Thursday, March 22, 2012

Smallville 1.4

Smallville 1.4

The game kicks off with Thomas running through the streets of Johannesburg’s financial district, jumping between shadows as time warps around him. He is clutching a container. He exits the streets into a square only to find it flooded with lights from arclights. He is hit by a three-pronged missile and falls to the ground, unconscious. Around him, the armoured men who were pursuing him raise their visors, to reveal multiple versions of Project Ares!

48 hours earlier…

Thomas steps off a Thorne Enterprises plane as it pulls to a stop in a South African airstrip. He opens his orders – to find and infiltrate the Renegade base, but not to engage the renegades. The source of his orders is, as always, unknown.

In the aftermath of the destruction of Jerusalem, Seth offers his services to the ‘Man in the Government’ as a symbol of national security. The Man arranges for Seth to appear at a press conference with the President himself, on the lawn of the White House no less! Everyone around the table reckons it’s a set-up but Seth is a headstrong young man and agrees to it.

Joshua seeks out Seth and they attempt to patch things up. They talk, with a great degree of tension, regarding their actions over the last few weeks. Joshua wishes to get Seth back into the Institute and he does so but under Seth’s terms that they work together, without any lies between them. With this new air of honesty, Seth asks about Joshua’s part in the disappearance of Professor Thorne (in 1.1) and he admits that he asked Ares to distract him with a former lover.

[Cut Scene] Many governments around the world debate the attack on Jerusalem and many insist that a military strike is made against the renegades, when they are found.

Jessie is leaving work at BioDynamics. She is approached by Project Ares (#57 – the numbers are going to be important soon!) who speaks to her – ‘Alpha C’ and she hands over a disc. Ares reads through the disc, which holds all of the information BioDynamics holds on Project Ares. It tells him that the project intends to put a mind-controlling super soldier on every street corner, how better in this day and age to control order when crimes come in thoughts and ideas rather than deeds. However, since Weapon II, the second iteration of Project Ares, there has been a flaw in the process which BioDynamics have been unable to remove. The more Ares’ are activated, the more imbalanced they are, eventually dying. The megalomania suffered by the various clones has in the past caused them to be shot like dogs by BioDynamics staff. Distressed by this, Ares uses his connection with LabX to upload this information into the Ares matrix, making all iterations after him aware of their history and the attitude that BioDynamics has over them.

[This was a NUCLEAR level piece of player narrative. Totally and utterly changing one aspect of the game. Ares has always been down as the secret police bad guys. Now, they were clearly something very different … and I had signalled their mass activation in the oh-so-clever prelude. Hoisted on my own storytelling petard. I retreated to the bathroom for a small regroup at this point!]

[Cutscene] Masada tends the injured in Jerusalem. He is clearly dying from radiation poisoning.

Thomas is in a bar on Johannesburg, meeting with a local mercenary who he gets the information out of about the location of the Renegade base. The mercenaries agree to take him close, but not to the base. Too dangerous!

Joshua goes to Jessie and tells her that he is going to sell off BioDynamics, so that he cannot be associated with their actions. She does not take it well, as she has dedicated her career to the organisation. In so doing, Joshua also challenges the mind control placed on him by Ares to consider BioDynamics central to his business. He succeeds and the mind control breaks, with appropriate nose bleeding. Joshua tries to get Jessie to see the flaws in BioDynamic’s methods, but she cannot see that. He suggests that she might be being mind controlled but she assures him she is not … and in so doing nearly reveals her ‘secret’ (more on that very soon!)

Stress relief scene for Seth in the Thorne Towers ‘Danger Room’. He is called by the ‘Man in the Government’ and told that the press conference is on. He chooses to travel to it in a Thorne Enterprises limo, rather than fly.

Ares (#57) has massive psychic feedback and has another ‘looking through the eyes of another’ vision. He is watching a monitor with Agent Orange on it. The voice talks about something called ‘The Pandora Protocol’ and orders Agent Orange to bring him the girl straight away. Orange baulks and the voice ‘insists’. The screen is turned off and in the blackness of the glass Ares #57 sees the face of Ares #56 in his ‘base of world domination’! Ares uses his time manipulation to warp across the South Africa. Game on!

Thomas ghosts through the security around the base and slips past the guards, finally gathering the database of Prometheans that the Renegades have gathered. He also picks up a container, which holds a synthesised blood for one Meyer, J. Jessie’s blood? What does that do?

[Cutscene: In Toronto, a deactivated Promethean is beaten to death by an angry mob, for the crime of being a Promethean]

Seth arrives at his press conference and is lead into a green room, to await the signal that he is to come out to the President. Unbeknownst to him, the President is engaging in a ‘fire and brimstone’ speech about Prometheans being the downfall of mankind and announcing that BioDynamics is ready to activate the true American supersoldiers, Project Ares, to protect the country from the Promethean threat. Watching the announcement at Thorne Towers, Joshua realises that Seth has been set up. Seth exits the Green Room and is predictably announced as a renegade! Secret service men have weapons trained upon Seth, but Seth seems unphased and does not want to be party to his nonsense! Time stops! Seth is removed from the situation by Ares #63, one of the new self-aware Ares that have been activated. Seth joins with Joshua.

Joshua uses the power of AVRIL, the Institute computer, to intercept the President’s announcement. He outs the entire situation around the supersoldiers, the set-up of Seth and the manipulation of the truth that has been going on around the Prometheans. He explains that the reaction the world is having to the actions of Tempest, like the Toronto killing, is exactly what she wants. She wants a war and mankind is giving her one on a plate. Because of this, he no longer feels that the Prometheus Institute can remain as part of the United States government and he petitions the United Nations to make it a special directorate, a safe place for all peaceful Prometheans. He also publically divests himself of all ownership and connection with BioDynamics, at the same time as the President is activating whole-cloth, Project Ares.

Meanwhile in South Africa, Tempest intercepts the fleeing Thomas and demands that he returns the canister of blood to her. Rather than flee, or submit, Thomas announces that he is sick of running and being talked down to … and blinds Tempest with his shadow powers. Tempest fires back blind, using her blast power, wrecking the area. Project Ares (#57) arrives in the nick of time and aids Thomas in escaping the raging Promethean. The two part company, Ares heading towards his destiny at the Renegade base, Thomas on his way to Johannesburg.

Back in the USA, Joshua and Seth use AVRIL (and more than a few spy satellites etc.) to monitor the situation and pick up the energy spike when Tempest uses her unique blast power (We have established that each superpower exists only once: one teleporter, one flier etc. That’s one of the departures that the non-Promethean Project Ares enjoys). Joshua teleports himself and Seth to the scene, ready to take down Tempest once and for all.

When they arrive, Tempest is in her usual bombastic yet furious mode. She mocks them, saying that whatever they do here, she has won because Agent Orange will have Jessie by now and her blood holds the secret for reactivating all of the deactivated Prometheans. An army of angry, neutered Prometheans at her disposal. Jessie is the ‘Pandora’ of the Pandora Protocols, Bwahahahahaa! Hearing this, Joshua teleports to his fiance’s side whilst Seth squares off against his mother! Seth and Tempest exchange titanic blows. It’s an epic battle for the ages! It swings one way and then another. Tempest has Seth on the ropes and then grandstands, only to find Seth’s right hook connecting with her jaw! Sending her flying back into the dusty veldt, Tempest is aghast that someone has actually hurt her and then she realises in horror, as Seth rises above her, floating in the air, that her son is more powerful than she is … and she runs! (Complications mean that Tempest is having a little ‘Dalek’ break for a few episodes!)

Ares #57 travels to the Renegade base and waltzes into the base, as he looks exactly like Ares #56. However, the security system eventually notice and he takes on the human guards, in a scene not dissimilar to the ‘Lobby scene’ in the Matrix. A complication means that #56 knows #57 is coming…

Thomas arrives in the financial area of Jo’burg and finds US army trucks on the streets, disembarking the masked versions of Ares we saw in the prelude. He runs!

Josh uses AVRIL to track Jessie’s BioDynamic ID badge. He teleports into the middle of the main BioDynamics lab, not without any of the Ares clones in the green glowing tubes. Jessie is having a raging argument with Mr Olivier, screaming that he is an idiot and that the Ares clones are not stable! They aren’t even reacting as they are supposed to (who knew, remember… NUCLEAR narration!). Joshua smacks Olivier in the jaw, sending him crashing into equipment. He tries to teleport out, but his power is turned off. Agent Orange appears and demands that Jessie comes with him. An emotional tug of love occurs between Jessie, her father and her lover. Joshua stands between Orange and Jessie. Orange pulls a gun! Then another mind control happens and Jessie stands between Joshua and Orange (Ares has programmed Jessie to always protect Joshua). Orange says that he just needs her blood, dead or alive …. And HE breaks the mind control from Ares#56!! (Are you all keeping track here … because we all had headaches by this point). At this point, Joshua decided to end this and narrated the destruction of the BioDynamics lab as the three (Joshua, Orange and Jessie) teleport out of the lab. What happened to Mr Olivier? Who knows… (OK, I know, but that’s not the point!) LabX has been destroyed and no more Ares can be made!

Back in Jo’burg, we see Thomas being tasered down by the guards, but he has used his techopathy and the tazer didn’t really work! (Clever sod!). Thomas rises up and states that he is utterly sick of being messed around and running from people. He creates shadows and then (new SFX time!) the shadows rise up and begin attacking the guards, immobilising them.

Back in the Renegade Base, Ares #56 confronts Ares #57. This fight is hard to communicate. Two characters with the same memories, the same powers (Time control and mind control) and the Mastermind distinction means that it was something akin to the final confrontation between Neo and Mr Anderson crossed with the battle between Merlin and Minerva in the Sword in the Stone! In the end, as the epic battle tears Renegade base apart, the battle swings towards #57 when Ares arrives, punching a hole through the base (because he can!). Ares #56 realises he is defeated and falls to the floor, catatonic as his world view dissolves around him. Seth has no problems with this as he executes #56!

Joshua, Orange and Jessie have fled the destroyed LabX, as anti-Promethean martial law breaks out across the USA, powered in part by the conflicted Project Ares clones.

Seth and Ares retreat from the exploding Renegade base, in the knowledge that #56 is dead and Tempest is beaten, for now.

Thomas has manifested great power and now the lights around the square begin to turn off, one by one, until there is only one left. He reveals the outline of a man smoking a cigarette – ‘the Lone Gunman’ who acted as a predecessor to Thomas.

“I suppose you find this all a bit confusing boy? Well let me tell you the truth … it all started in a place called Pennville.”

(And so ends the first act. Next time, we will flashback to the 1980s and the Pennville incident – the time when Weapon II was activated and Tempest became a rogue. The players will play Tempest, Weapon II, Professor Thorne and the Lone Gunman. These characters were partially created during character generation and have links to the modern day game. Some will have death immunity and everyone will have objectives that they have to try to achieve. What happens in the past will have an impact on how things develop in this increasingly fractious modern day society)

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Episode Three

The session opens with the scene that we left last time – in the Gaza Strip, Seth and Ares square off against Arabic prometheans, Saladin (a telekentic) and Kibbutz (a duplicator). Kibbutz, split many times, opens fire on the media crew and Seth tries to protect them. He uses his invulnerable body to block the bullets, tries to reflect them back at Kibbutz but is then outflanked by Kibbutz’s many bodies. He flies swiftly to protect the press. He then slams Kibbutz and puts him through a wall (stressing him out). Ares tries to tackle Saladin, slowing time to allow him to scale the wall to the TK. Saladin uses his TK to blast Ares off the building and crashes him to the ground (injured stress). Saladin then uses his TK to pull a wall down on Ares (stressing him out). Seth flies at Saladin, ready to take revenge but he too us batted away by the telekentic, throwing him through a building. Saladin gathers his brother and retreats…

(This was our first full on super-on-super multiple character battle. Worked really well…)

Back in the US, Joshua and Thomas watch the horror of the battle unfold in the media, they discuss the personalities of Seth and Ares (providing stress relief for Thomas who had a run in with them last session) and then try to work out just how they are going to spin Ares’ presence – and ruminate on why Seth had accepted the invitation of the Israeli government. Joshua is particularly conflicted by his continued support of BioDynamics and Lab X, considering their concentration on the Ares programme. He ends the scene saying he has ‘made up his mind’ but as to what he is uncertain.

In Israel, Ares and Seth are rushed to a hospital. Ares calls Joshua and asks him to teleport to Lab X and pick up some regeneration compounds (for Stress Relief) but Joshua REFUSES! Ares persuades him that rather than ‘out’ Lab X and BioDynamics as a shady government operation, he should consider them a central part of his business – and plants a subliminal trigger to that effect. Joshua decides he is right and brings the compounds to Ares. However, (complication) the Israeli secret services are listening to this conversation and now know that the USA has a secret super-soldier creation facility. As Joshua teleports through Lab X, he avoids detection and manages to snag a file on Mr Olivier, the head of BioDynamics.

Seth calls Thomas and asks for him to download all available information about his adversaries (setting up his inclusion of his resources in future scenes)
Thomas confronts Joshua and demands that he keep things straight with Jessie (continuing his mission to keep Joshua squeaky clean!) He arms him with chocolates and white roses and sends him to patch things up!

Meanwhile, back in Israel Seth leaves to hunt down Saladin. When he leaves, Masada arrives, followed by a press pack, trashing the hospital and seeking our Seth to get revenge on him for breaking his force field in the United Nations building. He sees Ares and grabs him, pinning him to a wall, demanding he tells him where Seth is – but Ares uses mind control to make him back off and instead of attacking Seth, he sends him to kill Saladin.

When he uses his mind control, he whites out, having a vision through the eyes of someone beating seven colours of snot out of Professor Thorne, demanding that he reveal ‘the secret’. On coming back around he rushes after Masada, is joined by Agent Orange and they, along with the press, get into an Israeli military helicopter to hunt down the rogue prometheans.

As they leave, a Kibbutz replicant is seen in the hospital with a bomb in a bag…

Back in the USA, Thomas meets with an out of work Paige Hopkins (the reporter from Ep 1 who Joshua got sacked). Thomas offers her work – investigating Joshua. She enthusiastically waives her fee. Thomas wants the juicy, secret stuff, not just the starlets. Paige agrees. Thomas also wants to know ‘what he did with his Dad?’!
Worldwide, there is a media explosion as Masada returns in Israel.

In the helicopter, Agent Orange has a very guarded conversation with Ares, trying to feel him out over the complicated situation that is unfurling between the Prometheans, the US Government, the Renegades and other factions such as Prometheans Unbound and BioDynamics. He suggests that those who look like ‘white hats’ might not be that pure, and those cast in the role of terrorists might have other, more acceptable views. He tries to recruit Ares, but comes away with the idea that Ares is recruited … when he isn’t.

[Upcoming crucial scene]

Joshua arrives, by the door at Jessie’s flat and finds her fresh out of the shower, dressed in a towel. She asks him in, but the atmosphere is frosty. Joshua makes one of the worst attempts to say ‘sorry’ that has ever been made by a man, putting his foot in it time after time. Jessie lambasts him for leading her on this sorry dance since she was 15 years old. In order to convince her that he means it this time, Jessie demands some commitment – so Joshua proposes!

No sooner have they embraced, does Joshua suggest that she leaves her position at BioDynamics (By this time, we have worked out that Joshua may well be considering cutting his rogue division loose). However, as he does this the subliminal control of Ares kicks in and he refutes the need to cut it loose as it is ‘an integral part of Thorne Industries’. Ares is clearly protecting Lab X!

He then, in almost relationship suicide, tries to get Jessie to admit who drove her onto national TV to out him as a sex addict but she resists, distracting him with a dropped towel and come-to-bed eyes…

In Israel, Seth discovers the rogue Promethean’s lair and takes on both Saladin and Kibbutz at the same time, dive bombing into the camp. A couple of complications negate the surprise and show Kibbutz communicating with Agent Tempest. Saladin blocks the dive bomb with his TK, but the comms array is destroyed. Seth then uses his super-strength to punt Saladin out of the scene and turns his attention to Kibbutz … only to find Tempest has arrived using superspeed. Seth’s mother BLASTS him with her energy blast and totals him, knocking him away (stressed out). She gathers her men and leaves the camp.

Meanwhile, Saladin sails through the air, past the trajectory of the helicopter. Masada’s ‘kill Saladin’ suggestion kicks in and he grabs the controls of the helicopter, chasing him down as he lowers himself with TK. Masada is using the helicopter as a battering ram, driven by the mind control. Ares stops time prior to the impact and gets himself and Agent Orange off the helicopter before it impacts. A complication kills all of the non-Prometheans on the ‘copter as it slams into Saladin. Saladin is battered and stunned (stressed out) and Masada walks out of the flames, ready to fulfil the order to kill. Ares stands by and lets him smash Saladin’s head into a pulp.

As this happens, Ares whites out again and looks through the eyes of someone talking to Tempest, who tells them that the time has come and the device is in place…

Ares, Seth, Agent Orange and Masada come together again and grab a jeep to make their way back toward home base in Jerusalem. Masada doesn’t overcome the mind control which stops him from attacking Seth.

In the USA, the ‘Man from the Government’ meets with Thomas and they discuss the plans of Prometheans Unbound – a movement dedicated to removing Prometheans from Government control and one that both the Man and Thomas secretly belong to. They discuss why Seth was doing government work and why Ares was there as well. The Man explains that Seth is the media golden child – if he does well, he cannot become more popular and if he does badly he comes back in a body bag and that’s fine too. Ares is another matter – he is being feted as a god in some areas after his return from the dead – a public humiliation like this will help their cause. Something doesn’t sound right for Thomas and he realises that The Man is lying to him. Maybe his beliefs are not wholly in line with those of Prometheans Unbound?

In the background, an agent of Mr Olivier is covering the meeting with a telephoto lens (complication)

Ares, Seth and Masada stand on a hill, overlooking Jerusalem. Thomas is watching the screens in his base. Joshua returns from his night with Jessie to his base and looks at his monitor wall. All programming is interrupted by Tempest who announces that now is the time for Prometheans to ascend to their rightful place and that they are sick of being persecuted and used as weapons. They have asked, now they will show the world their power.

Jerusalem explodes in a nuclear fireball!

Yeah, I went there…

Tag Scene: Joshua looks at the dozens of requests for a comment from the Institute regarding the attack. He sighs and teleports himself and Jessie to a secluded Swiss retreat.

Tag Scene: Seth stalks the irradiated hell of Jerusalem, rescuing people and showing off his new Invulnerability SFX.

Tag Scene: Thomas is in his lair, making notes on the directors of Thorne Industries.

Tag Scene: Ares plays the announcement from Tempest over again and again, not looking at the woman, but rather looking at the shadowy figure behind her. The highly familiar shadowy figure…