Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Sunk Costs and Dead Ringer

It's a nice shovel!
First, a new character: Mike Swanson, a student who only recently got swept up in the chaos. Mike is a fairly ordinary guy, loyal and curious, and trusts in his... well, shovel.

They met at a party, thrown by a local businessman: Xulián Bruxo. The party got to eat pizza, drink soda, and Toby knocked Alistair into the pool. Good times, good times... well, except that Alistair's phone got... soaked. And ruined: a $120 loss.

Xulián was wandering through the party, talking to guests; eventually, his assistant, Lizzie Bourdan, came up and whispered something to him. He turned and waved at someone who had pulled up - a Hispanic man.

After hanging around for a while and talking, the party eventually wrapped up, and the group headed home. However, while they were away, there had been a rash of robberies! Will had a car window smashed, which resulted in a loss of $200; Toby had $50 stolen from his room.

After making some inquiries, the group found that, apart from the usual stuff that gets stolen (cash, computers, game consoles, calculators, and so forth), there were a surprising number of books stolen. not only that, but the books taken were almost all the same - a history book.

One thing cropped up a few times - a black sedan, and a Hispanic man. The man seemed strangely familiar... possibly the man from the party? Mike remembered the license plate number, and was able to use some contacts to get a little information; no surprise, the car was registered to BlueStar, Xulián's company.

Saturday, April 2nd

The next morning... Mike realized he had parked in the wrong space. Ugh, $40 gone.

The group piled into Will and Alistair's vehicles, and took a look around. Will tried his lock picks on the back door of the building, to no effect - they snapped off in the lock. Mike, meanwhile, took a closer look at the camera on the front door. Fake, it seemed; the wire didn't actually go into the wall. As the group contemplated breaking in, Toby caught sight of something under the garbage in the trashcans behind the building: the missing stuff! Books, Playstations, and more were heaped in the bins. Flipping through the history books, most seemed unharmed - all but one, which had a specific page torn out. Page 911, which included a description of the bombing of the World Trade Tower. Also in the garbage was a crumpled copy of a page - marked with a ritual!

The group kept the page, but turned the rest of the stuff over to the police. Unfortunately, there was nothing to link the items to BlueStar, apart from circumstantial evidence... the items "could have been put there by anybody," it seems.

Wednesday, April 17th

The campus seemed to slowly fall into a bit of a funk; a number of students stopped showing up for classes. Will and Toby decided to ask around near the societies. They saw a few people wearing strange stickers, marked with the face of the Cheshire Cat. Toby managed to buddy up to a rather out-of-place young man who seemed to be selling the stickers; however, just as the man was handing Toby a card, Will waltzed up, pointed to the card, and said, "Hey, that's the symbol of The Ring, that gang!"

The man palmed the card and quickly walked off, leaving Toby growling in frustration at Will. A kid walked up when he heard them discussing drugs. "I don't even understand how someone could do that to their body. I mean, come on, man, your body's a temple. I wouldn't even drink alcohol. Besides, there's a contest going for a drug-free campus, and I won the daily prize! I'm claiming it tomorrow morning. That contest is run right - absolutely no drugs allowed, only a happy face! Hey, like that sticker!"

He pointed at one of the discarded Cheshire Cat stickers, oblivious to the irony, and walked off.

"The Symbol of Jolmett"
Meanwhile, Alistair was itching to try out his latest ritual. He enlisted Mike, and together, they attempted the ritual that was rather too hard for either of them. Failing utterly, they found themselves suddenly struck by a terrible backlash! Mike found himself unable to bear the touch of sunlight, and Alistair's hair was turned entirely white. Shaken, they carefully placed the ritual somewhere safe, and decided that... maybe... just maybe... they shouldn't try that ritual again. Alistair guessed it would summon a demon, of some sort... and he wasn't that far off.

Thursday, April 18th

The next day, the group skipped classes to follow the "winner" they had talked to the day before. Predictably, he wound up at the entrance to the offices of The Ring - though this time, it looked like the building was actually finished. Out front was the greasy Chet Addicks, along with two scantily clad women, greeting everyone who walked in. The group filed in behind the other student - it didn't look like anyone really cared who showed up to "claim a prize." Well, until Alistair walked in. He must have left an impression on DeKlerk; as soon as they walked in, DeKlerk spotted him, and barred him entrance.

The others were left to wait in the lobby, along with the student and a few other citizens, some of them homeless people. Eventually, it was Toby's turn. Inside, he found a large camera, a smiling man in a lab coat, and a raised dentist's chair. The charm of the waiting room seemed to be fading quickly. After a few questions, Toby decided that maybe, just maybe, he didn't want to sit in the chair, and left without his prize. Will went next; sitting in the chair and answering the questions left him feeling tired and drained. At least he made $50, right? Just as he exited the building, Alistair caught the door and suggested they all head in again. Will agreed, moping in behind Alistair and Toby. Mike, meanwhile, took a hard pass on sitting in the creepy chair, and met them just on the other side of the door.

Having exhausted the usual approach of waiting around until someone force-fed them a clue, the gang took things into their own hands. In a friendly way (with Mike waving his battle-shovel around), they convinced the lab tech to sit in the chair, and started the process. The camera had a strange, glowing symbol; pressing it activated a similar set of symbols surrounding the chair. Interested, Alistair began tampering with the symbols; the tech, meanwhile, seemed to pass out, as the symbols under the chair began to smoke. Toby took over, whacking the buttons a good few times, as the chair suddenly burst into flames! The camera shuddered, then suddenly cracked wide open, crashing to the floor. Will suddenly recovered, feeling much better! Not only that, but Toby suddenly was inspired by a ritual - Pure Joy! The chair was quickly engulfed in flames; after dragging the tech out of the burning chair, the four decided to head once again for the exit. On the way out, they quickly questioned the attendant manning the prize table - a questioning that ended with the man passed out on the floor, a shovel-sized lump on the back of his head. Casually swiping the remaining prizes, the four walked outside - only to find the police had swarmed the front of the building. Hoping to hide, they zipped around the side of the building - just in time to see Addicks and DeKlerk exiting the building! Alistair, thinking fast, taunted DeKlerk, who froze, unable to respond. Addicks weighed his options, then with a roar, rushed the group. Toby and Will slowed him down, Alistair tried - and failed - to taunt him, and Mike swung his trusty shovel with a resounding crack. It took another few swings, but soon, Addicks was down for the count. Seeing his cohort so quickly dispatched, DeKlerk turned to run for the fence, hoping to scale it and escape; his attempts were fruitless, however, as police rushed out of the building in pursuit.

After a hasty search, the group was released, obviously victims of the underhanded gang members. While they were interviewed later, they were released without suspicion. And richer by $50, a nice metal bat and some cleats, and a fancy board game.

After all that... finals were a breeze.

Over the summer, Alistair tested his newfound knowledge of rituals. And while he may not know it yet... he's going to find his new roommate somewhat annoying. Heh.

Point of Note: We're entering the Sophomore Fall Semester; that means you should have 8 total upgrades, and your most recent one is part of the Sophomore year - you can upgrade abilities again, and you get a few new Edges to try out. Additionally, if you have participated in a ritual of any sort, you are now allowed to take the Rituals skill (based on Smarts). This currently includes Alistair and Mike.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Bugs and Bad Guys

Tuesday, March 26th, just after Spring Break, Alistair was looking through a book and found a note. It didn't have much - it just said that that Saturday, someone would die, unless something was to be done.

That afternoon, a young woman named Missy contacted Toby. Hoping that he and his friends would be able to help her, she shared her story: it seems that a young man had taken an interest in her. As kind-hearted as she was, she was flattered, but not particularly interested. Especially since the suitor was Johnny Chafe - aka, Bug Boy. Though known for his bad personal hygiene and even worse manners, Johnny was a brilliant student, and did well in his classes. However, after Missy turned him down, he decided that stalking was the next best thing. Missy hoped the gang would be able to convince him to lay off...

Toby, realizing she might be holding back, pressed a little; Missy added that a close friend was hospitalized that weekend from numerous wasp stings. While she didn't see how it could be relevant, Johnny had asked her friend to "back off."

After looking into Johnny, Toby decided that he would lure him out, by "asking Missy out" - in reality, just walking the Loop. After a pleasant evening talking, Missy bid farewell. None of the crew saw Johnny... but the next morning, Toby awoke to find his bedroom awash with roaches! The creepy crawlies covered every inch of the room! With a yelp, he bolted outside, standing well away as the bugs scurried out into the sunlight. He called a friend in Maintenance, Phil, who arrived a few minutes later. Realizing it might be a big job, he suggested Toby stay out of the apartment for a few hours while he sprayed bug killer...

Will caught sight of Johnny after classes, and followed him. Watching from afar, he saw Johnny working with some strange, yellow liquid. Johnny caught sight of him, but didn't recognize him.

Alistair, meanwhile, decided to do a little research of his own, and happened to run across what purported to be a ritual that wards against insects... Spending $60 on it, he soon received an email with the ritual: Brangian's Whizzing Composition, duplicated on a green page, torn from a book. He gathered the required materials: a rat's tail and a clove of garlic. He tried it out, but failed miserably... fortunately, the error informed him of another ritual: The Templar's Charismatic Glamour! It laid out the ingredients as 20 cc of morphine, 4 oz. whiskey, and 8 oz. of alcohol, along with a book on the subject of the knowledge you wished to gain...

Toby and Will, unsure of how bad this magic thing really is, were loathe to participate. Alistair tried again, this time successfully casting the ritual! And just in time - as the circle of protection enveloped Alistair, he saw that it shoved a swarm of fire ants back! The ants crawled on top of each other, trying to get past him to Toby! While Alistair ineffectually flung stones at him, Toby and Will darted to one side, away from the ants, then turned back to Johnny. As Johnny raised his arms - soaked in a yellow liquid - the ants responded, swarming over the two! Luckily, after the first nibble, the ants were quickly brushed off. Will dashed closer to Johnny, and stomped in a puddle, purposely splashing the muddy water onto Johnny's arm! The yellow liquid was quickly washed off. Toby tore off his sweater, dunked it in a puddle, and tackled Johnny, wiping the yellow muck from his arm... and throwing him headlong into the ground, knocking him out cold. The ants, no longer controlled by Johnny, vanished back into their holes.

After some light slapping, followed by some light intimidation (including a frank discussion on the nature of beheadings), they managed to convince Johnny to stay away. Hopefully, that, along with the previous communication with his professors, is enough to keep him at bay.

Meanwhile, Alistair finally tracked down the young woman who had written the note in the book - Sarah Woods. She explained that she would occasionally would have dreams that would come true, or almost come true. The closer it got to the date, the worse she would feel, but just before they arrived, she felt a weight lift from her shoulders. It seems Johnny was mad enough to take someone's life, but their actions had protected the eventual victim!

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

The Golden Microphone Part II + Greek Tragedy

Joining the party are two transfer students. The first is Zander Koch, a 19 year old from Quemado, majoring in Military Science, and the second... I'm not sure about, actually. I'll update when I get that info.

Monday, Jan. 21st

While there wasn't much info on the thief, the group learned of an earlier attempt to steal the microphone. As it happens, Lurk Until Dawn was interviewing a few bikers that had purportedly seen a UFO, and the bikers dished out some street justice to the would-be thief. Tracking the bikers down to a bar, the party (now consisting of Will, Zander, and Alistair) sent Will inside. After an awkward introduction, Will managed to learn of the prior thief's place of work - the old Petroleum building, in the downtown. Quickly heading there, they found the thief's beat-up blue Ford parked nearby.

They had done their research - the building was registered to a supposedly clean business, called The Ring, and run by the shady Victor Pryce, the slimy Timo DeKlerk, and the sleazy Chet Addicks. The three ran some sort of investment and research firm, if the business registration was to be believed.

After installing a walkie-talkie app on their phones, and leaving Zander keeping a lookout, Will and Alistair infiltrated the building, bluffing their way past the two guards. Inside, they rifled through some drawers, picked a lock, and generally poked around, but found very little of interest. Most of the entry room was covered with plastic, and it looked like there was a lot of work going on, including building some new walls.

The thief, meanwhile, left the room he was in, heading for the bathroom. The two slipped into the room he had been waiting in, finding nothing but a single plastic-covered object in the center of the room. They didn't have time to investigate, however, as the thief returned! Startled by Alistair, the thief was caught entirely off guard by Will, who grabbed him in a choke hold! After a moment, the thief collapsed. Rifling through his pockets, the duo liberated some petty cash, and rescued the golden microphone! They also stole his keys... After some careful thought, they tied him up and dumped him in the bathroom.

They radioed Zander, who was busy trying to be sneaky, but ended up being spotted; he clicked a response back, and the two crept out of the building, dashing away without the two guards noticing them. Tossing the thief's keys into a storm drain, they returned to their vehicles, they sped back to the radio station and returned the borrowed laptop, as well as the golden microphone. Overjoyed, the station manager gave each member of the team a $50 bill, and his thanks.

After their adventures, it made Alistair's Valentines' Day seem almost tame by comparison. Michele even baked him a cake! Awww. So cute. The knife, though... not so much.

Dead Dave (Thursday, Feb. 28)
Hoping to find a good society to join, Alistair invited Zander and Will along to scope out the society houses. It's just after a soccer game, and the perfect time for the societies to throw a huge collective party, in the hopes of doing a little unofficial pre-Rush recruiting. Eventually, they ended up at Delta Epsilon Delta.

A charming young man introduced himself as Vance Crawford, and took them on a tour of the house, pointing out trophies and awards they had won, and mentioning a number of semi-famous people who were part of the fraternity. Getting them some nice steaks on the grill, Vance got a phone call, and had to step outside. Hardly a minute had passed before the group felt a chill in the air... and a figure stepped up to them. Cheerfully, the newcomer nodded in the direction of Vance, and said, "Man, you gotta watch out for that guy, he can be a real killer sometimes! Ha ha! I'm Dave, by the way, Dave Dalton."

He joked with the group for a few minutes, pointing out the room at the top of the stairs - the "Love Shack", as he called it. Leaning in conspiratorially, he added, "I totally set up a video camera in there that catches all the action, if you know what I mean!"

Just then, Vance returned, calling out to them from across the room. When they looked around, Dave had disappeared. Vance apologized, saying that he had been called away for a bit, but that he was glad to meet the crew. He waved, and headed out. Looking around the room, the three eventually spotted a picture of Dave, with "June 12, 1997 - Sept. 13, 2017" written underneath; they flagged down a member of the fraternity and asked about it. He nodded, relaying the "sad tale." It seems that a year and a half ago, Dave was messing around with another frat brother's girlfriend, but ended up committing suicide out of guilt. The girlfriend dropped out and moved away. They pressed for more details, but the man shrugged. "I dunno, I joined this year, so it's like, history to me. Ask Vance - it was his girlfriend."

Correctly surmising that Dave was, in fact, a ghost, Alistair and Will called GlenMac, who excitedly began setting up ghost hunting equipment near the table. The commotion - fueled by Alistair - allowed Will and Zander to get into the room next to the Love Shack, and quickly hunt through the air vent. They found a camcorder, though its battery was long dead, and it used firewire and a digital tape rather than SD cards. After rifling through the frat brother's stuff a bit (and finding he had interesting tastes in adult entertainment), they crept out of the room, signaling to Alistair that they were done. Meanwhile, Michele showed up, wondering why Alistair was avoiding her. He apologized; luckily, it was open dorms, and the four walked back to Alistair's dowm, where he had a few charge cables. The cable from the previously-destroyed camera happened to fit, and after a few minutes of charging, they rewound the tape. While Alistair distracted Michele, likely by discussing her dreams for the future, Will and Zander watched the tape. A minute or two after the tape started, Dave walked into the sparsely-furnished room, leading a young woman. They talked, then started making out; just as things were getting heated, the door flew open! There in the doorway, barely in the shot, was none other than Vance! He screamed in rage, and drawing a gun, fired at Dave! Dave fall back onto the bed as the young woman screamed. Vance waved the gun in her face. "If you so much as breathe a word to anyone, I will straight-up kill you. You understand? Not. One. Word. Get out of here - I don't ever want to see your face again!"

The young woman grabbed her clothing and dashed out of the room. With a heavy sigh, Vance holstered his gun, then wrapped Dave in the bed-sheets - including the plastic sheet underneath. He hefted the body onto his shoulder, then hauled it out of the room. The rest of the tape showed the empty room, until the tape was full and the battery died...

Unanimously, the group decided to hand the tape over to the police - after making a copy, of course. They claimed it had been turned in to a lost-and-found, and they dug it out and discovered the evidence. The police immediately arrested Vance on murder charges, and thanked the group for their help. Alistair, as it happens, was not invited to that fraternity...

A few days later, Alistair got a knock at his door. Outside was a man and a woman; the man introduced himself as Kit Mueller, and his partner Deana Scolaidhe, both FBI agents. He asked a few questions, seeming interested in the supernatural aspects of the case; he seemed to have already figured out it wasn't just a tape from the lost and found. After some friendly questions, he left his card, with the suggestion to call him if anything else weird showed up.

Over the next few weeks, Will and Alistair told the other members of their group the various adventures they had experienced. Halfway through telling them about the bank robbers, Will suddenly made a connection - Jake Busar, the bank robber! He must be the Jake B. in the picture! If the girl was Monica Dragic, and the man behind her her father, Morgan Dragic, that only left two members of the photo to find - the white-haired man, and the slightly irritated man off to the side... However Jackson managed to get a hold of this picture, it was certainly related to his disappearance. Hopefully, cracking that mystery would solve the greater one - where was Jackson Green?

Friday, February 8, 2019

Missing: Jackson Green

Things calmed down, and a month later, everyone was just getting back from Thanksgiving break. School was going well, everyone was passing their classes, and a lot of the weirdness from the previous months was slipping into comfortable obscurity...

...When Will got a phone call from Jackson Green.

The two had met a few times, enough to exchange phone numbers at least, but Will wondered why he would be getting a call from him. He answered, and Jackson quickly interrupted in a strained whisper: "Hey, sorry, y'all're th' first person I c'get a hold of - sump'm's following me, and I need help. South Green Trailer Park, back corner o' th'-"

He was interrupted by a crash; his phone clattered to the ground, then the roar of a shotgun filled the line, just before the phone went dead! Concerned, Will called Toby and Alistair, and they quickly made their way down the street to the nearby trailer park. Jackson's trailer was obvious; a police car was there already, and another was just pulling in. Concerned neighbors crowded around. The large bay window in his trailer was smashed in, and there were dents from shotgun pellets across the side of the building. The door hung halfway off its hinges.

After a little snooping, Alistair and Will found there were no tracks around the back of the building - whatever cause the damage either stayed to the road, or took a rockier path to the side.

Toby spoke with a policeman, and after confirming that he was a friend of Jackson, the officer allowed him to accompany him into the building.

Inside, the damage was obvious: the broken-in window, pinpoints of light from the shotgun blast, and a knocked over lamp... as well as a smear of blood on the ground. Toby uncovered Jackson's cell phone - screen smashed - under the sofa, and almost invisible against the carpet, a three-inch, tapered, plastic-like object. He pushed it with his foot, and it shimmered a little in the dying light. He carefully palmed it, and headed back outside.

Meanwhile, one of the officers' radios squawked to life:
"Unit 3, check."
"Unit 3, we’ve had another boogeyman sighting on campus. Can you do a wellness check on a witness at the LeTourneau's student center?"
"Dispatch, we have another 45 minutes here then we can head over."
"Unit 3, roger that. Dispatch clear."

The officer sighed, something about "prank calls again," and went back to keeping the rubberneckers out of the building.

The three friends, meanwhile, decided to head over to the student center, as long as they were going back to campus. Just inside the building, they found Leslie Merspin, the student writer for Cryptid Underground! She looked pale and shaken, and as soon as they showed up, she jumped up and threw her arms around Will. Somewhat baffled, he did his best to calm her down.

"I was on my way back from Glaske, taking the long way 'round to get to my dorm - going behind the materials joining lab. I heard this freakish noise, like a growling, purring sound mixed with a swarm of bees. I tried to hide around the corner. Somebody came past, heading towards the maintenance building, and they were dragging somebody all hunched over with them. I didn't really see them... but nothing human could make noises like that."

Michele, seeing Alistair talking to a strange girl, immediately came over to see what was going on.

The ROTC student who was sitting with her looked a little skeptical, but offered to stay, while the party went to check it out. Will found some distinct tracks - footprints from a human, and footprints from something much, much different, a three-toed creature of some kind. They tracked them to the new greenhouses, built at the edge of campus for the biology and horticultural students. The tracks lead to the third building, and they could hear weak cries for help coming from inside!

Inside, the air was thick and humid, obviously designed for the tropical plants inside. Two paths lead down the center of the greenhouse; Alistair and Michele followed one, while Will and Toby followed the other. They stepped out at about the same time, to see a woman, holding a nasty-looking stomach wound, and... the chupacabra! Will, Toby, and Alistair weren't frightened by the creature, but Michele took one look and ran screaming from the building. The creature turned towards them, but the woman on the ground seemed to divert its attention through some mental means. She held it for a moment, but the effort proved too much, and she passed out. Immediately, the creature leaped towards Alistair! Alistair tried whacking the creature, while Toby and Will helped the woman; the chupacabra turned on Alistair, but its claws merely raked across his bulletproof vest harmlessly. He struggled with it, until Toby ran up behind, and with a mighty chop, hacked into its back. Already injured from Jackson's shotgun blast (as they correctly inferred), the creature fell to the ground, dead. Alistair immediately began harvesting quills from the creature, as Toby and Will pulled the woman outside and bandaged her up as best they could. As they finished, two black vans pulled up, and several men in suits stepped out. One introduced himself as Officer Johnston, and declared that he and his fellow officers were part of a task force hunting the creature inside, and were part of the Longview Police Department.

Alistair, meanwhile, had followed the path to the end, and uncovered a hidden lair the creature had undoubtedly been living in. Inside were bones from small animals, as well as what were likely the bones of homeless people it had killed and eaten!

He tried to hide from the agents entering the greenhouse, but only succeeded in tipping over a plant. The three were told to return to their rooms...

In the following days, they learned that the greenhouse had been burned to the ground; Will, through his contacts with the police, also found out that there was no special task force, and that no one named Johnston worked there. More intriguing was a package that showed up, with a simple note from Jackson Green to keep its contents safe, and secret.

The package includes a photograph, with the words, "June 17th, 1986 - Monica & Jake B at Dad's office! Best buds!" written on the back. It's a picture of a young girl, maybe 8 or 9, and a slightly older boy, maybe 13 or 14; behind them is a middle-aged man, wearing a small label pin (a phi symbol), a white-haired man, and a younger man, standing a little apart with his arms crossed.

A little research later, and Toby was quite sure that the girl in the picture was Monica Dragic, current owner of EyePhi! The middle-aged man was her father, Morgan Dragic. The other name - likely the young man - resulted in no information, but everyone was sure they had heard the name before, but just couldn't remember where...

After Christmas break, there was still no sign of Jackson Green. GlenMac was sure he was still alive, somewhere, but there were no leads available.

The group was contacted by a radio show, Lurk Until Dawn, a show that interviewed interesting personalities and touched on the strange, the alien, and the supernatural. Having heard about their interactions with the chupacabra - called by students the Needler, due to its ridge of spines - the show invited them to come and talk about their adventures for a little.

The interview went well, but halfway through, there was a commotion out front; as they raced to find out what was going on, they saw a man holding a gun! The secretary was standing nearby, her hands in the air and her face white as a sheet, as he forced her to unlock a display case and yanked a golden microphone from it. Waving his gun, he dashed out of the building and to his running vehicle.

Alistair ran after, trying to spot which way it went, but it had already vanished in traffic.

Inside, the manager fumed; the microphone was really only of sentimental value. It was a gift at the station's 75th anniversary, back in 2004. He promised a reward if it could be returned. The station engineer, Jessie Achord, loaned the group a laptop to do any research they needed, while Ryan Lunemann, the "voice" of Lurk Until Dawn promised to reschedule, as they had already gotten a good response from the interview.

The only information they had to go on was a video of the getaway truck - free of a license plate - and a good shot of the thief.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Halloween II: Freaky Friday

Friday morning, Toby caught sight of Mikey - in non-zombie form - coming out of a Junior-level philosophy class. He stopped him and asked if he was feeling all right. Mikey, somewhat confused, said that he was fine. Toby pushed, providing some details, and Mikey muttered, "Stupid!", then quickly excused himself.

Zac, Toby, and Will dropped in on GlenMac, who was of course quite interested in the developments. GlenMac suggested perhaps catching Mikey when he was changing from "model student" to "zombie monster," in case there was some obvious trigger.

Zac attempted to visit the young woman in the hospital, but was turned away. He did learn that she was barely conscious. He also left a Zombie Manual with the front desk...

Meanwhile, Toby and Will headed to BZT to check in on Steve. After facing a few very high students, they made their way to Steve's room, and found him playing computer games. Mikey was under a pile of ratty blankets, snoring. Steve laughed. "Bro, he never gets up before noon. He must've been on quite the bender yesterday, right? I don't know how he's passing, like, any classes!"

Toby asked a few questions, but Steve's information wasn't terribly useful. They left, again passing the trio of stoned students, who attempted to pass off their bong as a fishbowl ("Dude, like, I think he bought it!").

During supper, the group caught sight of Mikey in the cafeteria, studying; Zac hopped on his motorcycle and followed him north, to some apartments. Mikey was greeted at the door by a young woman, and the two sat down to watch some Netflix together.

Oddly, Toby noticed that Mikey was wearing different clothes. After classes, he was wearing a long-sleeved shirt; in bed, the one arm dangling out was wearing a T-shirt; in the cafeteria, he was wearing the same long-sleeved shirt. He hypothesized that one of them was not actually Mikey, but a doppelganger of some sort, bent on evil.

Returning to campus, Zac caught sight of flashing lights in front of Tyler Hall. Two police cars and a paramedic were parked out front; the police were just wrapping up. It seems someone dressed as a Zombie bit one another student! As Toby and Will walked up, Zac convinced the bitten student that his assailant was, in fact, a zombie, and if he didn't get immediate medical attention, he would likely turn into a zombie himself. The student, already frazzled, believed every word, and quickly convinced his roommate to drive him to the hospital.

Walking back to their dorm, Toby caught sight of Zombie Mikey! He shouted, and the three charged after him, Zac in the lead. They chased him around the washeteria, then came up short when he stopped and took a swing at Zac. Zac hauled his shotgun out of his backpack (laws be damned, there's a zombie loose!), and fired, putting some shot into the zombie's leg. Toby and Will tried to get a few punches in, but were mostly ineffective; even Zac's shotgun seemed to only scratch the creature. Zombie Mikey, meanwhile, landed a few heavy hits on Zac, staggering him. Realizing the fight was not going his way, Zombie Mikey dashed for the fence. Toby was right behind him, and in an impressive leap cleared the fence. Unfortunately, the zombie crashed headlong into the fence, and never made it over...

Toby managed to leap back over the fence, trying to head off the creature, as Zac took aim with his very last shell. He fired, and the shot tore through the zombie's leg. The creature stared down at the stump, then tilted over, landing facedown on the ground.

At that very moment, UPD rounded the building, mace and tasers at the ready. Someone heard the gunfire, and eventually realized it might not be fireworks. The three were taken in for questioning, and Zombie Mikey was quickly rushed to the hospital.

The three were released after sunup the next morning. Tired (and in Zac's case, quite sore), they headed back to their dorm. Toby, however, caught sight of... Mikey? He quickly caught up with the man. "Hey! Did you hear what happened last night? Someone got shot on campus!"

Mikey seemed nonplussed. "Oh, er... how terrible?"

Toby pressed, working more details in, and eventually telling him that the person looked a lot like he did. Mikey blinked. "Really? Just like me?"

After a little intimidation, Mikey broke down. Or rather... Richard broke down. It seems Mikey had a twin brother!

Richard explained that Mikey got a scholarship to come to school, but wasted his time partying, rather than studying. Richard, always passed over, started going to his classes for him, and even changed his class list. He was in the process of moving all Mikey's info into his own name, essentially pushing Mikey out of school to usurp his scholarship. However, as little as he liked his brother, he realized that something like this needed family. Sighing, he asked if Toby and Will would accompany him to the hospital, so he could check in on Mikey.

Though there was an officer posted at the door, Richard and the others were allowed in to see him. Mikey was in bed, his face and arms wrapped with bandages were the doctors had surgically removed the makeup. Somehow, it has begun to bond with his flesh. Under the sheets, it was obvious that his left leg ended just below the knee.

Richard walked over to his brother, who painfully opened his eyes. "Bro?"

Richard nodded. "Yes, Mikey. It's me. Man... what did you get yourself into this time?"

He reached out a hand, placing it on Mikey's shoulder, then leaned down to give his brother a hug. As he did so, Will and Toby could feel a charge growing in the room, like static buildup. A wind from nowhere blew past them into the hall. Before their eyes, they watched as Mikey's arms healed! They stared as Mikey's leg suddenly... grew back! For a moment, Mikey and Richard were surrounded by a faint blue glow, and the mystical energy seemed to fill the room, then all at once, it was gone.

Toby stepped outside, motioning for Will to join him. They paused in the hallway for a moment, before heading outside. At the end of the hall, they heard a snippet of conversation: "Just like that! One moment she's moaning and feverish, the next, poof, perfectly fine."

GlenMac, of course, had a few theories; perhaps Mikey had some sort of curse placed on him, forcing him to make amends with his brother; or maybe it was Richard that was cursed. Or, for that matter, maybe the skull really was the root of it all. A zombie certainly could consume things, but what would have healed the two who had gotten bitten? A broken ritual? Perhaps, or perhaps something more. He suggested handing the skull over to Dr. Wells, a physics professor, to study.

Up until this point, things have been... a little slow. Details and clues are out there, but they don't make sense on their own. After this point, though, things are going to start ramping up. This is a mystery, after all... I can't give it all away at once.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Halloween Hijinks

Wednesday, Oct. 31

Feeling worn out after finals, the gang met up at the annual Greek Street Halloween Party, an all-out attempt by the various greek societies along Green Street to attract new pledges and be recognized as obviously superior party-throwers.

Prior to the arrival of the group, one frat got into some Halloween trouble...

Though the houses vary in quality, one of the worst houses is Beta Zeta Theta, dedicated to athletics and the betterment of physical skill - or in the case of most of those living there, the quickest way to get expelled.

Mikey Oldsen and his buddy, Steve Greeno, went looking for Halloween decorations at a resale store. They found a bunch of old junk, plus an old skull in a glass box. Steve was a little freaked out by it, but Mikey had a brilliant idea, and decided to use it to play a prank on a fellow BTZ member. Halloween night, the two decorated a table in the backyard with the plastic bones, spiders, occult symbols, and the skull. They claimed they had discovered a "magic ritual" that would allow them to transfer the knowledge of a book into their very minds. Wary but willing members of BZT joined them, and while Steve spouted his magic incantations, Mikey pretended to drink himself under the table. At the conclusion of the ritual, Steve shattered the skull-box on the ground next to Mikey, who suddenly "rose" from the ground, having applied some hasty (though believable) zombie makeup, and began wandering around, moaning, "Bros..." Their buddies freaked out, and a good time was had by all. Zombie-Mikey then collapsed for real, and his laughing buddies carried him to the frat-house couch for him to sleep off his booze.

Meanwhile, the group arrived. Alistair was dressed as William Wallace (the movie version, with a kilt); Michele Kuhns, Alistair's new girlfriend, was dressed as Bible Girl, the sidekick of the cheesy 90s "superhero" Bible Man, and Toby was dressed as Polycarp (not, you're thinking Magicarp, I mean Polycarp). Will arrived later, dressed as a generic college student.

A few minutes later, the group heard a scream, and rushed to figure out what was going on. They found a young woman holding her arm; they probed the gathered crowd for answers, and eventually asked the girl outright what had happened. Someone in zombie makeup had jumped out from a bush and bit her arm! A thorough investigation of the bush in question resulted in a few footprints and a shred of what turned out to be rubber zombie-skin from a mask.

Michele demanded to know why Alistair was snooping in a bush, and if there was another girl involved. Alistair managed to talk his way out... this time.

Scouring the street for more information, the party found Steve, sitting on the side of the road and cradling his arm, muttering, "What did I do? What did I do?"

He spilled the whole story of his buddy Mikey, adding that Mikey had attacked him. He lead the group back to the table. After a cursory glance, the party left in search of Mikey again. This time, they found him, prowling in the bushes. Toby, eager to bring down the menace, hefted the nine-iron he found in a golf bag, and took a swing at the zombie from behind. While it connected, it didn't do much damage. Alistair fired a rock from his slingshot, and Michele planted herself between Alistair and Mikey, taking her role of the shield-toting Bible Girl seriously. Will jogged over to Toby's side, attempting to fend off any blows his friend might take.

Mikey turned and took a swing at Toby; Toby swung back. At one point, Mikey managed to land a punch on Will, who moaned that he hit like a truck! Toby took a batter's stance and swung for the back fence. The golf club clipped Mikey's shoulder and glanced off the side of his head; Mikey dropped like a sack of potatoes.

Toby and Will hauled the unconscious Mikey to his frat house, where a grateful Steve pointed to a well-used sofa. Congratulating themselves on a job well done, the party returned to the festivities.

Thursday, Nov. 1

The next day, Alistair caught sight of Mikey in the hallway, exiting an early Advanced Physics class. He caught up and asked how he was feeling; Mikey seemed not to recognize him, though oddly, seemed none the worse for wear after his drinking and head wound. He didn't even have a bruise...

After classes, Alistair and Toby visited BZT again, and went through the junk used in the "ritual". While most of it was cheap dollar-store props, the skull on the ground seemed remarkably realistic. Toby carefully lifted it up with a plastic bag found under the table.

Alistair took it to GlenMac, who seemed very interested in the whole ordeal, but was unfortunately late to a long-running class, and couldn't help out. He suggested that it was unlikely the skull would injure on touch, as a plastic bag wouldn't protect from an airborne contagion or similar.

The group poked and probed the skull, attempting to uncover any secrets it may contain. The skull was hollowed out, and seemed to be covered in tiny holes, rendering it light as a feather. Toby, shining his phone flashlight into it, caught sight of some old writing; eventually, Alistair thought to grab a blacklight, and the text was revealed:

Mortuo homine comedit omnem animam viventem, mors venit cito. Cave! Mors venit!

Toby quickly ran it through Google Translate, and came up with the following text:

"When a wicked man hath devoured every living creature, death comes quickly. Beware! Death is coming!"

Ominous indeed! More research netted a match for the text.

In the 1700s, a group of monks lived on an island, north of England. One summer, monks bringing supplies to the island found the other monks entirely gone; nothing remained but a skeleton. Written on the ground was the warning, translated to: "bodies were consumed... death inside... I'm already dead..."

The monks, terrified, assumed that one of the monks had died, risen as an undead, and eaten the others, before falling again to death, leaving only his skeleton. They buried the bones, blessing them with holy water, and took the skull back to have it further blessed. The warning was written on the skull, and it moved from place to place, eventually being stored in a glass box, and kept in a collection in Longview.

All seemed to be going well, until that evening at supper. Will saw Sarah, the girl who had been bitten, and realized she didn't look too well - pale and shaky. Her friends were discussing taking her to the ER across the street, and eventually helper her up. Will, nudged by his friends, walked over and asked how she was doing. Her friends told him that she hadn't been feeling well, and they were going to driver her to the ER. Sarah looked up from the floor and stared at Will. She muttered, "Bros...", then her friends lead her away.

Across the street, Will caught sight of Mikey, again in his zombie makeup. He alerted the others, and they crossed the street. Mikey charged out of the trees; once again, Michele planter herself in front of her boyfriend, yelling, "Leave him alone! He's foreign!"

Without the aid of a set of golf clubs, Will and Toby decided to grapple Mikey, grabbing his arms and legs and hoisting him off the ground. Alistair tried to thump him with his slingshot, and even Michele joined in at one point, kicking him ineffectively. While Will and Toby managed to keep him restrained, he thrashed and kicked, once almost biting Will. After a minute of fighting, the campus police showed up. Alistair, thinking quickly, yelled something about ponding him; the officers asked them to put him down, and the moment Mikey's feet hit the ground, he bolted. The police asked a few questions, then left.

Thinking about it, those who had tried to fight Mikey realized his makeup seemed a lot more firmly attached this time... and he was tougher, too.

Did the skull turn Mikey into a real zombie? Why did he seem so normal during the day? What really happened on that island, long ago? Just how cracked is Michele, really? Will Mikey-Zombie return? Will Sarah be ok? Learn all this and more, assuming the group solves the mystery!

Monday, November 19, 2018

Cryptid Underground Breaking Story: ¡El chupacabra vive!

After the events of the previous week, the crew began having strange dreams of money, ants, fear, and loss...

[Crazy hair] "Aliens!"
Tuesday, the 4th of September, about two weeks after the events of the previous adventure, several members of the gang were sitting down for breakfast together when another student approached them. She introduced herself as Leslie Merspin, and asked if they were willing to make a little money. She explained she worked for a tiny magazine and blog company, called Cryptid Underground. They had heard rumors of a creatures in the nearby woods, and hoped to get a picture of it.

After some thought, the gang agreed to meet with her boss. That afternoon after classes, they drove to the Cryptid Underground offices behind the News Journal. They met Eric Granger, the editor and owner, who explained what was going on. There had been sightings of a creature in the woods near the Walmart, south of 20; a couple fishermen had spotted a creature the size of a very large dog in the underbrush, with a ridge of quills on its back. Whatever it was, it sounded like a cryptid of some sort; Eric promised a reward of $50 for a single still image, $20 for each additional image, and $100 of clear video of the creature.

Croiky, look at that beut, mates!
The group stopped outside for a few minutes to check prices on cameras and equipment, then split up to go to various stores and pick up some cameras and memory cards. Equipment in hand, they headed to the woods. After hiking about a quarter of a mile into the marshy brush, they stepped out into a clear area, and came face to face with... a creature! Toby fumbled with his camera, but Will, who had been poking at his camera earlier, managed to get a perfect video of the creature before it dashed off into the brush. Toby was quick to follow it, tracking its footprints and taking a few pictures of them along the way. They moved diagonally to a nearby trail, then looped north, finally stopping at the edge of a cleared area under some power lines.

As Zac stepped into the clearing, he suddenly stopped, staring into space... a vision overwhelmed his senses. He saw through someone else's eyes as they moved into the clearing, carrying a bag. He caught sight of two linemen, and stopped until they left, then moved forward and dropped the bag on the ground, pulling out a shovel and digging. He dug a hole a few feet deep, and stopped to wipe his brow; suddenly, there was a flash of movement at his side - and the vision popped and stuttered like a bad transmission. When it cleared, he was laying on the ground. He was rolled into the hole, then the bag dropped on top of him... then covered with dirt.

Zac relayed this to the others, who quickly began searching the area, the cryptid all but forgotten. Will found a $100 bill, stained with red ink; Toby and Alistair found a patch of disturbed earth, and began scooping it out, using Toby's machete to clear were roots had gown. Only a few scoots in, they realized the hole was adjacent to a fire-ant mound, and had to move carefully to avoid the swarming ants! Eventually, they uncovered a bag... and a human skeleton. Only a few scraps of cloth remained, and it seemed to be missing a femur. Carefully opening the bag, they found about $700 in badly stained bills inside, and wrapped in a plastic bag, a leather necklace with an arrowhead on it.

Actual Caddoan Indian
As they uncovered the arrowhead, the city sounds and skyglow faded as the sounds of the forest grew. In the distance, a police siren dropped into silence... and the shriek of a wildcat echoed through the suddenly silent woods.

Alistair racked his brain, but couldn't recall any specific folklore concerning being transported to another world, or similar; there were plenty of tales, but none stood out from the others. Toby, however, remembered a story he had read at a museum; the arrowhead was knapped, using a Caddo Indian technique, and he had seen other similar arrowheads and knives. The strange atmosphere reminded him of the story: not terribly long ago, some burial mounds were discovered; inside one was buried a Caddo Indian chieftain. As far as the researchers could discover, he had ruled for a long time, protected from evil spirits by a magical arrowhead necklace. Another member of the tribe grew jealous, and stole the necklace, but knowing he would eventually find it again, had it cursed.

Toby pulled out his phone and made a call to the police, alerting them to the body and stolen funds. However, halfway through the call, it dropped; even though his phone had recently been charged, the screen flickered and went dark. Alistair pulled out his flashlight, which blinked twice and refused to turn on again. Whatever the strange effect was, it didn't seem to like electronics...

(this is the place where Zac and Alora decide if they would grab the necklace or leave it)

Alistair and Will heard a rustling, scraping sound. No... not scraping... it was the sound of ants, a huge swarm of them! The group bolted for the path. Will easily dashed ahead, but Toby tripped on a root. Alistair smacked into a low-hanging branch, and Toby, coming up behind him, plowed headlong into a tree.Stumbling to his feet, he managed to shake off the ants already at his heels and bolt for safety - just past a sign reading "Keep out, private property."

Just up ahead, Will caught sight of a flashlight, flickering dimly. He and the others stepped off the path into cover. When Toby saw that it was a police officer, he stepped out, with Alistair behind him. The officer, shaken by the strange night, treated them perhaps a little more harshly than he should have; after a bit of back-and-forth, he took them to his squad car, and from there to the police station, where they gave their testimonies, and were charged a $50 fine for trespassing.

Will, Zac, and Alora stayed hidden until the officer left, then returned to their vehicle. As they neared the edge of the forest, the strange aura lifted, and the city sounds and lights returned. They picked up Toby and Alistair when they were released, and eventually, they all made it back to the Cryptid Underground offices. Eric originally offered them $100 for the video, but Toby convinced him to pay the $100 of fines, plus another $20 for the photos of the footprints. After paying the fines, everyone gets $24 from the ordeal.

Time passed; Alistair, Toby, and Will each had their birthdays. Alistair and Will each got the fancy cake-and-gifts package, while Toby got a lovely card, and some home-baked cookies. Since Will is 21 now, he can put in for his concealed carry license, if he wants.

Of course, school is still a thing; midterms rolled around (and Zac and Alora will need to roll for those). Will and Toby passed their tests; Will caught the eye of one of the financial aid supervisors and gained a Connections edge with them. Toby got to know one of the secretaries, and also gained a Connections edge.

She wouldn't actually say this. You'd find the tracker!
Alistair, however, attracted... a different sort of attention. Sitting down to work on some homework in the Library, he got an instant message from a fellow classmate. "Hey, I was wondering if you'd like to go on a date with me! We could meet after your 11:45 class, because that's your last class of the day, and I switched my schedule so I'd be across the hall from you. I'll even wear your favorite color!"

Alistair, somehow not realizing how much of a stalker this person was, agreed. Which, by the way, means you've replaced your Extracurricular Activity with Romance: -1 to your Finals' Academics roll, and over the course of the semester, you'll spend $100 on her. But, any time you spend a benny on a roll that "reflects your will to press on for your loved one," you get an extra d6, so at least there's that?

Alistair's new girlfriend is Michele Kuhns, 17 (birthday January 29), a Biology major from Vernal, Utah, and God says that you are going to get married and move to Vermont when you graduate.

Aren't you glad you spent that green chip on that? Oh, and speaking of that...

Shortly after midterms, the group was invited by GlenMac to go out to eat; Cornerstones is done, but after seeing your names in Cryptid Underground, he wanted the whole story over a meal at GZ's - his treat. He introduced his girlfriend, Monica Dragic, a businesslike woman in her late 40s. As you filled him in, he raptly hung on every word. Monica listened as well, though only asked if you had any more pictures of the creature.

Zac & Alora must decide if they kept the arrowhead necklace, or left it behind
Zac & Alora also must roll Academics (at -2 because Honors Society) - remember you can use chips on the roll
Everyone gains $24, thanks to Toby's fine Persuasion
Alistair must change Extracurricular Activity to Romance
Alistair is now 18; Toby is now 20; Will is now 21