Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Treasure Island

Not far from the first stop in their destination, the ship ran aground trying to avoid a storm. Thankfully, there were no injuries, nor was there much damage done to the ship - in fact, it provided space for the ship to have some repairs done, as the able carpenter Giles worked tirelessly night and day to get the ship, er, ship-shape.

Meanwhile, Baguette discovered a strange cave opening in the sandbar - thankfully, the ship avoided the rocky area, only scraping on the sandy shores around it. Baguette, Zuko, and Edison climbed down inside, noting that the water level inside was lower than the surrounding area.

Inside, they found carvings in the walls - strange, unreadable runes that looked like round, flowing cuneiform. There were also a number of other carvings of beasts, monsters, and various sea-related things like ships, storms, and so forth, all obviously added later than the original writing. A wide shelf ringed a pool, calm and clear; peering into the water, it was obvious that there was a tunnel that stretched back into the rock, though it was entirely filled with water. Zuko, the best swimmer of the three, dove in; after a quick look, he came back for a rope. The full length was too long for a single length of rope, but he found a room on the other side - pitch black, of course. He swam back, then added a second rope and returned once again. He gave a tug to signal the rope was well attached, and the other two swam over. Lighting a lantern and a torch, they surveyed the room. It was roughly oval, about 20 feet wide and 30 feet long... and the floor was covered in treasure! Mostly boxes, but statues and a few coins as well. Quickly, they swam back to fetch some other sailors, and returned to begin moving the boxes. Each box was quite heavy; it took two men to move a single box, and with the tunnel flooded, it was slow going.

As time wore on, however, the tunnel slowly drained, leaving the path clear. Zuko explored further in, and discovered some kind of altar; leaving it for the time being, he and the others searched through the boxes for anything interesting. Zuko found a well-crafted wooden box with 50 pieces of eight inside; Baggette, a firestarter kit with a magnifying glass, firesteel, flint, and all number of other things in a metal tube with a watertight screw-on lid. Edison found 3 flasks of what turned out to be alchemist's fire, stored in clay jugs, with a rag stuck in wax at the top to light. A little more searching turned up two bottles of fine wine for Baguette, and a small box holding a huge gem for Zuko (a n amethyst worth easily $300). Edison found a bundle of well-preserved meat, cheese, and other foods in an oilskin sack. Finally, Zuko uncovered another small box, this one with herbs and spices stored inside. The box held three rows of four spices per row, all in delicate metal boxes. The last spot was missing a spice, though a tiny note was wedged inside - one Colonel Sanders described his recipe for creating a delicious meal from chicken, via frying, and using this secret blend of herbs and spices.

After a while, Zuko's curiosity got the best of him, and he went to take a look at the altar again. The top of the altar had four grooves, one from the middle of each side, leading into the center, where a golden bowl, roughly two feet in diameter, was sunken into the top. A second bowl was fit on the of the first, forming a sort of clam-shell shape. Zuko carefully pried the top of the shell off... then leaped back as a swarm of black, biting flies rushed out! The others saw Zuko running towards them, waving his torch and slapping at the flies, and quickly dropped what they were doing and dashed for the exit. Some of the flies followed them out, but most of them stayed inside, swarming about.

Baguette took the initiative to invent a jar-within-a-jar, filled with black powder on the inside, and as much smoke-producing material as he could find on the inside. He lit it, ran in, chucked it at the back wall, and dashed for daylight. After waiting, Longarm began, "Say, how long-" and was of course interrupted by a ground-shaking roar. Black smoke belched out of the cave, and flies swarmed out. After a few minutes of waiting for the smoke to clear, they went inside - the air was still rank with smoke, but the flies were mostly driven off. As the others dragged box after box outside, Zuko and Edison decided to investigate the altar again. They pried the bowl off, revealing a hole barely big enough for a man to squeeze inside; Edison lowered in his lantern, but the warm air from the lantern rose back out the hole, carrying a terrible stench. They stuck a box on top of the hole, and went back to help carry boxes. The tide went out, then came back; seeing that the tide was coming in through a crack in the floor in the tunnel, Baguette patched it closed with pitch.

As the tidal pressure built, finally the pitch gave way with a bang; the crew sloshed out of the cave, avoiding the high-pressure water. Once the tide went down again, they went back in - this time, the water was warm, unlike the bracing chill of before. As the others dragged out treasure, Zuko decided now was the time to climb down. It seems that the box he and Edison had set over the hole had been broken by... well, pressure, he presumed. It had fallen down inside. Luckily, it also had cleared out some of the smell, so it was at least bearable now. He set his rope and climbed inside, worming down into the nasty, sludgy water below. The room was rank; he barely kept hold of his lunch. Spotting a glimmer, he fished something shiny out of the black muck - a gold tooth. As he sloshed ahead, he broke through the film of blobby oils on the surface of the water, releasing a horrifying smell. A noise suddenly broke through the quiet - a low sound, halfway between a moan and a growl. Bracing himself, he moved forward. Finally, as he rounded a corner, he came face to face with a creature! He froze, his torchlight playing off its two amber eyes as it stared at him, unblinking... after a moment, when it didn't move, he took a step forward, then another. He suddenly realized it wasn't a creature at all, but a lifelike carving of one. Two cruel sword-like claws rose from its back and curved overhead; its feet were set as if it has squeezed into a hole in the rock, and plugged it with its body. Its mouth was open wide, razor-sharp teeth gleaming dully in the dim light. Zuko poked it with his torch, then feeling braver, tried to pry out the gemstone set in the eye-hole, but was unable to manage it.

Suddenly, the groaning roar came again - it was coming from the statue! At the back of its throat, behind its tongue, was a kind of whistle, or perhaps pipe-organ's pipe. As air moved through the hole, it let out a deep, reverberating growl. As it turned out, there was also a gem behind its tongue - a golf-ball-sized gem, perfectly spherical, that glowed with a bluish light when the torch illuminated it. As it moved away from the light, it seemed to hang onto it somewhat, glowing dimly for a second or two before going dark.

Zuko returned, shimmying up the rope and squeezing out unassisted; the water had once again begun to rise, and as he swam to the other side, he realized the water was quite warm. Warning the others, he pulled out one final box, and they climbed out of the hole. The water filled much faster, this time overfilling the hole, and suddenly, there was a grinding sound, and a puff of steam drifted out of the cave! Deciding that maybe it might be too dangerous to return, the crew helped Giles get the ship out to sea (having finished the repairs he was able to complete), and loaded up the boxes.

The Captain ordered one of the boxes opened - it contained tightly-packed tapestries, worth at least 2,000 pieces of eight, according to the first mate. The second box was filled with silver ingots! The first mate suggested perhaps leaving the rest untouched, but the captain agreed with Baguette, that the treasure should be cataloged. When all was said and done, the treasure amounted to nearly 32,000 pieces of eight. The captain decided everyone would be awarded shares, according to their station.

Later, Sauvage approached each sailor and asked if they thought it was fair that the captain would get the lion's share; the others refused, and Zuko gave him a good punch, which was met with a scratch by a knife, before he bashed Sauvage in the head so hard he nearly passed out. The sailor retreated, grumbling, and got patched up by Edison - who was also unsympathetic to his cause.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

More Curses Than (Then?) Pirates

Red skies in the morning, sailors take warning - the early skies had a lovely sunrise, which set the sailors on edge. And for good reason; by mid-morning, a storm had blown up, gray clouds swirling over the horizon. The Captain ordered a course correction, trying to avoid the worst of the storm, which sent the ship even more off course than it already was. A few of the crew noticed the captain was worried...

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Ghosts and Doldrums

(This marks upgrade 1)

The Quartermaster figured out that food reserves are lower than expected; it was masked by finding the island, but it seems stores are depleting faster than usual.

An albatross landed on the ship; the superstitious crew freaked out, and someone mentions that the ship cat hasn't been seen in a while. There's a quick search, finding the cat eventually, preening itself.

Meanwhile, before being tackled, Douglas... tries to shoot the albatross.

A few weeks into the journey, the lookout called down that he sighted a ship. Its sails were bedraggled, and it didn't seem to be flying a flag. There was no sign of movement. As they drew closer, it was obvious that there was no one aboard the ship. The Captain sent volunteers over to see what was going on. Most of the crew refused outright, while the castaway moaned about ghosts and demons.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Island of Misfit Sailors

Along with the two Spaniards guarding the box, a third crewman was transferred to the SS Horizon: Edison Hawking, an English explorer.

Simon spotted an unmarked island; it seems volcanic, about an acre of land jutting up out of the ocean. The Captain ordered the ship to stop, and allowed the men to disembark. A handful decided to investigate - Tibby Snider, Jack Crow, Billy Bones, Jean Benoit, and Giles, Baguette, and Hawking. The island was vaguely circular, with a "bite" out of one side, where a soft sandy beach made for a good landing spot. The ship dropped anchor, and the men rowed ashore.

While Tibby, Billy, Jack Crow, and Hawking headed around a path, looking for an easier way up, Benoit, Giles, and Baguette attempted the more direct route: scaling the 20 foot cliff. Baguette brought climbing gear, and was able to scale the cliff with ease, spiking a rope at the top. Giles and Benoit followed.

Meanwhile, Hawking encountered a gap - the path continued on, and looked like it actually met up, but... that 15 foot gap was a bit of a bother. Especially when Hawking took a running jump, and hit the other side... about five feet short. He managed to hang on, but couldn't quite climb back up! Tibby thought it was hilarious, of course.

Billy Bones quickly ran back to the others; Giles tossed down his grappling hook, which Billy proceeded to chuck directly into the ocean. Oops. As Tibby rolled on the ground, alternating between shouting with mirth and gasping for breath, Billy ran back, and managed to convince Giles and Baguette to chuck down another rope Together they managed to pull poor Hawking up. Eventually, the other sailors climbed up as well, while Giles, Hawking, and Baguette went exploring.

As it turned out, the landmass was hollow inside, with soft, sandy soil, small bushes and tufts of grass, and a forest of coconut palms. There was a small trickle of water, barely a few fingers across at the widest, that washed out of the ground and eventually out a crack in the cliff - in fact, it was the reason the path Hawkins was on washed out and fell.

Hawking was very interested in looking for treasure - he and the others carefully moved through the palms, finding a rusted sword of unknown origin. After combing the area, they found a tree with some old scars in the center of the caldera; digging around beneath it, they first uncovered some bones, wrapped in a tattered uniform, and finally a magnificent sword in a bejeweled sheath! It's a STR + d6 sword, AP 1, worth 10,000 pieces of eight!

The uniform was from a Spanish sailor - Giles realized it was from the ship Trinidad Valencera, a lost treasure ship!

On the other side of the caldera, they found a few bushes, covered in berries. They carefully picked them, filling Hawkins' helmet, and took them back to the others. Jack Crow had set up a hammock, and when they returned, he noted what Giles had noticed - while the berries weren't poisonous, they were certainly not entirely ripe, and eating more than a handful would result in a case of "the runs". Billy Bones wasn't 100% sure, but politely refused just in case. Poor Tibby had no idea, and ate several handfuls. Billy Bones told some good sea stories, including some lovely stories of ghost ships, but Tibby had very little time to listen. The sailors that opted to stay on the other side pulled up a few very nice fish, and were kind enough to share, with Jean running between, taking fresh water to the ship, and hauling a few fish back over the "wall".

At daybreak, the sailors packed up and headed back to the ship. Hawkins tried to hide his new sword, but only managed to look as if he's stuffed a branch down the leg of his pants. The ship put out to sea.

The next morning, the crew awakened to a fight - Simon was hotly accusing Pete Grubbs of stealing his spyglass. As Pete scoffed as the very idea, others found items of theirs had also gone missing, including some tools of Giles' and some blueprints from Baguette. As more crew realized things had been stolen, they joined in, searching for the missing items, and trying to keep Pete from getting lynched. Among the missing items was the fancy sword, as well...

After much fighting, the crew started going through everyone's stuff, and found a "hidden" compartment in Pete's locker, with a number of things stashed inside! Just as the fight was about to get ugly, Killian Sauvage stalked in, and dumped a burlap bag of items onto the deck. He sneered, saying that he found the items in Giles' workroom, hidden in a pile of wood shavings. "And 'ow can we trust zees man, 'oo we 'ave known only a short time? Eh?"

The crew argued, eventually ending up on two sides: those who accused Pete, and those who Accused Giles. Baguette followed up on Sauvage's claim, and talked to the Spaniards, who backed up Sauvage's story, at least as far as as timing was concerned. Finally, they went to the captain. After a trial, the captain decided that since all the items had been recovered - as well as a handful of items that were not supposed to be on board - that no one would be punished... but the next thief would be met with a keel-hauling.

Friday, July 10, 2020

Stormy Seas

After a few days of good weather, a storm rolled up! After spending a few minutes battening the hatches and so forth, the storm struck, lightning flashing all around, and towering waves sweeping over the ship. A huge wave knocked the crew flying; Baguette managed to (barely) tie himself down, and the others grabbed something and kept their footing... all except Douglas, who was thrown overboard! As he washed over the railing, Zuko managed to chuck a rope to him... the same rope that was tied around Baguette! After a harrowing scramble, Baguette managed to get his breath back, and Douglas was hauled back aboard the ship. Just in time for the next wave - Zuko grabbed two men, and Baguette was once again used as an anchor as Douglas caught another. Baguette noticed the navigator smack his head and go down, and quickly rushed to keep the ship from lilting over as the next wave hit it. He managed to straighten the course, and with some kicking and cursing, managed to rouse the navigator.

Finally, the storm abated; the sun was setting, when suddenly, the ship scraped across something! Investigating, the crew found pieces of a ship scattered about the waves. Lowering the life raft, Baguette went searching for anything shiny - and found a survivor, as well as a box with some trinkets, some barrels of food, and two boxes, one full of gunpowder - miraculously dry - and one full of bombs!

Zuko spotted something dark in the waves, and using his grappling hook, snagged it and hauled it aboard. It was a pirate flag! Wrapped inside was a really fancy musket, worth a pretty penny, for certain.

Meanwhile, Giles carefully patched up the ship, though never managed to repair a scrape on the lifeboat.

Everyone dragged themselves to bed after a rough day, wondering what else was in store for them...

Thursday, July 9, 2020

A Fine Day For Sailing

A call has gone out for crew, paying well - rumor has it that the King and Queen of Spain are financing the journey, though for what reason no one can say. A handful of rough-and-ready crew gather on the docks, including:

An elderly carpenter named Giles Wright
An elderly bomb-maker named Curie Baguette
A landlubber gunfighter named Douglas Dubhghlas
A somewhat confused noble named Zuko
(and somewhat later)
Edison Hawking, and English explorer

As they gathered on the docks, they caught sight of the ship in the bay - not a huge ship, but certainly pretty, its green and gold paint shining in the morning light. The name was clearly visible: "Horizons"!

The captain looked them over, and signed them on. He introduced himself as Captain Solomon Fisher; the voyage was one of exploration in the West Indies; the way is known, but can be treacherous, with storms, pirates, and... more. It is expected to last three months.

The new sailors joined the existing crew:

Captain Solomon Fisher, a seasoned sailor, explorer, and Navy officer; calm, calculating, and willing to give everyone a second chance.
First Mate Jauques Bellefleur, a somewhat smarmy Frenchman who doesn't seem to like the crew very much.

Navigator Eckhard Glas, an elderly though capable navigator; German, and a graduate of one of Europe's finest cartography schools.

Quartermaster Rudyard Rennold, a street-smart and capable man, if not particularly imaginative.

Killian Sauvage, a scarred, mean-spirited Frenchman
Kurt Steine, a friendly blond-haired, blue-eyed sailor with a German accent
Herb Broadbent, a largish fellow, though quiet and shy; very English
Tibby Snider, a skinny, talkative Englishman
Pete Grubbs, an Englishman who claims he is easily swayed by money, eh, eh, if you know what I mean? Eh?
"Longarm" Smith, a laconic brawler with some impressive muscles
Dominic "Dom" Ramone, who is quite the ladies' man, judging by his stories (and probably his Spanish accent)
Jack Crow, a veteran sailor with plenty of stories from the sea
Billy Bones, supposedly an ex-pirate, covered in tattoos; Portugese, though speaks English fluently
Jean Benoit, a monkey on the ropes, and proud of it; French
Simon Madras, a superstitious Spaniard, though an excellent watchman

The first day of sailing was easy enough, apart from poor Douglas, who only managed to stay aboard because they had already set sail. After a few games - Jack Crow nearly managed to beat Giles in a (mop-based) swordfight, but both were beaten by Dom. Zuko and Longarm duked out a few rounds of fisticuffs, and Longarm managed to land a head-spinning uppercut, but Zuko finally managed to hit back with a blow that knocked Longarm cold. Douglas won at gambling when Billy Bones' dice cracked open, and he was revealed as a cheater.

Soon, Simon called out that another ship was approaching; they pulled up near what seemed to be a Spanish ship, very military, and the Captain escorted a heavy box of some kind over, setting it in the hold, with two guards from the Spanish ship accompanying it:
Diego Fernandes, a bright-eyed, fast-talking swordfighter
Lucio Ángel, a skilled gunfighter with an impressive mustache

Neither spoke much English, but Zuko managed to hold a conversation with them in Spanish, learning that they were very attached to their job, and would kill anyone who tried to get near the box.


Finally, it was the big day. Nobody slept well; they met up early for breakfast, but skipped the rest of the usual graduation fanfare. After a bit of looking around, the group managed to find GlenMac; he looked a big haggard, and was in a hurry, but the group stopped him and pressed for information. Jackson was, after all, sure that GlenMac was a part of it. After a drawn out argument, they finally managed to convince him that Monica was in the wrong. He agreed to help, and handed over keys to a secret elevator in Belcher Center. Suddenly, his phone rang - he was needed to help Monica. Creatures were coming out of the Burn, and he needed to be there to keep everyone safe.

Inside Belcher, faint music was drifting out of the main auditorium; Alistair cracked a door open, and nearly lost James to the hypnotic tones! They pulled him back, and headed for the elevator, but not before watching a few friends and family walk inside... for the time being, they reasoned, it was probably safer in there than outside fighting demons.

They went down...

Monday, June 1, 2020


With the activity, the heightened nanites have caused some nasty weather conditions... it's one week before the convergence, and there's already some weirdness going on. Early Saturday morning, a week before Convergence, the group awakened to a thick fog; unable to get back to sleep, they wander sleepily to Saga (sans Priya, who somehow was able to sleep in). Halfway through breakfast, Agent Kit Muller called them. As he explained it, he has been somewhat injured after an altercation with a group of loup-garous south of Shreveport, and his car had gotten a flat, and he can't travel in the pouring rain. Deana was knocked out, and since the group had such good connections to all things weird, would they mind determining if he was about to turn into a werewolf?

They traveled there in two cars; Alistair narrowly managed to outrun a cop, but got there in time for Will to give some first aid, and wake up Deana, even though rain was pouring down like it was preparing for another Biblical flood. Kit was actually fairly hurt, but Alistair was able to at least assure him that he wouldn't turn into a werewolf. Loup-garous were just angry people, nothing to worry about. James pulled up in Will's car, and hopped out to change the tires, managing to get it quickly fixed. And a good thing, too - Alistair got a call from a distraught Mrs. Dolouse, who begged them to come help.

Returning to campus for Priya, they headed to the church. The Risen Church was hit by a tornado; while the Rev. and Mrs. Dolouse were safely in the back bathrooms, Bob had gone to secure the front doors, and got trapped under a fallen wall. James, Will, and RC put their shoulders to the wall, and managed to lift it long enough for the Reverend to shove a board under it. Crawling under, they pulled Bob out; he had a nasty bump on the head, but otherwise seemed ok. Mrs. Dolouse showered them with praise (in addition to the heavy rainfall). "I knew you boys would be able to help, with the tornado doing all this damage the police couldn't even get to us and the fire department is backed up and you just got here so fast, thank you, thank you!"

Next, they got a call from Officer Jones, the fellow who investigated them after the incident with the pedophile; it seems he was pinned down by "some weird stuff", and one photographer named Leslie begged him to call them for help. He was near the train tracks on 5th.

Arriving, the group managed to get up next to the officer, who confessed that he had no idea what was going on, but whatever they did, this seemed to be in their wheelhouse, and nobody at HQ would believe that he was fighting... well, whatever it was. Leslie, of course, was overjoyed to see them. As they spoke, a blast of lightning zinged into a tree, and another onto the path!

Priya and James, working quickly, put together a lightning-rod lance, and chucked it over the train car they were hiding behind into the path of the lightning blasts; it stopped the lightning enough for James, Will, and RC to get over to the creature - a huge lightning demon! Dodging bursts of lightning, RC went for the knee, and managed to trip the huge monster; unable to get it, Will and James were able to beat it to a pulp. And then Alistair nearly blew himself up touching its corpse.

All's well that ends well, though, and the group got out without any new injuries. Officer Jones thanked them, and Leslie couldn't stop beaming about the pictures she took.

Finally back on campus, little damage was done, apart from the flagpole being flung, spear-like, into the student center.

RC and Alistair each had a package waiting for them; RC was gifted a baseball bat, the first metal Louisville Slugger to come off the assembly line, in 1978; through its illustrious history, it had been a collector's item in several collections, but each time it was used as a weapon against intruders, and each tiem it knocked the burglar out in a single hit. The bat has two properties; first, the first time it causes a non-lethal wound, it automatically causes a second. Second, when doing agility-based tricks, it lends a +2 to the roll. Bob insisted the Reverend bring it over; he had purchased it a few years prior for his sports memorabilia collection, but felt it was a useful gift for the people that saved his life.

Alistair's package came from Kit; it was an old manuscript, a leather scroll upon which was written, "Hadrian's Form For Scroll". The 2 power point shield ritual requires a chip of a tombstone older than 100 years and chalk; its effect was to subtract 2 from an attacker's roll, either ranged or melee (or 4 on a raise). Alistair immediately did a little more research, finding an old grave site and getting a handful of chips. Additionally, a member of the ROTC crowd contacted him; having heard of their exploits, a few cadets were willing to lead a little extra time to the cause, given enough notice.

One week until finals...

Back From The Grave

As graduation draws nearer, so do the ley lines. Last-minute project failures aren't exactly uncommon, but it seems much worse this year; even the ultra-prepared are having trouble getting software and hardware alike working. Last week, the campus transformer blew out... twice. It's still 4 weeks until Convergence, and looming finals aren't helping anything.

Friday, the 8th of April, 2022, four weeks before graduation. It's midnight on a Friday; for once, everything seems to be working as it should be, so the group decided to blow off some steam at a Greek St. frat party. Just as the group met up, James caught sight of a shadowy figure, lurking in the darkness between two houses... He charged in, with Alistair right behind him, and the others trailing a little more cautiously. As James drew near, the creature snarled, then dashed... through the wall? James didn't recognize the creature, but Alistair did - Shadow, from Paccu Mansion!

The two dashed around the corner and in the back door, then headed upstairs... which looked suspiciously like a Pac Man maze. They wound through the passages until they came to the creature, standing at the end of the hall. With a shriek, it rushed towards them, but was rapidly bludgeoned into mist. The room returned to normal.

Regrouping outside, Priya spotted another creature - a hideous, bug-like monster - Eddie Ruiz! But wasn't he dead? James charged ahead, though the creature seemed intent on heading for Priya. Will passed James, and managed to land a blow; RC splatted a large number of bugs it summoned, as did Priya; James managed to get a couple blows in before Priya finished it off. This time, it seemed a whole lot tougher than before... and a lot more... moldy?

They didn't have long to contemplate before they heard a scream, just up the road. Some quick investigation revealed a were-tiger! It leaped out, but coordinated efforts put it down, hard.

Panting, they looked around, waiting for the next big nasty to jump out at them. They jumped when Will's phone rang - it was Leslie, once again asking for help. She was in her office, and a man was holding her hostage, and forced her to call.

At the offices of Cryptid Underground, everything seemed normal, except a crack/scrape in a hallway wall; once they opened the door, however, Dr. Miller, freshly in his werewolf form, bared his teeth... as a hulking frost demon crashed down behind them!

Will and Alistair fended off the werewolf, as the others attacked the frost demon; it beat James fairly severely, and handed out one or two wounds to the others as well. Will, finally, managed to chop through the werewolf, and turned to help just as the huge demon collapsed into ice and ash.

Priya managed to bind some of James' wounds, but only time would heal the rest.

Back To The Future

The laptop data recovered from EyePhi's silo had a fair amount of information about the plans set in place, but one piece of data stood out - some anomalous energy signatures near the loop. Three different locations, in fact. After a little prep, the group decided to start searching the various locations. That Friday, Jan. 28, they headed out - after getting an invitation to a party of some sort.

The first location revealed... nothing. They weren't able to find anything out of the ordinary. Further investigation near the second site - a school - revealed a blobby, man-sized shape, barely visible to human eyes - though Alistair's ley-line-revealing eye-drops showed it as a bluish cloud of dust-like particles. The next location revealed even more - a field full of blobs! Some seemed recent, others less so. Confused, they headed back to the first location, widening their search to a park in the middle of some very, very nice houses. Alistair spotted a couple fellows in white polos, as well as another person-shaped blob - this one more recent still, and intact enough to make out some basic details. It was definately a man, wearing a jacket, apparently looking at his watch.

They spent a few hours poking around before the party - only to realize the party was at the house with the polo-clad frat bros! While LeTourneau isn't exactly a preppie kind of place, the residents of the house were, in fact, ultra-rich, and in some cases forced to go to LeTourneau as a punishment of some sort. They served a lovely snack bar, next to their heated pool; a few students were already there, and others drifted in. Those the group recognized were fellow adventure-hunters; Leslie, from Cryptid Underground, a few survivors of the Burn, and others they had at least met in passing.

After some hanging out - and realizing that the rich frat boys were stereotypically snobby and condescending - they noted a party-goer who didn't seem to fit in. Fairly average looking, wearing a leather bombers jacket, and staying off to one side... Any time someone tried to approach him, they were intercepted by one of the frat members.

One of the frat guys called for the party's attention. The reason for this little get-together was a treasure hunt, for a prize of $5,000; given a small number of clues, they were expected to find the location of a... watch-like object. Almost immediately, about half of the party headed off, some to the field where the group had found the blobs of ley-dust (or nanite-clouds, as it were), and others to various locations around the city. The rest stayed behind, hoping for more clues. Priya and Alistair managed to corner the jacket-wearing fellow, and demanded to know if he was mind-controlling the rich snobs. He laughed, and managed to excuse himself.

The group initially followed the students heading for the blob-covered-field, but Will got a phone call from Leslie - she said she was trapped in a closet, but had discovered something, and... then the line went dead. Quickly, they hurried back, and crept in a side door; searching the rooms, they found a bow and some other weapons, as well as a fresh-as-a-daisy nanite-blob in a closet, in exactly the shape of Leslie...

Just then, two of the snobby frat guys stepped into the room - one with a bow, the other with a sword. As it turns out, not only do you have to be really rich to join their frat, you also have to have an amazing skill. Granted, no matter how good your skill with a rapier is, if you have five angry students with spears, baseball bats, and pipe-wrenches, you're going to have a bad day. It didn't take long before the two students were knocked unconscious. Just down the hall, the group found the jacket-clad man, and engaged him in battle; he kept trying to slap Alistair and the others with a weird glove, connected to an odd backpack, but was knocked out before he could.

While Priya was making sure the students and the unknown man didn't bleed out, the others rifled through the man's pockets. They uncovered a watch, a single penny, a rectangle of clear plastic, and a heavy gum-pack-sized thing. Alistair put on the backpack and the watch, and... vanished. For about 15 minutes.

After some creative interrogation, the jacket-clad man introduced himself as Artemis, a time traveler from 3082 AD, sent to recover a dangerous time device. The various objects were a time machine (the watch and backpack), a communication device (the clear plastic rectangle), a battery (the gum packet), and... a gun (the penny), which he gifted them, in exchange for their help in finding and destroying the watch. He'd spent too long here already, and being from the future, he'd know if the watch were destroyed, so he was confident they would be able to do it. He mentioned it was known to fall into the hands of a number of people - one of which happened to share a last name with Alistair's roommate. Coincidence? No, actually; allowing the man to return to his own time (though keeping the penny that could turn into a gun), they went to Alistair's frat, and found his roommate, who grabbed the watch for them - it was smashed from holding up a wobbly table. Alistair, of course, instead of destroying it to keep the future intact, carefully repaired what he could, resulting in what was effectively a fancy holographic cell-phone.

Their adventure over, it was midterms week, and happily, they managed to pass. Only one more set of tests before the end...

Friday, May 8, 2020

Old Friends

Early in January, Alistair had the gang help him out in gathering more materials for damage potions. After managing to get a few prepared, Will received a text message from an unknown number: "i have answers. Meet@lutes lk on 2204 W of airport 10pm. Don't b seen"
After a few seconds, a second message followed: "Bring Pizza King lrg Everything"

The students grabbed their gear, and headed to the airport, parking there and walking to Lutes Lake. As they neared the lake, a shadowy figure stepped out of the trees and beckoned to follow. Swiftly and silently, he lead them down a trail through the trees. Just as they lost sight of him, they caught the rumble of an engine. Fearing an ambush, they crept up on the vehicle. Behind the wheel, carefully scanning the trees, sat a (rather bedraggled) Jackson Green! He was wearing ripped camo clothing, worn boots, and a ragged beard. Even his cowboy hat was crumpled. Even so, his eyes lit up as they approached. "'d you bring pizza?" he demanded, and tore into the pizza, moaning happily. After scarfing three pieces in quick succession, he waved the group into his jeep, shoved the box back into James' hands, and roared off down the power line clearing, dodging stumps and puddles. On the way, across the roar of the engine, he shouted out what was going on.

The night he was attacked, he was at a dinner thrown by Monica Dragic, as a guest of GlenMac. After wandering around trying to find the bathroom, he stumbled across Monica's study, and uncovered a photo - the same photo he mailed to the group. It linked her father, Morgan Dragic, to both Rodya (the Russian man, whose brother is looking for information about) and Crayton White (the man who invented the ghost-portal-machine), and most dangerously, to Jake Busar (the bank robber). Realizing the picture was important, Jackson swiped the picture. Monica realized it was missing, and sent the Needler after him. When it broke in to his home, he fought it off with his shotgun, but realized if Monica was going to send monsters after him for a simple photograph, she was willing to do anything. He fled, and got help from - well, from someone who turned out to know a lot more about the current circumstances than expected - and was set up at his new base camp, from which he spied on EyePhi and Monica's various plans, from the Fenris virus and undead apes to chupacabras and the Burn.

Finally, he pulled up near what appeared to be an abandoned farmhouse. After inviting them in, he let them look over the maps and photos he'd collected in the last few years. His spying on the missile site uncovered a systematic program for creating larger and stronger chupacabras. And with that, he opened the door and waved a shadowy figure towards the building - his friend, Paul, a chupacabra! Paul is humanoid, with fewer spikes and quills, but a drastically improved camouflage. Jackson found him, dumped in a mass grave, and nursed him back to health. Together, Jackson and Paul found out about thousands of incubation tanks, installed in an abandoned missile silo, filled with growing chupacabras. Jackson tried to blow the whistle twice before, but the lack of response most likely means someone in the government is protecting it. A direct fight would only get people put in jail, at best - instead, he proudly reveals his master plan: sabotage!

He explains:

There are two ways to disable the incubators: poisoning the water system, and tampering with the temperature regulators. The facility is staffed with a skeleton crew - the fewer in the know, the better - a total of nine operators. In three shifts of 8 hours, one tech monitors the control center, one the power house, and the third inspects the incubators, top to bottom, twice per shift.

Jackson ends by saying that he plans to pull off this mission in the next few hours, at shift change. He'll take some advice on nuances, but is adamant that the plan must be soon. He'll send Paul into town to pick up any supplies the group left behind - which ends up being Alistair sending Paul to break into a medical storage area and steal 40 cc of morphine.

After some rituals and planning, the group split into two. First, the "poison" group, with Alistair, his girlfriend Michelle, and James; and second, the "temperature" group, with RC, Priya, and Will.

The poison group needed to break into the power building, and pour a two-gallon jug of potent poison into the post-purifier water supply. A camera watches the door.

The second group needs to crawl through a vent on the side of the building, infiltrate the heating/cooling area, and either destroy the machines, or get into the control room and turn everything to "dry/cold" instead of "hot/moist".

Alistair, using his sling, expertly broke the light near the camera, and after sneaking up to it, tilted it just enough so it was no longer watching the door. James snapped the lock off the door, and after stepping inside, laid out the tech with a single blow to the head.

Meanwhile, the other group crept up on the rotating camera, staying out of view, and with RC boosting Priya, managed to disconnect the motor and leave the camera pointing at the parking area. After removing the grate on the vent, Will climbed inside and slipped past the spinning fan. A little amature electrical work later, and the fan stopped spinning, allowing Priya and RC to slip past. Together, they crawled down the vent, opening an access panel and utterly surprising the tech working on the AC. Will jumped down and thumped him over the head before he even realized what was happening. He and Priya looked through the laptop, and realized they would have to break into the control room if they wanted to shut things down - and that taking things apart might alert the guards. After a little indecision, they headed towards the control room.

Back in the power building, James and Alistair followed the pipes around, and found he place they needed to pour the poison. Alistair attempted a bit of sleight of hand, sticking a mirror into the reflector securing the purified water cistern.

In the control room, RC eased the door open, and Priya crept up behind the tech, who had just noticed a warning light go off - one marked "purification tank". She smacked him with her spear, knocking him out.

With no alarms going off, Alistair nodded to James, who dumped the poison in the the tank, then slapped the bolts back on. They, with Michelle's help, followed the camera feed, but only came to a pipe that sank into the ground. The camera lead somewhere else...

In the control room, the Will expertly set the AC to its coldest setting; they watched the temperature drop until it was low enough, while downloading some files onto flash drives. Just as the files were wrapping up, one of the computer screens flashed a message: "Convergence simulation 9,361 complete. Play now? Yes / No"
Of course, they pressed "Yes", and watched simulated ley lines crisscross over Gregg County, warping and converging over LeTourneau. The map detail wasn't precise enough to show the exact epicenter, but it lined up with what they knew from the dream. The running date in the bottom corner ended in May, three days after graduation.

Suddenly, there was a muffled thump from outside, and a klaxon began to blare!

In the power area, the sound of an explosion echoed above the noise of the generators. James raced for the door, with Alistair and Michelle right behind. They bounded outside, and turned to see some familiar faces! The Russians were coming! Or rather, the Russians were there; several men with guns were firing at the front door, which was blasted off its hinges. More gunfire echoed back from inside. Watching the battle was Vladislav, goth-emo-ritualist. Alistair contemplated sniping at the guy, but decided against it, and instead waved the others away. They fled towards their rendezvous location.

Inside the main building, however, RC, Will, and Priya were not having nearly as nice a time. Four chupacabra halted their escape; after narrowly avoiding some serious wounds, they finally managed to bash them down, Priya finishing off two, and RC and Will ending one each. Just as they took down the last creature, they heard a shout behind them - they bolted for the exit, but stopped when they realized it was Jackson Green! He waved them towards the back way. As they passed row after row of incubators, the eggs inside already beginning to blacken, Jackson explained that he had, possibly, lead a certain old Russian guy to believe that some lantern and maybe his dead brother were inside the building. Once they rejoined the others, Alistair was highly amused.

Jackson drove in silence. After a while, he nodded firmly, as if coming to a decision. "I'm done here, I think. I'm going to move camp, and hopefully not have to show my face until after the Convergence thing. Take a look at those lines, and let me know where you think the Convergence is going to be. Oh, and please... don't tell GlenMac, ok? Don't let him figure out you know, about me, or about all this. Use him to get to EyePhi."

As he left them at the airport, he gave them a final warning: "Hey - it's not over. The worst is yet to come, you know that, right? Stay tough."

Snow Time Like the Present

A couple weeks before Thanksgiving break, Joe Jordan (who you may remember as the speedy fellow who ran for help during the fight at the Burn) offered an all-expense-paid ski trip. Well, almost all expenses, as they needed to buy their own plane tickets. The resort, as it turns out, is owned by Joe's grandpa, Horace "Horse" Jordan, and was shut down due to damage from terrible weather and possibly a bit of sabotage.

The group moved into one of the large, luxurious cabins just off the slopes, then Joe took them on a tour of the place, pointing out a rival resort, just on the other side of a valley, and showing them were the various equipment for skiing was kept. As they headed over to the main lodge for an amazing Thanksgiving dinner, they saw a large, angry-looking man, looming over Horse, who didn't look particularly upset. The man was screaming screaming something about how "he'll be sorry!" - but when he saw the others approaching, he stopped short, then stamped away in the snow.

Over dinner, Horace explained the various troubles he'd faced, and admitted that the slopes were do for a complete overhaul, and he'd been putting it off. The ski lift was out of commission, and there was some damage to a number of safety rails. He warned them to avoid hiking in the nearby valley, as heavy snowfall resulted in the death of a guest earlier in the season - the snow around trees is very soft, and it's possible to tip over into the soft snow, get a load of snow dumped from the branches above, and suffocate. Not a great way to go.

After dinner, James took a look at the ski-lift, and found some scratches near the door, as if it had been forced. He wasn't able to fix it - Horace mentioned he was waiting on a part for it.

That night, they set up watches, just in case the saboteur returned. Will dreamed of a train full of people, all enjoying their vacations. As the train passed through a tunnel, it suddenly slammed to a stop! Looking around, you realize the train car in front of you is covered in a thick layer of ice... and the people inside aren't moving. Will snapped awake, just as Alistair caught sight of a hulking creature, and chased it away. It took off through the valley, towards the other resort.

The next morning, the group went hiking, following the creature's footprints. They followed it all the way to the other resort - where they found the bloody corpse of the owner. Blood coated everything except a single book... Alistair later read through it, and found not only a ritual for summoning an ice-demon, but it's name: Bralgronnith.

About that time, RC showed up, presumably having taken a slightly later flight. He joined in searching the immediate area. Suddenly, they heard a scream, and ran back to find a woman pointing at the corpse; the police were called, and the students allowed to leave. They took a little more time, and found a raven's feather near the faintest traces of a chalk circle.

Back at the resort, they blew off a little steam; James did some amazing ski tricks, wowing the group with his prowess and complicated (though possibly accidental) flips and jumps. They also contacted the priest of the little Catholic church in town, and after a bit of back-and-forth, the priest admitted that he donated a few drops of blood to the "pious woman with brilliant blue eyes" that visited him. Realizing what he had done, he nearly had a breakdown...

Alistair collected the various ingredients for the banishing ritual - 22 strands each of blonde, brunette, and red hair; a pine-cone; and a bunch of human saliva. Once again, they set watches, and once again, it was Alistair who saw movement on the ski slope. This time, Priya and James slept quite a bit heavier, and took a little longer to wake up, but they managed to stumble out of bed to face the creature. This time, however, the creature wasn't a hulking ice-demon, but a woman with striking blue eyes! She laughed, and in the blink of an eye, transformed! The ice demon, meanwhile, dropped down from the roof, grinning at them.

RC rushed the shape-changer, only to realize that it was immune to his twin bats; he skipped out of the way, heading back for the ice demon, where James was gearing up for a fight. Alistair and Priya started casting the banishment ritual, while Will went toe-to-toe with the shape-changer. In fact, he realized it was the same shape changer from years before, that was released from a chalk circle!

The ritual completed, creating a tear  and sucking the ice demon into it. The shape-changer laughed, and reached out to grab hold and get a free ride back to... wherever it was going... but Will swung his axe, chopping the creature open from jaw to tail. Its laughter died with it; after a few moments, it shriveled up, falling into ash. Alistair made sure to call the priest and tell him the evil was dealt with.

Sunday, the students headed home, and finals were not long after. James and Ed impressed Joe Jordan quite a bit; for the next semester, he'll be a contact for them. Priya, meanwhile, managed to get herself banned from Walmart...

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Blue Shyster Cult

Something was brewing; strange effects began occurring on campus, and before long, the group caught wind of something heading south from Oklahoma. Whatever it was, it left a trail of cultists and freakish magical - I mean, nanite - destruction in its wake.

Their suspicions were confirmed when they were contacted by Kit, from the FBI, and by Chelsea Gloster, photographer for Cryptid Underground. Kit suggested that the reports that the thing responsible was the antichrist may be true, while Chelsea was absolutely sure that it was due to the same aliens she thought had abducted her before.

As it turned out... Kit was a little closer to the truth.

Two very familiar faces showed up on campus, trying to cast a ritual that would harness the growing ley line energy: Xulián Bruxo, leader of the BlueStar cult, and his right-hand man, Raoul Tolemo.

Raoul was struck down by James before he could cast more than a single spell; the cultists were quickly dispatched, though the group realized that they seemed to control the shield protecting Bruxo. As James pounded away on the shield, the others took out the cultists, with Priya knocking out the last man... and Bruxo zapping him with lighting to finish powering up his shield. Not that it did any good; the constant barrage of wrenches, spears, rifle, and katana tore through the energy protecting him in short order. As he screamed out-of-context Bible verses to "prove" that he was the anti-Christ, James gave him a new head wound. Screaming in rage, Bruxo's skin crackled and charred, as he was consumed from within by blue flame. His screams faded into nothingness as the last of the cold flames flickered out on James' favorite wrench. Lightning flashed down as everyone dove for cover.

A little medical assistance from Priya set everyone right, though the crispy cultists were far too long-gone. About that time, Kit showed up. Recognizing the body of Raoul Tolemo, he promised to leave the students' names out of his report, and spin it as one last ritual gone wrong for the cult - already in the news from the massacre last year.

All's Well That Ends, Wells

Amy Wilson was at home when the group dropped by. After they explained that they were there on the request of Peregrine Cycle, Amy invited them in. She offered some cookies, and gave them the condensed version of events.

In 1983, shortly after the events of the Tempus Frigate, Amy Wilson was dropped off in her own time. In 1986, Peregrine Cycle returned. "Amy Wilson. I bring sad news. A group of Agents known as the Texas 13 stumbled onto… an Event. They mobilized two days ago. While they were able to stop the Event, all but one of the Texas 13 perished. The result of the Event has left a scar that I believe will never fully heal. Little remains but ash. Your new assignment, effective immediately, is to replace the fallen Agents. You are to move to the city of Longview, Texas immediately."

She moved, and after helping the lone surviving agent to clean up what they could, she began work full time for the Agency, keeping the area safe. The surviving agent was unable to explain what caused the Event, or what was done to locate or stop it; he knew only that the Event created a portal, of some sort.

Through the 80s and 90s, she helped the Agency maintain tabs on Longview, LeTourneau, and the surrounding area, keeping the higher-than-usual-number-of-threats under control. At this point, she is only on administration duties, being in her 60s.

Importantly, she admitted her part in "magic" as it is today. Back in the mid 1940s, she was on the crashed ship that caused the Roswell alien craze. Part of the crash resulted in the release of a swarm of self-replicating nanites, which apparently took the existing nanites in the atmosphere and multiplied them, resulting in a steep climb in magical abilities. Older "magical" items were powered up drastically as the tiny robots grew in power. Rituals, as it turns out, are less about magic, and more about stumbling onto the precise motions and components that sends a command to a bunch of nanites...

James mentioned the poem that Alistair had received; after looking it over, Amy filled in some gaps. "Obviously, I am the clockwork policeman's elderly friend / Who swam against time's dark sea - while Peregrine has never stated it outright, I am fairly certain he's an android of some sort. And I've time traveled, though I resent being called elderly. Eye of Phi surely refers to EyePhi - I know you've already have several run-ins with them."

Finally, she filled them in on the strange men (and woman) they encountered. They are the Men in Black - an organization that exists to keep knowledge of strange events under wraps, but why, no one knows. Amy works for The Agency, a group that is similarly shrouded in mystery, but not nearly as brutal in their cleanup methods. The MiB and the Agency are enemies, and clashes between them are bloody and devastating for both sides. Make no mistake - the MiB are evil, and incredibly dangerous. Members of The Agency are warned to never go up against the MiB alone.

After a few other tips and hints, she urged them to hurry - if Peregrine was willing to bend the rules enough to tell the group about Dr. Wells, he was surely important.

After a quick trip to their hideout in the bookstore for Alistair to make some sharpness potions, the group was ready to go. Taking James' "spooky" car, they met up with their new redneck buddies, and crept up on the old abandoned building. They spotted some tracks around back, and after disarming a rather shocking electric trap, opened the door... and immediately began combat! A quick crushing blow and a couple stab wounds later, and the MiB in the kitchen area was down. Another MiB, hearing the noise, poked his head in, then sounded the alarm. Will, sneaking a look, counted four MiB and two WiB (Women in Black) in the dining area.

After a moment to regroup, they charged together; the MiB took a few shots, but only succeeded in angering James. Will and the rednecks opened fire, injuring two of MiB; trading shots and blows, the MiB were worn down, and finally, James was able to break through and get to the WiB in the back as they cast their ritual. Too late, as the ritual succeeded, drenching the building in darkness. Even so, the group managed to take down the two WiB, as well as the last of the MiB, though Bobby Lee took a round to the gut. Priya, burning a black chip, resuscitated and stabilized him.

The fight wasn't over, though, as one of the MiB in the kitchen seemed to have healed up enough to crawl out - James ended him, again. Searching the building, they found Dr. Wells, surrounded by whiteboards and working feverishly. He ignored them entirely until he was knocked unconscious by Priya, and dragged outside. When he came to, he was more himself; he mentioned that while he was mostly out of it, he'd had the presence of mind to create some explosives, and rig them to a short-range dead-man's-switch. With Will yelling, "There's a bomb! Get to da choppa!" in his best (?) Schwarzenegger voice, they dashed for some construction waste bins nearby. Bobby Lee and Dr. Wells weren't quite hidden when the blast went off... As it turns out, Dr. Wells thought he had only been imprisoned for a few days, maybe a couple weeks, and had been preparing a small amount of explosives every few hours. As it turns out, his nearly-a-year experience resulted in a lot more explosives, and one very, very flattened building.

Kicking it into high gear, James and the others bolted for the vehicles, executing such an energetic escape that the police, only three blocks away, didn't even catch sight of their car.

Returning to campus, they found Peregrine Cycle was waiting for them. He offered to take Wells off their hands, keeping him safe with an Agent Peregrine knew to be trustworthy.

Perchance To Dream

Summer break was, thankfully, free of anything terribly strange. As Senior Year begins, the group reflected on their adventures...

Way back in their Freshman year, Jackson Green went missing; while nothing has been reported on the news, it's a fair bet that he's gone, eaten by a chupacabra or something. Dr. Wells is gone, too; officially, still on sabbatical, but it's been a year, and no one has seen or heard from him. Monica Dragic, at least, seems to be busy; last heard, she was visiting various foreign countries... Russia was on the list, take that as you may.

After a few weeks getting into the normalcy of classes, a little research by Priya uncovered a strange forum. The site seems to be filled with a number of stories from various individuals - most of them crackpot stories of alien probings and, uh, erotic visits from vampires, but a few seem to be following the same theme: a single dream of terrible monsters and the destruction of the world. "April Dream of Monsters, did you see them too? Share your story here!" The accounts are spookily familiar. One seems to have some sort of call to arms; it's followed by a list of jumbled letters:

ifebzqps qggoifh ciss opwg jsprg if sbfhaigc oglpk bf kgjogqdgz ocgseom ocgfou ocgfou bfg po omg aec kil ombykpfv bfg bf cgko qpzkmpss po kil omizou
dzifh kfprwk pfv p ezigfv
While Priya and Will struggled through translating the cipher by hand, James got bored and started Googling ciphers, eventually finding the answer. It was a simple substitution cipher, resulting in the following messages:

informal meeting will take place in longview texas on september twelfth twenty twenty one at the vfw six thousand one on west marshall at six thirty bring snacks and a friend
The VFW was an old brick building on the far west side of town, across from a car repair shop, and next to a church - and the date was only a couple days away. After gathering supplies (and arguing about whose car to bring), the group showed up about fifteen minutes early, just as the first person showed up and unlocked the door - a fellow in a decently nice suit, with well-trimmed facial hair. Five minutes later, a couple who looked to be in their 20s arrived and went in.  A few minutes later, a pickup truck rumbled up; three obvious rednecks sat inside, listening to country music. At 6:30 on the dot, a middle-aged man in an ill-fitting suit arrived, and the three rednecks turned off the music and followed him inside. The group joined them. About five minutes after they entered, a scruffy fellow slipped in, and stayed off to one side.

Everyone snacked and mingled for a few minutes, talking about trucks, music, and demon-dreams, until at 6:45, the fellow who unlocked the door stepped forward, and directed everyone to the chairs he had set up. He was clearly nervous about something, but went ahead and introduced himself. "I'm, ah, wow, uh, there sure are a lot of you guys. Hi, Lester. When I put the message out... I didn't expect so many, heh. I'm Ed Cline; I guess you read my story already, and... well, you know. The dream. Last April. It's... it's coming, y'know? Anyway... I thought that meeting others... maybe we could piece something together."
He paused awkwardly, then nodded to the young couple.
"Uh hi, I'm, ah, Lester Hayes, and... this is my fiance, Sara. Sara Stibowitz. We, uh, we had the dream, too. It... scared me. I was so freaked out, I couldn't leave the house for a week. If Sara hadn't been there..."
He glanced at her, trailing off; she patted his leg, and took over talking. "Hi, yeah, I'm Sara. I'm just... we're here for answers. Or maybe just better questions? I honestly don't know. I mean... yeah, the dream was scary. Terrifying. But then... He had it too. And somehow, that made it worse."
She trailed off, and Ed nodded to the first of the three rednecks, who stands up, clutching the brim of his wadded-up trucker's cap.
"Hey, y'all, Ah'm Coop Tucker, an' this is muh brother, Garth. Naw, I di'n't dream like all y'all? But Garth, he did, an' from what he said... Y'all, I don' even KNOW, raht? Ahm jus'... Ahm here for muh brother."
He looked around abashedly, then sat down, giving a supporting nod to Garth, who nodded back silently. The third redneck stood up, scraping his chair noisily.
"Ahm Bobby Lee Staffer, an' ahm jus' here tuh bash monster heads." He pointed in the air with both hands, continuing, "Woo! 'Cause this is 'Murica! Y'all know y'cain't jus' walk in here or you're liable tah gichoe se'f shot! Ya'll'll be pryin' muh guns outta muh cold, dead fingers! Woo!"
After a few emphatically "Woo" sounds, he crashed back to his chair, crossing his arms and muttering to himself, the words "'Murica!", "guns", "monsters", and "damn ra't!" feature prominently.
Next was the man in the ill-fitting suit. He stood, nodded to the ladies, then hitched up his sagging pants. "Hi, I'm Jimmy Don, I work over at th' Shevver-lay? I, uh, I guess you could say, I had those... I dreamed that... with the monsters. An' it... I can't get it out of my head, y'all. Every night, like I'm being haunted. I just... I gotta get m'life together. An' this might just be the only way to do it."
He gazed around the room, then ducked his head and quietly seats himself.

Ed nodded at the group. "You don't have to share if you don't want to, but that's why we're here - to make sense of all this."

James took the floor, explaining what had happened to the group in the dream, and how they had made it to the meeting. Finally, Ed turned to the last man. "Come on, why don't you introduce yourself. We're all friends here."
The man, who has been leaning against a wall, stands straighter and takes a tiny step forward.
"Jordan. Jordan... uh..."
He looked around nervously, almost furtively. "Just Jordan. I, uh... I had that dream, too. It... I don't get out... much... but I heard..."
He glanced up, his eyes meeting Will's, and stopped. "You... You were there..."
He twitched again, violently, then backed up to the wall, crossing his arms, hunching his shoulders, and rocking back and forth.

Will, James, and Priya blinked in surprise, and took a closer look around the room, realizing that indeed, they recognized almost everyone there!

Leaving campus, they had seen a body wrapped in a dingy blanket; it must have been Jordan! Sara was the young woman in the house, and Lester the young man. Garth was the young man in the blue truck who they tried to help. Jimmy Don... well, Jimmy was dead - the overweight man in the street. He seemed to have lost a lot of weight since then. The only faces they couldn't recognize were Coop, Bobby Lee, and Ed Cline. Sara was the first to speak up, timidly: "I... I remember Garth. You were driving a green truck. You... just before I got to Lester's house, you ran over one of those... things. So I could make it."

Jimmy nodded. "Ah knew you looked familiar. Lester, was it? Y'all opened your door, an' waved me in."
He looked down at his feet. "Ah would'a made it if I wasn't so... big. I, uh, I've lost some weight since then, but... it doesn't feel like it's enough."

For a moment, everyone sat in silence, studying the faces around them with new interest. Suddenly, Priya felt a tingle warning her of danger, just as the door swung open. Three figures stepped into the room: two men and a woman, all wearing black suits. Priya stood quickly, side-stepping over to the wall, and heading for the door. The first man removed his hat, setting it carefully on a shelf near the door, then stepped forward into the room.

Will and James noted that Ed looked entirely freaked out by the sight of the newcomers, sweat beading on his face, and caught sight of Jordan bolting for the back door.

The man in black raised his arms. "Your attention please," he said, in an almost droning voice. The second man moved past him, towards the snack table. The woman remained by the door.

"What you experienced was nothing more than a nightmare, enhanced by a common experience. Our extensive testing shows that each one of you walked, drove, or lived near an area blanketed with sewage gasses known to cause hallucinations. Additionally, the films "Night of the Demons," "Night of the Demons II," and "Night of the Demons III" were playing back-to-back. In a drowsy state, affected by the hallucinogenic gas, your dreams directed by the movie playing nearby, you would all have what could be called a 'shared dreaming experience', of a sort."

The woman set a few items on the small table by the door - a cup of red liquid, a dead animal, and what appears to be several teeth, arranged in a triangle.

Ed stepped forward. "I... I'm sorry. I think you have the wrong place. Please... leave."

As the woman in black suddenly raised her voice in a chattering, chirping, almost mechanical sound, throwing her arms out... Priya upended her table, sending ingredients flying, and smacked the woman with her spear! For a split second, the lights in the room flickered, then whatever ritual the woman was using backfired, turning James into... a woman.

In the blink of an eye, the first man was holding a gun, and fired a single round into Ed, who toppled to the ground. James dashed for the other man as Will fired at the first. The woman screeched, then held out a beaded bracelet, using it to fire a tiny sphere of darkness, dripping black steam, at Priya.

James quickly bludgeoned the second man into a heap on the floor, and dashed to help Will with the first man. Coop, Garth, and Bobby Lee all dashed forward, raining blows down on the man. Between the study group and their new allies, they brought down the three strange people with little injury.

As the woman fell to the combined strength of James and Priya, the door suddenly slammed open! The light from outside framed a man, tall and thin, a large revolver in his hand. Seeing everything was under control, he quickly ushered everyone outside, as other men in suits entered the building... wearing full protective gear, and carrying flamethrowers.

Will recognized the man - Peregrine Cycle, who they met at the job fair! Peregrine offered James a syringe with a strange, thick, blue liquid in it. "This will help. I'm sorry I could not come sooner. I see you have made some new friends. Perhaps... it would be best if the events of this night do not haunt their memories?"

Sara nodded. "Uh... yeah. I... we really don't want to remember... all this."
Peregrine inclined his head, then motioned to yet another man in a dark suit. "Of course. Please step this way."

Peregrine looked at the VFW, flames spurting from inside. "Three... this is a loss they will not soon forget. Hmm... Have you met Amy Wilson? No? Perhaps you should look her up before this is through. Here is her address." He handed over a card, similar to the card at the job fair, with only two lines of information: "Amy Wilson, 2052 Leona St."

Looking off into the distance, he pulled a second card from his jacket's inner pocket. "You should return home. With this threat neutralized, there will be no further threat against you, at least from them. Return home, and get some rest."
He held his arm away from his body, and released the card. It fluttered to the ground. Still looking into the distance, he continued, "And by no means attempt to arm yourselves and do anything... rash. Even though they are weakened, there are yet more, more dangerous than these."

Turning back to the group as if nothing had happened, he bid them farewell. "Good evening; I hope it is rewarding one."

Priya grabbed the card from the ground. "Dr. Harrison Wells, 1021 E. State Hwy 31"

The rednecks stepped up. Coop cleared his throat. "Look, Ah'm gonna come clean, none 'a this makes any sense, but, uh, if y'all want some help? That's us."

After a short discussion, it was decided that they would visit this Amy Wilson first, then investigate the second card - they needed to bring all their weapons, for one thing.

Sunday, March 15, 2020


It all started on April 30th, 2021 - Hootenanny, and days away from the end of the semester. The skits and silliness of Hootenanny seemed a little dark this year; the theme was ghost hunters, and was a little on the nose at times. The study group was lampooned at least once, as were the Men in Black, and more than one of the previous adventures. Even the host of Lurk Until Dawn was there as a guest. After Hootenanny, the crew headed for a well-earned rest, feeling collectively bone-tired. Between fighting monsters and studying for finals, it's time for a good weekend snooze.

Early the next morning, however, it was immediately obvious that a good rest wasn't in the cards. Sirens filled the break of dawn. As the students awoke, they found hallways empty, and rooms ransacked... and occasionally, splashed with blood. The power was out; only the sound of distant screams can be heard. Checking their cell phones, a number of the group realized the date was a bit off. It was more than a year in the future, the day after  their own graduation, Sunday, May 8th, 2022.

James grabbed his tools; Will grabbed his weapons. Priya headed for her truck, but managed to attract the attention of a gremlin, which she dispatched easily. She picked up Will and James, and hearing the sound of gunfire on the other side of campus, let Will (a better driver) take the wheel.

Meanwhile, across campus, Alistair found his car totaled, though was able to pull out his weapons and equipment. He bolted for where he hired the others would be, only to be stopped by a huge, winged demon! As the demon swung its mighty blade at him, he dodged and tumbled, staying mostly unharmed until Will executed a beautiful tail-slide and, using the tail end of the truck, bashed the demon into a wall some 30 feet away.

It was only then that Will noticed the limp form in the bushes - Michelle, his girlfriend, dead.

James grabbed the massive demon blade, then quickly jumped back into the truck as more demons jumped the fence and headed towards them. Picking up Will's car, they headed away from campus, picking off demons, gremlins, and imps as they got in the way. The demons chanted, faint on the wind: "Convergence! Convergence!"

Outside campus, the streets were littered with the dead, the demons, and the wholly unnatural. As they served between wrecked and burning cars, the only other human visible far down the street is mobbed and killed by a pack of gremlins right before their eyes.

Trying to get to the Risen Church, they were forced to detour into a residential area - a fire truck was turned over in the street. As they inched between two cars, just avoiding the corpse of a fat man, they saw one vehicle - a green truck - held a man that was still alive. James and Will managed to pull the bent door off, and carefully removed the young man. Inside a nearby house, they found a couple, a man and a woman, dead... They healed the young man as best they could, and hid him in the building, going he would survive.

When they reached the Risen Church, they found nothing but the burned out husk of the building. They continued through town, realizing something terrible was coming - a monstrous demon, 60 or 70 feet tall! It moved slowly towards them as they fled. Finally, they decided to return to campus, using the last vial of Ley Line juice to see where the lines were - they were obviously bending and writhing through the student center! Climbing up, they fought a number of flying demons, and used the candlestick to destroy the überdemon. James found himself batted halfway to the grave site, but managed to pull himself tough and rejoin the fray, taking on two lieutenants and a plague demon, and winning. Will and Priya fought waves of imps, as Alistair fought several horrible wraiths. He stopped once the roof was clear to cast a spell, a question of a deity. Once cast, he found himself in a stark, white room; a pleasant yet monotone voice asked him to state his question, which he did: how can they prevail? The answer was... Strange. Unexpected, perhaps.

Finally, as they ran out of bullets or strength, they fell, one by one...

...only to awaken from their shared nightmare with a certainty that they've just glimpsed the future. It is the morning after Hootenanny, and the world is still safe... for now.

The wounds sustained somehow remained, though, as old scars; thankfully, finals went well, and they headed into summer break with relief.

Oh, but you want to know the answer to the question, don't you! The strange woman's voice answered, after a short pause:

The talkative mage must follow his dreams
The dreamers hold the key
And the clockwork policeman's elderly friend
Who swam against time's dark sea
The Spanish berserker must learn of the truth
Before a Wells's run dry
Battle the witch and the bitter cold
But forget not the Eye of Phi
So find the quiet runner's friend
Old enemies, return to the dead
The Dutch spear-woman, tunnel bound
To stop this Convergence, you said?

Enter hell.
Stop the spell...
End it well?
Who can tell?

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Just a Little Darkness

The students took a little while to spend some of their new-found wealth on new toys; after a shopping spree, they started looking around for someone that might have some holy water. Real holy water, that is, not the weird stuff Alistair keeps making.

After asking around a bit, they found a fellow interviewee of the Lurk Until Dawn show, one Rev. Michaelse, of the Risen Church of Longview. It's a little church, fairly conservative, but well-liked. And, more importantly, the Reverend believes that demons walk the earth, and indeed has battled them himself!

The church was guarded by one Bob, the usher - a man built like one of LeTourneau's earth-moving machines. He seemed to be the janitor, as well, and kept the church spotless. The Reverend was in a meeting with the Church Secretary, Mrs. Eliza Dolouse. As they exited his office, she kept up a string of prattle - "...just need to buy a few more bottles for service on Sunday, not the good stuff you know, just good enough that Mrs. Applebottom doesn't complain, you know how she loves to complain, oh and I think I'll get a few more boxes of tissues as the ones at the ends of the pews are running low, such a good sermon last Sunday Reverend..."

She scuttled off to her car, leaving Rev. Michaels to speak with the students. As it turned out, he didn't have any holy water - there's not really such a thing, it turns out. Just normal water, though sometimes that's enough... After listening to some of the student's stories, he finally nodded, and handed over a fairly ordinary candlestick. "I've used this myself - it's a very powerful artifact, that allows you to dispel the demons that walk among us!"

The talisman, known only as the Candlestick, can banish demons, if Rev. Michaels is to be believed. To activate it, it must be defiantly held above one's head, directed towards the demon; then, roll Spirit at -1. On a failure, the wielder is Shaken, and the talisman is unusable for 24 hours; on a failure with 1 on the Spirit die, the wielder takes 2d6 damage (directly, ignoring armor); on snake-eyes, the talisman is destroyed, in addition to the other effects. They agreed to weekly meetings with the Reverend, in trade for being allowed to use the device.

A few days later, Alistair got a text from a Veronica Nails, who asked for the group's help. They agreed to meet, and she explained that she had accidentally spilled some chemicals on herself while working in the Organic Chemistry lab. She was afraid that the lapse in lab safety would be enough to ruin her already faltering grade, and didn't want to go to the professor directly... but she felt very strange, and not in a way that getting chemicals spilled on her would be expected to make someone feel.

The group immediately set off to investigate the professor's office; after some breaking-and-entering, they managed to unlock a very expensive filing cabinet, and revealed that the professor did a little on-the-side chemical testing of materials sent to him by Homeland Security. No one knew enough about O-Chem to decipher which write-up pertained to the chemicals Veronica may have spilled on herself, but they could tell that they must have been fairly unsafe...

After carefully locking everything back up, they moved on to the lab; inside, they found the chemical, and managed to isolate some of it. They waited until the next day for Alistair to buy a book on organic chemistry, and conducted a ritual of knowledge. Now much better at O-Chem, he carefully studied the chemical; while he wasn't able to isolate the exact chemical makeup, he was at least able to tell that it was very, very dangerous, being highly toxic... and able to be inactivated with high intensity ultraviolet light.

After a very spirited discussion on where and how to find the correct lighting (including, but not limited to, using X-Rays), they finally agreed on taking Veronica to a spa for a fairly inexpensive 20-minute tanning bed treatment. Veronica was only barely persuaded, as her eyes had turned entirely black - though her night vision was awesome!

She relented, and after an uneventful 20 minutes in a tanning bed, she was happy to report that her eyes were no longer bothered by light; indeed, her irises were returned to normal!

Unfortunately, the treatment only seemed to last a day. Undeterred, the students moved to plan B: subjecting her to half an hour a day of intense UV light, created by using the TIG welder! While her tan-lines were very uneven, the treatment worked - no more light sensitivity, and no more all-black eyes.

LeTU Meets The Wolfman

Our erstwhile heroes received a hasty call from Professor Maclanahan to discuss an important new investigation, meeting at a swanky club with a biology professor named Dr. Wayne LeGrevellec. Dr. LeGrevellec showed the students a video of a woman in a lab coat, attacked by some sort of creature, a wolfman perhaps. The creature slammed the woman's head on the table, knocking her unconcious, then grabbed some vials, ripped the hard drive out of the computer, and took off. Dr. LeGrevellec explained that he works in the off-site lab with a few other LU professors, and from speaking with his colleagues, is fairly certain that the attacker was Dr. Allen Miller, who worked in that very lab. The woman, Dr. Miller's research partner, survived the attack but is under observation at the hospital due to a concussion. The attack occurred last night; he isn't entirely certain what Dr. Miller was researching, but he had gotten a fat grant from a private firm, one that had invested in many professors' research. Presumably, Dr. Miller became infected with his own experimental gene therapy and may be undergoing radical mental changes as well as the obvious physical one. While campus security believes the attacker is someone in a gorilla suit, it's pretty obvious that it's no suit.

After answering a few questions, Dr. LeGrevellec handed the group a slip of paper with the addresses for Dr. Miller's lab and home, and his lab assistant's name (Aubrey Wright), and closed by saying that while he and GlenMac are too conspicuous to openly investigate, students are largely overlooked, and should be able to investigate without much trouble.

Together, the students went to visit Aubrey Wright in the hospital; they found her arguing with the doctor, who wanted to keep her for further observation. Finally, she convinced the group to assuage the doctor's fears... by getting them to convince the doctor they would keep an eye on her. After a little persuasion, she was released, and somewhat warmer towards the students. Somewhat.

She wanted to go straight to the lab, and after running some blood tests on herself, was much calmer, and suggested they go investigate Dr. Miller's house. After peering in some windows and trying the door (locked), they found a fake rock in the garden. Bingo! The key to the front door!

Inside, Ms. Wright went through some mail, heading towards the study; the students fanned out, leaving James to keep an eye on her. Apart from a mean-looking full-size poodle in the back yard, and a rather more luxurious house than most (any?) LeTourneau professors, there was little to uncover. The house was there to be fancy, not to be lived in, it looked like. In the den, Will found some important looking papers, but apart from a header that read "SH 211 B, Lab 2" and "SH 211", as if referencing different labs, there wasn't a lot to go on.

After befriending the dog, Priya snooped around the doghouse - the heated doghouse, with its own running water - but found only a squeaky toy. Ms. Wright refused to go anywhere near the dog, as she rather hated it...

After one final sweep of the house, they decided to head back to the lab. A printed note on the door announced that the room was under lockdown, but the students waltzed in, sure that they could find Dr. Miller. Everything had been cleaned up, and the computer replaced, though yet to be set up. The students snooped around, carefully investigating, until finding a trickle of water dribbling out from under a cabinet. Nothing useful was in the cabinet, but when Will dragged the cabinet backward, the wall behind it moved too, revealing a only-just-now-awakened Dr. Miller!

He greeted them, and kept them talking for a few minutes, all too eager to spill the beans... he had been hired by EyePhi to develop what he was sure was some sort of weaponized werewolf drug. He was given some strange ash and a few other chemicals, and after much trial and error, was able finally perfect his - er, the - concoction. Well, almost. It seems that while the user would retain his or her humanity, there was a substantial amount of hair growth.

About this time, the students noticed Dr. Miller was rather bulkier than when they entered the secret lab... and then long, curling hair grew out of his body, as his grin turned a little more feral. Oops.

Will, Priya, and James took the front lines, frustrating the wolfman in doctor's clothing by blocking his (quite powerful!) attacks, and occasionally landing some decent blows. Unfortunately, the damage seemed to just melt away; only silver can harm a werewolf! Or at least, this werewolf. Alistair dashed for his car, realizing he needed his silver bullets. Will took a hit, and Priya narrowly avoided getting slashed, deciding to back out of the fight and look for something helpful. Remembering Alistair shouting something about silver, she grabbed a bottle of colloidal silver from a shelf, and dumped a few ounces onto her spear. She tossed the bottle to Will, and got a good stab in! Will sprayed down his katana, and passed the bottle to James; together, they hacked and smashed, wearing down the wolfman's defenses... then slashing him through the heart, and finishing him off.

Just as the wolfman shrunk back down to dead-human-sized Dr. Miller, Ms. Wright (having heard the commotion) entered the lab. She didn't seem too bothered about the corpse of her former collegue - in fact, she was quite willing to help "sweep it all under the rug", if only they would hand over the hard drives and bottles of serum they found in Dr. Miller's desk. After some thought, they decided they would do just that, and quickly left. Well... almost. James, feeling adventurous, pick-pocketed the hard drives from Wright's pocket, without her noticing a thing.

Back at school, they called up GlenMac, and soon, Dr. LeGrevellec arrived, all too happy to "clean up any mess", including the possibly back-stabbing Ms. Wright... And, for their help in the matter, each student was awarded $500.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Light and Shadows

After the last adventure, there were a few lingering details to go over... killing a man does that, as it turns out. There was an informal hearing with those present and a judge; the judge agrees that Niles Henry was, indeed, a serial killer. Evidence gathered showed that along with Krista Levens and Dawn Ramirez, Niles Henry had kidnapped at least two other girls. He kept a detailed journal, and frequently wrote how he hoped to be found, and relished the thought of a fight to the death. It was obvious that no matter what, Niles Henry would have used lethal force.

After hearing the evidence and testimonies, the judge thanked the group for their quick action, but warned them against future vigilante behavior. "This isn't the first time your names have come up, and while this court finds your actions to be excusable homicide, future courts will view similar action as a pattern vigilantism."

Finally, the judge ordered those of the group not already attending sessions with a psychologist to do so.

Monday, January 20, 2020

To Stop A Predator With Extreme Prejudice

As Priya, Will, and James returned from Martin Creek Lake, their phones suddenly lit up with an Amber Alert - a 10-year-old girl named Dawn Ramirez went missing from a nearby school the previous day. Suddenly, on the side of the road, they spotted a little girl with long brown hair and a sad face standing on the side of the road. As the car drove past, the four heard a faint voice calling, "Help me... help her..."

The students quickly got GlenMac to pull over, and went to find the girl; about the same time, Alistair texted them that he had arrived in town, and they sent their location. 10 minutes later, he arrived; Priya volunteered to watch his car, as GlenMac had rented the boat and needed to return it, and couldn't hang around any longer.

Exploring the wooded area where the girl was last seen, they stumbled onto an old crime scene - tattered yellow crime scene tape was tied around a few trees, and a small funeral wreath was leaned up against a tree. Thinking back, they remembered hearing about another little girl who had gone missing, and was found dead (see: Sophomore Fall, Sanctuary).

A little phone-Googling later, and the public details were uncovered: eleven year old Krista Levens was snatched from her front driveway, assaulted, and eventually murdered. A week after her disappearance, her body was discovered, buried in a shallow grave. The murder was never solved; the article ends with a generic note about kidnappings: "In many cases the victim often knew the assailant," but even so, there weren't even any "people of interest" in the case, and it was still open. One of the articles had the family's address.

After some discussion, the students decided to head to the house, for lack of other clues. The house was vacant, and obviously had been untouched for a while. A beat-up "For Sale" was the only feature in the front yard. Looking around at the houses, they saw a woman peering out at them - the standard nosy old lady, it seemed. They trooped over, and found themselves invited in for a lovely (cheap) cup of coffee and some (dollar store) cookies. They learned that Mrs. Levens had committed suicide, and that Mr. Levens had left shortly afterwards, but unfortunately, the woman (Lillian Smythe) had been out of town with her husband when the kidnapping and murder occurred.

Managing to extricate themselves, the intrepid heroes went back outside; in looking at the house, they saw a curtain move as if someone were standing behind it; unwilling to break in, Alistair called the number on the sign and set up a meeting with a realtor. After borrowing some ghost hunting equipment from GlenMac, and eating a lovely lunch nearby, they met back up with the realtor and headed inside. The woman was flustered and ill-prepared, but willing to cut a deal, as the house had been on the market 7 months; she talked with Priya, while the guys explored. James saw, suddenly, the girl from the roadway; she waved him over, and pointed out the window at the house across the street, shaking her head sadly. Alistair, a room over, caught a burst of activity on his equipment; by the time he got to the room, the girl was gone. James showed he and Will where she had pointed, and realized there was a man entering that house, carrying some groceries... after entering the building, he began playing classical music, very loudly.

Quickly thanking the realtor, the group hurried across the street and knocked on the door. The man answered, said that he wasn't interested, and slammed the door in their faces. That's when Will and Alistair hear the cries for help. Eager to rescue the girl, James slammed into the door; Will ran around the building to look for another way in. On the second strike, James kicked the door off its hinges, smashing the frame. Inside, the man was ready for him, holding a large butcher knife.

James slammed into the man, whacking him with his favorite wrench; the man fought back, but was unable to land a blow. Alistair swung and missed; Will, hearing the noise, charged in, just in time to see James bludgeon the man across the head, then land another heavy blow on him when he crashed to the ground. There wasn't much left of his noggin at that point...

The three spread out through the house, but found no sign of the little girl; finally, they moved a throw rug in the kitchen and found a cellar entrance. Inside was Dawn Ramirez! Will picked the lock on the handcuffs, and Alistair helped her out of the house, away from the rapidly spreading pool of blood.

Reluctantly, James contacted the police, explaining that they had found the girl. The police arrived to find Will and Alistair comforting the poor girl, while James stood confidently on the porch. The lead officer, Officer Jones, asked James what happened; James walked him through the events. "We heard really loud music, so we came over to complain, and heard cries for help. We gained access to the building," at this point walking inside, "and found the trap door over here."

The officer stepped inside, and once his eyes adjusted, he saw the man on the floor, his head caved in, clearly deceased, and yelped, "HOLY CRAP! Uh... uh! Sir, I need you to exit the house, right now!"

He went over his story again. "Tell me what happened to the man inside."

"Oh, well, when we knocked, he slammed the door on us, then we heard the cries, and I opened the door," (the officer couldn't help looking at the shattered door, hanging loosely from its broken frame) "and that guy was inside with a knife. We fought, and he lost, and then we found the trap door and the girl!"

Alistair, too, was interviewed, and put on his best shell-shocked expression; his story matched James' well enough. Will told the officer interviewing him how he had run around the building to look for another way in, and when he heard the sounds of fighting, ran back to the front door, and saw the man dead. The officer blinked. "You found him dead? Can you elaborate?"

Will shrugged. "Welll... He was in the *process* of being dead..."

Another officer interviewed Dawn; after taking the four stories, three officers - with a fourth left to guard the students - quietly conferred. It probably helped that when asked for ID, the three showed their LeTourneau school IDs. Finally, Officer Jones waved them over. "Now, let me get this straight. You three were studying, and upon hearing the loud music, came over to ask the fellow to turn it down. You heard cries for help, and... " - with a glance at the shattered door - "gained access to the house, where the man inside attacked you with a knife." Here the officer paused and flipped a page, giving the three a significant look. "After you defended yourselves against his attack, you found the girl, trapped and chained. Does that sound about right?"

The three nodded hurriedly, realizing the officer was giving them a way out. "Good, good. Well, I know where to find you if I need to ask any more questions. Oh, by the way, why don't you go ahead and call this number" - he handed James a slip of paper - "and give 'em your name. Now, you get on home, and get some rest, watch some TV - it's been a rough day for y'all. I'm sure some reporters will be around to ask you questions about this later."

As it turned out, the number was for Crimestoppers - Dawn's rescue lead to a $2,500 Crimestoppers reward! The next day, they picked up a newspaper, with a picture of the three of them:

James, Will, and Alistair, all Juniors at LeTourneau University, rescued a kidnapped girl and solved a year-old murder case. "We heard cries for help, and we knew we had to do something," said James. His friend Alistair added, "We felt lead to the place where she was held hostage."
Niles Henry, a soft-spoken civil engineer at a small Longview firm, lived across the street from the home of Krista Levens, found dead last year after a six day search. According to Lakeport PD, Henry was pronounced dead en route to the hospital from injuries sustained in fighting the heroic students.
Dawn Ramirez has been reunited with her family; Matthew Levens, Krista Levens' father and only surviving relative, wept openly when he learned of the death of his daughter's killer. "It won't bring her back, but I can sleep better knowing that monster is dead."

Just below the fold was a headline from another familiar story:

Investigations into the November Cult Murder has stagnated, says Agent Peregrine Cycle; until new information on the whereabouts of Xulián Bruxo and Raoul Tolemo can be uncovered, the case is in limbo...

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

A Little Fishing Trip

GlenMac had the students early Saturday before school started; Alistair couldn't make it, but Will, James, and Priya were present. As they helped him load equipment, he reminded them of the history of the "Lantern of the Deep", and how it came to be located - as far as he knew - in Martin Creek Lake. He described the artifact as a simple bulls-eye lantern made from blue-tinted glass. Feeling bad for bringing them back to school early, he offered some "directed study" credit - worth a +1 Academics on the next exam.

The January air was cool, but the lake was quite warm, almost bathtub temperature, due to the nearby power station. As they arrived in GlennMac's car (pulling a small boat behind it), the park ranger on duty gave a word of caution - a gator or two had been spotted in the lake, and he hadn't gotten a chance to haul the beasties off. "Just keep your eyes peeled."

Once the boat was launched, GlenMac steered it near the power station and began dropping buoys in a grid. Maybe it was the fog, maybe it was the threat of gators, maybe it was the harshly-lit power station, or maybe it was the overcast skies and the strangely calm lake, but something puts everyone on edge. After a few tips on underwater safety and how to do a grid search, the students drop into the water. Priya and Will make it look easy, but James got a bit of water in his mask. No big deal, just annoying...

The water was dark and murky; visibility is barely a yard. Near the bottom, very little light filters down. Slowly, the trio searched the silty lake. After several minutes of searching, Will caught sight of something - an alligator! He fended off its first attack, but the next bite ripped up his arm! Priya, hearing the disturbance through the water, quickly surfaced, located the fight, and swam quickly to assist. James eventually heard the commotion and joined as well. Together, the three managed to spear the gator to death.

That threat dealt with, the three returned to searching for the lantern. Priya received a vision of a slimy, silt-covered creature, locked in watery combat, the lantern in its grasp, and something silvery around its neck. Not long afterward, James saw a feeble blue glow, hidden in silt; reaching for it, he was startled by a hand reaching up out of the mud! A creature, man-shaped, its clothes and features covered in silt and mud. James immediately grappled the creature's arm, pulling on the lantern and keeping his foot in the thing's face. The two battled back and forth, the creature trying to shake him off, and James hanging on with dogged determination, trying to whack the creature hard enough to make it let go of the lantern. Will and Priya found the two, and joined in, slashing at the creature with their spears. Every blow they landed seemed to heal itself almost immediately, until Priya managed to land a blow on the creature's arm. Its grip weakened on the lantern, and James pulled free. Priya, remembering her vision, grabbed for the locket as the creature fell back to the lake floor, nothing but silt and sludge.

The lantern suddenly freed, James felt a sudden gust of wind, and found himself staring out across the lake, a young man sitting in a boat nearby. He recognized the man from the photo the group found - Rodya, the third man in the photo!

Rodya was holding a lantern - The lantern, in fact. Another man stands on the shore, holding a gun. He called out; for some reason, James knew it was Russian, yet could understand it: "Rodya! What are you doing? You are throwing away your life for these... Americanski! These capitalist idiots! Don't you understand, the Motherland needs power like what you are holding!"
Over the deadly calm, Rodya calls back, "Maksim, the power you chase ends only in death! USSR, Communism, me, you... everyone. This I have seen! And so, I will protect the Lantern - from you, and anyone else who wishes to use it for power!"
With that, he spread his arms; the Lantern began glowing brightly, and Rodya leaned back, falling off the boat and sinking beneath the waves. Maksim tried to run forward, but was stopped by an invisible barrier. Cursing, he slammed his hands against it, causing it to flash blue momentarily, then with a scream of anger, spun on his heel and fled. Rodya, protected and enhanced by the Lantern, sank into the lake, deep into the dark silt at the bottom.

A heartbeat later, James watched the revenant turn to muddy silt and slip back into the water. Even its tattered clothes faded to mud and vanished. Together, the three swam back to the boat, handing the lantern to GlenMac, who placed it in a padded case.

The locket Priya found contained a single photograph - somehow protected from the water - of Rodya kneeling beside a young, smiling Monica Dragic.

Though GlenMac asked a few questions on the way back, he saw the students were rather pensive, and the conversation eventually died out. Just as they were nearing town, everyone's phones suddenly began beeping, buzzing, and vibrating - an Amber alert. Glancing down to turn it off, the intrepid heroes realized it was actually in Longview, TX! A 10-year-old girl named Dawn Ramirez had gone missing from a nearby school...