Friday, February 17, 2017

Pump It Up

The Red Line Corporate Solutions team has enjoyed a scuffle with some vampiric minions in Bucharest. Red Line has emerged victorious, but not without cost; Carmel has been captured and is being fed upon by one of Dracula’s Brides!

Natasha Avram, former Russian government assassin. Wears a lot of leather. Driven by money. Possible sociopath.

Sten Brodrington, ace driver who is a bit vague about which specific branch of British intelligence he worked for. He's looking for direction and purpose in life, or at least that's what he says.

Max Fischer, German investigator with a mysterious past. A little twitchy. He's hoping for some sort of redemption.

Carmel Shaked, Israeli break-and-enter specialist with a bit of a nationalistic streak. Carmel has had enough of secrets and lies.

Each member of the team has been equipped with a tracking device so Carmel’s colleagues know where she is but they suspect that she is in the hands of Natasa Dobra; Dobra has caused them trouble in the past and they are not certain they can mount a rescue without help. The question is where they can get that assistance; they are on the wanted lists of most European law enforcement and intelligence agencies, and there’s some reluctance to get the Americans or Russians involved.

The team decides to approach EDOM. It is safe to say that the relationship between the Red Line team and EDOM is strained; both sides have double-crossed each other, Natasha and EDOM agent Hound have something of a personality clash, and the Red Line team broke into EDOM’s base and stole its stuff.

All that said, EDOM is in the business of hunting vampires and the Red Line team has a big long list of the monsters’ names and locations, so there is some basis for negotiation. The team calls Hound and they discuss terms; in exchange for the vampire kill list, Hound agrees to provide an EDOM hit squad to aid in the rescue of Carmel, and the Red Line team consents to Hound’s request to meet afterwards, should they survive.

Kempton Water Works - geograph.org.uk - 31048 An hour or so later the team meets Hound’s operatives -- six tough-looking Brits -- in a park in Bucharest. Together the two groups follow Carmel’s tracker to a blocky, concrete building on the outskirts of the city; it appears to be a water pumping station, but the team is suspicious.

Natasha and a couple of the EDOM squad members snipe the building’s guards and Sten picks the lock on the main gate, before doing the same to the building’s front door. Billy and “Wiggles” from the EDOM squad are left to keep watch while everyone else goes inside. A quick sweep of the building reveals nothing unusual or suspicious, but nor is Carmel found; the tracking signal suggests that she is below ground, so her colleagues and their EDOM allies descend into what looks like a maintenance tunnel.

Carmel wakes up alone in a damp concrete room. It looks like the same room in which Natasa Dobra did… something to her, but Carmel cannot be certain. There are no windows, only one metal door; it is locked and Carmel has been stripped of her gear so has no tools with which to pick the lock; she tries instead to break the door down, and to her considerable surprise, Carmel smashes the door off its hinges. Weird. A concrete corridor stretches out ahead of her into the darkness.

Carmel’s colleagues also find themselves traversing a dungeon labyrinth maze network of indistinguishable concrete corridors, leaving a member of the EDOM squad on watch at each intersection as they get zero in on Carmel’s signal. A metal door bars further progress and the signal seems to be coming from beyond; again Sten picks the lock and Max enters alongside EDOM squad leader Carl.

Beyond the door is a small square room and on the floor is a woman lying in a pool of blood. Carl looks to Max and the German nods; the woman has her back to them but it looks like Carmel and she is wearing Carmel's clothes. As Carl covers him, Max approaches and kneels by his colleague.

It is not Carmel.


Things get a bit chaotic. Carl opens fire and turns Not-Carmel's head into mush, and Sean is dragged off into the darkness by an unseen foe; Sten mutters something about "ablative armour". Grenades are thrown and shots are fired, at nothing in particular.

Carmel hears the commotion and heads in the direction of the gunfire and screaming; she climbs a set of slippery stairs and is winged by a burst of gunfire from a twitchy EDOM agent, but shrugs off the injury. Weird.

The Red Line Corporate Solutions team is reunited but before anyone can get carried away with hugs, another EDOM agent is pulled screaming into the dark; Max pursues and follows a long smear of blood back the way Carmel came, down some steps his Israeli colleague avoided on her way up, and into some sort of underground reservoir.

All is still as Max awaits his colleagues and the two surviving EDOM agents, Carl and Jenny. A metal catwalk crosses the centre of the room and joins a similar walkway that runs around the chamber's edge. Below, dark water shimmers in the light of the team's torches. There is no sign of the missing EDOM operative.

The team splits and edges around the walkway, while Carl and Jenny cover the entrance; no one trusts the central bridge. It is when they are about halfway across that they are ambushed by burly soldier-types, who seem to appear from nowhere!

The Red Line team makes short work of its assailants, but Carl and Jenny are not quite as successful and take a bit of a beating before they subdue their opponents. Max goes around and beheads each of the attackers while his colleagues search the room. It appears to be a dead end, unless there's something in the water...

Given the injuries suffered by the team and its allies -- although Natasha notes Carmel seems to have recovered from her wounds in record time -- the decision is made to withdraw; there's no sign of Natasa Dobra, but Carmel has been rescued, and that's good enough.

The Red Line team is invited to return to base with the EDOM squad for medical attention; this base turns out to be the British Embassy in Bucharest, where they are met by Hound. It seems that relations have thawed in the aftermath of Carmel's rescue and Hound is more open to answering the team's questions; among other things, she confirms that members of Ibáñez Security Solutions are guests of EDOM at HMS Proserpine. Although Hound does not answer every question -- "You don't have the clearance for that." -- there is a feeling that EDOM is genuine about working with the Red Line team.

Hound excuses herself, warning the team that it should not attempt to leave the Embassy, and leaves. The Embassy is probably as safe a safehouse as they will find, so they decide to stay put for at least a short time and ponder their next move.

Carmel's local contact Dacien Comenescu checks in and confirms that -- after a little bit of undefined "trouble" -- he has found some of Natasa Dobra's old Securitate files; the two arrange to meet in the next few days.

Hound told the team that one of the methods EDOM uses to contact Dracula is by passing messages through the so-called "Wolf Gypsies"; the group is secretive and has proven difficult to infiltrate, but after some research the Red Line team uncovers an article, written by an investigative journalist named Cristine Barbu, that profiles a former elder of the clan, Sorin Lupu.

Barbu is Romanian but spends most of her time in London or New York, neither of which look like realistic destinations at this time. Lupu is not only in Bucharest but has made himself into something of a public figure, despite the general Romanian dislike of the Romani people; the Red Line team decides to pay Lupu a visit.

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