Subsection: Wednesday 18 September 2019 Up Section: 1.02 Mr. Good Section: 1.03 The Monster Maker 

Thursday 19 September 2019

The team discussed what to do next. Jesus confirms from plans that the room is a large storage area. Natasha plans to scry, though it’ll be a demanding working; she considers local places of power, but the best she can come up with on short notice is the Vehicle Assembly Building at Canaveral, and even if the team could get in it’s too far away to be useful.
Instead, she sets up in the back of a van, and spends some time gathering energy for a stealthy viewing point. There’s some light in the storage room, and most of it is indeed metal shelves full of boxes as one might expect; but one corner is taken up by a large nest, assembled from shelving and boxes and other things glued together. (Those “other things” definitely include human bones.) There’s a sense of distortion, and there are at least four human-sized openings into the nest. As she moves the viewpoint to look inside, something bites at it and ends the spell. She is able to confirm that there’s no other-dimensional gate at that spot.
Meanwhile a side-effect of the spell has brought a large swarm of mosquitoes into the area; Jesus produces some good insecticide, and only a minor gunfight breaks out over who gets to use it first.
The team plans to go in: Juan and Jade as cleaners again, Natasha as a medic, and Jesus as some sort of radiology tech. He’s able to write himself a master keycard which should open any door in the place.
(12 February 2020)
The afternoon is spent preparing charms (among other things, to silence Juan’s pistol), and buying some concealable armour vests. That evening, Natasha changes her face to someone random and dresses as a locum doctor; the other three go in as cleaners. There are night shift guards, but given that everyone has working security badges they’re not too concerned.
In the storeroom Jade picks up a subtle smell of decay. There’s no sound, but even with the lights on it seems a bit dark. Natasha uses her charm to attempt to shut down the dimensional distortion, but something pushes back; with her own magic she succeeds.
Behind the group there’s a hissing from the door lock as it welds itself shut, and in front there’s a cracking sound from the nest as twelve figures disinter themselves from it; they have varying amounts of flesh over their bones, a few with paper hospital gowns, and they move to attack.
Jade charges the first zombie and bears it to the ground, carving it up with her claws; this works pretty well, so she keeps doing it. Natasha’s able to weaken many of them with a spell, but after that works full-time at defending herself; parrying her attackers’ claws with her staff ends up doing quite a bit of damage to them. Jesus takes a shot, but finds himself overwhelmed and knocked unconscious; Juan empties his gun, then switches to knife. Jade also spots a more conventionally human figure in the nest, and gives him the same treatment; he dies while still trying to pull his gun, and while this doesn’t stop the zombies it certainly removes their tactical direction.
Once the zombies are dealt with, the nest starts to disintegrate. Natasha heals the injured Jesus and Juan; Jade searches the body (dressed in hospital scrubs, with a name badge for Alon Bueno, a nurse in the imaging section, which they take), and some papers which include a hand-written ritual (in, well, let’s call it brown ink). On the back of the paper is a draft of a flyer for True Americans for Freedom.
Jade and Juan are able to break open the door, but there’s been at least one very loud gunshot…
(26 February 2020)
After a brief discussion, they run out in a panic; the hospital guards are improvising some basic barricades at the ends of the corridor, and while they’re a bit twitchy the group is convincing enough to be treated as victims rather than perpetrators.
The police are on the way and the guards want the group to stay and be interviewed, but they’re concentrating on the shooter and the team’s able to slip away.
Jesus manages to fuzz some camera footage, as well as getting Bueno’s home address – and a car registration for staff parking. He and Juan go in to look for it; it’s oddly hard to spot, with both of them tending to overlook it even once they’re standing next to it, but they eventually manage to keep their eyes on a two-door Chevy Sonic a few years old. It’s definitely magical. Jesus picks the lock, though it’s more difficult than it should be. There’s a charm of some sort hanging from the mirror; from a distance it looks like tourist tat, but up close there’s definitely sinew and bone involved. Human bones. Small-human bones.
Hotwiring the car is similarly challenging, but they get it out, and everyone meets back at Jade’s place. (The charm seems to be “this is not the car you’re looking for” more than “there is no car here”, which is handy in traffic.)
The group searches the car, finding nothing significant, and Natasha analyses the charm: sure enough, the other part of it is making the vehicle harder to steal, and both halves have about a week to run. She also reads the ritual; as suspected, it’s how to raise zombies, though it assumes a lot of prior necromantic knowledge. It doesn’t seem to match the signatures found on the car’s paperwork.
The team goes to Bueno’s home, and since the police don’t seem to have arrived yet (possibly they’re having trouble identifying the body) they take a look. It’s a single-storey unit in a sprawling apartment complex; Juan walks past and hears nothing inside, and Natasha drops in a viewpoint. It looks like one person living there, and the second bedroom is set up as an operating theatre.
Jade shifts and hides outside, while Jesus sprays the outside camera, then tries to pick the lock. He fails, and there’s a quiet beeping audible from inside; Jade charges the door, smashing it to pieces, and Jesus hastily disarms the security system.
Jade and Juan both smell disinfectant. A fridge in the theatre contains time-expired drugs (which Natasha realises will still be at something like 90% potency, though they couldn’t be used in a formal medical setting), and there’s a sense of death magic all over the place, though possibly finely-tuned against pathogenic organisms rather than wholesale slaughter; all the magic here feels as though it comes from the same magician, or at least one who was trained by the other if there are two. An appointment book contains just initials, though it certainly looks as if Bueno’s been running an unofficial free clinic here. A computer has saved logins to a variety of webmail accounts, and this makes it clear that Bueno’s clinic services have included abortions. (There are conversations in English, Spanish and Tagalog.)
Small wooden statues are dotted around the place, wedged into corners rather than on display; these seem to be magical foci.
Jesus pulls some security footage off the on-site recorder, though he doesn’t have enough storage with him to take the whole of the last week; Natasha reassembles the door, and they leave. From nearby, Jesus is able to download some more footage before the police arrive and disconnect everything, though it’s still a bit fragmentary.
The most immediately interesting bit is from about 10.50am on Sunday 15th, four days ago. Someone walks to the door, dressed as a cyclist; he extracts a thin sharp knife and a familiar-looking flyer from his pocket, then uses the knife to open his wrist and write out the ritual. By the time he’s finished, he looks pretty wobbly and there’s quite a bit of blood on the ground; he puts the flyer in a pocket and slumps against the door… and the video cuts off as the file is rotated for a new hour.
Checking reports, it seems that there are two bicycle messengers among the people who’ve gone missing recently.
Natasha looks back magically, starting a little earlier. She sees his arrival (his bicycle carries the logo of Agile Couriers), and he has no expression as he writes the note. Around 11.10, Bueno arrives, looks startled, and drags the body inside, then comes back to clean up the blood.
Jesus manages to exploit a flaw in the Agile Couriers web site and determines that Jim Crosby’s last job was on the Saturday afternoon, between two large corporate offices downtown; Sunday was his day off (and when he didn’t turn up for work on Monday he was fired).
Natasha continues to watch the flashback, and realises that Crosby had puncture marks on his neck, though he was certainly out in daylight.
Using the ritual description as a sample, Natasha scans for more of Crosby’s blood, but isn’t able to find any alive within a 300-mile radius.
Jesus sees what he can find out about the other missing courier, but has no joy breaking into his company’s site.
(11 March 2020)
Natasha checks for Crosby’s blood dead; there’s some at the hospital. She boosts Jesus’ computer skills, and he’s able to find that the other courier, Cordelia Vasquez, was last seen on Friday 13th, and her last delivery was in the downtown area; there aren’t any more details on the site.
The fœtal DNA from the charm isn’t anywhere else in range, and the team gives it an informal but respectful burial.
 Subsection: Wednesday 18 September 2019 Up Section: 1.02 Mr. Good Section: 1.03 The Monster Maker