doyle. Call me Nate. I’d give you my card, but there’s a fifty-fifty shot it’d be a waste of paper.”

“That’s… fair enough, I suppose. So, uh… who do you work for, then? Aurora? The vamps? maybe the shadow boys? Or… did the signals you pick up on your fillings tell you I was a reptoid?”

“My, but you do have a lot of folks who want you dead. But I’m not one of them. See, I represent the Office of Scientific Intelligence, Research, Investigation and Strategy. It’s a top secret division of the US government. Top secret. Your life is basically forfeit now that you know it exists. And I’m here to offer you a job.”

“A… job.”

“Yes, Mr. McCormick, a job. Well, more of a career. And possibly a life path.”

“As in, take this path if I want to keep my life.”

“Your words, not mine. But… roughly accurate, yes. See, we don’t like competition, Mr. McCormick. You and your little friends mainly keep things low key and out of the way, but there are other… non-government entities, that we take issue with. And you… you are in an excellent position to help us with them.”

Crawford folded his arms, winced, and uncrossed them, gingerly applying pressure to his wounded arm. He eyed Doyle, and then leaned forward.

“So let me see if I have the score. I do my bit for Uncle Sam, and I go free. I politely decline, and you shoot me dead?”

“That’s the long and short of it, yes. Well, you’ll never really be free regardless of which option you take; my organization doesn’t give out contracts shorter than seventy-five years. But you’ll be better compensated, in the long run, if you join us. The health benefits, for instance, are incredible. Especially as compared to Mr. Colt’s doctorin’ skills.”

Crawford studied the man’s expression. Never once did his expression flicker.

“You’re one-hundred percent serious about this, aren’t you?”

“Serious like a bullet to the head.”

A pause.

“I’m gonna have to think about it.”

“Take your time.”

Season 2
Aaaaand we're back.

Lucky pulled his coat a little tighter around him and stared into the stranger’s face. Or at least, where his face should be. He shivered, and reminded himself why he had instituted his policy of not meeting people in dark alleys. On the other hand, he wasn’t entirely sure he was talking to “people.”

“I got your message. What’s this about?”

The shadows shifted. Was it Lucky’s imagination, or was the shift somewhat… uncomfortable?

“My… associates and I. We’re looking for someone. We heard you might be able to help.”

Lucky stood up a little straighter. On the one hand, having this kind of attention would probably be good for business. On the other, it might be highly deleterious to his health.

“That is my job. Sort of. I mean, I’m not licensed or anything. If you’re looking for a licensed snoop, I used to know some guys, but they skipped town…”

“Your qualifications are beyond question, Mr. Williams.”

“Lucky me.”

An envelope slid out of the shadows and stopped at Lucky’s feet. He stooped to pick it up, his eyes never ceasing their frantic search of the oddly thick thatch of shadows that his prospective client occupied. He couldn’t even make out the outline of a person in that mess.

“Open it. It contains basic information on the persons we wish found, as well as a down payment for your time.”

The envelope was oddly heavy and misshapen in Lucky’s hand. He opened it, and an assortment of diamonds fell into his palm. When he looked back into the shadows, his client had gone. He wasn’t sure how he knew, he just felt a distinct lack of presence. He sighed. Well, shit. Now he didn’t even know who to hand his resignation to, not that it’d even be accepted. He decided to take a look at the information. His hand froze.

Uh oh.

(And now, we begin “Season 2.” Couple changes, the most significant of which is the change of system. As much as I liked WoD, it still had some clunkiness, and I’ve decided to go with a more narrative system, allowing for more player input. Thus, the FATE system, as exemplified by the Dresden Files RPG. There’ll be a few modifications, but for the most part we’ll be using that as it is.

Secondly, a change of scenery. The Hill Manor Hunters have scattered for various reasons since the incident with the Wax King, and the ones who return will do so in a new city. Which city? Well, that’s for all of us to decide.

Characters can also change. If you wanna make a new character, unless you specifically request against it, your old character will become a recurring guest NPC, for good or for ill. But all those decisions, including where the new campaign will be set, will be made during our first session, coming soon to an apartment near you.)

A Field of Stars, Part 3
Riding Easy.

Texx streaked up the highway, the roar of wind in his ears. It had been a while since he’d seen anyone. It’d just been him, his bike, and the wind.

Well, and the bugs.

A Field of Stars, Part 2
Resurrecting the Beast.

“Torque wrench.”

Ipip leaned down and placed the tool in Frank’s outstretched hand. From her perch on the hood of the old GTO, she could only see his legs sticking out from beneath it. She returned to her previous position, leaning against the windshield, and went back to her book. “Attenborough’s Guide to Hermetic Healing, Volume 1.” It had been sitting in her room for months, and only recently had she gotten around to reading it. From beneath the car, there was a grunt and the sound of a small metal object rattling.

“Dammit. Ok, now I need the magnetic screwdriver on a stick.”

“What happened?”

“I… Dropped something.”

“What did you drop?”

“Something important.”

Ipip accepted this answer, and handed down the jury-rigged implement. She didn’t know much about cars, but with Texx gone walkabout and Crawford in Britain, she was the only assistant in evidence. She didn’t mind. The garage was mostly pretty quiet, and with the right assortment of pillows she could sit and read in comfort, her cat purring beside her.

There hadn’t been much else to do, at any rate. Things were quiet. They had moved back into Hill Manor after beefing up security, there had been no bad dreams beyond the norm, and in general everything seemed…

Normal. Too normal, perhaps. Ipip had become accustomed to facing danger at every turn, and this lull did little except to incite her paranoia. There must be balance in all things, and the longer this period of safety lasted, the more terrible the oncoming storm must be. Or, maybe, it was all over forever… And she wasn’t sure which possibility made her more nervous.

“Alright, I think I got it.”

Frank extricated himself from the underside of the car. It was nearly unrecognizable from the broken down state they’d found it in. New racing seats, new-to-him rims and tires, and armored panels made the thing resemble something an extra from Mad Max might own. This pleased Frank, and Ipip had to admit it was an appropriate vehicle for hunting monsters. The gun rack in the trunk didn’t hurt matters.

“Let’s see if this thing sounds as awesome as it looks.”

Ipip slid off the hood, followed by her feline companion. With a press of the clutch and a turn of the key, the engine roared to life. As Frank whooped in triumph, Ipip and Apollo climbed into the passenger seat.

“Time for a test drive?”

“Time for a test drive.”

The newly restored Beast roared out of the garage, leaving a trail of burnt rubber.

A Field of Stars, Part 1
Crawford and Maya have a chat.

Crawford sighed and rolled out of bed, careful not to wake Maya. Meandering to the kitchen, he pulled out a bottle of grape drink and sat at the table. He drank ruefully, staring into space.

A month had passed since he had saved the world.

It hadn’t really sunk in that that was what he was doing until it was done. At the time he had been so focused on the shittiness of his situation that it had been a chore. Self-preservation, really. If he had any choice, he would’ve avoided doing it altogether. At any rate, he certainly didn’t feel like any sort of savior.

Crawford downed the purple sugar-water in a scant few gulps and stared at the bottle. Idly, he wondered if red dye #42 had any proven links to pancreatic cancer. Did it really matter? He got another bottle and drank that one too.

If what the Wax King said was true, it was the only thing standing between humanity and annihilation from umpteen different sources. Death could come at any day and in twenty different ways. If the Wax King was lying, then he had been through hell, risked life and limb, nearly been eaten by zombies… for nothing.

It was a time for something stronger than grape drink. Crawford fixed himself a vodka cran.

“What’s wrong?”

Crawford looked up with a start to see Maya framed in the door, clad in nothing but a loosely belted bathrobe.

“Oh, nothing.”

Maya strode in and sat down. She poured herself a shot from the vodka bottle on the table and slugged it back.

“You’re as bad a liar as you are a drinker.”

“Hey, ain’t nothing manlier than a vodka cran.”

Maya snorted. For a time, they said nothing. Then, Maya spoke.

“Nothing ever got solved by not talking about it.”

Crawford looked into her eyes… those piercing blue eyes.

Maya had been a hunter since she was 12. She had told him about her mother training her in swordplay, making her kill a vampire on her 13th birthday… If anyone knew a thing or two about handling stress…

“Maya… how do you deal with it?”

“With what?”

“This life. Fighting things that could end you with a thought. Abominations that would make Bosch curl up and weep. How do you deal with the burden?”

Maya seemed to ponder this for a minute. Then she leaned over and kissed him.

“You fight back. You do what you can. Take heart in the fact that we’ve faced these threats for millenia, and we’re still here. By providence, perseverence, or sheer bloody luck, our species has survived. In the face of overwhelming odds, humanity still exists. You are the latest in a long line of warriors who maintain a vigil over those who lack the means to protect themselves, a candle in the dark, a star against a field of black. And in the end, if you should fall, someone else will take up your light and stand once more against oblivion. "

Silence once more. Crawford poured himself a shot and knocked it back, supressing a cough. The bottle was now only half full.

“Have I mentioned that you’re an awesome girlfriend?”

“I know. Now come back to bed. The mysteries of life will still be here in the morning.”

In which a computer is raided.

Found on Anton Steinbock’s Laptop…

To: asteinbock@auroracorp.com
From: esmythe@auroracorp.com
Date: 8/21/11
Subject: Project Eulachon development URGENT

Mr. Steinbock: We’ve recently been contacted by Echo Research Station, on Attu Island in Alaska. Generally they are concerned with weather pattern observation, but they say they’ve discovered something that could be an important lead on Project Eulachon. Operations Code Delta: for your eyes only. They assure me that this could lead to Object 43457.

-Emily Smythe

To: esmythe@auroracorp.com
From: asteinbock@auroracorp.com
Date: 8/21/11
Subject: RE: Project Eulachon development URGENT

Smythe: Excellent news. If they’re invoking Ops Code Delta, they must have something strong. Book me a red-eye for tomorrow evening. If all goes well with White’s Gamma Extraction, we should have the staff and the jewel by then.


P.S. Make sure it’s first class this time! You put me in business class the last time I flew, and it felt like I was in steerage on the Mayflower. Don’t make the same mistake twice!

To: asteinbock@auroracorp.com
From: white@auroracorp.com
Date: 8/22/11
Subject: Gamma Extraction Complete

Steinbock: the job is done. got three of them, their in sb3. tracker chips in place. -White

White Night
An interlude.

White surveyed the wreckage of the lobby. The smashed detritus of tables and armchairs crunched under her feet as she walked. She wished she could have seen it happen. Nothing cheered her up quite like a riot.

The stench of magnesium burned her nose as she entered the elevator, the remnants of a flash-bang. White hit the button for the second sub-basement, pressed her keycard against the pad and chuckled to herself. The status report she had read told her the captives had flash-banged a hall full of guards as well as themselves to escape. It had been a long time since she’d encountered a group of the fun ones. Most of her targets, if they managed to escape, simply ran away and tried to hide. Tried.

The fun ones, though, were much less predictable. Put up more of a fight. And were, in the end, much more satisfying. It was the difference between beef jerky and a t-bone steak.

As the elevator doors slid open, the sight of two MP5 barrels greeted her. It had become company policy to cover the elevator in case of intruders, and after what had happened she couldn’t blame them for tightening security. As soon as they recognized her, however, the guards lowered their weapons with apologetic looks on their faces.

“Sorry Ms. White. Standard procedure, you know.”

“Not a problem. Where’s the prisoner I requested?”

“Room 68. He should be awake by now.”


As she walked, she looked in the windows to her left and right, remembering her various hunts. The lengths she had gone to to put some of these things away. The majority of the rooms on this floor were research labs, but some of the things they studied… getting them into the lab had been hard enough. They had simply sealed the rooms, converting what had been labs into cells.

Room 68. One of the torture suites. White checked the window. All was as it should be. One prisoner, two guards. She went inside, noting that the previous, obviously obsolete wooden chairs had already been replaced with steel reinforced dentistry chairs. Aurora tended not to dither when it came to improving on their weak areas. The man bound in the chair glared daggers at her, unable to speak due to the tape over his mouth.

“Detective Sutton. We have things to discuss.” She ripped the duct tape off his face. “Your friends… those little vigilantes over on the Hill. I need to know everything you know.”

White unsheathed her blade. She usually let the technicians take care of this sort of thing, but she was in a… playful mood. She pressed the long thin knife against his left hand and pushed. She was rewarded with a grunt of pain and a trickle of blood. Her knife sank slowly into his flesh.

“Tell me.”

The Harvesters
"Did I mention that I FUCKING HATE THE WOODS?!"

Status Report: Project Eulachon

“Project subjects left Seattle at approximately 1300 hours on [DATA EXPUNGED]. Destination: Blackbird Falls, WA. Purpose of visit appeared to be to purchase Object 142-451.

Subjects met with Christine Reese, local fence, in a donut shop (Bobby’s Big Ones). Subjects haggled over price before agreeing to a location for the exchange (local Motel 6).

Situation was altered by the kidnapping of Reese by a group of organ harvesters led by David D’Angelo (Subject 941-752, now deceased). We have sketchy reports of members of Group 4311-3475 being present as well, though these have yet to be confirmed.

Subjects rectified situation with prejudice and returned to Seattle. We can only assume that Object 142-451 is in their possession now.

Recommend Protocol Gamma."

-Recent status report from Agent [DATA EXPUNGED].

Story Time
A talk with Lucky.

“The Heart of the Soldier? Jewel of Pandora? This’s some wacky shit, C.” Lucky sipped his lager and looked across the table at Crawford. “I’m guessing you’re after a specific soldier’s heart.”

“Hell, at this point we’re not sure we’re even looking for anything literal,” Crawford replied, a mostly full can of PBR getting warm in his hand, “But we figure if anyone knows where to start on this, it’s you, and our time frame is… limited, at best. Have you got anything?”

“Well…” Lucky paused, deep in thought. "Jewel of Pandora… I know a chick, antiquities dealer, if anyone knows where to get a valuable magical artifact, it’s her. Might ask her about the staff, too.


“Whatever. No idea about any soldier, though. Or his heart.”

Crawford let out a sigh, and took a sip of watery beer. Another dead end. This was starting to get repetitive.

“Nothing? No war stories, urban legends, friend of a friends that might know a guy? This is the least talkative I’ve ever seen you.” Crawford leaned in and stage-whispered: “I think you might be losing your edge.”

Lucky narrowed his eyes. “Nope. No urban legends. But now that I think of it…” Lucky finished his beer in a single mighty gulp and smiled devilishly.

“How about a fairy tale?”

Crawford attempted to slam his beer, choked, and coughed. When he had managed to clear his windpipe, he choked out “At this point, I’ll take what I can get.”

“My grandma, Aleksandra, used to tell me a story from her homeland. About a soldier and his adventures. After finishing his duty in the Tsar’s army, he was given three biscuits and sent on his way.”

“Three biscuits? That’s it?”

“This was Russia in the time of the Tsar. Three biscuits was a lot back then. Now pipe down, this is for your benefit. Now, on his way home, he was approached by a beggar, seeking alms. He gave the beggar one of his biscuits and continued on his way. Further along his path, another beggar approached and asked for alms, so another biscuit he gave away.”

“Man, this guy has zero business acumen.”


“I mean, giving away 2/3 of his assets like that.

“The point is that he’s a good man. And shut the fuck up, I’m telling a story.”


“Don’t apologize, just be quiet! Jesus. Alright, alms given, he walks away. Further on, be comes across a third beggar, asking for alms. Dutifully, the soldier gives him his very last biscuit. But this beggar had something to give in return. He handed the soldier a deck of cards and said ‘play with these cards, and you will always win.’”


“Shush! He also gave the soldier a flour sack, and said ‘anything you command to get into the sack, will be compelled to get into the sack.’”

“How long is this story?”

Lucky reared back as if to smack the hipster, but stopped himself. “Grandma was Russian. She loved long stories. Know what, I’ll skip to the cool part. So bladibladibla, the soldier becomes good friends with the Tsar, marries and has a kid, and the kid falls ill. Real ill. Deathly so. And lo, Death comes for the kid in the form of an old crone, as Death is wont to do. But the soldier has a trump card.”

“Don’t tell me; the sack?”

“The sack. As soon as Death reared her ugly head, he commanded her into the bag, and hung the bag from a tree in a deep wood. And for years afterwards, no one died. Finally, the wailing of the sick and maimed grew to be too much, and he released Death from the bag. Death returned to work, and all seemed normal. But when it came time for the soldier to die, Death was too afraid to come and retrieve him. So the soldier went on living, and presumably lives to this day.”

“That… Is certainly a story, Lucky. Well, thanks for your time.”

Crawford dropped a 20 on the table, said his goodbyes and left Donovan’s.


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