A Malevolent Apparatus

Bandage Man
Other Business

Hard Rain

In spite of heavy psychic interference and a heavy rain, Delic tracked down The Bandaged Man to an optometrist’s shop in the most run down section of Howard Philips Station. The optometrist was an old run-down place, next to blighted row home with illithid graffiti on the inside. While casing the optometrist, Delic, Scratch and Stavian were also being watched, but were unable to corner the invisible lurker. Eventually, the optometrist and some of the squatters in the blighted building vacated their premises.

Scratch forced open the back door of the optometrist’s shop. The back room contained a desk, a typewriter (a Lorenz 131), and a hatch leading to a cellar that contained a summoning circle scratched into the earth. As they were examining the circle, the Lorenz 131 began typing a message. Stavian sat at the desk and responded to it. The being at the other end asked about the bookstore that was burned down and if “the brat” had found any of his brothers.

The bandaged man ambushed Scratch. An enraged Scratch climbed up the slick walls in the pouring rain and clawed at The Bandaged Man who almost pushed Scratch to the brink of losing his mind, but then Stavian flung The Bandaged Man off the roof and Scratch jumped three stories down to claw him to death. Now it became a task for Delic to keep Scratch from killing their adversary. Meanwhile, they could hear some sort of creature trying to break through the floor. Stavian and Delic manage to drag a sleeping Scratch and a nearly dead Bandaged Man back to the AST headquarters.

Invoking for Effect

Invoking for effect can be more useful than simply using Fate Points for a +2 bonus or a reroll. Part of the fight with The Bandaged Man took place outside where there was a Raining Hard aspect on the scene. If you were in the downpour and hadn’t been hit yet, I’d agree with invoking Raining Hard to say the secondary attack from its Balefire Attack wouldn’t go off unless the attack generated Spin. Why? The secondary mental attack as a result of being bathed in flame. You could say you’re too soaked to catch on fire, at least on the first hit or hadn’t been hit in a while. It’s a way of using the situation to your advantage.

Granted, Scratch didn’t really have a chance to do this since he wasn’t in the rain at the time he was ambushed. But, throwing it out there as something that could have been done if the situation arose. Though I supposed he could have declared himself Drenched from being out in the rain for an hour, which I didn’t even think of until right now, but might have kept Scratch from going into a Severe(P) mental consequence right away.

Part of the reason I spell it out in a post is to let you know I intend for stuff like that to work, but in the thick of rolling the dice…sometimes I just want to hit you in the face and might be prone to be over-limiting, when I should be saying, “good idea!” I mean, I do have to veto effects with tenuous plausibility to keep it “honest,” but at the same time I don’t want to veto them for the wrong reasons.

Persistent Aspects

Invoking persistent Aspects for effect still requires a Fate Point (not free as I’d been using it). It’s still free to invoke/compel for a bonus or re-roll. This makes sense, since invoking for effect can be more powerful than a bonus/re-roll. Plus, when you place a Severe(P) consequence, it means you actually have a use for the free invoke you gain from placing a persistent Aspect on someone. Last night, there was that one red chip sitting on Scratch’s Severe(P) consequence that seemed useless, but now makes sense to have. So I should have paid another FP or two to have kept Scratch running around in an aimless psychotic rage.

Experience

What I thought was going to be a quick physical conflict, wound up being a somewhat complicated battle that took some time. It was the kind of time I didn’t mind spending, because it turned out where each person’s turn changed the landscape of the conflict.

Delic, Scratch and Stavian get +4XP.

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A Deceptive Aletheia
Job 005.2

If It Looks Sinister, It Probably Is

October 13, Year 25 – The downed behemoth lay disabled in a ravine. It was dark and there was enough tree cover for The All-Star Troubleshooters to scope the situation. The mechanics working on the behemoth needed light, so beyond the clearing, the crew of an Exelican behemoth was blind.

Damien and Specs approached, hoping their Mechanica ability would let them talk their way to a safe approach. Specs lacked the confidence to approach and left Damien to talk to the soldiers, which took too long for Aleister, who started blasting when it became apparent that a dozen Exelica soldiers were approaching. Specs entered the ravine clearing, quickly blurting to Lieutenant Fury, Major Hughes’ name, who the AST were and what they were doing here. The AST was spared, but Aleister flew away to save his skin.

Will The Real Aletheia Please Stand Up?

At Lieutenant Fury’s suggestion they made a rendezvous with Major Hughes, who had successfully led a raid on the True Seekers after they had been lured out of Exelica by the AST. It seemed that this was the Major’s plan all along, to reclaim the Power Amplifier without having to go into the refugee tunnels, which would have increased tension between the various refugee groups and the government.

Unfortunately, the Power Amplifier was no longer in the camp. Delic managed to post-cog what happened. The Aletheia they had been dealing with was a ruse. During the Hughes’ raid, the real Aletheia and a servant gathered the Power Amplifier and left the encampment. Delic couldn’t follow them further. The Aletheia and her servant’s minds became cloaked and Delic was unable to find another relevant mind.

Ransacked

October 14, Year 25 – The AST agreed to search for the Power Amplifier within Exelica. Major Hughes thought it possible that The Aletheia might return to Exelica with it. She could sell it or ally with an enemy of the state. Hughes views The AST in a favorable light (and available as a contact Specialty Aspect).

However, this was not the only thing going on. During the night, the home office was ransacked and some of the funds not yet deposited were stolen from the safe. Delic was able to use the minds of the goldfish in the tank to catch a very hazy image of the Limping Bandaged Man ransacking the office.

XP

+3 XP for Damien, Delic, Hans, Specs, Stavian.

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Assisting The True Seekers
Job 005.1

October 13, Year 25 – Specs follows up with Pol Dostovoy, the inventor who lived on the outskirts of Exelica. Pol told Specs that the Power Amplifier that the All-Star Troubleshooters transported to Warehouse 5 on Mending Hill had been stolen. Sniffing out a potential job, Specs took the crew to The Exelica Security Ministry only to be stymied at the front gates. Seems that they didn’t just let anyone in. This led them to seek someone with PR skills, Claire Stansfield, the young woman from The Fourth Column Apartments.

Once Claire moved the AST’s meeting request near the top of the weeks long list of appointments, The AST met with Major Maes Hughes, Chief Investigator of the Exelican Army. He was a young family man in his mid-twenties with the most adorable daughter in all the city, if he didn’t say so himself, which he did on numerous occasions. He agreed to hire The AST to investigate the missing Power Amplifier.

The Investigation led them to the True Seekers, the Agathonian refugee group with a thing for tigers. With a little bit of trickery and intelligence obtained by Delic, The AST were hired by The True Seekers. Hughes asked The AST to assist the True Seekers in whatever way they could. He wanted to know what they were going to do with the Power Amplifier. Upon successfully smuggling the Power Amplifier outside the city, True Seeker informants reported that one of the military’s Behemoths was down in the wilderness. The AST had a new objective. Acquire a Behemoth for the True Seekers.

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The Fourth Column
Job 004

Room by john foster

October 6, Year 25 – The Fourth Column Apartments, located in the Pegasus Station neighborhood of Exelica’s middle hill, was the subject of a reality distortion caused by the interruption of a powerful arcane ritual. All of the tenants disappeared without a trace, before paying the rent.

Money makes the world go round, so when the Cinclaire Syndicate did not get their cut of The Fourth Column’s rent money, they “hired” Damien Cinclaire of the The All-Star Troubleshooters to find the rent money. Damien owed the family a favor and he hoped that doing this for them would get them off his back for a while.

The warped reality anchored itself to the mind of Pablo, The Painter. Creatures from his canvases stepped out of their frames to haunt the apartment building. Portraits he painted took residence in the empty apartments. Eventually, the Troubleshooters made their way inside Pablo’s “A Castle in the Sky” where they destroyed enough canvas in his studio to remove the reality distortion’s anchor on the space.

Most of the original tenants did not make it back, save for Sam, The Piano Man, and Claire, The Ingenue, who the Troubleshooters befriended while in Pablo’s World. When the Troubleshooters returned to the real world, they awoke in Pablo’s Apartment, laid out in front of “A Castle in the Sky;” however, they were not alone. In the room was a boy the same age as Hans. It was his half-brother by the way they spoke. The two stepped away from the others to discuss a secret between them. For Aleister, the options from which he had to choose became clear.

In the following days, representatives of several guilds came to investigate the apartments. Distortions of reality are known, but the severity of this case prompted much investigation. A traveling Echographer from Vigrid named Reis discovered something peculiar hiding in plain sight. Under the lamp shade, the glowing anbaric light sphere turned out to be something completely different, an Echogenesis Zone.

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The Foundry
Job 003

Foundry

October 1, Year 25 – The party saved three workers inside a foundry where the fire elemental servants were on a rampage after being freed from the arcane bonds that held them in the furnace. They managed to escape with a three unconscious workers just as the foundry began to collapse from the intense heat of the raging fire elementals. They were unable to contain the elementals within the foundry and one block of residences were burned down before some Guild mages were able to contain the elementals. At the end of the day, Hans and Ralph were pretty beat up, so the All-Star Troubleshooters left it for someone else to figure out why or how the fire elemental servants got free; and, why this foundry was targeted.

Experience and Rewards

Aleister, Damien, Hans, Ralph and Stavian each gain 3XP.

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True Seekers Under the City
Job 002.2

Stavian and Second Meister Oxby

The ruckus with the tiger on the previous night prompted a meeting between Stavian and the Second Meister of the Archivist Guild, Meister Oxby. No damage was done to the guildhall or the archives, so the meeting felt more customary, than a reprimand for bringing in an object of unknown stability. However, it did lead the Second Meister to push Stavian into learning the true origin of the destroyed Tiger Figurine.

Leaving on an Airship, Don’t Know When I’ll Be Back Again

Airship by justin oaksford

Tim left suddenly, just leaving a note on Josephine’s desk. He did not leave word of where he was going or when he was coming back, not even to his nephew Hans. Delic mentally located Tim, who sat in a window seat on an airship destined for Vigrid.

Mr. Crowley

Mr. Vladimir paid the All-Star Troubleshooters another visit, this time saying that Pastor Strange would like them to pursue the investigation further, just to make sure that the True Seekers would no longer pose a threat to his life. Mr. Vladimir also dumped an Aleister Crowley in their lap, a rather sinister looking individual with warped and scarred flesh. Aleister had the look about him that would cause most people cross to the other side of the street should they see him approach.

The Chameleon Street Station Underground

Their receptionist, Josephine, a former refugee and an activist for refugee rights, saved them a lot of time by telling them exactly where to find the Agathonian refugee encampment they sought. There were a few hundred of them huddled in the tunnels near Chameleon Street Station, a middle class section on the north side of Render Hill. This section was on the complete opposite side of Render Hill from the Troubleshooter’s office in working class Howard-Phillips Station.

While floundering in the refugee camp for more than an hour, Delic noted that the team missed Tim’s skills. Fortunately, games serve as a universal language for youth and Hans with his hacky sack was able to learn from the children he played with the general direction of the True Seeker encampment, which was separate from the other Agathonian refugees.

Eye of the Tiger

The True Seeker cave was covered in Tiger images, which Stavian figured were used to make assessments on them as they moved closer to their Aletheia, which was what they called the philosophical head of their order. Stavian spent some time trying to get answers about the Tiger Figurine and the Aletheia was dancing around his questions by answering them quite literally from language and not by inference. Eventually, both sides had enough and violence ensued.

Mr. Crowley unleashed an inhuman assault on the Aletheia’s guards, melting the skin from their bones, leaving them shrieking in terror. A melee among the guards and the party ensued, except for Specs who noticed a shield around the Aletheia and kept launching his taser at it until it broke. Once the shield broke, The Aletheia called off her guards and a deal was struck where she promised to leave Pastor Strange alone. It seemed that she had lost control of the Tiger Figurine and they had no intention of killing Pastor Strange, after all he was delivering the message she wanted him to deliver.

So why did The Aletheia lose control of the Tiger Figurine? Well, that’s for another time.

Experience

Aleister, Delic, Hans, Specs and Stavian each gain 3XP.

Delic gains an additional 3XP for having a completed and updated character sheet on site at the time of this post for my ease of reference.

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The Tiger
Job 002.1

The Booming Business

September 14, 25 – It was a slow lazy two weeks since The All-Star Troubleshooters’s last big job. In between then and now, they might have found where some cuckold’s wife had disappeared for the past fortnight, or maybe not. All that they could remember was it was hot for September. It made the lack of business all the more tiring.

The waiting made Hans restless. He spent most of the time disrupting a small-time child labor ring. The Monarch outlawed child labor a decade ago, but the practice still stands, particularly since the population grows at a much faster pace than law enforcement can be trained to police them all. It seems that the leader of the labor ring got away and promised to come back and show Hans who was boss.

Tim couldn’t take being defeated by Dr. Jackal lying down and initiated a smear campaign on the Murderous Doctor’s name.

Delic followed up on their first client, the inventor Pol Dostovoy. Having delivered his most recent invention, it seems spies have laid low for now. Delic saw Dostovoy pacing in his living room and eavesdropped on the muttering inside the man’s head. The thoughts of a man left by himself are a jumbled mess of everything that concerns him, some of which he may himself not be aware. One thought caught Delic’s attention, a name, the “True Seekers.” It seemed out of place among the cacophony of scientific jargon.

Meanwhile, Damien spent the last fortnight digging into Mr. Vladimir (what Damien uncovered is reported there). As if invoking his name acted as a summons, Mr. Vladimir paid a visit to the office.

When the front door to The All-Star Troubleshooters opened up, the dance commenced. The brass bell above the door clattered and the receptionist, Josephine, arose, stepped forward, then greeted Mr. Vladimir with her enchanting voice, which retained a slight hint of a foreign accent. In response, Mr. Vladimir paused and returned the greeting, waiting for Josephine to twirl and show him to the back. The opening of the dance gave Delic, plenty of time to disappear from view to initiate a watch for any signs of misdirection coming from the smooth lips of the fey blooded human.

Mr. Vladimir removed his black fedora, but kept on his black winter gloves. He smiled, sapphire eyes gleaming, at Hans and Tim, saying, “Business is booming I see.”

Job 002: The Case of Pastor Edgar Strange

Mr. Vladimir briefed them on their next client, Pastor Edgar Strange:

“The Pastor Edgar Strange has gained notoriety as a brilliant philosopher. His theories about The Self’s position in a Post- Arrival world as written in “Being and Dimensionality” are a popular topic among the literate class. Pastor Strange mentioned to me that he had breakthroughs in thought on a somewhat regular basis. Unfortunately, a few days before he receives these flashes of insight, lacerations appear on his body. The wounds have begun to appear more frequently. He fears that eventually the wounds will surpass his ability to heal and he believes a powerful being is trying to destroy him.

This condition is known to very few individuals and Pastor Strange wishes to keep it that way. If word of this got out, it would negatively influence the perception of his writings.

The Pastor’s home is near Pegasus Station."

Investigation: The Strange Residence Near Pegasus Station

Pegasus station

Pegasus Station is on the north side of Render Hill. It is an above ground station which has a great view of The Flats of Exelica’s north side. Underneath Pegasus Station, between the street and the platform, is The Paper Bound, a book store. Many unique tomes can be found there.

Pastor Strange lives a few blocks from the station, which is a section of Render Hill known for having a concentration of academic luminaries and the avant-garde of literature and the musical arts among its residents. The architecture and the landscaping of the small yards at the front of the brownstones, tend to buck the traditional garden arrangements. If one is on a different wavelength from the neighborhood’s, these arrangements may seem odd.

The home of Pastor Edgar Strange looks to be a week or so behind in its maintenance. The Pastor answers the door himself and as he leads you to the sitting room, it appears that he is the only person home.

While Damien and Stavian occupy Pastor Strange’s attention with questions regarding the nature of the injuries he finds on himself, Hans creeps upstairs to bugger around. It was definitely once a place where two people lived, but in the absence of that other person a collection of curiosities now fills the void. A lot of old farm tools, old watches, knick-knacks and a collection of animal figurines bears, dragons, tigers and lions made of various materials. After the rest of them came up to investigate, Stavian determined that the Tiger bore the most evidence of arcane energy. This prompted Delic to tap into the psychic energy of the room to see that the Tiger would grow at night and attack the Pastor in his sleep. Stavian removed the tiger from the residence and brought it to his guild hall to do some further research.

The Pastor mentioned that he had received the figurine as a gift about a year and a half ago for his charitable work with the refugees living underneath Render Hill. Delic used his post-cognition abilities to see that the figurine was delivered to the Strange residence by a goblin courier.

The Hegel Lecture

Damien catches a glimpse of a news sheet and sees that Georg Hegel is giving a lecture at the Rosehip Tea Room. It was probably the best opportunity they had to meet with him face to face. He brought Tim along and they were able to interest Hegel in speaking with them further at another time. Damien enticed Hegel by mentioning that he was developing some sort of serum.

The Tiger and The Refugees

While at his arcane guild hall, Stavian came across a reference to a monastic order, the True Seekers, who came from Agathon (link to Map). The tiger featured prominently in the order’s imagery. Four years ago, when The Echogenesis Zone of Luhkr began to slowly expand, the kingdom of Arcades invaded Agathon in order to put some distance between itself and the expanding zone. Refugees from Agathon poured into Exelica. Stavian concluded that investigation into the tiger figurine pointed to Agathonian refugees and this order, the True Seekers.

Faster Pussycat, Go Tiger Go!

As Stavian poured over material late into the night, the brass figurine grew from six inches tall to the same size as a live tiger and ran out of the guildhall. Stavian knew exactly where it was going to go and hurried after it on foot.

The figurine did not grow in mass, even as it grew in size. The mass of metal simply occupied more space, a million different particles floating around like a cloud maintaining the shape and form of a tiger. It was like a ghost, but not as the mettle particles made sound as it moved across surfaces, seeping through spaces underneath doorways and out the cracks of windows. Stavian kept up as best he could on foot, running after it around blocks as the tiger particles filtered through houses along the way.

Eventually, the brass ghost of the tiger seeped back into Pastor Strange’s house. As Stavian ran toward the Strange house, he made a sweeping gesture with his arm to send a telekinetic wave ahead of him that shattered the door. To his surprise, he found the thirteen-year old Hans on the couch with a startled expression on his face from having just been awoken by the splintered door.

The two rushed up the stairway to Pastor Strange’s bedroom. The brass tiger formed ghost sat next to the sleeping Pastor Strange. It appeared to have finished a brief incantation and looked ready to pounce on its prey. The tiger did not seem to care that Hans launched himself toward it. Hans swung his fist at the tiger form and his fist connected. The tiger form paused for a moment. Something happened that it did not expect to happen.

In a flash, the statue dispersed itself filling the entire room with a metallic haze. Hans was caught breathing and inhaled a lung full of metal particles that he could feel moving in his lungs. He exhaled hard to expel the brass dust from his body and held his breath to avoid breathing in any more. There would not be enough time for him to get out of the room. The statue particles began to move in a pattern and there wasn’t anything Hans would be able to do.

Fortunately for the boy, Stavian finished his own incantation and pushed the floating particles down to the floor. Hans grabbed a breath and grabbed the pastor, throwing the slumber enduced man across his back and shoulders and ran out of the room while Stavian continued to disrupt the tiger figurine long enough for Hans to escape the house.

Hans ran down several blocks, but in moments he could hear the sound of metal particles scraping on the ground, gaining on him. There was no escaping the tiger. He lay the pastor on the cobblestone and fought the tiger, which attacked the sleeping pastor, now grievously wounded and unable to defend himself from the ghostly metal tiger. The tiger coiled again for a killing blow, while Hans righted himself against the tiger’s death strike, putting all his weight into the last shot he had to save the sleeping man.

The tiger shifted forward, ghost-like claws swinging to rend. Hans moved forward to intercept, fists clenched, speeding toward the tiger’s head, turning, rotating on the axis of his forearm through his middle knuckle. It met the metal particles which tore into his skin, but the fist connected sending a wave of force through the tiger’s form, breaking the energy imbued on the metal as the wave traveled through like a whip casting the particles out as the wave rolled through the form until breaking at the end. From above, the pile of brass dust looked like a bag of odd looking flour had burst on the floor.

Stavian sighed. He wanted that figurine and now it was gone.

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Dr. Jackal and Mr. Rockman
Job 001.2

Back on the Farm

The rest of the Troubleshooters remained at Dostovoy’s Farm with the second coach. Within a few minutes of waiting, all saw the smoke from the coach that Damein lit on fire. As soon as the driver noticed the smoke, he snapped the reigns in an attempt to leave Ralph, who was lost in thought, behind on the farm.

Stavian waves his hand in the air to attempt to fling the driver off the coach. The driver holds on, but this gives Ralph enough time to shoot a grappling device from his belt to latch onto the coach, making it possible for him to leap and grab onto the moving vehicle. Stavian gets a better idea and rips the reigns from the driver’s hands. Seeing the jig is up, the driver jumps off the coach and runs. Ralph takes the reigns and whips the horses toward the others.

They pass Damien on the road.

Dr. Jackal and Mr. Rockman

Two men approach where Delic is busy unhitching the horses. One is a tall slender man with a wide brimmed hat, cut in the front. He bears a wicked smile. The other is a massive man, seven feet tall with skin that looks to be made of rock. The stone skinned man walks to the burning coach and rips open the door.

“How now brown cow,” says the slender man who has his right hand inside his jacket, presumably to ready a weapon of some sort. “It appears we have you outnumbered. We have no interest in creating any sort of mess, so just have a seat and we’ll take the parcel from here.”

Delic gets the slender man to talk to give him time to probe his mind. The slender man introduces himself as Dr. Jackal and Delic finds out the muscle of this duo is Jayson Rockman. They share similar lines of work. With introductions made, the two companies know about each other.

During this conversation, Rockman summons a Clockwork Condor which takes one of the two the metal boxes. Rockman takes the other.

Muscle vs. Recon

Ralph, Stavian and Tim find Delic just a few moments after Dr. Jackal and Rockman left. The three run after the two transporters, while Delic hops on the coach that Ralph and the others left behind.

The three easily catch the two transporters, who were slowed down by carrying the metal box. Without any handles, it is an awkward thing to carry, even for a seven foot tall man made of stone.

“I suggest turning around,” says Dr. Jackal. “That will be the extent of my professional courtesy. Once we start, I will not stop until I’m satisfied.”

The three do not turn around and Rockman carefully places the box on the earth.

The Rockman beat Stavian into submission and Dr. Jackal laid waste to Tim.

“I suggest next time, you be a little more careful,” says Dr. Jackal. Ralph “lets” them leave.

Strengths

Minus a certain twelve year old of freakish physical ability who was napping the afternoon away, direct physical confrontation is not something The All-Star Troubleshooters are very good at. On the other hand, recon and infiltration, those are things where this company excels.

Delic already knew the Clockwork Condor carried the real parcel and was able to track it to a modest home on Render Hill. Stavian flings the team over the gate. Delic turns invisible and walks through the front door, up the stairs to the room where the Clockwork Condor brought the box. Stavian flings Tim up, who grabs the box, and Stavian flings them over the gate again before Dr. Jackal and Jayson Rockman could return.

Job Complete.

A Pleased Mr. Vladimir and a Box of Cookies

September 2, 25Mr. Vladimir reports that the client is satisfied and gives The All-Stars a little more than expected (2 Resource Points).

When he leaves, Josephine informs them that a package has arrived for them. It is plainly wrapped. The card indicates that the package is from Dr. Jackal, who congratulates them for their victory. After a few moments of deliberation, Ralph opens the box, which is full of cookies. They decide to keep the cookies as a trophy.

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The Client
Job 001.1

August 31, 25 – Though The All-Star Troubleshooters learn Georg Hegel’s research involved developing a super serum and that part of the research included not just the miners at Cooper Mining, but also included young students – children he taught at Mining Hill Academy – The Troubleshooters could not bring Hegel to justice for his experimentation on working class subjects. It was not a simple matter of turning him to the law or to his guild. In theory, the guilds police their own, but like all police, they protect their own as well. Simply apprehending Georg Hegel, would not accomplish much, what with all of the social protections around him.

In addition it raises a practical question. Do they continue to pursue bringing Hegel to justice, even if there is no client?

The Introduction of Mr. Vladimir

September 1, 25 – As the team gathers at the lab, analyzing the R-Type serum they found at the makeshift infirmary inside of Cooper Mine, their newly hired receptionist, Josephine, informs them that a Mr. Vladimir waits in the office. When they arrive, they see that Josephine has taken the initiative to acquire some paraphernalia for entertaining clients and prospectives, namely a coffee and tea set.

Mr. Vladimir stands and introduces himself. He is a tall slender man dressed all in black, a fashionable ensemble, spotless. His piercing blue eyes betray a hint of fey lineage. Mr. Vladimir does not remove his black leather gloves. Delic, who remains invisible as Ralph, Damien, and Salvarian speak with this man, senses an aura of overwhelming confidence radiating from Mr. Valdimir.

Mr. Vladimir sniffed out The All-Star Troubleshooters as being exactly what he wants, a business without many clients. This situation is a good hand for him, so he places the cards on the table. He is a well connected individual who will connect the All-Stars with people who need things. In exchange for completing these tasks, he will cut the team on the deal in an even split.

The team accepts his offer. Mr. Vladimir smiles and describes their first client.

Client 001: Pol Dostovoy

Farmhouse

Pol Dostovoy lives on a farm on the western outskirts of Exelica, a good twenty minute walk from the last rail stop on the Mining Hill Line. He is an inventor, who has created a component that needs to be delivered to another inventor all the way across to the east side of Exelica to a research facility outside of the military complex on Mending Hill. Inventors and scientists are often watched by unscrupulous colleagues and thieves. An attempt to take the component during transport is a given, which is where the All-Stars come in. They are to make sure The Parcel reaches the destination.

The team has a pass phrase to let Dostovoy know that The All-Stars are the transporters sent by Mr. Vladimir. Dostovoy leads them to his fortified laboratory underneath his barn. The component is inside a sealed 14×14×14 inch metal box. The entire package weighs in at over 40 pounds.

Transporting

The team returns to the city to arrange for two coaches, one of which will act as a decoy, and return to Dostovoy’s farm. Delic and Damien accompany The Parcel with the first cart, leaving the other half of the team to follow in the second coach in an hour. As the first coach pulls away, Ralph realizes that the thieves are A Step Ahead of them. If the thieves have been watching Dostovoy all this time, the thieves could have simply tailed the team back to the city when they hired the coaches and had the opportunity to put themselves in place of the real drivers as the team waited for the coaches to become available. Indeed, his assessment is correct.

Delic notices the driver having trouble with the horses pulling the coach. When asked to stop the coach, the driver whips the horses to accelerate down the uneven dirt road. Damien opens the coach door and tries to climb over to the driver, but he is thrown off by the jostling coach. As he falls, he inscribes a Trace Architecture onto his gauntlet, slams onto the dirt road, rolls and extends the activated gauntlet toward the coach that speeds away. A wave of flame erupts from the hand, which engulfs the coach, igniting it and the driver’s coat.

The driver jumps down from the coach and rolls on the ground trying to smother the flames. Delic climbs out the side of the cabin that is not burning. He gets up onto the drivers seat and takes control of the reigns, snapping them and continues driving the burning coach down the road.

Damien stands and pulls out his sidearm in one motion to shoot the burning driver in the shoulder, but he stops, even though he has a shot. He shakes his head and lowers the gun. “Eh, that would be an ugly shot.” The diver continues rolling on the ground at the edge of the dirt road, unable to stop the fire that engulfs him. Damien closes and with a better shot lined up shoots the flailing driver in the shoulder, while Delic continues to move the coach down the road.

“Tell me who you are,” says Damien, who stands over the burning man. “And I’ll put the fire out.”

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Abandoned Factory in the Monger Precinct
Episode 1

As Vigrid recovers from the celebration of the new year, Alera, Bartok, and Reis trek through a cold rain toward an abandoned factory in The Fishmonger Precinct, searching for an echogenesis zone Reis believes might be there. The streets in the district are narrow and the homes small. Alera is a female deva, attractive, golden and statuesque in physique. The water beads clinging to her metal wings glint off the swaying lantern light. Bartok, a human looking lad, holds the lantern in his sword hand and a shield properly strapped to his shield arm. He walks a full step in front of his companions. His eyes scan the street with some confidence, but shallow puffs of breath escape from him at a somewhat accelerated pace. The third figure, Reis, is an eladrin male, outfitted with a rain repelling oiled cloak.

When they approach the unlit factory, they see one of the side doors cracked open, swaying slightly in the wind and make their way toward it. Reis casts a light cantrip, sending it forward through the crack in the door. It illuminates a small area where they see some old wood crates and a table that appears to have various chemical bottles piled on it. The stench of rotting flesh escapes through the opening.

Bartok pushes the door open with his shield and slowly enters the building. His eyes search the darkness and after a few moments he signals the way is clear for the others to enter behind him. The stench of rot overwhelms their sinuses and their ducts secrete tears before adjusting to the odor. Reis tells everyone to remain still for a moment to cut down on the noise while he concentrates, appearing to listen for something. Satisfied, he urges Bartok and Alera to advance. Other than the stacks of crates and the wooden table, the abandoned factory contains a lot of rubble and a lot of dust, though much of the dust appears to have been disturbed recently. The trio performs a slow and deliberate sweep of the area as they plod step by step through the debris. Bartok stops suddenly when thick dollops of blood splatter onto the lantern and slither down the glass panes.

* * *

Even though the city is dead tonight, being New Year’s Day and all, Johnny makes his rounds of the taverns in Vigrid’s Overbridge District. His people don’t take long to recover, or more accurately avoid recovery altogether and are probably waiting to score their next hit about now. He avoids most of the obvious tourist taverns and sticks to local spots like The Laughing Soldier, preferring the stability of local customers. Johnny enters the place and it is pretty quiet, locals, and some street performers celebrating their big take from the festival last night. He heads straight for the bar, whereupon a grayed out husk of a man buys him an amber with a gold coin. Johnny pats the guy on the back, sliding a small packet into the hood and taking the silver change from the ale, leaving something for the barkeep. Ordinarily, he’d bullshit a little and make it less obvious that a transaction went down, but the beast-boy bouncer was occupied by a loud conversation with a patron and the conversation was interesting enough where Johnny wanted to pay it some attention.

The bouncer was an odd creature that looked like some crazy wizard had fused a bull and a human together. Not quite the zen of chocolate and peanut butter, but if someone was looking to make a brawler, it works. From what he heard, the bouncer, one of the owner’s kids, was born Thonan Arroway, a human who started to grow features resembling a bull as soon as he was eight. It nearly freaked Johnny out the first time he walked into The Laughing Soldier to see the beast right at the door. The locals all know about the beast-boy, so they don’t react in any way other than to make sure their feet aren’t about to be stepped on. It keeps a lot of the tourists, not used to seeing a bull in a tavern, away, which probably has a lot to do with the popularity of The Laughing Soldier among the Overbridge locals. Perhaps it says something that the family hadn’t tried to exploit the kid as some sort of tourist attraction freak show.

“Like I was saying, I got something that you could help me with if you’re not busy,” says Tiburn Smith, a human who was a little rosy from the whiskey he’d been drinking. Thonan nods for the sot to continue. “A fortnight ago, I came into the possession of an old fish cannery over in The Fishmonger Precinct.”

“How did you come into possession of a fish cannery? Seems odd,” said Thonan, who at this point is still humoring the sot, rather than really paying attention to what he’s saying. Tiburn is a regular so part of the job to at least pretend to hear him.

“Ex wife.”

“When did that happen?”

“Nevermind that, my boy,” he said, laughing to indicate he didn’t want to talk about it. “I hired some guys to clean it all out, so that I could expand my furniture business and I haven’t heard from them in a week. I went there this morning to see what was going on and I didn’t like the smell. Dead body smell. Maybe they had a falling out or something. If you could check it out and get rid of the problem and avoid getting The Watch involved, I’d make it worth your while.”

In the middle of that last exchange, Johnny stands up and paces toward the beast boy and sot carrying on a conversation that should probably have been kept down low.

“We’ll definitely check it out,” said Johnny, patting the sot on the shoulder to reassure him that everything was going to be okay. Thonan looks at Johnny for a second.

“Great to hear. Just tell me when you and your posse are done,” said Tiburn just before stumbling out the door.

“Do you even have a posse,” asked Johnny.

“If I did, I still wouldn’t call it a posse.”

“Right. Anyway, that load the old guy spilled doesn’t add up.”

“As long as he pays, I really don’t care,” said Thonan. “Besides, who are you?”

Johnny nods his head to direct Thonan to look behind to his right. “Looks like I’m not the only one who heard this conversation.”

“Huh?”

“Need a third?” It was the elf.

* * *

Bartok raised the lantern to cast the light toward the ceiling. Four humans attached to sheer surfaces on the ceiling like spiders, released and fell to the ground to surround Alera, Bartok, and Reis. The thirty foot drop should have caused a lot of pain, but the creatures, human corpses dressed in tattered work clothing, did not appear affected that much by the impact. Bartok saw dry blood around their eyes, ears, and mouth. This pushed the young lad over the edge and he let out a battle cry. He rushed toward the creature nearest to Alera and smashed the lantern in its face. Lamp oil burst out and soaked the tattered work clothes worn by the creature, which ignited, covering the creature in flames. Some of the lamp oil splashed onto the table piled high with chemicals and when the creature ablaze stumbled back from the blow bumped the table, it caught flame. Choking fumes from burning chemicals began to fill the air.

Johnny, Thonan and Erdan, the elf, reached the back door of the old cannery which Tiburn Smith wanted them to check out when they heard a yell come from inside the factory. Thonan shoves his gauntlets on and smacks his ham hands on the doors, which weakened from years in the salt air, splintered apart. The three rushed inside.

They see flickering light on the other side of the warehouse and the nasty combination of death and chemical odors hit them hard, forcing a choke and some gags. Somebody had stacked a large pile of dead rats near the floor drain. Johnny bolts forward, veering toward the burning table. Thonan and Erdan looked at each other and shrugged. There sure were a lot of people in this abandoned fish cannery. Then from the other side of the factory they hear loud incantations before lightning flashed at the strange looking workers in tattered clothes.

“What’s Reis doing here,” Thonan muttered to himself and charged forward to slam his fists into the back of something awful’s head.

When Erdan entered the fray, a fifth creature dropped from the ceiling.

The two groups converged around the creatures and put them out of their misery. They weren’t zombies or some other form of undead as they had suspected. A more accurate description would be the corpses were more like marrionets that the six of them battered into uselessness, corpses that which something controlled rather than the dead arisen to exact vengeance on the living.

Reis, Alera, and Bartok moved toward the pile of decomposing rats. Alera began to push the rats aside with her staff. A number of the rats were actually comatose as opposed to be dead and decomposing, though that didn’t stop maggots from eating through parts of their still living flesh. The comatose rats were a telltale sign of the echogenesis phenomena that they were looking for. A few moments later, Alera uncovered a small sphere of frozen light suspended eight inches from the ground. Bartok picked up a plank from the ground and motioned to nudge the sphere.

“Don’t touch it,” said Reis, putting a hand on Bartok to keep him from touching the plank to the echogenesis zone. “That is a very dangerous thing you’re about to be doing. It might be tiny compared to the others, but I’ve seen men die instantly, fall into comas, or worse go mad and wither into husks goading people into beating them to death. I’ve warned you. It’s up to you if you want to die or not.”

“That’s why I was using a plank,” said Bartok, who then changed his grip to prop one end of the plank against a crack in the floor as he lowered the other end toward the top of the sphere in a slow and deliberate manner. Reis held his breath. Sometimes there’s no cure for youth other than to watch them make mistakes which hopefully won’t kill them. The board stopped against the top of the sphere, which didn’t move or appear to be affected in any way.

“Do you think this had anything to do with what happened to these guys,” asked Alera. She had come to Vigrid a few months ago to study the zones, having heard of The Echographers, a league of scholars and arcanists, to which Reis belonged, dedicated to understanding the nature and composition of the echogenesis zones which appeared twenty years ago during The Arrival of The Authority. “It looks like they removed something big that was in this space, which uncovered it.”

“And one of them touches it. Goes insane and turns on the rest of them,” said Bartok.

“I don’t know about that,” said Erdan, who was kneeling on the ground examining the broken corpses. “None of them look like they’d taken a pipe to the head or a knife in the belly…other than what we just did. They didn’t die by beating on each other.”

“All we saw when they dropped on us was dry blood around their sinus and ocular regions,” said Reis who pulled out a notebook and some ritual components.

Johnny stuck his head out from the drain. Thonan still held the grate, so Johnny wasn’t down there for long.

“I think it might actually smell better down here,” said Johnny, elbow on the ground.

“No it doesn’t,” said Thonan standing just above him, looking at the grate in his hands, then at Johnny whose head was sticking out of the manhole.

“Anyway,” said Johnny, looking up at Thonan. “There are a whole lot of half eaten rats down here.”

Erdan rose from the ground with about as much effort as a trout hovering in a stream and moved toward the drain hole and waited for Johnny to get out of the way so that he could climb down and take a look. The corpse of the odd one of the five began to jitter. The skin on his abdomen pulsed quickly, a force exerted pressure from within, increasing how far the skin stretched out before the abdomen burst open. A small humanoid creature with a large mouth and razor sharp claws stood in the wreckage of the corpse it was inside. The congealed blood of its former host slithered down its limbs.

For a second, the blood covered creature stared at Erdan before Thonan whipped around and flung the manhole grate at the creature standing in the corpse. The creature bolted out of the way and escaped before anyone could pursue.

“What the fuck was that,” said Johnny, looking at Erdan who was halfway in the hole. “And fuck why was it staring at you?”

The elf ducked into the hole to look at the half eaten rats. “I think I knew that guy, or more like, that guy that thing was inhabiting knew me.” Erdan climbed out of the drain pipe. “Looks like that thing was eating some rats.”

“So it’s not a big deal that some creature bursts outta that dead fucker’s stomach and eyeballs you,” asked Johnny.

“It is.” Erdan knelt down next to a worker’s corpse, tears off its shirt and slides out one of his knives. “Time to find out if there’s other creatures hidden inside these bodies.”

Bartok looked around for his lantern and then remembered smashing it into the face of one of the corpses. He formed a fist and then relaxed his hand. “I should get The Watch.”

Bartok left and Erdan then sliced open one of the corpses at the gut and rooted around the innards, reaching into the chest cavity feeling for anything that might be hiding in the corpse. Gurgling sounds came from the body. The elf was defiling a corpse, but nobody stopped him. The elf had a point. “Nothing. I doubt there’s something in the other bodies.”

“Are we done here,” asked Thonan. It seemed that the grate he threw cracked a hole into the side of one of the crates, revealing jars of canned fish. “We found out what happened to the guys that Tiburn hired.”

“We’re going to have to talk to him,” said Johnny, who picked up a few bottles on the half burned table and tossed them back down. He didn’t seem to find anything useful to salvage, though there were fewer bottles remaining on the table than when he first walked up to it.

This left Reis and Alera in the abandoned factory. Reis moves his hands and spoke incantations in a formulaic manner for the ritual magic needed to record the details of the small echogenesis zone the unfortunate workers who lay dead behind him had discovered. While he did that, Alera walked over to the crates and put several jars of canned fish into her pack. When Reis finished recording the details of the zone, the two left before The Watch arrived.

* * *

Bartok ran down the narrow streets of the Fishmonger Precinct to the docks of The Molo Nord before he found any of The Watch. In this case, the watch were two men talking about the ins and outs of carbunkle, a card game that sailors from Somus brought to Vigrid. They saw Bartok, or rather heard the plates of armor as the out of breath lad clanked toward them. The two didn’t stop talking carbunkle until Bartok came to a full stop, took three deep breaths, and spewed out a bunch of words about dead bodies and a warehouse. It wasn’t until Bartok finished that they turned to address him.

“I’m sorry young sir, could you repeat that? I didn’t catch all of it,” said the Watchman with a moustache.

“Oh, Thursday, don’t be a goblin cock,” said the other Watchman and gave Thursday a punch on the arm. “Can’t you see the boy’s out of breath. Hey lad, take your time. Our shift doesn’t end till dawn so we can wait. Say, do you know anything about carbunkle?”

“Now who’s being the goblin cock,” said Thursday.

Just then a scream tore into the night. It sounded like it came from one of the merchant vessels behind the two men on watch. Bartok ran past the two men toward where he heard the scream. It was still raining and he could hear nothing more beyond the chitter of rain landing in Black Harbor.

The Watch were catching up to him. “You better not board a ship. We’ll have to arrest your for trespass!”

Bartok yelled back as he ran up the plank of one of the merchant vessels. “Are you crazy? Didn’t you hear it? Someone needs help!”

On board the vessel Bartok saw a door that led to the interior was three-quarters open. He grabbed a storm lantern that lit the deck and pushed open the door to enter the ship’s interior. A puddle of rainwater and blood lay in the entry landing. The blood and rainwater appeared to continue further into the vessel. His hands were cold at the bone, but the skin felt like it was on fire and itchy. He felt like scratching his hands, but his hands weren’t free. He yelled into the ship, but there was no response.

Bartok moved deeper into the ship. The lantern light left so many shadows that shifted as the lantern swayed back and forth in his hand that it disoriented him, made him dizzy, and cold sweat to form on his face. Room by room went the search. The first few rooms were empty, probably because most of the sailors were on shore, but then he found the galley and stumbled over three bodies, one of which had had their face torn off. Blood still flowed out from the dead sailor’s face, who was on its side, hands covered in his own blood that tried to hold it in.

He puked.

Thursday yelled. He screamed that a small creature just jumped off the ship into Black Harbor. Bartok straightened up and headed toward the deck. He looked at the floor as he made his way through the ship and saw small clawed footprints through the thickening pools of blood. He stopped for a moment and pieced together how the violence transpired between the shipmates. When he made his way back outside into the rain, the harbor master was there to greet him and Bartok was arrested for trespass.

Bartok stared at the table in the harbor master’s post. The table stunk of spilled soups and greasy lunches. He didn’t seem to understand why the harbor master kept drilling him, after all, Bartok came to The Watch to report the dead bodies in the old cannery and then boarded the ship to hopefully rescue someone who was being attacked. What he failed to appreciate was the common element with all seven dead bodies was him. The harbor master posed the same questions a ninth time and then left, having decided to hold Bartok till sunrise.

* * *

Alera parted with Reis. The two agreed to meet in the morning to go over everything Reis had captured. When she slung her pack on again, the sound of the canned fish containers bumping into each other reminded Alera that one more thing needed to be done before going to sleep.

Instead of keeping to the streets, she wandered into alleyways looking for people without a place to stay. It didn’t take a lot of time or effort to find a family of four huddled together underneath an overhang to keep away from the rain. The four humans tightened up when Alera approached them. The father slid in front of his wife and two children, not that he could properly defend himself from Alera if she wanted to hurt them, but she appreciated the instinct.

Alera with her metal wings on her back stood over the family. “Would you like to get out of the rain and sleep in a warm bed,” she asked them. The two adults didn’t know what to say. They’d been living on the street long enough to not run straight for a helping hand, because living on the street for as long as they have they’ve learned to be suspicious of help when they didn’t ask for it. “I can put you up at an inn for a couple of nights.”

Metagame

  • +1 Token: Game Session
  • +1 Token: Tiburn’s Errand

Preview

Johnny’s got to clean up and clean out some new hustlers moving in Vigrid. Alera meets an odd potential ally in her quest. And Erdan stumbles upon something sinister.

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