Symbols in Blood and Sorrow


#1

The investigation into the murders throughout Chicago had been hitting a wall for some time now. Whatever was going on was from something so alien to the material planes that even the supernatural creatures around for centuries did not understand what was going on. Thus far it is certain that extreme measures will need to be taken. Those who can sense such things know that the negative energy in the city is rising sharply, but it isn’t unfocused - there is a pattern there but no one understands what that pattern means.

The city’s head Vampire puts out the call to find someone brave enough, wise enough, and strong enough to figure out what to do. The call goes out far and wide to hopefully draw someone in who can do this.


Council Convened for Ongoing Murders
Void of Unfinished Plots
#2

There was a response to the head vampire’s call, a short message. It was as concise as much it lacked clarity and must have emerged from the darkest and deepest corners of the internet. It’s clear that the originator of the message didn’t want to be directly involved in this mess - for possibly good reasons.

A crow is watching,
biding her time,
for the crow is silent and cares not,
yet she knows more than you think.

6840 kHz, AM

"For whom the bell tolls."

Know the unknown,
beware false paths,
always verify PGP signature from 45 6C 73 65.


#3

It wasn’t a lot of logic to attempt some things. The short message was one that piqued the interest of the vampires who ran most aspects of the city, such a cryptic message. Well, there was little to do with it but to set their receivers to that particular shortwave frequency. For certain, it didn’t take much research ti discover that it was a known number station. So they tuned to the frequency and waited. Of course, the numbers station was a mix of alpha numeric characters spoken in NATO radio alphabet by a generic pre-recorded voice. Still someone took the time to transcribe the information into the computer and attempted to decrypt it. Many passphrase variations were possible, the message mentions PGP and thus they start there - if it was conventionally encrypted, they would first try “For whom the bell tolls.”.


#4

Although known, the numbers station has been silent in the past. It was reported being inactive since March 1, 2011, where the last broadcast was heard. Even so, when they turned on their receivers and tuned them to the frequency 6840, they promptly learned that this was no longer the case. The female automated voice associated with this particular station crackled through the speakers:

EZI

MESSAGE

GROUP 120

TEXT

INTQR UINTQ RUINT QRUIN TQRUI NTQRU INTQR UINTQ RUINT QRUIN TQRUI NTQRU INTQR UINTQ RUINT QRUIN TQRUI NTQRU INTQR UINTQ RUINT QRUIN TQRUI NTQRU INTQR UINTQ RUINT QRUIN TQRUI NTQRU INTQR UINTQ RUINT QRUIN TQRUI NTQRU INTQR UINTQ RUINT QRUIN TQRUI NTQRU INTQR UINTQ RUINT QRUIN TQRUI NTQRU INTQR UINTQ RUINT QRUIN TQRUI NTQRU INTQR UINTQ RUINT QRUIN TQRUI NTQRU INTQR UINTQ RUINT QRUIN TQRUI NTQRU INTQR UINTQ RUINT QRUIN TQRUI NTQRU INTQR UINTQ RUINT QRUIN TQRUI NTQRU INTQR UINTQ RUINT QRUIN TQRUI NTQRU INTQR UINTQ RUINT QRUIN TQRUI NTQRU INTQR UINTQ RUINT QRUIN TQRUI NTQRU INTQR UINTQ RUINT QRUIN TQRUI NTQRU INTQR UINTQ RUINT QRUIN TQRUI NTQRU INTQR UINTQ RUINT QRUIN TQRUI NTQRU INTQR UINTQ RUINT QRUIN TQRUI NTQRU

END OF MESSAGE

END OF TRANSMISSION

A closer glance at the transcript makes clear that there was actually nothing to decrypt. The numbers station repeated the same sequence “INT QRU” over and over again, as though there was a malfunction in the system that prevented the station from transmitting the whole message.


#5

This was positively the weirdest covert message that anyone currently working for the group had ever heard before. This includes one Vampire who had actually tried to decrypt Enigma messages back in WWII. A lot of theory and such was going around on what it meant, in radio terminology the signal was repeating over and over again a request for information, or rather a request for if there was information available. A fair amount of debate sprung up over how to respond, and while there was a fair amount of considering going into the idea that this was just a prank, it might not be. It was bizarre enough to wonder who on Earth would prank this way?

So, the team decided to act before informing the patrons which had asked them to get the word out to ask for help. They decided to send a message back.

QBM EZI
MESSAGE
USE PGP KEY
BEGIN PGP PUBLIC KEY BLOCK

The senders send an actual GPG compatible public key block.

END PGP PUBLIC KEY BLOCK
REQ SENDER PGP KEY
END OF TRANSMISSION

#6

The message of the team was sent out. And it had been left unanswered so far. The station was only active for an hour and during specific times: 03:30, 06:30, 18:00, 22:30. When the next transmission cycle of the numbers station was due, something had changed:

“Echo Zulu India” EZI.

At the beginning of each cycle, the numbers station would normally repeat these three letters for 3 minutes before it aired the actual message. However, halfway through, the transmission cut off abruptly and instead something else came through.

A barely audible, unidentifiable sound plays for approximately 10 seconds which is immediately followed by three successive buzzes. The last buzz then terminates with a loud and sharp audio distortion, which is accompanied by white noise. It almost sounds like a stronger signal was spliced in.

Around the 15 seconds mark, a music track emerges from the white noise, slowly increasing in clarity. However, the white noise never creased entirely. In comparison, the opening and ending of the transmission sounded crisp.

The track itself features a rather minimalist and admittedly dull beat.

After 75 seconds the track stops and ends with the three successive buzzes and the distortion, occurring in the same way as when the track began. The last couple seconds of the transmission were filled with some other indecipherable noise, very distinct from the one at the beginning.


#7

Well, that was new. In fact, that was very odd. It was clear that this had to be taken back to their masters to find out what to do. The murders in the city were of great importance and thus it would also be of great importance the discovery of anything decidedly strange related to it. So they reported it and waited for instructions. The fact that this was the only response troubled the masters more than the event itself. However, it was their only lead on anything so far - this meant it had to be studied. They sent the audio sample off to an expert to be potentially decoded or at least, find more information about it - paying a handsome fee under the table for it as well.

Soon, the order was given to send out their encryption key again, but stat sending it out once 30 minutes before the transmit time of the numbers station. They were also told to start scanning other frequencies, specifically the upper and lower side bands for other information - again transmitting their own signal again on both of those. In fact, the groups contacts some associates in other parts of the midwest to see if they can determine more information about the origin of the signal through triangulation.


#8

The isolation of the numbers station’s location worked decently. The broadcast range of the numbers station covered a manageable area that chiefly encompasses Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana Michigan.

Close to the eastern coast of Lake Michigan, a weak reception can be picked up in western Michigan and north-western Indiana. The strongest reception is present in south-eastern Wisconsin and north-eastern Illinois, also in the proximity to the coast.

They actually managed to reproduce the transmission cut-off event, the exactly the same event when they first communicated their encryption key: after they sent the key and it was time for the station to air, the introductory part was interrupted halfway through and the other transmission spliced in, exhibiting an identical pattern as earlier. Furthermore, transmitting anything on USB or LSB did not make a noticeable difference, however.

For the associates that were tasked to help with the triangulation, the situation took a slightly different turn. From the associates’ perspective, it appeared like the station succumbed to a sudden power failure and ceased to air. Complete silence prevailed for precisely 120 seconds before the station resumed its normal operation. These 120 seconds were briefly interrupted by two bursts that were separated by a time gap of 75 seconds. The bursts appear to be a sped up Morse-encoded message:

“AYIN LETZIYON TZOFIYAH”

Beyond that, there were no other notable frequencies or anomalies.

The analysis of the audio sample was tougher nut to crack, but it maybe it was worth the money. Someone applied a steganographic technique to discretely encode information in the beat of the music itself. It was a hidden Morse code message:

“THE BELL TOLLS FOR THEE. DC7941E387159BE7.ONION”

Apparently it contained a deep web link that lead to a plain text page. The text was encrypted with the the PGP they sent previously and was signed by key ID 45 6C 73 65, the same one as mentioned in the first-contact message.

Decrypting the text yields a list of people:

People had tried to solve the murders, but their investigation has hit a dead end. Contact them.

  • Erica Larsson - picked up the trail.
  • M%Etthew Ze%27ev Gudavich - effectively the lead investigator. He followed the trail and was driving force behind the investigation. Investigations stalled significantly when he had gone missing. Maybe find his notes in his home or at last known location?
  • Trevor Arnell - seen with Ze%27ev Gudavich, possible associate.
  • Joseline Tenjo - helped acquiring clues.
  • Vance Reid - Barkeep of Saevae, had contact with the group of investigators. Should be also be able to rally up more people.

I will see if I can recruit more. Stay tuned.

4270 kHz, AM

"No man is an island."

((There were probably more people in the investigations, but I dunno.))


#9

The masters decided they would get to the bottom of this. Someone had been following the investigation closely, they knew of all these names, and it was simply good practice to recruit previous people to assist.

Each of the people listed would get a letter soon enough, Erica, Joseline, Vance, and Trevor would all receive a summons from the highest Vampire in the area, something one did not refuse unless they wanted bad things to happen, very bad things.

(@Chanree, @JumpingScript, @TheChubbyGamer)

The only message sent back was simply a confirmation of receipt of the message replied on the frequency 4720 kHz AM.


#10

For Vance, getting a response would not take much time.
The vampires would receive a response the very next day with a simple, very polite confirmation of receipt of the message. Also, Vance’s reponse contains an enquiry about further progression and an offer to use the rooms of the saevae for meetings.
He ends the letter with ensuring them his support.


#11

Over a day or so after the initial request for investigators, the Council receives a plainly worded letter, headed with the watermark of the relatively small and shady Linton Private Investigations. It simply lays out that Mr Linton Russell wishes to put forward his aid in the investigation, and a small fee should he be of substantial help to a successful end of the investigation. Oddly, it also states that Mr Russell will not claim a full reward, but instead extensive recognition of his agencies part to play.

The reasons for this are left untouched by the letter.


#12

The vampires receive a letter written in kanji with a lotus flower emblem as the seal. The letter when translated would read.
"To those parties interested:

Your formal request for help was heard and will be answered. I do not require nor ask for payment as I have a debt to pay the no single act can absolve. As a matter of honor and duty I pledge my sword to this cause.

Ryougan Yuuku"


#13

The council does indeed send a word to Vance that they will be using a room at the Saevae… As the rest of the responses come in, they set up a meeting time sending Vance payment in advance. A response to each person is sent via similar method to how their word was received. It was easy for them to see why Mr. Russel wanted recognition, and they assure them that his name will be known, should he play a substantive role in solving the case. Further, the letter from Yuuku is responded with a perfectly crafted letter in kanji as well stating that they accept her most helpful offer.

Trevor himself also receives information about this as well and agrees to meet. Each person is also sent the time and place for the meeting and instructed that punctuality matters.

The meeting is set for midnight, exactly 1 week later. Curiously, an unknown to anyone other than the Council, they send a message to the mysterious person(s) on the radio, stating the same time and place to meet.


#14

The Council received a reply from the entity behind the radio that a guest is to be expected at the meeting.


#15

The meeting day arrived… In a room in the back of the Saevae, a lone Vampire waited patiently, he arrived 2 hours early and brought with him some things, cash and other incentives, as well as contracts. The Vampire did not tire and he stood there once the room was settled with refreshments from the kitchen, waiting.


#16

Yuuku arrives at the meeting room in Saevae about half an hour before the time to start. He was wearing the kimono and hakama that he was buried in that was oddly still in good condition. In his belt was Kawaita Suchīru as always. He bows to the Vampire at the door and asks him about the confusion about his name. He explains that he received a love letter in with his response as the one writing the response must have mistaken him for a girl.


#17

Shortly after Yuukus arrival, Linton Russell enters the room in a plain unremarkable lumberjack shirt, its sleeves bunched untidily just above the elbows. With him he carries a nondescript rucksack. As he closes the door behind him he removes the old Yankees baseball cap covering his head to reveal a mostly featureless lean face comprising mostly of unkept goatee.
“I see I’m not the only one to answer the call to the roundtable, huh” he says in a thick Boston accent with a slight smile.


#18

The next arrival was a woman in her mid to late twenties of slender build and less than average height. She had dark brown, virtually jet back, strands of straight hair that were cut back to neck length. Although her general appearance wasn’t particularly intimidating, the woman’s eyes had this piercing shade of blue, which emphasise her keen and cold gaze.

Her outfit was pragmatic, consisting of a plain white dress shirt with rolled up sleeves and blue jeans. Furthermore, she had a vertical shoulder gun holster and a utility belt with equipment - for the former, she had to hand over the gun to the bouncers at the entrance, which she did reluctantly.

As someone who hasn’t been very active in the supernatural circles of Chicago, she put an expression on her face like she had no clue what to expect from this gathering. All she knew of this was a clue someone slipped to her.


#19

And the last one who arrives is the black haired owner of the establishment, Vance Reid, whose outfit was similarly pragmatic like that of Nine:
He wears black trousers, and a white, rather slim tshirt. He is in his mid-twenties.
He nods once at the attendants instead of a time consuming greeting. By no means this was meant as an offense against anyone, his behavior actually was meant to suit such a serious discussion.


#20

The Vampire bows respectfully and artfully to Yuuku, but says nothing other than to motion enigmatically to a seat that seems to be prepared with refreshments suited for his ethnic background. When Linton enters, he finds the Vampire nods in his direction as well - still saying silent with a passively neutral face - gesturing to a place with similar refreshments for the generic American style food, like Yuuku it is refreshments, not a full spread, but there is a good beer there oddly of exactly the kind Linton likes (or if he does not like beer, it is something similar he would enjoy). When the woman enters, the Vampire takes note - his eyes travel over the person, but not in a lecherous way, the way someone sizes up a potential enemy or foe. Still, he says nothing, in his pinstriped suit looking like a very pale gangster from the 40’s. He appears to be unarmed.

There is a spot for the woman to sit, but there is only generic refreshment there, as they did not know who was coming. Trevor watches everyone carefully as they come in, he found food to his liking at the table as well. Finally, when Vance arrives, the vampire speaks, “Please, close the door.” he says to Vance very politely. Vance finds in his spot refreshments that he would enjoy as well, as the vampire had requested the kitchen to make various and assorted things - and paid handsomely for it as well.

Once everyone is settled in and the door is closed, the vampire clears his throat in a raspy sort of way. His thin pale face looking at everyone in turn, “Before we begin, should anyone wish to disengage now, there will be no backlash for them what so ever. By staying you are agreeing to see this through and assist the community in finding the culprit, not only that, but assisting in resolving the situation.”