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Death Count (IC)

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GM...

Saturday 4th August, near closing time...

Marvin's Hole

"Two vodka's. One for me, and one for my friend here..."

The large man turned to face Petinent. He was big, over six foot, with a large frame and a body that had clearly seen long hours at the Gym. A scar ran along one side of his face, deep and ugly, missing his eye narrowly. His hair was cropped short, and his skin was beaten. In his youth he would have been good looking, now he looked like granite.

"My name is Viktor" he explained, in perfect English that had a Russian accent.

"You, I believe, a Bram Davis. It was not difficult to find you" he said, collecting the two vodkas and handing one over.

"Cheers, as they say over here" he said, clunking the glass and downing his vodka.

"I need your help. There is a problem in Freedom City and I think you are the one who can be helping us!" he said, serious but with the attempt of a friendly smile on his face.

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"Cheers," Bram replied, slightly surprised "and thanks for the vodka."

Bram too, drained his vodka, and then eyed the man up and down, assessing the situation. He wiped the cool condensation off on his shirt - normally he wore leathers, but it was simply getting too hot to wear anything more than the jeans and white t-shirt he was in now.

Grinning, and assessing the man to be somewhat genuine, Bram grinned.

"Alright, Viktor," He said genially "Tell me what you need me for and I'll be glad to help."

He ran his fingers through his hair. "Though I dunno why you'd want me. I'm just dumb muscle."

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GM

Viktor nodded, a genuine smile hitting the corner of his mouth.

"Dumb Muscle eh?" he laughed.

"Two more vodkas! and two more for my friend here!" he called out to the Barman, who, being used to such demands in the dingy and desperate bar, raised not an eyebrow.

"Here's to dumb muscle them my friend Bram. I have been called worse!" he laughed, clunking glasses again.

"As for how you can help. I know I can trust on your discretion" he continued, firmly. "I am Spetznaz. I am not here. You understand?"

He looked carefully at his drinking partner.

"I, and my team. We come here to sort out a problem. Name of problem is Grushin. Very special advisor. Trained us. Now in America, plotting bad stuff with some of our more exotic equipment. We here to make sure Grushin...stopped..."

He downed another vodka.

"Why you, you ask? well, we need very special help. Grushin, you see, he was priest in very special part of Spetznaz. Called company A. All Spetznaz, we deal with death, yes? Well, company A, we deal with things that come back after dying, and need killing again. We deal with the undead, the souls, yes? That is why we need special help".

He looked at Bram, frowned, and finished his vodka. The man had an iron stomach.

"Last team we sent here. They dissapear. Pfft!" he said, exploding his hands. "No word from them. Now, we here. And I don't intend to die today. Especially if I am made to come back afterwards..." he added, subconsciously grasping a silver crucifix inside his shirt and bringing it out to kiss.

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The Penitent nodded slowly, draining the drinks a little slower this time. He twitched slightly at the sight of the crucifix, more out of reflex than actual effect.

"Bogies, huh? Well, I suppose you've got my help, then." He grinned. "The drinks are much appreciated, by the way."

He leaned in, and then switched to Russian.

He looked around.

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GM

Brams reaction to the crucifix did not escape Viktor.

Viktor laughed "" he stuffed the curcifix back in his shirt.

He took out a brown envelope from his jacket, now damp with sweat from the heat of the bar. He flicked through a couple of sheets, noticibly making sure Bram could not see them all, before pulling out a few sheets and throwing them on the table.

It was a picture of Nick Cimmitiere, in black and white, complete with a fairly complete dossier on him.

"You, easy to find. Drinking in the Fens, looking like something Hell spat out. This guy, not so easy...but we think he could help too. Our intelligence says he makes sure the dead, they stay dead. Like company A, eh? except we use bullets and fire, and he uses..." he shrugged, and waved his hands in a "hocus-pocus" style.

"Do you know this man? Will he help?"

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The Penitent nodded quickly.

He thought about the kids involved in that and shuddered a bit.

He looked at the exit

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GM

Viktor thrust a mobile phone to Bram.

"

He sat down with Bram at the back of the bar.

"" he concluded, pouring some vodka over the ice in the two glasses.

"" he explained, smiling.

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The Penitent quickly dialed Nick's number, relaxing in the chair.

"Hey, Nick, this is Bram. You know, the Penitent? We have some need of your expertise. I'm sitting here with a fine gentleman who regularly deals with the no-longer living who happen to miss the fact that the dead don't shuffle. What I'm saying is it seems like we've got a necro on our hands. A whole team has gone missing and this guy I'm with is wondering if you can help out? I know you don't know me too well but I'm hoping the same. Fact of the matter is, I'm not anywhere near as knowledgeable about this stuff as you are. Now, if you're interested, meet us down at Marvin's Hole in Fens. If not, just tell me and I'll leave you be."

He shot a glance up at Viktor.

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Nick drove into the Fens on the Pale Horse, keeping his eyes open for some nice out-of-the-way parking. This wasn't his first time in the neighborhood; given the tenor of the place, he'd had to lead more than a few ghosts to resolution here, as well as perform the occasional exorcism for those who refused to go quietly. Marvin's Hole wasn't exactly his usual hangout - as much as the eclectic necromancer could be said to have a usual hangout - but he'd crossed its threshold once or twice, usually looking for information. It seemed some of the patrons remembered him, turning their attention to their drinks as he entered.

"Good to see you again, Penitent," he said. He glanced at the severe-looking man next to him, trying to size him up, then sat down at the bar and ordered a bourbon. "So, what sort of 'team' are we talking about here? Religious organization? Paramilitary? Full-on military? Something tells me it's not Ghost Hunters International..."

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GM

"Ah your famous American Bourbon!" commented Viktor as Nick joined them in the corner of the bar.

"You should be trying of the Russian Vodka! this is a proper drink!" he laughed, pouring himself out yet another shot. The man was showing signs of slight intoxication by now, although he could clearly hold his liquor.

"So, what sort of 'team' are we talking about here? Religious organization? Paramilitary? Full-on military? Something tells me it's not Ghost Hunters International..."

"Spetznaz" replied Viktor, thumping his chest.

"What I tell you, it is classified, yes? Not for others to hear. I tell you because you drink well, I like you, and we need you!"

"World War 2. HItler, you know he was interested in the Occult yes? Most of his advisors on the occult, just charalatans and cheats. But...not all..."

He took another swig of vodka.

"Russian Army, they were interested, especially when fighting soldiers who did not stay dead. So, Spetznas Company A formed. A for Arcane. We fighting all sorts of ghosts, zombies, you know. You have seen, I am thinking!" he continued, looking at them both.

He saved a particularly penetrating look at Nick.

"All sorts went on in Spetznaz Company A. We...there were plans...create somebody who could fight back against the dead. But, never got far. Still, who knows what might have become of those plans eh?" he said, cryptically, avoiding Nicks gaze.

"Company A, seventy years old now. Happy Birthday Company A!" he shouted, clunking his glass with Nick and Bram.

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Nick's eyebrows rose as Viktor recounted his story. "Huh," he said. "I always thought that some military somewhere would have a hunter group within it. Heard of the Inquisition getting involved in a few things - and, like you said, with all the weird stuff Hitler was up to, of course there was gonna be a response team. I'm surprised I haven't run into guys like you before."

Or if I have, there's a chance they kept quiet about their ties. He raised his glass of bourbon high. "To Company A!" he said in a toast. "Fighting the things that go bump in the night!" He took another sip, then turned to Viktor. "So what's the matter at hand? What sort of dead guys are we talking about?"

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GM

"The matter is delicate. Political..." explained Viktor.

"You guys understand, yes? Company A does not exist. It certainly does not exist in America. We deal with things that should not be, and of course, we do things that normally we would not. Understand? It is Russian way, not like in America. We are not here to cause war, not here to make trouble. We are here to stop trouble..."

He frowned.

"Company A, we operate in small teams. Only a few of us. We need, special training, special equipment yes? Not just silver, or garlic, pfah. Special weapons, special ammunition. Blessings, rituals, you know? Well, we trained with Karl Gruvnov. Priest. Very clever. Knows stuff that most men do not..."

"Gruvnov defected. Came here. Took something from our armory. Something powerful, something to do with the dead. Don't ask me what, I am not expert in this. I expert in shooting and killing" he said, drawing out his finger and pulling the imaginary trigger.

He said this calmly, it was not an idle boast. The man did know what he was doing.

"First team sent here, they gone. No we have to clean up double mess. We need help doing it, and our files say Nick Cimitiere knows more about death than anyone. And we have very good files!"

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The Penitent nodded to Nick.

"Yeah, this is about where I left off, Nick.

Bram took a deep drink, then looked around. His grey skin had begun to flush a bit, but being so massive, Bram had little trouble holding his alcohol.

"Alright, so you have Nick and me. Now all we need to know is exactly what we have to do... Unless you're hoping to make this duo a trio. Now, in any case, we have the gist, so I suppose all we need to know is what exactly we're up against and where to go."

He looked at Nick. "You have any questions, bud?"

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Nick took another sip of his bourbon, contemplating all the factors. "All right, I'm in," he said. "You guys have a defector, and he's toting around something potent that, odds are, might be used for binding and compelling the dead." A bigger swig this time, as if trying to drown some unfortunate thought. "Of course, there are a few things I'm going to need to know. Like you said, you don't know much about this missing artifact. What about Gruvnov? What sort of occult measures was he trained in? Are we talking straight-up Russian Orthodox exorcism rites? Or was he invested in more hardcore thaumaturgy? And if he defected, then to who? Would he have been more likely to go to some other world player... or one of the fringes?"

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GM

"What about Gruvnov? What sort of occult measures was he trained in? Are we talking straight-up Russian Orthodox exorcism rites? Or was he invested in more hardcore thaumaturgy? And if he defected, then to who? Would he have been more likely to go to some other world player... or one of the fringes?"

"Gruvnov was Spetznaz, then priest, when war got to his head. Russian Orthodox. Went to university, studied. Rumor was, he saw things in war that...that were not normal. Drove him to become priest. Then, he came back, volunteered to lead Company A, train them. Said there were things out there that needed...the sorting, Niet?"

He was slightly intoxicated now, after his heavy dose of vodka, but he poured Nick a glass anyway, and Petinent, for good measure. After what this man had seen, it was perhaps not surprising he was partial to drink.

"Defected? I don't know what he is doing. Stealing the instrument, coming to the U of the S of the A, that is all I know. And that the first squad, we lost contact. Gruvnov, he is...intense man, you know? He knows a lot, but...."

He tapped the side of his head.

"He did a lot for Company A. Blessed our bullets, made holy water fire bombs. Exorcism. Research. We give him respecting. After all, he was Spetznaz too, many years ago..."

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Nick thought on the listed specifications of Gruvnov. "Sounds like a holy practitioner, then," he said. "Drawing down the might of God. And an artificer, to boot, given the devices he's built. Add that to the standard Spetsnaz training, and it sounds like quite the package."

He had no idea what the standard Spetsnaz training was, but he imagined it involved carving open yaks on the plains of Siberia in the middle of winter and nestling in the warm carcasses. His only real academic knowledge of spec ops was limited to the occasional war story from a ghost in Lantern Hill Cemetery, Dog Soldiers, and that movie about SEALs starring Charlie Sheen. He took Viktor's freely offered vodka and slugged it down, not relishing the effect it had on the lingering traces of bourbon. "Any knowledge of further movements? Or should I call up the spectral party line and see if anyone's seen him?"

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GM

"Any knowledge of further movements? Or should I call up the spectral party line and see if anyone's seen him?"

"None" replied Viktor, a trace of anxiety and fear in his voice.

"Like the previous team, he is just smoke. Pffft!" he gesticulated with his hands, indicating a vapur escaping into the ether around them.

"We know he was in Freedom City, ten days ago. We tracked down security footage of him landing in city. Even Gruvnov cannot fly. Then, five days ago, we lost contact with first team..."

"I put in request to go here, follow him. I have score to settle!" he said, angrily.

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The Penitent nodded slowly, downing the offered glass.

"Alright, so." He said, pausing for thought. "One man and one team. Gruvnov arrived ten days ago, team arrives on his tail. Then, less than a week ago, the team trailing him disappears. We know Gruvnov is carrying some object of value and power with him, and that he's got some powers from God. Now, I may not look like it, but I got powers from God too, 'least that's what I've been told and what I believe. If I was certain I'd get something out of it, I'd fly back home and ask about this, but... No. It wouldn't be useful."

The Penitent ran his fingers through his hair again, avoiding the massive curving horns on his forehead.

"So," He said, the heat glazing over his skin even in the night like this "I think what I'll do is ask around my fellow hobos, and Nick, I suppose, can ask around the dead. But we'll need to be able to be specific about what we're asking about."

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Viktor nodded, now firmly intoxicated but losing little of his trained and experienced edge.

"The wherabouts of Reverend Gruvnov would be the question I would ask. Or, if anyone has seen the Necrophagus..." he said, with deep ominous tones, straight out of a B-Movie.

He laughed. "That was our nickname for it. It had a boring official name, a list of letters and numbers. But you know, we have a sense of humour in Spetznaz. Have to, eh?" he gave Nick a friendly nudge with his elbow "Otherwise, the work, it get on top of you, Niet?"

"It is so high"...he said with his hands about a foot apart. "Made of wood, and glass, filled with liquid, ichor...very fragile. Would have been problem to get through customs by Gruvnov well trained, resourceful. DOesn't look like it should work, but does, ichor flow around..." he illustrated, his finger weaving a spiral in mid-air.

"It eats the undead, and spits them out. I not know all its secrets, but it very powerful weapon against the undead..." he concluded.

"Or, in wrong hands. Very powerful weapon full stop!"

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Nick's eyebrows flew up at the mention of the weapon's name. "You... probably could have mentioned that detail earlier," he said. His Latin was rusty, but he knew enough to make out "death eater." "When you say it 'eats them and spits them out'... how much damage does it do? Does it literally just devour the undead, or does it extract some sort of information or power in the process? And does it only work on corporeal undead, or does it target ghosts as well?"

Nick had already been planning to hightail it to Lantern Hill Cemetery to ask among the shades for information on Gruvnov. Now he wanted to get there for an entirely different reason - to see if any ghosts were still there. If this thing was an engine for the devouring of ghosts, he could hardly think of a better buffet...

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GM

"When you say it 'eats them and spits them out'... how much damage does it do? Does it literally just devour the undead, or does it extract some sort of information or power in the process? And does it only work on corporeal undead, or does it target ghosts as well?"

Viktor shrugged.

"I am not being the expert on this. I am more, how you say, of practical man" he smiled. "I don't know how it work. Maybe suck the undead inside it to power it? Maybe create undead? Maybe destroy them? Maybe all three!" he said, thinking out loud.

"All I know it is powerful. Could eat up anything. More skilled the user, more powerful the machine. And Gruvnov is very skilled!"

Viktor smiled, clearly still proud of Gruvnov, Company A, and their achievements. He was a fearless man, but something about him was driven, or hungry, a man who would not back down from any risk, and almost relished in it.

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