Last time, the four mages, as part of their search for the antique map of the Vancouver area’s ley lines, were caught during the investigation of Eschaton Properties’s warehouse by two Seers of the Throne. After a short battle, the cabal drove them off, buying time to eliminate most of the Hollow Ones stored in the warehouse, as well as make off with one as a souvenir. Now they’re holed up in a Guardian safehouse disguised as a disused auto shop and have decided to pursue your lead on the TruLife “spiritual community,” which has several offices located around the metro area.
Aurelia pouts a bit. “We can’t leave her here, but we can’t exactly drag her into a firefight.”
Blackjack: “Do not look at me. I am fairly certain Traceur will kill me if I even suggest storing the Zombie in an AA location.”
“We might be able to call for a sentinel to take the thing, but I am not sure you’ll get it back.” Sinon replies. “Regardless there are six TruLife locations, four of us and only one car.”
Elithora is doing some cursory googling on those offices. Any of them seem more or less significant? maybe a branch HQ or something?
Here’s the breakdown of what Elithora finds. There are six locations, mostly in poorer and older sections of town, although one is in an immigrant-heavy area in West Vancouver (which, confusingly, west of North Vancouver, across the river). She has numbered them 1-6.
Location 1 is in Old Chinatown and is a “recruitment center” in a tiny storefront. Location 2s and 3 are similar; one is in West Vancouver and one is near Burnaby.
Location 4 is downtown on the second floor of an office building. It’s called the “TruLevel Testing Facility” and apparently only accepts appointments.
*Location 5 is in north downtown, the bad part of town (vaguely near the clinic from your first mission). It’s called TruLines Housing and apparently serves as some sort of urban charity, like Habitat for Humanity.
Location 6 is known as the Wellness Ministry and is in a small private office park in Richmond. Street View makes it appear to be very private and possibly guarded.
Aurelia: “We can’t hit them all at once, so I think splitting up at all will be a bad idea. Just have to rely on our luck.”
Elithora drags the map around between each location. “Hmm. I’m curious about this testing facility. The ministry might be juicy too but it might be tricky to get in. What do you guys think?”
Blackjack shrugs. “I picked last time and it certainly was not where the map was.”
Aurelia: “I think a divination might be better than my guessing.”
Sinon turns toward Elithora, “Agreed.”
Elithora begins to cast Fate-Sight to see if any threads appear more tangled with the rest of the world.
Elithora squints at the map points on the screen and has a vague sense of something …
Fate sight is like infrared vision – it won’t highlight the right answer from the computer monitor, but shows the strings of fate all around. THAT SAID, Elithora sees fairly strong strings of fate headed out the front door of the building and thence to the northwest. That suggests locations 1, 2, 4, or 5.
Elithora: “I’m voting the testing facility. Whatever they’re up to there, I’d bet there are records on-site.”
Aurelia: “Who wants to get an appointment?”
Blackjack: “I will I guess.”
Sinon: “They just have to think we have an appointment.”
Elithora: “Do we want to set up an appointment or just jedi mind trick them? It might be worthwhile to actually get an appointment, but we also don’t know what exactly they’re expecting from patients.”
Sinon: “Aurelia or I could use some kind of mind trick or just play the part if we have to.”
Aurelia: “Should be simple enough”
The cabal piles into the car and heads north and west, through the busiest bits of downtown and then pass under an ornate if somewhat neglected gateway marking the boundary of Chinatown. They have heard rumors that this area is where some of Vancouver’s vampires live, but as it’s daytime and business hours they don’t anticipate that being an issue.
The recruitment center is on a run-down side street, its facade heavily reinforced with steel grates over the windows, which themselves are papered over with sun-faded posters of an idealized bald human figure striking a messianic pose under a beam of golden light.
“NEED A NEW LIFE? FIND YOUR TRU-LIFE TODAY”
Aurelia: “Who’s that clown?”
Blackjack shakes his head, casting mage sight. Aurelia puts her goggles on. Sinon puts on a pair of sunglasses. (mage sight)
Blackjack can see very very faint traces of magic here. This place has had magic used in it sometime in the last week or two, but there’s nothing currently magical in it besides the four.
Blackjack: “I do not see any obvious wards or protections.”
Sinon nods. “Aurelia, perhaps we should look at what our TRU-LIFE could be.” He casts incognito presence.
Blackjack casts invisablity to machines.
Sinon walks into the recruitment center and looks around somewhat nervously. Blackjack follows along behind, deciding he could pull off the skeptic a bit more then crazy. Elithora follows, doe-eyed.
The man and the woman, who are apparently the volunteers on site, are speaking to the second man, who’s in the middle of recounting what the party can instantly tell is a very long and boring story about how he astral-projected once.
They look up with relief. “Oh, excuse us, sir, we have new Seekers!” They smile dazzingly. Their clothes are very casual – slacks and t-shirts – but their teeth are impeccable.
“Welcome, travelers!” the woman says, stepping forward and offering Sinon her hand. “What can we do to help?”
Sinon shakes the woman’s hand softly. “Oh, I don’t know. It feels kind of silly coming here…”
Blackjack makes a polite snort of disdain as if he is just there for Sinon.
Elithora touches Sinon’s arm reassuringly. “But the website said …”
“I see, you’re here to support your friend in his search. He’s a fortunate man. John, can you take them aside and start compiling a case history?” She looks Sinon in the eye. “I’m Melody. Let’s step in back and you can tell me what’s been troubling you and how we can help.”
Sinon looks Melody in the eye for a second and then quickly looks away. He follows her into the back.
John steps forward and smiles at BJ and Elithora, picking up a tablet as he does so. “Fantastic to have you here, friends. Would you like to join me over here?”
Blackjack follows him. “Of course.” Elithora follows as well, looking dopey but interested.
*John begins asking Elithora and BJ a series of fairly inane questions about their relationship with Sinon. What is the general gist of what they’re telling them?
Blackjack says that he is a friend, that he and Elithora are worried about him, and somehow manages to not quite say the word “cult”.
Elithora nods thoughtfully, adding that he seems dissatisfied and “needs something to focus him.”
Melody leads Sinon to a back room where a series of tacky paintings of waterfalls and cats hang. She sits on the other side of a folding card table. “What brings you to us?”
“Well, um, I’m pretty new to Vancouver and things have been a little rough…” Sinon goes into a story of being a mid-level manager at Credit Viennois and the various first-world problems he encounters. “…that’s when I read the Niadetics book and thought there might be something more out there. It all feels a little silly to be completely honest.”
Melody leans in sympathetically. “Don’t worry. I hear stories like yours all the time – but the good news is that you have a Father overhead who wants to help you find your Tru Life.”
A wave of relief passes over Sinon’s face. “That sounds so… freeing. If you really think I am a candidate, what are the next steps?”
She begins typing on a small netbook. “Well, your case sounds particularly urgent and I don’t think we should delay.” A printer begins whirring in another room. “If possible, I’d like you to visit our testing center downtown to take our free personality assessment. There’s a small materials fee, of course, but that can be addressed later…”
She excuses herself and grabs the printout, pushing it into Sinon’s hand. “This is your invitation. Please consider going as soon as possible. Knowing more about yourself is never something to be feared, right?”
(here she is: http://25.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_m5gv0afRs31qbcqqdo1_500.png )
Sinon nods, gripping the printout in both hands as he heads toward the door.
(an academy award-winning performance, sinon)
John immediately trails off as Melody exits – he clearly was just trying to keep the others and their bad vibes separated from Sinon for a while. “What do we think, Mel?”
“Well, your friend is in real pain from self-disjunction. His current self and Tru-Self are wildly out of alignment. But we can help with that.”
The three rejoin Aurelia at the car.
“We have an invitation?”
Sinon holds it up as he opens the door and slides behind the wheel.
The testing center is located in a ten-story office tower downtown, the sort of place that holds law offices and realtors. The testing center on the second floor is an office decorated in such a way as to suggest a psychiatrist’s without actually coming out and saying it. Plush carpet, recessed lighting, soft music, and so forth.
There’s a waiting area equipped with soft leather seats and stacks of informational pamphlets. “Unplanned pregnancy? TruLife can help!” “TruQuestions and TruAnswers” and so forth.
The receptionist looks up as the cabal enters. She’s a woman in her thirties, unremarkable except for the dazzling white suit she seems to be wearing. “Welcome! Do you have an appointment with us today?”
“Uh, yeah. Aaron Smith.” Sinon hands over his invitation.
She looks it over quickly. “A priority case!” She presses a button on her desk and the door to her left clicks open. “Go right in, sir. Head to room C, third on your right.”
Sinon begins moving toward room C.
Aurelia silently follows, being inconspicuous.
Elithora is waiting in the waiting room, flipping through a magazine while her friend goes through his transformation from a caterpillar to a butterfly.
Is trying not to look irratiable. Using fidgeting to look around the room for security staff.
Aurelia slips by the secretary while she has her back turned. Aurelia and Sinon are now in a carpeted hallway with rooms on the right and left side. Room C is the third from the right, and its door is open. There are soft voices coming from rooms A and B.
Aurelia discreetly checks for electronic surveillance, but doesn’t see any evidence of cameras. The waiting room is just BJ, Elithora, and the receptionist, with the occasional patient/sucker entering or exiting.
Sinon heads toward room C, pausing for a couple of seconds before entering. “Wish me luck.” He activates Mind sight.
Aurelia follows and sticks around outside the door, being inconspicuous. Aurelia casts Mind sight as well.
Sinon and Aurelia sees their mind, the other mages’, and a handful of others, such as the ones behind the doors. Then a series of very small, almost dead sparks, such as the receptionist. They recognize that effect.
Aurelia gets an idea—she casts telepathy on the receptionist.
Her thoughts are almost nonexistent. “is the phone ringing? no. is anyone coming in the door? no. is the phone ringing? no. is anyone coming in the door? nois the phone ringing? no. is anyone coming in the door? no. it hurts when I try to remember. is the phone ringing? no. is anyone coming in the door? no.”
Aurelia can’t hide the pain from the realization of what those husks were… of how they were murdered, twice.
Sinon steps into room C. It’s a spare office, like an interview room, and the man on the other side is fiddling with the dials of a machine that looks like a cross between an oscilloscope and a stereo receiver. He also wears a lab coat, somewhat unconvincingly. He stands up and offers a hand. “Welcome to the Testing Center.”
Sinon takes the mans hand and shakes it. “Is that the Onaniscope?” He points at the dials.
The man smiles. “You’ve heard of it. Then you know that it’s a painless process that enables us to identify the most critical failures in your actualization process so we can begin the work of healing.” He sits down and produces something like a blood pressure cuff. “If you’ll roll up your sleeve…”
Sinon begins rolling up his sleeve—taking the opportunity to size up the man in the lab coat.
Sinon knows from his mage sight that this guy has a mind, and moreover, appears somewhat canny. He’s a bit suspicious.
As he applies the cuff, “Melody from the clinic phoned ahead. She’s a sweet girl, don’t you think? She’s brought hope to so many already. You’re fortunate we were able to fit you in this afternoon…every day more people come through that door, dissatisfied, wanting answers…”
“She is really nice. I’m just so excited to begin maximizing my actualization… I never expected to be able to get in so soon.”
He chuckles. “Very enthusiastic! You’re a successful member of the world outside, by the look of you. If you can apply that kind of commitment to your TruLife, you’ll be on our fast track very soon. New vistas of opportunity will open before you.”
After the cuff is on, he sits back and begins asking a series of questions that wouldn’t be out of place in a generic personality inventory, except every answer seems to provoke a frown from him and an adjustment of the dials.
Sinon can tell that a scrying window has opened in the room.
Meanwhile, in the waiting room…
Blackjack picks up a magazine and flips through it. The advice in the magazines is all presented in a very hippie-dippy, new-agey kind of way, but reading between the lines it seems to repeatedly suggest that pain and suffering are illusions and that happiness is most often found in submission to an authority figure. It also seems to wave off empathy. “Don’t worry about the world – what matters is YOU. How do YOU feel? Have YOU achieved what you want?” The Arrow makes a note of the Seer propaganda and starts actually reading it to write it back out later.
In the Hallway…
Aurelia looks for more concentrations of the dim sparks. Ones without any strong minds around.
One of them is a security guard who’s walking the corridor. He’s wearing the uniform of a company called Praetorian Guard. He doesn’t seem to notice Aurelia.
She walks straight past him. After all, she is wearing an aura of “is supposed to be here.”
The “backstage” area of this facility seems to be mostly paper records and a few servers. A couple of Hollow guards are patrolling, and there are some other Hollow Ones mindlessly making copies and filing.
The mystagogue walks around making a mental catalog of how many there are and what they are doing.
Not counting the secretary, there appear to be six – two guards, three clerks who are sorting application forms and printing invoices, and a sysadmin who is currently refreshing his reddit. There are seven not-Hollow minds in this place; six in the testing rooms A, B, and C, and one in the frosted-glass rear office. That one has some kind of shield up, too.
(Wait, the programed the zombie to reddit? )
(well yeah. someone has to mod there)
(that’s inhuman. THIS HAS GONE TOO FAR.)(where are the explosives?)(My god, it’s like a IT cargo cult.)
(the HOllow Ones are given artificial minds, enough to make small talk and carry out basic tasks with autonomy. and really, what is more basic than posting on reddit?)
Back in reception…
Blackjack gets up and goes to the receptionist. “Excuse me Miss, where is the bathroom?”
She gestures to the left. “Right back there!”
Elithora flips a few pages back and forth while watching discreetly.
She buzzes BJ through. “Charlie!” One of the guards moves unobtrusively to keep an eye on the bathroom door.
The Talon goes into the bathroom and checks the ceiling. He steps up onto the toliet and pops a tile up. He looks around and finds a packet of cable running just within arms reach.
He is able to read a series of communications back and forth between this post and the head office (the “Wellness Ministry”).
The head office is upset that “throughput” in the past three months has not been up to quota. They need more workers for the TruLines construction projects. The email makes the point that the conversions need to be “legitimate” because “H.O.s are exceptionally susceptible to the resonance along LLs and become unpredictable.”
BJ puts the tile back in place, flushes the toliet and washes his hands.
Blackjack exits the bathroom and the guard nods at him. He’s been very obviously trying to make sure the visitors don’t get up to mischief.
Elithora picks up chit chat as soon as BJ sits back down, flipping the magazine upside down and announcing with dismay that the self-quiz in this magazine has scored her at a 0-4 for self-actualization based on the answer guide.
Blackjack makes a big show of rolling his eyes at that.
In the hallway…
Aurelia snoops on the minds in room A.
The “client” is a young college student, a girl who recently went through a really terrible breakup. It’s constantly on her mind. Her test proctor is thinking about how she likely has no worthwhile assets for the organization to be “tithed,” but maybe he can talk her into a date…
In Testing Room C…
Sinon continues answering the battery of inane questions, while keeping an eye out for any spells being cast in/into the room.
There’s an attempt to read his surface thoughts near the end of the session. Sinon feels himself being very gently probed by magic.
Back in the hallway…
Aurelia doesn’t notice the Mind spell. She checks on the next room, B.
Room B is occupied by a man who has apparently been suffering persistent hallucinations recently. The man in the room is surreptitiously making notes to pass this up the chain to see if the subject is a candidate for “enlightenment.”
Back in room C…
Sinon manages to make his surface thoughts seem perfectly mundane.
The test proctor receives a text message and briefly glances at it. “Sorry about that, sir. Just a note from one of the brethren. Anyway, as I was saying, I think a strong course of wellness, begun immediately, is your best option here to get back on track.” He hands you a card. “I’d like you to begin attending our weekly meetings at this address.”
“Within the next two months, if you are able, we’d like to schedule you for one of our TruLife Retreats. Two weeks in the mountains, close to nature…you’ll be yourself again in no time.”
Sinon nods, “Thank you. This is so exciting!” He moves toward the door.
Outside, in the car…
Blackjack: “I think what the Mysterium and what the Seers are looking for is the same thing. And I think they might be closer.”
Aurelia: “They do have a map, and no moral compunctions”
Elithora: “A distressing thought. I guess I hadn’t expected them to be so … efficient about this.”
Sinon: “Just be glad these are Paternoster and not Panopticon.”
Blackjack: “I think we need to bring in the Consilium.”