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.

Thursday, Sept. 5th

GlenMac, their old Cornerstone mentor, called them into his office. At first they were a little nervous, and didn't get any less nervous when he sighed deeply and asked them to shut the door. With another sigh, he began:

"Jackson and I were studying the supernatural. Ghosts, magic, all the rest. When Jackson went missing... Well, I hoped and prayed that he would return, and while I still believe Jackson is alive... I need your help. Jackson would take on some of my research burden when classes and so forth would get in the way. In this case, I have a field investigation in Houston, but I've been getting reports of strange things going on in Glaske..."

The students asked a few questions - where in Glaske? What information do you have? What will we be doing?

He answered with as much information as he had. He'd been hearing from a few students that the evenings in Glaske were getting a little strange - items going missing, lights flickering, and so forth. He hoped that the students could take some equipment, and see if there is anything more than that going on.

After a few more questions, he realized he was running out of time to prepare, and quickly shooed the students out the door.

After killing an hour or two preparing a ritual, they headed over to Glaske, and started measuring. They talked to another student about some of the weirdness, then started seeing strange static bursts on their recording equipment, especially near one corner. And then the lights started flickering...

As the lights strobed more and more, they tried to find a source; finally, the lights flashed brightly and turned off - as did all their equipment. They began to hear whispering at the corners of their minds, and then, a sound in one of the classrooms! Alistair went to investigate. Inside, a young man was crouched on the floor, his hands over his ears, mumbling a string of numbers - prime numbers, Alistair rightly concluded.

He jumped in fright when Alistair approached him, but quickly relaxed. "I heard whispering, but my friends didn't seem to notice. They left, but the voices started getting louder, and following me, so I hid in here..."

Suddenly, they all heard a loud crash from the professor's hallway! Dashing to investigate, they peered through the window, seeing nothing but a wildly swinging light. In the hall, however, they caught the shadowy outlines of strange, flickering creatures! One creature saw them, and immediately flung a handful of gravel at them; it missed, deflected by an unknown force into the wall beside them.

Hearing someone call out, they slipped into a nearby office, and found a professor, hiding behind his desk, and trying to phone out. It was no use; the phones were dead. A moment later, the door slammed shut! Even after Will removed the hinges, the door stayed closed. There was a shout from the hallway, and the professor cringed. With a shrug, Will, Alistair, and RC climbed onto the professor's desk, then into the drop ceiling, quickly and carefully dropping down into the hallway on the other side. Hearing another sound, they caught sight of two professors dragging a third, smaller man between them!

The three dashed up, RC trying to kneecap one of the professors to make him stop, while Will went for a grapple - but both missed. The professors woodenly ignored them, quickly dragging the shouting man down the hall. RC charged, this time giving one of the professors a good crack on the leg. Irritated, the professor turned, but his swinging fists went wide. The second professor dragged the man, slower now, a little farther down the hall. RC, swinging both of his baseball bats, managed a mighty THWACK that sent the first professor gasping to the ground, unconscious! Will dashed for the second prof, and with his new tazer-club-flashlight, thumped him over the head, knocking him out as well! The third professor scrambled away, and only after Alistair called after him did he, shakily, return. Together, the four headed towards the bright, kaleidoscopic light flooding the corridor, near the labs. Alistair stuck his head in for a better look, and promptly got thumped over the head by a young woman! Will and RC joined in, and quickly subdued her. Alistair took a look at the strange machine producing the lights - some electronics, driving a gossamer film of light. Twisted faces smear across the film, screaming silently. RC, not quite as interested in the science behind it all, smashed the ever-living gearboxes out of it, leaving it in pieces on the floor. With a flicker, the film of light evaporated, and almost immediately, the whispering vanished and the lights turned back on.

They dragged the two unconscious professors into the room. Soon, the young woman moaned. As she no longer seemed intent on putting a dent in Alistair's head, they helped her up, and asked what had happened. She seemed not to realize that much time had passed, from when she had turned on the machine (about the time the lights started flickering, then went out), until she woke up. She was quite distraught, as the machine was her senior design project. In bits and pieces, they got the story out of her - and the two professors, who woke up groggily soon afterward.

The young woman, Lilly Boatwright, had found an old journal: Crayton's Compendium. Inside, she had deciphered the blueprints, and built a mini-version of the device inside. Most of the notes, she said, were impossible to read, but after quite a bit of work over the summer, she managed to get the machine working. The first professor was there to watch her turn the machine on, and didn't remember anything until waking up; the second was outside in the hallway, and only remembered someone grabbing him roughly.

Moments later, a pair of UPD officers arrived to sort things out, and the students slipped off with the journal.

Inside, they found a photograph: Crayton White - who looked just like the older man in the photograph! They took turns investigating the book, trying to decipher the difficult handwriting...

Monday, September 16th
A week and a half later, RC saw a black sedan making its way slowly through campus. Beside it was a very large, very muscular man. He approached RC, and asked if he knew the man in the photo. RC glanced at it and shrugged, but Alistair, on his way between classes, nodded. "Yeah, I've seen his picture. I don't know anything else about him, though."

The window on the sedan smoothly rolled down, and a voice rasped out, "Come."

Stepping closer, Alistair saw an elderly man. In a distinct Russian accent, the man introduced himself as Maksim Kuznetsov. "The man in that image is my brother. I last saw him 32 years ago, but I do not know what happened to him. What do you know of him?"

Alistair only repeated that he had only seen his before, probably in a picture or something. Why? Why now? The man only replied, "I have heard... new information."

The man watched Alistair for a moment, then turned back to the driver. "Dvigat'sya dal'she. My pogovorim s nimi bal'she." (Which, after some trial and error, Alistair managed to translate through Google Translate as "Move on. We will speak with them later.") The car moved on, with the burly man following, asking others about the picture.

That night, RC woke suddenly, realizing deeply that something was about to happen to the picture they were keeping safe. He called Alistair, who was also awakened. As they quickly dressed, they noticed something odd - the clocks had all stopped. Even without the stopped clocks, it seemed to take no time at all for RC to cross campus; he arrived in front of Alistair's frat house the same time Alistair got down the stairs. Together, they rushed to Alistair's car, where he had stored his safe. After remove a panel, pushing a button which released a latch, Alistair popped the dash open to reveal the safe, and quickly entered his combination. Almost immediately... he woke up. Realizing something was wrong, he dashed down the stairs, pulling on clothes as he ran. Just as he reached the parking lot, he heard the squeal of tires, and saw the sedan pull away. His car door was open, and the safe unlocked! Luckily, his gun was still safe inside, but the picture... was gone.

The next morning, he called RC, and mentioned the dream - RC remembered that he, too, had experienced that dream... but Will had not. Whatever had gone on, the Russians had certainly been involved...

Friday, October 4th

After a few weeks of unraveling the secrets of Crayton’s Compendium, they managed to uncover a few clues:

  • We're meeting at the Sanctuary today...
  • I wouldn't worry, though; the secret door keeps most people away. Sound-proofing certainly helps, as well.
  • ...the wards, which are holding nicely. It would take an army to break through, or so Morgan says.
  • Must remember to tell Judith that our supplies are running a little low. She should be able to restock tomorrow in time for...
  • Morgan suggested the ritual would take quite a while; rather than stay up all night, Rodney closed the bookstore early and joined us upstairs to get started.

The Sanctuary, whatever that is, was in a two-story bookstore, and there was only one two story bookstore that had been open in the 80s: Mary Lynn’s Used Books and Emporium, downtown. Helpfully, the place was mentioned in a pamphlet they had gotten the year before!

Stopping by, they took a look around for first impressions. The bookstore/cafe carried hard-to-find books, and had a quiet, inviting atmosphere, perfect for studying. Though it changed hands (and names) one or two times since it opened, the building had been a bookstore since it was built. It was relaxed, if a little worn - much like its proprietor, Mary Lynn.

As they entered, they spotted a small, neat "Help Wanted" sign on the door, and another on the register. A mob of students, all holding coffee cups, whirled past, on their way out. Mary looked tired, but asked if they'd like any coffee.

Alistair asked after rare books; a few were on the shelves, but she pulled another from her office: a rare first printing of Moby Dick. Alistair was a little disappointed none of the books held ancient rituals. When asked about her help wanted signs, Mary Lynn seemed quite eager to hire, well, just about anyone!

If you want to work for Mary, she's willing to work with your schedule - take the Extracurricular activity Part Time Job, your choice of difficulty.

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