October 28, 2015
- The Commander (Doug) – telekinetic super-soldier with a really angry dog
- Arc Light (Christian) – battlsuited gadgeteer with electrical powers
- The Rat Queen (Emily) – brick with super-perception; made of actual rats
- Eamon Finnegan (Kyle) – smooth talking gravity-master; Ultimate Fighting Lawyer, to borrow a phrase.
- Zephyr (Merlin) – Real name Murui; Shaolin Kung Fu expert and super-speedster.
We start by taking some downtime to eat, sleep, repair some damage to equipment, and other goodness. Mostly a bit of clean-up and housekeeping from a personal upkeep standpont.
We’d decided last game that since we were a somewhat independent team at this point, that we’d do a bit of daytime public service repairing infrastructure and damage from the big disastrous breakout. Also, some night-time work of major sites that also need repair, but are too hazardous to do with a crowd of groupies, fanboys, or admirers around us. Or drawing supervillains like magnets – whatever.
But a bit during the day we’ll be doing information hunts for the escapees from Riker’s, and a bit during both the day and the night we’ll be actively hunting bad guys.
Apparently, someone’s been going around the city destroying transformers in Brooklyn. That seems like a good thing to investigate, we decide, being civic-minded folks. We deploy the usual squad of rats for recon.
Arc Light? He takes the transformer thing personally.
We also get reports that people are losing time – below Central Park in the business district – and experiencing blackouts, and actual physical evidence of stopped or out-of-sync clocks, both digital and analog. It’s not widespread or growing, but it’s noticeable.
Finally, we also receive reports of PMCs (Private Military Contractors) flooding into the city. And a weird-looking dragon seen over Hudson bay – a Lung-style dragon, beating the snot out of one of the escapees from Riker’s Island. Either that or someone was really drunk – or lots of people.
We decide to check out the time lapse guy, because time-altering supers are rare as hell and it NEVER ends well. Most of them go mad…
We look around and decide that yes, something is truly weird going on with physics in Manhattan. Normally the Valiants would handle this, but they haven’t. Up to us, then.
We buy a bag of skittles as a “physics experiment.” We also task the gadgeteer to invent a wibbly-wobbly time device to detect anomolies.
Eamon, our gravity-sensing super, flies over Manhattan looking for anything crazy. The Rats go out looking for stuff, all wearing superhero costumes in a way that fails to be utterly ridiculous. Just ask us. We’ll tell you: not ridiculous.
Eamon makes his roll by 9, but the Rat Queen stomps all over him making her intel gathering roll by 16. Yes, 16. We know exactly where to go, on Chamber St. Because all of the bad stuff in the city happens at restaurants. What’s up with that?
It’s a silver-bullet style diner, with the “Cops Eat Free!” sign in the window, and the best-smelling pancakes the Rat Queen has ever smelled. She has to have one, immediately. Hand-ground flour from the thighs of virgins, hand-cured vanilla from isolated villages in Mexico, and eggs gathered from holy hens. These are the best pancakes ever. Not sure why it’s relevant, but it was lovingly described and we ran with it.
And yet, despite all the goodness, there’s wonky time and evil here.
We must save the pancakes.
There’s an old German dude who’s doing nothing but making pancakes. He shoos away a Rat, and we realize that the cook can tell that it’s part of a larger creature. There are a string of faded numbers on the cook’s right arm.
That gives us pause.
We start looking about – the scene looks a bit like a 1950s set, but we don’t actually see ahistorical stuff. The fact that the place is packed and the pancakes seem to have near-narcotic qualities is odd, but everything that’s possible happens in the big city.
Zephyr realizes that technically we qualify as police. Yes! We eat free.
There are places in the diner, however, that seem . . . warped. If gravity were a screen door, we see the holes and dents in it. There’s no obvious time dilation here . . . yet.
Rat Queen points out that the guy is freakishly perceptive. Given we’re all wearing MAPS uniforms, the Commander once again pulls Leeeroy Jenkins and just walks up to the German cook, and asks if a word can be had.
Arc Light pulls the history of the diner – it’s been around since WW2 in one form or another. It’s been a landmark in the area for ever (not literally), and has a highly cosmopolitan clientele. It was even featured on Guy Fiere’s show or something like that.
We cross-reference the tatoo on his arm with databases if we can, and find out he’s Urich Rosenkranz. No Guildensterns are in evidence, but we’re on the lookout.
We chat for a while, but nothing really leaps out. I ask about the clientele, anything unusual, etc. The conversation is a bit wandering, but nothing really strikes me as useful. Granddaughter, daughter, and layabout son-in-law.
We hear a crash and a scream: We find the old man on the ground, unmoving. A quick examination shows he’s dead, likely of a sudden stroke or aneurysm, since heart attacks aren’t that fast. The granddaughter screams “not again, not again!” and the jukebox starts mysteriously playing. She more or less punches herself in the chest, and . . .
The GM calls for us all to make HT rolls . . . at -20. So we’re crit-fishing by GM request . . . but Zephyr is invited to spend Karma to succeed. 3 karma spend later, and he sees the back of the door of the diner blast off. There’s a funky machine, wires are everywhere, and . . . it feels to him like he’s being pulled through a wall.
* * *
We are back at Riker’s Island, and Zephyr is acting very weird, talking about Groundhog Day. Arc Light is working on his suit, we’re looking for bad guys, etc.
Zephyr tries to relay what we did. Or are going to do. Or will do again. We are skeptical. He relays the prior events as well as he can. “There were pancakes, an old German guy, and scary blonde people!”
He remembers physical details, including the fact that he was a concentration camp survivor, and his name was Urich Rosencranz.
“Guys! Guys! There’s more important stuff going on. He just fell over dead! And the pancakes were delicious! And then technological hoo-hah happened, I got pulled through the wall, and I got pulled back in time and woke up in my bed! I think she did it to save her grandpa, but she’s caught in a loop! We can save time if we go right now!”
“Are you sure he had a stroke?”
“I’m a ninja, not a doctor!”
The Rat Queen packs a crash kit. Arc Light wonders the exact time the old man dropped . . . and Zephyr critically succeeds his IQ roll. It was exactly 10:43am, 7 seconds after the minute.
We take up Eamon’s offer to fly us there, and basically beat feet and fly and whatever to get there ASAP.
We must save the pancakes.
We go in. We hear the guy singing a nursery rhyme in German. We go looking for the granddaughter . . . who is conspicuously absent. The Rat Queen tries to stay within hearing range of Urich’s heartbeat in rat form.
We try and sense what’s going on, but things are weirdly different this time. We need to check the back room, she says. The Commander points out that while Zephyr’s perception of police powers might have been colored by his criminal past, just wandering around and entering places without invitation.
Zephyr tries to fast-talk his way past him . . . and one does not bullshit a jewish grandfather who has survived a concentration camp. Urich pulls a gun. Zephyr decided to tell the truth after all. His heart rate accelerates, but is still going strong. His hands are steady and he seems un-phased.
This is going to be good.
Arc Light starts to detect some weird energy that wasn’t there before. He gizmos up a tachyon-chronotron detector – he just happens to have one around, ya know. He’d been working on FTL super-comm to, um . . . nope. We have no idea why he has one. It works briefly, and then might possibly explode, if/when it works at all.
Zephyr start in with “the truth.”
He puts up his hands, and starts talking very slowly
“Listen sir, I”m on your side I’m an officer in MAPS. Earlier today we came in to your diner, and conversed with granddaughter who is conveniently absent, and then you dropped dead in back room.”
Urich’s eyes go flinty and dead again. Zephyr continues, telling him that time switched, and we’re all going through same day again. He msut have noticed. There’s a mchine. You must have noticed. Right?
The only thing Urich says he’s noticing is his bladder right now.
In a bit of panicked desperation, Zephyr continues. I’m not robbing you, we just want to look in the back room. You can have any cops you want in the building, eating your delicious pancakes. But let’s go to the back room.
The cops in the building are amused. They’re starting to place bets on how many bones the old man breaks on Zephyr. Apparently the last time a thug tried something the broken-bone count was eight. Urich is, apparently, a right-tough old bastard.
Ultimately, Urich leads Zephyr back into the room, and huh. There’s a soldering station, and some majorly heavy math on a chalkboard. Urich notes that this is Mishka’s homework. She is smart girl. Mishka is the grand-daughter.
Zephyr: Yes, she is smart girl. You love her, and I’d love you to take that gun off of me. But hey, whatever . . . but it’s 10:39m:49s . . . We have about four minutes.
Arc Light and Eamon see the board . . . they understands what’s the general gist – a mathematical formula for time travel. She’s found a way to balance the direction for time travel. But the grand-daughter was here, she changed something, and she’s not here now.
The old man gets weak . . . and falls over. Eamon and Rat Queen rush over, anticipating this. Rat Queen leads, we all try and help. We then hear Mishka, from behind us. She was definitely not there before. She’s wearing a funky-looking brown coat, much bigger than she is. She screams out “Not again!” and slams her hand onto her chest, and . . .
* * *
Merlin wakes up in his bed, furious that we couldn’t save Urich in time.
“We went in there twice, now . . . “
“Are you sure it was only twice?”
” . . . “
We’re all quite confused for perhaps the second time today. Maybe third. Or more.
This time Zephyr jots down some remembered math. That gets Eamon and Arc Light’s attention. “Hey! You solved the time direction problem! How did you do that?”
“I stole it. I’m a Time Bandit.”
We wonder if we could create a device to interfere with the tachyon flow? Yes . . . but we don’t have the time.
We try and change tactics. The Commander, all impulsive-like, goes all Leeroy Jenkins again, and simply wanders over and calls the diner on the phone: “May I please speak to Mishka?”
Mom clearly answers. She’s at NYU. “She’s on the Dean’s list.” The Commander asks Mom to give her a message – please call Arc Light’s fax machine? Telex? He can’t help but name every obsolete commincations device ever as Arc Light gets offended. He’s state-of-the-art, you know. He tells her that we would like to talk to her, if she can make the time, in order to discuss current events.
The mom thinks I’m a very nice boy and would make a much better for her Mishka than her layabout boyfriend. So it seems The Commander is being set up for a different kind of mission.
We head over to NYU . . . and 20 minutes later, before we get there, Zephyr is dragged through a temporal wall.
Thirty minutes later, we are down with the story, for the unknownth time. Temporal wall. Physics equations. NYU. Blonde Mishka.
Murui (Zephyr) suggests that Arc Light ‘hacks the planet’ to find her phone number. We tell her we’re trying to help her save her grandmother.
Instant time loop.
Thirty minutes later, we are down with the story. Temporal wall. Physics equations. NYU. Can’t call her, or she’ll push the emergency stop.
We try and memorize her phone number. But fail the roll. “Can we take extra time to memorize the number.”
We decide to send Zephyr alone, fast, to intercept Mishka. Arc Light manages to make a Science! roll, and succeeding by 10 manages to balance the formula perfectly. Zephyr tries as hard as he can to memorize the new formula . . . and rolls another crit for his IQ roll. We suspect his brain is literally on fire.
We decide to wait. We decide to wait. We decide to wait . . .
And Zephyr wakes up, and runs as fast as he can over to NYU without the team. But with pants. Perhaps you should put some pants on, if you’re going to continue fighting evil today?
Zephyr hits the university, taking 15 minutes to get there, and 10 minutes to find her. He finds her in a lab, of course.
It’s time for some diplomacy . . . and Zephyr can’t remember her name. Good start.
“Please don’t reverse time, we’re trying to save your grandpa! Just don’t hit your chest!”
“I don’t need to hit my chest anymore. I improved the suit.” She stands up, with a new more-awesome suit.
Zephyr goes in for full persuasion mode. Tells her that at 10:43, her grandfather is going to drop over and die. Is that why you’re trying to stop time?
“You were in the diner. What? No, it’s happening again!”
Zephyr gives her the formula as quickly as he can. She punches out.
He wakes up in his bed again.
He gets up and runs right over . . . first banging out a full email at super-speed to us.
When Zephyr gets to the lab, she turns and looks at him.
“Do you remember me?”
“Yes,” she snarls.
Zephyr runs over and writes the formula on the chalkboard as completely as possible.
“Does this help you at all? With your experiment?”
It’s not an experiment, she says. I found this in my grandfather’s stuff. It’s a bunch of old tech, and I can’t make it turn off.
So, the first one’s broke. Maybe my friend Arc Light can help? He’s super-smart at this stuff.
No, she doesn’t trust him. You have to help me!
Why are you being such a jerk? We’re just trying to help! he says Diplomatically.
She slaps him. Proving that with a poor-enough effort, even a Diplomacy roll can have negative consequences.
Zephyr keeps trying to help. He goes for full fast-talk to try and calm her down, and tries to convince her that he’s out to save her grandfather.
She offers her his hand, and it hurts less when time reverses again. She’s on board, finally.
This time, Zephyr gets Arc Light on comm, and they go over, with the plan to fix the old WW2 tech.
The new plan has The Commander to the diner for crowd control, the med team heads to the diner as well, Arc Light is playing Cyrano, online to work up a model of the equipment, and Zephyr is on the run. We have 73 minutes and 7 seconds to save grandpa.
He shows up, Mishka remembers him. Arc Light is online. And we get to examine the device, which has SS markings on it. Figures. It’s about the size of a microwave – it looks like it’s part of a larger thing. Of course.
Zephyr tries to fix the equipment, being coached by Arc Light. An Inventor! and IQ check later by Arc LIght, and they decide that this small piece is not, in fact, the main unit. There’s a larger piece or primary device, and it’s not here, but must be in range somewehre.
In a box of stuff – a footlocker or other storage device, there’s also a box of 8mm film. Zephyr grabs a bright light and spools the film past his eyes at a convenient 30 frames per second. He sees a man in SS uniform, along with other people, around large spherical device adjacent to box we have. The machine is large enough to fit a man, and they put someone inside. He disappears. They repeat this a few times.
Then, suddenly, a giant man with long black hair 7 or 8 ft tall bursts through the wall, and starts punching out Nazis 200 times. A few frames later, a woman walks in. It’s Basilisk, the woman with “Legend” on her nametag from two missions ago. She hasn’t aged at all. since then. She’s blasting nazis with a tommy gun, and is ridiculously accurate whether firing single shots, short bursts, or full-auto. She was apparently as dangerous then as she is now. Or if she’s more dangerous now, that’s profoundly not good. There is an obvious family resemblance between the large man and basilisk.
We deduce that the large man is “General Legend,” the person with the gravelly voice that The Commander talked to from Riker’s. We’d thought that the two were opposed to each other somehow, or at least that’s what The Commander thought at the time.
That film reel ended, and the next one shows same device, this time with american scientists, then large native American guy walks in and is shouting. He rips the metal frame in half tosses it on ground, starts barking orders then film ends.
Zephyr asks how Urich got the box, but she doesn’t know. It’s malfunctioning because it’s not complete. Zephyr asks if we can teleport further back, Mishka notes that yes, they could, but that could destroy universe. We opt out.
Zephyr asks Arc Light if he can fix the box, and Mishka agrees that Zephyr can bring Arc Light with him next time. Arc Light tries to get to NYU flying supersonic over the city but doesn’t make it in time.
This time Zephyr has the briefing down, and it takes less time to bring us up to speed. We speed out and head over to the diner, and manage to convince Urich he’s in danger from an unknown medical condition. A Patron roll is made, and a high-tech safe house that happens to be a spectacularly advanced medical facility is made available to us. They’ll be ready with a neurosurgeon and the best anti-stroke drugs and gear when we get there.
The Commander has gotten everyone out of the diner so we could convince Grandpa Urich that he was going to have a stroke. We’re now rushing towards a safe house with neurosurgeons on staff . . . we have 23min until the unfortunately-literal drop-dead moment.
The old man looks really agitated, and the docs and the daughter manage to calm him down. They pull out some really advanced medtech, and we can see it. There’s a blood clot there that’s ready to burst, like, well, a time-bomb.
There’s a vacuum stent that can help this; it’s new, but it’s there. Eamon works out how to assist using micro-control TK or something to assist. They remove the clot without any problems. They remove all of his thromboid issues without problems, in fact.
A man comes up by me, wearing an impeccably tailored suit. Nicolaides Xanthos, whose company has the revenue of the GDP of many small-to-medium size countries. He brought water to most of Africa. He worked with world leaders to cure major worm infestations. We introduce each other.
Time does not loop. We’ve saved the old man, and the granddaughter breaks down in tears.
We still have to deal with the device . . . but now we have the time to do so.
The Commander gets important info from Zephyr: Basilisk and someone who’s clearly related to her tried to stop the original experiment. They were there for the original experiments, and seem to have not aged since then. That’s at least scion levels of not-aging. Maybe better.
We suspect they’re stuck in time.
We talk to Urich. Over pancakes.
He says it’s not time travel, it’s a bubble. The Nazis couldn’t make it work, but they sent in “the twins.” Urich met them later, when they rescued him from a terrible place. The Twins? Good people, never famous, but the world would never be the same without them.
We ask him about The Legends. Turns out that they’re brother and sister. Navajo. She’s the best sniper you’ve never seen, and he’s been known to lift a tank. Both metahumans, then.
They work with Cortez, though, ARES, who hates us.
They don’t work with Cortez! He spits.
Well, we’ve seen them together. She healed Zephyr
If Katori is working with Cortez, it’s at Daniel’s Orders.
Why would the Legends not work with Cortez?
He looks over at Arc Light. “He knows. Where did you get that battle armor?”
“I made it.”
“No, you didn’t.”
“Where’s the person who owned this?”
“He’s retired, I took his place.”
“Mmm hmmm. You don’t trust Cortez. He’s only out for himself. Do not let him have any control over you. Do not let him figure out your weak points.”
“Does that include your pancakes?”
We end there. I’m still reflecting on lessons learned. This was an entirely roleplaying-driven session, and Christopher pulled off the time paradox thing spectacularly well. We gave Zephyr (Merlin) MVP, which seemed an obvious call.
This one managed to weave in future adventure possibilities with a lot of backstory. There are a lot of pro authors that can’t pull that off, much less in an interactive session with unpredictable PCs.