Subsection: The Forever City Up Subsection: The Forever City Subsubsection: 18 December 2014 (Amsterdam, Bruxelles, and the Orient Express) 

3 December 2014 (the Bloody Brothers at the Pool of London)

Manchester moors at the Pool of London near Custom House, within sight of HMS Belfast. There’s a small reception committee, consisting of Tolwyn and two obvious civil servants. The team heads down the gangplank, Babbage behind them, and they discuss what’s been going on. The last part of the poem in the Temple of the Map seems likely to be relevant:
Then carry the cup north from the Temple of the Map
To where the Men of the North join hands
And light the Signal Fire to call our distant saviours
though what form those “distant saviours” may take is anyone’s guess. While the discussion’s going on, there’s a sudden sound of church bells tolling from across the river, in the direction of Southwark Cathedral: but the cathedral has never had bells, and it’s nowhere near an hour. While the team’s wondering what this might signify, four figures become visible in the streets near the wharf; they’re robed in white with red spatters, and they open fire from cover with wrist-mounted guns. Steven and Diamond leapfrog forward from cover to cover with fire and movement, and Thorfin slowly advances on his chosen victim, while David checks for other activity. He picks up a burst transmission from high on the tower on Southwark Cathedral, and spies another robed figure moving round the tower.
One of the attackers is killed by Diamond’s gunfire; two of them fall back, and she and Steven chase and catch them. Thorfin breaks the leg of his, though the attacker still tries to cut him with implanted claws. David calls to Diamond to check the cathedral, and she flies over there; there’s red-spattered white cloth lying on the ground, a high-tech parafoil, but her target seems to have lost himself among the crowd.
With two attackers conscious and a third at least alive, they repair back aboard Manchester for interrogation. David does cunning things with their neural interfaces, and after a lot of cursing and brave talk the team gets the story: the Brothers of the Everlasting Sacrifice were sent to capture the Possibility Chalice. The True Pope has acquired a copy of the Destiny Map, and recently discovered an artifact on Corsica that he believes to be the Signal Fire; the Brothers were to take the Chalice to the Orient Express in Brussels, where other agents would be waiting with the Signal Fire. (The Orient Express has been re-routed to avoid France.)
Thorfin has been conducting the interrogation, and isn’t entirely satisfied. He detects something akin to magic on the prisoner; Babbage is called, and thinks it’s the effect of a miracle, to make the prisoner more persuasive and credible. Rather more effort breaks the prisoner again: the mission was to kill the Storm Knights and take the Chalice, and they were to meet Cardinal Rochefoucauld on the train. The recognition phrase is “Have you heard the bells of Southwark Cathedral?”, and the countersign is “They are heard as far as Avignon”. And if the mission failed, the Brothers were to allow themselves to be captured and tell the first story…
Some discussion ensues. This certainly seems like a trap. Tolwyn has heard of Rochefoucauld: he’s high in the Cyberpapal intelligence service, hasn’t been known to leave the Cyberpapacy before, and capturing or killing him would certainly be a coup. She doesn’t have enough Storm Knights, though, and if the team doesn’t take on the task she’ll have to send non-possibility-rated agents. The team does make a point of leaving the Chalice behind in London, just in case things go horribly wrong.
Getting across the Channel relatively inconspicuously turns out to be a matter of sending up a flare: Manchester will dock in Amsterdam on a “goodwill visit”, and a few hundred matelots on a run ashore should provide a suitable camouflage for the group’s leaving the ship.
The reality storms across the Channel are stronger than usual; a dragon swoops in to attack the ship, though the Phalanx cannon are apparently quite capable of recognising it as a valid target. As it flaps away, things become briefly artificial: the clouds flatten, the rain is an obvious particle effect, and movement seems jerky. Away in the distance, glowing outlines of church spires, cathedrals and castles start to take shape on the horizon. Steering to the north reduces this effect, but it’s clearly the GodNet intruding into conventional reality in an unprecedented way.
 Subsection: The Forever City Up Subsection: The Forever City Subsubsection: 18 December 2014 (Amsterdam, Bruxelles, and the Orient Express)