Bedlam in Bedlam City

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Bedlam in Bedlam City

Postby kipling » Tue Oct 02, 2007 6:56 am

This is more an interpretation of how things went than a strict recollection. There are spoilers for the Superlink adventure, Bedlam in Bedlam (Plain Brown Wrapper Games). Because I'm running only the adventure, I've tied people in more than would be normal.

Characters:

Blizzard: In the Arctic, Archie was lost and came upon a Wendigo, which ate him. However, his spirit wrestled with the Wendigo and won--mostly. (Who possesses whom, we wonder?) Now he has the Wendigo's powers (and hungers), and seeks to appease them by only taking the souls of supervillains. He doesn't tell anyone about the soul-taking part, though....

Chester Spike: The powerhouse of the group, represented here by an aging government hero who has been reduced to PL 10, and who has moved to Freedom City to live. He has been asked by a judge to monitor Firewall. (The Powerhouse archetype.)

Firewall: An armoured gadgeteer who once held a city for ransom to impress a girl; his Malign Cognitive Disorder is under control (the blue pills), and he has reached the age of majority now. He wants to be--is--a superhero. Really. The judge says he has to hang out with Chester Spike, a Good Influence.

Hilda Sifsdottir: A Paragon who believes herself one of the Norse demigods, the hitherto unknown fourth daughter of Sif. She looks after the Key. Hildy also doesn't wear a costume, preferring dark street clothing. She's not public about what she does. (The Paragon archetype.)

The Key: a mentally-damaged vagrant with the mind of a child and powerful mental abilities, her "costume" is an old tutu she puts on over her street clothes.

Titan Man: A Golden Age battlesuited hero, who has upgraded the suit as he has aged. It's still PL 10, but he's almost 80 years old out of it. (The Battlesuit archetype.) Absent from the first session.
Last edited by kipling on Tue Oct 02, 2007 9:28 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Postby kipling » Tue Oct 02, 2007 6:58 am

Scene 1: A Search for a Cold Killer

Chester Spike looked around his condominium. It was bare: only essential furniture, phone, computer, and the locker that held his work clothes. Years of living in hotel rooms will do that to you, he thought. Still, he should at least put up some pictures here, if he was going to be staying in Freedom City for a while.

The phone rang at the same time as the doorbell. He looked at the phone with distaste even as he went to the door--there was a time all his cases came directly or over a secured line; phones were for dates. Now they were everything.

Oh. It was L33t outside. Rather, Firewall. He waved the youngster in even as he answered the phone. He wished the kid wouldn't wear his power armor in the building.

"Sergeant--" he started. "Sorry. Mister Spike speaking."

"Hi," came a breathy, child-like voice. "I'm The Key."

"Right, the Key." She was a mentalist street vagrant with the mind of a child, in Bedlam City. "What can I do for you?"

"Someone is killing them. They get frozen! And I don't think the cops will find the person or they can't hurt him or maybe there's some other reason so we should find him first."

"Slow down." He got her to repeat herself. Someone was freezing vagrants in Bedlam City. "Okay. I'll try to get some people together and look into it. Where will we meet you?"

"Oh. ...The Catholic homeless shelter? Tonight?"

It was as good as he was going to get from her. "All right." He hung up.

Firewall looked at him. "So. What are we going to rescue today?"

"Do you have time to go to Bedlam City?"

"Sure. I shut down my pornography business."

"Your what?"

"Oh, you get women who look like superheroes and a little Photoshop, and you say celebrity fakes in big letters. But the supers still beat you up. I'm not a villain, it's legal, I said, but they kept blasting."

Chester sighed. The judge didn't take this into account when he asked me to monitor Firewall.

* * *

Archie looked around again. He felt silly putting on a costume, but it brought out supervillains, people who deserved to have their souls sucked out. And sucking out another's soul was the only way he could keep the spirit inside him quiet.

He concentrated again, quieting the Wendigo inside him. Snow settled all around him, falling on his furniture as the blizzard stopped. Given that the storm was mystical, it reached all through the house, fifty feet in every direction. Water had damaged everything. He had had drains installed, and his daughter asked about them, but he lied to her when she came to visit. Said they were for experiments. Said they were leftovers from the previous owners. He thought Laura realized he lied, but she hadn't called him on it. He didn't want to go into it; he wanted things to be like they were before.

But they couldn't be.

He was hungry. The Wendigo needed a soul; it was hungry. He put on the costume. Tonight, he would meet the Key. Tonight, with luck, he would find someone to quiet the monster.

* * *

The temperature had hovered over a hundred degrees for more than a week, and no wind had stirred the garbage on the Bedlam streets. For the first three days, they had searched the Key's way, which was indistinguishable from wandering around, and two more vagrants had died. Then Chester had taken over. Tonight, rain was in the air, and perhaps it would cut through the humidity. Stinks rose from the trash and the vagrants, and the nights were long.

Tonight they had returned to Ash Street, working out from the Celestial Spirit Fellowship. "The alley here is a place where they can meet, there's a camp," said the Key, and then she said, "Eep." The rest of the group--Blizzard, Firewall, Chester Spike, and a woman named Hildy--looked, and stopped.

The temperature in the alley was cold: maybe forty degrees. Fog squatted on the ground. At the midpoint, just after the second big dumpster, was a blond man in white leather and sunglasses. And a child looking at him in horror. And a frozen man.

Chester swore under his breath and took a small leap that put him sixty feet down the alley, right in front of the man. He didn't say anything, just stood there, as imposing as a seven foot tall, heavily muscled, bald black man can be. The Key turned invisible and hid behind a dumpster. Chester saw the man's eyebrows go up, he saw the pale blue light from the man's hand--and then he was slammed against the wall by a bolt of coldness. Chester wasn't hurt, but he was annoyed. There were four vagrants in the alley; it wasn't the place for a brawl--they could get hurt.

The Blizzard shot off his own bolt of cold, but it went wide, hitting the wall the man before. Hildy waited.

"Freeze!" came a voice. "Lie on the ground and put your hands on your heads, or we open fire!"

Firewall looked around. He could see seven cops--sorry, the Bedlam Special Assault Squad, the ones that were careless about killing supers--and he was sure there were more. Good thing his armor would bounce bullets. "Uh, Mister Spike...?" he began.

Three seconds later, the shooting began. A bullet hit the Blizzard; bullets bounced off Chester, off Firewall, off Hildy.

Hildy ran forward and laid on top of one of the street people, shielding him or her (it was impossible to tell) from the bullets.

A bullet hit the boy. A metal tentacle shot out, caught the boy before he could hit the ground, and brought him back to Firewall. The Key concentrated, and the bullet that had hit him was gone. The boy was no longer dying. Firewall didn't notice; he was busy getting Anatomy-Human on his armor's internal web browser, and wishing Bedlam had a working 9-1-1 system. "But no," he swore under his breath, "that would call for co-operation."

Chester grabbed the man in white leather--apparently the Cold Killer--by the neck and dangled him a foot off the ground. "You can stop now," he said, either to the Cold Killer or the police or both. Blizzard took advantage of the Cold Killer's stillness and froze his feet in place. The Cold Killer didn't seem to notice; instead, he raised his eyebrows and gestured at Chester, who felt his vitality--his soul--leak away. Bullets still rained about them; several hit the Cold Killer and a vagrant besides.

Not knowing that the Key had made the bullet vanish, Firewall began to search in the boy's body for it, hoping he was doing less harm than helping.

The bullets didn't stop. Chester made a disgusted sound and jumped to the roof, effortlessly breaking to Cold Killer free of the ice. He landed near a policeman, and squeezed the Cold Killer's larynx.

The Cold Killer hung, limp, in his hand.

Blizzard changed to his wendigo-spirit form and followed them. A small blizzard began to rage about him, perhaps a hundred feet across. It filled the alleyway with snow that quickly became sleet as it melted.

Looking at the nastiest policeman, the Key concentrated. The man suddenly remembered his brother, killed six years earlier in the line of fire. Tears filled his eyes.

The policemen who could see fired into the heart of the blizzard. The Cold Killer jerked several more times in Chester's hand.

Firewall tried hard to help the boy; all he knew was that his principle goal wasn't to hurt him. There were policemen all around them: above them, behind them--

Hildy grabbed another vagrant and flew up, up, a hundred feet, like a shot, through the blizzard, protecting them. From the southwest was coming a black helicopter. Fine, she thought. Make no threatening moves, and I won't hurt you.

Chester spoke again into the microphone. "I have the situation under control!" He was feeling more chipper, as whatever was returning to him. The Bedlam Special Assault Squad was irksome, though. People could get hurt.

Blizzard looked at the Cold Killer; the snow was no obstacle to him. He passed his hand through the Cold Killer in the snow and wind, and took some of the Cold Killer's soul. Dry stuff, he thought. Not much to it. Inside him, the wendigo raged: It's mine, still! The Cold Killer was still alive, though, and Blizzard decided to fix that.

The Key tried another policeman. They were empty vessels to be filled with sadness. This one thought about his first love.

Firewall heard the helicopter and flew up to investigate.

Hildy started to lower her vagrants to the rooftop without the snow; a burly policeman yelled, "I told you to lie down and put your hands on your head!"

"Fine!" she said. "I hope you don't mind if I save these--" Which was when the RPG shell hit her.

And exploded.

Her clothes were vaporized. The homeless people she held were torched instantly: one minute before she had been holding people--now she was clutching carbon. She saw the RPG cannon easily--it was across the street from where she had been. Nude but for some flaming scraps, still clutching the bodies, she flew to where the two policemen were reloading the RPG.

Behind her, a helicopter's machine gun fell to the pavement.

"Lie down and put your hands on your head!" said one. The other, caught reloading the RPG, just gaped.

"You killed--" Her jaw set. "Fine." She lay face down, already composing her report.

Chester leapt over, still holding the Cold Killer. "It's under control," he said. "Who's in charge here?"

Only sobbing came from the radio. "Lieutenant Grissom, sir, but he seems indisposed," said one of the squad, trying to close the gate on the RPG.

Chester hit it once; the barrel bent into a U-shape. "You'll need a new one," he said mildly. "That one seems to be indisposed."

There was a thump overhead, on a roof.

"What are you doing?" Chester asked into the commlink.

"Just setting down a helicopter. Not police. I thought they might be supervillains," explained Firewall.

Distantly, Hildy heard one of the policemen say, "Well, they were only vagrants anyway."

Hildy rose up. "Now will you take my report?"

"Uh. I guess so," said one policeman.

"Will someone please give me their coat?" asked Hildy. "This will take a while."

Everyone was silent. Finally a remaining homeless person said, "I got one you can use."

"I hope you can spell 'dunderhead incompetents,'" said Hildy to the policeman as he brought out his black book. She put on the smelly jacket and said, "Write this down."

* * *

The dead man had been named Gregory Pelleg. The Key found out he had been a teacher at an orphanage school for potential superhumans. The boy was Tommy Shankar; he had been a student. He had shown no powers. Chester volunteered to pay for his hospital stay.

* * *

In his basement, with a snowstorm raging about him, Archie meditated. With meditation, he could talk to the Wendigo.

"You said that he had part of your power."

"He has part of my soul. Do you think you could defeat me if I were whole?"

Archie let that drop.

* * *

Firewall said afterward, "You ever hear of something called 'Project Outlook'?"

"No," said Chester. "Why?"

"That's who the guys in the helicopter worked for."

"They told you this?"

"No, the registration number on the helicopter I forced down led to a dummy corporation, but the papers were accessible. There were supposed to be a few cutouts, but they didn't count on someone with my skills." In fact, the information had been on their hard drives and PDAs and cell phones; Firewall had copied all semipermanent computer memory. It was encrypted, but Firewall was able to break it. However, the government connection had him nervous, so he found the same information through an alternative--more legal--route.

"Let me ask." Chester phoned someone he knew in Langley, Virginia.

As soon as Robert heard "Project Outlook," he seemed nervous. "The CIA used to run a mind control and parahuman research program called MK Ultra, but that happened back in the fifties and sixties. Senator Frank Church found out about it in the 1970s, there were Senate hearings, the whole thing got shut down. If a street bum has been talking about secret government mind control projects and experiments on children, he’s probably read some variation on the MK-Ultra story in a cheap paperback. Don’t bring me stuff like this. You’re using up your favors on nothing."

"Sure," said Chester. He had a horrible idea. He phoned the Bedlam City police department and had a heated argument. Then he turned to Firewall. "We put the Cold Killer on the truck to jail, but he never arrived."

Edits: Corrected spelling, changed what Firewall did.
Last edited by kipling on Wed Feb 20, 2008 6:45 am, edited 9 times in total.
Stories: Occult Investigation, Freedom City, Listening to the Universe
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Postby kipling » Tue Oct 02, 2007 9:10 am

Comments: Even with the cops there, the fight is easy; with Impervious on most (well, half) of the heroes, the cops can do no harm to them, though innocents got torched. (If you play this, beef up the Cold Killer--at PL 11, he was taken out by round 3. Bad rolls, of course, and he can't use Defensive Roll when in someone's grasp, and I wasn't smart enough to use GM Fiat, but still. Maybe some element of ice armor (perhaps Force Field?).)

Bringing Titan Man in will be tough, because the second scene really follows from the first scene, but I have some ideas.

The Cold Killer will return, because Blizzard's player really wants to have a one-on-one with him; I'll add him to the last scene. In fact, the last scene might turn out to be a free-for-all, the way it's going.
Last edited by kipling on Tue Oct 02, 2007 5:09 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby James Thomson » Tue Oct 02, 2007 2:23 pm

Thanks for the in-depth account--I think your storytelling style is really strong and it serves the material well.

What we're all dying to know here at Plain Brown Wrapper Games is, did the players seem to enjoy it? Were they having fun, or did they feel like the plot was railroading them and jerking them around? Will they be back for Scene 2?

And can this adventure stand up to a PC with that many levels of Datalink? None of the playtesting groups had one. I guess we'll find out... :?

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Postby kipling » Tue Oct 02, 2007 4:58 pm

I think they had a reasonable time--we were also testing out the system for them; they're long-time Hero players. (You'll see that in the sheer number of drawbacks, if I post the PCs.) We're going to do Scene 2 (heck, the whole adventure). They didn't feel as though they were being jerked around, at any rate. The fact that the Bedlam Special Assault Squad showed up at the same time they did, they chalk up to it being comics.

The first scene doesn't really show off the system, or more accurately, the heroes I had and the way I ran it doesn't really show off the system. I was up front about it being a kind of Iron Age adventure.

The Key has to be redesigned; the player has the PDF of the rules, but missed reading about tradeoffs. (The Key mostly medicine'd from a distance, which--since she has double subtle--isn't obvious.) The Key should come up more in the second round, since it's telepath against telepath.

As far as datalink goes, Dr. Clemente or some other operator at the Project might guess about the power in time to protect things for Scene 3. (I give it a 50% chance.) Even with an insane transfer rate, Firewall will have to pick a computer to absorb, which might mean the simulation is running slower than it should. Project Shiraz (I'll rename it; in the session, I said Shiraz by mistake and there followed several minutes of joking about Australian wines: probably Project Kudzu) won't be exposed to discovery in Scene 2.

And the player has just told me that he didn't tell folks he copied the hard drives, since that would be illegal. So I've edited the writeup appropriately.
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Postby Libra » Wed Oct 03, 2007 6:02 am

Excellent work Kipling. I hope this isn't the last tale you'll post in Story Hour! :D
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Postby kipling » Wed Oct 03, 2007 6:31 am

Well, we'll finish this one and there are still the tales of the Occult Investigations Agency that I'm posting here:

http://www.atomicthinktank.com/viewtopic.php?t=16614

(Hmm. There's no reason these heroes can't live in the same world as the Occult Investigations Agency. I'll have to think about that.)
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Postby Libra » Wed Oct 03, 2007 7:18 am

I'll take a peek then! :D
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Postby kipling » Thu Oct 04, 2007 8:34 am

We had our second session, which I will put up presently (within a week, anyway). A couple of notes:

- Impervious really screws things up; I had to bump up Nocturne a PL and his damage a couple of levels so that he could hurt the characters with Impervious.

- since one of the characters is ex-military, we started the session with Colonel Seacrest reactivating him for one more mission...a simulator that will be used to train America's forces against foreign supers (that was actually the line given to most of the supers, but they fell in line with Chester already attached to the project) (Most of the characters know the limits of their powers or don't care)

- the threat of the Patriot Act was enough, with the benefits; everyone co-operated

- Since nobody ran away, went through Scenes 2 and 3 and ended the simulation once they had placed the tracker

- everyone muffed their Search rolls, so I moved the elevator for the secret sublevel, and the Delta Interceptor to the sublevel, but since the simulation would end when they put the tracker on the car, the simulation didn't handle Insubstantial correctly (when he went solid, the character no longer had the tracker)

- changed how the hiding place for the Delta Interceptor worked, since I didn't want the simulation to be fudging "real physics" or the players wouldn't trust anything

- using all my PCs to take down Nocturne is overkill; I think two or three of them could do it: the mentalist zaps from a distance while two others keep him busy

- boy, you have a bad (or the PC has a good) roll, and the whole thing can go off the rails :D

One of the players had ordered his own copy of M&M, so he likes the system. Everyone seems to be having fun.

- for a game that has so much on Bedlam, not much happens in Bedlam. :)
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Postby Libra » Thu Oct 04, 2007 12:20 pm

Hmmm. Interesting bit of irony that. 8)
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Postby kipling » Fri Oct 05, 2007 9:59 pm

Scene 2: "I'm from the government. I'm here to help you help us."

Chester Spike thought at first they were bartenders, but their postures had a military air. Bartenders here at Freedom City's Secret Room wore the same black suits and Ray-Bans, but these guys were too old. They stopped at the table he was sharing with Chuck Binghamton, better known as Titan Man. The two of them drank here every Wednesday.

"Sergeant Spike? I'm Colonel Seacrest." The man showed him Air Force identification. "I'd like to talk to you. To both of you." The Colonel sat down; the other three stood alert. Chester doubted there was a neck under 24" in the group. One twenty-something, two thirty-somethings, and he pegged the Colonel at fifty. Six years younger than Chester.

"We admired your handling of the Cold Killer problem last week. We thought about hiring everyone on for a mission we've got going. Everyone has a choice about working for us, of course, but we'd like to reactivate you to lead them for this."

"You can hire me, too." His military pension wasn't enough to live on.

"Enough to retire, less than your own island?"

"That's basically it," acknowledged Chester. "Have you approached anyone else yet?"

"We have agents in Freedom City tonight, and we'll do Bedlam City tomorrow. For you, sir--"

"Call me Chuck." Out of the armoured suit, Titan Man looked like he was in his mid-fifties, but Chester knew he was over eighty.

"Yessir. We can offer you better technology for the suit. Military technology."

"Oooh." He rubbed his hands together. "That would...help me keep up with the young'uns." He smiled.

Seacrest said, "I have copies of the contracts, if you need them." They did.

* * *

He was planning how to get the Bedlam Special Assault Squad when his apartment told him there was a babe outside his door. He looked: Red hair, black jacket, off-white blouse (he could see just a hint of creamy bra), black slit skirt. Mmmmm. Firewall knew that attractive women were a known weakness of his, but...she was a babe.

"Special Agent Gina Bellini," she said through the door. "May I come in?"

"Um." He wished he had the armor on. Women weren't so intimidating when he had the armor on. When he had the armor on, he had a heads-up display that told him what stupid things not to say. It would take too long to put it on, though. "Yeah." He hoped the apartment didn't smell. He hadn't cleaned...well, not since he had fired the cleaning lady.

She entered and sized him up. He knew he still had pimples, and he had to keep shaking his hair out of his eyes. Still, he hoped her impression was favourable. "I work for a government agency." She showed him identification. "We were impressed with your work against the Cold Killer."

"Thanks. I guess." She gave him the spiel about helping the country with Virtual Reality. Mr. Spike, effectively his parole officer, was involved. "We can make it so that you don't need Mr. Spike any more, commuting the judge's decision."

"Actually, I find that a parole officer gives me a level of plausible deniability." She looked at him. He realized that the heads-up display would have warned him about that sentence.

"Of course, if you choose not to help...you'll be helping the terrorists."

"What terrorists?"

She ignored that. "And the Patriot Act has some serious...repercussions for someone who doesn't go along with us."

"Oh." He could get out of Gitmo easily enough, but it would be a pain to take over Cuba. Maybe android duplicates-- "Do you have a contract so I can have a lawyer look it over?"

"Of course. Here's my card. The mission is Saturday. There are two days."

She didn't stay after that.

* * *

On Wednesday nights, Archie looked after Laura. He had centered himself before he showed up at Grace and Laura's apartment. Grace looked good. "There you are." Other than that, she didn't mention his lateness. "She's just finishing her piano practice." She turned around. "Do my back?" He zipped her up. "I have a date tonight. Don't come back before nine, okay?"

"This is the tie on the door?"

"Archie, you were missing for ten years. Ten. Years. Of course I had you declared dead. I moved on. I'm glad you're back but... Ten years." She shook her head. "And now, you're...."

He nodded. Every morning when he woke up, there were three inches of snow in the room that didn't melt until he'd left. You couldn't expect someone else to live with that.

Laura finished her practice. She was a baby when he disappeared, and now she was twelve. "Hey, kiddo. Where do you want to eat tonight?"

"How about Champs?"

"Sure." It would strain his budget, but... Sure. "I was thinking we could go to a movie afterward."

"Okay." He started to speak, and she said, "I know, dad. I know the rules: Nothing you would find funny, frightening, or too engrossing. It's a good thing we don't like the same kinds of movies." Despite the heat outside, she grabbed her coat. In case.

"Yeah," said Archie, a little sadly. "Good thing." Behind him, Grace mouthed the words "Nine o'clock."

There was no line to get in, and he asked for a seat away from everyone else. They were at their table when four people in black suits came in and headed straight for them. Their leader was a red-haired woman. She introduced herself as Gina Bellini and showed him identification. He looked at it carefully. If it was a fake, it was an expensive fake.

"Can we talk in front of the female minor?" she asked.

"Can we say things elliptically?" he said.

"I'll go and look at the superhero memorabilia. At least it's warm over there." Laura got up. She had recently perfected eye-rolling, and she used it. "Female minor--sheesh." One of the agents followed her at a discreet distance.

She made her offer: some money and a scholarship fund for Laura in exchange for a mission this Saturday. Even Grace didn't have a scholarship arranged for Laura; her work as a production assistant didn't generate enough income. "I'll have to have my lawyer look at it." Dan Kesh had handled the paperwork involved in bringing him back to life; Dan had been his best man, when he married Grace, and had handled his end of the divorce.

"Of course." She left him a copy of the contract, and when she was gone, Laura returned.

"What did she want?"

"Just to do a little job on Saturday."

"Dad....you're supposed to look after me on Saturday."

"What?"

"You get the odd Saturdays of the month. You get this Saturday because it's a five-Saturday month."

Archie swore.

* * *

Seacrest's visit made Chester think, and he made more phone calls. Several were to the general area of DC, and he pieced this together: Back in the fifties, the director of the CIA, Allen Dulles, came up with Project MK Ultra. They had a wide brief--mind control, parahuman research, psychic weaponry. They had a few successes and a lot of failures. Successes included the vigilante called Nocturne--he went rogue after a few missions--and a guy who could freeze people to death.

In the 1970s someone tipped off Senator Frank Church and he held a Senate investigation. They got MK Ultra shut down and embarrassed the Agency. But Project MK Ultra had been up to a lot, and much got shifted over to the Department of Defense, which is where the Cold Killer works now. Anyone the Cold Killer was after was somebody who military intelligence wanted dead.

Another call was to Bedlam City. Tommy Shankar had been released to his parents, Julio and Aneta Shankar. He had gone home. Except that Chester was pretty sure that Tommy had said that his parents were dead, the one time Chester had seen him in the hospital. That was why Tommy was in the orphanage originally: the death of his parents.

* * *

The bookstore was in the three o'clock lull: after lunch but before anyone got out of work. Hilda Sifsdottir was rearranging shelves when the four agents came in. She just knew they were agents: something about the cut of their black suits--or that they were wearing black suits on this, a hot summer's day. So she wasn't surprised when the woman made her pitch.

"I don't think so--" Hildy began.

"We have the young woman on board, the one they call Mary. Someone should look after her."

Hildy sat quietly for a moment and then said, "--yes."

She checked with the Key that night: Agent Bellini had offered to help people, which could mean anything. "But on the plus side, she seems to think you're just a mascot or something."

"I am," said the Key. "A mascot for all that is good and kind." And then she showed Hildy a rusty can. "I think this is a magic beer can," she said.

"What kind of magic?"

"Can magic, of course."

"Of course."

* * *

"The problem is," Firewall told Chester on Saturday morning, "they can really make things hard on you if they don't like you, my lawyer said. So I'm here." He was in full armor, as was Titan Man. Chester was in his working clothes: his uniform.

A limousine took them to the airport. Archie was already there, dressed as Blizzard. "I thought you had your kid on odd Saturdays," said Chester.

"I begged," said Blizzard. "I begged Grace to trade."

"She would have looked cute as a sidekick," said Firewall. "She could be Squall." He sniggered.

"Yeah," Blizzard said. "We get on this plane." It was a small jet. There were no windows in the passenger section.

They found the Key and Hildy already on board, with Gina Bellini. They were quiet for the whole trip of two hours. At one point, it seemed they were banking. Finally, they came to a stop.

There were men in green jumpsuits outside the plane. One of them saluted Special Agent Bellini. She said, "You're not supposed to salute me. I could report you for that."

"Yes, ma'am."

She looked at him for a long moment. "I see. I will report you, then." To the heroes, she said, "Come along."

They went in at the front of an H-shaped building, joined across the upper storeys. The security guard was wearing a gas mask. Firewall was about to ask, "What's that for?" when the question appeared on his heads up display. In case, was the most reasonable answer, and followed the group through an armored side door to an elevator, passing other elevators and people as they went. No one spoke and no one spoke to them, but Firewall memorized every detail he sensed. Bellini swiped a blue card for entrance at every door they met.

The lab was downstairs--or down-elevator. They went out the second set of doors in the elevator, down a long hall, and turned left. A door off that hallway was the laboratory, occupied by a liver-spotted old man and several technicians. A row of eight gleaming cocoons sat there, open, each large enough to hold a person. There were no obvious cables. Firewall guessed they weighed a tonne apiece. He also saw a child's doll in the corner, the leg sticking out from behind a cabinet. Other than that, the laboratory was clean and tidy, with two terminals on every desk.

"Good morning," said the old man cheerfully, "I'm Doctor Clemente." The accent was Castellian Spanish. His voice shook with old age. He reminded Firewall uncomfortably of the Professor on Futurama, and he didn't need his display to tell him that saying this aloud would be a bad idea. "These are the virtual reality cocoons. If your armor has life support, please turn it off. We'll flood the cocoons with gas so you don't destroy the cocoons themselves when you move; you'll only think you moved. If SQUID signals can't get through your helmet, please take it off once inside. There should be enough room for that. Anonymity is preserved. Let's get started."

Firewall noticed the Key staring at the doctor, and he hoped she wasn't going to say anything inappropriate. She didn't.

"Okay," said the old man. "The mission is to place a tracer on a very special car. If you'll get in, please?"
Last edited by kipling on Wed Nov 07, 2007 9:46 am, edited 2 times in total.
Stories: Occult Investigation, Freedom City, Listening to the Universe
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Postby kipling » Mon Oct 08, 2007 11:58 am

Scene 3: Artificial Intelligence also means Artificial Stupidity

They stood in a cleaner version of Bedlam, on a street by a working pay phone and flanked by businesses: used televisions, used dentures, used furniture. In the distance, the whitecaps of the bay sparkled; the hard flat sunlight hit all of them. The back of Chester's neck felt warm, and the scent of salt water in the air was almost perfect.

"Of course," Firewall said, "It makes sense to have as little garbage as possible--every piece of trash is more to track." He looked at his hand critically. "Good job so far." His tentacles started to extend from the armour. "I wonder--"

The pay phone began to ring. Firewall picked it up and listened for a moment. "Okay. Look at the television shop," he told everyone.

The images rolled, and then there was a commercial for a car. The Delta Interceptor. The wheels were wide, the body armoured, and the cannon atop showed that it could dish out as much as it could take. "That's the car we're supposed to find," said Firewall. "Everyone got a tracer?"

Everyone did.

"All we have to do is put one tracer on the car," said Chester. "Now, if I were a superfast car--"

"Shhhh," said Firewall. Blizzard turned with them, listening. Below the normal city sounds, they heard the thrum of a powerful engine.

"Titan Man, to the air," said Chester. "Firewall, the air that way. Hildy, that way."

"I have visual," said Titan Man, all business. He checked the car against the map that was now showing in his helmet. "It's on Davis Street. I'll follow."

"Good thing we can all fly," said Firewall.

"Pardon?" said the Blizzard. "Only in spirit form, and I don't want to change yet." He had no idea how the simulation would handle the transformation, and he had Laura's scholarship to think of.

"I'll carry you," said Firewall. "I think we should all have defenses up."

Chester said, "Hildy, you fly and carry the Key." He leapt toward Davis Street trusting that the Key's force field was up; no one could see it, anyway.

Titan Man was nowhere to be seen. "I'm at the train station," came over the radio link. "The car's disappeared."

"What?" Chester said. "Everybody converge on the train station."

A gothic and forbidding building, the Bedlam Train Station had been built at the turn of the last century. Gargoyles decorated its many spires, and it had once stood taller than any other building in the area. Since then, a parking garage had been added under it for the promise of commuters and the Bedlam downtown--a promise that had never been kept.

"I had it on visual," said Titan Man. "It went around a corner and vanished by the time I had come to it."

"We assume," said Firewall over the link, "that the laws of physics hold true. The car stops fast, but it doesn't stop fast enough to travel in a parking garage without being seen. You can do it with code, but that would be cheating."

"Besides," said Hildy, "how can a car like that go into the lot without being seen?" She asked the garage attendant, who looked like Brad Pitt, "Seen a car in the last two minutes?" She glanced around. All the simulated people looked like beautiful celebrities.

"Nope," he said. "Sorry, miss."

Hildy said, "That's a place where the simulation breaks down. The Bedlam attendants actually look alert."

"All right," said Chester. "The logical assumption is a hidden door." But no one could find one. "All right. We search the parking garage."

Aside from a lot of identical cars in different colours, they found nothing on the four levels of the parking garage. Standing on the bottom-most level, Chester said, "Okay. It has to be somewhere. If it has any size at all, it's under us. So look."

They spread out, testing the concrete walls to see if they held. Hildy said, "The elevator shaft is too deep, like by forty feet."

And on the opposite side of the garage, Titan Man said, "Oops." He was up to his gauntleted wrists in concrete. "Here's a shaft."

"I'll check it out," said Firewall. The top led to a cupola in the roof; the bottom, sixty feet below, led to a round doorway, maybe twice as wide as a man. There was a ladder on the side. He opened the doorway and noted the sudden stink. Sewers. And a walkway above them. He thought open waste systems had long since been replaced.

There were thirteen waste outlets from the train station. He called up historical plans, then recounted. Over the commlink he said, "There are too many outlets here."

"They could have added a bathroom or something, or it could be a hideout," said Chester. "Don't know which. Unless there's a doorway there, come back."

"I don't see one." A minute later, Firewall was back.

"The elevator shaft?" said Blizzard.

"It's our only lead." Chester force the doors and then jumped to the bottom of the shaft. It was dark. He swore. "Titan Man, don't hurt anything, but you can try the same search here. Firewall?"

"On my way." He adjusted the suit loudspeakers to play Elvis Presley's Fools Rush In while they searched.

"Elvis?" said Titan Man absently as he tested sections of the shaft. "I knew him. Nice guy."

"Did you know Bach, too?" asked Firewall, as a section of wall bulged out and Titan Man's fists slid into the light beyond.

A figure in midnight blue hit Titan Man's hands. Titan Man gave a soft grunt. "I can't work my hands..."

Chester leapt for the patch of light, and missed, but managed to knock the doors off their tracks. He held on to the ledge.

Up above, the Blizzard stopped searching and ran to the elevator shaft. The Key turned invisible. Hildy saw this...and dove into the elevator shaft and flew into the sublevel. She swung at Nocturne, and missed. From the shaft, Firewall fired once, but missed.

Nocturne switched targets and hit Hildy; he was strong, because she felt the kick. She went Oof and was lifted into the air.

Titan Man had the presence of mind to move all the way inside, opening the doorway. Chester jumped into the opening, but was off-balance: his swing at Nocturne got him nothing but air.

Sidestep it, thought Blizzard. We only have to plant a tracer. He turned to spirit, and the snowstorm formed about him. He moved swiftly past the fighting heroes and saw the Delta Interceptor parked ahead. He turned solid again and reached for the tracer.

It wasn't there. Another problem with the simulation, he thought.

With Blizzard's example, Firewall swooped into the room, around the combatants and placed his tracer on the car.

The room faded, to be replaced by darkness. They each slowly got out of the six gleaming cocoons. Firewall counted again. He saw only six this time. Where were the other two? He glanced at the cabinet in the corner. The doll was gone.

"What about the extra two cocoons?" he asked.

Doctor Clemente looked annoyed, but said, "We had them taken away by the cyborgs on site. The cocoons don't weigh more than a ton each."

"And the doll?"

"What doll?" asked Doctor Clemente.

"Is he telling the truth?" Firewall asked the Key.

She was staring again at Doctor Clemente. Suddenly she said, "Bad! Bad! Minnesota Protocol!"

Chester looked over at the doctor. The Minnesota Protocol created superhumans. The Minnesota Protocol had created him.
Last edited by kipling on Wed Nov 07, 2007 9:47 am, edited 2 times in total.
Stories: Occult Investigation, Freedom City, Listening to the Universe
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Postby Libra » Tue Oct 09, 2007 8:16 am

Good work! :D
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Postby kipling » Tue Oct 09, 2007 6:16 pm

(bowing) Thenk yew, thenk yew. As long as people are enjoying it.

I'm sure it will get more complicated in the last two scenes. Tomorrow night we play out Scene 4: Nocturne. :)

Edit: Oh, much more complicated.
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Postby kipling » Thu Oct 11, 2007 7:32 am

Tonight's session was mostly talking, since there was only one fight, and I had Nocturne take one character on to deliver the message (which was, "Talk to me at midnight at this location").

There was a single fight and mostly talking, especially by the guy who doesn't think they're out of the simulation yet. "VR never ends well."

By the way, when he voiced this suspicion (as a player), and I pointed to the section in the rules where it said just what he had said, he went, "Ah; they've tested this with real gamers, then."

And I was happy to see a new copy of the rules at the game table, and people looking things up. (Of course, the power point I've been giving per session helps, too.)

The biggest problem with this scene is that it doesn't end on a cliff-hanger, it ends on an expectation, which is a different thing. Also, I don't recall it this way in the adventure, but Nocturne will go with them to get the children out of the way. "Oh, we're a diversion." Uh, yes. :) I've also referred to Agent Zero, a super kept in the facility but far away. (Agent Zero has two powers: Speed, to get to the site of the fight on time, and a PL 12 area effect nullify (magic or genetics) centered on him. They might or might not call on him, but it seemed reasonable that if the armed forces had access to an agent like that, they would use him in a situation where they expect some kids with out-of-control powers. Of course, he's frequently not there because he's asked to be elsewhere.)

Background stuff that isn't in the module and that has come out in preparing the players: blacks make up about 15% of supers in the US; they've tracked the genetic supers down to survivors of gas attacks in WWI, which seems to have caused the mutations. Genetics supers make up about a third of superheroes; the other two-thirds can't be detected by genetic screening, such as magic/endowment (such as Hildy), tech, and oddballs like aliens.
Stories: Occult Investigation, Freedom City, Listening to the Universe
Not sick now, the tumour is out--thanks for wondering!


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