The Equilibrium Files #3.1
‘Wheels’, as he was known to all his friends, had had a hard day and an even harder night. His head was spinning and he decided it was time to turn in. As soon as his head hit the pillow he drifted off to sleep.
He was drowning in a dark pool. He could make nothing out. All he felt was a sense of unease, a hint of danger, an unknown threat. Yet this was not his danger, the threat was not towards him but aimed at another. A cry for help, but from who he could not tell.
Then it was suddenly morning and he swam upwards to wakefulness. The dream played on his mind as he prepared his coffee and he became more and more convinced that someone was trying to contact him. A fellow awakened obviously. They had to be close, so they were somewhere in Gibsonville but he couldn’t be precise. The Projects came into his head for some reason. He decided to consult his colleagues at The Equilibrium Foundation.
"You’re right” said Gol ‘Potty’ Bar, another Equilibrium operative with a strange name, "Someone is looking for help.”
"Maybe we should try The Projects first, seeing as that’s in your head” this from Corbin Dreyfus, the third member of the group.
"We’ll take the van” said ‘Wheels’. "I don’t fancy leaving my new sports car in those streets.”
They came to the Projects, a concrete labyrinth of derelict buildings and urban decay. People wandered aimlessly around or gathered on street corners to share their bad luck. Here and there deals were being negotiated. The occasional police vehicle quickly cruised the area, more for show than anything practical, and then sped away, another quota of streets patrolled. All this was being watched over by the ever present Bloods, the local street gang, identifiable in their military style camouflage jackets, jeans and red bandanas. They drove on, hoping something would trigger ‘Wheels’ sixth sense and give them a starting point for their investigation. Then they caught sight of a young woman being attacked in an alleyway. Deciding they had to take a hand they quickly reversed jumped out of the van and ran to her aid. The two assailants attempted to escape. One managed to get away but the other was unlucky. ‘Wheels’ drew his gun and fired the would be mugger took a bullet to his leg and fell to the ground, still trying to crawl along the alley. The mage questioned him and when he was satisfied he was just an opportunist attacker he let him go.
Meanwhile ‘Potty’ and Dreyfus were attending to the young woman.
"I am OK, thank you gentlemen. They were after my money, I think.”
She looked them up and down, the light of recognition in her eyes. "I believe you seek someone. My mistress may be able to offer you assistance.”
"Indeed, we are looking but how the hell do you know? We don’t even know who it is we’re looking for ourselves.”
"My mistress, like yourselves, is an awakened one. She foresaw your arrival. She is a mighty shaman. I am her pupil and assistant, Bruha Bembe. Come with me and meet The Empress.” They got back in the van, drove a few more blocks and parked in a safe place. Bruha led them into a tenement building and up a few flights of stairs to a dark apartment. Voodoo fetishes hung from the ceiling. The room was stacked with potion vials, packets of herbs and various trinkets with arcane markings carved into them. Something indescribable was simmering on the stove in the kitchen. In the corner a caged chicken awaited its fate. A candle stuck into a skull was the only source of light. They came to a beaded curtain and stopped. They sensed this was The Empress’ astral space. It would be protected and impassable. Good manners and magical etiquette dictated that they wait for permission to enter.
"Please come in gentlemen. Thank you for your courtesy.”
They entered the room and saw The Empress seated at a table, an imposing presence. The power she possessed permeated the room. The three sat and waited in anticipation for a response. The tension was palpable yet no one wanted to break the silence. Eventually she spoke,
"So, what can I do for you?”
"We are looking for someone and we believe they are living in The Projects. We hoped you would help us locate them,” said ‘Wheels’.
"It appears fate has decreed that we should cooperate, I shall be glad to help.” She held out her hand, palm up, and raised one eyebrow. "I am afraid I shall have to ask the usual fee.” She smiled as ‘Wheels’ placed a nuyen coin in her hand. The Empress then made herself comfortable, threw a few fetishes on the table and took a draught of potion. She closed her eyes and began to sing an old African chant in time to a rhythm beaten out by Bruha on a drum. After a few minutes she went into a trance, scales appearing to form on her face and her canine teeth becoming like fangs. This, the three visitors knew, was her shamanic mask. She was now a dual being, her flesh and blood body existing still on the physical plane but her spirit travelling the astral plane. All the while her acolyte watched for any sign of trouble, ready to bring her out of her trance if she was in danger. The Empress suddenly collapsed and Bruha held her. Her spirit was returning to her body and she would need a short period of recovery. At last she came to, a little bleary eyed and tired but able to communicate.
"I have seen the one you seek. He is an untrained yet powerful mage unaware of his own abilities. He is a blank page on which evil as well as good can be written. Others are looking for him, others who are dangerous. I see that he will also play a key part in future events. You will find him below ground in a disused subway tunnel near the Main Street terminal.” She called out,
"Yardbird, come here.” A small boy came running, "Yeah, wha’?”
"Show these gentlemen the way to Main Street, the subway station.” The group headed into the street, got in the van and drove to their next rendezvous