Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Crayton's Machine, and From Love with Russians

It's a new semester, Fall of the Sophomore year! With a good summer to take the edge off the weirdness, the students return to campus.

At first, it seemed as if all the strange happenings of the last year had drifted into the past, merely a distant memory. Alistair got used to his new digs on Greek St., and met his new roommate: ADHD frat-bro Tom Yazzie, a sophomore in Business... something. He wasn't entirely clear.

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!