The Crucible Initiative [Contagion Chronicle]

Chronicles of Darkness

Are you reading me?

Good, it’s Matthew Dawkins here. The last time we spoke about the Contagion Chronicle crossover extravaganza for the Chronicles of Darkness, I posted up the Cryptocracy faction. The faction is just one of the Sworn, the groups of playable creatures in this upcoming game.

Today, we’re doing something a little different. Today, we’re going to look at the False.

The False are everything the Sworn hope not to become. Where the Sworn (by and large) wish to contain or destroy the Contagion riddling the Earth, its people, and the God-Machine, the False choose to weaponize it, take their destructive aims too far and commit acts of genocide against innocents, or fully embrace the coming end of the world (as we know it).

This faction is the Crucible Initiative. You can probably see how they were once Sworn, but they’ve fallen to the ranks of False. Here they are, in their full glory, as written by “Marvelous” Meghan Fitzgerald.

Enjoy!

The Crucible Initiative

Contagion as Plague

Yes, I know you’re not infected. Yet. But given half a chance, you would be — please stop screaming, it’s distracting.

I picked through the ruins, listless. We were so close. We could have ended it. All we needed was another day, maybe two. A few more tests, a few tweaks, and this outbreak — this nightmare — would have been over. But all that work was gone now, nothing but ashes. Even the word “ruins” was generous.

“Who did this?” the changeling asked me, voice shaking like a leaf.

“I don’t know,” I said, but even as I did, I brushed ash and dust from a hunk of broken yellow plastic. It revealed a stylized flame inside a triangle, painted in black and red. A warning? Or a calling card? “But whoever it was left evidence behind. So we’re not done yet.”

What Is the Contagion?

What does it sound like? The Fire-Bearers think all the others — False and Sworn alike — are finding excuses not to call it like it is, so they can go about doing whatever they want, blatantly ignoring the obvious solution in front of their eyes. The Crucible Initiative treats the Contagion like exactly that: an epidemic, an incurable plague that only stops when they eradicate every last scrap of infection from the face of the Earth. They believe no hope exists of finding some mystical panacea that will cleanse the Machine once and for all, or any kind of treatment that could mitigate the blatant threat of annihilation. They warn their fellows not to take pity or show compassion; that way lies doom. Treating the symptoms — or pretending they’re not symptoms at all — without addressing the root of the problem gets no one anywhere. The only way to stop a supernatural cancer from reducing everything to wrack and ruin is to cut it out now, before it’s too late.

What they stand to lose: Everything. It will be a complete breakdown of reality. Some of them remember the Black Death because they were there in person. They have seen exactly what happens when a plague is allowed to spread freely, and they don’t intend to let the same happen to them, regardless of whatever justifications the others come up with to be anything less than merciless.

What they stand to gain: What, survival isn’t good enough? They get to live another day (or exist another night, anyway), and that’s plenty for them. They’re not interested in continuing their petty enmities or pursuing other goals while an outbreak endangers their livelihoods and the continuation of their kind. They sure as hell aren’t interested in mercy, lenience, or “finding another way.”

Where They Came From

In the 1330s and 1340s, famine and pestilence in Asia created the perfect conditions for the spread of the bubonic plague, so deadly it came to be known as the Black Death. Millions upon millions perished, hacking up blood from infected lungs. Though monsters escaped this fate on the whole, the epidemic didn’t end when humans stopped dropping dead in the streets. It just mutated. After the Black Death petered out (the first time, anyway), the Contagion struck directly on its heels, and across Europe and Asia the reaction was immediate and brutal. No more, they said, and began the purge.

The formal Crucible Initiative came out of China in the 1860s, when the mortal plague returned. No sign of the Contagion showed itself then, but in anticipation of its inevitable outbreak, a pack of Chinese Pure made contact with an angel and proposed a coalition that would soon blossom into an international operation. The God-Machine’s agents gathered select night-dwellers throughout the world, inviting those with the will and the means to join forces in vigilance against the illness that would certainly return. They called it the Crucible Initiative, for they would burn the impurities out of the world until only the strong and unsullied remained.

Once, the willing specimens of Genome studied the Contagion’s nature directly, infecting themselves on purpose to examine how it ran its course and develop individualized immunities. These Sworn delved too deeply into the Contagion’s secrets and became something else, something awful. Many of the Sworn tried to reclaim these grotesque things, hoping to restore them to their previous states. So the Crucible Initiative stepped in and exterminated them. Unfortunately, records show they might not have managed to quite get them all. Almost no one knows those records exist.

What They Do

The Initiative employs a scorched earth policy when it comes to the Contagion. Raze it all to the ground, burn the fields, salt the earth. They destroy all Contagious on sight, as well as anything or anyone that’s infected, possibly infected, or even potentially a vector. Anything that might give the plague a foothold is a target. “Them” and “us” don’t matter anymore; they abandon all but the direst enmities and most primal urges in favor of their mission. Likewise, pursuits they otherwise treasure fall by the wayside. Prometheans who join the Fire-Bearers inevitably become Centimani if they weren’t already. The Bound round up infected ghosts and dispose of them, abandoning their krewes or twisting them to new purpose. Changelings leave their freeholds to swear Huntsmen and hobgoblins to the cause, borrowing Bridge-Burner philosophies to justify it to themselves. No group draws more of the God-Machine’s own angels than the Crucible Initiative; they claim it’s pure practicality, but some take it as evidence that even the Machine knows fear.

The surgeons also act to preserve what’s not yet infected, by any means necessary. They call it “quarantine” when they kidnap those suspected to be vectors or infected, and they call it “preventative care” when they kidnap those in high-risk demographics or deemed too valuable to the recovery of a post-purge world to leave at large. They lock up their prisoners somewhere sterile and isolated, then poke and prod them until the diagnosis is certain. Once it is, they either immunize their captives through unpleasant occult means to be absolutely certain they’re clean, or set them ablaze and dispose of the ashes. Those who turn out clean might end up locked in quarantine indefinitely anyway; if released, they might go back to their risky behaviors and end up infected anyway, so what would be the point?

The Initiative performs research and experiments to find ever-more efficient and effective ways of holding powerful beings in quarantine, destroying them more thoroughly or in larger numbers, and getting more accurate diagnoses. Such experiments occasionally invite the Gentry into the world to take infected humans away to Faerie, or prompt angels to Fall, or lead to generative acts that create Prometheans (and Pandorans), and other such outcomes. They also, incidentally or purposefully, often lead to bolstering the Fire-Bearers’ lower ranks with loyal clones, spirit-ridden, stigmatics, slashers, and others.

How they organize: They structure themselves like an international government program with local divisions or branches, a bloated hierarchy, and many specialists. They offer benefits to their members, which vary in form depending on the nature of the creature in question. Letting an Insatiable live in the basement lab and feeding it Beasts once in a while until they loose it on a bunch of unsuspecting Contagion victims might not count as “employing” the Lamashtu, but it’s on the books regardless.

When they commit to wiping out the Contagion, surgeons hearken back to their origins among the Uratha and hunter angels, embarking on a hunt to destroy a living threat and bring proof back to show they’re willing to do the job.

Against the Sworn: The Initiative considers the Sworn a bunch of naïve fools whose work actively contributes to the Contagion’s threat. It raids Sworn headquarters whenever it finds them, taking what’s useful and torching the rest. It doesn’t care about hiding its actions; what difference does it make who takes the blame? It’ll turn into credit later, anyway, when anyone who might have complained is either dead or the beneficiary of the Fire-Bearers’ gift of survival.

Who They Are

  •    An alchemist who collects samples of infected Prometheans and other beings, working to perfect a formula that will unleash a true killer virus — one that only targets creatures who carry the Contagion
  •    A Devoted Chimeric created from werewolf DNA, whom the Initiative coerced into joining as the perfect Contagion-hunting weapon. They let her off her leash just long enough to sniff out the epidemic’s taint
  •    An Insatiable of the Void who creates quarantine chambers from stolen Lairs, emptying them out completely and stashing victims there to scream soundlessly until the Initiative determines they should burn
  •    An angelic project manager who oversees the construction of mobile Elimination Infrastructure platforms and personally leads the clean-up crew after they’re deployed, delivering the remains back to the God-Machine for inscrutable purposes
  •    A vampire of the Ordo Dracul who rounds up Kindred Contagion vectors and performs experiments on them before sending them to see the sun, hoping to discover a new Coil that will make her immune to the infection

Nicknames: Fire-Bearers, surgeons

  12 comments for “The Crucible Initiative [Contagion Chronicle]

  1. Ryan Spinney
    August 28, 2018 at 10:25 am

    Cool

    • August 30, 2018 at 5:12 am

      I’m glad you like the look of it!

  2. Phaolan
    August 28, 2018 at 10:52 am

    There’s a lot of wonderful – and I DO count terrifying as wonderful – in both of these splat offerings. I’m crazy looking forward to this one! Thanks.

    • August 30, 2018 at 5:12 am

      A few more splats to come yet!

  3. BigDamnHero
    August 28, 2018 at 11:04 am

    Originally I had assumed that all of the False would be groups that assisted or tried to suborn the Contagion.

    This makes them much more interesting. Good job Meghan!

    • August 30, 2018 at 5:13 am

      Oh definitely not. Though the Crucible Initiative is arguably the most militant.

  4. Robert D
    August 28, 2018 at 1:10 pm

    WOW!!! Cannot wait to fund this on Kickstarter!!!!!

    • August 30, 2018 at 5:13 am

      We’ll have some very fun stretch goals, I’m sure!

  5. wyrdhamster
    August 29, 2018 at 8:07 am

    I’m very interested how looks relations of Crucible Initiative with Cherion Group… 😉

    • August 30, 2018 at 5:15 am

      There’s definitely some crossover there. The Cheiron operative who has seen too much may well go Crucible.

  6. Christian
    August 31, 2018 at 1:56 am

    If this in the queue to be kickstarted, are we then looking at a 2020 release? Or is it written already and we will see it next year?

  7. Noneofyourbusiness
    September 2, 2018 at 10:27 pm

    That last sample member, the Ordo Dracul vampire, sounds like she’s doing something similar to what the people whose work was torched by the Initiative in the opening fiction snippet, though.

Comments are closed.