Book 09: Chapter 02

Preparation is Key

BOOK: 09
GM: Justin
Transcribed by: Brad
Date: March 27, 2022
In Game date: August 2012
Episode: 45 (120)

Part 01: Virgil Gugasian

DFA_ECR_Log_0902_001.png We took a night and slept as much as we needed after meeting with Tenebriel. Jack had about as much emotional investment in this as you could get, so I convinced him I would take point in the planning.

Jack, Fergus, Kerouac, and I reconvened the next afternoon, Fergus making some good pasta for all of us. Our war council met on the patio around a magic circle that Jack put up so that we could not be observed. Tenebriel showed up on time and seemed on board with the mission.

She had sworn on her power to hold up her end of the seal, but I still did not trust whatever the hell she was. As they say “The Devil is in the details” and given she was a Fallen, I decided to keep an eye on her but get as much information out of her as I could.

We laid out our maps and files and got to work.

“Skip all of your conman lingo, Virge” Jack said flat, “Just tell us your initial ideas.”

It is common wisdom that when you take a job, you shouldn’t get personal. Don’t take any job where there could be a conflict of interest. Never involve family or friends you aren’t willing to lose. A dozen other similar rules of the game.

Fuck all those rules. We were getting Jack’s daughter back.

“Fine.” I said, “A UPS or similar truck would allow us to get in and drive around the neighborhood undetected. With boxes in back we can smuggle almost anything in and out with no one the wiser. Where is the mail delivered to this place? ”

Tenebriel raised an eyebrow, “Quite clever, but sadly it will not work. Mail is delivered to the community center where it is picked up by local residents. Any truck seen driving anywhere but the community center that is not scheduled would be seen as a threat. Deliveries are only allowed before nightfall and anyone entering the compound more than once will be recognized and recorded.”

“Shit. UPS Truck is out. We could impersonate you, Tenebriel.” I suggested, “Walk right in.”

“Glamours are out, remember” Fergus said. His last use of them had nearly cooked him.

“I doubt you could create something good enough to fool everyone on the grounds.” Tenebriel said.

“Just exploring options.” I said.

“Cover identities embedding you in the cult and the community would be a safer option. I have the means to help you with this as a cover.” Tenebriel said.

My head started spinning. All my standard strategies wouldn’t work in a place like this.

I stood up and looked over the map with my arms crossed. Not the best body language to put forth, but it was appropriate.

“Cover IDs good enough to fool these forces as described are tedious but often effective,” I confirmed, “We will need to take our time making them perfect or at least as perfect as we are able. I can get started on those. But our identities are a problem, but not our main problem.”

“Those wards are nasty.” Jack said.

“Speaking of which,” Fergus said, “What about my tattoos? They are magical and I can’t exactly take them off.”

Tenebriel put a hand up, “Your tattoos should not set off the wards as long as you do not channel wyld power through them. Have the thief drain them just to be safe.”

“Dammit.” Fergus said, “Those wards limit too many of our options. Could we bypass them somehow?”

I decided to go with a classic, “I could drain some of the power into an enchanted item. Create a charm to walk us right past them.”

My Kleptomancy allowed me to drain magic. The ward was too big for me to drain completely or even disrupt, but a little sip couldn’t hurt, right?

“You may want to consider other plans.” Tenebriel said, “You’d have to channel infernal power through yourself to even attempt it.”

“What kind of power?”

“Infernal. The kind that taints souls.”

I shuttered at the thought of channeling power from what might be hell into my body.

“So that’s out.” I nodded towards Jack, “Jack, what have you got?”

Jack looked at the perimeter, “How are these wards set up?”

“I did not participate in their construction.” Tenebriel said, “I have reason to believe they are set up using a centralized wardstone.”

“Makes sense,” Jack said, “Only thing that could handle wards for that big an area.”

“What’s a wardstone?” I asked. I was still new to a bunch of the magic stuff.

“A wardstone is a giant stationary magical focus object, “ Jack explained, “The protection magic is bonded to the stone. As long as it stands, the wards are up. Take it out and the wards go down.”

“How big?”

“Place this big, about the size of a person and obviously made of stone. Where would they keep the stone?”

Tenebriel pointed to a place on the map, “The most likely place is beneath the Community Center. Its the central point of the neighborhood, and the foundation work would have given them lots of chances to build down. ”

“How well protected is the wardstone besides guards?” I asked.

“Stones like this are warded against magical attacks, but not mortal implements. If the stone is destroyed, it will put the area on high alert.”

“But it will give us access to our power.” Fergus said, “It’s worth the risk.”

I thought about the various places I knew we could get cover IDs. One came to mind.

“You said Viridian Dynamics had a munitions factory nearby,” I said.

Tenebriel nodded, “I can get one of you inside there as a low-level technician in a non-classified area without much effort. From inside, it would let your work your way to access to explosives.”

“Is there anything there that can blow up a wardstone?” Fergus asked.

“The make anti-tank weapons and missile warheads. There is not better than that which is man portable. It should be enough to serve your purposes.”

“I am not going anywhere near that place,” Jack exclaimed, putting his hands up.

Magic’s toxic relationship with technology meant that Jack destroyed cellphones at a hundred paces. The damage he could cause in an automated modern munitions factory was incomprehensible. I think we all got the mental image of it being safer for Jack to walk in the middle of the freeway while on fire with plutonium strapped to his chest.

“I’ll go in there.” I said, “I know enough about explosives to not lose digits and should be able to smuggle something through their mortal security. Place like that should have something that can blow up a wardstone.”

“The order is always looking for demolition specialists.” Tenebriel said, “It would be a cover that would also get you inside the community.”

“It also helps I know ASL.” I said, making the signs necessary for it.

“Of course you do…” Jack said.

I sighed as I realized we needed to tackle the one topic we had left before diving into our cover identities.

“What’s your daughter’s name?” I asked Jack.

Jack stood there for a while.

Part 02: Jack Youngblood

DFA_ECR_Log_0902_002.pngI couldn’t think straight for most of the meeting. I was running on autopilot.

I couldn’t stop thinking about my daughter. She would be right there.

We could get her.

Then, Virgil asked me something I didn’t know the answer to.

“What’s your daughter’s name?”

The question broke me out of my haze. We had been going over plans and considerations for an hour, but my brain was elsewhere.

I took my time answering.

“I don’t know.” I said, “She was born before I even knew her. Abby didn’t get a chance to name her.”

“I’m sorry.” Virgil said solemnly, “But we need to know as much about her as we can if we want to find her.”

I worked my brain as much as I could a spit out what I did know. Very little.

“She’s my daughter. My bloodline has some divinity in it, which is why Azael wanted me and my dad to be vessels for him. He must want her for a fresh vessel somewhere down the road.”

Virgil nodded, taking this in.

“How old is she?”

“Baring shenanigans with the Nevernever, she should be around five or six.” I said. The Nevernever could have accelerated her age, but that was unlikely. If they did displace her, she could be physically older than me for all I knew.

“About Kindergarten or First Grade as they say.” Kerouac mused.

“Yeah.” I confirmed.

“Is that a playground I see between the community center and the school?” Kero asked.

“Yes.” Tenebriel said, “The school serves the whole community. Grades from kindergarten to twelve. Professional teachers.”

“Perfect.” Kerouac said and stepped into the darkness. For once, he didn’t purr like a cat or anything cheesy. I appreciated that.

Kerouac did suddenly change into a six-year-old boy with red hair and freckles. I know he did that, but it was still weird.

“With this form I should be able to infiltrate the school and locate the child,” Kerouac said disturbing in his adult voice before clearing his throat and changing to a childish voice, “I will require proper clothes. Overalls and a green baseball hat.”

“I can handle those.” “Fergus said.

That’s good thinking.” Virgil said.

“I will have to start in Kindergarten. If I cannot find her there, I will ‘excel’ enough to be promoted to First Grade.” Kero said.

“Either way, it will also give you the ability to recon and find the wardstone.” Virgil.

“I also require crayons.”

“Don’t chew too many of them.” I said. Then the little bastard disappeared when I wasn’t looking.

The plan was starting to take shape. We could do this. It didn’t put me totally at ease. But, it made me think we had a better chance than nothing.

Part 03: Fergus Mac Cormaic

DFA_ECR_Log_0902_003.pngWe spent almost a week working on our cover stories. Day One, Virgil asked us a body of questions about what kinds of people we could pass as. What kinds of jobs we could do with enough effort. Then, he asked us to come up with aliases.

Virgil knows a lot about aliases and wouldn’t shut up about how to come up with a good one. He came up with one derived from Wyatt Earp’s siblings or something.

Jack and I just picked one in a second.

“I’m Steven. Steven Williams.” Jack said with confidence.

“And I’m his brother, Aaron Williams,” I said with confidence.

Kerouac in his child form piped up, “And I’m Connell. Bestest boy!”

Virgil looked at us with what looked like apprehension but shrugged. “Good enough. Hope you like those names because for the next month, you are stuck with them.”

On Day Two, it had just rudimentary information. Our names, our relationships, and such. Then Jack started getting antsy.

“We are going to be surrounded in there.” Jack said, “We will have no magic and no weapons, so these covers need to be perfect.”

“Are you sure you want to go all out?” Virgil asked.

“Go big or we won’t be able to go home.”

We went with a story that we were moving into the area into a house. Tenebriel and Doctor Sue helped us with the paper trail and Jack used his own money for a down payment on a house in the community that was up for sale in cash.

He also acquired some used furniture and a moving truck for our “moving day.

When I tried to ask Jack about spending too much money, he just spoke very coldly.

“Anything for my daughter.” Jack said, “I’ll mortgage my house if I have to.”

On Day Three, Virgil rolled out yet another one of his damned murderboards. One of those corkboards covered in information. He handed each of us some flashcards with everything from our family tree to our third-grade teacher’s name, to what I think was a photo of the block we grew up on.

“You wanted all out?” Virgil said, “Let’s get to work.”

We worked with Grizzly to get a fake electronic trail out there too. He did some great photoshops for us that he put on various websites with the owners none-the-wiser.

My new guise of Aaron Williams was a substitute PE teacher. Aaron was a single dad who had lost his wife in a “Tragic car accident” for the good of the cause. Little Connell was a potential for the cause. In other words, Aaron had given his wife up in a ritual sacrifice for the cult and was grooming his own child to meet the same end. As a new father the whole idea of it was repellant to me. But I would have to play the part if we were to succeed.

Aaron also had an affinity for country line dance music. (Why God, why?)

Virgil also spent a lot of time getting us to read up on cult psychology and took us to twisted places.

“It’s a cult.” Virgil said, “They’re kinda fucked up.”

“I am going to burn that town to the ground,” Kerouac said after a day of learning.

“Only after we get Jack’s kid out,” I said.

“Of course.” Kero said, “I will not jeopardize our covers. Faerie vengeance is patient but certain.”

But infiltrating a cult was gonna need more than cover stories. We needed to alter our appearances.

“Assume the enemy knows our general descriptions if not our faces. Certainly, they will know Jack’s.” Virgil said, “The easiest way to stay in character is through a costume. We need whole new looks.”

“I can handle that.” I confirmed and started making some new outfits.

Virgil encouraged me to put on some weight and got me some padding for that extra Dunlap, despite being a PE teacher. He wanted Jack to shave his head or dye it, but Jack stubbornly refused. We did get a fake nose on him and showed him how to use some makeup.

Secondhand clothes are great for disguises because they are cheap and most of all they have been worn. If we walked in there wearing nothing but new clothes, the cultists would never buy it.

By Day Four, I was showing up for “Practice” with an arm full of inflated dodgeballs while wearing some gym shorts and a Gonzaga University sweater.

Mister Williams was ready to teach some children of the corn.

Jack went all out and came up with a list of every class my brother Steven ever took and spent a night writing his senior thesis on the archeological history of some part of the Levant that I never heard of. I don’t know if he cribbed it from another Wizard, but even if he made it up, Jack was ready to defend it.

We had to practically sedate Jack to make sure he got to sleep and didn’t burn out.

Kerouac got his required green baseball cap and overalls and started working on how to look and sound more like a kid. It was eerie to hear so many syllables coming out of a child that looked so young.

Virgil spent days brushing up on his ordinance for dummies book and went through some flashcards. New identities for him seemed like an old habit.

Then, Virge really showed us how it was done. First, he showed up in an everyman outfit that made us think he broke into Jack’s house.

Then, he had us do some Improv Theatre games, drilling us into our backstories. I had never done this stuff before, but it made sense after a while. The improv games would have been fun if the stakes weren’t so damned high.

One game featured us going through a scene and randomly picking up slips of paper from the ground. Whatever the line, we had to say it and go with it. Half the time it was, “You look like that wizard!” or “What’s your operating number?” or “I think I’ve been stabbed!”

“Do we need to rehearse the stabbing again?” I asked after picking up that blind line for like the tenth time.

It was Jack who put his hands on his hips and got in my face.

“Serious injury is our biggest risk and the thing most likely to break our cover. Again!”

This went on for a while. Jack insisted we up the ante and eventually brought in some airsoft guns to practice within case we had a gun pointed in our face.

“The other most likely scenario to blow out covers is if we run into the wrong someone.” Virgil explained, “If you went to the same school as a cultist, why didn’t they see you in any of our classes?”

“I went to Harvard and studied abroad,” Jack said.

“Gonzaga’s a big school.” I said, “Too many classes to track everybody. What about you…Warren?”

Virgil smiled and confirmed for us, “Warren is from Chehalis. No one important is from Chehalis.”

Seemed like our cover was in place.

Part 04: Kerouac

DFA_ECR_Log_0902_004.pngI was mortal once. Long ago, I was just a wee lad in Ireland. Not much older than Jack’s daughter.

Taking that form again brought back memories that had not faded as much as they weren’t as important to me anymore.

I had made a vow that I would bring the child home.

After two weeks of preparation and practice, we seemed ready to start our little rescue mission.

Jack loaded up one of the motor carriages with used furniture. We would just be another new family in the area.

Then, another motor carriage rolled up and I almost didn’t see it. It was what mortals call a “Camper Van” or a “Recreational Vehicle” with wooden panels on the side. It looked very boring, even when it was parked on the street next to Jack’s home.

“What’s an RV doing here?” Virgil asked before turning to Fergus for another conversation.

I was skeptical of the carriage too until I noticed Virgil saying that same phrase again.

“What’s an RV doing here?” He said again.

It was only after Jack explained it to us that I picked up on what was going on. Jack’s missing mother had enchanted the old family RV with a substantial amount of insignificance veils. It was quite impressive given how long they held up without disrupting the vehicle’s operation. The veils not only made the camper borning to look at, they caused any observer not related to Jack by blood to forget the vehicle’s existence.

“Your mother was very clever.” I mused, looking over the carriage.

“A pain in the ass what this is.” Jack said in anger, “It’s hard to get this thing fixed when the garage can easily forget it’s there.”

“Why are you bringing this?” Fergus asked.

“I am going to have the ghouls park it in a nearby RV park. It will be a mobile safehouse for us.”

“Good idea.” Virgil mused, clearly having another of his headaches from unfamiliar magic, “But if you go down, the vehicle will be useless to us.”

We spent the rest of the day going over the plans. I took some time running away from my “father” and hiding as a child does. It got me used to the child’s form so that I could remain unseen.

It was during one of my hide and seek sessions that I saw something curious.

I saw Jack talking to Tenebriel in private. I could not hear what they spoke about, but it was clear that Jack was up to something. I appreciated him having one more trick up his sleeve, but I wondered if he had our safety in mind with it.



Book 09: Chapter 02

Dresden Files Accelerated: Emerald City: Requiem HumAnnoyd