As the Orient Express sped across the Bulgarian countryside, the Investigators pondered what to do about the strange men in black who had infiltrated the train, as well as the “gifts” they bore. Curious, Miss Crispin touched the Bakelite sphinx figurine she’d been given and received a vision of a London with obelisk lined streets and a giant pyramid looming over Parliament. Miss Johnson’s coin also showed her London, but one with airships soaring overhead and towering glass and steel buildings.
While they discussed options for breaking into the mysterious car attached to the train, Lieutenant Hampson, the injured British soldier, stumbled into their cabin. He was relieved to find that the Investigators were bothered by the strange men, since no one else, even his nurse and Mr. Fleet seemed to care about them. Miss Crispin took the opportunity to hypnotize Hampson, though he revealed little more than he was suffering the physical and emotional strain effects of some important mission or assignment. The Investigators began to suspect that Mr. Fleet might be behind the unusual events and planned to use the train’s stop in Belgrade to investigate the strangers‘ car.
They also looked over the engineering diagrams that had taken from Kurt Groenig. Not being technically trained, the Investigators could not make out what the plans were for, but they did seemed to designed to draw on supernatural “vril” as a power source. Umar could make out the traces of the Aklo symbols and saw that these designs were ultimately another way of tapping into the cursed power of the Simulacrum.
The others persuaded Umar he should leave his cabin for the first time this trip, and they all went to enjoy an elegant lunch. On the way they passed the quiet tourist Elena Constanza and the English Baron Lord Margrave. He had an artifact he could not identify and, to humor Elena, asked Umar to have a look. Umar was presented with his “gift”: a strangely carved green jewel. The vision that struck Umar was a blasted landscape where terrified refugees fled a formation of glowing lights in the sky that scoured the earth with blast of lightning. Once the gift had been delivered Elena and Lord Margrave lost interest in the matter. At lunch, gossip reporter Jack Gatling was talking enthusiastically to one of the strange men, but refused to say what it was about, only that is was big scoop.
Later, when Miss Johnson was passing through the corridor, she heard a muffled scream from an empty cabin. She discovered Kurt Groenig wrestling with Elena. The German engineer insisted that Elena had been following him for sometime and had stolen important papers from his cabin. She protested her innocence and a search turned up nothing. Groenig was handed over to the supervision of the men, while Elena went with the women to explain more of her side of the story. Once alone with then, Elena pulled out a gun and explained that she knew it was the Investigators who had the papers, which she insisted be handed over to her. Miss Johnson’s pistol led to a stalemate. Ultimately a deal was arranged. The papers were too dangerous and would be destroyed, but the Investigators would assist in the abduction of Groenig and in handing him over to care of Elena and her employers. Who she was working for was never discovered, but Umar’s noted a concealed Russian accent in her voice.
At the Belgrade station the Investigators put their plan into motion: they would present one of the strange men their own “gift” — a smoke bomb which they’d take into the mysterious car. When it went off Miss Crispin and Dr. Wilke slipped inside from within the train, while Umar and Miss Johnson broke in from outside.
They met in the middle of a single lavishly appointed room that filled the train car. The luxury was disturbed by a dozen metal cylinders standing floor to ceiling. When examined they became transparent, revealing tubes full of bulging cerebral tissue. A curtained alcove in the rear contained only an plushy empty chair — but a voice from speakers above the chair began addressing the Investigators.
The voiced claimed to be that of Umar’s uncle Sayed. He had finally encountered the Mi-go and explained that everyone had been wrong to consider them enemies. They had brought the Simulacrum to Earth eons ago, but came to realize that was an error. Their goal now was to use the statue as a sort of lightning rod to divert the coming Procession, which they described as a discharge of cosmic energy. No mortal could endure wielding the Simulacrum, so the vampire Fenalik had been created. The men in black were agents of the Mi-go who were using the gifts as part of some indescribable experiment to learn how the Investigators had interacted with the Simulacrum. If they were to provide the pieces they had collected, the Mi-go would insure the biological habitability of Earth, at least on the level of single cellular life. The Investigators’ own continued existence could also be maintained, in whatever manner Sayed still lived. If the “Tabernacle” — Fenalik — failed to prepare complete the Simulacrum, then the disaster facing the Earth would be far, far worse.
The consensus of the Investigators was… that they’d think about it. Umar believed in a third choice. No one else, no tome, no cult had ever conceived a way to destroy the Simulacrum, but the terrible knowledge he and the others had collected hinted that such a thing might be possible. Brilliant light began to shine down through the structure of the car, from a large spinning object that appeared above them. The Investigators fled, hearing a buzzing that rose into a vibration they heard in their bones.
Your world will be Unskinned
You think you can stop it
But it has already happened
It has always happened
It always is happening
After the Mi-go departed, no one else on the train had much recollection of anything unusual. Mr. Fleet explained that they would be arriving soon in Trieste to meet the Operations Team who had recovered the Left Arm of the Simulacrum. Though there had been something of a problem…
The four members of the team had mentally degenerated into acting like serpents, fiercely protective of then arm. They did allow the Investigators to approach. Miss. Crispin used her magic to purge them of the serpent spirits, though the spiritual effort was damaging to her. Umar reached out to take the Arm, and collapsed, enduring a vision of a figured concealed in a hat and coat. He said it had much to attend to, but promised he would speak more with the Investigators soon…