Tuesday, October 29, 2019

A Series Of Magic Tubes

Before the semester started, Matt Meranda and Ariel Summers (both Burn survivors) started dating; Matt, however, became obsessed with the strange phenomena of the Burn; just before the semester started, he had a little too much to drink, and mentioned that he could see "magic pipes" running all over campus, due to some concoction he found online. He insisted on driving home; however, he wrecked his vehicle...

Not long afterwards, the group heard Dr. Harry Wells telling his friend Dr. Jeong Yi that he found something - a nanomachine, trapped in a block of glass! His analog electron scanning microscope caught a picture of it. Stranger, he said, was the fact that the school's microscope couldn't see it. He could even find the objects around the nanotechnology, but it wasn't there. He took it back home and looked again, and there it was, plain as day! He handed his friend a couple printouts he had made - one picture with the nanotech, one without. Excitedly, he pointed out exactly what surrounded the tiny machine. It couldn't just vanish; so where did it go? His theory was that it was somehow cloaked - hidden from the digital electron microscope, but visible to the old analog scope.

As he left the cafeteria, a black sedan pulled up, and a thin, bald man in a dark suit stepped out. After a moment of conversation, Dr. Wells, of his own volition, climbed into the back seat with the man.

At the same time, Derek Ward caught up with the gang and asked them to check on Ariel. He told them that Matt's vehicle was found totaled, but no Matt inside... just blood. Police suspected he tried to get out and get help, and died in the woods. Ariel locked herself in her apartment and wouldn't come out.

Visiting Ariel turned up a pile of occult books, specifically about ley lines; she seemed to firmly believe that Matt was wandering the woods: "Just wait. I promise you he will show up in another day or two alive and well." Although she seemed to be hiding something, they weren't able to figure out what - and she wouldn't let them take the books.

Back at Mary Lynn's bookstore, they studied the map of ley lines from the decades previous; perhaps there was something there? There wasn't anything to find at the scene of the accident... Crayton's Compendium turned up some information on ley lines, and mention a ritual, True Seeing, that reveals them. Alistair opted for the slightly more expensive version, and bought the same stuff Matt did, following a link Matt had written in the margin of one of the books.

The next morning, the student newspaper came out with details on the crash - the wrecked car was certainly not "walk away" material. It was wrapped around a tree, and every window was smashed. Meanwhile, Dr. Wells' case turns up a letter, supposedly from him, saying there was a "sudden family emergency"... of course, Dr. Wells is estranged from his father, and has no other family, which Dr. Yi is happy to point out. In the lab, the man in black carted away the electron microscope, flashing a Secret Service badge and stating that they removed dangerous, unregistered equipment from his lab; the university doesn't fight it, as that is technically true.

At Dr. Wells' house, the group found his electron scanning microscope in the basement, and the tiny slice of glass with the supposed nanotech stuck in it; after a bit of discussion, they decided to leave it there, though they took his notes.

Alistair followed the ley lines he could see - nothing at Dr. Wells' house, but there were several on campus, with two of the larger ones on top of the education building - along with a flash of movement! While Alistair looked for a ritual to assist them, James took off, following his instincts... and not getting much of anywhere. Will, using a lockpick fashioned by Priya,
picked the lock on the roof door, and onto the roof. Ariel was there, holding a cheap steak knife, with a hasty bandage on her arm; Matt was there as well. Well, his corpse... as fresh as it looked, he was very obviously dead. Ariel quickly waved them off, explaining how Matt was researching these teeny-tiny bugs, and how they could do all sorts of stuff, but they needed the right information to begin. "It's ok! Everything will be fine! Just... just stay back!"

Of course, they were having none of it, and whacked her over the head, knocking her out. And then Alistair saw the shadows spinning out from the two newly-joined ley lines... The creatures attacked, but the group was able to hold them off; Alistair tossed them the other vials, and quickly they applied the "ley line mist" to their eyes. Matt, meanwhile, began groaning and coughing...

Unfortunately, their weapons weren't damaging the creatures; Alistair, who could now see his Spirit Guardian, found it bodily shielding him from the wraith-like shadows. Hoping they were some kind of ghost, he grabbed a container of salt from his bag, and told Priya to pull out the one she was carrying. Priya dumped water on her, Will's, and James' weapons, then poured salt onto them, leaving a lovely crust. Together, they made short work of the shadows; Alistair, away from the group, tried dumping salt on Matt (which had no effect), then dumped two thirds of a container over a ghost - which destroyed it! Finally, they finished off the last of the shadow-wraiths. Ariel crawled over to Matt, who was moaning louder, as if in intense pain; quickly, they staunched the bloodflow and got him to a hospital.

A few days later, Matt's recovery is nothing short of miraculous; even so, he's still in a great deal of pain. He calls the group to the hospital, and asks that they not pass around the fact that, y'know, he was raised from the dead by nanotechnology. Alistair was quite adamant that it wasn't nanotech, but magic; he and Matt agreed to disagree on that point.

Meanwhile, Dr. Wells remained missing; Dr. Yi electred to take care of his home (which, thankfully, is paid for), and his plants.

The day after visiting Matt in the hospital, Will got a phone call:

"You don't know me, but I know you, Will, as well as your friends. Do not be alarmed; I am a friend. Furthermore, I know that you have recently discovered information on nanotechnology. Do not discuss this with anyone else. You may find that those you have already discussed this topic with will no longer remember. I will not interfere with you, as I believe you have an important role to play... but tread carefully. There are others who are... not as understanding as I am."

Me, Myself, and the FBI

The leather patch (recovered from the super-zombie) turned out to have a small symbol on it; some successful research later, and the group found that it belonged to a group known as the OBR, a Russian intelligence group of some sort. They learned more when they ran into an old friend - Kit Muller, of the FBI! He was following some sort of shape-shifter. He explained that the OBR were essentially the KGB, except their work centered on the supernatural; he had run into one or two of their agents. The group was lead by none other than Maksim Kuznetsov, the old man they had met some months earlier! Kit also mentioned Vladislav Rasputin, an edgy ritualist, and how he really hates the song "What Is Love."

Priya, Will, and Alistair soon found themselves on the trail of another book thief; a local bookstore was hit, and Mary (the owner of the bookstore they use as their hoe base) asked if they could go check it out. They did so happily, arriving to find a slightly damaged bookstore, and one Vladislav Rasputin, possibly more edgy than Kit described. They approached him, and warned him off from the books. Using their connection with Mary, they convinced the bookstore owner to lend them the new books he had received, so they could keep them at Mary Lynn's bookstore.

At the bookstore, late at night, they were awakened by a clatter as someone tried to get in. It was Kit! However, he seemed a little off; they called his cell phone, and found Kit was actually in his hotel room. They delayed the doppelganger long enough to give Kit time to arrive (he raced past, then slammed on the brakes and backed up), but the creature was gone in a flash. After some discussion - and verifying the books were safe - Kit headed back to bed.

The next evening - Friday - they headed to RPG night (I know, I know, no recursive RPGs), and the next day visited their GM's home (yours truly). Alistair tried to steal a brick from the foundation, and after a telling off, settled for a brick from under the house. Using the time to do a bit of studying, they learned that there was some kind of object of power hidden in some Indian burial mounds. That evening, they headed to the woods, and after a bit of hiking, found the mounds. As they were looking around, once again Kit showed up; this time, they didn't bother asking questions, and immediately opened fire! Whatever the creature was, it wasn't human - their bullets seemed to only barely be hurting it. Only Priya's ax did any real damage.

Quickly, Priya began forming a chalk circle; she was grabbed by the creature, who shook her book bag off, spilling books all over the ground. Alistair completed the circle, and as soon as Priya broke free, completed the outline. The creature slammed against the temporary boundary (chalk circles are useful, but don't last long unless they have a ritual to back them up). Throwing its (tremendous) weight against the boundary, it broke free, grabbed the book, and slammed its hand into the open pages. Instantly, it was transformed into a 12 foot tall beast, with demonic red skin, cloven hoofs, massive wings... well, you get the idea. The group had been expecting something like that, however, and quickly got over the fright; they fired a few more rounds at it, hit it with an ax, and eventually killed it. It fell backward into a yawning void and was gone...

Just as Kit showed up, Priya discovered an unconscious body laying in the underbrush: Vadislav! Will immediately began singing "What Is Love (Baby Don't Hurt Me)", to which the injured ritualist responded with a pain transference spell. Further singing caused a massive headache... Kit took Vadislav into custody, after learning what his plan was - calling the demon to do his bidding, Vadislav bit off a bit more than he could chew, and ended up with some greater fiend instead of a ghostly Vard√łger. Oops.

The book, however, was gone; whatever it held, that mystery was lost forever...

Book-It!

The group were hired by a friend of LeTourneau, the daughter of Marvin Ashwright, a well-known local philanthropist and businessman who disappeared in 1998. Promised a good bit of money, the group set out to get organized. Well, get books organized, anyway - the Ashwrights were donating Marvin's library to LeTourneau, or at least some of it.

The house was a sprawling Victorian-style mansion, out in the country; it was obvious that Ms. Ashwright came from money. After setting them up Friday night, she left them to their own devices. That evening, they packed and sorted books, seeing a few strange things, like a man watching them from a mirror, or footsteps walking through empty halls. After a bit of exploration, they decided to stay the night, and get the rest finished in the morning.

The next morning was a further drudge of stacking and sorting, but eventually, they had found every last book, and were well on their way to getting it all finished. After a supper of Pizza King, they heard a knock on the front door. Alistair and James went to investigate; suddenly, there was a crash! A haggard, gray-skinned human stepped through the plate glass window by the door - a zombie! James lit into it, whacking it with his pipe wrench, and Alistair went for his gun. After fighting off those zombies, the others found yet more attempting to walk through a french door in the west bedroom, and still more coming in the back door! James, having finished off the zombies in the front, heard sounds to the east, and ran out the door to intercept them. Will finished off the zombies to the east, and Priya and Alistair took care of the zombies at the back door. Priya headed east, hearing sounds of zombies - and found two zombies grabbing a box of books! Interrupting them, she chucked an ax, injuring one.

Meanwhile, James went toe-to-toe with a huge, muscular, super-zombie, with a glowing symbol stitched onto its chest; after a few misses, he slammed his pipe wrench into it, nearly hacking it in half! It, like the other zombies, collapsed into a pile of dust and dirt - though this time with the strange patch-like scrap of leather in the dust. Hearing the battle in the house, he spun and hurled his secondary wrench, flinging it through the open window and into a zombie! While it was stunned from the blow, Will and Priya finished it off.

Tired (and in the case of Alistair, bruised and battered), the group reconvened in the main library. Once assembled, they heard a faint click - a secret entrance! Inside, they saw two things: one, the very dead skeleton of Marvin Ashwright, and two, a comprehensive security system, still working, with cameras in every hallway. For a moment, they glimpsed a burst of static - in the form of a man, waving serenely.

In the center of the room, resting on a display, was a book, hand-labeled "Ashwright's Arcane Tome", in square script.

Thankfully, there was not much damage; the group was paid for their efforts, and went home to sleep off the excitement.