The Unusual Suspects

Alligators in the Sewers, Part IV

The Naturalist spends a week spying on Jackie Gold. As Dorian, the demon visits the barista every day using its powers to follow her day and learn her inner most desires. Strangely she unconsciously blocks the demon a few times. What the Naturalist does determine is complicated. John and Jacolyn flirt when he visits in the morning and the pair have been spending their lunches together. Jackie wants to make John happy but she also wants to help him repair his relationship with Jenny, the demon’s other cover. She also wants to help people, though she needs more time and money before she can make that dream a reality.

The demon continues to watch her but scans her for God-Machine influence. No obvious signs appear. It makes a note to talk to Daemon about her.

John for his part, is attracted to Jackie but also wants to hurt Jenny for being so distant. He has been working on taking Jackie on a secret date, hiring a babysitter for later in the week when Jenny will be out.

The Naturalist considers the situation. On one hand, Jackie seems like a decent individual, one it might entrust its children with. But she still might be a threat. The demon still has feelings for John, not love but a form of affection.

It decides to manipulate John into hiring a full time nanny. As Jenny, the demon brings up wanting to go back to work and pursue some additional education. She suggests he can hire a former student or something. After a few days he relents.

Elsewhere Priscilla Webb finishes another productive day at the Slog. On the way out, she runs into Kenny Nguyen, the city’s animal control expert. The older man accosts her, complaining about how he was depicted in the news after her interview.

“And there really are alligators down there,” he says. “They need to be removed. I’m not crazy.”

Priscilla tries to calm him down. Kenny seems determined to do something decisive if nonviolent. She gives him the “author’s” contact information to do a follow up and then heads out.

As she drives home, she warns that reporter to be on the lookout. She then calls the police and reports the altercation.

Later she listens to the latest recordings from Shaun Wykes’s therapy session. He continues to relate dreams of floating down a river, surrounded by many half hidden people. Or perhaps alligators. He isn’t sure. Two pyramids on one side of the river have collapsed, leaving two on the other side intact. Worryingly, he isn’t concerned.

The next day Vince informs her that the malware he seeded into the server reported back to him from a coffee shop in Fremont. Somehow the code found its way from the stand alone machine to a computer connected to the wifi at Black Iron Coffee. Priscilla says she’ll look into it.

Privately, she partly relieved. The cafe has a reputation for being shielded from the God-Machine and its servants. The demons and mortals there do a brisk trade in pacts.

That afternoon she steps inside. The stigmatic behind the counter offers her the special but she buys a latte instead. Surveilling the patrons, she spots a young man in tweed doing business in a nook. Her senses tell her that this unassuming hipster can best help her.

After watching him makes some deals, she approaches him. After some innocuous seeming small talk, the demon called Mr. Nostalgia realizes she is looking for one of his regular clients. With some cajoling, the Tempter gives her a detailed description of a man known as Rhodes.

The demon points out the mortal near the entrance. He appears to be a shabbily dressed African American man. But through numerous deals with demons and stranger things the mortal has unnaturally extended his life and gained access to many minor supernatural abilities. He lurks at the edge of supernatural societies, trading what he can for a bit more: a magical gift, some luck, or another year of life. Mr. Nostalgia confides that for the past few weeks Rhodes has brought a strange electronic device to the shop. He warns that the mortal might run if approached forcefully.

Accabish thanks him and quietly approaches her quarry.

She sits down next to Rhodes. After a moment she asks what the bulky device he has plugged into the wall is. Rhodes lies and says it is a battery charger.

Gradually, she gets the old man to open up about the device. Rhodes indicates he might spill the beans if given a better deal. It seems he is getting free room and board for carting this thing around.

Accabish scrawls a pact on a napkin: a month at a luxury hotel in exchange for information.

Rhodes signs and tells her about it. A demon haunting a building downtown told him to carry it around. The demon is called the Eye. He gives her an address and asks that she not reveal where she got the information. She agrees and takes the device as well.

Her next stop is the library of the University of Washington. Looking around she soon detects who she needs. The demon approaches an Asian woman in her late 20s. She is looking over a pile of papers from various Egyptology journals.

Priscilla introduces herself to Yuri as a journalist interested in Ancient Egypt. Yuri it turns out is a graduate student working under Dr. Brooks. With some mild encouragement, she tells Priscilla about the tablet, the difficulties of pronouncing ancient Egyptian, and the Dendra Reliefs they resemble. The tablet includes some material on the god Sobek. She has only begun to decipher that part but it indicates that four servants once called him to this realm to bring an aspect of divinity to to this world.

The demon convinces the student to make a deal with her for an advanced copy of her research. As she signs the release form, Yuri find the writing easier to decipher.

A few days later Accabish receives the translation. Sabek needs four servants to be sacrificed to bring him to this world. One of those must receive the proper funerary rituals to hold Sabek’s ka. If this vessel was disturbed or desecrated, Sabek would starve and eventually be forced to leave this world. As for his mission, Yuri indicates it need to bring a sort of divine soul to the world: something called the Lizard Mind.

Earlier in the week, Daemon takes a second crack at Phi Sigma Rho. Cloaked as member of the sorority, he reaches the secret chamber. He punches in the code to the electronic lock like it was the most obvious combination ever.

Inside he discovers an electronics workshop and a well stocked occult library. On a worktable, another of those eggplant bulbs spills a red glow across the room.

Closing the door behind him, he scans the table, glancing at different papers and memorizing them for later. Several concern Egyptian hieroglyphs and the Dendra reliefs.

Then he hears the sounds of someone approaching. A powerful desktop dominates one wall and he heads towards it. He activates one of his demonic abilities and disappears into the internet in a stream of 1’s and 0’s.

Daemon calls the ring together. He reveals his findings: a secret society within Phi Sigma Rho called the Sophia Society is building these bulbs. As they consider the new information, he hacks into their computers. From their records, it appears the group dates back to about 9 years ago and is funded via a private account by Sylvia Woodard, a member of the University’s board of trustees. From their financial records, four of these highly expensive devices have been built. Three of them were sent to a PO Box. There are no plans for a fifth.

Daemon sends the Weaver a roster to research as he digs deeper. Together they find that the membership of this cult consists of the bright, the rich and the occult minded. The current leader is Madison Woodard, Sylvia’s granddaughter. The demons note a distinct lack of color among the members. Their literature seems to promote the advancement of the “right” sort of people.

They quickly hatch a plan. Daemon will run surveillance on Madison while the Naturalist will use its clairvoyance to spy on Sylvia. The Weaver lends Nat some Aether to power this plan.

A couple days later Daemon contacts Joseph with some bad news. Madison called one of her friends, Alexandra Braun, and instructed her to spy on Joseph. Apparently the Sophia Society knows he poked around in the sewers over a month ago.

Joseph realizes this was before the angel incident. The only person he told about that escapade was Ping Wu, leader of the Seattle Linchpins.

He’s been sold out.

Daemon recommends that he lay low for now and avoid direct contact with the ring. Joseph hopes the Naturalist finds a new cover for him soon.

For now however, the Naturalist focuses on Sylvia Woodard’s schedule. Spying on her outside of public events, the demon watches her berate her staff and make racist comments at the people on the TV.

Eventually Nat catches her at a meeting of the Sophia Society as they summon Sabek.

The crocodile headed angel asks what they’ve learned about Joseph. Sylvia reluctantly reveals that not much has been learned thus far. They’ve noticed that others are also watching him. They appears to be private investigators but she doesn’t know who hired them. Sabek mentions that the informant may have been lying about this janitor.

As the demon watches, it senses each of their desires. Many, including Sylvia, seek to gain real occult power. Madison merely wishes to escape her grandmother’s influence. Another wants to create something impossible. Alexandra’s desires are simple, stupid and destructive. As for Sabek, his mission is to bring the Lizard Brain into existence.

Nat sends a facade to Joseph and arranges for the ring to meet again. Even with this new information, the demons cannot agree on the next step. Joseph decides to continue to lie low until the Naturalist can secure a backup cover for him.

Left to its own devices, the Weaver spends its time living its cover Jean. The demon enjoys some coffee with Kelly, discussing work, students and crafting. As they talk, the demon notices some hispanic youths passing by wearing brightly painted T-shirts, the same shirts the demon designed before it Fell.

Much later on the demon returns to the scene to search for those kids and more importantly the shirts. The clothing was still fresh, in better shape than than the originals should be. Someone is making more.

After a few hours of hunting, it finds them in a neighborhood near the University District. A gang called the Prismatics are donning the shirts. The demon locates an apartment building they like to hang out at and decides to investigate further.

The Weaver makes a quick deal with an awkward kid watching a local basketball game. He gets to be a star athlete for a day while it borrows his “reputation”.

As a klutzy teenager, the demon sneaks into apartment building without issue. It sneaks down to the laundry room, waits until an older woman leaves and grabs a T-shirt from the wash.

Joseph begins his week lying low. He spends his days at his spartan apartment. He sleeps on his couch, feeds his cats, and watches his small old television. Only a large National Geographic poster adorns his wall. The African savannah looks down on him every night. A chair and wobbly table complete his collection of furniture.

As he heads to work, he stops by a specific street lamp. He notes a missing cat poster hanging there. Floyd the poster reads. Pink Floyd’s the Wall, his mind translates. The Wallbreakers have a job for him.

On the bus, he calls the number on the poster. The voice on the other side tells him they need a gang moved. It seems the Prismatics, so-called because of their brightly colored shirts, have become more aggressive lately. Also the T-shirts they wear have some sort of connection to the God-Machine. The Wallbreakers have assets in the area and would rather avoid Angelic entanglements. They don’t need the Prismatics or their leader Jack Regalado killed, just out of the area.

As payment they can offer him a gadget. Joseph gets the address of the gang leader. The Wallbreaker says that his cover for the mission will be at the usual place. It is a homeless vet.

That night after work, Hunter dons the new facade. The homeless man slips past the hoodlums loitering in front of the apartment building and up to the 4th floor. He picks the lock and swings the door open.

As he walks in, he hears the click of a gun being cocked. In the yellow light filtering through the curtains, he makes out figure with a shotgun near one of the two other doors into the room.

He pushes his demonic form through his paper thin cover. As a green glow encompasses his eyes, he makes out that an older woman has the drop on him. Hunter tenses his now inhumanly limber joints.

He rushes the woman, swivelling out of the way of the roar of the gun and grabbing her from behind.

As the pair struggle over the gun, a young man emerges from the other room pistol out. Hunter grabs the woman with one arm and pulls her between him and the leader of the Prismatics.

“Put down the gun!” he commands.

As Jack hesitates, the woman calls out, “Take the shot.”

“Hold on sis,” the nervous youth says. Then he fires.

Hunter doesn’t let the pain show on his face as the bullet smashes through his shoulder cutting flesh and cracking bone. Instead he wrenches the shotgun from Jack’s sister’s hands and calmly tells the gang leader to put his gun down.

Jack lowers his gun in disbelief. “Just let my sister go.”

“You are going to leave this area. You, your sister, and your goons.”

As the men out front reach the apartment, Jack waves them off. “Okay, just let her go.”

Hunter backs himself and the sister out of the room. “Remember I know where you live.”

With that he tosses her aside and disappears into the darkness.

A few minutes later, Hunter drops his facade and rubs his newly regenerated shoulder.

The next day, he verifies that the Prismatics are gone and then calls the Wallbreakers. They give him a choice of payment: a custom weapon forged by the Mutilationist or something from a gadget clearing house known as Second Lives. Thinking about the Naturalist’s needs, he asks for a long range weapon from the Mutilationists. They say it will be ready in a few days.

Working on his side of the bargain the Naturalist approaches his target through the usual channels. David Schmidt may want to live a life outside of the closet but he also wants to advance within the police force. The demon subtly promises him that he can balance his personal and professional life.

Eventually the cop responds to his messages and agrees to meet Nat at a local park. The demon appears with the same facade he used in the sewers. Gently he sounds him out and convinces the officer that through mundane means or not, he can improve his life. He hints that even his old injuries could be repaired with his help.

David considers the offer. He explains he will need to think about it. The demon doesn’t press him, simply offering to help him however he can. The cop walks away deep in thought.

Later that night, Nat calls David and tells him he has met a amazing man at a high end bar that he thinks might be a good fit for him. Though initially reluctant, he agrees to meet him. After a wonderful night, David signs a release for the demon’s “program” to help him improve his life. Nat assures him that the blood test is purely to screen for any health related issues.

While the Naturalist works to know the new client/cover better, the Weaver takes the T-shirt to Jean’s lab for some late night work. It discovers that chemicals alter the brain chemistry of the wearer, making them more aggressive while draining positive emotions. Worse the imbalances cause genetic damage leading to cancer.

It decides to finish its angelic work and create a cure. Over the course of several nights, the demon develops a treatment that will reverse the genetic damage.

Later in the week Joseph sees another missing cat poster. Floyd is still missing. He calls the Wallbreakers again. It seems that the Prismatics have reformed with new a leader.

Joseph arranges a meeting at the Baudelaire to get help, attending as his impoverished vet facade. The Weaver and Naturalist arrive to aid him. Accabish also joins, curious about what progress has been made on stopping the Lizard Brain.

Instead she find her ring focused on personal missions and not forthcoming at that. Eventually she teases out that Joseph, now considering the name Hunter, needs to remove the Prismatics as part of a contract with a local agency. He needs some help however.

The Weaver notes it is also investigating the gang and has devised a cure to the toxins contained in the T-shirts they wear. Nat informs Joseph that the cover he requested is ready but that the demon is still gathering a full biography of the mortal. The pact has already been sent to his dead drop along with the major life details.

Frustrated with this turn, Accabish tells them that she knows Sabek’s ban. After revealing it, the Naturalist says Madison might be a weak link within the cult, someone they can manipulate to learn where Thomas, the fourth victim is located. The demon also speculates that they might be able to tip Sabek into falling.

Accabish is dubious.

In the meantime she asks the Weaver to look into a different problem. Producing the device that has been hacking her server, she ask the demon what it can tell her about it. The Weaver picks it open and examines the complex circuitry inside. It is like nothing the demon has seen since its Fall. The device creates connections between machines through hidden dimensions. This sort of technology is usually found in the brains of angels. Interestingly the creator of this device did not follow the usual schematics. This was not done by a servant of the God-Machine.

Accabish asks if it can turn the device off.

The demon looks over the tiny golden lines and breaks a connection.

Then Accabish asks the Naturalist what it knows about the Eye. The Tempter knows a little about the Inquisitor, having helped it construct its patchwork cover. The Eye has possessed a mixed use building downtown. Its mortal identity is the head of security there.

Daemon arrives late and the ring informs them about their rough plans. The Naturalist will investigate Madison and try to turn her against her grandmother. She can hopefully tell them where Thomas’s mummified body lies. Once they destroy it, Sabek will soon starve and be forced to retreat from this realm.


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