Thieves in the night rob you blind
With surgical precision
You can’t evade the eye in the sky
He got facial recognition
– Airbourne, Too Much Too Young Too Fast
London, May 2012
The meet with Hopkins begins on a bench in Hyde Park, and they walk and talk with her for some time, asking her questions about a wide range of topics which she answers to the best of her ability.
After extensive discussion, the team decides they’re better off taking her with them, and that the best thing to do is decamp to somewhere in rural Germany as they want to hole up somewhere where (most) of them speak the language, and which is in the Schengen Zone, for ease of uninspected travel. This second consideration rules out Russia, which is the other serious option. Lonely sits down on a park bench with his head in his hands for the moment, as one Hindrance is pushing him to leave Hopkins behind and another one is pushing him to take her with them (as a GM, I love it when that happens), but goes along with the plan.
It is at this point that Ritter spots an eight-person floating box around the team, apparently British-trained and definitely British-dressed. The team has a set of basic and unobtrusive signals for this sort of thing, so Ritter alerts the rest. Someone steps out from behind a van long enough to be sure Lonely sees him, then disappears again; it is Biggs, tipping him off.
Lonely, as a Londoner accustomed to dodging the police, leads them all to a service entrance to the Green Park Underground station. Any doubts they might have about Hopkins being a field agent are dissipated when they see how incompetent she is at evading pursuit; this slows them long enough for a pair of their pursuers to arrive at the service entrance, where they flash ID at an employee on his way to remonstrate with the intruders and are allowed past. However, Ritter finds a place to hide and the pursuers pass by in the darkness.
Lonely calls his aunt, who leaves her snack bar to come and pick the team up in her van. She brings sandwiches, and at Lonely’s request, drops them at a dodgy second-hand car dealer where they buy an old banger for cash.
Aware that they might be blown, have to cut and run, and never make it back to their safe house, Cartwright has been orbiting Hyde Park in a rental car and has the Dracula Dossier with him. The team drives to Devon, Kent being too obvious, where they use cash to buy passage on a small boat sailing to France. Once there, they make their way to a small rural train station and take a train to Germany, specifically Friedrichshafen.
They establish that Hopkins speaks pretty good Romanian, and Ritter reaches out to his Connections to get her a fake Romanian passport. They decide they could all do with some new clothes, as none of them has anything beyond what they’re standing up in, and go shopping.
Lonely calls Biggs on a burner phone and learns that all of the team, including Hopkins, are wanted for questioning on terrorism charges. Biggs was tasked by his boss with following Lonely and his colleagues, he knows another team was following Hopkins. He asks if you know what happened to Zhu Li-Wen, who has disappeared.
Smyth remembers that Li-Wen complained of someone following her, and suggests you return to Britain to capture and interrogate him; but a quick check of the papers online reveals that her disappearance is in the local newspapers so her tail has probably packed up and left, especially if he is the one who took her. Li-Wen previously left Cartwright another message saying a reporter from the Daily Mail has been asking about him…
SWADE PCs develop through five Ranks – Novice, Seasoned, Veteran, Heroic, Legendary – and the Conspyramid has six levels, so my current assumption is that the PCs will advance one level up the Conspyramid per Rank, then build to an assault on Dracula himself once they’re a few advances into Legendary, say 20 advances total. That means the campaign will be about 40 sessions long.
Smyth is getting frustrated at the lack of progress, but the others insist on avoiding all combat, and they are all focused on the wrong things. I will have to make things more obvious as they are clearly floundering, which is not the vampire spy thriller vibe I am going for.
They spent most of this session arguing over what kind of getaway car to use, where to get it from, and whether they could trust Hopkins. In the end I reverted to outright telling them that she is what she seems to be. I then had to point out that she could explain a lot of the cryptic annotations in the Dossier because she had written them; they had completely missed that.
The upside of all the fantastic prep work which has gone into this campaign is that the players can ask Hopkins what she meant by “NS building” and after a few seconds searching the PDF I can give them chapter and verse on it. The down side is that it is proving very hard for them to sort the wheat from the chaff.
Time to follow Raymond Chandler’s advice and have a Renfield come through the door with a gun in his hand.