Eric’s Group: Session 3

Session #3

Fiona freezes, momentarily unsure how to respond to this unexpected visit. She’s standing there in her demonic form, so it’s not like she can pretend to be an ordinary human. She has a power that can level the playing field somewhat (Reality Enforcement), but even if her demonic form proves stronger than the angel’s radiant form in a toe-to-toe brawl, there’s a pretty good chance other servants of the God-Machine know it is here. Merely teleporting far away would leave her cultists vulnerable to its irritation, however.

As Fiona weighs the relative merits of fight and flight, the radiant winged being speaks, “Be not afraid, for you are not the one I was sent to visit destruction upon.” Fiona is not entirely convinced of the truth of this, but she decides to hear it out. She can always run like hell if it turns out it’s stalling until reinforcements arrive. After that? Well, she’ll think of something.

The angel reveals it is named Designation 3214, a Sword in the service of the God-Machine sent to capture the Butcher and bring it back to its creator for purification. It has been thwarted in this by both the Butcher’s ability to change covers rapidly (simply by touching its victim) and its apparent ability to delay the manifestation of its aetheric magnetism by hours or even days. In essence, by the time this hunter locates the Butcher’s work, the creature has long since left the scene.

Additionally, 3214 is reasonably certain some other entity – either a demon or an exile – is actively working to shield the Butcher from capture. 3214 suspects one of the VASCU agents that have been “helping” Gerard in the last few days. “On at least two occasions they arrived at the murder scene hours before the Butcher’s burst of aetheric magnetism manifested.” It knows Fiona’s cult holds some interest for the Butcher and asks that she set a trap for it. “It won’t enter the camp while I’m manifested, and our creator did not believe my mission required I be given a cover identity. When the Butcher attacks, make as much aetheric noise as you can and keep it here until I arrive. I’ll take care of the rest.”

Fiona agrees to do as the angel asks. She’s pretty sure the angel regards her as entirely expendable bait in this particular trap, but she has to think about the safety of her cultists – to say nothing of looking to her own chances of seeing another sunrise – so at least keeping open the option of cooperating with Designation 3214 seems like the best plan for now. The angel seems satisfied with this and dematerializes.


Meanwhile, Alexandra has the day off. Given how late she was up the night before, she would have rather slept in. However, when the doorbell rings she groggily gets up to answer it. By the time she gets to the door, no one is there, but she finds a letter in her mailbox addressed to her but without a stamp. Somewhat suspicious, she uses Synthesis and discovers the letter was delivered by the same low-ranking cop loyal who faxed Gerard’s file on the Butcher to Fiona. Perhaps it is a message from the Beautiful One concerning the murders. Alexandra takes the envelope inside and opens it.

The letter within is written in a particularly obscure regional dialect of a rural part of India. This in no way prevents her from reading its contents, but it certainly smells like a communication from one demon to another. The message is short: “If you can read this, I need to speak to you of a matter of the utmost importance. A car will arrive at noon to take you to a place where we can speak discreetly. If you are a part of a ring, you may bring them with you.”

Ah. Not from Fiona after all. In fact, Alexandra has absolutely no idea who sent it to her. Tracking down the Beautiful One’s spy in the police department could take her hours. Fiona of course could do it instantly (since the cop is a member of her cult), but that would involve telling her about the letter. Alexandra believes the rest of the ring would balk at risking this mystery meeting, and while the Guardian feels confident that the risk would be worthwhile, she isn’t so convinced of this that she’s willing to go alone.

After a few minutes of consideration, Alexandra calls the others and tells them she’s learned something important about the Butcher case that they must discuss in person. She instructs them to come to her house for lunch at 11:50 a.m. sharp. Hugo, Engelbert, and Fiona do exactly that and are a little surprised when a taxi pulls up in front of the house a few minutes later. Alexandra explains it away by claiming she’s concerned her house may be bugged, so she has arranged transportation to a restaurant where they can speak privately.

Some eyebrows rise when the taxi driver simply starts driving without asking them where they want to go. These turn to frowns as Alexandra’s companions can’t convince her to tell them where they’re going for lunch. This becomes nervous resentment when the taxi driver lets them off at a random intersection in a bad part of town, does not ask for money, and hands Alexandra a note written in Russian that provides step-by-step instructions to an undescribed destination.

Fiona uses Heart’s Desire on the cabbie to see what his angle is on all this. It’s immediately obvious that he just wants to leave as quickly and with as little fuss as possible. It isn’t clear whether someone paid him or blackmailed into this strange little drive, but he doesn’t seem to have any idea what’s really going on.

With no small amount of trepidation the demons follow the directions to a long-abandoned Thai restaurant. Its windows are boarded up, and the front door looks like it was once bolted shut but has since been forced open. The inside looks to be the nest of a squatter or other illegal occupant. An unkempt man sleeps on a blanket on the floor. He has the malnourished look of a homeless junkie. Is this the right place? As Alexandra slips inside, the man wakes up with a start and brandishes a shotgun with trembling hands, demanding to know who they are.

As soon as Alexandra gives him her name, the man puts down the gun and introduces himself simply as “someone connected to an organization of some importance in this city.” This earns rolling eyes from all present. Hugo pointedly tells him that it’s going to take a whole lot more information than that to convince them to stay long enough to hear the man out. The vagrant offers up that he works for the local Agency. Hugo acidly points out that this information was implied by the initial introduction and turns to leave.

The man sees his window of opportunity closing. He clearly needs the ring more than they need him (otherwise he wouldn’t have arranged this meeting in the first place) and blurts out that he is involved in the Butcher case the same as they are. Hugo turns in the doorway and waits but makes no move to come back inside. The Agent explains in a rush that the vagrant is a burn Cover – a disposable identity he assumes when he doesn’t want to risk being connected with his primary mortal disguise. He tells them his primary identity is Agent Nate Hamm – the youngest of the VASCU agents.

He has been operating deep undercover, monitoring possible God-Machine activity in the FBI. He’s almost certain he has stumbled onto something big, but if he takes any action it could blow his Cover and erase years of infiltration work. He believes that the Butcher is targeting stigmatics not proven loyal to the God-Machine. It seems to be able to sniff them out through some means he doesn’t really understand. He believes that far from being sent to catch the Butcher at least one other member of the VASCU team is actively covering up its trail. He isn’t sure which one, though. Both have done things that have aroused his suspicion, and a large part of why he hasn’t taken action yet is he is definitely no match for two undercover angels.

The other demons mull this over in silence. After a minute Fiona asks whether the Agent knows anything about Designation 3214 – the angel that has been appearing at the site of each murder when the Butcher’s aetheric magnetism surges there. The Agent seems unsurprised by this question. Based on all the information he has about the murders – including those of the many stigmatics loyal to the Agency whose deaths were not reported to the police – 3214’s purpose is to kill or capture any enemies of the God-Machine who take an interest in the Butcher. In essence, this is how it works:

The Butcher kills a stigmatic using powers that would normally generate a tremendous amount of aetheric magnetism. However, something in the nature of the Butcher delays this surge of magnetism until hours or days later. When it finally manifests, though, every demon, angel, and stigmatic within a mile can feel it. Some demons and stigmatics steer well clear, but others investigate. Designation 3214 rushes to the scene to catch the Butcher and finds stigmatics and demons waiting for it instead. Maybe the God-Machine intended that the angel start the fight, or maybe it expects the investigators not loyal to its creator to attack 3214 in a moment of panic. Either way, Designation 3214 eliminates any resistance – killing stigmatics and capturing demons for purification – before continuing its impossible mission to catch the Butcher.

The mission truly is impossible for the angel. The Butcher is sensitive to aetheric magnetism and stays away from any angel not concealed by a cover identity, and because Designation 3214 has no such cover, the Butcher will never come close to it on its own. And the delayed magnetism means 3214 never reaches the Butcher before it has long since left the scene. In the event that 3124 or random investigators get too close to catching the Butcher, the God-Machine has dispatched at least one Shield to ensure it escapes. Fiona uses Heart’s Desire and determines that the Agent is interested in ending the Butcher’s murder spree without blowing his cover in the process, which is about as close to confirming the veracity of a demon’s statements as one can usually hope to get.


Fiona suggests the group leave to discuss what they have learned somewhere else. Alexandra thanks the Agent for his information, and they ring finds their way out of the run-down neighborhood and into a proper restaurant. They speak in an obscure language to provide some layer of security to their conversation, although they know an angel or another demon will not be thwarted by this measure.

Fiona describes her encounter with Designation 3214 and explains that it appears to want the ring to act as its cat’s paw to help it catch the Butcher. Engelbert does not like this situation one iota and again suggests a trip to New Mexico might be their best course of action. The other three have too many local ties, however, and would much rather find some way to get through this with their lives, free will, and Covers intact.

Hugo actually feels sympathy for Designation 3214, as its situation clearly resonates with his personal history. “The God-Machine gave it flawed orders, and it’s trying to complete its mission the only way it can, and that’s probably going to cause it to Fall.” Fiona, meanwhile, sees this as an opportunity to defeat or destroy as many as three servants of the God-Machine by pitting them against each other and picking off the winners. Alexandra finds it in her heart to pity the Butcher. “It may be a monster now, but it was an angel until the God-Machine chose to twist it into the mockery it has become.”

This discussion of philosophy and the angelic/demonic condition is not going to solve the ring’s current problem, however, which is that they’ve gotten caught in the crossfire between two angels, the local Agency, and whatever the Butcher is – not to mention possibly that poor lone VASCU agent who doesn’t know both his partners are supernatural beings that might well come to blows before his eyes.

They entertain the possibility of helping Designation 3214 bring in the Butcher. That would put them on the good side of the city’s Agency (a good ally to have if they urgently need new Covers after all this goes down), as well as getting rid of the irritating serial killer who seems far too interested in Fiona’s cult and Hugo’s laboratory. While they’d like to believe it would also convince 3214 to leave them alone, they aren’t sure the angel will truly do that. Angels are perfectly capable of deception in the pursuit of their mission objectives, after all, and whether or not Designation 3214 is willing to admit it, its actual mission is to get rid of anyone sensitive to aetheric magnetism who does not serve the God-Machine. The angel(s) on the VASCU team definitely won’t let the demons destroy the Butcher without a fight.

Further complicating matters, the same “noisy” behavior that acts as a signal to Designation 3214 will also attract the attention of other servants of the God-Machine. Any prolonged confrontation between five demons, the Butcher, and as many as three angels could very well convince the God-Machine to send an entire choir of Swords to silence it. Fiona would rather not attract that much attention to her cultists’ camp – for her own safety as well as theirs – but she’s outnumbered and is the one with the most to lose if the Butcher’s murder spree continues.


Alexandra gets home, she finds a thick envelope in her mailbox. Inside are all Gerard’s files on the Butcher case, as well as the Agency’s file on the Butcher. Much of it is information Alexandra and the others already know, such as that the Butcher takes the appearance of its next murder victim shortly before it kills. But it is interesting that all the Butcher’s victims were stigmatics except for its first (which was likely an expedient means of escape) and the most recent one (the city cultist who was friends with Dr. Stout). The regularity of the killings is also telling, and analysts at the Agency believe that the God-Machine may be guiding the Butcher from victim to victim.


Fiona, meanwhile, is not thrilled about the length of her trip back to camp in her cover identity. Teleportation is much faster, after all, but there is nothing for it. When she gets there, she quickly establishes herself as the one the Beautiful One told her worshippers would lead them through this time of trial. The cultists then reveal a piece of troubling news. The Butcher came to the camp earlier in the day and murdered Dr. Stout.

This is a wrench in the group’s plans, but Fiona hopes that if they can guess the Butcher’s next target they can still get ahead of it before it kills again. She uses Voice of the Machine at the murder scene and catches a few words seemingly directed at the Butcher, “The execution of Irene Fields is behind schedule. Kill Irene Fields.”

So, the Butcher is no longer doing exactly what the God-Machine wants, or at the very least it has decided to get a little revenge on the side between hits. But it has to kill Irene Fields eventually, right? So who is Irene Fields? Fiona has no idea, so she contacts Engelbert (via phone, ick!) and asks him to look into this new lead.


Engelbert spends the day trying to locate this Irene Fields, but the name is too common to narrow it down to any one person based on that alone. Having some inkling that she is a stigmatic is of limited use, as there isn’t exactly of database of people who have been changed by their encounter with the God-Machine. It is possible the Agency might be able to narrow the search, assuming Irene is known to them, but Engelbert doesn’t have immediate access to the only known Agent.


Hugo returns to the secret 13th floor of his laboratory building in hopes of maybe finding something there that will explain how the occult matrix went wrong in a way that twisted the angel it targeted into the monstrous Butcher. He has been over this ground a hundred times since the incident, and he knows the God-Machine’s occult physics are beyond comprehension, but he still feels that if he could modify the Infrastructure in his building the right way he could purify the Butcher.

While he sits in a living chair, Hugo hears the door behind him open. This should be impossible because he is definitely the only one who has a key to the 13th floor. He turns around and finds himself face-to-face with Pam, his receptionist, who currently has a shotgun leveled at his chest. “Pam! What are you doing here?” Hugo asks, to which she replies, “Pam is dead.”

It quickly becomes clear that Hugo is speaking to the Butcher. It strikes him that to his knowledge the only other person it has spoken to is Dr. Stout. Fortunately it doesn’t give him a lot of time to worry over what it wants, instead launching into a rather elaborate expository monologue.

It explains that based on the circumstances of its creation it believed Dr. Stout was its creator, which was why it spared him – a decision it later came to regret when it discovered VASCU hunting it. For this reason it decided Dr. Stout must die, although it took some time to locate him.

As it awaited its opportunity for revenge on its creator, it came to the lab in an effort to understand its making. It had no memories from before its birth in the refrigerated room on the 14th floor, but studying the strangeness on the 13th floor seemed to bring back fragments. It knows now that it was once an angel, a Sword in the hand of the God-Machine. After the terrible slaughter it wreaked on its last mission, it was sick of death and found itself aware of its ability to refuse to kill.

It should have chosen to Fall then, before it returned to its rest, but it didn’t. The God-Machine must have known it had grown corrupt and apparently decided to punish it by forcing it to feed on the designated victims just to stay alive. If you can call this living. It no longer wishes to exist at all and refuses to turn itself over to the God-Machine to erase its awareness now. If its creator had wanted to do that, it should have done it sooner rather than turning the angel into a corrupted monster with a broken mind and urges it could not control.

But the Butcher knows Hugo was an angel in the God-Machine’s service – the one in charge of the terrible thing that happened to it. The Butcher doesn’t believe Hugo when he claims he Fell because the God-Machine forced him to build the Infrastructure wrong. The Butcher assures Hugo that it will kill him before it withers away, but first it intends to kill all the humans closest to Hugo, and the scientist’s lawyer (Bob Bergeron) is the next on its list. With that the Butcher leaves the building.

Hugo calls Bob, but it goes straight to voicemail. He tries calling Bob’s partner in the law firm (Martin Frise of Bergeron and Frise), but it’s fairly late in the evening and Martin really doesn’t have any way to reach Bob. Fearing the worst, Hugo calls the rest of his ring and begs them to help him to rescue Bob.

No one answers the door, so Fiona risks her demon form to teleport inside and unlock the house from within, hoping they aren’t too late. While they’re still searching for Hugo’s missing lawyer, a car pulls up in front of the house. Bob, as well as his wife and two young daughters, come up the front walk. The demons scatter and hide. Engelbert takes her nearly invisible demon form. Alexandra and Fiona both quickly find suitable hiding places. Hugo scrambles for a place to hide and ends up under a pile of stuffed animals in the elder daughter’s bedroom closet.

The demons aren’t quite sure what to do next. After about an hour of lurking in the house they begin to suspect that the Butcher isn’t going to show up at Bob’s home tonight. Hugo remembers that the Butcher still looked like Pam at the lab and begins to wonder whether the monster lied to him to get him to rescue the wrong human connection. Even so, he doesn’t want to leave Bob here, so he takes out his hypodermic needles and uses Knockout Punch on each member of the family to keep them unconscious until the next morning. The younger daughter briefly wakes up and raises a fuss, but Hugo convinces her he’s a friend of her father’s playing a trick on him, and that buys him enough time to syringe her.

Once everyone is unconscious, Engelbert uses Homogenous Memory on the wife and children so they remember that Bob went on a business trip and will be gone for a few days. They then carry Bob’s limp body back to the car, stick him in the trunk, and drive away. They’ve barely started the car, however, before they realize they are being followed by a black sedan. They recognize from the license plate as the car the VASCU agents drive. Alexandra tries to lose the tail, but the driver of the other vehicle appears to have some experience with this sort of thing. In a last ditch effort to get rid of the VASCU agents, they drive into the covered, controlled access garage at First Principle Labs, closing the door behind them so the sedan cannot follow.

They unload Bob into the refrigerated room on the 14th floor and lock him inside. Gerard’s file on the Butcher included a note that Slashers can often only be destroyed in the place or under the conditions in which they were made, so this seems like the safest place for the lawyer just now. Hugo has explained his fears about Pam, and while she’s not answering her phone either, she’s not the kind of employee who answers calls from work when she’s not on the clock.

The demons pile back into one of Hugo’s corporate SUVs and pull out of the parking garage. As they turn to leave, the black VASCU sedan whips around the corner and cuts them off. Doors on the other side open, and two sets of feet step out behind the car. Brian Jackson (the older agent) calls out from behind the sedan, “Get out of the car with your hands up. You have some serious explaining to do.”


6 thoughts on “Eric’s Group: Session 3”

  1. It sounds like a lot of Falls could be prevented if the God-Machine just stated its orders something like, “Do this job until the being that tries to interfere with that job is another Angel.”

    • All angels are explicitly ordered not to abandon their missions or break orders. Sometimes they choose otherwise.

    • Besides, if the Machine is broken, it’s possible that some of its systems have labeled other systems as “malfunctioning” or “rogue”, and it’s explicitly ordered its angels to interfere with the angels from the “damaged” systems. Sometimes, they might even be right.

      And if the Machine is working properly, the Falls are something that’s supposed to happen.

  2. I like how Angel’s are not two-dimensional even when they haven’t fallen, as evidenced by Designation 3214.

    It feels like this game flourishes with a certain amount of detailed plotting. I imagine the Chapter on playing the God-Machine will be fairly important to capture the feel of the game.

  3. I continue to get more and more excited for this game as I read these accounts. I see alot of potential for compelling gameplay and for deep character goals focusing on the God Machine.


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