GM's Note: The actions are correct, but all the other character interpolation is of course mine, intended to give a better reading experience. The group is missing two members, one of whom has just had a run of bad luck on gaming nights and the other, who will rejoin in July. I have no idea how long this game will go--I know we'll finish Major League, and I am (as you can see) laying the groundwork for more adventures, but it's up to the players.
The characters so far are:
- The USS Enterprise, a plastic model that is possessed by the ghost of a mutant and unshakeable in its belief that it is the actual NCC-1701D;
- The Escapist, a 30s hero frozen by his enemies and thawed on the eve of the new millennium (those who've read Kavalier & Klay know The Escapist);
- Minotaur, plucked from the list of archetypes by one of the players who doesn't own the rules.
Chapter 1: The Heist
FREEDOM FORTRESS 12:02 PM
Member Status 12:02 pm
Father Sparks: Corrupt
Johnny Pronto: Corrupt
Dr. Metropolis: Uncertain. Tentatively assigned value corrupt.
Fortress Status: Hungry
EASTERN SEABOARD BANK 2:13 PM
Lt. Maura Shapirowitz was tired and frustrated. What she wanted was a peaceful end to this standoff. Forty hostages in the bank, two supervillains, eight muscle. The sun was hot on her neck, making her glad she had gone for the shorter haircut this time.
Still, longer hair would keep Lt. Clancy Lord from breathing on her neck. He stood there, in his jumpsuit, waiting, his toothpick jutting from his mouth, looking like an aging surfer, all smugness and tan.
"Give it up, Shapirowitz," he told her. "All they understand is force. I've got the Beta Cannon being prepped right now and ten shell units waiting in the generator truck."
She should have stayed with the FBI, she thought, but the changes that had led to the Waco tragedy had finally forced her out, ten years later. A legacy of pain and a shoot-first attitude she didn't like.
And now this, on her first day with the Patriot City PD. While waiting for the guy in the bank--Rant--to call her again, she used her other cell phone to order a pint of Hagen-Daaz Triple Brownie Overload. She was going to need it when she got home.
It was Rant. The villain in the bank. She had looked him up on her PDA. William Rackert, sonic powers. Sister Eleanor who went by Rave. Three arrests by various members of Freedom Force for petty crimes, always to get immediate results. No previous evidence of any planning abilities. And she couldn't see him; the blast doors on the bank had slammed shut, keeping Rant, Rave, forty hostages, and probably six goons inside.
"Any superheroes out there yet?"
"Not yet," she said truthfully.
"Lemme know when they show up."
"How do you know they'll show up?"
"Come on. It's Patriot City. They live to catch supervillians." He said it that way, "villian." To someone else, he said, "Half in the vault and half the hostages here." Then, back into the phone, "Listen, Maura, while we wait, I have to know."
"Are you bodaaaaaacious?" He drew the word out.
Clancy, listening in on a headset, laughed.
"Come out and you can see," she said.
"That means no. Do you like girls? My sister's feeling kind of desperate. Ow!"
She hit me. Listen, I think it's time to start offing hostages."
"You haven't even made any demands!"
Maura wiped away a trickle of sweat from her temple.
"Okay, you send us a superhero, a strong one. Five minutes, no more. Or we start popping them like the guard. Rant over."
She dialed to double her ice cream order. She was going to have to put the ice cream store on speed dial.
* * *
"Bob, how's this for an opening?
"Amy Feng, Channel 3 Action News, with the Eastern Seaboard Bank behind me, and you can see that the mood is tense here as blah blah blah. Everyone is wondering, where is Freedom Force?"
"I especially like the 'blah blah blah' part."
Amy offered him a short obscenity. "We need something better to show than that little bit of security camera broadcast."
"But it was good film--showed the guard getting knocked out against the wall like that."
"We'll do better. Can you drive faster?"
"No. They have the place cordoned off. Hey, that's the Tactical Weapons and Armor Truck."
"Why did they have to call it that?"
"They're cops, they're born crude. Amy, it means they don't think supers are going to show."
"What was that?"
Bob squinted. "Looks like a model airplane of the Enterprise."
"You know, Star Trek."
"I hope it's the original series. Get us close to the truck. Not too close, those generators are noisy, but get a good angle on it."
"Don't I always?"
* * *
Wilfred Phineas Brown, currently hiding behind the name "Minotaur," surveyed the crowd from the shelter of the alleyway. He had never presented himself this publicly before. What if-- Well. He reminded himself what Chaucer said, that time and tide wait for no man.
Something small zipped overhead. He glanced at it. The Enterprise. Good. It would be good to have their--its--help.
He leapt high over the crowd and landed inside the police barricade, near a harried-looking female officer with three cell phones and a headset. Behind her, a jumpsuited officer drew his pistol swiftly and then grinned at Brown. The man looked like an aged surfer, tan, buff, and starting to bald.
"Greetings," Brown said, and then realized that he had to sound tougher. "Yo. Minotaur here."
"Lt. Maura Shapirowitz here." Into one of the cell phones: "We've got one, named Minotaur.... Uh, sorry, no, I meant I need that three pints of Hagen-Dasz, and I'm hanging up now." She grabbed a different phone. "Hold on."
"Good work, Lieutenant," said the officer who still had his pistol drawn.
"Up yours, Lord," said Shapirowitz.
"Lieutenant Clancy Lord," said the man, extending his hand to Minotaur. "Head of Superhuman Weapons And Tactics." He nodded his head. "The boys in turtle armor are mine, and we've got the Beta cannon standing by."
"Pardon? Beta cannon?" asked Minotaur. "I mean, say what?" He itched to stop talking and start fighting; his street slang was largely from television shows.
"Little gadget we've got that will peel open the bank like a ripe banana."
"I don't believe that will be necessary, Officer," came the voice of Patrick Stewart.
Shapirowitz said to Minotaur, "Is this your flying robot gadget?"
"This is the U.S.S. Enterprise of the United Federation of Planets."
"Funny," said Lord, "I always thought you'd be bigger."
"An unfortunate side effect of the wormhole passage that brought us to your century. Nonetheless, we can be quite effective. What is the situation?"
"Two dirtbags going by Rant and Rave, between five and ten armed thugs, and hostages," said Lord.
"And they want a brick to help them."
"Help them what?" asked Minotaur.
"Carry the loot, apparently."
"It does get someone inside," said the Enterprise.
"I can get people inside," said Lord. "We're bringing in the Beta Cannon right now."
Six jumpsuited officers in vests were bringing in the cannon, a massive gleaming machine that rested on five ground-effect disks. The cannon hummed and the charge indicator on the side showed red--less than half of the capacitors loaded.
"I'll do it," said Minotaur.
"Summary for Rant," said the Enterprise. "Male caucasian, early twenties, sonic powers, including disintegration. Emotionally unstable."
"Do you have dirt on everyone?" asked Minotaur.
"The police data banks are wide open to twenty-fourth century technology."
"Riiiiight," said Minotaur. He looked around and started across the open pavement to the bank. Enterprise headed up, out of sight.
Pity Minotaur hadn't asked for the summary on Rave.
* * *
The Escapist looked at the locked door. The Eastern Seaboard bank had been the site of a telephone relay station in the 1930s, before long-distance technology had improved. He remembered that relay station. Like most stations of the time, there had been a subterranean access section, and according to the oldest blueprints of the bank, that door had been left intact. When the blast shields had been added--after the emergence of true super-powered heroes in the 1960s--they hadn't added a shield to this door.
The old cable tunnel was empty since the switch to fiber optic, and that channel was accessible through the sewers. The door was heavily padlocked, but the locks were old and heavy, the kind of thing he had trained on, back in the 1920s. He felt a sudden surge of nostalgia and homesickness, and then willed it away.
People were trapped and had to be freed. That was his life back then and it was his life here and now, even since being thawed.
The lock was rusty but fell open under his practised touch. He looked at the door hinges and quickly oiled them, then eased open the door into the bank. It moved three inches and then stopped. Blocked by shelving.
Gentle pressure, slowly increasing, moved the shelving unit aside with only a quiet groan. The janitor probably never even knew about the door.
The Escapist slipped inside. The door to the storeroom was shut, but he waited in the ammonia-scented darkness for a moment. He could hear voices, but no one had noticed him. Yet. Except--
"Did you hear something?"
"Yeah, the boss going on about her sexual habits."
"Besides that. You stay here, I'm just going to scout around."
"Make sure the boss doesn't blast you."
"I'll be careful."
A moment later, the Escapist had taken him down with one punch.
Interesting, thought the Escapist. Blaster pistols--where did low-rent goons like this get blaster pistols? But no armor.
He scooped up the blaster pistol and looked around. He wouldn't be able to sneak into the vault, but there was another set of hostages in the main room. The question was how to sneak up on them. He looked up. The bank had a drop ceiling. It took him only a moment to clamber up above the ceiling tiles.
* * *
Minotaur approached the bank. The sun was warm on his head. The blast shield doors opened slightly, stopped, then opened wider. He could hear someone cursing inside about machines that didn't work right.
"It's not the machine that doesn't work right, needle-noodle," came a woman's voice, "it's you. You're the one who--" Minotaur squeezed through the doors. "Oh. Oh, yes."
Minotaur he heard the rumble as the male--Rave--punched buttons on the security desk. The blast doors opened a little, then closed behind him, leaving the foyer dark again.
People--hostages-- were sitting on the floor, along the desks and walls. Minotaur could smell their fear. Chairs and desks had been piled up to make a kind of barrier. A young man and a woman--Rant and Rave, presumably--stood near the counter for tellers. Three men armed with blaster pistols stood around the foyer. The woman stepped forward towards Minotaur.
"I'm Rave, and you're yummy." She reached out to touch him and then thought better of it. "First we have to teach you who's boss." She gestured with one hand--
--and the building melted around him, like a Salvador Dali painting, the marble floor sagging like plastic on a hot stove, the walls bending into non-Euclidean angles, and Rave's skin falling off her skull while her dark hair writhed like snakes and his hands were cold as the flesh sloughed off them--
--and it was gone. Minotaur took a deep breath and looked at his hands to be sure they were okay.
"Just think how I can make you feel if I want you to like it, Yum-bum." She winked.
"Keep your hormones in check, sis. You can use him and abuse him later. We need you to carry the loot, dude. That's all."
The sudden shaft of sunlight awoke the guard. He moaned and reached for his pistol. Rant said, "'Scuse me," and he stepped to one side, opened his mouth and shrieked. The sound grated on Minotaur's ears, set his jaw to vibrating, but it did worse to the guard: it knocked him backwards, headfirst into the wall, and blood began to trickle from his ear. He might have been dead.
Minotaur didn't think of the other hostages. He roared.
"Crap," said Rave. She put her hand on her brother's side and gestured with the other one at Minotaur's feet. The floor went away under him.
Minotaur fell into the basement.
* * *
Outside, the Enterprise's sensors detected the sudden change in energy and the sudden drop in the guard's bodily functions. "Stand back," broadcasted the ship, and fired phasers at the front blast door.
The blast shield rippled and glowed with phaser fire but did not give.
Lieutenant Lord said, "It's gone pear-shaped, Shapirowitz, not unlike yourself. My operation now. Warm up the cannon!"
The officers had settled the cannon on the ground minutes ago and the whine of the capacitors could be heard over the crowd. "We open it with the cannon, then the shells go in. Shells into position!"
The Escapist heard the noise and lifted the nearest ceiling tile. He steadied the blaster pistol and took a single carefully aimed shot at one of the thugs, who fell. A second shot a moment later hit Rant, who staggered--but did not fall. Instead, Rant, still with his sister's hand on him, clapped and moved his hand, as if shooing the sound upwards--
--and the ceiling disappeared.
The Escapist tumbled down and landed upright among the rubble. He tucked and rolled behind a desk, squeezed off a shot, knocked out another thug.
* * *
Minotaur roared--it beat thinking of appropriate street slang--and leapt from the hole, ploughing into Rave with all of his strength. Only at the last minute did he remember to pull his punch--
--and Rave flew backwards into the information desk, rolled like a rag doll, and did not get up again.
Oh, God, thought Minotaur, have I killed her?
There was no time to check, though, as sunlight streamed into the bank as the Enterprise finally opened a hole in the superalloy blast doors.
"Hostages!" shouted the Escapist. "In the vault!"
"I'm on it!" Minotaur sprinted to the vault.
Rant turned to the Escapist, gauged the angle, and bounced the sound off the back row of tellers. The Escapist fell.
The Escapist stayed down.
[GM's note: We were not using Hero Points that night. Rant rolled a critical and The Escapist's player rolled a one on the damage save. Ouch.]
* * *
Enterprise assessed the situation. Minotaur was handling the two thugs in the vault. These three thugs were uncertain, unmoving; Rant was the real danger. From outside it used tractor beams to bring Rant out into the open.
Rant's screams caused the Enterprise's shields to rattle--but they held. Rant was suspended before the Beta Cannon's muzzle.
Rant sneered at the crowd. "You should be afraid. Something like this isn't going to bother me, when I can just shatter the control mechanism--"
The very air rippled with the force of his next shriek. Attendant officers clapped their hands over their ears, and a dozen lights on the Beta Cannon switched from green to amber or red.
"Uh, Turk," said one of the officers, "remind me about the cannon again. Red lights are bad, aren't they?"
"Very bad, Julio. Emergency shutdown."
"It's not working! She's going to blow!"
* * *
In the vault, Minotaur looked at the two thugs. They held the blasters on the twenty hostages. The air was hot and fetid. "You move toward us," said the first thug, "and they get it."
Blasters were nominally non-lethal weapons, but at point-blank range
in a highly-conductive environment, Minotaur knew that "nominal" meant "not really."
"I don't have to move toward you at all," said Minotaur. He lifted his foot and stomped--
--and the ground shook.
It was helped by the nature of the vault walls and floor, a sandwich of ultradense alloys and ceramics; they carried the vibration better than dirt. It was an earthquake, and the epicenter was less than a dozen feet from where they stood. They shook, toppled, and fell, and Minotaur had them.
Mindful of the close call with Rave, he was more careful about pulling his punch when he hit the first one--too careful, as it turned out. because the thug managed to draw on him from the ground, and the blaster bolt caught him unawares, stunning him for a second.
All he could hear were the screams of the hostages.
* * *
Enterprise noticed the sudden surge in energy in the Beta Cannon power core, and made an instant decision. It dropped Rant in the middle of the armored agents and focused its tractor beams on the Beta Cannon itself.
* * *
Operating on instinct, Minotaur backhanded the thug, thankful the goon hadn't remembered to fire on hostages. The thug fell against a wall of safety-deposit boxes. And the second was--
The second was gone. The rest of the hostages were nearly immobile with shock--too much, too fast for them.
"He took off with Miss Lopez," a middle-aged man told Minotaur while the others murmured "Thank you."
Outside the vault door, Minotaur could see the glowing red Exit light over the back door, could see that the blast shield was still in place.
In the foyer, The Escapist stood there, blaster in hand. The three thugs were unconscious on the floor.
"Did one run by you?" he asked The Escapist.
"No. Check outside. I'll check the other exit."
What other exit? thought Minotaur, but he headed outside, into the bright sunlight.
* * *
It wasn't until Enterprise was nearly out of the Earth's atmosphere that it was safe to engage the drive, pulling the Beta Cannon along an orbit that would intersect the sun and no known satellites of Earth or the sun.
Then, at the last moment, it cut the tractor beams and let the Beta Cannon fall through space.
There was no time to watch a new brief star flare up; lives might still be endangered.
* * *
"Amy Feng, Action 3 news, here with Minotaur, who has just, with the Enterprise"--she looked pained as she said that--"foiled a bank robbery. Minotaur, how do you feel?"
Minotaur tried to dodge the camera and microphone, and couldn't. "Just doing what I--Just doing the right thing," he said to her.
* * *
In the sewer, The Escapist found Serena Lopez, unconscious. The thug had found the door he had used to enter, taken her along, and then knocked her out when he didn't need her any more.
He set about reviving the young woman.
* * *
Behind Amy Feng, out of camera range, the Superhuman Weapons And Tactics team scrambled for their truck. Maura Shapirowitz went in to the bank to deal with hostages.
"How do you feel about the fact that Freedom Force didn't show up?" Amy Feng said to Minotaur.
Enterprise appeared. "Minotaur! According to the police broadcasts, members of Freedom Force are robbing ASTRO labs. Stand ready to be lifted by tractor beam!"
"Gotta go!" Minotaur said. "You chill," he added to Amy Feng as Enterprise carried him away.
Amy Feng looked in the camera. "And Action 3 news will be there!"
"Cut!" said Bob.
"Then why aren't you running yet?"