Orpheus: The Taste of Ashes - Missions - Mission002

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Dramatis Personae

Protagonists

  • Tom Knox, Haunter
  • Teresa Reilly, Banshee

Supporting Characters

Orpheus

  • Albert Cook, Manager (non-projector)
  • Kate Dennison, Banshee
  • Annie Harper, Unknown Shade (Ghost)
  • Chet Mason, Skinrider
  • Mickey Willams, one of Orpheus' technicians

Magnox

  • Alice Carpenter, Mrs Jefferson’s secretary
  • Mrs Jefferson, the managing director of Magnox Computers
  • Kevin Nanket, former FBI agent, Banshee (PLE)
  • Hubert, former programmer, Haunter (PLE)
  • Sean, former security guard, Poltergeist (PLE)
  • Various security guards

Other

  • A forensic scientist/technician
  • Putative NextWorld agent, Skinrider


Mission Two: The Magnox Affair


Mission Type: Retrieval/fumigation
Capturing the PLEs involved if possible, dispersing them if not.
Location: Magnox Computing, the outskirts of New York City
Status: Officially closed


Tom and Teresa receive word that they have a new assignment, and that they will be working with Chet on this mission. They are ordered to report to the office of Albert Cook, a non-projector and the head of the investigative division. He is giving the mission briefing, because Chet is the primary investigator on the case. Chet (in gauze form) is already in Albert’s office when they arrive.

The client in this case is a company called Magnox Computer Systems, the company responsible for setting up and maintaining the Orpheus computer network. This gives Orpheus an interest in the case. There was a murder-suicide in the Magnox building three weeks ago, and PLE activity has been observed in the building since the incident. Three days ago, a squad of police officers entered the premises in response to reports of a disturbance within. All of them died, and in ways that lead Orpheus to suspect the involvement of three PLEs or projectors: a poltergeist, a banshee and a haunter. The mission objective is to capture the PLEs if possible, or to fumigate the site if not. The clients have requested that the investigation be kept as quiet as possible.

Albert goes over the case background information and then passes the team all the relevant documentation. He warns them that they should try to complete this case quickly, as there are rumours that Terrell and Squib have been in talks with the NYPD, possibly in connection with these events. After telling them to see him if they need any help, he dismisses them to get on with the investigation. Briefly, one of the security guards was involved in a relationship with one of the programmers. The security guard was thought to have shot his partner, another man and then himself in a jealous rage. He apparently believed that the other man was displaying an inappropriate interest in his partner. That man was later discovered to have been an FBI agent, which raises the interesting question of what he was doing at Magnox.

The three investigators discuss the matter among themselves for a while, coming up with a plan of action. All of the incidents have so far occurred at night, so they plan to visit during the day (Tom and Teresa in the flesh) to have a look around the building and to interview the security guards. Chet warns the two younger projectors to be careful, and suggests that they refrain from using the lifts if they have to be in the building after dark. He tells them that he will go up to the floor above Magnox and wait there, near the ’phone used as the main contact point for that company occupying that floor. When they leave, they are to ring that number three times in rapid succession, hanging up each time after it rings once. If there is an emergency on the order of hostile PLE activity, they should be able to alert him by making lots of noise.

They have contact details for the manager’s secretary, so Teresa calls her to make the request. The secretary knows who the Orpheus Group are and what they have been hired for. She makes the necessary arrangements, including providing the cover story that the investigators are being employed by Magnox to carry out an internal audit. It’s about an hour’s drive to the company, which occupies the seventh floor of an office block in one of the city’s business districts. They take Tom’s car. When they arrive, Chet goes up to wait on the eighth floor, and the other two meet with the secretary.

Teresa and Tom interview the security guards first. Tom does most of the talking, as Teresa still seems a little distracted and not quite herself. (The three-way mental link between herself, Kate and Annie has shown no signs of dissolving and she is having trouble filtering out the thoughts and emotions of the other two. Kate is teaching the newer recruits at the moment. Annie is trying to focus on some research. All three of them are also preoccupied with wondering when the Reaper will come for them, among other things.) None of the guards they spoke to were actually on duty during either incident, but they’ve all seen and heard (or at least heard of) strange occurrences on the premises. There is a certain amount of homophobia in evidence when they speak about the first set of deaths. For a fortnight or so before the murder-suicide, the guards noticed whispered arguments between the programmer and the security guard, but they don’t know what they were about. They didn’t know that the other man was an FBI agent at the time. He was simply signed in as a guest of the programmer. This implies that he may well not have been there on official business. The other point of interest is that when the guards came into work the morning after the police officers were killed, they noticed that the programmer’s cubicle had been shot up.

When the interviews are complete, Tom and Teresa ask the secretary if they can speak with the guards who were on duty at the relevant times. The secretary says that some of them will be on-site from 5pm to 1am, and some from 1 to 9am, and that she can arrange for them to come in a little before or stay a little after their shifts, respectively. They also ask to speak with the company manager. The secretary says she’ll see what she can do. They begin their inspection of the premises.

As the security guards said, the programmer’s cubicle shows signs of being sprayed with bullets. According to Tom, multiple weapons were fired. Most were pistols, but one seems to have been a submachine gun. The firing pattern for the latter was composed of a tight burst at around torso height, and then a trail of bullets zig-zagging up the wall. This suggests that the shooter had aimed, fired and then had his aim thrown off somehow. The presence of the submachine gun is odd enough by itself, but the even stranger thing is that the impacts suggest the first few shots actually passed through a solid or semi-solid target. The (presumably) subsequent wild shots, and the pistol rounds didn’t. All the bullets have been removed from the scene, presumably by the forensics team. In addition to the signs of gunfire, the whole office has a scorched look and the smell of smoke lingers in the air.

During their look around, Tom and Teresa see two PLEs, one in the office and one outside, a few metres down the corridor. Neither of them react to the investigators’ presence, being apparently in the fugue state that PLEs and projectors tend to slip into after a while. It is impossible to make out any identifying features, as the PLEs are blurry and out of focus. People walking down the corridor seem to unconsciously avoid the PLE standing there. When one of them does accidentally walk through it, they shiver and look uneasy.

Once they’ve completed their examination of the scene, the two investigators return to the secretary without disturbing the PLEs. She has managed to arrange a brief meeting with Mrs Jefferson, Magnox’ manager, for 4pm. They say that they will return then. As they leave, they signal Chet as was agreed, reporting their findings to him on the drive back to Orpheus. When Tom mentions the submachine gun firing pattern, Chet notes that Terrell and Squib are known to have developed ammunition that works on PLEs. Orpheus is, unsurprisingly, quite interested in this but so far none of its employees have managed to get their hands on any intact examples. The three of them decide to try to retrieve the bullets, if they can.

Once he’s dropped the other two off, Tom goes to have a chat with various of his contacts in the police force and discovers a few interesting things. There was a lieutenant with the officers who got killed, a Lieutenant Jenkins. Jenkins was apparently considered to be “innovative” -- a dirty word in the police department. It’s not clear why he was with the squad, or even why the squad had gone out to Magnox in the first place. There had been many reports of disturbances prior to this incident. Officers had gone out to investigate the first couple of times but found nothing. The location was then unofficially tagged as a “do not respond”. He finds out nothing more of interest, and it seems as if the department is closing ranks on the affair. Even his contacts seem unwilling to talk about it.

When he gets back to Orpheus, Tom reports his findings to the other two. Chet recognises the lieutenant’s name, noting that he was the son of Isaiah Jenkins, a wealthy businessman and major contributor to the mayor’s office. After some discussion, they decide to retrieve the bullets from the forensics laboratory before heading back to Magnox. Tom knows where they are likely to have been taken, but it’s just about time to head back to Magnox. They decide to visit the forensics lab afterwards.

Their meeting with Magnox’ manager is fairly brief. The main thing they want to ask about is the FBI agent’s presence. Mrs Jefferson tells them, however, that the first she knew of it was during the aftermath of the murder-suicide. He certainly wasn’t there at her request.

Only one of the evening/night shift guards actually shows up for work. The rest of them are “off ill” and have been for a little while now. The lone guard seems very nervous, and not at all pleased to be in the building. He was on duty when the police officers showed up. He said the one in charge -- Lieutenant Jenkins -- told him they were there to investigate a reported disturbance. He let them into the building, but didn’t accompany them. He noticed that the lieutenant was carrying what looked like some fancy night-vision goggles as well as the weaponry. The guard didn’t actually see what happened, but heard the sound of gunfire, crashes and screams. There was also a distinct smell of smoke. The guard stayed exactly where he was and called 911. He doesn’t really have anything more of interest to tell them.

The three of them drive out to the forensics lab. Chet goes inside and possesses a technician who is working late, bringing the bullets and a set of night-vision-type goggles (presumably what the security guard saw) out to Teresa and Tom, who have parked a little way away. He doesn’t bother to retrieve the gun itself. After Chet puts the technician back where he found her, they take the items back to Orpheus. Teresa tries out the goggles, which are marked with the Terrell and Squib logo. When she looks at Chet, the display shows a solid red image whose outline corresponds to his. As she’s doing this, Tom sees that the red light from the goggles lights up her face, making it seem oddly skull-like. The effect is quite disconcerting. The technical staff at Orpheus have all left for the night, so Tom and Teresa head to their respective houses.

In the morning, it’s time for another trip to Magnox, where Tom and Teresa interview yet more security guards. These ones were on duty the night of the murder-suicide. Some of them were drawn to the scene by the sound of gunshots, arriving just in time to witness the suicide. Interestingly, they report that the look on his face -- far from being one of jealous rage -- was one of complete and utter calm. He simply raised the gun to his head and pulled the trigger. They don’t really know what to make of the whole affair, and they certainly wouldn’t have thought the guard capable of such a thing. They don’t really have anything further to add. After interviewing the guards, Tom and Teresa have another look around the scene. The ghosts appear to have moved slightly, and have noticeably more energy. They still seem locked in their fugue state, however, so it seems likely that they are normally only active at night.

After concluding the interviews, Tom and Teresa return to Hubert’s office to check on the status of the ghosts. Their condition has noticeably improved, although they still do not react to the investigators’ presence. It seems likely that they will be completely “healed” within a day or so. This adds a certain amount of time pressure to the question of when to return in gauze form, whether for communication or fumigation.

The investigators return to Orpheus and hand over the Terrell and Squib gear to Mickey Williams, one of the Orpheus technical staff. Mickey's eyes light up at being given new toys to play with. He fairly quickly confirms that the goggles do allow non-projectors to see ghosts. Further analysis of these, and the bullets, will take more time.

The team discuss their next course of action. Chet asks Teresa if she thinks it’s worth trying to communicate with the Magnox ghosts. After considering the question, she reluctantly says that, in her opinion, they will probably respond with hostility. It’s possible that she might be able to calm them down, but at that point they’d have the drop on the Orpheus team. They’ve shown considerable destructive ability, and they’re willing to kill. Overall, she thinks that the risk of trying to talk to them outweighs the benefit, even though she isn’t happy about it. Tom doesn’t disagree with her assessment, and they start planning the fumigation.

As the ghosts have been slowly recovering from the damage they sustained, the Orpheus team decide to go in that day rather than waiting for Sunday. This means that they have to get the occupants out of the building, as it’s too much of a risk to have them around during the fumigation. Teresa suggests causing a fire alert. Chet formulates the plan of attack and, once he’s gone over it with them, they put it into motion.

Teresa and Tom project briefly and contribute energy to Chet. (This is to replace the energy he’s used during the course of the previous day or so, as he doesn’t want to be running on empty while facing three hostile ghosts.) While Teresa and Tom are recovering their own energy (which, as skimmers, they can do much faster than him), Chet informs Albert Cook of their plan so he can let the client know what to expect.

When they’re at full strength again, Tom and Teresa project from the Orpheus crèche and Rodrigo drives the three of them to Magnox. Tom Inhabits the infrared sensor on the building’s automatic doors to let the other two in, and then goes up to the third floor, where he Inhabits and activates the fire alarm. (Chet told him to go to the third floor rather than the seventh -- where Magnox is -- so that if the fire brigade do enter the building, they won’t go to the floor being fumigated. The aim of this part of the exercise is to get all of the bystanders out of harm’s way.) Once the building has been evacuated, the three spooks head up to the seventh floor in the lifts (again, activated by Tom Inhabiting the buttons).

As detailed by Chet earlier, when the three of them exit the lift Tom heads straight down the corridor towards the visible ghost. Chet and Teresa turn right through the secretary’s office and then take a route parallel to Tom’s. This means that they are out of the ghost’s immediate line of sight. (All the doors have been left open -- presumably at Albert’s request -- which means they don’t have to become immaterial in order to get around.) Tom’s instructions are to activate Witch’s Nimbus either when the ghost wakes, or when he gets close to it (whichever occurs first). As it happens, the ghost starts to stir when he heads down the corridor, so he activates Witch’s Nimbus and charges towards it. Before he can get there, it Wails, shredding his gauze with the inhuman shriek. He pulls himself back together through force of will. All three projectors feel a pulse go through them when the ghost Wails, and it seems likely that this pulse will have woken up any nearby PLEs. This one doesn’t seem to pay attention to Teresa and Chet as they move into position. Teresa Wails, shredding its gauze a little. Chet draws his ethereal service revolver and blows it apart with a single shot. Moving almost faster than the other two can track, Chet draws a bead on the ghost inside the office and blows it away. A third ghost leaps out of the computer in the office, yelling “Sean!” It fires bolts of electricity at Chet, who drops underneath the blast and fires back. The shot blasts a hole through it and Tom finishes it off. All three ghosts have now been dispersed.

After waiting a short while -- to see if there are any other ghosts on the premises -- Chet declares the fumigation complete. Teresa uses Forebode to look back at the murder-suicide that started all this. Chet lends a hand to make it easier. She sees Sean come up to the office, gun in hand. Shouting “Die, you bastards!” he shoots the FBI agent and then the programmer. Despite his words, his face is calm, and both sets of shots are precise. Once both men are down, he puts a few more bullets in the walls and deliberately fires twice into the computer. Then, much as the security guard described, he raises the gun to his own head and pulls the trigger. Throughout all of that, his expression remains perfectly calm and composed. When the body hits the floor, a figure steps out of it. This is clearly another spook -- a skin rider -- and almost certainly a projector rather than a PLE (from the lack of death wounds). The man -- a tall, well-built African-American man -- surveys the scene professionally and then leaves. To Teresa, he seems to move and hold himself like Chet or Alex Pretorius (that is: like a military man). She describes what she saw to the other two. Chet says that it sounds like a NextWorld hit. It seems likely that the FBI agent was the main target.

Next, Teresa looks back at the police officers’ deaths. She sees Hubert’s ghost in the room, his death marks relatively faint. Kevin’s ghost is standing next to Hubert’s, and is fairly messed up. Lieutenant Jenkins -- wearing the goggles -- leads his squad into the room. He aims at Hubert, yells “Ghostbusters!” and opens fire, chewing him up quite badly. Kevin yells in rage and flings out his hand. A silver line flicking out from him and grabs the computer, slamming into Jenkins and throwing off his aim. Sean runs round the corner and dives at the cops. As he does so, he manifests and Wails at them. Hubert suddenly blazes with the crackling electricity of Witch’s Nimbus and grabs at the cops. Before the vision fades, it’s clear that the fight is already over by any measure.

Their work here complete, the team return to Orpheus to discuss their next course of action. Chet points out that the case is technically was technically over with the successful fumigation. However, there is still the matter of the assassin. They decide to investigate further, starting with Hubert’s computer. The fact that the assassin deliberately fired at it suggests that there is something on it that his contractors don’t want seeing the light of day. Whatever that is might shed some light on what the FBI agent was doing at Magnox. As the computer was used to bludgeon a police officer to death, it has been taken away for forensic analysis. It seems likely that it was taken to the same place as the goggles, gun and bullet, so they plan to visit there after recovering their strength. (As before, Tom and Teresa donate energy to Chet and then rest.)

The snatch goes off without a hitch. As before, Chet possesses a technician -- the same unfortunate girl as before -- whom he uses to retrieve the item and take it out to the other two (who are there physically). He only brings the hard-drive, as he says that’s all the technician thinks is necessary. They smuggle it into Orpheus -- as this is something they won’t be mentioning in their report -- and Tom projects so that he can Inhabit and repair it. They will need a forensics computer expert in order to recover the data, however.

The next morning, they meet with Albert to report the successful completion of the case. Chet, as the senior investigator of the three, does most of the talking. He doesn’t tell Albert that they are continuing the investigation, but he does report the involvement of the (almost certainly) NextWorld agent. The manager seems pleased with their work, including the fact that they managed to bring in some Terrel and Squib gear, and awards them a substantial bonus ($900 each, $200 of which is for bringing in the equipment).