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."

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