SH2.02: Pip bags a man! Surplus heroes on the forger’s trail!

The Bad’n’Ruin: a double-hop Kitty (Keiten) class starship. Sports a good mix of cargo space and cabins, and generally no need to use iceboxes (Low Passage).

kitty-class

Bex (NPC): Pip’s ex-banker cousin, and merchant brain of the Bad’n’Ruin. Also hot, and good at gambling.

Big Jim/BJ the starship engineer, ex-scout with a cyborg arm. Mid-30s, greasy tan skin, hefty and overweight.

Choi (NPC) the engineer’s mate and system tech. Early 20s, Taran urban scum background, has some useful criminal skills.

Iceman the ship’s gunner, ex-marine with weird blue-tinged hairless skin from being iceboxed for 15 years. Looks mid-30s. Hefty, likes guns a lot.

Pip the ship’s pilot and ex-scout with a need for speed. Mid-30s but looking good, very dark hair and pale olive skin.

Widow the ship’s sensors/comms, ex-marine lieutenant and still a reservist. Early 30s, urban scum of Japanese-Brazilian ancestry, hair shade varies.

 

The plot so far

Last season Widow stashed a captain’s log from the lost expedition to Klackon-haunted Lewis. Once back in the civilized world of Junidi, she compared the physical journal with the digital version she had downloaded before the expedition. Puzzling discrepancies led to a quest to find the grungy little forger, Sid; and the quest has taken the Bad’n’Ruin crew from Altara, where they dealt with Al Wrightman and a hostile cartel, to Pavanne, a dead world where an outstation orbits.

Spelling: for Bayvan read Beyavin; for Jundy read Junidi.

 

Just a reminder about the dice rolling in Surplus Heroes. Outside of combat it is 2d10, high is good, try to roll on or above skill, sometimes with a bonus for proficiency. A typical trained skill is 11, a true expert might have 7 because low is good.

 

The Bad’n’Ruin drops out over Pavanne. We’re toting supplies for Carsten as well as for the outstation here. And we got around a dozen miners, looking to contract for this or that big company. Al Wrightman – the shyster we sprung out of Altara – has been no trouble at all, mostly keeping to himself in the crew quarters. Pip’s dropped us right over the outstation. I flick an eye over my arrays.

Widow [complete fail on sensors]: all looks same as ever

Pip [2 over on pilot] Hey! Is that an asteroid???

I’m wandering back down to get myself a café-blast (It ain’t coffee but it sure feels good!) when a media channel opens and someone live is asking our vector and landing needs. I scramble back up, give them our call-sign and this time open the sensors out full and have a real look-see.

on_sensors

There’s a giant pod-trucker, and around six double-hoppers like ours. I’m giving the station the Bad’n’Ruin’s needs and we drop in close, by which time I see the big old Fassault junker is still looking live. I woulda thought they burned that out after we cleared last time.

Pip lands (heavy on the thrusters as usual) and we hook.

Bex: I’ll see if I can reach out and get some contacts

Widow: Why don’t you head in with us in person? There’s always a game going and you’d go over big here.

Bex: Well that does sound interesting… and I would feel safe if all of you are around

Widow: The personal touch is always best setting up a trade anyway

Bex: You sold me, let me get my gear

Widow [via comms]: Briefing on Bridge, all crew assemble

 

[A note on responsibilities: Bex has the say on cargo and deals struck. Widow, who gained rank in the Marines, takes the boss role when it comes to ground action. Pip tends to act as captain for the grey area between, because pilot=captain in her mind. It can be confusing. This all goes back to us players disliking any set ‘leader’ role.]

 

Choi is to stay aboard. I lay down a rule that seeing as how things seems law-abiding on Pavanne, we go in with no heavy weapons. And only one SMG for BJ. The big guy takes it a little too serious, carrying his gun in his duffle where it’ll be useless in a set-to. My ownself, I gear with just light combat armor including my helmet but no visor, power knucks, compact SMG on one hip and lupara in its custom holster, and blade in its scabbard. Iceman picks out a reliable old carbine from the gun locker and armors much same as me but with full HUD. Pip wears her usual concealable under a decent outfit, and I guess Bex does the same. They both shape up as man-bait, so I’m a mile behind. I check in on Wrightman and he’s happy to keep stowed here.

Outside in the dock the Lifers are still here, but seems how they smartened up, wearing imported clothes and not seedy hand-me-downs. The guards are still Natty Chipper mercs and let us by peaceful-like. In the entry corridor I can see the miners, who I farewelled a while ago, are still making their way through hawkers or some such.

Closer up I find these are shills for mining companies, all eager to get a piece of some bounty for contracts, no doubt of it. We press on through telling them we’re crew, with no further delay than it takes one of them to shill for the Transit Lounge on Level 4; and make the elevator shaft bay.

It’s guarded, same as before, and the guard is a big manly piece, so I nod Pip forward and she chats while we wait for the elevator.

[Pip hits the guard with general sexiness (‘when do you get off duty?’) and a 50 cred bribe as well. This might not always work in tandem, but in this case the guard is both horny and happy to be bribed. He makes a date to meet Pip after he gets off and also gives her a general run-down on Pavanne outstation as it now stands, including some faction intel.]

From what I caught and Pip lets us in on, we’ll find Tukera and Obelindas now happily sharing the mining trade creds up on Transit Lounge. So we exit on Level 4 and sure enough, it’s clean, bright and there’s a distant buzz from happy drinking and gambling miners.

transitlounge

Most of the level is roomed off – I guess it used to be crew quarters and med facilities – but there’s two opposite entertainment bays. The one I pick at random is Obelindas and I ask the barkeep where at’s a merchant for doing a deal for luxuries like whiskey. Pretty soon Bex is negotiating with Sera from Obelindas. It’s all fine, and as I hoped, we’re not needed. Though BJ decides to stick on and watch.

[The crew now splits up to individual pursuits. Pip heads off because her date gets off his shift almost immediately; Iceman picks up a clean and legal hooker on this floor and goes to her room; Widow wanders around randomly looking over the floor and saying hi to the Tukeras on the other bar; and BJ gets himself into trouble.]

Saying to myself those Tukeras ain’t so bad, I swing on back to where Bex ought to be closing her deal by now. I ain’t got no call so I figure Iceman and Pip are working on about my timetable. Only, when I get near the tables, what do I see but BJ leaning on two shills, about to be walked away to some happy land where he works off some unknown debt. Iceman’s there but sitting down, so I figure they been slipped a mickey.

Widow: Teme! That MY crew! Get your thieving hands off!

[Widow slips in behind the doper as she yells and lets go with a power knuck at a kidney, but misses the key spot. The doper leaps sideways away from the arcing knucks, letting BJ stagger clumsily sideways. Iceman gets up, and this allows him to spot a guard slipping an SMG into position, behind Widow. He yells the warning.

Widow stays on her target, more to avoid being hosed with autofire than any idea of winning in a face to face fight. BJ puts his mech-arm into a reverse clothesline on the other doper, slamming him to the deck. Iceman lines his carbine up on the guard, and moves forward to block the man’s field of fire.]

Iceman: [initimidating look, as in: anything you can think of doing, I am better]

Guard: Let’s call this a wash. No harm, no foul

We back out easy, collecting Bex on our way, and meet up with Pip back on the Bad’n’Ruin. Gata got plenty to tell us, but first Bex wants to know what the hell about the Transit bar.

BJ: aw, just some fellers giving us a drink or three, then they wanted me to go somewhere

Iceman: never seen nobody going for a BJ so hard

Well after we stop laughing, Pip allows as how the guvnor is still in charge through his Natty Chipper mercs. They are Bayvan, pretty much to a man. Seems they have a caste system too. For instance Lenny is a Strongarm caste. It could be if someone else makes a high offer they’ll switch sides away from the guvnor. Moes is still boss down on Level 5, and he got a lot of power over the dark areas. For example there’s a forger in hydroponics. But everyone grovels to the Commish, who’s got plans. This Commish is (I think) a Jundy name of Watts, who reps their Jundy Trade Department, or JTD. There’s an Impie standard somewhere around too – I figure repping for the navy though Pip don’t say. Then there’s drugs, where the real money is. I figure Moes and the Commish split that deal between them, though that just might be me getting cynical now I’m on the wrong side of 30.

 

[Widow makes a doctor roll to check on BJ, a lousy roll so she shrugs and figures whatever hypnotic got into his system will work its way out.]

BJ_loaded

Looking over a schema of the outstation I see hydroponics is up, so I make the call to make nice to the guvnor first, instead of Moes. Bex breaks 1k out of the bank, and I tote it back into the outstation and over to a guard, explaining I want to pay my respects to the guvnor. BJ comes with, seeing as how he needs to keep walking and he like to do what I tell him, just about now.

[Long story short: it may have been worth smoothing things over given last visit’s problems, but the guvnor does not control hydroponics, Moes does, as Lenny the guard had implied. Widow and BJ return.]

Widow: The good news is the guvnor will be happier with us. The bad news is we just lost 1k with nothing to show for it. The so-so news is, Moes is the man we need to see after all

geared up

Geared up a mite [Iceman is packing his laser rifle, BJ has 2 SMGs, and Widow has her visor on now] we take the main shaft down to Level 5, and step through a crowd, a lot of junkies laying around. I scooch down to ask a miner what he’s looking for there, but don’t get no straight answer.

I get to see Moes at the Grand Trading Roadhouse. Moes tells me Sid has slipped out. It costs me a half-k from my own savings.

Moes: I helped Sid find a berth on a ship doing the roll-around back to Heguz, the Bad Moon

Widow: what’s on the rise on Heguz?

Moes: is a Bayvan place, a double-hop for you from here

 

Back aboard the Bad’n’Ruin we are jawing over Heguz and Bayvans when we get s comms flash from Watts, who wants to board. I check Wrightman again then meet the JTD rep Watts. He’s youngish, maybe not Jundy by birth – he don’t look like no half-baby investment been weighing on his mind – and if he loosened up a mite he’d be just the ride for me. But he stays buttoned down, angles to find if we are mercs for hire, which same we ain’t, and we tell him so. Mr Watts leaves.

Kicking things around – after BJ and Iceman check that he ain’t left any devices aboard – we decide we may as well get some Heguz contacts names. And seeing how it’s Bayvan, and the Natty Chippers are Bayvan, and Lenny is a Natty Chipper, it’s up to Pip to take one for the team.

pipgetssome

It’s not long after, when Pip is setting up another round with Lenny, that I bump into agents Cole and Marty of the IPA. They are deep under cover, posing as junkie beggars. They come on to me with some IPA-thug level threats. So I don’t update them on Sid: after all, I want to talk to him before the IPA gets their mitts on him. They warn me not to go blabbing that I am looking for Sid, and likewise don’t get on the wrong side of Watts.

Bex is getting a Heguz shipment lined up, so we’ll be hopping real soon. Only I wonder why Sid is so all-fire popular. And how far the lame ‘he’s a family friend’ line will take me on Bayvan.

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A Week’s Hiatus and Future Plans

Rainstorms and flooding have resulted in the game being cancelled.

tawaflood

Here are a few random thoughts.

I have three campaigns “in the works” aside from Cleveland Darkens, which looks like it’s only good for one more season.

  1. T0 Ikuttas is a fun, bash-em-up-and-spend-the-loot campaign for Dwarfs. I know what the rules will be: D&D deluxe edition, which I’m backing in Kickstarter. I also know the shape of the campaign, which is linear. Almost literally, since the characters are to travel along the great river then explore their ancestral stronghold. But there’s not a lot of content.The setting is my old T&T universe, which is parallel to the official one. The Vale is a human society, but there are plenty of other kin. So most places along the vale are going to be human, with a minority non-human.  At present I’m thinking that each locale can be sandboxed (as they say in the forums) allowing players to follow whatever plot thread takes their fancy. So each locale will have some kind of plot threads generated.The only other consistent link I have in mind is the history of Ikuttas, which (in my mind) has been split up around all kinds of locales and hiding places. Solve a thread, pick up another fragment, thus allowing the end-arc (think: megadungeon) to come to an agreeable conclusion!

    I’ve got the basic set-up for To Ikuttas up on the web. You can read the outline under the page of the same name above.

    Concerns: my main concern is that some of my players won’t like T&T. But it is fun to play and run and if everyone else is having fun I think they’ll go with it.

    Longevity: If anything I think it might last too long. I don’t think I would want to run this for more than three seasons. Which is a problem if the end-arc itself could be multi-season.

  2. Primeval Thule is a campaign setting I helped Kickstart. I paid for the 13th Age version, because I have those rules and was really impressed by them. I don’t have a name for the campaign itself, but obviously am fixed on this particular rule-set and setting. Primeval Thule is a kind of D&D version of RE Howard’s post-Atlantis Thule, full of steaming jungle and rotten civilization. Plus the odd demi-human.When I do work up the campaign, it will be along the same general sword-and-sorcery lines as Hyboria!     Players play human characters, and the main idea is to snatch wealth by derring-do.  Because it will use the 13th Age rules, a good deal of the “motive power” of the campaign will come from character relations with Icons. To state this another way, Icon relationships form powerful plot threads that act as character-driven story lines. All I should need to do is frame those inside whichever adventure seems appropriate.Concerns: I am concerned that players will think of this as “like D&D only with more dice” and miss the sweep of the setting and the feel of the rules. In some ways 13th Age is a rival of D&D5E. I will be the only person at the table with the gorgeous campaign setting in hard copy, so it could be a big hurdle.

    Longevity: This could be a big one, if the adventures can be adapted. I would hope to use this as a return-sometimes game, not ongoing.

  3. Sniderania (or Sniguerania, I haven’t completely decided) is a campaign set inside a kind of alternative post-Versailles Europe; the kind that anime seems to go with quite often. There’s a bit of magic, and a wide range of technology. Modern mass production has arrived, but in many ways lives go on in much the same way as they did three centuries previous.  Sniderania is more akin to Cleveland Darkens than other campaigns I’ve run, because the intention is for characters to be based in one small place, though lots of agencies and plots will send them flying across Europe. So they are not footloose vagabonds, they have a place to call home.I’m tossing up a couple of main options for rules. The modern era gamer is spoiled for choice, with all kinds of rules and all kinds of crunch. While I’m leaning towards Savage Worlds, I’m having fun blending a number of rules along the same lines as Cartridge (Shaun’s homebrew). Honor+Intrigue, d6 Adventure, Unisystem, FATE, Dungeon World and even GUMSHOE, are all forming bits of my thought process. If these gel into a consistent rule-set that, for example, allows spycraft and airship maneuvers to give players agency, then that will be the better choice.Concerns: Will players even get it? I watch a lot of anime, so it feels like a great setting idea to me. Not so for others! I would possibly be concerned about the rules chosen if I knew what those will be.

    Longevity: Probably three seasons, allowing a reasonable length of development and a reasonably convoluted series of plots.

Feedback welcome!

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SH2.1: Forged in Battle! Surplus Heroes New Ally!

Cast of Surplus Heroes in order of appearance

Widow: She got her handle being widowed four times.  A typical tough ex-Colonial Marine from urban scum background, Widow reached Lieutenant rank. Her expertise is in sensors and comms. Her appearance is vaguely Asiatic though her hair is pale blue with a white streak. She is of medium solid build. Her quirk is that she’s still a Reserve, and keeps in touch with officialdom in law-abiding ports. Pip’s code for Widow is BW, black widow.

Choi (NPC): Hailing from the same kind of urban scum background as Widow, Choi has picked up computer, engineer and petty crim/forger skills. He’s the youngest by a good margin.

Iceman: Iceman’s obsession with guns fits his ex-Colonial Marine history but dates from before the recruiters profiled him. He is heavy weaponry qualified and handles the ship’s guns as well as his own (growing) collection of personal firearms. His quirk is that he was iceboxed (cryo slept) and accidentally abandoned for 15 years. His build is hefty, and his (hairless) skin has an unhealthy blue tone. Pip’s code for Iceman is BB, baby blue.

Pip: Pip is olive skinned, but a pale olive. Her very dark hair is shoulder length. She is an ex-Scout who comes from a large and famously-descended family. Her build is medium though slim, and she is generally rated the hottie (as long as Bex is not standing next to her). She is reliable with firearms, but her expertise is as starship pilot. Her quirk is a need for speed, which is why she drives an air raft as well.

BJ: ‘Big Jim’ is a hefty ex-Scout with a cyborg arm, which is his quirk. Jim, or Big Jim, knew Pip from the Scouts. He is very tan, and long contact with grease has embedded it into his skin and clothes. He used to be fairly buff in the Scouts and now in his mid-30s his chest has slipped a bit. He served mainly in support services, and his expertise is as starship engineer.

Bex (NPC): Pip’s ex-banker cousin, and merchant brain of the Bad’n’Ruin. Also hot, and good at gambling.

The Bad’n’Ruin: a double-hop Kitty (Keiten) class starship. Sports a good mix of cargo space and cabins, and generally no need to use iceboxes.

Widow’s puzzle

Ola! Time to lay out my little Log problem. It’s a time when we make Altara again, a whiles after Rhonda kisses bye-bye. The busu boys Iceman and BJ and my gata Pip are feeling flush and ordering up from gunsellers and armorers. I do the same my ownself.

Choi’s been working on the two logs, but he ain’t no use. He allows they are maji old and out of his league. I clip him upside the head and explain.

Widow: see we got this download log from Jundy… and this handnote log from Fetterman… I brung up the key section on the Fetterman massacre

[The two passage are compared side by side. Of the two, the digital log seems to put the scout party’s management in the poorer light. By contrast scouting as described in the handwritten log is neither brilliant nor mishandled.]

Iceman [tapping the digital printout]: he’s been lying through his teeth… saying Klackers were a surprise

Pip: is it standard procedure…?

BJ: to rewrite history? Well we did kinda do that when the sitch needed it, I guess you did that too…

Pip: haw, in our case yes, but that’s another story, no I meant the positions, the splitting the force up…

Widow: say we assume the hand-notes are correct, I could taba debate splitting into three, but nohow that’s so bad. I say no strong perimeter ain’t what I’d leave, back in Marines

Pip: the hand-note says lockdown, the digital says ever’thing opened up. The hand-note says three equal parts, the digital says major team went to the ruin and the minor stayed reserve

Iceman: He trying to tell us he naïve, in digital mode. He taken out the trip-fence from digital, an’ that’s sayin’ he’s dumber than a green scout

Widow: le’me put this in a negative light for ya Iceman. If you a captain bugged out leavin’ two-thirds you force, might re-write the account making no chance for you do anything but run

BJ: which ship though? The Indigo got away, we found the Shaarin Challenger in the trees

Kicking in for consultation

We kick around the strange gaps in the Shaarin Challenger’s hull and bulkheads but ain’t got no better idea than the first time we saw them. The washup is, the others agree to kick in some creds to help me along with this mystery.

Not long after that Iceman takes Pip out on a date to see his oyabun Seddon. Choi tags along too. They order rifles and shit. Choi remembers to ask about forgers, (or so he tells me later) and Seddon allows Al Wrightman is the moyss he’d pick for that kind of biz. Wrightman is some kind of shyster.

bettercallal

BJ allows, once he’s counted his change out of getting his arm serviced, this forgery thing affects us all. So he’s keen to make a push on the shyster. We kit up for good company and head out to Wrightman’s topside clinic.

“Underground Justice – Surface Prices!”

There’s a bunch of shikeru looking moyss in the waiting room. We sit around waiting as they head in to see the man. He has a big usu as security, looks like BJ would win a foot race against him and that’s by a mile.

Finally we get in. Mr Shyster Al Wrightman has a small amount of hair and a bold ugly tie. We get to call him Al, and assure each other nothing is being recorded. Just to be sure I invite a scan and the big usu scans us. Al decides BJ ain’t carrying no recording tech, so we get down to it.

Only thing is, after paying 5 creds and agreeing everything is covered by lawyer-client privilege, Vixe! Al explains he always used to use Sid for forging advice!

Well, we got more of a lead on Sid than maybe anyone except my Agency friends Cole and Marty. So we sayonara Al and report back. BJ’s sucking some candy Al gave him.

Widow: don’t worry our money is safe

Choi: why?

Widow: well he didn’t take it

After I explain a mite more, I check with Bex around what we shipping and where, and hint we ought to be taking a mining-supply hop out to Pavanne. Vital supplies like whiskey.

The Anonymous Mr A

It’s later in the evening and Choi rousts me, allowing I got a call up on bridge, so I head up, and it’s someone I figure must be Al Wrightman, on account of he’s trying to mask who he is and using a voice modder. Yes, we do cart small packages, including people. Yes, out of the system. Yes, if the money’s right. Double high? Sugoi, the money is right. Crew quarters only? Yeah, it’s pretty tight but I allow as we can jam ‘Mr A’ in somewhere.

As a side-mission I agree to run close protection getting ‘Mr A’ from one place to the other topside, for 1k each and some useful (and interesting) info about Sid. We agree to meet:

Mr A: …8pm tomorrow night

Widow: is that code or do ya mean that?

Mr A: yes 8pm, we haven’t set up a code

Widow (innocently): just checkin

Mr A: to recognize me: I’ll wear… a pink carnation

Widow: ah… and what’s a carnation when it’s at home?

Mr A: it’s a flower

Widow: ya mean like a flower flower?

Mr A: yes, I mean a flower like a flower flower, I’ll be wearing it in my lapel

Widow: OK – and my hair will be blue

Mr A: no… it’s blue now

Widow: so it won’t be too unexpected

I play the conversation back a few times and since there’s money on offer, the next day I line up things with Iceman BJ and Pip.

[Jokes are exchanged about cabin space. Apparently Pip, while being part-time steward, has signage on our cabins. Iceman has ‘honeymoon suite’ BJ and Choi bunk together in ‘grease monkey’ Pip and Bex are in ‘jolly roger’ and Widow and Rhonda were in ‘torture chamber’. Widow’s on her own now, since Rhonda has decided she has no future with Choi and opportunities lie elsewhere.]

We head out next evening through the surface port exit, and the guards don’t pay no mind to Pip’s load, which is just as well. We joke about the story BJ gave the guards about the arm – he allows he ain’t never told us the real deal and we believe him, just makes it funnier.

The pick-up

8pm topside in the 20 Mr A gave us is maji treta. BJ has IR goggles which make him my point man. Pip skids the air raft down by the building I point out (she had to slide back a ways, it was only 2k out) and me and BJ scramble groundside.

Straight away though there’s plenty of water and steam and foot traffic, we can see wakaishu carrying.

wakaishu

Seems no point waiting, so I give the code word and Iceman rises out of the tarp in back like Frankie’s Monster. And he’s got a laser rifle.

BJ and me leapfrog into the building and upstairs, all quiet inside and hails of SMG fire outside. Iceman lays down some heat on the wakaishu and they scatter.

[Combat: the opposition uses D bursts, scoring hits. This causes a Cover roll using the ‘deflective’ cover of the air raft and Iceman’s light combat armor. He makes it easily, so no damage. Except to the air raft.]

Upstairs BJ and me find Al Wrightman (Mr A) cowering, and run him out the window into the air raft as Pip brings it up. Iceman allows as how he bagged one wakaishu and discouraged another.

[Combat: range is no problem for Iceman and his HUD gives him a bonus on his already-good Marksman. He has Beam proficiency so no penalty for operating a laser rifle. He rolls 3d10, needing 21 to hit. One dice, easily distinguished, is the ‘button’ dice and low is good for the button. He scores a 1 button and an easy hit on one goon. The goon fails his armor/cover roll and his chest is blown out with the beam, a ‘down’ result. He has yet to make a Wound roll, so may live.]

The set-down

Mr A gives us his next point of call and while he’s huddling, mentions the Weasel Hole, a legendary get-outta-system place. The drop-off is still out of the space port so we go straight there. It’s so dark now we don’t expect no trouble but hey, we are wrong.

[Combat: D bursts come from above, hosing the back cab of the air raft. No-one is wounded but Widow is forced to seek cover and dives into the front, next to Pip. BJ and Iceman are fine, but aren’t strapped down as Widow yells for Pip to ‘loop the loop’ or ‘ram them’!

Pip plants her foot and the air raft jumps ahead. BJ just grabs hold with his steel arm, but Iceman loses grip on his rifle. Then as he hauls it up on its power cord Pip smashes through a sign and he loses it off the other side!

Driving tests: Widow helpfully provides advice such as ‘Barrel roll! OK straight then! Head past a sign then drop behind it! OK next sign! Meanwhile Pip ignores Widow and drives extremely badly away from the area, easily outmaneuvered by the opposition.]

The other air raft comes down atop, and a flamer near nails us, then another soldier near gets BJ and Iceman.

airraftflamer

Finally Pip gets the thing steady and out from under, and BJ blows the flamer away with his fourth burst. Iceman gets his laser steady and gets another soldier and they let us get away.

[Combat: Unlike Iceman BJ has merely average Marksman, so uses D bursts to make up for that. He rolls 2d10, adds his Marksman, adds 5 for the burst, deducts 4 the GM has penalized him, and gets a good hit. The D burst also allows for better impact (or ‘aim’ as named in these rules) after a hit, and the flamer is down.]

Some useful intel

We smear the air raft with a mite of road dirt, and the guards don’t notice the extra bullet holes as we head back in the same gate; and they don’t check where Iceman is hidden again. A few days of light engineering and the air raft is repaired again. Meanwhile Al Wrightman has booked in.

He allows as how the goons were after him over a matter of some funds. A pair of wiseguys name of Bell and Ron moved Ron’s money onto a Moon-Haven. Ron had the numbers, not Bell. Then Ron did the crazy on Tunbiddy and died in an air-raft head-on with a patrol.

AW: it’s been crazy since the perfume shop murders

Widow: we were off-system at the time

Pip: can’t possibly comment

Iceman: I think I was blowing a building up

Pip: shush BJ: do not confess thy sins my son

AW: Bell wouldn’t accept I couldn’t get the money back. Anyway I know how to get to the Weasel Hole, it’s a great link for smuggling people size objects through. I’m not planning on coming back so I’ll lay that out…

    Also I was going to tell you about Sid. Reason he left, he’d been hired and paid off for ‘his best work ever’ and it was so perfect he figured he’d been paid to drop his guard. Then he was outta here. I boxed up his cash and sent it out. It was in a particular form of delivery… not a form that could go to the tower cluster.  So I figure that’ll give you a pointer as to where he was bound. You are the ones that took him?

Widow: yeah, I can see a lot of ‘somewhere else’ but that does give us something

AW: so where’s my cabin?

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CD12: It’s the end of the world (as we know it)!

Fight the power! Close the Hellmouth! 

In which five ageing whitey whitebreads of the 10s pretend to be young hip black dudes of the 70s

Warning: taken out of context this post contains offensive material.

 

The White Hats

Jon Samedy, the Haitian migrant: about 5’9 though stooped and limping. His strangely carved stick is a coco macaque and he wields power over loa and less friendly spirits. He is the brains and medic.

Vic Creed, the scarred veteran: about 6’6 and bulky with it. He is the muscle.

Roosevelt ‘Arby’ Brown, about 5’7 and lithe. He is the trickster.

Stevie Cutter, about 6’, a fast-handed ex-boxer. He is muscle and handyman.

 

 

Scene: a hospital ward

Theme: Playing your game, baby

Jon’s stay in hospital is longer than Vic’s, though Vic when he visits is still limping around with his ulcerated leg heavily bandaged.

The others explain that the “green glow” disappeared and they were trying to keep Jon and Vic from dying, but had no hope of getting Vic out until some Haitians found them and helped them. The Haitians had been in the cemetery next to this abandoned pumping station, tidying it ready for the next ceremony. The Haitians toted Vic, Steve toted Jon and Arby toted the suspiciously-heavy gear bag.

The white hats aren’t the only ones that find time to visit. A couple of sturdy coat-holders escort no less a man than Arnold Pinckney in. He congratulates the white hats on standing proud but warns them the Man will use any slip to put the brother down, so be wise, they are being watched and will be judged.

Then, Jon’s niece Clarice comes by and tells them she’s brought a representative from KinzeyCorp, who wants to talk about Ben Jones’ death. With no further delay, and not bringing any security or coat-holders, tall, grey-haired, elegantly-suited Mr Johnsson of KinzeyCorp enters and is introduced. He assures them there is no question of police seeking further answers: but as Benjamin Jones was on his way to visit them, naturally KinzeyCorp has taken an interest.

Johnsson also assures them that thanks to this, KinzeyCorp has become aware of Jones’ efforts to stave off Wolfgang & Hearst. This has become a project for KinzeyCorp’s law wing, pro-bono. So the white hats aren’t to worry further about the Phyllis Wheatley.

They don’t find this entirely reassuring. As Steve says, “maybe meaning, now we’s knowin’ what a mess them other lawyers made, we’s taken them over and gon’ do the job proper.”

Vic is itching to get on the streets. He hates hospitals at the best of times. Besides, his daddy came by to let him know that a grievous number of protestors are picketing the family department store and things are looking grim for the family fortune.

Steve nods and chips in with a tale…

 

Flashback Scene: outside Little Haiti

Theme: Cornbread

It’s the night after they hauled the other two to the Clinic, and Steve is keeping his date with Emily Phan. Arby’s kind of wing man, but staying back so as to spot any tricks she might pull. But Little Haiti is being picketed by a mostly-white crowd, carrying placards like ‘Voodoo No-do’ and ‘Keep Cleveland White’. Emily is off in the background, looking very nervous.

Menacing one of the more racist picketers Steve clears a path to Emily and escorts her… away! The mood has been spoiled.

 

Flashback Scene: a dim cross-town street

Theme: Across 110th Street

Two low-lifes attempt to mug Steve and Emily, but decide to knock Arby out first. Luckily Arby has a tough head, and Steve, alerted, menaces them, kicking the knife out of one’s hand once Arby squiggles out of trouble. And they run.

 

Flashback Scene: No-name Bar

Theme: Oh girl

With suitable drink and music Emily gets over her double fright, and tells Steve she works three jobs, apart from her studies: two around hospitals, and one at WKCY. She’s being blackmailed into doing little jobs, such as dropping those pills into Vic’s coat pocket.

Steve reassures her, she has no come-back coming from them and he don’t care what the police know or don’t know. But who’s doing the blackmailing.

She’s not willing to name names, but nods when Steve guesses a big cheese in Wolfgang & Hearst.

 

Scene: Jon’s hospital ward

Theme: Pick up the pieces

“So that’s what went down,” Steve concludes. “But soon’s you better, we got a little detective work to do, as a favour for my girl Cindy.”

Cindy Channel, night-shift reporter for the Plain Dealer, wants a blues horn named Blue-Lips Monroe found. He used to play at the Euclid Club. Lately he’s been linked with DJ Mixmaster Fox, who’s into that weird mixing and rapping at two-bit station WDMT. Seems that cat likes to mix jazz and blues riffs with electric boogie or suchlike trash. But that doesn’t explain his disappearance.

 

 

Scene: Downtown, the Euclid Club

Theme: Living for the city

School’s back in, so there weren’t many kids around the streets on the walk down. But Downtown’s reasonably busy. People of all stripes are enjoying the cooler September – this is the few days of Fall where Cleveland really is pleasant to walk around.

The Euclid Club is hard to spot, having a kind of false-column front and a door set well back with the club’s name picked out in understated lettering. And the front door is closed at this time of day – around 11.

Rather than break in, they decide to go round to the service alley side and try a service door. As they leave the main drag, Arby gets the feeling he’s seen someone in the crowd before.

This side approach works. The door’s not locked. Inside, the rank smell of a club after hours hits them like a brickbat. They follow the noise of staff getting ready for opening hours, and meet a series of down-at-heel, jonesing cats, and one draggletail sistah-girl that Jon recognizes, Marie Emana of his congregation. She stares guiltily then defiantly and snuggles close to the one white cat, a long-haired muso, who’s sharing a roach with her.

While Steve shouts a cat and the barkeep a drink each and talks about Blue-Lips, and Arby hovers watchfully, Vic wanders over to the wall where a mighty-bosomed, large-all-round B&W picture stares out at the hall. May Westwood. She stopped singing here back in ’71: damn! He’s been wanting to find a blues joint ever since he got a taste for them back in the ‘Nam.

Then Vic’s head snaps round as he overhears the cat Steve’s talking to mention Smooth Clyde.

 

Scene: a sleazy housing development

Theme: Slim Jenkin’s Place

Marie seemed to be pointing the finger at Mixmaster Fox, and since it’s not out of the way, the white hats have made their way to where WDMT (WE’RE DEE-MENTED!!!) runs out of the back of a house. A good-size aerial marks the place.

Inside a funky-smelling, badly-padded hallway Steve finds two cats giggling, smoking a doobie and watching Scooby Doo. They totally get Shaggy! Behind a double-glass window on one side of the hallway can be seen a cat with clamshells on, screaming at a mike, fiddling with switches, in a heavily-padded broadcast room.

A greasy, overweight cat with a scruffy gingerish afro emerges from a back room. This is not a good beginning. But appearances are deceptive. He recognizes The Cutter from back when, and is very willing to help. Seems like he won a century back on one of Stevie’s last fights.

In his back office (which smells like a really compressed version of the ranger station’s common room) Park Lane (‘when you land on Park Lane you pay’) digs an old magazine out of a draw, and gets Stevie’s autograph on his mug. Sure, Mixmaster Fox has worked with Blue-Lips, but that’s not a steady gig. The way Park Lane heard it, Blue-Lips went down to a new gig south of the tracks in some club.

 

Scene: driving to the entertainment district

Theme: Pursuit of the Pimpmobile

Arby’s got the old coot in his wing mirror. Medium-tall, grey frizzy hair cut short, Italian-dark, sunglasses. The Neal-mobil (Arby’s van, and he has the pink slip to prove it) isn’t going to lose the old coot’s sedan, but he makes a one-block circuit – twice – to show him they know he’s following. Then rolls into the big transit parking lot back of the produce exchange. From here it’s a short roll to the Boneyard.

It’s still early and the bouncers are doing no more than nodding early patrons in. All the white hats are pimped out at least a little, and they roll in no problem.

 

Scene: the Boneyard

Theme: Theme from Shaft/Cold Sweat

There’s a number of young women at the bar, some probably professionals. Across the floor are a few young men, with unconvincing facial hair, nursing beers. Students, for sure. They find an empty booth.

A large bouncer checks in with them and they ask after Smooth Clyde. He says he’ll join them later, in the meantime the first drink is on the house. When the drinks arrive they are joined by a couple of girls, pretty quickly.

There’s no band yet of course. Steve uses the time to ask the girls what they know about live music and blues players. They try to work out if they are supposed to dislike it or like it while they parry off his questions. Arby makes dirty jokes about horn playing. Then he sees the old coot has made the scene and is leaning up at the bar.

Vic surges out of the booth, popping the girl wedged in against him abruptly onto her ass on the floor. Strides across to the old coot. In the background two bouncers start easing their way towards the booth. Steve makes nice to the bruised shorty and the bouncers lose interest.

“I sense y’r hostility,” the old coot says in a weird accent, looking over the rims of his dark glasses. He hands Vic a card:

Martin Capaldi

Psychic Detective

 

Vic is intrigued, and stays to talk to the old coot, who apparently is Italian but from Scotland. Smooth Clyde has emerged from the back, and is making the rounds around tables in the further reaches of the club.

“Don’t like that guy. He ain’t right,” Vic comments.

“Aye, d’ye see him diff’rent now?” Capaldi asks, touching Vic’s arm. Vic sees that Smooth Clyde is a living skeleton, his bony hand scraping over a naked skull.

Vic signals the others over. He explains this guy is the real deal.

Capaldi is introduced to the white hats and they have a quiet discussion. He too is looking for Blue-Lips Monroe, but for a more sinister reason. It seems that talk is going around that somehow Blue-Lips, a zombie with the ability to use his lungs, is at the center of a conspiracy by the Purple Ribbon League to ‘make a statement’ that will shake the city. He suspects The Agency is also seeking to uncover the truth about the Purple Ribboners and their city-shaking plot.

By now, the white hats have worked out that most of the bouncers are undead. Some pre-music music has started up – a couple of guys working axes over lightly – so they opt to find a booth again.

 

Scene: the back room, the Boneyard

Theme: Sweetback’s Theme

Arby eases in and assesses the action. His stake is slim – chipped in by everyone, including Capaldi – so he’s not looking for high stakes. There’s no sign of Moroni the mob bastard, not that Arby was expecting him here, and not much sign of anything weird. There are a number of purple-ribbon theme messages and banners around the walls though. He takes a hand opposite a likely mark, and keeps his eyes and ears open.

 

Cut-scene: the booth, the Boneyard

Theme: Get up offa that thing

“Smooth Clyde ‘preciates trouble you taken to look good. Yeah!”

Steve grits his teeth and asks about Blue-Lips. Smooth Clyde admits Blue-Lips did play here for a while, but quit. Smooth Clyde had to bring in a pinch-hitter horn player. He professes to know only that Blue-Lips left for the south. He moves off.

At the live band corner, old guys start assembling their instruments, stands and – most important – drink and smoke resources. Beside them a young man fidgets with his trumpet. More and more people are crowding into the club and the noise level is high.

 

Cut-back: the back room

Theme: Witch Queen of New Orleans

Arby spots Marie Emana. This time she doesn’t look like the slightly strung-out blues singer from the Euclid Club: she’s got some glowing magic shit going on! Arby’s worked the mark opposite – who hums and sings early Beatles depending how his hand’s doing – for getting near 2/3 the stake. He slides him winnings away with nimble fingers and makes tracks for the main club floor!

Then one of the pit faces turns into a hulking hairy fanged monster and leaps after him!

 

Cut-back: the club

Theme: I put a spell on you

Arby comes haring out of the back room, two step ahead of something with fangs, tattoos, and grey hairy hide! Vic leaps up and begins tearing the booth table free of its bolted feet! Steve slides out in time to avoid being trapped but Jon and Capaldi are stuck.

Arby sprints through the crowd, now only a step ahead: the monster doesn’t care if he’s smashing people down. Alarm ripples across the floor.

Smooth Clyde leaps onto the bar and calls:

“Brother and sisters! It is time to throw off the shackles of our humanity!”

Vic heaves the table high and smashes it down on the monster as Arby skids past. It is pinned! Steve dances over to the bar and wrenches Smooth Clyde’s right leg off! With a surprised “Smooth Clyde don’t balance right” the living skeleton disappears over the back of the bar. Bouncers close in rapidly!

Jon is finally able to unleash Papa Legba and a spell of rebuke ripples over the room. The bouncers recoil, their undead nature now obvious. Shock more than panic now overtakes the massed audience.

Then Blue-Lips Monroe shuffles into the band’s corner.

“Best le’ me at th’ stand, son, seems like a real lick’s gotta be blowed.”

He blows! And it is righteous! The other old geezers chip in, bar by bar, and glorious blues fills the Boneyard.

 

Fade-out scene

Smooth Clyde explains he lured Blue-Lips away, because the Purple Ribbon movement and the Boneyard is looking to make a statement by playing righteous Blues, and they plan to take it all the way to City Hall.

Stevie returns his leg, and all is peace and love. And harmony. And the band plays on.

 

Scene: the DeNaRes ranger station

Theme: it’s the end of the world (as we know it)

The Professor has been silent for a time after Jon’s sketches and briefing have ended. Only the rustle of pages being turned sounds in the common room. The others are relaxed. It looks like the weather’s going to get a lot colder, but they’re pretty sure DeNaRes will have some more ‘raccoon duty’ for them so September’s paycheck looks likely.

“Lordy Lordy!”

The exclamation comes from the Professor. They look at him in surprise.

Let me get this straight,” Professor Roosevelt suddenly says in a thin voice. “You found these in a tunnel that arcs around from here…. to here.” (He traces one finger across the map Jon marked.) “And then another tunnel goes round the other way to here.”

“That’s right. So?”

“So that just means the end of the world, is all.”

 

 

GM’s corner

A fun way to finish the season! And a brave move by me, to pit the ‘talks in 3rd person’ NPC as villain-but-not-really against the violent prewotsits of my players!

Acknowledgements: this session includes a certain amount of NPC, inspiration and concept-borrowing from Casefile: Neutral Grounds, a Dresden RPG scenario by Clark Valentine. It incorporates a lot of Joshua LH Burnett’s Funkadelic Frankenstein and the Mean Streets of Monstertown. Both available from DriveThruRPG.

I thought a good way to wind up the final entry of the season with a quick summary of the white hats as they close their season.

In order of introduction:

Jon Samedy Attributes Skills Qualities Drawbacks
  Strength 1 Crime 2 Hard to kill 3 Dependent 2
  Dexterity 2 Doctor 3 Resources 0 Physical (limp) 1
  Constitution 2 Driving 1 Contacts 2 Black 1
  Intelligence 3 Getting Medieval 3 Oral tradition (Occult Library) 2 Minority (Haitian)
  Perception 3 Influence 2 Sorcery 2 Honorable 2
  Willpower 4 Knowledge 2 Coco Macaque
  Languages 1
  Notice 3
  Occultism 4
  Science 1
Vic Creed
  Strength 5 Getting Medieval 4 Hard to kill 5 Mission (stop the killings)
  Dexterity 4 Gun Fu 4 Contacts 2 Black 3
  Constitution 4 Influence 2 Jock Honorable 2
  Intelligence 2 Kung Fu 5 Situational awareness Attractiveness (scar -2)
  Perception 2 Languages 1 Fast reactions Adversary 1
  Willpower 2 Notice 2 Good luck
  Sports 3 Natural toughness
  Nerves of steel
  Resources 0
 
Arby Brown
  Strength 1 Acrobatics 2 Acute senses (touch) Covetous (greed, ambition)
  Dexterity 4 Crime 3 Contacts 2 Adversary 1
  Constitution 2 Driving 1 Fast reactions Obligation 0x2
  Intelligence 3 Getting Medieval 3 Situational awareness
  Perception 3 Gun Fu 1 Photographic memory Photographic memory
  Willpower 2 Influence 2 Hard to kill 4
  Kung Fu 4 Resources 0
  Languages 1
  Notice 3
  Occultism 1
Stevie Cutter
  Strength 4 Crime 2 Hard to kill 2 Covetous (amorous) 1
  Dexterity 4 Driving 1 Resources 0 Fear of commitment 1
  Constitution 3 Getting Medieval 3 Contacts 2 Black 2
  Intelligence 2 Gun Fu 1 Attractive 2 Dependent 3
  Perception 2 Influence 3 Jock Honorable 1
  Willpower 2 Kung Fu 5 Natural toughness
  Mr. Fix-It 3 Nerves of steel
  Notice 2
  Occultism 1
  Sports 3

 

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CD11: the Tubes of disconsolation

Fight the power! Close the Hellmouth! 

In which five ageing whitey whitebreads of the 10s pretend to be young hip black dudes of the 70s

Warning: taken out of context this post contains offensive material.

 

The White Hats

Jon ‘Doc’ Samedy, the Haitian migrant: about 5’9 though stooped and limping. His strangely carved stick is a coco macaque and he wields power over loa and less friendly spirits. He is the brains and medic.

Vic Creed, the scarred veteran: about 6’6 and bulky with it. He is the muscle.

Roosevelt ‘Arby’ Brown, the trickster: about 5’7 and lithe. Arby has his cowardly nature beaten, except when asked to recall something.

Steve ‘the cutter’ Cutter, the ex-boxer: about 6’, a fast-handed boxer. He is muscle and handyman.

 

A montage

Theme: Get Ready

August ticks by as goblins lairs are visited and the miscreants intimidated. Finally, paychecks mostly spent, the white hats are ready to raise up and get funky with whatever is under the Phyllis Wheatley.

A gear bag is obtained (old, from the Brother Gloves gym) and packed with hardware. Jon and Arby spend spare cash on leather jackets.

Cleo makes the call to Esther Jefferson, and Steve naïvely imagines that’s her only part in the drama. He’s in for a rude awakening!

 

Scene: the Phyllis Wheatley

Theme: Easin’ in Hell

Steve is somewhere around the complex of three buildings, seeing to plumbing (“that’s just… nasty!”) while the other three laze around as much as they dare under Cleo’s whip-like attention. Arby makes a comment, draw Cleo’s ire, and stupidly makes another comment, earning him more time under the tongue-lashing. Then Jon mischievously tries to put more beat-down on Arby and Cleo turns on him like a blood-maddened shark. Only Vic is immune, because he’s keeping quiet, staying in the background and just sipping the weak coffee that shy little intern brews.

Cleo lessons them: “now you look smart! That there Benjamin Jones, he a fine blood, got himself a real job, mm-hmmh, he calling round ‘fore he heads on to work. In his Office. Yeah. So you all look sharp, brush up now!”

Cleo’s got the others lining up in the lobby by the time Steve emerges from the Janitor’s shower smelling of Old Spice. Arby is resplendent in a fine leather jacket from Downtown. Jon has spent the C-note on a cheaper version of the same.

Movement can be glimpsed down the entrance steps out on the street, and Cleo moves forward to welcome Ben. Four muffled shots thump outside: a suit-dressed man stumbles through the doors and falls flat on his face. Jon hurries to help as quickly as he can, but it’s too late to do much for Ben Jones, late of KinzeyCorp.

 

Scene: under the Phyllis Wheatley

Theme: Don’t look back

The white hats have bundled their goods and ducked down, well before any police arrive. After all their gear-bag holds a couple of battleaxes and a couple of M16s, plus spare ammo for the revolvers and magazines for the M16s.

Jon’s thought to bring a compass. Although there’s a lot of metal, it suggests that the right (facing away from the ladder) heads vaguely east or nor’-east, and the left heads south-west. After some minutes’ discussion, Steve opts for the ‘when in doubt go left’ rule and heads that way, Arby behind with the flashlight lofted.

“Hey, Arby’s… representin’!” Steve thinks, and raises a salute to him.

“Hey – Steve ain’t hatin’ me!” Arby thinks. They both feel better about the situation, dispelling the downtrodden feeling that being around Cleo gives them.

 

Scene: the same tunnel, much further west

Theme: Boom Boom

Arby’s flashlight picks up a small group of people – or things – ahead. Steve glimpses tough-looking kids around a dark-clad woman, Arby figures they are goblins and something female and freaky. With a yell he warns Steve! They both throw themselves to either side as the goblins draw popguns and let rip! In reply Vic opens up with about 2/3 a clip of M16 ammo. Arby’s light has vanished (he’s switched it off, head down and muttering prayers) and the only light is now behind Vic, from Jon at the rear, but Steve figures he’d better close in. He steals forward…

Jon incants the name of Papa Legba and calls for Light! A brilliant flash lights up everyone, blinding goblins and Steve alike. Vic has switched to single-shot now and aims past Steve: the gun jams. Goddam those early M16s!

Steve has recognized that the goblins have hunkered down behind a big metal box-like gate, leading from this tunnel into a side-tunnel. They’ve passed smaller versions of them all the way here. They are automatic feeds from this into side-pipes. So this one’s probably open, or being opened. There’s no sign of the woman. He leaps to his feet after the goblins fire a couple of harmless rounds over his head, and vaults over the box. His broadaxe does a lot of damage in a short time, and the remaining two goblins flee up the side-tunnel.

The white hats regroup. Vic has the spare M16 ready, but while Steve shuts the gate he un-jams the first one. Jon searches the area the critters were standing around and finds the early workings of a magic circle. He notes the marks down for later.

 

Scene: a basement, much further south

Theme: Living for the City

Arby sneaks up from the now-open manhole and explores what seems to be a church’s lower basement, or maybe a school’s. There’s a fair amount of grey cement dust, suggesting construction, lying over folding saw-horses and old swivel chairs. A plain stair leads up to a regular-looking door. Faint noises can be heard above.

Arby finds a light switch at top of stairs. He flicks it up and two cheap bulbs come on below. There’s a murmur of voices outside. The other three white hats congregate nervously below. Arby picks a routine but sturdy lock, taking quite some minutes, and emerges into a normal municipal-looking basement. A dude is sitting puffing a smoke on a stair about twenty feet away.

“Hey, brother, who you been down in thar with?” he asks curiously.

“Just Wildlife Control – looking for pests” Arby tries, but the dude scoffs.

“An’ you afford tha’ fine jacket?” he gestures to Arby’s top-of range leather jacket.

“Ain’t nothing but a thing” growls Vic’s voice from below, and the dude jumps up and flees back upstairs, leaving his smoke burning down on the step.

The white hats figure they must be in one of the Ward Square buildings, and depart back down.

 

Scene: much later, way, way back up the tunnel

Theme: Going to a go-go

Another ladder. The last one they found was up below the rail station, not all that far past the Phyllis Wheatley, not used much at all. This one is kind of slimy, and looks used. It’s near a lock gate opening (if the compass is to be trusted) kind of north, or lakewards.

Vic does his thing with the manhole cover and jacks himself up into… League Park! The white hats already know (from their recent police work) that goblins and bigger fry use it as a hangout, which keeps the Hough bad boys from using it much. It’s about midday and with empty stomachs they decide this is not the time or place to investigate much.

 

Scene: Later, east-south-east of that

Theme: Uptight (everything’s all right)

The white hats clamber out of the tunnel into a construction-cluttered basement in the Clinic Hospital acreage. Ignored by all they act like workmen on a break and walk over to the café across the road, and order subs and sodas all round.

Steve recognizes Emily Phan, the little Asian intern that Arby thought slipped oxy into Vic’s pocket. She looks just as tired as she did back then. He slides in next to her and strikes up a conversation. He angles around to who might have persuaded her to plant the stash. When she remembers him, her English gets a lot worse, but he persists, and she agrees to meet him next night at Little Haiti.

It’s now around 2pm or later so they all four return to their exploration.

 

Scene: A steeper section of the tunnel, south-east of that

Theme: Higher ground

The white hats have climbed – tiredly in two cases – a gently sloping section since they crossed under the RT. They’re pretty sure this leads up to Baldwin Reservoir. Above stretches a large lock-gate. Not far away to the right is a smaller side-gate.

Steve clambers up and starts working on the lock-gate, but sporadic noises of heavy, rushing flows of water eventually persuades him that forcing an entry into millions of cubic pounds of water may not be the best move. Instead, they relocate to the side-gate and soon find that it leads to a smaller, older section of tunnel, partly brickwork.

As this is single file they set up mainly in order of size, though Jon remains rearguard.

 

Scene: Much further west and a little south

Theme: Move on up

After a brief excursion up into the brewery (a cellar dating back to its Peerless days but now holding old barrels) and an investigation of a properly-incised magic circle (Jon has copied the design) they have come at last to a manhole that seems ready-rigged for easy access by goblins. It’s been jacked up and put on swivels, so it looks closed at a brief glance but flips vertical easily.

Arby is slim enough to squeeze through where a goblin can, so he takes the lead. Maybe it’s the long day’s work, but this is a long way from him snuggling down against the tunnel with his head down!

There’s next to no light since he daren’t risk his own, but he can glimpse big old pipes, and he seems to be inside.

Vic clambers up and lifts the manhole, silently, to one side. An impressive feat of strength! As he squeezes out, a green glow grows on one side of the chamber and, below, Jon feels the presence of sorcery!

 

Fight scene!

Theme: Jungle Boogie

A large number of snakes pour from the green glow, and goblins behind high pipes on the other side volley thrown axes down. Vic clears the high ground with his M16 while Steve bounds up and takes his axe and fists to the goblins. Jon struggles out, avoiding the snakes by use of his stick, and combats the goblin shaman: but his efforts are only just holding the line!

Vic gets bitten while giving cover fire, but Arby jumps clear and empties his gun into the snakes, then clambers over towards Steve and joins the fun. Vic stands tough and clambers up away out of the main crawling nest of snakes.

Steve and Arby find the goblins are being chivvied on by a couple of small scabby demons, one wearing a Blackhand Security vest. The demons are put paid to and the surviving goblins flee.

But below and behind them Jon has been bitten!

 

GM’s corner

No regrets at not finishing the fight scene. In one way it is better to hand me the decision of what we go with in next week’s opening scene.

Unintentionally, Steve and Arby hit on a way of breaking the ‘Cleo effect’ (where after meeting her they take a -1 on everything and may not use drama points). Jon didn’t, and his efforts during the session were handicapped.

After last week’s imbalance in xp it was heartening to see all four players make an effort to speak in character. (There was  a “snakes… why did it have to be snakes” quote but that was my fault.)

It was a slightly strange session though, all set around the one thing, the huge empty water-bore they discovered back in CD7 ‘Sweating the Clues’. Not easy to keep to the pace of a BtVS game. For me the highlights were the roleplay at the beginning, around buying jackets and doing handyman chores and inciting Cleo’s wrath.

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CD10: Crazy white mama/Just one more bite

Fight the power! Close the Hellmouth! 

In which five ageing whitey whitebreads of the 10s pretend to be young hip black dudes of the 70s

Warning: taken out of context this post contains offensive material.

 

The White Hats

Jon ‘Doc’ Samedy, the Haitian migrant: about 5’9 though stooped and limping. His strangely carved stick is a coco macaque and he wields power over loa and less friendly spirits. He is the brains and medic.

Vic Creed, the scarred veteran: about 6’6 and bulky with it. He is the muscle. This session Vic buys Dex up a second time, now topping at 4.

Roosevelt ‘Arby’ Brown, the trickster: about 5’7 and lithe. Arby has his cowardly nature beaten, except when asked to recall something.

Steve ‘the cutter’ Cutter, the ex-boxer: about 6’, a fast-handed boxer. He is muscle and handyman. This session Steve increases Influence, as that is becoming his forte.

 

 

Scene: DeNaRes ranger station, Night-time

Theme: Here I Am (Come and Take Me)

Steve and Vic are standing watch. Nicholette de la Fleur, the crazy-ass bitch from Farmatec that put Jon in the ICU, is still possessed and still prisoner here. It’s been like punishment camp for the last ten days. She needs constant checking, and she still has to take her lady-breaks even if a demon got inside her. Sometimes the demon is threatening and bargaining, other times Nicholette is talking down to them. The warding stone is kept always nearby her, so the demon can’t concentrate properly.

Gunnarsson ducks his head in. He’s seeing some strange lights in town. Passes Steve his binoculars. On top of a big old building down somewhere south-east, a light-show has been rigged in neon. On one side there’s a freaky looking big-eared thing in some kind of pink dress, on the other there’s a big shape in what looks like a cloak or long coat, and two bars flash between them like an equals sign.

While Vic is having a look, Steve calls Arby’s new rented pad.

 

Scene: Arby’s pad, right beside the tracks

Theme: Sweetback’s Theme

Arby got this rental cheap – the train track rises above the level of the roads here and the noise is appalling. The whole pad shakes each time a big unit rolls by. But everything’s convenient. When the phone rings he rolls up out of his bed and grabs it.

It’s Steve, and he wants Arby to take a look outside his window, off east, and see what the lights are about.

“Who is it Arby sweet man?” murmurs Cherry from beside Arby. As Arby struggles into pants and squints out his window trying to get a line of sight, she dresses quickly and leaves with a “Call me anytime” on her lips and half Arby’s roll in her stash.

Arby identifies the abandoned factory the Gremlins were given. That would make the strange figure with the ears and the dress the Gremlin Princess. Time to call Jon.

 

Scene: Maman’s house, Fairfax

Theme: Soul Man

As junior man in the house Jon has the job of answering the phone anyway, so when it rings he’s the only one wearily dragging himself out to the hallway where the old-fashioned set stands on its own table. It’s Steve.

Steve explains, and finishes, “Vic an’ me’s mindin’ crazy white mama, so you gots to pick up Arby an’ scout it.”

Jon winces as he dresses. Bullet holes don’t heal quickly. It’s a hot night so he doesn’t need too many clothes. Then it’s out to the Plymouth and down to Arby’s crappy apartment.

Seems like Arby only has the one set of threads: it’s the same awesome shot-silk blue suit he was wearing when he came visiting. The two white hats bump fists, check on their strategy, get into the Plymouth, and the scene switches to a driving montage.

 

Split screen: driving montage, bull session

Theme: Boot-leg

While that’s happening Steve and Vic are puzzling out some priorities. Vic still has it on his mind to help Jim. Jim’s made it clear that from here out, he expects some active help with recovering this mystic hammer he’s on the trail of.

“I ast my man what he gon’ do with that hammer, he say he just actin’ on comishun. What I say is, turn’s out that hammer belong’a my big brother Troll, an’ Troll not, uh, gon’ evil up if he catches his hammer, hammer be goin’ back’a that Troll. Though I ain’t tole Jim that,” Vic adds as a codicil.

Steve lists off the Phyllis Wheatley – of course – and reminds Vic that Cleo can get them in to see Esther and Esther will probably just want help here and there.

And Lance Barnes. Now they know more about the situation, two automatic rifles are daunting and they’ll need a good plan to get in.

They also add “get Draco” since Steve is still smarting from that beat-down. They don’t really care about Jon’s hot mama Asha’s call for vengeance.

And since these are all-action white hats, they stop there.

 

Scene: DeNaRes ranger station: common room

Theme: Ball of Confusion

A briefing session among the white hats. Jon explains that the Gremlins are asking for help. According to the Princess, something they roughly describe as Goblins are pressing Kobolds and Gremlins to help them snatch babies.

“Oh, an’ we stop a muggin’” Jon adds, casually, as though it’s just another good deed. In fact Arby had been sprinting away when he realized Jon couldn’t keep up, so turned back, and Jon fired off his coco macaque’s flash in self-preservation. Whatever, the victim was so keen not to involve police they scored a C-note, and Jon has it safely tucked away.

Planning now surges forward, since the Goblin territory the Gremlins describe is roughly the same as the Rolling 40s turf, deep in Hough. They’ll tackle it as Wildlife Officers, and using catchpoles and flashlights. But with axes or knives hidden. Arby talks some smack about his piece, the Saturday-night special, and when Steve tells him he don’t want no jumpy brutha behind him with a loaded gun, Arby sulks and privately decides to conceal his piece anyway.

So what kinds of demons could these “goblins” be? There’s gonna be some research needed!

 

But more importantly, going out against possible demons has all four white hats (and any rangers in earshot) agreeing that getting the congregation together is a must. Jon sets off the phone tree by calling Maman, and by sweet-talking her most endearingly he gets things moving.

They have three drivers, and three vans. Steve gets to work re-fitting the Baby Smuggler, and soon has the rear all ready to take adults. Meanwhile inside the station, Charlie Stone guests on Toogood’s Feelgood hour and warns against gun violence and the black neighbourhood gangs responsible for it.

It’s still pre-dawn when Jon writes out instructions about how to get to different Haitian houses, and the three drivers set out.

 

St John’s cemetery, south of Woodland

Theme: Take me to the river

Vic, in charge of security at the alternative cemetery (St John’s) just walks over, to get a good look at the layout. It’s the coolest part of the August day, so he enjoys the walk. Things that ain’t crazy get out of his road, mostly crossing the whole damn road.

St John’s is an old cemetery like the last one, with an old road through it. Woodland will be busy in a few hours’ time, and the railroad to the south is already singing with the Ohio RT’s first run. The ceremony’s supposed to be up on high ground, and there’s only one such mound, under trees and with slumped old stones. Vic disturbs a number of courting couples who flee into the greying dawn.

Jon arrives first, knowing the congregation the best and with the shortest routes. Then Steve.

“Somethin’s missing,” comments Jon.

“Guest of honor?” Vic hazards. Jon nods. Steve and Vic drive back up the ranger station to fetch de la Fleur, while Jon and Arby unload Haitians and set things up. It’s a weak moment in security, but they get away with it.

Barring Jon the white hats aren’t needed for what’s going to be a long hard exorcism. Arby especially keeps both eyes skinned for trouble. But the only cruiser spotted rolls by too late to stop anything. The congregation is already breaking up.

Partly in annoyance! It turns out that Nicholette isn’t grateful. And she’s quite unbalanced. Her New-England tone rises stridently, demanding to be treated “properly” and threatening all manner of lawsuit. It takes all of Steve’s considerable charm to sooth her into a van and away. The Haitians all decide to walk home.

 

Break-away scene: Steve and Nicholette

Theme: So you’re leaving

As Steve drives her, Nicholette gripes about Spenser, Wilson and his clinic. He keeps sweet-talking her and learns a good deal of detail about Jill Spenser the psychiatrist, Dr. Wilson the man who dreams of perfect chemical treatment of disorders, and a Green Machine in the Wilson Clinic’s basement.

Steve shows Nicholette his pad, where to come back to once it’s safe to return. Then he drives her out to her own swanky apartment out in Lakes County. She showers and changes and fetches some things, including a purse and overnight bag. Then he takes her all the way to a Penn Station and she catches a train east. She’s got folks over in Connecticut or wherever, but is warned to keep a low, low profile because the powers that affected her won’t stop at anything to silence her.

 

Scene: DeNaRes ranger station

Theme: Pick up the pieces

Research time!

Vic preps gear but Arby and Steve help work the books. Jon narrows “goblins” down to three likely types. They drag him away from a dissertation on Spring-heel Jack.

They dress in Wildlife Officer gear (though Vic keeps his black leather duster of course) and pile into the Mystery Machine, and drive to Hough.

 

Scene: An alley in Hough

Theme: Cold Sweat

It’s getting late and Steve and Vic have been up a long time but time’s pressing on this. The Wildlife Officers have parked well away from deserted streets where the Mystery Machine could have its wheels removed, and walked into the Dead Triangle behind the Barnes place, where no roads can be found.

Trees bulk the skyline into weird shapes and garbage lies along the lane they are following. Arby’s got the creeps but is ready at the front, Steve a little ways off to his left. Arby bends down and checks around a bin where there seem to be too many food scraps.

“No birds or dogs been pickin’ this over,” he observes. “And lookit – small feet.”

Three alleys lead away. Steve picks the left hand. A broad fence on one side, with graffiti on it and unkempt trees leering over it. The sides of run-down two-up houses stack up on the other, blocking them in. Dirt and garbage along the edges. The smell of rotting meat.

Looking over the fence, Vic recognizes the Barnes place, though the trees he’s looking through make it seem unfamiliar. Something moves in the shadows of those trees!

Steve vaults over the fence, Vic scrambles over after him. Something child-size is glimpsed, but it rushes away and dives into the fallen leaves of last year and disappears, towards the fence. On the alley side, Arby’s about to boost Jon but abandons this and rushes after the sound of a fence plank quietly shifting. But the thing is gone around the corner and into the narrow alley between tall houses.

But now the Barnes place is right in view Steve and Vic decide to switch targets. Jon is lifted over and feeds his stick with a little blood. Putting away his pocketknife, he scans the undergrowth. He can see the small footprints, leading away. Nothing else. The foul feeling of evil hangs about the place.

The four advance on the rear of the Barnes place. Now Jon can see a charm field roiling darkly around it. Muttering prayers, he gestures Vic forwards.

 

Scene: Barnes drug-house, Hough

Theme: Boom boom

A snap-kick has dealt with the back door, and Steve barrels in axe ready, then Vic, Arby not far behind with his catchpole. The stench of rotten meat is thick, making all of them gag a little. Vic and Steve duck left and right. A kitchen, and a half-eaten human body rotting on the floor. Jon gets the gist of the ranch plan layout, and figures a guard with a rifle would be far end and left, in the parlor. He signals Steve, but even as the Cutter heads forward, a very big man-size shape is seen coming from the front left!

Jon snaps off his flash, blinding the man. High-velocity automatic fire shreds up the wall into the ceiling!

Steve charges, cutting the massive man’s shoulder and dashing past, to allow Vic an attack. Which he does! The arm holding the automatic rifle is severed! Close up, Vic can see this is Lance Barnes.

But then, a miasmic rotting shape only vaguely human shambles out of the parlor as well! It’s virtually on top of Steve! The awful stench of a weeks-old corpse chokes them: Arby loses his lunch, dropping the catchpole. Black corpse-fly-like particles swarm off the thing onto the disarmed Barnes, and Vic goggles disbelievingly as the huge man literally pulls himself together!

Arby is the hero, tangling Lance’s M16 while Vic tries to land a telling blow. Rage suffuses Vic’s form, but that doesn’t seem to help.

Steve takes a cut at what ought to be a neck, but the rotting ghoulish thing evades the cut. A vertical seam opens in its torso, huge spike teeth lining it. As Steve gapes at it, it widens still further… there’s something like a rune or eye-like mark at the back of the cavity.

Jon comes to the rescue again, extending his coco macaque and exhorting Papa Legba to drive the evil spirit away. It buys Steve a vital few seconds. He lunges, holding the axe like a spear, impaling the mark. In a disgusting soft rotten-fruit-like spray, the ghoul-demon explodes!

Choking down his vomit Steve swings back, seeing Arby and Jon valiantly tangling the M16 still. Swinging his axe nearly horizontally, Steve decapitates Barnes.

 

Scene: DeNaRes ranger station

Theme: Don’t you worry ‘bout a thing

The white hats report, and Laura and Kelly do the typing. The Barnes house was already well afire when the white hats got back into their van. Arby siphoned some gas from the tank and they splashed it round – finding a number of remains – and took a second M16 and ammo out with them.

But they’re all feeling pretty down. Sure, they tidied Barnes away. But that was a lot of dead bodies!

Arby more or less throws this to Kelly. She stops typing and turns to him kindly. Offers some thoughts for the next step. If Barnes and a ghoul-demon are gone, there’s no need for the world to get complicated. Next step, make sure the goblins know the babies don’t need to be stolen. Maybe Arby can go back to the Gremlins? Would that work?

Arby feels better, and the white hats learn that saying a few more constructive things than “don’t mean nothing” can help in these dark times.

Steve reports on Jill Spenser. He asked Cindy Channel for the favor and she did a good job. Though she does tell him that he ought to have given her warning of the Barnes place deal, so Ted could have gotten some pictures. Anyhow, Jill Spenser is a genuine psychiatrist who had some employment issues and is now with the Wilson Clinic. She’s an enthusiastic supporter of Wilson’s chemical solution. He explains what Nicholette told him about the clinic. Much ribbing about his crazy white mama who’s probably on her way back to him right now!

In the next few days white hats visit Gremlins and kick their way into Kobold lairs. Kobolds are told in no uncertain terms that humans are off limits, and as for animals, if it ain’t got no collar, it’s fair game. The Kobolds rat out the Goblin lairs and they are dealt with even more sternly.

 

Credit roll scene:

Reverend Charlie Stone is checking into WKCY to do his guest spot on the Feelgood Hour. The camera pulls back. We see Steve sitting in his beat-up Ford van, watching him.

 

GM’s corner

The white hats are easing down to their normal wealth of zero. They pick up their monthly stipend from DeNaRes, not for dealing with a demon but for settling the Kobold problem. Yes, apparently they are on piecework.

I had to vague up the Big Ass Pistol last episode but did some research and came back to Vic’s player DB this session to tell him that it would be either the .357 Magnum Colt Python, or the Dirty Harry style .44 Magnum. The Saturday-Night Specials are knockoffs of Police .38s, unreliable and inaccurate.

Arby rented the apartment last session, but it didn’t warrant reporting. We don’t have a particular location for it yet, it just has that ‘tiny apartment right next to the tracks’ setting.

This was the first session I split xp up a little. Only two of the four players really tried to stay in character, so gained the 1xp that warrants. Otherwise everyone got a healthy 5xp. Dealing fairly and prudently with Nicholette really paid off, as they got an xp for the exorcism and another xp for gaining solid information on the Wilson Clinic.

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CD9: Gold, goons and guns

Fight the power! Close the Hellmouth!

In which five ageing whitey whitebreads of the 10s pretend to be young hip black dudes of the 70s

Warning: taken out of context this post contains offensive material.

 

The White Hats

Jon ‘Doc’ Samedy, the Haitian migrant: about 5’9 though stooped and limping. His strangely carved stick is a coco macaque and he wields power over loa and less friendly spirits. He is the brains and medic.

Vic Creed, the scarred veteran: about 6’6 and too bulky for speed. He is the muscle.

Roosevelt ‘Arby’ Brown, the trickster: about 5’7 and lithe. Arby has his cowardly nature beaten, except when asked to recall something.

Steve ‘the cutter’ Cutter, the ex-boxer: about 6’, a fast-handed boxer. He is muscle and handyman.

Jim Fairbanks, the tough treasure-hunter: about 6′, a tough ex-serviceman from Vic’s 101st Airborne. This session Jim makes a guest appearance when Jon is laid up.

 

Scene: DeNaRes ranger station, the common room

Theme: Money (Gladys Knight version)

The white hats are seated at the long common room table, looking at a pile of banknotes. Arby is out of bandages. His left eye has a nasty scar down the eyelid. He has a greedy glint in his eyes.

Vic don’t feel right about taking Terique McCants’ money for doing what’s right. On the other hand, this is a ready way to pay Madeline back that 5 C’s the hobo stole. Jon’s uncomfortable too, but this is a chance to pay Maman back a little on the tuition fees she feels have been wasted. Steve shrugs and mentions how Cleo’s been hurting.

“So, I guess we all take a share,” Arby says, disappointed they didn’t leap at his plan to take that whole pile as a stake and make some real bread. He riffles it into four even decks. Each is enough to buy a fairly good used automobile. He riffles through his share, divides it evenly into three, and slides one across to Steve. “’A’s for Cleo too – where takin’ care my kid’s at I aim to please,” he brags. Steve scowls reflexively then folds that share into his.

“Yeah, I gotta get down to Little Saigon, get this green to Madeline,” Vic announces. It kicks off a circuit of visits.

 

Scene: Samedy residence, Fairfax

Theme: Soul Man

It’s baking hot, and staying in the Plymouth while Jon visits isn’t an option. Jon vaguely waves them on, they follow him around the sprawling old house to the back. Voices are raised.

Jon sees Maman, standing erect on the back porch, his niece and nephew beside her, facing off against Deacon Setro Casimir-Perier who is below, declaiming loudly. Over a dozen of the congregation are grouped in a sort of arc around them, some nearer Maman and some clearly supporting Setro.

Setro blames Jon for the cops’ raid and the broken heads and bones that went with it. If he hadn’t fallen into bad company and become the cops’ enemy that wouldn’t have happened!

As Jon mounts the steps up to Maman’s side he notices Asha is sitting in the back parlor. She looks pretty mad at Setro.

The debate breaks up pretty quickly once Maman sees the other three white hats trailing after Jon. She defends Jon briefly, accepts his money, calls for refreshments for the guests, and privately tells Jon he can move back into the house.

Steve finds himself talking to Clarice, Jon’s niece, who is something in the law trade, attractive, and older than Jon. She doesn’t give him a business card, but mentions her law firm’s name so he can contact her, daytime hours. Arby finds himself talking to Jon’s nephew Stefan, a minister of religion apparently. Arby’s used to the kinds of questions he levels.

Privately, Asha urges payback on the dirty cops. Thanks to Setro’s unwitting evidence she has concluded it was them laid a beat-down on her. Jon agrees in principle but can see some practical issues there.

 

Scene: Outside Cleo’s apartment building, Central

Theme: Trouble Man

Vic offers to head up with Steve, but the Cutter turns him down smartly. As they watch him head up the stairwell, they notice his shoulders seem to slump defeatedly.

The windows are down in the Plymouth but the heat has Vic out finding shade anyway. Arby has slumped way down, in case Cleo looks out. Jon is resting behind the steering wheel, which is getting too hot to touch.

Steve shuffles quickly down the steps, money delivered. Suddenly Vic hears three muffled shots and three ricochets.

“Incoming!!”

Vic throws himself down behind the Plymouth, opposite the building from where the shots must have come. Steve double-takes and joins him. Jon gets the Plymouth started and guns the engine.

“Get in mon, we outta here!”

As they race away towards Downtown Vic recounts what he heard. Suppressed, probably a light automatic rifle firing sub-sonic rounds.

None of them feels like exploring the rooftop opposite Cleo’s, and the lack of firearms is brought home again.

“My Ace Boon Coon Jim be huntin’ pieces, man. If we lucky, he gimme a call soonest,” Vic reminds them.

 

Scene: The Burnes residence, Little Saigon near Kirtland

Theme: I can’t get next to you

Steve tags along with Vic on this visit, and is amused to watch a battle of wills between huge ugly Vic and petite Madeline. Eventually, Vic’s insistence that he needs to pay her back since she got no steady income now and the kids need something, wins over Madeline’s insistence that she never expected the expense money back.

Outside, Steve asks Vic if there’s more there than just sympathy, but the big guy insists he is just helping a friend. Steve raises his brows in puzzlement and says no more.

 

Scene: Outside Phyllis Wheatley building, Central

Theme: Living for the City

Rolling around the east side of Downtown Jon has the Plymouth pointed towards the tracks, since Arby has decided mid-afternoon’s a good time to spring the next share of his roll on Wudha, his other baby-mama.

First thing Jon notices is a big black Lincoln, limo-style, parked maybe a block shy of the Phyllis. One rear window’s cracked down, and a little smoke’s escaping.

Next thing they all notice is a demonstration outside the Phyllis. Lots of noise and placards. Steve groans.

“Cleo’s gotta be in on that thing! She tellin’ me she can get us in anytime.”

Jon checks the rear-view mirror, sees two cruisers rolling in with lights flashing. This is shaping up to go bad fast! He raps out the limo’s number plate to Arby, asks him to remember it. Arby wigs out, messes himself. Steve chokes:

“Lemme out right now!”

Steve’s out of the sedan, shuffles quick through the baking sidewalk heat, shouldering through the placards reading “Down With the Man!” or the like. A lot of these people seem kind of rent-a-mob. He can see Cleo’s ‘fro, and he can see a suit-wearing type coming out of the Phyllis, and he can also see the cruisers rolling in to bracket the crowd.

“Come on girl, ‘s a set up! Let’s get gone!”

Steve grabs Cleo’s hand and they race away towards the building, not away, then out back along the alleys and right-of-ways the white hats escaped along the other night.

Behind them, police set about arresting as many genuine protestors as they can. The limo pulls away.

 

Scene: Lake Trout Diner, near the entertainment district, Central

Theme: Sweetback’s Theme

Steve’s attention is taken off Cleo. She’s been explaining that ‘word come round’ and ‘some sista tole her’ and has no more deep reasoning in the protest than that. And Moroni the mob bastard shows up, and marks out Steve and makes for him.

“Be that Roosevelt Brown,” Moroni explains once they have a private minute. “He winnin’! You care if he stay in one piece, you gots ta tell him so he stays told!”

With a muffled groan Steve remembers Arby’s big plan to make some real green. He follows Moroni’s direction and within half an hour is inside an off-the-books gambling pit, back of the Boneyard. Arby’s playing cards, and he’s got Titus Johnson in on the game which doubles his chances of rigging it. The other three players aren’t happy.

Steve practically manhandles Arby away, to protests from all. A puzzled and still-greedy Titus follows them, but out on the street Steve spots Jon’s Plymouth. Leaving Titus in the dust he and Arby race across at least three lanes of traffic and jump into the now-cleaned back seat.

 

Scene: Outside Farmatec House, near University Circle

Theme: Theme from Shaft

Arby has barely finished tucking his money away – double what he started with – when Jon grunts in surprise and points to the Farmatec building. A good number of people are clumped loosely around the entrance, some sitting with head down on their knees. A tall slim woman with silver-gold hair seems to be in charge and there are two security guards among the crowd.

Jon uses the Circle to navigate back around, and parks down by the student pub. There’s plenty of parking at this early evening hour. Normal office hours are about over and the evening swill has barely got under way.

The white hats wander over the road to the Farmatec lot. Two ambulances, both from Case Western, have already arrived. The four mingle: Arby distracts a security guard while Jon gets one of the less-ill people to disclose what’s going on.

It sounds to him that something environmental has reached tipping-point. The office has been affected for quite some time now, but this time the stomach upsets, headaches, dizziness and so on affected so many people they evacuated. He can catalogue quite a number of toxins that could do that, but needs to work out common factors, since not everyone is affected.

Before Nicholette de la Fleur – the imposing blonde – can prevent the white hats interfering, a beat-up old police car arrives. It’s Department 7’s Agent Boddington. Apparently Farmatec is well-connected (you don’t say?) and there’s enough of an “unexplained” list of complaints on file that he’s been asked to investigate. Of course, he’s delighted to hand over to Jon, who has the medical background. He makes their authority clear enough to give them access to the offices, and goes back to his other caseloads.

 

Scene: Farmatec Sales & Marketing Department

Theme: Jungle Boogie

The bulk of the interior is cubicled off, with a few private offices. Each desk has a standard push-button phone. Jon asks staff not to use the phones – though he’s pretty sure he’s ignored – and draws up an eight-box chart for his fellow white hats.

It’s interview time!

Steve spends a pleasant 40 minutes interviewing Tawna, hearing about what copywriting is (it’s not what he thought: not that he ever gave it much) and learning her nightclub preferences. Meanwhile Vic chews through several intimidated sales staff, filling in boxes poorly; and Arby smoothly works his way through the remainder, bringing Jon back some valuable cross-checking. Only Nicholette to go, and Jon is already reasonably sure someone is slipping rat-poison (or something equivalent) into the coffee percolator.

Jon, armed with a check-list and accompanied by Arby and Vic (she is quite intimidating), enters Nicholette’s private office. She’s fidgeting nervously behind her desk.

Hardly has Jon broached the subject of rat-poison and possible culprits when she levels a small pistol and fires every round in it!

Jon drops, groaning in pain, trying to stop the blood. Vic barrels over the desk and cleans out Nicholette, her office chair, and any stray furniture behind that. Arby, soon joined by Steve, attempts to help Jon.

While Jon grits his teeth and remains conscious long enough to direct the emergency first-aid, an ambulance is called and Vic binds Nicholette’s hands and feet firmly together with phone cord. He’s pretty sure she’s possessed, or plain crazy.

 

Scene: ICU, the Clinic

Theme: Cornbread

The white hats are visiting Jon and helping him eat the nice fruit they bought, when two whiteys are shown in. One’s Mitchell Delaney, Blackhand Security. The other he introduces as CEO of Farmatec, Curtis Silverman, a white-haired, Jewish-looking old guy. They remember Delaney coat-holding for the same old guy making a speech that memorable morning outside the ward office when a fake bomb was thrown. He thanks Jon for his sacrifice and the white hats for good work generally. Mitchell doesn’t seem too pleased with Arby: kind of a ‘how come you didn’t phone this in?’ look shoots across. There doesn’t seem to be any other agenda, spoken or unspoken. Or maybe they are just too busy eating grapes to notice.

Steve, Vic and Arby update Jon on the shooting and Nicholette once alone again. No police comeback at all. They took her away from police custody, thanks to Boddington’s help. Up at the ranger station, they brought Maman Samedy up and did that same freaky circle with the candles and feathers and blood. Seems de la Fleur is really nuts, but really possessed too. The demon is a dangerous ego-affecting one named Chamegalophage. But Maman figures Jon better be fit and up for the full service before she tries exorcising it.

 

Scene: Approaching a small warehouse, Lakefront area

Theme: In the heat of the night

Ready money available means Jim Fairbanks has come through, though he can’t guarantee the transaction in any way. Originally, he expected to make a score off the ex-Black Panthers, but most of them are out of the life or keeping their heads low. But a contact through them led to this meet. The buyer insists on meeting the white hats.

Jim’s front and just right of Vic; Steve’s front and left of Vic; like the 2 and 10 on a clock if Vic is the 12. Arby’s taken up rear-guard keeping an eye peeled for ambush. It’s unusually quiet and relatively dark: there are witnesses, but few and too far away to make them in any useful way.

A sedan is parked beside a small warehouse, its roll-door closed. The white hats agree they aren’t entering the warehouse, but that’s not the deal anyway.

As they approach the sedan close enough for them to be recognized, its occupant climbs out. Steve can’t see any other heads in there. The interior light must have been disabled, as it stays dark. Standing beside the open door, a tallish, fairly slim figure addresses them.

“Deal is: yo’ man Vic there joins the Rollin’ 40s. Plus the cash. Then you get guns.”

The voice belongs to ‘Dakka’ Tyler.

Steve and he exchange a few words, Dakka hostile. Then Vic makes his mind up.

“Ain’t no way for that to happen, fool.”

Dakka slams the sedan door shut, and the warehouse roll-door rolls up, allowing his gunmen to move on the white hats!

 

Fight scene!

Theme: Boom Boom

Naturally, Vic Jim and Steve are more than ready for treachery. Arby, sensing gunplay, hits the deck and flattens into invisibility. Vic decides to deal with Dakka, charges him and slam-tackles the gang leader, riding his head into the sedan, hard. Dakka is out! Vic gropes inside the man’s coat and draws a heavy pistol out left-handed: his right hand snakes his battleaxe out from under his own duster. Steve races left to close the gap on the lead banger, whipping his axe around but missing as the man dodges back: but the dodge takes him back into his own Rolling 40s man. Steve has a few seconds to recalibrate! Jim flashes past him, and uses a swift disarm to take the pistol out of the tangled gangster’s fist, and level it at one of the two bangers in the rear!

Arby springs up off the ground, and sweeps around to slide into a takedown on the rear gangster. That gent sees him coming and rips an entire mag off, all over Arby’s head. Then there’s a pistol shot behind Arby and a huge muzzle flash and blast from his right. And a terrible scream. He finishes kicking the empty piece out of the fallen man’s hand, and looks back.

Steve has used his axe again with better effect, and the unfortunate Rolling 40s gunman is minus an arm. Jim attempted to use his opponent for cover as he shot at Arby’s target, and only succeeded in blasting the near man’s ear off. And Vic, moving back round the sedan and into line with the remaining banger, leveled the heavy pistol and blew the fool away.

Fight over!

The white hats bundle the armless man and the bleeding earless gangster into Dakka’s pimped-down sedan, with a rough field-dressing supplied by Jim. Then Dakka. Then the other live member. Who is grilled about Lance Barnes and the area around the drug house, all the way back to the A&E where the sedan and occupants are left to the paramedics to deal with.

Adding the spare ammunition and spoils of war guns together, the white hats now have a small armory of three Saturday-night-specials, and one heavy pistol, with enough ammo for a short gun battle.

 

GM’s corner

“Every time we plan to explore below the Phyllis, something happens that sends us in another direction” – Steve’s player SM

“Yeah, it’s like the GM is saving it for a season finale or something” – me, as GM.

The presence of real money made for a good bit of roleplaying I’m sorry I can’t reproduce adequately. Most white hats except Arby (who has the covetous ($) drawback) had good reasons not to keep the money. It made giving it to this or that person easier.

It also – finally – gave me a good way of working the confrontation with the Rolling 40s into the action. Now the white hats have guns, using the traditional adventurer method of “kill them and take their stuff!”

xp earned reflected both the Farmatec Office and Rolling 40s menaces, 5 apiece. As for drama points, I beat down Steve Jon and Arby with Shit That Happens, and Jon earned at least three, which were all rapidly spent on not dying. At present I’m minded not to penalize Vic for shooting the banger, since it was in defense of his fellow white-hats.

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